Disclaimer: The following story is fictitious. Though based on friends and personal circumstances, all characters and events are directly from my diseased mind and should not be mistaken for anyone living or dead. This story is rated R due to some graphic violence as well as descriptions of a sexual nature between same sex couples. Please do not remove from this archive without first obtaining permission from the author.

Summery: Ryan James, seventeen-year-old star wide receiver for the Hershey Bears, begins his junior year of High School with a new-found appreciation for individuality and a Gothic appearance that stuns both facility and students alike. From his no nonsense football coach, Mike Keating, to his best friend and quarterback, Brett Fahey, all are confused by this sudden change. Earning the jeers from fellow teammates and the scorn of his coach, Ryan must choose between following blindly along or standing up for what he believes in. Persecuted from every side, Ryan endures verbal and physical abuse from the student body. But unbeknownst to Ryan, a small group of people has decided that he will be the hero they so desperately need. And as these two factions slowly war for acceptance, he finds himself trapped between them. With loyalty to a friend whose secret could very well rip the school apart, Ryan must choose between his ideals and the friendship that could destroy them both. When everyone seems to be against Ryan James, this boy slowly becomes a man as he realizes that some things are worth fighting for, no matter the cost. This story chronicles the life of Ryan James as he grows and finds the true meaning of love from the most unlikely of places.

All emails will be answered promptly at fireangel197502@yahoo.com for any questions or comments regarding this or other stories.


Chapter One: Appearances Are Deceiving

By: FireAngel

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"Ryan Scott James! You better get up this instant young man. I'm not going to call you again."

The screeching voice of his mother pierced his head, causing a moan to escape his lips. Rolling over in his queen-sized bed, he stared at the ceiling with a dazed look on his young face. Some days he just hated his life. And the first day of school was always the worst. Trying to get back in the swing of things after a summer of goofing off, sticking to a schedule of someone else's design was always a pleasant task. Yep, I hate my life he silently thought.

Throwing off the covers, he sat on the edge of the bed and stifled a yawn. A loud pounding on the door interrupted his morning stretch.

"Ryan you better be up."

"I thought you said you weren't going to call me again." Ryan shouted back through the closed door.

"Don't get smart with me. Hurry up. Breakfast is almost ready." She called out as she headed back down the stairs.

"Yeah, yeah." He muttered as he stood up. Again stretching his lean frame, he shivered in the early morning chill that permeated his room. Yawning loudly, he stumbled into the bathroom adjacent to his room and fumbled with the faucet of the shower before emptying his bladder. After relieving himself, he stripped down and stepped under the lukewarm spray, relishing in the almost chilly experience of his morning ritual. Due to the cold water, it didn't take him long to finish his business and after drying off, he tied the towel around his waist and stepped up to the sink.

Looking into the large mirror that dominated one side of the bathroom, he brushed his teeth methodically. Peering at his reflection, he smiled. His brown hair was dyed black with a red stripe just behind his left ear and had a tendency to fall into his eyes at the most inopportune times. He wore it messy, a mass of spikes that stood out in all directions that gave him I just got out of bed look that was so popular.

During the previous summer, he had added to his collection of piercing. Now along with his ears, he had two eyebrow rings, one on either side. His face was angular; all planes and angles with a smallish nose that looked almost feminine. As he began to apply black eyeliner around his blue eyes, he noticed how pale his skin was. The dark lipstick he wore along with the eyeliner offset his pale skin giving him an almost cadaverous appearance. All in all, he was quite happy with his new gothic look.

Smiling into the mirror, he winked and stated, "Knock `em dead killer."

Walking into his bedroom, he grabbed the first pair of jeans in his closet and threw them on the bed. Choosing a black T-shirt with red lettering that stated boldly, `My Dick Tastes Like Chapstick.' he slipped it over his head. After grabbing a pair of red boxers, he quickly pulled his pants on. Attaching a long chain to one of the belt loops, he sat down and put his shoes and socks on.

Grabbing his backpack, he made sure his Discman had batteries that still worked. After raiding his CD collection and adding them to the bag, he grabbed his cigarettes from the floor next to his bed and shoved them inside his baggy pockets. Then almost as an afterthought, he fastened a studded necklace around his pale neck. Looking into the mirror hanging on the back of his door, he made sure everything was perfect.

