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Sad Boy

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If you had told Danny; before this whole fuck-storm, before all this emotional baggage was thrown over for him to catch; that he would be in great shit, he might have actually laughed. Like a small chuckle. Maybe he would quickly deny it, with his mind darting over to his sexuality in a second.

Danny was a boy who believed that his own story, the story of his life, didn’t revolve around him. It revolved around others. It revolved around him helping others. And he was fine with it. He came to terms with it. Growing up with big personalities like Roy and Courtney...he could never really compete. He didn’t want to compete. Sure, the three had been friends for his whole life, but at the end of the day, he was no match for a popular blonde or a comedic theatre kid. He was just “Sad Boy”--as he got dubbed as--and that was okay with him after a while.

His mindset as a “boring, miserable kid” followed him everywhere. Even on his Big Day. No, not his wedding. No, not his birthday either. Not even his graduation. The day that he walked into the gym lockers on a particular Friday.

Danny pressed his hands onto the coarse surface of the building. His eyes darted over to the field. There didn’t seem to be many people, only a few by the stands, looking as if they were about to leave. He sighed.

He wasn't even attracted to women, but the thought of going into the girls' bathrooms still made him fluster. He didn’t really want to be known for being a pervert or anything. Though he already had the “fag” tag stapled to his neck like some sort of prison nametag. Courtney had just asked him to duck into the locker rooms for her to fetch a few things. Her uniform, her change of clothes and a few books she’d accidentally forgotten. Though he wasn’t really into the idea of maybe getting caught, she persisted and persisted, saying that Dan, her boyfriend, would get mad if she wasn’t there to see their game. She pleaded that she had to be there because he was quarter back. And of course she just had to be captain of the cheerleading team too. Because they just weren’t picturesque enough.

Just before his fingers wrapped around the door, he heard a faint noise. A very faint noise. Just loud enough for him to hear. It took a while until he could decipher what it was.

It was a sob. A small sob. Like it was getting muffled by, most likely, a palm. It wasn’t inside, however. It was by the boys' locker room. He lingered by the door, switching back and forth on whether to ignore the sound, or actually help.

He swore his mind went blank at that second. The bright light shone down to his eyes, basically blinding him. When he fluttered them open and rubbed away the foggy aftertaste of the much-too-glary light, he found a boy underneath the showers.

He had his knees pulled into his chest. His hands were cupped over his calves with his nails digging into his skin roughly. Danny winced at how harsh it was, watching at the red-rawstrokes been left behind by his blood-drawing cuts.

Danny’s first instinct was to hold up his arm and lunge towards him. He desperately wanted to grab onto his wrist to make him stop. But he finds himself just scrunching up the fabric of his shorts. Unmoving.

“H-Hey…?” he says in a near-inaudible whisper. The other boy’s head jolts up in an instant, to reveal his bruise-stained face. He recoiled in fear, quick enough to slam against the dirty tiles of the bathroom. “N-No I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“That’s what they all say…” his voice was low and husky. Wiping away a trail of blood dripping by his lips, he gazed up at Danny. He created an aura of hatred, just from the split moment of contact, but he could see through it. He could see that tiny crack in the corner, revealing a much softer, fearful state of mind that he was really in. And he felt pretty bad too.

“I-I’m sorry for what happened…” she crouched over to him. His palm left his side, just to hover above the unknown boy’s knee. He wanted to show affection, to let him know that everything was going to be okay, but he barely knew him. Shit, he didn’t even know his name.

“What am I doing?” he snickered. It somewhat took Danny by surprise, and he found his body easing down to the ground. “I’m really coming off rude, aren’t I?” he grumbled and shook his head. “I always seem to do that. I’m sorry...for that.”

“I-It’s okay,” he ran his fingers through his cowlicked hair. “...Danny…”

He took out a hand and placed it between them. The other boy stared down at it oddly.

“Jason,” he shook it rather loosely. They exchanged glances of greeting, but Danny received it rather stiffly. “Sorry again, for this stupid meeting,” he dabbed his bright red cheek with his sleeve. “I really didn’t expect anyone to come here after school. I thought everyone else would be at the game.”

“Sports is not my thing,” he shrugged. “I can barely do a handstand.”

Jason chuckled.

“But it's like mandatory,” he folded his arms on top of his knees. "Well not really," he gestured. "But what the heck, I might bother to go after." There was a slight pause. Danny watched Jason move his hand up and down his black jeans. He couldn't tell whether he was cold or uncomfortable. Maybe a little down. Probably all three. “What are you doing here anyway?”

Danny snapped back into reality and moved his eyes towards his.

“I was asked to get a few things for Courtney,” he explained. Jason hummed.

“Queen bee,” he joked, letting a minimal smile creep onto his lips. “Does she use you as a slave or something?”

“Oh nah, she’s my neighbour,” he pressed his palm onto the icy ground. “She’s a lot nicer than what most people expect.”

“She’s also a lot dumber,” he cackled. Danny eyed him somewhat harshly, making the other brunette gulp. Parting his lips, he looked as if he was about to speak, but Danny cracked up too.

“Okay, I’ll give you that,” he snorted. Jason gave a sigh of relief, bringing his hand to his chest, before bursting out into laughter himself.

"You got me there," he snickered. He shifted his weight towards his hand as he lifted himself up. Danny watched him with somewhat confusion. "Are you coming? We might miss the game."

"W-We're going like...now...?" he muttered, mimicking his move. Jason raised an eyebrow.

"Of course! It's like school tradition. We basically have to," Danny shrugged.

"Fine, fine. But I need to get Courtney's things first."

They exchanged one last glance. Jason had a faint smile, and Danny replied with a lopsided smile himself.

Chapter Text

Danny watched Jason rock back and forth on his feet, like his strength was rotating from his ball to his heel. He had an expression of excitement as he watched the field. It was filled with 2 teams, separated by the two different school colours; blue and red. Danny gazed at the intertwining colours, all fanned across the green grass field.

“Yes! You can do it Matt!”

 

Danny snapped his attention over to Jason, who was screaming at the top of his lungs. His upper body was basically hanging over the rails, and Danny wondered if this was even safe. He was waving overdramatically, fist pumping and pointing towards one of the goals.

“I didn’t know you were so into sports,” he snickered, coiling his fingers around the steel railings. Jason shrugged stiffly.

“A-A little,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “I’m a cheerleader after all.”

“A cheerleader who can’t do a handstand,” he snorted. Jason shot him a look of anger, his brows crinkling together. “Why are you so interested anyway?”

Jason proceeds to eye the football player who, at the time, had a ball in his right hand. Danny couldn’t deny it, he was a pretty good looking guy. No matter how much he denied his own sexuality. He had light brunette locks gelled back in a sleek manner. He had the bluest eyes that were so prominent and so beautiful, even from far away, and even when squinted like they were then as he fought against the wind blowing into his eyes. There was something about him that gave an aura of calmness. In a way, he looked so serene, even though he was running at lightning speed. Though his features were robust and strong, he had a sprinkle of pink across his cheeks, making him look a tad softer and gentle.

“Are you checking him out?” Jason suddenly asked. The simple question sent trickles of fear through Danny. He shuddered at his spine cracking apart to then reassemble stiffly. He felt a sudden blast of air travelling up his throat like some air vent.

“N-No. Of course not. Why would I? I don’t swing that way,” Danny bit down on his lip nervously as he watched Jason raise an eyebrow.

“Dude, it was just a joke. Calm down,” he smirked, rubbing his thumb over Danny’s shoulder. The younger boy took a sigh of relief, leaning his folded arms over the rails. “But everyone knows about that.”

“Everyone knows about what?” he cocked a shoulder. Jason snickered.

“You know? That,” he nudged on. When Danny obliviously blinked, he groaned and rolled his eyes. “You’re fucking gay. Everyone knows it.”

“W-What--?!”

“Calm down,” he tried to soothe him by stroking down his arm. “Everyone says it. There’s no point in trying to deny it.”

“W-Was it Brad? Did he start this?” he snapped his head towards him. Jason held up his palms defensively.

“Dude, calm down,” he knitted his brows together. “I’m not judging, seriously. At all. You don’t need to fight back so much.”

“I-I’m sorry…” he faced his body over to the field and brought his hand to his lips. He felt his heated fingers bounce along his quivering bottom lip. “I didn’t mean--”

“It’s fine,” his voice was slightly pointed, but it had the tint of sympathy. “I know what it’s like…”

“D-Do you really?” he was almost whispering, maybe because he didn’t really want him to hear, or maybe it was because he wasn’t alone for once and he wasn’t ready to take the next step.

“Why else do you think I have these bruises?” he ended his sentence with a laughter, but Danny knew that it was forced. He could pick up on the smallest specks of hurt.

“...I’m sorry to hear that…” he mumbled, his eyes tracing the long line of purple-blue stains. It started by his jawline, dying a painful path down to his collarbones. It became darker and harsher, all the way to the skin tucked underneath his shirt.

Jason let out a long sigh, easing his back into a hunch as he gazed over to the field. His eyes were slightly squinted, the blinding lights beaming towards him harshly. The stadium’s large glares seemed to dim out the background, like there was an aura of focus and admiration cloaked over Jason’s silhouette.

Danny felt his lips part, either from awe, or to speak, but no words seemed to pipe out. He, instead, clasped his hands together and watched him draw out a smile.

“Hell yeah Matt!” he suddenly craned up, cheering. He pumped his fist into the air, bouncing excitedly as he screamed at the top of his lungs.

The crowd behind them were doing the same, yelling and shouting tensely. Their radiating cries pressed up against Danny’s back, basically straining him between the metal fence.

“We won! We fucking won!” Jason threw his arms around Danny, pulling him tightly into his chest. The younger boy could feel his voice echoing through his head. “You know who did it?! Fucking Matt! Of course he did!” he parted to reveal the widest smile. “Argh god, he’s so great.”

“Woah there, don’t be so subtle about your feelings for him,” he teased. Jason turned around and placed his hand onto his head. With his fingers intertwining with his locks, he tossed it up messily.

“Shut up Danny,” he slurred, snorting. His eyes dart over to the field, which was now dwindling in number.

Some of the players had hoisted Matt into the air, cheering loudly and celebrating. The brunette was in a fit of laughter, and his back eased back onto their palms.

Danny watched Dan dash over to Courtney, who had just hopped off of the human pyramid (where she was the top, of course). He lifted her up into the air, and gave her a light twirl as she pressed her lips against his lovingly.

“You coming to the after party?” Jason perked up, parting the metal rails. Danny snapped back into reality and trailed after him.

“U-Uh nah…” he scratched the back of his neck. “Not my scene. Plus, Courtney goes all “mom-mode” on me whenever I’m at parties.”

“Cute,” he noted, laughing. They both descended a small stair case, leading towards the underground floor.

“It seems so on paper. But she won’t leave me alone for the whole night! Nonetheless drink, smoke or dance,” he pouted, crossing his arms.

“She’s just looking after you,” he nudged him gently, though Danny caressed his own aching chest after. As the younger boy parted his lips to speak, he was cut off by Jason dashing away so suddenly.

He had run over to Matt, who was by himself at the time. There was a towel wrapped around his neck, with one end held up towards his forehead as he wiped away his sweat.

Jason had the most exaggerated gestures, but it seemed like Matt was enjoying it, from the way he bursted out into laughter and clutched his shoulder for support. The football player proceeded to peer up at him, a wide grin by his lips. He watched Jason gulp, straighten his back and flush a little redder, which made him chuckle again.

Danny just decided to leave them alone, giving him a tiny wave goodbye as he left the stadium. Zipping up his jacket and then shoving his hands into his pocket, he took one last glance towards the bright hallways of the floor beneath the main stadium.

Matt’s eyes were constantly boomeranging back and forth, observing every inch of the area in his vision. He tried to cover it up, but the brunette could tell easily, and Danny knew that he was getting more and more worried. Jason bent down to his view and muttered something, that Danny interpreted as a worrisome comment. He replied with a small shake of the head and crinkled brows. There seemed to be a moment of silence, like they were swallowing or exhaling. Maybe both.

Danny figured that they were feeling very conscious, especially since they were in such a populated area. He understood. Completely. It seemed as if anyone who was different was shamed and damned. And maybe that’s what Danny hated about himself the most. The fact that it got to him every single time.

Chapter Text

Danny remembered it. Much too vividly. The way the preacher ruffled his hair lightly, just enough to toss his dark locks over his forehead. That's when the light was peeking through just a tad. The rays were piercing through the colourfully stained glass like it was cracking apart the confinements of the church. Danny could imagine himself. Petite. Young. Innocent. As he peered up at him with the widest smile.

He remembers wearing that tight, black tux. Its cool, sheer fabric laced along his warm body. His heartbeat was at a slow, lagato pace, like it was ticking away at the rhythm of his watch.

“You're a special boy”

The preacher's words were low and husky, but it seemed to be lined with calming motivation. It was enough for Danny to believe it. To take it in and create a wider smile. To fuel his cheeks to fluster into a peachy shade.

...to fool him. To deceive him. To make him believe that he wouldn't be hated. Wouldn't be damned. Wouldn't be left to rot in hell.

Danny shook his head. He'd let his thoughts drive him off again into some nostalgic nightmare. His back felt cooler against the cream coloured walls. Just enough to pluck his nerves and ease him into his bed.

COURTNEY: Danny

COURTNEY: Danny?

COURTNEY: Danny please pick up

Danny groaned into his hands, his palms wiping away his heated face. It was like sweat brushed along his cheeks and forehead, creating a thick coat of uncomfort. He swung his arm over to his nightstand to lazily drag in his still buzzing phone.

DANNY: yeah?

COURTNEY: you’re not at the party, right?

The blue light rays were keeping his eyes open. It was if they were piercing apart his eyelids, though there was still a feeling of drowsiness and tiresomeness over the rest of his limp body.

DANNY: no

DANNY: wouldn’t you know that?

COURTNEY: …

DANNY: aren’t you there?

The boy stared at his screen, the three floating dots jabbing him in the chest with nerves. It was a slow reply, to say the least. Courtney couldn’t be in trouble...right…? It wasn’t like her to not attend an after party; she was the head cheerleader.

Even though Courtney’s a year older, it’s not like he missed the obvious implications of her reign in the school. The students would part like the red sea whenever she would walk down the halls. He swore that a few have scattered away if she’s in the hands of Dan.

In a way, he hated it. He hated high school stereotypes and how typical his own school seemed to be. What made it worse was that his childhood friend was a part of it too. Maybe his life seemed much more typical than he thought.

And it was a shame, really, knowing that people go through the same thing he does. But then again, Jason’s a living, breathing example of that.

COURTNEY: I went home with Dan…

DANNY: don't tell me you’ve

DANNY: …

DANNY: you know…

There was a pause, and that was easy enough for Danny to know exactly what was going on. His thumbs began to tap the keyboard frantically, but he was cut off by his phone ringing in his palms.

“Courtney”

There was a picture of her on his screen. It was of her back in preparatory school. She was cloaked by the old uniform, and no matter how much Danny hated the stupid ashy-red and stain-prone white, Courtney looked good in it. Courtney looked good in anything. She had the widest smile, but it was half covered by her hand, which was in the motion of being brought up to her lips because she was eating.

He sometimes missed Courtney. Not because she’d changed. But because they don’t seem to hang out much anymore. She seemed to always be busy, with friends, work and school. And he seemed too be busy too. With his own thoughts.

“Yeah?” he answered the call. On the other side, he heard a faint sniff and mumble.

“C-Can you walk me back home…?” her voice was cracking. Danny swallowed.

“Are you still at Dan’s?” his voice was minimal too, and he decided not to ask any questions, even though they were painfully bouncing within his throat, wanting to be let out.

“Mhm…” Courtney hummed.

“Is his house the one near the park?” he began to slide himself out of bed.

“Yeah...we had the grand final’s after party there…” she explained. Danny nodded to himself.

“Got it. I’ll be right there.”

Danny ended the call. Grabbing his jacket hanging lopsided by his door knob, he swiftly wrapped it around him, shoving his phone into the pockets in the process. He zipped it up as he kicked open the door and rushed downstairs.

“Where do you think you’re going?” his mom piped up. The teenager flipped his head over to see her lowering her glasses to her nose to inspect him. She had propped her book down on the counter and crinkled her eyebrows. “It’s late.”

“Courtney’s in trouble,” he explained, a little frustrated. He swung his hood over his hair.

“Well why don’t you get your Roy to drive you? Don’t you think it’s dangerous to be out at night?” she sipped her mug of tea. "I'm sure he won't mind."

“But he’s asleep and he’ll get mad if I wake him up,” he reached towards the door.

“I can see the light in his room on,” she moved aside the curtains to let Danny peer through. The room on the second floor had light piercing through the blinds. The view was slightly restricted, but Danny could make out a few things; like his desk filled with paper (most likely scripts), his computer with multiple sticky notes, a makeup bag, and a few props like helmets and fake swords. He sure was a theatre kid.

“I-I’ll get Roy. I don’t really know if he would like to…” he twisted the knob and pushed forward.

The cold night’s air instantly hit him. He could feel shivers travelling from the back of his neck to his spine. Pinching his collar, he closed the door behind him and rushed over to the next house, which seemed much too far.

It was like the air was twisting between the weaved cotton in his trousers. He could feel the hairs on his arms stand up. He exhaled. The coldness did a great job of waking him up, if he wanted to note the positives.

He knocked on the door of the strangely-familiar house. He hadn’t gone to his house in years. Last time he did...well...Danny doesn't want to talk about that. Either way, it had been about 3 years since he’s visited, and he had missed the scenery.

He had the most stereotypical republican house. Painted pure white; small flowers sprouted in swirling cascades underneath their front windows; silk-like, rich curtains seeping through the window frame; a smooth, perfectly sanded down verandah; a standard, block-like architecture.

Danny would love to live in a house like that. He would imagine, when he was older, he would be living in a place just like the one in front of him. Grand and classic. Maybe in the arms of a handsome husband. Maybe in a neighbourhood where they would accept him. And maybe, just maybe, he could truly be happy with who he was.

But shit, what the fuck was he thinking? It was probably the mix of the cold night air and his sleepy thoughts throwing him off again. It always seemed like his dreams would get in his way.

“Oh hey Danny,” Roy had opened the door, eliminating the air between them.

The younger boy flushed at the sight. He had his short hair tossed messily, like he had just woken up, or he was lying around in bed for a while. He was wearing a loose grey tank top, with the thick straps cuffed on his shoulders lopsidedly. Danny could easily pick up on the unshaven stubble around his chin, and he couldn’t tell whether he liked it too much or not.

“S-Sorry Roy,” he cleared his throat and nuzzled his chin towards his chest. “I just got a phone call from Courtney and she’s...in trouble. I think.”

He hummed and stretched over to his jacket hanging over the coathanger. Putting it on, he dangled the keys tucked within his pockets between his fingers. He teased it in front of Danny’s view before entering into the night as well.

“And you want me to drive you?” he asked, shutting the door behind him.

“Y-Yeah...I’m really sorry about this…” he trailed after him, the two approaching a BMW parked by the street.

“It’s okay,” he unlocked the vehicle and swooped himself into the driver’s seat. “Isn’t she at the party?”

“No…” he tightened the seat belt, enough to make himself feel overly secure. “She went home with Dan…”

“Oh,” he coughed and started up the car. “Do you think they're bad news?”

“What do you mean?” Danny’s nails hooked around the seat belt.

“I don’t know. Sometimes I think that they’re all for show, you know? Head cheerleader and quarterback. Seems too picturesque for me,” Danny replied with a nod and a hum.

He had never really thought about it deeply. Like the rest of the school, it was almost like he digested it as cold hard truth. Maybe because it was a lot easier to just accept it. Danny wondered if stereotypes exist because it was so much easier to have them around. Less thought, I guess.

“Uhh you okay…?” Roy wavered one of his hands in front of him. Danny blinked and shook his head. “...do you know what picturesque means?” they both cackled in unison. Danny slapped his arm playfully and felt his fingers drum along his shoulders. They lingered a little longer than he had intended, and he pondered as if it was awkward or not. “Do you think Courtney’s in major trouble?”

“Well...she sounded like she was crying on the phone,” Danny bit down on his lip and tore away his fingertips to stick them into his pockets.

“That’s a shame…” he pursed his lips. “We’ve grown up with Court. She had so much potential.”

“What do you mean? I thought she was going fine,” he played with the loose ends of his sleeve. Roy let out a sigh.

“You’re not in her classes so you don’t understand,” he rubbed his temples, either from growing frustration or due to his half-asleep state. “She can be a little...ditsy. You know?”

