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Chapter 6: Ready or Not...

Brent stood there with his two flunkies, savoring the moment. Lance and I just waited for them to make their little demonstration of ignorance and bigotry, and get it over with. We were in the middle of the long hallway that made up the science wing. It was pretty early yet, so the hallway was still empty. How convenient.

"You better remember what I said last week, Aussie fag boy! Like I said, we ain't gonna have no faggots on any varsity team in this school, period! I had a little chat with some of the captains from other teams, and they agreed with me. So, if you don't decide to get lost, we will all be happy to help you make the right decision. Got it?" Brent sneered.

God was I pissed at that point! In an instant, I went from being nervously quiet to absolutely volcanic raging mad. Lance was about to open his mouth to say something, but I jumped in screaming at Brent before he could get a word out. "You have got to be fucking kidding me, Brent! Lance could probably be the best golfer this school has ever had in its history! How many tournaments have you won, asshole?" I asked, getting right in his face. "Lance has already won three junior tournaments in Australia! How many times have you qualified for the World Junior Amateur? Lance did when he was fourteen! If you wanna take him on, you fuck head, do it like a man! Have some cajones dude, do it on the golf course! Put up or shut up, Brent! Anyone can gang up on somebody with a bunch of football players and beat the crap out of `em. It only proves that you don't think you can beat him any other way. In fact, I'm pretty sure you KNOW you can't beat him on the golf course, and you're won't admit it!" I fumed.

I paused for dramatic effect, still seething mad. "Besides, I know you don't really plan to do anything to Lance," I growled. "You can't possibly be as stupid as you look, Brent! Any type of assault committed as part of a hate crime is an automatic felony in California, and gets mandatory jail time, dude. And," I said slowly, and with absolute seriousness, while staring him right in the eyes, "If you, or any one of your idiot friends, lay one finger on my boyfriend, I promise that you WILL go to jail, AND YOU BETTER FUCKING BELIEVE THAT!" I said, still yelling at them, barely in control of myself. I just stood there staring them down, breathing hard, and daring them with my eyes to say or do anything.

Brent and his cronies stood there looking at me for a second, their eyes momentarily wide with surprised expressions. I didn't quite expect that result. "Now that's weird...they didn't beat the crap out of me." I thought to myself.

After they got over the shock of what I had just said (ok, well, shouted...), they all grinned evil grins, and walked away chuckling to themselves. Somehow, I knew this was only the beginning of this nightmare. They were obviously enjoying this, and I just gave them everything they needed to ruin our lives at school. Really smart, fucking moron!

As Lance and I started on our way again, he said, "Whoa, Tiger! Remind me never to piss you off!" as he put his hand on my back for emotional support.

I roughly shrugged his hand off my shoulder. I was still verging on uncontrollable anger. The more I thought about what those assholes had said, the more pissed off I was getting. I clenched my fists as tightly as I could as I walked ahead of Lance, still reviewing the whole short episode over and over in my head. Every muscle and vein in my arms and shoulders was standing out and screaming for release. I could feel the heat in my face and ears, and I was sure they were blazing red at that point. Then, I simply lost it. I have no other explanation for what came next.

I was walking quickly down the hallway on the side closest to the classroom doors and windows, with Lance following behind me. "FUUUUUUCCCKKKKK!!!!!!!!" I screamed out at the top of my lungs, as my right fist lashed out at the first target it could find, and I punched it right through the classroom window closest to me. I couldn't see anything at that point except a blinding white light, but I immediately felt a terrible, sickening pain in my right hand and arm.

Next thing I recall, I was standing there in the hallway, dully looking at my right hand and forearm, which were now bleeding profusely. I looked to Lance for a moment, impassively noticing the look of shock, horror, and confusion on his face. When our eyes met briefly, he was prodded into action.

"Shit! Why did you do that Ricky? Oh my god, you're hurt pretty bad!" said Lance, as he grabbed my arm and tried to close the gash that was pouring out my blood, all over the concrete hallway.

From behind me I soon heard another voice. "What the hell is going on out here?"  I recognized that voice immediately, and I turned to see three male faculty members standing behind Lance, looking quite concerned. Mr. Bill, my counselor, was accompanied by `Coach C' (Steve Czamanske, the biology teacher and coach of the golf team) and Mike Dandridge (the civics teacher and varsity football coach). They were all still holding their Starbucks `Grande' cups in their hands, having just come out of the biology room where they were apparently having a meeting or something.

