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Subject: The Brotherhood Chapter 10 – Gay/College/Fantasy Thank you for taking the time to check out my story! The Brotherhood is a story I first posted on Nifty way back between 2001-2013. In preparation for the sequel, The Brotherhood: Awakening, which some have been waiting for since 2013 (sorry), I’m uploading a revised version of TBH for a better reading experience. It’s the same story, but some new material exists to flesh out some characters/scenes. I’d love to devote more time to The Brotherhood Awakening and other projects. If you’d like to support me on that journey, please visit my Patreon for the first chapter of The Brotherhood Awakening, the rest of TBH, exclusive short stories – The Stranger, and a private Discord server. I would love to hear from you guys. Especially if you’re an old reader of mine, let’s reconnect! Also, please help support Nifty and their fantastic work to give the LGBT+ community a voice and place to express themselves. patreon/thewriter_x thewriter_x@hotmail Twitter: fty/ The Brotherhood Chapter X By X I felt at peace, lost in a dream long forgotten. I didn’t want to leave – like a frightened child in the embrace of a comforting mother; I wanted the moment to last forever. The scary part was I knew I was sleeping, yet I would’ve surrendered my life to the world of dreams rather than face reality. I felt safe here. I felt at home. What was so special about this dream that made it feel so blissful? Was it a flicker of a childhood memory I’d desperately been hoping for? If only I could remember it… My eyes cracked open no matter how hard I tried to fight it. As my vision slowly cleared, I was in my room at the TBH house. For a moment, I wondered how the hell I got there. Then, I scolded myself – why did I even care? The Brothers had something to do with it, and it wasn’t like they would post it on the bulletin board. I closed my eyes, hoping in vain I’d fall back asleep. I figured if there wasn’t a Brother barking at the door for us to get up, why not get a few more “Z’s” in? Especially if it meant I might find myself back in that safe place. No such luck. “Hey, I saw you open your eyes.” Arsen’s voice was unmistakable. His tone is gentle, like a caring brother looking out for you. “Don’t even think about going back to sleep. We have to get up.” “I’m up.” I was dizzy as hell, and from the way, Arsen snickered at my slurred speech; I could tell it was obvious. Begrudgingly, I opened my eyes for a second time, knowing it would be a permanent condition. Slowly, I blinked the final vestiges of sleep from my eyes, hoping to bring the room into focus. Beside me, a blurry Arsen slipped out of bed and into his pants. “Isn’t it a little early in the day to be this eager?” He turned towards the bed, made a few minor, necessary ‘male adjustments,’ and then hovered over me. I could tell he was shocked. “It’s almost noon. And seriously, you don’t remember?” Okay, I was supposed to know what was going on, but I was fucking lost. Arsen didn’t seem to care. He grabbed my jeans from our dresser, threw them at my face, and laughed when I was caught off guard. “Arsen, what in the hell are you talking about?” Like a lost puppy, I simply followed Arsen’s lead and put on my jeans. “Why am I getting dressed?” He laughed, but in that surprised kind of way. “You mean Q didn’t tell you?” I just looked at him as if to say, Fucker, just tell me already! “Today is The Day of Bonding.” Arsen paused momentarily, waiting to see the light bulb go off over my head. He got nothing. My bulb was either burnt out or broken. “You know, the day where the Brothers make it all about the pledges?” I jumped and pointed at him, “Ohhh, right!” “Now you remember?” he asked. “Not a clue… Please feel free to fill me in anytime.” Arsen slapped the side of my head, “You ass! It’s the day they treat us to almost everything and anything.” “Can you pass me my shirt?” While he turned toward the dresser again, I quickly grabbed his shirt off the bed and slipped it on; it was the same shirt, same difference. “What do you mean by treating us?” He tossed me my shirt without realizing what I had done, so I threw it back. “No thanks, I’m all set.” “Ugh…you’re so going to get hurt, you know this, right?” I shrugged and winked at him. “So, we’re getting treated to what exactly?” “Well, according to Shaun, tonight we spend the evening bonding with our Bigs. They cook dinner, each one individually, and without ordering it in or getting someone else to do it – they have to prepare it with their own hands.” I smirked at the thought. “Nice.” “It gets better! Then it’s off on a shopping spree – whatever we want – finally, everyone will meet up at a club or something.” “Anything we want?” I couldn’t hide my devilish grin even if I tried. “I’m thinking BMW.” “Ok, slow your roll,” Arsen laughed. “Talk about wishful thinking. I’m guessing more like a couple of Blu-rays and a soda.” “Yeah, probably,” I agreed. “I’m surprised Q didn’t fill you in. The other pledges seemed to know about it; it was all the talk last night. Unless you got so drunk last night, you don’t remember….” “Hardly.” I rolled my eyes, remembering Q’s brush-off, “Q and I didn’t talk much last night. Come to think of it, we didn’t say one word to each other.” Arsen’s brow drew together in confusion, and I wanted to tell him to join the club. “Why is that?” “You’d have to ask him.” “Okay,” Arsen kind of swirled his hands between us, “Am I sensing Big and Little issues here, or is it just me?” All I could do was shrug. “I don’t know.” “Well, he was there to stop the guy with the knife. I still can’t believe that shit. I mean, who pulls a knife out nowadays? That’s so 90s. If you’re going to start something, at least have the decency to pull a gun. I mean, is that too much to ask?” Was he out of his mind? “You’re fucking kidding me, right?” “Of course, I am,” he laughed, whipping me with my shirt. “I’m just glad Q was there,” his voice softened a bit, “and you’re okay.” “Ditto.” Our eyes fixed on each other, and I could see his genuine concern for me. I got that warm feeling in the pit of my stomach. The one you get when you realize someone cares about you that much – especially Arsen. And don’t take that the wrong way. I just mean, weeks ago, we were strangers who couldn’t care less about each other. Now we were like brothers. Honestly…it felt special. The moment grew awkward, as these moments often do. So, we did the only thing we could – we looked away with cheesy grins and scolded ourselves mentally for acting like a bunch of girls. “By the way, what happened with Alex?” Ugh, Alex. That’s one memory I could do without. “What do you mean?” “I don’t know,” Arsen shrugged as he slipped his shirt over his head. “One minute, you guys are going upstairs to get your freak on, and the next time I see her, she looks pissed.” I laughed; I probably shouldn’t have. “It wouldn’t be Alex if she didn’t make a scene.” “What happened?” I shrugged. “We went upstairs, and she wanted to get her ‘freak on’ as you so eloquently put it, but I wasn’t trying to hear it.” “Say what?” Arsen looked dumbstruck. “You mean your girl was up in your room the night you were free to do anything, and you didn’t hit that?” I simply shook my head. Arsen’s eyes were like daggers, piercing me as if I’d just confessed to murder one or some shit. “Are you out of your mind?” he punched me playfully. “Have you seen how hot Alex is? And we’re not just talking face…she’s got the body to back it up. Seriously, you didn’t tap that?” Again, I could only shake my head. “Fuck! No disrespect or anything, but I would’ve banged the shit out of her…twice!” He dropped down next to me with his mouth gaping open. “I just don’t know what to say. If anyone was going to get laid last night, my money was on you.” He draped his arm over my shoulder and pulled me close. “You, my friend, need to be studied.” “Oh, shut up already! You make it sound like I passed up a 100 million dollars or something.” “Might as well!” he slapped the back of my head. “Why didn’t you?” “I don’t know. I wanted to…at first anyway, but then I couldn’t go thru with it.” “Why?” “Beats me,” I lied. I knew exactly why I couldn’t go thru with it, but I wasn’t about to come clean about it. I felt terrible lying to Arsen, but believe me; I got over it pretty damn quick. “Anyway, enough about me. What about you?” “What about me?” “Did you hook up with anyone last night?” “Nah,” he shook his head and got up. “And you have the nerve to rag on me.” “There’s a big difference here, Jacob. I wasn’t alone in my room with a girl begging’ to get her freak on. You were.” “Still. I saw you getting plenty of looks at the party. You had your pick of girls, and you know it. Instead, you’re here ragging on me.” “Not the same, buddy. Picking up some chick at a party willing to drop her pants for the first guy who takes her upstairs is not my style.” “Hmm…” “‘Hmm’ what?” I snickered. “Nothing. You don’t run into many guys who think like that; most will bang anything that moves. Hey, speaking of banging…or not banging, or whatever… Do you know what happened to Alex? I didn’t see her for the rest of the night.” When the question left my lips, Arsen got weird and quickly tried to change the subject. “We should line up outside before the Brothers show up.” He stood up and tried to edge his way out of the room. Yeah, like I was