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Subject: The Brotherhood Chapter 11 – Gay/College/Fantasy Thank you for taking the time to check out my story! The Brotherhood is a story I first posted on Nifty way back between 2001-2013. In preparation for the sequel, The Brotherhood: Awakening, which some have been waiting for since 2013 (sorry), I’m uploading a revised version of TBH for a better reading experience. It’s the same story, but some new material exists to flesh out some characters/scenes. I’d love to devote more time to The Brotherhood Awakening and other projects. If you’d like to support me on that journey, please visit my Patreon for the first chapter of The Brotherhood Awakening, the rest of TBH, exclusive short stories – The Stranger, and a private Discord server. I would love to hear from you guys. Especially if you’re an old reader of mine, let’s reconnect! Also, please help support Nifty and their fantastic work to give the LGBT+ community a voice and place to express themselves. patreon/thewriter_x [email protected] Twitter: fty/ The Brotherhood Chapter XI By X I felt strange – out of place. The world moved dizzily around my head. There was a voice calling my name, a hand gently shaking me. My eyes opened to a blurry figure sitting beside me. Why am I on my back? Suddenly shots echoed thru the fogginess of my brain. Gunshots! Though disoriented and numb, I sprung up…I had to save him! “Q!” I tried the yell, but my voice sounded more like a cough than anything else. I had to find him! “Q!’ This time his name rang out loud and clear with a hint of panic. Before I could say another word, a pair of hands grabbed my arms. “It’s okay…everything is okay. Please stay calm.” “You don’t understand!” I was trying to shove the hands off me. “Q…Q was shot!” “Jacob, calm down!” That voice. It was both familiar and impossible at the same time. “I’m right here. I’m okay.” “What…” It was him. There was no mistaking it. He sat beside me like he was serving me breakfast in bed. “Q?” “Yes,” he smiled. I freaked out. I jumped off the bed, realizing I was back in Q’s room for the first time. I have no idea how I got there. “You’re dead!” He looked as confused as I felt. I backed away from him, my heart racing. “I saw you get shot three fucking times!” He laughed at me. “I wasn’t shot, Jacob. I’m standing right here.” He got up and came around the corner of the bed, stopping just a few feet in front of me. His hands were on his chest. I’m not sure if the gesture was meant to emphasize his sincerity or the fact that he was solid. Real. “Seriously, I’m okay.” “I saw you get shot!” I shouted and started breathing heavily like I couldn’t get enough air. “I held you. I felt you slip away. I felt you die in my arms. I felt it!” All that heavy breathing wasn’t such a good idea. The room started spinning. I stumbled forward…right into Q’s arms. “You’re okay,” he whispered, holding me close. “Just breathe slowly…breathe normally.” He sat me on the edge of the bed and knelt before me, caressing my face with his gentle hands. “I’ll get you some water. Just try to stay still. I don’t want you to fall.” He got up to leave, but I quickly grabbed him and pulled him close. I needed to hug and feel him – to know this was real. I felt shaky. He was laughing at me, but I didn’t care. He was hugging me back, and that’s all that mattered. After a few minutes, I had to pull him away and ask, “What is going on?” “You collapsed outside.” “I did what?” I slipped my hand thru my hair. “Why am I wet?” “You fainted, and it’s pouring outside.” Just then, a clap of thunder exploded around us, shaking the windows and my nervous system. “It’s okay,” he laughed. I took a deep breath and looked him dead in his eyes. “I saw you get shot.” “Okay…but I wasn’t,” he smiled reassuringly. “Don’t you remember? Jake came up behind me and pulled a gun.” “So, there was a gun!” “Yes, but he never got the chance to shoot me. I grabbed his hand, and we struggled for a few seconds. He managed to fire three shots into the air, but eventually, I knocked him out. I looked over, and there you were, lying on the ground. I thought you got hit by a stray bullet. I ran to you and checked for a pulse or any sign of blood loss. I found the pulse but no sign of blood. You just fainted, so I picked you up and brought you here.” I shook my head no. “That’s not how it happened.” “Yes, I get shot and killed in your version. So, you’ll forgive me if I like my version a little bit better. Call me crazy.” “You don’t understand,” I raised my voice a little. “I know what I saw.” “Jacob, you saw wrong. I don’t know what else to tell you.” “How do you explain it then? I didn’t just make this up!” I looked down at my shaky hands. “There was so much blood…” my voice trailed off. “Maybe you made it up.” “What?” I was a bit insulted. “I’m talking about in your mind. Maybe, when you heard that first gunshot, your mind went into ‘worst-case scenarios mode.’ Instead of seeing reality, you envisioned me getting shot. That would be emotionally overwhelming for anyone. No one can blame you for fainting.” It made sense, I guess. Q was kneeling right there in front of me minus three bullet holes, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling there was something more I was missing. “I don’t know,” I said softly, “it seemed so real.” He grabbed my hand and pressed it to his bare chest. “If you need to feel something real, then feel this.” His heartbeat was intense, his body warm. “If you don’t believe anything else, believe this.” He leaned in and kissed me passionately, with a fire that could ignite a dead star. “If that doesn’t convince you, then follow me.” Q led me by the hand onto the balcony. The rain continued to batter everything in sight. “You were unconscious for about ten minutes. Luckily, you came around just in time to see this.” He pointed to the yard below where a cop was leading Jake off the premises with handcuffs. The left side of his face was smeared with mud. “What happened to him?” “Steel thought it best to use his boot to keep Jake in line. He used it to press Jake’s face into the ground until the cops showed up. Crude but effective, I suppose.” I stood in the pouring rain watching Jake get shoved into the squad