^ ^ ^

Chapter Two: Projects

^ ^ ^

Ironically enough, Rossi noticed later that day, in his eighth and final period, which was Sociology with Mr. Kirk, that he had class with Karl McPheron. And when he sized up the odds of him getting placed with the boy, he came to a twenty to one ratio, which wasn't bad, but he just had this feeling . . .

Mr. Kirk explained the project as a writing assignment in which one person had to write the other's "life story" or biography. That was pretty much it. All the partners would really have to do is learn about each other and then write down what they learned in story form. After that, they would analyze the other's behavior accordingly, and give examples as to why they think the person is the way they are.

He made is sound so simple . . .

. . . until he added the part where each person would have to visit the other's household and meet their family. Rossi about choked when he said that: There was NO way in hell he was letting ANYONE meet HIS family . . . it just wasn't gonna happen!

And then he assigned partners, much to the entire class's displeasure. When he got down to "Johnson" (Rossi's last name) he paused.

"Well, Mr. Johnson, I was going to assign you to someone else, but seeing as how you and Mr. McPheron seem to be getting along so well lately, I thought I would give you two the chance to get to know each other better."

Rossi's mouth just DROPPED, and he couldn't think of anything to say to make Mr. Kirk change his mind. He growled at the situation, knowing that there was nothing he could do about it now. Karl on the other hand was too busy laughing at Rossi's stricken facial expression to care . . . he thought it would be fun, especially because he could torture the kid.

After partners were assigned, people started to get up and get into their groups, well, all except for Rossi, who didn't move. He just stayed where he was and stared at the table, pouting. He didn't even notice when Karl came over, accompanied by another one of his friends and his partner.

"So," Karl started, grabbing a chair and moving it right beside Rossi at the table. "Are you really going on a date with Eric? Like seriously?"

The blonde boy turned and glared at Karl. "And if I am? What's it to you? Just so long as he doesn't pin me against my locker and force his tongue in my mouth, I should be fine, right?"

"Who did that?" Karl's friend asked, looking from Karl to Rossi and back again. He was slightly confused at how familiar Karl acted to the freaky kid; he hadn't known that they knew each other.

"And who is he?" the other one interrupted, pointing to Rossi with a slightly distasteful look on his face. He knew who the kid was, but didn't choose to admit it, mostly because the kid was gay, and he didn't want to "know" someone who was homosexual.

"His name is Rossi Johnson," Karl said, smiling. Rossi continued his glare. "And I'm the one who did 'that', Josh."

"YOU?" Karl's friend Josh looked horrified, but Karl just started laughing. Josh stared at him, confused. "What's so funny?"

"Johnson was out to 'ruin me' as he put it, so I decided to beat him there." Karl paused, thinking. "You think I stole his first kiss?" he asked thoughtfully, reflecting back on the blonde's shocked expression. He turned to Rossi. "Did I?"

"That kids probably been laid more times than I have," Josh's partner said, smirking at the fag, hating him.

Rossi raised his eyebrows at the boy. "Do you value your life, sweetie?" he asked in a child-like yet polite voice that sounded somewhat psychotic.

The kid just laughed, unafraid of Rossi simply because he was gay. He scooted closer to the blonde, his eyes locking with Rossi's blue ones, and put his hand on the child's leg, slowly starting to go up. "Ever heard of this game?" the guy asked. "It's called the nervous game. See how far I can get."

"Leave him alone," Karl said warningly, his insides becoming twisted with jealously, which he ignored. But the kid didn't listen, wanting to scare Rossi and make the kid think that he was superior to him, which wouldn't work. "I'm serious man, leave the kid alone."

"Why?" the kid asked. "He's just a stupid fag."

"And you're not?" Rossi hissed. He took his small, pale hand and tried to pry the kid's hand off of his leg, but the kid just strengthened his grip, causing Rossi to yelp and Karl to flip.

Karl stood up from his seat in one swift motion and grabbed the kid by the collar of his shirt. He pulled him up off of his feet and so close that they were barely a centimeter apart and glared at him with a look that would have easily made just about anyone in the school back down from him. No words were exchanged because there was no need for them. The kid seemed to understand the severity of the situation he had put himself in, so when Karl released him, he went and sat on the other side of Karl's friend Josh.

