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The Move

Chapter 12

By Doug Smith

Sunday night I couldn't wait until Monday morning to get there. I was excited and nervous at the same time. It's not like Jason had told me anything I shouldn't have already known. I mean he basically told me what Ms. Washington had said, talk to Josh. Somehow it seemed different coming from him. I went to bed smiling thinking this nightmare might soon be over. I woke up the next morning just as excited. I was nervous too but I was determined to find Josh and ask him to go somewhere after school to talk. Hopefully he wouldn't tell me to fuck off.

Unfortunately he wasn't in school on Monday or Tuesday. By the time Wednesday came I was beginning to lose my courage. I knew I had to talk to him or else Jason would come back. He wasn't bluffing about that. He was the type who would actually do it. The problem was that even though Josh was in school I kept chickening out. I started to say something after pre-calc but he went up to talk to Mr. Williams about make up work before any words came out. Maybe I would fall back to Plan B and talk to Chris and Ryan first.

On Thursday I was looking for something in my locker when Becky came up and slapped my ass. "Hi stud, what's up?"

"Hey!!! If I did that to you you'd scream sexual harassment."

"Yeah, like you'd do it to me and don't tell me you don't like it. You just don't like me doing it," she smiled. She seemed to take a lot of pleasure giving me a hard time for being gay. "Perhaps you'd like it if your boyfriend over there did it," she laughed nodding at Josh who was walking down the hall.

I looked around. "Yeah, right. He's definitely not my boyfriend. We hardly ever talk."

"I've seen you watching his ass."

"Keep it down Becky. Someone might hear you and for your information I don't watch his ass. ..... Did you want something?"

She just laughed. "Right, I believe you. Relax, will you? Nobody heard me. I'm not going to out you. I just wanted to ask if you want to go bowling tomorrow night. A bunch of us are going. It will be fun."

I was half looking at her and half looking at Josh as he walked by. I had to admit he did look good even though he frowned when he looked at me. I knew I had to talk with him. I wanted to but between him not being here and any other excuse I could come up with I was losing my courage. I still planned to do it. Otherwise Jason would come back and drag me to his house or something.

"Earth to Dan. And you worry about me outing you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You're staring at him. Someone is going to catch you sometime. It's obvious you like him. Ask him out on a date."

"I'm not looking for a date, especially with him. It wouldn't work. He hates me."

"Why does he hate you?. I don't know him but I hear he's a good kid. Chris and Ryan like him."

"Maybe hate is too strong but we certainly got off to a bad start and it's gone downhill ever since. He's in most of my classes but we've hardly said two words to each other since I've been here. Besides, I don't even know if he's gay. .... What's this about bowling? "

"A bunch of us are going tomorrow night. Mostly girls. You'll fit right in," she laughed.

"Very funny."

"Lighten up Dan."

"I'll think about it."

I started to worry when I saw Josh walk into a restroom part way down the corridor immediately followed by Phil Clayton. Maybe it was nothing but the thought of Mike laying in the park flashed through my mind.

"Shit ... Stay here. I need to check something out."

"What's wrong?" she asked following my eyes and seeing me look at the restroom.

"Maybe nothing. I just saw Phil follow Josh into the restroom. I don't trust him. He seems to have it in for anyone who is friends with me. I'm going to make sure he's not bothering Josh."

"I thought you didn't like him."

"I didn't say that. Besides, he's friends with Chris and Ryan and in Phil's mind it's the same thing," I said walking towards the restroom. I opened the door slowly as I went inside. They obviously didn't notice because once inside I heard Phil talking on the other side of the partition.

"It's that time of the month Sullivan. Give me the money or I'll beat it out of you."

"I don't have it Phil. Leave me alone. ..... Please."

"You know the rules faggot. You pay me and I leave you alone. You don't and I fuck you up."

That was enough for me. There was no way I was going to let Josh get hurt. I stepped to the other side of the partition and saw Phil holding Josh up against the wall.

"I'll tell you what Clayton. You leave him alone or I'll fuck YOU up."

