tagRomanceDon't Ever Give Up Ch. 04

Don't Ever Give Up Ch. 04

bySpotInTheSand©

Note: I warned that there would be a chapter or two with no sex in it, and I don't make empty threats. This is one of them. Don't worry though - there is plenty of heat, so I don't know if you'll even notice the lack of sex. If you're simply reading for a quick stroke, you haven't made it this far anyway. Even still, I promise the next chapter will make up for it.

Special thanks go out to my two regular editors, LilTexasSexFiend and AnInsatiableReader, for making this infinitely better than it was when I first wrote it. As always, let me know what you think, through voting, comments or private feedback. All three works too! ;-) As I said, this story will go up with one chapter posting daily until it's all uploaded, so don't get too mad about the cliffhangers. Enjoy!


**********************************

Just as Tim turned the TV on, he wished he hadn't.

"No!" he shouted, as if some microchip in his monstrous plasma TV could hear him and do something about it.

Apparently, the last time he'd been in his second-floor game room, he'd been watching NBC, because Sunday Night Football sprang to life. The Cowboys and the Redskins were playing, and as a casual Cowboys fan, Tim had a mild interest in the outcome of the game. He'd never lived in Texas, but both his parents had grown up within two hours of Dallas. Even when they'd moved to Kentucky and then North Carolina to pursue his mom's coaching career, they always loved the Cowboys and raised both their children to love them, too. Now that he worked for the Panthers, he was a Carolina fan through and through, but he still rooted for the Cowboys when they played anyone besides the Panthers.

Still, he could check the score later.

"No more fucking football today!" he exclaimed, hitting random numbered buttons on the remote until the channel changed. That wasn't something you'd normally hear out of his mouth, but he'd pretty much had his fill of the game over the past two days.

His hectic sports extravaganza weekend actually began on Friday, when he'd ridden on the Hurricanes' team bus to Washington, D.C. for a game against the Capitals - he had begged the coaches to let him fly the team up, but it was some kind of preseason team-building exercise. After six hours in something that was only marginally more comfortable than the big yellow busses from his childhood, Tim no longer wanted to be part of the team.

He had grabbed a seat on an MHC charter from Washington back to Charlotte Friday night, though, because he had to be in Raleigh for N.C. State's big game with North Carolina at noon Saturday. Carlos had again played fumble-free, and the Wolfpack had edged out the Tar Heels by three points. Pat Kersee played an inspired game from his right tackle position, although for whatever reason, he found it hard to maintain eye contact with Tim.

The next day was a Panthers' home game against the Tennessee Titans. NFL games only took three hours - four at the most - but it was an all-day process. He'd driven to Charlotte at 8 a.m. for a 1 p.m. kickoff, and had just barely returned home 30 minutes ago, well past the sun's bedtime.

He hadn't really had much time to even think about Julia. Well, that wasn't true. He'd stormed out of her house Wednesday night and all day Thursday, he hardly thought of anything else. Once Friday began, it had been easier to shift her to the back of his mind while sports occupied center stage, but since he'd left Charlotte for the ride back home, she hadn't left his mind.

Instinctively, he knew it was time to call her. Tim got up off the couch and went to get his phone off the table by the door to the study, but he heard his front door close downstairs. Before he knew it, his heart was doing double-time. Had she finally gotten tired of waiting for him to return her calls and just decided to come out here? He hoped so.

"Dude, where the fuck are you?"

Tim's chest deflated a little bit as J.T.'s voice echoed through his house.

"Upstairs," he called out. Tim heard him start up the stairs, but the footsteps were too plentiful to belong to just one person. A few seconds later, J.T. opened the door and came into the room, followed by his fiancée, Sheila.

"Wow," J.T. said. "You look like hell."

"Thanks," Tim answered. "That means a lot, coming from you." J.T. plopped down on the couch next to him, and Sheila sat on J.T.'s other side. J.T. was one of three people with a key to his house, and two years later, Tim still didn't know why he had ever agreed to give him one.

"Dude, why is your TV on the Home Shopping Network?" J.T. asked. Tim looked up for the first time since changing the channel. Sure enough, his best friend was right.

"Looking for something large and blunt I can use to crack you over the head," Tim replied. Sheila laughed heartily.

"Yeah, I guess that's what it would take for you to knock me out," J.T. said, grinning.

