Just One Starfish

by Grasshopper

Midnight Blue/Sunrise Gold
Gabriel/Brian
Chapter 17

"Alan's hurt. Get the hell in here."

Gabriel jumped out of the Jeep and ran behind Brian into the dorm. Alan was lying on his bottom bunk, his face bloody, his leg crooked at a funny angle and his breathing uneven and shallow.

"I found him like this just a few minutes ago. I think his leg is broken."

"Let's get him to the Emergency Room," Gabriel said calmly, his hand pulling Brian back. Pulling out his cell, he punched in 911 and told them to get an ambulance out to the campus fast.

Whoever did this had trashed Alan's room and crudely spray painted "Injun Fag Lover" on the wall. Brian looked around unbelievingly. "Who'd do this?"

Chester held onto Alan's hand, "The ambulance is coming. You hold on. Bri, get a wet rag." He gently rubbed the blood away from Alan's face and kept a tight smile on his face as he looked at the swollen cheek and the black and blue eyes.

Alan groaned, "Juarez. Waiting in here. Jumped me. Couldn't stop him."

"Son of a fuck," Chester snarled. "That guy is going down. Did he say anything to you?"

"Said this was for that queer and the boyfriend with the shotgun."

"Who's this fucker Juarez?" Gabriel asked Brian.

"He's that total scum wad with the baseball bat at the movies that night."

Gabriel thought back and remembered the mean black eyes and the way he has acted as if Brian and Alan were nothing. Well, they weren't nothing. They were both important to Gabriel, especially Brian. He walked out into the hall and punched in 911 again. "I want to report a physical attack on the campus in Larson Hall. The student who was attacked is Alan Lapahie. Yes, an ambulance is on the way. Yes, he knows his attacker."

The sound of the siren cut the early morning air. The paramedics rushed in, moved Alan onto the gurney and wheeled him out into the ambulance. Chester rode with Alan and Brian, Jeff, Will and Charlie piled into the Jeep.

"He's gonna be okay?"
"This so sucks."
"I wanna just beat the shit outta that creep."
"Why did he do it?"
"He's just fuckin' mean. That's why."

They sat in the waiting room for what seemed hours. Finally, a nurse came out to talk to them. "Your friend is going to be okay. He sustained multiple cuts to his face, three bruised ribs, and his leg is broken. We want to contact his parents in Drifter, New Mexico, but he says they don't speak English and have no way to come here. We're calling his emergency contact number, a Dr. Jase McBride."

The boys took turns staying with Alan the rest of the day and through the night. The police had come by, then gone to Alan's room, seen the vandalism, read the words spray painted on the wall and taken photos of his injuries. They interviewed each of the boys and, when Alan told them who had done it, they pulled in Rick Juarez, but he walked after forty-five minutes.

"He has an alibi for that night. We can't hold him unless you have some definite proof."

"I know it was him. He's always bothering us."

"Did you report it?"

Alan sighed, defeated, "No."

The morning after Alan had gone into the hospital, a black pickup truck parked out front and two men walked quickly into the lobby. "I need the room number for Alan Lapahie," the taller man said with authority.

"That's room 312," the information lady said in a husky voice, her brain on overload. Both men were gorgeous, one tall and sexy with a deep tan and wind tossed brown hair. The other, shorter with a sleek black ponytail down his back held tight with a strip of leather threaded with colorful beads.

Tapping on the door to room 312, they walked in as a tall boy with flaming red hair and a lightning bolt tattoo crawling up his neck stood up quickly by the bed.

"Dr. Jase ! Cody !" Alan yelped happily, cringing when he tried to sit up and his ribs jabbed pain.

"Settle back down, Alan," Jase calmed him. "Tell us how you're doing."

He smoothed Alan's black hair away from his forehead.

Cody leaned over the railing and kissed Alan on the cheek, "We were so worried."

A cough from over by the window caught their attention. "Oh, sorry," Alan smiled. "Jase McBride, Cody Taylor-McBride, this is my good friend, Chester Farley. He's one of my roommates. Ches, these are my best friends from back home. Doc Jase is the best vet in the Southwest."

"Any best friends of Alan's.......," Chester grinned, shaking hands with Jase and getting a quick hug from Cody.

"I'm gonna be fine," Alan answered Jase's question. "The doctor said I can get out tomorrow. They want to x-ray my leg again and put the permanent cast on."

"Okay, that sounds good. What about staying here at school? Do you want to come home for a while? Your mom is worried sick."

"I don't know. It scared me real bad, Dr. Jase. I guess maybe he'll leave me alone now."

Cody frowned, "You know it was this guy, Juarez?"

