The Heart of a Champion

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 13, 2010

Chapter 4

When Nate woke the next morning it took him a minute to shake the sleep from his mind...but once he did, the events of the previous day came back to him, a smile creeping across his lips as he remembered how much fun he and Nate had...which soured when the more unsettling details of their time together came back to him. Sure, it had been a good time - but why did Will even have tickets for the game beforehand? Why would a teacher spend good money not only on two seats for himself and his student, but also on a replica jersey for that student? As confusing as those questions were, they didn’t disturb him nearly as much as the realization of how he had acted when they returned to his apartment - how Will had granted him permission to watch his own TV, how the teacher had taken it upon himself to use Nate’s food to make dinner, how the two of them had watched that dumb kiddie movie together and how much the young man had actually enjoyed the silly little film.

Nate’s mind was racked with confusion - but no matter how hard he set himself to the task, he found himself unable to untangle the cluttered thoughts that lay within. It was almost as though his brain had been covered in soft, fuzzy fleece, a smothering blanket that made him feel warm and happy but suffocated any sort of interrogative line of thinking before it could even get started. The young man began to feel incredibly frustrated at his inability to make any headway, and at that moment he swore that he wouldn’t allow himself to be treated like a baby anymore, that he was big, that -


Nate blinked...and suddenly his train of thought went careening off a cliff. The boy’s mind flooded with joy at the realization that his teacher had come, and thoughts of anything else seemed piddling and unimportant. Without bothering to get dressed he leaped out of bed, scampered to the front door and threw it open, unable to contain his excitement when he saw Will standing in the hall.


The leapt at his teacher and wrapped his arms around him, nearly knocking Will over with the force of his hug.

“Okay...okay buddy.” Will gasped between laughs. “I’m happy to see you too.”

“What’s in the bag?” Nate asked, noticing the soccer bag strung over the teacher’s shoulder. “Is it for me?”

Will gave him a conspiratorial grin. Nate’s eyes widened and he began reaching for the satchel as his teacher kept him at arm’s length.

“Uh uh uh.” Will said as he wagged his finger. “First things first. Once you brush your teeth and make your bed I’ll give you your present.”

“Um, I already brushed my teeth.” Nate said. “And made my bed.”

“Mm.” Will’s expression turned cold and disbelieving. “You did, huh?”

“Uh-huh.” Nate squirmed, avoiding his teacher’s gaze.

“Let me smell your breath, then.”

Nate turned red and stared at the ground for a moment...before turning and dashing back into the apartment without a word. Will’s laughter floated after his student as he completed the tasks with questionable thoroughness - though, to his relief, when he presented himself to his teacher his work wasn’t double-checked on either task.

“That’s better.” Will said. “Now - what do you want to do today?”

Nate cocked his head in confusion.

“Remember? You get to choose what we do today because you were so good last night.”

“Umm...” Nate racked his mind before shouting his answer with ear-splitting enthusiasm. “I wanna go to a football game!”

Will chuckled.

“We did that yesterday, silly.” He said. “And there isn’t anybody playing around here today.”

“Oh.” The boy frowned. “Um...”

A moment passed before Will spoke up.

“Would you like to go to the park?” He suggested. Nate’s eyes lit up.

“Let’s go to the park!” He cried. Will smiled and ruffled his student’s hair.

“That’s a great idea, buddy.” The teacher took a step back and looked Nate up and down. “But it’s a little chilly out, so you’ll have to put on some warm clothes.”


“Oh, it’s not that bad.” Will insisted as he took off his backpack, reached inside, and pulled out a set of folded clothing. “Do you need any help with putting these on?”

The question struck Nate as odd - doesn’t he know that only babies need help getting dressed?

“No.” Nate replied as he indignantly snatched up the garments and stomped off to his room, ignoring the amused look on his teacher’s face. It wasn’t until he closed the door behind him that he noticed that the clothing Will wanted him to wear consisted of jeans, a bright blue hoodie...and a pair of pure white briefs. With a frown on his face, Nate picked up the undergarment and held it up to the light, examining it closely as though determining its legitimacy. Why does he want me to wear these? Doesn’t he know that tighty whities are for little kids?

