Author's Note: This story is for the Earth Day Story Contest 2012 so please, please, please don't be hesitant with your votes. Or your criticism. Either one works for me.
Thank you so much!! I hope you enjoy!
Hugs and Kisses!
I slapped a mosquito getting ready to greedily begin draining my precious blood supply.
Were the little bastards multiplying? As soon as I squashed one, two more were waiting impatiently on the sidelines to latch on. The bloodsuckers were freaking swarming me. I cursed that damn bug repellent that had grossly exaggerated its claims to leave the recipient bite free and unmolested from creepy crawlies for up to twelve hours. Try twelve minutes and that was generous.
Or twelve seconds, I thought, slapping my palm to my neck.
Clomping through twigs, dirt and other forest debris, navigating around the giant sequoias and fragrant pines, I breathed in a deep lungful of the crisp, fresh air. No hint of exhaust fumes or the revolting stench of dumpsters long overdue for a visit from Mr. Garbage Man. It was refreshing, I had to admit that, but I still resented the fact that I'd allowed myself to be dragged from the safety of my nice, comfortable dorm.
Nothing good could come of this. Already I was missing a pint of blood, I could feel blisters forming on my feet and every few minutes a branch would just happen to break free and brain me.
To say I wasn't the outdoorsman type was an understatement. Anything bad that could happen in those supposedly great outdoors I had experienced: getting snagged by the seat of my pants as a tot while climbing a tree, dangling precariously for hours because I was too stubborn to relinquish my pride and call for help; kayaking and getting more soggy than I anticipated when the motherfucker capsized on me, no match for the rapid water; mistaking myself as bait and getting my cheek hooked while fishing, garnering me a nice little scar.
Not only that, but the weather forecast never factored me into the equation. When sunshine was predicted, it turned dark, cloudy and foreboding the minute I ventured outside. When storm clouds were percolating up above, I'd go out and thunder rumbled ominously, white-hot lances piercing the charcoal sky. A simple rain turned into a hurricane warning, mild winds segueing into a tornado.
Suffice it to say, we were a volatile match, Mother Nature and I. I loathed the temperamental bitch and the feeling was entirely mutual.
A fact proven as a felled tree materialized out of nowhere and tripped me. The forest floor suddenly came up and whacked me in the face.
Grumbling under my breath, I heaved myself up to my hands and knees, spitting dirt and pine needles from my mouth. I glowered ahead of me at Molly and Rick, resenting the hell out of both of the little twits for dragging my sorry, lazy ass to the middle of scenic no-fucking-where. As if being a third wheel wasn't enough, I was now dirt stained, abraded and in desperate need of some dental floss.
I narrowed my glare at the back of Molly's pretty red head, wishing for heat vision for the briefest second. It was her damn fault I was out here in the first place, forcing me to trample through the lush vegetation of the forest and incurring the wrath of Nature herself. Her fault I'd spent six torturous hours in the car with her and her nauseatingly doting boyfriend Rick from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Her fault I was now mosquito bait.
All. Her. Fault.
And it was all because I'd been dodging her false, unfounded and completely not true claims, the manipulative wench.
Allow me to paint the scene: me, sitting there like the studious psych major I was, the prof standing at his lectern rattling off his thoughts on neuroscience of free will in his bland, droning, snooze-inducing voice, and Molly furtively motioning to me three rows down. I ignored her to the best of my ability, alarmed by that familiar gleam in her emerald eyes. I recognized that gleam, dreaded that gleam. It never boded well for me. I always ended up doing something, entirely against my will, that I forever regretted.
I was still scarred, both mentally and physically, from our failed rescue of the lab rats attempt. Those suckers bit, hard, and the mad scientists imprisoning them had freaking acid at their disposal. I was still debating over forgiving her for that one.
Okay, digressing here.
There I was, ignoring her, or at least trying to, when Molly's patience wore thin and she began stage whispering my name.
"Ethan. Psst, Ethan. Ethan, Ethan, Ethan. Earth to Ethan Sharp."
My cheeks flamed as I attempted to meld and become one with the wood of my chair, sinking so low down my chin snapped sharply against my desk. Our fellow classmates snickered, shoveling a heaping pile of kill me now to my mortification, and Professor Hennings even halted his lecture at the disruption.
"Mr. Sharp, Miss Fitzgerald," he droned, "is my lecture interrupting your stimulating conversation?"
