By JD firstname.lastname@example.org
“Are you okay?”
I wanted to say yes but, in truth, I was far from okay. I was in a heap, both physically and emotionally. It wasn’t like it hadn’t happened before. I was an easy target; in fact, most days I felt like checking whether I had a bull’s eye on my back. Today was no different from other endless days. I had been walking down the hall, trying to be invisible, but that’s hard to do when you are tall for your age. I’d sprouted when I was thirteen and after my fifteenth birthday I had become an ungainly tangle of unruly limbs, hands and feet too large, glasses, and hair just a shade too long: a sitting duck.
There were only three of them but one would have been too many. As I was pushed from one to the other, my books and papers spilling onto the floor, I had struggled just to maintain my balance. A hefty push into the wall sent me sprawling and I heard their laughter as they continued on their way. I had lost my glasses at some point and I had cut my lip. I’m ashamed to admit that I was trembling as I tried to regain my composure. To hear a kind voice was almost too much to bear. I could feel tears burning my eyes but I refused to give in. I was definitely not going to cry!
As I gathered my scattered thoughts along with my belongings, I became aware that my inquisitor was still standing near me. Puzzled and confused, I realised he was waiting for me to answer him.
“I’ll be fine,” I say gruffly, avoiding looking at him. Still he stands there. All I can see are two jeans clad legs and a pair of scuffed sneakers. Why won’t he just leave me in peace? I need some time to regain my composure and sort my papers into some kind of order. If he didn’t go away I’d be late for class. I scrabble around, desperately trying to ignore him as I fight to control myself.
“Here,” he says, and an arm comes into view. He’s holding my glasses out to me, fortunately unbroken. I mutter a thank you and hold out my hand for them. Imagine my surprise when the hand that passes me the glasses then grips my arm and hauls me to my feet. He’s taller than I, stronger too. Finally, I have to look at him. I don’t recognize him but I like what I see. He is smiling at me and his brown eyes are kind. That in itself is unusual. He waits until I adjust my glasses and settle my books in my arms before speaking again.
“That happen often?” he queries. I shrug and move away slightly; he’s standing very close to me. I dab at my lip, noting the trace of blood on my fingers. Silently, he hands me a couple of tissues.
“I’m going to be late,” I manage before scuttling away. He watches me leave; I could feel his eyes on my back. Hugging my books to my chest, I hurry away, resisting the urge to look back at him.
I couldn’t concentrate during class. My mind kept wandering back to the incident in the corridor. I didn’t know who the boy was and he certainly must not have known me. I was the outsider, the brainiac, the geeky kid, the whipping boy, the fall guy. Nobody paid attention to me unless it was to torment me. He was obviously new. He would soon learn the ropes and I would hopefully become invisible again.
* * * * * * * *
Oh god, my worst nightmare – gym! I am totally uncoordinated and look like a complete ass in shorts and T-shirt. The guys on the football team, the athletes, are just waiting for me to make a complete fool of myself. It’s not so bad when we do track – I’ve learned to run fast - but this nightmare of vaulting, climbing ropes and tumbling on mats is just designed to humiliate me further. I try to lurk at the back, hoping to go unnoticed. Oh no, this just gets better and better! Today we are going to wrestle, for which I need a partner. No one ever picks me and I’ll be standing like an idiot after everyone else pairs off.
There is the usual pushing and shoving, a few crude jokes and laughter. Mr. Coleman is yelling to restore order and I am looking for the nearest exit. As I glance around furtively, I see my unidentified rescuer coming towards me.
“Hi,” he says pleasantly. “Would you partner me?” I know my mouth just dropped open and I am doing a pretty good impression of a fish out of water. I look around desperately, but everyone else is paired off and on the mats. I shrug helplessly and he smiles.
“C’mon then,” he says and tugs me away from the wall. “What’s your name?”
“D-danny,” I stammer and feel myself flushing with embarrassment.
“Nice to meet you, Danny. I’m John Patterson. My friends call me Johnny.”
Well, that was different. For the first time ever, I actually enjoyed gym class. Johnny has a great sense of humor and I actually laughed out loud a couple of times. My hand reflexively covered my mouth when I did, but Johnny just smiled and continued on with his dry comments about the class, the other boys and Mr. Coleman’s squeaky voice. Wrestling with Johnny was a whole new experience for me. He managed to pin me every time with embarrassing ease but he didn’t gloat or anything, just kept encouraging me to try again. By the third or fourth time I found myself pinned by his weight, I was getting a little hot and bothered. It wasn’t just the physical exertion but the tingling feeling I got when I felt him on top of me. I got the impression he was taking his time getting off me but decided that was just in my imagination.
