deleerium_fic: (orlijah even god likes by crimsonhue)
[personal profile] deleerium_fic
Title: Parochial (2/3)
Author: [livejournal.com profile] deleerium
Status: Complete
Type: LOTR RPS AU (catholic school boys – modern, USA, takes place in some nameless big city in the south)
Rating: G – PG 15 ish?
Prompt: 22 – “school boys” for [livejournal.com profile] orlijah_month



“Okay, spill it.” Sean dropped his backpack on the floor and flopped into the desk in front of Elijah.

Elijah didn’t even look up from the pile of student council forms he was reviewing. “There’s nothing to spill.”

“Liar.” Sean glanced around the deserted classroom, then leaned in close and lowered his voice anyway. “Something’s up with you this past week. You’ve got that…that,” he waved a hand around in front of Elijah’s nose, “glowy, ‘I’m-getting-some’ thing going on.”

Elijah snorted, but didn’t look up. “Tell your shrink you need to meet three times a week, not two.”

“So cool,” said Sean, rolling his eyes. “I’ve known you since we were four. I think I know when you’re getting some. Besides, you look just like you did when you were dating Karl.” Sean frowned. “Hey, don’t tell me you’re seeing that jerk again.”

“You’re the jerk,” snapped Elijah as he looked up and thwacked Sean between the eyes with his pencil. “I told you that was over.” He looked back down at his papers. “Ages ago.”

“Yeah, well.” Sean was still frowning as he stared at his best friend, rubbing absently at the spot between his eyes. “He was too old for you anyway. Shouldn’t date college guys until you’re in college.”

Elijah looked at Sean and slowly raised one eyebrow. “He cheated on me. With a girl.”

Sean shrugged. “That too.”

Elijah hit him with the pencil again.

+

A horn honked and Orlando started, looking up at the clock. “Crap, he’s earlier than usual.” He threw the newspaper down, gulped the rest of his OJ and grabbed the last piece of toast. “Bye, Mum,” he hollered and snatched up his messenger bag as he sprinted out the door and down the flagstone path. Only to come to a screeching halt when he saw the ancient Toyota minivan idling in front of the garage. He dropped his toast in the driveway when he saw who was behind the wheel.

Elijah rolled down the window – by hand. With what Orlando suspected was a crank. “Come on, we’re late and I got suckered into carpool today because my mom’s out of town at an artist convention.”

Orlando nodded and went around to the passenger side. The door opened with a metallic squeal of protest and he stopped, again.

“Oops,” said Elijah, sweeping the collection of fast food wrappers out of the passenger seat onto the floor.

“Thanks,” said Orlando and climbed in, kicking at the wrappers under his feet as he shut the door.

Elijah reversed out of the drive at high speed and said, “Lunches?”

Orlando jumped when a chorus of young voices shouted, “Check!” from just behind him. He turned around and gaped at the seven little kids crammed in the two back rows.

Elijah careened through the neighborhood with only cursory respect for the local traffic laws, then turned left on the main road – in the opposite direction of the high school. “Homework?”

“Check!”

Orlando jumped again and turned to look at Elijah, his eyes wide.

A grinning Elijah shot him a sideways look. “Only five of them are related to me, I promise.” He narrowly missed a crossing guard and swung into the carpool line of the catholic private elementary school that served as one of the feeders to St. Mark’s Academy. “Uniforms, backpacks, space ships?”

“Duh, we don’t need spathe-thips, Litha.” A pixie-faced little girl appeared at Orlando’s elbow. Her gap-toothed grin explained the unique accent.

“Oh, that’s right,” said Elijah, smacking his own forehead. He inched the car forward in line with the rest of the soccer moms. “Space ships are on Fridays, right?”

The little girl giggled, leaning on Elijah’s arm. “You’re silly.”

“Gimme a kiss, munchkin,” said Elijah, offering a cheek as they approached the school entrance. The little girl obliged him with a wet smack, then opened the heavy sliding door with an expert twist of her hand and jumped out.

