by Wes Leigh

Chapter 5

Maintaining anonymity is their biggest challenge. They pass themselves off as just like the rest of us. Owning businesses. Sending their kids to school. Attending football games. Just fitting in.

-- Excerpt from Rob Ransom podcast: 'Vampires and Werewolves: Are They Living Among Us?'

Daniel climbed the ramp behind the stadium stands and walked out the tunnel into the home seating section. It wasn't a fancy stadium, just concrete construction with wooden bleachers and iron scaffolding holding the enormous floodlights that lit up the field. Each end of the field had a concrete field house, one for the visiting team, the other with a huge banner above the door proclaiming it the home of the Cougars, the mascot of Agony High School.

Cheerleaders in bright red and black, the team colors, waited in two lines, forming a gauntlet for the home team to race through on its way to the field. They held red and black pompoms, shaking them in the cool night air. Their cheeks were ruddy and their teeth gleamed as they cheered and kicked every now and then.

Daniel looked around for a place to sit. Then he laughed. He should have expected this.

The people in the stadium were clustered in four separate groups.

In the middle, down near the field, sat the school band.

To his right, dressed in their customary black attire, were Gregor, Regina, and some of their friends, with adults similarly dressed in black sitting scattered among them. Ravens. All sitting down at the moment, looking around without any real enthusiasm, almost as if they were merely putting in an appearance. But their eyes did seem bright and eager, for some reason.

Daniel glanced to his left and saw Joshua and Jacob Byrne with their parents and the other farming families. Unlike the wealthy city folk, the Wolves weren't quietly biding their time, but were laughing and clapping along with the music blaring from the stadium speakers. They seemed genuinely excited about the contest ahead. In the middle of the group, Daniel noticed Connor's parents, their bright red hair standing out in the crowd. They saw him and waved. The two of them had been kind to him when he'd met them before the campout, so he waved back, thinking he might sit with them.

Finally, there was a fourth group of people, sitting close together in the middle of the stands, but toward the top. Empty spaces on each side of them left room between them and the Ravens on one side the and Wolves on the other. These Rabbits were also standing, clapping to the music playing over the loudspeakers, but looking around nervously. 'What are they so anxious about?' Daniel wondered. 'You'd think someone was going to attack them.' With the way they kept looking around apprehensively, they were making Daniel nervous too.

A finger tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and saw Xavier grinning at him. Dressed in a smartly creased black uniform with red trim, Xavier held his arms out to the side and turned in a slow circle. "What do you think? You like our band uniforms?" Xavier asked.

Daniel tried not to laugh. "I think I'll have the prime rib, medium rare. And could I see the wine list, please?"

Xavier rolled his eyes. "Very humorous. How long have you been a standup comedian?"

Daniel snickered and punched Xavier gently on the shoulder. "You look sharp, Xavier."

Xavier pointed behind him. "I have to sit with the band. Otherwise, I'd sit with you."

"No problem, guy. I'll find a place."

Xavier nodded. "Enjoy the game. Oh, by the way, we have a surprise coming up at halftime. Watch for it. Okay?"

Daniel raised an eyebrow. "A surprise?"

"Nothing special really," Xavier replied. "Just watch for it. I think you'll enjoy it."

"Okay. I'm sure I will."

Xavier waved and headed down the bleachers to a spot near one side of the band. The other musicians were fiddling with their instruments, checking their music, and adjusting their uniforms.

Daniel found a spot near the band down next to the field and took a seat. It was his first high school football game, so he wasn't sure what to expect, especially in a weird town like Agony, but he was determined to enjoy himself no matter what.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the announcer shouted into his microphone, "let's all give a warm welcome to our visitors tonight … the Allentown Mustangs!"

The doors opened on the field house to Daniel's left and out raced young men in dark green and gold uniforms. They jumped and shook their fists as they ran toward the far side of the field, pumping themselves up as they prepared for the game.

"And now …," the announcer cried, "… OUR VERY OWN … AGONY COUGARS!"

