The Talented Matt King

Chapter 2

[Liam]

 

So I woke up, got dressed, and went to school. And when I walk into my homeroom, sitting in the back of the room is him. Sensei Adam's younger brother. That confirms he's around my age. So he wasn't just visiting, is his family living in town, now?

He's looking shy and nervous, his gaze darting around the room while trying to keep it focused on the Rubik's Cube he's fiddling with, so I go over to introduce myself. No new kid should be ignored, like everyone else is doing their best to give him the impression of.

"Hey, there!" I greet him. "You're Sensei Adam's little brother, right? I'm Liam!"

He freezes, then slowly looks up at me. When he his eyes lock with mine, they widen, then roll into the back of his head, and he falls out of his seat.

"What just happened?" The teacher asks as I move to beside him. "Liam, what happened?"

"I'm drop-dead gorgeous," I answer as she rushes over here. "He took one look at me, and fainted. Thankfully, he's immune to insta-death. He's coming 'round. Hey, there. Want me to take him to my aunt's office?"

Mrs. Cox nods, and Sensei Adam's little brother squeaks something that sounds like panic, but walks with me to the nurse's office. He keeps his gazed fixed on the floor.

"Hi, Aunt Natalie," I say when we enter the office. "Mrs. Cox asked me to walk him down here, he just fainted in class."

"Hi, Matt," she says. So that's his name. Wait, she already knows him? "You can go lie down, if you think you need to."

Matt nods, then walks into the other room, and Aunt Natalie looks at me.

"What happened?" She asks. "He just went and fainted?"

"Well, he looked at me first," I explain. "Then he fainted. Like I told Mrs. Cox, I'm drop-dead gorgeous. Matt's lucky he's immune to insta-death, since it'd be a shame for a boy as hot as him to die. Then again, that's probably why he was immune to insta-death, but I mean, shouldn't the effect be reversed, due to his amazing sexiness?"

"You're a nut," she rolls her eyes.

"What's wrong with him?" I ask. "He seems to be super-nervous and stuff. I mean, being a new kid is definitely a thing to be nervous about, especially in a new town, but all I did was introduce myself, and he fainted."

"Not a new town," she shakes her head. "According to his brother, he's been home-schooled since he was little. Their parents died when he was only six, and Adam, his brother, was barely eighteen. Adam pulled him out of school then because he was already having pretty severe anxiety issues, and has schooled him at home ever since. We were hoping he'd make it through to lunch, but if he's fainting when someone introduces themselves, he probably won't."

"You should probably check on him," I suggest, wondering how none of us knew Adam had a brother, if he's lived there this entire time. He looks pale - maybe he never goes outside? "He fell out of the desk, hit the back of his head on the floor, and those things are hard."

"So his head," she laughs, then stands up. "I should probably check on him."

She walks into the other room, returning just a few moments later looking slightly annoyed and a little amused.

"Says he's fine," she tells me. "And that his head's fine and not hurting at all. Adam said he had an incredibly hard head. You good to go back to class?"

"Can I make sure he's fine, first?" I ask. "And hope he doesn't pass out again?"

"Sure," she says. "Just remember to keep the door open."

I roll my eyes, then walk into the other room. She acts like I'm going to try something here at school. Matt's lying on his side on the sole bed in the room, facing the wall, curled up with the blanket wrapped around him like a cocoon.

"Are you a caterpillar?" I ask, and he doesn't respond. "You're in a cocoon. When you hatch, will you be a moth or a butterfly?"

Still no response.

"Are you alive?"

"Why do you care?" His voice, filled with terror, is so soft and sweet, and just hearing it gives me a boner.

Crap!

"Because a cute boy passed out when I greeted him," I flash him a grin, even though I know he can't see it. "Aunt Natalie said your name's Matt. I'm Liam. Well, William, but don't ever call me that. Or Will. I hate both of those."

"Okay," he sounds scared.

"You alright?"

"Perfectly fine."

"Liar."

"So what?"

"Want to talk about what's got you stressed?"

"No. Go away. I wanna be alone."

"Fine," I say. "Hatch into an ugly moth. I was hoping for a cute butterfly, but I guess I'm not getting that."

