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Nothing Is The Answer

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There are girls in high school.

Well. Of course there are girls.

Just, you know. There are girls, and they stare at Benny and flirt around him and flirt with him, because he’s the star of the Varsity baseball team and pretty much the center of school, even though he doesn’t care much about popularity and doesn’t even really like being the center of attention. He’s happier, Scott and the other guys know, trotting around the bases out on The Sandlot, dusty and dirty and so far outside of anyone else‘s attention, then sitting in the midst of a swarm of hangers-on who don’t really know him all that well beyond his exploits on the baseball diamond.

He doesn’t pay anyone else much attention, and they all know that there’s a line of girls (and a few boys) who would love just one date with Benny, yet no one really questions it that Benny is never seen with anyone on his arm and never even really seems interested. That’s the magic of Benny, Scott declared once: no one dares to touch him. No one dares to question him. He just is who he is and it’s like the whole world has already just accepted him the way he is.

It’s like that when they’re adults too - Benny doesn’t hit up the strip clubs with his teammates after games, even when they’re away and Scott isn’t there. Benny has zero interest in coke or heroin or speed or whatever else is occasionally passed around the plane on a flight back to L.A. after a long series of away games. He doesn’t put up pictures of half-naked girls cut out of Playboy in his locker behind his cleats and dirty t-shirts. He smiles faintly when some of the guys make jokes about sex and chicks and bitches and doesn’t let the sting show on his face when jokes turn to fags and fairies.

No one questions why he doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t ever date, doesn’t talk about marriage. He’s The Jet, and he’s an All Star and going to win an MVP award one of these days and no one cares about who he is or isn’t dating when he’s putting up numbers like he does. Occasionally an interview turns to questions of “Have you ever considered starting a family,” and he answers honestly, “Oh yeah, definitely, sure,” and turns the conversation back to baseball, because he doesn’t need to talk about his personal life and people don’t really seem bothered to press him on it.

Scott asks him sometimes, when it’s late and they’re laying in bed and Benny can’t sleep and he quietly confesses what this guy said today or what that guy laughed about and how it hurt. Scott asks how he can stand it.

Scott’s not terribly public about his personal life either - obviously, because too personal would expose Benny - but some coworkers, the ones he’s worked with for years, know that he’s gay and no one really cares or criticizes. He can’t ever quite understand how Benny puts up with the constant reminder of why he can’t come out until well after his career is over.

So he asks Benny, gently as he can, how Benny can take it and take it, day after day, year after year, season after season of sports and jocks and locker rooms. He asks what can be done.

And nothing, is the answer. He takes it because he has to, Benny tells him as he touches the side of Scott’s face and Scott closes his eyes, leaning into the touch. Baseball is all he’s ever wanted to do, the most important thing in his life, and he’s not going to give up on it just because it’s hard sometimes and people are crappy sometimes.

He loves his teammates ninety-nine percent of the time. He’s convinced that most of them would really be okay with him if they knew. It’s the nature of what they do, the lifestyle they lead, the locker room shit talk that should have been left behind back in high school but follows them into adulthood because they play a game for a living. He tries not to take it personally when they insult him without knowing it. He puts his mind towards the ball field, and most of the time he lets it all go easily.

“And anyway,” he says, sliding up closer to Scott and laying a hand on Scott’s side. He measures Scott’s breaths, feeling comforted. “It’s not actually the most important thing in my life,” he amends. “It’s really a distant second.”

Scott smiles brilliantly and kisses him for that, and that’s all Benny needs to get through jeering talk in the locker room.