Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Sunrise Gold
Chapter 6

The fall semester was in full swing. Classes were loading them all down with work and the guys were all making lots of new friends as they settled into their different prerequisites toward their majors.

Chester and Annie were a thing now, and Brian spent more time in Alan's room than his own. They were getting to be great friends, but Brian was unsettled. He still needed someone to talk to about feelings he had.

Brian sat by himself, alone with his thoughts. He stared off in the distance at the tall snow capped mountains, wishing he could go there so he could think clearly. He really liked all his new friends and loved being part of a group, but he was starting to feel left out. It was hard to explain, even to himself, but they all had definite goals. He wasn't that lucky. He had no clue what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

Will, for all his sk8r jive, was going to be a lawyer just like his dad. Jeff would help his people use the desert resources for future generations. Chester, bless him, would spend his life searching for little green men. Charlie was going to take Broadway by storm, and Alan was going home to teach at the Native American school. They all had their lives planned.

"What's wrong with me?" Brian sighed. "Is it cause I'm gay? Is that why I can't make decisions? He thought about Whit, who was a great lawyer helping minorities fight the system and Steve, who brought life into cement and stone to create beautiful buildings. Did they know what they wanted to be when they started college? He'd signed up as a Journalism major, but he wasn't really that interested in writing. He decided to e-mail Steve and Whit tonight and ask. Maybe they'd help him.

The other big thing that made him feel kinda left out was that they all talked on and on about girls .... Checking them out, comparing, rating on a scale of 1 to 10. If he heard the words boobs, rack, bazongas one more time, he was gonna scream. It brought back all those bad feelings like there was something wrong with him. He checked out every cute guy he passed, and he had rated lots of them, but he had no one to laugh about it with.

Brian remembered the night he had helped Charlie with some graphics for a paper he was writing. Charlie was gay .... Brian was gay. Why didn't sparks fly? Did Charlie even know?

"Move that red bar over just a skoosh," Charlie pointed at the screen. "Yes! Perfect! You're great at this, Bri." He nudged Brian with his shoulder as he peered at the dancer on the screen.

"I'm not perfect," Brian blurted, "I'm gay."

Charlie blinked and then started to laugh. "Well, about time. You've been holding that in for like ever, sweetie."

"You knew? Why didn't you say something?"

"Duh, you give off giant tsunami waves of queer, baby boy, but I never push anyone to leap out of their closet before they're ready."

Brian frowned. "I do not give off giant ........ well, I try not to anyway." He looked at Charlie to see if he was laughing at him.

"It's okay, really," Charlie grinned. "It's easier for me, in a way. I can't hide what I am and I don't even try."

"You were out in high school?" Brian pictured the grief Charlie must have suffered.

"Oh, yeah, it was one big whupass party," Charlie smiled sadly, "But I knew I could get through it. I couldn't pretend to be anything other than what I am, so I joined the drama club and the rest is history. And now look where I am."

"I wish I had your confidence," Brian sighed, "I just worry too much. I don't even know why I'm here."

"Everything will work out, baby boy, just you wait and see. In the meantime, you come talk to Charlie when you need to. I'll always listen. I bet you have a hard time with Alan, don't you?"

"Alan?" Brian asked.

"He's delicious," Charlie grinned, "But straight as a Navajo arrow."

"Yeah. Damn it !"

"We'll find you a cutie all your own, okay? I'll keep an eye out for just the right guy."

That had helped; knowing that Charlie was there, but he still couldn't tell his deepest thoughts to anyone. He knew Alan would listen, so would Chester, but neither of them could ever understand. How could they understand things Brian didn't understand himself?

He kept thinking about going to the UAPride meeting; the rainbow-colored flyers were on all the community bulletin boards on campus. He just wasn't ready to do that yet. He knew if he did, it would change things. He would become 'Gay Brian' and he wasn't ready to wear that t-shirt yet. It was him, not the club. He knew that. He just wasn't ready.

"Let's go to the movies," Alan said, poking his head around the corner.

"Can't, I've got a date with Annie," Chester said proudly.

"How about you, Bri?"

"Sure," Brian nodded, "Let me finish this spreadsheet, then I'm ready."

Brian and Alan hopped the town bus and queued up in line to buy tickets for The Hills Have Eyes 2. "Damn, the first one was scary. I screamed like a girl," Brian laughed.

"Yeah, sure makes me want to go out in the desert to get hacked and ripped," Alan cringed.