Opening the door, he made his way down the hall and stomped down the stairs. Walking into the kitchen, he dropped his bag on the floor and sat in one of the stools lining the breakfast bar.

His mother looked up from the sink and asked in a pained voice, "Oh Ryan. You're not really going to school like that are you?"

"Yeah. What's wrong with it?" He asked, though already knowing the answer.

"I was hoping the makeup and the new clothes was just a passing summer fad or something." She stated with a worried frown.

Shrugging, he replied, "I like the way I look."

Sighing deeply, she turned and started setting out the plates for breakfast. After a few moments of silence, she began, "Aren't you afraid people make think you're..." She faltered though she still stuck out her arm making the wrist limp.

"Gay." Ryan finished the statement, his face unreadable.

"Yeah." She said more confidently. "Aren't you worried about that?"

"Not really." He stated without concern. "People can think what ever they want." Grabbing the plate of eggs from his mother, he busied himself with his breakfast.

"Son. You know you can tell me anything." She started even as Ryan rolled his eyes and continued to eat. "I would still love you no matter what."

"Jesus mom." Ryan exploded, moving away from her hand as she tried to brush his cheek. "What's wrong with you?"

"Are you..." She began, too scared to finish the question burning in her mind.

"Are you asking me if I'm gay?" He blurted, seeing the horror in her eyes as she nodded silently at him.

"I'm going to school." He stated as he grabbed his bag. Walking past her, he did something he rarely did anymore. He bent down and kissed her cheek saying softly, "I love you too."

She watched him walk out the front door with tears in her eyes. Reaching up, she lightly touched her face where he had kissed her. Suddenly smiling, she began cleaning up his half-eaten breakfast.

"Mom, mom." Bryan called out as he ran into the room.

Looking at the ten-year-old, she answered with a smile, "Yes sweetie."

Looking at her, he laughed and said, "You have something on you're cheek."

Wiping her face, her smiled slipped when she realized it was Ryan's lipstick. "It's nothing. Did Ryan say goodbye to you this morning?"

"No. I saw him run down the stairs. He was wearing lipstick again wasn't he?" Bryan asked with his blue eyes wide.

Not knowing how to answer such a question, she smiled at her youngest son and dished out a plate of eggs for him.

Climbing on the stool, Bryan said, "Mom."


"Timmy says Ryan's a faggot cause he wears makeup. Is that true?" Bryan demanded, his small face intently peering at her.

"Now Bryan. How many times have I told you not to use the word faggot? The proper term is homosexual or gay. And I don't want you saying things like that about your brother."

"But is he?" The brown haired boy wanted to know. "Because everyone hates fa...gays at my school."

Choking back her first response, she smiled sweetly at him and said cheerfully, "I have an idea, why don't you ask him next time you see him. Now sit down and eat you're breakfast."



After leaving the house, Ryan promptly lit a cigarette. Drawing the blue black smoke deep into his lungs, he sighed contentedly. Despite the harmful ramifications of smoking, the nicotine did wonders for his stress levels. Not that a seventeen-year-old had much stress, but it helped.

Lost in his own thoughts, it didn't take him long to walk the six blocks to school. And if he were paying attention, he would have seen all the stares by several students as he walked past them. Their whispers and stares were lost on him as he shuffled down the sidewalk weighing the words his mother had said. For him, wearing makeup wasn't about being gay or straight. It was more of a quiet rebellion against stereotypes, a need to be different than the norm.

No matter what confidence he projected to his mother, he paused as he reached the school grounds. Staring at the school, he knew that his life was about to change. For good or ill, his choice to express his individuality was about to be tested in the most extreme setting, high school.

Adjusting his baggy jeans, he crossed the street and entered the Quad. As he walked through the carefully manicured lawns of the school grounds, he recognized most of the students as they loudly talked and laughed together, rebuilding the bonds of friendship that had grown stale over the summer break.