Phil just looked at me and glared. "Shut up Johnson and get out of here or you're next. This is none of your business."

"That's not going to happen," I said pulling him off Josh and throwing him against the partition. Josh just stood there looking scared.

"Get out of here Josh .... I'll take care of this," I said standing between him and Phil. When he didn't move I nodded my head towards the door. "Josh .... Go!!! ... It's okay" He looked at me and then at Clayton before rushing out the door.

"You're dead Johnson. You've been a pain in the ass since you got here."

I spun him around and pushed him up against the wall lifting him up on his feet. "I'm going to tell you this once Clayton. You fuck with him again and you're going to be sorry. I'll rip your balls off and shove them down your throat. You hear me? Leave Chris, Ryan and everyone else alone too. No more comments, no nothing. You hear me?" My face was inches from his and I was glaring into his eyes. Since he hadn't expected to be confronted he had come in alone and I saw what I wanted – fear.

I just smiled and let go of him when I heard door open and Mr. Harrison walk in. "What's going on in here? Someone said there was trouble."

"No trouble sir, Phil and I were just talking."

Phil glared at me and stepped away. The flash of fear I had seen had transformed to anger. "Fuck you Johnson. This isn't over. Next time you won't get so lucky and there won't be a teacher to save you. I'm going to do more than just kick your ass. You'll be sorry you ever moved here. You're dead," he said making a trigger motion with his hand.

"That's enough Mr. Clayton. You and I are going to take a little walk to see Mr. Hodgkins. You can explain your comments to him."

"What about him?" he yelled.

"I didn't see him do anything but I did hear you threaten him. I know where to find him if we need him."

"Fuck that," said Phil as he stormed towards the door. "There's no way that is going to happen. We'll see what Coach Landry has to say about this."

Mr. Harrison turned to me. "You stay after my class today. I want to talk to you. Right now I'm going to take care of Mr. Clayton."

Becky was standing outside the door and wanted to know what happened as soon as she saw me. I told her Phil was bothering Josh and what I had done. "Lucky for him Harrison came in when he did. I was ready to rip his balls off. Fortunately I let him go just as Mr. Harrison walked in. Phil mouthed off though and Harrison is taking him to the office. He just wants to talk with me after class."

"What did Josh do? He came running out and took off down the hall. I can't believe he just left you in there alone with Phil. What a wimp."

"He's not a wimp. I told him to go. I didn't want him involved or to get hurt if something happened."

"So you do like him," she smirked.

"Shut up. I didn't say that. I just didn't want to have to worry about him if Clayton started throwing punches. I can take care of myself. I doubt he can."

"Right ... you ran in there to protect him. You like him. Just admit it."

"It's not that simple. He and I don't get along."

"You just saved his ass. Talk to him."

"Please Becky. Just stay out of it. It's complicated."

Josh was sitting in class when I got to chemistry. He ignored me as I walked in so I took my seat and opened a notebook. I kind of enjoyed chemistry but it was difficult to pay attention after what had happened. Ms. Boivin didn't make it any better either. She knew what she was talking about but she had to be the dullest teacher I'd ever had. I'd rather listen to a computerized answering machine for an hour.

The problem was that since I couldn't pay attention I kept looking at Josh. He turned around a couple times and when he did I tried to turn away. I'm sure he saw me though. A couple of times we made eye contact but it only lasted a few seconds before one of us would turn away. I knew I had to talk to him. I couldn't go on like this much longer.

As I watched him something inside me told me this was ridiculous. The worse he could do is tell me to fuck off. I thought about it some more and resolved myself to talk to him. As soon as the bell rang I walked up to him before he could leave. I started to say something but he just glared at me.

"Josh, can we ..."

"What do you want? A thank-you? You've only made things worse. He's going to kill me Just leave me alone."

The tone of his words felt like a knife being stuck into me. I hadn't expected a thank you but I did think he'd listen.

"Josh, I know it's none of my business. I'm sorry if I made things worse but I couldn't just stand there and not do anything. After what he did to Mike I didn't know what he was going to do. Maybe I over-reacted but I thought he was going to do something and I didn't want to see you get hurt. I can't let anything happen to you. Not again."