Orlando started again when a little boy appeared where the little girl had just been. The boy looked remarkably like her. “I’m not kissing you, Lijah. That’s gross,” said the little boy.

Elijah nodded. “Totally gross, Arch. How about a high five instead?” He held up his hand.

Arch considered the offered hand, then giggled – exactly like the little girl – and slapped it before disappearing out the door.

Orlando watched, fascinated, as the rest of the kids clambered out of the back and bestowed two more kisses, one complicated hand-shake, one eye-roll and a sticky, one-armed hug (complete with a generously offered half-sucked tootsie pop) on Elijah. Finally, the van was empty.

“Door!” Elijah yelled and one of the boys dashed back and slid the door closed with a slam. Elijah stepped on the gas and sped out of the drive.

Orlando slumped a little in his seat, messenger bag clutched tight against his chest as he looked at Elijah. “What in the bloody hell was that?”

Elijah switched the tootsie-pop to his other cheek with an obscene sucking sound. “Carpool,” he said, sagely, and nodded.

+

Orlando thought he was more prepared for the afternoon than he had been for the morning. At least until Elijah appeared half-way through his seventh period class with a message that Orlando was wanted in the counseling office. He scrambled to pack his things and followed Elijah down the hall and through the administration building. He straightened his tie and smoothed down his hair as they walked. “Why do they need me in the office?” he asked.

“They don’t,” said Elijah. He walked past the reception area and out the doors at the other end of the building. The student parking lot was on the far side of the building.

“What? Wait,” said Orlando, pausing on the threshold before scurrying down the steps after Elijah. “Where are we going?”

“I told you, I have carpool this afternoon and the munchkins get out twenty minutes earlier than we do.” He unlocked the van, climbed inside and leaned over to unlock Orlando’s door.

“So, we’re—” Orlando sounded horrified as he scrambled into the front seat. “We’re cutting?”

Elijah shook his head and started the car. “No, we’re not.” He pulled out of the lot and headed towards the elementary school. “Right now you are in the front office having a conversation about your college choices with the guidance counselor. I am in the nurse’s office recovering from a minor bout of food poisoning because of something I ate at lunch.”

Orlando put both hands over his face and sagged in his seat. “We are so cutting class.” He dropped his hands and glared at Elijah. “I’m so screwed if my parents find out about this. Eleven years, seven schools and my attendance records are perfect. Perfect, do you hear me?” He twisted his hands together. “Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? I haven’t even missed school for being sick. Not once.” He shook a finger at Elijah. “Not ever.”

Elijah backed up from the finger and looked at him. “That’s pretty fucking sad, actually.” He reached over and slapped Orlando on the shoulder. “Relax, man. You were in every class when the teachers took attendance, right?”

Orlando nodded. “Well, yes, technically—”

“See? You’re not skipping,” said Elijah. “Besides, we’re only leaving a half hour early. It’s not like they’re going to send the Truant Officer out after us or anything.”

Orlando’s face paled. “There’s really a Truant Officer?” he whispered.

“Seriously, Orlando,” said Elijah, shaking his head. “You need to relax.”

+

Orlando was exhausted by the time Elijah pulled into the driveway of a sprawling, one story ranch house just a few blocks from his own home. He watched as the kids wrestled open the door and spilled out of the van, scattering in all directions. There was a moderate amount of screaming involved. He flinched when the passenger door squeaked open.

“Come on,” said Elijah, leaning over to wrestle the sliding door shut. “Bill won’t be home until later and I have to fix them a snack.”

Orlando nodded and climbed out. “Who’s Bill?” he asked, following Elijah through a two car garage that looked like a Hamley’s warehouse for retired toys. He suspected an actual car hadn’t been parked inside it for at least a decade.

“My step-dad,” said Elijah, opening the back door and leading Orlando through a crowded laundry room and into a large kitchen with 70’s era appliances and sunshine yellow countertops. “Set your stuff down, this will just take a minute.” He dropped his bag on a huge pine table crammed into the breakfast area, shrugged out of his jacket and rolled up his sleeves.