car by the cops. Somehow it didn’t make me feel any better. Q tapped my stomach, and I followed him back inside. “Listen, I’m going to change into some dry clothes and head downstairs. The police still need a statement from me, but you’re free to hang out here if you want or enjoy your free time; there’s still plenty of time before two o’clock comes around. He kissed me, got some clothes, and went to the bathroom. I stood there waiting for this all to start to make sense. I thought back to the moment I saw Q get shot. I could still hear the shots, smell the gun powder, and see all that blood. I don’t know how long I stood there, but I didn’t even notice Q shaking me until he gently tapped my cheek. “Jacob, are you okay?” I brushed his hand away from my face. “Yeah, I’m fine.” “Alright then…I’m going to go. If you need anything, let me know.” Slipping his fingers into the front of my jeans, he leaned in and kissed me again, but only for a moment. I grabbed that same hand as he walked away, reluctant to let him go. He simply smiled at me and slipped his hand away. “Hey, feel free to get out of those wet clothes. We have about the same build; pick anything from my closet you like.” “Thanks.” He opened the door and told someone it was okay for them to come in and see me. The next thing I know, Arsen and CJ rush me. “Dude!” CJ almost knocked me over when he rushed to hug me. “I thought you got shot!” “Yeah…well…there seems to be a lot of that going around.” “What do you mean?” “Nothing… never mind.” Arsen came up and ruffled my hair. “Don’t scare me like that!” “Like what? What happened?” Now I was confused. Arsen shrugged. “I was hoping you’d tell us. One minute I’m meeting up with CJ at the gym, and the next thing I know, three loud bangs ring out across the campus. It sounded like fireworks.” “Fireworks, dude!” “Yes,” Arsen just looked at CJ, “thank you for clarifying that. Anyway, we didn’t think anything of it. That was until every Brother in sight rushed outside. We followed, of course. The word gun was thrown out a few times, so we knew it was serious. Just as we were about to go out thru the backdoor, Q rushed in with you in his arms, yelling for everyone to get the hell out of his way. I think my heart stopped. I mean, literally stopped when I saw you in his arms. I rushed after you.” “He rushed after you, Dude, and so did I!” “But the Brothers got in our way and stopped us from following,” Arsen continued. “They got in our way, dude!’ Arsen finally backhanded CJ across the chest. “Will you stop that shit already?” “What?” CJ looked bewildered. “What did I do?” “The fact that you don’t know makes it even worse!” Arsen moved in like he was going to choke CJ, but CJ ran behind me. It was hilarious, considering. “Anyway, eventually, Shaun told us you passed out or something. I was relieved. Don’t ever scare me like that again!” I couldn’t help but laugh at how differently everyone seemed to remember what happened. I was floored that I could dream up such an entirely different version. “What’s funny?” CJ pushed gently from behind. “I just…well, that’s not how I remember things at all,” I answered. “None of this makes any fucking sense to me.” “What do you mean?” “I remember seeing Q get shot three times.” I held up three fingers to clarify my point, and they were both about to say something, but I cut them off. “I know it sounds crazy, and I know that’s not how it happened, but it’s what I remember.” “Uh-huh,” CJ muttered. “Q doesn’t look dead to me, dude.” “Well, obviously,” I rolled my eyes. “Thank you for pointing out the obvious.” “My pleasure!” “What else do you remember?” Arsen sounded sincerely interested “I remember holding Q in my arms, yelling for help. I remember the blood. If I look down at my hands, I can still see the blood dripping off them.” “That’s fucking weird,” Arsen admitted, folding his arms over his chest. “Anything else?” I shrugged. “No…I don’t know.” I could see Q in my arms, lifeless and bleeding. Yet apparently, that didn’t happen at all. It was all a figment of my imagination. I have to be honest. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like something was missing. Suddenly it hit me. “Light!” “Light?” They both repeated at once. “There was this brilliant white light around us that simultaneously came from nowhere and everywhere. It burned like a white flame, and it was all-consuming.” “That sounds fucking….” “Crazy, I know,” I finished Arsen’s sentence for him. “I was going to say intense….” “But crazy works too,” CJ added. “Look,’ I backed away and activated my defensive shield, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and I could very well be losing my mind, but I don’t need you guys thinking….” “Calm down, Sparky,” Arsen was quick to interject, “no one is thinking anything. Especially CJ. I mean, look at him.” Okay, that made me laugh, and if you could’ve seen the clueless look on CJ’s face, you’d understand why. “All we’re saying is if you need someone to talk to, we’re all here for you.” “Thanks, I appreciate that.” “Well, except for Mike,” CJ laughed. “He could give a fuck, I think.” “I’m sure,” I agreed. “Look, right now, all I want is some time alone. Arsen nodded. “Aright.” He grabbed CJ and dragged him away. “Let’s go, dude,” he mocked. “If you need anything….” “I know.” CJ reappears at the door, pointing at me only moments after disappearing. He was about to say something when Arsen’s hand grabbed him by the neck and hauled his ass away. Pure comedy! And just what I needed at that moment. I wasn’t about to waste any more time, so I ran into Q’s closet. Yes, it’s possible to run into it. I snatched the first pair of jeans and shirt I found and went into the bathroom to change, leaving my damp clothes on the same pile as Q’s. I left the house thinking it was pointless to change. I was going to be running in the rain after all. But to my surprise, the rain had stopped even though dark storm clouds loomed above. I ran, pouring every ounce of energy I had into each step. A few close calls later – one with a minivan and the other with a baby stroller – I arrived where I needed to be. Why was I being pulled to this place? It beats the hell out of me, but I was, standing in the middle of the street staring at her