“What’s the matter, slowpoke?” Will asked as he knocked on the door and entered Nate’s room. The boy turned in his teacher’s direction and held out the briefs with one hand, as though wanting Will to take them away.

“I don’t wanna wear these.”

Will frowned.

“What? Why not?” He asked. “It’s just underwear. Nobody’s going to see it.”

“I don’t care. They’re stupid and they’re for little kids.” The boy insisted. “I wanna keep what I have on.”

“You can’t wear the same underwear two days in a row. That’s gross.”

“...then I won’t wear underwear!” The boy cried in defiance. The teacher cocked his head and gave his student a wilting look.

“Now you’re just being silly.” He sighed. “If you don’t want to wear the briefs, that’s fine - but we’re not going to the park unless you put them on.”

Nate was terribly conflicted. He wanted to go to the park really, really badly - but he felt almost as strongly about not wanting to wear the briefs. The boy whined in frustration and looked up at his teacher, whose arms were crossed and whose expression was like stone - he was not going to be dissuaded on this one.

“Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.” The boy said with a long, theatric groan. “I’ll put the stupid things on.”

“Thank you.” Will smiled. “I’ll be in the other room if you need any help.”

Once Will had left Nate sighed, stripped off his current underwear, and gave the briefs one last suspicious look. Deciding that he might as well get things over with, he quickly shimmied them up his legs...and realized that they actually weren’t all that bad. Kinda snug, he thought as he looked down at himself with pursed lips. But okay. Though the briefs had been the most mentally challenging part of getting dressed the physical roadblock came when he tried to get his jeans on. Fingers that two days ago could hurl a football fifty yards into the outstretched hands of a sprinting receiver suddenly had trouble operating a button fly. Frustration bubbled up within Nate and he felt on the verge of tears - when the button finally slipped through. The boy smiled and exhaled before dashing back into the living room and proudly presenting himself to his teacher. Will looked his student up and down and grinned from ear-to-ear.

“What’s so funny?” Nate asked.

“Nothing.” Will shook his head.

“Tell me!”

“Well, I could...” Will drew out the word. “Or I could give you the other part of your present.”

“Present!” Nate cried. Will grinned, reached into his backpack, and pulled out a brand new football.

“Catch!” He tossed it towards his student, who snatched it out of the air and clutched it to his body like a teddy bear. “What do you say?”

Nate looked up at his teacher with a smile that stretched from there to Topeka.

“Thank you!”


When they reached the park Nate hopped out of the car and immediately rushed into an open field, providing his own play-by-play as he tucked the ball against his chest, put out a stiff arm and ducked his head like a running back charging towards the end zone. When he crossed that imaginary line he spiked the ball and threw his hands into the air, creating the sound of the invisible roaring crowd that surrounded him.

“Hey, Jim Brown!” Will shouted. “Toss me the ball, will ya?”

Nate smiled, grabbed the ball and hurled it in his teacher’s direction - only for the wobbling, unsteady pass to land ten feet short of its target. Both student and pupil looked at the ball for a long, silent moment before Will smiled and started after it.

“It’s okay.” He said. “I got - ”

“Let me!” Nate insisted as he sprinted over to the ball, picked it up, and ran back to his previous spot. Once there, he let loose with a mighty throw - which traveled about six inches further than his previous attempt. The boy stood with his arms at his sides, completely befuddled as he watched the ball bounce to a halt, looking as though he was unable to comprehend what had just happened.

“Why don’t we stand a little closer to each other?” Will gently suggested as he plucked the ball off the ground.

“No! I can do it!” The boy yelled, looking as though he didn’t even believe his own words. “I can...I’m a quarterback!”

“Okay, okay.” Will said as he held his hands up in defense. “You can be the quarterback if you want. I’ll snap you the ball, all right?”

Nate furrowed his brow. That’s not what I meant! I...I... His mind was awash with confusion. What did I mean? The boy turned to Will to see if he could provide any insight, but as he did so he saw that his teacher was already set in a three point stance, ball in hand, looking over his shoulder at Nate as he set up the scenario.

“It’s the fourth quarter...” He murmured with the utmost seriousness. “Three seconds on the clock...”