Orlando set down his bag and leaned against the counter to watch. It didn’t take long for him to notice Elijah knew his kitchen as well as any professional chef. Elijah didn’t waste a single motion as he grabbed paper plates with one hand and snagged fruit from a hanging basket with the other. He thumped his elbow against the wall and a paring knife dropped from a magnetic wall hanger right into his hand.

He looked over his shoulder at Orlando. “Hey, would you mind grabbing some juice boxes out of the fridge for me?”

“Sure,” said Orlando, going over to the fridge and opening the door. “How many?”

“Four should be enough,” said Elijah, rummaging in the pantry to retrieve peanut butter and raisins.

“But aren’t there seven of them?” asked Orlando. He sounded confused.

“Yeah,” said Elijah, “but no kid finishes a whole drink and the twins usually share. Could you grab the celery while you’re in there?”

“Celery.” Orlando stared at the inside of the fridge for a long moment, juice boxes cradled against his chest.

Elijah chuckled. “Try the drawer that says vegetables.”

“Oh, right,” said Orlando, pulling open the drawer and fishing out the bag of shiny green stalks. He shut the fridge, dropped the celery next to Elijah and set the juices on the table, arranging them in a neat row.

“C’mere,” said Elijah, gesturing at him with the paring knife.

Orlando folded his jacket over a chair and went over to stand next to Elijah. “What are you doing?” he asked, looking down at the hodgepodge of food.

Elijah turned his head, snagged Orlando’s tie and tugged. “This,” he murmured, touching their mouths together. The kiss was chaste and quick and so hot it made Orlando’s knees buckle. Elijah let go and went right back to chopping.

Orlando swayed a little and had to prop himself against the counter. “Ernh—” He shook his head and frowned at Elijah. “You shouldn’t do that,” he said, trying to sound annoyed and failing entirely.

Both of Elijah’s eyebrows went up. “I didn’t hear you complaining the last time.”

“That,” Orlando cleared his throat, “that was different.”

“How?” asked Elijah, reaching around Orlando to grab a package of raisins, his arm brushing against Orlando’s waist.

“There weren’t—” Orlando clutched the counter top. “We were alone.”

Elijah shrugged. “We’re alone now, too.”

Orlando made a disgruntled sound and crossed his arms over his chest. He looked at Elijah’s hands, watching as he smeared peanut butter on one celery stick after another. After a few minutes of staring, Orlando sighed, leaned into Elijah’s line of sight and pressed their mouths together – a proper kiss, this time. At least, if the way Elijah made an inarticulate sound and dropped the knife to tangle a hand in Orlando’s hair was any indication.

“Ew, gross.”

They both froze.

“Shit,” Elijah whispered, barely voicing the word as he dropped his hand.

“I told you,” Orlando hissed and leaned away, his cheeks berry bright.

Elijah looked over his shoulder. “Hey, Arch. Snack’s almost ready.” He set a plate of pear and apple slices on the table, then sprinkled raisins on top of the peanut-butter covered celery.

“Yuck, I wanted Oreo’s,” said Archie, sighing with his whole body as threw himself into a chair. He picked up a slice of pear. “Why was he kissing you, Lijah?”

Orlando shot Elijah a look of panic, but Elijah just shook his head a little and ruffled Archie’s hair as he set the last plate on the table. “His name is Orlando, remember? And he didn’t believe it this morning when you said kissing was gross,” he said, his tone casual as he went back to the counter to clean up.

Archie turned in his chair to look at Orlando. “See? Totally gross, right?”

Orlando made a choked, snorting sort of sound and then nodded. “Totally,” he managed, strangling on the word.

Elijah threw a raisin at him.

Orlando laughed and ducked the next one.

+

“It’s nearly dinner,” said Orlando, shutting his text book and rubbing his eyes. He nudged Elijah in the ribs as he put books and papers back in his messenger bag. “I should get going.”

Elijah tipped his head back until it touched Orlando’s shoulder. His back was warm from where they had been leaning against one another on the floor. “I can take you home.”