shop. I erdemli escort started to question my sanity. I mean, seriously, what was I doing there? What could I possibly hope to learn from this crazy woman? How could anyone help me when I didn’t know what I was looking for? And yet there I stood, unable to move away. “This is nuts….” I whispered. “That may be so,” a voice said from behind, “but you’re not going to find any of the answers you seek standing out here.” My thoughts scattered in different directions. I was gripped with dread, don’t ask me why. Even though I knew who was standing behind me, a small part didn’t want it to be her. I think it was more comforting to believe I was crazy. If there were actual answers to my questions, there might be a reality out there I wasn’t ready to face. Sometimes not knowing is a good thing. “Oh, quit your whining!” That made me angry instantly. “Excuse me?” I turned to her only to have a bag of groceries shoved in my arms. “Make yourself useful, dear, and carry those in for an old lady.” I didn’t have time to protest. She walked away, looking inside her purse for the keys to her shop. If forced to guess, I’d say she was in her mid to late sixties. She was short in stature, the top of her head barely reaching my chin. A simple black dress hung from her delicate shoulders with a red shawl draped over her back. Her shoes clicked on the pavement with every step, as did the keys she had difficulty finding in such a small purse. My first thought was senile, but I won’t go there. “Ah, here we go.” The sigh of relief that escaped could have convinced anyone those keys were the most important thing she owned. I followed her into the room where she ‘read’ people’s fortune. Her bright white hair made it clear why she was known as Lady White. It flowed down her back, shimmering and flickering like a candle caught in the wind. She took the groceries, offered me a seat at her table, and then disappeared into an adjacent room. I could hear her putting her food away, shuffling things back and forth to make room for other things. I sat there looking around the room while I waited, still questioning my sanity with each passing minute. I had to be insane for talking to a fortune teller. A fortune teller, of all things! The room didn’t even look like it belonged to a fortune-teller; there wasn’t a crystal ball in sight, just a few pieces of furniture strategically placed to make the place seem inviting. A pair of lamps on opposite corners of the room were the only light source in the area; freakishly enough, they dimmed all on their own when Lady White walked back into the room. She was holding a pane of glass about the size of a chess board and a small basket of eggs. She took her seat across from me, placing the glass on the table between us and the basket off to the side. “So, you have questions?” She started placing a single egg at the very edge of the table. I looked at the egg, then at her, then at the egg again. Eventually, I returned my gaze to Lady White. “What’s with the egg?” I asked. “Are we going to bake something?” “Why are you hungry?” “No…” “Then why would you think we would bake something?” “Because there’s an egg on the table.” I pointed at the egg, but it was gone. At first, I thought it rolled off the edge, but nothing was on the floor. “Where did the egg go?” “Is that why you came here? To discuss eggs?” She asked in a tone that made it seem like I was the crazy one. “Well…no.” I watched her place another egg in the same spot as the first. “Well then,” she smiled, her pink lips whitening a little, “why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind.” “I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I whispered, rubbing my temples as the reality hit me – yes, I was doing this. “First of all, are you the real thing? I mean, seriously.” She leaned back against her chair, a crazy smile dancing on her lips. “I’m as real as you want me to be.” “Okay,” I nodded, completely lost. “And that means what exactly?” “It means you can take whatever information I give you as truth or dismiss it as the ramblings of senile, old…how did you put it? Loon?” “See! That right there. How did you do that? How did you know I thought that before I even got here?” She threw her head back and laughed. “I wouldn’t be much of a fortune teller if I didn’t.” “Why am I feeling you’re much more than that?” She shrugged and placed the third egg on the table. The second was nowhere in sight. “Your feelings are for you to interpret.” I’m not going to lie; the whole egg thing was freaking me out. “I can only act as a guide to what was, what is, and what will be. So, what exactly brought you here? What do you want to know?” I was ready to lay it out there, ask my question, and inevitably feel like a complete fool, but she stopped me. Sitting forward in her chair, she pointed her finger at me. “Know this, Jacob DeRosa. To ask anything of me is to open a door you will never be able to close, and once you step thru it, there is no going back. Do you understand?” I nodded, thinking her little speech was a tad over the top, but whatever. “That house isn’t normal, is it?” She shrugged as if dismissing my question completely. “What is normal, hmm? You go about your life, daily routines, friends, and family, and it’s all normal to you, isn’t it? But to one who is outside of your circle, your routine might think it’s anything but normal.” “Okay…I’ll take that as a no then.” I didn’t want to spend too much time deciphering her coded speech. “Am I safe in…” Lady White stood unexpectedly, and I’ll admit it, I jumped. I felt a bit silly; it’s not like she screamed, ‘BOO!” or anything. She simply went to the back room. I could hear her looking for something. While she was gone, I noticed the third egg was gone, so I took the opportunity to look around to see what the deal was. I figured she had some kind of pet or something else I was missing. I looked under the table, my chair, and her chair but saw nothing. I got up and looked around the room. Still, I found no sign of the missing eggs. When I heard her coming, I flew back to my chair and acted like everything was just peachy. She returned with a small bowl and took her seat. “Place your hand on the glass before you and press down hard.” “Why?” Lady White