This story is fiction. The city of Clifton, and the University of Clifton, exist only in my imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. These stories have as their main character a sexually active gay college student. If this is offensive to you, or if it is illegal in your area, or if you are under age, please leave now.
This story involves a search for personal acceptance, worth, and meaning. There is a religious element in these stories. If you don't like that, maybe now is a good time to leave.
My stories develop slowly. If you're in a hurry, this is probably not for you.
Thanks to Colin for editing.
Constructive comments are welcome on my e-mail at email@example.com.
Bryce, Chapter 29 - Damon Attacked
Bryce was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof as he was driven by John Zoeller, the security officer, to the hospital attached to the University's School of Medicine. Officer Zoeller did not know any particulars as far as Damon's condition was concerned. He could report that security had responded to a call from a student shortly after one o'clock reporting that he had come across an injured man who was unconscious, and appeared to have been beaten severely. Damon was taken to the hospital, where he was treated by the staff in the emergency room. He had a wallet with money in it, so the beating was not related to robbery. From the papers in the wallet, the injured student was identified as Damon A. Watson of 310 Clay Hall. He remained unconscious, but he kept muttering about Bryce, asking for Bryce. In his wallet was a card saying "In Case of Emergency, contact Bryce Winslow, 312 Clay Hall." Bryce was touched by the fact that Damon had named him as his emergency contact. As Bryce emerged from the security vehicle, the officer looked carefully at his hands. It took him a moment to realize that the officer was making certain that Bryce had not been the one to beat up Damon. That person would have red, chaffed knuckles. Bryce's first reaction was resentment, but then he reined himself in before flying off the handle, and realized the officer was only doing his job, and he should be grateful he was careful about introducing another person into Damon's presence.
Bryce entered the emergency entrance, and asked at the reception desk where Damon Watson was located. "He has just been moved to a room on the third floor," the receptionist told him after checking her monitor, and gave him a room number and directions. As he was accompanied by the officer, she allowed the visit, even though it was the middle of the night. On the third floor, however, the nurse in charge was not going to allow Bryce to enter the patient's room. Bryce was arguing with her when a physician appeared. After hearing part of the argument, the physician spoke up.
"I'm Dr. Gianelli. Are you Bryce?"
"Yes, sir. I'm ... I'm Damon Watson's neighbor in the dorm. We've been good friends since the beginning of the semester. How is he?" Bryce asked intensely.
"Nurse, this is the young man my patient has been asking for. I believe it will do the patient good to have him present, so I'm authorizing him to remain in the room until further notice," Dr. Gianelli said.
"Very well, Doctor," the nurse replied. To Bryce, she said, "Name, please."
"Bryce Winslow. Here's my student ID."
She copied the information, then the doctor led Bryce to a room down the corridor. Along the way, he explained, "Damon has been assaulted, but we do not believe there will be any lasting effects. The most serious problem is concussion. It looks like his head was banged against the pavement or some other hard object. There is some slight swelling of the brain, but it seems to be going down. Because of this, we want to keep him at least until Monday to make sure there are no permanent complications. Other than that, there are a lot of scrapes and bruises, and a nasty gash on his left arm from the elbow to the wrist. Maybe a knife or some other sharp instrument was used. It's not deep, but may leave a scar. No major muscles were severed. Damon has not regained consciousness since he was brought in, but that's not bad. He's unconscious, but not in a coma. Sleeping is the best medicine while he's recovering. But he seems restless, and keeps asking for you. I'm hoping your presence will calm him so he can get more healing rest."
"Thanks, Doctor. I'll be here as long as I can - as long as Damon needs me," Bryce promised.
Dr. Gianelli led Bryce into a room where Damon shared space with another patient, who was sound asleep. Damon's bed was closer to the door, so they need not disturb the other patient. Bryce saw his boyfriend swathed in bandages and attached to several monitors. Damon was strapped in, which the doctor explained was because he was so restless, and they did not want him hurting himself. As they whispered about his condition, Damon moaned, turning his head from side to side, and calling, "Bryce! Help me, Bryce!"
Bryce grasped his hand. "I'm here, Damon. I'm with you. I won't leave you."
Damon calmed down. "Yeah. Bryce."
