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They decided to enjoy the NBA All Star Weekend in Florida for what it is – an opportunity to network with NBA’s best and brightest, to have fun and arrange a get-away for themselves to enjoy.

Thus far, they have helped with charity work arranged by NBA Cares, gone to publicity photo shoots, met with fans and trained with the other players from various NBA teams who will be playing for Shaquille O’Neal’s team in the Rookie-Sophomore Games.    Jeremy had held a standing-room-only press conference for both American and international sports journalists – there were too many reporters wanting to see him that he could not be part of the usual panel discussions held during the weekend.

When they got back to their hotel it was to rest for the afternoon.  They shared a suite with two bedrooms – Jeremy had asked his agent to arrange it.  Landry locked the door as soon as they entered the suite.  They were giddy – the whole day had been a long foreplay – filled with laughter and teasing.

“I loved listening to you speaking Chinese,” Landry murmured, as he pressed Jeremy against the door, kissing him.  Jeremy grinned and murmured something – 你令我心跳停頓 – each word rolling softly in his low voice.

“What does it mean?” inquired Landry through a kiss.  Jeremy smiled, simply whispering, “You make me skip a heartbeat.”  He kissed Landry with a gleam in his eyes and an impish smile.

“We should be resting for the game this afternoon,” Landry groaned.

“Think of it as re-charging,” Jeremy said, pushing Landry towards one of the bedrooms.

His hands tugged at Landry’s sweatshirt until his hands touched stomach and chest.  Jeremy splayed his fingers, running them down until they hit the waistband of Landry’s jeans.

“Do you realize how many women – and men – look at your ass when you pass by?  I wanted to yell at them – tell them it’s mine,” Jeremy murmured, tugging at Landry’s waistband, so their lower bodies touched.  He ground his hips against Landry’s, making Landry moan.

“You are hard to resist,” Landry murmured, his hands pulling at Jeremy’s hair, to tilt his head upwards for a kiss.  The wonders one could with those lips, Landry thought, reveling in the feel of Jeremy’s lips against his.  Their lips and tongues were rough against each other – one not willing to surrender to the other.

When Jeremy’s phone started ringing, he had to reluctantly ease off Landry’s lips.  Landry shook his head, but Jeremy took one look at the screen and instantly put the phone to his ears.

“Hey, Dad,” he answered, a quick smile appeared on his face.  “No, we just got in.  You’re already here?” Jeremy’s parents, older brother and sister-in-law were flying in for the weekend – earlier than anticipated, with what Landry could hear.

While Jeremy talked, Landry went out of the bedroom.  He scanned their suite.  Their luggage, unopened, stood in the living room. He lugged Jeremy’s bag into the room they just occupied.  His own suitcase got dragged into the other bedroom, where Landry started to pull out the stuff he needed:  toiletries bag in the bathroom, his shirts on hangers in the closet, his sneakers for the game all lined up.

A few minutes later, Jeremy stood by the door, amazed at how much of Landry’s clothes and things he had placed in the bedroom.  Jeremy had assumed that they would share one and put all their stuff into the other.

“I thought we’d stay in one of the rooms and use the other as storage for luggage,” Jeremy asked.

“You wouldn’t want the hotel staff to know that, you know… “ Landry said, while putting the now empty trolley case in a closet.

“Know what?” Jeremy continued – a little irritation in his voice.

“Well, would you like everyone to know that we’re together?”

Jeremy did not know what to say to that.  Part of him knows how delicate their situation is. Two basketball players in a gay relationship are not common, even if this was the 21th century – and there’s the effect it will have on both their families.  But part of him is also wary of having to hide what he thinks is the best thing that has happened to him –not only from his family, but also his fans.  He wants to come clean – to show who he is.  Of course, it still feels weird sometimes – he can’t ignore his religious upbringing any more than his feelings for Landry.  But to see that Landry, who initiated their relationship, is the one disguising it and consciously hiding them feels off.

“Your family is here?”  Landry asked.

Jeremy had to force himself to the now – I guess, that means we can talk about it later, he thought.

