This story deals with a gay teenage romantic theme with occasional melodramatic and sexual situations. The usual restrictions apply: please read no further if this type of story isn't to your tastes, or if you're under legal age. This story may not be reprinted anywhere without permission. The contents are ©2003 by John Francis; All rights reserved. Comments to the author are welcomed at

early September, 2002
Chatsworth, California


Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name...
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game.

The Rolling Stones — “Sympathy for the Devil”
Music & Lyrics by Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
©1966 Rolling Stones Music
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 3
Kyle McDermott sighed. It never fails, he thought. In the three years he'd known Dylan, the guy had never been able to show up on time. Not even once. Over the last year, he and his best friend had been running faithfully every Tuesday and Thursday without fail at 6:00AM, but Dylan was always late.

He checked his watch again. Shit -- - 6:10 already! He glanced to his left. Already, the first orange fingers of sunrise were visible in the horizon. In another hour or two, the already-oppressive Chatsworth heat would send the thermometer soaring. They were predicting at least 110 again today, and that was a conservative estimate.

"Dammit," he said out loud.

The whole point of their early-morning runs was to keep their cardio level pumped, without making them drop dead because of the summer heat. They had to keep up their workouts, especially during the summer, to increase their chances of making the team this year. Now that they were both juniors, they actually had a fighting chance to make varsity, and they'd worked hard all summer to make it happen.

Two middle-aged runners trotted past him, and they nodded at him. Mason Park was one of the best-kept secrets of the area -- - an ideal path for runners of all ages, with a slightly-steeped incline on the East side to make it a little more of a challenge. On days when Dylan and Kyle felt particularly strong, they'd skip the park and jog right over the bridge by the 118 Freeway and right up into the Santa Susana hills. Kyle almost always won, but then, as the wide receiver, running and endurance were his key strengths. But he was always pushing Dylan to keep up his cardio; just because his friend was the quarterback with all the muscles didn't mean he couldn't actually run with the ball once in awhile, too.

Kyle stared again into the sunset. "Where the fuck are you, Dylan?" he said out loud. He let out a sigh. Shit, he thought. Ten more minutes, then I'm runnin' on my own.

* * * * *

Less than three miles away, standing stark naked inside his bathroom in his parent's sprawling $6 million dollar estate, Dylan Callahan was filling up a small disposable hypodermic syringe with 50CCs of a dark amber liquid. The ampoule was boldly labeled "DecaDurabolin: Nandrolone-Deconate. Anabolic Steroid -- - By Prescription Only." Several other small lines of type in Spanish were below it, with the manufacturer indicated as "The Oraganon Corp.," with an address somewhere in Costa Rica.

He carefully set down the small glass container on the sink, then upended the syringe and squeezed it gently to make sure the container was free of air bubbles. He nodded his head with satisfaction, then moved his hand down beside his right buttock.

Dylan always hated this part. Dealing with the needles was bad enough, but he wasn't a big fan of pain, either. He gritted his teeth. Relax, he told himself. It hurts less when you just relax. After a moment, he gently exhaled as he jabbed the needle in about half an inch, then slowly pressed in the plunger. He felt a slight burning sensation for a moment, then it was over. That should do it.

He deftly removed the needle from his skin, then grabbed a section of the Sunday LA Times he'd brought in with him to the room, and carefully wrapped the syringe around it. After one scare the year before, when the maid found a syringe in the bathroom trashcan, he wasn't about to let that happen again. He'd carry the newspaper under his arm and toss it in a neighborhood dumpster down the street.

Dylan returned the ampoule to its hiding place in the bottom drawer and glanced at himself in the mirror. The 17 year-old athlete smiled. Even by his own impossibly-high standards, his body had showed remarkable progress over the last couple of years. The constant workouts and the dieting had helped, but the juice made all the difference. By his own quick calculations, he had gained at least 20 pounds of solid muscle since last fall. If this kept up, he'd hit 200 pounds by the end of the year, easy, making him the equal of all but the biggest players on the varsity team. He brought his arms up in the classic overhead bodybuilder pose. Excellent, he thought. The bicep split was getting even bigger!

Dylan felt an involuntary twinge in his groin. Shit, he thought. Was he getting turned-on by his own reflection? He let his arms drop and leaned forward, staring at the glass. The tanned, muscular young athlete he saw in the mirror was almost a stranger to him -- yet the face still had the same dark brown hair, the same mouth, and the same innocent hazel eyes that peered back at him, unblinking.