Dr. Gianelli said, "We were hoping your presence would calm him. It looks like that will work."
"Thanks, Doctor. I'll stay here until Damon wakes up, anyway," Bryce repeated.
Dr. Gianelli departed, promising to check in again later.
Unobserved, Officer Zoeller had accompanied Bryce the entire time. Now, as Dr. Gianelli left Bryce in Damon's room, the officer's presence was obvious. In a low voice he said, "I don't want to upset anybody, but I need to ask: can you tell me why Damon was where he was found, near the sorority houses, and what he might have been doing tonight?"
Responding equally quietly, Bryce said, "We're both pledges at Sigma Alpha Tau. We were at the reception at the fraternity house until about nine, then at the homecoming dance. Damon had a girl named Sheila as his date for homecoming. I don't know her last name, but she lives in the Tri Delt sorority house. After we left the dance, about twelve-thirty, we each walked our dates back. Mine lives in a dorm, so Damon and Sheila went on by themselves. That's the last time I saw either of them."
"You were completely dressed when I came for you," the officer cautiously observed.
"Damon has the room next to mine in Clay Hall. I kind of expected him to return there about the same time I did. I had begun to undress, removing the costume I wore in the homecoming parade and dance, but when Damon didn't show up, I started getting worried. In fact, I was just about to call security when you came for me. I put my jeans on with the idea of going out to look for him," Bryce explained.
"Okay. I'll go check on this Sheila gal. You'll be here if I need to talk to you again, right?"
Bryce sat next to Damon's bed, holding his hand, and talking to him in a low voice. Damon seemed to be resting quietly now. After a while, in that same low voice, he began to pray, pulling out his rosary. He figured the sound of his voice would be the same if Damon could hear him, and God could hear no matter what voice he used. He prayed intensely for Damon, especially that there be no permanent damage as a result of this assault. Time passed without him noticing the hours.
The next thing Bryce knew, a nurse came in to check on Damon and give him a shot. She explained the morning routine, when they would "clean up" Damon and get him ready for the doctor's visit. It was a little past five-thirty. Bryce asked about someplace to wait until he could visit Damon again. The nurse mentioned the waiting room down the hall. Noticing that Bryce was fingering a rosary, she also mentioned that there was a Mass offered in the hospital chapel at six o'clock. Oh, yeah. It was Sunday now. Bryce asked for directions to the chapel, and retired there. He was surprised to find that the Mass was celebrated by Father Miller, but then considered that, as he was the Catholic chaplain at the University, that made sense. In the chapel there was no opportunity for the elaborate celebration of the liturgy Bryce enjoyed at St. Boniface, even if Father Miller would do that, but the essentials were the same. He prayed intensely for Damon. Upon receiving communion, Bryce knew that the priest recognized him, and he smiled. He returned to his place, sank to his knees, and talked to Jesus. He waited, and a feeling of comfort came over him. He knew that Damon would pull through with no permanent damage.
As Mass ended, Bryce remained in his pew for a time, still communing with Jesus, and still praying for Damon. He felt a presence near him, and looked up. Father Miller stood there, looking concerned. Bryce smiled.
"You're not the patient?" the priest surmised.
"No. Someone beat up Damon last night. He has concussion. I'm here to keep him company," Bryce replied.
"Damon's not Catholic?"
"Still, would you like for me to visit him?"
"Please, Father. I believe he will get better, but he's hurting," Bryce said.
"If they'll let us. I got chased out of the room," Bryce told him.
They returned to the room on the third floor where Damon was located. The nurse said they had just finished with Damon, so Bryce and Father Miller entered. The priest blessed the patient and said a prayer for his recovery. He then excused himself, having to return to the Newman Center to prepare for the first Mass of the day there. Bryce again took Damon's hand into his own, and settled in, talking to Damon.
"Okay, boyfriend. I just went to Mass and received communion. I asked Jesus to take care of you, and he told me you were going to be okay, even if it hurts like hell for a while."
Unexpectedly, Bryce got a response. In a weak voice, Damon said, "You got that right."
Excitedly, Bryce pushed the button to summon the nurse, as he continued to talk to Damon. "Hey, boyfriend, you're waking up. Come back to us. I love you."