I turn and leave, heading back to class and letting Mrs. Cox know that he's resting in the office, then sit where she tells me my seat is. It looks like the only other open seat is where Matt was sitting originally, so I guess that's his spot.

Matt returns at the end of class, face a little red and looking a fair bit nervous. He quickly sits in the back seat, and a few times, I feel a gaze on me and turn to find him staring at me. Each time time I catch him, he quickly looks away, face reddening further than it was.

We go to our next period, which is P.E., and the coach tells us the rules and stuff, then lets us run around and do whatever we want. Chance is in this class, and I want to introduce him to Matt, but Matt's freaking out on the bleachers. By that, I mean he's breathing heavily and gripping them so hard his knuckles are white. He does not want to be here.

It's only during this that I realize that his anxiety is probably killing him, and it's likely he's sick from that. No wonder he passed out when I introduced myself to him. The anxiety overload of being spoken to and not knowing how to respond was the source of that.

"So here's the deal," I say to Chance, glad Jake's not here, or he'd make some rude comment about me only having an interest in Matt because I think he's hot. Keep denying your sexuality all you want, buddy. You'll come around eventually. "I'm in all of his classes, though I don't know what his Math is. Hopefully, it's Honors, 'cause I really don't want him paired up with Jake in regular, and you and I aren't in advanced.

"But anyway," I continue. "He's apparently got really high anxiety levels, and has been home-schooled by Sensei Adam since he was seven. I'm going to talk to my teachers and see if I can sit next to him in all of the classes. At lunch, he's sitting at our table."

"What if he doesn't want to sit at our table?" Chance asks. "Mom mentioned she was getting a new kid who was on an educational plan because of anxiety. It's probably him. I wasn't supposed to hear her, she was on the phone with the school. A plan like that, though, mean he'll probably be allowed to eat in the office."

"Then one of us is eating with him," I declare. "No one should have to eat alone. He probably won't want someone sitting with him, though, if his anxiety's bad. We'll deal with that at lunch. Anyway, he's all lonely over there on the bleachers, so let's go hang out with him."

"What if he doesn't want to talk?"

"Who said we're going to just talk?" I grin at him, getting a running start, then sending myself into a flip.

Chance starts flipping from where he's at, and we both stop when we get to Matt, who's staring at us with wide eyes. The other students only do for a moment. Unlike Matt, they're used to us goofing off and doing stuff like that when we've got free time in P.E., and Coach doesn't usually tell us not to, unless someone actually gets hurt.

That was one time!

"Hey, Matt," I grin at him, and his face turns red, probably as he realizes we're looking at him. "This is one of my friends, Chance. We do gymnastics together three times a week, though he does it competitively. I also do martial arts at Dragon King Martial Arts over in Lakeview Falls Plaza, have you heard of it?"

Of course he has, since his brother owns it, but I still ask. He nods a little timidly.

"Cool!" I exclaim. "You do martial arts?" He nods. "Ever checked out DKMA?" He shakes his head. "You should come by tomorrow - it's really awesome. Tessa - she's that girl over there staring at us because you're definitely a cutie - and she hates it when cute guys are sitting by themselves, but anyway, she goes, too, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, like me and Ian, a friend who doesn't go here. She's awesome, you'll love her."

I was going to say more, but he seems to start getting overwhelmed, so I push Chance, who pushes me, who pushes back, and then flip him to the ground. Coach yells at us to behave, and we just grin at her, then look back at Matt.

"Sorry 'bout that," I grin at him. "We sometimes forget we're at school and start shoving each other around. Don't worry, we don't bite. Usually. If you don't smile or chat, Matt, Tessa's gonna decide we're not good enough, and you don't want that. Nor do we, but especially not you. She won't leave you alone. Ever. She's like an irritating fly, and there's no flyswatter that can shoo her away. So what say you - talk a little bit?"

He shakes his head.

"Suit yourself," I grin at him. "But you wanna chat, just let me know. You wanna escape Tessa, don't come to me. No one escapes her."