going to let it go after that. I quickly got up, grabbed him by the arm, and pulled him back into the room. “Oh no, you don’t! What’s your deal? Why are you acting strange suddenly?” Arsen turned away from me as if afraid to make eye contact. I pushed further. “Does this have something to do with Alex?” “Look, I didn’t want to say anything, but…okay, just don’t get upset and go crazy on me.” His voice was calm and soothing; he even put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me. The problem was I had no clue as to why. “Arsen, buddy, just tell me what it is you’re trying so hard not to tell me. I’m not going to get mad, and I’m not going to go crazy on you. I promise.” “Okay, I…” The boy broke off before he even got started. Now I was just annoyed. What could be so horrible that it would demand this kind of drama? I finally had to grab him by the chin and force him to look at me. “Damn it, just tell me!” “See, you’re already getting mad…and you wonder why I don’t want to tell you.” “Dumbass, that’s because you’re not talking! What do you expect me to do? Dance? Now cut the bullshit and spill it before I….” “I saw Alex with Mike,” he blurred it out. “What?” I felt my knees buckle. “I saw Alex with Mike.” “Mike, who?” He looked at me like I was nuts. “What do you mean Mike who? Mike Mike!” “Mike? As in our pledge brother, Mike?” Arsen nodded. “With Alex?” He nodded again. I thought I was going to be sick. “Alex, who?” “Oh my god! Are we going to do this again? Your Alex, you fool!” I was livid! Images of those two intertwined, making out in some dark corner, consumed me. Before Arsen could offer more details, I bolted for the door – but not as fast as Arsen. He jumped in front of me and blocked the way. “Whoa there, killer! You said you weren’t going to get pissed.” “I lied. Now move!” I tried to get around him, but he stood his ground. “Back up!” Arsen pushed me back gently with a closed fist, “I’m not going to let you do something stupid. Do you hear me? If you want to act like an idiot, you’ll have to go thru me to do it. Now, do you want to go there? I don’t.” His ultimatum snapped me back to my senses. There was no way in hell I would raise a hand to Arsen. I stopped. Not out of fear but out of respect for him. “Just chill for a minute and let me finish before you go all Rambo. I saw them talking…that’s it.” I backed away from him and sat back down on the bed, my eyes fixed on his face. My mind was going in a million directions, none of which were focused. “That’s it…just talking?” “That’s it,” he said with a nod. “What were they talking about?” “Well, I don’t know,” he laughed. “I was halfway across the room, and unfortunately, I left my super hearing in my other pants.” I smiled at my stupidity. “Okay, okay. Any idea how long they talked?” He shrugged. “Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I noticed them when I came from the basement to get a drink. I was up there for maybe 5 minutes, but then Shaun dragged me out of the room. By the time I got back, they were both gone.” That little tidbit was disturbing. “You don’t think they….” “No way, dude! Mike can be an ass, but I doubt he’d sink that low. Besides, I don’t think he even knew Alex was your girl.” “Exactly!” I damn near yelled. “Hey, it doesn’t matter if he knew or not because Alex wouldn’t cheat on you…would she?” I couldn’t answer that; all I could offer was a meek shrug. Alex was crazy enough to do anything to get back at me if I made her angry enough. I’d learned this the hard way. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Arsen prodded. “You don’t trust her?” I snickered a bit. “You don’t know, Alex. She can be the best thing to ever happen to a guy or be the devil in stilettos.” “Really?” he said, tossing an eyebrow up as he looked at me. “This is none of my business, so please tell me to shut up, but why are you with this girl?” “I guess it was just the natural order of things back in high school. I mean, she was the hottest girl in school. The most popular, head cheerleader….’ “And let me guess,” Arsen interrupted, “you were the hottest, most popular jock in school, captain of whatever sport you played, the guy….” “Basically,” I returned the favor and cut him off. “It just seemed natural that we’d end up together. “Do you love her?” I said nothing. “Okay, the fact that you have to think about it tells me there are issues.” “Yeah, I…love…her, I guess.” “Wow, Mr. Denial,” he laughed. “Are you trying to convince yourself or me?” “Look, right now is not the best time to be asking me if I love anyone. It’s not that simple.” “Uh, yeah, it is,” he pushed. “It’s a yes or no answer – without hesitation, mind you. It IS that simple. There is no in-between…no gray area when loving someone.” “Things are different now,” I insisted. “There are other factors involved you don’t know about.” “Like what?” “This conversation is over.” I got up and headed for the door. Arsen was quick to grab my arm. “Jacob…” “Look, you said I could tell you to mind your business, right?” “Yeah.” “Well, consider yourself told.” He released me instantly and threw his hands up as if I was on fire. “Fine…it’s your life, not mine. I’m just trying to help.” And just as quickly, I felt like a complete asshole for talking to him like that. I turned to face him. I felt horrible. “Arsen, I’m….” “It’s cool. You don’t have to say anything, and you don’t have to apologize. I get it. You have things on your mind that you need to work thru. Just know that I’m here if…when… you need to talk to someone.” “Thanks, bro,” I smiled and pulled him into a big ass brotherly hug. He grabbed me and gently pushed me towards the door. “Come on, let’s roll.” I realized how lucky I was to have Arsen as a pledge brother. I could’ve ended up with someone like Mike. Speaking of the dumbass, the second I stepped out of my room, his voice pierced thru me like a knife. I only caught a piece of the conversation, but it was more than enough. “…if a guy can’t take care of his girl, I’m more than happy to step up to the plate.” In an instant, all the hard work Arsen put into calming me down was lost. My mind was ablaze with images of Mike throwing Alex down on my bed at home and humping the shit out of her. Why back home? I have no idea, but that’s where I took it. It didn’t help that Mike had amassed a crowd – Xavier, Kevin, and Sam surrounded him like hungry wolves, eagerly devouring each juicy detail. The pack must have sensed my entry into the hall, for they all turned to face me at once – and laughed. Arsen felt my blood pressure shoot thru the roof. He grabbed my arm and pulled me back to our door. “Forget about it,” he whispered forcefully. I was more than willing to leave it alone, but the longer I stood there, the bolder Mike’s comment got – obviously, his smirking, snickering hounds served only to feed his desire to humiliate me. “Do you have something to say?” I growled thru clenched teeth. What else could I do? “Shit,” Arsen swore under his breath. Mike took a step toward me and threw his hands in my direction. “What’s your problem, DeRosa? I’m not even talking to you!” I rolled my eyes at that one. “Do you think I’m stupid? I’m standing right here, you moron! It doesn’t take a genius to know you’re talking about me.” Now he rolled his eyes at me. “Oh, get off your high horse, man! Not everything around here revolves around you.” “Whatever, man!” We were just a few feet away from each other by this time. The tension was so thick it was like a third person between us. As the pressure grew, so did the crowd around us. They were on edge and getting closer – If I had to guess, I’d say they were getting ready to stop whatever might go down between us. “Let it go, man,” Arsen stepped between us and pushed me back towards our room. “It’s so not worth it.” I barely heard Arsen; I was so pissed. My heart was pumping so loud it overtook everything. Yet, when my eyes locked on Mike, I could read his lips as plain as day. Don’t worry, Jacob; I was more than happy to make her kitty purr. My insides exploded! All I could think about was leaping thru Arson to tear Mike’s head off. I never got the chance. In front of me, Arsen roared, “Fuck this!” he spun around and clocked Mike in the face with his fist in one easy motion. He sent him flying into the three lackeys he’s so eagerly entertained earlier. It was so sudden and unexpected that my rage was replaced with laughter. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I couldn’t believe Arsen would do that for me. No one else saw the humor because I quickly realized I was alone in my laughter. I think the rest of them were in shock. Aside from me, there was dead silence. Mike was quick to bounce back to his feet and charge Arsen. Everyone lunged towards them to break them up. And in a strange twist of events, I was the one holding Arsen back now. They were hurling words at each other while everyone else yelled at them to calm down. Ultimately, I think the group was making more noise than they were preventing. At the very best, it was a losing battle. Suddenly a single voice stood out from the rest. “Someone’s coming! Someone’s coming!” Justin shouted, flailing his arms around like a chicken with his head cut off. He started grabbing bodies randomly, tossing them back towards their rooms. “You idiots! Someone’s coming!” It finally clicked with everyone what he was saying because we all scattered like roaches erdemli escort when the lights came on. We stood at our doors, trying to catch our breath as if nothing had happened. And while the group looked calmer, Arsen and Mike continued to give each other the evil eyes of flaming daggers. Yikes. I leaned into Arsen a little bit, and thru the corner of my mouth, I thanked him. “My pleasure,” he replied in the same manner. I don’t know why we bothered to pretend nothing happened. The Brothers always seem to know what’s going on despite our efforts to hide the truth. We were screwed. A pledge hitting another pledge…well, I’ll just repeat it…we were screwed! I have to say, seeing Dylan come up the flight of stairs surprised me. I don’t know why; he was a Brother, just not any of the ones I was expecting. “Sup guys?” he asked casually like we were all his best friends. “How’s everyone doing this morning?” “Good Sir!” we responded, yet not so much in unison this time. He moaned lightheartedly. “Oh god, leave the Sir at the door. Dylan is fine.” He walked up and down the hall as he spoke, looking at each set of pledges from time to time. “Well, now you guys know how to throw a kick-ass party. One of the best I’ve ever been to. I had a lot of fun, so thank you for having us.” “It was our pleasure!” Mike was quick to plant his lips on Dylan’s ass. Mike’s eye was still twitching from Arsen’s right hook. And though I could tell Dylan could see something was wrong, he couldn’t identify it precisely. “What’s wrong with your eyes, Mike? Did a little too much partying last night?” Mike nodded as he glared at Arsen and me. “Yeah, something like that.” “Well, as long as you had fun, right?” Dylan said. I was floored that Mike didn’t rat us out. Floored, I tell you! And confused as hell. Arsen threw me the same, ‘I can’t believe it’ look. Even CJ and Ant looked shocked, although they tried to hide it. I guess it goes to show you that just when you think you know someone, they surprise the shit out of you. The only thing that topped Mike’s reaction was Dylan’s. He didn’t have a clue. Now that I think about it, Dylan was different. He was nothing like the other Brothers. When Q, Seth, the Twins, or some other Brother is around, you get that feeling of awe from them, like they are larger than life. They know things. I don’t know what those “things” are, but they know them! They just carry themselves so that it’s just…whoa! Mystery and power. Dylan – not so much. That’s not a knock against him at all. I mean no disrespect. If anything, he appears just like an average guy doing his thing. Maybe it’s simply that he’s new in his role as a Brother and hasn’t found his mojo yet. Whatever the case, he wasn’t like the Brothers we were used to dealing with. “You guys excited about tonight?” Some of the guys nodded, and others answered verbally. Either way, the anticipation was there. Everyone was looking forward to having their Big cook for them. Well, except for me, that is. I was convinced Q would serve me a big black piece of coal. “You guys are going to have a lot of fun tonight,” Dylan assured us with a smile. “I remember standing right where you are last year, and I was out of mind with excitement. And you,” he pointed at me, taking me a little by surprise, “if Q makes you what I think he’s planning, you will love him for it. Believe it or not, Q is an excellent cook, making this one dish that’s just…wow.” He laughed. “You’ll love it!” I smiled. It was all I could do because I wasn’t expecting much from Q after last night. Maybe some Ramen – if I was lucky. “Okay, I have some news I think you’ll enjoy. You guys have earned a little freedom for yourselves.” The simple use of the word ‘freedom’ had us hanging on his every word. What was he talking about? “Interested?” “Yes!” This time we were all one loud, coherent voice. He laughed at us, and we laughed with him. “Okay, okay, I get the message. Starting immediately, you guys will get two hours a day to leave the house to do whatever you want. Usually, it will be from noon to two, but that may change when school starts again next week.” We were pumped. We owned a little piece of our lives again! We started clapping and giving each other high fives and whatnot. CJ even threw out a “dude” before smothering Ant in a hug. “Hold on, hold on,” he shouted, not out of anger but simply to get our attention. It worked. “This is a privilege and an awesome one at that. Like all privileges, it can be taken away just like that.” He snapped his finger loudly. “Two hours means two hours. Not two hours and one second. Everyone has to be standing right here at exactly 2 pm or before. If anyone, and I mean anyone, is late, the privilege will be gone like that.” Again, he snapped his fingers, and the sound echoed the hall. “So, if you’re smart, you’ll plan to be here at least ten minutes early every day. You do not want to mess this up. Now for today, even though it’s not noon, once I’m done, you’ll be free until two o’clock, so today you get a little extra time, but remember, you must be here by when?” “Two!” we all sang out. He stopped talking and took a moment to take a good long look at each of us. I think most of us were thinking the same thing. He was cutting into our free time! This silent ‘review of the troops’ must have lasted a solid five minutes, then he spoke, “Do you guys have any idea how lucky you are to be standing where you are right now? Seriously, take a moment and just think about it. Honestly, when I was in your shoes, I didn’t truly comprehend. Now that I’m a Brother, it’s clear, but there’s just so much you don’t see when you’re standing there. You guys aren’t just pledges; you’re pledges of The Brotherhood.” He left us with that thought and walked away. And we just stood there, lost. “Are we good to go?” Jason asked hesitantly. We looked at each other as if scanning the crowd for someone to give the go-ahead. I wasn’t about to stand around and waste anymore of my free time, so I just threw it out there. “Well, he said we could take off when he’s done, so I’m taking off.” I was right. Everyone was waiting for someone to say it out loud. The words were barely out of my mouth, and half the guys bolted. I didn’t move at all. I wanted to wait until Mike and Arsen were clear of each other before leaving. I didn’t want to find out later that they started beating the crap out of each other. It was cool, though. They exchanged a few dirty looks, but that was all. For now, they were in a holding pattern, just waiting to see what would happen next. My little crew came together to check-in, anxious to formulate a plan of action for the rest of the day. “Does anyone know if I got any last night?” CJ asked. We laughed our asses off. “Seriously, dude, I don’t remember. Most of last night is a blur.” “Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much next time.” “Yeah, and maybe Steve can do without his three-footer.” He goosed Steve’s package, which was funny. Steve just causally brushed CJ’s hand away. “So, what are you dudes going to do?” “I want to check out the campus,” Ant answered. “Sweet! I’ll come with you.” Nick was just a little too eager. “I’ve been dying to get near the football field since I got here. Let’s roll!” He grabbed Ant’s arm, literally dragging him towards the Athletic Center. All Ant could do was look at us and mouth the words “Help me!” It was damn funny. CJ was like, “Dude,” and walked away dismissively, unsure what that was all about. Then the focus turned to me and how I planned to spend my two hours. I told them I’d probably walk around the campus for a while and just see what happens. But honestly, I didn’t have a clue. I never expected the Brothers to grant us this kind of freedom. In the end, the group went in separate directions; not surprising considering we spent too much time together as pledges. I didn’t get far. I didn’t even get out of the house. As I reached the door, Dylan stopped me from leaving to deliver a message. Q had requested my presence in his bedroom. Like an idiot, I asked, “What for?” And like a Brother looking at an idiot with a lot of nerve, he replied, “I didn’t realize Q needed a reason.” “Sorry,” was all I could say. He walked off, leaving me to haul my ass back up to Q’s room. Usually, it wouldn’t be a big deal if it wasn’t located in East Guam! Plus, I wasn’t all that gun-ho to see Q. Not yet. But it wasn’t as if I had much choice. Q’s ‘request’ wasn’t a request at all – it was an order. I bumped into Steve during my little trek to Q’s bedroom, and I mean that literally. I was coming around a corner from the left, and he was coming from the right…you can figure out the rest. “Hey, what are you still doing here?” I asked. “I thought I was the only one not enjoying our newfound freedom.” “Oh, believe me, I plan to make a break for it, but I wanted to talk to my Big first.” “Where is Seth?” “In his room, I think…at least that’s what I was told.” “I’m doing the same.” “You have to see Seth too?” “No, you dumbass,” I smirked, “I’m going to see Q, though I’d rather be poked with flaming…hold up a second. Your face!” Instantly Steve’s face came alive with the brightest smile you can imagine. He was glowing, and I was right there with him. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As you may recall, Steve had severe acne issues. I’m talking about the worst of the worst. But I was staring at him, less than two feet away, and he was almost unrecognizable to me. Instinctively, I put my hand to his face. I didn’t even think about it; I just did it. I had to feel it to believe it. His skin was clear! He still had a few blemishes on his chin and forehead, but they were minor and healing fast. I guess with all the Arsen and Mike drama; I hadn’t noticed it earlier. “How?” I asked, still stunned. With a smile beaming across his face and a slight blush on his cheek, he pressed his face against my hand. I think he enjoyed the feel of my hand on his cheek. I figured it had been a while since he felt comfortable letting someone touch his face in such a way. “It’s all because of Seth,” he finally answered just as I removed my hand. “What did he do?” “One of the first things he did was give me a face cream. He said it would clear up my skin if I used it daily. Honestly, I was skeptical. I’ve already been thru every cream, ointment, and pill on the planet. Nothing has ever helped. And as I expected, Seth’s cream did the same – nothing. I’m talking zero change! I thought maybe the whole thing was some pledge joke. Then this morning, I wake up looking like this!” He laughed as he pointed to his face. “I couldn’t believe it.” “What in the hell did he give you?” “I don’t know!” He seriously couldn’t contain himself; the boy was giddy. “But I don’t fucking care! I mean, look at me! I can finally be one of you guys without feeling like the ugly duckling.” “Dude,” that made my stomach turn hearing him say that, “you were always one of us.” “No.” “Yes!” “No way,” he insisted. “You don’t know what it’s like to go through high school with a face like a pepperoni pizza to be harassed because of it constantly. Seriously look at yourself. Are you trying to tell me you can relate? Nothing against you, bro, but you can’t.” He was right. As conceded as it may sound, I certainly didn’t have any problems in the looks department. And for a moment, as I talked to Steve, I felt guilty about it. “And then I get his bid to join The Brotherhood,” he continued, “and I’m like, are kidding me? Me? This place looks like a freaking modeling convention, and they wanted me to try out? I was convinced I would be the butt of a bad joke.” “If that’s the case, why did you even bother showing up? He shrugged and looked passed me as if the answer was hidden behind me. “I don’t know. I guess a tiny part of me hoped their pledge invitation was genuine. I didn’t want to pass it up if that was the case. I risked humiliation to become part of something bigger and better. Somewhere I could belong.” I was about to say something, but he unintentionally cut me off. “Then I get into a lineup with you guys for the first time, and all I could think was ‘one of these things does not belong here,’ you know?” I nodded. “It wasn’t easy for me to be surrounded by a bunch of mother-fucking models. But now I feel like I belong…as stupid as that may sound.” I smiled. “I get it. And I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like you were an outsider. I…” “No, no, no…it’s not about that. No one made me feel like that. I made myself feel that way. But now…” “Now, you look amazing.” I couldn’t help but caress the side of his face again. I wasn’t exaggerating in the least for the sake of his feelings. I never would’ve guessed such a good- looking guy was hiding under all that acne. Seriously, the kid was a stud! I should’ve known that if the Brothers invited him to pledge, he had something more that we were all missing. Now that ‘something’ was staring me in the face. “You’ll be beating the girls off with the stick now…hell, maybe even some guys too.” He blushed again and pushed me away playfully. “I just want you to know that I’ve always liked and respected you as a person; it had nothing to do with your looks.” I cupped his face in my hands. “You were awesome before any of this. This is just icing on the cake.” “Shit!” He looked away from me and pressed his fingers against his eyes to stop the waterworks. I kind of snickered at him. “Come here,” I said and hugged him. It became one of those moments you don’t soon forget. “I should go before Seth leaves or something.” He hid his watery eyes by not looking at me, “Besides, I doubt you want to keep Q waiting any longer. See you at two, bro.” He slapped my hand and took off down the hall. I was so happy for him. The smile on my face stayed with me to Q’s door. It was partially open when I arrived. I stopped for a moment, you know, to admire its lovely craftsmanship and all that good stuff. Maybe I was stalling, but it was a damn good-looking door! Before I could knock, a voice – that did not belong to Q – invited me inside. One of the Twins was lying on Q’s bed. He was dressed in simple shorts and a t-shirt reading a magazine. Q sat at his desk, his fingers blazing across the keys of his laptop. He wore a black, gray, and white camouflage tee that looked airbrushed. It hugged him perfectly. Even as I stood just a few feet from his desk, he didn’t bother to make eye contact. I guess I wasn’t expecting much out of him. He sat with one leg on his chair, concentrating on his computer. I couldn’t help but notice thru the glass on his desk that he was also wearing matching trunks. I was a bit surprised to find him lounging around in nothing more than a tee and underwear. He’s the guy I picture being up, fully groomed, and dressed by the crack of dawn. I was so fixated on Q I didn’t notice the twin get off the bed until he was standing right in front of me. “Wicked party you guys’ threw last night!” he grinned and slapped my stomach with the magazine. “One of the best I’ve been to.” “Um…thanks, Sir.” “Don’t mention it. Just make sure to shoot us, or at least me, an invite to your next party. I’d hate to miss it.” He grinned and sat on the edge of Q’s desk. “For sure, Sir,” I was creeped out by his casual attitude, especially with Q sitting just a few feet behind him. To make matters worse, or maybe just awkward, he sat there staring at me as if expecting me to speak. The problem was I had nothing to say. Hell, I didn’t even know why I was there. “So…” he smiled. I kind of raised my brows and shrugged. Like what was I supposed to do? Maybe he was expecting me to do some magic trick and pull a rabbit out of my ass. Seriously! Q was no help; he simply continued typing as if neither of us was in the room. The banging on the keyboard only emphasized the silence between us. It was unnerving. “So…” The twin repeated with the same stupid grin. “Sir, I’m sorry….” I finally said. Now he looked confused. “For what exactly?” “I don’t know, Sir, but I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something, or you’re expecting something from me. I’m just not sure what you want. I’m about ready to break out in song, and believe me; no one wants that.” He laughed outright, and thankfully, it broke the tension a bit. “How was your night?” he asked. “Uh…fine,” I shrugged. “Did you have a good time?” “I suppose, Sir.” I looked at Q, hoping he’d provide a hint as to what was going on, but as expected, he was too consumed with his computer to care. “Tell me,” The Twin paused for a moment; his eyes never moved from mine, “did anything weird happen last night?” “Weird? Weird how, Sir?” “I don’t know. You tell me,” he shrugged innocently, but I could it was a loaded question. “We found you passed out on your bed. We just want to make sure you’re okay. Are you sure nothing strange happened? Because if it did, you could tell us. That’s why we’re here. Not only to put you guys thru the ringer while pledging but to watch out for you as well. You know that, right?” Call me slow, but it finally dinged! They knew! Or, at the very least, suspected something happened last night. I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief! This was my chance to tell them there’s a sick fuck out there who has nothing better to do than to harass me. I had to contain my excitement! I knew the Brothers would nail this fucker to the wall. And maybe, just maybe, telling them everything would get some kind of response out of Q. That alone would be worth it. “So, is there anything you want to tell us?” He prodded. I looked straight at him and said, “Nope…not really, Sir.” Yes, you read that correctly. I didn’t tell him anything. Believe me when I say the words were on the tip of my tongue, and I was about to spill my guts, but at that very moment, it hit me. What good would that do? If I told them what was happening to me and they took it upon themselves to get involved, it would only force this mystery fucker into hiding. I was convinced it had to be a Brother, so once word got out among the group, he’d be stupid to try anything. I’d never discover his identity or what he wanted if he hid. He’d have the upper hand forever, and I couldn’t let that happen. Right then, I decided to keep quiet until I had enough info on this guy to bring to the Brothers. No one is perfect, and he’s bound to fuck up at some point. I was going to play along and fight him on my terms. “Jacob, are you sure there’s nothing?” he sounded genuinely concerned for me. “Positive, Sir,” I smiled. “I guess I passed out from drinking too much.” “Uh-huh,” he said under his breath and hopped off the desk, his bright blue eyes fixed on mine. He was about to walk past me but stopped at my side. He looked at me with a questioning gaze, and I returned his inquisitive stare until tarsus escort he finally left. I felt terrible for lying, but I was confident it was the right decision. I could only hope they would understand my silence once I came forward with enough evidence. If I was wrong, my ass was out of The Brotherhood and probably Arsen’s ass too. I felt guilty putting his future with TBH in jeopardy. Maybe that wasn’t my call, but it was too late now; I’d made my bed, and now I had to lay in it. Now it was just Q and I alone in his room. He was still typing, and I still stood there like an idiot. Every minute he let me stand there, I got angrier at him. I had no idea if I was dismissed and could leave or if he had something more for me. When I found out Q was going to be my Big, I was so excited, but now, after all the bullshit, I started to regret it-speaking of regrets. That night in the motel room? Damn, I wanted to turn back the hands of time on that one. Had I known Q would pull a 180 on me, I would never have allowed that night to happen. Never! I would’ve slept outside in the rain if necessary. I was so pissed at him and consumed by my thoughts that I didn’t realize he had stopped typing. I think the deafening silence in the room snapped me back to reality. Q’s eyes moved across the screen, reading whatever the fuck he was working on, when he finally said, “Close the door.” I’d been waiting for him to say boo to me since the night before and all he could muster was ‘close the door.’ Reason 133 why I don’t own a gun is all I’m saying. I moved to close the door but hesitated, unsure if I was supposed to stay or get out. Of course, Mister Talkative was no help. I would have taken smoke singles at that point if that’s how Q wanted to communicate. I closed the door but stood there staring at it with my back to Q and my hand shaking on the doorknob. What the fuck I’m I doing here? I was feeling panicky, like I couldn’t breathe. I needed to get out. Out of nowhere, an arm wrapped around my waist. A warm hand traced my arm down to my trembling hand and gently pulled it away from the doorknob. My heart stopped. Seriously, any longer, they would’ve had to put the paddles on me to jump-start that bad boy. I remember biting the side of my cheek to ensure I wasn’t dreaming. It was real. The arms embracing my body were very, very real. “I’m sorry,” Q’s voice was a faint hush; he was so close his body heat washed over me. He pressed his forehead gently against the nape of my neck. “I’m so sorry,” he said again, his voice slightly higher than before. “I never meant to hurt you. I never meant to make you feel so alone.” Is this happening? I found those words repeating themselves like a broken record in my head. I couldn’t believe this was happening. I was so confused. There was so much I wanted to say to Q. I wanted to lash out at him, but the words got caught in my throat every time I opened my mouth. I think I was afraid if I said anything, the illusion would fade. I’d be standing alone with my hand on the doorknob and Q sitting at his desk, ignoring me. I didn’t want that. If this was truly an illusion, so be it. It was better than the alternative. “Say something,” he pleaded. “Say anything. Yell at me if you want, get angry, but please say something.” The sincerity in his voice was overwhelming. It’s ironic. He finally allowed me to say what I wanted, to get it all out, and I couldn’t find the words. Then I realized there was only one question I needed to be answered to give me peace of mind. “Why?” Instead of answering me immediately, Q looked away as if the answers I needed were scrolling across his eyes, and he didn’t want me to see them. “I’m afraid the answer you’re looking for is lame at best, but fear kept me away from you last night.” “Fear?” Q didn’t strike me as the kind of person afraid of anything. “Fear of what exactly?” “Don’t you see?” He pointed at the two of us, “this should not be happening. The night in the motel room should never have happened, though believe me when I tell you there isn’t a fiber in my being that regrets it. I’m just speaking the facts of the matter. You are my Little; I’m your Big! I should’ve never allowed us to cross that line.” “Okay…but we did,” I added. “What does that have to do with blowing me off all night?” Q was about to answer, but I cut him off. “Wait…I think I’m beginning to understand. You didn’t hang out with me because you were afraid you might say or do something that would give us away.” He looked away for a minute as if hearing the situation out loud made him uncomfortable. “That’s it, isn’t it?” “Yes…” He answered like he was admitting defeat. “When it comes down to house business, whether dealing with the pledges or the Brothers or Inner Circle business, I’m focused on my task hundred percent, but last night was such a relaxed atmosphere….” “You were afraid you’d slip up.” “Exactly.” Q parted his lips to say something but released a long-drawn-out breath instead. “That night in the motel, I realized something.” He paused for a long while, forcing me to ask him to continue. He looked up at me with a warm smile playing on his lips. “How easy it is for me to lose myself in you.” His voice was soft and soothing, yet I heard those words as if his lips were pressed to my ear. Instantly, I had butterflies in my stomach. I probably lost some cool points admitting that, but it was true. What do you say to something as sweet as that? I couldn’t stay mad at him after that. Truthfully, I understood this was a challenging situation for him. Granted, I wasn’t exactly in his shoes, but I could imagine how someone in his position must feel. Of course, I couldn’t help but ask, “How bad can it get? How bad can it get for you if others discover it? Or us, for that matter?” Throwing his head back a little, he snickered to himself; I could tell the different scenarios were running through his head. He returned his gaze to me and got serious suddenly. Leaning back against his desk and grasping the edge with his hands, he said, “If you could only understand the line I’ve crossed, you’d know how bad it can get.” I shrugged. “Make me understand.” “I don’t know that I can….” Q was about to say something more but stopped, raising his left brow as the light bulb went off over his head. “Let me tell you about Lex.” I just need to stop here and say how hot he looked leaning against his desk. We were having a serious conversation, but I still couldn’t stop the tingle in my pants. I defy any guy to stand where I was and look at Q in his camo underwear with ‘things’ bulging and not get excited. Anyway… “If I had a counterpart, Lex was it,” he said with a smile. “It’s no secret that I’m seen as Kyrios’ right-hand-man though I never actively sought that title. Well, every right-hand needs a left. Lex was it. My west coast counterpart. This house acts like a hub for all the TBH houses on the east coast. All major issues, problems, questions, and concerns come here for resolution.” “Ah,” I nodded knowingly, “so you’re not just the head of this house but the whole coast.” “In a way,” he hesitantly agreed. “Ultimately, the head of each house runs their house how they see fit if it’s in line with The Brotherhood covenants. They only turn to me for guidance when it’s needed. My words carry a lot of weight with the other leaders.” “With The Brotherhood itself, from what I understand,” I added. His modesty made him that much more appealing and hot. “So goes the rumor,” he laughed, “but I try not to believe them. Lex’s house in California served the same function as this house. His voice also resonated throughout The Brotherhood.” “As yours does,” I added again. I wanted him to give himself the credit he rightfully deserved. “Will you stop that? I know what you’re doing.” I simply grinned. “Go on.” “As I said, it’s widely believed that I would be next in line if Kyrios were to pick a successor. However, it would’ve been a toss-up between us not long ago. A few years back, Lex took a Little by the name of Mark. This kid was as hopeless as they come. When Lex and some of the members of his Inner Circle went to Mark’s high school to scout out potential pledges, Lex handpicked the guy even though he wasn’t one of the candidates. No one questioned his decision because…well, it was Lex. But it was clear from the beginning that Mark was not Brotherhood material. “The very first night of pledging, he was dismissed by another Brother, but Lex was quick to overrule him. Mark got to stay. This didn’t happen just once but many times throughout pledging. If I dismissed one of our pledges for every time Mark was dismissed, I seriously wouldn’t have any pledges left. But each time, Lex overruled the decision to boot him. The others could only assume Lex saw something in him that they were missing, some hidden potential. They trusted Lex would reveal what made this pledge so special before it was too late. “Well, he never did. Mark made it to initiation night and was just minutes away from becoming a full-blown Brother, not just a Brother, but one of us!” Q pressed his fist to his chest. I was a little confused by his reference to ‘one of us,’ but I let it go, eager to have him finish the story. “Lex was just about to perform the final ritual that would’ve made Mark’s brotherhood official when a voice echoed thru the room ordering him to stop. I can only imagine the look on his face when he turned to see Kyrios standing before him. “Unbeknownst to Lex, the members of his Inner Circle grew so suspicious of his motives that they launched a secret