Castle Roland

Who Is He

by Eric Aune


Chapter 16

Published: 8 Apr 14

When Wednesday rolled around, and Chris got to school, he still didn't know how or even when, he was going to ask his parents about Jason Huntington. On his way to lunch, he started to notice something going on around him. He didn't realize it right away, but soon it was apparent that he seemed to be the subject of a lot of glances, whispered conversations and even suddenly hushed conversations, as he drew near to groups of students. He was puzzled by it as he joined his friends for lunch. Bryce soon joined them, and Chris and Travis were surprised when they saw the look on his face. He looked fairly pissed off as he sat down in the seat.

"Hey Bry, what's going on," Chris asked with concern.

"Those fucking dicks," Bryce spit out.

"Who?" Chris asked.

"Oh, just some of the guys on the Varsity team," he explained.

"What, dude?" Travis asked.

"One of 'em came up to me, while I was waiting for Cheryl to get her lunch from her locker, and asked me if it was true that I had a faggot friend," Bryce replied.

Chris turned a little pale and gulped audibly, "Wh…who said that?" he asked.

"It was Brian Banks, the catcher for Varsity," he replied.

"Oh," Chris said, "What did you say?"

"I just told him to fuck off, of course. He just flipped me off and walked away," Bryce snarled.

"Then I grabbed Bryce's arm and dragged him away, before he did or said something he might regret," Cheryl added.

"I wouldn't have regretted anything, but they might have," Bryce stated.

Cheryl took his hand and tried to calm him down, "It wouldn't have been worth it, you would have just gotten in trouble." She looked at Chris, "Chris, I'm sorry, but the word is out that Jerry and his friends are being charged with a hate crime, as well as the assault. I don't know who spread it around, but I think everyone knows about it, and they know what it probably means too." She said as she looked at him with sympathy.

Chris looked down at his plate and found that he didn't have much of an appetite anymore. He felt a nudge at his side and Travis was looking at him and mouthed "sorry" to him. Chris nodded and gave him a weak smile. He looked up and a familiar laugh drew his attention. He saw Jeannie Morris walking out of the cafeteria holding hands with another kid. They were with a group that included the same Brian Banks. Chris frowned at that. Travis followed his gaze and matched his frown to Chris'.

"Great," he said.

"What?" Bryce asked.

Travis motioned toward the door, "Look at the door Bry,"

Bryce looked and saw Jeannie, Brian and the others.

"That's Brian's younger brother, Steve, that's holding hands with Jeannie," Bryce explained, "If she's with them, this can't be good."

"Jeannie's been dating him for a couple of weeks now," Cheryl explained.

"Great, all I need to hear is her ranting about it now," Chris complained.

"So what are you going to do Chris?" Bryce asked.

Chris shrugged, "Nothing, not much I can do about it. I'll ignore it as much as possible. Maybe it will be old news in a few days. I'll just keep acting the same as always." He looked at Travis, "We're gonna have to be more careful Trav. I don't want them saying things about you."

"Screw that, I'm not doing anything different. We are not doing anything wrong." Travis frowned, "It's not like we're jumping each other in the halls. We don't even hold hands, so if they have a problem, it's not mine. I'm going to act just the same as I always have."

Chris smiled, "Thanks."

They bumped fists, in lieu of the hugs that they wanted to give each other. Now that Chris was more aware of it, he noticed the sidelong looks, followed by whispered conversations. It continued through the rest of the day. He and his friends got to the GSA meeting at the end of school. Dave clapped him on the shoulder and looked at him with sympathy.

"I guess you know Chris, the word is out about the hate crime charge, by now," he said.

"Yeah I guessed," Chris nodded.

"You know all of us are here for you," Dave said.

"I know, thanks guys."

"Whatever you decide to do about it, we're behind you," Dave stated.