"What the fuck does that mean – not again? What do you care what happens to me?"

"I know you don't understand but can we talk? I'll try to explain. How about we .."

"There's nothing to talk about. You haven't wanted to say two words to me since you moved here and now you want to talk just because of what you think you heard? Tell you what, you be friends with everyone else and we'll keep ignoring each other."

"Look, I'm sorry. I'd really like to explain. Can we please talk?"

"You don't hear very well do you? There's nothing to talk about. Just leave me alone."

My heart felt like he had gripped it and crushed it. "Okay, if that's what you want then fine but I won't stand back if I see Clayton bothering you. I won't let him hurt you. I can't. Trust me. If he bothers you I'll kick his ass."

He gave me a perplexed look but just shook his head. Then he said he was going to lunch and simply turned and walked away leaving me standing there wishing I hadn't tried saying anything. At least then I'd still have the delusion all I had to do was talk to him. Now I didn't know what to think.

I was stunned. While I thought the worst he could do was tell me to fuck off I didn't think he actually would but that's about what he did. My face was red. I don't know if it was from anger or frustration but I went into the nearest restroom to splash water on my face. I couldn't get the image of his eyes out of my mind. 'What the fuck just happened? What am I going to do now? He really does hate me,' I thought.

"Shit," I yelled and punched the metal partition on the side of one of the stalls. I hit it hard. The whole partition moved and pulled the screws out of the wall. "Fuck," I yelled shaking my hand. Damn that hurt but it felt good too. At least it was just the partition no matter how much I wished it had of been Clayton's face. I did laugh a little when I realized someone was in the stall.

There was one thing for sure though, I wasn't going to eat lunch in the cafeteria. I knew Josh would be there and I wasn't going to face him again. Not yet. I'd get something and go outside to think. Fortunately Becky was walking in when I got there. "Come on," I said. "Take a walk with me ... please?" Josh was sitting with Chris and Ryan at our usual table so I quickly bought a sandwich before they saw me and went outside with Becky. Tim came in and gave me a strange look as we were leaving. I wondered what his problem was.

"What's going on with Dan?" Tim asked when he sat down.

"What do you mean?" asked Chris. "We saw him this morning and he was fine."

"I was just in the restroom near the chemistry lab. He came in and I swear he was crying. I couldn't really see because I was ..... ah, busy," he said looking at Abby and blushing. "He just stood there staring into the mirror washing water on his face. The next thing I knew he punched the side of the stall. I practically fell on the floor I jumped so high. He's lucky he didn't break his hand. He just swore at himself and left. I'm glad it was the partition and not me. I may know karate but that fucker hits hard. There's a fucking dent in the partition and the screws are pulled out of the wall. Something or someone pissed him off."

"I wonder what's going on? Something must have upset him," said Chris.

"He got into it with Phil before chemistry," said Josh.

"What? ..... What happened?"

"Phil was hassling me again in the restroom. Dan came in, pulled him off me and threw him against the wall. I don't know what happened after that since he told me to leave. He said he'd take care of it. I took off. The next thing I know is he was walking into chemistry class."

"He was okay during chemistry?" Tim asked.

"As okay as he usually is when I'm around. It's not like I'd really know since he never talks to me. He just kept watching me. After class he stopped me and said he wanted to talk. He hasn't said more than two words to me since he's been here and now he wants to talk? Fuck that."

"What did he say?"

"He said he wanted to explain things but I didn't let him say anaything. I probably should have but I wasn't in the mood. I was pissed. He shouldn't have gotten involved. Now Phil is going to kill me. He did say something weird though. He said he couldn't let anything happen to me. I don't get it."

Chris looked over at Tim. "Josh, we need to talk."

"Just be glad he's on your side," Tim said. "Check out the restroom. That fucker hits hard. If he ever hit someone like that he'd do some real damage. Hodgkins is going to be pissed when he sees it."

