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15. Play Me
Hunter was kicking Tyler's ass in Soul Caliber V when Charlie came in from dinner. Charlie and Hunter regarded each other for a moment, then Charlie exited wordlessly to his room. Hunter was so intent on watching Charlie that he didn't block in time for Tyler to get a fatal blow in, winning round five of their tournament. Hunter chugged the rest of his beer and got up.

"All right kid, I gotta earn my keep." And with that, he left for work. Tyler was getting sick of this weird tension in the house and he knew it was up to him to fix it. He shut off the PS3 and went to Charlie's room. The door was slightly ajar and he could see Charlie in his underwear changing out of his dinner clothes. Charlie looked up and caught Tyler staring.

"Sorry! Sorry, I was gonna knock and... "

Charlie opened the door, standing there in his underwear. "Hey Tyler, what's up?"

"Nothing. It's just... what's going on with you and Hunter?"

"Nothing! Why? What'd he say?"

"Nothing Charlie. But you guys are acting so weird, it's like... "

"Nah, man, I've just got a lot on my mind. Maybe he does too."

"So, you're not fighting? You guys aren't gonna move out?"

Aww, geez, thought Charlie. The poor kid sounded so scared for some reason. "No. No of course not."

"And I won't have to go back to that gross hotel?" Man, could this kid make Charlie's heart break.

"No, Tyler, no one is going anywhere." Tyler almost audibly sighed with relief. "Hey, what you up to tonight?"

"Um, I was gonna play another round of Soul Caliber by myself. Why, wanna play me?"

Charlie chuckled. "Nah, but... you wanna grab a drink?"

Scarlet didn't seem as imposing or daunting to Tyler the second time around. Not having his whole life packed into a duffle bag definitely helped. Charlie kissed William the bartender hello and ordered a round of beers. When he turned to give Tyler his, Charlie caught him gawking at some fratty gay.

"Go ahead," Charlie said. "Talk to him." Tyler flushed immediately.

"It's ok. I'm good," Tyler said quickly, gulping his beer. Charlie laughed at how Tyler demurred.

"Tyler, c'mon. You obviously think that guy's cute. If you never play a hand, you'll never win the game."

"I don't even know what to say. And what if he doesn't like me?"

"What's the worst he could say? No?"

"Could there be anything worse?"

"Yeah," said Charlie. "Not knowing."

"Ignorance is bliss, isn't it?"

"There was this guy," Charlie started, deciding that a shot of Jameson was in order for this walk down memory lane. "This guy when I was in high school. I was out in high school, sure, but dating and my social life and stuff... it was still difficult. I mean, there weren't a lot of out guys at school so I didn't really meet anyone there. Plus, I was like real angsty, not really confident about my looks or whatever. So one day, my girl friends and I are hanging out at the Sonic by school, cuz where else do you hang out after school? They have Sonics in Ohio, right?"

"Yeah," said Tyler, completely enthralled. "The drive-in place where the girls are on roller skates?"

"Yeah, except at this one, out of nowhere, there was this guy on roller skates. And he was totally cute and had these awesome green wolf-eyes and this shaggy hair. So he brings out our food and he sort of smiles at me. And I guess I notice? Usually they just drop and go, but this guy kinda lingers, then skates off. And while we're eating, he skates around us. And the girls are giggling, figuring out which one of them he's flirting with. Then he comes back, sits right next to me, and just starts talking to me."

"Omigod, he was flirting with you?!"

"Yeah. I guess. I mean, at the time, I was like, whatever. His name was Seabring, his parents were hippies or something. God, he was so cute. And the whole time I look all special needs cuz my contacts are bugging and my eye is doing this weird twitch thing. But he stays the whole time, talking to only me. Laughing with only me. Anyway, his manager comes out and yells at him for not working and he skates away. So we all get in our cars, and as my friends drive away, I look in my rearview mirror and see this guy in skates chasing after me, waving for me to stop. I stop the car, roll down the window. He'd brought me drops for my eyes."

"Gosh, that's so sweet! How long did you and Seabring date?"

"We didn't. I was so fucking down on myself, so convinced I was too lame for anyone to even consider dating me, that I didn't even consider that he was flirting with me. It wasn't until my girl friends convinced me of it the next day that I let myself believe it. So I went back, trying to find him. But he'd been fired, I guess his manager had it out for him and that night was his last straw. So I never found out what happened to him. I'd never know what could've been. And so from that moment on, I said I'd never regret not talking to a guy. If I have a passing interest, I'll nine times out of ten say something about it. Cuz the worst he could say is no. And at least I'll never have to wonder what might've been."

"Wow. That must be so awesome. Living with no regrets."

"Oh I've got regrets, dude. Tons. Just a different kind."

After a few more rounds at Scarlet, Charlie decided that he needed to sleazy dance the week's angst off. The crowd and lights of Berlin proved too much for Tyler and after a half hour of mosh-pit style grinding, he told Charlie he'd meet him at home. Tyler couldn't help but smile as he left the sweaty club, walking onto Belmont in the muggy summer night. This is exactly why he moved to Chicago. Nights like this. Gay clubs, gay friends, not having to worry about who'd see you. He shot Andy a quick text, still having not told Charlie that this hot hipster boy he met was the reason he didn't want to pursue fratty gay at Scarlet. He was so lost in text as he cut across Clark and down Aldine that he didn't notice the three young black guys in somewhat drag. By the time he did, they were coming in close around him.

"Hi," said Tyler, smiling at who could be his first trans friends.

And that's when a fist came at his face.

###

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yikes, poor Tyler...if he wasn't a fictional character.

25. Possibility (Series Finale)

Today started like any other day. Charlie turned over and was met with the blinding morning sun shining in his face. He got up begrudgingly and started the morning coffee before heading to the bathroom take his morning piss.  He washed his hands then splashed some water on his face. He studied

24. Another Pint

Though Tyler was walking with clear intent and purpose and his earbuds were firmly in, blaring Jay Branan's cover of  "The Freshmen" in his ears, he heard the question clear as day:  "Do you a minute to save the children?" He stopped and smiled to himself, remembering how not even a year a

23. No Big

Charlie ignored all of Hunter's protests to just wait for the Halsted bus and hailed a cab home. "We're coming from the hospital," Charlie insisted. "He'll understand. And I'll tip him extra." Hunter's room was tidier then when he left it: Charlie must've cleaned up once the doctor had given Hunt

22. Waiting

The rain that fell in the cemetery felt more like an early June rain than a late August rain. Still...none of it felt real. Charlie couldn't remember the last time he wore his black suit. Tristan's funeral? Fitz's funeral? He couldn't remember who had given the eulogy. All he could do was throw a ro

21. Rage and Love

Part of him felt like he'd been sitting at the bar waiting for a drink his whole life, while part of him felt like he had just gotten there. Mostly, he was amazed at how awful the service was. How long until someone was going to take his order?   "Sorry, I just picked up this shift," said

20. Here Again

Tyler came into the room to find Charlie reading "The Little Prince" to Hunter. "What ya doing?" he asked.   "I've read somewhere that coma patients can hear you if you talk to them. I ran out of things to say so I started to read aloud."   "You ran out of things to say?" &n