Seeing Stars

by Will S

Chapter 4

They ran the very next day. Since it wasn't a school day, there was no time crunch. Right from the start, Wright could see Chris didn't quite get running. He wanted to start right in on a run.

"I figured running was a warm-up," Chris said when Wright told him the first step was warming up and stretching.

"Nah," Wright said. "You start right in, and you're going to cramp up, guaranteed. Running puts huge demands on lots of muscles throughout the body. Best way to manage that muscle stress is to loosen up. It makes a huge difference. Runners who don't warm up properly can get some pretty serious muscle and tendon injuries, even joint problems."

"You're worse than Coach Adams," Chris complained good-naturedly, and Wright smiled at being compared to Lincoln High's varsity football coach.

"Okay then," Wright said in his soft, shy voice, "let's get started," and there on his driveway they began their prep: stretching all over, legs, torso, shoulders, even arms; running in place, and breathing exercises.

"I think I know how to breathe," Chris protested.

"Yeah, lots of beginners say that," Wright answered, "but if you don't get your lungs loosened up, at the end of a run, even one that's not too challenging, you can end up with lung burn. It's not something you want to deal with, believe me."

Following Wright's instruction, Chris sat on the driveway, straightened out his legs, and slid his hands down his legs to touch his toes, a standard stretching exercise. Wright glanced over, watching Chris imitate his own movement down his legs. In that moment, he would have given anything to have his hands be the ones running up and down Chris's legs. Chris looked over at his instructor. "The warm-ups are a pretty good exercise all on their own," Chris huffed as he got to his tenth toe-touch.

"Most people don't get how demanding running really is," Wright answered, "It's different from baseball, or football where you've got these periodic moments of 'instant-on' high speed. With running, especially cross-country, the demands on your body are sustained, lasting over a long time, so the key is to prepare your body—like we're doing now—and then pacing yourself. You don't get the pace right, you won't finish the run." Wright offered some instruction for the next warm-up and continued. "Plus," he added, "you want to feel good when you're done. And that usually means a lot of thinking about what you're doing and how you're going to do it. Even for a simple run like today."

It was already a warm, humid day, and at one point, Chris pulled his T-shirt off. Wright had to force himself to look away. Chris Donnelly was jacked, and why wouldn't he be? He was a football star.

"It's okay, you know," Chris chuckled. "You can look."

Wright's cheeks colored, and he turned back to Chris, keeping his eyes locked onto the dark-haired boy's face. "You lift?"

"Yeah. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes Saturdays off-season." Chris turned to Wright and with a silly grin and a roll of his eyes, struck a goofy body-builder pose. "Why? Can you tell?"

Wright smiled at that and snorted a soft half-laugh. "I'd have to be blind, not to."

Chris laughed. "Well, put your eyes back in their sockets. You'll give me a swelled head." He reached down, cupped his "junk," and laughed at his play on words. Wright, predictably blushed a deep red, which Chris not only was expecting, but it was one of the things that made Wright Steinbeck so appealing. Chris wasn't used to being around someone so shy and humble. Most of his friends were in-your-face aggressive football or baseball players. But now he worried that maybe he was pushing too hard. "Hey, Wright," he said, "you know I'm just foolin' around. I mean it's so easy to get you going. Makes me…I dunno…It's just kind'a fun being around you. Hope that doesn't sound too weird or anything."

Wright wondered if he'd ever get used to this guy. Everything just seemed to come so naturally for Chris Donnelly. For Wright, practically everything he did seemed surrounded by uncertainty—everything except running. It all had to do with being afraid, being afraid that he might somehow do something that would get people wondering about him. ("What's with that Wright Steinbeck kid? Think he's gay?") That was something Wright didn't want anyone thinking, especially the boy whose body was at this moment drawing him like a magnet. "Weird?" Wright muttered self-consciously in answer to Chris's question. "Well, maybe just a little." He offered a little hint of a smile, and Chris grinned back and wondered what was really going on inside that blond, blue-eyed head.

"Hey, if we're going to be buds," Chris offered, "you're gonna have to get used to my humor." He flashed another smile that seemed to send a bolt of energy straight into Wright's chest and down to his cock. His heartbeat clicked up a few notches. Chris Donnelly had said they were going to be friends, and Wright was still trying to figure out why—why, as in why would Lincoln High's star athlete want to be "buds" with him?

"Aren't you hot?" Chris asked, breaking in Wright's thoughts.

"Nah," Wright responded. "Well, a little maybe."