“No, thank you,” said Orlando. He rose to his feet and stretched. “I feel like a walk, anyway.” He picked up his bag and jacket, then put his tie in his pants’ pocket.

Elijah looked up at him. “Okay.” He stood up, stretched and sighed, rubbing a hand back and forth over his hair as he looked around the room. “You have everything?”

“Yeah,” said Orlando, folding his jacket over his arm. He smoothed the fabric a few times, then looked at Elijah. “Thank you for having me over.” His lips quirked. “Your family is great. A bit crazy,” he teased, “but great.”

“They like you,” said Elijah, setting his hand on the doorknob. The door was still propped open the requisite two inches. The sounds of the house echoed faintly down the long hallway – the twins arguing, someone talking on the phone, the TV still on in the den. Slowly, he turned around and leaned against the door.

It shut with a soft click.

Orlando dropped his bag and jacket and crossed the room in two strides, crowding Elijah against the door, his hands framing Elijah’s face. Orlando’s long body hovered so close Elijah could feel the heat of him as a single hot line from knees to shoulders. Foreheads, noses, cheeks – touched and then touched again. Elijah’s breath skittered in and out of his lips as Orlando tipped Elijah’s head back, thumb stroking the skin under Elijah’s jaw.

“I like you, Elijah,” Orlando said, the words dragged back and forth across the plush curve of Elijah’s lower lip.

Elijah grabbed Orlando’s shirt with both hands and made a sound when their bodies finally, finally collided – lost under Orlando’s kiss.

+

“Oh, Oh, well duh!” Sean dropped his literature book abruptly on the library table and smacked himself on the forehead. He chuckled and smacked himself again, dropping his head into both hands before jerking upright and beaming in goofy delight across the table at Elijah and Orlando. “I’m such a…of course it’s…I mean, duh.” Another smack.

Elijah and Orlando looked up from their calculus homework with identical expressions of confusion.

Elijah looked a little worried. “You okay there, Sean?”

Sean shook his head and waved a hand. He was still chuckling. “It’s nothing. Well, it’s not nothing, I mean it’s great. Way better than…except that I’m supposed to be so good at observing and I can’t believe it took me this long…with the…given all the…” he appeared to choke, coughed violently, took a deep breath – visibly struggling not to speak – then waved a hand in their direction. Again. “Don’t mind me, you two.” He picked up his book, still beaming. “Carry on, carry on.”

Orlando looked at Elijah. “He sounds like my Uncle Neville,” he whispered. “Uncle Neville drinks. Excessively.”

Elijah shrugged. “He gets like that sometimes. I think it’s all those bizarre diets his mom makes him do.” He turned his attention back to their homework, his head bent close to Orlando’s as he pointed out a mistake in Orlando’s work. Orlando sighed and handed Elijah the pencil.

Sean peered at them over the top of his book and beamed some more, settling down in the library chair with a sigh of complete contentment. Way better than the last one, Lij. Way.

+



| SMS TXT
| FROM: E WOOD
|
| U FREE SAT?


Orlando dropped his pen when his mobile phone buzzed against his hip in the middle of history. He retrieved his pen and slipped his hand in his pocket as he sat up, sliding the phone open under the edge of his desk. When he saw who it was from, his gaze darted up one row and two desks over. Elijah was smirking at him over his shoulder. Orlando gave him a look -- texting in class was an instantaneous detention.

Elijah returned the look with one of his own. Orlando rolled his eyes, then punched in a reply.

| SMS TXT
| FROM: O BLOOM
|
| Y ?



| FROM: E WOOD
|
| PIC U UP @ 9



| FROM: O BLOOM
|
| A M ?



| FROM: E WOOD
|
| Y & WEAR SNKRS
| & HAT



| FROM: O BLOOM
|
| ?



| FROM: E WOOD
|
| BC I SAID 2
| NOSY



| FROM: O BLOOM
|
| KK
| FREAK



| FROM: E WOOD
|
| BTW
| UR TIE’S CROOK


Orlando dropped his hand from his tie and glared at Elijah, who’s shoulders were vibrating with what was clearly suppressed laughter.

| FROM: O BLOOM
|
| IZ NOT
| U GIT



+

“You coach soccer?” Orlando asked, still standing outside the open door of the van.