“I can’t talk. You’re the only smart one out of us three,” Danny said, somewhat seriously, but Roy chuckled anyway.

“Either way, she’s easily led. Have you seen her friends?” he rolled his eyes. “I doubt she’ll be “pure” forever.”

“Is she starting to drink? Smoke?” Roy shook his head both times.

“You know Willam…?” Danny nodded. “Think about her for a second.”

Danny never really got to know Willam on a personal level. He had sort of labelled her as “Courtney’s friend” and nothing else. From what he saw, she was pretty slow, in the best way possible. Maybe it was her low, slurring voice. She was funny, but her jokes always seemed to come in at the wrong times. Her style of comedy was...a little dark. But she was a complete joy...

...after ten shots and a red bull. She seemed much more lively (to say the least) at their weekly get-togethers. Bonfire parties seemed to be much too prevalent within their social structure. Like it was some sort of church, except on Fridays not Sunday. Danny knew that some people swore by the idiotic parities like it was some sort of cult. A drunken, drug-filled, sexed up cult.

And maybe that’s why Danny wouldn’t be surprised if Courtney found herself in the crowd, though he would be upset if she was to.

“She’s okay…” he mumbled. Roy snarled.

“Well she’s known to be…” he ran his fingers through his hair. “...on the other team.”

“Oh,” he cleared his throat and glanced away. Danny knew it. Completely. He’s gone to church with him and his family. He knew his upbringings, but he wanted to believe in otherwise.

He also knew that he couldn’t change people’s minds easily, but he wished and prayed upon it anyway.

“I know a lot of people in our school hate her because of it. A shame, really. She seemed pretty cool,”

Danny couldn’t really tell if he kept on talking or not. It turned more muffled and muffled as his chest ached more and more. Stereotypes exist for a reason, like how teenagers over react and are over emotional. And maybe so, but he just wanted to convince Roy that the church may not be the brightest good in the world, so all the pain pulsing through his body would stop. So all the overemotional, angsty pain would stop.

Chapter Text

The outside world was completely dark. Pitch black. Danny could just make out the houses on either side of the road, and since none of their lights were on, it made the earth look like it was turned off.

“Hey, there’s Courtney!” Roy swooped the car over to the side of the road.

They both unbuckled their seatbelts and rushed over to her in a hurry. Danny felt his feet sickling into one another as he stumbled towards her. Roy crouched over and placed a hand onto her shoulder, making her peer up. Danny flinched. Her eyes were bloodshot and bright red. Her face seemed heated and swollen, like it was pulsing with pain. Danny could feel her heartbeat, racing and sprinting, the moment he brushed his fingers across her shoulders to her neck.

“R-Roy…?” she sniffed and brought the jacket cloaked over her body closer to her. “Danny...you came…”

“Of course,” he shook his head and plastered on a concerned face. He tried to hide the shock that seemed to overcome him.

“I’m sorry…” she pulled her folded arms over her knees. Roy stood upright and held out a hand. Courtney gladly took it and hopped up.

Danny stayed silent. Roy was always a lot better at cheering people up, even though he was often cold and borderline-sociopathic. He guided her over to their car. Danny gladly gave up his front seat to take up the middle seat behind them.

Courtney pulled out her phone from her pocket and gave herself a check. She exhaled. Danny knew that she wasn’t happy with the way she looked. She puffed up her hair and rubbed her eyes. Damp tears were still lingering by her waterline, even though she scratched at it with her long, pink-coloured nails. She ran her view towards her lips. Only the lipliner seemed to stay. Wiping it away painfully, she sniffed again and locked her phone.

“Is it okay if we do a little bit of a detour?” Roy perked up, rolling down the visor to take a look at Danny. He gave a light wink, and he felt his face heat up uncontrollably.

“Sure…” Courtney muttered, moving aside a lock of hair. She cleared her throat and swallowed. She achingly stretched a smile, and Danny could easily pick apart her facade. She was cracking apart in front of him, and he wanted to look away. He really did. But he couldn’t. His vision was glued onto her, like the mixture of guilt, concern and worry was creating a thick paste of discomfort that trapped him.

“I don’t mind,” Danny replied. Roy smiled wider.

“Good,” he turned the corner hastily, and the other two slammed into the side of the door. They both shrieked. Courtney gasped and grasped onto her seat belt, frantically trying to sit up right. Danny’s hands coiled around the back of the seats as he screamed through the gap.

Roy bursted out into laughter.

“How the fuck did you get your license?!” Courtney yelled. Danny felt a tickle of a chuckle within his throat. “I swear to god! If you do that again!”

Danny couldn’t help it. His cheeks gave up from the pressure. He laughed, louder than he had in awhile. His stomach clenched as he let the swirls of laughter roll out of his tongue. When he wiped away a tear and snorted, he saw both older teenagers look towards him. Courtney seemed a little annoyed, but Roy was enjoying himself. A little too much.

“He seemed to like it,” Roy nudged. Courtney combed her fingers through her hair.

“I-It’s just her expression!” he cackled, bringing his hand to his lips.

Courtney pouted and crossed her arms over her chest. Roy replied with another jab to her upper arm and a smirk. Danny seemed to finally settle into smaller snickers and snorts. It really was like they were young again. Like they were before. When things were simpler.

But then, Danny thought about it. Were things ever simple? It seemed as if the mindset that he was given was always there. His neighbourhood was always like that. The other students at his school seemed to act like the same young students at his old schools. Like dicks. And nothing was different.

They say that being a child was much easier, but maybe he was never really given a chance to grow up. That was Danny’s excuse anyway, the more that he thought about it.

“Here we are,” Roy suddenly stopped the car, making everyone jolt forward. Snickering, he undid the seatbelt and kicked open the door.

Courtney and Danny peered outside. At first, he could only make out a fence. It began straight, but the further his eyes travelled, it became more bent, damaged and rusty. Then it hit him. No wonder it was so familiar.

“Why are we at school?” Courtney stepped outside of the car.

“Because,” Roy ran his hands over his trousers to clean them. “It’s the most refreshing place I know. Or we could go to a church of something,” the two shook their heads frantically. “That’s what I thought.”

Roy ran his fingers at the metal fencing. Yanking it up firmly, he created a small gap between the damp soil and jagged wire.

“Ladies first,” he gestured over. Courtney rolled her eyes, and crouched over.

“Don’t look,” she furrowed her brows, brushing down the miniskirt of her uniform.

Roy turned his attention over to Danny, who was slowly wriggling out of the car. He cleared his throat and rushed over behind Courtney.

“You go next,” Roy wavered his hand and the younger boy squirmed over to the other side.

“Where are we going?” the blonde still had her frustrated look on her face, as she cleaned the dirt off of her uniform.

“Just up there,” Roy pointed over to where the hill began to curve upwards towards a somewhat-far-off building.

“Hey! That’s where Jason and his group sits,” Courtney enthused. Danny smiled at the familiar name.

“I don’t think Danny’s ever been around here before,” Roy joked, taking a seat by the lump of the grassy hill.

“Yeah, only for PE,” he shrugged. “You know how Gia hates the outdoors.”

“Absolutely,” he slurred her catchphrase jokingly, the familiar nasally voice making his nose twitch. The three laughed together.

“What are your thoughts on Jason and his group?” Courtney asked, shimmying her way out of her jacket. She looked towards both the guys, who were easing into much more comfortable positions.

“Eh, I think they’re fine. I’m probably the closest to Kurtis. We’ve worked on an English project together,” Roy answered, exhaling into his hands to warm them up.

“What about you, Danny?” Courtney fanned her jacket over her knees.

“I don’t know most of them…” he forced out a chuckle. “I am a year younger.”

“I saw you talking to Jason today at the game,” Courtney grinned. Roy looked over to him and raised an eyebrow.

“I met him when…” he gasped. “Oh shit! I forgot your stuff at my house,” he face palmed himself. “My mom probably thinks I’m some…” he swallowed, “Fag,” he spat the word, leaving a bitter aftertaste. “Because I have a girl’s bag in my room,” he rolled his eyes and achingly cleared his throat. It was like a lump of guilt was stuck within his Adam’s apple. “What’s in the bag anyway?”

“I’m going to Willam’s house tomorrow so I need to bring some stuff,” she shrugged. Danny hummed.

“Is Alaska coming?” Roy asked, his tone a little flat.

“Nah, she’s with Sharon that day,” she answered. Danny eyed him oddly, trying to decipher what he’s trying to hint at. His mind linked together Roy’s earlier words, and he felt his body stiffen and his lips press together. He knew what was going to happen next, and his mind began to race for another conversation topic.

“You hang out with Willam a lot…” Roy mumbled. Courtney tipped her head to the side.

“Well yeah. She’s my best friend,” she shrugged. “What are you trying to say?”

“Maybe the people you’re hanging out with is…” Roy brought his hand to cup his chin. “...not the best influence…”

“Why?” Courtney basically shrieked. “Alaska and Willam are great! You just don’t know them well.”

“I know that Alaska is “friends” with Sharon. Aka the biggest druggo, as you Aussies call it, goth in our school. And we all know that there’s more to that relationship,” he rolled his eyes.

“What is that supposed to mean?” she cocked a shoulder and thinned her lips.

“I’m saying that she’s--” he gave a long-sufferable sigh. “--she’s a homo.”

“Roy you can’t just--!”

“I’m not blaming her!” he threw his fist onto the ground. “It’s probably Sharon’s fault! Who knows?!” when Courtney’s bottom lip began to quiver, he gave one more exhale to try and calm his nerves. “...I-I’m sorry Courtney. I didn’t mean to upset you…”

“Well yeah, whatever,” she crossed her arms.

“...I just don’t want you to turn out like them. Have you seen how they treat Jason?” Roy glanced away.

“Maybe it’s because he’s a cheerleader. Aren’t they all rumours?” Courtney looked towards Danny, like she was asking him the question. He replied with a nervous shrug.

“N-No...it’s not all rumours,” Danny responded, tucking his chin towards his chest.

“See? I don’t want you to be in the same boat as them. They’re good guys, I know, but we’ve seen how harsh some people can be,” Courtney collapsed onto her back and stretched out her arms. She let out a lazy doze, like it was a mixture of annoyance and fatigue exhaling out.

“Why does this town suck so much?” she complained, lying onto her side.

“It’s not that bad. It’s how the world works. God punishes you if you do the wrong thing. Rules don’t disappear just because you move,” Roy hunched his back and lowered himself onto the grass.

“Why does God want to hate…” Danny halted when Roy looked up at him. Maybe it was the angle, but the way his eyes twinkled made him curl up on the inside. “...people...born for the way they are…?” Roy just parted his lips. He didn’t answer. “Why can’t we ever be...happy?”

“Don’t be stupid Danny,” he whispered. The younger boy gnawed on his bottom lip. Easing himself down to the ground, he eyed Roy, face to face, as if he couldn’t tell him that he was in pain with actual words. “...as long as we don’t sin. We’ll be happy. We’ll be okay.”

“So sinners can never be happy?” Danny had the tiniest tint of hope, though it was dimming quickly. Roy shook his head, but it seemed a tad harrowing for him too.

“Maybe not…” he muttered, his voice ever so quiet. “...I hope they can be…”

There was a moment of silence. Or moments. Danny couldn’t tell anymore. Every moment was either going too quickly or too slowly. Danny couldn’t tell if it was timeless or an eternity. He was too caught up on Roy’s words.

Roy seemed to be the only one who says the right things out of the three. It was always like that when they were younger. So he must be right again. Right?

Sins are there for a reason, from what he learnt. He was told that it was wrong, so it must be wrong. Why would people lie to him? Was the world that complicated to begin with? People didn’t bully people like Jas--him-- for no reason. Right?

“But hey…” Courtney began, piercing through the thick air. “I’ll be nice to anyone who’s like that. They’re born that way. And I want to make them happy.”

“Me too,” Danny turned around and exchanged smiles with her.

“I’ll try my best,” Roy settled into a grin. Courtney gasped and giggled.

“I knew you had it in you,” the blonde smiled. Roy felt a smile widen too.

“Well if I was to be friends with anyone who is, I don’t want to ruin our friendship,” he explained. He looked over to Danny, and the younger boy couldn’t decipher whether he was hinting towards him or it was an invite for him to speak up.

“Me too,” a faint smile was now appearing by his lips.

Roy had now taken his eyes off of him and now towards the stars. And though Danny could make out the few specks of light behind him, he disregarded it as another trail to lead him towards Roy. His expression was much calmer now, probably because the fighting was over, and there was a sweeter note playing. It felt serene. Calm. Right.

And of course Danny was glad that it was over too, but he was even happier to see Roy so adequate. It’s just his face...it always made him feel better.

He could feel the cool grass waver beneath him, giving him a rush of relief and comfort. He couldn’t decide on whether it was the moon; luring him, seducing him like some sort of high; or his unwanted feelings for Roy, which made him feel all the more complete. Either way, he didn’t want his dopamine burst to ever go out.

It was him, Roy and Courtney. Together again. Like they were young again. Danny scrunched up his fingers through the thick, overgrown grass and then exhaled, releasing his grip and the tension building within his spine. His eyes guided up towards the stars, looking ever so bright and ever so dream-like. But maybe the thought of Roy accepting him, was like a dream in a way.

Chapter Text

Danny felt a rush of coolness bullet down his neck. Slamming the door behind him, he pressed his back against the smooth wooden surface of his bedroom. It seemed as if a couple of hours had passed by the time he blinked.

Tossing his jacket aside by his chair, he gave a long, satisfying exhale as he eased himself into his bed. He pondered if his body looked as if it had been bathed in grass and dirt, but after a millisecond, he realised he didn’t care. Not even a tiny bit.

What was on his mind though, was Courtney. He honestly couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. The two of them have been friends for years. He’s not going to lie, he’s seen her upset before. A few times actually. But nothing like this.

She’s never asked him to come and pick her up. Nor has she ever cried over the phone. And it makes him think. Makes him worry. About what really happened to her. Dan wasn’t known to be too much of a dick. Sure he’s the quarterback but he’s no asshole, from what Danny's picked up. He can be a little soft spoken at times and a little bit of a goofball. Danny would never describe him as an aggressive person.

He also thought about Willam and their relationship. It seemed so far fetched that Courtney would be...well...like him. Maybe it was because Danny thought it was only him. He was the only like him around here. He didn’t realise that it wasn’t so rare after all.

Shaking his head he snapped his attention over to the clock. 4:00AM. He hadn’t realised how carried away they had gotten. Who knew that he would be sneaking into his own school of all places? He sighed to himself, the warm air bouncing between his body and the covers. Though his body was tired, his mind was wideawake. His eyes began to shift down lower towards his bedside table.

There were a couple of textbooks he had to painfully take home from school. An empty coke can, with a prominent dent by the torso. A lamp, the shades a little torn from his not-so-delicate touch (he knew how reckless he could be). And...well...a mood ring. He was surprised that he had left it lying there, especially because he hadn’t touched it since...well he doesn't really remember. Maybe sometime when he was cleaning out his things. He got it when Courtney had snuck into his room. Years and years and years ago.

Danny dubbed those days as “The Worst Holiday of His Life”. Courtney had gone with her family back to Australia for a few weeks, keeping him quite lonely in terms of talking buddies. Sure, Roy was around, but he liked to hang out with some of the older boys and Danny couldn’t blame him.

But because of that, he stayed inside for most of his days. He would play his video games and draw until...well he never seemed to stop. He just let his imagination flow. He even started to write a few thoughts down, wondering if he should start writing stories or songs. But his isolation would also lead his mother to worry about him. He wished that he would have retaliated, looking back, but he didn’t. He loved his mom. A lot. So he just swallowed and did as instructed.

She suggested the park to see a few of the kids around the area, and he just nodded. He figured that it seemed pretty stiff, but either his mom didn't notice or she ignored it. He really hated the kids. A lot. He sometimes wished he could go elsewhere. Maybe far, far away with his mom, taking Roy and Courtney with him. But of course reality kicked in. And it had other plans for him.

He had brought along his sketchbook to draw while he was there. He wanted to finish off his latest artwork, and he figured, maybe being outside wasn’t so bad. Well, that’s what he thought at the time anyway, when he was trying to be more optimistic. He couldn't be any more wrong.

He had found a comfortable spot by a bench. It was far from the playground, meaning he could be partially hidden, but close enough to count as “being in the park”. He was technically there.

Danny remembers opening up his book and grabbing his pencil from his pocket. He had started to trace around his character’s hair, making it a tiny bit longer than before. He could feel his cheeks rising into a smile as he gave a glance around and continued.

“What a fag!”

But he also remembers his smile disappearing. Wiped away in a second. He could still hear the painful teasing, and the shadows crowding around him. It seemed all too vivid. Danny still knew these kids. All too well. He still sees glimpses of them in the hallways and at lunch and he still cowards away. They looked just like they do now, just shorter, younger and more tame.

The words still hurt him like a bitch. But that was only the beginning. One of them had slapped the notebook. He can still see it. The way it toppled onto the ground. The way his character was dulled with dirt. The way they were laughing. It echoed through his ears. Night after night.

One had pulled on his hair, and it was if his locks were wheezing away, snapping loose as he scattered away. The young Danny glanced up at them, his view fogged with tears. He wondered why. Why they would do this. Why they wouldn’t leave him alone, but no matter how many times he had asked, it was the same answer.

“Because you’re a sinner”

And it would shut him up every time. He remembers slipping beneath their stances, swiftly snatching his book off of the ground. He could feel his knees buckling as he bolted away. Not looking back. Not because they were chasing after him. Not because they were screaming at him; that had died away the further he ran. But because Roy was there to see everything, and he did absolutely nothing.

He had watched. Just stood there. Probably in the middle of some hide and seek round. They were 8 after all. So what more did he expect? What more does he expect now? Maybe nothing has changed.

Danny snickered. Roy used to look so cute when he was younger. He had a small, circular face. His dimples used to be as evident as ever. He’d always had the most perfect teeth, which Danny used to be so envious of. As he grew up, he just learnt to admire them.

But his smile was quickly wiped off. He remembers sneaking into his house, ever so quietly so his mom wouldn’t realise. He rushed into his room, closed the door gently and just bursted into tears. Right then and there. The muffled sound of his palms still felt somewhat familiar to this day.

He had collapsed onto his side, his fingers scrunching up the carpet of his rug. Popping earphones into his ears, he drowned out the outside world. He remembers closing his eyes, tears leaking as he crinkled them shut. The sound would pulse through his body as he curled up tighter and bit down on his lip. Maybe enough to draw out blood.

But he didn’t care. He didn’t care about anything at that point. At all.

“Danny! Danny! Open up!”

He had just heard the faintest shouting. He hurried up and pulled aside his IPod to glance up. Courtney was by his verandah, banging her fist against the doorframe. The younger boy raised his eyebrow and rushed over to unlock it.

“Geez Danny! I was waiting out there for hours!" She bursted through the door and tumbled onto the ground. "Wait, hey, are you okay?” glancing up at him, she gave a loud gasp and cupped his cheeks. “Oh my god! You look like you’ve been crying for days!”

“Well…” he sniffed. “Feels like it…”

“Oh no!” she cried. Stretching out her sleeve, she wiped away his still lingering tears. “What happened?”

“Brad and them…” he pouted, sitting down by his bed to then cross his legs. Courtney took a spot next to him and stroked his arm.

“Don’t listen to them. They’re a bunch of--” she halted and pondered for a word. “U-Um, dumbos! That’s it! Some stupid hobos! Stupid bogons! Some dipsticks, I say.”

“I-I didn’t understand half the things you just said,” Danny blinked. Courtney puffed her cheeks and gave a long sigh. “You’ve been in Australia for too long.”

She gave a chuckle and pressed her lips together.

“Danny, promise me something,” she interlocked their fingers. Danny peered up at her and tipped his head to the side. “Don’t fight back. You’re just as bad if you start hurting them too,” she said, her voice a little lower. Danny thought about it for a second. “I’ll protect you. But you need to also learn to be strong, okay?”

“Okay Court,” he tried to grin. The blonde smiled wider.

“Good!” before Danny could reply with a stretch of his lips, she suddenly gasped again. “Wait!” she wiggled her fingers in front of his face. On her index finger was a small ring. It’s colours were a gradient, ranging from a light cyan to a deeper green. “It’s a mood ring! We got it when we went to Bathurst.”

“What does it do?” he stared at the shining colours. As she put in down to her lap, it proceeded to deepen and shift over to a much warmer tone of green.

