***This short story should be read after reading the full-length novel "Maya's Wish"***
This story is the elaboration of the sub-plot in that novel revolving around Maya's twin brother, Mica. Go here to get your copy of Maya's Wish if you haven't read it yet.
Note: This story is different from the others I've published as it is a love story about two men. The story is categorized as sweet, meaning there is kissing and snuggling but no other explicit sex scenes. There is some mild cursing.
Mica was used to being alone with people who looked impossibly good. The reporters at the paper he worked for loved to disappear while he did the post interview pictures of their subjects.
Thad was no exception. In fact, he was the example. Thad was a heavy smoker. So he usually couldn’t wait to escape after an hour or so with his interviewee and duck outside for a cigarette. He always left with the exact same words. “I’m going to get out of Mica’s way for a minute while he gets a few shots.”
A lot of people Mica photographed were hot. He worked for a big paper and was frequently sent on feature page assignments. He didn’t tend to be photographing accidents, protests, or war. No, this photojournalist was stuck with authors, singers, and athletes.
And today’s athlete was so far beyond beautiful it was nearly painful for Mica to have to focus one hundred percent of his energy on capturing him on film.
“I’m not very good at this.” The self-deprecating nature of the walking human perfection made him all the more appealing.
“You’re doing fine,” Mica assured him. “Even better than last time.”
That earned him a smile from the young baseball phenom. “I remember last time.”
If Mica didn’t know better, he’d think the dimpled smile was the indication of flirting. But based on all the photos and articles about his model-studded love life, Roger Breck-Smith was as straight as they came.
Mica kept his face behind the camera. He’d photographed the first baseman a few times since the draft. Picked up right out of high school a couple years ago, Roger was considered one of the most promising players of his generation. Now the season was over and he was doing an interview for an off-season article that would come out next month, designed to keep up interest in the team over the winter months.
And Mica got to be in on it.
Mica captured every gorgeous feature in Technicolor. The sandy blond hair, shaped into bouncy curls, sat effortlessly in a cute, floppy cut that screamed “boys of summer.” Sapphire blue eyes, perfectly spaced around a slightly crooked nose, peeked out behind long golden lashes. The shape of his face was at once boyishly handsome and, especially with the day-old scruff, rough and masculine. It was all accentuated by a pair of utterly kissable lips.
Straight. Too young. Too famous. Probably too ego-driven. And definitely too straight.
Mica clicked the shutter one last time, grabbing a still that included those broad shoulders and thick biceps, before lowering the camera. “Well, I think we’re all done.”
“Thank goodness for that.” Roger ran his hand over that soft-looking hair. “I’ve never been very photogenic.”
Mica nearly spit out the water he was taking a sip of. “Um. What?”
Roger shrugged and took a step toward Mica. There wasn’t much space in this little media room. It wasn’t like the big press conference-style room down the hall. This space was meant for quaint, comfortable interviews. As a result, the small round table and three chairs took up most of the room. There was barely enough space for Mica to capture the team colors painted on the far wall in the pictures.
“Cameras make me uncomfortable. Always have.” Roger took another step, bringing him within a few feet of Mica. “It feels like they can see through me.”
Mica put his bottle of water on the table beside the camera. “I’ve always thought the camera could see secrets. It’s what I like about photography.”
Roger’s gaze dropped to the floor, then slowly raised, following Mica’s body all the way up. When he reached Mica’s face, his eyes were on fire.
“I have secrets.” Roger reached out his hand and rested it on Mica’s forearm.
Mica didn’t dare move. “I guess we all do.”
One more step and now Roger was right there. Heaving chests practically touching, they stared into each other’s eyes. Mica thought he knew what he saw in Roger’s gaze. He wasn’t positive. But he was completely sure what Roger was seeing in his.
And then Roger kissed him. Just like that.
It wasn’t big. It wasn’t an open-mouth, sloppy, tongue-tangling kiss. It was pretty chill, really. Two sets of lips met. It was warm. It was gentle. And it was freaking electric.
When Roger pulled back, Mica couldn’t stop his mouth from running away with him. “I thought you were straight.”
Roger smiled and a deep blush crept up on his cheeks. He shook his head. Mica’s eyes grew as big as saucers and it pulled a laugh out of Roger. “I’m bi.”
“Oh.” It was lame. But Mica had no idea what the hell else to say.
“You’re gay, right? I mean, I didn’t just kiss—”
“Don’t even pretend. I’m the biggest queen that’s ever been in this clubhouse and you know it,” Mica said.
That brought a genuine, absolutely stunning grin to Roger’s lips. “I don’t know. The guy that brings the water is pretty…”
“I’m wearing eyeliner.”
Roger’s expression grew serious. He examined Mica’s face. “Yeah. You are. It really brings out your eyes. You have these soft brown eyes. They’re really pretty.”
What came out of Mica’s mouth next was not at all under his control. “I have a boyfriend.”
Roger’s face fell. He took a step back. “I’m sorry.”
Mica reached forward, but Roger darted out of his grasp. “Don’t be sorry. I don’t know why I said that just now.”
“I assume because it’s true.”
“Yeah. But…I’d rather kiss you than talk about my boyfriend.” Mica gave the other man a shy smile. “I guess that doesn’t say much about me.”
