Of course this would happen during exam week. Of course. Raf is busy. Raf is stressed. Raf has hockey practice and classes. Raf also has a friend that has been turned into a frog.
“Why does this keep on happening, Jared?” He asks as he picks up the frog waiting for him when he opens the door to his dorm room. The frog –Jared– just croaks as he is placed on a shallow dish with some water.
“Who was it this time, Jared? Have you been rude to another TA?” Human transfiguration is strictly prohibited at the University of Calgary, not to say extremely difficult and energy-consuming, but it looks like Jared always manages to piss off powerful people with a temper and loose morals. Raf loves him, but Jared can be such an asshole sometimes.
Jared just looks at him from the dish. Somehow, he still looks judgemental, even in frog form. It’s uncanny, if better than last time. Last time, it had been a snake. The conditions to break that spell had been unclear, so Raf had to try several things. In the end, it had been enough to find somebody willing to pet a very ugly snake. But frogs… frogs are a classic, and Raf knows what’s needed to break that one. Raf reconsiders: this is worse than last time. How is he going to find Jared’s true love? And before the playoffs, if possible.
Even if Raf knows what he has to do, he goes to ask for help, just in case there’s a different option. Literally anything is better than running around campus asking people to please kiss his friend, who just happens to be a frog. He goes to David first; he’s the senior Raf is closer to. He finds David at a café, sitting with their captain, Lourdy. Raf still hasn’t figured out what’s the deal between them, because half the time David acts as if he hates Jake, but the other half… he wouldn’t call that hate. And they are hanging out.
“So J-Math got turned into an animal. Again,” Lourdy smirks. David’s wince is a much more adequate reaction, in Raf’s opinion. “What is it this time? A mouse? A cricket?”
Raf sighs. He hasn’t even started trying to fix this properly and he’s already exhausted. “A frog.”
At that, Lourdy does look appropriately stricken. “Wow. That… what has he done to deserve this?”
“I have no idea. He just showed up at my door like this.”
“And are you sure it’s Matheson?” David asks.
“I know it’s him. I can feel it, somehow. I also feel like he’s judging me with his little frog eyes. It’s Jared.”
“And have you tried breaking it already?” Lourdy asks. By the change in his voice, Raf can tell he’s in captain mode now.
“I wanted to check first whether you have any ideas on how to break it. I know that, with frogs, it’s supposed to be a true love kiss, but… isn’t there an easier way?” He looks at David, pleading.
“There isn’t,” David says, matter-of-fact. “It’s a true love kiss, or Matheson stays like this and we’re down a right-winger for the playoffs.”
Lourdy laughs, and Raf can see the warmth in his eyes when he looks at David. “And we are down a friend and would be very sad, because we like him.”
“That too,” David says.
“Well, have you tried kissing him?” Jake asks Raf.
“I have a girlfriend,” Raf sputters. He has been with Grace since high school. He loves her. No way he’s Jared’s true love.
“And I’m sure you love her very much, but you’re J-Math’s best friend.”
“I –.” Raf must admit that Jake is right. He is Jared’s best friend. He owes Jared this. “Ok. I’ll do it. But you both have to try, too.”
“Fine,” Jake says immediately. “We should try with the whole team, actually, just in – ”
“I’m not Matheson’s true love,” David argues, speaking over Lourdy.
“How would you know?” Raf asks. He needs to try everybody they know. He really doesn’t want to have to go up to random people on campus to ask them to just please kiss his friend. That’s the last option. “You’re single, you could be!”
The disdain in David’s face is so palpable Raf feels a bit bad for Jared, and is glad he can see it. Raf has seen Jared blush whenever David speaks to him, usually to talk about a play or a game. Once, David said “good goal,” and Raf has never seen a person turn that shade of red. That looked like magic.
“I – ” David looks at Lourdy, then, pointed, his eyes full of meaning Raf doesn’t think David actually intends to show. It finally clicks, what’s going on between Lourdy and David. Oh .
“Well, I think we all have to do it,” Jake says. “Where is he?”
“Oh, in my bag. He seemed a bit nervous when we left my room.”
“Bring him here.” Jake makes kissy noises in Jared’s direction when Raf brings him out of his bag. Jared’s little eyes show horror, but he can’t escape Raf’s grip while Jake kisses his head and they all wait expectantly. Nothing happens.
“Well, worth the try.” Jake shrugs.
Raf’s next, and he really doesn’t want to do it, but he knows he has to. For Jared. Just in case. He’s not sure what he would say to Grace if he happens to be Jared’s true love, to be honest. Thankfully, he doesn’t have to figure that out, because he kisses Jared’s head lightly and, again, nothing happens.