sighed heavily and looked at me disapprovingly; her deep blue eyes made me feel small. “If you plan on questioning everything I ask of you, we’ll never get anywhere. Not to mention you don’t have all the time in the world, or have you forgotten you have to be back by two?” “How do you know that?” “Do you think you’re the only pledge that sought my council? Many have come over the years. Please place your hands on the glass, and continue with what you were saying.” I did what she wanted but wasn’t too happy about it. “I wanted to know if I was safe in that house, or should I get out of there?” She smiled as she grabbed a fist full of what appeared to be white sand from the bowl. “You don’t need me to answer that for you, Jacob.” She shook her head knowingly as if to reassure me. “I don’t?” “No, you don’t. Remove your hands from the glass.” She poured the white sand over the area where my hands were. “You are no one’s fool, Jacob. If deep down you truly believed, for even one second, that you were in danger, you wouldn’t be sitting here now. You would have left long ago.” She reached into her dress, much like women do when they hide money in their bra, and pulled out a small black pouch. “Fact is, the one truth you do know is regardless of the doubts or fears that may pierce your heart, you would never leave The Brotherhood. There’s only one thing more important to you than joining The Brotherhood….” I leaned in to hear this revelation as she threw a pinch of red powder she got from her pouch on the glass. The thing went up like a match! I freaked and jumped so hard I fell backward, chair and all. I got right back up, shouting. “Are you out of your mind?” I licked my fingers and felt my eyebrows to see if they were still there. “I was starting to wonder if I was nuts for coming here, and now I know. I’m out!” “It’s hard trying to figure out where you’re going without the slightest idea of where you’ve been…or, more importantly, who you are.” I didn’t even get to take a step, for her words gripped me like shackles. “And what do you know?” I sneered, and she smiled. “More than you, I promise you that.” I pretended to stand there looking between the door and my chair as if I had any intention of leaving. I had to make it look good. I picked up my chair, slammed it down, and retook my seat. I’m sure that showed her! I was going to say something more to her but didn’t. She was too preoccupied reading the glass, which had a perfect imprint of my hands burned on the surface. Every line, every fingerprint, was the same as my own. It even had an imprint of the tiny scar on my index finger, a reminder to always look at a fence before jumping over it. “Hmmm,” she said, her brows raised. “Now that’s interesting….” I leaned forward and looked at the glass. “Yeah, I see what you mean….” My sarcasm didn’t phase her one bit. “Really?” she said with a mischievous smile. “What do you see?” “You first.” “Ah…” Now she was laughing at me. I was just about done playing games. “Look, let’s cut the crap. What do you know about my past?” “Everything,” she said matter-of-factly, “for the glass sees thru you just as easily as you see thru it.” “Fine…whatever you say, Yoda. But what do you see specifically?” “That I can’t tell you, I’m afraid.” “Well, why the hell not? What’s the point of being here?” I stopped for a moment to think. “Or maybe you just didn’t see shit, and I’m an idiot for sitting here and letting you pull my strings.” “Do you believe that?” “Yes!” I pushed the chair back from under the table, ready to leave. Before I could get my ass off the seat, she pointed to a line burned into the glass and made me a believer. “When you were fourteen, you bragged to your friends Ash, Jordan, and Michael that you lost your virginity to Keri, an eighteen-year-old high school senior. It made you practically a god in their eyes.” She leaned forward and lowered her voice. “When in fact, she was only over to help you with your English paper as a favor to your mother. She slapped you silly and walked out when you tried to make your move. You got a D on that paper, I believe.” She looked down at the glass for a second look. “D minus.” My mouth dropped wide open. I never told a soul about that. “And when you were fifteen, your mother caught you with your pants around your ankles and an inflatable….” “Okay, okay, you proved your point!” I waved my hands around wildly. I didn’t feel like reliving the most embarrassing moments in my life. Then I grabbed the pane of glass and pulled it towards me to look at it closely. “You can see that in here?” I was so embarrassed; I’m sure my cheeks were on fire. “That and more,” she assured me. “You will destroy this when we’re done, right?” “Promise.” “So let me get this straight. You can tell me I lied about my virginity when I was fourteen, but you can’t tell me about the missing years of my life?” “Exactly,” she smiled as if that made perfect sense. “You’re on a path, Jacob, and all I can do is guide you on that path. I cannot walk it for you. All I can do is promise you the path will lead you to the answers you so desperately seek.” “Can you at least give me a preview like they do in the movies?” I begged. “Would the movie be worth watching if you knew the ending?” I didn’t answer her, but I was finally beginning to understand where she was coming from. “Okay, you said you’re a guide, so guide me. What am I supposed to do?” “You are already doing it,” Lady White replied simply. “Trust in what you know. Trust in Q and The Brotherhood, for they will not lead you astray. “Funny, you sound so convinced I’m going to make it in.” I looked up at her suddenly. Was she hinting, or was that a lot of wishful thinking on my part?” She smiled brightly and leaned back against her seat, placing another egg on the table. “Ultimately, the decision will be yours, Jacob. It always was…from the very beginning.” “What are you saying?” I hung on every word like a dog salivating at the treat dangled in front of his face. “That I’m the one who’s going to decide whether I join or not?” I laughed outright. “That’s funny because if it’s true, then there is no decision. Who in their right mind tarsus escort would decide not to join The Brotherhood?” “You…” “Me?” “Possibly.” “Why would I