DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account of two young teenage boys who are in love. Although limited sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to gay sex and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading it. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in actual locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals nor school policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this 2009 Fall Anthology entry is the twenty-second in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.


A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

This was cool . . . sooo cool. OK, it was only the freshman team, but this was high school, man. Ever since I'd started playing football as a little kid, I'd been waiting to play high school football, and now here I was. Me, Billy Mathews. I was so excited, I could hardly stand it. All summer I'd been waiting for the first day of football tryouts.

It really kinda sucked that we lived so far from the high school. At fourteen, it'd be a long time before I could drive myself to football practice, and the traffic was way too heavy to ride my bicycle over, so I was stuck with having to get rides from my mom or from other parents or from other kids' older brothers or sisters. That really blew. Why'd we have to live all the way over in the southern section of Grandview?

Well, Grandview is a traditionally African American neighborhood, and we are African American, but a lot of my friends have moved up to Carmel to live the Oreo lifestyle. Funny thing is, my neighborhood's become so gentrified in recent years, ours is one of the few black families still living on our block. Grandview was built for affluent blacks, and now the white folks want to live there 'cause of all the beautiful older homes. Go figure.

Thank God Rick hasn't moved. We've been friends for, like, ever, and much more than that since fifth grade. Yeah, we're a couple of candy-assed niggas, and everybody knows it. It was rough going at first, especially with Rick being . . . the way he is, but everyone in our middle school has always known that if anything happens to Rick, they have to answer to me. Our moms have been wonderful about Rick's and my relationship, and our dads have tolerated it, even to the point of standing up for us in public, which is a lot for a black man to do for his `faggot son'.

Further to the north on Grandview Drive, where the houses are mostly ramblers built in the fifties and sixties, the neighborhood's still solidly black, but those kids didn't go to my middle school. It's kinda funny. I'm a black kid, living in a traditionally African American neighborhood that's now mostly white, and I went to the middle school up on Westlane Road, nearby. The kids that live right by the middle school, on the other hand, get bussed across the district to the predominantly white middle school that sits on the same campus as the high school. 'Course they don't call it busing - it's `progressive districting'. Bottom line is that all the elementary and middle schools are `racially balanced'.

"Here we are, honey," Mom said as she pulled our SUV up to the backside entrance to the high school, right by the gym. That's where the directions told us we were supposed to be dropped off for football tryouts. Man, the high school sure was a hell of a lot bigger than my old middle school.

Way across the parking lot, I could see that other middle school - a major reminder that I'd be coming into contact with a hell of a lot of kids who didn't know me, and that even among the freshmen, only a third would know me. That was a scary thought, 'cause it meant going through the whole coming out thing all over again. Not that I felt I had anything to hide, but I sure wasn't looking forward to dealing with all the homophobic jock crap that permeated most locker rooms. I sure as fuck wasn't going to put up with it.

'Course Mom had to kiss me as I got out of the SUV. How embarrassing! I only hoped no one saw it. Grabbing my backpack with my jock, my cup and all of my required stuff inside, I took a deep breath and headed inside.

First thing I saw when I entered was a giant black panther with a red tongue and angry red eyes staring at me, laid out on the floor in floor tiles. That was my team - The Panthers. No more Wildcats. Off to the right was the entrance to the gym, and just inside were a series of tables with sign-ups for the various teams. I headed over to the line for the freshman football team. A lot of kids were trickling in by now, and one of my good friends from middle school came up behind me.

"Hey Billy, how's it hangin'?" It was Larry Peters, a defensive tackle who'd moved into my neighborhood a couple of years ago with his parents. He was white, and he'd confided to me toward the end of eighth grade that he was deeply in the closet himself. He knew I was taken, but he was desperate to find a way to have a boyfriend on the side while still keeping up appearances . . . something I couldn't relate to at all. The funny thing was that he thought his parents would be accepting - it was his own homophobia that was the problem.

"Hangin' pretty good, Larry," I replied. "How about yourself?" I asked. "Have a good summer?"

"Nothing exciting," he answered. "Got a girlfriend," he added with a sly smile.

My smile faded, but only for a millisecond as I said, "That must be interesting, especially for you."

He stood up real close to me, almost right in my face and whispered, "Not a word about what we talked about last year, got it?"

"Hey, it's your life to screw up, man," I replied.

Changing the subject, he asked, "You tryin' out for quarterback?"

"Gonna try," I replied.

"That's good," Larry said. "You'll prolly make it, though you gotta figure you got two other quarterbacks to contend with from the two other middle schools. But you're good . . . really good, so you'll win the competition for sure."

"Glad you think so," I said, grasping him warmly on the shoulder.

I reached the head of the line and handed the coach my signed parental consent and completed physician's physical.

"Billy Mathews," the coach said. "I've been following your progress. You have an impressive throwing arm and some pretty good moves on the field."

"Thank you, sir," I said with as much humility as I could while a grin took over my face. "I hope I can learn a lot on your team."

"We'd love to have you here, and to foster your growth as an athlete," he agreed. Shifting a bit uncomfortably, he said just loudly enough that I could hear, but not softly enough to keep the kids in the immediate vicinity from hearing it, "I understand that you're gay."

Obviously, more people heard him than he'd intended, as all conversation stopped around me. Well, I certainly felt I had nothing to hide, nor did I intend to, and so I answered him much more loudly and clearly so that few if any kids at my table and probably the tables next to ours could have possibly missed hearing me ask, "Yes sir, I'm gay. Is that going to be a problem?"

"Not at all, son," he said. "This school has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to matters of hate . . . however, enforcement has sometimes been spotty and I expect there will be times when some of your fellow teammates who may not have had experience with people coming from different backgrounds may try to test the limits of our tolerance. The problem is that when we act, we will act against everyone involved. My advice to you is that you let us handle it. If you are harassed in any way, don't try to take matters into your own hands. If you get into a fight, you will be suspended, or expelled, along with everyone else involved. Don't go there."

"Coach, if it comes down to a physical attack on just me, I can deal with that. I can defend myself just fine without having to get into a fight. I've been doin' that for years. If anyone attacks my boyfriend, however, all bets are off."

The coach started to open his mouth, and then closed it. He opened it again, and then closed it.

"I've been teaching my Ricky some basic self-defense lately, though," I said to lighten the mood. "He's just not very athletic."

"We have an excellent martial arts program here, Billy," the coach suggested. "Why don't you get your boyfriend to enroll in it? Trust me, he wouldn't be the only gay boy in the class . . . not by a long shot."

"I doubt that I can get him to go for it, but I'll try," I agreed earnestly.