He glanced down at his wristwatch. 6:18. Fuck! It'd taken longer than he thought to get ready for the morning run with Kyle. He reached for the wireless phone on the wall and quickly hit the speed-dial.

"You asshole!" cried the voice that answered.

"Shit, Kyle, I'm totally sorry, dude," he said, as he raced into his bedroom to jump into a pair of shorts. "I'm stackin' Deca and Anadrol this week, and I had to take a dose before I left so I could stay on schedule."

Kyle let out a sigh. "You're doin' 'way too much of that shit, man," he warned, shaking his head. "If they ever do drug-testing at school..."

"...they'd have to drop 3/4 of the guys from our team," Dylan finished. "C'mon, Kyle -- every player in the state is doin' it. You know it, I know it, and Coach doesn't give a shit as long he doesn't see any of it at school."

"Whatever," replied Kyle, exasperated. He'd heard it all before.

"Look, just gimme five minutes. I'll be there in a flash." Dylan yanked the T-shirt over his head and reached for a pair of socks. "Meet me by the tree on the South side of the park, same as always."

"Stop talkin' and start drivin', asshole!" The line went dead.

Dylan grinned and clicked off the receiver. He and Kyle went back a long time, since he started going to Patrick Henry Middle School back in 9th grade. They'd spent so much time together, it was almost like they were brothers. Maybe they fought like brothers, too. He sighed, shook his head, jumped into his running shoes, and darted across the hall, then hit the stairs at top speed, bounding down three steps at a time as he leapt into the living room.

Lady looked up from her post by the front door. She gave a little bark of recognition when she saw her master jump down the last step, then stood up and yawned.

"Hi, girl!" called Dylan, who trotted over to the dog and wrapped his hands around her long neck. "What are you doin' inside? Mom'll kill us both if she catches you here."

She nuzzled his face, then happily licked his chin. Her long brown fur shined like gold in the morning sun that reflected through the foyer's massive glass wall, and she grinned and barked again. She desperately wanted the boy to take him outside and play ball, like they did at least two or three times a week.

The teen laughed and stroked her head. She'd been such a terrified little pup when they first moved here. Maybe they both were. But look at 'em now: they were both tall, strong, and beautiful, like champion thoroughbreds. "Love ya, girl," he called, as he gently led her down the hallway to the kitchen. "But I can't play now. I'll take you out later on this afternoon, I promise. But you gotta go back outside to the yard."

The dog sniffed. She caught a faint odor of something she didn't like, something vaguely foreign and medicinal. She obediently followed her young master to the backyard, and watched as he waved goodbye. A minute later, she ran to the side yard to peer over the fence as the car backed out of the driveway. Lady always looked forward to Tuesdays -- trash pick-up day -- - but she knew by instinct that the trucks weren't due to pick up at the house for at least another hour. She yawned, trudged over to her dog house, then contentedly lay her head down on a floor cushion and closed her eyes.

* * * * *

"I'll give him one more minute," the hulking blond athlete muttered to himself. "That's it. Then I'm gonna just..."

Suddenly, from the right, a car honked and roared up to the curb, screeching its tires as it came to a sudden stop.

"Dude!" he yelled. "I was this close to fuckin' givin' up!"

Dylan smiled as he stood up and leaped over the door of the silver BMW M-series Roadster convertible.

"Simmer down, man!" he said, grinning. "You knew I'd get here eventually. C'mon -- - I say I can beat ya! Two-mile run in under 12 minutes."

Kyle laughed. He always found Dylan's challenges irresistible. "That'll be the day," he snorted. "No fuckin' way, G."

"Care to make it a wager?"

"Sure. Loser has to blow the winner."

The smile on Dylan's face immediately dissipated. "Figures a homo like you would say that," he said tersely.

"Fuck you, Callahan!"


Kyle rolled his eyes. "Dude, you're the one who started it by being 20 goddamned minutes late! You're always fuckin' late!"

Dylan glared at him. "Are we gonna run or what?"

His friend sighed and stood in position. "Alright, alright. On the count of three! One... two... two and a half..."

And with that, Kyle took off like a shot down the path.

Dylan was speechless, then began laughing hysterically. "Dude, you are such an asshole!"

His friend was already 20 yards ahead of him. "You're gonna owe me a blow job!" he taunted over his shoulder.

Asshole, thought Dylan, as he angrily tore down the sidewalk with lightning speed.