“It changes with mood!” she beamed. “It was a blue before. Because I missed you and Roy and all. But now it’s a green! Because I’m happy!” she jiggled her finger and slipped off the ring. “You try it.”

“Umm…” he accepted it and proceeded to slither it onto one of his fingers. He waited excitedly to turn into a warmer hue. He was hoping for a violet or purple. Maybe a cute pink or fuschia. Or maybe something completely different. Fresh. Like teal or aqua.

But it didn’t happen. It dulled and dulled and kept on dulling. To the disappointment of Courtney. It turned to an ashy green, then to a grey then to a black. A deep black.

Danny’s bottom lip began to quiver.

“No wait!” Courtney snatched it off of him and hid in into her pocket. “I-it’s probably just cold. It does that for everyone. I sw--”

“It’s okay,” he cut her off. “Mood rings never work on me…”

“Don’t say that Danny…” she stroked his knee.

“Get your tickets now, it’s free,” he said sarcastically, dropping his head onto his hand. “You know how children always lose to tease,” he gave a long exhale and tried to hold in his tears. “...I’m not surprised if mood rings hate me too. I am "Sad Boy" after all.”

“Well I don’t hate you!” she shuffled closer and hugged him tightly. Danny, to this day, remembers how she squeezed him warmingly. Sometimes he wondered if she was the only one there for him. “You know what? When we go to middle school, a-and then high school, I’m going to become super super popular! You know why?”

“Why?” he peered up at her with glassy eyes.

“Because then I can rule the school. And I can finally tell them to back off,” she held him tighter. “I’ll promise you, that nothing will hurt you when that comes.”

Now, he would chuckle. Looking back, he found it borderline funny that they were so hopeful. Of course it was a lie. Of course it was wishful thinking. But at the time he believed it. Completely. With his whole heart. Like it was some religion.

Maybe because he had to believe it. It was sort of like a last hope for him. The last option. There were no more guiding lights to help him. No more hints. He was nearly out of lives.

“Courtney,” the younger him gazed up at her with the most thankful expression he could ever muster up. “Thank you! You’re my very best friend!”

That didn’t change however. No matter who he sat with, no matter how old he was, Courtney was always there for him, and he knew that he would never grow apart from her. Or he would fight for the position of her closest spot. Maybe, in a way, he alienated himself from Willam because of that reason. Because she was now Courtney's best friend. But in Danny's heart, he knew better. He knew the truth behind their friendship, which seemed covered by time. But it still seemed crystal clear to him.

Chapter Text

“Okay, but what about Kandy?”

Danny really didn't expected this to happen. Ever. He really thought that hanging out with the seniors was a one time thing. He thought Jason was a one time thing. Of course he had hung out with Courtney and Roy, but never during school. He thought he was trapped, like he was strapped to some electric chair, as the third wheel for Gia and Jay. He didn't hate them or anything like that. They'd shared the same class for a few consecutive years, along with houses fairly close to each other, so he'd grown to their company after a while. But, did they get too much at times? Yes. And were they too lovey dovey for his liking? Absolutely.

But maybe it was good to get away. They didn't seem to mind too much. Gia just replied with a shrug and a nod. She nudged him on with her signature high, nasally voice and patted him on the back (though he would describe it as more of a slap). Jay was a little taken back. He gave a little gasp, but covered it with a smack of his lips. Maybe it was his way to try and not offend Danny, but the shorter boy couldn't help to chuckle at the obvious envy behind his forced smile.

“Eh, she's okay. I've done a project with her,”

The school’s field felt much more lively during the day. The emerald green hue spread beneath him like an ocean, like its the crashing waves were foaming by his feet. But of course he lived in a strict, homey area. Miles and miles away from any sign of the sea. No sight of anything remotely crystal blue. Except for the little packet of blue meth found every month in some student’s locker.

The more Danny stared at the grass, however, the more he saw the twinkling droplets of water, still hanging onto a single lock of freshly trimmed stem. Maybe that's what the school spent their budget on, taking it away from the actual education, PE equipment, and canteen supplies.

“What about you Danny?” When the youngest member snapped back into reality. He found four sets of eyes looking towards him intently. “Do you hate anyone in your grade?”

Jason had nudged him, using the long sleeve of the leather jacket to hit him lightly on the forearm. He adjusted the thick black fabric wrapped around his shoulders to fit his body better. Most likely to shift Matt a little closer to him.

“Not really,” he shrugged. “Not really into hating a particular person.”

“See that's more like it,” the tallest of the group pointed over to him, nodding confidently. He flicked his silver locks out of his eyes and let out a hum. “See Kurtis? Not everyone’s as bitter as you are.”

“Oh shut up Max,” one of the other brunettes crossed his arms across his chest and pouted. “Maybe Danny’s in a better batch then we are.”

‘Well you’ve got that right’

Danny’s mind instantly went towards Brad and his friends. For someone in the football team, Matt didn't seem nearly as jerkish as the others. Or aggressive. Or...attentive…? He was nice, of course. He had a constant smile by his lips, but Danny couldn't deny how…’out of it’ he seemed nearly...well constantly. It started off somewhat cute, but it progressed to something a little odd. Maybe he'd gotten baked so much that he's permanently burnt or something.

“I'm more into hating my whole grade actually,” Danny interjected. He felt his lip curl up as Jason snorted and bursted out into laughter.

“Ha! See!” Kurtis clapped his hands and pointed towards Max. Jabbing his pointer finger by his chest, Danny couldn't help but to chuckle. The taller boy swatted his hand away and crinkled his brows. “Everyone's hateful. "Just not you". Because you're a liar.”

“Am not. I just prefer to live life optimistically,” he said, his accent short, prim and proper. Very articulate. Probably on the other side of the spectrum from Danny.

“That means “happy thoughts”, for you Matt, just in case you didn't understand,” Kurtis teased, snorting as he drummed his fingers over the football player’s shoulder. He returned with a glare, though he melted into a chuckle soon after.

“That's probably what you were thinking after you got your last haircut,” Jason poked his head to the side and cocked his neck sassily. Max gave a round of applause as he fell into a fit of laughter.

“You can't talk. You can't even pass as a closeted, you twink,” he dug, his hazel eyes going off of Jason to pass over to Danny. “So, you and Roy. Tell me about that. Should probably change the topic before football player over here punches me.”

“W-What?” he widened his eyes, the words barely crawling through. He was genuinely speechless for a second, but the others took it as a joke, and was quick to laugh it off.

“I've worked on stuff with him. Every single time some song came on, boom. Bam. Your name would come up,” he explained, an excited smirk appearing by his lips. “Oh ‘Danny’s super into that song’ or ‘I saw Danny perform this at our Christmas neighbourhood gathering’,” he flushed a little redder as Kurtis continued. “There has to be something, right? Plus, no theatre kid is straight. I refuse to believe it.”

“Pretty religious though,” Danny shrugged stiffly. “I was talking to him last night,” the whole group began to cat-call and whale jokingly. Jason poked his shoulder with his knuckle. “N-No we were just hanging out with Court,” he shook his head. “Anyway we were talking and...yeah, he wants to sort of stop being homophobic. But you know. Can't.”

“He’ll grow out of it. We all did,” Kurtis grinned towards him. Jason replied with a confident smile, alongside Matt, who was snuggled against his shoulder. Max gave a small glance over to him and stretched out a minimal smile. Small enough for Danny to wonder if he had even expressed anything at all.

“You should convince him before it’s too late,” Matt sighed, the smile disappearing a tad. Jason peered up at him, his lips parting in worry. Cupping his cheeks, he gave gentle strokes down his cheekbones. Danny felt both happy and uncomfortable. Maybe it was the religious beatings getting the better of him.

Matt replied with a quiet giggle, and embraced him back. He ran his fingers through his tousled hair, receiving an ease of a smile from his partner. He nuzzled the tip of his nose again his neck down to his collarbone, chuckling and giggling together as Matt brought him into a closer hug.

Danny couldn't decipher whether he was slightly jealous or flustered with discomfort. Seeing two gay men so happy in front of him made him feel slightly envious. Maybe he wanted to be that way too. Confident. Comfortable. Not single...

“They get more and more close minded as they age,” Max said in a low voice, shaking his head quickly to snap into a lighter mood. Stretching out a smile, he snickered. “Anyways, what do we have next period?”

Danny could pick up on the sudden mood change, and he knew he wasn't the only one. Matt glanced away, looking towards Danny for a quick second to see if he had understood too. Jason had just forced out an “umm” as if he was pondering for an answer to his question. Kurtis was already scrolling through his photostream to find his timetable.

“Uhh English,” he answered. Everyone immediately groaned.

“Are you serious? I swear we have English way too often,” Jason rolled his eyes.

“Tell me about it. If Miss Purvis slaps me for falling asleep again, I swear to god,” Matt laughed.

“Well maybe you shouldn't fall asleep in class…?” Max teased, snorting.

“You can't blame me! She makes us listen to an audio book!” He cried, pouting. “What kind of teacher does that? All new levels of “not giving a shit” if you ask me.”

“Not like you would do anything in English to begin with,” Jason playfully made fun of him. Matt gasped over dramatically and slapped his arm.

"Fine, I'll take this back then," he frowned and snatched away his leather jacket. Putting it on swiftly, Jason pouted and hugged his forearm anyway.

Danny smiled to himself. They were so genuine. Real. And yet friendly. It made him happy; that there weren't just fake, rude, judgemental people in the world.

But then it made him think. He couldn't understand why people would hate them. Sure, he could probably pick out flaws after a while, but just from being gay. Just for them being them.

He could be mad at himself forever, but he knew he couldn't be mad at them forever. They seemed too...innocent. Like they didn't deserve it. And what happened to Jason...well, no one deserved that.

Chapter Text

Danny shifted his position within the uncomfortable seat. He swore it had been hours in the office, but they still didn't let him go. Time was ticking a lot slower than he had hoped.

The silence. The isolation. The awkward nature of it all. It was making him uncomfortable and it was getting to him. He swore he was going insane. He was just waiting for printouts for the teacher. He betted that she was going to get mad at him for stalling, and he was willing to face it. As long as he got to slip out of this awkward encounter quicker.

“Goodbye Mr Dardo”

The senior completely ignored the principal's call and closed the door behind him. Not looking back. He groaned into his hand and dragged his legs behind him as he made his way towards the exit.

“Jason?” Danny widened his eyes.

“O-Oh hey Danny,” he rubbed the back of his neck. He parted his lips to talk, but was soon cut off.

“Mr Noriega? Your papers have printed,” the office lady handed him the pile. Bowing his head, he accepted the sheets and made his way out by Jason’s side.

“Why were you in there?” Danny asked, holding the pile close to his chest.

“Fucking Brad told on me,” he rolled his eyes, but grew his smile into a chuckle. “That sounded childish.”

“What did you do?” they made their way down the empty hallway.

“I was in the girl’s locker room and I decided to get changed with the other cheerleaders,” Jason explained. Danny snorted. His cheeks puffed with held in laughter. The senior glared at him. “What?”

“So you’re telling me that you gave up looking at shirtless men to see girls?” he chortled.

“That day will never come,” he snickered. “I was just trying to avoid...Brad..and all,” Danny grew quiet. “I’m just sick of him. I’m sick of him picking on me. I’m sick of seeing him. I’m just sick of living in a world where he exists.”

“Trust me, I get it,” he sighed. “He lives near me and I had to put up with him since I was born.”

"Argh that sucks," he rolled his eyes. "He's such a dick," he ran his hand through his gelled back hair. “What are his parents like anyway?” he questioned.

The younger boy eyed him somewhat oddly. Danny had never really thought about it. Sure, he’d known Brad for a while, but he never seemed to dig deeper into his own lifestyle. He was never really close enough to ever meet them properly. Only a few times at neighbourhood gatherings and church.

“I don’t really know…” he answered. “Never really thought about it...all I know is that his dad is a priest. I used to see him a lot when I was younger. Never met his mom. Why?”

“Because, kids are products of the environment around them," he shrugged. "We’re the results of what we’re exposed to. Maybe he’s a dick because his parents are dicks. You never know,” he said nonchalantly.

“Well that says a lot about why I’m a fag,” Danny tried to sound like he was joking, but he came off overly stiff. It made Jason worry, right off the bat.

“First of all, that’s to do with DNA. Second of all, what do you mean?” he tucked his hands into his pockets and raised an eyebrow.

“My dad left my mom pretty early on. “No dad boy”, is what Brad liked to tease me as when we were younger,” he exhaled. “Doesn't bother me too much. He would’ve probably hated me for the way I am now anyway.”

“You know what Danny?” Jason slurred with a cheerier tone. “I have a good friend who goes to this school, Tatianna. And you know what she said?”

“Oh! She’s a cheerleader, right? What about her?” he asked, his voice honeyed.

“She told me a great quote that’s stuck with me, and I hope it sticks with you. “Why would I spend time trying to make the people who hate me like me, when I’m too busy loving the people who love me”. And I couldn’t agree more. She’s pretty smart for an airhead,” he chuckled.

And just like Jason hoped, it stuck to him. It made so much sense to Danny at the time and he went over it within his head. Over and over and over. Until he could properly digest it and grin.

“Those were pretty amazing words,” he breathed out. Jason beamed.

“I know right. I think she accidentally became a gay icon,” he cackled. Danny pressed his lips together.

“Well, I’m pretty sure that the bell will go soon and--”

It rang like it was on queue. Absolutely amazing timing. Enough for the two of them to start laughing. Danny excused himself to his own classroom, slamming down the papers by the nearest desk, and slipping past the teacher to get his bag. Dashing outside, he met up with Jason and they both exited the school.

“So how do you get home?” Jason asked, as schoolmates began to pour into the once-empty hallway.

“I live around the area, so like a 5 minute walk,” he shrugged. “What about you?”

“I go home with the rest of the group. Well, except Matt. He goes home with his very republican dad,” he rolled his eyes. “He’s someone who’s nothing like his parents.”

“Have you met them?” both of his brows were raised.

“Yeah, a few times actually. Mostly at assemblies though. I swear they glare at me sometimes,” Jason rolled his eyes.

“Wait do they know about you two?” Danny tried to contain a gasp. Jason laughed at his shock, finding it rather amusing.

“Nah, but I think they “pick up the gay” from me. I can never pass as being straight,” he cackled.

They descended the staircase of their main doorway. Both of them could easily spot Kurtis’s car. Maybe it was because he had his window rolled down with his elbow sticking out and the largest smirk on his lips. How he got out quickly was beyond their knowledge. Or maybe, it was because he was one of the only kids rich and spoilt enough to afford a BMW X1.

“He’s a child of a former farmer. Sometimes I wonder how he’s so lucky or rich,” Jason muttered over to Danny, who snickered to himself.

“Hey Danny,” Max was the first to wave, poking his head to the side to reveal him in the passenger seat.

“You need a ride?” Kurtis flicked up his sunglasses to hang by his bangs. Danny shook his head.

“Nah, I can walk home in 5 minutes,” he gestured. Kurtis smirked.

“And you get to walk home with Roy. Cute,” he gave a smug expression.

“When someone who’s younger gets more action than you,” Jason teased, swinging open the door to take a step inside of the car. Max snorted and brought his hand to his lips. Kurtis rolled his eyes.

“I will throw you out of the car Dardo,” he started up the vehicle and let it roar. Danny snickered at his "show-off" nature. “See ya Danny.”

“Bye Danny!” Jason’s call was dimmed out by Kurtis’s sudden acceleration forward. He took the phrase “floor it” to a whole new level. He took it literally. Maybe too literally from the way Max screamed at the top of his lungs. Danny chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair.

Flipping himself around, he made his way down the pathway and descended to his usual route home. He smiled to himself. It was an oddly satisfying day. He would call it a success.

He chortled at the thought of Kurtis’s car. Sure, the area he lived in wasn’t bad. It was pretty well off. But it was nothing compared to the coast. Danny imagined the coast as much more beautiful, creative and rich. And he wasn’t wrong either. Seeing the same old, block-like white buildings in his neighbourhood did get boring after a while.

Kurtis probably had the most expensive car out of anyone here. But Danny thought otherwise the moment his eyes went over to the end of the street. A Lexus RX 350?!

How had he missed all these expensive cars for all these years?!

He had greatly underestimated the worth of the other children's pocket money. After years and years of interest in cars (or more like interest in Roy who was interested in cars), he knew the reputation of the Lexus RX 350. Probably one of the most expensive cars...well, ever. For at least around the area anyway.

It was somehow still polished, meaning it was either new, it was owned by perfectionists or they had maids to look after their belongings. And that’s worth a hell of a lot of money

“Sorry for being late,”

Now looking back on Jason’s words, he seemed completely correct. It was none other than Matt who had slipped into the passenger seat of the car.

He really did fit the image. Really was like a classic, all American family. He was a good-looking, young man. Had strong features and the bluest eyes. He was a football player, and he was good enough to score a couple of goals (or whatever...Danny doesn't play sport). He had a rich family. His parents were still together. He was privileged enough to have the best car in the neighbourhood. He had a picture-perfect family. He was the picture-perfect child. On the outside anyway. Even his parents didn’t know the real truth. But Danny did, and it made him feel pretty accomplished. Like, wow, he knew something that his own family didn’t know. And he was comfortable around him too. Now that’s something.

Matt and his dad had a minimal chat. Danny could tell right away that he was uncomfortable. He had his back straightened and his eyes crinkled. He didn’t seem like the happy but calm self he was whenever Danny saw him. He finally got what Jason was hinting at earlier.

His gaze went over to his father, who slotted himself well into their picturesque family. He shared the same coloured eyes. His blond locks were gelled back, somewhat like his, but more to the side than the back. He had a smizzle of peach fuzz across his strong jawline. Danny couldn’t tell if he was oddly attracted to him or he was just staring too long. Or maybe he was just seduced by his money. Who knows?

They had driven off past him, borderline speeding, but all Danny could focus on was the rumbling noise. Young Roy would have gone nuts for that sound. He was such a typical child. But Danny couldn’t help but to have feelings for him anyway back then. He knows that it was pathetic, and it still is, but he couldn’t seem to get over it. To this day. He still chuckles at the thought of the younger Roy. He misses him a little.

“Oh hey Danny!” he turned around to see Courtney dashing over to him.

Shaking his head, he returned to his track, Courtney now by his side. She had a wide smile by her lips, and it made him feel somewhat nostalgic.

“Hey Court,” he smiled. “Ready to head home?”

“Am I?" she chuckled. "Argh, I need to tell you the gos between Kennedy and Ginger. You have no idea what I just heard!”

Danny felt a good mixture within his chest. A mixture of pleasant nostalgia and fresh, new beginnings. It was nice to have both new encounters but still feel the familiar feeling. Today was definitely a success.

He smiled towards the blonde and excitedly listened to her new set of information, retrieved because...well, she’s head cheerleader after all.

Chapter Text

Courtney looked much too nostalgic for him. She had her forehead pressed up against the doorframe and she was knocking on it drowsily. Bags were underneath her usual bright blue eyes. Her signature curled hair seemed to weigh down on her head, making her gaze down sadly. It somewhat reminded him of that day. The day he began to hate mood rings. Danny immediately rushed over to the entrance and pushed it open.

The cold night air screamed into his room, making it instantly wintery. Courtney shivered in and basically collapsed into his embrace.

“W-What are you doing here?” Danny wrapped his arm around her shoulder and guided her over to his bed. She was trembling within his grasp.

“I need to talk to you,” she mumbled, exhaling into her hands to warm them up.

“Why now? You could’ve texted me, o-or told me in the morning. Your parents are probably worried. I'm fucking worried,” he cloaked her with his blankets and rubbed his hands over the sides to smooth them out. Courtney parted her lips slightly to speak, but she instead piped out a small exhale.“I’ll let you get warm first, and then maybe I should take you home.”

“Please don’t…” she plotted her head onto Danny’s shoulder, pulling his arm around her tighter. He peered down at her with confusion, but he didn’t hesitate to bring her in close to his chest.

“What do you want to tell me?” he muttered into her blonde locks.

“I've been thinking a lot recently...like I never really thought about it until a few days ago..." she tapped her fingers along the sheets. "...I think there’s something wrong with me…” she whispered. Danny furrowed his brows and scanned her.

She had her cheek gently running along the fabric of his tank top. Her lips were slightly parted, like she was on the verge of hyperventilating. Tears were slowly forming by her eyes, which were already puffed and bloodshot. He ran his thumb down her cheekbones, trying to soothe her and slow down her breathing. She didn't seem to respond.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you,” he tried to reassure, his voice quiet. She shook her head.

