“My aunt said that whatever he took didn’t react right with the medication he takes for his eye, so that’s why he had that reaction. He honestly could have died,” Laura said, following Daniel down the hallway. The teen looked at her.
“But it left him comatose?”
“Yeah, he’s still in the ICU. I feel so bad for his mom...”
Daniel stopped when at his locker, but he paused before opening it. On the locker door was FAG, written in red from a fat sharpie. Laura gasped.
“What the hell? Who did that?” she exclaimed, looking around the hallway. Daniel ignored it and opened his locker, but it seemed ignorance wasn't allowed.
A bunch of photos came tumbling from his locker of dicks and gay men, either posing for some gay photoshoot or in the act of sex. This made Daniel look around, to see if anyone else was looking. There were bystanders who had been watching from the beginning, snickering, and more people stopped walking in the hallway to murmur curiously. Kaiden was laughing.
“Look, he’s a faggot!” the teen called, and people started laughing. Laura got red faced.
“I’m getting Mr. Grey,” she said and turned from Daniel to storm off down the hall. Mr. Grey, aka: the principle, double aka: Meat Head.
A few teachers seemed to be coming out of their rooms already, and some of the crowd started to disperse to avoid getting into trouble. Just some, though; most stayed and had to be ushered away by the advisors.
Daniel knelt to start picking up the fallen photos.
There was a distant voice that said “I’ll stay and help”, and then there were footsteps that approached, and the teen knelt in front of Daniel.
He looked up to see Joe. He had neat black hair and blue eyes, and he gave Daniel a meek smile.
“...Sorry about the bird thing.”
Daniel quirked an eyebrow, watching him. He tilted his head slightly. “Why be sorry? You seemed to be having fun.” His words made Joe look down.
“..Well, you're not really a… bad guy.”
“You're wanting me to be your friend, is that it?” Daniel asked. Joe gave an awkward nod and slight shrug of the shoulders.
“Yeah.. I guess.”
“Would you make Morrison or Kaiden eat a dead animal with possible diseases?”
Joe looked back up at Daniel, eyebrows furrowed and eyes saying he was confused, because Daniel didn't have the nerve to speak up like that. At least, that's what he'd thought. He didn't answer.
“Would you kick them in the head?” Daniel asked, watching as Joe paused while picking up a picture.
Daniel leaned forward on his knees. “Then are you sure friendship is what you want from me?”
Joe cleared his throat. “Daniel, I'm sorry about… kicking you and stuff, but-” He grabbed another photo, but his hand jerked from his nerves and he accidentally touched Daniel’s wrist. Daniel didn’t seem to notice.
“You want to be nice to me because Morrison is gone and you don't really like Kaiden, but what would happen when Morrison gets discharged? You would go back to doing silly things to me and all the other boys you hurt, just to please him.” Daniel looked Joe in the eye. “Right?”
Joe pressed his lips together, staring at Daniel like the teen had read his whole life. He dropped his gaze down to the photo in his hand, of someone giving fellatio.
Daniel stood up with what pictures that he had gathered.
“Thank you for staying to help, but I don't want to be late for class.” The brunette walked to a trash can and dumped the photos before walking off, leaving Joe to clean up the rest.
The day to lunch was peaceful, apart from the fact that Mr. Grey had pestered Daniel all second hour about the locker incident. After telling him that he was fine, and that he didn't know or care about who had messed with his locker, Mr. Grey let him go on with his day.
Laura met him at the lunch table, with a plate of spaghetti.
“What did Mr. Grey want?” she asked, making Daniel look at her. It was annoying, because she knew full well what he wanted. A snitch.
He shrugged. “Who I thought did it.”
“Well, did you tell him?”
“No. I don't know who did it.”
“Daniel! It was Kaiden!”
“Hm.” Daniel took a bite of his PB&J. “I didn't even suspect.”
Laura narrowed her eyes. “Are you being sarcastic right now?”
Daniel didn't reply, just looking at her. He took another bite.
Laura shook her head. “I don't even know why they started with you,” she muttered. Daniel swallowed the food.