Dave's statement was followed by everyone in the room nodding or confirming what he had said. There wasn't much on the agenda for the meeting, so soon; they were just sitting around talking. Chris, Travis, and Bryce left soon to go to practice. They still had a few games left before the season was over. In the locker room, Chris noticed that a few of the guys nearby turned away from him when they changed. Chris ignored them. After practice, some of the guys didn't shower up afterwards and a few hurried up to finish when Chris and his friends came into the shower area. Chris just shook his head. Once they were dressed, they met his Dad outside and he gave them a ride home.

Michael noticed that they were all kind of quiet. After dropping Bryce off, he thought about asking the two boys what was going on, but he decided to let them have their space.

Travis gave Chris a quick hug before he got out and thanked Michael for the ride. Chris went upstairs and started on his homework. He was quiet at dinner and went back to his room. An hour later, his dad knocked on the door.

"Mind if I come in?" his dad asked.

Chris nodded, "Sure, of course."

Michael sat on the bed, "So, what's going on? You guys looked a little upset on the ride home this evening, except Bryce, he just looked pissed."

Chris sighed a little, "The kids at school know about the hate crime charge."

Michael nodded, "Ah, I understand. Has anyone said anything to you, or given you a hard time?" he asked.

Chris shook his head, "No…not directly, but people have been looking at me funny all day and they whisper around me. I heard from Cheryl, at lunch, that that's what all the whispering is about."

"But no one has said anything to you."

Chris shook his head again, "No, not yet."

Michael nodded, "Well if anyone harasses you about it, don't hesitate to say anything to me. The faculty will put a stop to it quickly."

"Thanks Dad, but I'm going to try to ignore it. Travis and I don't hang around looking like a couple, maybe if we don't do anything different, they'll forget about it after a few days," Chris said.

"Well, if anything changes let me know. We have a policy against that," his dad explained.

"Yeah I know Dad."

He patted Chris on the leg, "All right."

Michael got up and gave Chris a quick kiss on his head before leaving the room. His homework finished, Chris flopped on the bed and started playing a video game. Soon the noise of the game got Tyler's attention and he was joined by his little brother and lost himself in the enjoyment of playing the game, forgetting about the other issues.

The rest of the week was the same. They played their two weekly games and went one loss and one win for the week. There were still the looks and the whispers, but Chris just ignored them. He was glad when the week ended and he could escape the looks and whispers. Travis came over on Saturday and they, along with Bryce, went to the mall to see a movie. They stopped off at Bryce's for a little while. While they were there, Chris told Bryce about what he found out about Jason Huntington. Bryce agreed with Travis that Chris should talk to his parents and find out about Jason.

"Chris dude, you gotta find out," he said.

"I know, I've been thinking about it all week and I think I'm going to talk to them tonight about it," he said.

"You want us to go with you."

Chris shook his head, "No Bry, I don't think that's necessary. Trav and I should probably get going now."

Bryce got up and walked them to the door, "See you guys later."

Chris and Travis got back home in about fifteen minutes. "Call me if you need me, bro," Travis said.

"I will. See ya tomorrow?"

Travis nodded, "You got it. See ya."

Travis went home. Chris went inside and sat down in the living room with Tyler and Jessie to watch some TV until it was time for dinner. After dinner he went up to his room and dug the bin out of the closet. He reached inside and pulled out his mom's Senior Yearbook. He stood there and looked through it for a few moments before taking a deep breath, put his finger on the page where Jason's memorial page was and walked back downstairs to the living room. He saw his mom sitting on the couch with Jessie sitting next to her. He took one more deep breath to steady his nerves as he held the book behind him, "Mom?"

She looked over toward him, "Yes, honey?"

"Could I ask you about something?" he asked her.

She nodded, "Sure."

"Uh, could we talk in the kitchen, if it's okay?" he asked.

She nodded again, "Okay."

She got up from the couch and followed him to the kitchen. She sat down across from him at the small breakfast table and waited. He placed the yearbook on the table and opened it to the memorial page.

"Mom, will you, uh…tell me about him?" he asked.

Her mouth opened a little and her hand came up to cover her mouth, "Oh…my..." she started to say as she pulled the book toward her and lightly ran her hand over the face in the picture. Her eyes welled up as she looked at the picture for a few moments, before she looked back up at Chris.

