Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Midnight Blue/Sunrise Gold
Gabriel/Brian
Chapter 12

"He what?"
"He's what?"
"You what?"
"Unfuckingbelievable."

Brian just lay on his bunkbed staring up at the poster of Mark Twain on the ceiling. Gabriel had brought him back to the dorm a little over a hour ago and he was still reliving the whole morning. The gang had come in about five minutes ago to find Brian stretched out in his bunk.

Chester climbed the ladder and poked his head into Brian's space. "So you're telling us that he carried you piggyback?"

"Me and his big heavy backpack. I couldn't have done it for three steps and he carried me for a little while before we both knew it was too much."

"You okay? You need to go to the clinic or something?"

"Nah, Gabriel cleaned the cuts and put medicine on them and bandages. I guess I'm gonna wear flip-flops for a couple a days."

"So?" Charlie asked, "What's he like? You two talk a lot? Is he interested?
Is he gonna call you? You gonna call him? Huh? Huh?"

"Yeah, where does he live? What's with the pretty blonde girl? Where's he from?" Will threw out more questions.

"Most important fact," Alan asked, "Is he gay?"

Brian stared into Mark Twain's sad bassett hound eyes and sighed, "I just spent six hours with him and I can't answer one of those questions for sure."

"What the fuck did you say all that time?" Chester complained.

"I went on and on about nothing til I realized that I was doing all the talking and he was probably wishing he had cotton to stuff in his ears or a sock in my mouth."

"He didn't say anything?"

"He showed me different kinds of cactus, the way quail build nests under the thorns, the streaks of fool's gold in the rocks and bunches of other stuff."

"Ugh, sounds like you went to environment class," Jeffrey snarked.

"He's real knowledgeable about all that," Brian jumped to Gabriel's defense.

"You rode that shitass bike all the way out there cause he asked you to and you don't know him any better than you did. Amazing!"

"That's the thing," Brian sighed, rolling over to hang his face off the side and look down at his friends, "He didn't."

"He didn't what?"

"He didn't know I was gonna be there. When I mentioned the note he sent, he got this weird look on his face."

"But, how else......?"

"Well, after, when we were eating at Mac's, he told me that he hadn't written it. I felt like an idiot."

"Aw shit, who wrote it then?"

"He told me that Sam, the pretty blonde, had written it."

"But why?"

Brian tried to remember why but he didn't remember Gabriel giving a reason. "I have no idea."

"If he didn't ask you and she wrote it, why do you look so happy?" Chester asked.

"Cause."

"Um, Bri, cause is not an answer."

"He kinda said a couple of things that made me feel good."

"Jesus, we could get answers out of a rock faster than we can out of you today. Usually you spew every thought in your head. C'mon."

"Some stuff's private."

"Oh, and so now you've got private stuff goin' on? You don't know anything about him, even for sure if he's gay, but you got private stuff happenin'."

"He said something about taking me into Tucson to buy some really good hiking boots, but ...................."

"But what? That sounds good. He'll call you then, right?"

"I don't know. He didn't ask for a number or anything. Shit, I should have given him my number. I can't call him because he said it, he has the car and he suggested the trip."

Chester sighed and ripped open a bag of Sun Chips. "Bri, I gotta tell you that your life is one big chick flick. Will he? Won't he? Should I? If he ...?"

"I know." Brian sat up and swung his feet over the edge. "Help me down, guys. I gotta take a shower." When Brian's feet hit the floor, he groaned.

"Look at the size of those blisters."
"That must hurt."
"Man, you got burned."
"What is that you have on?"

Brian grabbed the front of the tank top and wadded it in his hands. "No one touches this! Hands off!"

"Oh lord," Alan laughed, "A stolen tank top. You're sick, you know."

"You guys just don't understand," Brian sighed, flopping down on the floor.
"It shouldn't be this hard, right? He's a guy. I'm a guy. I should be able to figure out what he's thinking. Right?"

"If we talk about you and your problems too much, will we turn gay?" Will laughed.

"Shut up!"


Gabriel pulled up in front of # 8 and turned off the engine. God, he was exhausted and his back felt like 7 miles of bad road. How had he gotten into such a mess? Oh yeah ...... Sam. Too tired to knock on her door, he stripped as he walked through his living room, and turned the shower on as hot as he could. Leaning his head against the tile, he let the heat burn his skin and unlock his neck. When the water cooled, he stepped out, dried off, pulled on some briefs and stretched out on the living room floor. Now, if only Dog could rub some Icy Hot into his aching muscles. He was too tired to stop his mind when it began to envision Brian straddling him, using his thumbs to massage away the tight muscles. He was just too tired to fight it.

