Chapter Two: Nunya

I have gym fifth period, which sucks because that's the longest period of the day: an hour, compared to the usual forty-five minutes. Fifth period altogether lasts an hour and a half, broken up into three lunch periods because our cafeteria is too small to accommodate all the students at once. I'm in C lunch, the last one.

I love gym, really. Any kind of physical exertion puts a smile on my face. But fifth period gym is hell on earth for me.

Our school doesn't enforce showering after gym class, mainly because the periods are so short that they thought it pointless. They made it optional. A few kids in the other classes shower so that they can get out of class fifteen minutes early. But since fifth period is fifteen minutes longer than any of the other classes, the teacher lets us out fifteen minutes early anyway, and many of the more image conscious boys of my grade decide to use that time to take a shower.

And naked people…well there's really no other way to say it…naked people make me nervous.

I haven't stepped foot into the shower area all year, instead electing to sit with my back leaning against my lockers, doodling in a large sketchbook balanced on my lap and trying my best to ignore everything and everyone. But that doesn't stop junior boys of varying body types from passing by me in ridiculously tiny towels. I mean, I know our school is short on funding, but I think they should get their priorities in order and get us towels that offer some coverage.

Sometimes I'm really fucking grateful I have my sketchbook.

I'm wary of this new kid because I don't know if he will want to shower. If he does, then of course he will want to stand next to his locker—next to me—as he changes into his clothes, and that is potentially a problem for me, depending on how hot he is. I'm either going to have to find another place to sit, or get a thicker sketchbook.

As soon as I walk into the locker room, I immediately curse my luck. I had hoped he would be fat, or ugly, and he's neither of those. He's got blond hair, an adorable upturned nose…and as if that isn't bad enough, his pants fit him like a second skin. No way I'm going to be able to handle him parading his naked body in front of me. I can't stop staring even when he's fully clothed.

He stands at my…our locker, waiting for me, I suppose. I quickly move over to him and spin the dial on the combination lock, focusing my full concentration on the little numbers, forcing myself not to peek while also making sure that he doesn't notice anything odd about my complete inability to look anywhere but at his ass. "Hey," I say nonchalantly.

"Hey, I'm Jesse." His voice is just the tiniest bit higher than Roy's, one of those smooth, friendly voices like on those commercials for car insurance. I can just tell that it would sound gorgeous screaming my name. Oh yes, I am definitely in trouble.

"Matt Castaldo," I mutter, throwing open the locker door with a little more force than necessary. I glance at him as I stuff my books into the locker and pull out my uniform. I feel a surge of embarrassment—it probably doesn't smell all that great. To distract myself from the feeling of eyes on me while I change, I gesture towards his empty hands, shoved into his pockets, quickly looking away because dammit, why do pockets have to be in the hip area? Who came up with that design? "You got anything to put in here?"

He shakes his head. "The teacher said you could help me find a uniform." His voice is hopeful, and his expression reflects that perfectly, one of those hyper animated faces that show every little emotion. As I nod, his ears perk and a cute grin spills across his lips, just like an open book. I've known this boy for not even two minutes and already I want to ravish him.

I hear the whistle that calls us onto the gym floor, but I don't follow it. I lead Jesse to the storage closet and take out the dark green t-shirt and shorts that we dress in.

I start to leave when he pulls his shirt over his head, but he says, "Hang on a second, please? I don't know where to go."

"Take a right in the hallway until you get to a set of stairs," I yell back over my shoulder. I don't mean to look—my body is issuing a warning already in the form of warm butterflies in my stomach—but I catch a glimpse of pale skin anyway…and a large purplish bruise just below his right collarbone. I turn around and stare, can't help it.

"That looks nasty," I observe. You know what they say happens when you assume? You make and ass out of you and me…honestly, it's in the word and everything; break it up and you'll see. Well, I think it's pretty safe to assume in this situation that maybe this is why he moved. I mean, a new kid a month before the end of school? Just a tad bit suspicious. I ask anyway; "Where'd you get it?"

He doesn't know what I'm talking about for a second, looking down at himself. When he sees the bruise his eyes widen in recognition and he delicately presses his fingers to it, wincing as he does so with a shy little smile. "Eh…baseball. I kind of…wasn't paying attention." He chuckles at himself, and he actually looks embarrassed, like a guy who can't catch a ball and doesn't want to admit it to another guy.

I have my doubts, but I don't say anything. It's none of my business.

When I get out on the gym floor I find that the class is already finished with warm-ups and everyone is lined up against the back wall while Andy and Robert stand in front of the group, picking teams for kickball. As soon as Andy sees me he motions for me to stand in his group. Not a surprise; even though Robert's the better player, he's a bastard and doesn't like me for some reason, and he never picks me to be on his team if he can help it.

The selection dwindles down to the same pour soul who gets singled out every time—as I said before, our class is odd numbered, so teams always argue over who gets stuck with Cory Platt, tall and extremely uncoordinated, who flinches whenever the ball comes near him. The new kid wanders in during these negotiations with a totally lost look on his face, but he brightens when he see the rest of us standing there. Robert is quicker than Andy and points at Jesse, claiming him. All of our team groans in frustration, including myself…that thin, toned body just screams athleticism, and I can tell it's a huge loss for our team.

Mr. Daskin takes pity on us and lets us kick first. We get into a line near the home plate as the other team decides which positions to take. I notice that Jesse doesn't bother fighting for pitcher or first base; he just heads to the place between first and second and stands there idly with his hands in his pockets.