“You don’t know me properly…” she breathed.

“I know you better than anyone else,” he had a honeyed voice, maybe because he really was unsure, no matter how much he didn't wanted to be. He wanted to be there for Courtney. He wanted to be the support she needed when she yearned for it, but he knew he might not be. Probably because he wasn’t even strong enough to support himself most of the time. “Hey, you know what?”

“What?” Courtney gazed up at him, a tint of desperation for something, anything, safe and reassure sounding. Danny swallowed.

“I think there’s something wrong with me too,” he patted her back. Courtney pursed her lips.

“I doubt it’s not as bad as mine,” she exhaled, glancing away.

“Trust me, sometimes I feel like it’s the worst thing ever. People make it out to be a lot worse than it actually is,” he murmured. The blonde pressed her palm against his chest. He placed his hand on top, clutching onto them tightly. “I think..." he muttered under his breath, hoping it was quiet enough for her to not notice. She had most likely ignored. "What if we say them at the same time, huh? Will that be easier?”

She replied with a small nod. Chewing his bottom lip, he gulped one more time before they exchanged looks of uncomfort and nerves. Whatever Courtney was going to say, it didn’t matter to him. What mattered more, was that he was finally admitting it. Sure, Jason and all of them know about it now, but he doesn't recall ever saying it out loud. It was more like them speculating, Danny resisting, and them just bursting out into rejoice. He didn’t count that as a confession. He still hadn't climbed over that wall.

"On 3, okay?” she nodded again. “1…” he emanated a shaky gasp. “2…” he felt Courtney grip onto him tighter. “3…”

“I’m gay.”

They both widened their eyes. Courtney flinched away, her brows raised and breath hitched. She looked...scared. Plain and simple. Danny felt his own hands tremble and shiver, unlike the rest of his body, which was frozen like thick ice. It was an odd feeling. He felt looser after his burst of honesty, but Courtney looking at him like that...made him feel too loose. Too empty.

“W-What?” Courtney choked out, as if her throat was parched and her words were dragging up painfully like blades.

She looked hurt. Broken. Really frightened. A little shocked. Just like him.

Courtney...being like him…? Sinning with him? Never thought so in a million years. She was just too...too. Perfect. She was a blonde. She was the head cheerleader. She was popular, enough to make people pray for her status. She was pretty, so pretty that people would die for her looks. Bouncy curls, full lips, bright blue eyes, soft features and an always-bikini-ready body. She was just a human Barbie. Sure, she was ditzy at times, but she passed. Her family was picture perfect. She had flowers growing by the front of her house, like some sort of happy Mormon household. Her parents were the typical, happy-go-lucky, always smiling family. Danny swore he had never seen their lips curl down. But there she was. Right in front of him. As a sinner. Just like him.

“H-How do you know…?” he mumbled, still gobsmacked. It was clearly shown on his face too. Courtney shuffled further away. There was a pregnant pause. Danny just let her breathe for a second, figuring that she needed to wrap her head around everything. Maybe multiple times for her to properly digest it.

“I thought you would be the only one who would never say that,” her voice quivered. Her shoulders sagged in front of her as she hunched over her lap. “I...I thought you would understand.”

Danny gazed towards her, feeling a mixture of regret, guilt and an overwhelming amount of skittishness. Her eyes never seemed to meet his, as if her view was constantly bouncing off of the walls and around the room.

“I do understand,” he moved closer. Courtney balked, her bottom lip jolting out. “I’m just…” he shook his head to clear his thoughts from fear which seemed to fog his train of thought. “Confused...I guess. I-I thought you were happy with Dan.”

“I-I am…” she rubbed her hand across her other arm. “...I was...sort of…”

“I’m just so…” he bemoaned and rubbed his temples. “...I can’t wrap my head around it...really…”

“Why? You just said you’re…” she skipped the word, and instead, coughed as if she was clearing her throat. “And so I thought...you would…”

“But you said you would be fine if your friend was to ever be…” Danny halted and rubbed the back of his neck. “Homo…”

“Well I never said I wanted to be one!” she cried. The younger boy threw himself over to her, his palm cupping over her lips.

“Shoosh,” he snapped. “You’re going to be dragged home if you scream anything again.”

“I just…” she took a quick inhale. “I never thought of the other factors. My mind never went to the backlash of it, you know?”

Danny could easily pick up that Courtney was trying to curve around the answer, making it as vague as possible. It was like she threw a misty cloak over it, hoping to swat away pressure and uneasiness. But of course it wasn't working. Danny could see right through it.

“It’s your parents...isn’t it?” when Courtney didn’t reply, it was if Danny had fanned away the turbulent air. He pressed his lips together.

“It’s just--!” she threw her fist onto the mattress suddenly, making Danny jump in shock. “I’m not supposed to be like this! I couldn’t care less if you, Jason or Matt was like...like me!” she violently jolted away and gripped onto the side of the bed. “But I’m not supposed to be like this! My parents are strong Christians, I-I’m a cheerleader...I’m supposed to get with the quarterback and grow up to raise a picture-perfect family...this isn’t me. M-My life isn’t meant to be like this…”

“Courtney,” he said firmly, gripping strongly around her wrist. “Stop,” his voice was slowly but surely becoming sharper and sharper. "You need to breathe..."

Courtney finally looked over to him. And it was like the last straw for her. All the small cracks were getting gradually larger and large until, well, it just ripped her apart. It began with small sniffs, but she was quick to break down. Completely. Like she was unravelling right in front of him. She sobbed into his shoulder, her cries muffled by the fabric of his shirt. He ran his fingers through the ends of her hair, down to her back. Her body was trembling and shaking within his grasp, and Danny's mind began to race instantly.

“W-When you picked me up the other day…” she began, her voice jittering. “Dan and I...well…” she glanced away. “...did it…”

“Consensual, right?” Danny interrupted, his voice worried. She nodded.

“...but...I just didn’t…” she flushed a pastel pink. “Like it…? I figured at first that it was just me...being upset. But then, I hung out with Willam,” Danny’s mouth hung open. “...I just couldn’t help but to--”

“You didn’t do anything with her? Did you?” he snapped, his words tumbling out. It was like his initial, brotherly instinct kicked in.

“N-No! Just…” she crossed her arms. “Urges…” she slapped herself on the forehead. “...that sounds so dumb. Argh, just. Just forget it. I think it’s just all the pressure getting to me. More work, more pressure,” she rolled her eyes and blinked away lingering tears. “Sorry about coming here and--”

“Thank you,” he exhaled. The blonde blinked her eyes a few times, both to flick away her droplets and from confusion. “For telling me,” Courtney had plain confusion staining her face. “I honestly felt so alone..." he confessed. "I...I needed to hear it from a friend. A close friend. My best friend.”

“No worries…?” she was genuinely caught off guard. Danny brought his arms up around her neck and pulled her in tightly. She could feel his heartbeat, beating much quicker than she could keep up with.

“I know what it feels like. To hate the way you are...and have everyone else hate the way you are but…” he held her tighter. “It just means so much to me that you told me.”

“Haven't you told anyone?” she asked. Danny shook his head.

“No. You’re the first,” he admitted. “And thank god for it. What would I do if I didn’t tell my best friend?”

“Y-Yeah…” she mumbled, her state still offbeat. Danny exhaled.

“I know you’re overwhelmed…I’m still like that too,” he pursed his lips. “But hey, you know what?”

“What?” she sniffed. Danny chuckled and grabbed the end of his shirt. Wiping away her tears, he scooped up the droplets and drew out a smile. Courtney peered up at him, trying to stretch out a grin too.

“Someone that I know very well told me great advice a while ago,” he grinned wider. “She told me that she would protect me as we got older,” Courtney’s eyes crinkled slightly as if she was trying a tad harder, but it was minimal. “She also told me that I had to learn to be strong, and I’ve tried. Trust me. But it can be pretty hard sometimes,” the blonde finally had enough to stretch her lips into an upward curl as she exhaled. “Everyone has days when you’re just like ‘fuck it’, and that’s really me everyday, but it doesn't mean you can’t ever be happy. I’ll protect you. I need to make it up to you anyway,” Courtney chuckled. “Not from the usual, like bullies, or teasing, but I can protect you from shit thoughts. Because it happens a lot for me too. A fuck of a lot. But that’s okay. You need it sometimes but, is it a lot better to tackle it with a friend? Fuck yes.”

“Thanks Danny,” she nudged him and sniffed. But she kept her thankful smile, and Danny gave a sigh of relief for it.

“You wanna go before your parents start searching for you? Or do you wanna stay here to make me look straight. I don’t mind either way,” he shrugged.

“I’ll slip home early in the morning,” she gestured. Uncoiling the blanket around her, she threw it over his mattress.

She slipped her legs underneath the sheets and patted the vacant spot next to her. Danny smiled and tucked himself into a comfortable position. He realised how familiar she always seemed. The way her hair seemed to flow down; it was like she was still 6, and she was her typical childish self. She always seemed to have the same, animated expressions, and she always managed to look absolutely stunning while doing it. He definitely had a soft spot for her, like a sister. Maybe it was because every moment he spends with her, he still sees the little girl who would stand up for him no matter what, and hold him when he couldn't stand. She was always a lot stronger than he was.

“So…” Courtney giggled. Danny closed his eyes and rested his head against the pillow.

“What?” he smiled at her sudden amusement.

“Since you’re gay and all…” she began. “...are you into Roy?”

Danny scoffed. Courtney cackled into the blanket.

“What’s with people asking me that lately?” he groaned as Courtney knocked him on the shoulder.

“So…?” she poked his rib and he squirmed in return. “Are you?”

“Let’s just get to sleep,” he brought the blanket to his face, rubbing the soft fabric across his heated skin. He was tired. Really fucking tired.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

Chapter Text

“Thanks for coming with me Danny,”

It was odd for the younger boy. He hadn’t hung out as a group of five with the older boys after school yet. Even if he was to, with one of them, he figured that it would be Jason. Being the first one he met and the closest, he was the obvious choice. Maybe followed by Max after the study sessions and homework tips he provided for him. Then maybe Kurtis, for his money.

Matt was definitely his last choice. Maybe it was because he was quick to disregard him as Jason’s boyfriend and nothing more. And also a smoker. A heavy smoker. And a weed addict. A really “dedicated” weed addict.

But here he was, at the mall, Matt by his side. Alone. Just the two of them. Without Kurtis. Without Max. And for some weird fucking reason, without Jason.

“No worries,” Danny smiled back, looking up at the football player. He had his usual lazy smile by his lips. His hands were tucked into his jean pockets and his back was hunched slightly. He definitely fitted into the stoner stereotype.

“Sorry for dragging you out on a Saturday afternoon to the mall,” he glanced back at him and stretched out his grin. “I bet you have assignments to finish off.”

“Eh, not really,” he shrugged. “Max’s helped me out a lot in the past few weeks. Like a lot. He ran through like three assignments with me.”

“That’s so Max,” he let out an airy chuckle. “He did that for me too. No. He does that for me now,” he snickered. “One time, he got mad at me for barely doing our group task in English. Rightfully so, since I did run out of the room crying and then I got distracted after that.”

“Why’s that?” Danny felt a verge of an intriguing laugh tickle by his throat.

“It was like back in 5th grade. The teacher said that I barely do anything in classes and that I should step up my game. Especially since I was working with Max. I swear we had a weird staring contest after that,” he gestured nonchalantly.

“And then what happened?” Danny widened his smile.

“I said “do I have something on my face?”--being the dumbest little shit that I am,” Danny bursted out into laughter. Bringing his hand up to his lips, he tried to contain his fit. Matt looked down at him, snorting. “And she sort of screamed at me. So I couldn’t really help but to leave,” he shrugged. “Max was really nice about it though. He came rushing out to help me. And then proceeded to hate me for doing nothing a week later.”

“Max’s a really great guy, huh?” Danny nodded to himself.

“Yeah, definitely. Never gives himself enough credit though,” his beam dimmed. “He’s a little low when it comes to confidence. Complete opposite of Kurtis, if you ask me,” he snorted. “I’ve known him for a long time now, and he always seems to treat himself badly.”

“N-Nothing to do with being…” he cleared his throat. “You know.”

“Gay?” he piped out the word much clearer than Danny could have. Matt shrugged. “Who knows? He’s way too smart for me to understand,” he pursed his lips. “I just wish that he would loosen up a bit sometimes, you know? Live in the moment. Take in everything that's around you, because it isn’t going to be like that forever. I mean, look at him. He’s always doing work. Constantly. If not, he’s at band, like he is right now. Playing the clarinet or something.”

“I-I’m pretty sure it’s the oboe,” Danny added in.

“Eh, whatever. Something to do with blowing,” they giggled in unison, both dismissing their much-too-childish humour. “Oh there it is!”

The older brunette shuffled over to one of the stores by their right. He excitedly hopped towards it, his smile widening. It was flashy. To say the least. Danny couldn’t tear his eyes off of the brightly coloured shop. It had flashing lights by the top, beaming the words “Cinderella’s closet”. Racks and racks of dresses hung by the front of the store, each dazzlingly colourful. Frills, gemstones and laces were strapped along the skirts. It was if they were teasing Danny’s eyes with their glow. They looked alluring and certainly beautiful.

“Who’s it for?” Danny asked, his eyes still glued onto the gorgeous garments.

“Jason,” he answered, a tint of amusement in his voice. Danny raised an eyebrow. “Or more specifically, Violet.”

“W-What?” Danny was quite taken back. Shocked, really. He couldn’t make out any more words, even though he had questions stacking up within his mind.

“He likes to dress up as a woman sometimes,” he shrugged. “And I’m not planning to stop him.”

“Why?” Danny accidentally snapped, catching Matt a little off guard. The older boy raised both eyebrows at his sudden jolt of shock, but he was calm enough to brush it off.

“Because it makes him happy. I’m pretty sure he’s not trans. I don’t care if he was to be,” he grinned, his fingers tracing around the blue, shimmering fabric at the end of the rack. “I like Jason. A lot. And I just want him to be happy, you know? Especially with himself.”

Danny let the words sink in for a moment. Matt wasn’t the smartest (academically at least) but the words seemed to linger a little longer in his mind. He wanted to disregard it as his tone of voice; the way it was said so smoothly and softly. But he couldn’t really deny that his words made so much sense. It was so sincere. So thoughtful. Really loving. Enough for Danny to forget about all the religion. Just for a moment.

“Which one do you like Danny?” Matt began to scroll through the rack. Danny smiled and took his side.

“All of them,” he confessed. Matt laughed.

“Stereotypical gay,” he joked, nudging him. “Only have a few bucks in my pocket though,” he exhaled. “My dad’s cut off my allowance.”

“Why?” Danny pulled out a lacy skirt and inspected it.

“Caught me spending it on weed,” he rolled his eyes. “Didn’t care too much. Just thought it was a waste of money,” he let out a groan as he sprayed his palms over his face. Danny looked over to him with concern, tempted to place a hand onto his shoulder, but he halted when Matt forced out a husky chuckle and sniffed. It much more forced than before. Nowhere as bright as it was before.“It’s stupid, really. I can break the law. I can smoke all I want. And he won’t care. At all. But if I was to ever tell him that I was gay, he will probably throw me out,” he exhaled painfully. “On the street, if he could. Probably after punching me shitless.”

“Oh shit,” Danny cursed, completely appalled.

When Jason told him that Matt was a perfect puzzle piece for their republican family, he believed him. There was no doubt that he was. You could easily tell from just looking at them. But he didn’t know that it was this serious. It was this extreme. He hears horror stories about religious households throwing out their own kids and damning them, but he never thought that one, potential victim, would be in front of him.

“So it’s probably a lot easier to keep everything in a little bubble,” he pulled out a tight, leather dress. It was a glistening, jet black. It looked smooth and clear, like it would stick to the skin perfectly. It would reach around the upper-mid thigh for “Violet”. The younger boy felt awe wash over him as he ran his hand over the end of the skirt. “And you’re apart of it now,” he nudged, chuckling. “So what do you think? I think it’s a pretty cute fabric.”

“Looks kinky,” he cackled, Matt snorting.

“It’s perfect then,” he snaked past the younger boy and strolled over to the cash register.

Danny blinked at the football player as he slammed an $100 dollar bill onto the counter. He was pretty sure that it only costed no less than $30 dollars, and he was pretty sure from the way the cashier scavenged through the cash register to look for notes.

After the transaction, Matt enthused over ice cream and practically dragged the younger boy to a stand. He chuckled at his childish nature, which seemed to never come out whenever they were in a group. It seemed to be overshadowed by his slow, monotone, stoner self, which Danny didn’t mind. It was just different, that’s all. He liked Matt either way.

“Kurtis actually showed me this place,” he said, his eyes crinkling shut as he took in a mouthful of his dessert. “It was like 3 years ago. After I came out to him.”

“So how long have you been a group?” Danny took a spoonful of his own cup.

“Around 2 years as a four. Max and I’ve been friends for a while. Same as Kurtis and Jason, but we never drawn to each other until we felt safer,” he shrugged. Danny raised an eyebrow.

“What do you mean?” he peered up at him with intriguity.

“There were boys worse than…” he rolled his eyes. “You know,” Danny exhaled in acknowledgement. “If he ever saw the four of us, we wouldn’t see the end of the word “fag”. The group together...we’re like walking punching bags. Except covered in glitter and fluro coloured with a sign saying “I’m a bottom”,” Danny snickered. “The inner gay seems to peek out when we’re a group.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re all really close, so you feel really comfortable,” Danny suggested. Matt cocked a shoulder.

“Probably. They’re a lot cooler than any of those football dicks,” he raised his nose and sneered.

“First of all, you’re a football player. Second of all, you like dicks,” he chuckled. Matt smiled.

“Only Jason’s,” he winked, Danny scoffing. Clearing his throat, he choked out a laugh to try and match the older brunette’s. “Fun fact, that’s his favourite flavour.”

He pointed over to Danny’s cup and widened his grin.

“Rocky road?” Danny questioned. Matt nodded.

“Yep. Got it for him, nearly, a year ago. The first day we started going out,” he gazed away, like he was reminiscing the familiar nostalgia. “A year in a week’s time.”

“Cute,” Danny could feel his tongue tingle at the slight lie. He liked Jason. He liked Matt. And he certainly wanted to support them wholeheartedly. They deserved happiness, and he knew that. But he could also feel sin sinking their teeth into his neck, and he couldn’t help but to flinch.

After all these years, he still couldn’t help but to feel guilty. Even if it’s not him. They’re his friends. Best friends, maybe. In a near future, more like. Just the fact that it was right in front of him. Taunting sins at him. Made him admittedly uncomfortable, but also borderline admirable. Queer emotions churned within his stomach as he swallowed a thick, gulp of the cold dessert.

“Where is he today?” he decided to steer away the conversation in a less romantic, more platonic direction.

“Out with family. They like to have a lot of family time,” he grinned. “They’re really cool when it comes to his sexuality too. Super family oriented.”

“That’s great,” he felt his cheeks ache a tad from his stretching smile. “And Kurtis?”

“Working at some cafe down the block,” he answered. “I’m pretty sure that he needs to pay off a debt from his parents.”

“Ha, what happened?”

“Crashed the car,” he rolled his eyes. “Deserves it for speeding so much.”

“Did he crash into a tree or something?” when Matt nodded reluctantly, borderline sarcastically, he couldn’t help but to roar out a laughter. “Actually?!”

“Yeah…” he ran his palm over his forehead. “After some party last year. Max practically screamed when it happened.”

“Was it scary?”

“A little. Jason’s reaction was hilarious though,” he laughed. “Plus, I’m pretty sure that we were all too fucking drunk to realise what was going on,” Danny cracked a small smile at Matt’s gestures. “It sucks that Max can't drive.”

Danny felt his heart sag a little. Matt’s voice had so much enthusiasm and nostalgia. He felt out of place. Not only were they a year older, but they'd also been friends for a lot longer than. Well. His existence been known to the members of the group. He was of course glad that they seemed to love having him around. To an extent. They didn't seem to complain, and their smiles didn't look too fake.

But the four were different. They went through alot together. At least enough to create a high school movie out of it. Danny...just didn't seem to fit. He wasn’t apart of the typical, rebellious high school movie that seemed to be filmed around their lives.

He could see it. Four boys that come together. Sinning as a group. Fighting against society. In a way it was like him. Except he didn’t have the strength to fight back. Or speak up. Or retaliate when he felt aching pounds by his back, no matter how much it burnt like acid. He was a tad jealous of it, too. That they had each other. That they could fall back on each other for support. But it was admirable in a way. That Danny was slowly easing himself into such a loveable group. It brought a smile to his face as he watched up at the rambling Matt. Maybe he was a lot more than just Jason's boyfriend.