The doors flew open on the field house to Daniel's right. Leading the charge was Connor. He held his helmet in his fist and shook it at the sky, roaring a challenge at the moon. The team was dressed all in black with blood red numbers on their jerseys and a snarling cougar in red on their helmets. The players charged out of the field house, running behind Connor, who raced at full speed down the lane between the screaming cheerleaders. In the stadium all around Daniel, the hometown crowd clapped and cheered as the Cougar players ran onto the sidelines, jumped up onto the home bench, and began waving at the fans and shouting back.

Connor's eyes scanned the stands, and when he saw Daniel, he pointed his finger at Daniel while pounding his chest. Then he moved his arm in a slow arc as he pointed at all the fans, shaking his fist in the air. The fans responded, shouting even louder. The air seemed to pound as the fans chanted and the band blasted out the school fight song.

Daniel was stunned. He hadn't expected the game to be so exciting, and it hadn't even begun yet!

Connor was a beast on defense.

There was no other way to describe it.

The Mustangs won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball first. They started their first offensive play on their own 35-yard line. Connor lined up as the middle linebacker between the center and right guard. The quarterback saw Connor and called an audible. Connor shifted to the left. The quarterback called for the ball, taking the snap and spinning to hand it off to the fullback, who was hit almost instantly by Connor, who had ripped through the offensive line, shoving the guard and tackle aside to crash into the hapless fullback. Loss of 5 yards on the play. Second and 15.

The crowd screamed and cheered.

The Mustangs lined up for the next play. Connor stalked back and forth, refusing to stand still.

The Mustangs quarterback watched Connor, then scanned the defense, concluding they were playing zone, knowing he would have one, possibly two players in good positions for a quick reception. He pointed at Connor, calling for the fullback to block Connor's pass rush. He called for the ball, taking the snap and dropping back. Connor dashed forward. The fullback moved up to block Connor, but Connor stopped and dropped back into pass coverage. The quarterback threw a quick pass over the middle, only to see Connor in perfect position to leap in the air and bat the pass to the ground. Third and 15.

Daniel cheered with the rest of the hometown crowd. Damn, Connor was good!

The Mustangs came up to the line of scrimmage, shoulders slightly slumped. They obviously felt the momentum swinging to the home-town Cougars.

Connor waited with the rest of the defensive players, crouched down, ready to pounce.

The ball snapped. The quarterback faked a handoff to the fullback, spun and drifted to his right, only to find Connor sprinting around the end of the line. The quarterback tried to evade Connor, and he almost succeeded, but as Connor flew past him, Connor reached out with one hand and knocked the ball out of the quarterback's grip. Three Cougars fell on the ball. Fumble. Cougars ball on the opponent's 12-yard line.

Connor and the defense came leaping off the field, shouting and waving at the fans.

Daniel screamed his approval. "CONNOR! CONNOR!" The rest of the crowd took up the cheer, shouting Connor's name.

It was a chant that would be heard often as the night went on. By half-time, the score was the Agony Cougars 24, Allentown Mustangs 0.

The band had left the stands at the two-minute warning just before halftime and were lined up near the end zone, waiting for the teams to leave the field. With their instruments poised and ready, they stood at attention.

The loudspeakers crackled as the announcer keyed the microphone. "And now, for your halftime entertainment, the Agony High School Marching Band presents … a NIGHT at the OPERA!"

The drum major gave three shrill whistles, and the band immediately broke out in the stirring theme song from "Phantom of the Opera" as they began high stepping across the field in precise lines, crisscrossing and creating complex patterns on the field. Daniel watched, transfixed, thoroughly enjoying the music and the precision of the band's movements. The final crescendo echoed across the stadium as the band froze in place, snapping their heads to their chests and their instruments to their sides.

In the sudden silence, a single figure strode across the field. Dressed in black with a flowing red cape and a white half mask covering the top of his face, the solitary apparition walked slowly to the edge of the field, turned and lifted a trumpet to his mouth. Into the still night air, the haunting notes of "The Music of the Night" rolled from the instrument, caressing the audience as it wooed the sky with its poignant melody.

