|Buddy, you're a young man,
Shoutin' in the street,
Gonna take on the world some day,
You got blood on your face,
You big disgrace,
Wavin' your banner all over the place. '
James Harrick cornered Nevin on Thursday afternoon. Nevin was backstage in the main hall, putting away props after rehearsals for 'Zombie King,' a comedy skit Upton had written for the Christmas concert. As he tossed three bloody, severed heads into a sack, Nevin heard footsteps.
There was a wild flickering in Harrick's eyes as he stood there in the doorway. There was no trace of the dazed air that had been with him recently. Instead, he was directing a focused, murderous, look at Nevin.
"W-what're you doing here?" asked Nevin.
"I know it was you, Rogers."
Nevin looked about for a weapon. All he could see were cardboard machetes.
"I don't know how you did it," said Harrick, "but I know it was you that trashed my room."
Nevin did not try to talk him down. Something about the way Harrick approached told him that there would be no negotiations in this conflict, only pain. When Nevin backed up, the base of his spine banged into a table. Harrick caught up to him and pushed Nevin in the chest, which sent him tumbling over said table and into a pile of empty paint cans.
Nevin gained his footing quickly, after breaking his fall the way Ashton had taught him, and turned to face Harrick. There were two differences between this fight and the time Harrick had come after him in the washroom. For one thing, Nevin wasn't in the middle of urinating and, for another, he could see his enemy coming.
When Harrick lunged at him again, Nevin bent his knees and got low. He grabbed Harrick at the wrist and at the armpit and pivoted, pushing up with his inside leg. With surprising ease, the onrushing boy was thrown over Nevin's head and landed amidst a jumble of equipment, on his back.
Between Harrick's loud scream of pain and his own shock at having pulled off his judo move, it took a few seconds for Nevin to realize that the exit behind him was clear. Before he could run off, however, a series of quiet sobs from Harrick got his attention.
The older boy was curled up on his side, crying. The sight shocked Nevin. Just as when Harrick had seemed like a different person dressed in his choir smock, this sad creature on the floor could not possibly have been the same feared bully that everyone knew. Harrick noticed that Nevin was still in the room.
"What the fuck are you lookin' at?" Harrick yelled. Then, he winced.
"Man, you sound like some punk in a bad movie," said Nevin. "Is there some training manual full of clichés that they hand out to bullies?"
"Go ahead, make fun of me," said Harrick, his anger replaced by despair. "You love that, don't you? You think that because you're smart and good-looking that everyone else is just here-" Harrick's jaw clenched in pain again.
"Are you alright?" Nevin asked, moving closer. Then, he saw the blood. He knelt at Harrick's side. A broken glass bottle lay on the ground, blood coating the jagged edges. Harrick's shirt was ripped and the skin just above his hip had been cut. The wound was not that bad, though it was bleeding. It was clear to Nevin that Harrick's tears were more from humiliation than injury.
Without asking, Nevin covered the gash with Harrick's shirt, holding it in place.
"No, don't. You'll mess it up."
It took a few moments for Nevin to realize Harrick was talking about the shirt.
"I've got to stop the bleeding," Nevin said. "Besides, your shirt's already ruined."
Nevin considered the boy below him as he kept his hand clamped over the cut. Harrick had bright blond hair, cut short as if he were an army recruit. His nose was narrow and his ears were gentle curves.
"You're wrong you know," Nevin said.
"What?" Harrick wiped his eyes and looked up.
"What you said just now made it sound like you think you're not attractive. You are."
Harrick looked embarrassed and Nevin regretted what he had said. Before Harrick could say anything, Nevin asked, "You think you can make it to the nurse's office?"
"Hold onto my shoulder and stand up then."
Mister Walters, the school nurse, asked no questions about what had happened. He only wanted to know what had caused the cut. After he dressed the wound, Walters left to gather his paperwork.
The two boys sat together in awkward silence. Nevin studied a colourful poster about Athlete's Foot, taking an occasional glance at Harrick.
"I'm sorry," said Harrick.
"Your shirt." Harrick pointed.
"Oh, damn," said Nevin. There was blood smeared on his shirt.
"I'm sorry about that," said Harrick. "I'll wash it for you, if you-"
Just then Walters returned. He said to Harrick, "Well, your file says your tetanus shots aren't up to date, so I'm going to have to give you one now, just in case." Walters opened the front door. "Nevin, wait outside please."
"No," said Harrick. "That's okay. He can stay."
"You sure?" Walters asked.
When the syringe was ready, Harrick rolled up his sleeve and looked away. Without thinking, Nevin took the boy's free hand and squeezed it. Harrick squeezed back.
When it was over, Walters said, "Nevin, would you please make sure Mister Harrick gets back to his room and gets some rest?"