Chapter Text

Danny could remember it. Really well. The way the brush tickled the apples of his cheeks. The way the creamy lipstick smeared over his full, plump lips. The way his eyelashes batted over the tops of his eyelids as he blinked. There was a thick fragrance of sweetness; like a mixture of candy and perfume. It coated Danny with a sense of nostalgia.

He could practically see an 8 year old Courtney kneeling before him, wiping away a beating sweat. She let out a long exhale to calm her tense state. It had been maybe over an hour since she enthused to give him a makeover. 7 year old Danny was much braver. He was happy to go along with her little dress-up routine. She sat on her knees and placed the cosmetics by her side.

“Done,” he recalled her voice being much higher back then. She placed a long, curly red wig on top of his head and circled the locks around his face. She had probably kept it from their school play that they performed that year, “the Little Mermaid”. He remembers Courtney on top of that school stage, looking as charming as she always did, alongside Roy, who played Eric that year. He remembers Danny feeling a tad jealous too, a sour taste lingering on his tongue, especially when they hugged at the end (which thankfully replaced a kiss). But then again, he was pretty happy to see them up there. Probably the best junior, grade school performance that had been ever performed. He couldn't even top that with his own performance as Peter Pan in the year after.

He remembers that the red wig never stood out to him when Courtney wore it. She didn't look horrible, she never really did, but she suited the blonde locks much better. But on him. Well. That was another story. He loved the way it tumbled into his vision and twirled in front of him like dangling fairy lights. When he peered up at Courtney with the biggest smile, he saw something else. Someone, actually. Between them was a large mirror, and what he saw on the other side, made him feel...different. In a way he had never felt before.

He had the largest eyes, with the longest eyelashes flattering up and down like wings. He had sharp, dark eyebrows, which were so bold and strong, fuelling him with confidence, yet rich and milky, calming him in an almost dream-like state. He used to hate the way his lips would pout, cursing himself for his feminine looks, but with the makeup, he seemed to love it. A lot. The way the red shined and glistened in the light; he couldn’t get enough of it.

“Do you like it?” Courtney poked her head to the side of the handheld mirror. Young Danny was in awe, and could only give a small nod. It felt so...perfect. Courtney clapped and squealed. “I’m so glad! Rate it out of 10!”

“15,” he mumbled, shaking his head. “I love it! So much! I-I--” he tried to muster up the courage which pumped within his chest. “I adore it!”

He remembered the word tingling by his lips. It was an odd sensation. Like it was destiny, even though he didn't believe in most bullshit like that. Looking back, maybe it was his younger self so intrigued, so in love, with the person in front of him, that he was in a daze. Either way, it seemed to catch Courtney's attention too.

“Adore…” the Australian tapped her finger by the curve of her lips. “I like that. That’s your name!”

She threw her arms over his shoulders and pulled him in close to her chest. She jumped up and down excitedly, Danny laughing within her grasp as he joined in. He squeezed her tightly by the waist and he felt the urge to sing the name “Adore” along with her.

Kids. They were just kids. Kids who were still so juvenile. So pure. Unharmed. The way he wanted to stay. The world he wanted to live in. It was a fantasy, really. No real life shit getting in the way. No reality fogging up the beautiful scenery. Just happiness. At that point in time. The moment they had their arms around each other, jumping and giggling happily. It felt like the earth was still. Like "Adore" had brought him into an underwater world, where it was just him, Courtney and Roy. And they could be together as a 3 forever.

Courtney suddenly gasped and threw herself off.

“We need to go to the family dinner!”

Danny wished that his younger self would be kept there, at Courtney's room, forever. Because little did the 7 year old know that his life, his childish illusion, would melt away that night.

Courtney’s Christmas sweater was etched into his mind after all these years. It was lined with stripes of red and green. It was a little overgrown, enough to reach down to her thighs. A little scarlet skirt swayed by her knees as she twirled. She had the sparkliest red shoes on that night, something that Danny was envious of. A Christmas tree with twinkling lights was printed on the front. It probably looked ugly on everyone but her. Like always.

His was, instead, really itchy. It was given to him by his mom, who probably got it from a family friend. He didn’t like it too much. The olive green looked more like puke and the badly sewed on reindeer at the front didn’t really help with the overall “look”. If he could even call it that. It was also complimented by his stained jeans. His mom urged him to wear his best trousers, but really, he didn’t have anything better. He was messy kid. So in a way, he wasn't lying to his mom by wearing these.

“But this isn’t good for Adore,” Courtney eyed his look up and down and shook her head dramatically. “Nu-uh. I don’t like it,” she strutted over to her closet and threw open the doors. “What about this?”

She pulled out a shiny, red dress with silk-like fabric. It had thick straps, lined down to the waist. It was somewhat loosely fitted at the top, with the skirt swooping out in a gentle flow, almost like the ocean. Danny basically lunged towards it. It felt so pearly on his palms.

“I love it!” he beamed. “Or more like, adore it,” they both bursted out into laughter.

“It sucks that we don’t have shoes for you,” Courtney pouted. “But this would fit at least.”

It was a little shorter than how Courtney would wear it, seeping just past the knees instead of the ground. It made him look a little more petite and young. Maybe a little cute, if he was honest.

“I’ll just go barefoot,” he shrugged, running his hands over the smooth skirt. It was cool against his heated hands. He remembers Courtney's room been so warm and cozy, unlike the outside, wintery world.

“But first,” Courtney reached over to a wooly jumper. “You need this. So you don’t get cold.”

Adore.

She was right in front of him. Standing beautifully. Her smile full. Her eyes twinkling. Her stance gorgeous.

Courtney took her by the hand and guided her outside. Danny could still feel the dress flowing behind his younger self. It wavered mystically, and ever so airily. Adore’s body was washed over with a sense of joy. Complete joy. As she ran down the street, hand in hand with Courtney.

Looking back, Danny would still dub that moment as one of the happiest moments of his life. The way chuckles drummed along his throat lightly. The way the world seemed to light up, even though the sun was setting behind them. Maybe that was what childish wonder was like. Seeing the world in a beautiful sepia.

On their way, they had run into Roy. He used to run late all the time back then, unlike his present day self. He was probably preoccupied by his new video game, or playing around with his pet dog. Either way, Adore was pretty glad that she wasn't entering alone. The 8 year old Roy was very petite back then, around the same size as Danny. He had his dark hair gelled back dashingly, to reveal his bright smile, accompanied by his loveable dimples. He had a new looking, shiny tux, which made Adore’s heart skip a beat. A blush was underneath all the coated on foundation.

“Oh hey Courtney,” he smiled, his eyes going over to Adore. There was a pause. She couldn’t decipher whether he hated it, and was about to laugh at her, or loved it, somewhat. “And…?” he raised an eyebrow. “Danny?”

“U-Umm…” she coughed. Roy smiled.

“You look great!” he enthused, catching her completely off guard. She swore that her body froze for a moment from shock. “The makeup’s really good. I nearly couldn’t recognise you.”

“That was me,” Courtney added, cocking a shoulder. “We decided to call her Adore.”

“Adore…” Danny, to this day, loved the way he slurred her name. He sounded a little intrigued and a tad excited. “I love it! She looks beautiful!” Adore’s smile grew wider. Roy gave a quick glance to his watch and gasped. “Oh no, we’re running late!” he clasped his hand together with Adore’s. “Brad’s family is waiting for us!”

Danny could remember how soft his hands were. They were so much bigger than his. It felt like it was cradling Adore’s lovingly, making her feel safe. Another one of his happiest moments. Adore ran her thumb over the back of his hand and tried to cherish every second. Danny pondered as to if his hand was still delicate like that. Probably not. From handling all those stage props and writing endlessly. Maybe Adore should have cherished those touches a little bit more.

The serene and loving feeling of nostalgia washed away, however. He still managed to recall the moments. Probably more vividly than the actual happy ones. The dense silence. The clinking of the utensils been lowered onto the table. The appalled faces. The gasps. The widened eyes. The dropped jaws.

Adore’s world dulled to muted rust.

“Hi!” Courtney, at the time, seemed completely unaware of everyone’s reactions. She perked up like her usual self and skipped over to the vacant chair between her parents.

“Sorry for being late,” Roy had picked up on the eery atmosphere too. Clearing his throat, he straightened his back and proceeded off to his parents, who glared over at him suspiciously.

Adore was abandoned at the entrance. Alone. There was a lump by her throat. Sweat escaped the pores and cracks of her foundation. She could feel the dress plastering onto her skin.

It was like the world was spinning around her, closing in on her. She couldn't breathe. She couldn’t speak. She could barely stand up right.

She blinked and all she could see was the priest, his shadow casting over her body. She was kneeled to the ground, her hands clasped over her lap and her gaze up at his crinkled face. His brows were knitted together, with the most furious look she had ever seen. His lips were curled down harshly. His eyes looked dark, sharp, and cut-throat.

He was screaming down at her, making her feel like nothing. It pounded within her ears achingly, but what felt worse was her chest. She felt like she was getting stabbed. Over and over and over. Like nothing she did could be worse. Like she made the worst decision. She was trash. Scum. A useless time for God. Adore trembled. It was like blackness was closing in on her, giving her no space to breathe. She felt like she was drowning. Or like she was inclosed in a tight, tight box. Or gasping onto her final gulps of air.

By the corner of her eye she could see her mom, her face in her palms. She was sobbing, ever so quietly. She couldn’t tell whether she was upset at Adore, or at Danny for doing such a stupid thing. Part of them wished that she was crying because the priest was so harsh. Or maybe at least because she regretted coming to this Christmas dinner. But they never talked about it again. Ever.

It was like they swept it under the rug after all these years. Like it was rotting away in some closet somewhere. Never to be spoken about again. And he was somewhat glad. He tried to erase the existence of Adore all together after that. He tried to forget about that feeling, that amazing feeling, he had when Courtney held up that mirror.

Danny still dwelled on the aftermath. Courtney caressed his hand ever so delicately as she wiped away Adore’s tears with her other. Roy took his other side, his arm over his body, gentle strokes running up and down his sides to try and soothe his cries.

Even the rich makeup stained.

He felt thick, clumpy tears run down his cheeks, melting away all the layers of makeup. One by one, droplets stroked at Adore, revealing a much more soft, fragile surface. Danny. He was coming back up to the surface.

They can only see what’s on my face

He was sobbing. Crying. Practically screaming. But it was nothing like what she felt on the inside. Danny was broken. Completely. Shattered into a million pieces. Leaving behind just dust.

Danny couldn’t, to this day, decipher what broke him the most. The fact that the priest, the most respected person in the whole neighbourhood, hated him? Or was it his mom crying in the corner? But then again, this stemmed Brad’s “joking” further. It went from nudges to shoves to punches. From glances to glares to curses. From words to teases to verbal abuse. It made his life a living nightmare. Or maybe it was all three things merged together with a pinch of himself.

He was dumb enough to think that this was okay. He was stupid enough to come to a Christmas party as a girl. He was ignorant enough to think that this was okay. That his happiness mattered to other people. It didn’t. And he had to accept that.

Or maybe it was something completely different. Maybe he was torn between his peers and him. Adore made him feel...different. In the best way possible. It wasn't like anything he had ever felt before. But they shredded it to pieces, right in front of him. In front of everyone.

Danny felt his body tense. He gave three deep breaths and wriggled between the light duvet and soft mattress. His thoughts were running again, running away with his sense of consciousness. It sealed the thoughts with a lock and threw away the key. Far, far away. So the tears bubbling by his throat would settle.

He couldn’t stop thinking of Adore, and the way it felt to be her. The way his lips tingled at just the name. The way the world seemed to light up around him, no matter how dark it was. Maybe that's why he was envious of Violet. She had a supporter, Matt. She had the confidence to do it, too. Again and again. Adore emerged once, and never again. The spark was put out so quickly, and he missed it. He really did.

Chapter Text

Danny didn’t hate the rain. It was more like the opposite. He loved the sound of pitter patters outside his room and the greying clouds casting over him. He would love to capture it with words. Maybe alongside a little tune. If only he could muster up the effort to think. But today was different. He cursed to himself when it began to pour outside. It wouldn’t have bothered him that much if he was still with Gia and Jay, since they sat by the cafeteria. But he was finally getting used to sitting outside with the other four, with the most beautiful grass field by his feet. He loved it. And seeing it drowning in rain made him a little upset.

And rain also meant that everyone had to sit inside. Everyone.

It was pretty crowded in the cafeteria. Enough to make Danny feel like he was suffocating in a way. The five decided to take a spot in the corner of the room. There was a small circular table which was a tad further away from everyone else. But it seemed pretty raggedy and old. Probably why it was placed so faraway. Danny always hated the school’s limited budget, but it’s actual worth hit him in the head with realisation at lunch. It could barely fit everyone inside, which is saying something. They weren’t that big of a school.

“I swear to god, I fucking hate this school,” Jason rolled his eyes, his elbow resting on the table. It squeaked beneath him slightly, making Jason groan somewhat angrily.

“And it’s really loud in here,” Matt grumbled, a little louder so the other members could hear. He placed a hand to his side, lightly pushing down to feel the seat rock. Yep. This school was definitely poor.

“This is why we sit outside,” Kurtis blew aside his bangs, which swooped down to his gaze. Kicking his feet underneath the table, they swore that it slightly unscrewed loose into their laps. Enough for Jason to gasp and snicker softly.

“Can’t help the weather though, can we?” Max chuckled, his gaze down at his phone.

“Yeah, but I’m still gonna complain about it,” Kurtis pouted childishly, making Max laugh. “Danny?” the younger boy had his eyes elsewhere, like always. Maybe he was a little more preoccupied than usual after the other night. “Are you alright?”

He leaned over to his side and gazed at the same scenery. A table by the middle of the cafeteria was filled with, probably, the most infamous students within school. Football players, athletes, cheerleaders, those obnoxious kids at the back of the classroom that can't stop screaming bullshit. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and they definitely slotted themselves into the social hierarchy; at the top, of course. And they also had to be the loudest group within the room; cackling, shouting and screaming across to the other side.

But in the bunch was also Courtney. There was no doubt that the label of “head cheerleader” suited her, more than anyone else could ever pull off, but Danny thought that there was more to her. Maybe he was a little biased, but he wished that people would treat her like she was more. She was more than just a pretty face, and it was a shame that she was involved in a pretty bad group. It looked like she wasn't going to leave to either, which makes it that much worse. Especially after her… “confession”, he knew that she needed support. Actual support. And actual friends; not people who stand around and look socially acceptable.

“Courtney? What about her?” Danny glanced up at him and shook his head.

“I-it’s nothing. Sorry,” he stretched out a smile, which made the other boy a tad sceptical.

“Is something up?” Danny admittedly shrugged, but didn’t respond with audible words. Max pursed his lips and squinted slightly, trying to decipher Danny. “Something to do with Courtney, right? Why? Is she bothering you?”

“N-No, not at all,” he held both palms up. “She’s great. We’re really good friends actually.”

“Then why are you staring at her?” he peered towards her again. Danny swallowed. He felt the bars around Courtney’s secret rust as Max leant over his crossed arms and gazed forward. The younger boy could feel guilt wash over him. He wanted to tell someone. He really did. And Max was probably the most reliable out of anyone. But he just couldn't do it. Not here. Not at this state. “I’m guessing it’s a secret. Since you won’t tell me,” he exhaled into a smile when Danny halted. “That’s okay. Just know that I’m here to listen.”

He caressed his shoulder and gave him one last glimpse of a grin, before tearing away from his lingering glance. Danny gulped and drummed his fingers along the end of his sleeve.

“Hey Max…” he began, Max looking over at him from the corner of his eye.

“Yeah?” Danny gave him a look of uncomfort, with his brows crinkled and full lips parted.

A bitter aftertaste of Courtney filled his mind. His mind darted over to her look that day. The way she frowned. The way her eyes lost colour. The moment she looked as if she was helpless. Like she was begging for help. Danny shook his head.

He couldn't say it right now. Not right now. Not with everyone else around. He wasn't even ready to spill it. He just had to swallow it down.

“...have you come out to your parents?” he blurted out, both from curiosity and the urge to steer away from his thoughts. Max pursed his lips.

“...no,” he cleared his throat. “Jason’s the only one who’s out.”

“Technically closeted to the school too,” Kurtis adds, inserting himself into the conversation. “...well we try.”

“But your hair gives it away,” Matt joked, Kurtis replying with the middle finger. “‘Ts true. I’m a pretty successful closeted if you ask me.”

“Except you look at Jason with sex eyes,” Kurtis smirked. Jason scoffed. Max eyed Danny and shook his head, which the younger boy interpreted as a “I’m sorry about these idiots”.

“Whatever Kurt. I’m gonna head over to my locker. Forgot to get my books for next period,” his eyes quickly scanned over the room before he gave a light peck to Jason’s cheek. He shot Kurtis a look of annoyance mixed with playful mischief and Max a warm smile. Danny grinned at his geeky-looking salute before he swept himself into the hallway and closed the door behind him.

The young boy exhaled. Matt’s slicked back hair. His baggy jeans. His fucking leather jacket (which he was secretly jealous over). He looked like a popular, acted like a popular, and somehow Danny was in this little “bubble”, as he calls it, with him. He couldn't really figure out how he managed to get himself into this, or how he was still in this group with him, but he stopped caring after their day out. Maybe he was slightly sick of all the bullshit stereotypes that stabbed his back every single day. Maybe now, he actually wanted to see the obviously gay cheerleader date the good looking jock. Just to get back at all those times shit movies played the “girl-next-door” and the “good-looking-jock” stereotype. Maybe not see them kiss though. He mentally cursed himself for being so homophobic. So anti...him? I guess. He just casted the phrase “baby steps” across himself and tried to brush it aside.

“He's probably just going to get some grass off Jerrick,” Kurtis rolled his eyes, taking an imaginary cigarette in his fingers and pinching it between his lips.

“I'm pretty sure he's laying off it,” Jason gestured his hand over Kurtis’s gaze, making the brunette boy scrunch up his nose in protest. “He doesn't even do it that much.”

“Bullshit,” he rolled his eyes, eyeing Max for his approval.

“Sorry Jason, I’m on Kurtis’s side for this one,” he shrugged. Kurtis cheered and shoved Jason lightly, confidently arching his chest like he was taking his dominance.

“Told ya so,” he poked out his tongue. Jason snorted and shoved him back.

“What about you Danny?” he peered over and blinked his eyes, the view looking a little glassy as he pouted. The younger boy drew out a guilty expression.

“Well…” he looked up at Max. “...I'm on their side…”

“Ha! In your face Jason. Majority rules,” he announced, crossing his arms over his chest and raising his chin.

“Oh shut the fuck up,” he furrowed his brows. “He's my boyfriend, you know? I know him the most.”

“Yeah, but Max is a genius,” the rest of the group looked towards the amused boy. “And they've been friends for like a century. He knows more.”

“Oh whatever Kurt. Maybe if it was such a big deal, you wouldn’t invite yourself over to my house and smoke pot,” he rolled his eyes, making Kurtis sneer. Max choked out a laugh and glanced away, trying to cover his embarrassing giggles. Or maybe he was hiding away from Jason’s death glares.

Kurtis parted his lips to speak, probably to say some smartass comment about Matt or jab at their gayness, but the shrieking school bell cut him off. Danny dubbed this as a “saved by the bell” moment and chuckled to himself. Kicking his legs over the seat, he took Max’s side as they joined the tail of the dwindling crowd. Jason was quick to come over, as if he was dismissing the brunette boy all together. Which Kurtis didn’t take all too well. He nudged past him and replied with furrowed brows. But Jason seemed all too deep in his pissed-off-state to care.With his nose pinched high into the air and his lips thinned out, he strutted past him carelessly and brushed his presence off.

Max and Danny shared a snicker.

“They can both be so childish,” he laughed. Danny glanced up and him and chimed in with a chuckle. He couldn’t really figure out if it was his height tricking him, or if he was just that much more mature than the rest of the group. Maybe both. He seemed to always detach himself from whatever petty fight they were having that day and rise above it. Then he would usually look down at them and laugh. Maturely and calmly. And fuck, it made Danny appreciate him that much more. In a way, he was slightly jealous. And that was coming from an angsty teen that cares more about punk music than school work. AKA, something that Max is not.