"No, Professor," we meekly replied.
His beady eyes bored into us. "May I continue?"
I successfully evaded Molly for the remainder of class and even managed to dodge her when we were finally dismissed. It was only stalling the inevitable, though. She knew where I lived.
Only sixty seconds had elapsed since my mad dash into my dorm room when the door suddenly swung inward, rebounding off the wall and revealing Molly. That had to be a new record for her. Nothing and no one could thwart her when she was determined.
And by that gleam in her jeweled eyes, she was very determined, indeed.
I groaned in defeat. "What do you want this time?" I demanded, collapsing onto my bed.
"Camping. You, me, Rick and the glorious outdoors," Molly announced gleefully.
I blinked. Me and the outdoors? She had to be fucking kidding me. "You're fucking kidding me," I muttered.
"Nope. 'Fraid not, lover. We have an extended weekend on our hands and we are gonna take advantage of it."
"Why?" What I was really asking was, why me? Or maybe it should've just been, bury me now. 'Cause Nature would fucking murder me if I reneged on the tenuous truce I had with her to keep my distance.
"Because you owe me one, Ethan."
I scoffed. "The hell I do. If anything, you owe me."
Shrugging, she leaned against my desk, arms folded over her chest. The movement caused her breasts to plump up, giving an enticing hint of cleavage. It should've excited me, revved my engine, made me drool, something, but I remained infuriatingly unaffected. "We could stay here all weekend instead," Molly suggested, her all-knowing gaze steady. "Discussing your failure to face the truth confronting you head-on."
Not this again. I rolled my eyes even as my hands balled into two impotent fists. "Don't start, Molly," I warned, or maybe pleaded, quietly. "Was I not a good boyfriend to you? Did I fail to impress you with my sexual prowess?"
"You're an exceptional lover," she said, smirking as my cheeks flushed an embarrassing scarlet. "We always had fun together but a woman knows, Ethan. You were always distant, detached, better suited as a friend than a boyfriend. I wasn't what you wanted or needed."
There went my jaw clenching, nearly snapping and unhinging the bone. I seriously did not need to be having this conversation with her again. "Maybe I just have a problem with commitment."
"Or maybe you just need to stop denying who you are," she countered.
My teeth gnashed but I remained outwardly calm. Outside, I was composed. Inside, mass hysteria and panic. "Fine, I'll go camping with you and your whipped puppy," I snapped. Anything to escape this.
A victorious smile bloomed on Molly's deceptively angelic face. "Goody. We depart at dawn, my lovely friend."
I watched her flounce off, teeth still attempting to grind themselves into nubs. Damn manipulator. She played me again, plucking my strings like a fucking violin. I seriously needed to start reevaluating my choice of friends.
Because of my bad taste in friends, I was now on all fours on the forest floor, heaving the remainder of the dirt and leaf stew I'd ingested. I stumbled to my feet, swaying, and stomped after Molly and Rick with the baby tree -- sapling? -- Molly had thrust to me at the beginning of our hike dragging behind me. The burlap protecting its roots snagged at twigs and other things littering the ground but I couldn't scrounge up enough energy to lift it any higher.
Lest you think I was a puny weakling, let me assure you that I was in perfectly good shape. I might have been huffing and puffing as if I was about to blow a house down, sweat might have been running off me in rivulets and saturating my t-shirt so it clung uncomfortably to my skin, but when you subsisted primarily on caffeine and not much else like I did, you found it did wonders keeping you high-strung and jittery but it did absolutely nothing for your stamina. My only saving grace was that I wasn't forced to climb the mountains I saw jutting in the distance. That incline would've killed me. Or else I would've plummeted to my premature demise.
Lagging behind Molly and Rick, I allowed my gaze to rove, watchful for any of nature's hellish minions. Squirrels and birds and skunks, oh, my. If Dorothy had been within reach, I would've throttled the bitch for her damn ruby slippers, chanting all that there's no place like home bullshit. I was way out of my comfort zone here.
Better than the alternative, Sharp, I thought. Yeah, way better than having Molly pick at my brain, dissecting my troubled little psyche.
Maybe you're wondering why I capitulated to Molly so easily, considering my feud with the outdoors. Maybe you're a Smarty McSmartpants and you've already guessed. According to Molly, it was so obvious. I, of course, thought differently.