"I'm sure he can since he knows karate too. Has he ever said anything to you? He never mentioned it to me but I found out last Saturday when I picked up my brother after a kid's class at the gym. Dan was the instructor or at least one of them. I got the feeling he was uncomfortable talking about it."

"He's never said anything to me either. Is he any good?"

"I don't know. Good enough to teach a bunch of little kids," laughed Chris.

"I'll have to talk to him. Maybe he'll want to work out together or something."

"I'll look for him later. Maybe he'll tell me what's up. We should get to class now. We'll catch you later Tim. Josh, walk with us."

Tim and Abby went right to their class while Chris, Ryan and Josh walked the other way.

"Josh, you're an idiot. I thought you liked him. He wanted to talk to you and you basically told him to fuck off. Why did you do that?"

"I don't know. I was pissed. I wasn't thinking. Now he'll never talk to me."

"Josh, he's a good guy. He obviously cares about you or else he wouldn't have gotten involved. He certainly wouldn't have said what he did. I'll talk to him. Maybe he'll talk to me. Do you know where he went?."

"I saw him walking outside with Becky."

Becky and I walked towards the bleachers and sat down before she asked what was going on. It was cool out but the sun was shining. We really weren't supposed to leave the building but nobody ever got in trouble. When I told her what happened after chemistry she just laughed.

"Keep telling yourself you don't like him. You might convince yourself one of these days."

"It's not funny. I never said I didn't like him. I don't like him like you seem to think but he's okay. I can't like him like that. It would be too complicated. Besides, even if I didn't like him I still wouldn't want to see Phil hurt him. I like Phil even less."

"Admit it, you like him."

"It's not like that. I just wanted to talk to him and he told me to fuck off."

"He's probably confused. You said you never talk to him and then you barge in when you see Phil bothering him. I would think he'd be glad you helped but he's probably scared the next time you won't be around and Phil might really do something."

"What am I going to do? I tried talking to him."

"Give him some time and try again. You need to admit how you feel about him though. At least to yourself."

"I don't know how I feel about him. There are reasons why it wouldn't work even if he is gay. Reasons I can't explain."


"Not now. It would take too long."

"Dan, I'm your friend. Talk to me. Let me help you."

"Can we talk about something else? What's this about bowling? I really don't want to go bowling with a bunch of girls. Why don't you go bowling and we'll go to a movie on Saturday?"

"Why don't you want to go bowling? It'll be fun."

"I'll think about it. Okay? I'm not really in the mood to think about having fun. I'd go home now except Harrison told me to stay after class."

"It is time for us to go back inside."

"I know even though I don't want to. I'll have to see him in pre-calc. Thanks for walking with me. I really didn't want to eat lunch in the cafeteria."

She just smiled and leaned against me. "You can't avoid him Dan. Is being gay always this complicated?"

"It has nothing to do with being gay. At least directly. Let's go. ..... The sooner we get in the sooner this day will be over."

I really didn't want to go to class. First, Josh would be in two of my classes and Ryan would be in my study. Second, I was in a shitty mood. All I wanted to do was talk to him. I probably shouldn't have assumed he'd want to hear anything I had to say. He wasn't Aaron. I didn't even know him so I shouldn't assume he'd react like Aaron would have.

I don't think I could say anything the teachers said in either class. Mr. Williams asked me a question but I obviously wasn't paying attention. I hate it when that happens. It's one thing not paying attention. It's something else being caught at it. Fortunately I have been doing my homework and did okay on the only test we'd had so he let it slide.

Study wasn't that bad. Ryan asked if I was okay. Obviously Josh had told them what had happened or at least some of it. I think he wanted me to go into details but I pretended I was reading. Alright, it was rude but like I said, I was in a shitty mood. He did ask if there was anything he could do. That was nice. At least he was still my friend.

It was Mr. Harrison's class that I was really dreading. Everyone would be there: Chris, Ryan, Josh, Becky, Phil, Ron. I could feel them watching me when I sat down. Phil was glaring. I really hated him. Josh glanced once but then kept looking forward. Chris asked if everything was okay. I tried to smile although it wasn't very convincing. He smiled and said we'd talk later.