"Then why are we here?" Brian asked, his eyes twinkling.

"Cause we LOOOOOVE it !!" they both yelled.

As the line moved along, two girls from Alan's Psychology class bumped up to him, flirting and wanting to sit with them. "Sure," Alan grinned, cutting his eyes over to Brian, "Bri, this is Laina and Marcie. You care if they scream and yell all over us in there?"

"Nope, but you'll have to hold tight to Alan's hand so he doesn't run out of the theatre," Brian joked.

The theatre was filled with "Oh My God!!" and "Tell me when it's over!!" And girls shrieking and peeking through their fingers; a few guys too. Popcorn flew up in the air as they all got the BeJesus scared out of them.

"We're such freaks," Brian laughed. "There's gotta be something better to do on a Friday night than that." His heart had settled back to a steady rhythm. "Did you see the way the blood spurted out of that guy's neck? Jesus !"

"Yeah," Alan chuckled, "All those guts made me hungry. Everybody up for some pizza!!"

They were teasing Laina for watching the entire movie peeking from behind her hands as they crossed the parking lot toward the bright lights of the main street beyond.

A voice cut through the dark, "That your squaw, Injun?"

Brian looked around. He didn't see anyone. "Keep walking."

Alan squared his shoulders, "That was for me, I think."

Rick Juarez and two buddies stepped out of the shadows and blocked their path. "We don't like your kind touchin' our women."

Laina put her hands on her hips, "Your women? Fuck that crap."

"You need your mouth washed out, Injun lover," One of the other guys standing with Rick muttered. "You were my sister, I'd .........,"

"We don't want any trouble," Brian said.

"Well, you've got it, like it or not. I've been watching you two. I think you need to be taught a lesson, especially Tonto there." Rick growled. The boy closest to Rick swung a baseball bat from behind him and slapped it in the palm of his hand several times.

"Shit!" Brian gulped. He turned his head, looking for some way out of this, but this far part of the lot was dark and he didn't see anyone, just the silhouettes of several cars. "You can't do this. Leave us alone," he shouted. "We'll call the police."

Rick and his crew laughed, "They won't do nothin' to us, messin' up a rez kid. They don't care nothin' about you."

"Well, the police may not, but I do." Brian heard the ominous sound of a shell being pumped into the chamber of a shotgun. That noise alone made the guy drop the bat. "I think you fellas better move the fuck along. Don't you ever let me hear you even looked at these kids again or I'll find you and mess you up so bad even your Mama won't recognize you. Capisce?"

Everyone was frozen, then Rick broke and ran, followed by his two buddies.

Silence, everyone's hearts pounding so loud you could hear them a mile away, then Marcie whispered, "I peed my pants." That broke the fear and everyone jabbered at once.

"Thank you."
"Oh My God! I was terrified."
"Thank you soooo much."
"I think I need to ........," Laina said, as she sat down on the pavement.

Brian looked over toward the parked cars and recognized the roll bars on the big Jeep. Was this fate or the Matrix or what?

"How many times do I have to save you, buddy boy? You shouldn't be out on the streets at night without an armed guard. I thought we established that!"

Brian walked over closer to the tall guy standing with the shotgun held along his right leg pointing to the ground. "A gun .... You have a gun."

"I have lots of things, but I seem to be spending all my time keeping you from getting murdered. Why is that?" Brian glanced over his shoulder to see the big black dog rear its head from the back seat and a beautiful blonde girl up front. 'Of course there is a blonde girl and of course she'd look like that,' Brian groaned.

"I don't have the faintest idea, but I'm really really glad you do." It was too dark for Brian to get a good look at the guy he thought of as Black Wrangler, but he could feel those dark eyes taking him apart and he wondered what the guy saw; probably a silly kid who couldn't keep out of trouble, like a naughty little brother or something.

"Will you please get out into a lighted area and quit turning up in dark alleys and empty lots? I do have other stuff to do besides save your ......," he paused slightly, "... sorry ass."

"Yes, yes," Brian answered, His mind full of stuff he wanted to say, but his mouth getting all tangled up. "Thank you for, you know, saving me, and, oh dear God, I puked on you, and then now this," he gestured wildly. "Brian, me, that's me. Brian."

He heard a low chuckle, "Okay got that ... Brian," and the guy stepped closer, putting his finger under Brian's chin, tilting it gently up into the light. He said, "Promise to be more careful. I won't always be here. One more time, I'm told, and your soul belongs to me. Now that's a scary thought."