"Where did you get this Chris?" she asked him.

"Last week when I was cleaning out the garage, I found an old, broken down box with some stuff in it, this was one of the things in it, but not all, and there was a lot of other stuff…"

She interrupted him. "I…I think I know what else you found. I've wanted to tell you honey. I guess it's time, but could we wait til later, after Tyler and Jessie go to bed? Then your Dad and I will answer everything we can," she explained.

"Okay mom. I'm going to go back up to my room."

He reached for the book to close it and she took his hand in hers for a moment, "Just leave it honey. I almost forgot about this. We'll talk later tonight."

He nodded and got up, "Okay mom."

Chris went back upstairs, while his mom sat at the table and slowly looked through the book. She got up and put on a pot of coffee. She went back to looking through the book. The smell of coffee soon brought Michael out of the living room.

"I smell coffee, can I get you a cup?" he asked with a smile.

"Sure, thanks dear," she said absently as she looked through the book.

Mike filled two cups and set one down next to Heather. He looked down and stopped short as he realized what she was looking at.

"Why do you have that out?" he asked.

"This is what Chris wanted to talk to me about. He found the box with everything in it when he was cleaning the garage last weekend, and he has questions. I had completely forgotten about this. I told him that we would answer his questions after Ty and Jess went to bed," she explained.

"I see why you made the coffee."

Heather nodded as he went back into the living room where Tyler and Jessie were starting to yawn. He sat down with them until he saw that they were having a hard time staying awake. He looked at his watch and saw that it was after nine. He gave each of them a shake and helped them to stand up.

"C'mon guys, time for bed, it's almost ten o'clock."

The two sleepy kids got up and gave their mom and dad a hug and kiss good night before stumbling off to bed. Their parents went and tucked them in a few minutes later. Chris heard them saying good night to Tyler and Jessie. So he got up and put some of the things he had been looking at back into the bin. He picked the bin up off the floor and carried it downstairs to the kitchen.

When he got there, he put the bin on the kitchen table, grabbed a coke from the refrigerator, and sat down to wait for his parents. Once they finished upstairs, his parents joined him at the kitchen table. His dad refilled their coffee cups and they sat down across from Chris. They didn't say anything for several minutes, as Heather took several of the items out of the bin and looked through them. She looked through each yearbook, and looked at the pictures, like the prom picture of Heather and Jason. When she pulled out the stack of cards, she lowered her head a little and Michael put his hand to her back and rubbed across her shoulders, comforting her as best as he could. When she looked up, Chris could see the tears in her eyes. He got up and went to her side.

"I'm sorry Mom. I don't want to make you sad."

She put her arm around him, "No honey, it's okay. It's just memories."

She patted him on the back and he sat down in the chair next to her. She pulled the Senior Yearbook to her once again, opened it up to the memorial page and put her hand on the picture as before.

She started talking, "I first met Jason in middle school. He was already popular, athletic and good looking."

"And Jason was my best friend. We knew each other from grade school on, kind of like you, Travis and Bryce. The middle school we went to was fed by a few different grade schools. Your mom went to a different grade school than the one that Jace and I attended, that's why we didn't meet her until middle school," Michael added.

His mom continued, "The three of us became friends. I liked both Jace and Mike, but it was Jace that caught my heart. By the time we were in eighth grade, we were a couple. Our friends began to call us "The Three Musketeers", because we were always seen together. I loved both of them, but Jace was special. People were drawn to him. He was a natural leader and was always elected to class office or being a club leader."

"Yeah, he was a great friend. We played Little League together and eventually played baseball in middle school and high school. He had been awarded a scholarship to Long Beach State, in fact, both of us had. Your mom had decided to join us at Long Beach State as well, to get her degree in teaching. So the 'Three Musketeers' were going to stay together."

"But what happened to him?" Chris asked.

Heather pulled the scrapbook out of the bin and opened it to the first page.

"Jace and I were deeply in love. We knew that one day we would marry, so one night, a few weeks before graduation, we spent the night together. His parents were out of town for a weekend getaway and I told my parents I was staying with a friend of mine. That was the only time we ever slept together and I didn't know that I was pregnant until much later, after he…disappeared."

