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No-one Messes With My Peter!

by Toby Johnston

Chapter 1

How well do you really know your best friend?

I shuddered as Peter put his lips up to the side of my face, his soft breath tickling my ear—jeez, that drove me crazy. "Have you noticed? Their center isn't maintaining control of the ball when he comes up? He's trying to go too fast. Too urgent."

I shook my head to chase away the naughty thoughts that had suddenly invaded my teenage brain and I winked at him, "Yeah. I caught that early on. I've been letting him get away with it, so far. Lull him into a false sense of security you know. Be ready though, I'm going to have a go at him next time."

The ref blew the whistle. Peter and I separated as he trotted to the left wing; I back pedaled to my center-mid position for the kick-off. I found my eyes flicking over and locking in on his tight little butt as it shifted under his black shorts, you could see the sweat soaking through—sigh.

It was hot. Indian summer hot. The sweat had started trickling down my back before the game even started, soaking the waistband of my jock and my shorts. Now we'd tied up the game at 2-2 just short of the half—sweat was everywhere, even my balls were dripping. I felt the adrenalin rush as Shady Hill kicked off, faking forward and then shuttling the ball off to one of their midfielders.

The play surged back and forth as both teams jockeyed for an opening. I bided my time, knowing their center-mid would make the same mistake again. And then I saw it! The ball came to him from one of his defenders, thwarting our attack on the right. I saw him turn my way and grin, the fire in his eyes as he saw me back peddling as I'd done before—playing the cautious, defending middie.

But not this time sucker! I shifted my weight as he once again let the ball get too far ahead of him. My cleats dug into the soft ground as I shot forward. His expression changed to confusion as I intercepted the ball, rolling it to my right over my foot. I practically danced atop the ball as I side-slipped him; taking the hit of his hip on my butt as his momentum carried him past me. He tried to stop and turn, but it was way too late. I was off and sprinting down field. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Peter surging ahead on my left.

I drifted right, pulling their defenders with me. Cameron, our right wing, was making all kinds of noise even though he knew he wasn't open. It was enough to distract their defense and give Peter the room he needed. Staring down the center defender, I dodged right to distract him, then cocked my leg and fired the ball off to the left, to where Peter was going to be! It was over before they knew it. One tap to settle the ball, then Peter curved it high into the far corner of the net--GOALLLL!

At a full sprint, I hurtled towards him. We grabbed each other, I felt him bury his face in my neck as I did the same to him. I shuddered as I felt his sweaty skin against my lips—God how I wanted to just kiss or lick him right then and there. But our teammates intervened, I'd barely swung him around once before the rest of the team descended on us for the brief, celebratory round of hugs. We'd gone from down 1-2, to ahead 3-2 in a matter of minutes!

We quickly retook our starting positions; I was bouncing on my toes I was so excited. Shady Hill kicked off, barely putting the ball in play before the ref blew the whistle for the half. We trotted off the field, grabbed our water bottles and gathered around Mr. Buell under the shade of the huge elm trees that lined the side. Everyone was a bit too giddy, and it took us a while to focus in on his assessment of the game so far.

Even though we'd just gone ahead, he cautioned us on getting overconfident—but then he always did that, I think that's the first thing they teach you at Coaching School! Mr. Buell is big into both praise and constructive criticism as he likes to call it. He walked through what we were doing well—especially noting things we had worked on this past week and players who had awesome plays. Peter and I grinned madly at each other of course when he noted the 'Michael to Peter assist and goal'! Then he turned to what we needed to firm up; where we were being consistently beaten out by the Shady Hill team and how he thought we could counter it.

He finished up with an assessment of the vulnerabilities he'd noted in the Shady Hill team—especially that they were looking tired, slow to return to their positions. Not us. We were going strong—thanks to the conditioning Mr. Buell insisted on, including those God-awful wind sprints. He always brought the varsity team back a week early to get a head start on the basics as he liked to say, of course that was on top of the summer workout regimen he'd encouraged us to follow.

It didn't matter that we took the field in our black and green uniforms that just seemed to absorb the heat. We were proud that our uniforms harkened back to the Green Mountain Boys of the American Revolution. The same Colonial soldier—dark green and black uniform, long musket in hand—that marked the sign hanging at the entrance to Ethan Allen School for Boys. To say our esprit de corps ran high was an understatement! Almost all of us had been playing together since the 4th grade—the first year you could attend Ethan Allen. Peter and I had been team mates and best friends since we were three years old.