“Yeah, they called from the airport.  I told them we’d meet them at the lobby in half an hour.”

“Why don’t you start unpacking?” Landry asked, “Then we can have a presentable suite – just in case your family wants to come up.”

“Okay,” answered Jeremy, with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Somehow, he knew the mood they were in before his parents’ call had passed.

***

Landry was not his usual self during dinner either.  He joked with Jeremy’s family, as he usually did – but Jeremy knew him so well that he did not doubt that something was nagging Landry.

The Rookie-Sophomore game was a blast.  They did not win, but they did get to have fun with other players they would normally be playing against on the court.  After the game and the press junket following it, they headed out for dinner at Seasons 52.  Jeremy’s dad was talking about the fishing trip they had planned the next day.

“You can join us, Landry” Jeremy’s dad said.

“Oh, don’t let me intrude on your family time.  I want to see the All-Star’s Game tomorrow night and I think my agent arranged some meetings.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Josh said.

As the conversations buzzed on, Jeremy sat quietly, enjoying their voices.  It’s not every day – nearly everyone important to him is gathered together like this.  His younger brother Joseph unfortunately could not join them.  He thought about how great their fishing trip will be – to temporarily get away from all the Linsanity.

So, Landry’s sudden decision to not join them was a surprise – and a disappointment.

***

When they got back to the hotel suite, they were both quiet.

“We need to talk,” Jeremy said, as soon as the door closed behind them.

Landry plunked down on the couch – Jeremy sat beside him.

“You know you can tell me everything, right?”  Jeremy started.  Landry nodded.  “During the Kiss Cam segment, when the camera focused on us and people were cheering for us to kiss,” Jeremy continued.   “I was not even thinking about kissing you, but you had panic in your eyes.  Maybe you did not think I would notice.”

Landry said nothing.

“Lan, I notice EVERYTHING about you – even how your eyes did not smile tonight after my dad invited you to come fishing with us.  If what we have is making you miserable, then …  I don’t know what we are doing here.”  Jeremy finished.

Landry looked up and said “There’s just a lot for me to process right now.  Sometimes, I can’t breathe.“

Jeremy felt a jab in his gut.  What is Landry saying?

“I love you, Jer.  It’s just been hard keeping up appearances.”

“Who said we needed to keep appearances up?” – indignation in Jeremy’s voice.

Landry stared at him.  “Are you seriously telling me that you are ready to tell the world that you are gay?”

Jeremy answered him truthfully, “Yes.”

Landry shook his head, “What about your image as a devout Christian?”

“My beliefs are just one part of who I am.  Another part of me has tried as much as possible to be honest and truthful – and I feel like such a liar right now, because I cannot be honest about us.”

“Come on, Jer, you can’t possibly be that naïve to think that we can just announce to the world that we are together and be accepted and embraced.  Your hordes of female fans would want to kill me – and what about our families?  So you want to tell the world that you are sleeping with your teammate – another man?  The team will freak out.  We get enough jokes about our bromance,” Landry countered, standing up and walking to the window to stare out at the dark.

Jeremy was silent for a moment.  He never thought he’d hear it from Landry.

“Celena already knows and she is supportive.  As for my family, they love me and they will support whatever makes me happy – haven’t you figured that out by now? And I don’t just think of it as just sleeping with you.” Jeremy said in a flat voice.  “If you can’t see it as otherwise, then maybe we should take a breather.”

Landry said nothing.

Jeremy took a deep breath before saying, “I don’t have to unpack a lot tonight – I’ll be taking everything with me tomorrow.  You can use our time apart to decide if what we have is worth it.”  He walked into his bedroom and left Landry – he stood staring at the closed door.

The sudden buzz in his pocket gave him a jolt.  Twitter meet-and-greet at Roxy it read.

I need a breather, Landry thought.

***

When Landry got up at ten the next day, he had a hang-over.

Jeremy’s bedroom door was open; the room was empty and the bed sheets unkempt.

A note lay on the coffee table – Gone fishing.

Jump to Chapter 10: A friend in need…