Mr. Bill took charge immediately. "Steve, call 911. Mike (who, I discovered later, had some emergency medical training...), help Lance stop that bleeding. You (he pointed at a passing student), bust it over to the office and grab the nurse, and tell her to bring her trauma kit NOW!" He knelt down in front of me to get my attention. "Rick, let's sit you down. I don't think I want you standing up, so you don't pass out on us here."

My mind was now in a daze. I began to feel overwhelmed by the pain, the shock, and the sight all that blood. My god, I thought to myself; there was so much blood! Then I remember my field of vision slowly starting to get darker, with funny patterns of light and color creeping into the edge, like when you squeeze your eyes closed really tight sometimes. I remember hearing Lance's voice, but I couldn't understand what he was saying, and I couldn't see him (or anything else) at that point. I reached out with my left hand for him weakly, finding only empty air.

As a school administrator, I had been trained for these kinds of emergencies many times over. But, when it actually happens, it's never like you planned for. All you can do is trust your instincts, your training, and just wing it. Thank god Mike Dandridge is a certified EMT. I'm pretty sure he saved Ricky from bleeding to death before the paramedics could get there.

The paramedics took one look at Ricky, and at all the blood pooled on the ground and went into overdrive. They had him loaded and flying out of there in a matter of seconds, with Mike still on top of him; stopping the bleeding from the artery in his arm that he had obviously sliced open. I grabbed Lance, who was standing there in complete shock, watching the ambulance speed out of the school parking lot. He looked very pale, and his eyes were starting to get that glazed over look. I dragged him along with me as I walked quickly to my office, trying to get him to snap out of his state of shock.

"Lance," I said, "We need to run into the office real quick to let them know what's happening, and then I'll drive you over to the hospital with me, ok?"

Lance looked at me blankly for a second, and then the lights finally snapped back on inside his head. "Hospital. Right...Wait!" he said, as he immediately stopped dead in his tracks, not budging as I tried to urge him along. He quickly fished through his backpack, and pulled out a cell phone. He dialed furiously, and waited impatiently as it rang. "Come on mum...answer the bloody phone...come on mum...MUM! Lance! Listen, its Ricky mum...he's hurt really bad, I'm afraid he's bleeding to death mum...he'll be there any second, you gotta save him mum! You have? They're one minute out? Ok, ya...go, GO!"

Lance shut off his phone, looked at me for a split second, and then took off running towards the office. I followed as best I could, and we dashed into the office seconds apart. I filled in the principal as fast as I could, grabbed an old gym towel out of my office, and headed out to my car with Lance right behind me. I threw him the towel. "Lance, use this to wipe some of the blood off you, and hop in."

As we drove, I could tell Lance was on the verge of loosing it again, so I tried to keep him occupied. "Lance? So, that was your mother you called? Does she work at the Hospital?"

"Uh...ya," he said, turning to me with a very worried look on his face. "She's the new trauma surgeon in the ER. She's gotta save him, Mr. Bill! She just has to...Oh god, Ricky!"

At that point, he just put his head in his hands and started sobbing. Oops. Well, I did my best. But, I could see how scared he was for Ricky. And, I knew what Ricky meant to him. In fact, it was one of the things I had been discussing with Steve and Mike over coffee when all hell had broken loose a few minutes ago. Steve had mentioned to me that he thought Ricky and Lance were becoming pretty close, based on what he could see at golf practice last week. I had mentioned to Steve about Lance being gay when he transferred in to our school, because I knew he would be excited about having a player of that caliber eligible for his team; and I also knew that he would likely have to deal with the issues around having a gay player on his team at some point. But, I knew that he was the perfect person to handle it. Steve and I had both grown up in the same hometown, not far from here; and had graduated in the same high school class. We both had younger brothers who were the same age, and both happened to be gay. They had been lovers for the last ten years or so. We were informally `brothers-in-law,' so to speak. We both really loved those two guys, and had supported them through many difficult times of their own.