The reluctant homo. Now, where hadn't I heard that sad sob story before?
Before you start making snap judgments, know this: I wasn't gay. The locker room was never a feast for my eyes. At most, the other dudes only earned cursory glances from me, and that was strictly for comparison's sake. Every guy did it, no matter if they claimed otherwise. I was proud to say that, even at a modest 5'8'', with a lithe, wiry frame, I was packing some impressive wood in my boxers. No ego check required; it was simple fact.
The truth was I'd never had any reason to question my sexual orientation. Since puberty and my first glimpse at one of my older brother's skin flicks, I'd been all about the ladies. Short ones, tall ones, skinny ones, fat ones, freckled and bespectacled, it didn't matter. I loved women, all of them.
Until Kieran O'Brien.
Who was he? Glad you asked. Molly's cousin was the first and only glitch in my womanizing endeavors. Without saying a word, removed and detached in a way that stupidly intrigued me, he had captivated me. Stole my breath. Seized my heart. And caused a horrifying and instant boner to tent my pants.
For a straight guy to suddenly be panting after another guy was... disturbing, to say the least. I consoled myself with the thought that most guys had their confused moments, where they wondered... right?
The man was an enigma wrapped inside a mystery and cloaked in inscrutability. He had a way of seeming apart from the crowd, there physically but still removed. Emotionally, that is. Like he couldn't deign to grace us peons with his full attention, the spoiled, egotistical bastard. His aquamarine eyes, so bright, were always flat and vacant. I'd suspect he was hopped up on drugs if not for the fact that his body was a temple, undiluted by any harmful substances. It was a temple I would've gladly worshipped at. You know, despite being one hundred percent hetero.
I didn't need to be a psychology major to know I was all insane in the membrane.
My... attraction to him was a demon I'd been attempting to exorcise. But it was a tenacious little shit, clinging stubbornly, invading my every waking moment, insidiously creeping into my (wet) dreams. It had reached the point where just the thought of him had me salivating, a raging hard-on springing to disgustingly eager attention.
For eight months, I was constantly confronted by his too sexy presence, and by an unflattering reflection of myself, someone I didn't even know. Someone I didn't like. The first inklings of doubt had sprouted in my mind and I fucking hated it, hated him for making me doubt.
When Molly and I broke up -- amicably, of course -- I'd been relieved, a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. Not only would I stop feeling guilty about my lusty and abnormal thoughts but, because I wasn't her boyfriend anymore, I wasn't obligated to attend those family functions with her. I didn't have to see him anymore. Surely everything would snap back to normal.
Nothing and no one I did quenched this... this... obsession.
I was beginning to think I had a problem here.
I cursed under my breath. "Molly, are we there yet?" I called, not quite managing to quell the whine in my voice.
Molly grinned at me over her shoulder. "Just a few more minutes, pouty."
"Pouty?" I muttered indignantly. How dare she? She was the one who dragged me out here, blackmailing my ass into motion with her threat of delving into my innermost fantasies and exposing them. Exposing me. She was such a—
Jesus, I was pouting.
A sudden squawk had me glancing up and I caught sight of some bird that looked like a sparrow but it had a black-capped head and two white tail feathers. It was the briefest of glimpses as it soared up, up and away. I supposed I should've considered myself lucky that the thing hadn't shit on me.
Unfortunately, it had happened before.
Quickly on the sparrow-looking bird's white tail feathers was a bird I did recognize, and not just by its red-feathered tail. A red-tail hawk. A freaking bird of prey. Its hooked raptor beak was great for gouging out eyes, its thick, chunky wings outspread as it soared high above. I resisted the impulse to shield my eyes and hunch my shoulders, kicking up my pace and quickly catching up to Molly and Rick. Yes, I was using Rick as a human shield now; his hulking mass would be pecked before mine was.
I hiked interminably -- actually, probably just ten minutes, but it felt interminable -- and finally a break in the trees was ahead of us. We shouldered through and I got my first glimpse of where we would be staying for the weekend.
Molly had said it was a simple log cabin outside Yosemite National Park. Under-fucking-statement of the fucking century.
My jaw dropped.
Oh, it was a log cabin, all right. It just sat on about a gazillion acres, with this insane wrap-around porch complete with actual wood railings, bark and all. And a moat! No lie, there was a fucking moat surrounding the property, with colorful little fishies swimming around. A nice blend of medieval castle meets Goldilocks' B&E escapades.