Halfway through the song, the rest of the band slowly lifted their heads and gradually brought their instruments up, joining the trumpet soloist as the moving refrain swelled up and filled the air.

Daniel felt tears brimming in his eyes. Never had he heard anything so beautiful, so emotional. It tore at his heart and made him want to weep for joy.

As the song reached the final sorrowful measure, the band faded away leaving only the soloist, who pointed the trumpet at the sky and warbled out the final tremulous note. Then he slowly lowered the trumpet and reached up to pull the mask from his face, revealing the handsome features of Xavier.

All around Daniel, the audience leapt to their feet and cheered their appreciation. Daniel couldn't stand. His legs were weak, and he sat on the bleachers, wiping tears from his eyes. Xavier's music had torn at his soul. He sniffed and looked across the field. Standing in the field house doorway was Connor, helmet in one hand, staring at Xavier. Connor reached up and wiped an arm across his eyes, then turned and walked slowly into the field house.

Daniel looked from Connor back to Xavier, wondering what exactly he had just witnessed.

September 3

This has been a night I'll never forget.

Connor is not a football player. He's an unstoppable force. The other team never had a chance. Every play they tried, Connor was there. Knocking people down. Tackling runners. Sacking the quarterback. It was unbelievable.

Around the end of the third quarter, I went up to Connor's dad, Andreas Finnigan, and told him he must be proud of Connor. Andreas thanked me and said Connor had always been gifted at football. I asked him if every game was like this. He said the Cougars were undefeated last year and expected to be state champs again this year. With Connor on defense, I can believe it.

I had a chance to talk to Connor during the fourth quarter. He came up to the stands while our offense was on the field. He asked me if I was enjoying the game. I told him I was and that he was killing them out there. He smiled and bowed his head and thanked me. That's something I really like about him. He's very humble. I'm sure he knows he's good, really good, but he doesn't shove it in your face. Even when he was out on the field, he wasn't talking trash to the other team. He just smashed right through them and left them groaning on the ground.

Connor said their next game is in Lareby. It's only an hour drive, so they leave right after school lets out. He said he hopes I can get my mom to take me and come cheer them on, but if I can't he wants to hang out with me Thursday after school. He said he had to help his dad open up a hunting cabin on Saturday, so we wouldn't be able to hang out during the weekend. I said Thursday would be fine.

After the game, Xavier caught up with me. He asked me how I liked the surprise at halftime. I told him it was the most incredible thing I'd ever heard. He got kind of quiet and said he was thinking of someone special as he played. I asked him who. He wouldn't tell me. It was silly and dorky but I loved it. Oh, and Xavier invited me to a party at his house next Saturday. Should be fun.

When we first moved here, I know I wrote some nasty things about my parents and having to start all over in a new school in a strange town. I guess, looking back on it, I might have been jumping the gun. I think I'm going to like it here.

Tuesday afternoon, during fifth period PE, Connor collided with another kid while chasing down a soccer ball. Both went down hard. Connor came up limping. He grimaced, tried to walk a few steps, and fell to the ground, grabbing his knee. All the guys gathered around, but the coach sent them off to run drills. Daniel hesitated, worried about Connor. The coach carefully moved Connor's leg, asking him questions as he watched the knee bend. Connor assured him it wasn't serious, but the coach insisted Connor head in early. Looking around, the coach noticed Daniel still standing nearby and called him over. Working together, they lifted Connor to his feet, then Daniel helped Connor off the field.

With his arm draped around Daniel's neck, using Daniel to support him on one side, Connor managed to limp back inside the gym. Daniel helped him sit down in front of their lockers and knelt down to remove Connor's shoes and socks. Then Connor lifted his hips up off the bench while Daniel shimmied his shorts and briefs down his legs and off. While Daniel stripped off his own gym clothes, Connor pulled his tee-shirt off and tossed it on top of his other clothes. Daniel picked up both their towels and helped Connor to stand, then supported the bigger teen as they hobbled into the shower.