Hyped up from the two goals before the half and Mr. Buell's encouragement, we sprinted out on to the pitch at the hint of the ref's whistle, noting that our opponents took a much more leisurely stroll. We had the opening kick-off, and immediately took the game to them. We didn't score on the first attack, but we definitely were keeping the pressure on them. I was roaming the center line, barely ever crossing back over into our side of the pitch.

They managed a breakaway every now and then, but for the bulk of the second half, we were firmly in control, dominating the field. And it showed in the score. We'd gone up by another two goals—one by Peter, the other Cameron—while holding them to their original two. As the ref blew the whistle for the end of play, we all cheered—another win in the books! We were having an awesome season—in this our final year at Ethan Allen, which topped out in the 8th grade. After this we'd all be spread to the four winds—some to Concord-Carlisle, the local public school, most of us off to the myriad of Preparatory schools across New England.

We lined up for the customary hand slap/fist bump with the opposing team—after all, we were all scholar-athletes and young gentleman as Mr. Winchell always intoned. I caught the eye of my opposing middie from whom I'd stolen the ball. I felt a little bad, he was adorable. His blond hair was parted in the middle and seemed to float when he ran. He was taller than I was, all leggy, and a little ungainly—like he'd had a major growth spurt and hadn't gotten used to it yet.

He didn't seem too upset, giving me a very sincere "Good Game, nice steal" as we passed each other. I hoped I was going to be able to see him in the showers afterwards—that would be a nice capper to the week! As a loose gaggle, we all made our way back to the varsity locker room. The ramp to the basement area split at the bottom into the locker rooms for our varsity team and the visitors, joining back up at the other end for a combined shower room—guess the powers that be figured they didn't need to pay for two shower rooms.

I was perfectly happy with that arrangement though. All week, I got to check out my teammates and get a status check on everyone's journey through puberty! Peter and I were definitely on the forward edge of that journey compared to some. We had solid pubes coming in and our dicks had definitely gotten bigger and thicker—no pencil dicks on us. Of course, no one compared to Alex—our captain and goalie. He was way taller than the rest of the team and I swear that thing swayed back and forth between his legs when he walked!

Even better, on home game day, I got to check out the visiting team—fresh, lean, athletic, naked boys! Yeah—I like boys. Girls are nice and all, but as far as me getting excited, give me a smooth, hard chest. A budding set of abs. A cute little butt with cheeks so tight you could hold each in one hand—at least I think you could. I've never held one, yet; at least not in real life. In my mind, yes, tons! Oh and of course a beautiful dick, no a cock, they're not dicks anymore—at least not when you're thinking about them being all hard, and long, and pulsing!

It's a wonder I was able to shower without throwing a boner; I guess I was learning something about self-control. Back in the 6th and 7th grade, I'd had a few close calls—getting too caught up fantasizing about one boy or the other and not realizing that 'things were starting to show'! Fortunately, I'd been able to hit the cold water or bolt before getting called out. Not like poor Henry. He hadn't even realized he was standing tall and proud until the boys started snickering and pointing. It took him a whole semester to live that one down. Of course, now he had a cute girlfriend, and his reputation was safe, which put a bit of a damper on my Henry-Michael fantasies...well, a bit anyway but note completely!

Peter and I stripped and grabbed our towels, slinging them over our shoulders for the walk to the showers—if you got it, flaunt it right?! We came around the corner and there he was, my blond opponent. I saw his eyes drop right to my crotch; then back up to mine—we both grinned.

"Michael and Peter," I blurted out, giving a nod to my best friend.


Figures. He looked like a Hunter. Tall, lean, young muscles like us. I managed a sideways glance at his pubes when he leaned his head back under the shower. Probably as much as we had, only blond—I'd need a closer look to know for sure haha.

All three of us chatted as we soaped up and cooled off under the showers. It took all my will power to force myself to be subtle and not just openly gawk at the guy. All three of us had pretty similar builds, flat chest with just a hint of a pec mound, the beginnings of abs, and tight little butts with dimples in the sides—he was just that and taller. His pubes were darker blond than his head and I had a momentary thought of him moaning as his nice cock slid into my mouth. And yes, I did take a lot of mental snapshots for later use!