We pulled into the ER parking lot, and jumped out of the car. I grabbed the towel again, because I could see Lance would need it. While he had been crying into his bloodstained hands, he had managed to cover his face and shirt in a watery mixture of blood and tears. He looked so awful; I was afraid someone might think he was injured as well. I handed him the towel as we hustled into the ER.

"Lance," I said, "Clean yourself up a little so they don't think you're hurt too."

The ER staff intercepted us as we entered, and pulled us quickly to the side. The admitting nurse told us that he was already in surgery, and Dr. McGann was working hard to get him patched up. It looked like they had gotten him into surgery in time, and that he hadn't lost too much blood on the way. They expected him to come out fine.

Lance and I sat down in the waiting room, both feeling a little bit relieved. "Lance," I said, looking him over again, "why don't you go finish getting yourself cleaned up a little better in the restroom. If you need anything, I'm sure the nurse will help you out. I have to deal with some paperwork here for a few minutes, and then you and I will need to talk, ok? But, you did great, son. You helped save his life, I'm sure."

Lance gave me a weak smile as he shuffled off towards the restroom.

I remember waking briefly, as I felt a new stabbing pain in my left arm. I opened my eyes, and winced from the bright lights shining down on me. A face covered in a surgical mask and hat loomed over me. I could see a pair of intense dark brown eyes looking down at me, and they seemed vaguely familiar. They conveyed a strong sense of caring and reassurance, which helped me relax a little.

"Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, Ricky. Everything is going to be ok," they said.

Having finished the necessary paperwork with the hospital staff, I returned to sit down next to Lance, who was resting quietly now with his eyes closed.

"Lance...listen up son," I said tapping gently on his shoulder. As his eyes opened quickly, the obvious question in them was apparent. "Don't worry. Ricky's doing fine. He's still in surgery, but your mom is just now finishing up. His blood pressure is good, and they are waiting for the orthopedic surgeon to come in any minute now to re-attach the severed tendons in his wrist."

Lance's eyes opened wide at that new bit of information, and then a very sad look crossed his face. "No, Lance," I said, "He won't be playing golf any time real soon. I'm sorry."

I took a deep breath, and began the part of this conversation that worried me the most. "Lance, I need you to tell me what happened. Take your time, and tell me everything you can. But, before you start, you should know a couple of things. First, I know Ricky pretty well. I've been his counselor since the sixth grade, and we have talked about his life, and his personal issues pretty extensively. I like him a whole lot; he's a special person to me too." Lance looked up questioningly at me. "Yes, I know you and Ricky have a relationship, Lance. I've read your transcripts and stuff from back home also. Don't worry son, there's nothing wrong with two boys being in love in my book."

Lance gave me a long penetrating look, clearly trying to decide how much he felt comfortable telling me. "Ricky told me about you, Mr. Bill. He said you had really helped him with a lot with things. I guess I need to trust you too, right now. I'll tell you everything you want to know, but it's totally off the record for now, until Ricky has a chance to decide how he wants to handle this. I reckon his mom will be coming down here pretty soon, and she doesn't know about us. He's really worried about how it would affect their relationship at home. I can't do that to him without his permission, you understand?"

I nodded my agreement.

"Well, I guess all this business began last Thursday. After our practice round, that wanker, Brent Lewis was giving both of us the business. I understand he and Ricky have a bit of history between them, aye? And, apparently, Brent's mom had seen my transcripts from back home too. She works in the school office? Anyway, he said he knew I was gay, and that him and his jock friends wouldn't allow a `faggot' on the school varsity golf team, so I should just piss off or something. Ricky and I weren't really `together' at that point, but we spent a lot of time over the last few days getting to know each other. Some time since we met Thursday, we definitely fell in love" he sighed. "This is the one for us...we can both just feel it, Mr. Bill. We're both quite sure about it, don't worry. Anyway, this morning, Brent and his mates stopped us in that hallway on our way into school. He made the same noises all over again, saying that the captains of all the varsity teams were in agreement with him, and that they would all make sure I didn't play on the golf team, if you know what I mean. But, before I could even open my mouth, Ricky climbed all over his arse. He was yellin' and screamin' at Brent like you never saw! Ricky was so pissed, I thought he might just explode right there on the spot. He told Brent that if anyone touched `his boyfriend' he would personally make sure they went to prison. Something about the laws regarding hate crimes in California."