“Referee, actually,” said Elijah, plucking the front of his shirt. “Thus the striped shirt instead of a velour jogging suit.”

Orlando tugged his khaki visor down a little. “I meant referee,” he said and climbed into the front seat, pulling the door shut firmly behind him.

When Elijah didn’t put the car in gear, Orlando turned to find Elijah giving him a slow once-over. “What?”

Elijah shook his head and put the van in gear, draping his arm around Orlando’s seat as he backed out of the drive. “At least I don’t look like I’m going on a date with Tiger Woods.”

Orlando looked down at his immaculate robin’s egg blue Calloway polo and freshly pressed khaki shorts. “You’re the one who said hat and sneakers,” he said, smoothing a hand down his shirt.

“I’m not complaining,” said Elijah, his voice dropping to a murmur.

Orlando shivered when he felt fingers stir the hair above his shirt collar, then both of Elijah’s hands were back on the wheel.

“Who’s ready to play soccer?” Elijah asked, looking in the rear view mirror.

Orlando didn’t even jump when a chorus of, “Me!” spilled from the back seats.

+

Panting, Elijah jogged over to stand next to Orlando between games three and four. He leaned over, bracing his hands on his knees.

Orlando handed him a towel and a sports drink from the cooler.

“Thanks,” said Elijah, straightening. He emptied the bottle in seconds and wiped the glow off his face before dropping the towel on the lawn chairs behind them. He glanced at Orlando, who stood there looking cool and composed despite the insanely hot temperature. “You don’t seem to mind the heat.”

Orlando shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “I like being outdoors.”

“Have you ever played soccer?” Elijah asked, tipping his head towards the field.

“No,” said Orlando, shaking his head. “Not really.” He smiled at Elijah. “But you’re pretty good.”

Elijah shrugged. “I played until sophomore year, but the game schedules were insane so I decided to quit soccer and referee for the pee-wee’s instead. I get to pick the schedule and it keeps me in shape.” He squinted at the little bodies running in chaotic pods back and forth across the field. “Anna, honey, the goal line is the other way this time,” he called, and ran back onto the field.

+

Elijah slid into the booth across from Orlando and set a plate piled with buffet pizza between them. “So, did you totally hate it?” he asked, keeping one eye on the tables full of shrieking kids in soccer uniforms.

Orlando grinned and shook his head. “Not at all. It was fun,” he said. “I mean, they’re not very skilled yet, but I can see the potential.” He picked up a slice a pizza and took a bite. “Anna’s got a good sense of ball control already. Archie’s got a pretty powerful kick, if he can learn to aim it. The others are too little, but it looked like they were having a good time.”

“So you were paying attention,” said Elijah, grinning around his soda straw.

“Of course,” said Orlando, tilting his head. “They’re your family. I know they’re important.”

Elijah cleared his throat and focused on his soda, his cheeks tinged pink. Orlando couldn’t tell if he was still flushed from all the running, or if it was for a different reason entirely.

“Do you play anything?” Elijah asked. “A sport or something?”

“A sport,” Orlando repeated. His hand tightened on his napkin, his face an unreadable blank.

“Hey,” said Elijah, touching the back of Orlando’s hand with a finger. “Did I say something wrong?”

Orlando looked up. “No, sorry.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “And yes, I do play something.”

“Really?” Elijah ate half a slice of pizza in one bite. “What?” he asked, wiping his mouth with a napkin.

Orlando shook his head, his smile crooked. “It’d be easier to show you. Are you free next Saturday?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good,” said Orlando. “I’ll pick you up at seven. And Elijah?”

“Yeah?”

“Wear a hat and sneakers.”

+

“Do you have the calculus assignment done from yesterday? I had hockey practice last night and totally spaced it,” said Sean, throwing himself down in an empty chair.

Orlando blinked. “You play hockey?”

