“Hey, sorry I’m late!” Landon apologized as he made his way into the corner of the deserted library where Asher had been waiting for him. His smile was enough to make Asher’s stomach do cartwheels. “Had to drop my stuff off in the locker room.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Asher assured him, returning his smile. “Ten minutes isn’t exactly the end of the world.” He teased.
Of course, ten minutes was still long enough that Asher had obsessively checked the time on his phone every two minutes since he’d arrived, and allowed himself to start panicking that Landon had stood him up… But he chose not to mention any of that.
“Thanks again, by the way.” Landon continued. “I know it’s probably a huge pain in the ass to stay after. I wish I could pay you or something…”
“Nah, no payment necessary.” Getting to sit this close to you is payment enough, trust me, he added mentally, failing to resist the urge to smile.
“So, uh, you’re probably gonna hate me for this…” Landon let out a nervous laugh. “But I didn’t bring my book with me.” He confessed. “Forgot it in my locker.”
Asher just shrugged. “That’s alright. Wanna go grab it?”
“Yeah, I could do that. Or… Um…” Landon suddenly looked almost nervous again. “I was thinking maybe we could just like… talk, or something? Get to know each other a little bit before we dive into that boring number bullshit. Put off the torture a little longer, y’know?” He rolled his eyes and let out a small laugh.
“Oh! Y-yeah!” Asher was sure his over-eagerness must have been painfully obvious. “That’d be really cool.” Wow, did you seriously just say that? LAME.
“Yeah?” There was a hopeful look in Landon’s eyes. “You don’t mind?”
“‘Course not!” His over-eagerness had still not quite abated. “We have plenty of time anyway… You said you have practice at four, right?”
Landon nodded. “Yup. Every friggin’ day, 4:00 to 7:00.” He sighed softly, but did not lose his smile. “Well, except Fridays. But that’s when we have our games, so…”
“Holy shit… When the hell are you supposed to have time for homework?!” Asher marveled.
“I don’t.” Landon confessed. “Not really.”
“Jesus, no wonder you’re failing…”
A burst of hearty laughter filled the air. “That’s definitely part of it. But I’m pretty sure totally sucking at Math doesn’t help.”
“Still though. That sounds… terrible. Like, torture, basically.” He shook his head slowly before realizing how that must have sounded. “Sorry! I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean, I know you’re into all that sports stuff. But damn, that’s just such a huge time commitment. I had no idea.”
Landon simply shrugged. “It’s just for a few months… Longer if we make it to playoffs this year.” He added hopefully. “And if I wanna keep doing this in college, I’d better get used to it, right?”
”Ha, good point.” Asher replied, smiling. “You know, it’s funny, I used to wonder how a guy like YOU never had a girlfriend. Like, are those girls blind or something?!” The words spilled from his lips before he even realized what he was saying. Holy shit, did I seriously just imply that I think he’s hot?! Fuck. I’m gonna die. “But, uh, I guess you just never had the time…” He finished lamely, part of him hoping that Landon had missed the implication behind his previous comment and part of him waiting anxiously to see how he would respond.
Landon’s laugh seemed slightly forced as he replied. “Yeah, I guess that’s one reason…” He said, giving Asher a strange, searching look.
Asher felt himself blushing under those piercing green eyes. What was that supposed to mean? He tried not to let himself think about it too much as he cleared his throat, eager to move the conversation forward. “So… When you’re NOT busy slaving away at football practice, what do you like to do?”
A flicker of something like sadness flashed across Landon’s eyes for a moment before he replied. “Video games, mostly.”
“Nice! Me too.” Asher grinned at him, excited that they’d found some common ground. “What’s your favorite game?”
Landon didn’t even hesitate. “Gotta be the Bloodwatch series. It’s fucking amazing. Have you played?”
Asher’s eyes lit up instantly at Landon’s reply. “No fucking way! I’ve been obsessed with Bloodwatch since I was a kid!”