I kept watching the clock all during class. It seemed like the hands were standing still. Every time I looked the minute hand had barely moved. I saw Mr. Harrison look at me a couple times but at least he didn't ask any questions.

I was hoping he had forgotten he told me to stay after class but I knew better. I especially knew better when he 'reminded' Phil he had detention as he dismissed class. Then he told me to stay. Josh, Chris and Ryan watched as they walked out.

After everyone had left Mr. Harrison walked over and shut the door.

"Okay," he said. "You want to tell me the truth?"

"I told you. I went in to take a piss and Phil got on my case."

"Okay, if that's the story you want to stick with then fine but I want to make something clear. I'm pretty sure Josh Sullivan was involved somehow as well. I talked to him and while he didn't want to tell me anything, his story didn't exactly match yours. What I want to make clear is that I like Josh and I don't want to see him hurt. I've had him in classes for two years and he's a good student and a good kid. I also know his home life isn't the best."

"Josh didn't do anything."

"I didn't think he did. I know how Phil is. I assume it was him and not you who was bothering Josh but if I find out otherwise then I'll be very upset. I'd also be disappointed in you. I expect better. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, but you don't have to worry. I didn't do anything to him. I wouldn't do that."

"You want to tell me what happened then."

I sighed.

"I saw Phil follow Josh into the restroom and I was worried he might do something. Phil doesn't like me and I don't like him very much either. He's already done something to one of my friends and while Josh and I aren't really friends we are both friends with Chris and Ryan. I didn't want anything to happen to him. When I went into the restroom I heard him hassling Josh. All I did was get between them and tell Josh to leave. You pretty much know the rest. I didn't do anything to Josh."

"I'm glad to hear that. I'm worried what Phil will do. He'll probably do something else to Josh. You might have done more harm than good."

"He better not."

"Don't do anything stupid."

"I won't but I'm not going to let him hurt Josh either.".

I went to the gym after talking with Mr. Harrison. Nobody else was around and I had a lot on my mind. A workout would do me good.

I started by doing some stretches and then riding a stationary bike just to get my blood circulating. I usually did that for ten or fifteen minutes before I hit the weights. I just put on my headphones, turned up some music, and tried to forget what happened in school.

After warming up I walked to the weight machines and sat down to do some behind the neck presses. The machine was right outside the room with the weight bags. The practice room had a glass front so you could see inside while sitting at this particular machine. I'd never seen many people use it but today there was one guy doing some half ass kicks.

I sat watching the guy remembering the days Aaron and I would do the same thing. We rarely had matches against each other but we did practice and spar together. We both tried to avoid fighting each other in competitive matches although that wasn't always possible. It was strange when we had to compete. We both wanted to win but we wanted each other to win too. We made a deal that we'd always try our best and not 'let' the other guy win. It still felt strange hitting him although it was fun kissing all the spots where I had hit after the fact. We kissed a few spots we didn't hit too.

I sat watching the guy workout. He was okay but could use some work on his form. When he finished I realized I hadn't done any presses. All I had done was watch him and daydream. I realized something else too. I wanted to hit something. Hitting a weight bag couldn't get me in too much trouble so I got up and walked into the room.

There were some fight gloves hanging on a hook and I put them on. At first I just did a few kicks and punches against the bag. It felt really good. I had forgotten how much I had enjoyed this. At first I just did simple kicks and punches but then started to do combinations. I imagined myself in some of the competitions I had been in back home and really started getting into it. I replayed the moves I had done at various competitions thinking about my opponents. It all came back, the moves, the competitions, Aaron, the opponents. When I was in a match I was in it to win.

Everything seemed so real. My adrenaline was flowing. I wasn't just punching a bag at the gym, I was back in my matches. I could hear people yelling although I couldn't tell what they were saying, I never could. I had always blocked everything out when I was competing. I focused on my opponents and how I was going to win. The bag became my opponents, I was there.