There was something about his calm and collected tone that always got Danny hooked. Not in a way that Roy does, but in a more…mentor like manner…? It confused him. If you were to tell Danny three months ago that he would look up to a band nerd who was also gay, he would probably burst out into laughter. Now, it seemed like no one else would better fit the part. Nowadays, he's wondering why the fuck anyone wants to be popular. Having friends that were decent people seemed a fuck of a lot better.

“Fag,”

Danny shook his head and slowly merged his conscience into reality. Max had stopped in his tracks, his shoulder cornering into Danny’s lane, enough for him to lightly bump into him. He first glanced up at him; at his quivering bottom lip and dilated pupils. This wasn’t good.

He then glanced towards the view in front. This definitely wasn’t good.

“Walking in some sort of gay cult isn’t a good way to keep yourself in the closet you know,” Brad had stepped aggressively in front of them, the thump making Max wheeze backwards. With his arms crossed over his chest, his teammates crowded around him like some sort of wall. In a way, it made Danny feel claustrophobic.

“Oh just fuck off,” Jason made his way to the front, lightly nudging the frozen Max back to shield him. “Seriously, we’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Everyone knows that you’re a fucking freak,” he spat, his gaze shifting towards the others. “All of you are.”

“Oh is that what your daddy tells you?” he cocked a shoulder and snorted. Kurtis snickered into his sleeve and curved around the two younger boys, who seemed to be in some sort of paralysed state. Danny could basically feel Max stiffen like cement in front of him.

“I wonder who has daddy issues?” Kurtis jabbed his finger into his chest and the widest, most arrogant grin spread across his lips. Danny gulped.

“I mean that’s what you expect when your daddy rapes little boys,” Jason’s tone was lined with the most revolting venom that he could muster up. And that was a hell of a lot. Enough for Danny to feel repulsed.

Even he knew that it was too far. Brad was like a ticking time bomb. Everyone knew that. It seemed like Jason knew, but didn’t care. Especially from the way he still arched his back and dragged out a smirk.

And who knows? Maybe he would regret it all after. After he went through the shit storm that was gathering above him, that everyone could see from miles away, but he chose to brush off.

Danny shut his eyes. He couldn’t take it.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

And it was like lightning struck.

Chapter Text

Danny felt his body freeze. Completely. Like something travelled through his limbs and froze him from the inside out. It felt like dried cement. It was like stone was carved through his veins, sculpting his legs slanted and his hands fanned by his lips.

Each pound echoed throughout the hallway. It somehow pierced through all the chatter, screams and gasps. He could feel his ears muffle and clog at each hit. One. By one. By one. He went numb. Cold. Empty.

Jason gave a single glance up at him. His dark eyes had lost colour. Danny was hit with a sudden gush of guilt, riling up his throat like a technicolour yawn. The aftertaste was disgusting. Strait up vile. Jason was practically begging for help. He didn’t need words to know that. But he couldn’t do anything. He wouldn’t do anything. If he wanted to stay safe anyway.

Red oozed down his curled down lip, staining a trail with brewed together tears. His pale face was painted with marks of red. A harsh crimson red. Looked as if he was being stained with the dirtiest venom. He drew out a harsh cry; an echoing wail, more like. But it wasn’t really a beg for mercy. It was more of a beg for help. To him. It tugged by Danny’s chest, but he still stood there. Stunned. Unmoving. Like some sort of coward. Well, he was a coward. An idiot. A person that does absolutely nothing, even though ultimately he thinks that he’s lesser than everyone else at the end of the day.

Kurtis was screaming. His hands were swooping and grasping through the wall of classmates who cheered. They practically elbowed him, kicked him, restricted him, until the brunette hurled over and began to cough. His eyes never tore away from Jason, even when cradling his own stomach and watching his own world haze into a blur.

Max had been thrown over to the locker, a forearm imprisoning him by his neck. Some other classmate had clutched his collar, borderline suffocating him in his tight, tight grasp. His breath was getting shallower; too shallow for Danny to cope. He watched him squirm and kick against the metal doors. Crinkling his eyes shut, he let out a small sob and resisted desperately, but ultimately, weakly. Danny was useless. Completely useless.

“Okay, back off,”

The hallway went silent. Matt had his palm pressed into Brad’s chest. Tossing him away swiftly, he turned himself around to Jason and cupped his cheek. He gently stroked his bleeding rivulet, before jolting up towards his fellow team member.

“Let’s not do this now,” he snapped. Brad’s attention snaked past the player and towards Jason, who had his hand covering his purple-blue blemish. He breathed out a scent of utter shock . “I-It’s class anyway.”

“Fag,” the older teen spat, shoving his hands into his pockets. He eyed the rest of his group, who slowly formed a bunch behind him.

“Trust you to be just like them,”

Brad gave a single glance over to Danny, a cold line escaping his lips as he passed. The younger boy gulped, feeling a sharp pain travell through his body. Like a dagger of the past jabbed through his chest.

The other students parted, or more like, hurried away from him in fear. A few of them began to proceed off to class, with the full crowd eventually dissolving away. Lingering behind was the usual group.

Danny’s eyes wandered over to the other students. They had their feet dragged behind them.

Max was pushed free, and the tall boy took a quick inhale before rushing over to Jason. He was still collapsed onto the ground, his expression blank and borderline broken. Matt watched the last few students close the door behind them before lunging over to Jason and cradling him.

“I-I didn’t know that this would happen,” his voice trembled, tears cracking his words. “I-I’m so sorry for ever letting this happen to you. Especially here. In front of everyone and…”

He was cut off by himself, as cries overcame his senses. He hunched over him, bawling over his limp partner. Max caressed his back and sniffed.

“I-It’s okay Matt,” he ran his fingers through his gelled back, grey locks. Matt peered up and shook his head.

“Of course it’s not! For fuck’s sake Max, I’m not going to stand around and watch something like this happen,” his eyes roam over to Danny. Either intentionally or unintentionally. It didn’t matter though. The younger boy could feel the stare dig into his chest.

He was wrong. He should’ve done something. But he didn’t. Because he’s a fucking coward. He’s useless. Motherfucking useless.

“We’re not going to let you babysit us,” Kurtis chuckled, the laugh painfully raspy. Slumping a hand onto his shoulder, he shuffled himself into an upright position. “We’re seniors. I’m pretty sure we’ve gone through hell and back already,” Matt tried to snicker. Key word being tried. “Multiple times.”

“Let me care about you for once Kurtis,” he watched the brunette struggle up. Slamming his hand against the locker, his legs trembled underneath him as he steadied himself into a standing position. Well. Barely.

“Rather not,” he joked, choking out a stiff laugh. “So are we gonna ditch or what?” he brushed his hands over his jeans. “I’m sort of over school right now.”

Matt’s eyes gazed over to Jason, who cupped his quivering hand over his cheek. Smiling, he gave a light nod and pressed his lips together.

“Mhm…” the younger brunette hummed and placed his hands by his side. Slowly sitting up, Matt quickly rushed to support his back and neck.

“D-Don’t hurt yourself. You can take your time,” he slightly panicked. Jason just shook his head.

“I’m fine Matt,” he ran his index finger over the back of his hand, lining down to his digits. Jason peered up at him and smiled. Matt tried to reciprocate it, but it tugged painfully by his cheeks.

He looked like he was fighting against his resculpting muscles. Danny bit down on his bottom lip. His legs were still nailed to the ground rigidly. It was like his body was hammered into the hallway. He couldn’t move. Everything felt too stiff. Too heavy. Too much.

“I-I’m not,” Max choked out. The other four boys snapped over to him.

“Why not?” Kurtis raised an eyebrow.

“Because...I-I’m already late to class and...” he ran his left palm over his upper right arm. “...I don’t really want to get into trouble.”

“You’re already in deep shit Max. You know that,” Kurtis took a step towards him, like an invite to comfort, but the taller boy just shook his head.

“I’m okay. Really,” he gestured stiffly. “Just a few scratches,” he scattered past him and pulled down his sweater. “I’ll see you guys later.”

His voice was small. Really quiet. Borderline whispering, like he was regretting it.

“He’s always like this,” Kurtis grumbled under his breath, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“I know. But there’s nothing we can do,” Matt had Jason’s arm draped across his shoulders as he helped him up. Holding a hand up to his waist, he reeled in closer to his chest. “That’s the way Max is. You know he has good morals.”

“Eh, mostly,” he rolled his eyes. “Would be a lot better if he stopped with the whole “homophobia" thing.”

Danny widened his eyes.

“Some people deal with it differently, okay?” he strolled past Danny, brushing Jason’s body slightly against his. He wondered if it was a little jab towards the younger boy, but he didn’t care either way. He already hated himself for everything. He didn’t need some sort of reminder.

“I just feel like he’s so anti…”

Us. Himself.

"I don't know like..."

Me.

“...us…? I guess,” Kurtis finished his sentence and trailed behind them.

Danny cursed under his breath. Quiet enough for no one else to hear. Harsh enough to make himself sigh deeply.

“You coming or what?” Kurtis called over to him coldly. Like he was barely bothering.

Understandably.

"Yeah..."

Danny had one job: to keep the friends that accepted him for him. Even though he didn’t accept himself. But he fucked it up. Royally fucked it up. Because he did nothing.

“So typical...so fucking typical…”

He repeated it, over and over, in the car ride to Jason’s house. Even his own homophobic senses weren’t regurgitating out when Jason was cuddled up towards Matt. He honestly just stopped caring. All he wanted to do was punch himself, harder than humanly possible, so he could feel sane. He was done. He was done sitting by the sidelines and watching everything happen in front of him. He was done seeing everything happen instead of being apart of it. He wanted to snatch the script off of the director and step up on stage to be apart of his own life. To perform in the years he’s supposed to never forget. For the right reasons too.

He clutched onto his seat belt. It was going to change. He was going to change.

Chapter Text

A low bass buzzed through the dimly lit room. A single, small lamp with a spawny light bulb hung in the corner, a murky yellow just casting over Danny’s body. Well, up to his thighs anyway. A single beer bottle swung loosely in his left hand which slumped over the side of the couch. His index and middle finger drummed along the neck of the liquor bottle alongside the rhythm of the quietly played song.

“Let's go chasing stars this evening”

He felt the dense, heavy feeling of intoxication weigh down on his forehead. The warmth pressed down against him, like it was casting a hum around his body. He slowly shut his eyes. The world around him felt like it was swirling slowly beneath him.

“Eyes wide shut, in fast cars dreaming”

He could see it. Courtney’s heartbroken face. The way her brows crinkled. The way her rosy pink lips parted into a frown. It looked as if she wanted to say more. But she didn’t. Maybe because it would be too much for her. She already said enough. It wasn’t like Danny wanted to hear it anyway. Whatever she was going to say next would be painful to hear for the both of them. Maybe having the lingering thought of curiosity was better than having to come to his senses and accept...well...whatever the fuck was going on. With her. With him. With everything.

“Oh oh we're tripping at the speed of light”

But then again, curiosity seemed to always get the better of him. It was always so hard for him to swallow down whatever scraps he was given. Well. Especially when people like Max do something so unexpected like that. Danny never knew how to plant both feet back into the ground after being shoved over harshly. When something smashed into his side, leaving him startled and vulnerable as he topples to the ground, he could never really get up with ease. Maybe it was because, in his eyes, everything else had meaning. Everything but him. At first glance, everything seemed so vibrant. So picturesque. Like they were plastic models for a 70s sitcom. Like everyone else around him was a one dimensional stereotype that slotted so perfectly into the picture. With absolutely no overlap or gaps. Well, except him anyway.

He always knew that he didn’t fit in. He never did. And he got sick of trying after a while. That’s when all the other puzzle pieces seemed to shift away. Like the part reserved for him was eventually filled up and he was left alone. Wandering aimlessly. It meant that it didn't matter if he bounced back in full force. Because he was useless anyway.

Maybe that’s when Roy began to forget about him.

“Who thought this could be paradise.”

But then again, everyone had secrets at the end of the day. Of course everyone wasn’t perfect, no matter how much it seemed sometimes. Danny often forgot that. Probably because he was so far away from the crowd, that everyone else just looked like cardboard cutouts; a painting hung on a wall, instead of the environment around him. That’s probably why Courtney meant so much to him. Because even though she has role in the picturesque world (a very meaningful one too), she never failed to forget about him. Even though he was a murky grey. Even though he didn’t fit in. Even though he was a wanderer.

“I don't need to sleep tonight”

But maybe everyone else thought they were wanderers too. Max probably did. That’s probably why he keeps on wincing away from the rest of the group. But then again, Kurtis did mention something. Something pretty...important. He was homophobic. Something a little off for someone whose friends are all gay. He didn’t exactly know Max too well. He did “I just wanna to feel alive”

Danny virtually knew nothing about him. Or at least, he felt like he knew him a lot more than he actually did. He thought Max was a simple guy. Someone who plays the oboe. Aces his classes. Is gay. Danny never really bothered to think of the rest. Maybe because it was a lot easier to think that he was one dimensional. A lot less thoughts involved, I guess.

So the chance of Max being homophobic never even crossed his mind. Now that it did...well...he was left in an odd state of confusion. He was just plain shocked that he would sit with three (obviously) gay people and dub them as friends. Some of his only friends at school as well. And why was he? Why were his friends okay with it too? And why didn’t they tell him earlier?

Countless questions filled up his mind, swimming through the warmth of his high. He exhaled.

“Swimming in the darks alright”

“What do you think?”

Danny blinked open his eyes. He felt his eyelashes feather at the arch of his brows. As he peered above at the cracks in the ceiling, the hazy hue melted away and circled around Kurtis’s peering gaze. His blue, dilated pupils were staring down at him. The shivers of his intimidating presence gyrated against his spine, the euphoric feeling of his high brewing in.

“About what?”

Kurtis let out a small chuckle. He settled down next to him, his palm pressing into the excess fabric of his shirt. The younger boy wiggled upright, letting the liquor bottle slip out of his grasp and onto the carpet as he rested his back against the sofa.

“Max,” Danny gulped. “Who else would you be thinking about?”

“Courtney. Jason. Matt--” he began to count with his fingers sarcastically.

“--Roy,” he finished, making the other boy halt. Smirking, he proceeded to pat down Danny’s hair jokingly. “Jason and Matt are fucking in the other room. And Courtney...I don’t know, fucking Dan probably,” Danny gulped again, but his dry throat seemed to keep him from washing away his dumb expression. “Why are you so quiet tonight? Are you really hung up on what I said about Max?”

Danny nodded reluctantly, tucking his chin into his chest to avoid Kurtis’s gaze. The older boy just shrugged and took a long sip of his beer.

“I don’t know...I just really expected for him to be more supportive of everything,” he confessed. It was like the words were tumbling out of his lips. Like he was barely thinking about what he was saying, and instead, letting whatever came to him, spill out. “He just seemed like the type to…”

“You’re homophobic too, aren’t you?” Danny snapped up at him, from a mixture of shock and worry. But he gathered from Kurtis’s face, that he worked that out a long time ago. “It was pretty easy to figure out. Jason caught on to it from day one and told me about it. I was a little worried when you sat with us on the first day to be honest. I didn’t think you would fit in but...I was wrong,” he looked over to him and grinned. “For once.”

Danny chuckled.

“I-It’s nothing personal, I swear,” Kurtis nodded nonchalantly, confusion Danny as to if he was sick of hearing bullshit or he was just piss drunk.

“I know,” he hummed.

“I’m working on it…” Danny pursed his lips. The older brunette seemed to just gesture to absolutely nothing as he wavered his hand over his lap.

“Max says that too,” the junior let out a small “oh” and placed his hands onto his knees like some preparatory student. “It’s been years since he’s joined the group but...nothing seems to change,” Kurtis lowered his gaze. “I think it has something to do with his family; not that he’s out or anything,” the thought of it made Danny clasp his hands together tightly, his index fingers pressing into the gaps of his knuckles. “Or maybe…” he exhaled. Danny already expected for something worse. “Maybe he’s all up in his head or something. Like he usually is.”

The younger boy dragged out a long sigh. Just like expected.

He would have loved to say that he was better than that. That he was vibrant. Never in his head. That he was the perfect person to help out Max, like he did to him. But he couldn’t. Because he was the same. All up in his head until time passes past him.

He couldn’t really tell if there was that slight tint of jealousy and pride fueling it. Max always seemed so quaint…? From a distance anyway. It’s not like he was socially infamous or anything like that, but Danny was no stranger to the name “Max Malanaphy” before he had joined their “gay cult” as he sometimes dubbed. He’d accompany Courtney in their school musicals; or in those weird Christian musicals that they held at church sometimes to try and convince you that Christianity is “hip and cool”. Danny never really understood why Courtney would join them. He would also help out Roy a few times with the plays and arrangements. He seemed to be into theatre. Probably would be a theatre kid too if he wasn’t so shy. And of course he received every notable academic award known to man. Sure there wasn’t exactly competition at the school so it wouldn’t be too hard, but hey, he seemed pretty smart. Now that he knew him, he knew for sure he was.

“You too?”

Danny shook his head and plastered on a smile. A lopsided smile. Probably looked really fake, and Kurtis was quick to notice it.

“I can’t tell if you’re doing that ironically, or you’re just really high,” the younger brunette gestured jokingly, receiving a small chuckle from Kurtis as he lightly slapped Danny’s knee. Though it was more like a light sway. He was way too drunk to actually be bothered.

“Well…” he gave a minimal shrug, small enough to hide it behind a shift in his position. He pulled his knee closely to his chest and hugged it tightly. “I mean...I can get lost in my own thoughts sometimes…”

Quite a lot actually.

“I get it,” he nodded. His gaze fell into the blur of the room. He first parted his lips to speak, but he only let out a sigh. Danny figured that it was probably his thoughts being clogged up. “...but sometimes I feel like you need to look around you, you know?” he began, his eyes lowering slightly. “When you're all up in your head, you forget to take in everything else because all you can hear are your thoughts,” he knocked the empty bottle onto the side table. It made a small “clank” sound as it toppled to its curved surface. “I'm not saying to trust everyone, but sometimes you need to take into account what other people say because they're a bystander. So they can see past all the shitty mist that builds up in your mind,” Kurtis glanced down at Danny and widened his smile to try and even out his lack of one. It was a little unevenly stretched out. Also lined with his tipsy nature but Danny took it in with a gracious gulp. “Just don't stress too much about it, okay?”

Danny nodded half heartedly. He knew what he was saying. Paying attention to what people said was important, obviously. But actually believing in what they're saying...well that's the hard part. For him anyway. Especially when everyone seems to say something different constantly. He was a sinner, now he's apparently fine. Even though he's spent so much time hating himself, because everyone else hated him. Take everything into consideration what other people say, but you make the decision at the end of the day. The only problem. His own decision would change constsantly.

He could barely believe in himself for that long.

“It's not the end of the world if you make one little mistake, remember that,” he took his hand and squeezed it tightly. “We’re only in high school. What we do now is probably not going to affect us when we’re older.”

Danny pressed his lips together and nodded. Mostly to get Kurtis’s harsh stare away from him. He slightly loosened the grip of his hand.

“You getting tired?” the junior replied with a subtle nod. “Thought so. I'll drive you home.”

He wondered if Kurtis felt slightly bad for him at the end of the day. Like, first of all, he didn't treat him like shit (unlike Matt and sometimes Max). Maybe it was because he was younger than them. But then again it could be because they're not that close yet, so they weren't at a “joking around” territory. It was probably really odd having someone new sit with them. Making the four a five. A really tight four an awkwardly bigger yet still accepting five.

Kurtis also seemed to always give him a look. A certain look. His brows would furrow in slightly with his lips parted. Like he was trying to teach him something important. Danny speculated if it had something to do with his past. Like he made the wrong decisions. Or he went through the same thing. Or maybe he's looking too into it. Like he always is.

Danny ran his hands over his jeans and faced Kurtis who was leaning over to his jacket which was hanging loosely at the back of a chair. Taking the key into his fingers, he glanced down at Danny with a wide smile. He really was like a mentor too. In a drunk, somewhat unsure and bitchy sort of way. But Danny loved it.

Chapter Text

“Do you want to say bye to the couple?” Kurtis asked. He swirled his car keys around his index finger as he lazily swung a jacket over his shoulder.

“Uhh...sure,” Danny hopped off of the sofa and approached the set of stairs, which he could barely make out because of the darkly lit basement. By the top of the staircase, darkness completely cloaked over his body, making it hard for him to travel up towards the living room. And he was drunk off of his mind, which made it hard to manuver his legs in a coordinated manner.