Just as he would have to rebuild his own bonds with his friends as he spent the summer with his cousin in Orlando Florida. Orlando, the melting pot of the world. That strange place dominated by a mouse where he found his new affection for makeup and gothic appearance. He had just arrived back home a few days earlier and had yet run across his old friends. Wondering how they would react to his new fashion sense, he headed towards the gym. A favorite meeting place where his circle would meet every day before classes began.

Seeing his friends from the football team gathered around one of the red picnic tables, he headed towards when the bell sounded. Figuring he would find them later, he slowly made his way into the auditorium and found a seat in the last row. After listening to the same speech the Principle made every year, he headed for his locker that luckily was right outside his homeroom.

The bright orange lockers reminded him of sentinels guarding the minds of the young as they lined the hallways, contrasting dizzily against the white walls and concrete floors. Staring at the lockers always gave him a headache, and he tried to avoid them whenever possible. As he made his way down the crowded hallway, he noticed most people made an obvious effort to avoid him, getting out of his way like he carried the plague. Laughing softly at the reaction, he stowed most of his stuff in the locker and walked inside his homeroom.

The room was empty save for three students, recognizing the attractive redhead, he walked over and stopped in front of her desk, saying, "Jesus Mindy, don't you know me?"

For a moment, Mindy stared at the freak standing in front of her, something about the boy was familiar but it wasn't until he spoke that she knew him. "Oh my god, what did you do to yourself Ryan?"

Looking down, he replied in a casual tone, "Nothing. Why do you ask?"

She laughed, looked at her friends around her and said haltingly, "I like it."

"Liar." He said with a laugh before finding a seat in the back. As more people arrived, Mindy made sure to let them know that the freak in the back of the room was none other than Ryan James, the best receiver the football team ever had. This information caused more than a few to glare at him, shaking their head disapprovingly.

He paid little attention to the glares and stares; he had gotten use to the added attention his wardrobe attracted. And once the teacher walked through the door, he figured it would calm down eventually.

"Good morning everyone. Welcome back to another year."

"Mrs. Feldman." Mindy called out, raising her hand quickly.

"Yes." The frumpy older woman said with a warm smile.

"May I go to the bathroom?"


Grabbing a sheet from her briefcase, Mrs. Feldman began taking roll. Her eyes widened when she called Ryan's name and the gothic boy raised his hand. "Oh dear boy. What did you do to yourself?" She asked, shaking her head sadly.

He didn't answer but instead smiled wildly and sat there quietly. For the most part, the rest of the morning went the same. Friends and even students he never talked to before approached him between classes demanding to know why he dressed like that. Some were indifferent to the change in him, some were standoffish, snobby towards him and others were down right rude. Going as far as turning their backs on him.

Somehow he made it as far as lunch without running into any of his close friends. But as he walked outside to the Quad during lunch, he searched the crowd for Brett Fahey and Lee Nelson, his two best friends and teammates.

Finding them sitting on the edge of one of the large fountains, he walked over to them smiling. He had missed them during the long summer in Orlando and was looking forward to filling them in on the fun he had there.

But when Lee saw him walking over, he spoke in a loud sarcastic voice, "Mindy said you looked like a faggot but I didn't believe her."

To say he was taken aback would be an understatement. A look of confusion crept across his face and he said, "What?"

"You know only faggots wear makeup." Lee said loudly. Most of the football team laughed along with the popular jock, pushing and shoving one another in that bizarre way males agree with one another.

Ryan ignored Lee's comment and turned his attention to Brett, his best friend since grade school. He felt crushed when Brett refused to meet his gaze.

Urged on by the cheers of his teammates, Lee continued his tirade, "Coach is going to flip when he sees that shit on your face. He's going to kill you."

Regaining his power speech, Ryan spat out, "It shouldn't matter to coach or to you what the fuck I wear."

"It fucking matters. I don't want no faggot in the locker room while I'm changing." Lee shot back loudly, looking at his fellow teammates for support.

"Take it easy." Brett finally cautioned, looking around the Quad. Already more than a few students were watching the argument intently. As if they were waiting for the reaction from the popular students before making their own decision about Ryan's change of appearance.

"Do you want a faggot watching you shower? Drooling over you as you change." Lee asked the popular quarterback. "I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on the same team as a makeup wearing faggot."