I'm familiar with the position; because I always make sure I don't get stuck there. It's the most boring place possible in a kickball game. Most of the guys in our class…well, most of the guys in the whole world, I guess…are right-handed, and kick with their right foot. So the ball usually goes either straight or toward third base, very rarely toward first unless conscious effort is made to point it in that direction. It's where Cory Platt, the most useless catcher, always ends up, because it's where he can do the least harm.

I wonder why Jesse chose that spot…it's none of my business, really, but I can't stop speculating. He has to know what he's doing, because he doesn't even look prepared for the ball, with his hands in his pockets like that. Probably just wants to slack of on his first day…tsk tsk. I can't condone laziness, now can I?

A wicked idea occurs to me, and I smirk as I come up to the plate for my kick. I purposely angle myself just right to send the ball flying straight in his direction. That'll teach him to be prepared.

He doesn't even take his hands out of his pockets, just leans to the side so that the ball sails past him and lands somewhere near the corner of the auditorium. That was the most perfectly aimed kick of my life…and probably the easiest catch of his, so why didn't he grab it?

Oh shit, I'm supposed to be running.

Thankfully, I make it to first base before the outfielder comes back with the kickball and tosses it to the pitcher. Looks like the other guys are all in disbelief, too, except for Robert, who just glares at Jesse. He seems to be regretting his choice—Cory Platt would at least have stopped the ball with his face, or something. But no, Jesse didn't even try, and his team is pissed.

Mr. Daskin takes notice of this. He consults his attendance sheet for a moment before calling out, "Jesse Radley, can I speak to you for a second?" The other kids laugh at him…by missing that ball he's instantly on their shit list. Mr. Daskin probably just wants to let the kid know that class participation is required, and that he at least has to make an effort…I got the same speech when we were doing badminton, the most retarded game ever. I ended up just standing there and swinging my racket at random intervals and I got full credit.

His back is to us as he talks with the teacher, all eyes on him, of course-if he's gonna be punished, of course nobody wants to miss it. He pulls out his hands from his pockets and it looks like he's showing them to the teacher, but then he buries them deeply again. Beside me, the first baseman of the other team strains to see what's going on.

"Hey, what's he doing?" he asks as the kid goes to sit in the front row of the bleachers.

"Maybe there's a reason he's not supposed to catch? Like, fucked-up hands or something," I guess. Gee, I feel sort of bad now for putting him on the spot like that.

The coach signals for us to restart the game. It passes uneventfully, until we've amassed three outs and we have to switch places with the other team. Jesse gets up from the bleachers and goes to stand in line to kick, and after that I sort of lose track of him, my mind completely focused on the game.

That is, until it's his turn to kick, and he takes his hands out of his pockets in preparation to run, and I see why he might have trouble catching a kickball. His left hand looks crushed as far as I can tell, and his right hand is missing its middle finger. Shit, I feel really bad now.

But my guilt doesn't last for long, because the pitcher rolls the rubbery kickball along the ground and Jesse brings his leg back as graceful as a fucking ballerina and just fucking nails the ball. It soars through the air and hits the back wall of the gymnasium, an instant home run.

And, mangled hands or not, Jesse is officially off of the gym class shit list.

He does shower after class—by the time I get in the locker room, his uniform is in a pile by our locker. Guess he couldn't wait for me.

I don't absorb myself in my sketching because I feel that, in some way, I owe him an apology. So I wait for him to get out of the shower.

But it turns out that it's a wasted effort. He comes back to the locker with one of those tiny towels wrapped around his waist, rubbing another through his blond hair. As he stands next to me, an apology is the last thing on my mind. Surprisingly, I'm not even thinking about how incredibly sexy his body is…. I'm too preoccupied with his scars.

There are so many of them: I can't help but wonder who did that to him, what happened. The worst is an expanse of skin on his shoulder blade that looks as if it's been melted. There's also a tracery of lines above his ankles, the same pattern on both legs. There's one long, thick scar going from wrist to elbow on his left arm, but it doesn't look like a suicide attempt; it starts at the back of his hand and curves inward slowly, avoiding any major veins. There are dots to either side…probably caused by stitches being ripped out, or maybe staples. And his hands, of course, are even worse than they look from halfway across the gym: he's missing most of his middle finger, and his ring finger ends a knuckle too soon. His left hand has a huge chunk missing out of the thumb, and the bone is crooked. I notice that he doesn't bend the fingers on that hand at all as he gathers his clothes from the locker.

He has huge pearly white circles on his knees. I have a few on mine from where I scraped my knees on the sidewalk when I was little, but he has so many that his entire knees look white.

He catches me staring and shoots me a huge grin, shamelessly dropping his towel. I look away quickly. He probably thought I was checking out his legs-which I was, but not for the reason he's thinking. Now, anyway. Fuck.

But then it occurs to me…obviously he didn't mind. I take a real good look at him. Messy blond hair, tight jeans, tight orange shirt…he could be gay.

When the bell rings for lunch, I leave the class as quickly as possible. It's none of my business.

AN: Yeah, I know, mysterious scars are waaaaay overdone on fictionpress. Don't worry, this isn't your average angsty plotline...all will be explained in due time. I should have probably taken more time to check for errors, but I really just want to post this and get to bed, so...if you find anything glaringly annoying, just mention it and I'll change it later. Thanks muchly for the reviews; can't tell you how much I appreciate them.