Lance's eyes went wide in sudden recognition. "Bloody hell! He outed himself to Brent and those idiots. I wonder if he even knew he was doing it? Oh, Shit! This is just gonna kill him. Losing his golf, and now this. Fuck! What are we gonna do? The little guy is gonna be totally devastated..."

Lance began to cry again, but I still needed him to finish his story. I gently put my hand on his shoulder. "Lance, I need you to tell me how he got hurt. What happened?"

"After Brent and his mates blew off," he sniffed, "Ricky just fuckin' went bananas! I could see him turning red in his face, and he was clenching his fists so tight they were turning white. Then, all of a sudden he screamed really loud and punched the window. He totally lost it, man! It must have been just too much for him. I've never seen anyone get that mad before, ever. God, it really scared me," he said as he bent over and began to cry into his hands again.

At that point, I just sat with Lance as he let his feelings come out, and gently rubbed his back. It was important for him to feel all these things now, so he could come to grips with them and be there for Ricky when he really needed him. Some time very soon, I think. Perhaps a little too soon, I worried.

I noticed a woman, who had to be Lance's mother judging by her looks, standing nearby, obviously listening to our conversation. She came up and sat beside him, no longer dressed in her surgical gear. When Lance saw her, he put his head on her shoulder and started crying again as she patted him on the back.

She looked up at me after a while, and extended her hand.

"Dr. Karen McGann, Lance's mum. But I think you already know who I am, don't you?" she asked with a smile.

"Nice to meet you, Karen," I said taking her hand, "I'm Bill Wiesniewski, one of the counselors at the high school. I've known Ricky for a long time. He's a very special kid. I'm really glad to hear he'll be ok."

 "Yes, I think he'll be fine," she replied. "I don't think there will be any permanent vascular damage, and the orthopedist thinks the ligament re-attachment will eventually be fully functional. Ricky is in recovery right now, and when he wakes up from the general anesthesia, he'll go upstairs to a private room."

"That's great news," I said.

"Lance, dear," she said patting him a little to get him to sit up, "I got to hear all of that last bit about you and Ricky being outed at school. I'm very sorry that had to happen again so soon for you, son. You and Ricky have a lot to talk about, now. You're going to have to help him through this, Lance; be there for him. You've been through this once, and I know you are strong enough to handle it now. And remember, this time you have each other. I know it was so hard for you before, because you felt you had to do it all alone. And remember, you two have family and friends who are there to support you, too. Don't feel like you have to do everything on your own, son. It's ok to let people help you. It gives them a chance to show how much they care about you."

The two shared a deep look for a moment. Karen smiled, and said, "I think it would be best for Mr. Wiesniewski to take you back to school to get your car. Then, you can go home and get yourself cleaned up and changed. You can come back by the hospital after lunch. Ricky will be on heavy pain medication for the rest of the day, but you will probably be able to see him awake this afternoon. Ok, son?"

"Yes, mum," Lance replied.

As Lance and I walked out of the emergency room, I saw Ricky's mom arriving at the nurse's station. As I looked back, I saw Dr. McGann take her immediately off to the side, and begin what I expected would be a long and interesting conversation between the two of them, if my intuition about Karen McGann was correct. And, I was pretty sure it was.

Neither Lance nor I spoke much on the drive back to school. We both had a lot to think about. I know, for myself, there was a lot left for me to do today. As soon as I got back, I was planning to call an emergency meeting of all the school's sports teams; coaches, and team leaders, etc. Then, I had to talk to a good friend of mine who was a detective with the Sheriffs Department. Of course, I also had to run all this by the Principal's office. I am sure I'll have her total support, though. I also need to convince her to call an assembly for the whole student body tomorrow. The faculty will probably have a fit. But, it has to be done. This cannot be allowed to go any further. It simply can't.

I slowly became aware that I was in a dim room, with other people around me talking quietly. As my eyes fluttered open, a woman who was clearly a nurse, was immediately at my side.

"How do you feel, Ricky?" she asked.

I tried to speak, but it took me a few tries to get anything to come out. "Arm hurts," I croaked. "Sore throat."