* * * * *

Half an hour later, both teens were dripping with sweat. Even though it wasn't quite 7AM, the temperature was already 92 degrees and the humidity was almost overpowering.

"I'm done," yelled Dylan, as he slowly trotted to a stop, then dramatically keeled over in the freshly-mowed grass. "Get a gun and shoot me." He lay there on his face for several seconds, panting profusely, and taking in the intoxicating smell of the meadow. He loved this place. It was always more fun running here than it was at school.

Kyle effortlessly leaped over him and squatted nearby, panting. "Pussy!" he taunted.

Dylan rolled over and grinned. "Shut up, dickweed," he said, panting. "You know those were my best times ever!"

His friend laughed and sat down next to him on the grass. Dylan was right. He was running better than ever. No doubt the coach would be amazed at the improvement, since their last junior varsity game in December.

Dylan stood up, stretched, then walked over to the BMW, pulled out two bottles of Crystal Geyser water from behind the seat, and tossed one to his friend.

"It's not ice-cold, but it'll do."

Dylan smacked his lips. He could already detect the slightly-foul taste of Deca in his mouth. Like most steroids, it took at least 20 minutes to get into the bloodstream. He reached into his car's ashtray and pulled out a squarish pill bottle, then removed two blue tablets.

Kyle looked over. "One for me, I hope," he said, expectantly.

The quarterback grinned. "I thought you said I was doin' too much of this shit."

"That's you," said Kyle, as he snatched one of the pills from his hand. "Four pills a week... that's all we ask."

Dylan rolled his eyes. "Oh, so I'm the pusher this week -- - is that it?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Until Hank gets back to town next week. You know I'm out of the stuff, dude. It's either that, or we drive down to Tijuana again. And fuck that."

They both knew the risks of buying steroids over the border weren't worth the hassle. They'd been taking them for more than two years now, and so were most of the guys on the teams at school. When they first started doing the pills three years before, at 14, they'd both been a little hesitant. But after Dylan saw his incredible progress in only about six months, he'd quickly graduated to the injectibles. It was more trouble, but actually less risk to his liver, and more effective as well -- - according to the experts on the Net.

The two boys leaned against the car and said nothing, catching their breath and taking long swigs from their water bottles. As the sun rose higher, the park was beginning to get crowded. An attractive blonde about 18, dressed only in a sports bra and stretch pants jogged down the sidewalk nearby and grinned and waved at them as she turned the corner by the car.

"Whoa!" said Dylan, eyeing her as she passed. "Who's that?" he whispered.

Kyle took a long sip and turned. "Looks like Christina Aguilara's sister to me."

"Mmmm. Closer to Britney Spears. Think she goes to our school?"

He thought for a minute. "Maybe. But she's totally outta your league. Besides, I thought you were, like, attached!"

Dylan grinned. He never thought of his relationship with Tracy as being all that serious, but maybe he was 'attached,' in a way.

"So what? I can still look, can't I?"

His friend seemed distracted. "Dude, I can't even think about women this early in the morning. Give me somethin' to eat, man! Besides, it's your turn to buy!"

"It's always my turn to buy, asshole!" Dylan grinned.

They slid into the convertible, and Dylan turned the ignition and gunned the engine. "IHOP, Mickey D's, or Denny's -- - your call."

Kyle reached over, hit a switch and cranked up the radio. Howard Stern's voice immediately blared out of the speakers; the outrageous DJ had dared a female listener to come to the studio and pick up Coke bottles using 'her most intimate of areas.' A nearby runner blanched when he heard the details and shook his head as he trotted by.

"Not that shit again!" yelled Dylan, who immediately switched the station to KROQ. The latest Eminem hit boomed out of the speakers.

"NO, man! We gotta listen to Howard!" yelled Kyle, who punched the dial back to talk radio.

They continued the argument all the way down the street to the restaurant, finally settling on listening to Stern only during the commercials.

* * * * *

After breakfast, Dylan dropped off Kyle at his house, which was within two blocks of the park.

"See ya in class in an hour, man," yelled Kyle over his shoulder, as he trotted up the steps. "Can't be late for the first day of school!"

"Later, dude!" yelled Dylan, as he tore down the street. He had just 25 minutes to shave, shower, dress, grab his books, and get to school, which was just 3 miles north on DeSoto Street. Piece of cake.

He took a shortcut down a nearby side road, then entered the main gate to Monteira Estates. The security guard waved and stopped him.

"'Mornin', Dylan! How's that new car treatin' ya?" said the elderly man as he hit the electric switch for the metal gate.