not want to join The Brotherhood? That makes no sense to me.” “Because you will be faced with an impossible choice Jacob.” She extended one hand out in front of her. “On the one hand, you’ll have Q and The Brotherhood,” she raised the other hand, “and on the other….” She clasped her hands together and pressed them against her chin. “Well, as I said…it’s an impossible choice; you will have to make it regardless of your feelings or loyalties.” “And I’ll bet anything you already know what I’m going to choose, right?” She shook her head, completely surprising me. “I don’t.” Tapping her fingers on each imprint, she briefly glanced down at the pane of glass, then looked up at me. “I can see the path you will walk if you pick one or the other…but I cannot see which one you will choose.” I was speechless for a time. I mean, what do you say to that? At this point, I didn’t see any reason to continue to beat this dead horse. I could ask her a thousand times, but I was sure she wouldn’t tell me more than she already had. I figured I’d cross that bridge when I got to it. She left me no other choice. “There’s someone out there stalking me…messing with me.” “I know.” I was instantly annoyed at her tone because I knew what it meant. “You’re not going to tell me who it is or what they want, are you?” “I wouldn’t worry too much about this ‘stalker’ of yours, for he is a small piece of a much larger, much more complex puzzle than you can imagine.” “War,” I whispered and saw her left eyebrow instantly spike. “I overheard Q and some other Brothers talking about it, though I don’t pretend to know exactly what it all means. But sitting here talking to you, I’m starting to get the feeling this fight they have is not merely with some rival fraternity, is it?” “I’m afraid not, Jacob. You are caught in a war born of a long-forgotten age-a war between Light and Shadow. There is no escaping it. Not for me, not for you, or the lady taking her dog out for a morning walk, or the kids getting on the bus to school. It will happen eventually. It’s simply a matter of time.” “What?” I was floored. I started thinking about my parents and friends back home. “You’re serious, aren’t you? These aren’t just the ramblings of the senile, old loon, are they?” “You can believe they are if it makes you feel better.” “But I’d just be fooling myself, wouldn’t I?” She merely shrugged. “Light and Shadow,” I repeated softly. “You mean good and evil type stuff?” She laughed. “No, I mean precisely what I said. Light and Shadow.” “Yes, I heard you, but that usually refers to good and evil in some way. Light is good and Shadow being evil.” She was still laughing at me as she reached over to pat my hand. “My dear boy, I’m afraid you’ve watched one too many movies. What I speak of transcends any notion of good and evil.” “I don’t understand what that means.” “I know, Jacob, but you will in time. For now, trust in what you know.” I heard the chimes on her outside door go off, and she stood in acknowledgment. “I’m afraid my next reading is here,” Lady White smiled as she arranged her shawl. “My door will always be open if you need to talk.” I heard what she said, but it wasn’t registering with me. I just sat there completely dumbfounded. What did I get myself into? The insane part about it was no matter how crazy it all sounded, my desire and commitment to join The Brotherhood was unwavering. It became one of those things you just must know, like being told half a secret. Lady White sucked her teeth which got my attention oddly enough. “My dear boy. Here…” she got a notepad from the small table by the door before retaking her seat. “Let me give you this, for it may help answer some questions.” She slipped the paper across the table and smiled. “It’s a book by Rick Teigland. If nothing else, the title is quite interesting.” I unfolded the payer and read it out loud. “Light and Shadow.” I snickered despite myself. “Are you seriously telling me there’s a guy out there with a tell-all book?” It sounded so ridiculous. Lady White snickered along with me. “No, I’m telling you there’s a man out there who’s spent a large part of his life researching certain things and has developed some theories around his research and personal beliefs.” “Well, is he right?” She shrugged. “Like all things Jacob, it’s really up to you to decide what’s fiction and what’s not.” “Thanks. You’ve been a great help today.” “There’s no need to lie to me,” she laughed. “That’s not what you’re thinking.” She’s right. Our little visit had raised more questions than it answered. “I wish I could tell you more, but I, too, must play by certain rules. I’ll tell you what, before you go, I’ll answer one question for you with no cryptic talk, no double meanings, or riddles. A straight-out honest answer.” It took me all of two seconds to think of a question. “Does…” Before I could say another word, she reached over and grabbed my hand. “Like all matters of the heart Jacob, these things take time. But what you sense and feel is very real, and it will go as far as you want it to. If nothing else, believe that.” Unreal! She answered my question before I even asked it. “Thank you.” She nodded. “Now, you should go. You have a long day ahead of you, and I have others to guide.” Lady White walked me out into the waiting area where two guys around my age sat thumbing thru magazines. The blond-haired one looked at me for a moment before returning his attention to the pages in front of him. Then, out of nowhere, he threw the magazine down and stood up. He looked Pissed! “Sit down!” Lady White ordered, her long outstretched finger pointing dead at him. “You know the rules. This is neutral ground, and I council both sides.” I looked at her with a big-ass question mark on my face. “I won’t have any lip out of you,” she continued chastising him. “But I haven’t said anything!” he argued. “We both know what you were going to say, and I will have none of that. Not while you’re in my house!” The guy sat back down and snatched his magazine up. “Yes, ma’am…” “You go on now, Jacob. You’re fine. Remember, my door is always open for you.” I stood outside, trying to figure out what had just happened. I didn’t have much time to debate the issue. I knew where I had to go and was running out of