Elijah snorted and rescued Orlando’s milk and remaining half-sandwich from Sean’s flailing. “Ask him what he doesn’t play.” He flipped open his calculus book and pulled out the completed problems.

Sean grinned and turned to Orlando. “I don’t play badminton, volleyball or anything else that involves excessive amounts of jumping. I play hockey in a community league – fewer practices that way – so I have time to do swimming and track until football starts.” He opened up his backpack and started rummaging. “Summer’s the worst, though because I really don’t like missing swimming for track – too hot – I throw shot put and discus. Ancient sport you know. Greek.” He wrestled a plain brown paper bag out of his backpack and shoved it at Orlando. “Speaking of, I got you these. I figured since you and Elijah were having sex now, you might not know where to go around here for condoms and lube and stuff.”

Orlando spewed milk across the table, the paper bag clutched to his chest.

Elijah calmly handed Orlando a napkin from his own lunch bag and looked inquiringly at Sean. “Sean? How did you know Orlando and I were going out?”

“Huh? Well, it took me a couple of weeks, but it’s kind of obvious. I mean, I know you’re…you know, you. And I figured with the way Orlando had been looking at you and you giving him rides to and from school every day and looking like you do when I know you’re getting….not that I blame you, I mean, if I were gay, I’d totally want a piece of that. Orlando’s hot – just look at him.”

Orlando’s head made an unpleasant sound as it connected with the cafeteria table.

Without looking, Elijah gently pulled Orlando upright by the collar of his shirt.

Sean waved a hand at Elijah. “Not that you’re not hot, Lij, because I’m sure you are. Well, maybe more cool than hot. I think. Anyway, I could tell you guys like spending time together. That and I saw you making out when we were at the Starbucks over on Preston Road last week. You really should make sure the restroom door is actually shut before you get it on in a place like that, especially one so close to the school.” Sean shrugged. “I’m just saying’.”

Elijah nodded. “Mm, you have a good point.” He kept his palm against Orlando’s forehead to keep the table from causing too much damage.

+

“Elijah, honey?”

Elijah growled under his breath and fiddled with the hairs sticking out from the edges of the visor. “I just look dumb,” he said, yanking it off his head and stalking back into his bedroom.

“Elijah.”

“Yeah, mom?” he hollered, tossing the visor on his bed and retrieving his favorite baseball cap from the closet. He put it on and looked in the mirror. Much better.

Debbie knocked lightly on the open door. “Honey,” she paused, sticking her head into the room, “do you know why a limousine would be parked in front of our house this early on a Saturday?”

Elijah gaped at her. “What?” he asked, the word coming out abnormally high pitched.

“A limo, dear. A nice silver one,” she turned back down the hall, pulling the colored pencil out from behind her ear as she walked. “It looks like a Lincoln.”

“You have got to be kidding me,” Elijah muttered, snagging his wallet and keys as he headed out the door. He paused on the front steps and shook his head. “Seriously?” He took the steps two at a time and shoved his hands in his pockets as he cut across the lawn.

The driver’s door opened and a distinguished looking gentleman stepped out. “Good morning, sir,” he said, and opened the back passenger door for Elijah.

Elijah blinked at him. “Good morning,” he said, and stuck his head in the door. He looked at Orlando who was sitting on the bench seat just inside.

“Hi,” said Orlando, looking a little nervous.

Elijah crawled in next to him and waited until the door was shut behind him. “A limo? Really?”

Orlando lifted a shoulder and dropped it. “I don’t drive,” he mumbled

“What?”

“I don’t have a license,” said Orlando, the words clear this time. He gestured as he spoke. “I don’t know how to drive, alright? Instead, I have a driver. I’ve had one my whole life and it’s not that big a deal. Even Mum just learned how to drive a couple of years ago. I’m going to get a license, I just haven’t yet.”

Elijah grabbed a flailing hand. “Whoa, slow down,” he said, trapping Orlando’s hand between his own and squeezing. “Take a breath.”

Orlando took a deep breath in and held it, then let it out in a rush, sagging a little in his seat.