"Fine, Daniel! Had it up to 110 over the weekend!" yelled the teen as he gunned the engine.

The guard shook his head. "Be careful, son! Take it down a notch, okay?"

Dylan laughed. "The Roadster was made to be driven fast! What's the point in having a 315-horsepower car if you just go 20 miles an hour to get a quart of milk from 7-11?"

The car roared down the tree-lined path and was a half a block away in two seconds.

"Be careful, son!" yelled the guard, as he hit the switch to lower the gate again.

That Dylan Callahan, he thought to himself, shaking his head. Could get himself killed one of these days. Too damned reckless. Then he laughed out loud. What the hell; he'd been just as bad in the 1960s when he had his old Mustang.

"Kids," he muttered, smiling.

* * * * *

Monica Raymond fumbled with her purse as she got out of her 1989 Nissan Maxima in the teacher's parking lot. As the new English Literature teacher, she was understandably nervous about her first day at Chatsworth High. Sure, it was quite a culture shock for her, after teaching in her native England for the past six years; the students at Chatsworth appeared to be a lot more well-to-do.

"It's not exactly Beverly Hills 90210," she muttered to herself, "but these children certainly have it far easier than I ever did. The little bastards."

Just as she locked her door and started to turn around, a silver BMW careened down the driveway, missing her by mere inches. She jumped back as it screeched to a stop, leaving a black patch on the pavement.

"Sorry! Uh, comin' through!" yelled the driver, who waved an apology, then roared off to the student parking lot, which was already jam-packed.

Monica stared, open-mouthed. What in God's name was that?, she thought. "Slow down!" she yelled. Stupid twit.

"First day, and you almost get nailed before class even begins," laughed a voice behind her.

She turned and saw the smiling face of assistant principal Veronica Simmons.

"Oh! Good morning, Mrs. Simmons. Where do these children get BMW's? Game shows?"

Ms. Simmons laughed and shook her head. "That was Dylan... Dylan Callahan. You know, as in DeMille Communications?" She paused, for dramatic effect.

The teacher's jaw dropped. "That was Michael Callahan's son? The Michael Callahan? My god!" She stared at the boy in the distance as he parked his car and ran down a hallway. "Remind me to ask him for a raise, assuming he has some friends on the school board."

The older woman laughed wickedly. "I'd like to ask him for a lot more than that. Dylan's one of the best hotties in the whole school."

Monica raised an eyebrow. The teaching staff of Chatsworth High certainly had a much more... casual attitude than those back in Britain.

Mrs. Simmons caught her glance and quickly added. "Well, at least, that's what my students tell me. I wouldn't know. I'm married."

They both laughed and walked into the administration building.

* * * * *

Kyle drummed his fingers idly on his desk. Spanish had never been his favorite subject, but here he was, in his third year. He glanced down at his textbook.

Donde esta, casa de Pepe?

Screw that, he thought. Let's get to the real stuff. Teach us how to curse! Now that would be useful.

"Yo creo que Pedro juega a los dos bandos," he muttered quietly. The girl next to him glanced over to him and giggled, then put her hand over her mouth.

He turned to her and grinned. Good thing the teacher didn't hear me talk about how I thought Pedro went both ways, he thought to himself.

* * * * *

At last, the final bell rang. The students crowded out the door and made their way out to the hallway. Kyle looked up at the hallway clock. 3:25. In five minutes, the coach would post the starting line-up for the first game this week. If he and Dylan were lucky, they'd make it to varsity and be a team together, just like they'd been last year on JV.

Kyle grinned to himself as he jogged towards his locker. Dylan as quarterback and himself as wide receiver -- - you couldn't ask for a better combo. He knew how to anticipate Dylan's moves instantly, almost like ESP. Timing was everything in the game, and they'd been working together so long, they had it down to a "T."

He quickly made it down to the main Phys. Ed. building and glanced over to the bulletin board on the main entrance, which was already crowded with players. Most of them were grumbling and cursing as they walked away, but several were slapping each other's backs and high-fiving each other. He spotted Dylan sitting down the hall on a concrete bench, looking down at the ground.

"Dude!" he yelled.

Dylan looked up, but from his face, Kyle already knew what had happened. His heart sank.

"Fuck, man. Don't tell me..."

His friend shook his head. "I knew it. I just fuckin' knew it. Wilson's got it in for me. He fucked me over last year, and he's doin' it again this year." Dylan let out a sigh and stared straight ahead at the door.