A weak, "me too," was his response.
The nurse arrived. Bryce explained that Damon was regaining consciousness, and was talking to him. She immediately left to page Dr. Gianelli.
Some fifteen minutes later, Dr. Gianelli appeared. He was near the end of his time on duty, and looked exhausted, but he immediately began asking Bryce what happened, then asked Damon, "Can you hear me, Damon?"
"Hang in there. You've had a rough time, but you're going to get better."
"Think I can miss my Math quiz?" Damon asked.
"You have a perfect excuse," the doctor assured him.
"Almost worth it," Damon managed.
Dr. Gianelli smiled as he said to Bryce, "I think Damon will pull through with flying colors." He scribbled some instructions to the nurses, and departed after a quick examination.
Bryce did not want to disturb Damon, so he said nothing about the attack. Instead, over the next few hours, he talked to Damon in a low voice, assuring him of his love and soothing him. Damon gradually recovered full consciousness, and was able to eat and drink a little with Bryce's help. He opened his eyes, but they were swollen as a result of the assault, and he could not see clearly. The light bothered him, so he tended to keep his eyes closed. He did not need to see Bryce to know he was there with him. As the morning wore on, Damon gradually regained strength and became fully conscious. Unfortunately, this meant also conscious of his pains. Before he was sedated for the pain, however, the campus security officer returned. It was shortly after ten o'clock.
"Damon, I'm John Zoeller, with campus security. Can you tell me what happened to you last night?"
Damon's voice was weak, but he was definite in what he said. "I walked Sheila back to her place. Was on the way to the dorm. Three guys. Jumped me, started knocking me around, then got really mean."
"Can you identify them?"
"They wore ski masks. But it was Mack Campbell, for one. He would hit me, say something, then say 'got it?' like Mack always does. Nobody else talks like that."
"Good. What about the others," Officer Zoeller asked, writing in his notebook.
"Not sure. Probably Bick, cause he said something about sucking his cock 'this time,' like he knew about the other time he tried to make me. Don't know about the other."
"Did one of your assailants have a knife?"
"Don't know. Felt something on my left arm, but I was held down, couldn't see who was doing what."
Officer Zoeller looked to Bryce. "Do you know these guys?"
"Yeah. Mack and Bick got expelled from Sigma Alpha Tau fraternity recently. They have it in for Damon and me."
"Said they would get you next," Damon confirmed.
"Okay. I'll check them out. What's Bick's last name?" the officer asked.
"Lomax," Bryce informed him.
"I'm on my way," Officer Zoeller said, as he departed.
"Bick and Mack are scum," Bryce asserted. "I'll see to it that they pay for this."
"My champion," Damon said with a note of humor, although it hurt too much to actually laugh. "Not the first time I've been beaten up."
"Let's make this the last," Bryce said forcefully.
"Okay by me," Damon said, as he slowly sank into a restful sleep.
Bryce remained until he was shooed out by nurses when it was time to "clean up" Damon again, and feed him lunch. He did not feel much like lunch himself, but he had skipped breakfast, so he thought he should get something. He stopped by the cafeteria in the University Center, then went back to his room. He called his mother, but it was too early. As the family lived in another time zone, they were not back from Mass yet. He left a message, saying he might not be able to talk this Sunday, but would send an e-mail. Bryce then sat down at his computer and composed a message to his mother describing the situation with Damon. He copied Nan on it. By that time, he figured he could return to the hospital.
The early parts of Sunday afternoon were spent talking to Damon. Bryce let his boyfriend control the conversation, not forcing any unpleasant memories of the attack. From time to time, Damon would drift into some memory of the assault, but no significant new information resulted. About three-thirty he asked what time it was. When told, Damon insisted that Bryce had to go to the soup kitchen, and explain to Deacon Jeffers and DeShawn why he was not there. He was to make certain that DeShawn got his supper. Although he was reluctant to leave, Bryce agreed to this demand, and set off for the soup kitchen.