Two hours later, he woke groggily to find that his floor was extremely hard and his back was even stiffer. He also found Sam sitting on the sofa with Dog's head in her lap.

"Hey," she said hesitantly, "Are you very mad?"

Gabriel wanted to be angry. He wanted to yell at her and tell her what a stupid idea it had been.

"No, I'm not mad."

"Oh, Wow! Great! I've been worrying myself sick all morning that I went too far. So how was it? Did he show up? Was he adorable? Did you have fun? Why are you on the floor?"

"Good."
"Yes."
"Yes, damn it."
"Fun isn't the right word."
"My back is killing me."

"Oh, poor baby, what happened? Want me to massage your shoulders?"

"Oh, God yes."

As Sam rubbed the cream into his shoulders, Gabriel told his version of the morning.

"I drove up expecting you and found him instead. I couldn't tell him that I hadn't written the note. Dang it, Sam, it would have hurt him really bad. So, we went up the trail. He was jabbering like a monkey and then he stopped. Don't know why ... anyway, he had on some really crappy boots that tore his feet all up and rubbed blisters the size of half dollars. I fixed him up as best I could but he couldn't have walked with his feet like that."

"So? What did you do?"

"I carried him for a little way and then went and got his bike," he mumbled.

"You what? You carried him? Oh Lord, no wonder your back hurts."

"It's okay. I couldn't leave him out there, now could I?"

Sam rocked back on her heels. "Are you going to see him again?"

"I don't know. Sam, I told you I didn't want any complications. You knew that and you did this anyway."

"I'm sorry, Gabriel. I just think that, if you'd let him, Brian could be good for you. Did you let him in at all?"

"No." Yes, he had. Gabriel couldn't stop thinking about him.

"Oh, Gabriel."


Brian sat at his computer staring at the screen. This was really going to make him crazy if he didn't figure out what to do. His dad had always told him he had a one-track mind and he finally understood what his dad had meant. There was just something about Gabriel that reached out to him. Yes, he's gorgeous, but that wasn't it. As much as Brian talked, Gabriel was just the opposite. Well, if he couldn't put anything on the Plus side of his list, then he'd be pretty close to giving up. It was one thing to want someone really bad and quite another to turn into a pervy stalker. Thinking back over the day, he began to type:

Gabriel
Plus
1. Gorgeous
2. Gentle
3. Loves animals
4. Kind
5. Great laugh
6. Gay?
Minus
1. Doesn't talk much
2. Secretive/Private
3. Girlfriend

The list looked better than he'd hoped. It was just the question marks that bothered him. Was he interested? That girl Sam probably had a good laugh when he told her about the horrible day. She was probably massaging away all the soreness in Gabriel's back from having to carry a stupid idiot across the desert. He pictured them naked, the massage turning into much more.

Okay, that was the wrong image to plaster across his mind. Sam faded away and he saw himself straddling Gabriel's beautiful butt, his hands running over Gabriel's hot skin, kneading the locked muscles as both of their bodies reacted to the naked heat. Whoa .......... Shut up, you dumb stupid mind! How can I get past this if you show me stuff like that?

Climbing the ladder to his top bunk, he heaved a huge sigh. Pulling Gabriel's tank top on, he inhaled the scent, grabbed his economy sized lotion bottle and settled down to rerun all the good parts of the morning: Gabriel lifting the bike, Gabriel walking in front of him, his ass clenching and unclenching as he moved, Gabriel gently caring for his torn feet, Gabriel holding the tiny abandoned quail nest, Gabriel's face when the sun rose, Gabriel's sweat drenched curls, Gabriel's olive skin smooth and .........................

Mark Twain looked down on Brian and shook his head as if to say, 'Boy, you've got it bad'.


Jordan glanced up when he heard the front door open and bang shut. "Hey, Ez, Val not with you?"

"No, she had to work on a powerpoint program for a parent's night display. You know, she doesn't get paid half enough for all the work she does."

"I agree," Danny called from the kitchen. "In some cities, the trash collectors get paid more than the teachers."

"Well, we appreciate her," Jordan smiled. "Did you get that number for me?"

"Yeah, but I'm not sure we should be butting into Gabriel's past like this. He may not want us to."

"Oh, I'm not gonna be dumb about it. I just want to know if his brother feels the same way his father does."

"Funny," Easy frowned, "He never once mentioned even having a brother."

"It just slipped out when he was talking to me. I don't know if he even realized he said it."

"Hi, Unca Easy, I want to meet Gabrel's brother. Is he nice like Gabrel?"

"Don't know, JD, we hope so."

