1

High school was tough, tougher now than it ever had been before I mean. Geeze, I only told one person and the school was on me like a pack of wolves, tearing up my flesh and eating me alive. So maybe that's an exaggeration, but sometimes it felt like that. Like they were trying to kill me with their evil glares and scurrilous words that they always spoke behind my back. Sometimes they didn't even wait for my back to be to them, they would whisper as I sped by them. Needless to say, I liked those quiet ones better than I liked the ones who spit at me as I walked past and voiced their obscenities right at my face. How nice was that? I'm just minding my own business and suddenly someone's saliva is on my jacket and I'm being called 'fag-boy' and 'rainbow lover'.

But it was the end of the school day. It was always so bittersweet for me. I was able to go home and be by myself for a couple hours and not have to worry about being chastised, but first I had to get there and that was always the tough part. I never realized how violent some people were until now. Guess I just hadn't been looking hard enough because it seemed so clearly obvious now.

"Hey fag-boy!"

That was always my cue to run. Over the last week I'd gotten really fast. I'd been able to outrun every enraged chaser that had decided my sexuality was something that I had intentionally done to degrade their status in society. Not my intent, but it was hard to explain that when they were trying to disconnect your jaw from your head with their fists. The first time was enough to teach me it was an experience not worth experiencing again. I didn't take punishment all that well.

My feet pounded against the pavement, propelling me foreword, away from the hands of my attackers, away from their screams, away from their spitting and foul mouths. Where could I run? Stupid me, I'd run in the opposite direction of home because the road had been blocked. Now where do I go? I wasn't sure if I had enough energy to make a full circle through the park.

I rounded the corner; the steel black bars of the park fence were whirring past me. I could've seen them if I looked, but I didn't and crashed right into them. Well, I crashed into him at least and he toppled over with me, cursing out some random profanity as his cigarette flew from his hand and crashed against the cold cement. I stood up as quick as possible, intending to take off again, but a pair of strong hands, his hands, wrapped around my shoulders and held me in place like I had fetters attached to my ankles.

"Let go! Let go, they're gonna kill me," but he held onto me firmly, glaring down at me in an amused way, or at least I thought it was amused since his lips were turning up a little at the corners. If I hadn't been so frantic I would have noticed how long his silky black hair was and how soft the band looked that held it back. I would have noticed his green eyes were like jewels, bright and glowing, and I would have noticed how nice he looked. But, I was frantic and, at the time, the only thing I could see was another assailant trying to hold me for some gang beating.

"Who's going to kill you, kid?" His voice was gruff, but I didn't hear it. I barely even heard what he said so it was lucky that I didn't have to answer him. Those two guys who had called out to me at the ring of the bell skidded past the corner and stopped, pointing at me with conviction, determination, and an evil glare in their eyes that almost seemed to ensure the deterioration of my health.

"Faggot!"

I winced. Name-calling wasn't something I was subjected to often. It was a sheltered life I led, I guess. The word stunned me, drained my body of all heat and feeling. I had no idea I was still staring into the face of the guy that I'd tripped over. I didn't realize I was staring at anything until I was flipped around and forced to stare into the face of the guys that wanted me in a serious amount of pain. That's when I felt my back against his chest, his arms crossed over my shoulders and his chin down on my head. Yes, attractive man protecting me, holding me, and I was too freaked out to enjoy it or even realize it was happening.

"This kid? A faggot?" His voice sounded like comfort if that's possible. All I know is when I heard it I didn't feel afraid. When I heard his voice it was like him telling me I was going to be okay even though he hadn't done anything of the sort.

Those kids crossed their arms and nodded their heads, looking at me with an anger that made me grab my protector's arms and hold onto them so tight I thought I might cut off his circulation. It was nice how he squeezed me just a little tighter.

"I don't think you've got the right kid. See, this kid here is my friend."

"He's a goddamn faggot!" Their accusing fingers pointed at me and I pushed back into him, pushed back into that stranger that brought me comfort, and shook my head until I got dizzy, whimpering like a dog; a really sick, pathetic dog.

"Don't be mean to my friend or I'll be mean to you." I cringed at his tone. It was so harsh, so strong and full of venom, but it was in my defense. My defense. "You say another word and I'll be the one you deal with. If you find that to be intimidating, then I suggest you leave." His words sent them away and I found myself standing alone on my own two feet without the stability of my protector's arms around my shoulders. Was it a bad thing that I trusted him so much without even knowing his name? Probably not.

He flipped me around with one hand, a new cigarette dangling from his lightly painted lips and looking down at me with a raised brow. I was mesmerized. Now I finally had the chance to take him in and I was rendered speechless. Was he wearing make up? Yes, he was. I could see on his lids the faint remnants of a black smear of eye shadow and around his lids, the hard edge of eyeliner. On his lips, though I noticed none came off on his cigarette, there was the stain of a deep red, only barely altering his normal color if I had to guess. In my small, sixteen year old mind, I found this specimen of an older male to be breath-takingly attractive.

"I do believe I just helped your sorry ass out of some trouble. Don't I deserve a bit of thanks?" I nodded, trying to stop myself from smiling. Sure he'd just been pretty crude with his words, but when you're in the presence of someone who completely floors you with their looks, it's hard for anything else to get through. And right now I was completely floored and it was going to take a lot more than a bit of profanity and evil glares to knock me out of it. "Well?"

I opened my mouth to say something, but it just hung there, moving up and down as though I were a puppet. He smirked, pulling his cigarette from his mouth and lowering his head to stare at me. "Thanks," I whispered, stopped myself from doing anything stupid like bowing at his feet and kissing his shoes. Ah! His shoes! They weren't even shoes, they were boots, big boots that went up to his knees and had about five buckles on them each, all silver and shiny. They were black, just like his pants and long trench coat, but his shirt was a deep red, matching his lips. His neck was constricted with all different kinds of collars from a belt to about five different length chains and three different black cord necklace with different pendants on them: a clear orb, a gold symbol of infinity, and the last was a cross made out of nails.

"That's not good enough. What's your name?" I grabbed my shirt collar, feeling slightly embarrassed that I had let him down, let this completely perfect stranger down to whom I had no title other than that. I said it, but just barely.

"Sho," and even I strained to hear it. His eyes flickered in amusement and he took a moment to grin at his two companions before focusing back on me.

"Oh Sho, is it? Well, Sho. I'm afraid you haven't thanked me enough." My eyes popped as he pressed his soft and lightly blazoned lips against mine, too stunned to do anything, which was probably good, since I would have done something back. Even after he pulled away all I could do was stare at him and watch him take a drag and blow the smoke in my face. The noxious cloud made my eyes water and my throat tickle and I had to take a step back and wave it away, coughing into my fist. "How old are you Sho?"

"Sixteen," I stammered, coughing one last time and looking back up at him. The smoke had somehow snapped me out of it. I didn't feel jittery or lightheaded, just acutely aware that I was in the presence of a god and that he had just kissed me and…okay, I was back in my little dream world.

"Sixteen and already a queer? Ha! Ah, you started a bit early don't you think? You'd better run home before those kids come back. I might not save you next time." At those words I adjusted my bag and slowly walked past him, head bowed to the ground and feet shuffling as I made my way into the park and cut through all the jungle-gyms so I could get home.

As soon as I walked through the door I swore as loud as I could and stomped my foot.

I still hadn't caught his name!