"Well…" Chris said, taking a step closer to him. "Be bold! Seize the moment!" He gestured toward Wright's T-shirt. "Or if you can't seize the moment, seize that T and get rid of it. I don't wanna be the only semi-nudist on this run!"

Reluctantly, Wright pulled his shirt up, raising his arms. When the shirt cleared his head, he found Chris staring at him. His body wasn't at all like Chris's, not that he wasn't in good shape. Like Chris, he worked out. His dad had exercise equipment that he used. Once in a while he'd even work out at school although he made sure it was at times when the other teams weren't going to be around. So, was he jacked? Not like Chris was, that was for sure. Was he proud of his body? Well, yeah, he was; he thought of himself as a "work in progress." Truthfully, he wasn't sure he would ever want to be as muscle-y as Chris. On Chris, it looked awesome, but on him? Not so much. It just didn't fit with his image of himself. But in this moment, he was supremely self-conscious of Chris's gaze, taking him in as if he were some work of art.

"Hope I'm not making you uncomfortable," Chris said.

"Well…" Wright shrugged. "A little. It's okay."

"Those compression shorts don't leave much to the imagination. Just sayin', dude." If Chris's sparkling eyes and friendly grin was meant to put Wright at ease, it wasn't working.

Wright was beside himself. This guy was clearly playing with him, but he couldn't figure out what it meant. He rolled his eyes and shook his head once. "Shut up," he breathed.

"Sorry," Chris said, "Turn-about's fair play. And…" He stared into Wright's eyes. "…from the looks of things, you've got nuthin' to be ashamed of."

Wright blushed again from his neck to the top of his blond head. He thought he was going to die. He'd been noticed in a way he wasn't used to or expecting, and more than that, he'd been caught. Then as he thought about it, so had Chris, but Chris was Chris, football hero, and that gave him license to say just about whatever he wanted.

"Hey, Boy Runner," Chris said, "I don't mind you looking…just so long as I can do the same. It's not like I'm gonna go tell my teammates that I was staring at Wright Steinbeck's hot body…ya' know? I mean, I'm not sure they'd understand." Chris looked at Wright now with an unsmiling expression, almost expectant, but then, it was as if he'd flipped a switch and turned on the charm, and he laughed as if he'd just made the best joke ever, and Wright laughed right along with him, shaking his head to indicate how ridiculous that all was.

But inside, deep inside where he hoped Chris couldn't see, Wright burned with a knowledge that staring at a hot body was exactly what he was doing, and he knew the dark-haired boy or anyone else could never know just how being this close to a bare-chested Chris Donnelly had Wright's "equipment" threatening to show what his laughter denied. That was the only problem with compression shorts he'd discovered. One of the first times he'd worn them, Wright was at an away meet, and he spied this absolutely stunning high jumper, and glancing down, it was clear to him—and anyone else who glanced his way—that something had "excited" him. In desperation, he'd focused totally on a rather aggressive girl who tried to get him interested in her, and that, luckily, ended his, er, "growing" concern.

Chris Donnelly's easy way belied the fact that he was sure his suspicions hinted at something more. A few weeks ago, he'd overheard some girls talking near his locker. They had been "critiquing" some boys in the Junior class.

"And what about Wright Steinbeck?"

"Who?" someone asked.

"He's in our science lab," another answered. "He's a man of mystery, huh?"

"Kind'a cute, don'cha think?" one of them asked.

"Wright?" said another. "Listen to this: Rachel said she tried to get him interested, but he didn't even blink."

To which another concluded, "Anyone who can resist Rachel has gotta be a fag."

That resulted in some nervous laughter, and pretty much ended the conversation, but it was enough to get Chris thinking. Wright Steinbeck? Could he really be gay? Well, if he was, Chris Donnelly was going to find out.

Without further comment, the two boys took in each other's bare beauty, and after warming up to Wright's satisfaction, set out on their run. All along the way, Wright had to urge Chris to slow down. "Pace yourself. You know that expression, 'You're in it for the long run?' Well, ya' gotta save something for the end."

By the time they got about three quarters of the way along, Chris finally understood what Wright had been trying to tell him. Throughout the run, Wright had been slowing down. It was frustrating, but there was no way Chris could keep to Wright's pace. But then of course, there was the added benefit of seeing up close Chris's incredible body. The gleam of sweat on his skin only added to the effect the football star was having on him, and though not noticed by Wright, himself, that effect was absolutely noted and cataloged by Chris Donnelly.

"Oh, man," Chris huffed. "This is no piece of cake. What was I thinking?" He glanced over at his "coach" and grinned.