Looking at his friend with disgust plainly written on his face, Ryan asked, "Is that what you think?"


Turning his attention to quarterback, he asked, "How about you Brett?"

"Coach is going to be pissed." Brett said slowly, avoiding the question.

"I don't need this." Ryan stated calmly. Turning away from his teammates, his friends, he headed towards the opposite side of the Quad. Walking away as far as possible from the life he once had. Lighting up a cigarette, he leaned against the wall and sunk down, hugging his knees tightly as he smoked. From his vantage point, he could see the jocks laughing and pointing at him. Fighting back his anger, he would wait and talk to Coach. He was sure Coach would be able to work it out.

Putting the comments from his teammates from his mind, he absently watched the other students roaming around the Quad. As he watched them, he realized how many cliches and gangs dominated the school. He had never really noticed the other students before; he had always been too busy to pay attention to them.

About twenty feet from where he knelt, five boys were standing together smoking and laughing loudly. All of them were wearing black jeans with black leather jackets. Each had long greasy looking hair that made them appear dirty. Laughing softly, he wondered how far they would go to be considered cool. Though it was autumn, the weather was still fairly warm and he was hot in his T-shirt, he could only imagine how much they had to be roasting wearing those leather jackets.

Letting his eyes wander, he saw five freshmen pushing around smaller freshman for no other reason than to establish the pecking order that would control their lives for the next four years. All around him were kids vying for acceptance, picking on the weak to show how strong they were.

With a sigh, he realized the trap he had fallen into. He had always been popular; being a great athlete pretty much assured his spot in the hierarchy of school. On top of that, he held the record for the most touchdowns a single receiver scored in a single year. And he was just beginning his junior year. Coach had pretty much stated this was the year the championship came home.

Now, for the first time, he saw life through the other side. For as simple as changing one's attire, he suddenly wasn't popular anymore. Kids who would have given anything just to be seen talking to him a year earlier, now avoided him in the halls. Friends he had grown up with now called him names blatantly to his face.

It was as if a veil lifted from his eyes, everything seemed clear for the first time. None of that truly matter. Despite wearing different clothes, he was still the same person he always had been. An average student, a great ball player, and a normal kid that liked going to movies and hanging out with his friends. If they didn't like the person he had become, then he didn't need them.

As the bell sounded, he had already forgotten his so called friends. His mind was focused on his next class. Creativity was never his strong suite and he was more than a bit worried about passing art class.

He stepped inside the brightly-lit room just as the bell sounded. Sara Evans, the art teacher, looked up at him and rolled her eyes, as if to say, `not another one.' Smiling his most dazzling smile, he surveyed the room in a glance. Seeing a boy with blue spiky hair sitting in the back of the class, he decided his safest bet was to sit next to him. Dropping his books on the table, he sat down and whispered, "Ms. Evans gets sexier every year don't you think?"

The boy looked at Ryan, a blank stare on his face before turning back to the paper he was sketching on. Sighing loudly, Ryan focused on the teacher standing in the front of the class.

Sara Evans was in her early thirties, slim due to a strict regime of exercise. Plain in an almost elegant way, her blonde hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail. Her blue jeans and white blouse were casual but the blue smock covering her clothes were all business.

"All right class." She began as she paced around the room. "Since this is the first day and we have quite a few new students, I like to start off by finding out where each of you are at. I like to gauge the talent that I will be harnessing and instructing. Grab your pads and begin sketching something. It doesn't matter what it is, this is only so I'll know the areas we need to work on."

Grabbing some paper from his bag, he looked around for a pencil. Not finding one, he settled on a pen and stared at the blank page. He had no idea what to draw. Glancing over at the kid sitting next to him, he watched in fascination. Seemingly without thought the boy was quickly sketching the outlines of two dragons flying through the air fighting. Right before his eyes, the boy made the dragons come alive. He could almost feel the heat from their fiery breath as they fought.

"You're really good." Ryan stated sincerely.

Grunting, the boy continued his fast paced drawing.

"I'm Ryan."

"That's nice." Came the annoyed reply.