I don't know how long I was there. I was punching and kicking the bag believing it was one of my opponents. I seemed to remember each opponent, their eyes, their looks. It was so real. The yelling was getting louder too. With each match it became more difficult to block it out. I did a push kick followed by a turn kick just as I had done in my last match when I heard someone yell and grab me from behind.


"What the fuck?" I hadn't seen anyone behind me. I quickly moved to get free and turned to punch whoever was there.

"Dan!! Stop!!!"

Just before I was going to punch whoever it was I saw Chris's face come into focus in front of me. I looked around. A couple of trainers were standing there along with a few other guys I didn't know. Chris was standing in front of me expecting me to hit him. I collapsed against him as soon as I realized where I was, my head against his shoulder.

"I'm sorry Chris," I sobbed.

"Dan, are you okay?"

I shook my head into his shoulder.

"Come on. Let's get you out of here. You'll be okay. I'll drive you home."

I just nodded as he pulled me through the people who were standing nearby. They just stared but moved aside as Chris dragged me back into the main gym and to the locker room.

"Let's get your clothes. I'll drive you home."

We didn't say anything as we changed although I could feel Chris watching me. I don't know if he was watching me because he was worried or because I was standing in my boxer briefs. Maybe a little of both.

As we walked to the parking lot he asked for my keys. "You're in no shape to drive."

"Where's your car?" I asked tossing him my keys and getting into the passenger seat. I wasn't in any mood to argue. What happened in the gym really shook me up.

"Ryan has it. He dropped me off. To be honest I followed you here. I heard what happened with Josh and wanted to know if you're okay."

I took a deep breath and put my head back on the headrest. "I don't know. I will be I guess. I just need to get some rest."

"What's going on Dan? First Phil, then the partition in the restroom and now this. You were really out of it back there. It was like you were somewhere else. I'm glad you realized it was me before you hit me. You did a number on that partition. I don't want to think what you would have done to my face."

That made me laugh a little. "You heard about the restroom?"

"Tim was taking a dump. At least that's what he said he was doing. He was probably jerking off. He heard you."

"Great, who else knows?"

"He was worried about you Dan. We all are."

"I'm sorry. I appreciate it. Things are just kind of messed up."

He didn't say anything for a minute while I looked out the window lost in thought. Were other people as screwed up as me? I thought things were getting better. Now this. Why did this have to happen?

"Dan, I'm your friend. I want to help. Tell me what's going on. You need to talk to someone. If you don't trust me then find someone. You can't keep things bottled up. Does what happened with Josh have anything to do with this? He said you said some pretty bizarre things to him."

"After what happened to Mike I thought Phil was going to do something to him. I didn't want to see him get hurt."

"I'm sure he's glad you were there. You know how Phil is."

"He didn't seem happy when I tried talking to him after chemistry."

"That's what he said at lunch but he appreciated it. Trust me, I could tell. He was just scared and confused. Phil doesn't usually bother him but now he thinks he'll do it again sooner or later. Plus he was pretty surprised you did what you did first by getting involved and then by actually talking to him. It's kind of obvious you don't really like him."

"That's not true."

"There's something about him you don't like then. You never talk to him."

"I tried talking to him today. He wasn't interested in anything I had to say, not that I can blame him. It might not make any difference but I wanted to explain. I'll tell you and Ryan too but but I need to tell Josh first."

"I don't understand but if it's that important you should try again."

"I will. I've been wanting too but keep chickening out. I'll tell you this though – what I did to that bag at the gym will be nothing compared to what I'll do to Phil if he touches Josh .... or any of you for that matter."

As we pulled into my driveway he turned to me. "Let's get you inside. I'll hang around until someone gets home. I don't think you should be alone."

I laughed. "I don't need a babysitter. I'm just tired. All I need is a hot shower and a nap."

"I'm staying anyway. You go take your shower. You definitely need one. Mind if I grab something to drink? I'll wait for you downstairs."

"Help yourself. I'll be down in a few minutes and if my parents come home please don't tell them anything. They'll know soon enough anyway if Hodgkins finds out it was me who punched out that partition. He'll make them pay for it."