Kyle walked over and silently read the names on the print-out tacked to the cork board, then sat down next to his friend.

"C'mon, Dylan," he said. "At least you're second-string QB! You're officially on varsity. Wilson's gotta put you in some of the time."

"Yeah, but only in months ending in 'Y,'" he said, sarcastically. "Oh, wait... I guess there aren't any left this year! Fuck this shit."

Dylan stood up and slammed his notebook to the ground. Several players glanced over at the sound, then turned back to the board. Kyle winced. Here it comes, he thought, bracing himself. Dylan's temper was gonna blow like Vesuvius.

"He's got it in for me because of my fuckin' father," Dylan spat.

Kyle rolled his eyes. "You think just because your dad makes six million a year..."

"It's a lot more than that," Dylan interrupted. He leaned forward and dropped his voice. "That's only what he declares on his fucking taxes. Trust me -- - you don't wanna know."

"Whatever it is, it has nothin' to do with it," Kyle insisted. "Look, we're both just juniors. Charlie Stephenson's a senior. This is his year. You'll get your turn next year."

Dylan stood up and angrily eyed his friend. "Yeah? I don't see you complainin' about making it to 1st string."

Kyle sighed. The coach had warned him this might happen, during their last pre-season practice a few days ago. "Whaddya want me to do, man? Quit? Look at how hard we both worked for this!"

He put his arm around his friend, but Dylan shoved him away. "I gotta be alone for awhile, man."

Before Kyle could protest, just at that moment, a tall red-headed athlete came booming out of the locker room door. "Hey! Callahan!" he yelled.

Both boys turned as Charlie Stephenson walked up to them and clapped them both on the back.

"Welcome to varsity, guys! This is gonna be a kick-ass year, I swear."

Dylan rolled his eyes as he bent down to pick up his notebook. "Fuck off, Stephenson," he muttered.

The taller boy looked perplexed. "Whoa! What's your problem, Callahan? You made the fuckin' team, dude! You know Wilson's a fair guy. You'll get your turn. That's how the system works. It's all good!"

Dylan whirled and got right in the taller boy's face. "The system fuckin' sucks, man!"

With that, he whirled away and angrily slammed his fist the lid of a nearby metal trash container. The top immediately flew backwards and hit the floor with a loud crash, missing another player's foot by inches.

"Hey, asshole! Watch it!" the boy yelled.

Dylan stormed down the hallway, seething with rage. "Fuck Wilson," he muttered as he made his way out to the parking lot. "Fuck Stephenson, too. And fuck..."

He stopped as he got to his car. No. Not Kyle. Kyle had been the very first friend he made in California. His first friend since... since they left Phoenix.

Dylan immediately felt a pang of regret. He should go back and apologize.

No. He just needed some sleep. There wasn't any practice this afternoon, since their first game wasn't for ten days. Screw it. He'd call Kyle later and apologize. They'd only had one real fight in the past three years, when he felt like Kyle had ignored him after Dylan's family came back from summer vacation. Maybe he just needed time to himself. Hell, they both did.

Dylan jumped in the Roadster and roared out of the parking lot, narrowly missing a beat-up Jeep Cherokee backing out of a nearby lane. The Jeep's rear bumper was adorned with several bumper stickers, including a rainbow globe promoting the "Gay-Straight Alliance."

"Asshole!" yelled the driver. Fucking jocks, he thought. They think they own the fucking world.

* * * * *

Dylan felt tired as he sped down Devonshire towards his house. Between school, the team, his workouts with Kyle, and his homework, he was lucky to get 6 hours sleep a night. As he waited for a traffic light at Oakdale, his cell phone rang. He quickly reached for it and snapped it open.

"Kyle, dude," he began, "Listen, I'm really sorry for being such a jerk, man..."

"Dylan! Dylan, honey, this is your mother. I'm on the Hollywood Freeway, headed downtown."

Dylan rolled his eyes. What the hell could she want?

"Hi, Mom. Sorry. Thought it was Kyle."

"Look, I don't have any time. I've got to get downtown for dinner with your father. He has to go to Dallas again later on tonight for that conference. He asked me to make sure you'd take care of the horses."

"I will, I will. I was on my way home when you called."

"And don't forget, Lady has an appointment at the vet's, tomorrow at 4:30."

"But I've got practice!" he protested.

His mother sighed with exasperation. "Then you'll just have to call the vet and have them push it back. Can you make it by 6?"