Rolling his eyes, he went back to staring at the blank sheet of paper before him. Sara had not stopped her pacing and had been stopping at each table to chat and encourage each student briefly. When she made back to the table where he sat, she looked at him and said, "Mr. James, very interesting attire."

"Glad you like it." He shot back with a grin.

"If only you could be as creative on paper as you are with your wardrobe you'd be just fine." She stated flatly before moved on to the boy next to him saying, "Nice work as usual Tobias."

Tobias didn't acknowledge her but focused on the dragons he was creating. He had now added riders to the backs of each dragon and Ryan was amazed at the speed in which he worked.

Tobias was dressed in the same style, studded necklace, and baggy jeans with a chain dangling from the belt loop, black T-shirt. He had on eyeliner but wore no lipstick. His spiky blue hair almost matched his blue eyes perfectly. He seemed fairly skinny sitting down and Ryan couldn't be sure how tall he was, but he looked to be around average height.

By now Sara had moved to other students and he had yet began sketching. Without taking his eyes from the paper before him, Tobias quietly said, "Don't worry about her. Anyone can pass this class. All they have to do is show up."

"Really." Ryan said with relief. "Cause I can't draw to save my life."

"You don't have to worry. She grades on effort not talent. It's people like me she kills with criticism." Tobias stated flatly, still maintaining his gaze on the paper. Like he was scared to look at anyone in the eye.

"That's not fair but I'm glad." Ryan said with a smile, though he was slightly confused by this talented kid.

"I'm Tobias."

"I know. I heard." Ryan answered as he began sketching his messy bedroom. If the boy was right, it didn't really matter what he did in this class, as long as he tried he would pass. That was good enough for him.

"I like the shirt." Tobias said so quietly that Ryan wasn't sure if the boy had spoken or he had imagined it.

"Thanks. I bought it in Florida over the summer."

Putting the pencil down, Tobias suddenly looked directly at the boy next to him. Their eyes locked and for a moment, they stared intently at one another. Suddenly Tobias shook his head slightly and blurted out, "Aren't you that football player everyone loves so much?"

Shrugging, Ryan stated, "I haven't felt much love today."

"Football's boring anyway." The blue haired boy said flatly. "I've never even been to a game."

"Is this your first year here?" Ryan asked, changing the subject. The rejection by his friends earlier still stinging in his heart.

"Nope." Tobias murmured, picking up his pencil again. "I grew up here."

"No way." Ryan argued. "I never saw you before."

Giving him a weird smile, Tobias answered, "That's cause I'm a ghost."


"A ghost. You know invisible. People don't see me anymore. They might see the hair and clothes I wear but they don't see me." Tobias answered in a tone that stated he believed it.

"That's messed up."

"That's life. When I graduate next year. I bet no one will remember I even existed." The boy said with an amused gleam in his eyes.

"That doesn't bother you?"

"Should it?" He fired back. "Everyone knew you and look how that turned out."

Shrugging, Ryan offered, "Maybe. You might have something there."

Sara interrupted them by looking over Ryan's shoulder, saying, "Not bad, is that mess your room?"


"Looks like you're creative with messes as well as attire."

Walking away, Tobias looked over at the sketch and started laughing, teasing, "You weren't lying were you."

Flashing the boy a smile, he replied, "I can play football though."

"Dressed like that?" Tobias asked sharply, he had heard the rumors floating around school already.

"You heard about that huh?" Ryan asked, shocked how fast the story spread.

"Until you showed up like that today, I was the only freak." Tobias explained. "What else would be talk about if they couldn't talk about the football fag."

Staring at Tobias thoughtfully, Ryan stated, "You think I'm gay too."

"That's the beauty about being a ghost." Tobias said mysteriously. "People can never be sure about what they see."

The bell sounded and Tobias stood up and quickly left the room. Calling out for him to wait, he picked up the sketch from the table when Tobias disappeared into the hallway. Looking at the finished product, he stared in amazement.

The dragons were so life like; you could almost see the individual scales of each dragon. The riders were clinging to the backs of the dragons and in they're hands were curved swords. One of the dragons had multiply wounds and the picture led you to believe that it would be soon over. And at the bottom of the drawing, Tobias had written, `Appearances are deceiving.'