Roger smiled back. “You told me. That says something about you.”
“That I have a healthy sense of guilt, I guess.”
“I’ve bugged you enough.” Roger turned toward the door.
“Wait. Um...Can we hang out? As friends, I mean.”
Roger stared at him.
“I don’t suppose you have many friends that know about you?” Mica asked.
Roger shook his head.
Mica pointed to his chest. “I could be that person.”
Roger cocked his head. It was so adorable. “Really?”
“Can I get your number?”
Mica hadn’t actually expected Roger to call. But the weekend after they kissed, he received a video chat from a frantic ball player in the midst of a panic attack.
After a few minutes Mica learned the sheer terror on Roger’s face and in his deep voice was the result of an outing with several other players the night before that involved too much alcohol and a drag show. Roger had woken up unsure of what he’d said or done the night before. He was completely panicked about any indication he might have shown that he was hot for a man in a mini skirt.
So Mica had invited him over. Only Mica wasn’t spending his Sunday chilling out at his apartment. He was helping his dad paint a shed. And that’s how Roger ended up with a paint brush in one hand, a beer in the other, and a distinctly more relaxed look on his face in Bert and Henny McDonald’s backyard.
Mica’s mother had to work a shift at the hospital to cover for someone else, so it was just the three of them out there on a mild, sunny day in early November painting an old wooden shed and talking about everything from books to hockey. But they completely avoided the subjects of baseball and drag queens.
Mica’s mother showed up right around the time they were putting the finishing touches on the shed. She waltzed in, greeted the famous baseball player as if there was nowhere else in the world she expected him to be but in her backyard, and announced she’d brought home a couple of pizzas.
It was over dinner that things went from relaxed and laid back to weird in a matter of minutes.
“I don’t mean to be…intrusive,” Mica’s dad said after cleaning his plate and leaning back in his chair, hand on his stomach. “But it must be difficult being so young and so famous.”
Roger leaned back as well, pushing a little away from the oval table to get comfortable. One hand lay on the table in front of him, fingers rubbing gently at the worn wood. “It’s got its challenges for sure. But the league spends a lot of time working with us on what to expect. The team has PR people that help with everything from how to give interviews to what to put on social media.”
Across from him, Mica’s mom folded her hands on the dining table and smiled at Roger. “That’s nice. I suppose that makes it a little easier. Having all that support.”
“It would be. I mean, it probably is for most guys. But I’m not most guys. I have a secret to keep. I can’t let anyone know I’m bisexual.” As soon as he said it, Roger’s eyes turned as big as dinner plates, as if he couldn’t believe what had come out of his mouth. He turned to Mica. “I can’t believe this. For seven years I’ve been able to easily keep my secret. Then you come along and I’m all over the place.”
Mica had no idea how to respond to the accusation. He just stared at Roger.
But Mica’s parents had it covered. Henny reached across and put her hand over the one Roger had resting on the table, gaining his attention. “Sweetheart. This is a safe place. You can say anything here.”
“Anything,” Mica’s dad reinforced.
Roger’s gaze darted from Henny to Bert, back to Henny, then to Mica who sat beside him.
“They really are the most supportive parents in the world.” Mica shrugged and pointed to his favorite hot pink shorts and the light gray shirt he wore that featured a rainbow anda unicorn. “I mean, if that wasn’t already obvious.”
Roger looked like he’d just hit a deer on the side of the road. He looked back at Henny, who’d more fully claimed his hand in both of hers, stretching it across the table and patting it.
“Do your own parents know, Sweetie?” Mica’s mom asked.
Roger swallowed hard. “I told them and my agent over a dinner table not too different from this one the night before the draft.”
“And?” Bert urged. “How did that go?”
Roger shrugged and looked down at the table. “They kind of said, okay. But they reminded me that I needed to stay firmly in the closet for the whole of my career. And since I could choose. I should choose women.” Roger looked up and speared Mica with those sad, blue eyes. “But it doesn’t always work like that.”
“Yeah,” Mica agreed. “You can’t just choose not be bisexual. It’s not straight.”
“It feels like a betrayal of the LGBTQ community. You know?”
“Okay.” Bert regained both men’s attention. “You are obviously living in a stressful situation. And we understand that sometimes a person just needs a place to be themselves. That place is here.” He pointed his finger at the table. “You get stressed out, or feel exposed, or the closet gets too tight for you. You come here. Anytime.”
Roger looked like he was about to cry. He didn’t speak, he just swallowed hard again and again.
Just when the silence started to get to be a little too much, the front door swung open and Mica’s twin waltzed into the house, dropping her heavy purse on the coffee table and marching into the dining room.
“What’s up? Am I too late for dinner?” Maya spotted the pizza boxes on one end of the table and her eyes grew wide with excitement.
The bustle of getting Maya food and beer then settled into a chair beside Roger cut the tension. Then Maya turned her green eyes on the hot ball player. She examined him around a slice of pizza.
They watched each other while she chewed and swallowed. Then she said, “I recognize you. First base, right?”
“Young phenom, drafted right out of high school. South paw that can hit it out of the park.”
Roger nodded again.
“So, I’m guessing that worthless sports reporter Mica works with couldn’t get anything out of you. Mica, on the other hand, he’s good at prying people open. Did he bring you home to dinner to get all your secrets?” Maya wasn’t the best with being subtle or figuring out what a person should or shouldn’t say in social situations. Mica groaned as he watched that happening again in action.