Elijah released Orlando’s hand and punched him gently in the shoulder. “I don’t care what you drive or if you drive, it just surprised me is all.” He settled back in the seat and looked around. “This is nice,” he said, then glanced at Orlando. “You know, if you want to learn how to drive, I can teach you.”

“Really?” Orlando said, turning a wide, hopeful gaze on him.

“Yeah, sure.” Elijah leaned back a little, his laughter strained. “And you can cut it out with the puppy eyes,” he said, tugging at his shirt collar. “You should save those for special occasions. They’re lethal.”

Orlando blinked at him. “Huh?”

Elijah sighed. “Never mind,” he said. “Where are we going, again?”

“Oh, the Country Club,” said Orlando, a shy smile spreading across his features. “It’s nice. Have you been?”

“The Country Club,” said Elijah. “As in The Country Club.”

Orlando tilted his head. “Well, yeah,” he said. “We have a family membership there, so it’s one of the places I go when I want to play.”

Elijah laughed again. “A family membership, yeah. Okay.” He tugged his baseball cap down and sent a little prayer of thanks to the clothing gods that he’d chosen the red polo over his favorite Ramones’ t-shirt.

The Country Club, where the annual dues were more than most people’s entire mortgage and the membership fee to purchase the right to play on such a ridiculous, money-sucking playground was a cool one million dollars.

One. Million. Dollars. To play tennis. Or swim. Or whatever.

Maybe he should have worn the visor.

+

“Golf?” asked Elijah, scratching under the edge of his hat.

“Yeah,” said Orlando, his smile bright. “I’ll take those, Quentin. Thank you.” He took the bag of clubs from the driver and slung them over a shoulder. “I’ll be sure to text you when we’re done.” He turned to Elijah. “I think we can cut through the great room on our way to the club house. We can stop by the bar for a cooler of drinks to take with us. The staff is really nice about that.”

“Yeah, sure,” said Elijah, gesturing ahead of him. “Lead the way.” He couldn’t help his grin. If nothing else, Orlando’s happy ease was amusing in itself. The guy didn’t have any concept of social boundaries. He acted the same whether he was in Elijah’s cramped middle-class kitchen, handing out sports drinks to pee-wee’s playing soccer, or wandering through the most elite country club this side of the Mississippi.

It was one of the things Elijah liked best about him.

+

Elijah leaned in close and whispered in Orlando’s ear. “Why do we have company again?”

Orlando glanced up at the other player who was stepping up to the first tee. “Because it’s rude to book a private tee time on the weekend for just one person,” he said, quietly.

“So that’s why you stopped by the reservation desk and asked if any scratch players were waiting for times?” asked Elijah.

“Yes.”

“And what’s a scratch player?” asked Elijah.

“Someone with a zero handicap,” said Orlando, holding his finger to his lips as the other player teed up.

Elijah shut up just as the other player lined up and hit the ball – smacking it so far down the green it was hard to follow. Orlando said a few polite words as the other player moved away. Elijah watched as Orlando pulled a club out of his own bag and stepped up to the tee. Elijah tugged his baseball cap down, his gaze focused entirely on Orlando, who was one long line of sun-kissed, whipcord muscle wrapped in bright white cotton. He watched as Orlando lined up with the ball and after a few seconds, brought the club up high over his shoulder without a single wasted motion, his body arched, held in a motionless, sinuous curve that made Elijah’s breath catch a little.

Orlando unwound so fast Elijah stopped breathing altogether. And the ball was just—. Gone.

Something twisted deep in Elijah’s gut at the way Orlando held his finishing posture for a long moment after. It was like something out of one of those old movies, where the players were all about carefully controlled grace, and honing a perfect skill. It was like…it reminded him of…well, fuck.

It reminded him of watching the pros.

+

On the tenth green, Elijah watched Orlando sink a thirty foot putt with a combination of perfect nonchalance and breathtaking control. He crossed the green to hand Orlando a bottle of water and a towel, Orlando’s clubs slung over his shoulder.