I went upstairs to shower while Chris went into the kitchen. I did remember to move Aaron's pictures before going into the bathroom. I didn't want to have to explain them. The shower felt really good. We have one of those pulsating shower heads and I stood there letting the water flow over my body. My muscles were sore from the gym. It scared me I lost control like that. Twice in one day. Hitting the partition wasn't too smart either.

I felt a lot better after my shower. Hot showers are always relaxing. Since Chris was downstairs I dried off and walked naked back to my room. Bending over to get some shorts out of my drawer I heard Chris on my bed. Turning I saw him staring right at me. His face got red when he realized I caught him looking.

"Sorry," I said. "I thought you were downstairs."

"Ahh, you took so long. I came up to see if you were okay."

"I'm fine, the shower felt really good. Sorry to keep you waiting," I said as I pulled on my shorts. "You okay?"

"Yeah, fine. ... You?"

"Much better," I smiled looking at the obvious bulge in his pants.

He saw me looking and started to panic. "Sorry ... ahh, .... maybe I should go," he said standing up.

"Relax," I said putting my hand on his shoulder and pushing him back down onto the bed. He tried to move away when I sat next to him but I put my arm around his shoulders holding him next to me. He seemed really nervous which was understandable. He had just outed himself to me even though I already knew all about him. I probably should have told him I was gay as well but I didn't.

"Relax, it's okay Chris. It's not like I didn't know."

I smiled when he looked at me. "But I'm with Ryan."

I laughed. "I know that. Don't worry, nothing can happen between us. You and Ryan are both my friends and that's important to me. I wouldn't do anything to screw that up."

"That's not what I meant. I shouldn't have gotten hard. You're my friend. I don't look at you like that."

"It's okay ... really."

"What am I going to tell Ryan?"

"Why do you have to tell him anything? Nothing happened. I'm sure you look at porn on-line. Don't you get hard then?"

"Of course"

"Do you feel guilty about that?"

"That's different. That's on-line, not in your bedroom with you walking around naked."

"No it isn't. You're a normal, healthy, horny teenager. Just like me. We get hard all the time. It's no big deal. Besides, I'm flattered," I said. I didn't want to tell him I didn't get hard very often lately.

"You really don't care that I'm gay and am in love with Ryan?"

I smiled and leaned over giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Nope .. I love you man ... as a friend. The same goes for Ryan."

"Thanks," he said smiling. "I'm serious about wanting to help you."

"Thanks, I appreciate that. You're a good friend but I know what I have to do. Something happened over a year ago and my life has been kind of fucked up ever since. I need to fix that. Did you know I go to counseling twice a week? I'm a certified nut case," I laughed. "Actually I think the term is depressed."

"What happened? Do you want to talk about it?"

"Not now. I'll tell you, I promise, but I want to talk to Josh first. I know that doesn't make sense but it will when I tell you. Why don't we just go down and shoot some pool? Give Ryan a call so he can pick you up."

He gave me a perplexed look but didn't press. For the next hour we listened to music and shot pool. Ryan came over about a half hour later to play as well. Chris didn't say anything about what happened in my bedroom or at the gym I assumed he would tell him later especially now that he knew I knew they were gay.

I still didn't sleep well Thursday night. I still had to talk with Josh and that made it difficult to sleep. I was worried how things would turn out. Maybe things have gone so far off track that he won't care. I don't know what I'd do if it didn't make a difference to him. What if he still hated me? I've finally gotten to the point where I'd like to be friends and it might be too late. The image of his eyes when he told me to fuck off after chemistry kept coming to me as I watched the numbers slowly change on the clock. I don't remember what time I finally got to sleep.

Hi, it's Josh again. I can't believe it. I'm fucked now. I guess you know I was paying Phil Clayton not to hassle me. Alright, I know, I shouldn't have. It certainly didn't make me feel good but it did keep him from really bothering me. Yeah, he still made the fag comments but if he didn't then people would think something was wrong. At least I didn't have to worry when I walked into a restroom. That's going to change. I doubt I'm the only kid paying him. He's going to be pissed if people find out what he's been doing.