Roger, apparently, had the same affliction as Maya. “I’m bi,” he blurted out.
Mica nearly had a heart attack. And his brain kicked into overdrive trying to map out what he should say to change the dynamics of this bizarre, train-went-off-the-freaking-tracks againconversation.
But he wasn’t needed. Maya had this. “Seven years ago I had a one night stand with a guy, and I still haven’t gotten over him.”
“I’m out.” Bert threw his napkin on the table and walked out of the dining room. Henny shook her head, laughed, and gathered up a few plates before making her own exit. Mica let out an unharnessed giggle.
Roger seemed to ignore all of that. Instead, he leaned toward Maya. “Seven years ago. Damn. I was a freshman in high school.”
Maya hit his massive bicep. “Punk.”
“No. Seriously. Most people wouldn’t even remember a one night stand from that long ago.”
“Yeah, well. It was the only time I ever did that and now I work for him.”
Maya’s strange lust story intrigued Roger, and as she gleefully told him the tale he sunk back into his chair, relaxing again. After Maya put away a few slices of pizza, the three of them moved into the living room with a second round of beers. Conversation waned as they started paying attention to a travel show on television. Eventually, Maya left to go find their mother.
Mica and Roger hadn’t been alone long when Roger started staring. Mica could literally feelthe intense gaze from those bright eyes on him. He resisted as long as he could but eventually turned toward Roger.
“I want to kiss you again,” Roger said.
Mica leaned over, easily traversing the small swath of couch that separated them and planted a soft, sweet kiss on Roger’s lips.
When Mica leaned back and they returned to staring at each other, Roger sighed. “Maybe I should meet your boyfriend.”
“Because then the guilt of wanting you would overtake the want itself.” He shrugged. “Or not. But it’s worth a try.”
There were things Mica needed to tell Roger about Nick and himself. But before he could get there, he had to address his sheer curiosity. “Why me?”
Roger cocked his head. “What do you mean? I’m attracted to you. Why is there a why?”
“Because you work with super built, super hot dudes every day. You have been in situations where you’ve met movie stars. The girls you date are models. There are literally beautiful people all around you. And I’m not knocking myself, mind you. But I’m also self-aware enough to know I don’t fit in that category.”
“First of all, it isn’t all about looks. There’s something about you. You’re sweet and considerate, and you see things…there’s just something about you.”
That made sense to Mica. Nick had told him once that it was the mystery of Mica that had initially attracted him. It seemed that mystery had worn off as of late, at least with Nick.
“Secondly.” Roger scooted closer to Mica on the couch, almost as if he couldn’t resist the shorter, older, scrawnier man. “All of my experiences with men were with other ball players.”
Roger nodded. “We would be in the closet together and fool around. It was safe and easy. But it wasn’t so much about attraction as convenience. If you screwed around with a guy, he couldn’t out you because he’d have to out himself.”
Mica frowned. “I hate that.”
“I know. That’s not the world you live in.”
“Not even close.”
“But it ismy world. And all the guys I was with were part of it.”
“So, I’m attractive because I represent the other side of the coin?”
“No.” Roger shook his head vehemently. “No. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, none of them ever really revved my engine. They weren’t my type. I’m not into a body that’s basically a mirror image of my own.” His eyes drifted down over Mica’s neck and shoulders to his tight t-shirt. Mica’s chest and abs weren’t bad. He didn’t have a six-pack, but he loved to bike and often did physical labor with his dad or friends. He worked on gardens and took on building and rehab projects. He was in shape for the average guy, if a bit on the skinny side.
His waist was practically non-existent, but Roger looked at it like it was a juicy steak. His eyes traveled over Mica’s narrow hips and down to his legs. Mica and Maya had both inherited thick black hair all over their bodies from their father. And at a young age they’d both started shaving it off. Now they went and got waxed together regularly. As a result, Mica had a lot of smooth, hairless skin. And he realized how much Roger liked that as he took in Mica’s long, bare legs.
“I understand,” Mica finally said. “I like a body different from my own, too.” And Roger had such a body.
Roger cleared his throat. His eyes snapped back up to Mica’s face and he sat back in the couch. “Tell me about the boyfriend.”
“We’re drifting apart.”
“What? That’s not what I expected…”
Mica shrugged. “The last six months or so. Things have been…I don’t know…strained, I guess.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Nothing happened in particular. We just sort of ended up in a stale place. We’re not interested in each other anymore. Not really. Now things are just routine, habit. I’m not sure I really believe it when he tells me he loves me. He sounds like a robot. And I definitely don’t believe myself. I just say it out of habit. I…I’m not sure it’s true anymore.”
“Don’t be. I needed a wake up call. I knew we couldn’t go on like this. But I wasn’t motivated to do anything about it. Meeting you has made me realize there can be so much between people. We don’t have to just exist. We should wanteach other every day. And if Nick and I can’t figure out how to get that back, then maybe we shouldn’t be together anymore.”
They must have spent at least ten more minutes just staring into each other’s eyes. At least that’s what it felt like. Roger broke the silence first. “I don’t want to be in the way of you fixing something that might be…a good thing.”