But all that paled in comparison to...
My previously unhinged jaw clenched. Narrowing my eyes, I turned an accusing look on Molly, who was doing the whistle, rocking back on her heels, wandering gaze, innocent act. "Molly," I snapped.
She batted her eyelashes. "Yes, Ethan?"
"Something you'd like to share?"
She twisted a lock of her flaming hair around her finger, widening her eyes, so innocent it was nauseating. "Oh, yeah. Did I forget to tell you Kieran would be joining us this weekend?"
I scowled. "Molly..."
"Ethan..." she mimicked. "It's his cabin. We're the interlopers here. He is being very generous allowing us to come here. How about some gratitude?"
"Gratitude? When I didn't even want to come in the first place?" I scoffed. "Fat chance of that. You totally orchestrated this."
Rick furrowed his unibrow. "Am I missing something here?" he asked.
"Yeah, a brain," I told him, rolling my eyes.
Circumstances outside my control had me glancing over at the small drawbridge that allowed people passage across the moat, to the man standing so stoically with his strong hands grasping the thick rope along one side, his gaze intent as he stared down into the sparkling water. His silky black hair was tousled and even at a distance and not directed at me those crystalline eyes impacted me. The sun, in all its blazing glory, caressed the muscled contours of his body, his alabaster skin igniting with a golden hue.
I was suddenly envious of those golden rays.
Mmm, me likey, a part of my brain whispered.
Shut the hell up! the bigger and stronger part snapped.
Gulping with some difficulty, I averted my eyes, again with some difficulty. I didn't need to be ogling that man. He was a man, for Christ's sake. I should've been drooling over the way Molly's tank top stretched to accommodate her buxom bosom. Hell, I'd seen that buxom bosom, tasted it, even. Knew it was a feast for a starving man. So why the hell did I find myself again dragging my gaze to Kieran O'Brien?
That brooding, introspective bastard.
Slowly, he became aware that he had an audience, and that intense, aquamarine gaze rose to sear me with heat. I was actually singed, no lie. Those eyes, always so devoid of emotion, his face always so expressionless, flickered with the briefest show of confusion. And, if I wasn't mistaken, some heat of his own. But it was quickly eclipsed, his former blank mask reclaiming him.
I hated myself for hating the absence of that brief show of emotion. For actually yearning to see something other than that fucking calm neutrality.
Yearning. God, that was such a chick word.
"Why, Molly?" I demanded, not once allowing my gaze to waver from the perfection standing on that drawbridge. And he was perfection; even I couldn't dispute that, as insistent as I was in my heterosexuality.
Jesus, he had that poorless, airbrushed look, like he'd been Photoshopped. Seriously, had the man never suffered acne? Ever had a pimple marring that smooth, alabaster skin? It didn't appear so. Of course, he had a rich daddy who probably had the world's best dermatologist on speed dial. Who said money couldn't buy happiness? At the very least, it could buy the things to make you happy.
"Why what?" Molly asked.
"Why did you bring me here? Here, of all places, with him?"
"I'm not sure I understand, dear Ethan," Molly said, still feigning innocence. She even allowed her delicate brow to furrow in mild confusion, but that glint had returned to pulse in her emerald eyes. She was enjoying herself. "Is there some reason I should be aware of that you would want to avoid my cousin? Hmm?"
"No, of course not. That's ridiculous." Shit, that came out too harshly, too quickly.
Molly's lips twitched. "Uh-huh. Sure, Ethan."
Poor, oblivious Rick was watching us, his face scrunching up more and more as he attempted to divine the meaning of our conversation. "Do Ethan and your cousin not get along or something, Mol?"
Mol. How cutesy. I tried not to gag.
"Oh, they get along, all right." Molly snickered. "Too well."
Rick's eyebrows slammed together again, looking so much like our ape ancestors that it was like evolution had never happened. "Then what's the prob—"
"Rick, don't try to think," I interrupted, and none too kindly. "You'll strain something."
My gaze had wandered again, I realized. I'd been successful in tearing it away from Kieran but it zeroed back in, meeting the jeweled, fathomless depths of his icy eyes. I gulped, feeling that intense stare of his reach deep within me, igniting a flame of unquenchable desire. It was horrifying and if you think having a boner because a guy just looked at you was flattering, well, you're stupid.