He was somewhat thankful for Kurtis’s rich status. It meant booze, busy parents (equating to late nights), and his amazing house. He loved the way it was set out, with chic, modern paintings up on the walls and crystal clear floors. There always seemed to be a gentle breeze flowing through the large windows which made the feel all the more cozy. He was currently really thankful for his wide staircase too. The carpet was also soft which was a bonus. His drunken state left him weak and floppy, like his legs would move a second later than his thoughts. So Kurtis’s thankfully large set of stairs left him muttering a thank you as he ascended.

“Ah...Matt…”

Danny stiffened. His fingers traced around the door frame as he peeked out into the living room slightly. It was just open, to let a single shimmer of light shine in. Although it was somewhat dark, with the light being more of a deep yellow hue, it was easy to spot the two teenager sprawled across the large sofa.

“Fuck Jason,”

Matt steadied his body above him, his palms planting into the sides of his waist. Thrusting, in and out, muffled moans escaped Jason’s lips. Danny shivered. Their bare bodies were cloaked with a thin blanket, which hung loose by Matt’s lower back. Even so, the younger boy thought he was seeing too much. Way too much. It gave an odd tingling sensation through his body as he clutched onto the knob.

“Faster…”

Danny couldn't move. His eyes were fixated on the boys, who desperately linked onto each other. Jason had his fingers pressed into Matt’s forearms as he grinded against his hips. He replied with a grunt as he lowered to his neck, quickly showering him with small pecks down to his collarbones.

This was too much. Way too much.

Danny forcefully scattered away, his eyes still glued onto the couple. He hurriedly crawled back down to the basement and scrambled to find his composure. He slapped himself on the cheeks. He was burning. Embarrassment, awkwardness, excitement and nervousness all swirled within his stomach as he toppled to his sides. A little sense of desire and intrigue brewed itself into the mix, with the drunken high kicking him right by the chest. He felt nauseous, to say the least. Confused, to say the most.

He just shook his head and rethought his route, which was to climb up another set of stairs leading to the front door. Aka a route that does not include the sightings of one of the gayest and confusing things Danny has ever seen. He gathered his thoughts and dashed for the other staircase, which swirled itself into the upper floor. He could just see Kurtis by the front door, leaning against the wood lazily with the keys in his hands. With his other, he held up his phone which his eyes were glued on. Danny ran as quickly as he could towards him, which mostly consisted of him wavering his arms around frantically and hoping that his legs would keep up with his hopeful pace.

“Uhh you okay…?” Kurtis tucked away his phone into his jacket pocket and glanced down at the younger boy with confusion.

“Y-Yeah,” he puffed out, running his hands through his hair like he was confident. Casual. Basically everything a normal person should be in this situation.

“Did you run into them fucking?” Kurtis chortled, turning the knob. Pushing forward, he let the cold air seep in. When Danny hesitated to answer, the older boy snorted.

“I’ve done that so many fucking times, you have no idea,” he unlocked the vehicle and gestured for Danny to follow him. “I make them vaccuum every inch of that room. Every single time. I swear to god, they’re a pair of horny motherfuckers.”

“Has Max walked in on them?” Danny strapped the seatbelt around him. Kurtis howled out a laugh.

“Yeah, like once. He was scarred for life though,” he snickered, letting the engine roar beneath them.

“What happened?” he felt a small flutter of a chuckle by his chest.

“He was snooping around the house, probably sick of my lazy-ass, and I think he tried to find some place to sleep. I’m pretty sure that it was one of the first sleepovers we had,” he laughed. “Oh shit, it’s been years man,” he slapped himself by the forehead. “Max stumbled into the living room and found Jason and Matt...you know.”

“Y-Yeah…” Danny couldn’t really get the picture out of his mind. He couldn’t really figure out if it was gross or...intriguing? He’d spent so many years hating anything so “homo”. He forced himself to find it revolting but…

He shook his head.

“He literally screamed,” Danny smiled a little. “He sprinted back into the basement and, I swear to god, he had the most shocked expression ever. Like he saw a ghost or something,” he rolled his eyes. “Such a fucking drama queen. I can’t believe he’s not a theatre kid.”

“I know right,” he grinned, turning over his body to face the driver.

“He swore that he would never walk around the house by himself again. And he hasn’t to this day,” he exhaled, a grin spreading across his lips. “He can be so fucking dumb sometimes.”

“But he’s still, like, the smartest person at school,” he noted. “That’s saying something.”

“We’re all just asshats then,” he joked. “Come on, who voted Brad as school cap again?”

“Well no one else did run,” he groaned. “And it’s a popularity contest anyway. Any guy who can provide that much booze is sure to win.”

Kurtis cackled, nudging Danny’s shoulder with his knuckles lightly. He felt his smile widen. Like it was some sort of sign of approval from Kurtis. Or at least it felt like it.

“I wanted Max to run, you know since he’s a decent human being and all, but he refused to. I mean, I know he’s shy and crap, but he could’ve actually done good stuff,” he babbled, gesturing with one hand.

Danny gulped at his sudden lack of care for his driving. He had a history being a bad driver, and his state of mind was probably not the best. Being shit drunk and all. But he didn’t really want to bring it up. He would either try to gesture reassurance (which means he would care less about his actions), or nudge Danny again, maybe harder (which would equate to him being even more distracted).

“Y-yeah...Max is really cool,” he chuckled nervously over, tightening his seat belt. He could feel his mind go a little fuzzy as he blinked to unfog his gaze.

“I mean, would he filter himself? Yes. Maybe he’ll look less relatable and raw than he actually is, but he’ll still do great. He’s mature, kind, smart--” Kurtis’s gestures became more symphonic as he blabbered on about Max. He couldn’t really decipher if he was just really drunk or he was really into Max. Maybe both. Would it be too typical for everyone in the group to end up dating? Probably. Danny wouldn’t even want that to happen. He would be the fifth wheel, and he’s exposed to too much affection as it is. Especially with Matt and Jason just then.

“Danny?!”

The younger boy took a few deep breaths.

“Are you even listening?” he had completely turned over to his side to face him. Okay. Now Danny was panicking.

“Y-Yeah I am,” he eyed the road. Thank god for the empty street.

“What was I talking about then, huh? What was I talking about?” his left hand loosely cupped over the wheel, the other reaching out towards Danny to flick him on the forearm playfully. Except all the other boy could do as a reply was to chuckle awkwardly.

“Y-Your love for Max,” he plastered on a smirk and wriggled away from Kurtis’s grasp.

“Ew,” he boomeranged back into his own seat and shook his head. Looked a little too over the top for his usual face of disgust. Danny giggled. His flustered state was something he’d never seen, and he thought it was kind of...adorable…? Nah, he would never admit to that. Funny. Yeah, let’s say that. “He is not my type.”

“What is your type?” he jabbed on further.

“I don’t know. Older? Silver fox or something. Greying hair can be attractive, right? Mature--” he rambled on, his wrist twirling around. Like he was gesturing to absolutely nothing. Honestly, it looked like he was spewing out bullshit.

“You literally just described Max,” Danny butted in, cackling at the top of his lungs when Kurtis froze. The older boy slammed his heel onto the brakes and swerved to the side of the road.

“Oh fuck off!” he shoved Danny’s back. His voice sounded more like a whine then a shout, and it made the brunette laugh even louder.

“It’s true!” he pulled back, whacking Kurtis by the shoulder. He began to chime into the laughter as he gasped over dramatically and snorted.

“I don’t go on and on about your love for Roy,” he teased back, Kurtis knocking down Danny’s confident a few notches. He regained his usual, self-assured manner and continued. “Come on, we’ve all noticed! You try and stare at him every lunch, you know, if we actually see him.”

“Fuck off Kurtis,” he grumbled. “This isn’t some typical, teen drama. I’m not crazy in love with Roy, and I won't ever get with him.”

“And I won’t go out with Max,” he cocked a shoulder and faced the wheel again, like he drew out a win.

“...really…?” he asked in a quiet voice, his words lined finely with mischief.

“Yes,” he answered with a straight face.

“...are you sure…?” he poked.

“I mean, I might kiss him but-”

“Well, do it,”

Kurtis widened his eyes, shock completely washing over his face. Danny’s unusually assured expression met Kurtis’s stunned one.

“I thought you were--” he shook his head and gulped. “...nevermind…”

Danny glossed over Kurtis’s words, already coming back at full force with his comment. His eyes widened slightly at the excitement building up within him.

“You totally should! I would pay money to see that shit,” he nudged on further, with Kurtis feebly replying with mixed emotions. He couldn’t really decipher if he should agree; and bump his confidence that much higher, though it would have a lot of side effects later on; or disagree, which would strike at his ego, though it would be easier to do so.

Danny’s eyes were basically beaming with enthusiasm. Kurtis groaned.

“Fine, but--”

Danny bursted out into laughter.

“In front of everyone in the group too. Oh shit! It would be hilarious to see their reactions,” he laughed. Kurtis replied with a timid chuckle.

“Sure whatever,” he tried to brush off in a smooth manner. He returned his gaze towards the road as Danny sat back in his seat, his aura much more upbeat than it was before.

Danny finally drew out a win. A win to fucking Kurtis too. Who would have guessed?

He smiled to himself. Maybe he was slowly inserting himself into Kurtis’s good books. He seemed comfortable enough around him. But then again, it could be the alcohol talking, which wasn’t that unlikely of a reason. Did he care? Not really. He just wanted to fit into the group. Fit in with the people who seemed to care about and accept him the most out of this whole stinking town. Danny finally found decent people to hang out with. He couldn’t fuck this up anymore.

And he knew he was going in the right direction. He glanced up at Kurtis with a wide smile. Maybe he isn’t as fucked as he once thought.

“Uh wait...Danny…”

He pulled over to the side of the road and looked over to him, somewhat concerned.

“Yeah?” he peered over.

“Where even is your house?”

Danny raised an eyebrow.

“Didn’t I tell you?” he received a shake of the head as a reply.

“I’ve been driving around the block for an hour now. I just realised that I forgot to ask.”

Chapter Text

“Why are you back so late?”

Shit. Ok, maybe Danny should have thought through the consequences before he ditched school. He doubts that his mom actually checked his attendance record, so he would be fine there. But being back at 2AM? Now that was a hard one to slip past.

She was currently sitting by the lounge room table, her eyes glued on the TV screen and a magazine stuck to her hands.

“Umm…” Danny pulled a straight face, hoping that his mom wouldn't smell the alcohol stained to his jacket. Surely she wouldn't pick up on his wheezy behaviour, right?

“I can't believe that Roy would let you stay over for that long,” he widened his eyes. “I really need to apologise to him and his family.”

“O-Oh no it's okay,” he gestured. “I'll do it for you. Y-Yeah, I'll write a monologue and everything.”

His mom laughed.

“I just want you to get a good sleep, okay?” She rolled her eyes. “Roy already explained to me that he was helping you study. And though it's somewhat hard for me to believe that you were studying for a half yearly maths exam, I know that Roy doesn't lie.”

Danny smiled to himself. Thank god for Roy having his back.

“Ha, night mom.”

He tried to sweep his state of mind (aka being piss drunk) under the rug as he slammed the door behind him. He was honestly so relieved to enter his own room. It felt cozy and comfortable, and everything he needed right now. Domestic bliss.

DANNY: thanks Roy

He texted into his phone, switching his bedside lamp on.

ROY: for covering your ass?

ROY: no problem

Danny chuckled.

DANNY: yeah...sorry for that

ROY: where were you anyway?

DANNY: Kurtis’s with Matt and Jason

ROY: getting piss drunk?

Danny halted. Would Roy get mad at him for drinking? Maybe. Danny didn't want to see his bad sides, or for him to get mad. He really didn't want that. Would he tell Courtney? That's a somewhat likely chance. They're in a few of the same classes, and plus, they've been a three for so long. He knows how overprotective Courtney can be at times.

ROY: from your lack of an answer, I'm guessing you did

Danny gulped.

ROY: Court will get mad

ROY: you know?

He sighed.

DANNY: yeah

DANNY: I know

He could already imagine it. Courtney's pissed off face. Sure she was pretty, but her angry face was still something to fear. He feared it ever since it was little. He swore that he could see his life flash before his eyes every time the Australian's face pulsed a bright red.

ROY: but I have your back

Was it too predictable for him to feel his heart flutter when he read it? Probably. It didn't stop him though. He didn't even realise his fingers locking up against the home and lock button. Before he knew it, he had swiftly pressed down, screenshotting his said comment. He flustered a deep red.

He didn't really mean to. Well. Subconsciously he probably did. But no going back now.

DANNY: thanks Roy

ROY: no worries

DANNY: why are you up so late anyway?

DANNY: well, early, I guess

Danny glanced over to the time at the top of the screen. 2:14AM. Great. There was no way he could stay awake through school now. Not that he usually does anyway.

ROY: working on a script

He imagined that he would say it nonchalantly alongside a small shrug. But Danny couldn’t really take it. He knew that he was tired and overworked. He wished that he could take a break sometimes. 'Perfectionist' seemed like an understatement when it came to Roy. Always working on and improving whatever he was doing. Danny wondered if he grew apart because he became too busy. Or maybe he blended into the background too much. Blended into the things that don’t matter anymore to him. Who knows.

DANNY: you should go to bed

DANNY: it’s getting late

ROY: you mean, too early?

He chuckled. Yes, he knew it wasn’t revolutionarily funny. Yes, he found everything that Roy says funny. And yes, he knew that he was into Roy a little too much sometimes.

ROY: I’ll go to bed when you do

ROY: you need a rest too

Danny was probably looking into it too much, but he didn’t care. He didn’t even bother to try and wipe off his smile. Roy cared. Maybe just a little. But who the fuck cares? It meant a lot to him.

DANNY: OK

DANNY: goodnight

ROY: goodnight

He switched off his phone and placed it on his bedside table, reaching over to the lamp to turn it off. He glanced at his phone one more time.

ROY: have a good sleep

His heart was thumping fast. Was this the world teasing him? Or punishing him? Well he was taking the bait. Quickly.

DANNY: you too

Was he looking into it too much? Once again? He screenshot it anyway. Yes, again. Maybe he can look over it with a clear head in the morning and judge it better. Well. That was his excuse anyway.

ROY: see you in a few hours

ROY: ;)

DANNY: bye

He wondered if his photo album would be filled with just screenshots of Roy’s texts, because he didn’t hesitate to take another one. Damn. He was too obvious about his feelings for him. Jason had nothing on this. Matt and Jason who? Maybe his layers and layers of hatred for “homo” things are slowly wiping away. With the exposure from the group. Or maybe he was still a little tipsy. Probably a mixture of both.

But either way, he appreciated Roy looking after him. A lot. He seemed to always have his back. Caring for him even after all these years. Maybe he didn’t forget about him after all.

He smiled. He remembered what Roy looked like when they first met. By far, the earliest memory he had. Well it wasn’t the very, very first time they met. Apparently, their families have been close. Being neighbours and all. Legend has it that his mom offered cookies to them when she was baking. All those years ago. When his dad was around…

And she offered some to the neighbouring household, though she’s never met them. Apparently they hit it off right away. Became friends with the couple on the spot. Which explains Roy and Danny meeting the moment they were old enough to interact. His mom’s told him that Roy and him met when he was a couple of weeks old, but neither one of them could remember it. Obviously. They were too young.

So Danny would, instead, count the first time they met as their encounter at age three. He wondered why he could even remember it. This clearly too. Though he saw him through the living room window sometimes, he had never exchanged a word to him until a neighbourhood gather one July afternoon. I mean, they could barely speak period, but nevermind that.

He was dressed up in a cute pair of yellow jeans, matched with suspenders and a blue polo shirt. Man, he was the most adorable toddler. Along with a navy bowtie and a checkered Ascot cap, he won Danny over from the start. His dimples seemed to never leave his cheeks either. It wasn’t a romantic connection or anything, since they’re three and they could barely wrap their heads around the concept of colours, but he felt a weird connection. A friendly connection. Like the world was telling him that they would be friends.

He remembered their first handshake, having to uncomfortably shift his hand from his pockets of his overalls to in front of him. His mom had taught him to always be polite by showing a sign of happiness. So he smiled.

“Hello, my name is Danny,” his voice was higher pitched, and much more slurred. He could barely pronounce his own name.

“Hi Danny! I’m Roy,” he shook it firmly. Something he’s known to do to this day. He was proper and nice mannered. Even though he was only a year older, he always seemed to be more mature than Danny, like already having the ability to pronounce his words semi-properly and standing tall.

He never left his side after that. For years and years. Even at preschool. Oh man. He found himself so embarrassing. He cried when Roy left preschool because they couldn’t hang out every day anymore.

The 2 soon became a 3 when Courtney came over from Australia, and they’ve been notoriously tight throughout the small town. Neighbourhood gathers were always hilarious looking back because other, much older couples would laugh at them. Joyfully of course. Saying that only one could date Courtney and three’s would be awkward when they grow up. With puberty and all.

Well guess what? No one’s going to date Courtney. She’s a lesbian. And Danny wouldn’t want to anyway. He’s gay.

He felt his chest flutter. Was that a confession? Did he finally confess to himself? That he’s...gay…? Well, there’s no use denying it now. Even though he has been for years. It felt good. Great, actually. Unbelievably great. He’s said it before with Courtney but...it felt different. It felt right. Because he was fine with it. Yeah he said it. And he didn’t want to hold back saying it again. He was gay. And he was...slightly proud of that.

He giggled. Maybe he and Roy would be a thing. In his dreams. That would be funny though. Somewhat ironic. He would jab it at all those stupid couples. Fuck them. Fuck the world. He sounded like such an angsty teen. But he felt confident. He was sick and tired of fighting against a stupid and close minded world.

He wanted to escape. He said it before. With Roy and Courtney. Now, maybe with Jason, Matt, Kurtis and Max. And well, if Courtney’s coming, he had to bring along Willam. If that's the case, Alaska had to come along. If the rumours are true, Sharon too. Damn. That would be one big group. But it's hate-free...if Roy can stand to be around that many people. No homophobia though. Now that would be the life.

Roy confused him. There always seemed to be more sides to him than what he shows. Or maybe it’s his smug expression, who knows? He came off as slightly homophobic when they were at their school that night. Months ago. But then again, he said that he could learn to accept it.

And maybe Danny was being overdramatic and paranoid, but he swore that he looked at him in a certain way. A way that he perceived as a sign of “I know you’re gay and have slight feelings for me and I’m okay with that”. He was probably being too much of a conspiracy theorist. Looking too into it. But he couldn’t help but to think it sometimes. Him and Roy were…complicated, in his eyes. Or, it seemed complicated to him, but not for Roy. Nothing was that complicated for Roy.

He never seemed to cause any trouble for anyone. He would mind his own business until someone else asked for it. If that was the case, he would tear them down to shreds with his quick and witty humour. You would expect him to be a lot more popular, since he’s liked and all, but Danny guessed that the two don’t tend to link together. In high school social hierarchy anyway. He was also quiet, responsible and incredibly smart. Also specialised in problem solving, so if there was to be a problem, he could whip up a solution. So he wasn’t bothersome. To anyone. Except Danny. Because he couldn't fucking get him out of his mind.

“Argh, I need to get to sleep…” he groaned to himself, clutching the sides of his forehead as he lightly rocked sideways. His bed felt too hot by then, trapping all his breaths underneath the covers. He sprayed his legs on top of the blankets and stared at the ceiling. It wasn’t even 2:30 yet. He was starting to give up.

His eyes scanned the room in front. It was somewhat of a mess; with a few piles of clothes tossed into the corners, a couple of his binders fanned open across his rug, and used issues parading around his bin after his miss. But he liked to think that it gave it character. And it was organised. Somewhat. In his own way. A single sketchbook laid on his loveseat at the corner of the room. On top was a pencil, its end barely sharpened and its eraser dirty. He hadn’t touched it for years. He never really thought of using it for years.

He hopped out of bed and approached it, scooping the book into his hands to then take a seat. It’s always felt so soft by his back, though there seemed to be less space between him and the arms of the chair. He still remembers how his legs used to dangle, the tips of his toes barely scraping onto the ground. He laughed at the thought.

He opened the book and flicked through the pages. The first few were rough. Like he could barely grasp onto the pencil properly. But then it slowly got better. Uneven and harsh lines eventually became shapes. Smears of led became shading. And oddly drawn polygons became characters.

He paused.

The infamous “mood ring” incident. He chuckled. It had been so long since he looked over his character. It was only half done, and the ends of her body were smudged. Most likely because of the whole park scene. But it still looked as familiar as ever.

“It’s Adore…”

Danny mumbled to himself. He had completely forgotten about the character he’d drawn all those years ago. Like that intricate part of the story was missing. But it seemed to fit itself into the puzzle again, filling the empty void.

