by Victor Thomas

Chapter 11

I walked down the familiar hallways of school on my first day out of the hospital. My face was badly bruised. I limped, and my lower lip and left eyebrow had six stitches apiece. I was still sore, but I could get around pretty well. Nothing had really been broken like I'd thought at first, although I had a few cracked ribs and had to wear bandages around my lower chest. I'm sure Ashton and his friends were sorry I didn't have any broken bones. I'm not sure how they managed to keep from breaking any. They'd sure as hell tried.

I drew a lot of stares in the hallways, but what the hell was new about that. Instead of gossiping about the fag, now all my classmates whispered about the fag that got his ass kicked. I felt no shame in that. How was I supposed to fight off four guys? Any one of them I could have handled by myself with no problem. Hell, I might've even done okay with two, but not four. I never had a chance. Those bastards taunted me about being weak… called me 'prissy.' Oh yeah? Then what were they when they needed to gang up on me like that? The word pussies come to mind.

Ashton glared at me. He was always looking at me, turning up in the most unexpected places, just to frighten me. I felt other emotions besides fear when I looked at him now, knowing what he'd done to me. I glared back at him. I wanted nothing more than to beat him senseless. He'd hurt me, nearly killed me. I hated him; I think I wanted him dead. I would've torn him limb from limb if I was in better condition. I knew it was only a matter of time before I would get my chance, but for now I just waited patiently.

He was a true coward. He didn't have the guts to take me on by himself. He had to get three of his friends to help him. I didn't have a chance. I guess that's how he liked it. He wanted to make sure I didn't have the opportunity to fight back. The mere sight of him sickened me. It didn't seem like his kind should even be allowed to exist.

He didn't dare to glare at me for long. Mark was with me. Ever since I had gotten out of the hospital, him or Ryan was always with me, sticking to me as closely as my shadow. At the end of each class, there was one or the other of them waiting for me in the hallway. Mark drove me to school every day. If I wasn't in class or at home, one of those two guys were always there, acting as my body guard.

"What's wrong?" asked Mark as we made our way out of school.

"I feel guilty because you're spending all your time protecting me," I said.

"Come on. I like spending time with you," he protested. "Besides, I promised Brian I wouldn't let anything happen to you. He'd kick my ass if I did. And I don't want anything to happen to you, either."

I sighed.

"Well, even though I feel guilty about it, I sure appreciate you and Ryan looking out for me. To be honest, I'm scared. It's like I'm not fighting my own battles."

He stopped for a moment.

"Listen, Scott," he said, "this is a battle you can't fight alone. These guys play dirty. They'll gang up on you again if they get the chance. I'm just here to even the odds." He paused, then looked me in the eyes. "I know you want to go after the guys that beat you up and kick their asses. Maybe even worse."

I felt my jaw muscles tighten instinctively.

"Yeah, I want to, and I probably will eventually after I'm fully recovered. Right now, though, I'm in no condition to do anything but wait patiently."

"Well, it's not wise to mess with guys like that in your condition. Are you sure you don't want to tell me who did it?"

I looked at him for a moment, then shook my head.

"I'd like to," I said, "but I can't. I don't want you or anyone else getting into any kind of trouble, or maybe getting hurt because or me."

He sighed.

"I bet Ashton was one of them, wasn't he?" he asked.

"I'm not saying…"

He looked like he wanted to try and persuade me to talk, but I think he knew I wouldn't, no matter what. I wanted to tell him so he would take care of Ashton and his cronies for good. He already suspected it was him anyway, and I bet he would beat him senseless at the least provocation. Ashton would get what he deserved eventually, but he would get it from me.

Tears began to sting my eyes, not so much from sadness, but from anger. God, I couldn't believe everything that had happened. It was more than I could take. Getting beaten up was the last straw. It just made me feel like I couldn't count on anything anymore. I felt like almost everyone was against me. I felt insecure, lonely, and afraid.

"Mark, listen," I said, fighting back my tears. "I really appreciate everything you've done for me. If it weren't for you and Ryan…"

Suddenly, the damn burst and I started crying. The events of the past few days were weighting me down heavily. I didn't think things could get much worse, but every time I thought about what they'd done to me…

He put his hand on my shoulder.

"Hey, Scott," he said gently, "it's gonna be okay. You're strong. You're not in any danger. You're gonna get better in no time. Then, you and Brian can, you know, be together."

I wiped the tears from my face. Kids from school were looking at me and snickering, but I didn't pay any attention. What was crying in front of them when they already hated me for being gay?

Life at school was still an ordeal. Mark, Ryan, and a few others tried to help me out, but I still felt distinctly unwelcome and unwanted. I can't begin to describe how much it hurts to walk down the hallways, knowing that most of my classmates look upon me and think of me as some kind of perversion. I even caught a few looks of pity here and there. I hated that! They thought so little of me that they actually felt sorry for me, like I had some disease or something. It was beyond belief. Even my former best friend, Todd, would glare at me when we passed each other in the hallways, but at least he didn't call me a fag or anything like that anymore. He wouldn't even really acknowledge me, but at least he didn't hassle me like most of the others, and I even thought I saw a look of sadness in his eyes on occasion. Maybe there was hope for him after all.

I knew it was more than likely that I'd get beat up again. I'm sure that Ashton and his friends were just itching to finish the job. I couldn't avoid stuff like that. It had become a part of my life.

I was off the football team and that didn't help. I was in no condition to play and had no intention of ever going back with the guys who had worked me over.

Ashton and his crew still glared at me, but I glared right back. I wasn't about to let those motherfuckers think they cowed me by working me over. Maybe they thought I was scared of them and their threat to kill me because I hadn't told anyone who had beaten me up. That wasn't the reason I was quiet, however. There just wasn't any point in telling. The school would just look it over and probably feel the same as my dad, that I deserved what I got. Mr. McCoy sure as hell didn't do anything to Randy when we got into it. I was the only one who got punished. I knew he'd just tell me it was all my fault, and then not do a damned thing to Ashton or his friends. After all, I was just a fag, right? To them, that meant I didn't have any rights.

The truth is, I just didn't want to deal with it. I had more than enough unpleasantness in my life without adding more. In the back of my mind, I guess I was a little afraid of his threat.

Almost every day, Mark did his best to find out who had beat me up, but I wouldn't tell him. I knew the moment I did he'd march right out and fuck Ashton up. Him and Ryan would've probably tracked each of those guys down and kicked their asses. I knew that would probably get them expelled from school, maybe even land them in jail, and they'd likely get hurt in the process. I didn't want my friends in trouble, or hurt. They couldn't undo what had been done to me. Besides, it was my fight. When I was strong enough, I had every intention of going after them myself. That would have to wait, however, at least until I healed. I sure couldn't take any of them in the state I was in.

I think Mark had a pretty good idea that it was Ashton who worked me over. He seemed to despise him more than ever after I'd been beaten up. I made him promise not to go after the guys who had hurt me, even if he managed to find out for himself. It was a promise he didn't want to make, but I begged him. In return he made me promise to seek him out if and when I decided to take them on myself. I didn't want to make that promise either, but I did, reluctantly. When and if that time came, I'd need his help.

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