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Soccer Dads

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"Katie's been offered a promotion." Heartbeat. "Heading up the Seattle office."

If a nuclear bomb had gone off where they stood near the soccer field, it would have flattened the arena and taken out a chunk of the college campus. It was John's stillness, the tightening around the eyes, that told Rodney the devastation was just as absolute.

"She going to take it?" The tone casual only to those who didn't know John.

"Too good to pass up," Rodney shrugged. The shrug, a language of its own, conveyed sorry and nothing I can do.

"When..... how soon?" A frisson of worry seeped into the question.

"Next week." The tightness became granite. "She wants to move David during the school year. The company is willing to pay for an apartment while we look for something permanent, and will help take care of selling the house and moving."

Deep breath. "They must really want her."

"Yeah." Rodney looked out on the field to see how the game was going. Their kids were decent players and had been playing soccer together for the last five years. He and John had ended up on soccer dad duty and they had become... friends... more than friends.

Somewhere along the line the friendship that started as casual acquaintance with the kids on the team in common had changed, to someone it was nice to see as a familiar face, to listening to each other's problems without judgment, to where they depended maybe a bit too much on the other being at the soccer games. It was a friendship they never talked about -- they were guys, after all.

They never met any other time, something Katie had almost commented on when she suggested that they, "Get David's friend's parents to come over some night. I'd like to meet them. David talks about his friend Joe so much, I'd like to know who he's talking about sometimes."

Katie's job didn't leave her much time for standing around wet or cold, or both, soccer fields. The few times she did come, she left after half an hour. Only after she left would John come over to stand with Rodney.

John rarely talked about his wife, Rodney knew that they were divorced. John was raising Joe as a single dad and his job gave him the flexibility to go to soccer games. He wasn't sure why, but Rodney had never told Katie that John was alone. He told himself it never came up. When he was being honest with himself, Rodney knew he was being selfish -- this was something he wanted for himself.

At the end of the game as the boys were chattering about the goals they scored or stopped, John was uncharacteristically silent.

"I guess this is it," Rodney offered. He knew the pain in his heart matched the pain he saw in John's eyes. He held out a hand...

John surprised him by drawing him into a full body hug, wrapping both arms about him. Rodney understood why they never did this before -- it would have been too easy to give in. He inhaled the scent of John, in hope that the memory of the smell would hold the tatters of his soul together.

"So long, Rodney," John whispered. He let go, gathered up Joe's equipment bag and said to his son, "Pizza?"

"Come on, David." Rodney forced himself to not look back as he walked away.