"How are we going to do this?" Daniel asked.

"Get us good and wet first," Connor requested. Standing side by side, Daniel moved them under the shower stream until their fronts were rinsed off, then worked Connor around so the water was spraying across his back.

The next phase of their shower was the most awkward. Connor managed to keep his balance by leaning on Daniel, who soaped up Connor's chest, shoulders, and arms. Daniel continued rubbing a soapy hand down onto Connor's stomach, pausing when he saw Connor's thick cock hanging down. Connor chuckled and said, "We're both guys, Big D. Nothing special there that you haven't had in your hands before."

Daniel snorted. "I can guarantee you I've never had anything this big in my hands before."

Connor laughed. "Are you forgettin' a rather special moment in my sleepin' bag one morning?"

Daniel blushed. "Okay. You're right." Daniel gulped and reached down, scrubbing shower gel into Connor's red bush. He squirted more gel into his hands, rubbed them together, and began soaping up Connor's equipment, cock and balls and all, reaching underneath behind Connor's balls and down onto his thick thighs. He was careful when he reached Connor's right knee, trying not to press too hard, then hurried down to wash Connor's calves and feet.

Connor started twitching and stopped him. "Just a bit ticklish on the feet, Big D."

Daniel grinned and moved Connor under the water, rinsing off the soap and rubbing Connor's equipment without embarrassment this time. Then he helped Connor to brace both his hands against the wall so he could soap up the injured youth's back. Daniel didn't hesitate when he reached Connor's curving butt, sliding his fingers all along the firm muscles, smiling when Connor flexed his glutes. Daniel worked one hand down Connor's crack and slid his fingers underneath, washing Connor's taint. The back of Connor's hairy legs were last, skipping the feet this time, knowing how ticklish Connor was. He pushed Connor forward a bit, directing the stream down across his back, rinsing away the last of the suds.

"How was that?" Daniel asked.

"Nice," Connor whispered. "Really nice."

"Can you brace yourself against the wall while I clean off real quick?"

"Sure, Big D. Take your time."

Daniel squirted a generous handful of shower gel into his palm, then quickly worked it over his body, scrubbing his pits and stomach, moving down to clean off his cock and balls. Naturally, he plumped up a little, glancing over at Connor to see if he noticed. Connor was watching him, and his eyes twinkled when Daniel's cock jutted out.

Daniel blushed, but Connor smirked and said, "I told you once, Big D. You got a nice one. Nothin' to be embarrassed about."

That was when Daniel noticed he wasn't the only one plumping up. Connor's cock was standing straight out from his body, not fully erect, but definitely showing signs of life.

Connor didn't seem the least bit concerned and didn't try to hide his growing erection. Daniel hurried to finish washing, but he kept his eyes on Connor the entire time. Before he finished rinsing off, both boys had stiff boners.

Connor licked his lips as he stared at Daniel's hard cock. "Guess we'd better get dried off and dressed before the rest of the guys come back," Connor said.

"Yeah. Probably a good idea," Daniel agreed. He walked up to Connor offering his shoulder for Connor to lean on as they hobbled back to their lockers, bouncing boners leading the way.

They were halfway there when Daniel stopped Connor and said, "Hang on a second, Connor. I thought it was your RIGHT knee you twisted."

Connor grinned impishly, pulled Daniel into a bear hug, boners pressing together, and laughed. "I knew you were one of the smartest guys I've ever met." Connor released Daniel, gave him a quick kiss on the lips, and walked on, turning to look back at Daniel, with no sign of a limp. "Better move it, Big D. The rest of the guys will be here any minute."

Wednesday afternoon, during sixth period Drama class, Trudy asked Daniel to read a few lines from a play they were planning to present in a month. Then she asked him to read them again, this time projecting his voice so that someone sitting in the back seat of the auditorium could hear it. After he finished, she asked him what the lines meant. What was the person feeling to make him say these things?