It’s David’s turn. Even if Jared has a bit of a crush on David, Raf doesn’t think David is Jared’s true love, especially not after realising that, if Lourdy and David don’t have anything, it’s just a matter of time they do. Still, Lourdy tried it. Raf tried it. David has to do it.
Raf has never seen a frog blush, but Jared manages it when David kisses him, his skin getting browner. Still, the spell is not broken, and Raf sighs, disappointed even if he knew this wasn’t going to work.
“Well, good luck with it,” Lourdy says, once Jared is safely back in Raf’s bag. “Who’s next in your list?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Chaz? He’s known Jared the longest.”
“Good idea,” Jake says. David just sits back and nods.
“And maybe OJ?”
“Ah, he must be in Professor Konstantinovich’s class right now,” David offers. Jake looks at him strangely, so David explains, “I took that one freshman year, and Halla asked me for help with a few things. Konstantinovich’s classes are always at the same time, and he’s extremely punctual. If you run, you can catch Halla after that class.”
“Great. Thank you both.”
Raf goes to find OJ first, since he already knows where he is.
Raf likes OJ well enough. They don’t hang out alone– OJ mostly spends time with Jared– but Raf thinks he’s ok. It doesn't seem to go both ways; OJ doesn’t like Raf. He seems possessive of Jared, of his time and attention. Maybe… maybe he could be the one?
Raf waits until Professor Konstantinovich’s class has ended and approaches OJ as he’s leaving the room.
OJ stops and looks at Raf. “Hi,” he says, curt.
“I need a favour,” Raf starts. Then, before OJ has time to refuse. “It’s for Jared.”
At that, OJ seems more interested.
“He got turned into an animal,” Raf continues.
“Again,” Raf sighs. “And it’s a frog, this time. So could you… kiss him? Please?”
“Is this prank?” OJ asks, suspicious.
“Why would I prank you? I just want this over with.” God, Raf is so tired, and it hasn’t even been half a day.
“If this is prank, not funny.”
“It isn’t, I promise. Look,” he says, bringing Jared out of his bag. “It actually looks like him.”
Jared looks at them both from Raf’s hand, where Raf is holding him so that he doesn’t run away. Jared tries anyway. Raf hopes OJ can see it as well, that it’s actually Jared. OJ inspects the frog closely and his eyes go comically big when he realises that it’s Jared.
“Frog is a big spell. Who did this?”
“We don’t know,” Raf explains. “Somebody must be very pissed. Right now, I’m focusing on fixing this, so, please, kiss him.”
OJ doesn’t argue anymore, just bends down (he’s too tall for his own good, the beanpole) and kisses Jared lightly. They all wait, two sets of human eyes looking intently at one tiny frog, but Jared isn’t magically turned back through the power of love. Pity. OJ even seems a bit disappointed, but not as much as Raf, who would like to just go home and sleep for a thousand years. Well, not really. He hopes nobody with enough power for a sleeping beauty spell is reading his mind right now.
“Well, thanks for the help,” Raf says, putting Jared back into his bag and running off to continue with his quest.
As Raf told Lourdy and David, Chaz is the next logical option. He’s known Jared the longest, since way before uni. They are close. Raf knows Chaz has a girlfriend, a girl named Ashley who also happens to be friends with Grace. But. What if?
Chaz is hanging out in his room with Ashley, and that Raf didn’t expect. Ashley is cool but Raf doesn’t know who she’ll take the whole “your boyfriend must kiss the frog to see if they are each other’s true love” thing.
“I don’t want to,” Chaz says, when Raf explains the whole situation.
“Babe, why not?” Ashley asks. Raf’s worries were unfounded; Ashley remains cool. “Hey, I’ll do it. Bring him here.”
Raf just hands Jared over, who behaves for once and stays put while Ashley kisses him. When a moment passes and Jared is still a frog, Ashley hands him to Chaz.
“Come on, just kiss the frog already,” Ashley says.
It doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t.
While he leaves Chaz’ room, Raf considers whom to ask next. There are still some people on the team Jared is friendly with.
He ends up running around campus for over an hour asking everybody on the team and getting Jared some more successful kisses. He knows Jared is going to be chirped forever for this (Bardi has started already), and Raf can’t say he feels any sympathy.
Some of his teammates take it better than others. Raf will never be able to forget Fitzy’s glee as Raf explains the problem. At least, Fitzy has no qualms in smacking a loud kiss on Jared, who’s trying very hard to jump away again, the poor thing.
“I’m actually relieved this didn’t work. I don’t want my boyfriend to murder poor J-Math,” Fitzy says, grinning. Raf doesn’t want to hear anything about Fitzy’s boyfriend ever again. He already knows too much about Fitzy’s sex life. Nobody should know that much. He also doesn’t need to know who Fitzy’s boyfriend is or why he never comes out with the team. Roman (who has already done his kissing) did try to rope Raf into some weird detective stuff to figure out once, but Raf managed to escape.