Neither of them said anything as they walked over to Room 338. Harrick unlocked the door and Nevin followed him inside. For the first time, Nevin got a good look at the inside of Harrick's room. The bed was flawlessly made and the books were all in neat rows. Nevin immediately felt at home.
Harrick limped over to the bed and sat.
"You need anything?" asked Nevin. "Water, maybe?"
Harrick said nothing.
"I'll get some water and come back," said Nevin.
When he returned, Harrick was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Nevin sat on the bed and told him, "Here, I've got the water."
After he sat up and drank half the glass, Harrick asked, "Why are you being so nice to me?"
"I don't know," said Nevin. "I suppose you don't seem like such a horrible guy right now."
"So now you feel sorry for me?"
"A little, I admit. But, it's not that. I just feel like I'm seeing the real Harrick."
"What?" asked Nevin.
"At home, they call me Jamie."
Nevin lifted the side of Harrick's shirt. "How's the cut, Jamie?"
Nevin stared at the ripped, blood-stained material in his hand. He started unbuttoning Jamie's shirt without asking.
"You probably shouldn't take a shower with a fresh bandage on," Nevin said, "but you definitely need to change this shirt."
"I've got old T-shirts in the third drawer over-"
Jamie stopped talking when Nevin traced his fingers along the edge of the bandage. Nevin felt a strange mix of curiosity, an almost maternal tenderness for the injured boy, and lust.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world to stroke Jamie's face and then lightly kiss him. That unleashed a storm, as Jamie responded by kissing back eagerly. They hugged each other close as they continued kissing. Suddenly, Jamie pulled back with a gasp of pain, holding his side.
"Maybe this isn't a good idea," said Nevin.
Jamie did not respond. He only reached for Nevin again. This time, as they kissed fervently, they made sure Nevin stayed on Jamie's healthy side. There seemed to be no question of how far this encounter was going to go. Nevin reached for Jamie's crotch, feeling the hard excitement there. He pulled the zipper down.
Jamie was fumbling at the buttons of Nevin's shirt. Nevin decided to step back and take his clothes off. After he had folded his pants and shirt and placed them on the desk, he turned around to find that Jamie had neatly folded his own clothes.
They both smiled as they removed their underwear and folded them too before joining each other back on the bed, Nevin holding a wrapped condom in his hand.
"You always walk around with protection?" asked Jamie.
"I have since we did the HIV testing debate. It got me thinking."
"Do I put it on or do you?" asked Jamie, indicating his stiff penis.
"I think it'd be more fun if I did it. Lie back on the bed."
Nevin took a sixty-nine position over Jamie.
"What's with your arse in my face?" asked Jamie.
"That's so you can get me ready while I put the condom on you."
"You mean you want me to lick you there?"
"But that's so gay!"
Nevin laughed. Jamie joined him when he realized what he had just said. Soon enough, Jamie's tongue was sliding up Nevin's chute. It made the task of properly placing the condom on Jamie's cock tricky, coping with the electric thrills shooting through his body from Jamie's tongue work, but Nevin managed it.
Taking care not to bump the wound, Nevin maneuvered himself around on top of Jamie and eased back against the thick cock behind him. He kept his weight on his own legs, so as not to place pressure on Jamie. He felt the other boy's hands under him, guiding his organ to Nevin's ass.
Leaning down, Nevin gave Jamie a quick kiss then sat up as he slid down the warm shaft behind him. He took his time, savouring each inch of the descent.
"Ooohhghhh," Jamie moaned beneath him.
For some reason, an image of Duncan flashed through Nevin's mind right then, but he shook it off. He focused on Jamie's face. Beautiful, sad, wonderful, Jamie.
Their pace was necessarily slow because of the wound. That made for a unique intensity. Nevin's mind screamed for him to ride Jamie's pole at a gallop and he bit his lip in frustration as he stayed in slow-motion. Jamie held Nevin's ass cheeks, squeezing them with painful force as he too struggled to stay calm. Every now and then he would lose control and he would grind his teeth in pain as he tried to do too much.
They kept on that way, pleasure building at a slow burn, until Jamie rolled Nevin onto his back. With his legs spread, Nevin let Jamie gently fuck him at his own controlled pace. He reached up and took hold of the other boy behind his head, pulling him close and kissing him hard. Jamie's hands gripped his sides in response, again painful for Nevin. His hold only tightened as Jamie neared climax. He was going to have bruises when this was all over, Nevin was sure.
He did not care. He was lost in the sensation of Jamie's lips on his, Jamie's heaving chest against his. As the boy above him grew less and less controlled, Nevin tightened his hold, fighting to keep their kiss going and force Jamie to stay still. It helped only a little. With a profusion of grunts and moans, Jamie stiffened and spasmed, plunging erratically and deeply into Nevin over and over.
When the orgasm was over, Jamie gingerly pulled back and out, then slipped onto his side in the bed. There were tears running down his face.