“You aren’t. No matter what, Nick and I have to figure our shit out.”
Roger smiled, but his eyes were still tight. “But we can be friends while you do that?”
Being friends with Roger meant getting coffee together at least twice a week, daily phone calls, and near constant texts. Because it was off-season, Roger had a lot of time on his hands. Mica didn’t. But he was more than willing to make time for Roger.
Nick, on the other hand, he barely saw. Mica had refused to move in with Nick last year when he’d asked, and that’s probably when things had really started to go downhill between them.
They’d always spent their weekends together and all holidays. But on Thanksgiving, they weren’t together. It was Nick who suggested they not bother with the annual ritual of moving from one house to another and trying to coordinate multiple family dinners.
So after spending a chill holiday with his family and his parents’ new best friend and her son, Mica was in a good place mentally. And he knew what he had to do.
It was late when he knocked on Nick’s door. But Nick didn’t look surprised as he let Mica in. He didn’t engage in the ritual of kissing Mica as soon as he was inside the door. Instead, he stood back and gave Mica a sad smile. It was as if they both knew what was about to happen as they trudged into the living room to sit together on the couch.
It was the most mutual break-up Mica had ever experienced. Nick was in the same place Mica was in, and they both agreed they needed to part ways. They hugged and kissed, and there were a couple tears for the good times. Then they wished each other the best, Mica grabbed the few things he had at Nick’s place, and it was over.
Mica sent a text to Maya the next day simply saying, “We ended it.” A week later, he told his parents, who were sad for him, but admitted that they knew it was coming to this. And he even called Everett Evans, the family friend with whom he’d commiserated on Thanksgiving Day, to tell him he’d broken up with his boyfriend.
But he didn’t tell Roger.
It had been two weeks since Mica and Nick had broken up. He’d spoken to Roger every single day. But Mica wanted to tell him about the split with Nick in person. And that hadn’t happened. Right after Thanksgiving Mica had gone on a ten-day trip for work down the coast for a feature on vacation spots on the 101. Then Roger had gone to L.A. to shoot an endorsement for an athletic company.
Mica didn’t expect to see Roger again until at least Monday at lunch. So when he went to his parents’ house for Sunday dinner and found Roger bent over his mother’s hydrangeas in the back yard, he was pleasantly surprised.
“What are you doing here?”
Roger sat back on the grass and looked up at Mica. “Weeding.”
Mica sat down beside him. The grass was prickly, but thankfully dry. “Is that really all I’m going to get?”
Roger scooted so they faced each other. Their knees touched as they both sat cross-legged on the grass. “I just got back from L.A. this afternoon and I needed a safe place.”
Mica frowned. He placed his hand on Roger’s knee. “What happened?”
Roger looked down at his lap and toyed with his fingers. “It’s so stupid. I mean it’s not like the place was a locker room. In fact, the environment was very…different from what I’m used to. The photographer was super gay. His assistant was transgender. And the only other person around most of the time was my agent, who knows about me. And still. Still. I was so scared to be myself. It’s like I thought everyone would look at me in the ad and say ‘that guy likes guys!’ I got off the plane feeling like shit.” Roger lifted his gaze and looked at Mica. “So I came here. I played a game of cards with your parents, your mother fed me chocolate cake, and I came out here to work on her garden.”
Mica smiled. “Feel better?”
“Yeah. Even better now that you’re here.”
Mica looked at those sad blue eyes and he launched. He wrapped Roger up in his embrace, burying his head in that muscular neck. Roger’s thick arms pulled Mica tight to his chest. Mica felt the deep sigh that left the other man.
They stayed like that for a long moment. Then the scent of Roger, the texture of his stubble on Mica’s cheek, and the strength of his arms overtook Mica. Almost absent-mindedly, he placed feather-light kisses on Roger’s neck.
“Oh God. You probably shouldn’t do that. It feels so nice,” Roger moaned.
“Then why shouldn’t I do it?” Mica murmured against Roger’s skin.
“Boyfriend,” Roger huffed out.
Mica pulled back, his hands on Roger’s shoulders. “Not anymore.”
Roger’s eyes grew wide. “What?”
“We broke up. Don’t be mad. It happened on Thanksgiving.”
“Why would I be mad?” Roger ran his hand up Mica’s thigh. “I’m sohappy. I mean, if you’re okay.”
“I’m good with it. Very good with it.”
Roger cocked his head to one side. “Why would I be mad?”
“I didn’t tell you sooner.”
Roger shrugged. “You probably needed time to process. Besides this is the first time we’ve seen each other. If you told me on the phone I would have jumped a plane to get to you. To hell with endorsements.”
They fell into a deep kiss.
When Roger pushed Mica back on the grass and ended up straddling him, Mica had to bring reason back to the situation. His hand on Roger’s chest, Mica panted, attempting to catch his breath. “We should put this on hold. We’re in the backyard and we’re supposed to have dinner with my family soon.”
“We could skip dinner.”
Mica laughed. “I doubt we would get away with that. But…maybe I should show you the guest bedroom upstairs. It has all this memorabilia from my childhood in it. We could go up and check it out before dinner.”
“I am so on board with that idea.”
When Henny McDonald found out Roger didn’t plan to travel home to Knoxville for Christmas, she immediately insisted he spend the holiday with them, staying for Christmas Eve and on into Christmas day.