time. I jogged to the school library, asking myself if I was buying into all this nonsense. It all sounded crazy-no doubt about it. And I couldn’t help but wonder if it all wasn’t part of some test, like a personal trial. Were they testing me? Trying to see the lengths I would go thru to commit to The Brotherhood? That made more sense to me than anything else, but it didn’t explain some stranger things I’ve seen or what my gut was telling me. In any case, I passed the note Lady White gave me to the girl behind the counter at the campus library. “Interesting title,” she said with a smile as she punched it into the computer. “What? Are you some sci-fi buff?” “Yeah, I am,” I answered, “but that’s not why I want the book.” “Oh, I see,” she smiled bashfully. “Some kind of paper you have to write?” “No, not really. It’s more like personal research. Why? Have you read the book?” “Me?” she laughed louder this time and tossed her hair. I couldn’t help but notice she was stealing glances at me while she searched. “No, I haven’t. I just thought it was a cool title. My course load already includes a long reading list; I can’t possibly tack on extra books for fun.” I laughed with her. “I don’t see it, but let me check one more database.” “Okay, thanks.” I wondered if she was going the extra mile to look for this book or just stalling to keep me there. “Any luck?” “Uh, no.” She shook her head. “Sorry, we don’t have it in.” “Any idea when it will be back?” “When what will be back?” she asked a bit dreamily. Are you serious? I thought. “The book. When will the book be back on your shelves? Can you hold it for me?” “Oh, the book!” she giggled. “I’m sorry. Where’s my head at?” I had a few ideas but decided not to go there. “I’m showing the book was removed from our inventory…that’s odd.” “What is?” “It was removed at the request of the author.” “I don’t get it. Why is that strange?” “Well, why would anyone publish a book if they didn’t want the public to read it? That is the whole point of writing a book, isn’t it?” “True.” “I’m sorry. You can use the computers over there to search for the book online. It may not be as good as the real thing, but you might find some information to help you with your research.” “Thanks, I’ll give that a try.” I was about to walk away when she grabbed my arm. “What’s wrong?” “Nothing,” she shrugged, acting all innocent. “Just wanted to let you know that I’m off in a couple of hours if you’d like to get together for coffee or something.” I smiled politely. “I’m sorry. That sounds nice and all, but I’m already seeing someone.” “So?” she replied as she bit her bottom lip. “Ah, okay…I’ll be over there.” People are out of control. I wasn’t too far into my search when a pair of arms wrapped around me, and I felt lips pressed against the back of my neck. “Hey, baby…” Holy shit! This library chick was nuts! I ripped her arms off me and yelled, “What are you doing, crazy?” To which everyone around responded with “Shhh!” Boy, was I wrong. “Oh, Alex! What are you doing here?” “I don’t know. I saw you come in and wanted to say hi.” I knew her attitude flared when she cocked her hip and put her hands on her waist. “What? I suddenly can’t see my boyfriend?” I rolled my eyes and sat back down. “Why don’t you go see Mike? You seem to enjoy giving him attention.” “Mike?” She sat at the computer next to mine. “Who the hell is Mike?” “Please don’t play me for a fool. I’m so not in the mood for your games, Alex.” “What games? Who the hell is…ohhhh! The Mike from the party!” “Oh, so now you suddenly remember?” “Don’t get all snippy with me! I don’t deserve it. I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. I didn’t do anything with him.” “Well, that’s not what I hear,” I assured her with flaming eyes. “I don’t know what you heard, but you heard wrong,” she insisted. “Yes, I talked to him after you blew me off. But only to get under your skin because I heard you two had issues. I didn’t touch him, though.” “Then how did he know about making your kitty purr?” “Keep your voice down!” She whispered and slapped my leg. “How did he know about your kitty?” I repeated, quieter this time. “That’s our thing.” “I don’t know,” she shrugged. “I’m guessing he overheard me talking to the girls about my kitty not getting any play.” “Are you serious? You tell your girlfriends about that?” “Oh right,” she laughed. “Like you guys don’t go around bragging about all the exaggerated sex you claim to have after carving another notch on your headboard and smashing a few beer cans on your foreheads.” She got me there. “Baby, why would I mess with him when I have you? You’re sexier, better built, and packing heavy.” She reached between my legs and grabbed my junk. It wasn’t a big deal because we’ve done it in a library. Only once, but it wasn’t in the bathroom, if you know what I mean. But that’s a story for another day. “Baby, I love you and only you.” She leaned in to kiss me, and I turned away so she’d kiss my cheek instead. “What’s wrong now?” “Not here in the library. There are too many…uh…books.” Yeah, I know…Lame. “Are you kidding? The last time we were in a library, it was hot! I’m thinking of a repeat performance.” She put her hands around my neck and pulled us closer together. “Alex, I’m serious. Not here, not now!” I needed a crowbar to get her off me, but eventually, I pried her off. She had this wicked grin on her face as she sat back with her legs spread so I could see right up her mini skirt. She wasn’t wearing anything underneath. “I can’t do this with you right now,” I said. Slipping her shoe off and looking around, Alex rubbed my crotch with her foot. “Mmmm…I can so tell you want it.” She snickered softly to avoid getting attention. “I can feel it.” Closing my eyes briefly, I whispered, “Q….” “What was that, baby?” she pressed even harder. I was about to repeat it when I realized precisely what I said. “Shit!” I pushed her foot away and rolled my chair back under the desk so she couldn’t touch me. “I told you, akdeniz escort I can’t do this right now, Alex. I have shit I need to get done and not a lot of time to do it. It’s for The Brotherhood.” “Ugh!” Rolling her eyes, Alex threw her head back. “God, I can’t wait until you get in so we can return to our old ways. You know