After everyone had been through the line and signed up for their respective sports and grade levels, the coaches blew their whistles and the freshman coaches gathered us up and said, "Alright, now listen up. I know some of you hot-shots may think you'll make junior varsity this year, but that ain't gonna happen. I think we've had one freshman make junior varsity in the history of this high school, and from the looks a you, I don't see one prospect in this pathetic group o' misfits, so get that outta your minds right now."

The other freshman coach said, "Regardless, this is high school ball and you've never played high school ball before. What passes for football in middle school is a walk in the park. Forget everything you've ever learned about football. It's worthless. You're starting over. Consider this your boot camp. If any one of you does end up on junior varsity or . . ." he laughed, "varsity, the time spent in training during the next two weeks will be the most important preparation you'll need."

The first coach then went on to introduce himself, "My name's Coach Williford. Brian Williford, if you must know. I've been coaching freshman football here for seven years. A lot of my players have gone on to play varsity, and to win football scholarships, so we must be doin' something right. My assistant coach is Coach Blakely. He's kinda new . . . this is his second year here coachin' the Panthers, but he's a fast learner and he knows how to coach a winning team. I expect you to show him the same respect you show me.

"Now the first thing we're gonna do is get you set up with locker assignments and make sure you have the proper equipment. Once you're set up, we're gonna start by running some standard drills . . . probably the same sorts of drills you're used to running from middle school. Once I see what you can do, I'm gonna show you how everything you've been doing is wrong, wrong, WRONG!

"After we go over some of the worst mistakes you're making, we'll show you the right way to train, show you the proper way to give your nearly adult-size bodies a workout and by then it'll be time to call it quits for today. Oh, and we're gonna talk a lot about nutrition! You gotta learn how to eat! Burgers are great, but fries are out. Pizza's out. We're gonna set the record straight on what your body needs and what's poison as far as you're concerned.

"And one more thing . . . we do random drug screens. Anyone caught using pot, or coke, or especially using performance-enhancing drugs will be off the team . . . permanently. No steroids, no growth hormone, no blood doping. We build athletes the old-fashioned way, by hard work.

"So let's get a move on! Everyone to the locker room, where we'll give you your locker assignments and hand you your equipment."

All right. I was pumped. I was ready. I was psyched and ready to go. This was high school football. Maybe there had been only one freshman who'd made junior varsity in the school's history, but I could always dream . . .

Man, the coach wasn't kidding. High school tryouts were a bitch! Everything I thought I knew about training and running scrimmages got a scowl of disapproval from the coaches. They kept yelling at us, every step of the way. It seemed we couldn't do anything right. But then as they showed us the `proper' way to do things, I had to admit that I could feel the difference. I was getting a better burn for less work. I was using my muscles more efficiently, and that could make all the difference in a game.

'Course there were the occasional sideways glances and stares. The kids from my old middle school already knew about me, but for the other two-thirds of the kids, I was an oddity. The other African American players were the worst of all, but the white players weren't much better. As the day progressed, I started getting bumped and shoved to the point that the coaches even had to stop the drills and ask if there was a problem. 'Course no one would admit there was, but it gave the coaches a chance to remind everyone about the school's non-discrimination policy. Yeah, I'm sure that made a real difference.

At the end of the day came the time I was dreading the most. If anything were gonna happen, it would be in the showers, and I wasn't disappointed. As I started to strip down, the teasing began. A couple black kids came up to me and waved their dicks in my face, actin' like their equipment was so much bigger than anyone else's that I'd want to pay them to blow it. Well, I'd certainly been in situations like this before, and I just said, loud enough for every one to hear, "Actually, my boyfriend's junk makes yours look pretty small. Sorry to disappoint you, but he's hung." I sighed loudly and continued, "It must be tough to go through life with such puny equipment." That got everyone in the locker room laughing, and helped to break the tension.

Things settled down quite a bit until I got to the showers and had my eyes closed while I shampooed my hair. In just that split second when I couldn't see, someone shoved into me, hard, and sent me sprawling to the floor, giving me a substantial bruise on my right thigh and elbow. Everyone was laughing at me as I picked myself off the floor, but then the head coach entered the shower room and asked what had happened.

One of the kids I didn't know said, "The faggot slipped and fell in the shower and hurt himself."

"He didn't slip, asshole," John Langley, a kid who went to my middle school, spoke up. "You pushed him."

"That's a lie," the first kid spat back.

"Yeah," another kid chimed in, "he's makin' it up!"

A third kid I didn't know added, "I saw the whole thing and the faggot slipped on a bar of soap."

The coach said, "Anyone else want to add anything?" When no one else spoke up, he said, "I will see the five of you in my office in five minutes, OK?"

As soon as the coach left the shower room the kid that apparently had shoved me told poor John Langley, "You had better change your story, or you'll never make the team." He then turned to me and said, "And that little shove was just a warning. This ain't `fagball'. It's football. We want you off the team. You leave tonight, and don't return. Got it?"

Looking back at him incredulously, I asked, "What makes you think you've got a say in this? I've been playing football all my life. I've got one of the best passing records in the state. Don't you think it should be the coaches decision as to who makes the cut?"

"Not if no one wants to play with you on the team," he said coldly. "When Coach finds out that no one'll play with you, it won't matter anyway. He'll want you off the team, too."

"There's enough good players from my middle school alone to field a team. If you're too bigoted to play with me, It'll be your loss," I countered.

"Like I said, that little shove was just a warning," he said coldly. "The next time, it won't be just a little shove, there won't be any witnesses and you won't be left standing."

"We gotta get to the coaches' office," I reminded him, "and I'm not afraid of you or your threats."

After getting dressed, we went to the coach's office, and he ushered us inside. Before we could even say anything, he said, "You know, boys, it's really amazing how well sound carries in this place. The ventilation system for the showers runs right through this office, so I can pretty much hear every conversation that takes place in the shower room, just as if it were taking place right in this office." He grinned as he finished saying that.

"So you see," he continued, staring right at the kid who'd threatened me, "I heard every word of what you guys said after I left the shower room, including your threat, Sampson. We do not take such threats lightly around here and that little threat constitutes a hate crime. Not only are you off the team, but you're out of this school. Our zero tolerance policy means just that, and you have given us the perfect opportunity to test it. If ever there were a perfect opportunity to apply it, this is it. You will be attending the alternative high school, and I have absolutely no doubt that the principal will back me up on this. Your expulsion for threatening a fellow player will certainly send a powerful message to the rest of the players that we mean business."

"But coach . . ." Sampson started to protest.

"Save it, Sampson," Coach said as he pulled a tape recorder out of his desk. "I have everything I need to back me up on this. You could have been looking at a free ride to college on a football scholarship, and instead you'll be lucky to get into a good trade school. Now get outta my sight before I decide to turn this over to the police, too."