"Like I said, you gotta—"

"Yeah," interrupted Chris, "I know, I know…Pace yourself. I get it. Now."

It was about that same time, that Wright noticed something else about Chris. That was when, he started reaching down and tugging at his shorts. Wright made a mental note to have a little "health and welfare" discussion once they got back to the house.

Wright smiled. He could easily have quickened the pace enough to show Chris he could run circles around the football star, but that wasn't Wright's personality. He wanted Chris to like him. And despite the uncomfortable vibes he was getting from Chris, he wanted to like Chris. Whether that was possible—whether Wright would be able to overcome his worries about Chris, he wasn't sure. In his mind, he was taking a big risk. All he needed to do was make one mistake, a look that was a little too intense or popping a boner when Chris was right next to him, and the word would spread like wildfire that he, Wright Steinbeck, was a perv.

And if that word was coming from Lincoln's star athlete, that's all it would take. Wright would never live it down.

Ten more paces and they stepped back into Wright's driveway.

Chris, bent over with his hands resting on his knees and his arms straight, muttered, "Well, glad that's over."

"Not so fast, big guy," Wright breathed. "Cool down. Same deal as warm-up. Gotta do it…every time. Otherwise…injuries, tightening, strains…not good, and pretty much avoidable."

They spent ten minutes cooling down. "Well, thanks, Wright" Chris said, when they had finished, "Gonna head home and hit the shower." Again, Chris reached down and tugged at his crotch, and kind of spread his legs a bit.

That made Wright remember that there was one more thing to discuss. "Ahmm…" Wright began softly, "This is gonna sound a little weird, but I gotta ask. You wearing a jock strap?"

"That is a little weird, but yeah. Why?"

"I thought so," Wright mumbled and colored slightly. "Runners don't wear 'em." He pointed down at Chris's shorts. "Chafing."

Chris rolled his eyes. "It's never happened before."

"You've never been moving constantly the way we were today." Wright replied. "Most runners wear compression shorts. There are some runners who wear nothing under a pair of loose-fitting shorts."

"Like the ancient Olympics. Those guys were all naked." Chris grinned. "Now that'd be a sight! Two guys running down Wheeler Drive, naked!"

They both laughed.

"Probably not your best idea," Wright offered, and they laughed some more.

"Anyway, the best way to treat chafing in the…um…groin area: cool water when you're showering. Pat…do not rub…the area dry."

"No rubbing down there, dude," Christ interrupted. "Never!" He flashed a sly grin which caused Wright to roll his eyes and shake his head. But he couldn't help a grin of his own before he continued.

"Then extra strength Gold Bond Body Powder. Keep things loose, and…you may want to…um…go the ancient Greek route when you sleep tonight.

Chris held Wright in his gaze. "Only if you promise to think about me laying on my bed naked."

"Oh, my god," Wright muttered. "Don't you ever…" He stopped and sighed. "You are unbelievable."

"Will you?"

Wright shook his head. "Just go. You are so…weird."

"Thank you!" Chris said, and scrambled to his car as if he were in fear for his life, but before he drove off, he rolled down the window. "Tomorrow…same time? Okay?"

Wright shook his head again. "Yeah, okay."

"Cool." He waved. "I'm off to buy some Gold Bond!"


The next day, Chris was back, and right on time. When he climbed out of his car, he was wearing compression shorts. As they warmed up, Wright got several glimpses of an interesting bulge. (And it wasn't disappointing.) He blushed, and this time it was nothing Chris had said; instead, it was all on Wright—and his "impure" thoughts. What's wrong with me, he thought. I see a cute guy, and right away, I'm checking out his package! Do all guys to that he wondered, or only gay guys. He wished he knew another gay guy so he could ask him. Hell, he just wished he knew another gay boy period.

"Like my shorts?" Chris asked as if reading Wright's mind.

"They're cool," Wright replied.

"Yeah," Chris said, and, putting his hands on his hips and striking a Superman pose, added, "But like I said, they don't leave much to the imagination." He shot Wright a leering look, which made him blush even more. It was like Wright was getting a virtual invitation to gaze at "Ground Zero" for as long as he wanted.

"You're right about that," Wright mumbled and looked away, grateful to be resuming his warm-ups.

"By the way," Chris said as they began their run, "That Gold Bond stuff works miracles."

He turned to Wright, and without any of Chris's usual fun and games, offered a soft, "Thanks."

Wright smiled back at him. "No problem. I had to learn the hard way, too."

Chris nodded. "Well," he said, "Let's do it." And off they went for another morning run.

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