when we had fun doing stuff like this?” “I know, but until then, I have to get my work done, or I’m not going to get in. Is that what you want?” “Of course not!” She stood up and adjusted her clothing to look decent, unlike someone about to swing on a pole at a strip club. She kissed me on the head. “I have to go anyway. We’ll talk soon.” Alex took a few steps and turned to face me one last time. “You’re sweet, by the way.” “About what?” I was lost. “I saw that slut hitting on you at the counter. I heard you tell her you couldn’t because you were seeing someone. Like I said, you’re sweet.” She blew me a kiss and walked away. Can you imagine how pissed she’d be if she knew I wasn’t talking about her? I still didn’t know what I would do about the Alex situation. Just another one of those bridges. I spent ten minutes searching the web for any information I could find about this book and finally came across Rick Teigland’s blog. He had a section where he talked about his book Light and Shadow, which I printed out because by now, other people were hovering, wanting to use the computers. I sat in the back where no one could bother me and poured over his blog entry. I should’ve read some of it before I decided what to print. Most of it, like most blogs, was just Rick yammering on about nothing. I honestly don’t care that he has an uncle who thinks he’s a lighthouse and goes out to the dock when it rains to warn incoming ships. What the actual fuck? I finally got to the good part, where he talks a little about the book. I’m not sure it made me feel any better. It was a lot of doomsday-type stuff. He spoke of an apocalyptic war, which he acknowledges many people of different faiths believe is coming as a holy war between heaven and hell. He claims they are all wrong. It has nothing to do with heaven or hell. Instead, the forces of Light and Shadow will scorch the skies and rain brimstone on the masses. He continues to say when the horns sound, the weapons clash, and first blood is spilled, God and the Devil will be powerless to stop it, for they have no dominion over the forces of Light and Shadow. Well, there’s a pick-me-up if ever I read one. If there ever was a guy to give a eulogy, this Rick Teigland is the one – hands down. I buried my face in my hands. I couldn’t begin to make sense of any of it. According to Lady White, it was up to me to decide what was or was not fiction? That’s a good one. It all sounded like bullshit to me. So how exactly can I tell the difference between bullshit and bullshit? “Fuck…” I sighed and opened my eyes. I saw a man sitting opposite me through the space between my fingers. He wasn’t reading or working on anything. He was just sitting back staring at me. I parted my fingers even more to get a better look at him. “Hi,” I said with a suspicious tone. “Hello,” he said with a nod, but that’s all he said. Gathering up my papers, I rested my folded arms on the table. “Color me confused, but can I help you with something?” “Doubtful,” he answered, his tone dripping with smug arrogance, “but not entirely out of the question.” He was proper with one leg over the other and his hand clasped over his knee. He was decked in a nicely pressed, expensive suit and long business coat. His hair was combed neatly without a single strand out of place yet peppered with strands of gray. I may be wrong, but there was an insult wrapped up in there somewhere. “Hey, I know you.” “Well, of course, you do. You saw me from the bathroom window when you were listening in on the conversation below you.” I couldn’t argue that point, so I tried to move things along. “At the risk of sounding like a broken record, can I help you?” “You have fire in you; I’ll give you that.” “Okay…” He grabbed my papers and pulled them out from under my arms. “Hey!” “Light and Shadow,” he read. “Ugh, I’ve read it. This man is extremely opinionated and unnecessarily wordy.” He tossed my papers on the table, so they slid to the very end. “I was reading that!” “Believe me when I tell you the phone book would make for a better read than that garbage.” Do they even make phone books anymore, I wondered? “Who are you, and what do you want?” “Who I am is not important. But what I want is to understand.” He kind of just left it hanging like that. “And what exactly do you want to understand?” “For as long as I can remember, Q has devoted everything he is to his people, his Brothers. His commitment to his duties is unwavering.” He paused and, for a moment, looked annoyed as he rolled his eyes away from me. “Well, not entirely unwavering, for it should be Q ruling The Brotherhood as Kyrios, but instead, it’s lead by one who will never measure up to Q.” “What are you talking about? I think someone forgot to take their Prozac this morning?” “Don’t mind me,” he waved his hand dismissively. “I’m just a silly old man with dreams of how things should’ve been. And I truly didn’t mean it the way it came out. Kyrios is doing a fine job leading The Brotherhood, and I love him as I love them all, but every father has aspirations for his son.” “You’re telling me you’re Q’s father?” “Well, of course,” he said, looking at me like I was the idiot. “You already knew that from watching our interaction earlier today. Why feign ignorance?” I ignored him. “What exactly do you want from me?” “As a father who loves his son and wants nothing but the best for him, I want to know what it is Q sees in you. What is it about Jacob DeRosa that has my son so beguiled? Why would he forgo passing the gift to one who’s proven himself on the off chance that you might make it to the end?” “Look, I don’t even know that ‘beguiled’ is a real word, but here’s an idea. Why don’t you ask Q and leave me out of your family squabbling? I seriously don’t think you should be involved in The Brotherhood’s affairs unless you’re looking to make things more complicated for Q. I get you’re his father and all, but that doesn’t mean you know the internal politics of The Brotherhood. Being his father doesn’t make you an authority on all things Brotherhood.” He just starts laughing, and I’m sitting there wondering what the joke was. “Not too bright, are you?” His laughter slowly died down to a chuckle. “My dear boy, I’m the reason The Brotherhood exists in the