The light changed, and he pulled through the intersection.

"Barely," he replied.

"Thanks, hon."

"Mom?" he asked.

"Yes? What is it, sweetie?"

"What's the point of having servants when they don't fucking do anything!" he snapped.

She sighed. Teenagers could be so difficult sometimes. "We've been over this before, Dylan. Your father insists that you learn how to grow up on your own."

Always the same thing, he thought. Like a fucking broken record.

"Since when did JFK Junior have to clean out the horse shit, mom?"

"I have no idea how his family dealt with that. All I know is, I agree with your father. You need the responsibility. Now, I'll be gone until Thursday. Your father won't be back until next week. If you want to talk about it, can it wait until the weekend?"

He made the turn into the main entrance and waited for the automatic gates to open. "Yeah," he mumbled. "Whatever. See you Friday."

"Thanks Dylan," she said. "You're breaking up... I'm going into the Cahuenga Pass... We'll talk la..." Suddenly, the phone was filled with static, then silence.

It figures, he said, shaking his head. He snapped the phone shut and continued down the tree-lined main road into Monteira.

After he parked the car at the house and closed the garage door, he checked the phone messages in the kitchen. Nothing. Kyle was giving him the silent treatment.

He sighed. He'd deserved it, for sure. He'd wait until 5PM and then call him. Maybe they could have dinner or something.

"Dylan! Your mother was lookin' for you, honey."

He looked up to see Yolanda, an attractive black woman in a maid's outfit. She and her sister Ernelle worked for them full-time, and had their own room on the far left side of the house.

"Hi, Yo," he said, wearily. "She already got me on the phone. I'll be out in the barn for a couple hours."

She nodded. "Tough day at the office, lamb?" She could always tell when Dylan was feeling down. Such an emotional boy, she thought. He worries way too much 'bout everything.

"Yeah. Somethin' like that." He started towards the back door.

"You make the team?"

He nodded.

"That's great!" she said, applauding. "Congratulations! We gonna have your favorite tonight -- meatloaf, peas, mashed potatoes, and chocolate cake. Just the way you like it."

He forced a smile on his face. "That'd be great. Thanks, Yo'."

She wiped her hands and looked up. "You want a protein shake? Just take me a second."

"Naw. I'm kinda tired. Maybe later."

She watched him walk down the hall. Behind her, the Afghan Hound barked.

Yolanda jumped. "Lady! You get your furry butt off that white carpet! Mrs. Callahan gon' whup both of us if she sees you in here again! Get out there and help Dylan with the barn!"

The dog padded around her and followed Dylan out the door, and Yolanda diligently closed it and began rattling pots and pans, preparing the meal and singing quietly to herself.

* * * * *

While the Callahan's house was sleek and ultra-modern, the wooden barn a hundred feet away was decades old. It had been built by one of the previous owners, and almost looked like a relic from another age. The red paint was peeling, and some of the wood on one side was beginning to rot, a victim of termites. It was a small structure, only about 25' square, but more than big enough to house the family's two horses.

As he reached the front of the barn, Dylan realized something was wrong. Both he and the dog stopped in their tracks.

"Shhhhh!" he whispered to the hound. Lady perked up her ears and stared straight ahead.

The large wooden door, which normally was always locked, was slightly ajar. Dylan was positive he'd left it bolted the day before. He slowly opened the door, and could dimly make out someone standing in the distant stall by Montana, their 3 year-old Arabian thoroughbred. Lady immediately barked and growled.

"You got five seconds to hit the road, or I'm callin' the cops, asshole!" he yelled.

The shadowy figure froze. "I'm...I'm s-s-sorry! Wait!"

Dylan and the dog took a cautionary step forward, then stopped in the doorway. The intruder was a girl... no, as it got closer he could see it was a boy, probably about 14 or 15. His features were so delicate, and his hair so long, it was easy to make the mistake.

"I'll get out!" the boy implored. "Please! I was just walkin' by, and wanted to pet the horse! I swear, that's all."

The boy slowly walked forward with an almost feline grace, and stood in a shaft of light shining down from an overhead skylight, which picked up the particles of dust that hung in the barn air.

Dylan was taken aback. This kid was beyond attractive. He practically glowed. His jet-black hair was straight and cascaded down to his shoulders.

As the boy grew closer, Dylan could see that he wore long black pants and a black T-shirt with a faded rock logo on the front. His skin was very pale, and he had high cheekbones and an aquiline nose, with a tiny mole just to the left side of his upper lip. The boy's eyelashes were very long, almost feminine, and his eyes sparkled with a dazzling shade of green. Brighter than the emeralds on Mom's new ring, Dylan thought.