Then, he has only Marcus left. Raf knows three things about Bryce Marcus: he's great at hockey, he's the straightest of the team (and the loudest about it) and... Jared has a crush on him.
Jared would deny it, of course. But Raf knows him. Jared never grew out of that phase where you are mean to the girl (guy in this case) you like. Jared is not nice to a lot of people (that's most likely why they are in this situation now) but this feels different. Raf just knows it's a crush. And it’s different than with David, which is just a bit of “you are very pretty and very good at hockey so I’m going to stammer every time you look in my direction, but I don’t actually want to marry you or anything”. Not that Jared wants to marry Marcus, or, at least, Raf doesn’t think he wants to. But it’s different. So he has to try.
Raf finally finds Marcus at the rink. They have about an hour until they have to be there for practice, but Marcus is already on the ice, simply shooting at the net.
“Hey!” Raf shouts to call his attention. “Marcus!”
Marcus turns around trying to see where the noise is coming from. When he sees Raf, he skates towards the boards. “Hey.”
Raf doesn’t know how to breach the issue. He isn’t close with Marcus, exactly. He’s kind of a douche, if Raf’s being honest. Marcus doesn’t seem to be close to anyone, anyway. He’s very good on the ice, that much Raf has to admit, but that’s it. Raf decides to be direct.
“I need you to kiss Jared, because he got turned into a frog and we need to find his true love,” he says.
Marcus looks at him, eyes huge and mouth gaping. It would be comical if Raf weren’t desperate.
“Please,” Raf adds, bringing Jared out of his bag and showing him to Marcus.
“God, that really is Jared,” Marcus says.
Raf looks at his hand, and the frog looks outraged at the situation. It’s a very Jared look. Raf can see the moment Marcus gives in, the way his shoulders drop and his face softens.
“I’m not his true love,” Marcus argues, anyway, but Raf knows he has won already.
“Please, the whole team has tried it. We need him for the playoffs.”
“Well, if everybody has done it…” Marcus holds up his hand, and Raf leaves Jared on his palm.
“Careful,” he says. “He’s been trying to run away all day.”
Marcus is careful to hold Jared tight enough that he can’t escape, but without harming him. He brings his hand closer to his face and hesitates for a second before touching Jared with his lips.
There’s no pop sound, no light or earthquake. Raf stares at Marcus, disappointed, exhausted, and a little bit sad this didn’t work. He’ll have to figure out how to explain this to coaches Perreault and Rousseau at practice, now, keep on looking for somebody to break the spell.
That’s when Jared appears, suddenly. One moment there’s a frog and the next, Jared is stumbling on the ice, almost falling on his ass. Marcus saves him, catching him from the elbows and helping him stand despite how slippery the ice must be under Jared’s sneakers.
“What the hell was that,” Jared asks. He’s not making any effort to free himself from Marcus’ hold, that Raf can see.
Raf starts retreating to the locker room. Better to be far away now that Jared has to deal with the realisation that Bryce Marcus is his one true love. His job here is done, anyway. He looks back for a second when he realises he can’t hear their bickering anymore, and what he sees both surprises him and not.
They’re kissing, still on the ice, Jared almost comically shorter compared to Marcus, who’s wearing skates, even if normally they don't have that much of a difference in height. It looks intense, and Raf swears the light is playing tricks, surrounding them like in the cheesiest of Disney movies. When Marcus’ hand moves up to tangle with Jared’s hair, Raf has to look away. He leaves to change for practice.
“You are such a jerk,” Dan says, when they go back to their off-campus flat after practice.
Despite his words, Marc can see Dan is full of shit. His tone is too fond to really mean it.
“Who? Me?” He says anyway, all faux offense and outrage. “I’m a saint. An angel.”
“You are evil, that’s what you are. You cursed the poor kid for fun!”
“Listen, I had to do it. Seeing him and Marcus shoot longing glances at each other from across the ice when they thought the other wasn’t looking, and then turn and bicker like an old married couple the moment they were together was getting embarrassing. Painful. I have saved all of us from that.
“You did it because you were bored.”
“I did it for true love!”
“You have never cared about true love in your life.”
“How could you say that? To my face? You wound me, Dan. You wound me.”
“Fine. I did it because I thought it would be fun. I was going to turn him back anyway if Marcus’ kiss didn’t work. I could try with Bardi and Georgie now...”
“God, you’re lucky I love you.”
“You’re my one true love?”
“Let’s turn you into a frog, to clear up doubts.”