first place, for they are all my sons.” “Yeah…about that.” I slowly stood up. “I think you have some serious issue you need to work out, but I’m certainly not the one qualified to help you. I’m thinking of a place with a lot of padding. As much as I would to stay and talk crazy with you, I have to go.” “Your sense of humor is quite endearing. I can see why he likes that about you.” “He said that?” “But you’re right, Mr. DeRosa.” He looked at his watch before he continued. “You have exactly twelve minutes and thirty-three seconds to return to your room.” “What?” I shouted. I lost all sense of decorum and grabbed his wrist to look at the time. “Fuck!” I took off like a bullet. “No running in the library,” some woman shouted. “There’s no yelling either,” I shouted back. Let me tell you; I ran like a crack head running from the cops. I refused to be responsible for us losing our newfound freedom. I knocked over a professor, two students, and some guy walking with a pile of flyers. Boy, did he sound angry! I got to the house just as a Brother was walking out, and I almost knocked him over. I raced up the stairs, tripping twice, mind you, and got to my spot next to Arsen just a few seconds before the alarm went off. The Brother waiting for us to get back looked annoyed. “Lucky,” he said. “I was looking forward to stripping your privileges.” Dick. Yeah, I thought I said that in my head, but come to find out, I said it out loud. Luckily it wasn’t so loud that he couldn’t hear me. Arsen jabbed in the ribs. Hard! “You have something to say, DeRosa?” “Sir, no, Sir! Sorry for making you wait, Sir!” The Brother looked me over from top to bottom. “You think you’re cute, DeRosa?” “Sir, no, Sir!” “What? Do you think you’re too good to dress like the other pledges? You think you’re special, DeRosa?” Seriously, what was it with this guy and my last name? “No, Sir! But considering my clothes were wet from getting caught in the rain this morning, Q said I could wear his clothes for the time being.” The second I said, “Q said,” the Brother backed off like a switch went off in his head. I know I shouldn’t have, but I was grinning on the inside. I won’t bore you by reliving the ten minutes the Brother spent yelling at us. I wasn’t the only one who was almost late. All the pledges seemed to arrive within the last six or seven minutes of our deadline. We were “playing with fire,” as the Brother put it. After the yelling subsided, he told us to get cleaned up and ready for the Trial of Honesty. Once we were done with that, we’d have our special dinner and get together with our Bigs. The minute the Brother left, my little crew crowded my door, and we gave each other high fives for making it by the skin of our asses. “Dude, I so thought I was going blow it for everyone!” “Yeah, me too!” Arsen added and then looked at me. “What were you doing?” I laughed. “Trust me; you wouldn’t believe it if I told you.” “And why is that?” He looked puzzled and annoyed at the same time. “Because I’m not sure I believe any of it myself, that’s why.” Ant added his two cents on the subject. “Well, that sounds like an interesting story if I ever heard one. Spill!” “Give me some time, and I will. There’s just so much stuff, so much information I haven’t had the chance to sit down and process it all. I have to get my head around it first, and then maybe I’ll be able to share.” “It sounds serious, Jacob,” Arsen chimed, again with that concerned older brother tone I’ve come to expect. “Are you okay?” “I’m fine.” He pretty much called me a lair with the look he gave me. “I promise. Just give me time.” Ant agreed. “You best not leave us hanging.” “Does anyone know what the ‘Trial of Honesty’ is?” Steve questioned. We all just looked at each like dumbasses. “Not a clue,” Paul was the first to speak. “I’m surprised he even told us we had a trial coming up. The Brothers usually like to spring shit like that on us. Whatever it is, I’m sure being late wouldn’t be a good thing, so we should go get ready.” “True,” I agreed. I ruffed CJ’s hair as I turned to walk into my room but was stopped by Arsen. “What’s wrong?” “I almost forgot! I was supposed to tell you Q had your clothes cleaned, so you have to go to his room to get your stuff and change. I think it’s Q’s way of checking up on you to ensure you’re doing okay. You are doing okay, right?” “I’m fine.” I thanked my boy and went to Q’s room. There on his bed were my clothes nicely folded and ironed. Q didn’t seem to be in the room, and I say that because you could easily get lost in that space, it’s so big. I put everything on except my shirt. Instead, I threw it over my shoulder, grabbed the clothes I borrowed from Q, and went to the bathroom. His old pile of clothes was still there, so I just added to the collection and then put on my shirt. Looking down to tuck in my shirt, I noticed the sleeve of the green shirt Q had worn this morning sticking out of the side. You would think I would have checked out the shirt he was wearing when I swore I saw him get shot, but it never occurred to me until then. Now it seemed stupid, but what the hell? “Jacob, you in here?” I barely heard Q call for me from the bedroom, but I smiled just the same. How lame am I? “I’m in here,” I yelled, shoving my hand inside his shirt. “Here in the closet? Here on the balcony? Here in the secret room, you’re not supposed to know about?” “Here in the bathroom!” I laughed and turned his shirt around only to see three fingers sticking out three bullet-sized holes. “My god…” _________________________________ Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear from you ([email protected]). Please visit my Patreon eon/thewriter_x) if you’d like to support my work and get the first couple of chapters to the sequel The Brotherhood Awakening, the rest of TBH, exclusive short stories – The Stranger, and a Discord server. You can also follow me on Twitter for updates: @thewriterx_x The Brotherhood is copyrighted material and the sole intellectual property of TheWriter_X. You may not post, distribute, claim, or receive profit from any portion of my work without my expressed permission. Failure to comply will result in legal action against the offender(s).

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