Rossi's face was flushed with both embarrassment and hurt. He looked down and pulled his knees up to his chest, resting his head on his knees. Turning his head, he looked at Karl to find that the boy had been watching him the whole time, and even when Rossi turned to face him the kid's eyes never left him.

"You do realize that you're wearing a skirt right?" Karl asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as his eyes traveled down Rossi's body, studying the girlish figure and wondering just what was under his clothes. He couldn't suppress a laugh when the boy's eyes went wide and he quickly put his legs down, his face becoming redder than it was when Josh's partner had tried to feel him up.

"So, what are you wearing under that skirt anyway?" Karl continued, laughing again as Rossi looked over at him with a horrified expression. "Boxers? Briefs? Anything? Of course, I don't see how you can fit boxers under there, and I really hope you didn't put your legs up like that with nothing on . . . so I'd have to pick the middle one."

Rossi pulled a tiny portion of the top of his skirt down to show Karl a pair of plain white boxers.

"Eh? How'd you fit those under that?" he asked, pointing to Rossi's skirt. "Your dick can't be that small, right?"

Rossi looked uncomfortable. "It has nothing to do with that." He sighed. "My waist line is too small to fit into anything other than a girl's size called double zero. I don't know the measurement of my waist because if you haven't already noticed, I don't wear guy's pants."

"Okay," Karl said, thinking sneakily. "Speaking of clothes . . . what are you going to wear tonight on your date with Eric?"

Rossi rolled his eyes in annoyance. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"I want to know the way you dress," Karl said, and then added, "For the project."

"Sure," Josh said, grinning at Karl before turning to Rossi with a slight look of disgust. "You know, Johnson, if you were a girl, Karl would be drooling and practically begging for you to sleep with him."

"Yeah, probably," Karl agreed, returning Josh's grin. "My dick's happy just as long as he's getting some action . . . He doesn't seem to care what gender you are; if you're hot, that's all that matters to him." Karl put his arm around Rossi's shoulder. "But Johnson here is the only hot male that I know of, and he's only hot because he looks like a chick."

Josh's eyes went wide. "Dude, you're joking, right?" he asked nastily.

Karl shook his head no and grinned at the dumbfounded expression on his friend's face. "I'd fuck him, but he's the only guy I'd fuck."

"Great," Rossi said, glaring at Karl. As nice as Karl made the comment sound, he didn't find himself very comforted by the fact that Karl would "fuck" him, if he were even telling the truth that was. Rossi stood up and walked away from the group, muttering to himself.

"You're fucking sick, Karl," Josh hissed. "That kid's fucking dirty."

^ ^ ^

After school, Rossi caught up with Fox and Kayla, who were waiting for him at Fox's car, which was a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse: Rossi's favorite car. The kid really loved just about everything that had anything to do with cars, especially when it came to racing. But when it really came down to racing, he was all for motorcycles, particularly works-machines, which are made by a combination of companies, using strictly the best parts to build the fastest machine possible.

Fox grinned when he saw Rossi coming, knowing that the kid was going to tease him about Kayla; he had his arm around her waist and was looking quite pleased with the situation. Kayla, meanwhile had her head rested against Fox's shoulder, and she too was smiling at Rossi as he approached.

"So I take it you two had a good day?" Rossi asked when he reached the duo. He smiled slightly; happy that his two friends were together, although he dreaded the day they would break up.

"Hell no," Fox scoffed. He kicked a gravel stone that lay in the asphalt parking lot. "I got partnered up with that football player in sociology. You know, Karl's friend Bill or whatever. And Kayla got partnered with some slut who's like bi and shit."

"Your brother seems bi," Rossi said thoughtfully to Kayla. "Either that or he's more of an asshole than I thought."

Kayla just smiled, close to laughing, and cleared her throat, pointing behind her to where Karl stood, looking at Rossi with curiosity. The blonde spun around and glared at Karl, his hands on his hips.