Dylan stared at him for several moments without speaking. "What's... what's your name, kid?"

"Michael Thompkins, sir. But... but my friends call me 'Angel,' 'cause my middle name is 'Angelo.'"

Dylan had to stifle a laugh. Nobody ever called him 'sir.' Not the maids, not his father's underlings, not anybody. He grinned and shook his head.

"I'm not a 'Sir.' Call me Dylan. I live here."

The kid grinned. His whole face lit up. Dylan sucked in his breath. The boy was strikingly good-looking, no doubt about it. More beautiful than handsome, he thought. Radiant.

"That's too cool"! The boy turned and pointed at the horses. "What're their names?"

Dylan was barely listening. "Who?"

"The horses! Whaddya call 'em?"

Dylan regained his composure and walked into the barn, with Lady trotting faithfully by his side. He gestured to the left. "That's Borneo. He's a five year-old Palomino. And you've already met Montana."

"Yeah! She's beautiful... a chestnut mare, right?"

He nodded. "Yeah. We don't really ride 'em much. We used to, when we first moved out here. They're really my mom's."

The boy turned to him. "I just moved here from Santa Fe. This place sucks."

Dylan laughed. "Yeah. When I first came here three years ago, I called it 'Chatsworthless.' But it kinda grows on you."

Angel petted Borneo softly on his nose, as the horse eyed him curiously. "Santa Fe sucked, too. It's in New Mexico. It's real hot there, y' know?"

Dylan wiped the sweat from his forehead. It was stultifyingly hot in the barn. He opened the other door and opened it up to give the poor beasts a little breeze.

"Yeah. But I bet it's not as hot as Phoenix."

The boy turned to him. "Is that where you're from?"

Dylan hesitated. He hated telling anybody about Phoenix. That ugly part of his life was gone, over and done with.

"No," he said, finally. "Not originally. I was born in Virginia. We lived in Connecticut right after that, for six years. Then Chicago. We've lived at a buncha places, including Phoenix. But I think I'm gonna stick here in California for now."

"Yeah," nodded the boy. "Me, too." He glanced at the older teen. "You play football?"

Dylan was taken aback. "Yeah. How'd you know?" He stared at him curiously.

Angel laughed. He had a wonderful laugh -- - completely uninhibited, boyish, and innocent. Dylan couldn't help but laugh along with him. It was the first time he'd laughed for hours.

"Well, you look like a football player," Angel said, walking thoughtfully around him. "And you got real big muscles like a football player. From your arms, I'd say you're a quarterback."

Dylan felt a twinge of pride and grinned.

Then Angel poked him in the chest. "But I think the biggest clue was the sign behind your head," he said, laughing.

Dylan turned to see a wrinkled banner, emblazoned "Welcome Chatsworth JV Football -- - 2001," on the wall behind him. They had held a small party at his house last year for the team, and he still hadn't gotten around to throwing it away.

He laughed sheepishly. "Yeah. I guess that was kind of a giveaway."

Angel grinned. "Cool. That must be really great, Dylan. You got time to toss me a couple?"

Dylan sighed and checked his watch. It was almost 4:10. It'd take him at least an hour to clean out the barn, and he promised he'd call Kyle. Dinner wouldn't be until 6PM. What the hell.

"Okay. But first let's get these chores out of the way."

* * * * *

Angel proved to be an excellent worker. He chattered amiably as the two boys cleared out the manure, freshened the water, replaced the hay, and laid out more oats and grain for the two horses. Angel explained that he and his mother had only moved in a week earlier, over in a new housing development in nearby Porter Ranch, about a mile to the north.

Dylan winced. Porter Ranch was a sore point for his parents, as well as most of the wealthy residents on this side of Chatsworth. For many years, the area had been owned by rich Hollywood movie stars like Lucille Ball and Jimmy Cagney. But since the 1950s, the land had gone from being lush farmland to an overdeveloped suburban nightmare. Monteira was an isolated enclave of about 50 luxury estates, each with an average value of well over $2,000,000. Thanks to the new development, what used to be a beautiful view of green hills and mountains was now obscured by row after row of ugly, cookie-cutter tract houses. But that's progress.

After the boys labored for nearly an hour, the barn was spotless -- or, at least, as spotless as they could get it -- - and the horses seemed content. Dylan petted both of them and made sure the fan was left on to give them some ventilation. The two boys washed off their hands in a small sink next to the feed cabinet.