Smiling, he placed the drawing carefully into his backpack, feeling better than he had all day. He quickly left the classroom and headed for the gym. He had never liked PE, even though he exercised strenuously, the idea of standing around doing push-ups and set-ups with a room filled with lazy people always made his skin crawl. Basically it was a waste of an hour he could spend on other things.

Running down the hall, he entered the locker room and quickly changed into his sweats. His so-called friends were there and they continued the name-calling. Biting down his anger, he let it slide and walked into the large gymnasium as the bell sounded.

Most of the football team had PE together along with most of the seniors. About thirty kids stood around talking loudly, waiting for Coach Keating to arrive. Coach Keating was a large man, barrel chested with thick arms and legs that gave the impression of a tank. Being completely bald did little to soften the image he projected. Though some of the better players could tease him about spending too much time polishing his head, everyone held the man in awe.

When the big man entered the gym, his eyes grew wild and his veins stood out on his forehead when he saw Ryan standing there. Rushing over, he called out in his deep voice, demanding loudly, "James, get your ass over here."

The rest of the players started laughing as Ryan walked over and stood in front of the man he respected as a father. From the corner of his eye, Ryan looked at Brett who looked away.

"What's the meaning of this?" He asked, running his thick hand through the spiky hair.

"I colored it." Ryan said simply.

"Colored it." Keating said disgustingly. "And what about that metal sticking out of your face?"

"It's just piercing Coach." Ryan stated, jerking his out away from the man's hands.

"Is that makeup?"

"Yes." Ryan answered, amazed at how calm he sounded. His heart was pounding as the man he loved like a father berated him in front of the other players. He could stand the jeers from the team without batting an eye; after all they were only kids. But the look in the big man's eyes made him want to cry.

"Have you gone queer on me boy?" Keating demanded loudly, his face red from the anger coursing through him.

Ryan noticed everyone laughing but Brett, who just stood there staring at him with a pained look on his face. All the anger he felt over the course of the day erupted to the surface. He spat defiantly, "What do you think?"

"I think any boy who wears metal in his head and makeup on his face is a grade A number one faggot." Keating replied. Demanding loudly, "Now you go in that locker room and take out all that metal and wash off that sissy makeup before I..."

"Before you what?" Ryan yelled back, his eyes filled with rage.

"I don't have faggots on my team." Keating stated the threat clear to every boy in the gym. "If you want to play football, you'll take that shit off right now."

"Then I guess I won't play on you're team this year Coach." Ryan stated sadly, the anger draining from him suddenly. "I thought better of you."

"James." Keating ordered. "You run around this gym until your faggot ass passes out or you change your mind. Everyone else, let's go."

Ryan took off running, fighting back the tears that started to fall down his cheeks. Not growing up with a father, he had always thought of the big man as his father. Coach had always said he would be there for his players, to help them both on the field and off. Apparently that was only if you followed the rules he set down.

For the rest of the period, he ran around the gym while everyone else played basketball. By the time Coach called him over, he was exhausted and ready to collapse. Not wanting to give the big man the satisfaction of seeing him quit, he had pushed himself beyond his limits. But when he stood in front of the Coach, his back was straight and his head was held high. Looking much like a battered woman, with his eyeliner running down his cheeks, he waited for the man to speak.

"Have you changed your mind?" Keating asked bluntly.

"It shouldn't matter how I dress or how I look to play football." Ryan stated between gulps of air. "I'm the same player I was last year. Nothing's changed."

"Something changed. Something is different. You use to respect me." Keating said softly. "If you're having problems at home, I can help you. All you have to do is talk to me about it."

"Nothing's wrong." Ryan stated.

"Is it drugs?"

"You know me better than that." Ryan said hotly.

"You disgust me."

"Then I haven't changed my mind."

"Get out of my gym."

Walking slowly to the locker room, he held his head high. The rest of the students watched at his retreating form, while the Coach ordered loudly, "From now on Ryan James is dead to us. His name and all his records will be wiped from the books. It's as if he never existed."

Tears began falling anew as he heard those words and the silent acceptance from the team. Not wanting to be there when the others returned, he showered quickly. He was sitting down drying off when Lee walked in with four of his buddies.