Without warning, Karl wrapped his arms around Rossi's waist and pulled the smaller child to him before letting one of his hands wander down to grab the child's ass and squeeze hard. After that, he let his hand massage the flesh in a rough way, which made Rossi squirm uncomfortably.

"Oh, could you please not do that?" Fox asked Karl, turning around again. He REALLY couldn't take all of this gay stuff . . . not in one day. Every time he saw anything close to guy-on-guy action, he could feel his stomach turning and whatever was in his stomach threatening to come up. He didn't have a problem with gays . . . hell, his best friend was gay, but under no circumstance did that mean he wanted to see it.

Karl laughed and released Rossi, but not before he leaned down and captured the boy's lips between his own, savoring the flavor of the boy's strawberry vanilla lip-gloss. He pressed his tongue hard against the shorter boy's lips, letting his tongue caress them, knowing that Rossi wouldn't let him stick his tongue in the boy's mouth.

"You're so cute when you get all mad like that, you know?" Karl said, leaning in to kiss the smaller child's neck before nipping it lightly. He then released his hold and walked away as if nothing happened.

Rossi saw his friends waiting for him just yards away, laughing. Bill was the only one who just stood there, staring at Karl as if he no longer knew the man, while Karl gave some of his friends hi-fives.

"Can we just go now?" Rossi asked hollowly. Fox turned around and looked at him, stunned to see that the boy was crying. Kayla rushed forward and pulled the child into her arms. Rossi thought to himself that he should have never told Karl that he was going to ruin him, because now the man seemed determined to do the same to him. The boy didn't really care that it was working, but he did care that it hurt to have someone touch you like that and mean nothing.

"I'm sorry he's such an asshole," she said. "I'll have a talk with him and tell him to stop bothering you, okay? I'm really sorry about this, Rossi."

^ ^ ^

Fox, who was slightly worried about Rossi stayed with him and Kayla at her house while the girl got Rossi ready for his date with Eric. She was going crazy with outfits, trying to figure out how to make her little doll look perfect, but she was never satisfied with how Rossi looked.

After one long half-hour, Kayla realized that she didn't even know where Eric was taking the boy, meaning that she didn't even know if she was supposed to dress him formally or not. So she rushed over to the phone, picked it up and dialed her friend's number.

"Eric? Where are you taking Rossi tonight?" She paused, listening to the mystery-man on the other side. "ARE YOU FOR REAL? Oh my gosh! I'm so jealous!" She paused again. "Okay, pick him up at my house. Seven? Okay. Bye."

"What was THAT all about?" Fox asked, staring at Kayla, who was now frantically throwing things out of her walk-in closet in search of the 'perfect outfit' for Rossi to wear on his date. He was actually quite shocked at the ecstasy his girlfriend-to-be displayed for something so simple as going out on a date, but he was quite pleased with her energy and personality concerning the whole thing.

Most importantly, he was glad that she liked Rossi, because no matter how much he might have liked her, if she hadn't liked Rossi, he would have never given her a second thought. The boy was the most important thing in Fox's life, and he was willing to do anything for him. He was even more protective of Rossi than he had been of his little sister, and Kayla had had a hard time trying to convince him on the way home that Eric was a good guy and that he had no intention of hurting Rossi.

"Eric's taking Rossi to that new five-star restaurant downtown . . . you know . . . the one where you have to make reservations like a month in advance because it's so packed?" Kayla asked, turning to look at her new friends for a moment. Their facial expressions clearly showed that they didn't know what the hell she was going on about. Kayla rolled her eyes. "People from all over the STATE go there! It's the most romantic spot . . . ever!"

^ ^ ^

Rossi sat on the bed, watching Kayla as she threw pretty much every article of clothing she had on the floor in an attempt to find something for Rossi to wear, while Fox sat next to him, also watching Kayla.

After a couple of minutes, the girl emerged from her closet and picked up her phone again, dialing someone's number. She just didn't know what to dress her new doll in. "Eric? What am I supposed to dress him in?" there was a short pause while she listened to the man on the other line, and then out of nowhere, she barked: "Of COURSE I'm picking out his outfit! He has to look perfect for you! You think he's capable of doing that himself?"