As class ended and we headed for the showers, I automatically slipped into defensive mode. Communal showers are a particularly nasty form of torture for guys like me and I hung back as long as I could. Most of the boys were in a hurry to get out and head home, and I was praying nobody would be lying in wait for me. The locker room seemed quiet and I stripped quickly, wrapping a towel around my waist and heading for the showers with my head down, avoiding making eye contact with anyone.
To my relief, the shower area was empty and I quickly turned on the end spray and ducked under, throwing my towel behind me at the last minute. For a minute I was blissfully alone, but then I heard voices and two of the three boys who had pushed me around earlier entered the showers. I could feel myself cringing but tried hard to ignore them and continued scrubbing the shampoo out of my hair.
“Well, well, look who we have here! If it isn’t our resident genius.” I recognized Brian Taylor’s voice. He was a serious bully and I braced myself, anticipating the worst.
“What’s the matter, Danny, cat got your tongue?” He was closing in on me and I found myself backed against the tiled wall. I closed my eyes and waited for the first blow, expecting to be shoved into the wall at the very least. I was aware of the movement of air as he raised an arm but, miraculously, nothing happened. Instead, I heard the sweetest sound.
“Hey, guys, what’s going on?” The voice was mildly inquisitive, neither loud nor challenging, but it was enough to stop whatever Brian was about to do to me; Johnny’s voice. I opened my eyes and once again beheld my savior. He was just standing there, totally relaxed, his eyes on Brian. A quick glance at his naked torso confirmed what I had felt in gym class. He is well muscled and topped Brian by a couple of inches. There was nothing threatening about him but Brian backed off and rejoined his friend. Johnny just smiled and turned on the spray next to me. Relieved, I stepped back under the water and finished showering; taking my time so that Brian and his friend would be gone by the time I got back to the locker room. Anyway, my thoughts were elsewhere by then. The image of Johnny standing naked before me was burned into my brain
Johnny followed me out and toweled down briskly, dressing quickly in his jeans and T-shirt. I was slower, my mind occupied with my narrow escape and other things. And I was trying to formulate words to thank him. He turned to me as I was tying my sneakers.
“So, Danny, you heading straight home?” he asks.
“Um, well, I was going to go to the library and study for a couple of hours,” I murmur, then feel like an idiot for admitting to that. I must sound like a complete ass. I clear my throat and try to express my gratitude. “Johnny, I just want to say – I mean – I guess I should thank you.” I feel myself blush at my inept words and look away.
“No problem,” he says. “How about we go grab a coke before you hit the books? Wrestling always gives me a thirst.”
I cannot believe my ears. Not only has Johnny saved my ass, twice, but now he wants to spend more time with me. I nod gratefully and follow him out of the locker room. He throws an arm over my shoulder and rubs his knuckles through my hair, laughing when I duck away. I don’t usually like anyone touching me; I’m not used to it, especially not a friendly gesture, but Johnny is different. I feel like I have a friend.
* * * * * * * *
What a difference a few days make! A terrible cliché but so apt. Johnny has taken me under his wing and my life has become totally different. The bullyboys leave me alone and I no longer feel threatened at every turn. He is in some of my classes but even when we go our separate ways I feel his protective presence. I have more confidence and no longer creep around trying to hide. I look for him in the hall at the breaks and feel an unusual warmth when I see him strolling towards me, his grin at the ready, his hand ruffling my hair in greeting.
He’s an army brat and his father was posted a few days after school started, which is why I hadn’t seen him before. I love to listen to him talk about the places he’s been; places I would love to visit. A year in Japan, a couple in Europe, both coasts of the U.S., the list is endless. He’s almost a year older than I, close to seventeen whereas I am just past fifteen, but it makes no difference. I skipped a couple of grades and am primed to go to college early, so we should graduate at the same time.
Unlike me, he has his future already mapped out. He plans on joining the Air Force as all he wants to do is fly. I have no clue what I want to do, although I might find my way into teaching. He’s pretty bright but disguises the fact, only getting serious when the subject matters to him. He needs to excel in math and the sciences; literature and the arts don’t feature much in the Air Force. However, he does not deride my interests in these subjects, just shrugs and asks for help with calculus. He has had a difficult time, changing schools so often, but his grades are good and he works hard, although he tries not to let that show too much.
We often hang out after class and I am always eager to join him in any activity he plans. He has made lots of friends, his outgoing personality making it easy for him to fit in, but he never ignores me. Sometimes I cry off as I need to put in a lot of study time if I’m going to get a scholarship, but sometimes he insists that I abandon my books and take a break. I am grudgingly accepted by others he includes but I don’t care. As long as Johnny is there I feel safe.