“Elijah,” said Orlando, taking off his visor to wipe his face before putting it back on his head. “I’ll carry those.” He tipped back his head and downed half the bottle of water in a few gulps.

Elijah shook his head. “You just concentrate on continuing to kick this guy’s ass,” he said, hiking the bag up, “and I’ll play at being your caddie for the rest of this round.”

Orlando snorted water out his nose and had to wipe his face again, his face scrunching up as he grinned. “There’s not really much ass-kicking going on – he’s pretty good.”

“You’re taking fewer swings,” said Elijah, glancing down at the score card in his hand.

“I’m trying to get my handicap down,” said Orlando, walking over to pick up the soft-sided cooler that held their drinks. “We should head for the next tee.”

“What kind of handicaps do pro’s have?” asked Elijah, following Orlando.

“None,” said Orlando, finishing off the bottle of water and tucking it in the cooler. “Professionals don’t use handicaps.”

Elijah looked at Orlando. “What’s your handicap?”

“Well, it can vary depending on the course and other factors, but here it’s a two.”

“Two,” said Elijah, stopping. “Your handicap is a two. And you’re trying to get it down.”

“Well, yeah,” said Orlando, taking the golf bag off Elijah’s shoulder and pulling out his driver. “That’s what golfers do.” He stepped away and crossed to the tee, bending over to place his ball.

“That’s what golfer’s do, he says,” muttered Elijah, crossing his arms over his chest. “Even with a handicap of two.” He snorted, but couldn’t help a grin as he watched Orlando knock another one out of sight.

+

“Hey.”

Orlando looked up from sipping his iced tea and squinted at Elijah. “Mm?” The straw still clamped between his teeth.

Elijah propped his chin in one hand and leaned on the club-house table. “Why did you act weird when I asked you if you played a sport?” His gaze searching Orlando’s. “Why didn’t you just say it was golf?”

Orlando released the straw and stared down at his drink. He cleared his throat. “Remember how I said my dad was a banker?”

“Yeah.” Elijah looked confused.

“Well,” Orlando shifted in his chair and glanced at Elijah, “it’s more like he owns a few banks.”

Elijah just looked at him.

“Big, international ones,” said Orlando.

Elijah shrugged. “So? You move a lot because your dad has a big job – I get that. What I don’t get is what that has to do with you playing golf.”

Orlando sighed and raked a hand through his hair. “Actually, we don’t move because of his job. He doesn’t…work a whole lot. Mostly he just has to fly to board meetings and stuff.” He stirred the remains of his drink with his straw. “We move so he can play golf,” he muttered.

Elijah blinked at him.

Orlando made a vague gesture with one hand. “He can do his job from anywhere – what little there is. He moves us because he likes spending enough time in one area to play all of the courses, win a few tournaments, learn the local circuits.” His expression was rigid, offering details like he was reading a grocery list. “We might spend more time than usual here because of all the courses in this area. At least, that’s what happened in Atlanta.” He trailed off at the end, still staring at his drink, already bracing himself for the ridicule he knew was coming. When nothing happened after a few seconds, he lifted his gaze to meet Elijah’s.

Elijah snorted and shook his head. “Damn, I’m glad you’re family’s weirder than mine. You had me worried there for a minute.”

Orlando gaped at him.

“So what?” Elijah shrugged. “You’re dad’s a golf freak. Whatever.” His smirk was just this side of wicked. “Actually, I should probably thank him for moving here.”

“Huh?”

Elijah reached across the table and thumped Orlando right between his wide brown eyes with a finger. “Idiot,” he said, softly. “I wouldn’t have met you otherwise. Besides, I think it’s awesome he plays golf.”

Orlando blinked at him and rubbed the spot between his eyes. “What? Why?”

Elijah leaned back in his chair, drink cradled against his chest, straw clamped between his teeth, blue eyes glittering as he stared at Orlando. “You probably wouldn’t have learned how to play otherwise, and I’ve never seen anything hotter than you swinging away with those clubs.”

Go to Chapter 3

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