'Not so much,' Brian thought frantically.

"The others had been standing still, waiting for Brian to thank their savior. Now, Alan spoke up, "We better get back to campus before the last bus, Bri. Thank you again, mister, for helping us. My name is Alan Lapahie and this is Laina and Marcie." Laina and Marcie broke toward the guy and hugged him, Laina giving him a kiss on the cheek.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," she gushed.

The guy seemed to think something over and then sighed. "Climb in the back and I'll take you back to school. You could be attacked by a roaming band of wild monkeys if I leave you here alone. With this kid, you can never be too sure."

They all clambered into the back and Brian found a big black dog lying across his lap. He tensely looked into the big black eyes. "Does he bite or anything?"

"Oh yeah, bite him, Dog!" The big black monster proceeded to lick Brian's face from ear to ear.

"Hi," the pretty blonde said from the front seat. "I'm Sam. Guys like that always slime around in dark places. Report them if they bother you again." Brian watched her cut her eyes over to the guy seeming to ask a question. "Yeah, this is the kid from the club." Brian groaned. She knew about the pukage and how stupid he had been.

The ride back to campus was quick, with Brian cutting continuous glances at the driver. He was even more gorgeous than Brian had thought; black shorts taut against muscular thighs and a stark white tank top pulling across broad shoulders, the white cloth making his olive skin glow. Brian noticed a slender gold chain around his neck but couldn't see what hung from it. The wind ran its fingers through his black curls and made them dance.

In the streetlight, he wasn't as old as Brian had first thought; maybe a few years older than he was. But, Brian couldn't help but feel that he was way older in his soul. 'He's sitting over there thinking what a dope I am and how quick he can dump us all out. I don't blame him,' Brian thought to himself. God, they looked perfect together, his dark skin and her long blonde hair. What a perfect couple. Brian was having a hard time with his fantasy.

The Jeep came to stop and the girls and Alan climbed out the back, waiting for Brian on the sidewalk. "Thank you again. We can never repay you," Alan called.

The guy waved his hand, 'No problem."

Brian frowned. What is his name? He didn't say. "Thank you again, I'll try not to get in trouble again, um ........."

The guy looked over at Brian standing by the Jeep, one hand on Dog's head, the other on the door handle. He seemed to hesitate, as if saying it would change things. "Gabriel. My name is Gabriel."

"Of course it is," Brian murmured; he would be an avenging angel.

Sam waved as the Jeep pulled away from the curb and Brian watched until the taillights faded in the distance.

"Oh My God!!" Laina squealed, "Who was that? I've never seen him on campus. Does he go to school here? He's gorgeous. She's gorgeous. Lord, I should ever look like that."

Alan was watching Brian watch the taillights. He smiled. 'There is no such thing as coincidence,' he murmured to himself. The Gods were doing some very interesting shuffling of the cards for his friend, Brian. Alan, unlike Brian, who had been too busy mumbling and stuttering, had seen the look in Gabriel's face when he watched Brian. It wasn't the look of a big brother.

Back at the room after delivering the girls to their dorm, Alan making a date with Laina for the next night, and a very disappointed Marcie shaking Brian's hand goodnight, Brian and Alan pulled out the student roster they had been handed during orientation. It listed all students with general information such as home state and major.

"He's got to be in here," Brian said a bit frantically.

"So, that was the guy who saved your butt at the club that night?"

"Yeah, and to thank him, I hurled chunks all over his clothes."

"He didn't seem angry, more kinda mystified," Alan said, laughter in his voice.

"Mystified? What?"

"Kinda like he had been waiting for something else to happen to you or something. I know that sounds crazy, but......"

"He probably just wants to kill me himself and get it over with."

"What was that he said about one more time and your soul belongs to him?"

Brian squirmed, blushing, "I'm not sure, but I can think of worse things."

Searching through the list of seniors, they didn't find anyone named Gabriel. Running his finger down the list of juniors, Alan yelped, "Here he is. This has gotta be him. He sure looked Italian and he said that word Capisce, that's Italian, right?"

Brian grabbed the booklet and read:

Gabriel R. Parelli
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
birthdate -; October 24, 1986
Campus mailbox -; BioSci#714
Major -; GeoScience

Alan felt Brian go all weird. "What?"

Brian was grinning broadly. "His mailbox number .... Damn! Alan, that's my birthday. July 14th. That's like an omen or something, right?"

"Or something," Alan grinned.

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