It had been a long, jam-packed day of family activities, and Roger had smiled, lighting the place up like the sun, through it all.
With the day finally over, Mica sat on the small bed in his parents’ guest room that he planned to share for the night with a famous baseball player. In front of him, Roger pulled his shirt off. Mica toed off his shoes and shoved them under the bed with his heels. It was the most he could do since it didn’t require looking away from the toned and sculpted muscles in front of him.
“Your sister is in love with that man.” Roger said casually.
As much as Maya claimed to hate Everett Evans, the man she’d had that fateful one-night stand with seven years ago, she definitely didn’t. Mica knew this in his heart, but he wanted to get his boyfriend’s outlook. “How do you know?”
Roger unbuckled his belt and began working on the button to his jeans. “The way she looks at him.”
The pants went down and Mica’s mouth went dry as, dressed only in boxer briefs, Roger reached down and retrieved the jeans before draping them over the dresser.
“How does she look at him?” Mica managed to squeak out.
Roger walked back over to Mica and stepped between his legs. “The same way I look at you.”
Mica’s hands immediately went to Roger’s hips. It was habit and, apparently, his hands were capable of acting on their own, because his brain had completely stalled out. It took several long moments before he could answer. “Are you saying you love me?”
Roger placed his hands on Mica’s cheeks, cupping his face. “Yes.”
“How do you know?”
Roger leaned down so his lips nearly rubbed against Mica’s as he spoke. “We spend way more time apart than I’d like. I want to be with you all the time. I love cuddling with you, making you laugh, and waking up to you in the morning. It used to be that when I wasn’t playing baseball, I was thinking about baseball. I still do that. But you are giving ball some serious competition. I live to make you smile. And I am desperately hoping you feel the same way because if you don’t, it will shatter my heart into tiny pieces.”
“Of course, I love you. How could I not?” Mica leaned up so he could kiss the man of his dreams.
Mica knew something was on Roger’s mind. His heart was practically skipping out of his chest. Mica’s ear, resting beside it, was assaulted with the sound. Roger’s hand, drifting up and down Mica’s side, kept stalling out then restarting in strange halting motions.
By the third long sigh from his boyfriend, Mica spoke up. “You’re freaking out about spring training.” It was a good assumption. Roger would be leaving in just two days.
“No. Not really. My playing is solid. I’m not worried about my place on the team. I ama little anxious about our time apart. I don’t want to be away from you for that long. But that’s not really what’s on my mind at the moment.”
Mica propped himself on his elbow and looked Roger in the eyes. As he moved his other arm to rest over Roger’s chest, the stark white sheet slipped off it. “Then what is it?”
“The whole season really. I mean. It’s not just that we’ll see less of each other. It’s the secret. It’s going to get worse.”
Roger lived in a condo in the city. The building also housed several other single players. To keep his secret, they never stayed at Roger’s place, instead spending all their time at Mica’s cozy house in the East Bay.
“Tell me what you mean.”
Roger bit his lip and looked nervously at Mica before confessing. “The guys keep asking me who I’m spending all my time with. They guessed I have a girlfriend. And they wouldn’t stop giving me a hard time about it until I told them.”
“What did you tell them?”
“That Maya was my girlfriend.”
Mica’s stomach twisted. “Oh.”
“Are you mad?”
There had never been a time before now when Mica would have ever accepted being someone’s secret, or being with someone in the closet, and definitely not letting his partner tell people they were actually with his twin sister instead of him. But he’d also never been in love like this before.
“No. I understand.”
Roger let out another hard sigh. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. It was probably a good idea. I’ll let Maya know she’s your beard.”
“I texted her about it this morning. She was cool, but she said I better tell you.”
“And you’ve been lying here freaking about it?”
It was Mica’s turn to sigh. “You know I’m in this. You know we’ll figure it all out together as we go.”
“Yeah, but I made this decision on my own.”
“I wouldn’t characterize it that way. Your mouth got away with you. It happens to you a lot. I’m surprised you’ve made it this far.”
Roger rolled his eyes. “I can usually control it. Especially in front of cameras and reporters.”
“It’s surprising. But true.” Mica smiled. But Roger still looked anxious. “Hey. I love you. We’ll figure it out.”
The crack of the bat echoed through the stadium. Mica leaned so far forward in his chair he nearly fell into the woman sitting in front of him. The bases were loaded. Roger swung hard. The ball and bat connected. And that damn ball soared. Mica’s head followed the path of the ball as it cleared the stadium wall and hit the Bay with a definitive splash.
The stadium erupted as the impact of the game-changing grand slam registered with thousands of fans at once. Mica was pulled out of his seat by Joel, who was whooping in delight on his left side. To his right, Maya and Everett were both on their feet as well.
Mica nearly cried as he watched the man he loved round the bases. Roger’s hair, which was in desperate need of a cut, flopped on his head, the unruly curls punctuating the bounce of his run.
With the win secured, things settled down, and during the seventh inning stretch conversation in the family and friends seating area erupted. The women sitting immediately in front of Mica and Joel turned in their seats and held perfectly manicured hands out.
“Hi! I’m Tara and this is Marilyn.”