Jordan took the slip of paper Easy handed him and punched in the numbers.
It had rung five times when finally a voice said, "Hello?"

"Is this the Parelli residence?"

"Yes, you want to talk to Mario?"

"No, I 'd like to speak to either of your sons, please." Jordan listened to the deep intake of breath and the longer silence. He clicked on the speaker phone.

"We have only one son, Dominic." Everyone heard Gabriel's own mother deny having two sons.

"Oh, I thought you had a younger son, um ... Gabriel isn't it?" Jordan growled into the phone.

"I cannot talk of this. Goodbye," she said.

"Wait, Mrs. Parelli, may I speak to Dominic?"

More silence, then, "Dominic is not here. You can speak to my husband, Mario."

"No, thank you," Jordan declined. "When will Dominic be home?"

"Dominic does not live here."

Jordan saw Dan roll his eyes. It was like pulling teeth to get this woman to answer him.

"Do you have a number where I can reach him?"

"I have a number but I will not tell it to you."

"Why not?"

"You ask bad questions. You do not need to speak to my Dominic."

"That's not really your decision, Mrs. Parelli." Her answer to that was a slam of the phone.

"Well, she's a real sweetie," Danny frowned.

"That makes it easier actually." Jordan punched in the information digits and asked for the number of Dominic Parelli in Baltimore, Maryland. There were seven Dominic Parellis, all with the same area code and first three digits as the senior Parellis. "It's one of these. I'lll call each one and ask."

"Ask what?"

"Is this the brother of Gabriel Parelli.?"

"If he feels like his parents, he'll say 'No'."

"We won't know til we try."


**

Chester found an envelope in his mailbox the next morning. It had Brian's name written on the front.

"Hey, Bri, you got some mail," he said as he walked into the room, tossing the envelope onto Brian's keyboard.

Tearing off the end, Brian took out a note and twenty-five dollars fell onto the desk.

Brian ~
Mr. Blood, his real name is Leroy Barkus, was very glad to get
his bike back safely and returned your deposit. Nice guy! No dead monkeys that I saw.
My cell # is (291) 445-8633. Call me about the boots.
G

"Ches, look at this! Alan, come here!" Brian waved the note around in the air.
"He got our money back and gave me his cell phone number."

"Whoa, he went to see Mr. Blood. What a cool guy. Do you guess we're dead men now?"

"Nah, he actually says that Mr. Blood is a nice guy."

"So, what does this mean?" Brian said, still confused.

Charlie, listening in the doorway walked in and wrapped both arms around Brian's neck. "This, my naïve child, means you got yourself a friend and admirer."

"How soon can I call him?"

"Don't you have to call your parents first and beg for the money?"

"Oh shit, that's right. I don't think Dad will give me that money. How much are hiking boots anyway?"

Chester Googled hiking boots and everyone watched over Brian's shoulder while he stared at page after page of boots like mug shots at the police station, looking for Gabriel's boots. "Oh, wait. They had a little tag thingie at the side front that had three letters .... Um, R something something."

"Ah, that solves that," Alan laughed.

"Hold on, how about REI? Look right here. REI hiking boots. Let's look at them."

Brian found Gabriel's boots. "These right here. Whoa ... $199.00. I sure don't have that much lying around. We have the twenty-five dollars back from Mr. Blood."

"And I guess we're all supposed to share these boots?" Jeffrey laughed.

"There is one way." Brian said, smiling. "I'll be right back. I have to make a phone call." Grabbing his cell phone, he ran out the door.

Punching in # 1, he listened to the phone at the other end ringing. "Hello?"

"Hi Mom."
"Great."
"Christmas."
"I'm doing good in all my classes."
"Chester? He's great."
"No, nobody special."
"Mom, I need $98 for boots."
"Yeah, I know that's a lot."
"Yeah, it can my Christmas present."
"Great."
"Love you, Mom."

**At the Hopkins' House in Kansas, Brian's Dad asked his wife how Brian was doing and her only answer was a shake of the head, a feeling of being had, and her answer was "Great."**

Yessss!!!. No lies. $98 would buy one boot. Now for the other one.

He punched in #2. "Hey, you've reached Steve and Whit. We're not able to come to the phone right now. Leave a number and we'll get right back to you."

Brian laughed, "It's Sunday. I know you guys are screening. Stop reading the paper for a few minutes and pick up the phone."

"Well, if it isn't the world's greatest college student," Steve's voice spoke. "And how did you know we were reading the paper?"

"It's Sunday, 9:30 and you always read the paper now."

"God, we're so predictable."

"Well, yeah, being as you're so old and all."