As soon as Sampson had left, Coach said, "Too bad I didn't have this thing turned on," with a smile on his face. "If he behaves well at the alternative school, he can apply to be reinstated next year, but boys like that have a way of getting and staying in trouble throughout their four years," Coach said with a sigh. "Langley, I want to commend you for sticking up for Mathews. You did the right thing. Honesty isn't the same as ratting someone out. Your actions will definitely be taken into account when it comes to making selections for the team.

"Harrison and Lingstrom, your lying on behalf of Sampson was reprehensible, and calling Mathews a `faggot' is every bit as unacceptable as if you'd called him a `nigger'. Words that are meant to hurt . . . words or hate have no place in this high school. I am very disappointed in your behavior and am strongly inclined to dismiss you from consideration for the team. However, I recognize that you went to school with Sampson and may have been intimidated by him, and I may be unfairly judging you as a result. I will therefore allow you to continue to train with the team and to participate in tryouts, but you will have to serve detention after school for two weeks once the school year begins.

"Do you understand?"

"Yes, thank you sir," each kid said in turn, and then they left.

After everyone had left but the coach and me, I said, "Wow, what a way to start the season."

Sighing, the coach said, "It's not easy being a gay athlete, Billy, but you've been doing it a lot longer than most at your age. A lot of kids see homosexuality as such a challenge to their masculinity and, frankly, sports are often an overreaction for those who are already questioning their sexuality, so the combination can be a volatile mix."

"I never considered that before," I said.

"Sometimes those who protest the most are the ones who are the most deeply in the closet, or have fathers who are deeply in the closet. Believe me, I've seen it all," the coach said.

"I'm sure you have," I agreed as I headed out the door and met my mom in her SUV outside. Of course she wanted to know why I was late, and I had to explain to her what had happened. At first she was very concerned, but was glad to hear the kid who had threatened me was being expelled.

I would have liked to have said that practice went a lot more smoothly for the rest of the week after that, but there were still occasional snide remarks, occasional shoves and the like. Kids were just much more careful to be discrete about it and to make sure that the coaches were never aware that anything was going on.

On top of that, I started getting phone calls at home. At first they were simple calls where boys would call and, if I answered, they'd say things like, "We still don't want you on the team," and then hang up. Over the days leading up to the start of school, the messages became progressively worse, however. The day before the start of the school year was the worst of all. By then I'd already made the cut and knew I'd be the starting quarterback for the freshman team. The caller did a very good job of disguising his voice, so I wasn't sure who it was. He simply said, "If you value your boyfriend's life, you'll quit the team."

Didn't he know that no one attacks my Ricky and lives to see another day? No one.

So it was not without a little trepidation that I approached Rick in front of his house, which was our bus stop, the next morning. God, he looked so sweet, decked out in the clothes we'd chosen together when we went shopping with our moms at Lafayette Square Mall a few weeks back. I hated shopping there - the place had become so run down - but all the major department stores and discount houses were there in one place, and they did have all the latest fashions. It just seemed ridiculous to drive all the way to the Fashion Mall at Keystone and the Crossing, or even worse, to Casselton Square Mall, but crime at Lafayette Square was becoming a real problem, and I wondered if we'd still be able to go there next year.

My boy was beautiful - no way I was gonna let anything happen to him. He looked radiant in his threads. It was a hot day and we'd have both rather worn wife beaters or muscle shirts, but the school dress code required that boys' shoulders be covered at all times. How stupid. Instead, we were both wearing mesh shirts. Rick had light caramel-colored skin, and today he was wearing a dark red open-weave mesh shirt that highlighted his skin color nicely. His nipples were clearly visible . . . I could have taken him right there.

Rick was always experimenting with different hair and nail colors. Today his hair, which was shoulder length, was dyed a dark red color that matched his shirt. It looked great on him. I'd seen him in everything from platinum blond to vivid purple. This shade of red was one of my favorites. His fingernails and toenails, which were visible in his sandals, were also a matching shade of red. He was also wearing eye shadow and lip-gloss that had just a hint of red in them.  Too much red and he'd have looked like a boy in drag, which was definitely not the effect he was going for. Rick wasn't transgendered or even a transvestite - he was a gay boy who was out and proud, and a little bit flamboyant. When I was younger, it used to embarrass me a little, but I was way past that. This was my Ricky, and I loved him more than life itself.

My outfit was quite a bit simpler. I was wearing a white mesh shirt, shorts, and a pair of Nikes. I looked pretty much like any other fourteen-year-old and there was certainly nothing about my appearance that screamed `gay', but even if it weren't for Rick, I had absolutely no interest in girls. I was what I was, and had nothing to apologize for.

Snaking my arms around my boyfriend's waist, I pulled him tightly against me and kissed him passionately while we waited for the bus to arrive. We'd been doing this since fifth grade and our neighbors were used to seeing us make out at the bus stop.

"You two are so gross," Kelly Morgan, a white girl who lived on our block said as she came up to us. She was a sophomore and had only been absent from the bus stop during the past year, when she was a freshman and we were still in middle school. Rick and I didn't even bother to break our kiss for her remark.

"I see they're at it again," Larry Peters said as he arrived. Now I knew he was probably sporting an erection from watching us kiss, and doing everything in his power to keep it under control.

"The hottest guy in the neighborhood, and his lips are perpetually welded to a she-male." That was Latoya Butler, another freshman whom we'd known from the neighborhood since we were little kids. Rick and I broke our kiss to see her spread her arms wide and look up to the sky as she said, "Why, God, why?"

"I'm not a she-male, Latoya," Rick protested. "I just like to look nice for my boyfriend, that's all," he said with a smile.

"Argh! It just isn't fair . . ." She continued.

"I guess all the juniors and seniors have cars," I said as the bus pulled up and no one else arrived at the bus stop.

"That, and they prolly have earlier classes." Larry pointed out.

"Ah, that's right. I forgot about that," I said, remembering that kids with wheels could start - and finish - the school day one or even two periods earlier since they didn't have to wait on a school bus to make its circuitous route. I'd have to talk to my parents about them lending me the money for a car when I turned sixteen. The extra time saved could literally pay for itself if I got a job - when it wasn't football season, that is.

When we got on the bus, Rick and I grabbed a seat together in the middle of the bus and snuggled up for the long trip ahead. We quickly discovered this was not the same route we were used to from middle school. Instead, we continued straight up Grandview, picking up kids that went to the other middle school along the way.

