Chapter Four

"A hate crime?" Dyllan asked when we were both seated in the cafeteria. Melissa and Rhonda were surrounded by members of the football team and they kept looking over at them and snickering.

"That's what he said," I replied. "It made me sick inside to think about it though."

"Why?" Dyllan asked. "You're not gay."

"No, but I remember all about what a hate crime really is, Dyllan," I said. "Think about it. We're not exactly sitting in a gay-friendly part of the country."

"What happened in Laramie in the nineties doesn't make all of Wisconsin hateful, Sebastian," Dyllan said. "Besides I'm the one who should be uptight about this. I'm the gay one."

"Will you stop saying that?" I sighed.

"Why?" he asked. "It's the truth."

"But if you keep saying it people are going to hear you," I said quietly as I looked around the cafeteria nervously.

"And you don't want to be seen sitting with a fag, right?" Dyllan spat.

"Calm down, Dyllan," I said quickly. "I don't give a rat's ass about being seen with you. I just don't want you to get hurt."

"That's real nice of you, Seb," said Dyllan, his hard gaze softening. "You can't protect me all the time, though. I have to stand on my own two feet some time."

"Not with the assholes on the team around you don't," I replied as Amy Peterson came over and sat at the table. She was one of the cheerleaders but not one of Melissa's cronies. She was very nice looking with long dark hair and green eyes.

"So I'm hearing a lot about you two," she said as she sat down. "Care to clear the air a bit?"

"Melissa's a lying bitch," Dyllan said before I could say anything at all. "How's that?"

"Direct," she replied with a smirk. "I didn't believe a word of it anyway."

"That's good to hear," I said, smirking back at her.

"Could you give me a lift after practice, Seb?" she asked, her smirk turning into a smile.

"Can't," I replied. "Melissa messed up my car."

"So that part is true," she said, shaking her head. "I heard that she was arrested last night, but she said it was a misunderstanding."

"There was no misunderstanding," I spat. "She slashed my tires and spray painted my driver's side."

"That's too bad," she said. "I was hoping we could stop by the Galaxy for a malt or something on our way home," she said, smiling at him again.

"Amy, are you trying to pick me up?" I asked with a smile. It wasn't a bad idea.

"Well, she never said you weren't smart," she laughed. "Maybe when you get your car fixed?"

"Bet on it," I said, smiling wider.

"Awesome," she said, picking up my pencil off the table and scribbling her number on the front of my notebook. "Call me."

"Will do," I said, glancing at her number.

"Later, Dyllan," she said as she got up and walked away.

"Looks like your reputation is saved," Dyllan said with a sarcastic tone that wasn't lost on me.

"Don't sound so happy about it," I replied.

"Sorry," Dyllan said. "I'm just disgusted with Melissa."

"Yeah," I said slowly.

The rest of the day went fine for me up until it was time to change into my pads and practice uniform at the end of the day. Trent Perkins slammed into my back, shoving me almost head long into his locker. "Faggot," he said quietly.

"Leave him alone, Perkins," said Ryan Jackson, shoving Trent before I could even turn around.

"Well look at that," said Trent as he shoved Ryan back. "The butt pirates stick together."

"That's quite enough, Mr. Perkins," said the coach. "Why don't you, Jackson and Landry show me how good you are at laps this afternoon? Maybe that'll help you each blow off a little steam. I want you three side-by-side on the field. Twenty laps."

"I'm not running laps with fags, Coach," Trent said, shaking his head.

"Thirty laps," cried the coach. He put his face so close to Trent's that their noses were touching. "One more word and you can ride the bench for the rest of the season, Perkins."

I changed in silence as Trent and Ryan walked away. I was so pissed off that I almost put my jersey on backwards. Trent Perkins was a royal ass, and I was sure that I'd have to shut him up eventually. I sighed again as I thought about it. I walked out of the locker room right behind them and we started out laps side by side.

"Fucking fags," Trent chuffed as they ran. "You're a disgrace to the team."

"That's funny," said Ryan. "You're the one who runs the field with slippery hands. You can't catch a ball to save your stupid ass, Perkins. If anyone's a disgrace it's you."

"We'll just see how smart that mouth of yours is after practice, Jackson," replied Trent. "I'll knock your teeth out."