“Don’t tell anybody, but my mom heard a rumor a couple months ago that Sony bought the movie rights…” Asher whispered excitedly. “Told her I’m disowning her if she doesn’t do the costumes.”
Landon let out a laugh that made Asher’s heart soar. “That’d be fucking sweet! Have you read the books? They’re pretty awesome, even if they’re just ‘tie-in’ novels or whatever the hell they call them.”
His eyes widened in surprise. Did Landon just say he liked to read? “Wait, wait, wait… YOU read the books? Seriously? You?”
This time, Landon’s brow furrowed in annoyance. “Well, yeah… I know how to read, Asher. How stupid do you think I am?”
Asher felt like he was going to be sick. “No, no, no, no, no! That’s not what I meant!” Me and my fucking mouth. Oh my God. “I’m sorry. That seriously came out wrong. I just had no idea you were such a hardcore fan. I think it’s really awesome. Seriously. Just… forget I said anything. Please?”
To his immense relief, Landon’s anger had already vanished. “It’s okay. I get way too touchy about shit like that sometimes.” He paused for a moment, as though debating whether to continue. “My parents used to give me a hard time about my grades when I was a kid. ‘A disappointment,’ Dad used to call me. Hard to forget about it sometimes. That shit sorta sticks, doesn’t it?”
Asher nodded sadly, feeling even more guilty about his previous comments. “I get it. I mean, not with my parents, but… This is so fucking stupid, but my little sister used to make me feel like shit for being so into science. Said I wasn’t “special” like the rest of the family… I used to let it get to me a lot more than I should’ve.” He confessed.
“Right? Hard not to…”
A brief silence fell over the two of them then. But it wasn’t awkward or uncomfortable… Just thoughtful. Asher was fairly certain neither of them had expected for things to get so personal. It felt sort of strange opening up to Landon like that. Not bad. Just weird.
“I really can’t believe your dad…” Asher shook his head in disbelief as he finally broke the silence. “No offense, but like… He kinda sounds like a dick. Who the hell says that kinda thing to their own kid?”
Landon’s laugh was devoid of humor. “My dad, apparently. But it’s okay… He got over it eventually. Now he’s totally latched onto the whole ‘football’ thing, so… I’ll be fine as long as a snag a decent scholarship somewhere.”
“You will.” Asher replied confidently. “I’ll help you pass this stupid math class, and you just do your… football thing… and it’ll happen.” He assured him.
“‘Football thing’?” Landon snorted with laughter. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
He felt his cheeks growing warm with embarrassment. “You know what I mean!”
“Not sure I do.” Landon teased. “Please tell me more about how this ‘football thing’ works…”
They laughed and joked together for the next hour or so, the heaviness of their previous comments quickly forgotten. It was by far the longest and best conversation that they’d ever had, despite Asher’s occasional screwups. Thankfully, Landon took most of the awkward comments in stride, and it wasn’t long before Asher felt completely at-ease.
He was surprised to find that the two of them had a lot more in common than he’d once thought. And Landon seemed to share his pleasant surprise as their conversation wore on.
Unfortunately, however, it couldn’t last forever.
“Oh fuck.” Landon’s eyes went wide as he checked the time on his phone. He leapt to his feet. “I was supposed to be at practice ten minutes ago… Coach is gonna kill me.”
Asher’s heart sank. They’d completely lost track of the time. “Shit, I’m sorry. It’s my fault…”
The other boy shook his head. “Nah, it’s mine. But I’ll see you back here tomorrow? With the book this time… I promise.” He added with a smile.
Asher nodded eagerly. “Sounds good.”
“Thanks, Asher. It was really fun talking to you…” Landon paused for just a moment, his smile widening. The sight of it made Asher’s chest feel warm. “But I’ve gotta get out of here, or my ass is grass.” He chuckled softly and, without another word, turned on his heel and raced out the door.
Asher couldn’t help but laugh as he watched Landon vanish from sight. Somehow, it always managed to come back to Landon’s ass, didn’t it?
Except now he realized that there was so much more to appreciate about him than that.