In the Coach's office…

"What exactly happened in there?" Coach Greene asked severely.

"They were picking on Nathan-"

"I want to hear it from him, not you Riley."

Chad sank back in his chair and stubbornly crossed his arms over his chest.

"They were bothering me." I said quietly. "Then they called him names." I tilted my head towards Chad. "But that was only after he stood up for me."

"Do you get teased often, Nathan?" Coach asked like I was the one on trial here.

"Yeah, by those guys." My voice dropped at the end of my sentence and my eyes followed my hollow voice to the floor. I hadn't ever wanted to admit that to any of the teachers because they don't understand that when they try to intervene it only makes the bullies meaner.

"Why do you think it is they antagonize you?" I could swear I felt the spotlight burning a hole through my face. I figured I was already exposed as the problem so I was going to be truthful.

"I don't know maybe because I'm-" Chad's hand gripped mine hard, freezing the last word before it made it past my throat. I glanced at him, those green irises commanded me not to finish. "I'm having some troubles at home." I brought my eyes back up to Coach Greene and prayed he couldn't see right through me like I felt he could.

"What kind of trouble?" Coach asked.

"One of his parents is abusive." Chad said for me.

I lowered my eyes, now he was going to have a talk with Mr. Mason about it.

"And that's why you're being teased in gym?" Coach Greene asked skeptically.

"Because of the bruises." I muttered, setting my eyes to my right, on the Coach's trophy case.

"I'll have a talk with that boy then."

"Okay sir. Come on Nathan." Chad squeezed my hand briefly and let it go, helping me to my feet against my will. My boy had no will, much less energy to move ever again. But thankfully, Chad dragged me out of it. After the incident we had been allowed to dress back into our regular school clothes in case we were sent to the principal. So Chad was again wearing his khaki shorts and I my most comfortable jeans and a dark green shirt. Chad glared hard at the senior he had fought while he told him the Coach wanted a word. Then he dragged me into the sanctuary of the bathrooms.

Chad had me lean against the sink while he gently wet down my burning face with one of those stiff brown paper towels the school supplied.

"Are you feeling okay?" Chad asked, drying my face slowly. I nodded and dropped y eyes to the ground again.

"Why did you have to tell him?" I asked sadly. Chad took my face in his hands, they were so warm and comforting, and I looked steadily up into his eyes.

"Coach can't tell when someone's lying. I just couldn't let you sign your death warrant, that guy's a total homo-hater." I swayed faintly. I had almost sealed my fate to be lynched or burned in a passionate hate crime. The nearness I felt to death made my lip tremble and I closed my eyes, pressing my forehead into Chad's cheek. He in turn pressed closer, running his thumbs over my cheekbones. He set his forehead against mine. "It'll get better." Chad whispered. "But until then, I'll protect you."

Such sweet words… I held him firmly around his waist and he held me gently in return, as if I might break if held any tighter.

"Where have you been all those times I really needed you?" I murmured brokenly into his neck, feeling the pain in my own words. The disappointment of having to have had to deal with all the shit I had so far on my own when he could have been there for me the whole time.

"I'm so sorry." Chad whispered back, "I've been searching for you too."

A/N: So, I hope you all are with me on this story, I haven't actually worked on it in about a month, and before that I had left it be for like five months. I'll get back on the ball now that it's on my new name thingy. In case you didn't catch it, Chad, in this story is how I decided on my name, for when I change it. But I'm going to have to go through court and stuff for that, so it'll be a while. Oh well. It's a sexy name, I can wait.