Rossi jumped at the statement and looked shocked. He had always thought that the way he dressed was just fine.

Distracting Rossi from Kayla's phone conversation, Fox said, "You know, if he's taking you to a restaurant, that means you have to let him pay for you and everything." He smirked, expecting Rossi to glare at him, but the child merely looked over at him with a scared expression. "Chill. It won't be THAT bad."

The blonde just nodded numbly. He was sure that he wasn't ready for this.

"Ooo!" Kayla squealed suddenly, making both Rossi and Fox jump. "That's PERFECT! You're the greatest . . . see you in two hours. Ciao!"

Without any explanation whatsoever, Kayla ran out of the room and came back with some clothes. Throwing them on the bed she ordered Rossi into the bathroom and followed him, leaving Fox to examine the clothes, which he found were women's, much to his horror.

^ ^ ^

Kayla practically shoved Rossi into the shower, and kept snapping at him to hurry up, which he tried as hard as he could to do. But when he started to step back out, Kayla gasped.

"I forgot! You need to shave your legs!"

"I NEED TO WHAT?" Rossi yelped. "I don't even know HOW to do that!"

"Then jump out, I'll help." Kayla smiled evilly as she ran over to her medicine cabinet and pulled out some foul smelling lotion. "This is my secret," she said, pouring some of the liquid onto her hand and then rubbing it all over Rossi's legs and under his arms.

"You are stripping away what little masculinity I have," Rossi complained.

"Oh shut up," Kayla snapped. "It's not like I'm castrating you!"

Ten minutes later, Rossi jumped back into the shower and rinsed the stuff off of his legs, watching as all the hair went with it, leaving him with even thinner legs than he had thought. He washed off his legs with some other type of lotion stuff that Kayla had handed him, and when he jumped out again Kayla was beaming at her creation.

Rossi just felt TOO much like a woman.

^ ^ ^

Fox laughed when he saw Rossi emerge, still complaining about his now- hairless legs. Fox would never have noticed if he hadn't heard Rossi say anything about it, but as he looked down, he frowned. Rossi was a lot tinier than he had originally thought.

"Here, put these on," Kayla said, handing Rossi a pair of pajama pants. "I need to blow dry and straighten your hair."

About a half hour later, Rossi stood in front of a full-body mirror, feeling like he was looking into the glass of a store, seeing a beautiful woman on the other side. He was wearing black Capri pants with a silver chain belt, open-toed, black heels, and a tight black and white shirt that went just beneath his belly button with a white dress shirt over it. His hair was pulled into an elaborate design, kind of like the ones that girls wore to prom, with a few curled strands left down in the front.

"Are you sure this is a mirror? This can't be me . . ." Rossi said numbly, receiving no response. "Kayla? Fox?" He turned around to find that Kayla and Fox had gone, and in their place was the hottest guy he had ever seen in his life.

"Good evening," the man said politely. He was tall, dark, and handsome. Caecilian.

"Who are you?" Rossi squeaked out, finding that his vocal chords weren't working like they should. His whole body was shaking with a nervous excitement. This man was gorgeous!

"Eric Martinelli," the man replied, smiling gently at the boy he'd have never guessed to be male, save for the slightly deeper voice. And even that might have fooled him. "And you are Rossi Johnson, no?"

Rossi nodded, his cheeks going pink. The man only smiled again, wondering where on earth Kayla found a boy so beautiful. He held out his hand, expecting Rossi to take it, but the boy only stared at it for a moment before looking up at Eric as if asking him what he was doing.

Eric was slightly dumbfounded. "Are you alright?" he asked sweetly. "It's okay if you don't like me, you don't have to come if you don't want."

"How old are you?" Rossi asked before he could stop himself.

"Seventeen, why?"

"Do you know how old I am?"

"No, I can't say I do."

"I'm 14," Rossi said. "And a freshman, unlike Kayla, who's a junior. You were expecting someone older, weren't you?"

Eric looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he stepped over and stood by Rossi's side. "Age to me is just a number. I like seeing people rather than numbers, don't you?"