He found DeShawn waiting for them, and explained the situation to him, including Damon's concern that he get his supper. DeShawn was angry at whomever had treated his role model like this. Inside, Deacon Jeffers was likewise concerned, and promised to pray for Damon. Once the preparations were completed, and the first person was preparing to go through the line, as he always did, Deacon Jeffers offered grace, but he added a statement about Damon, and prayed for his recovery. This evoked a hearty "Amen" from a good portion of those preparing to eat. Bryce took advantage of the first lull to take a full plate and drink out to DeShawn. At the end of the dinner, about seven, he also drove DeShawn home. Along the way, he encouraged DeShawn to keep up with his school work. He did not see Malcolm anywhere, and asked DeShawn about that.
"Oh, the big fake was so mad about me getting a ride he won't talk to me any more," DeShawn reported.
From there, Bryce drove directly back to the hospital. Damon was awake, languidly watching a program on the television, as there was nothing else to do. He still looked terrible, with swollen eyes and bandages here and there, but he seemed to be recovering and in pretty good spirits.
"They say I can go home tomorrow, and I'll have an excused absence from classes for the next three days. You'll go by and tell my teachers, won't you?"
"You know I will. Anything you need, boyfriend," Bryce said, gently kissing him on the lips.
"Be careful with that," Damon admonished him. "I think the guy in the other bed is something of a homophobe," he said, as he indicated with a tilt of his head the other patient in the room.
Bryce pulled the room divider out, so the other patient could not see what they were doing, and then kissed Damon again.
"They'll let me go after the doctor sees me just before lunch," Damon elaborated.
"Okay. Soon as I get out of Psychology, I'll come by with the car, and take you home," Bryce confirmed. "It looks like you'll get the kind of day you like. You always want to sleep late, so now you can sleep all you want for the next few days."
"Hell of a way to earn that privilege," Damon commented. He went on to tell Bryce that Officer Zoeller had reported the assault to the city police. They had attempted to contact Mack Campbell and Bick Lomax, but they had not been at their apartment. There was not enough evidence to arrest the duo at this point, but both the campus security force and the city police were working on it. "Can't say I really appreciated the police before," Damon mused, "but these guys seem pretty decent."
"We'll find those guys, and we'll make them sorry they attacked you," Bryce promised.
They talked about other things most of the time, including DeShawn and Malcolm. DeShawn's comments on Malcolm caused Damon to chuckle. About ten o'clock Dr. Gianelli stepped in. He was on call again, and checked on Damon as one of his first patients. He told Bryce that he should go home and get some sleep himself. After checking Damon, he was going to give him something to make him sleep, the best medicine for concussion.
Back in his room, Bryce found a lengthy e-mail from his mother, and another from Nan, expressing concern about Damon. He responded to both, but did not call, as he knew his mother would be in bed by this time. He did call Curtis and DuBois. Curtis had been contacted by Officer Zoeller in the attempt to locate Mack and Bick, and noted that he took that into consideration when the two did not show up to clean up the house after yesterday's party. DuBois, on the other hand, had not heard anything, and was wondering about not seeing Damon at all that day. Both were highly upset at the attack on Damon, but relieved at the prognosis.
The next morning, Bryce arose as usual, and made his way to the gym. He felt cramped and tense after the events of the previous 28 hours. As usual, he was joined by Curtis. Together they discussed Damon's situation, and tried to figure out where Bick and Mack had gone, and who the third person might be. Curtis hoped it was not another brother of SAT. There had been two who had voted with those two at the time of the confrontation, now nearly two weeks ago. After hearing of the assault from Officer Zoeller, Curtis had questioned both brothers, but both claimed to know nothing about the incident. One, who lived at the fraternity house, could bring witnesses that he was at the house at the relevant time, but the other, who lived off campus, was less certainly exonerated. He brought his roommate to attest to Curtis, and to campus security, that he was home by the time of the assault, but whether his roommate could be relied upon was not certain.
Bryce cut his workout short so he could go by the hospital before his first class. He again met Dr. Gianelli, who assured him Damon was coming along as expected. All he really needed was lots of rest, and time. Damon was getting restless in his confined space, but Bryce promised to rescue him at lunch time. There was still no report on Mack, Bick, or the third assailant. Of course, at this point they were not one hundred percent certain of the guilt of Mack and Bick, but that was the best lead they had, and the fact that the two had disappeared from their apartment was suspicious. After leaving the hospital, Bryce rushed about to inform Damon's instructors of his situation while still meeting his own morning classes. At this point, he truly resented the Freshman Orientation class, with its grade dependent entirely on attendance. When he explained the situation, however, the TA in charge excused both Damon and him, actually making him feel bad about his negative thoughts beforehand. Using that hour, Bryce stopped by the food court in the University Center, then rushed back to the dorm to make sure everything was prepared for the reception of his boyfriend. He intended to put Damon in his room, where he would have the large screen computer to entertain himself while Bryce was in class.