We met back up with him walking out and chatted on the way to his bus. He was an 8th grader just like us, getting ready to apply to many of the same prep schools that we were.

"Hey, maybe we'll be classmates next year!" I blurted out, thinking he'd be an awesome guy to have as a friend and managing to cut short of saying that I'd really like to see him naked again.

"That'd be cool," he came back, "At least then we'd be on the same team, and you won't be stealing the ball from me!"

I blushed, still feeling a bit bad about that, "Yeah, sorry, didn't mean to make you look bad."

He smiled, a really nice smile that made my heart kind of gooey, "No apologies necessary, I was being too loose on my control—coach dings me on that all the time!"

As we shook hands at the bus, I could swear he held onto my hand longer than a 'competitor polite' shake, but maybe that was because I wanted it to be more than that.

Peter and I waved goodbye as he boarded his team bus. Odds are we'll see him again in the end of season tournament. Or maybe get lucky and cross paths with him around town—though I'd remember if I'd ever crossed paths with him before.

"Earth to Michael, are you even listening to me?"

I tore my eyes away from the blond cutie, just in time to see Peter's eyes flicking from mine to where I'd been looking. Shit, I'd zoned out staring at Hunter through the bus window. Uh oh, he definitely caught me staring at Hunter. I gotta be more careful!

An odd look flitted briefly across Peter's face, but then he smiled, "He seemed like a good guy."

"Yeah, he seemed pretty cool," I quickly agreed, hoping to get on to a new subject as fast as possible. I didn't need Peter dwelling on the fact that I'd been captivated by Hunter. Fortunately, Jason Fullman—Ethan Allen's 8th grade resident bully—provided a ready distraction!

We'd rounded the corner into the breezeway between the woodshop and the admin building when we spied him with a little 5th or 6th grade kid pushed up against the wall. Jason's a hulking guy—plays center on the football team, not fat or anything, but big, seriously big. The kid looked like he was going to pee his pants.

I'm not a quick to anger guy, mom says I have a slow fuse, but nothing pisses me off more than some jerk throwing his weight around and terrorizing the little kids at the school. From day one, they preach to us about being scholar-athletes, community, helping, nurturing. Guess that never sunk in with Jason—but then his dad's kind of the same way—runs in the family, I guess.

I grabbed Jason's arm, spinning him around from the kid to me. Of course he still towered over me, but I was used to facing down my older brother. He's the one that taught me that there's no such thing as a fair fight—the goal is to win, however you can.

His face was all twisted up in a nasty snarl, "You looking to get pummeled too, Rydder?"

My eyes narrowed, but I smiled pleasantly, "Not at all Jason, just looking to keep you from getting bullied by this kid. It looked like you were scared and needed help."

Okay, that confused him, I swear I could actually see the wheels churning in his head as he tried to correlate my words with the actual situation.

I let him stew on it for a little bit, but this was clearly going to take too long for him to understand. I leaned in close, sticking my finger in his chest, and very quietly whispered, "Pick on someone your own size, Fullman. Unless you want to fight me. I might be smaller than you, but I will fuck you up. I promise."

He stared at me for a few seconds, then Peter, then backed up, "I don't have time to pummel you today, Rydder, or to deal with your little boyfriend. Just make sure he stays out on my way."

All three of us watched as he turned and stalked purposefully away.

"I wonder what urgent business is demanding his time," I pondered aloud to no one.

The little kid snorted a laugh at that one, "Umm, thanks for helping me out. I have no idea what set him off. I didn't even know he was there until he had me up against the wall."

"I'm sure it was nothing you did. It doesn't take much to set Fullman off and it's usually random," I shared, "What's your name?"

"Wilson. Conner Wilson."

"You Charlie Wilson's little brother?"

"Yeah, our parents like C's. You know my brother?"

Peter and I both nodded, "He was captain of the varsity soccer team when we started here. Nice guy. He used to help coach our team" I gave Conner a serious look, "Listen, if Fullman gives you anymore crap, you come to me okay? I mean it. I don't want to hear from someone else that he's been bothering you."

Conner nodded very gravely; his orders understood.