Rossi looked up at the man and smiled at him affectionately. "Yes," he said happily, making Eric smile as well. Looking down at the boy, the man couldn't help but be overcome by desire. The boy was just that beautiful. And before he thought about it, he was leaning in, letting his lips briefly touch the younger child's for a moment.

Rossi's eyes stayed closed for a moment after the kiss as he laid his head on Eric's chest. He smiled a little, loving the feeling of the man's arms around him already.

"We should go now," Eric said, watching as the boy looked up and smiled softly before nodding. He led the boy out; careful not to be too formal about the way he did it. Kayla had told him that Rossi wasn't like them, and that he'd be lucky if the child knew which fork to use during the dinner.

^ ^ ^

As if turned out, Rossi had NO clue about anything that had to do with etiquette. But showing him what to do was not a problem in the slightest for Eric, who thought it made the evening much more enjoyable.

When they arrived at the restaurant, Rossi almost opened his own door, but Eric said "Wait!" quickly, and Rossi jumped, stunned. "If you wouldn't mind, may I open to door for you?"

Rossi's face went red but he nodded, not knowing what else to do. He watched as Eric got out of the car and walked around to the other side, opening the door for his date. After they got out, Eric handed someone his keys and had to smile when he looked over at the shocked expression on the boy's face.

"He will park the car for us, love," Eric said, smiling.

"She's beautiful," the man with Eric's car keys said. Rossi looked over his shoulder for a girl. Eric chuckled.

"Who's beautiful?" Rossi asked Eric softly, trying not to be heard by the man.

"You of course," the man said.

Rossi was about to say he wasn't a woman, but wondered if Eric would be embarrassed having people know he was on a date with a boy. So he said nothing, and just allowed himself to be lead into the restaurant by his date.

The person at a desk that was right at the front made the same comment. "She's gorgeous," he said, smiling down at Rossi, who blushed but said nothing.

Even the waiter was staring, but Rossi didn't notice: He was too busy being lost in the man before him, who he found to be even more beautiful in the candlelight. He kept sneaking glances all through the dinner, and kept getting caught when he did it. Eric would look up when he felt eyes on him and Rossi would blush and stare at the table.

When they ordered their meals, Rossi had no idea what any of the food was. The most he had eaten in his life were ramen noodles and canned soup, and even that was rare. The child had never even been inside a grocery store.

Eric was astounded, and a little disbelieving about the whole situation, but he said nothing about it until later, when they were walking outside. He was concentrating more on helping Rossi with what he was supposed to do with all the forks and knives he had.

"Rossi, can I ask you something?" the man asked when they were outside, walking along a moonlit garden on the outside of the restaurant. When the boy nodded, he continued. "Why did you pretend like you didn't know anything back there? You reminded me of Jessica Simpson, except she's better at playing dumb."

Rossi stopped and stared. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"With the food and everything. You can't just pretend you've never even heard of half of it. And if you're friends with Kayla, there's no way you wouldn't know how to eat properly and such." Eric studied the angered expression on Rossi's face, which faded into sadness.

"So sorry to waste your time and money," Rossi said. "I didn't know I had to be upper class to make friends with people like Kayla McPheron."

"What do you mean 'people like Kayla?'" Eric asked, glaring.

"You are the one who started with the stupid socially-accepted, incompetent classifications," Rossi said somewhat sadly. "And by that standard, I'm not good enough for you, so I suppose I should leave."

"Just because your middle class doesn't mean you're not good enough, I just can't understand why you would lie to me like that." Eric said, crossing his arms.

"I never lied to you!" Rossi said. "I've never even told you anything yet, so I can't have lied!" Rossi crossed his arms. "And I'm nowhere NEAR middle class."

"I didn't think you were," Eric said dryly. "Someone that looks and dresses like you is probably higher up in society than Kayla anyway."

"Higher? Kayla is the one that created the look you see. I'm not upper class . . . trust me. I'm not even low-." Rossi sighed. "Look, will you just take me home, or back to Kayla's or whatever. I'll pay you back the money you spent on the date later."

"What? Rossi, come on," Eric reasoned. But Rossi just shook his head.

"Please," he said. "I just want to go."