She explained, as she quickly took my blood pressure, "You just had surgery to fix up your arm, hon. Try very hard for me not to try and move it, ok? The sore throat will go away quickly. It's from the breathing tube all patients need to have inserted into their throat under general anesthesia." She then took a syringe, and injected something into the IV tube attached to my `good' arm. "This will help the pain and let you sleep some more. When you wake up, you will be in your own private room upstairs, ok? I'm sure you will have a lot of people coming in to see you this afternoon when you wake up. Sounds like you're a real V.I.P around here. You must have some good connections, huh?"

I smiled weakly, although I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. Very soon, a wave of sensation passed over my body, as I felt the medication beginning to take effect. The room around me began to dim to a uniform gray, and a very peaceful, gentle, floating kind of feeling took me over, as I faded out again.

"Ok, guys listen up," I said to the group of coaches and student athletes from all the major sports teams in the school. "I think you all know who I am, since I am the counselor for many of you, as well as Athletic Director for our school. On my right, is Detective Sgt. Jameson, from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department."

I paused as I quickly surveyed the faces in the room. "We've had an incident this morning at school that affects all the sports teams and coaches. There will be an assembly tomorrow for the entire student body to discuss this matter as well. Early this morning before classes began, two student athletes trying out for one of our varsity sports teams were threatened with physical harm unless they quit their sport and removed themselves from the team. It is believed that they were targeted because they were suspected of being gay by another player."

I looked around the room making direct eye contact with some of the students I was pretty sure were involved; and, of course, I spent a little extra time boring into Brent Lewis with my glare. "In case any of you are not aware of school policy, let me refresh your memories. Any threats of physical violence against another student will not be tolerated. Any such threats, if they can be independently corroborated, are grounds for immediate suspension from school, and permanent removal from a sports team. Any type of verbal harassment towards another student, especially one based on race, skin color, or sexuality will be treated the same way. Detective Sgt. Jameson is also here to question some of you, because the threatening of physical harm, or any kind of actual physical assault based on a victim's race or sexuality is considered a hate crime in California, and carries with it some stiff penalties. Any assault committed as a part of a hate crime is a felony in California, and comes with a mandatory jail sentence. Our school will be cooperating fully with the Sheriff Department's initial investigation, and with the District Attorney's office in the event that any charges are filed."

I paused again, hoping that the idea of jail time would open a few ears and minds to what I had left to say. "I sincerely hope that all you coaches will discuss this further with your teams, and make sure that all your players respect our school policies as well as State law, so that they can remain in school and on your teams through the school year. Personally, I think it would be a tragedy and a disgrace to our school for any student athlete to be suspended or put in jail for such a crime. I mean, think about it guys; just because another student is gay, or even just accused of being gay without their own admission, should have no impact on you personally at all. Why would any of you want to risk your athletic career, let alone your personal freedom, over something so stupid?"

"Mr. Bill, what if they try to mess with us or look at us in the locker room and stuff?" came shouted from the back of the room.

"Well, last time I checked, none of you were wearing blindfolds in the locker room, either. But, any repeated unwanted sexual advance from any student towards any other student regardless of gender is sexual harassment, and will be dealt with according to school policy."

"So, let me wrap this up for you. Officially, I cannot say publicly who the students are who have received these threats. But, I am well aware of how fast the word can spread around here; I'm sure most of you know yourselves by now. So, just keep in mind that if anything happens to these two students, or if they experience any additional threats or verbal harassment, it will be reported to the Sheriff's Department and investigated immediately and aggressively. Is that clear? We will not have this kind of conduct at this school, period. This is supposed to be a place where any kid can go and be safe to get an education or to play sports according to their own abilities; without prejudice with regard to their skin color, the country they were born in, or whom they love or are attracted to. Those are freedoms that everyone in our country is entitled to under the Constitution, I believe. If any of you here can't accept that idea, please let me know right away. I will be happy to personally escort you off of school grounds. Permanently."

As I walked back to the administration office, I noticed Barbara Lewis (Brent's mom, of course) leaving with a cardboard box full of her personal belongings. She gave me a menacing glare as I passed, but remained silent. I was glad to see that she had gotten what she deserved. It was too bad that all the Principal could give her was an unpaid leave for disciplinary purposes. Both the Principal and I were disappointed she could not be fired on the spot, since it was a first offense. Personally, I hated that cow. And, I think I'm pretty sure how she feels about me now. We'll just have to see how things shake out when she comes back in two weeks...