Rick and I were used to a bus full of teens and preteens who knew about our relationship. Suddenly, we were on a bus full of teenagers, more than half of whom were strangers to us. We were so used to being ourselves that we scarcely gave it any thought until someone walking by us said, "What the Hell? That ain't no girl snugglin' up with that guy. I think we got us here a couple a faggots!"

That sure made us sit up straight in our seat. Looking the boy who'd made the comment straight in the eye, I said, "No, there are no faggots, niggers, kikes, whops or spicks on this bus. Rick and I are, however, a very proud and out gay couple, and have been since the fifth grade. If you have a problem with that, you can take it up with the principal, as the school has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to hatred.

"You might as well get used to seeing us here on this bus, because we're not going anywhere. And if you'd like to learn about tolerance and acceptance, there's an organization at the school called the Gay-Straight Alliance. They have a great website. You should check it out."

The kid obviously wasn't expecting to be challenged. He just kind of took a seat behind us and listened to my rant as the bus lurched forward, and then didn't say anything after that.

Turning back to my boyfriend, I said, "Listen, you know those martial arts classes they have after school?" He nodded yes. "I really want you to take them."

"But we already talked about that, Billy," Rick protested. "Those classes are mostly for girls, and everyone already thinks of me as a sissy as it is."

"Rick, this isn't an option. I've been getting a lot of threatening phone calls from kids who don't want me on the football team. Last night, someone called and threatened to hurt you. I'd die if something happened to you. I can't always be there to protect you, Rick. These classes are the best way for you to learn to protect yourself. Football players can fight, but they're pretty dumb when it comes to martial arts.

"I'm not asking you to do this for yourself, Ricky. I'm asking you to do this for me. I'll sleep better knowing you can defend yourself. I know you feel self-conscious about being effeminate and all, but let's face it, you are." Laughing, I said, "I like you that way. You're cute as a bunny, and I love you," and to prove my point, I gave him a quick peck on the lips, which garnered a surprised gasp from someone behind us.

"Please, take the course," I said. "It'll give you something to do while I'm in football practice, and I'll feel better knowing those assholes can't take you down. Do it for me, will ya?"

Sighing deeply, he said, "OK, I'll do it for you, but only because I love you so much," and then he kissed me back.

Once we got to school, we held hands as long as we could, but our lockers weren't near each other, and we didn't even have the same homeroom. Fortunately, we shared a couple of our classes and, thank God, we shared the same lunch period. "See you at lunch," I said as we went our separate ways.

Man, the school was huge. I was sure glad we'd had orientation a week before, or I would have gotten lost for sure. My ears perked up during morning announcements when they mentioned Homecoming. I'd remembered something at practice about us playing a game that weekend, but the announcements mentioned purchasing tickets for the dance. I'd heard this school was pretty tolerant and had an active GSA, but I wondered if Rick and I could go to the dance as a couple. I'd have to find out.

I'd met some people from the GSA at orientation. Trevor Austin, a senior, was the president and even though he was a bit of a geek, he had a wicked website. His boyfriend, Kurt, was only a sophomore, and he was real cute. The president of the junior class, David Reynolds, was gay and I got to meet him and his boyfriend, too. His boyfriend, Jeremy Kimball, was gorgeous - like supermodel gorgeous. They had to be, like, the hottest couple in the school, gay or straight, period. Lyle Herndon was straight, but he was cool. He was prolly one of the best high school basketball players in the country. He belonged to the GSA with his girlfriend, Carry, whose brother I guess was gay. She was as short as he was tall, which was kind of funny. It was nice to have a peer support group. Rick and I were the only black kids at orientation who were gay and out, though. That sucked, 'cause there had to be a hundred or so of us in the school.

The morning classes were pretty boring, but then I wasn't expecting much. Damned if every teacher didn't give us homework, though. What were they trying to prove?

Come lunch period, I waited outside the cafeteria for Rick, but there were sooo many students, all rushing to get in line, it was pure mayhem. Finally, I spotted my angel and was shocked to see a bruise on his face.

"Who did this to you, Ricky? Who dared to hurt you?" I asked.

"I have no idea, Billy," he answered. "I was just walking in the hallway between classes, mindin' my own business, and the next thing I knew, my face slammed into one of the lockers and I was on the floor. I never even saw who shoved me. It happened so fast."

"I'm gonna kill whoever did this to you," I said.

"How," was all my boyfriend said. "I don't even know who it was that pushed me. This isn't middle school anymore, Billy. You can't protect me by intimidation. You're gonna have to let it go."

"But it's not fair," I practically cried. "They're trying to get at me by hurting you."

"I'll take that martial arts class, just like you said," Rick agreed, "and if it gets more serious, we'll go to the principal, but you can't fight people you can't see. Unless we know who's responsible, there's nothing you can do.

"Hey, let's go eat, OK?" he said with the cutest smile around.

"Yeah, OK," I agreed, and we headed inside.

Well, one thing we agreed upon that wasn't any different from middle school was the food - it was equally bad. The only thing different was that the cafeteria was so much bigger, and it was in the center of the school, and there weren't any windows, so it all felt more closed in and noisy.

Rick and I found a little table off in a corner so we could be alone together, but that sure didn't last long. Not more than two or three minutes had passed after we sat down than this kid we met at orientation, Barry Smith, the vice president of the GSA, and Kurt DeWitt, came up to us. Kurt said, "Hey, are you guys trying to be antisocial or something? There's a couple of guys we'd like you to meet if you wouldn't mind."

Coming up behind them were a couple of boys who looked to be more around our age. One was a white boy, on the small side, and the other was Asian. Barry grabbed an adjacent table and moved it next to ours, and the four of them sat down with us.

Making the introductions, Barry said, "Billy and Rick, I'd like you to meet a couple of freshmen who are also joining the GSA. This is Alan and Shen." Then with a wink he added, "They're not a couple . . . at least not yet."

"Anyway, I know you guys have been out and a couple for a few years now, and Alan just came out to his parents over the summer and plans to come out at school now that he's here, so I thought you guys would be good to talk to." Barry explained.

"Shen's story's a little more complicated." Kurt continued. "His parents . . . ah . . . caught him looking at porn over the summer."

"Please," the poor kid colored up. "This is sooo embarrassing."

"Relax, Shen," I said, "What happened to you happens to a lot of kids."

"Yeah, but you don't know my parents," Shen said. "Being gay in our culture is not an option. They insist it's just a phase and that I'll grow out of it, get married and have children."

"Of course there's nothing different about Chinese culture and Western culture in reality when it comes to being gay," Kurt sighed. "My boyfriend, Trevor, spent a lot of time with Shen over the summer both before and after we left and returned from being pages in Washington, and the family is getting some counseling. Frankly, Shen's the best adjusted of them all. Thank God they're letting him alone for the most part."