"Okay then, get to the pick-up circle. Your mom's probably wondering where you are." He took off running, his over-laden backpack bouncing side to side, threatening to tip him over.

"Have you ever wondered why your eyes get really dark when you're mad?" Peter mused.

I looked at him, shocked, "They do?"

"Oh yeah, didn't you know that? They're normally that lighter-greenish color. But when you get pissed, like just now with Fullman, it's like your anger comes flooding into your eyes—makes you look fierce!"

"I never knew that. I haven't ever looked like that at you, have I?"

Peter's turn to look shocked, "At me? Your best friend? Hell no. And I hope you never do!"

Peter and I adjusted our packs and headed off to the cut through over to Monument Street. We both lived just off the town Commons, so it was about a mile walk home. It was pretty cool growing up in Concord, Massachusetts—birthplace of the American Revolution. Where the Concord Minutemen faced off against the British Regulars and fired the "Shot Heard Round the World" on April 19th, 1775.

Every day to and from school, Peter and I cut through Minuteman Park, crossing the Old North Bridge where the battle occurred. There, the Minutemen had turned back the British forces seeking the Colonials' caches of arms and ammunition.

As we crossed the bridge, Peter suddenly halted, looking left and right. He cocked the hammer of his imaginary musket, "They're here. I can smell them—bully beef and tea."

I similarly readied my Brown Bess—tearing off the paper to load power and a ball; tamping it down tightly; then priming the pan from my powder horn. We both knew General Washington's manual of arms by heart—we were ready to fight for our new country!

"There they are!" he cried, firing off towards the edge of the bridge. Thick clouds of smoke and the acrid smell of powder soon filled the air as we engaged in a running battle with the cursed Regulars, hell bent on crushing our impertinent uprising!

We fought our way to the center of town in a running gun battle—once again emerging unscathed. Out of breath, we concluded our battle—this was where Peter would turn off towards Walden Street and I would go the other way to Lowell Road.

I paused, "Are you going to be able to stay over tomorrow night?" We'd talked about it earlier in the week, but Peter hadn't brought it up recently, which was becoming a bad sign as of late.

Peter looked a little guilty…or maybe it was sad, "No, I won't be able to. Mom has stuff that she wants me to do so I can't stay over. But we'll do it again soon. Promise."

I knew better than to argue. This had been happening ever since the start of this year. Something was wrong, different, had changed between us, but I didn't know what. I just nodded, "Okay. I guess I'll see you Monday then."

He smiled, "Definitely. Same as always. Meet you here to walk to school." He seemed relieved that I didn't press the issue.

We both turned and walked away. My mind was churning a mile a minute. Peter and I had been best friends, inseparable, for ten years, since we were three—basically our whole lives. But lately there was kind of this tension. Something had changed. I couldn't figure out what it was.

I felt like he was pulling away or something. He'd give me one of those bro hugs, you know, touch the shoulder, quick squeeze around the back. No full body contact. Forever, we'd always been pretty touchy-feely, full-on body hugs, leaving no doubt in your mind how happy each of us was to see the other. But now, he seemed to be coming up with lots of things he had to do, instead of hanging out with me.

Has he figured out that I'm gay? I tried to be so careful, but like today with Hunter on the bus, sometimes I screwed up. Maybe he knows. And he's trying to distance himself from me.

I pondered that wonderful theme all the way home—which basically sucked. Mom lifted my spirits a little, she had spring rolls and lemonade for a snack, that would tide me over until Dad got home from the city. She asked about our game, so I gave her the play by play. I tried not to gush too much about Hunter; having once again been reminded of my need to keep my secrets to myself.

The weekend passed uneventfully, but I was on an emotional rollercoaster. I guess this is what Mom and Dad mean about puberty, and hormones, and mood swings. I probably went through a hundred different scenarios of confessing to Peter that I was gay; or him figuring it out. None of them seemed to have any good outcome. Then I'd get horny and lose myself in some me time—me and Peter, me and Hunter, me and the rest of my favorites from school. I read a survey once that asked guys how often they did it. I never understood the ones that said they only did it once a week—they gotta be lying!