“Because Morrison likes you,” he said, watching her. She blinked at him before gawking.
“He likes you. Have you not realized?”
“N-no, Morrison's a bully!”
“With a crush. He probably didn't like me sitting with you.”
“Daniel, you're too crazy for your own good.”
“I'd say you full well that like him, too,” Daniel said, raising an eyebrow at her. She gave an exaggerated scoff. Except, yes, she did like him. And Daniel didn't lie about Morrison, either. It seemed liked he had a school grade crush on her; pulling pigtails, and such.
“Mm,” he motioned to her, to get her head out of the clouds. “I may join basketball.”
Laura laughed. “Bullshit, basketball season already started.”
“We're only a month in, it's not too late.”
“Wait, you're serious? Daniel, look at you,” Laura giggled. “You're pale and skinny, do you know how weird that is?”
“The point is to not be pale, and to get bigger,” Daniel drank some water. Laura furrowed her eyebrows.
“I have someone I want to impress.”
“So you do have a crush!”
Daniel shrugged. “It's not for you to know.”
“Danny!” Laura pushed his shoulder, grinning in excitement.
Gym was after science and before art.
The teacher was a dark man who looked just as big as Mr. Grey, implying that they probably went to the gym together.
“Mr. Long,” Daniel said to him, as the other students started coming in after dressing. Mr. Long looked at him.
“Right. Yes, Daniel?”
“I'd like to join the basketball team.”
“Hm. Well, I have a few jerseys left; you wanna be #68?”
“It doesn't matter to me.”
Mr. Long nodded. “Okay, we'll get it for you after class. Until then, get dressed and line up.”
Daniel turned away from the man and left to the locker room to change for class.
There were still a bunch of students in there, Kaiden and Joe included. Usually they didn’t notice or pay attention to Daniel in gym class, because Morrison wasn’t around to start anything. He was exempt because of his eye.
That would probably change now, though, since Kaiden had taken a liking to messing with Daniel about being a “fag”, though it wasn't even him holding another boy's hand.
Dressing for class, Daniel took off his shirt and pants to slip on his shorts and other t shirt. He could feel eyes on him and glanced up, where he caught Joe averting his gaze. He fixed his shirt and turned, leaving the locker room to go back into the gym for a scrimmage.
Once school finished without any other incidents, Laura met Daniel outside, following the teen while he went out to look for Arty.
“Did you make it?” she asked, walking beside him on the front steps. Daniel nodded, looking at the parked parents.
“What number are you?”
“Yay! You made it!”
“It’s not hard to join sports,” Daniel said as he started walking away, spotting Arty’s car. The man sat inside on a phonecall, arguing, by the looks of it.
Laura followed Daniel. “Hey, do you think that we can hang out sometime? Like, outside of school. I just live a few blocks-”
“I live forty minutes away,” Daniel cut her off. She frowned.
“Oh. Well, I want to meet your parents!”
As soon as Daniel was going to protest, Arty got off of his call and got out of the car. He looked at the teens and waved, smiling.
“Hey, is that Laura?” he called. Daniel glanced at the grinning girl.
“You told them about me? Aw!” Hurrying ahead of Daniel, Laura ran to Arty to introduce herself. Daniel lagged behind, breathing through his nose.
“Hi, Mr...” Laura looked at Daniel for support, just realizing that she didn’t even know the teen’s last name. He didn’t help her though, just putting his hands in his pockets and watching the two. She got herself into it.
“Mason,” Arty said, smiling to Laura. “So, are you the infamous Laura?”
Laura laughed. “Infamous?”
“Well, being his friend on the first day.” Arty looked at Daniel, winking to the teen. He broke a small smile.
“Oh trust me, Mr. Mason, Daniel can have a lot of friends- people are always talking about him.”
“Well come on, Daniel, no need to be shy, right?”
It was true. People were starting to talk about Daniel to and around Laura; girls calling him cute and some boys just mentioning him. Their opinions would probably change, though, since the stunt that Kaiden pulled with his locker.