"I read the articles. It said that you were the last to see him," Chris said.

She nodded, "Yeah. There was a party with some of our closest friends at Michael's house. It wasn't a big party, just a few close friends. We were celebrating the end of high school and the beginning of our futures. Jason had borrowed Mike's car to give me a ride home, because his truck was in the shop with a blown head gasket. When he dropped me off, we made plans to go to the movies the next day. He was supposed to get his truck back from the shop by then. He waved as he backed out of my driveway and that's the last that I saw of him." She stopped for a second as she remembered that night.

Michael continued the story. "I started to get worried when Jace didn't show up back at my house. He was supposed to be spending the night, because I was going to give him a ride to the shop to pick up his truck the next day. I waited up, because I figured Heather and he were talking and maybe they went for a ride. It was pretty late, and I was worried about him and wanted to be sure he was okay, so I called Heather's house. She told me that Jace had left at least an hour or two before and she hadn't heard from him since them."

"When Mike called me, I started to get scared, because Jace would never have just taken off with Mike's car."

Michael nodded, "I called Jason's house and he wasn't there either. It was after midnight, and he still hadn't come back, so I called the police. They took the report and said they would look into it. The next day the police interviewed Jason's parents, but they had not heard from him. They also talked to me and Heather, but we still hadn't heard anything. We were both pretty scared by that time. I pictured him in a car wreck, because they hadn't found my car yet either. A few days later the police called my house to say that they had recovered my car. After searching it, they told me that I could pick up my car. They said that they didn't find any clues to his disappearance."

As Michael talked, Heather turned the pages of the scrapbook. When she turned to the last article, Heather had to wipe her eyes as she looked at the article. Michael cleared his throat before he continued with the story.

"Then Jason's parents asked me to come over. While I was there we found out about the police finding Jason's jacket in the park. As soon as it was found, the police notified his parents. They told us he…he was probably dead. The police asked us if they knew anyone who he might have been having any problems with. We told them that it was impossible. Jason was liked by everyone I guess, except maybe the ones who were total losers or one step away from being criminals. You know; the ones into drugs and things like that. Even so, he tried to be nice, even to them. He didn't like bullies and he stood up for anyone he saw was being bullied. So there was really no one who disliked him. He was just that great a guy."

"Chris honey, when Mike came over to my house to tell me about the jacket, I literally collapsed in his arms. I couldn't believe it," Heather said.

Michael nodded, "I was over at Jason's house with his parents when the police called and I wanted to make sure she heard it from me, rather than on the news."

Heather continued, "It was a terrible feeling to think about never seeing him again. I really loved Jason and thought we would always be together and have a great life, but it wasn't to be."

Heather turned to the last page that had Chris' baby picture. "A couple of months later I realized I was pregnant with you. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I was going to keep you. I went ahead and started taking classes in the fall at Long Beach State. When the spring semester started, I had to cut down on the number of classes I was taking because my time was getting near. Michael was always around helping me out and he was there for me when I needed it. My parents helped me when you were born and I was able to go back to school and finish my degree. By the time we both graduated from college, we had fallen in love and we got married," she explained.

"The police never found out anything more about Jason?" Chris asked.

Michael shook his head, "No, they never did."

"What about his parents?" Chris asked.

"They moved to New Mexico, where his older sister had moved with her husband. His mom said there were too many sad memories living in the neighborhood, so they moved away," his dad explained.

"So, they are my grandparents?"

Michael nodded, "Yes they are, but we haven't heard from them since you were young, so we don't know what happened to them. We're not even sure where they are now."

"They would have really loved you Chris. You look so much like Jace. Sometimes when I look at you, I see him. You would have loved him Chris, and he would have been so proud of you," she said as she reached over to caress his cheek.

Heather started crying at that time. Both Michael and Chris put their arms around her and held her. She composed herself after a few moments.

"I wish I could have known him," he said quietly.

"I do too, Chris. He was the best friend I could ever ask for, he would have been a good father to you," his dad said.