"I'm just going to have to keep it quiet," Shen said, "find a nice boyfriend and settle down. My parents will probably always be trying to fix me up with girls, and I'll just have to turn them down."

"You guys are the first African American gay guys I've met around here," Alan said, seemingly surprised.

"You know," I said, "there should be a hundred gay brothers and sisters in this school, but maybe they're in hiding. Now there's no way Rick could hide who he is, and as much as I love him, there's no way I'd ever be in the closet. 'Sides, I'm not ashamed of who I am. It's just a shame that the other 98 percent of us or so apparently are."

"Actually, there are a few others who are out and proud, guys, but you're right," Kurt lamented. "Some 95 percent of the gay African Americans in this school are in hiding. Where's black pride?"

The sound of the bell ringing told us all the discussion would have to wait for another time.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly uneventful, and I even had a couple of classes with my Ricky. God, how I loved that boy! No one could hold a candle to his sweetness. He was sooo fine.

We met up again at the end of the day as I was about to head off to football practice. Unfortunately, because of the discussion at lunch, we hadn't had a chance to ask about going to the Homecoming dance together as a couple and so we agreed to call Trevor that night when we got home. As the quarterback of the freshman team, I would be expected to bring a date, but it would be hypocritical to take anyone but my boyfriend.

"So, you gonna check out the martial arts class?" I asked Rick.

Sighing, he answered, "I'd really wanted to watch my hot boyfriend at football practice, but after what happened today, I think you're right . . . I'd better learn some basic skills. I'm really sick of your always having to stick up for me, Billy . . . and I'm worried that some day you'll go too far. If people know they can't mess with me, either, maybe they'll finally leave us alone."

"I just want you to be safe," I agreed. "First class is tonight?"

"Same time as your practice," he confirmed.

"I'll see you when you're done, then," I agreed, and then we gave each other a quick peck on the lips before I headed into the gym.

"You disgust me, Mathews," was the immediate greeting I received on the other side of the door from Bret Andrews, one of my teammates.

"Why, because I love a boy instead of a girl?" I asked in return.

"You'll burn in hell, you know," he said as we both headed to the locker room.

"Not that your opinion matters to me," I said, "but don't you think that should be between me and God? I'm well aware of what's in the Bible, and what's not in the Bible. I'm living my life as I believe Jesus would want me to, and I believe people like you, more than likely are not, but I know in our hearts we both believe we're doing the right thing, so I guess we should leave it at that."

"Fuck you, Mathews," he practically spat in my face. "All I have to say is `Watch your back.' It'd be a real shame if anything were to happen to your boyfriend's pretty face, now, wouldn't it?"

Shoving him against the lockers, I said very loudly and clearly, "Since you didn't go to my middle school, I'll forgive you for not knowing it, but everyone from around where I come from already does. No one, and I mean no one hurts my Ricky and lives to see another day, and don't you dare make the mistake of thinking I'm bluffing. Others have made that mistake and never been the same again."

Before I could even release my hold on Andrews, the coach had his hands on both of us. "In my office, NOW!"

He never took his hands off of us as we walked out of the locker room and into the coaches' office, where he forcefully sat us down in chairs in front of his desk.

"All right," he began, "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't kick you both off the team right now."

"I'm just trying to protect the rest of the team from this pervert," Andrews asserted.

"Wrong answer," the coach barked.

"Sir," I began, "I'm really sorry, but sometimes I go overboard. It's just that when someone threatens to attack my boyfriend, I can't help but stand up for him. I know I shouldn't have shoved Andrews into the lockers, and for that I sincerely apologize." Turning to Andrews, I said, "I'm sorry, Bret, I didn't mean to shove you, and I'm sorry if my threat came out sounding like a death threat, but I really do mean that I will stand up for myself and my boyfriend, and that any attack against him will be met with an appropriate response. The coach will probably tell me I should involve the school authorities, but I will personally fight on behalf of my boyfriend if I have to protect him from physical harm. If I have to, I can take anyone down." Turning back to the coach, I said, "I would use violence only as a last resort . . . you have my promise on that."

"OK," the coach said, "you certainly were provoked. I heard everything, thanks to the ventilation duct." Turning back to Bret Andrews, he said, "You have a serious attitude problem, and unless you can accept the diversity of your teammates and learn to get along with all of them, regardless of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation, you have no place on this team.

"I am going to give you a choice. You can participate in sensitivity training, arranged through the guidance office . . . we've done this before in similar circumstances, and I'll allow you to remain on the team, but you'll have to sit on the bench for this week's game, or you can quit the team. It's your choice."

"Fine," Andrews said, "I quit. Ain't no way I'm playing on a team with a queer for a quarterback." With that, he stormed out of the office.

"That's too bad," the coach said. "He's probably not the only player we'll lose before the season's out, but I cannot have a team that's ruled by bigotry. These kids have to learn to get along with each other. You're a damn fine player, with the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks we've had in years. The fact that you're gay shouldn't have anything to do with it.

"Now as to your little outburst, I am going to have to penalize you for that. You'll have to sit on the bench for the first half of this week's game. And no more outbursts, OK?" he said as he ruffled my hair. Why do adults do that? I smiled at him and nodded my head.

After I got undressed and changed, and when we were all gathered for our warm-ups and drills, the coach announced, "Don't know if you heard, but we had a little incident before the start of practice. Bret Andrews tried to bully Mathews into quitting the team. I think you can all guess why."

Taking a deep breath, the coach continued, "I've said it before and I'll say it again. We ARE a team, and we gotta act like a team. That means without regard to race, religion, ethnic background or sexual orientation. Mathews isn't the first gay player we've had and he won't be the last. He's not even the only gay African American player on the freshman, junior varsity, or varsity teams right now, though I wouldn't recommend trying to figure out who the others are, and that is `others' with an `s'.

"I gave Andrews a choice . . . undergo sensitivity training and get a major attitude change, or quit the team. I'm sorry to say he chose to quit. That's really sad, 'cause I know you guys are NOT quitters. I expect better of you. I expect you to treat Mathews just like a regular guy because he is a regular guy. He's not gonna hit on you or perve on you, for Christ sake . . . he has a steady boyfriend. You heard him say, they've been together since fifth grade, so why would he be interested in your sorry asses.

"The name of the game is winning, and with your help Mathews can take you there. You guys can do it. I know you can, but it's gonna take teamwork. If you can't play as a member of the team, just because your quarterback is different than you are, then you need to reevaluate yourself and your role in this world of ours, 'cause you're gonna meet many different kinds of people from many different backgrounds as you go through life. At least Mathews is a nice guy . . . a lot better than some of the idiots you're gonna have to deal with in the future.