"Did you hurt yourself?" Nevin asked.
Jamie did not answer. He only reached over to Nevin and pulled him closer. Nevin was acutely conscious of his own still hard cock demanding release, but he decided that that could wait and (carefully) snuggled into Jamie's body.
What was it about this boy that seemed so familiar? True, there was the fact that he seemed to be a fellow neat-freak, but there was more to it than that. Somewhere inside, Nevin was sure, Jamie was intimately familiar with the pain of abandonment and loneliness that Nevin knew so well. What they had found in each other, tumbling and stumbling, was solace.
Nevin gave Jamie a peck on his cheek and then nestled into his arms.
Winter came early to Tudor that year. Students hustled to classes in coats and gloves. Some gave the janitor dagger stares and wondered what was wrong with the heating. Outside, the uninvited snow seemed grey, rather than white. So savagely had the cold hit that only a brave few ventured into the snow and they gave it up quickly. An abandoned snowman stood on the front lawn, still waiting for its makers to grant it a head.
The wind was moaning past the windows in the library when Freddie walked over to Ashton.
"Hi," said Ashton, without looking up.
"Kind of. End-of-term exams."
"This is important."
Ashton took his nose out of his book. "What is it?" he asked.
"I'm ready to deal with Sheehan," said Freddie.
Freddie swallowed. "Yes. It's time."
"Okay," said Ashton. "We'll need to plan this out in detail. Let's get Nevin and the others and go to my room."
On their way to the dormitory, Ashton asked, "So what made you decide to go through with this?"
"That skinny kid in 1-D?"
"I like him," said Ashton. "Good cricketer. He's got a mean hook shot for a little kid. What did he say to you?"
"Nothing. But, I've seen Sheehan playing 'uncle' to him the last few days. I know how that's going to end up if we don't stop it."
The cold was as brutal as ever the next day. Maybe even more so, Nevin thought. It made shadowing Sheehan and Freddie through the woods practically painful. When the pair went into the security building, Nevin circled to the side.
Freddie had met up with the security guard earlier that morning. Nevin had not been close enough to hear what they said, but he could see that Freddie was doing a good job of pretending that he was happy to be talking with Sheehan. Their conversation ended when the morning bell rang. On his way past Nevin, Freddie said, "He's meeting me at the cabin in the woods at three-thirty."
Now it was three-forty. Through the small window, Nevin could see Sheehan and Freddie, but the insulation prevented him from hearing what they were saying. He did not need to hear, in any case. It was clear that Sheehan was ordering Freddie to strip and get on the couch. Nevin shivered even harder at the thought of how close and intimate Freddie was forcing himself to be with a man he despised. When Sheehan dropped his pants to the floor and ordered Freddie to crawl over to him, Nevin knew it was time. He fumbled around in his jacket and came out with the camera. It felt small and slippery in his gloved hands, but he had already turned it on and the plan did not call for him to aim it properly.
Freddie was kneeling in front of Sheehan now. Nevin pressed the camera button.
He flipped the camera around in a panic. He could hear Sheehan shouting inside, telling Freddie to suck his cock. Nevin had to hurry. The problem was that the selector switch on the camera was set on movie mode. He flicked it into picture mode and fired off a shot.
The flash was unmistakable to Sheehan, even through the double glazed window. The big man turned in amazement towards Nevin who flashed off another picture.
Nevin ran. Sheehan would be after him as soon as he could pull his pants up, he was sure. 'Operation McAllister' was well and truly underway.
For a minute, Nevin feared he had gone too far ahead. There was no sign of the security guard. Just as Nevin contemplated stopping to let the man catch up, Sheehan leapt out from behind a tree to his left. The collision knocked the camera from Nevin's hand as Sheehan tackled him to the ground. Sheehan's eyes lit up at the sight and grabbed for it. However, Simmons was there to stomp on his hand and pick the camera up.
Sheehan roared and sprang after Simmons. Nevin was back on his feet and Simmons made a perfect rugby pass to him. He caught the camera and ran for Tudor. Even though he had escaped, Nevin was in big trouble. He was supposed to have given the camera to Simmons, who would be fresh for the chase. Thanks to his over-confidence, he would have to take the camera to the second hand-off point himself.
The cold air burned his lungs and he could hear Sheehan thumping along behind him, ever closer. He could not give up. Even when every outward breath seemed like the end of his life, he kept going. Shouting up ahead let him know that Upton was in position and ready.
"C'mon, Nevin! Beat that fat bastard!"
With a last desperate heave, Nevin thrust the camera into Upton's hand and collapsed in the snow. Lying there, he watched Sheehan chase Upton towards the next link in their demented relay race.
Oh, no. He's let him get too close.
Fifty yards away from Ashton, Mark was running frantically, the camera he had gotten from Upton in his hand, with Sheehan almost within grabbing distance. There was no way for Mark to make it to the safety of the building before he was caught.