What was he thinking? By he I mean Dan. Why would he even have come into the restroom? He saw me walk in. I know he did since he was talking to Becky by the lockers. Why didn't he just ignore me like he always did? No, not this time. He came in right after Phil came in to collect his 'protection' money. I know he hates Phil too. That's another reason for him not to have come in but no, he had to pick that time to take a piss.

What he did shocked me. Phil had me up against the wall because I didn't have enough money. He said if I didn't pay him then I'd be sorry. It really just meant that I'd have to pay him more the next day. It's happened before. Dan heard him talking and went bullshit. He pulled Phil off me and threw him up against the other wall. Phil has to outweigh Dan by at least fifty pounds. Dan is lean and about my size. Phil is big. That didn't bother Dan though. He held Phil up against the wall and told me to get out of there.

I couldn't move. Well, I could have but I was amazed what was going on in front of me. Dan was holding Phil against the wall and staring into his eyes. His eyes definitely didn't have the empty look they usually have when I see them, he was pissed. Phil started to say something and try to get away but Dan did something to cause Phil to flinch. Nobody ever stood up to him like that. I don't think he knew what to do.

When I didn't move Dan told me to leave again. He said he'd take care of Phil. When he yelled 'Go' I ran out the door and almost ran into Becky. I told her Dan and Phil were fighting and she ran to get a teacher. I don't know what happened after that. I didn't wait around. Maybe I should have but I was scared. I was expecting Phil to come out of the restroom looking for me at any time. I was shaking when I got to Chemistry.

Dan walked into class just as the late bell was ringing. He looked at me but just walked to his seat. His eyes were definitely different. They had emotion. I didn't know if he was pissed because I took off or whether something happened after I left. I looked away trying to avoid him. He sat there watching me the entire class. That wasn't all that unusual but the way he couldn't sit still was. It was like he was in conflict.

Maybe he thought he had helped me and I should be grateful. That wasn't going to happen. I was pissed. He had just fucked up my life even worse than it is. Phil is going to kill me. Why did he have to get involved? It's not like he likes me. What did he care if I was paying Phil for protection or if I got the shit kicked out of me.

As soon as class was over I picked up my books to leave. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. When I turned he was standing right in front of me. He wanted to talk. Talk??? That really pissed me off. He hasn't said two words to me since he moved here and now he wants to talk? Any other time I would have said okay but this time I figured he just wanted me to thank him for 'saving me'. That got me even more pissed.

He tried talking. He said he couldn't let me get hurt. Actually he said he couldn't let me get hurt again. Why did he care and what the fuck did that mean? When he told me to trust him I almost lost it. Trust him? Why would I do that? I basically told him to fuck off and leave me alone. He'd already caused enough problems. He tried saying more but I didn't listen. I just said I had to leave and started walking away.

I can't explain what I saw next. As I was leaving we made eye contact one more time. This time I saw hurt. There were tears in the corner of his eyes. He was actually crying. Why? Because I told him to fuck off? What the fuck was going on? I didn't care. Well, I did but I wasn't going to let him know that. I just wanted to get out of there and that's what I did.

He didn't show up for lunch. I saw him walking outside with Becky. That was fine with me. I didn't want to face him again any way. Tim came in and wanted to know what was up with him. He said Dan was crying in the restroom and he had punched out the partition on the side of the stall Tim was sitting in. He said he ripped it off the wall. I did learn something. Evidently Dan knows karate too. That's probably why he isn't scared of Phil.

I told them what happened before chemistry. I didn't tell them I was paying Phil for protection, just that he was hassling me. Chris frowned and grabbed me after lunch. He wanted to know what really happened and I told him what Dan did after chemistry. He told me I was an idiot. He knows how I feel about him. I just sighed and agreed.

Before going to class we walked by the restroom to check out the damage. Tim was right. The partition had a dent and was hanging off the wall. "Wow," Chris said. "He did that with one punch? Be glad he's on your side."

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