"Promises," said Ryan as he ran faster.

I said nothing as we ran our laps. Once we were finished Coach told us to do up-downs until practice was over. I wanted to tear Trent's head off his shoulders and couldn't wait for the chance to do just that. I was sore all over when I climbed gingerly into Dalton's car after my shower.

"You look like someone introduced you to the turf," said Dalton as he drove away from the front of the school.

"I don't want to talk about it," I replied. "Just take me home so I can get some rest, Bro."

"I'll pick you up from school tomorrow in your car," said Dalton. "They're painting it now."

"Cool," I said, sliding down in the seat. That was the first bit of real good news I'd had all day long. That and Amy Peterson's phone number.


*        *        *


"Saw you on the field this afternoon," said Amy when I phoned her after supper.

"Yeah we had a slight problem today and Coach decided we had too much steam," I replied bitterly.

"Let me guess," she laughed. "Trent Perkins?"

"Now which one of us is bright?" I asked with a chuckle.

"So how's your car?" she asked.

"My brother is picking it up tomorrow," I said. "Still want to go to the Galaxy after school tomorrow?"

"Definitely," she said with a smile in her voice. "I'll see you in school."

"Later," I said, closing my phone and collapsing onto the bed with a groan. My body was so sore.

I was asleep minutes later, but it was a fitful sleep with my sore muscles. I got right out of bed when the alarm went off though. After a hot shower I felt a little better. I got downstairs just in time to have a cup of coffee with Dalton before we left for the day. I was putting the cups in the sink when Dyllan showed up.

"Thought I'd meet you this morning," he said, holding out a fast food bag. "I brought breakfast. Sausage bagels with cheese."

"Killer," said Dalton as he grabbed the bag. "Let's go, boys."

As the days went by I fell into a comfortable routine. I did my homework every day after school with Dyllan. Carl and Amy joined us on our third study date. On the days I had football practice I took Amy home. Trent Perkins never said another word. I guessed he was worried that the coach would demand a repeat of their laps and torture routine.

The three of us sat on the bench for the entire game that weekend. I didn't care though. The team lost the game and it was clear that Coach knew it was because he'd benched two of his star players. I was sure he wouldn't let it happen again. As long as Trent kept his mouth shut I was sure it wouldn't happen again. As pissed off as I knew Trent was about sitting the entire game out I didn't think it was going to be a problem.

As I continued to be seen with Amy Peterson at the Galaxy as well as here and there around the city the rumors about my sexuality died completely. Melissa was charged and put on supervised probation. That was the talk of the school after the rumors died. A few times idiots with a problem gave Dyllan a hard time. Mike and Andy were always on hand to do their duty though. I was happy for that at least.

There was something else I was noticing about Dyllan. It was clear that every time I had to drop him off so I could pick up Amy, Dyllan got more and more upset. I'd caught him staring at me a few times during our study sessions and twice I'd had to clear my throat to get Dyllan's attention. It was starting to unsettle me. Could Dyllan be falling for me? That was just too much to think about.

My mother came home and Dalton went back to his own apartment on Sunday. She was furious about my car when I showed her the repair bill. She wanted to know why Melissa had suddenly been replaced with Amy. We had a long talk in the dining room about Melissa. Then I showed her the paperwork from the District Attorney's Office and I thought she was going to have a stroke. She was on the phone with Alice Reevy for two hours. She apologized to me for insisting that I date Melissa for so long.

I continued to grow more and more uncomfortable around Dyllan, but I tried very hard not to let is show. I was going to honor my commitment to be Dyllan's friend no matter what. I was just starting to think that I'd have to have a serious talk with the boy soon. It was a talk I wasn't looking forward to. I'd never been in a position where I'd had to tell another guy that I wasn't interested. It was a completely new experience for me and very uncomfortable.

"Dyllan's gay isn't he?" Amy asked one day after practice while I was driving her home.

"What makes you say that?" I asked, looking at her out of the corner of my eye.

"Oh come on," she chuckled. "Can't you see the way he looks at you? I mean I swear yesterday he was nearly drooling."

"Don't tell anyone about him, Amy," I said quickly. "He's my friend and I'd hate to see him getting shit for this."