investigation to uncover the truth. What they found sent a shockwave throughout The Brotherhood.” “Let me guess they slept together,” I interjected with a roll of my eyes at how their situation mirrored our own. “It was more than that, Jacob.” A seriousness washed over his face, making the situation very clear. “Lex was in love…and that love clouded his judgment in the worst way. For a pledge to make it to Brotherhood, he must earn it on merit. It’s one of our most sacred laws, and all members of The Brotherhood are entrusted with upholding it. Lex betrayed that trust.” Q stopped for a moment to gather his thoughts, but I was impatient and urged him to continue. “Word of his indiscretion spread like fire throughout The Brotherhood. People were pissed like you wouldn’t believe. One Brother took great offense to his betrayal of everything we stood for and made it his mission to bring him down and make him regret the error of his ways. “Lex had to face the Council of Brothers….” “And that’s what exactly,” I interrupted before he even had a chance to finish his sentence; lousy habit, I know. “I was getting to that, Mr. Impatient! The council comprises the leaders of all the TBH houses and Kyrios. It meets every month to discuss important issues about The Brotherhood. Still, it also acts like a court where Brothers in high-level positions, such as myself, stand trial when they’ve committed a crime against The Brotherhood. Well, that one Brother led a serious crusade against Lex, eventually winning and bringing him down. And to be honest, there wasn’t much Lex could do. The evidence spoke for itself.” “What ended up happening to this Lex guy?” “He’s still a Brother, for it is very little we can do about that. Once you become one of us, there is no going back. But he was stripped of his position, and where his voice once carried enormous weight with The Brotherhood, now it’s just a mere whisper. A first-year Brother has more influence than he does. As part of his punishment, he’s forced to stay in the house he once led.” My eyes just blew open. “Wow! That must suck! Can you imagine if you lost everything and, on top of that, were forced to stay in this house? Everyone must look at you, not to mention what they think.” “Tell me about it,” Q sighed. “What happened between Lex and Mark? Did you guys force them to stop seeing each other?” Q laughed. “No…why would we do that? The damage was already done. What purpose would it serve to force them apart? No, they were free to continue seeing each other if they wanted. In fact, from what I understand, they continued to see each other after the scandal became public. It didn’t last long, though. Their relationship only reminded Lex of everything he had lost. Eventually, they went their separate ways.” “Huh…” I mused. “Whatever happened to Mark?” He grinned. “Well, obviously, he never became a Brother.” “Obviously!” “At the same time, the Council of Brothers felt Mark was innocent in all this. Lex should’ve known better. Instead, he filled Mark’s head with promises and dreams he had no chance of fulfilling. The Brotherhood felt obligated to him, so we ensured he was set for life.” “And that means what exactly?” “His school is paid for. He’ll have an excellent job waiting for him when he graduates in a couple of years; I believe, a house with a car in the garage and a Golden Retriever.” “Are you serious?” “Yes,” he laughed at me. “As long as Mark doesn’t do anything stupid like fall in with the wrong crowd or get into drugs or the crime scene, The Brotherhood will look out for him for the rest of his days. One of our own failed him; he shouldn’t have to suffer because of it.” “Well, damn! At least I know I’ll be set if people find out about us.” Q gave me the look of death and took a step toward me! For a minute, I thought a pair of red beams would shoot out of his eyes. “I was kidding!” I threw out my hands so he wouldn’t rush and beat the crap out of me. I managed to grab his arms and hold him back. “I’m kidding. I’m sorry it was a bad joke, a terrible joke!” I was laughing my ass off the whole time, and, as much as he wanted to pretend he was going to hurt me, Q couldn’t help but join in. He backed away from me, smiling. “Hopefully, you better understand why I acted the way I did last night and why this can’t go beyond these doors.” “And what exactly is this?” I asked him, moving my hand between us. “What do you mean?” “This.” Now I waved both hands between us. “Whatever it is that can’t leave this room? What happened in the motel room, not to mention the lip-locking a few minutes ago? What is it? What do we call it? I guess I’m confused as to what we’re becoming…if anything.” He shrugged and threw up his hands. “I’m sorry, Jacob, but I don’t have an answer for you. I don’t know what this is, what to call it, or what it will become. The truth is this is very new to me. It kind of took me by surprise. I do know this….” He paused for a moment and turned those brilliant eyes on me. It’s funny. He said it was easy for him to lose himself in me, and now when I look at him, all I can see is myself. “Regardless of the risk to myself or my status, I’m willing to explore the possibilities and find the answers to your…our…questions.” I smiled, possibly a very cheesy smile, but I couldn’t help myself. “I do realize, however….” His words trailed off, and he looked pained suddenly. “I have no right to put you in such a position. So far, you have a decent shot at becoming a Brother if you continue your current path. Not to mention your life outside The Brotherhood…your girlfriend, friends, and family. This,” he did the same thing with my hands, “will only complicate matters for you.” I wanted to say something, but he cut me off. “So, I want you to know you can walk out of this room right now, and it ends here and now. And if you’re worried I’ll retaliate and boot you from The Brotherhood, please don’t. I’d never abuse my position in such a way.” Q was giving me a get-out-of-jail-free card. Regardless of whatever might have happened or what was said, he had a point. I did have a pretty good life going for myself, and I also believed I had a good shot at becoming a Brother. And then there’s Alex; yes, we have our issues, but what couple doesn’t? Was I ready to give all that up, not to mention complicate my life a hundred times over? Why would anyone do that to themselves? I looked at him looking at me, waiting. I wanted to apologize, but I simply couldn’t find the words. Walking to the door, I grabbed the knob and slowly turned it. “Before I walk out this door, there is something you can answer for me.” “What’s that?” “Why me?” I turned to face him and shrugged. “Out of all the people someone like you can end up with, why pick me?” Q sort of laughed, this soft whispery laugh, and walked to the window behind his desk. “You don’t pick these things, Jacob…these things pick you.” He looked at me for a second before returning his gaze out the window. “I remember when Geo, Seth, the Twins, and I went to your school to scout potential pledges. We had files on you guys with pictures and everything. On the way up there, Geo handed me a stack of files he wanted me to review, including yours, and I told him no. If any of you guys were Brotherhood material, I’d be able to spot you from a mile away.” “You’re saying you had no idea who I was or what I looked like when you came to my school?” Q nodded. “There were five guys we were going to scout. We arrived at your school a little after lunch, just in time to catch your gym class. A group of you were playing football, and this guy struck me immediately. I pointed to him and told the other guys he’s it; he’s the one we want to pledge. Geo checked his files to see if he was even one of the candidates, and he was.” “Who was he? I knew everyone in the gym class, and he’s not here.” Covering his eyes and shaking his head, Q responded, “It was you, you dummy!” “Oh…I knew that.” So over my head. “Sure, you did,” he laughed. “How you carried yourself and interacted with your teammates told me you were golden. Then you came here, and I started seeing you regularly and…I don’t know. I can’t give you a solid answer, Jacob. I can’t explain it myself. All I know is you make me feel.” I was expecting a little more, but he wasn’t forthcoming. “Feel what, Q?” “That’s just it,” he turned to me again, “you make me feel.” I got that fluttery feeling in my stomach again, and his eyes…his eyes looked so genuine. “You can’t truly comprehend what that means for me.” Again, he looked out the window, and his voice got so soft I had to strain to hear him. “I haven’t felt like this in millions of years.” I thought that was an odd way of putting it. “At least it seems that way,” he corrected himself quickly. “I’ve devoted my entire existence to The Brotherhood to ensure it remains strong and everlasting. Then one day, I met someone who made me realize there could be something more, and my world turned upside down. I’m so grateful for that…grateful for you. Even if it’s not going to last.” There was nothing more to be said, so we stood there in silence. I got the answer I was looking for, and it didn’t change my mind. I opened the door and took one akdeniz escort last look at Q before closing it behind me. It was done. I made my decision, and there was no going back. I doubt Q was expecting to feel my arms wrap around his waist or my lips pressing against the nape of his