"Yeah, I recognized his voice. He's a real scuzz, Cody. He hates us and he hates gay guys."

Cody sighed, "One of those assholes."

"Yeah."

"So, the police aren't gonna do anything?"

"Not till he does something else to one of us. He really has it in for Brian."


Brian just couldn't get past what had happened to Alan. As much as Gabriel kept saying he didn't have anything to worry about and they'd stay close, he still fretted over that much hatred. How could someone beat on another person like that because of how they were born?

Sitting on the wall outside the dorm, he and Gabriel talked quietly. "I promise you, Bri, his father is like that. His grandfather was like that and way on back. A person doesn't think with such hatred unless they were taught to hate. Prejudice and bigotry comes from ignorance and small brains."

"But, Gabriel, Alan isn't gay. He's just my friend. Why didn't he just go at me?"

"He just hates everyone who's different. Alan is a Native American. . Only thing I know right now is you're staying close to me til this blows over. As brave as you are, my Scimmietta, he's not comin' through me."

Brian couldn't help grinning. "See? I told you you're my Super Hero. Always having to save me." He wanted to kiss Gabriel right there in front of the dorm, right there in front of everybody walking by. They all kissed their girlfriends. Why couldn't he kiss the boy he cared about the same way?

Damn!


That night, Jase and Cody took the boys out to dinner. The topic of conversation was Alan and the suckweed who beat him up. Talking quietly, they decided that the school probably wouldn't do much about Juarez

and none of them wanted to just wait around until he decided to beat up

another one of Brian's friends or Brian himself.

"He's a real creep, you know, dresses like a gang jerk and has his name tattooed across the back of his neck. He's been trouble since we all got here last August. He started out as Jeff's roommate but got himself moved cause he didn't want to room with a Native American. Believe me, he didn't say it that nicely. He's just a real butt wipe," Will explained to Jase and Cody.

Cody watched as everyone talked. He smiled at how fresh faced and innocent Brian, Will and Jeff were. They weren't ready for any kind of trouble like this. Now Charlie and Chester, and especially Gabriel, they were a different breed altogether. More like Cody himself. He'd seen his share of bad people and knew just how easy it was to crush someone's dreams with cruelty. He wasn't going to let that happen to this bunch of sweet kids. He heard Jase talking,

"For now, just try to go places together and make sure your doors are locked at night. Juarez is just dumb enough to try again. I'll talk to the school security people in the morning and have them keep an eye on Juarez and his crew. From now on, any trouble, any kind at all, you call the police and report it. They'll have to pay attention sooner or later."

Walking from the restaurant, Cody pulled Gabriel, Chester and Charlie away from the others. "You wanna wait til he does something else?"

"Hell no," Gabriel growled. "He's not touching Brian."

"I'm totally in," Chester said heatedly.

"You got a plan?" Charlie asked, "I'm up for finishing this."

"Yeah, I think I do. I promised myself a while back that I wouldn't take shit off anybody ever again and you guys shouldn't have to either. Meet me later and I'll tell you what I think we can do."


Sitting in the Jeep with Gabriel after the others had gone inside and Jase and Cody had gone back to the hospital, Brian leaned his head on Gabriel's shoulder. Gabriel slid his arm around the younger boy and pulled him closer.

"You watch your back when I'm not with you, hear me?"

Brian nodded. "Did he just look at me and decide to hate me?"

"It isn't you. It's what you stand for in his mind."

"What's that?"

"You are anything he doesn't understand, anything he thinks is different. He's not stupid or he wouldn't be here in college and he probably has parents who love him, but he has to feel superior to people and so he picks on Native Americans, Gays, and I bet every other minority that exists. I bet he's a creep to girls too. He's miserable and has no idea why, so he takes it out on everyone around him."

"So, it's not me Brian, but me a gay person?"

"Right. You can't let the 'Juarezes' of this world let you doubt yourself, little one. You're fine and good. Hold on to what you want and never question yourself, okay?"

"Okay, thanks Gabriel."

Brian: 'I am holding on to what I want right now.' He looked down at his hand where it was clutching Gabriel's jacket.


Cody, Charlie, Chester and Gabriel sat at the all nite diner, coffee forgotten. "The only way to make him quit is to use the same tactics he uses, right?" Charlie asked.

"No," Cody said strongly. "He's a jerk that only knows how to scare people and use his muscles to hurt them. We've got something much more powerful to fight with."

Gabriel frowned, "I don't understand."

Cody smiled but the smile wasn't sweet. "We've got a lot of brainpower sitting right here and, if we play our cards right, that crud will never bother any of you again. Okay, this is what we'll do."


