Quade comes to Australia when he is thirteen years old. Everything is the same except how they’re not. And he hates it. He wants to go back home. To his family, his friends. Wants life to go back to the way it was.
The only saving grace is rugby.
He's grown up with the game his whole life. It's in his blood and although he might not be well off enough to make it in this country, they can't ignore his talent. So they give him a scholarship. He gets to play the game and that's all he cares about.
That's how he meets James. At the Australian school boys. This spoiled brat who plays the game like he was born with a ball and whatever else he might feel, Quade can't hate that. And when he gets to know James a little better he realises that James is one of the most loyal people he's ever met, that if he ever needed someone to fight for his life, James would be it. But none of these realisations change his life.
It takes him longer to realise that he's in love.
And that does.
"The last two times you came down were fucking disasters man! I had to come pick you up today otherwise you might get kidnapped or something," James says slinging Quade's bag over his shoulder.
"If you'd done this the last two times, you might have saved me some trouble," Quade bumps shoulders with James who grins at him.
"Yeah well...I didn't realise you were such a woolhead!"
"Picked it up from you so you can't say anything about it,"
Quade reaches out and ruffles James's hair and lets his hand slide down to his shoulders and leaves it there. James smiles and stays a comfortable warmth at Quade's side as they walk out to the car park.
Quade kisses James against the door the moment James lets it slide close behind them. James lets the bag slip from his shoulder and grips Quade's shirt to pull him closer.
"Missed me much?" James laughs between kisses.
Quade nips at James's lips in response.
"You only saw me last week you know,"
"Rather I didn't come over then?" Quade asks, fingers tight in James's golden hair.
James smiles and reaches up a hand, fingers trailing over Quade's face.
"I can't be without you," the fingers trace over Quade's lips, "you know that."
Quade kisses him, soft and lingering.
"I know," he whispers, "Me too."
James opens the door to find a very drenched Quade on the other side.
"What the fuck happened?" he asks, pulling Quade inside the apartment.
Quade drops his bags with an exasperated sigh and starts shedding his wet clothes.
"Bloody taxi driver dropped me off two blocks over," he curses. James drags him towards the bedroom, rummaging in the drawers and coming up with a towel.
"You should have called me,"
Quade strips off his jeans and sighs.
"I didn't think it would rain. The weather in this city is atrocious."
James lets his eyes roam over Quade, now only in his boxers and grins.
"Ohh! You're using big words, you must be annoyed," he comes closer and kisses Quade.
Quade laughs in to the kiss. James wraps the towel around Quade's neck and pushes him towards the bathroom.
"Go. Before you get pneumonia."
"Oh fuck! I love this song!" James exclaims as the new song comes on. Quade looks around the darkened club as Chris Brown's latest hit blares through the night.
James downs his drink and jumps to his feet. Quade looks up at him, at the blue lights in James's hair. James holds out a hand.
Quade raises an eyebrow, unsure whether James can actually see his face.
James grabs his hand and pulls him to his feet. Quade lets him. He lets James pull him to the dance floor. He lets the alcohol thrum through his veins. Lets his inhibitions go. There is only James. James pulls him closer with arms around his neck. Quade feels the music beat through his heart. He kisses James. James laughs against his lips. There is only James. And he is worth everything.
"Quade, your boyfriend's here," Shannon Eckstein says.
Quade knows Shannon means it jokingly, just because James is here visiting him. But he frowns at him anyway. Shannon grins and walks off to join the other boys gathered at the pier.
Quade turns around and James is coming down the walk way towards him. Quade smiles. He doesn't care what people think. Let them make their own conclusions. He won't change a thing about the way they are. He doesn’t care about pleasing the world. He used to. But that didn't work out too well for him. So he's taught himself not to care. Sticks and stones and all that.
"Gonna kill the ski challenge?" James asks, punching him on the shoulder.
Quade grins, catches James's hand and holds it. The cameras aren't here yet.
"Can't do any worse than you, can I?"