neck. I’m sure he thought I was on the other side when I closed the door. He fell into my arms, and I held him close. I felt him finally let go, and nothing else mattered in the world but the two of us. You’d think I would have doubts or regrets, but I felt nothing like that. Standing there with Q in my arms felt so natural and honest that I didn’t give two shits or a fuck what obstacles the world was about to throw at us. I was euphoric! Bring it, world – was all I had to say about that! After standing there for a long time, Q turned to face me and wrapped his arms around me. “Jacob…are you sure this is what….” I kissed him. I knew where that sentence was going and didn’t want to hear it. I wanted my actions to speak louder than any words we could share. I slipped my hand up to his neck and thru his silky hair, then pushed him down into his chair; my lips never parted from his. I was ready to release all the bottled-up sexual energy in my pants, and Q didn’t seem to be complaining. We heard the doorknob jiggle, and we flew apart like we were on fire. I was flushed and steaming all over. I had to stand behind Q’s chair to hide the prominent bulge in my jeans. Jacob came storming in, his face flushed and yelling, “He’s dead! He is fucking dead!” Whatever switch Q throws whenever he’s alone with me and when he’s with the rest of the Brother was in full effect. He was in “Q” mode all the way. “Calm yourself,” Q said, his voice mellow and laid back as ever. “Calm myself?” Jacob pressed his fist to this temple and just looked pissed. “Calm myself! Vesous is dead! Dead! So don’t tell me to calm down.” He slammed his fist on the desk. “What do you plan to do about it?” Q flew from his chair and got right in his face. “Don’t think for a second that bringing disturbing news gives you the right to come into my room in such a manner.” Q moved in even closer to Jacob, so close I thought he was about to kiss him. Instead, he hissed thru clenched teeth. “I will not tolerate such insolence, especially in the presence of a pledge!” Ouch! That kind of stung a little, but I knew what he meant. Jacob looked past Q and saw me. I don’t think he noticed me up until that point. He backed away and bowed his head. “Forgive me…but one of our own has fallen, and….” “I already knew about Vesous before you came barging in here. I got word this morning.” “I see. The Brothers wish to speak with you…they’re waiting outside.” He bowed his head again and walked out. I could tell he was still mad as hell. “I have to deal with this,” Q said, patting my chest as he walked by me to get a pair of sweats and a light green t-shirt. “What’s going on?” “A Brother from New York died this morning after a hit and run.” “Oh my god….” “We don’t know much yet. Police are still investigating, from what I understand. At any rate, you don’t need to worry about it. It’s our problem.” He walked by me and gave me a quick kiss on the lips. Before he could get away, I grabbed him by the waistband of his sweats and pulled him in for a much deeper, passionate kiss. He had to force us apart because I didn’t want to let him go, and he walked away from me laughing. “I’ll pick up my tonsils later…!” “Hey, before you leave, do you mind if I use your bathroom. I’ve had to take a leak since I woke up this morning.” “Knock yourself out!” he shouted as he closed the door behind him. I did what everyone else does when they go into someone else’s bathroom – did my business, then went thru shit. For a bathroom that was the size of a small country, Q didn’t have much in it as far as guy stuff goes. I didn’t see any shaving cream, razors, hair gel, toothbrush, or any of that crap. The place looked immaculate, considering it was a guy’s bathroom. It wasn’t a big deal. Q could have all that stuff stored away somewhere. I just thought it was odd because most guys are too lazy to make more work for themselves, like putting shaving cream somewhere they’d have to take two steps to get. I could see dark storm clouds thru the bathroom window. I had no idea there was a storm coming. I love them. Hearing the thunder and seeing the lightning gives me a rush; not quite as good as sex, but storms are up there. I walked over to the window to get a closer look. Suddenly, a thunderclap shook the room, and I ducked instinctively as if I were about to get hit. I also saw the bright flashes of lightning in the skies and a few strikes in the distance. This was going to be a bad storm, and I loved it. The twenty or so Brothers gathered outside were more interesting than the impending storm. I just happened to catch Q walking thru the crowd until he was standing at the very end with his back to everyone. Since I’m not nosy, I slowly, carefully, and quietly opened the window; you know to let fresh air in… “This is bullshit!” were the first words I heard. “Tread carefully, Jacob,” Shaun warned. “I’m sorry, but I can’t believe I’m the only one upset about this?” Eric was quick to step in. “We all lost a Brother today. We all feel that loss, and to say otherwise is an insult to everyone here.” “If everyone feels as passionately about this as I, we need to act! We must strike back and let them know such deeds will not go unpunished!” “Oh, will you pipe down!” Steel barked. “No one knows exactly what happened. We need more….” “They killed him!” Jacob interjected, pointing his finger down at the group. “You know it, and I know it. Pretending we don’t have all the facts and stalling for more information isn’t going to change that. Who else would be so bold to go after one of us in such a way?” “And what exactly would you have us do, Jacob?” Shaun asked him. “Strike back! Strike at the very heart of the….” “You’re impossible!” one of the Twins shouted. “You would seriously have us start a war we could lose?” “I don’t see it that way,” Jacob insisted. “I see them losing.” “You would,” the other twin added. “You’re young, short-tempered, and have none of the wisdom that time has afforded some of us. Neither side is ready for a war which is why this truce has existed for several millennia.” Millennia? That had to be a mistake on his part. “We need more time,” the twin’s twin insisted in a unified voice. “If you’re waiting for more of our Brothers to awaken, then you’re all fools. It could very well be too late by then. We wouldn’t be having this discussion if we had leadership with the conviction to act.” “Enough!” Shaun looked pissed, for Jacob was now attacking Q, who continued to stand with his back to the group staring up at the sky. He seemed entranced by the brilliant flashes of light appearing throughout the sky. “Remember your place!” Shaun continued. “You will respect the ruling council of this house and its leader to which you have pledged your…” “My pledge was to no one man or group,” Jacob hissed. “My pledge and loyalties were made to The Brotherhood! It is my place to question those who lead us if they refuse to act when our livelihood is threatened! Anything less would be criminal on my part.” “He has a point,” one of the Brothers I wasn’t familiar with finally agreed. Fuck you, I thought. “Not you too,” Seth threw his head back in disappointment. “I’m sorry, Seth,” the Brother said. “I have the utmost respect for everyone here, and you know that, but Jacob’s words have some wisdom to be found.” “Of course, there is!” Boy, was Jacob quick to jump on that. “And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m simply saying what must be said. I mean, look at him.” He pointed at Q and walked closer to him. “He stands there and says nothing. Probably because, on some level, he knows I speak the truth. If he doesn’t say anything, then I say we take our concerns to Kyrios and see what he believes is the correct course of action. This pains me to say, but I can’t believe this is the Q who’s led us for so long. This isn’t the Q of legend I’ve come to know and respect. Since he lost Dylan last year, he hasn’t been the same; it’s like he lost his nerve or something. Seriously this can’t be Q…Q the son of a….” Q spun around and stuck Jacob across the face in perfect harmony with a clap of thunder and a lightning bolt striking somewhere off in the distance. Hollywood couldn’t have timed it any better. More impressive than that was how far back the blow threw Jacob; a good fifteen to twenty feet at least, and everyone took a step or two away from Q. My jaw dropped. My heart pounded. I was both scared and impressed at the same time. None of this drama made sense to me. “If you believe speaking with Kyrios will help your cause, then feel free, Jacob,” Q said, walking toward the fallen Jacob. His tone was calm, but you could tell he was seething. “He’s downstairs as we speak. Plead your case if you wish, and see if Kyrios is willing to commit our people to a war that will decimate both sides simply to appease your ego. Do you think you could make that call, Jacob?” “I…” “Do you think you can order your fellow Brothers to march to their deaths needlessly to fight an enemy you have never had the pleasure of crossing blades with? Could you? Can any of you?” “I didn’t….” “You don’t know what you’re asking for when you call for war. You think it’s some glorious charge to victory when you can’t even begin to fathom what you’d be facing. But I’m done.” Standing over a terrified Jacob, Q grabbed him by the throat and lifted him until his feet dangled in the air. “One thing you will learn is your place! I lead this house! And if you think because Kyrios happens to live in this house that changes anything, you’re sadly mistaken.” He threw him into the other Brothers. “Get him out of my sight. I can’t bear to look at him right now.” The other Brother’s gathered around Q; I’m guessing it was to show their support. There was another loud clap of thunder with so much force I could feel the house shake and the room light up. The strike was so close I could feel the heat it left behind. And for a moment, I saw white spots in front of my eyes. I kept blinking my eyes like I had some nervous tick or some shit. Eventually, I stumbled to the sink to splash cold water in my eyes. “What the hell was that?” I whispered to myself. Once my vision returned to normal, I went right back to the window. You know, for the fresh air and all. “What the fuck?” A man was standing next to Q now. Notice I didn’t say, Brother – nothing about him said ‘Brother.’ He must have been in his early to mid-fifties with a mane of black hair and distinguished traces of grey along the sides. He dressed well in dark slacks, a dress shirt, and a long, dark coat. And for an older guy, he was pretty attractive. All that aside, who was he? He glanced at all the Brothers standing behind Q. “Leave us,” he ordered, and they all leaned forward a little, bowed their heads in reverence, and left just like that. My first thought was that I was staring at Kyrios, but I ruled it out quickly. If this man lived in the house with all of us, he’d stick out like a sore thumb. Unless they all lied and he didn’t live in the house, why would Q say he was down in the gym. I was so confused! After looking Q over for a bit, he finally spoke. “How have you been?” “Why do you care?” Q snapped loudly. I was shocked to hear such a cold tone coming from him. “Can’t I be concerned?” “No, you can’t,” Q seemed very adamant about that. “I don’t need your concern, but if it makes you feel better and will get you out of my hair, I’m doing fine, thanks.” “It didn’t seem like you were fine a few minutes ago. You raised your hand to your own kind; that’s never happened to my knowledge. Tells me how fine you’re not doing.” Q shrugged and turned to him. “How dare you? How dare you come into my house and presume to think you know anything about me anymore. What gives you the right?” “Don’t I have the right to worry about my…” “Don’t!” Q pointed at the man and nearly took out an eye. “Don’t you dare! You lost the right to call me that a long time ago. I am nothing to you, and I wish you’d get that thru your head. Now, if you don’t mind, I have things to attend to.” Q turned away from him and returned to staring at the storm clouds. The man nodded. He looked slightly hurt, then suddenly he looked right up at me. I jumped so far back that I nearly tripped and fell into the tub while praying he didn’t get a good look at me. I had to get out of there. There was just so much going through my mind that I was getting a headache; so many things didn’t make sense. I needed answers, and I knew I wouldn’t find them there. I could only think of one person who might be able to shed some light on this whole mess; that is, of course, if she wasn’t a complete loon. I don’t even remember getting downstairs, but there was some commotion at the front door. Dylan was there with two other Brothers yelling at some guy at the door. “What the fuck is going on now?” I asked. The Twilight Zone wasn’t this complicated. “You need to leave now!” Dylan was saying, trying to keep the kid from coming inside. “It was bullshit, and you know it!” the guy said. “I belong in here with you. I worked my ass off only to get booted because of a fuck up I wasn’t even responsible for. My partner fucked up! You were there, Dylan. You know what I’m talking about!” “Doesn’t matter,” Dylan fired back. “We all knew the rules, Jake. If one pledge got dismissed, then both had to leave. Why are you still dwelling on this? It was a year ago. Let it go already and get on with your life.” “Fuck that! Where’s Q? He kicked me out. He can reinstate me! I know the new pledge class isn’t that far along yet. I can rejoin and prove that I deserve to be here. Where’s Q?” “Are you fucking kidding me with this?” Dylan laughed right in his face. “Get out!” “I’m not leaving, and there’s nothing you can do to make me go, so I suggest….” A pair of furious hands grabbed the guy from behind and threw him out on his ass. It was Steel, and he didn’t look all too happy. “If you come here one more time, I’m going to kick your fucking ass until you’re nothing but a grease stain on the bottom of my boot! Do you understand me?” With that, he slammed the door shut and went upstairs. “You’ll all regret this!” Jake shouted from the front step. It was muffled, but the tone was ominous and threatening. “Today is just not a good day,” Dylan said to no one. “What was that all about?” I asked. Dylan rolled his eyes. “This kid was in my pledge class last year. He got booted and hasn’t been able to let go. He always comes by here, calls, writes, emails…you name it, he does it. He can’t get it thru his head that it is over. Anyway…” Dylan looked thru the glass and sighed. “He’s gone.” Then he looked at me. “Are you okay? You don’t look so hot.” “I’m fine.” I lied, then quickly left the house. I didn’t want to be bothered with too many probing questions. I was ready to bolt, collect my thoughts during what remained of my 2 hours, and think of Q. Q…Suddenly I pictured him standing in the backyard all alone. I told myself I didn’t belong there; it was TBH business, and Q was quite capable of handling the situation. Hell, he ‘handled’ Jacob by about fifteen feet. But I couldn’t help myself. In my heart, I needed to know he was okay. Besides, I was sure he’d still be alone. As I turned the corner to the backyard, I saw him. He had yet to move, his gaze lingering on the ominous clouds above. The impending storm was farther off than that last rouge thunderclap had led me to believe. Yet the flicker of lightning above the tree line was the perfect backlight for Q. He was beautiful. That was the first time it even seemed strange to me that I found another man beautiful. I’d held Q, kissed him, caressed, and longed for him, which seemed so natural. So right. Sure, I’d questioned my recent ‘interactions’ with my fellow pledges, but not with Q. Not since he’d taken me in his arms and gently muttered, “I’m sorry.” The rain started to fall. Gently at first, it didn’t take long to turn into a downpour. I wiped the first few droplets from my face half-heartedly. Q remained statuesque. And at that moment, that voyeuristic moment, I knew I’d made the right decision; I never wanted Q to be this alone again. I took a single step out from the corner of the house, then stopped. Q was not alone. Initially blocked from view by the side of the house, Jake stood less than 50 feet from Q and was closing the distance fast. I could only assume this fucker wanted to harass him about letting him back into the fold. Immediately, I was heated – my protective nature turning on full force. How dare this asshole! “Q!” he shouted. I couldn’t help but think this guy is just asking for it, and you can’t help but laugh at how pathetic he is. But then I heard the gunshot, which wasn’t so funny anymore. I froze; my blood went cold as I saw Q fall to the ground. My heart burst right thru me. Two more shots right into Q’s back. I flinched twice. My knees buckled. The world went into slow motion. My vision was completely blurred. Hot tears weld in my eyes, scorching them, yet I couldn’t even blink to force them down. Cold rain pelted my cheeks. I wanted to cry out but had no voice; I kept moving my mouth, but nothing came out. The tears fell on their own, clearing my vision enough to see I saw the bastard run into the woods and Q’s body lying on the ground motionless. I don’t know how but I managed to take one step, then another. I seemed heavier somehow, and Q’s body seemed miles away. Then suddenly, I was blazing across the yard at full speed, the weights on my ankles lifted, the adrenaline pushing me forward. I dropped down by Q’s side, my body moving so fast I landed almost on top of him. I was cold. He was shaking. There was hot blood all over my hands. A voice in my head screamed, ‘check for a pulse!’ I could feel it briefly until it finally faded into nothing. I shook my head violently, pulling him into my arms, mouthing the word ‘no’ repeatedly without any sound. I was rocking him, hugging him close to me, hoping in some way that the beat of my heart would give him life again. Behind me, I felt electricity fill the sky – I had never heard thunder. I threw my head back and shouted, “Somebody help me!!!” ******** Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you (thewriter_x@hotmail). Please visit my Patreon eon/thewriter_x) if you’d like to support my work and get the first couple of chapter to the sequel The Brotherhood Awakening, the rest of TBH, exclusive short stories – The Stranger, and a Discord server. You can also follow me on Twitter for updates: @thewriterx_x The Brotherhood is copyrighted material and the sole intellectual property of TheWriter_X. You may not post, distribute, claim, or receive profit from any portion of my work without my expressed permission. Failure to comply will result in legal action against the offender(s).

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