AN: Please understand that this is fiction, and while bullying/harassment is depicted here, I do not condone these actions at all. No one deserves to be treated as lesser, or poorly for who they are/what they enjoy doing. If you take anything away from this, please let it be the overarching message to come of supporting each other, and spreading love.
It was officially the worst first day of school Kasey ever had.
The trouble started off with what he thought only to be a run of bad luck. Early morning grogginess fueled his naturally clumsy mishaps, because of course... spilling one cup of coffee was never enough. He couldn't find his house keys, thanks to the couch eating everything left unattended on it. On the ride to school, dip in the grass along the dirt road was hidden and the hole swallowed his bike tire, throwing him off. The tumble left him with a twisted ankle.
But it didn't stop there. When picking up his student ID, he noticed administration spelled his name with a 'C' instead of a 'K.' And… Even genuine misunderstanding of directions that landed him on the opposite side of the building he was supposed to be in for homeroom.
Once he'd finally sat down to breathe, Kasey could feel the tingle of being stared at. He debated whether or not it was worth it to look behind him while getting a pencil from his bag.
I'm probably just imagining it… he thought to himself, sparing a single glance.
There wasn't a single student in the row behind him, but the feeling still lingered in the back of his head. Chalking it up to first day jitters, Kasey tried to let it go.
Midway through Kasey's second class, he noticed the snickering. Why, exactly, other students were snickering evaded him. No one bothered to lean over and let him glance at their phone screen as they were with each other, but… then again, he didn't expect them to.
He'd grown up in Castanet, gone to the same small school as all of them up until they were middle schoolers. The summer between grade 7 and 8, his mother decided it was better to move out to the city. Make things a little easier on his older sister, and the commute for Kasey's coaching shorter by half the drive. Almost four years had passed, and Kasey understood the message.
He didn't have the same friends here anymore. He'd missed too much.
Some bridges collapsed, and others formed in their place.
Though, just because Kasey could understand, it didn't make the seemingly unintentional isolation feel any better. Especially not when the walk from second period to third was full of snickering not only at phones, but as glances in his direction were thrown right after. He felt as if instead of being cast aside as the 'new kid,' he was under a magnifying glass.
It made him walk faster. Made him more aware of how close to people he had to be when turning a corner. Created a sinking feeling that whatever had everyone so amused had something to do with him, and it made the back of his head burn.
Finding a seat near the front of his math class was easy. He'd hauled some ass and kept his eyes down. Unfortunately... his choice of desks left him wide open to target practice. Crumpled paper the size of ping pong balls landed on his desk, occasionally ricocheted off his shoulder or the side of his head. Kasey did the best he could to ignore it, not to turn around or snap at the student bothering him. And once the bell rang, he left in a hurry, leaving behind a notebook in the process.
"Hey city boy!" Was called out after him. The voice belonged to a dirty blond in his math class. He strode right up to Kasey with his phone in hand, wiggling the screen in front of Kasey's face aggressively. "Where's your boytoy? Ditched him and the tutu didn't you?"
Every ounce of color drained from Kasey's face. On the guy's screen was a photo from a ballet he'd danced in over the summer. Unprofessional, one taken in private with a few friends.
One where another male dancer was kissing his cheek, arms wrapped around his neck, and one of the girls had stuck him in her tutu.
A low roar of laughter picked up in the hall behind Kasey and the blond. His expression turned from resting bitch face, quickly, to disgust. Before Kasey could stammer anything out, there was a hand grasping at the front of his shirt.
"I'm only gonna tell you once," the blond threatened, "you better keep your disgusting hands to yourself."
Releasing Kasey's shirt, he shouldered past. Unsure of if what had happened… really had just happened, Kasey slowly turned. Greeted by the few onlookers that had either laughed or shared sentiment, given their expressions.
What was really going on, all the snickering and glances, was suddenly made very clear to Kasey.
The first week of school was relatively tame. All Kasey had to do was make sure he paid extra attention in the rows of desks so that no one could accidentally trip him. He kept his distance from lockers, people. He kept books and other belongings safely in his rucksack instead of daring to carry anything. Insults or provocations were thrown at him by a few, but Kasey wore the same mask he did when scolding came at him for forgetting a step or slipping on the practice floor.
The tame harassment was not long lasting, though. Midway through the second week of the year… things got much worse.
Eating in the small cafeteria was completely off the table. Two cartons of chocolate milk dumped over his head was reason enough. He found his locker covered in different sticky note slurs every day. Someone had even taken the time to have spray painted his bike a rainbow.
Kasey had a good guess as to who, but the steady hand made him uncertain that it was Gray, the blond that had started the chain of harassment. The wrestler wouldn't have gone through so much trouble as to make even lines.
What was the worst, were the extra shoves in the hallways followed by, "Come on, do a twirl!"
One shove knocked him so off balance it forced him directly into some unfortunate student at their locker. When Kasey looked up to apologize, he froze.
Of all people, the captain of the baseball team steadied him with a grip Kasey feared was only going to throw him in another direction. He cast his eyes down and flinched, preparing to be flung off; but Owen's steel grey glare was pointed down the hall.
Much to Kasey's surprise, the grip on his arm loosened, turning to a gesture of reassurance. He'd been completely cool about it, kind even, by asking if Kasey was okay.
"Yeah…" He'd lied, clearing his throat a little and fixing the way his backpack sat on his shoulders. "I'm fine, just tripped."
Owen's glare removed itself from the group laughing in front of a set of lockers and planted itself on Kasey like an uncomfortable spotlight. "That wasn't tripping. Which one of them pushed you?"
All Kasey could do was stammer for a second. Adrenaline still made his heart pound. Not to mention the proximity. Being held steady by one of the best looking people in the school? Cool, kind, funny, a sports god? The concern in Owen's voice. How nice he smelled.
It was jamming the ability to formulate any kind of productive response. Without realizing, Kasey had shoved himself away. Red faced with a mixture of anger, and embarrassment, and darted around the corner.
Of course he wasn't okay, who could be? And, yes, he was pushed. Everyone knew it.
Moving back to a town where you're alone. Being harassed daily for being different, and having a 'feminine' hobby. It was deafening noise that left Kasey with ringing ears on every bike ride home.
But, comfortably hidden in the library and thinking back, the the lack of hostility from Owen felt to be a blessing from the Goddess herself. He'd have to muster up the courage to apologize, and well… thank Owen for that. Sooner or later.