Chance and I start goofing off after that, though we make sure to stay near Matt. We show off a little bit, too. Our main goal is to get him comfortable around us. Hopefully, us just goofing off near him will do that.

Matt doesn't open up at all to us. I do get to sit next to him in the next couple of classes, then we have lunch. As expected, he disappears into the office. I tell Jake and Chance that I'll see if I can eat with Matt, and if so, I won't be back.

That said, I grab my tray and follow him back into the office and find him disappearing into Aunt Natalie's office, and so follow him in.

"Hey, Liam," Aunt Natalie greets me as Matt enters the other room. "What's up?"

"Was wanting to know if Matt wanted an eating buddy," I say. "I know he's new and all, but I didn't think he should have to eat by himself."

"You can see," she gestures to the room. "He'll probably just shoo you again, though."

"Still worth a try," I smile at her, then walk into the other room. Matt's sitting cross-legged on the floor, a bulging paper sack in front of him, and he's in the process of pulling food out of it. "Hey, Matt, Liam again. Saw you heading this way, and I really don't think anyone should eat by themselves. Mind if I join you? If not, I'll head back to my other friends."

He just stares at me, then looks around the room for a moment before scooting back, grabbing his stuff as he moves, and then stares at me again. I sit down across from him, and he watches me as I start to eat, though I really watch him more than he watches me. His eyes dart away every time he realizes I see him looking.

I'm not watching him because he's attractive, though that does contribute to it, but because, well, he eats a lot. I'm not kidding. That bag has three sandwiches that look delicious and not made from deli meat from the store, two apples, an orange, a small baggy of carrot sticks, another of grapes, another of celery sticks, and a bunch of brownies and cookies.

And he eats all of it. That was probably an easy two thousand calories, maybe three thousand. And he devours it as if it's nothing. He watches me out of the corner of his eye the entire time, as if afraid that I'll try to steal his food.

"Dang," I say. "Cute, and has a healthy appetite. Pray you find yourself someone who can cook."

Definitely not me, though if he does turn out to swing this way, I might be inclined to learn.

His face reddens, and he quickly stands up and leaves.

Maybe I should start learning now, just in case.

 

[Matt]

 

"How'd your first day of school go?" Adam asks as I walk inside the house, but I ignore him, going straight up to my room and dropping myself onto my bed, kicking off my shoes before wrapping myself in the blanket like a cocoon, and he eventually finds me. "That well, huh? I was surprised I didn't get called during the day to come pick you up. I'm heading out to the dojo, call if you need anything."

He leaves, and eventually, I go downstairs to make dinner. He didn't have anything planned, so I prepare spaghetti. Two pounds. I eat half of it. I'm fat, I know. It's why he makes me do martial arts every day. I suck at it. I know he only passes me on the belts to make me feel good.

I'm dreading school as I go to bed, and don't get much sleep again. I passed out. Everyone's probably making fun of me for that. When I wake up, I focus on getting to school and getting through it.

I try to tune it all out, but Liam really wants to chat with me at times, and it's annoying. At least the gym teacher lets me sit on the bleachers. Liam and Chance keep trying to impress me. I'm not sure why, it's not like I've got any talent or anything, so they should just give up, because I'm not worth being friends with, even if Liam thinks we're friends. We don't even talk.

He sits with me at lunch again today. I don't like it, but it feels weird being in that room by myself until he shows up. He invites me to go martial arts tonight. I wonder if he knows my brother's the owner. At least my parents had one kid with talent and worth.

Probably two, but Braden died with them in that plane accident.

I don't go to the dojo. I almost do, but then I remember that there will be a lot of people there, and so I don't go because I get sick thinking about all of them. So I bake cookies instead, and am halfway through the second batch when Adam gets home. He just stares at me, then laughs.

"How many have you eaten?" He asks, and I shrug. "You're a dork, you know that, right?"

I shrug, then go to bed. I really don't want to go to school when I wake up, but I have to. At least I have two days without it. No, three, since we have Monday off. Good. That gives me three days to completely freak out.

Liam eats with me again. Some kids in P.E. made fun of me, saying I'm weak and a loser, because I wasn't playing with everyone else. The gym teacher didn't say anything about it, but I don't think she heard.