"Look at the little faggot." Lee said with a sneer.

He ignored them, though each one shoved him as they walked past, he meekly accepted the abuse. He was too numb to care what they thought. As he threw his dirty gym clothes in his locker, he remembered the sketch Tobias had left for him. Again, the sketch awakened indifference inside him. Let the Coach's of the world and idiots like Lee believe what they wished. Deep inside, he knew the truth and they truly did not matter. So he shrugged off the words and went to the rest of his classes.

Word had spread quickly that he had basically admitted to being gay by not defending himself. To the small-minded student body, it was an admission of guilt. And for the rest of the day students who needed to feel better about themselves or to look good in the eyes of their peers verbally bashed him, calling him names ranging from faggot to cocksucker and every thing in between. It was a true test of will that he managed to hold on to his temper, choosing to ignore the comments. Knowing after a time most would forget about him and he could go on about finishing his high school years.

When the bell sounded signaling the end of the day, he headed back to the locker room to pick up his sweaty gym clothes. As he entered the locker room, the smell of dirty clothes and sweat mixed with chlorine assaulted him. Crinkling his nose at the smell, he smiled as he realized that was one thing he would not miss about football. Making his way to his locker, he opened it and retrieved his clothes. Shutting the door, he grabbed his backpack and turned when he heard someone approaching. Cursing softly, he looked into the eyes of Lee Nelson.

Along with two others, Lee was coming out from the shower and all were wearing towels. Lee growled, "What the fuck are you looking at faggot?"

Shaking his head, he hitched his backpack over his shoulder and tried to walk past them.

"Where the fuck are you going faggot?" Lee asked, shoving him into the row of lockers.

One of the lineman, chipped in, "He was probably staring at us while we showered. Getting his faggot jollies off."

"Were you watching me?" Lee asked pointedly.

Brushing them off again, Ryan tried to walk past the three boys. Lee growled something and punched Ryan hard in the stomach, causing him to drop his backpack and fall against the bench.

"Did you like what you saw faggot" Lee asked, grabbing his crotch.

Ryan stared at him blankly, trying to recover his breath. "Answer me." Lee yelled, punching the boy in the face, splitting his lip in the process and knocking him off the bench. The three boys were laughing as Ryan struggled to his knees, blood dripping down his chin.

"I bet he was watching us shower and jacking off. I bet he wants my cock." Lee stated as he dropped his towel to the floor showing his swelling cock. "You want my cock don't you faggot."

Shaking his head, Ryan spat out, "Fuck you Lee."

Lee punched him in the face again, saying, "Wrong answer."

Ryan's eye started to swell as Lee grabbed him by the hair and pulled him close to his crotch, inches from the now hard erection. "I said you better suck my cock faggot."

"What a minute Lee." One of the linemen said. "This is going too far."

"Shut up." Lee spat, smacking Ryan on the top of the head.

Ryan looked up at the boy he called friend for most of his life. The boy he laughed with, got drunk with, played football with. Tears began falling down his cheeks as he realized most everything he believed in was a lie. The tears fell down his cheeks mixing with the blood from his lip, making a small pink pool in his lap.

"Look at the faggot crying, begging for my cock." Lee said gleefully, his eyes filled with hate and lust.

Something inside Ryan clicked; the numb feeling he had all day disappeared and in its place was the anger and rage of one of the toughest wide receivers to ever play the game. As he watched Lee smile down at him, he knew if he took this meekly, he would have to deal with it for the rest of the year. Reaching out with his hand, he grabbed the erection hesitantly and with his other hand, he latched on to the testicles hanging inches from his face. Looking directly into Lee's glazed eyes, he smiled viscously and squeezed. Lee screamed loudly and Ryan yanked down hard. The boy fell to his knees and Ryan reared back and with all his anger, punched his friend right in the face, shattering the boy's nose. Blood flew everywhere, splattering the lockers and floor as well as Ryan's face. Ryan let go of the boy's testicles and stood up, facing the other two boys as they watched in stunned silence.

Suddenly turning the corner, Brett stood there, demanding, `What the fuck is going on here?" Seeing Lee lying naked on the floor, blood pouring from his broken nose and Ryan standing over him with one black eye and a cut lip, he figured it out pretty quickly.