I did get some quality time in on the joint project that Peter and I were doing for Mr. Buell's World War II history class. We were doing a "Winds of War in the Pacific" project—the tensions leading up to the start of the war. It was going to be an oral presentation on the Japanese and their quest for raw materials; the European countries and their material rich overseas colonies; and the Americans and their expanding influence in the Far East.

Peter and I did trade a couple of emails on the project over the weekend—working on our script for the presentation, but other than that, I didn't talk to him. I wasn't sure what I'd say if we did. Should I just come out with it and tell him I'm gay? And not only that, but I'm in love him and want us to be an us? Maybe, just maybe, he'd say the same thing—I could hope right? More likely it would just nuclear strike our friendship right then and there.

Finally, Monday came—at least now I could focus on classes and soccer practice instead of stewing alone at home. I met up with Peter in front of the Colonial Inn and we headed off towards school. Once again, I was confused. The old Peter seemed back, flinging his arms around me in a fierce hug. Happy, engaged, laughing—maybe I was making all this 'growing problem between us' up; maybe it was nothing. Maybe he was just having the same stupid hormonal mood swings I was having?

The week flew by. We were in the midst of midterms, and so it was a constant onslaught of reviews and exams; not to mention our soccer schedule. Towards the end of the week, the first of Mr. Buell's WWII presentations began. It was really fun and interesting to see how the different teams tackled their reports. I kind of wished I could have participated in all the reports, but then I'm just a bit over the top when it comes to history!

Friday was an away game at Buckingham & Furman, on the edge of Cambridge—a good thirty-minute bus ride. Spirits and the chatter were high as we bounced along the back roads—still undefeated, this should be a fairly easy match for us. We spilled out and took one end of the field, first doing individual stretches; then team calisthenics, which always throw the opposing team for a loop; finally passing and dribbling drills.

That all started out the same as usual, but then I noticed something was going on with Peter. At first, he just seemed distracted. He kept looking towards the B&F team at the other end of the field. I could follow his eyes, he was definitely focusing in on a couple of the players. I had to whistle at him more than once to get his attention back to the drills. He'd come back and have his head in the practice, but then he'd get sidetracked again. Then I noticed that he just didn't look good. He actually looked pale, or sick, or something.

I trotted up to him as the coach called us in for the final pep talk before we took the field, "Everything okay? You're looking kind of pale."

His eyes flicked to mine for just a second, and then he tore them away, "Yeah, I'm good. Come on, coach is waiting."

I followed after him. Something was definitely wrong. I'm not sure what I saw in his eyes—stress, fear, sadness? Whatever it was it wasn't good. I knew all of Peter's looks—but not this one. I tried to catch his eye while coach was talking, but he refused to look in my direction.

The ref blew the whistle for the teams to take the field, and Peter just took off, taking up his position and staring straight ahead. No trotting out side by side, no shoulder bump as we parted, no look back to give me a grin—it's like he'd brain dumped all of our rituals. Time to focus on the game though, whatever was up with Peter would have to wait. I was quickly receiving the ball back from the kick-off and bringing it up on the right; watching for Peter on the left.

I caught him out of the corner of my eye and fired the ball into the opening ahead of him. He caught it but had trouble settling the ball. By the time he got it under control the defenders were in place and thwarted the attack. The rest of the half was more of the same. With a few minutes to go till the whistle, we were down 1-2—in a game we should have been winning handily!

This all made no sense—what the fuck was going on? Peter's timing was completely off; and it had happened suddenly. We'd been spot on in practice all week. He'd been riding a high on the bus to B&F. The others were noticing it too. My two fellow middies were grumbling and asking questions. For the first time in my life, I was defending Peter's soccer skills. I had to find out what the problem was.

Finally, the whistle blew for the half. My teammates all trotting over towards our bench; except Peter. My eyes scanned the field. Even on the far side of the pitch, he wasn't too hard to pick out—walking, more like stumbling, toward the end zone instead of the side. Now I was getting scared—what was wrong, was there something seriously wrong with him?

I took off running. I guess the adrenalin kicked in. I wasn't tired after thirty-five minutes of play. Even though he had a head start, it wasn't hard to catch up to him. He was almost walking like a zombie. I kept calling out to him, but he didn't react at all. As I came up behind him, I could hear him making a strange sound. It took me a second to realize he was sobbing. I came alongside, and saw the tears streaming down his cheeks.