"C'mon, kid," he said, scooting Lady towards the door. "Let's go out back, and I'll toss the ball around with ya for awhile."

"Thanks! That'd really be neat."

Lady stopped at the door and looked at Dylan expectantly.

"Well, whatta you want?"

The dog continued to stare at him. Suddenly realization dawned on him, and Dylan laughed.

"Yeah, yeah... you can play catch, too, girl."

The dog barked as he scratched her head behind her ears, just the way she liked it. She closed her eyes and panted, her long tongue lalling comically out of her mouth. Angel ran up and petted her back admiringly.

"Man, this dog has its own fur coat!" he exclaimed.

Dylan laughed. "Yeah. She's an Afghan Hound."

"She's beautiful," the boy said, petting her with both hands. "Really soft."

The dog grinned and nuzzled the boy, who giggled. "I've never had a dog. So her name's 'Lady'? Like 'Lady and the Tramp'? That's so corny."

Dylan chuckled and nodded, then leaned over and scratched the dog behind her ears. She closed her eyes gratefully and panted.

"More like as in 'Lady LaMancha DeVeers.' That's what it says on her pedigree, anyway. But we just call her 'Lady' for short."

"Sounds real snooty," said Angel, smoothing her fur on her back.

"Snooty? Wait'll you see what she can do! C'mon." With that, the two boys raced out the door to the two-acre green pasture, with Lady barking happily at their heels.

* * * * *

By 5:45, the three were thoroughly exhausted. Angel proved to be a pretty good athlete for a little kid -- - certainly better than Dylan was, when he was that age. Lady chased both of them all over the field behind the barn, and they took turns playing catch and running 2-man practice plays.

They took a brief break, as Yolanda brought them a tray of Cokes from the kitchen, which they drank while leaning against the old wooden fence on the west side of the Callahan estate, facing the main road. They stayed well in the shade, away from the broiling rays of the orange sun as it set over the distant hills.

"Man, this really hits the spot," said Angel, taking a long sip. Almost immediately, he burped a thunderous belch, causing Lady to jump up and bark in surprise.

Dylan found this hysterical, and began laughing so hard he started to choke. "Shit, kid -- that's a helluva burp you've got there!"

Angel proceeded to take another big swig and then speak an entire sentence in burp-speak.

"Thanks -- for -- showin' -- me -- how -- to -- throw -- a -- forward -- pass -- Dylan!" he burped.

Dylan nearly fell down laughing. Lady barked with approval.

"Angel," he said, laughing and gasping for air. "You've definitely got a talent."

The boy beamed. "Yeah. That's what my mother says, too." Suddenly, his face blanched. "Shit! My mom! What time is it?"

Dylan checked his watch. "Almost six."

"Shit! I gotta go, Dylan! See ya later!" He climbed between the fence rungs and took off with in a blur towards the distant trees, which led to a seldom-used dirt road just beyond the chain-link fence.

Dylan ran after him. "Wait! I don't even know where you live!"

The boy disappeared in the horizon.

Dylan's heart sank. "Fuck," he said out loud. "I didn't get his phone number or anything." I don't know a thing about him, except that his name is Angel, he thought.

Lady turned up to him. She seemed to be grinning.

"What?" he said, innocently. "Hey, I'm just bein' nice to a kid. That's all."

The dog continued to stare, then barked.

Dylan rolled his eyes and started walking back to the house. As he reached the fence, he stopped and caught his breath. He reeled, leaned against the fence post, and closed his eyes tight. He suddenly remembered.

Corey, he thought dizzily. The kid reminded him of Corey. Even down to the little mole on his upper lip. And the green eyes.

Dylan hadn't permitted himself to even think of Corey for three years. Almost to the day. He thought of Angel's face, his smile, his voice...

He immediately felt a surge in his groin.

God, he thought, closing his eyes. No. I'm straight. I'm on the team. I love Tracy -- I might even marry her someday.

He shook his head and climbed through the fence.

Lady turned back to the trees as if she saw a movement there. She froze and stared at the wooded area. Something had spooked her.

"What're you waitin' for, girl? Come on, let's eat!"

Lady turned back and leaped through the rungs in the fence, and the two raced each other to the back door.

The latest installments of Jagged Angel can be found on, and submitted sometime thereafter to,, and, along with the newsgroup. Feedback can be sent to the author at