The next time I awoke, it was to the sound of two familiar voices talking quietly in the room. Lance! I could hear his voice clearly now. God, I needed him so bad! My eyes struggled open, and my surroundings slowly came into focus. I tried to call out his name, but all that came out was a weak sounding "Laaaagghhh." Both heads snapped quickly in my direction, and Lance rushed over to the side of the bed.

"Ricky! Are you doin' ok love? God, I'm so glad you're all right. You had us really worried there, for a bit..." he said smiling, as tears made their way down his face. He kissed me softly on my forehead, as he gently stroked my hair. I hoped that the love in my eyes told him all he needed to know for the moment.

I felt someone take my left arm, and turned to see Lance's mom checking my blood pressure. She smiled reassuringly at me as she completed her task. She was dressed in traditional medical attire, so I assumed she must work here. I noticed that my right arm was in a cast to just above my elbow, and it was increasingly throbbing with pain. My fingers stuck out the end of the cast, but they were all taped down to a metal splint the same shape as my hand, so I couldn't move them at all.

"Lance, son? Get that cup of ice chips on the tray, and give him a small piece. Then, I think he'll be able to talk to us shortly." She looked at me with a smile, as Lance fed me a small chip of ice with a plastic spoon, "Now you, mister," she said to me, "have to promise me you won't go around punching out any more windows, hear? It took me most of the morning to get you sewed up right, and I don't want all that hard work to go to waste, got it?"

I cleared my throat a little, and found I could now speak almost normally. First, I looked at Lance, my heart swelling with emotion, and I asked, "More ice, please Lancer?"

"Sure thing, love," he replied, as he fed me another slightly larger piece.

I just looked back and forth between them for a moment. "Uh...what happened exactly? I don't really remember getting hurt. I just know what the nurses told me."

"Jesus Ricky!" Lance replied. "You scared the bloody hell out of me! You went completely bananas after our little chat with Brent and his mates. You screamed about the loudest scream I have ever heard, and just slammed your fist right through that window. Pow!"

"Lance, don't get him upset again, please," his mom asked quietly. "Ricky, since I am your doctor and your surgeon," she said with a knowing smile, "I can tell you that when you put your fist through that window, you did some serious damage to your right arm. You severed one of the main arteries in your wrist, along with two muscle tendons. But, we sewed you back together. You'll be good as new before too long. It will take a lot of physical therapy, but you will eventually play golf again, I'm sure." She added after a moment, "Now Ricky, I don't want to scare you, but you were pretty lucky. The paramedics told me that one of the teachers is also trained as an EMT; and, if he hadn't been there right away, you could possibly have bled to death. You did lose a lot of blood, but they got you to me with enough left in you to keep you going until we could get you topped off again with a transfusion. Lance was the first one to get to you, and I hear he did a fine job of slowing the bleeding right quick. Just like I taught him," she smiled, looking at her son.

I was struggling to make sense of all this information. "I'm sorry, Lancer ...I, uh...Brent?...a window?... bleeding to death? on me? I...I...uh..."

"Sshhh Ricky. Take it easy, son. You've had a long day. Don't try and talk it all out right now. You'll have plenty of time to do that. Are you in any pain now?"

I nodded yes, as I winced. God, my arm hurt even more when I had to think about it.

"Ok, we'll get you your next shot of morphine now, and you do need to rest. Oh yes, one more thing. Your mother was here most of the morning after your surgery. She was very worried about you, of course. We had a long talk," she smiled again, as she paused, "and she wanted me to tell you that she loves you a lot, and that she will be back to see you again at dinner time. Actually, she really wanted to stay, but I told her you would be sleeping most of the day anyway. I convinced her that we would take good care of you, and that she should come back this evening when you would be a little more alert," Karen said with a smile, as she turned and left the room.

I looked back at Lance, tears forming in my eyes. "You? Saved my life?"

"I can't take too much credit for that, Ricky," Lance said with a weary smile, as he took my hand in his. "Lucky for you mate, Mr. Bill, Coach C, and Coach Dandridge were over in the next room drinking coffee. Bill handled everything; giving orders like a pro, making sure everything happened real quick-like. And, ya, I heard that the football coach is also an EMT. He gets the real credit. He rode with you all the way to the ER. He wouldn't let go of you for anything, once he had your artery pinched off with his finger."