Chris looked at Michael, "Well you haven't done too bad a job." Both of his parents chuckled a little bit at his remark.

They stayed up a little longer as they looked through the yearbooks, with his parents telling him about some of the things that the three of them did together at school. There were some more tears and some laughter as well. Finally they caught each other yawning, so Michael stood up.

"I think it's time for bed. This has been an emotional evening," his dad stated.

Chris nodded and stood up, "'Kay Dad. Goodnight."

"Night Honey," she said.

Chris gave his mom a long hug and his dad hugged both of them. Chris started to head upstairs but stopped and turned back.

"Mom, Dad, could we maybe try to find Jason's parents, my other grandparents?" he asked.

"Yeah buddy, I think that's a good idea. I'll see if I can find the last address we had for them and we'll try to find them," Michael agreed.

"Thanks, I love you. Good night," Chris said.

"Good night, son." Chris went up to his room and was soon asleep.

Downstairs, his parents looked at the things in the bin for a little longer before putting everything back and taking it upstairs to their room. The next morning his mom met Chris as he came out of his room to go downstairs; she was holding the bin in her hands.

"Chris, is there anything in the bin that you would like to keep?" she asked.

"You're not getting rid of it are you?" he replied.

She smiled and shook her head, "No honey. There is no way I would do that. Jace was too important to me, well to both Michael and I. I just wanted to know if you wanted to keep anything in your room to remind you of him. The rest will go back in the garage."

"Uh, yeah I think I would. I'll take it and look through it before putting it back in the garage."

"Okay. Do you want anything for breakfast?" she asked. "No thanks Mom, I'll just grab some cereal."

She handed him the bin, "Okay. See you downstairs."

Chris took the bin back into his room, set it on his bed and then headed downstairs to grab some breakfast. After breakfast he went back up to his room to look through the bin. He took some time looking through everything again and matching those items with some of what he learned about his father the night before. He eventually chose the yearbooks, the prom picture and the scrapbook. He put the yearbooks and the scrapbook in his bookshelf. He then made a place for the picture on one of his shelves where he kept his baseball trophies. The rest he packed back into the bin, and took it out to the garage and found a place on the shelves for it.

He had just sat down on the couch to watch television with Tyler and Jessie when there was a knock on the door and it opened as Travis came in. He got up smiling and went to him with his arms raised when he was stopped by a cough behind him. He looked around and caught his father's eye. Michael glanced over to the two younger kids and Chris nodded. He dropped one of his arms and draped the other over Travis' shoulders.

"Hey Trav. C'mon upstairs, I want to show you something," he said, blushing a little at the slight smile on his dad's face.

They went up to his room. Chris closed the door by pushing Travis against it as he moved forward to kiss him. They stayed locked together for several long moments before coming up for air.

"So was that what you wanted to show me? Not that I'm complaining mind you," Travis said with a smirk.

Chris shook his head, "No, that wasn't it, but I'd like to show you more."

Travis smiled in answer, "Okay by me."

They resumed what they were doing for a little longer before Chris pulled back. He grabbed Travis' hand and pulled him over to the bed and pulled him down to sit next to him.

"I showed them the bin last night and my parents told me a lot about Jason. Mom said last night that she still misses him. He and Dad were best friends from grade school and they met Mom later in middle school. They told me a lot about him. He really sounded like a great guy. I wish I had known him."

"Did they tell you anything more about what happened to him?" Travis asked.

Chris got up and grabbed the scrapbook out of the bookshelf and sat down again as he opened it.

"No, everything that was in the scrapbook was pretty much all they ever heard from the police about the case," he explained.

"So it's still a cold case?"

"Yeah, as far as we know it still is, but I did find something else out, I may have some other grandparents," he said.

"That's cool," Travis said.

"Mom and Dad said that Jason's mother couldn't live here anymore, because of the bad memories, so they moved to New Mexico. He had an older sister who lived there and they went to live near her," Chris explained.

"Do your parents know where to find them?" Travis asked.