"So think about everything I've said, and think about this. When you look back on your high school years, are you gonna want to remember how you played football, or are you gonna want to remember sitting up in the stands and watching your friends play football 'cause you were too stubborn to play football with a gay quarterback?"

Boy, everyone was pretty somber after the coach gave his little speech. I think it really gave everyone something to think about. Even still, Jake Sanders managed to kinda spoil it by coming up to me and saying, "You still better watch your back, fag boy, and if you care about that boyfriend of yours, make sure he watches his back, too."

"I've always watched my back, Sanders," I replied, just loudly enough for him to hear. "I can take care of myself all right, so don't go getting any ideas, but know this . . . No one attacks my Ricky . . . "

". . . and lives to see another day. That's quite a threat, Mathews," he said with a menacing growl. "You shouldn't go around making threats unless you're sure you can back them up."

"Believe me, it's no threat," I said under my breath, "and anyone who's ever ignored it has regretted it. Not that I've ever actually killed anyone, but anyone who's dared to mess with Rick has wished they had. The bottom line is, you don't want to mess with me or my boyfriend."

"It really sounds like you love the little sissy boy," Sanders said.

"Jake," I said as I got right in his face, "Rick can't help being the way he is. He's effeminate, OK? That's just the way he is, but he's just this sweet, kind, considerate angel, and I love him with all my heart. Jacob, if you promise not to call him a faggot or a sissy or anything like that, then I'll promise not to call your girlfriend a whore."

Jake actually got a smile on his face and said, "You know, Mathews, you're all right for a gay boy." Extending his hand to me, he asked, "Friends?"

"Yeah," I agreed, "Friends."

I was delighted to find out from Trevor that night that same sex couples were definitely tolerated at the Homecoming Dance. In fact, it was David Reynolds and Jeremy Kimball who had paved the way as freshmen two years earlier by forcing the GSA to take a stand, and it was none other than the quarterback of the varsity football team who had stood up for them when trouble began that year. Thanks to them, Rick could definitely go as my date.

The first two weeks of high school for Rick and me whizzed by as my football practice continued every evening and his martial arts classes ramped up. We played a few away games, and we won all of them. I was really psyched - our freshman team was coming together nicely and beginning to play as a unit. We were the only undefeated team in the school.

Before we knew it, Homecoming was upon us and the school was at a fever pitch. The weekend opened with a Friday afternoon pep rally in the gym and they started out by honoring Kurt DeWitt for his winning the Congressional Gold Medal. When he got up to speak, he made a point of saying that he was just an ordinary teenager who just happened to have been thrust into a horrible situation, and he only did what he thought anyone should have done. Yes, he would have given his life if he had to, he said, but that was because he figured he was as good as dead. The key, he said, was not to be paralyzed by fear. Yeah, Kurt was one awesome guy - a role model for gay and straight kids everywhere. Trevor was one lucky dude, but then so was I, I thought to myself as I snuggled up with my Ricky.

That weekend was all about sports, sports and more sports. First, the soccer teams played, starting with the freshman team, then junior varsity and finally varsity. It was awesome watching David and Jeremy play on the varsity team. Working together, they totally had a knack for getting the ball away from the opposition and turning it into a quick goal. We blew the opposing team away.

Next up was my team's turn. We played a great game. I passed for 87 yards, and personally scored a couple of touchdowns. The final score was 31 to 13 in our favor - talk about lopsided! Unfortunately, JV didn't do quite so well, losing their game by only three points. Varsity saved the day in the end, however, winning their game, 24 to 14. Rick and I sat with our friends from the GSA for the JV and varsity games.

At one point, David and Jeremy each ate a hot dog and giggled the whole time. I wondered what in the world could be so funny, but then David explained, "I'm a vegetarian, and since Jer met me, he almost never eats meat either, but there's something about football . . . it's like you can't watch a game without eating a hot dog. Hell, I never even liked hot dogs when I ate meat in the first place. Jer and I have this tradition . . . we each eat a hot dog at homecoming. It goes against everything I believe in, but it's a tradition. It's prolly the only time you'll ever see me eat meat."

Jeremy giggled, and then whispered something into David's ear, causing him to blush furiously. David responded by saying out loud, "We don't do that out in the open."

When I realized what they were talking about, I couldn't help but blush, too.

The Homecoming Dance was wonderful. I was able to attend with the boy I love, and there were several out and proud gay couples there as well, including the stars of the varsity soccer team, David and Jeremy. I thought some of my teammates or some of the members of the JV or varsity football teams might give me a hard time when they saw me dancing with my boyfriend, but everyone pretty much just left us alone. Maybe we really had turned a corner.

It was late in the evening at the dance when I noticed that Rick had been gone for a while. I was sitting at a table with other players from the freshman team and their dates, and Rick had left to go to the restroom several minutes earlier. Not even a prolonged dump should have taken that long. Starting to panic, I excused myself and went to look for my baby.  I went to look in each of the men's rooms in the Student Center, but there was no sign of Rick.

My panic was becoming a full-blown terror. Where could my boyfriend be? Whipping out my cell phone, I speed dialed Rick and prayed he'd pick up. The voice I heard at the other end, however, chilled my blood to the core.

"So you finally figured out your boyfriend's missing," Bret Andrews said with cold determination. "The fact that I have his cell phone should tell you all you need to know for the moment. He's beat up pretty bad, and he'll be beat up even worse if you don't do exactly as I say.

"There's only one sure way to get you off the team tonight," Andrews threatened, "and that's if you're dead, so I'm offering you a trade . . . your life for sissy boy here. If you go out behind the Student Center, you'll find a large oak tree, and hanging from it you'll find a noose with a stool under it. Hang yourself, and I'll let Rick go. Don't do as I say, and it'll be the red head who hangs tonight. I don't think you want that on your conscience. You have five minutes to comply, or he dies."

"How do I know Rick isn't already dead, and how do I know you'll stick to your end of the bargain?" I asked.

"Don't do it, Billy!" my angel shouted into his cell phone.

"There, now, does that answer your question?" Andrews asked. "Your babeee most definitely is still alive, and I have no intention of being a murderer unless you fail to comply. You'll just have to take my word for it that I won't kill him, I guess. Now you have five minutes from now, and no more!" And the phone went dead.

What could I do? I couldn't let him kill Rick, but I couldn't let him get away with this, either, and I sure didn't want to die. Yet if I didn't hang myself, all bets were off.

"You look like you've seen a ghost," Jake Sanders said as he approached me.