"Nah, I think we both know that's not true," Tim said. "Anyway, I just changed channels a bunch to get away from football. This is where it landed."

"Wow, never thought I'd hear that from you," J.T. said. "Our boys looked good today, though, didn't they?"

"Yes," Tim nodded. J.T. and Sheila had been there, in their customary seats on the home 40-yard-line, and they'd definitely seen a show. The Panthers quarterback had thrown for three touchdowns, and Carolina's defense held Tennessee's Pro-Bowl running back to just 37 yards and no touchdowns. Carolina had won 31-10.

"Has she called you yet?" Sheila asked. Tim rolled his eyes.

"Are we really going to talk about this now?" Tim answered, exasperated.

"Yes, we're really going to talk about it now," J.T. said. "If we don't talk about it now, we're never going to talk about it."

"I choose option B," Tim replied, dryly.

"Has she?" That was Sheila again.

"You know, sometimes, you act like a female version of him," Tim said. "And despite what he says, that wasn't meant as a compliment."

"And by no means am I taking it as one, Tim," Sheila answered. "But seriously, this has gone on long enough."

Sheila had been Julia's best friend for a long time. Tim didn't know how long, exactly, but neither of them ever talked about a time when they didn't know each other, so he assumed it was at least 10 years. Sheila's father was one of the area's top pharmaceutical executives, and J.T. had been the pilot for one of their family trips. He met her just a few weeks after Tim and Leira broke up. About a year after they started dating, Sheila started pressuring Tim to let her introduce him to her best friend, but Tim had refused to give in. Finally, J.T. had popped the question - for reasons Tim still didn't comprehend, Sheila had accepted. Even a year and a half after Leira, Tim was still in no mood to go to any engagement party, but since it was J.T., Tim had grudgingly agreed to make an appearance at the picnic they'd planned. Of course, it was a setup - Tim hadn't been at the park for five minutes when Sheila walked up to him with Julia. The thought actually made him smile a little bit.

"You're her best friend," Tim answered. "You know she's called."

She'd actually tried to call seven times since Wednesday night; twice in the time it took for him to get home from her apartment, and twice more on Thursday. She'd dropped down to one phone call per day the past three days - just enough to leave a voicemail saying she was sorry. Truthfully, he hadn't even listened to the last few voicemails.

"Why won't you talk to her?" Sheila asked.

"She told you what happened, right?" Tim knew she had, and he also knew Sheila had told J.T. Sheila nodded, so Tim continued. "Then, you know that, too."

Neither J.T. nor Sheila said anything, and finally, the silence grew too uncomfortable for Tim.

"C'mon, guys," Tim said. "I'm still pissed about what she did."

"Is that all of it?" J.T. asked.

"That's not even most of it," Tim answered. "Three pro sports teams and a college pay me to have a mastery of the human mind, and I can't even rein in my anger for two fucking minutes? And besides that, it seems like lately, I can't open my mouth in Julia's direction without hurting her."

"Not according to what she says," Sheila answered, the smuggest of grins on her face. Tim couldn't help but laugh - J.T. was damn near ready to fall off the couch.

"Well, I'm glad I get good reviews," Tim answered, "but you know what I meant. Anytime we have a conversation, I say something that upsets her. She doesn't deserve that, Sheila. No one does, but most of all, Julia does not deserve this."

J.T. had made a smart move, bringing Sheila over for this conversation. Tim wasn't in the mood to talk about any of this, and if it had just been J.T., he would have stonewalled till his best friend gave up. Tim was always nice to Sheila, though, and she had a way of getting people to open up.

Of course, now she turned things over to J.T. Great, Tim thought.

"Tim, I've been thinking about this, OK?" J.T. replied. "I know I don't have a Doctorate in sports psychology like you do, and I'm really not the person to talk to for relationship advice - it took me six or seven tries to find a woman I can be with long-term, and even then, I'm pretty sure she wants to kill me most days."

"Not most," Sheila answered. "Just some." Tim couldn't help but grin.

"Yeah, see?" J.T. replied. "Not exactly a ringing endorsement of my male-female relationship comprehension skills. But... you gotta promise me you won't punch me in the face when I say this."

Tim's grin widened. "Now, why in the bloody hell would I make a promise like that? I don't want to give up the right to punch you in the face even if you don't say something that pisses me off."

Sheila laughed. J.T. simply rolled his eyes.

"You're doing pretty much the same thing to Julia that Leira did to you."