Nate shook his head as though it were covered in cobwebs.

“...the Warhawks are down by five...”

This isn’t...

“...the National Championship is on the line...”

...this isn’t right...I’m...

“...the crowd is roaring...”

...I’m a quarterback! Not a pretend quarterback, a real one! A real...

“...and the ball is in Owen Richmond’s hands.”

Nate’s eyes widened. The instant the words left his teacher’s mouth he was no longer a confused young man in an open field but the leader of the mighty Warhawks, standing in the center of the gridiron, ready to lead his team to glory. When he looked around he could see the capacity crowd rising to its feet, peppering the field with the sparkle of flashbulbs. Straight ahead the opposing line was digging into the dirt, snarling and growling in anticipation, wanting nothing more than to break through his defenses and drive him into the dirt.

Nate grinned. He wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

“Set, hut!” He called out as his face hardened into a determined, fearless scowl. “Hut...hut...HIKE!”

At his quarterback’s signal, Will snapped the ball to Nate and set off at a half-speed route, juking and spinning around imaginary linebackers before throwing up his hands to indicate that he was open. The boy was so caught up in the moment that he didn’t even realize that Will was, at best, ten feet away - he just grit his teeth, reared his arm back, and threw the pigskin with all the strength he could muster, knowing without a doubt that it would reach his target. With a theatric flair, Will reached out and snatched the ball from the air, leaping over an invisible attacker on his way to victory.

“He’s done it!” Will bellowed as he raised his hands in the air. “Owen Richmond has made the Warhawks the national champions! He - ”

The teacher was cut off when Nate tackled him from behind, giggling madly as the two of them tumbled to the ground in an impromptu wrestling match. After recovering from having the wind knocked out of him Will was more than happy to engage the boy in his roughhousing, their laughter filling the air as the champion quarterback and his trusty receiver celebrated their historic victory.

Over the course of the day the pair made use of everything the park had to offer, from the worn swing where Nate kicked his feet at the cloudless sapphire sky to the nearby woods where he buried himself in leaves in order to win a rousing game of hide and seek. But as the sun began to set and the wind turned cold Will could see his student shivering - though he tried to hide it by continuing to play as though nothing had happened.

“I think we better get going, buddy.” Will said as his pupil crawled across the top of the monkey bars.

“Aww!” Nate whined. “Just five more minutes? Pleeeeeeease?”

“Sorry pal, can’t do it.” Will insisted as he motioned for Nate to come down. “You’re going to get a cold if we stay out here much longer.”

“Okay.” The boy pouted as he clambered down for the iron structure and moped over to Nate’s side. He felt a little better when Will put an arm around his shoulder...but he kept the pout on his face just the same, so that his teacher would know that he was upset. As they approached Will’s car the first people either of them had seen all day pulled into the lot, both able to hear the music blaring from within even through the closed windows. A young man and woman emerged from the vehicle, chatting and laughing, lost in their own little world until they both looked up and took notice of the teacher and his pupil. Silence hung heavy over the scene until Will smiled and nodded at the suspicious couple.

“Good evening.” He said.

They just kept on staring, no doubt confused as to why Will had his arm around Nate, and why the boy had shrunk behind his teacher, peering at the couple out of the corner of his eye.

“Baaaaabe...” The woman whined, “You said there wouldn’t be anybody here.”

“There won’t be.” Her date insisted, his eyes sharpening. “These weirdos were just leaving...right?

Will frowned and furrowed his brow.

“There’s no need to be rude.” The teacher said. “We were on our way out when you came in.”

The young man scoffed.

“Yeah, I’m sure you were.” He lowered his voice to a grumble. “Freaks.”

“You’re mean!”

Three sets of eyes turned in Nate’s direction as the boy finally stepped forward and spoke up. Will put his hands on his pupil’s shoulders and tried to pull him back but Nate was having none of it.

“Why don’t you just go home, you big jerk!” He cried. “Go home!”

The young man’s eyes widened as he took a step back and put his hands up in defense, not knowing why Nate was talking like that but sure that he didn’t want to mess with the muscular young man. He looked to be a moment away from hightailing it out of there...until his gaze drifted downwards and he suddenly broke out laughing. His girlfriend took notice of whatever he found so funny a moment later, covering her giggling mouth with one hand as she used the other to point derisively at the confused young man.