Cody and Chester made a stop by the Psychology Department the morning after Alan's attack. Chester had been working with Professor Troncoso in the parapsychology section and knew he was a cool guy.

"Yeah, I think he'll help us. The Prof's a Navajo and proud of it and he talked one day about his brother being gay. Double whammy!"

Professor Troncoso was working on a government funded project that actually had some merit. He was studying fear and how to eliminate phobias to better benefit healthy living. He had asked Chester to be involved in the testing, but Chester was so excited about the new X-Files movie coming out this summer that he was rewatching all the old files and had no time for phobias. Chester had obsessions, not phobias.

Cody and Chester explained the situation to the professor over a cup of coffee. "I'll contact this Juarez kid today," he said strongly. "I'll let you know as soon as I have results. I lived through bullying in school, but didn't have friends like you to help me."

Rick Juarez received a letter from the Psychology Department that same day offering him the opportunity to take part in a study of the physiological impact of images on salivary gland activity. He was about to toss the letter in the garbage when he read the final sentence:

Your compensation for participating in the test will be $100.

Rick zoned in on that amount. It would be enough to get his drug dealer off his back for another week..

The test was simple. A few questions about likes and dislikes, all responses showing a kid who disliked pretty much everything. Then, he was hooked up to an emotion-reading polygraph and shown several common items by wearing virtual reality glasses. The needle shot into the anger zone when Rick was shown images of families, policemen, priests. When the images turned to nature, the needle began to jump. Roaches, snakes and fire ants caused mild concern, but the needle jumped off the chart when spiders began to climb up his arms onto his face meaning one thing: Rick Juarez was terrified of arachnids. The test then moved to images of foods and began to register his salivation rate. If anyone cared, he salivated the most for coconut cream pie.

The rest of the test went smoothly. Rick signed his name and left the building with five twenty dollar bills clutched in his hand, heading for the dingy bar where he met the pusher, the test totally forgotten.

"Gotcha," the professor smiled. He picked up the phone and punched in Cody's number.


Chester took it from there. He called all the guys together and explained the plan. "Brian, you and Gabriel go out in the desert and find spiders. The non-bitey kind, for sure."

Brian cringed, "How many? Spiders are not my friends."

"As many as you can. This has got to be super creepy to work."

"What about us?" Will asked, pointing to Charlie and Jeff.

"You guys go to the video store and find a really bloody movie like Saw or Hills Have Eyes...... No, wait, make it a fierce, bloody gang kind of movie. One that Juarez would love."

"What about you?"

"Cody and I'll be in the lab fixing the computers and the blue screen."


Will, Charlie and Jeff couldn't decide until they found a well-used copy of something called Blood On the Knife. The cover was a long switchblade dripping blood held by a bloody hand with the letters 'H A T E' tattooed on the knuckles. "Gross!" Jeff muttered.

It was in the discard bin, so they just bought it for two dollars and headed for the lab.


Gabriel and Brian borrowed plastic specimen boxes, the kind with holes in the top, from Sam and drove out into the desert.

"We could have used your flashlight hat," Gabriel laughed. They swung their flashlights in wide arcs and found several rock pilings that looked promising.

"Um, I don't see any spiders," Brian said, trying not to cringe.

"We've gotta lift the rocks off."

"Right, lift off the rocks. What if there's like a rattler or a giant scorpion or a - a - python?"

Gabriel stepped back from the rocks to where Brian was standing with a scared look on his face. "I'll do it. I brought thick gloves."

"I am not scared," Brian argued, "I just um, have a problem about creepy, hairy, eight-legged things that can get on you and........"

"It's okay, Bri. We've all got stuff we 'have a problem' with."

"You? You're scared of something. You?"

"If I tell you, you have to swear not to tell another living soul."

"I won't."

"Swear!"

Brian tried to look serious and failed miserably. "I swear, Gabriel."

"You're laughing."

"You haven't even told me yet."

Gabriel looked at Brian skeptically. "Never bring this up again, ever!!!"

"Gabriel," Brian said sweetly, putting his arms around Gabriel's big parka and holding him tight, batting his eyelashes up at the stubborn face. "Tell me what scares you. I'll protect you."

Gabriel knew he was in for it. "Clowns. I totally hate clowns. They give me the creeps. Okay !!??"

Silence.

He heard Brian make a choked sound into the front of his parka. "Would that be Pennywise from It ? Or vampire clowns or hell clowns?"

"See, you're laughing."

"I am so not laughing," Brian said snuggling up, putting his face close to Gabriel's. "I will protect you with my life anytime you feel threatened by

a clown."

"I'm so gonna put spiders, big hairy gross spiders, down the front of your jeans."

"Only if you promise to go searching for them and save me," Brian grinned.

