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this is where my heart is

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The jump rope slapped against the ground, a steady rhythm to Liam’s ears. Alone in the gym, he was able to shake off the pressure from the outside world and focus on all that mattered in that moment. His heartbeat thrummed in his ears, keeping a quick pace as he took measured breaths. As the rope slapped against the ground, Liam began to focus back on the room surrounding him. He could hear the front door of the gym opening, a steady trickle of voices flowing down the hall. It wouldn’t be long before Mr. Argent found him and berated him for coming so early and not sleeping after he’d chased him from the gym just after midnight. 

Smile tugging at his lips, Liam slowed his routine and came to a halt. He coiled the jump rope neatly and carried it to his locker, slipping it inside as he collected his phone. He immediately put his ear buds in and hurried for the side entrance, wincing as it loudly creaked open. He gave up on the pretense of being sneaky and threw the door open, dropping his phone into his pocket as he began to jog. He made his way down the maze of city streets, waving a greeting every now and then as he passed someone he knew. Keeping the easy pace, he turned onto his home street and let his gaze drift across the park. There, on the other side, were some of his classmates skipping rope and playing a game of double dutch.

Tugging out his ear buds, he jogged over to the fence around the park and swung himself over. As he approached the small group, his eyes lit up as Theo Raeken jumped into the middle. “Come on, Hayden! Make sure they touch the ground!” Theo instructed, watching the girl in front of him.

“They’re doing exactly what they need to be, Theo.” She snapped, rolling her eyes at him. Shaking his head, Liam let out a quiet chuckle and jumped in behind Theo. The ropes slapped against his ankle and Theo turned, smoldering green eyes narrowing at Liam.

“Really? Don’t you have someone else to bother?” The boy snapped.

“Gee, what crawled up your ass and died?” Liam snorted. “I was just having a little fun.”

“You think we’re just out here at the crack of dawn to have fun?” Hayden asked, scoffing at him. “We’re training for the regional competition this Friday.”

“So what? It’s a double dutch competition, it’s not a big deal.” Liam scoffed.

“Of course, a boxer like you doesn’t get it. This may not be a sport to you, but it’s serious for us.” Theo said, rolling his eyes. “Our routine has to be perfect this weekend so we can make it to the city round.”

“And that means no time to squabble with losers like you. So, goodbye.” Hayden wiggled her fingers at Liam in dismissal. He stepped forward, sliding his shoulder along Theo’s as he brushed past the other boy. Dark eyes watched him and he turned, backing away from the group and offering a mock salute. 

“I’ll see you around,” Liam said with a grin.

“Get out of here, Dunbar.” Theo said, stepping out of the tangle of ropes. “Josh, Hayden, can you turn for me again?”

“On it.” The ropes began to whirl and Liam shook his head, spinning on his heel and lightly jogging to his building. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow as he ascended the front steps, nose wrinkling as soon as he opened the door. 

“Liam? Is that you?” His dad called out.

“Yeah.” Mustering up a grin, he shuffled into the kitchen where a pot of chili was boiling. “Cooking again?” He asked.

“It smells awful,” his little sister complained. Liam nodded in sympathy, ruffling her hair. “Gross! Go shower, stinky!” She shoved at his arm and he laughed, dropping a kiss to the top of her head.

“Liam, leave Layla alone.” Their father chuckled softly. “I made my famous chili for you, Liam. Extra peppers, just the way you like.” He added.

“Thanks, dad.” Liam said, trying his best not to make a face. 

“I also made dessert, just like your mom.” He uncovered a dish that looked mostly burned and Liam smiled sadly. He knew their dad was trying his best to make things as normal as possible. Things hadn’t been easy since the passing of their mom, but his dad hadn’t given up. 

“Sounds great, dad. I just need to shower and I’ll come join you.” Liam promised.

“I’m proud of you for going to the gym so early. I’ve always said boxing is twenty percent hard work and-”

“Eighty percent heart,” Liam and Layla chorused together. “I’ll be down in a minute.” Liam promised, turning back toward the stairwell. 

“Son, don’t leave me stranded for too long. Your sister is already talking about fighting with her boyfriend on the phone last night.” His father groaned softly. 

“What are you, six?” Liam shot.

“I’m eight, moron.” Layla quipped back. Liam’s dad gently cuffed the back of her head and she rolled her eyes. “It’s true!”

“Stop calling your brother names, Layla. Liam, go get ready for school.” He nodded and jogged up the stairwell, stripping his clothes as he went. Tossing them into the hamper, he paused by his bedroom window and unlocked it before he could second guess himself. Making sure his bedroom door was locked, Liam walked into his bathroom and turned the shower on. He’d barely stepped under the warm spray before he heard someone rummaging about in his bedroom. He stepped aside just as the curtain was pulled back, Theo sliding into the space in front of him.

“Hey.” Theo said softly, eyeing him.

“Thought you were practicing?” Liam arched an eyebrow.

“Yeah, well, couldn’t keep my head in the game knowing you were up here without me.” Theo murmured, closing the distance between them. “Are you gonna kiss me or not?”

“I’ve got a better use for your mouth. You’d better stay quiet.” Liam warned, pushing Theo down onto his knees.

“We haven’t been caught yet,” Theo reminded with a low chuckle. Liam dug his fingers into his shoulder, narrowing his gaze. Theo turned, pressing a kiss to his wrist. “I won’t make a sound, daddy’s boy.”

“Fuck you.” Liam snarled, tangling his free hand in Theo’s hair. The other boy smirked and licked his lips, sinking down on him. Liam released Theo’s shoulder instantly, shoving his fist into his mouth. Closing his eyes, he lost himself in the sensations of Theo’s skilled lips and tongue while trying not to make a sound. He was well and truly fucked.