I tried to get him to stop, but he kept going. Finally, I moved ahead, turned and planted myself in his path. That's when I looked him in the eye and saw pure anguish. The worst I'd ever seen him—even more than when his dog Griffon got hit by a car two years ago and we all thought he was going to die. Good news, he's fine…pretty much…he kinda has a permanent tilt, but he's still Griffon! Peter looked back at me and started crying harder; gasping for breath; he couldn't even speak. Then he just buried his face in his hands and cried even harder.

My heart breaking for him, I just grabbed him and pulled him in hard against me, wrapping my arms around him as tightly as I could. Trying to pull whatever horrible feelings were pummeling him out and infuse him with love and good thoughts. Still covered, he buried his face in my neck; at least he wasn't fighting to get away. I held him tightly, rubbing my hands up and down his back like my mom does when I'm upset. I made little 'shhh, shhh' noises in his ear.

Eventually, his crying subsided, and his breathing slowed a little. "Peter, what's wrong? Please tell me."

That started him crying again, but at least this time, I could make out some actual words, "I fucked up so bad. They told Mark and Evan. They know. The whole team's gonna know. The whole school. Everyone!"

"Fucked up how? Told what? What are you talking about?"

It took a while, but between the sobbing I kind of made out, "I'm gay, Michael! Queer. Faggot. I did stuff with them. They told."

Now my mind was spinning! Peter's gay? Like me? Wait, he did stuff with those boys—but not with me? Does he think I'm not hot? My heart started to sink—all my hopes and dreams, that Peter would be gay like me, that he would be in love with me like I was with him.

I came back to my senses as he started sobbing harder—the confession setting him off again. I squeezed him tighter and whispered in his ear, "It's okay Peter, it's okay. Everything's going to be okay" I didn't know how it would be, but I couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Who told Mark and Evan? Which boys? On the other team?"

Between Peter's sobs and gasping for breath, I eventually figured out "Defenders…5...11…and 9." I looked towards the benches; my eyes scanning the players. There they were. Laughing. Congratulating each other. Like they fucking won some prize. My eyes narrowed. I could feel the anger swelling up inside me. If looks could kill, there'd be unrecognizable B&F defender body parts strewn all over the pitch! Those assholes. Doing that to Peter. My Peter.

I was furious! The questions over Peter's being gay and not wanting me took a back seat to vengeance! My Dad loves to say "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" whenever my mom gets mad, but that woman has nothing on a thirteen-year-old, gay boy, madly in love with his best friend, who just got outed by a trio of fucktards—kudos to my big bro, I just love that word!

Fortunately, I'd noticed Alex hovering nearby. He was giving us a bit of space, but he obviously knew something was wrong with Peter. I waved him over and whispered to Peter, "Stay with Alex. I'll be right back. I'm gonna fix this."

I looked up at the towering Alex and gave him his orders, "Stay with Peter. Hold on to him tight. If he tries to move, throw him over your shoulder. Got it?!" He just nodded.

I took off like an F-15 in afterburner once I knew Peter was wrapped up in Alex's arms. I was a kid on a mission. I was going to rip their heads off and shit down their throats! I know. That's crass. I learned that from my dad, he was in the Army. Apparently Drill Sergeants say that all the time to scare the recruits. Actually, I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I was going to make them pay for what they'd done to Peter!

I didn't get there. While I had tunnel vision on the soon to be deceased defenders; Coach Buell, like any good teacher at a boy's school, had his head on a swivel for trouble. All of a sudden, I was swinging up in the air, his arm around my midsection, my legs still churning. He swung me up and around and deposited me back on the ground. I took off again, or tried to anyway; this time he just grabbed my jersey and pulled me back.

"Settle down, Mr. Rydder. You're not going anywhere. What's going on? What's wrong with Peter?"

I just stared at him. My brain trying to figure out what I could say to distract him so I could go kill those three guys. I guess he figured that out, 'cause he wouldn't let go of me. He dropped down on one knee and looked me in the eye.

"I'm not going to let you do whatever it was you were planning on doing. I know you think you're doing the right thing. But trust me, it's not. Let me help you and Peter. Tell me what happened."