"Smart Ass."

"Hmmm, I better start over since this is a call to wheedle money from you.
Hey, Uncle Steve, you handsome young stud."

"Much better, kiddo. Now, what's up?"

"You know how I've been telling you and Whit about the gorgeous guy in the black Wrangler?"

"For hours and hours."

"Haha, well, he's a hiker and we went hiking and I borrowed Alan's boots and they weren't worth shit, sorry Alan, and tore my feet all up and he had to carry me and then walk back to get the bike and then walk back again and he is so really really nice and he offered to take me to get some good boots so that must mean that he wants to take me again, but I don't have money to buy boots like he has and I called Mom and she said she'd send me $98 which will buy one boot but I was just wondering if you and Whit would help me out and invest in my future by buying the other boot?"

"Jesus, kiddo, slow down. Whit, did you get all that?"

"Yep, hiya, Bri. So he's a hottie?"

"Oh, total ... total.

"Okay, we will play cupid and give you the rest of the money, but you've gotta play yard boi next summer when you come visit."

"Deal."

Running back into the dorm room, Brian yelped, "I've got it. Can I call now?"

"You don't wanna look too eager," Alan said.

"Isn't that a girl rule?"

"I am eager. I can't believe this is happening. I want to call him before he forgets."

"Honey," Charlie snorted, "Trust me, he can't have forgotten you in one day. Not if he got up this morning and got your bike money back. Call him so you can go ahead and start freaking about what to wear and what to say."

"Oh sweet Jesus," Jeffrey groaned, "I forgot he'd do that."

Charlie snarked, "Oh gracious me, you're gonna be the next chapter of As The World Turns with a change of gay characters. Now starring Brian and Gabriel as two young gay men setting out on an adventure on broadcast TV where gay people are not allowed to kiss, much less ever get any action in the sheets. We will think of you now as um .... Briel .... No, maybe Gabian."

"Shut up, Charlie, I haven't even thought that far yet," Brian lied.

"Liar !!! You think about it every three seconds and you know it," Will chuckled, "Just like we do, except uh, you with a guy and us with girls. Dang, that was a really scary image I just got in my head. Help me out here, guys."

"Okay, that thought just interrupted a really good GIRL daydream I was having," Chester griped. "We need some "guy" talk before this room turns lavender." He whoofed as Brian smacked him up the side of the head with a full bag of Fritoes.

"How about those Wildcats? You think Antoine Cason is gonna make the Thorpe trophy? Let's see if Auto Trader, NFL Today or a rerun of Baywatch is on," Jeffrey suggested.

"Okay, here's a way to get everyone on their favorite channel again," Chester laughed. "Take a couple of minutes and think of the person you want to spend fantasy time with. Rule #1 - No one can say MY name."

After all the snorting and laughter stopped, silence fell as they each closed their eyes and sighed.

"Okay, Alan?"

"Ugh, I hate going first. Okay, here goes. Older woman: Phoebe Cates. My fantasy dreamgirl: Alyson Hannigan, you know, Willow."

"Will?"

"Wait, I have to think of the perfect older woman; got her: Eva Longoria.
Fantasy dream girl: Eliza Dushku; she played Faith on Buffy."

"Charlie? Now, don't go all bizarre on us."

"Well, I would die to go traveling across the desert in Priscilla with Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce. I want a turquoise blue headpiece. My fantasy dream guy: Jake Gyllenhaal or Pete Wentz, I know, I know, but maybe ........."

"Well, yeah, okay, good choices, I guess. Jeffrey?"

Jeffrey mumbled, "I've always thought Michelle Pfeiffer was gorgeous. My fantasy dream girl: She's kinda older but Kate Beckinsale in Everworld."

"I guess it's my turn," Chester grinned.

"I already know your older woman," Brian laughed. "It's gotta be Dana Scully."

"Well, yeah, of course. The one and only Gillian Anderson is my goddess. She's all the woman I'd ever need."

"Okay, we're down to Bri. Let's see if anyone can guess." Every hand went up.

"I'm gonna start with my older guy," he blushed. "He's a gay boy's perfect poster guy cause parents would never guess. I have to say John Barrowman from Torchwood. But, I'd really just like to talk with him."

Sneakers, socks, bags of chips and magazines came flying from every direction. "What a crock" "You so suck, Jenkins" "Don't be handin' us that."

"Now, say your fantasy dream guy so we can go to lunch."

Brian covered his head with his hands and yelled, "Gabriel Parelli" as he found himself at the bottom of a pile of scuffling boys. "But it's truuuuuuuuuuueee," he screeched . "He's still a fantasy ........ So far."

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