Chris shrugged, "They said that hadn't heard from them in a long time, at least since I was little. Dad said he'll look around for anything he might have stashed away that has their last address on it. I hope he can find something. I think I'd like to meet them, if they're still alive. Besides, I have an aunt and uncle, maybe even some cousins out there somewhere."

Travis nodded, "That's sounds cool. Do you feel like going out to the mall?" he asked.

"Yeah, sounds good," Chris replied

Chris put the scrapbook back and the two boys went downstairs. Chris let his parents know they were going to the mall and they left the house for a few hours. They stopped by Bryce's house for a couple of hours before they headed home so that they got there in time for dinner.

That night, before he went to sleep, he took the prom picture from the shelf and looked at it for a few minutes, before setting it down on the table by his bed. He lay down so that he was facing it and the faint light from the streetlights outside shown on it. Chris could see the light on Jason's face.

"Good night Jason. I hope you're in a good place." He turned over and soon was asleep.

When Chris and his two friends got to school, they immediately sensed a certain tenseness in air. As they passed some of the groups of students, the group would fall silent. Once they were past, they could hear the low talking resume. It wasn't like no one greeted them, there were several people they knew who waved or said hello, but there were a lot who either, didn't meet their eyes as they walked by, or simply said nothing. Cheryl caught up to them as they made their way to their lockers. Soon enough it was time for the first class and the day started. Chris leaned over to Travis and whispered.

"Well, Travis, I would say that everyone knows now. Ready to gird the lion's den?" Chris asked.

"Hell yes. Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind," he said.

"Where'd you hear that?" Chris asked.

Travis shook his head, "I don't remember, read it somewhere."

Chris smiled, "Well, it's cool. I like it."

"Yeah, me too. Let's go," Travis said with a smile.

They headed to their first class. As the day went on, that feeling of tenseness eased up. The whispering and glances went away as well, because Chris ignored what was going on, and he and Travis didn't act any different than they did on every other day. They sat together at lunch, as usual. They were joined by Brian, Tad, Alex and Vince. When he sat down, Alex looked around for a moment before saying anything.

"I guess you figured out that the entire school 'knows,'" he made the quotes gesture, "about you now," he said to Chris.

Chris nodded, "Yeah. I knew it would be sooner or later. What was that you said this morning Travis?" he looked over at Travis.

"Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."

Alex nodded, "I've heard that before. I think I read it…online or somewhere..."

"Hi." Alex didn't finish his sentence as they all looked up. Wendy was standing there, looking a little nervous. Cheryl scooted over a little and Wendy smiled as she sat down next to her. She smiled in thanks as she sat down.

"Hi," she repeated.

"Hi Wendy. How's it going?" Travis said as he smiled at her.

"Pretty good. How're you guys," she replied.

"Real good. We haven't seen you around for awhile," Chris said.

"Yeah, sorry, been busy with stuff," she stammered.

"Yeah, us too," Chris said.

There were a few moments of silence as Wendy looked around nervously, "I…uh…heard what people have been saying, I guess you know."

Chris nodded, "Yep."

"Is any of it true, what they are saying?" she asked.

Chris shrugged, "Maybe some of it. I don't know, I haven't heard exactly what people are saying. No one has said anything to us, but I can guess, generally, what they are saying."

She looked at Chris. "Oh. They're saying that you're a…gay," she told him.

He nodded, "I figured that."

She hesitated again, "Are you?" she asked.

"Not that it matters, but yeah, I am. I'm tired of hiding it and worrying about what people think." Chris answered calmly.

"Does your family know?" she asked.

Chris nodded, "Yes, they do. Well my parents do. My brother and sister don't, at least not yet."

Wendy had a surprised look, "And they're okay with it,"

"Yeah, no reason not to be," Chris said.

"Well, you hear stories about guys being thrown out of their homes," she continued.

"Yeah, I've heard that as well and I was worried about it. But I didn't think my parents would do anything like that, so I told my dad, after the attack," Chris said.

"I'm glad you're okay now," she said.

"Thanks Wendy," he smiled at her.

She stood up, "Well, I'll see you guys later."