How is it that some teachers have tractor beam eyes that you can't get away from? Do they hand those out at teacher school, or are they born with it? I didn't want the rest of the team to hear, so I pulled him aside and told him what happened—or at least what I think happened. I guess I was a little garbled; it didn't help that I started getting overwhelmed as I relayed what I knew. I had to bite my lip a couple of times to stop crying.

Mr. Buell listened patiently and then started quietly asking questions—mostly having me repeat different pieces of what I'd said. Finally, he asked, "Okay Michael, one last thing. Did you actually hear them do this?"

Did he not believe me? I shook my head, "No, Peter said they'd told Mark and Evan."

Coach signaled them over. They were quiet and embarrassed at first, but eventually repeated basically the same story that I'd relayed from Peter. I was getting impatient, Okay. Can we all go kill them now?

I guess I didn't really say that out loud, 'cause Coach looked at all three of us, "Okay. Mark, Evan you come with me. We need to go talk to the ref."

"Michael, you go back and take care of Peter. Stay with him. He needs you now." I started to protest, but he gave me one of those looks that you didn't want to argue with. My frustration over not being included was quickly forgotten as I headed back to my Peter.

Alex quietly pulled away and let me slip my arms back around Peter. He just sagged into me. At least he wasn't crying anymore, but he just seemed exhausted. I watched over his back as Coach Buell walked Mark and Evan over to the Ref. We couldn't hear anything of course, but the body language told the tale. Coach Buell kept slapping one hand into the other as he spoke; then he was pointing back towards the B&F team's bench.

By then their coach had noticed the interaction and was looking their way when the Ref motioned him over. I could see Coach Buell going through the same palm slapping. Mark and Evan standing quietly to the side; but obviously speaking up when asked. Then we saw their coach stalking across the field towards his bench.

He picked out the three offending players and marched them back across the field to the Ref and Coach Buell. More discussion. The Ref had his rule book out. Neither Alex nor I were ready for what happened next. The Ref reached into his pocket and fished out his Red Card; then one at a time, he held it out to each of the players and blew his whistle!

"Holy shit!" was all Alex said.

"Seriously," I echoed. "Three Red Cards?!"

Then the Ref blew his whistle again—signaling the end of the game. Guess they had no choice. Three men down, it would be ridiculous to try and continue the game.

The coaches returned to their teams and started moving everyone to the kick-off circle in the middle of the field. Coach Buell motioned towards Alex and I to come over with Peter. I took Alex's water bottle and splashed some water in Peter's face to wash away the tears, then I wrapped my arm around his waist. Alex wrapped his arm around his shoulder, and the two of us walked him back.

The coaches had everyone mingle in—so they were sitting in between the opposing players. Alex and I weren't playing that game though and made them move over so we could side with Peter. He was still not saying anything; just doing what we directed him to do and keeping his head down.

Then they went into 'teaching moment' mode. Coach Buell gave a short talk on what had happened. How this was wrong, that it was bullying. Coach got kind of emotional at that part, talking about teen suicide because of bullying. I wondered if there was more behind that than he was telling us. Everyone kept looking at Peter, then looking away. I was still rubbing my hand up and down his back to try and comfort him. Alex almost had him in a head lock, but in a good way.

When Coach Buell finished, the other Coach launched into his speech. It was pretty much the same thing Coach Buell had said—about us, our ages, what was happening with our bodies, maturing, beginning to learn who we were, some would be straight, some gay, some bi, some maybe other stuff. They both talked about tolerance, caring and being respectful of others, and then more about bullying. Then he made the three defense men stand up and apologize, to Peter and to everyone. Two of them sounded really sorry; one of them clearly wasn't.

Then the coaches invited any others to share their thoughts. A few guys said things about brothers, cousins, friends who were gay. Then shocker. One of the B&F kids, the cute sweeper I had noticed with really curly red hair, raised his hand and just blurted out "I'm gay too!"

Everyone was kind of surprised—I was stunned. I thought he was so brave for doing that. Then I thought about me. And Peter. Here was my best friend, outed, crying, all alone. And then here was this kid who had the courage to raise his hand and tell everyone, including his coach and teammates that he was gay.

I felt my hand going up. Coach Buell looked at me. It was kind of an out of body experience, almost like I was watching myself doing this in a movie. I turned my head, looking at the side of Peter's face and felt my lips moving, "I'm gay too."

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