"So he is gay," she said. "I don't care one way or the other, Seb. My brother is gay and I know how bad his high school days were for him after people found out. I just want Dyllan to understand that you're mine."

"I'll have a talk with him," I said with a sigh. "Soon."


*        *        *


"Ok," I said once Dyllan was seated at the table. "We have to have a little talk, D."

"What's up?" he asked. He looked so happy that I almost couldn't say anything. I didn't want to upset him.

"Well, first off I know how much you like me," I said slowly. "I want you to know that I don't have a problem with it. I'm flattered actually. It's just that Amy's noticed as well. It makes her a little uncomfortable."

"So you want me to stop hanging around?" Dyllan asked, his head down and shoulders slumped.

"No," I said quickly. "I just want you to understand that I'm with Amy, Dyllan. I'm not gay."

"I know you're not gay, Sebastian," replied Dyllan. "I can't help it that I like you though."

"I'm not asking you not to like me," I said, struck by how odd that sounded. "I mean, no one can really control who they like, right? What I'm asking is to curb it in a little bit."

"So Amy knows I'm gay?" he asked, scrunching is brow.

"Yeah, but don't worry," I said. "She likes you a lot. She won't say anything to anyone."

Dyllan was silent for a few minutes and I was worried that I'd gone too far. I really didn't want to hurt Dyllan and I was flattered by the fact that Dyllan liked me so much. It made me uncomfortable but I was still flattered. I'd known I was going to have to say something eventually. I just wouldn't have done it so soon if it hadn't been for Amy noticing. If she noticed how long would it be before others noticed?

"I'll try not to make Amy uncomfortable," he said.

"You're not mad?"

"No," he said with a sigh. "I know that you're straight, Seb. I always knew it. That doesn't change the fact that I've had a crush on you since we were kids."

"Is that why you stopped hanging around me?" I asked.

"Yeah," he sighed. "I thought that if you ever found out that you'd hate me. I didn't want that to happen."

"Well I know now and I don't hate you," I replied. "You're my friend, Dyllan. I care about you a lot. I just can't care about you the way you want me to."

"I guess I always knew that," Dyllan said after a moment. "But we're still friends?"

"We're still friends," I affirmed.

We got down to studying after that. Winter Break was just around the corner and we both had semester finals to get through after the break was over. I was trying to get a jump start on studying for the finals. I didn't know if it was the idea of finals or my little talk with him that did it but Dyllan didn't stare at me even once while we studied. When Amy and Carl arrived there was a little awkward moment between Amy and Dyllan when he decided he had to apologize to her. Other than that everything was great.

The problems started after Winter Break was over. When school resumed it seemed that everyone knew that Dyllan was gay. How they'd found out about him wasn't ever clear, but the taunting started quickly. Usually one of us was around even if it was Mike or Andy. The problem was we weren't always around to take care of it.

The Friday after school resumed Dyllan wasn't waiting by the car like he was supposed to be when I got ready to leave for the day. I went back inside the school to see if he'd been held up by his last class but no one had seen him. He wasn't at his locker and the AV room was empty. Then I noticed the growing crowd around the boys' room across the hall from the AV room and my stomach sank.

I tore my way through the growing crowd to get into the bathroom. Then I saw another group of boys standing around the corner and my blood ran cold. Dyllan was lying on the floor in a fetal position and there was a growing pool of blood forming around him. I dropped to my knees beside him and tried to get a good look at him.

"Get help!" I cried, turning to look at the other boys. "Don't just stand there. He's hurt bad! Damn it get help!"

I turned back to Dyllan and tried to get him to wake up. I said a silent prayer as I saw that there was so much blood. I was afraid the boy was dead. I'd never be able to live with myself if he died. I was supposed to be looking out for him. I'd promised him and I'd failed. That was the last thought I had before I felt a searing pain in my back just under my shoulder. Then everyone was moving.

"Got you and your little fag boyfriend, Landry," said Trent Perkins as he knelt down behind me and pushed the knife deeper into my back.

Then things happened very quickly. Coach Miller and the Dean were in the room before I knew it. Trent was knocked to the floor as Dean Pritchard knelt behind me and looked at the wound in my back. I could hear Trent cussing at Coach and I could see them struggling on the floor out of the corner of my eye. Then everything went black.

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