Lance's mom came back into the room followed by a nurse, who did the syringe into the IV thing again. As I felt myself starting to drift away, I reached out for Lance with my left hand. "Lancer...Stay with me, please...? I need you here. I really need you..."

After school was over, I headed back to the hospital to check on Ricky, hoping he would be awake by now. I really wanted to see the little guy, and find out how he was dealing with everything so far. I was still concerned about Lance as well, and I was pretty sure I would find him there, too.

As I reached Ricky's room, Lance's mom stepped out the door, and smiled as she approached me.

"Hi Karen. How are the boys doing?"

"Hello Bill. Can I buy you a cup of coffee? My office is just downstairs," she asked. "Ricky is fine; he just had his medication, so he's going to be sleeping for a while. Lance is in with him; I think he needs to spend some time alone with Ricky right now, even if it is just to watch him sleep," she chuckled, as we walked down the hall towards the elevator. "He adores that boy. But, I think you already knew that."

"Ya, I had some idea about that, but today pretty well confirmed what I was thinking," I replied. "In case Lance hasn't already told you, I want to make sure you know what happened this morning, as a parent." As we made our way to her office, I replayed the events of this morning for her, as I knew them. I also told her of Barbara Lewis's disciplinary leave, and made it clear I would cooperate if she wanted to pursue legal action against Mrs. Lewis and the district for disclosing information from confidential student records.

"Thank you Bill, for being so helpful to the boys. I appreciate that the school is taking prompt, serious action to resolve this," she said with a grateful smile.

We reached her office, and sat down with our coffee. "I hope Lance told you about what I said to him this morning. I want you to know that I have no problem with two gay boys being in love, Karen. My younger brother is gay, and I've been there for him and his partner every step of the way. They also met in high school, but thankfully they never got outed at that time. They were able to come out later at college, and it was much easier for them to handle then."

Now that my `professional duties' had been satisfied, it was time for the big question on my mind. "I saw Ricky's mom arriving in the ER, as Lance and I were leaving earlier this morning. So, you and Linda Williams had a chance to talk, I gather?"

Karen gave me a long, thoughtful look. "My, you are quite the perceptive one, aren't you? Yes, we talked about a lot of things. I assured her that Ricky was going to be fine. And, as a mother, I really felt she would want to know the whole story. And of course, I have an interest in it, being Lance's mother. I also think Ricky is just a fantastic kid, although we just really met him Sunday. These last few days have been the first time that I've seen my son really look and act like himself in almost nine months. I don't want to see anything happen to make him lose that again."

She took a long sip of her coffee, considering what she would say next. "It didn't go real well at first, you know," she said with a wry smile. "I expected her to be surprised, or perhaps angry. I know how I felt when I first learned that my son was gay. It certainly takes a little time to get used to the idea, to completely accept it. Well, she seemed to have no trouble accepting it at all, perhaps she already had her own suspicions. But, she certainly did get angry! I got the feeling that she felt personally threatened by it, somehow. I tried to convince her that he was still the same smart, sensitive, adorable boy that he always was. Now, she just knew a little bit more about him. We talked about Lance, and his experience back home, and how we dealt with it at the time. In the end, I told her I thought it would be best if she went home for a while and thought through things. As his doctor, I didn't want her to see Ricky until she had a chance to cool off and think things over a bit. Thankfully, she agreed to that. She plans to come in again later this afternoon, when he should be more alert. I hope our chat will help her accept the situation better. I don't want to see her blaming Ricky for any of this, or putting some kind of guilt trip on him."

"Well, Karen," I said, "Let me tell you, she's had it pretty tough. Ricky's dad was a very abusive alcoholic, and thankfully he's been out of the picture for about 5 years now. But, it's obviously hard for her being a single mom with one income. All this has affected Ricky's younger brother Graham the worst, though. He's been in a lot of trouble lately with alcohol, drugs and petty crime stuff. It's been a lot for her to handle emotionally. She's worried that Graham is soon going to be impossible to control. She doesn't want him to grow up to be the nightmare that Ricky's dad was for all of them. Ricky was always her saving grace; she's never had to worry about him. He took care of himself, got good grades, and never got in any trouble. I think she's afraid of what this might mean for his life, and his needs for support from her. Although the two are not real close, if you know what I mean, I think she may also be reacting a little bit out of jealousy towards Lance. He may threaten what little emotional support and stability she has left at home, if she feels like he is taking Ricky away from her; or, if she feels that Ricky may not need her emotional support any more, now that he has Lance. But, I think when she meets Lance she'll just have to like him, though. He's a very charming, genuine, and handsome young man. Hopefully, time will ease her fears a little."