Mica’s lifelong best friend was a seriously charming heterosexual who’d played high school football, was now a smooth-as-silk advertising exec, and on a nightly basis had more phone numbers stuffed in his pocket than Mica could count. Joel gave both women his most charming grin and shook their hands. Mica did the same, albeit a little more shyly.
“I’m married to Peter,” Tara said, referring to the pitcher.
Roger had explained to Mica that on the team the wives and girlfriends used only first names among themselves. It was a way of showing they belonged to the same group. Did that mean these women knew Mica was one of them?
“Yeah. And Marilyn, you’re Tim’s wife, right?” Joel’s guess wasn’t really that brilliant since the woman was wearing a jersey with the catcher’s name on the back, but Marilyn acted like Joel was a freaking genius.
Mica bit his lip and wondered what these women thought of him and Joel sitting here in their special ‘wives and girlfriends’ section, until Tara whirled around and stared right at Maya. Maya wasn’t paying attention, she was talking to Everett about something and staring into his eyes like he was the one who’d just hit a grand slam.
Mica slammed his elbow against his sister’s and she turned abruptly. Before Maya could ask Mica what the hell he was doing giving her a massive bruise on her arm, Tara snagged her attention. “You must be Roger’s girlfriend.”
Mica took a deep breath. Then another. He knew this was coming. He could handle it. He could do this.
“Yeah. Um. Yeah.” Maya pasted on a smile and held out her hand. She made nice with both women then introduced Mica as her brother, purposefully bypassing any explanation of who Joel or Everett were.
By the time play started again and the women returned their attention to the game, Mica had managed to build a brick wall around his heart. So when the game ended, everyone got up to leave, and a whole new set of women wanted to meet Maya and invite her to their outings and tell her how cute they thought her boyfriend was, Mica turned away and engaged Joel in a conversation about the game highlights. Joel and Everett were barely repressing their pity as the four of them made their way out to the players and family designated parking area, a gaggle of women surrounding Maya as they moved.
They managed to shake the crowd by the time they got to Joel’s SUV, mostly because the players started streaming out of the stadium and the women all went to greet them. Mica saw Roger as he emerged from the building. Roger’s gaze was laser focused on Mica as he made his way toward them. His eyes were bright with the excitement of his success. The expression on his face made it clear he wanted to share it with the man he loved.
There weren’t any press out here, they were forbidden in this space. But there were still plenty of eyes. And Roger’s trajectory was clear as day. So Mica shoved his twin sister right in Roger’s path.
Maya was a few inches taller than Mica, and more robust. His short, skinny frame hid behind her easily. But Roger was tall enough that Mica could still see his face rising over Maya’s shoulder. Roger’s smile fell, his eyes turned sad as reality rained on his parade.
Maya pulled the big man into an embrace. Over her shoulder, Roger’s eyes bore into Mica’s. There was so much longing there, so much guilt. Mica smiled at him, but he knew Roger could see right through it.
Maya pulled Roger back and held him at arm’s length. “We’re going to celebrate, Slugger.”
Roger’s head spun around. He looked behind him where the rest of his team was greeting their families in the parking lot. “A lot of people are headed to that place down the street.”
“We have something else in mind. Is that okay?”
The relief on Roger’s face was palpable. “Yeah. Where are we going?”
“To a gay bar.” Maya’s face lit up.
“What?” Roger’s shock was almost comical.
“We heard you’ve never been to a gay bar before,” Everett said.
Roger shook his head so hard Mica worried he’d strain his neck.
“Lots of straight couples go to gay bars, you know,” Maya said.
“Tell me about it,” Joel threw in. “I’ve been to hundreds.” He punched Mica on the arm playfully. “It’s actually a great place to pick up chicks.”
“That makes no sense.” Roger sounded like he was in a daze.
“Yeah it does. I’ll explain on the way.” Joel hit a button on his key fob and the door locks disengaged.
They all climbed into the SUV. Everett took the front seat, allowing Mica to squeeze in next to Roger, who sat in the middle between the twins. Once they were settled in the car, Roger immediately intertwined his fingers with Mica’s.
When they reached the bar, Joel parked with the driver’s side facing a low wall that ran along one side of the building. Everett, Joel, and Maya all jumped out of the car while Mica held Roger back. Everett and Maya stood side by side against the back window of the car while Joel blocked the side window facing the open lot.
“What is this?”
“This is them giving us a minute.” Mica smiled.
“Thank God.” Roger didn’t waste time diving in for a kiss.
When they came up for air, Mica laughed. “Been waiting for that for a while, Babe?”
“I’ve been wanting to do that since I hit that grand slam.” Roger fingered the neck of Mica’s replica jersey with Roger’s name and number. “Maybe we should just ask Joel to drop us off at your place.”
“We have all night. And it won’t hurt us to have a little fun in public. Our friends have everything covered.”
There was something intense about the way Roger said that. And Mica knew it would take more than a few sentences to address it. But that was all he had time for now. “They’re your friends, too.”
Roger rolled his eyes. “I know what you’re trying to do.”
“Your ego really isn’t as big as it should be for one of the greatest baseball players of your generation. We’ll have to work on that. For now, shall we go have your first gay bar experience?”
“Is this safe?”
“Absolutely. Everett and Joel are all over it. Eyes wide open for reporters. Maya is your beard, of course. And like she said, straight people come here all the time. I think I’ve been hit on by more women at this joint then men.”