"Shut up man! Water sports are not my thing. You know that," James traces the waves tattooed on Quade's right arm. Quade remembers when he'd gotten that tattoo. James hates needles. But he'd wanted a tattoo. Quade had gone with him to the parlour, gotten this done while James was getting his'. They'd been side by side. At one point James had reached out and Quade had held his hand until the artist was done.
Quade slings an arm around James's shoulders and they walk down to the pier. All the boys are gathered there and making good natured fun of Frosty's pale skin. Shannon grins at them and Kurt shifts over to make space for them on the bench. James stays with him until Mark and Dell arrive and cheers him on from the sidelines once the game starts. He comes third in the ski challenge and gives James hell about it later in his room until James kisses him in to silence. Quade really can't bring himself to complain about it at all.
James is going home. Quade wants to go with him. He doesn't want James to be alone. Doesn't want him to fly for 24hrs with only the thoughts in his head for company. But he can't. They have a game in two days and with James gone, the team can't lose him either.
It's funny. He's willing to do anything for James. Loves him unconditionally. Would step in front of a moving bus for him. But he can't be with him because he's bound to the team. He wonders if anything in this world is unconditional. How can it be that he's willing to die for James but can't put him before the team? He should leave. Be with James. But he knows life isn't that simple. And he knows James understands. That James would do the same in his shoes. He wishes he was brave. To put James above all other things. What would that say about him? To give himself to this one thing, would it be to the detriment of all other things in his life? Would he care? Because in the end, all he'd have would be the results of the choices he'd made in his life.
He kisses James until they're both breathless. The call for James's flight home comes over the PA.
"Call me. For anything. Anytime."
James leans his forehead against his' and breathes.
"I will. You won't have any peace at all," James says with a small tired laugh and Quade doesn't want to let him go.
The final boarding call. James steps back.
"I'll see you soon," Quade says and James nods.
Quade watches James disappearing in to the tunnel with a heavy heart.
His phone pings a minute later.
Stop thinking so much. I'll see you soon. J.
Quade turns around as if he could see James sitting in the plane and typing the message with fond eyes.
Take your meds and go to sleep. Q.
Yes, sir. Comes James's reply, followed almost immediately by another text.
I'll miss you too.
Quade smiles as he joins the queue outside the airport waiting for a taxi.
Love you. Be safe.
James opens his door and blinks.
"What-what are you doing here?"
Quade moves past James and in to the apartment.
"Why? Am I interrupting something?" he asks, looking around the living room.
James closes the door behind him and frowns at him.
"But it's your birthday tomorrow. You should be-"
Quade drops his bag and moves towards James.
"I should be," he cups James's face with his hands, "exactly where you are," and kisses him.
James fidgets, running a hand through his hair as Quade slowly unwraps his present. He was going to fly up, visit Quade on Saturday, make it up to him for missing his birthday. But Quade had come down to him instead. And James feels like the luckiest guy on the planet, as sappy as that sounds.
Quade sets the wrapping paper aside, finally opening the box. It's a small box. But James knows better than most that it's not the size that counts.
He forgets to breathe as Quade stares at the shiny object in the box. He isn't sure if this is the right thing to do. He knows how Quade feels about him. He knows but fear grips his heart as Quade takes the ring out of the box, the white gold chain glittering in the light.
"You don't have to- I mean it doesn't have to mean anything if you don't-it's just that I want you to know," he knows he's rambling but really it's either this or hyperventilating, "you're it for me," he stops as Quade looks up.
Quade's eyes are bright with tears but he's smiling. And James starts breathing again. Quade laughs, shaky and breathless.
"This means- James, you-" Quade stares at the ring cradled in his hand. James smiles because it's so rare to see Quade lost for words.
"So you… you like it right?"
Quade holds out the chain to him.
James sits in front of Quade and slips the chain over his head. Quade lifts his head, touching the ring now hanging low on his chest with gentle fingers.
He looks up at James and smiles.
James knows that one day when he looks back at his life, at all the things he would have achieved, he knows nothing will ever, ever, top this moment. Nothing will ever mean more to him than the look in Quade's eyes and the smile on his face and the knowledge that whatever happens he'll always get to come home to Quade.