“What’s so funny?” He demanded.

“Oh man.” The young man got out between laughs. “You don’t even know, do you? Your fly’s down, genius. I bet it’s been like that all day.”

Nate immediately looked down and turned red as a raspberry when he saw that his fly was completely open, putting the y-front of his briefs on display for all to see. The couple’s laughter only grew louder when they saw the look of pure anguish on the boy’s face, at the expression that only the mercilessly mocked could pull off.

“Stop it!” Nate shouted as tears filled his eyes. “Stop laughing at me!”

“Aww, what’s the matter, baby? You gonna cry now? Huh?” The young man snorted and shook his head. “Fuckin’ retard.”

In an instant Will had the young man’s jacket in his hands, using the grip to lift him into the air before slamming him into the door of his own car. His eyes widened in a rush of primal, crippling fear as the teacher drew close enough to smell the sweat that had formed on his brow.

Leave right now.” He whispered. “Or I swear to God, you’re dead where you stand.”

With that, he let the young man go - and an instant later, he and his girlfriend were back in the car, tires squealing as the vehicle spun into reverse in their desperate escape from the parking lot. Will watched the car until it disappeared and then turned back to his pupil, his expression becoming that of heartbreak personified when he saw Nate hanging his head as fat, hot tears dripped from his cheeks and plummeted to the pavement below.

“Aww, buddy...” Will murmured as he wrapped his arms around his distraught pupil. The boy immediately returned the hug, burying his face in his teacher’s shoulder as long, ragged sobs racked his body. “I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m so sorry.”

A few moments passed before Nate could compose himself long enough to ask his teacher a question.

“Why...” He hiccupped. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Will frowned as he rubbed Nate’s back.

“You seemed so proud that you had gotten dressed all by yourself.” The teacher said. “I didn’t want to take that away from you.”

Even in his distressed state Nate took offense at the notion that he should be proud at his ability to dress himself. ’Course I can dress myself, he thought. I’m big! I can do lotsa stuff! I’m not a...not a...

“I’m not a baby.” Nate mumbled. “He called me a baby. And a...a...

“Shhh. I know. I know you’re not.” Will whispered, bringing Nate down before the crying could start anew. He turned to look at the boy, at the brimming orbs that shimmered with the purest shade of blue anyone could ever hope to see.

“Listen to me, Nate...I want you to know that no matter what happens, no matter what anybody may’ll always be my special little guy. Okay?”

The boy wiped his eyes and gave his teacher a smile and a small nod. Will beamed and cuddled Nate’s shoulders.

“Do you forgive me?”

Nate sniffed and squirmed.


“What if...” The teacher nudged, “...I told you we could have pizza for dinner?”

Nate’s eyes lit up.

“With pepperoni?” He asked, his voice growing bolder. “And extra cheese?”

“Sure, buddy. Whatever you want.”

Nate’s entire face curled into a brilliant toothy grin - and just like that, everything was okay.


“Pizzaaaaaaa!” Nate’s voice reverberated throughout the apartment as he leapt off of the couch and made a beeline for the door. The boy had only kept a passing interest in the cartoon he had settled on - his attention was mainly put towards glancing at the front door every ten seconds as if doing so would get the pizza there faster. Now that it had finally arrived the boy was like an overeager puppy that had been waiting all day for his master’s return - even though it had only been about twenty minutes. Will gently pushed him aside so he could pay the delivery guy - and the instant the money was in his hands Nate grabbed the pizza box and marched into the kitchen, holding it high above his head as though it were a golden idol, completely oblivious to the confusion that flashed across the delivery guy’s face as he watched the scene play out before him. By the time Will closed the door and turned around the young man already had opened the box and grabbed a piece.

“Wait a second, bud.” Will called out. Nate froze with the tip of his slice nearly touching his tongue. “Can’t eat until you wash up.”