Tim's blood pressure went from normal to off-the-charts in about 1.2 seconds.

"I never agreed not to punch you," Tim replied, as flatly as possible. "I suggest you say something else, right now, because it's becoming a better idea by the second."

"Listen," J.T. said. "You're not pissed because Julia wouldn't let you get off until you told her what she wanted to hear."

"Which, by the way, just happens to be the truth," Sheila added, ever so helpfully. Tim shot the nastiest of glares at her, but Sheila simply smiled and shrugged.

"Now, granted," J.T. said. "What she did wasn't the best way to go about getting it. Sheila told her that, and so did I. I told her a little bit about what happened the last day you were with Leira."

"You WHAT???" To hell with being best friends, Tim thought. This fucker was going down. His fist clenched, but before he could do anything, J.T. smartly got on with it.

"Not much, Tim," J.T. said. "Just that she decided she was going to dump you on a Friday, but still slept with you for two days straight before letting you in on that plan. I thought it was important Julia know that the other night wasn't exactly your first experience with sex not being what you thought it was. And I'm not going to apologize for that, so hit me if you want."

Tim relaxed, if only just a little. It was probably fair that she know that, he reasoned.

"As a general rule, I'm not a fan of using sex as a way of getting anything," J.T. said. "Except more sex, of course. You do it right one time, and she just won't stop coming back for more."

"Oh, Lord," Sheila replied, and Tim couldn't help but smile through his dissipating but still-present anger. "Please don't talk about how great you are in bed. I don't feel like lying right now."

Tim could actually see his best friend grin now. Most people joke about their sexual partners being so loud that someone called the cops. It had actually happened the first time J.T. and Sheila had sex after he proposed to her. Tim had laughed so hard that he offered to pay the $120 fine they'd incurred for disturbing the peace.

"Anyway, I told her that I couldn't blame you for acting the way you did, and that she should have known better," J.T. said. "Which she agreed with, by the way. But, like I said, that's not why you're mad."

"Well then, Sigmund, how about we cut through the shit and get to why I'm mad?"

"Three years ago, Leira told you it was just about sex after nearly two years of letting you believe it was way more than that. You're mad because three years later, you're telling Julia it's all about sex when you know damn well it's not."

J.T. was content to let that hang in the air. He took Tim's almost-full beer from his hand and took a healthy gulp.

"Leira lied to you then," J.T. said. "You're lying to Julia now."

Tim went to reach for his bottle, but J.T. had already raised it to his lips again. Tim just sighed.

"I know we don't talk about things like this much, man, but I know sex was such a powerful thing between you and Leira," J.T. said. "And right when you least expected it, she blew it off and acted like it was just that - good sex. It's a powerful thing between you and Julia now, but you're acting like there's nothing more to it. You know you're lying, and you know you're hurting her."

Tim glared back at his best friend now. Not that he'd admit it with present company, but somewhere in his swirling mind, Tim realized that everything J.T. was saying was true. Still, this was pretty harsh. J.T. saw his look and put a hand up to signal for Tim to wait a second before talking.

"And it's pissing you off, Tim."

Neither of them said anything for a long while. Maybe five or ten minutes - Tim didn't know. The only sounds were Sheila's steady breathing and the clinking of J.T.'s now-empty Miller Lite bottle as it joined several others in the trash can.

"OK, then," Tim said, standing up. "Glad we've had this little chat."

"Tim, you're not Leira," J.T. said, not even looking at Tim when he stood up. "Everyone who knew both of you way back then knows that. Stop fucking acting like it, OK?"

Most people would be shocked at J.T.'s candor, even if he were their best friend. Not Tim. One of the things he liked the most about his best friend was his unrelenting bluntness. He knew how to be subtle when a situation called for it, but he was mostly just really good at calling it like he saw it.

"I'm gonna get sappy and emotional for a minute," J.T. said. "Sue me."

Tim nodded. It had been coming to this for a while. Tim had sat down J.T. for a number of heart-to-hearts like this over the years. It was only fair, Tim supposed, that J.T. got to return the favor at least once.

"I know you, buddy. You've served our country. You stand up for what you believe in. You always do the right thing. There isn't a motherfucker alive who would question your manhood, and if he did, I'd be the first person standing in a long fucking line to shut him up. You gotta be a man now. Handle this shit like you've handled every other situation in your life - the right way. You know what the truth is. You've known it for a while. It's time to get over whatever is stopping you, and be honest. With yourself, and with Julia."