As soon as his Psychology class was over, Bryce rushed back, got his car, and drove to the hospital. There, he found Damon waiting for him, anxious to get away from the sterile atmosphere and the offensive ramblings of the patient in the next bed. Damon, frankly, looked terrible. His eyes were still swollen, and he had bruises on both cheeks and a swollen nose, as well as a cut on his right cheek which required a bandage. His left arm was also swathed in bandages from the cut there. Despite this, Bryce was happy to see him, and kissed him as they met. Damon reported that DuBois had been in to see him that morning, as had been campus security and the city police. They were still trying to locate the guys accused by Damon. Their continued absence looked more and more suspicious. The hospital insisted that Damon be taken to the exit in a wheelchair, so Bryce went ahead and brought his Mustang up to the exit. Without much difficulty, they got Damon stowed in the car, then up to the dorm room, using the elevator for the first time since bringing up luggage at the start of the semester.
When Bryce insisted on putting Damon in his bed, Damon protested. "I love being in bed with you, boyfriend, but I'm in no condition for that now. My head hurts like the devil."
Bryce smiled. "I'm not only interested in sex, Dumbass. I'm putting you in here so you can watch a movie, or maybe some porn if you feel like it, on my computer. I've also got our lunch from the Pizza Hut outlet right here. I'll nuke it in the microwave in the lounge in just a minute. Then, when you feel like it in a couple of days, we'll use the bed for what your evil imagination cooked up."
Damon grinned. "You think of everything."
Bryce kissed him, and set off with the pizza as Damon settled in. In the lounge, Bryce encountered Wayne Diebold. Wayne was merely watching television, obviously just putting in some time between classes. When he saw Bryce, however, he became interested, looking around to make certain no one else could hear him.
"You know, you might be right about there being a gay guy on the team," he whispered.
Bryce smiled. "What makes you say that, Wayne?"
"You know most of the guys on the team live in Rupp Hall. I'm here because my dad lived in Clay. Not this one, but the one that was torn down. You know there was another Clay Hall right here ...."
"Yes, Wayne, I know about that," Bryce interrupted, "but you were telling me something about a gay member of the football team. Or, anyway, somebody you think might be gay."
"Yeah. Well, this morning I was having breakfast with a buddy of mine who lives in Rupp, and he told me that one of the guys has some other guys sleeping with him."
"Oh, yeah," Bryce responded, not finding this all that interesting. He gathered his warmed up pizza, and started to leave.
Wayne grabbed him by the arm. "Here's the thing. Those guys have been there since some time Saturday night. Two days! And they never come out! What do you think they're doing in there? Jake, my buddy, says there are some mighty peculiar noises coming from that room."
His interest peaked, Bryce asked, "What kind of noises?"
"Kind of laughing in a weird sort of way, Jake said," Wayne replied. "You know, I would never have guessed Carlyle was gay. I mean, like you said, he sure acted normal. He even used all those words you said were offensive to gay people. I guess he was trying to cover up. He even said once he would slice up a queer. Sorry, Bryce, but that's what he said. Carlyle has some really cool knives. He brought a couple to a party I was at once."
That definitely caught Bryce's attention, but he did not want to cause a reaction which might backfire. "Well, Wayne, what you say is real interesting, but it doesn't prove anything, so don't go making any accusations or anything, okay? What was the name of the guy? Carlyle, did you say?" Bryce asked.
"Yeah. Ken Carlyle. He's a junior. I think he's a friend of one of the guys in your fraternity, but I can't remember who," Wayne supplied.
"Thanks, Wayne. Just play it cool with Carlyle. I need to get this pizza back to Damon. You know he was beat up over the weekend."
"No, really. How'd that happen?"