"You're the one seeing a ghost, Jake," I replied. "It's Bret Andrews. He's kidnapped Rick and threatened to kill him if I don't hang myself within the next five minutes."

"Say what?" Sanders asked.

"He said there's a noose hanging from an old oak tree behind this building, and if I don't hang myself from it within the next few minutes, he'll kill Rick," I answered in tears.

"That's crazy, man. I mean Bret is crazy, but not even he would do something like that." Sanders said.

Pulling out his cell phone, Jake pressed one of his speed dial buttons, and then spoke into his phone. "Hey Bret, it's Jacob, what's up, man . . . Yeah, I'm with Mathews, and he says you've got his boyfriend with you . . . Threatening to kill him is not having a little fun with the faggot . . . Wanting to see if he'd really hang himself is not funny. Billy's a friend, man. He's a damn fine quarterback. Truth be told, better than I ever was.

"Anyway, where are you, man?" Jake asked his old friend. After listing for a minute, he said, "You're fuckin' crazy, man . . . Listen, don't do anything. Bret, just hang tight."

Hanging up, Sanders said, "He's refusing to say where he is. What an idiot. We'd better let someone know what's going on."

"What?" I asked, incredulous that Jake would involve anyone else in this. "He might hurt or kill Rick if we involve anyone else. We'll find him, and I'll take him down."

"Maybe, but what if he has a knife? . . ." Jake asked, to which I scoffed. I could easily get a knife away from him. "Or what if he has a gun, which he very well might?" That thought stopped me dead in my tracks. I'd taught many a kid a lesson in middle school when they'd tried anything with Rick, but a gun was a whole nother matter. Not even I could stop a speeding bullet.

"Who do you want to tell?" I asked.

"Let's go find Vice-Principal Chapman," Jake suggested. "He'll know what to do."

As we went looking for him, Jake said, "There's one more thing you need to know, and it's what makes Bret particularly dangerous. He's a closet case, Billy. He's deeply in the closet, but he doesn't know I know it."

I stopped dead in my tracks when Jake said that. I couldn't believe it - Bret Andrews, one of the biggest homophobic jerks in the school was gay? I mean, I knew that a lot of homophobes were closet cases, but I just had a hard time picturing it with Andrews. "Shit, I don't believe it," I said as I started walking again.

"If you knew his old man, you'd understand what he's going through at home," Jake said. "I mean, your parents know about you and Rick, right?"

"Well, yeah," I answered. "Both our moms are completely cool with it, and our dads have been fine . . . better than fine. They've stuck up for us on more than one occasion."

"Bret's dad would prolly kill him . . . literally," Jake said. "Getting kicked out of his home would be the least of his problems."

"Man, I can't imagine that," I replied. "Oh, there's Chapman," I pointed out.

When we explained the situation to Chapman, he spoke into his walkie-talkie, apparently relaying the information to Security or the police. He went on to say, "We have a detail of the city police assigned to us. They should be here within moments."

"There's something else you need to know," I said. "Sanders here thinks Andrews is gay, and that's why he's reacting the way he is."

"I just don't think it," Jake said, "I pretty well know it for a fact. He's not the only brother in hiding, either. As the former quarterback, I noticed these things. Bret's dad would kill him if he knew."

Chapman spoke into his walkie-talkie again, and before I knew it, we were joined by a bewildered-looking Trevor Austin, followed within seconds by four uniformed officers. Chapman went on to explain the situation to the officers and Trevor.

One of the more senior officers turned to Chapman and said, "This could get real ugly, real fast, and I'd hate to take a chance on the whole thing blowing up in our faces. If this Andrews kid's unstable and he decides to take hostages, with all these kids here . . . we could have a siege on our hands before the night's through. I think we'd better get a SWAT team in here before we try anything."

"But Ricky could be dead before they even arrive," I protested.

"Son," the officer explained, "there are hundreds of students here. If Andrews has a gun, or God forbid an assault rifle or a makeshift bomb, we could be looking at another Columbine disaster."

"Officer," Trevor asked, "if Sanders calls Andrews, would you please let me talk to him? I think I could talk Andrews out of doing anything stupid. Go ahead and call in the SWAT team, but if he sees them, he's gonna feel like a caged animal. Before they get here, let me try to talk him down. I'm good at this sort of thing. Please let me try."

"If Andrews decides to make a move before SWAT arrives, it could be a friggin' disaster," the officer complained.

"But Austin's right," Chapman countered. "Once Andrews sees the SWAT unit in place, he'll feel trapped. He'll feel he has nothing left to lose. Why not let Austin give it a try first? If he can talk Andrews down, perhaps we can end this peacefully and get the kid the help he needs rather than putting him away as a criminal . . . or having this end in a shoot-out."

`Amen to that,' I thought, as a shoot-out would almost certainly end with the death of my Ricky.

"OK," the officer said. "Go ahead and give it a try."

Jake opened his cell phone and speed-dialed Bret Andrews again. Once he was back on the line, he said, "Listen, man, I know . . . I've always known, man. As your quarterback, it was my business to know my team, Bret. But you know what? It don't matter to me. It never mattered to me. You weren't the only one, neither, but I know what your old man's like and I understand your reasons. Believe me, I understand your reasons for acting the way you do."

After listening for a little bit, Jake continued, "I realize I'm not making much sense, but I'm trying not to freak you out, here. I don't want to say anything that'll make you flip out or anything. I just want you to know that I know . . . that I've always known, and that it don't bother me. You're still a good friend, just like Billy Mathews is now a good friend, and nothing's gonna change that."

While all this was going on, Larry Peters came up to us and asked what was going on. "It's Bret Andrews," I said. "He abducted my boyfriend and is holed up with him, but we don't know where. Jake's trying to find out."

"Holy shit, why'd he do a dumb thing like that?" Larry asked.

"He's still trying to get back at me, I guess, but Jake thinks there may be more to it than that . . ." I started to explain.

After another brief pause, Jake continued with, "You shouldn't use that word, Bret, especially with what I'm saying. Mathews isn't a faggot . . . he's gay. He's gay, and he's a friend, just like you're a friend. He didn't choose to be that way any more than you chose to be the way you are."

Even I could hear Bret shouting through the phone, "Are you accusing me of being a faggot?"