She doesn't seem like the type to allow bullying.

They asked her why I'm allowed to sit out of P.E., and she told them that when they do martial arts every morning for nine years, then they can, too. Liam jokingly asked her if he could sit out, since he does martial arts and gymnastics five days a week, and she told him to duck.

He did, and the ball barely missed hitting him in the back of the head. Had he not, I might have laughed. But we still ate lunch in silence.

When school ends, Liam runs over to me before I can get to Adam's car. Crap. He's probably going to want to hang out or something.

"Tomorrow," he says. "The gang, minus Jake, and I are heading out to go camping in the woods outside of town. Ian's dad's boss owns it and Dragons Lake," we have three lakes in the area, excluding the massive one the city sits on the edge of. We live in Lakeview Falls, by the edge of the city opposite of the lake. "And we're allowed to go camping if we get permission, which we got. I was wondering if you wanted to come, too. We're off school on Monday, so we'd stay until sometime during Monday. We'll be back in the afternoon, though, because we've all got gymnastics. It'll be just the four of us."

I shake my head. I don't think I could handle camping if it were just Adam and I, and he's asking me to go with him and two other guys I barely know or don't know. There's no way I could handle that.

"Okay!" He exclaims, not bothered at all by it. That's probably because he was just trying to be nice to someone as worthless as me. "Can I give you my number, in case you change your mind? It'll just be me, you, Ian, and Chance, if you do come. Two nights of sleeping in nature, away from the city and people, and just being boys. It's a lot of fun, and it's pretty relaxing. You could use something relaxing."

He gives me his number even though I shake my head to tell him 'no', and then I go to Adam's car and get in, and he takes me home. Once we're inside, he asks what Liam was asking.

"If I'd go camping with him this weekend," I answer. "I smell brownies. Fresh batch?"

"Two," he answers, and I go into the kitchen and grab four. "I said two."

"And I grabbed four," I shove one into my mouth. "I'm not going camping with him this weekend, but he's right that I need to do something relaxing. Can I beat you up? I know you let me win, but it's still relaxing."

"I don't let you win," he laughs. "And I know a place that can get you relax, but there is a hitch or two to it."

"I don't like hitches," I finish off the first brownie. "And I'm not getting on a plane."

"Why do you think that's one?" He asks.

"I'm not getting on a plane," I say. "You know that."

Mom, Dad, and Braden died in a plane accident. One of their engines failed, and the plane they were in went down, killing everyone board. I don't do planes, even if Adam does.

"Matt," Adam sighs. "You have a greater chance of getting into an accident in a car than you do for a plane.

"For the hitches," he says. "You would be going to a spa. It would just be you and the staff, there. It's an all-male spa, so I hope that's not an issue for you."

"Not doing it."

"There would also," he says. "Be the fact that you'd probably end up shirtless – or even nude – for some of the things there."

"Already said I'm not doing it."

"You'd be able to get massages," he says. "Relax in a sauna, soak in the water of natural hot springs from the area-"

"Not doing it."

"And in exchange," he says. "I'd talk Liam's parents into giving him private lessons here next Saturday night. You wouldn't have to participate, but if you did, you'd get a chance to spar with him, as he got hot, sweaty, breathless…"

I'm getting hard, and confused as to why Adam would say that. It's not like he knows I'm gay. But the idea of having a hot, sweaty Liam in the house is appealing to me. Plus, don't some guys take off their shirts when they get sweaty? Maybe Liam would do that for a bit.

Or do they not do that at the dojo? Probably not. Maybe Liam wouldn't do that.

I'm so hard now, and need to take care of it.

This is frustrating. I know he just wants me to make friends, and give me an opportunity to talk with Liam alone, without others around, but only arranging it if I do something I really, really am not comfortable with?

That's just cruel.

"In some cultures," I say. "You can be imprisoned, beaten, and even killed for giving your children cruel and unusual punishments."

"What?" Adam looks confused.

"I'm going to my room."

I do, changing into pajamas, then going into my bathroom to pee and brush my teeth, then I climb into bed and allow myself to fall asleep.