The silence in the air was palpable. J.T. wasn't necessarily waiting for a reply, but Tim finally came up with something.

"You're not going to try to hug me now, are you?" Tim asked, and Sheila burst out laughing, the first sounds she'd made in 20 minutes. J.T. just rolled his eyes.

"You kidding? With Sheila sitting right here? Sorry, dude. Normally I'd take a hug from you anytime, but I happen to have a better option right now."

Tim laughed at the lighter situation, but his mind was focused on what J.T. had just said. He'd known he was being an asshole all along - maybe not quite the colossal asshole he'd been lately, but an asshole nonetheless. Tim had thought he was just protecting himself. He'd never wanted anyone to get hurt.

"You guys here to hang, or did you just come over to deliver that little pep talk?" Tim asked.

"No, we gotta jet," J.T. said. "Something, uh, important to take care of."

Tim rolled his eyes. "Dude, I got like 12 guest bedrooms in this place. I believe you were the one who insisted on adding all these bedrooms I've never been in. I figured it was for just this purpose."

"True," J.T. said. "And don't think I haven't made use of those when you're on the road."

Tim shot a "What the...?" glance at J.T., who just grinned. Sheila turned the color of a stop sign.

"And we'd love to stay this time," J.T. continued, acting as if he'd said nothing out of the ordinary. "But, we don't have our new toy here."

"J.T.!!!" Sheila yelled, half-slapping and half-decking her fiancée. "Shut up! Tim doesn't want to know."

"Yeah, he does," J.T. answered. Tim nodded. Now it was time to make Sheila a little uncomfortable. All is fair, etc., and all that.

"Yeah, I do," Tim concurred. "I'm always up for learning new tricks, and you guys are awfully adventurous. But, in deference to you, I'll wait to hear about it from J.T. tomorrow."

She just buried her face in J.T.'s bicep. "Umm, my cue to leave," J.T. said. "Yep, pretty sure that's what that is."

Tim walked the pair to J.T.'s Porsche, which he only took to Panthers games. J.T. opened Sheila's door, and before he came around to get in himself, he clapped Tim on the shoulder.

"Think about what I said, OK?" Tim only nodded, then watched as his best friend and his future wife tore out of the driveway.

As Tim walked back into the house, he was doing just that - thinking. On one hand, everything J.T. said made sense. Three years was long enough to let an ex-girlfriend dominate his life, even one who was completely mind-blowing like Leira had been. He needed to move on and stop taking what happened out on people who had nothing to do with it - hell, on people who didn't even know what had happened.

At the same time, though, this wasn't the first time he felt like he was ready to push things farther with Julia. He'd been there two or three times, and each time he was ready to tell her, something happened - an image flashed in his mind, or a memory he thought he'd repressed swam back to the surface - that made him stop. He simply couldn't risk getting hurt that way again. Sure, Julia seemed harmless, but so had Leira, and -

"Enough!" he shouted out loud. "Enough of this shit."

He didn't know. He didn't know if he could do it or not. He didn't know if he'd ever be able to move past what happened, and even if he did, he was sure he'd have no idea of what to do or say after that.

It was all still jumbled, and it would probably stay that way for a very, very long time. Through all of his musings, only one thing made sense. Only one thing really stood out as clear and undeniable:

He had to talk to Julia.

*****************

Tim spent all of Monday morning at the RBC Center. College basketball season was right around the corner, and he had to meet with all the players on both the men and women's teams prior to the year. They'd already started practices, but each coach wanted full psychological evaluations of each player before redshirt decisions were made.

He finished that work around 12:15 p.m., hit the gym at RBC for an hour, and then headed over to the airport some time around 1:30. J.T. hadn't scheduled him to fly today because of his meetings, and although he could probably find something to fly if he flirted with the secretary at MHC enough, he wasn't really looking to leave town. He just wanted to spend some time with the airplanes. Something always needed washing, and though pilots didn't generally have to do that, Tim found it was something he enjoyed. He didn't know the airplanes inside and out, like some pilots and all the mechanics did, but he knew enough about physics to know what they did on a daily basis was truly incredible. On some level, it was a peace offering - maybe if he washed the aircraft and treated them really nice, they wouldn't bail out on him at 30,000 feet over Atlanta.

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