“One, I don’t believe that. Two, if a dude hits on you I’m going to lose my shit.”
Mica kissed Roger quickly. “As much I’m curious to see what jealous Roger is like, I’ll try my best to prevent that. Come on, let’s go.”
“This is so unfair. Why do you get to be Mica’s fake boyfriend?”
Mica pulled Everett’s arm down from where it hung over his shoulder so he could turn his head and look at his best friend. “What? Why would you want to be my fake boyfriend?”
“Why not? I’ve known you since second grade. I’ve been there for every important event in your life, and vice versa. And I’ve been to more gay bars with you than I can count.” In typical Joel fashion, he flailed his hands as he spoke.
“But I’m way more interesting,” Everett said, winking. “I’m mysterious.”
Mica laughed. “He has a point. Besides, you were planning to go hit on that redhead at the Bachelorette party. How are you going to do that if you’re my fake boyfriend?”
Joel looked over his shoulder at the redhead in question and grinned. “Oh yeah.” He stood up and fist-bumped the hand that Everett had draped over Mica. “Guess I’ll get to it then.”
Mica returned his attention to the dance floor. Maya was out there with Roger. They’d been jumping around enjoying a fast eighties party tune until a moment ago when the music had changed over to a nineties ballad.
Roger pulled Maya into his arms and they swayed in the crowd of mostly same-sex couples. Oddly they looked a little out of place. But Mica couldn’t deny that Maya looked right in Roger’s embrace. Just a few inches shorter than Roger and with broader shoulders than Mica, she complimented his large frame. Roger’s hand looked at home on her waist, resting above round hips.
This is what the magazines and papers wanted for Roger. What his parents wanted for him. What his agent and publicist wanted. And, surely, what his coach and team management would want as well.
But when Roger’s gaze moved across the room to meet Mica’s, none of that mattered. He and Roger might not make the perfect magazine spread, but they were perfect together.
“Let’s dance,” Everett suggested.
Mica nodded and rose from his seat. They drifted toward the dance floor and managed to hold onto each other for a good thirty seconds before Everett purposefully ran them into Maya and Roger to cut in.
Roger didn’t hesitate to pull Mica into his arms. Mica almost asked Roger if he was sure he wanted to be seen with him. But he didn’t ask, because as soon as they touched it stopped mattering. Everything else disappeared, and Mica’s insecurities and Roger’s understandable hang-ups all melted into the floor.
“This is what it should be like,” Roger whispered into Mica’s ear. His hand floated from Mica’s waist up his back. His other hand gripped Mica’s hip.
“This is nice,” Mica agreed.
Roger’s lips were next to Mica’s ear. “I’ve been thinking all night how amazing it is to see all these couples.”
“This is San Francisco, Roger. It’s not that strange.”
“I know, but I’ve never been in a room full of gay couples before. Maybe I should have been in the three years I’ve been in this town, but I haven’t.” Roger moved his head back to look into Mica’s eyes. There was so much emotion there. “I’ve been surrounded by straight athletes. I haven’t lived in this world.”
Mica ran his hand around Roger’s neck. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sound critical.”
Roger shook his head. “It’s not…It’s just that…Seeing all these men.” He gestured to the people around them, none of whom were paying them a lick of attention. “It makes me realize there is nothing strange about us.”
Mica tried not to let his gut reaction take over. He was almost a decade older than Roger. He was a creative photographer who wore makeup and came out when he was sixteen to a supportive family. He’d never dated a woman in his life.
Roger was twenty-one, bi, and in the closet. He was also a professional athlete whose daily life was so filled with toxic masculinity Mica couldn’t even imagine it.
Mica took a deep breath. “There isn’t anything strange about us.” His voice was even, soothing, calm, and deeply truthful.
Roger looked lost and found at the same time. It was heartbreaking and endearing at once. “I’m glad we came here. I needed to see this. But can we go home now? I want to be alone with you.”
“Are you sure about this?” Mica asked for the hundredth time.
Roger must have grown tired of taking Mica’s hands in his, staring deep into his eyes, and reassuring him. Because this time he pulled open the refrigerator, retrieved two beers, opened them both, and shoved one in Mica’s hand. “Let’s get started drinking now, huh?”
Mica sighed. “I think I’m more nervous than you are.”
Roger stepped up to Mica, pushing the smaller man against the kitchen counter. He set his beer on the laminate countertop and framed Mica’s face with his hands. “You are, Babe.” Roger kissed Mica gently. “Maybe you’ll chill out when Maya and Everett get here?”
“What’s this all about?” Roger asked. “I’m the one who’s coming out to my team tonight, or at least some of them, which, in the long run means all of them. Why are youfreaking out?”
The housewarming party had been Mica’s idea. He was thrilled that Roger had moved into his little home. It was late in the long, busy baseball season and it had taken them a few weeks to get all of Roger’s stuff moved over. But they’d finally accomplished it a few days before.
Initially Mica had planned to invite his friends and family, only people that were in on their secret. But it was Roger who suggested they invite his closest teammates over as well.
Mica hadn’t answered Roger, so he continued. “I don’t want to do the whole standing in front of them and saying I’m in a gay relationship as if it’s some sort of AA meeting. I think this the best way to do it. And I’ve only invited the guys I’m closest to.”