Sheehan reached for Mark, only to grab air, as the boy jigged left with perfect timing. Ashton could not help but admire the way Mark's dark hair flew as he whirled.
Already off-balance, Sheehan tried to match the turn and keeled over, landing in the snow amid an explosion of white. By the time the big man had recovered, Mark had gained ten yards and was grinning through his exertion.
Ashton took the camera from him at the door, making sure that Sheehan saw him. Then, he was off. Sheehan had no chance. He had just run all the way from the cabin in ankle-deep snow and was tired. Ashton on the other hand was almost back to full strength again after a term of training with Mark.
Staying comfortably ahead, Ashton led Sheehan through the school's ground floor into the deserted laboratory area. Now it was time for the hard part. Steeling himself, Ashton turned in the corridor and stood his ground.
Sheehan seemed too stunned for action when he realized that Ashton was ending the chase.
"Alright, you little queer. Give me that camera."
"What camera? I don't-"
But Sheehan was too far gone into anger. He backhanded Ashton across his face. The boy buckled, but stayed on his feet.
A good start. But, I need more.
"What's the matter, you smelly piece of pigshit?" asked Ashton. "Afraid of going to jail?"
Sheehan slapped him again, this time with an open palm.
"Give me the camera, Sinclair."
"Hngh," Ashton grunted. "You hit like you've got a two-inch cock. No wonder Freddie said he barely felt you."
That provocation seemed to hit the right note. Sheehan took Ashton's neck in both hands slammed him against a door and squeezed. The man said, "Little Freddie-boy felt me alright. You better believe he felt me. He was bleeding like a river when I was done with him!"
Freddie had left that part out.
Ashton flailed at the hands around his neck. He wriggled and squirmed. His vision was going dim. He did not know how much longer he could take the throttling.
Then the hands went slack. Ashton could see the horror in Sheehan's eyes when the man realized just which door he was holding Ashton against.
Behind Ashton, in red block letters, were the words, 'Chemistry laboratory supply room': The same room whose repeated plundering by Ashton, to make hydrogen sulphide stink bombs and magnesium fireworks, had finally prompted the headmaster to install a security camera. Sheehan knew he had lost. He had just been recorded assaulting a student. The soon to be ex-security guard turned and ran.
Freddie, Mark, and the others came around the corner soon after. Ashton was wobbly. Mark and Upton steadied him.
"You look like you've been to Iraq," said Upton.
"Feel like it," Ashton said.
Mark wiped away a trickle of blood from Ashton's lip and looked at him disapprovingly. He said, "You didn't have to let him take it this far. You could have shown him the security camera after the first hit."
"Nothing like being certain," said Ashton with a pained laugh. Inside, though, Ashton knew he had been right to take the extra punishment. Anyone who saw the recording had to see nothing but a thuggish assault. That was why he had thrashed so wildly in Sheehan's hands when he could easily have broken free at any time.
"What I want to know," said the Headmaster, "is why Mister Sheehan was running after you."
Nevin looked around the office. Somewhere behind the huge wooden desk was the monitor and recording equipment that had archived Sheehan's beating of Ashton. "Well," he said, "I just took a picture of him pissing against a tree for-"
"Urinating," Mister Dalrymple corrected him.
"Right. Well, he got all bent out of shape and started yelling about how he was goin' to kill me, so I just ran and he followed."
"And how did young Sinclair get involved?"
"Ash saw what happened and he took the camera from me so that Sheehan would leave me alone. He's a good friend like that."
When the interview was over five minutes later, Nevin went down to the lounge, certain that the whole investigation would end with no mention of Freddie. The other boys greeted him quietly and handed him some hot chocolate.
"So what's the news?" Ashton asked, his lips still half bruised. If there had been any doubt before, he had now secured his place as their leader.
"Dalrymple says that Sheehan's not goin' to go to jail," Nevin told them. "But, he's been put on a police watch list. He's never goin' to be allowed to work near kids again."
"Fat lot of good that'll do," said Upton. "He's too crafty to let something like that stop him from getting his hands on some nipper."
"I agree," said Ashton. "But we did the best we could. We should be happy with our victory. Tomorrow the war continues."
"War?" asked Mark.
"Yes," said Ashton with a sober air. "Tudor, teachers, romance, homework, parents, cricket, sex zombies... That war."
"Oh yes. They're the worst."
"Can't be worse than romance," said Simmons.
The others laughed, but Nevin saw a quick look pass between Ashton and Mark. There was a deep flash of pain on Ashton's face and it had nothing to do with getting beat up.
Nevin wondered about his own heart. He and Jamie were fitting quite well together in the last few weeks, but Duncan's betrayal still clawed at him when he thought about it.
It was just like Ashton had said.