“And just call me Arty, or Art. That “Mr. Mason” thing is for my husband,” Arty chuckled, rubbing his neck. Laura looked at Daniel, gawking slightly. When he didn’t acknowledge her, she looked back at his father.
“Are you gay?” she asked before waving a hand in excitement. “My aunt just got a new girlfriend!”
Arty laughed softly. “Well, that’s always nice. Would you like to hang out with Daniel sometime? I can always give you a ride- if it’s alright with your parents.”
Laura was going to say something, but Daniel cut in first.
“I actually have something I want to tell you and Jack at home tonight. If that’s alright.”
Laura cleared her throat, pointing off. “Yeah, I also have like, chores to do... But I’ll ask my parents for some other time!” she said, smiling although feeling dejected. Arty nodded and offered her a wave.
“Okay, I guess another time, then,” he said, smiling to her to help cheer her up. She gave a small smile back and looked at Daniel.
“Bye, Daniel. See you tomorrow?”
Daniel nodded. “Yeah, tomorrow.” He watched her leave, the girl waving goodbye to the two as she headed for the sidewalk. Arty looked at Daniel.
“Why do I get the feeling that I’m missing something?” he asked. Daniel shrugged.
“You must be looking too hard.”
Arty laughed and got back into the car. “I know you didn’t just say that to me.” His laughter made Daniel break a smile, the teen keeping it away into a smirk. He got into the passenger’s seat so that they could go home.
At the house, it was Geil and Jessica, since the boy was still sick and Jack was working out at the gym.
Jessica opened the front door.
She looked at the two and smiled. “Hey, welcome back!”
“Yeah, how was Geil?” Arty asked, stepping inside of the house. He looked at her, pointing off at the stairs. “I’ll go and get the money real fast, too,” he said. Jessica put on her best smile and shook her head, patting Arty’s shoulder.
“Oh, you don’t need to rush or anything. He was fine, though! I think he’ll be alright for school tomorrow.”
“Wow, really? That’s great- he has a tough time with schoolwork at home,” Arty spoke as he left for the staircase, so that he could get some money from he and Jack’s room.
He left Daniel alone, with Jessica.
The teen tried walking passed her, but she made a noise and caught him by the jacket.
“You don’t want to get sick wearing this in the house- let me take it for you,” she said. Daniel closed his eyes in contempt.
He could feel her taking his jacket, slipping it off of his shoulders and down his arms. She ran her fingers down his arms as she took his coat.
“There you go; you don’t want to end up sick like Geil.”
Daniel stepped away from her when his coat was off, making a good distance between them. Jessica acted like nothing had happened, hanging the teen’s jacket on the coat rack as Arty ran back down the stairs.
“Okay!” he came over to the two, stopping in front of Jessica while the woman smiled at him. He held out the cash, offering a smile in return. “Thanks again, Jessica- you really are a lifesaver.”
“It’s alright, Geil is a nice enough kid to keep me coming back,” Jessica shrugged, like a boy with attention difficulties wasn’t a big problem. Arty seemed to fall for it, though, because it was.
“Well, you’re always welcome- I’ll take all the help I can get...”
Daniel toned their voices out, walking away from them and to the large windows in the living room, that showed off the outside land.
The snowy ground was covered by layers of trees that went far off, into a forest.
Glancing back at Arty and Jessica, the two seemed to still be talking, distracted.
The teen took the opportunity to slip outside through the side doors, goosebumps immediately racking up his arms as the chilly air took its assault on him, because Jessica had robbed him off his jacket. He didn't let these stop him and stalked off towards the trees.
Stepping into the woods, there seemed to be nothing of much interest. Then, the farther he went, there seemed to be an abandoned shed- far off in the center of the trees.
“You did what?” Arty laughed, carrying a steaming dish of chicken to the dinner table. Putting it down, he hurried to Daniel and grabbed the teen’s head into an excited hug. “Oh my god, the basketball team!”
Daniel laughed a little in Ary’s embrace, smothered in the man’s arms. Jack raised his eyebrows.