"Later's," Travis said.

Wendy left and lunch ended soon afterward. That afternoon, the looks and whispers continued. Chris continued to ignore them. They went out to the baseball fields for practice. The coach had them sit down in a semi circle in front of him.

When everyone was seated, Travis noticed that it seemed most of the other members of the team sat apart from where Chris, Travis and Bryce were sitting. Bryce noticed it as well and scowled. The coach stood up in front of them, with his clipboard in his hand, they knew he was going to talk about the lineup for Wednesday's game.

As he was about to speak, Travis held up his hand.

The coach nodded to him, "Yes, Grayson?"

"Could I say something Coach?" Travis asked.

He nodded, "I suppose so, go ahead. Make it fast. We have a lot to do."

Travis stood up and faced their team members, as the coach stepped back a little. Travis smiled at the others, "Hey guys, I want to get something out in the open."

Travis stepped over to where Chris was sitting and extended his hand down to him. Chris looked up at him with a puzzled look. He put his hand in Travis' and let him pull him up. Travis did not let go of his hand as he pulled him over in front of the team.

"I just want to clear something up, so we can concentrate on playing." Travis pulled Chris over and put his free arm around him to pull him close. Then he smiled, and kissed him gently.

There were several gasps of surprise from the other boys on the team. Travis pulled back and smiled at Chris before he turned back to the team.

"This is my boyfriend Chris," he paused before continuing, "Yes, he is gay, and so am I." He paused again. "We are a couple and that is it. If anyone has a problem with it, get used to it." Travis looked around at them with determination on his face.

"We aren't going away and we aren't going to quit playing baseball, so if you don't think you can play on the same team as us, tough. Get used to it or quit, we're here to stay. We haven't changed since before you knew about us. We are still the same guys you've been playing baseball with all season. So there's no reason to get all weird about it. One last thing, just because we're gay doesn't mean we're interested in you guys. We are a couple. No different than any hetero couple. Even though there are a quite a few cute guys on the team," Travis said with a smile on his face.

A couple of the guys couldn't help but let out a little laugh. Travis smiled at them. "But none of you hold a candle to Chris, so you can relax. We ain't interested. Thanks Coach, sorry to interrupt."

He and Chris sat down again. All of them were stunned, until Bryce stood up and started cheering. "Awesome, and if anyone has a problem with them, you gotta go through me," he warned.

The coach came up behind him and put his hand on his shoulder pushing him back toward his seat. "Uh, I think that will do Sanders. Let's get back to practice and I would like to remind you of the school's rules about harassment. If you have any concerns, talk to me after practice. Now get your butts on the field and let's practice," he ordered.

Although there was some hesitation by some of the boys, soon that hesitation went away as well, and it was like any other practice. It seemed that the team was accepting them as they were. It was a good practice, and at least among the team the glances and whispers disappeared. Back in the locker room after practice, they noticed that their teammates no longer treated them differently. They talked and joked with them just as they always had. It was nice to be treated normally once again. Even in the showers, there was no tension among them. Chris was relieved. They got dressed and headed out to Mr. Hale's van to wait for their ride home. They were waiting for a longer than usual time before they saw him come out of the locker room towards them. When he neared the boys, they could see a kind of grin on his face and he was shaking his head a little.

"You boys don't do things by half do you? I just had a short meeting with your coach and he told me what happened. Are you sure that was the smart thing to do?" he asked.

"I'm sorry Mr. Hale, if I did something I shouldn't have," Travis apologized.

Michael held up his hand, "No, don't apologize Travis. I'm proud of you, both of you, well all three. Coach Cooper told me what you said Bryce, thank you for sticking up for them, but I caution you, violence is the last resort."

"I know Mr. H, but if it's a choice between me getting in trouble and either of my friends being hurt, then I choose trouble for me," he stated.

"I know Bryce. Well, I believe tomorrow should be an interesting day for you guys. Remember, any trouble come see me," he told them.

"We know Dad," Chris assured him. "Okay, let's go home. I'm getting hungry."

Michael had them get in the van and they went home.

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