“No buts.” Will insisted as he strode into the kitchen, took the slice out of Nate’s hand and put it back in the box. “No pizza until you wash your hands. March, mister. ”

The boy groaned as he stomped down the hall, following his teacher’s instructions with as much indignation as possible. After conducting a quick and dirty job on his hands Nate was all set to bound back into the dining room - but was stopped at the sight of himself in the mirror, at seeing the giddy expression on his face and the light in his smiling eyes. The boy knew there was something wrong with what he was seeing...but as his lips curled into a frown and he tugged absently at his hoodie he couldn’t figure out what it was.

“I’m eating all the pizzaaaaaaa!” Will declared from the other room. In an instant whatever Nate was trying to puzzle out became irrelevant.

“Don’t!” He cried, rushing back into the living room in a panic. When Nate saw that the pie was untouched and that Will had spent the time setting the table and getting the two of them a couple of sodas, he was a little embarrassed at his momentary distress - but the feeling vanished the instant he had his first bite of the savory Italian goodness. The boy attacked his meal as though he hadn’t eaten in a week, and it took Will a few gentle reprimands before he got Nate to eat like a human being. Within a matter of minutes Nate was full, having devoured most of the pie by himself. He leaned back in his chair and released a satisfied sigh...which he immediately followed up with a bellowing burp. The boy started to giggle - but immediately stopped when Will looked at him with an expression of utter disappointment. Nate’s face fell and he was about to start apologizing profusely when Will took a deep breath and let loose with a belch that put his pupil’s to shame. The boy was silent for only a moment...before howling with laughter, nearly falling out of his chair as Will rose from his seat.

“Can you help me clear the table and do the dishes, bud?”

“Uh huh!” Nate said as he jumped out of his seat, eager to be helpful. He grabbed his plate with both hands, brought it to the sink, and then helped Will by carefully drying the dishes after he had scrubbed each one down.

“Well, I think you’ve earned a movie.” Will declared when the task was done. “What would you like to watch?”

“Oscar!” Nate shouted without hesitation. The teacher chuckled and put his hands on his hips.

“We just saw that yesterday, bud.” He said. “Don’t you want to watch something else?”

“Nuh-uh!” The boy insisted. “I want Oscar!”

“Okay, okay.” Will conceded. “Go get comfy on the couch and I’ll get the movie going.”

Nate whooped with joy as he rumbled into the living room and dove on the couch. If anything, he was only more enthralled by the young hero’s adventures the second time around...but the boy just couldn’t make it through the long haul on this evening, as his stamina began to wane near the beginning of the third act. Though he tried his hardest to stay awake it was a futile battle that he was engaged in, and by the time the characters had become embroiled in the climactic chase scene Nate already had already dozed off, falling asleep with his head resting on his teacher’s shoulder. When the movie came to a close Will turned the TV off and gently shook the boy awake.

“C’mon, bud...” He murmured as the boy stirred. “It’s time for bed.”

Nate mumbled an unintelligible argument but offered no resistance when Will took him beneath the arms and lifted him to his feet. The teacher led him to his room and sat him on the edge of his bed, the boy wobbling in a half-lidded, sleep-induced daze as Will relieved him of every bit of clothing save his briefs. Once the boy was ready for bed the teacher tucked his drowsy pupil under the covers and watched with a warm smile as Nate yawned and snuggled into his pillow. The boy appeared to fall asleep immediately and so Will turned to take his leave - but was stopped when a small voice piped up behind him.

“Don’t...” Nate murmured, his eyes fluttering open. “Don’t go.”

Will kneeled next to his pupil’s bed and rubbed his shoulder.

“It’s okay, pal.” He reassured the boy. “I’m just going into the other room.”

The boy’s eyes opened all the way, pleading with his teacher to stay by his side. Will sighed and smiled.

“Okay.” He said. “I’ll stay right here. I promise”

Nate gave him a sleepy grin and closed his eyes.

“Thank you...” The words were so low as to almost be inaudible, a final thought that the boy had to express before he drifted off. Will let out a little laugh as he leaned forward and stroked his pupil’s hair.

“Don’t worry, bud.” He whispered. “I’m here. I’m right here.”



End Chapter 4

The Heart of a Champion

by: nico | Complete Story | Last updated Aug 13, 2010


To comment, Join the Archive or Login to your Account

The AR Story Archive

Stories of Age/Time Transformation

Contact Us