Lee stammered, somehow managing to stand up still clenching his nose, "That faggot was watching us shower."

Ryan looked at Lee with contempt, spitting on the man before saying, "Who's the faggot here Lee? You or me?"

As Ryan walked away, Lee shouted out, "I'm going to get you for this faggot."

Brett ran after Ryan, pausing to pick up the man's backpack. He caught up with him in front of the school. Ryan was sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. Brett walked over and sat down next to his longest friend. Placing the backpack between them, Brett asked, "Are you okay?"

"Of course." Ryan said, looking at him with a smile. "He hits like a girl."

"You should report him." Brett advised.

Shaking his head, Ryan whispered, "Three to one. They wouldn't believe me anyway, not now."

Looking at the boy he had know most of his life, Brett wondered what happened over the summer. As friends they were as close as brothers. As teammates, they made one of the best quarterback/receiver combinations the town had ever seen. Voicing his thoughts, Brett asked, "What happened to you this summer?"

"I could ask the same about you." Ryan replied harshly as he threw his cigarette on the ground. "You use to stand up for me."

"You're different."

"No Brett." Ryan said sadly, trying to put into words what he was feeling. "I'm the same. I learned something this past summer. I learned what it means to live for you. To do things because I want too not because other people expect me too. I'm not living my life for other people anymore."

"You use to love football."

"I still do but I won't play for an asshole like Keating or a school that treats people like me with nothing but hate." Ryan spat. "Not anymore."

"So it's all true." Brett said softly. "All the rumors about you."

Looking at Brett, Ryan shook his head and stared at the few students milling around the almost empty parking lot. Brett offered quietly, "If you stop dressing like that. The makeup and the strange clothes, people will forget about today. It might make things easier for you."

"My appearance does not dictate sexuality. My clothes shouldn't matter to you."

"Me, no. But what about the others? Everyone thinks your gay now." Brett whispered softly, making sure no one heard his words.

"Because I'm different, people think I'm gay." Ryan said angrily standing up. Grabbing his bag, he stated, "Listen to me Brett. You of all people know appearances can be deceiving."

Turning away, Ryan started walking when Brett called out, "You know Ry."

"What?" Ryan asked, facing his friend.

"I'll never hurt you." Brett said, tearing forming in his eyes.

"I know." Ryan said with a sad smile. "Just like I would never hurt you. Do want you have to do Brett. I'll understand."

He turned and walked quickly down the street. A few blocks from his house, he heard someone shouting out his name. Seeing his little brother, he stopped and waited patiently for the boy to catch up to him. His brother ran up and jumped into his arms, giving him a tight hug.

"How was you're first day of school?" Ryan asked, carrying his brother in his arms.

"It was good. `Cept kids were talking about you." Bryan informed the older boy, resting his cheek against his lovingly.

"And what were they saying?" He asked with a smile, kissing the boy.

Bryan sheepishly replied, "They called you gay."

Continuing to walk with his brother cradled in his arms, he searched for the right words to say. Deciding, he asked, "Do you know what being gay means?"

Shaking his head, Bryan answered in his small voice, "No. `Cept everyone hates gay people."

"Would you hate me if I was gay?" Ryan asked his brother seriously.

"No." Exclaimed his brother. "I could never hate you. Then who would play football with me."

"That's right gremlin." Placing the younger boy on the ground, he stated as he took off running, "Come on, I'll race you home."

"No fair you cheated." Bryan exclaimed as he chased after his brother running as fast as he could while carrying a backpack and lunch pail.

Letting his brother pass him, the little boy started jumping up and down gleefully when he reached the front door saying, "I won I won."

"Yes you did." Ryan laughed, opening the door. As they entered the house laughing, they're mother greeted them in the kitchen holding a plate of cookies.

Bryan exclaimed loudly, beaming with pride, "I beat Ryan in a race."

Looking at Ryan's swollen face and cut lip, his mother asked worriedly, "What happened to you?"

Laughing, Ryan winked at her and replied, "Deceiving appearances."

To Be Continued

Copyright©2004 Burning Angel