“Really, Jack- yay, Daniel!” Arty let the teen go to look at him, already forgetting about talking to Jack. The other man didn’t mind, though, reaching over the table to start making Geil’s plate.
“It wasn’t hard or anything,” Daniel stated, looking at Arty, who’s eyes were on his. The man smiled.
“But it’s a great way to make friends! Being in a new family, and a new country- this is a good start for you.”
“I wanna play baseball!” Geil called out, watching Jack cut his chicken. The man nodded to him.
“You will one day. Eat this, first,” he said.
Arty sat in his chair with a heavy sigh, looking at Daniel again. "I'm just so proud. I mean, now we can drag Jack away from work more often!” He looked at Jack, his husband giving a single laugh.
“You can try, but Sandra wants to suck more work hours out of me,” Jack said, sitting back in his seat when he finished cutting Geil's food. The boy started eating.
Arty glanced over at Daniel. “Sandra’s not his boss; she just thinks she’s in charge.” Daniel smiled and looked at Jack, who rolled his light brown eyes.
“When I get my next promotion, I’ll stop treating her like a queen.”
Arty stuck a green bean onto a fork and flicked it at his husband. “I’m the queen.”
It smacked Jack’s shoulder and the man gave him a look. “Don’t throw food or Geil-”
Geil threw a piece of his chicken, off in some random direction, and Jack groaned in an obvious annoyance. Daniel smirked, watching them.
“You don’t have to go to the games or anything; I just joined for the sport of it,” he said, taking a bite of his food. Arty clicked his tongue and shook his head.
“Nope- I don’t care if you joined the chess team; I gotta go. Jack’ll come too, won’t you babe?”
Jack gave an honest shrug, picking up the tossed food that fell into his lap. “I’ll seriously try.”
Geil threw some more food and Arty got up to pick up the mess, bending over. Daniel ate a piece of meat and watched him.
Arty suddenly stood back up and looked at Jack. “A-nd, I met Daniel’s friend today! A girl named Laura,” he smiled. Jack looked at Daniel, who was already speaking in his own defense.
“She’s only my friend. Speaking of,” he looked at Arty, “Could I borrow your phone for a call? We agreed to share history notes,” he lied. Arty looked hesitant, which meant that he probably didn’t want Daniel snooping through his phone. Which was precisely what the teen wanted and intended to do.
“Let him call her, babe; my phone’s on the charger,” Jack spoke up and drank his water. Daniel watched Arty patiently.
“...Sure, you can use it,” Arty smiled to Daniel and pulled his phone from his pocket. Daniel noticed that he seemed to be doing something, maybe hiding something first, so the teen hooked his foot onto Geil’s chair leg and pulled.
The chair came falling over- with Geil in it. Jack and Arty looked over at the motion, but jack was the one closest and reached out to catch him. He grabbed Geil's arm, but the child still hit the floor. He started bawling and reached up with his other hand to rub his head, and Arty ran over to kneel beside him.
“What happened,” he asked, pulling the boy into his lap.
“He just fell,” Jack said, getting up from his chair to join the two. Daniel looked to where Arty had been with his phone, and as expected, the man had left it on the table During the excitement.
The teen got up and walked over to pick it up. He slipped it into his pocket before pointing towards the fridge.
“I'll get an ice pack,” he said. Jack shook his head.
“No, it’s not that bad or anything- just go on and we’ll take care of him.”
Arty was looking at the chair, trying to figure out why Geil had fallen. Daniel nodded to Jack and left to his bedroom, where he shut himself inside before getting on Arty’s phone.
His original intentions were to look at the phone calls, but seeing the messaging app got the better of him, so he decided on that, first.
There were texts from Sandra, Jack, some people who appeared to just be friends; Cameron, July, Fargo, and Andy, and some texts from Henry, that seemed to be casual. Daniel knew, though, that there had been some deleted messages, because the content in the thread sounded like it had some things missing.
Moving on to the calls, Daniel expected to see Henry’s name at the top, but it instead was an unknown number.
He wrote the number on a piece of paper and folded it, sticking it under his bed with his other secret things, for later.