Daniel shrugged. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm not very good at this."

She called Xavier over and asked him to read the lines. Xavier paused for a moment, then looked up and spoke the lines, his voice catching at the end, betraying the buried sorrow the character felt. Daniel was impressed. Xavier was good at this.

Trudy smiled. "Would you like to try again, Daniel?"

Daniel sighed. "I will if you want me to, but is there anything else I can do?"

Trudy nodded. "Not everyone was born to take the stage, Daniel. Certainly, we'll find other ways you can help. Are you good with electronics?"

Daniel shrugged. "I suppose."

"Then we'll let you try your hand at the lights," she said. "Xavier, will you show Daniel how to run the light board?"

"Certainly. Come on, Daniel." Xavier led the way off stage to a narrow staircase that wound its way all the way to the back of the building, then up over the auditorium to a small cubicle with tinted windows looking down at the stage from high above. The only thing in the room was a small desk with a control board covered in switches and sliders. Two chairs were pushed under the desk.

Xavier pulled the chairs out and motioned for Daniel to slide in. Xavier sat next to Daniel and walked him through each of the controls on the light board, demonstrating each one while they watched various lights come up, brighten and dim, then turn off as Xavier flipped the switches on the board.

While showing Daniel how it all worked, Xavier slowly eased his leg over until his thigh was pressed against Daniel's. He glanced over and saw Daniel smiling. Xavier shifted sideways, pushing his hip against Daniel. Daniel smiled more and pushed back, pressing his knee against Xavier. Xavier turned to face Daniel, silently studying the blonde boy's face.

Daniel cut his eyes sideways and saw Xavier staring at him. His lips curled and he turned his head slowly. "When you played that solo during the halftime show, you said you were thinking of someone special while you performed."

Xavier nodded. "Yes."

"Who was it?" Daniel asked.

Xavier bowed his head. "I really can't say. Please don't ask me that."

Daniel sighed. "Okay. It's your secret, Xavier. I won't ask again."

Xavier looked up. "Thank you, Daniel."

Daniel nodded as he leaned over and pressed his lips against Xavier's. Their chilly touch made Daniel shiver. He pulled back, breathing out and blowing his warm breath across Xavier's pale cheek.

Xavier lifted his hand and touched Daniel's face, sliding his palm back to grasp the back of Daniel's neck and pull him in for a passionate kiss. Daniel reached around Xavier and pulled him into a hug, shuddering at the touch of the older boy in his arms.

The room was too small. They stood up, shoving the chairs against the wall, and wrapped their arms around each other. Their mouths connected again, tongues caressing, teeth nibbling, lips smashed together, hungry moans escaping. They turned sideways and Xavier sat down on the control board, pulling Daniel between his spread legs. They kissed passionately as their hands explored their chests, their stomachs, their hard groins.

An electronic voice interrupted them. "Ummm, guys? What are you doing up there?"

They stopped kissing and looked around.

"Guys?" A speaker on the wall buzzed again. "Trudy wants to know what's going on. And she wants to know if it's going to continue much longer."

Xavier stood up, holding Daniel with one arm. Turning around, they looked down on the stage and saw several lights turned up to maximum illumination. Xavier quickly adjusted sliders on the control board, bringing the lights back down to a more reasonable level. Glancing at Daniel, Xavier smiled and said, "I guess I bumped them with my butt when we … ummm …"

Daniel chuckled and placed his hand on Xavier's arm. "We did get a little carried away."

Xavier pushed a button next to the speaker. "Sorry about that. I was showing Daniel how to work the lights."

The speaker buzzed again. "Are you finished, or are you planning to blind us again? Ms. Trudy wants to know."

Xavier turned to Daniel. "Do you have it down yet, or do you need more training?"

Daniel leaned into Xavier and tilted his head up to kiss the taller youth. "I can always use extra instruction. You know anyone who could help me out?"

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