The cold night air plumed around them as they stood, half laughing, half lusting, rubbing against each other. Several kisses and the promise of 'search and rescue' operations later at Gabriel's, they broke apart.

"Spiders?"

"Spiders."

Gabriel shoved the top rock off and the light shone down on several odd looking bugs and two harmless crevice spiders. Brian held the box way out in front of himself and Gabriel dropped the spiders in.

"Is that enough?"

"Ches said as many as we could find."

"Yuck, but we can be thankful for one thing," Brian said innocently, "I don't think there'll be any clowns out here tonight." He ducked as Gabriel grabbed for him, and laughed as he headed out into the dark calling, "Here spidey, here spidey."

Gabriel: 'How can I be pissed and still think he's the cutest damn guy I've ever met?'

"Over here, look here, Oh ewww, gross me, there's like an entire city of them. Gahhhh!"

They searched and collected like a zillion spiders. Brian, who had quickly put on the extra pair of gloves, gingerly picked up a funny-looking soft round pouch about the size of an egg. "What's this?"

"I think it's an egg sac."

"Oh my God," he screeched, a rather unmanly sound, as the soft sac burst open and a gigadillion teeny spiderlets flooded all over his gloves. "Help! Help! Oh, My, God !! "Please, can we stop now? We've got enough for whatever Ches wants, don't we?"

"Yeah, I think so. Wait, let me just get that one in your hair," Gabriel said seriously, reaching his gloved hand up toward Brian's hair.

"OhmyGod, OhmyGod, get it out. Ewww, Gabriel,"

"Kidding," Gabriel laughed.

"You're so gonna get it."

"Promise?"

Laughing, they carried the box back to the Jeep where Dog lay sleeping, patiently waiting for his two boys to finish their game.


Chester took the spiders, seeming totally unconcerned after looking in the box and saying, "Cool, all harmless, just trapdoors and labyrinths. I would have liked a black widow or a brown recluse, but these'll do."

Cody took photos of each of the gang, using a school picture of Alan, and he and Chester went to work.

The finished product was a copy of Blood on the Knife with a subliminal message encrypted. He had made a none encrypted copy for them to see what the effect would be on Juarez. "Okay, everybody, lights out. Here comes the show."

The film was bloody, full of fight scenes and murder, but as they watched, they all began to wiggle and scratch, rub at their faces and brush stuff off their clothes. Chester and Cody sat in the back of the room, grinning.

Lights came on and they looked at each other with wide eyes. "That was totally creepy," Will said, a little shaky.

"Even though I know what it's supposed to do, it jerked me around," Charlie shook his head.

"Tell me what you saw," Chester asked Jeff.

"I saw us, at least pictures of us."

"And?"

"And.... Spiders everywhere. We had spiders all over us," Brian sat, still gripping Gabriel's hand. "Can I say "Eweeee?"

"Was the message clear?"

Gabriel nodded, "Oh, yeah. We were smiling like idiots while spiders crawled on us and these words kept appearing, "Leave the spider people alone".

"So, we're the Spider People?" Jeff snorted. "One of our legends is the story of Spider Woman. She was a holy one who taught our people how to weave. I guess this is fitting since we're weaving a tale to get rid of this guy."

"So, you're saying that Juarez won't see what we just saw? He'll just see the movie?"

"Yeah, he'll sit and lap up all that fighting and blood, but at the same time, he'll be mindfucked with the spiders."

"And this'll work?"

"Yeah. Now we gotta get it to him so he watches it for sure and see what happens."


Two weeks later, Alan was back in the dorm, his leg in a walking cast, his ribs taped up and the stitches in his face itching like crazy. Jase had taken him back to Drifter to stay with his mom and dad for a few days after he got out of the hospital and they had just gotten back to school. His professors had excused him from make ups and he was ready to get back to work. Gabriel was going to pick him up and drive him to class and Cody had stayed on to help out for a while.

That night, at dinner, the first thing Alan and Jase wanted to know was if Rick Juarez had bothered any of them.

"Has anyone even seen Juarez?" Jeff asked as they ate dinner in at the pizza place on the corner.

"Not me," Brian and Will answered.

"Maybe he ate shit and died," Chester added.

Charlie just nodded his head along with everyone else, but a grin burst across his face as he glanced over at Chester.

Native Americans and Gays 1 / Homophobic Bastards 0.

*Of course, it had helped that all the guys carried little plastic spiders and when they saw Juarez, they'd plop the spider on a shoulder, an arm, a cheek;

Anywhere that he'd see it. After a couple of days, Juarez seemed to cross the street whenever he saw any of them coming.

**Gabriel and Brian had terrific fun searching for the little plastic spiders.

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