"No, Bret, absolutely not," Jake replied. "But as your quarterback in middle school, it was my duty to know my players real well. Firstly, `accuse' isn't the right word, gay or straight, Bret, since there's nothing wrong with being gay, and secondly, like I already said, I don't wanna hear the word, `faggot' again when the right word is `gay'. In any case, I have someone here I'd really like you to talk to. I'm not gonna make you talk to him, but he's a good guy and I think he can really help get us all out of this mess tonight. His name's Trevor Austin and he's president of the GSA"

After listening to another rant from Bret, Jake responded, "The reason for listening to `that queer', Bret, is because he's been there more than you could ever know, and he knows what it's like to be in your kind of situation. He can help you, Bret. His parents are Evangelical Christians. His minister singled him out in a sermon as an example of the evil in the community. His boyfriend was raped and nearly murdered, and went on to become a hero and win a Congressional Gold Medal. He's pretty OK, for a white boy," Jake said as he winked at Trevor

Just then, Larry's eyes got big as saucers and he said, "Bret's gay!"

"Jake thinks so," I answered.

"Man, that boy's the stuff of my wet dreams. I'd come out for him . . . if he wasn't such an arrogant prick," Larry said as he practically drooled.

Jake handed his phone to Trevor, and Trevor spoke briefly to Bret, but mostly, he listened. After a minute of listening, he said, "Bret, we need to talk about what's happening tonight. There's a lot I can do to help you, but matters are going to spin out of control very quickly. The place'll be swarming with police in no time flat. Rick is a sweet kid who never hurt anyone. If he's injured, he needs medical help and the longer that's delayed, the more trouble you'll be in, in the end.

"Listen, could you at least put Rick on? I'd at least like to know he's OK." After a pause, Trevor said, "Hey, Rick, how are you doing?" My ears perked up. At least Rick was alive. "I can imagine, bud. Just hang in there . . . oh, hi Bret. I still think I can help you out of this situation if you'll just talk to me. . . .

"Bret," Trevor said, "I'd much rather have this conversation face-to-face, but since you won't, here goes. I know what it's like to grow up hating yourself. I couldn't understand the feelings I had, and I sure as hell didn't want them. I cursed the Devil for making me feel the way I did, and pleaded with God to make me `normal'. All the praying in the world didn't change things, and I can't tell you how many times I considered suicide as my only way out.

"In the end, I got lucky. I found someone who helped me come to terms with the religious aspects of being gay, and my parents, although still having their reservations about the morality of homosexuality, have accepted me the way I am. I also found a boyfriend whom I love more than life itself, and who loves me back just as much, and he's a guy my parents absolutely adore. As my parents put it, if I'm gonna be this way, at least I'm giving them a son-in-law they can be proud of.

"Bret, I'm not saying you're like me, but if you aren't, you're one arrogant, self-centered, homophobic prick. The fact of the matter is that a lot of homophobes actually are closet cases that are having a hell of a hard time dealing with something they just can't change. With all the hassles and discrimination, no one would choose to be gay . . . it's something you're born with, like your eye color or being right- or left-handed. No one would want to be gay, but if you are, it's something you just have to deal with, like any other trait you have. Some people are good at math, and some people suck at it. If you're born gay, it doesn't matter how hard you try to like girls, it's just not gonna happen, any more than some people will ever be good at math, no matter how hard they study.

"If you're attracted to guys and not girls and your father doesn't like it, that's his problem . . . not yours. If he's open to it, I have all sorts of resources to help him and your mother deal with having a gay son, but if at the end of the day, they just can't deal with it . . . or worse, I can get you into a good foster home with a family that already has a gay kid. Child Protective Services has been great in working with me in cases like these. That's something I can personally do for you after we deal with what happened here tonight."

After a pause, Trevor said, "Yes, of course I'd do that for you. That's part of what we do for kids in need in the GSA. My boyfriend taught me a lot about helping others, and that's why he won the Congressional Gold Medal."

Just then, Larry tapped Trevor on the shoulder to get his attention and pantomimed that he wanted to talk to Bret on the phone.

"Listen, Bret," Trevor spoke into the cell phone, "I have one of your other teammates here who is asking if he can talk to you. I'm not sure what it's about, but he's pretty insistent on talking to you." Putting the phone aside for a second, Trevor asked Larry, "Who are you?" and then he repeated the name to Bret. A moment later, he handed the cell phone to Larry.

"Hey Bret," Larry began, "I just wanted to tell you that if you have problems with your dad, you're welcome to stay with us at my house . . . Yeah, I really mean it . . . No, I'm not pulling your leg. The reason I know they'll be fine with it is 'cause I came out to my folks over the summer. In fact, they've been pretty pissed at me for leading my girlfriend on when I'm really gay, and right now, I'm feeling pretty ashamed of it . . . Yeah, I am, Bret, I'm 100% gay . . . seriously, we've never done anything more than kiss."

Larry blushed bright red as he said, "So, Bret, would you be interested in going out with a white boy?" After a brief pause, he continued with, "Of course I'm serious. You're one of the best looking guys in the school." Turning an even brighter shade of red, he continued speaking in a hushed voice with, "And one of the best hung as far as I know . . . Well thanks for noticing, Bret. So would you go out with me? . . . That's great! This is sooo cool . . . My girlfriend? That's for me to worry about. She'll probably blab it to the whole school, but so what? I won't tell her who I'm going out with, if that's what you're worried about, but I'm done hiding, especially if I'm going out with the hottest guy on the freshman football team.

"So where are you, man?" Larry asked. "The coat room?"

"The coat room!" I shouted. The coatroom was scarcely twenty feet away. I practically ran there and flung the door open to find Andrews and my baby, sitting on the floor. Rick looked to be fine, with not even a scratch on him. Andrews, on the other hand, had some major bruises on his face, including the start of a black eye. When he saw me, Rick leapt into my arms and we spun in circles as we hugged each other tightly.

"That was really stupid, you know," Chapman said. "He could have had a knife or a gun."

Truthfully, I didn't care. I had my Ricky back. "Those bruises on Andrews' face," I asked Rick, "did you do that?"

"When he came at me in the washroom," Rick answered, "I tried to defend myself using some of the moves I learned in my martial arts class. They worked pretty good, too, but Andrews is just so much bigger than me. He just overpowered me. Maybe after a few more lessons . . ." he said with a grin.

"Are you hurt," I asked my boyfriend.

"Not in the slightest," he answered.

"You giving Bret a black eye, and Bret turning out to be gay? Now that was unexpected." I said.

"So's seeing Larry and Bret makin' out," Rick added.

I did a double take when I saw that indeed, Larry Peters and Bret Andrews were all over each other. Pretty soon someone in the crowd that had gathered to watch events unfold began clapping, which set off a chain reaction as the whole crowd erupted into a loud cheer. Shit, most of the freshman team was among those cheering. Bret and Larry stopped making out long enough to take a bow, and then went right back to . . . familiarizing themselves with each other. No doubt about it - Andrews and Peters were out and proud, just like Rick and me.

I wasn't the only one playing fagball any more.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Alastair in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.

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