^ ^ ^

Rossi ran into Kayla's house without looking back at Eric. He didn't even let the man walk him to the door, like Eric wanted to. On the ride home Rossi wouldn't speak to the man, and when Eric tried to instill a conversation, he merely turned his head away and let the tears roll down his cheeks.

"Rossi?" Fox asked, seeing the crying blonde in the doorway. He stood up and rushed over to the child, looking at him with a horror-struck expression. He feared the worst. "What's wrong, man?"

Rossi said nothing, only shook his head and walked past the man, headed toward Kayla's room so he could change his clothes. Kayla followed him up, wanting to make sure he was all right. She and Fox had had a nice night in the house, watching movies and talking. They were expecting Rossi and Eric to come back in the door clinging to each other.

When Rossi got into Kayla's room, he pulled off all of his clothes and put back on his old ones, which were just a pair of extremely worn, black baggy bondage pants and a white t-shirt, also worn. He didn't bother to put on all of his bracelets and such that he had acquired from people over the years.

Then he took his hair down carefully, not wanting to mess it up too much, and put it in a ponytail, leaving the bangs that the girl had curled for him where they were. They'd look funny in a ponytail of straight hair anyway.

Kayla didn't say anything while she watched the child put back on what was his. She half-expected him to throw her clothing onto the floor, but the child was sweet and laid them neatly on the bed. Surprisingly enough, he actually thanked her.

"But it didn't turn out like we hoped," Kayla said sadly. "I thought that you two would end up together or something. I'm really sorry Rossi."

"Don't be. I'm not . . . well, not really. It's not like everything always works out the way you want it to anyway." Rossi smiled sadly. "Still friends?"

Kayla looked shocked. "Of course we're still friends, you stupid-head! What would make you think we weren't?"

Rossi smiled a little.

"Come back downstairs," Kayla said, smiling a little back at Rossi. "Karl's probably home now, and he won't have his friends with him, so you can feel free to rip his head off if you want."

^ ^ ^

"You okay man?" Fox asked as he watched Rossi walk back down the stairs in his usual clothes. He was sort of relieved to see Rossi back to what was normal for him; it made him feel better for some reason.

Rossi was about to say something when he saw Eric, who sat on the couch by Fox with his mouth gaping in shock. The young blonde took a deep breath and sighed. "This is me," he said, "like it or not. I don't have money like you and Kayla; I'm nowhere near your social class, but it's not as if you couldn't tell that now."

Eric couldn't find words to say. "That still leaves something . . ." the man said unsurely. "In the restaurant . . . you still pretended like you didn't know what any of the food was, and even this could be an act."

"It's not," Fox said from beside Eric. "And I wouldn't be surprised if the kid didn't know what any of the food in a five-star restaurant was . . . his mom barely even feeds the poor thing twice a week."

"Oh," Eric said, feeling kind of dumb. He looked up to see Rossi blush a little, and couldn't help but think how cute it was. Even now, in his gothic clothing . . . he was still so cute. "You're still beautiful, you know that?"

Rossi's face went red and he went to stutter a response, but stopped when he saw Eric slowly getting up from where he was sitting. The man walked over to the blonde, and stopping about a foot from him, he leaned down and gave the boy a chaste kiss.

^ ^ ^

When Karl came in, about an hour later, he found Fox cuddled up to Kayla on one side of the couch, sleeping. Eric was on the other side with Rossi lying up against him, looking sweet like candy.

Karl rolled his eyes; he hated Eric more than he could explain even to himself, though he didn't know why. The man had never done anything to him in the years they had known each other, and even when he had stayed with Kayla, Karl had never been worried about it. He couldn't place his finger on it, but he really just couldn't stand the fag.

^ ^ ^

Jinx: Okay, so I really seriously need to go back through this and correct and add a lot of things to make it make sense to you, but I really don't feel like it. I set my standards back up and everything, but man, I'm tired. Plus there're like a million storms going on around here, so my Internet hasn't worked for the past couple of days. Oh what fun, right? Plus my Word program is convinced that 'internet' has to be spelled with a capital "I." Then again, this is the same program that can't tell the difference between "their" and "they're," so I guess I really shouldn't be worried about it, right?