"Three guys jumped him Saturday night. He was in the hospital, but I just brought him back here. No permanent damage. But I need to get back to him," Bryce explained.
"Sure. Say 'hi' for me," Wayne said.
Bryce rushed back to his room. He related to Damon what he had learned from Wayne, then called campus security. He asked to speak to Officer Zoeller, but was told he was on patrol. Bryce said it was about the attack on Damon Watson on Saturday night. The dispatcher said she would contact Zoeller right away and have him contact Bryce at his dorm. Bryce and Damon finished the pizza and cokes before Zoeller showed up, and both missed the start of their Biology class, although Damon was excused, of course. About twenty minutes after he had placed the call, there was a knock on the door. Bryce answered and admitted Officer John Zoeller.
"We've been waiting for you," Bryce accused him.
"Sorry. There was some dispute in the cafeteria, and I was in the middle of it when I got the call. What's up?" the security guard asked.
Bryce related the information he had acquired from Wayne. Zoeller took it all down in his notebook. When Bryce had completed his narration, the officer stood there for a moment, scratched his head, then decided he needed backup. He did not want to encounter a man with knives (plural) alone. As Officer Zoeller started to leave, so did Bryce.
"No," the officer said, "you do not come with me. I don't want anyone in the way when we investigate this room."
"Actually, I was going to Audubon Hall. That's where I'm supposed to be in class right now, and where I have to tell the professor about Damon," Bryce answered.
"Oh. Good idea. Stay out of the way. If this pans out, we'll be in touch," Zoeller assured them.
Bryce did report in to Dr. Harris, informing him of Damon's situation, and why he was late arriving in class. Afterwards, he attended his History class, where Dr. Dickinson discussed the birth of James Francis Edward Stuart, the male heir to the throne which changed the whole dynamics of the situation. This was followed by the landing of William of Orange at Torbay, and the loss of the throne by James II. After class, Bryce went to the office of Damon's math teacher and told him about why Damon would not be in class for the next few days. On his way back to Clay Hall shortly after that, Bryce encountered Officer Zoeller once again.
"Your information panned out," Bryce was told. "Two other officers and I went to the room of this Ken Carlyle. When we knocked, there was some scuffling inside, but no response. We identified ourselves as campus security, and heard more commotion, including voices, but still no response. We had the dorm proctor with us, so we had him open the door. There were three guys there, one of them trying to climb out the window. We found a whole collection of knives, and a couple of shirts with suspicious looking stains. It needs to be tested, of course, but we have a record of Mr. Watson's blood from the hospital. The three guys were this Kenneth Carlyle, Bickford Lomax, and McKinnon Campbell. Thanks for the tip."
"Thank you! Damon will be happy to hear this," Bryce responded.
"If you'll tell him, that'll save me some time. I've got a load of paper work on this, and the guys have to be turned over to the city police. We don't have any way to keep them secure," John Zoeller said.
"Sure. Glad to," Bryce agreed.
Damon was, indeed, happy to learn that his three attackers had been apprehended. He said he would not have felt safe going around campus while they were still at large. Bryce agreed, as Damon told him they had threatened to get him next. Neither of them knew Carlyle, or what his apparent fascination with knives might mean, but were happy he was out of circulation. At Damon's urging, Bryce kept his appointment with Father Miller, although he was late getting to the Newman Center. Then, once again, Bryce stopped by to bring food in for the evening meal. In the food court in the University Center, he again encountered Wayne. He thought it only fair to explain to him what had gone on. He gave Wayne credit for leading to the capture of Damon's assailants, and tried to explain everything. He was not entirely successful. Later he learned that Wayne was still convinced that the three guys in Carlyle's room were gay.
Later, the three students, Campbell, Carlyle, and Lomax, were tried for assault and battery and hate crimes against Damon Watson, and found guilty. Those stains on the sweatshirts Officer Zoeller mentioned were, indeed, Damon's blood. Ski masks were also found in Carlyle's room, hidden in the closet behind some dirty laundry. Once convicted, they were also expelled from the University. The University administration waited until the last minute to take any action because two of the students, Campbell and Lomax, had parents who were significant contributors to the fund raising campaign currently being conducted. Even so, the expulsions were done quietly, with no public announcement.