"I feel for her, I really do," said Karen. "I can't imagine being in her shoes. Sounds like she's doing the best she can within her limits. Hopefully, we can get to know each other a little better. We're going to be `mothers-in-law' together for a long time, I think," she said with a laugh.

Once again, I became aware of voices talking quietly in the room with me as I slowly drifted back into consciousness. I was starting to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Deja vu' all over again, if ya know what I mean. I began to pick up pieces of the conversation, so I listened for a bit with my eyes still closed.

I heard Lance's voice, "...I dunno, Mr. Bill, sir; I really think that's gonna be too much for the little guy just yet. I don't want to tell him today. Maybe in the morning?"

"Lance," I could hear Mr. Bill clearly now, "I know your first reaction is to try and protect him from anything you think might cause him pain right now, and that's totally understandable. Heck, it's admirable. But, I think the longer you wait, the harder for him it's gonna be at this point. Thank god he was asleep when his mom came in after work. But, she'll be back pretty soon. You have to tell him now, its only fair to him. You can't let him talk to her if he doesn't know. Can't you see what you're setting him up for if you do that?"

"Well," Lance replied, "I was gonna try and just beg with her not to say anything to him about it until tomorrow. Krikes! I'm still so mad at my mum for telling her, I could just..."

"Lance," Mr. Bill interrupted, "Your mom is a very smart lady. Please try to trust her. I think she knows what she's doing. She's been there before, and she wants to help make this as easy as possible for everyone. I really think you need to tell him right away. She could be here any minute."

"Ok," I said grumpily, "I'm awake already. Tell me what?"

Lance looked down at me with fear and pain evident in his eyes, as he came and sat beside the bed. He looked up at Mr. Bill again, with a pleading look in his eyes.

"You have to tell him, Lance," said Mr. Bill a little more firmly.

Lance took my left hand, and held it in his two warm, strong hands. "God, Ricky; its not my fault. Promise me you won't get mad at me? Please? I just don't quite know how to tell you this..." he said, afraid to look at me. He continued talking to the floor, and crying softly..."I guess you can only blame yourself, really. But, I'm sure you didn't mean to do it. You probably still have no idea what you did, but..."

"What is it, Lancer? Please tell me? Its ok..." I was getting a little concerned here. So far, this wasn't sounding too good.

Mr. Bill jumped in; clearly afraid Lance would never get to the point. "Ricky, do you recall what you said to Brent this morning?"

"Uh, well...I remember I was really, really pissed off because he threatened to hurt Lance if he went out for the team! I told him...uh...I think I told him if he hurt Lance, I would make sure he rotted in jail."

Mr. Bill continued, "Do you remember exactly how you described Lance during that conversation?"

I closed my eyes for a second and fought back through all the fog inside my head to this morning. I didn't get what this was all about. What was the fuss? I answered, "Hmmm...well, as best I can remember, I said something like...if you, or any one of your friends, lays one finger on my boyfriend, I promise that you will go to jail, and you better fucking believe that!" About three seconds later it hit me. "OH FUCK! Did I really say that...Lance? Oh can't be...FUCK!...SHIT!...I can't believe I...God, I'm so sorry Lance..." I said as I broke down in tears.

Lance hugged me to him as best he could, and gave me a quick kiss on the head. "Its gonna be all right, Ricky. There's nothing for you to be sorry to me about. Just hang on, little guy." Lance stroked my hair for a minute to calm me down some more. "Ricky, look at me. This is real important. You're mum will be here to see you pretty soon. I'm really sorry I have to tell you this, babe. She knows too," Lance said, with tears rolling down his face.

"NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!" I screamed. "HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING TO ME?" I crossed my left arm over my face, and cried hysterically for the first time since when? Yesterday? God, and this had started out to be such a good day! My life as I knew it was now officially over. Fuck.