The mixed crowd would include not only Mica’s twin and her boyfriend but Joel and his current girlfriend, Mica’s parents, and Everett’s fierce mother. In that grouping, the baseball players would be on their best behavior and Mica would have enormous amounts of support. But the real question was: Why was it Mica who needed the support when it was Roger who was coming out? And that’s what Roger had wanted to get to the bottom of for days now.
“I’m afraid they will think I’m…” Mica took a deep breath. Roger waited. “Not right for you.” Roger cocked his head and furrowed his brow. Mica steeled himself and continued. “Flamboyant, overly gay, not the right flavor. I mean if you’re going to be a queer professional ball player, shouldn’t you do a masc for masc thing?” Mica was rambling now, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself.
“I don’t even understand all the words you’re saying right now,” Roger told him.
“I’m too…too much!”
“No. You’re perfect.”
It was as if Roger was purposely misunderstanding. Mica’s frustration shot up. Then it immediately quelled. Roger didn’t see him the way he feared the others would. And his internalized homophobia was the real cause of this little freak out.
“You know what? Never mind.”
Roger was still staring at him like he’d lost his mind when the doorbell rang. Mica slid out of Roger’s arms and headed for the door. “That must be Maya and Everett,” he said over his shoulder as he reached for the polished brass knob.
Only it wasn’t his sister. It was one of the best pitchers in the major league. He stood, smiling, his wife at his side. “Hi. I’m Peter.” The man stuck a large hand out at Mica.
Mica shook his hand and stood aside. Peter and the blonde woman he’d seen at a few games and talked to a handful of times, but whose name was completely escaping him, slid into the house.
Mica was still mute, so the blonde spoke. “Mica, right?” She smiled. You’re Maya’s brother. I remember you.”
“He’s also a photographer for the paper,” Peter pointed out.
“Peter. Tara. Nice to see you.” Roger breezed into the room looking completely at home in his own skin. He sidled up to Mica and slid his arm around Mica’s waist. “Did you meet Mica?”
Peter’s face started to do that thing where the wheels are turning and the expression hasn’t quite caught up. Tara, however, smiled wider and harder. “I’ve met Mica at a few games. And I’m guessing he’s not actually your girlfriend Maya’s brother, is he?” She looked delighted.
“No. In fact, Maya is my boyfriend Mica’s sister.” Roger grinned back at her. The two of them looked like they were having a contest to see who looked happier.
Tara elbowed her husband. “I told you, Peter. Mica is Roger’s boyfriend.”
Peter’s wheels finally caught up and he smiled, though it looked a little like the grin you get from an awkward pre-teen boy on picture day at middle school. “And I didn’t believe you. But it turns out, you were right, as always.” Peter stuck his hand out to Roger and they shook. “No big deal.”
Roger chuckled. “Well. I think it will be. But I’m glad youdon’t think so.”
Roger settled Peter and Tara on the couch with drinks and ended up back at the door for the next twenty minutes greeting everyone as they came in. In the end, there were more than a few pale faces, but mostly handshakes and smiles when Roger introduced Mica as his boyfriend over and over again.
When all the guests had arrived, Roger held court in the living room, telling everyone about the little house Mica had bought a few years before and how happy he was they’d be living in it together now. He talked about the hot tub he was having installed in the back yard and the trees they wanted to plant during the off-season.
Mica had rarely seen Roger so relaxed in the company of other people. Charm and charisma oozed from him. Mica fell in love with him all over again.
When the last of the guests left, Roger locked the door and floated across the room toward Mica. Mica sunk further into the couch and watched him come.
“You know what’s strange?” Roger stopped in front of Mica and leaned down, resting his hands against the back of the couch on either side of Mica’s head.
Mica licked his lips. “What?”
“That my incredibly outgoing, artistic, and talkative boyfriend was the ‘quiet one’ tonight.”
“Maybe I was too busy watching you put on a show.”
“Hmmm.” Roger dropped onto the couch beside Mica and wrapped his arm around Mica’s shoulders, pulling him close. “I think you were nervous.”
“I was,” Mica admitted. “I wanted your friends to like me.”
“How do you know?”
Roger kissed Mica’s nose. “I could tell. They all liked you. They’d have liked you even more if you’d been the loud and proud man I know instead of the quiet little mouse you were playing tonight.”
“Don’t tease me.” Mica gave Roger an exaggerated frown. “This is hard.”
“Why? They were all nice, weren’t they? No one was even that surprised.”
“It’s not that. It’s not them. It’s the rest of the world. That’s what’s next, right?”
Roger nodded. “It is. That’s what’s next.”
“I’m scared of that.”
Mica looked at the completely sincere expression on Roger’s face. “But you want to do this? With me?”
“Oh yeah. You’rethe reason I want to do this. I’m not waiting to come out until I’m retired. We’ll be married with kids by then. How the hell am I going to hide that?”
Mica’s jaw seemed to be broken. It was locked in the open position.
Roger’s confident face suddenly fell. “Unless…unless you don’t want those things…with me.”
Mica’s hands shot out and he gripped Roger’s shoulders. “I do. I do.”
Roger’s features relaxed and drew into a warm smile. “Good.”
“You should probably kiss me now.”
And so he did.
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