Chapter 1: Bunny Costume
The girls got all the fun on Halloween, Bastian thought, looking at the sexy nurse costume jealously. Sexy nurse, sexy maid, sexy kitten… so much sexiness. Oh, there were sexy costumes for guys but it wasn’t the same. All of the girl’s costumes were so cute, and the sexy guy costumes seemed so… well, they weren’t what he wanted. He wanted to be cute, too. Not macho or overly masculine, but not flamboyant either. Why weren’t the sexy costumes for guys cuter?
He eyed a bunny costume. How fun would it be to have breasts to show off like that, with a little tail to accentuate his ass? What would a male version look like? He considered. A leotard, maybe, with that cute tail and some ears. Was that too much? He wasn’t out, after all. Only one person knew he was gay. Maybe people would think it was a joke and he could wear what he really wanted while still maintaining the illusion of heterosexuality. Or maybe they already suspected and this would be the proof they needed to condemn him.
He wished it weren’t like this. He wished he weren’t like this. He would be an outcast if they found out. His sports career would be over and basketball was everything to him. There was no way he could afford college without his scholarship and being on the team was the best part of his life. But he’d heard enough in the locker room to know how unacceptable he was. They f-word was thrown around often enough to make him wince, and it wasn’t “fuck” that bothered him. He didn’t want that word directed at him and if he wore the costume he wanted, he’d certainly be risking it. He couldn’t do it.
“Shopping for your girlfriend?” a man asked.
Bastian jumped, then flushed as he saw Aaron, the linebacker from the football team, standing beside him looking at the bunny costume as well. He had shaggy, light brown hair over emerald eyes, and his muscles were visible under the tight shirt he wore. He was utterly irresistible, and utterly unobtainable. The holy grail of hotness. It took a minute for the question to register and he didn’t how to answer.
“Um, no, it’s for a friend,” he managed. “She asked me to see what was available.”
“Pretty brave of her, letting a guy pick her costume,” he said. “Especially given the ones you’re looking at.”
Bastian blushed again. He was in the sexy part of the store. Was that suspicious? Was his lie good enough, or did Aaron suspect? No, there was no reason to suspect what Bastian was really thinking. Why would anyone possibly think that, unless they wanted it, too?
“Yeah, maybe I’m in the wrong section,” he said, and Aaron laughed.
“I dunno, depends on if you want to get past friend with her,” he said. “Maybe she needs to know you want to see her in something like this. Unless she’s dating someone else,” he added. “I’d flip if a guy gave my girlfriend something like this.”
So he had a girlfriend. That doomed any fledgling hope Bastian had that somehow, against all odds, Aaron secretly had a crush on him.
“No, she’s single,” Bastian said, hoping his disappointment wasn’t too visible. How long had Aaron been dating? He hadn’t been dating two weeks ago at the party. He’d been single and bragging about it, since it meant, in his words, all the pussy and none of the strings. Maybe that should have been a sign that he wasn’t harboring gay thoughts, but in all the movies there were closeted gays who went out of their way to act manly to avoid suspicion. Like me, Bastian thought.
“Well, pick something good,” Aaron said. “You’re going to our party on Halloween, right? I know that frat is doing something and I always see you there, but you should come to our party. It’ll be way better.”
Bastian smiled cautiously. Was Aaron really inviting him to a party? Him, specifically? Did he really want to make sure Bastian was there?
“Bring your friend,” Aaron added. “I wanna see how she looks.”
He winked and headed to the other side of the store where a gorgeous, string-thin blonde was waiting. His heart sunk. If that was Aaron’s type, then he didn’t stand a chance. He wasn’t as large as the football players but he was tall, unlike that girl, and his neatly styled black hair wasn’t anything like the wispy mane that trailed nearly to her waist. It was platinum-blonde, not a natural color, but there weren’t any roots. Maybe she just wanted her hair blonder than it was naturally. The exact opposite of him. He couldn’t see her eyes but they were probably blue or green, not almond-brown like his. He was handsome – all the girls flirted with him – but he wasn’t Aaron’s type and it was just another crushing development in this terrible conversation. At least it was over.
“You’re pathetic,” someone said. It was Kendrick, his best friend and the only one who knew he was gay.
Kendrick was in most of his classes since they were both business majors and even though Kendrick wasn’t that interested in sports, they had somehow become close friends. Kendrick was a wiry black man with thick curls and glasses. A black nerd, he self-deprecatingly called himself, though he was quite proud of the title. While Bastian played ball, Kendrick played Heroes of the Storm. Bastian had tried it once and couldn’t even move his character because he kept clicking the wrong button on the mouse. Plus, since Kendrick was so far ahead of him in the game, it was impossible to play together. Bastian was still trying to get heroes at a high enough level to play what Kendrick considered real games.
Kendrick was gay, though like Bastian he kept it hidden. Not as hidden, but hidden. Apparently the culture of online gaming was just as homophobic as the locker room. Maybe even more, since it was anonymous. If someone dissed you to your face, there were consequences. Not so in the games.
“Why are you really looking at that?” Kendrick asked. “I hope I’m not the friend you’re thinking of. I’d never wear that.”
“It’s cute, though, isn’t it?” Bastian asked, wondering if Kendrick would possibly understand.
“For you?” he asked, and Bastian blushed. He had understood then. “You’re a little lacking in the chest area. I don’t think it would fit.”
“Not this particular outfit, but the idea,” Bastian said. “It’s cute.”
Kendrick looked around. They were completely alone, which was why Bastian had felt safe saying that out loud. He smiled.
“I’d love to see you in something like that,” he said in a sultry voice. “Even if your football hunk doesn’t. You’d be so delicious, and I love eating rabbit.”