* * * * * * * *
And then, one day, everything changed. It had started as a normal Friday, the weekend tantalizingly close. I hadn’t seen much of Johnny during the last few days. He always had a smile and a quick word for me but he was preoccupied and I gave him his space. I didn’t want to seem too dependent on him, although I missed spending time with him. Still, I had plenty to keep me busy with exams looming on the horizon. I assumed this was the reason for his preoccupation. He needed to do well, just as I did.
Johnny is waiting for me after class, lounging against the wall in that peculiarly graceful, boneless way he has. He smiles and straightens up as I approach.
“Hey, Danny,” he calls, “what’s up?” I smile back and give my usual response,
“You tell me!” He falls into step with me as we head out and he says casually,
“Want to come over to my place? The folks are away for the weekend and we could just hang out. Maybe we could go over those calculus problems, hm?”
“Sure, let me just call home and let them know.” I stop at the phone in the hall and I check in. As usual, I have no problem being allowed to do my own thing. Not like anyone cares! The Davies’ are okay as foster parents go but they have two kids of their own and I’m only there because the state pays them handsomely for their trouble. We ride over to Johnny’s house; his father is a Colonel and has quarters off base. Johnny explains that his parents have gone to some function and will be back on Sunday. They think he’s old enough to be on his own and he hasn’t disappointed them yet. I am awed by the level of trust they show in him and realize that is part of what makes Johnny who he is.
We hit the kitchen as soon as we arrive, grabbing a couple of cold sodas and heading out back. It’s still hot out and I blink at the bright light reflecting from the pool. Johnny flops onto a lounger and pops the top of his can, drinking deeply and holding the can to his forehead.
“Shit, it’s hot,” he comments, then gets back to his feet. “Hey, feel like a swim?” I am still stunned that he has a pool in his backyard and merely grunt.
“Come on, Danny, let’s cool off!”
“I don’t have any swim trunks,” I say, shrugging away the possibility of a refreshing dip.
“Don’t need ‘em,” he says. “No one can see back here; it’s just us.” With that, he calmly strips off his clothes and dives cleanly into the pool. He emerges shaking the water out of his eyes and smiles.
“Come on in,” he shouts, “it’s great!” I’m embarrassed but feel I have no option. The heat rushes to my face as I turn my back and strip awkwardly, then quickly dive in the water, hiding my blushes and my nakedness. Johnny cannot have failed to notice my attempt at modesty but he lets it pass.
The water is cool and delicious and I quickly forget I’m naked. I’m a good swimmer and feel comfortable in the water. I swim a couple of laps, just for fun, and then swim another submerged. As I surface, Johnny is right in front of me.
“Hey, you’re good,” he says admiringly and I grin back, pleased by the compliment. He shoves me under the water and we horse around for a while, splashing and ducking each other. I’m laughing and shouting with him, just having a great time messing about, exams forgotten. Finally, Johnny swims to the side and leans his outstretched arms along the pool, his head thrown back.
“Time out,” he calls and I swim over to him, catching my breath. He’s watching me carefully, an enigmatic look on his face. I smile back, happy just to be there.
“I didn’t realize you were such a good swimmer,” he comments. There is a curious expression on his face; I can feel an air of anticipation and I wait expectantly.
“You’re full of surprises, Danny,” he says softly - and kisses me. I am stunned, speechless, gaping stupidly. As he pulls away, I realize he’s disappointed by my reaction – or lack thereof. He’s turning away now, looking embarrassed and uncomfortable. I understand everything in a split second; I’m not embarrassed or uncomfortable about what happened and I need Johnny to know that. I put my hand on his arm and he stills but he won’t look at me.
“You’re full of surprises, too,” I reply and I feel him slowly relax as it dawns on him that I’m not mad or upset. He starts to speak and I just know he’s about to apologize, so I do the only thing I can think of to stop him. I kiss him back. He pulls me closer and I can feel his cock pushing against my thigh. I get hard immediately and it’s all too much for me. Disaster! As he holds me close, I can only groan as I come almost immediately. I pull away and feel the hot blush staining my cheeks. I’m shaking with a combination of excitement and embarrassment. My mind is hurtling around, imagining him laughing at me. I was waiting for the teasing, the ugly words, or even for him to hit me.
Johnny comes to my rescue yet again. He puts his hands on my shoulders and says softly,
“It’s okay.” And it was. I felt myself relax as he pulled me close again, his hands rubbing my back. Soon my erection was back with a vengeance and when our cocks rubbed together for the first time I knew he was right. Everything was going to be okay.
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