“Stop it,” Bastian said, punching him in the shoulder lightly. “Don’t tease me like that. I just like cute things.”
“You’re cute,” Kendrick said with a mocking grin. “You should wear cute things.”
Bastian rolled his eyes. Sometimes Kendrick got this way, faux-flirting with him to embarrass him. He went to the men’s costumes, deliberately ignoring his friend who chuckled and followed him.
“Are you seriously buying something?” he asked. “Don’t you usually just go in your uniform?”
“Yeah, but I want to do something different this year,” Bastian said.
It was true, he usually gave up and just went as a basketball player. No one minded; a bunch of guys did it to make sure the chicks knew they were on the team. Costumes weren’t exactly the point of the Halloween party. They were just the thing that made this party a little different from all the others.
“Which party are you going to?”
Bastian hesitated. He had planned on going to the frat’s party. He had a bunch of friends in the fraternity and even though he hadn’t wanted to join that frat – or any frat – he hung out with them a lot. But if the football team was doing something different, and if Aaron himself had invited him… He was having second thoughts.
“Maybe you should just stay home,” Kendrick suggested. “You know. Play games with me.”
“You’re not doing anything? You know you’re invited.”
“Greek life was never my thing, and I like the football players less,” Kendrick said. “You know that.”
“You’d have fun,” Bastian said, but didn’t push it. Kendrick never went out with him. They were opposites in so many ways. Sometimes it seemed like the only thing that in common was their mutual effort to hide their sexualities.
Several girls approached and he and Kendrick stopped talking, looking at the costumes instead. One of the girls glanced over at him. She was a pretty thing, with brunette curls and green eyes. A lot like Aaron, in fact. His type. She smiled tentatively and he smiled back. She wandered over to him.
“You’re a Bulldog, right?” she asked. “I saw your game on Friday. You were so good. How do you possibly make that many three-pointers?”
Bastian grinned proudly. It had been a spectacular game, not just for him but for the whole team. Too bad it didn’t count for anything. The season didn’t start for two more weeks but they were ready to go. The game was just a friendly scrimmage against the nearby community college, not a fair match but everyone had fun and practice was practice. It was completely unofficial and the coach didn’t sanction it. Just the team on their own, although this year one of the assistant coaches had shown up. It wasn’t surprising that they won, of course, but their team had been like a single unit the whole game. If they could keep that going into the season against more evenly matched teams, they’d be unstoppable this year.
He had made all of his three-pointers. Not a single miss. And because the other team wasn’t that great, he’d managed to get three in. He’d gotten twenty-four points in the game, a record for him. The score had been ridiculously slanted but none of the players minded. Or at least he didn’t. He loved the thrill of sensing that potential for a shot, moving into position without a second thought, letting the ball lift off his fingertips in perfect precision… and watching it sink through the net. It didn’t always happen. He missed a lot. He’d missed his free throw, in fact, after a surprisingly nasty foul. Usually the games were clean with the community college, but this year they’d been ruthless. He wasn’t the best player; he was average for the team. But he worked well with the others so he played a lot of games. Teamwork was their strength, as opposed to any single great player. They hadn’t made it to the playoffs while he was on the team but maybe this was their year. He’d love to be part of that.
He often met girls like this and he knew what to say. His height made him one of the most recognizable players on the team. He reacted almost automatically, accepting her praise and complimenting her in turn, talking about basketball and feeling her out for how technical he could get before she got bored. She knew quite a lot about the game, and actually seemed like a fan. She knew all his stats, and most of his teammates. Normally girls just recognized him from the court and that was enough, but she actually knew him as a player.
Kendrick watched as they chatted and he flirted with her. Just enough flirting so she knew he appreciated the attention, not enough to lead her on. He’d gotten good at flirting over the years so no one suspected he wasn’t interested in the slightest. But he could feel Kendrick’s mocking gaze on him as he put on his tough-guy act and pretended to be the strong, straight basketball player she assumed he was. He wondered if he would ever be confident enough to be true to himself. Not as long as he played, he suspected, and he wanted to pursue his career beyond college if possible. He wasn’t top talent but he was good. He might make it.
Kendrick wandered back over to the decorations. They were technically here to buy a plastic pumpkin for Kendrick’s apartment. Although he wasn’t doing anything for Halloween, Bastian had talked him into being a little festive. Halloween had always been Bastian’s favorite holiday as a kid, though it wasn’t quite as fun once he got too old to trick-or-treat. He’d kept going right up through high school, accepting the occasional glares and sharp questions about his age as part of the price he paid for the excitement of getting to dress up and get candy. But once he entered college he stopped. Not only was he way too old, his teammates would probably mock him for even wanting to trick-or-treat.
Maybe he should have kids, he considered. Then he could take them out and pretend it was for their benefit and not to relive his own childhood thrill. Lousy reason to have kids, he decided. But he wondered if kids were in his future. He’d had girlfriends before, though it never lasted long, but his parents fully expected him to marry so they could have grandkids. He fully expected to marry. Even though he was gay, his mental image of the perfect life was completely based in heterosexuality. Having a boyfriend was failing, in his eyes and in his parents’ eyes. Liking other boys was failing. And he hated failing.
The girl finally left and he took one last look towards the girl’s costumes and the bunny tail that enticed him before looking for Kendrick. It didn’t take long to pick out a suitable pumpkin with a spooky smile – Kendrick wanted a glittery pumpkin but Bastian tried to talk him into a plainer one that would raise fewer questions. When Kendrick protested that Bastian was likely the only one who would ever see it, he withdrew his complaint. Just because he couldn’t get his bunny costume didn’t mean Kendrick shouldn’t get a glittery pumpkin. At least one of them would be happy.