He looked back. It was around a year after Courtney and him created “Adore”. Around the “lecture” he was given. It was repressed in his memory so far down, that he could barely remember his own feelings. Only a small tingle by his fingertips. But he figured that little Danny was still in love with Adore. In love with being Adore. But he had to keep it a secret. Stay in hiding. Or he’ll get in trouble again. And he really didn’t want to get hurt again.

He held the pencil within his fingers. Flicking to a fresh page, he began to sketch a curved line, which eventually morphed into a circle, which transformed itself into a figure.

‘The largest eyes, with the longest eyelashes flattering up and down like wings’

He followed along his vivid imagination of her.

‘She had sharp, dark eyebrows, which were so bold and strong, fuelling him with confidence, yet rich and milky, calming him in an almost dream-like state’

He remembered the way she looked in front of him. It felt surreal.

‘The way his red lips glistened in the light; he couldn’t get enough of it.’

There she was. Right in front of him. Her delicate yet striking face. As clear as ever. It looked like she was smiling back at him happily with a twinkle in her eye. Something that he imagined himself as looking, before the hellstorm. She had the most beautiful locks, trickling down past her waist. Like it was tossed in the wind freely. He envisioned them as ruby red, the pearly colour glossy and shiny, just like her lips. He wondered how Roy would react to Adore. Not him being Adore, but if Adore was an actual person. Maybe he would like her a lot. Maybe spend a few nights together. Laughter. Smiles. Wouldn’t be surprised if they would ever fall in love. He wishes. He felt happier when he was Adore. She was more fun. More childish. More playful. More charming. Everything he wishes he had the confidence to be.

He missed it. He missed her. He missed being her.

Chapter Text

“Okay, I hate to be the one who says it but…”

It was the first break, and Danny barely crawled his way through the first two periods. He was exhausted. He could barely keep his eyes open, and Jay was quick to notice it during physics.

Not only was he his “ex-best friend” (so he knew what he looked like when he could barely stand up) and was insistent on bugging him, but he was a complete dick about it too. ‘What were you doing?’. ‘I saw you leave the school’. ‘You shouldn’t be hanging out with them’. ‘Is it because you think they’re cool?’. ‘Because they’re obviously not’. ‘They’re just faggots’. Danny cringed at each word, but all he did was coward away to the furthest section of his chair and think of other things to flush away his complaining. Jay knew nothing. Absolutely nothing. He shouldn’t be spewing out so much bullshit.

“You look dead Danny. You look dead.”

Kurtis was (of course) the one who poked the comment towards him. All the other group members glanced over, each having an expression of their own. Though all seemed to fall into the negative side of the spectrum. Max seemed concerned. Like his usual motherly stance was kicking in, and all he wanted to do was to make him feel better. Jason looked shocked. Like that weird shocked state where his mouth hangs open and it looks as if he wants to chuckle but he’s holding it back because he wants to be polite. But he ends up snorting a little anyway. And Matt? He just gave one quick look over, gave the look of absolute appall, and looked away again like nothing happened. This was bad news.

“I-I didn’t get to sleep last night,” he confessed, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Yeah...sorry for dropping you off at like 2AM,” Kurtis let out a small chuckle. Danny just gestured reassurance.

“But 2AM isn’t too bad. I mean, if you live around the block and school starts at 8,” Jason pointed out.

“Well you wouldn’t know what it’s like, would you? You and your fuck buddy over here--” Kurtis jabbed his index finger over to Matt who sarcastically waved back. “--fell asleep the moment you came. Literally.”

They both flushed a bright red. Max pinched the top of his nose from disgust.

“Do you mind being so vulgar?” he rolled his eyes, crossing his arms by his chest.

“No, no I don’t,” he smirked, returning to his earlier topic. “Maybe next time you can NOT stay over at my house.”

“Your parents were away anyway,” Jason fought.

“Yeah, but I had to clean after your hungover mess,” he protested back. “This is why we need Max.”

“Yeah you do,” he grinned confidently, cocking a shoulder over and snickering towards the slightly fuming Kurtis.

“Okay, I got it,” Jason began. “What if we hang out at my place this time. Saturday. Around 6. My parents are out on some “business meeting”. I’m pretty sure they’re just going to have a “night by themselves”. This time 'round, I won’t drink, and you-” he pointed towards Kurtis, who raised an eyebrow as a reply. “-can get as shitfaced as you want. Make out with someone if you have to,” just then, Kurtis and Danny shared a quick glance, like a note to an earlier conversation. That conversation. In the car. So Kurtis did remember. “Just make sure it’s not Matt. I’ll clean everything up. Promise.”

“You got yourself a deal,” Kurtis shrugged nonchalantly, shaking his hand firmly.

“And Max, you can tag along this time,” Matt teased, widening his smile as Max thinned his lips.

“I’d rather--”

“You don’t have to do anything,” Danny butted in. Half because he was done with the topic, and half because he felt bad for Max. Sometimes, it seemed like they were trying to peer pressure him into doing everything. And Danny had definitely been there (mostly because of Jay and his girlfriend’s everlasting excitement for absolutely everything), so he wanted to cut him some slack. This guy deserved a break, in his eyes. “If you don’t want to...you don’t have to.”

He pressed his lips together. He wondered if it was too much. Like, this wasn’t his event. Jason just whipped it up on the spot, and he wasn’t really supposed to be involved. But from Matt’s somewhat subtle smile, he felt a little more at ease.

“Yeah, he’s right,” Matt backed him up. “Max, you don’t have to come if you don’t want to. But,” he swung his arm around Jason’s shoulder, reeling him in closely to his chest. “I know Jason really wants you there,” the younger brunette batted his eyelashes and pouted jokingly. “And you know how upset I will be if Jason’s not happy.”

Max sighed.

“I will come,”

“Hell yeah!”

The three rejoice happily, high-fiving each other and fist pumping enthusiastically. Danny chuckled at their childish state, alongside Max who seemed to relax his shoulders.

“But I'm doing absolutely nothing, got that?” Max received four solid nods. “Good.”

“I might make a small stop before that though,” Kurtis eyed Jason, who widening his smile excitedly. He returned with a look that Danny interpreted as a prologue to some sort of shitstorm that they were ready to call upon. It seemed vaguely similar to the look of confidence they gave each other the moment before...the whole Brad thing. Which Danny would like to forget about. “I have somewhere to go. And I think it'll be pretty fun if you all come with me.”

Matt raised an eyebrow.

“Umm...sure…” he seemed somewhat skeptical. He eyed Jason, who overdramatically shrugged. It made him all the more suspicious. “Are you planning something?”

“I mean, it’s a little something, but it’s basically nothing,” he was quick to brush off.

“Why don’t we meet at school around 4? Then head off,” Jason suggested, his lines coming off much more rehearsed and robotic compared to his usual tone. Danny was doubtful of what was to come. But he either didn’t care; figuring it wasn’t that big of a deal; or he was tired, because he didn’t bother to fight about against Jason’s obvious mischief. He just nodded along with it.

“Okay…” Matt still seemed unconvinced, but when Jason pursed his lips and frowned slightly, he quickly collected his thoughts and plastered on a smile. He went as far as to nod cheerfully and kick away any lingering thoughts of doubt.

“Tomorrow will be fun, promise,” Jason giggled into his chest, pulling him in tightly.

Danny narrowed his eyes. There was something going on. They were making it ridiculously obvious. And he was a little scared of what this was going to be.

***

Danny had already said that he didn’t need a ride home, since he only lived a few hundred metres away, but Kurtis, for some reason, persisted and persisted today.

“You look like you're dead. Even more so than you did at lunch,” he kicked open the door and flashed his vacant passenger seat. “And I don’t even know how that’s possible.”

He reluctantly took it. Not only did he feel bad for saying no, especially because Max was off to band that day so no one would accompany Kurtis, but he was also dying from exhaustion. He had the worst body clock of all time. It never let him adjust to any slight changes in his sleep schedule, meaning he had to strictly go to bed around the same time every day to skip his body shutting down on him. It was annoying. To say the least.

“So how was school?” Danny felt like some little ten year old kid on his trip home from primary school.

“Tiring,” he confessed, glancing down at his phone. 3:22PM. He swore that it should have been around 5PM.

“Cute lock screen,” Kurtis teased, making Danny somewhat self conscious. He quickly switched it off and shoved it back into his pocket. “You seem like the type to be into Pierce the Veil.”

He somewhat cringed. At himself. What kind of kid had lyrics for “King for a day” plastered onto some sort of Tumblr aesthetic as their lock screen? Apparently this stupid “Sad Boy” over here.

“You wanna plug in your phone?” Kurtis reached over and dug his hands into Danny’s pockets. He was slightly taken back. “I would love to listen to your songs.”

“Umm...I don't know…” his fingers met his wrist.

“I want to know what you're into,” he edged closer. “Look, if you're scared that I won't like your songs, I've listened to Max’s for three hours. He had classical music on his Spotify,” Danny chuckled. “So that's a yes…?”

“Okay, fine,” he reluctantly gave away his device. “B-But first, can we park to the side of the road,” his history of crashing cars was really getting the better of him. Kurtis raised an eyebrow and swerved by a couple of similar looking houses (but don’t they all look similar anyway around here?). “I-I just heard the story from Matt, that’s all. About the after party last year?”

Kurtis groaned.

“He told you that story?” Kurtis flipped over the phone so Danny could quickly type in the passcode. Meanwhile, he seemed to mutter some sort of curse under his breath, probably directed towards Matt. “It’s nothing to worry about,” he began to scroll through his folders. “I was just drunk, and it was a long night, and everyone was basically drunk.”

He went on and on. Danny couldn't help but to laugh a little at his bullshitting. It was slightly adorable, really. How he gestured wildly and snuck a few “umm”s and “uhh”s as he thought of his next lie.

“Oh hey,” Kurtis dragged out a smirk. This wasn’t going to be good. “I was going to flick away the tab but…” he turned the phone to face the screen over to him. Danny’s jaw dropped. “Is this from Roy?”

Danny’s body numbed. He tried to muster out thousands and thousands of excuses as soon as possible. ‘I accidentally did it’. ‘I didn’t notice’. ‘What’s that?’.

“I-It’s not what it looks like,”

--and he ended up saying the absolute worst excuse. The one that makes you look more guilty somehow.

“You don’t need to hide your unbelievably obvious feelings for him,” Kurtis smirked. Danny hated it.

“I-I didn’t really…” he was lost for words. He couldn’t even make sense of what was going on.

“It’s some cute shit,” he snickered. “Does he really send this stuff?” he looked over to him, his eyes wide and circular with intrigue. Danny gulped and nodded reluctantly. “I barely knew he had feelings,” he laughed again, this time much more airy. “He must care about you a lot.”

“You’re shitting me Kurtis,” he mumbled under his breath. The older boy raised an eyebrow. “...I-I mean...he’s straight. I know it. He knows it. Everyone knows it.”

“Naw Danny,” he started up the car, joining his route once again. His tone was playful and joking. Borderline sarcastic. Danny laughed a little. “I ship it though.”

“...same…” they giggled together like some gossiping school girls.

“Go pick a song,” he nudged over the phone. “Maybe that song you sang at the “neighbourhood Christmas party” that Roy goes on and on about,” Danny rolled his eyes as he scrolled through the countless songs on Spotify. “It must be great if he keeps talking about it.”

“It was years ago! I don’t remember what I sang,” that was a lie. It was ‘Last Christmas’. Typical, he knows, but it was all he could come up with at the age of eight. Then, it was ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ which he performed with Courtney when he was 10 and she was 11. He wasn’t dumb. Ever since that incident with “Adore”, he had to somehow show the neighbourhood that ‘he wasn’t crazy’ and ‘he was most definitely not gay whatsoever’. Though singing isn't the most heteronormative thing ever. Actually, the more he thought about it, it was the complete opposite. No wonder they think that he's full blown gay.

“Well? Go play your Emo rock music,” Kurtis edged on. Danny rolled his eyes and chuckled.

“Fine,” he pressed 'I write Sins not Tragedies' (yes, the nationally regarded anthem of emo's everywhere other than Welcome to the Black Parade) and locked his phone. Kurtis hummed.

“Uhh...let me guess,” he tapped his chin. “Is it MCR?” Danny shook his head. He found it entertaining; an incredibly stereotypical gay guessing his punk rock music. But then again, how did he not know Panic! At the Disco? "Is it Panic?” Danny nodded enthusiastically. “Knew it. Sharon’s a big fan of the genre.”

Danny swallowed at the name. Was he just compared to the gothic, supposedly-lesbian back seater? He didn’t really know how to react to that.

“She’s A-Alaska’s friend. Right?” probably more than friends, from what he’s heard.

“Yeah. You heard about the rumours?” Damn. He caught on.

“A little. Just from Roy,” he grinned.

“Well, I believe it,” he shrugged. “From what I've seen anyway. Haven't you seen them around?” Danny shook his head. “Well, it looks weird at first. A cheerleader and a goth. I mean, this isn’t Glee or anything. It’s not what you expect here.”

He eased towards Danny’s house, gradually breaking until he had stopped right in front of his entrance door. He gave a small nod of confidence at his perfection as he eyed the younger boy escaping his car.

“You better turn up tomorrow. 4. School. Got it?” Danny replied with a nod. “Cool. See ya later.”

He waved tiresomely as he sped away (like always). Danny wondered how long it would be until Kurtis got fined with a speeding ticket. He should probably be thankful for having that job.

“Welcome home Dan-”

She paused. Danny just gestured nonchalantly. Like a mix between a wave and an 'I'm going upstairs to sleep and rethink my life decisions'.

“Did you sleep last night?” he shrugged as a reply. He seemed to blackout after his sketching. “Well, someone’s here to see you.”

“Hi Danny!”

By his living room was someone who he thought would never be here. Waiting in his living room. Now sipping tea from one of his mum's relatively new cups which she never gets out unless there's a visitor. Especially now. Because of what happened.

Chapter Text

“Jay?” Danny rubbed his eyes and then glanced over everything.

Jay (his happily dubbed “ex-best friend”) was sitting in the living room with his mom. Both sipping tea out of “special cups” (as his mom called it sometimes. Basically it means that they’re for guests) and chatting over the coffee table. On top were large plates filled with pastries, all nicely decorated with creamy white frosting. Shit. His mom went all out on this.

Does she know that they’re not friends anymore? Fuck. Did Danny tell her who he’s been hanging out with?

“Jay said that he really wanted to see you,” his mom explained, lowering the cup onto the table in front. “Well, I’ll head upstairs, now that you’re here. Have fun you two.”

As his mom dashed upstairs, he took over her spot. Near Jay. Way too close for his liking. He reeked of bad news.

“So…” Danny began, lifting one of the clean cups from the tray. As he began to pour himself some earl grey, he could see Jay plaster on a casual smile. “...what brings you here?”

“I just wanted to come around and say hi,” he piped. He clasped his hands together over his lap like a nominee for the next ‘Student of the Year’ award.

Fake.

Danny knew of his fake tendencies. Sort of like a teacher’s pet at times. Other times, more like a poser. He learnt to accept it…? Sort of. Well, sometimes. In that moment, he definitely didn’t.

“You never have before,” Danny argued, the cup hovering by his pursed lips.

“Well, I never needed to before because we sat together at school,” he shrugged. “I don’t really see you that much anymore. And I thought we were best friends.”

Danny crinkled his brows. He swore that there was more to this. More to why he’s here.

“I still see you around,” he said firmly. “I saw you last period.”

“Gia told me that you’re still hanging out with those guys,”

There it is. Danny took a small sip and lowered it into his palm. He was slightly less annoyed, now that he cracked the code. But still pretty stiff, since Jay was here, inserting himself into a situation that doesn't involve him. Whatsoever.

“Yeah. What’s it to you?” he fought, his voice reaching a crescendo. Jay cowered back a little onto the back of his seat. It made the air between them that much denser.

“N-Nothing. I’m just worried,” he mumbled, wrapping his jacket over him. “You know they have a...reputation, I guess.”

“Do they? Because you don’t see them around school much. I mean, I didn’t know about them until I met Jason,” as Jay parted his lips to speak, Danny continued. “What kind of reputation does Kurtis have anyway?"

"Well a--"

"Nothing other than "gay" or "fag" which is what Brad loves to say to him," he slammed the cup onto the table. Jay flinched.

"Jason is a boy cheerleader, yeah, but is he a big deal at school? Only sometimes. When Brad it involved," he groaned at the name.

"Matt’s a football player, sure, but is he a lot more than that? Yeah. The only "reputation" he has is a good one, maybe slightly more negative because of his friends or whatever. But he means no harm. He's a great guy," Jay glanced away.

"You probably heard of Max a few times at the award ceremonies, but you never heard about him,” he rolled his eyes.

“I swear, they have reputations glued onto them like some prison label but you know nothing about them! No one does! No one really even hears anything about them except fucked up rumours probably spread by one of you guys," he pointed directly towards Jay's chest.

"You know, you make it sound like they’re dangerous rebels who can’t be trusted. But number one, you don’t even hear that much about them as individuals. And number two, you don’t know them personally. But I do. And they’re just normal people who want to live their normal lives but fucking Brad has to go out of his way just to torment them. Because he’s a dick like that. And all of you people support it.”

“We don’t Dan-”

“But you do! Because all you do is stand there and watch. Gasp if you’re bothered,” he locked into strong eye contact with him.

“You’re the ones who developed this “reputation” around them because you love to do nothing but gossip. But you know what? They’re actual people. Living, breathing people. And they deserve a lot more than that.”

He took one big inhale and a long exhale as he finished his rant. He never expected himself to go all out like that. Especially to Jay. But he couldn’t really help it. He was fuming.

“I…” he was lost for words.

‘For once’, Danny thought, taking one more sigh before he scanned him up and down.

No. He didn’t look fine. Jay didn’t look like his usual self. Danny gulped. It was like his boiling blood had cooled down that instant with a cooling inhale.

“S-Sorry…” he shook his head. “I’m just sick and tired of--”

“I know,” Jay cut him off with a small nod. “I’m sorry too. For coming all the way here.”

He steadied himself up, looking as if he was still confused. Startled. His knees were buckling slightly and it looked as if he forgot how to walk for a singular moment. Like all his thoughts were focusing on something else. Dashing away from Danny’s gaze, he wandered outside without a single goodbye.

Danny sat there for a while. Eyes wide open and lips parted.

“So I’m guessing you aren’t friends anymore…?”

His mom popped her head into the room and strolled over to the vacant space next to him.

“It’s not like that,” he shook his head. “We are still friends it’s just…”

“Complicated,” she finished it off for him. “I get it,” she ran her hands down her skirt to smooth it out against her legs. “You didn’t tell me you made new friends though.”

“What did Jay say about them?” his voice was low. He felt a flutter of nerves by his chest.

“He talked non-stop about them,” she explained. He gulped. “What are their names? Jason? Max…? Matt…? The fourth one?”

“It’s Kurtis, mom,” his mom gasped a little and continued. He rolled his eyes. She was overemphasising. Maybe she was excited for what she was going to say next.

“Oh right! Kurtis. Yeah. I don’t know much about them. I know Jay likes to overdramatize what’s really going on, so I can't make much judgement on them,” she shrugged nonchalantly.

“But didn’t he say more…? You know?” she had to know what he was hinting at. Right?

“You mean about their sexuality?” Danny blinked. “Yeah, he went on about it for a while.”

“W-What did he say...?”

Danny couldn’t help but to feel so worried. The topic was so...taboo. Taboo to talk about anyway. Everything was much easier when it was internal. When it was just himself.

“Something about how they’re all gay. Maybe dangerous for Danny’s environment or something. Hell, I don’t think he should tell me how to raise my own kid,” she rolled her eyes. “But anyway. He seemed pretty worried about you.”

“But…” he glanced down. He felt like he couldn’t face his own mom in the face. His hands were trembling slightly in his grasp. Fuck. Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe. “...do you think I should hang out with them?”

“If you like them,” she said it so simply. Danny pursed his lips.

“Is that it?”

“Yeah. Friends are for you to choose. They don’t seem too bad. Jason’s a cheerleader, which is something different for a boy to do,” Danny held his breath.

“But that’s not bad a thing. Good on him for doing something different,” he took a quick exhale.

“And I heard that Matt’s a football player. Is he friends with Brad?” he cringed at the name, but he managed to nod slightly.

“I’ve seen Max a few times at the award ceremonies. Remember that time you got that music award?”

“Y-Yeah I do…” he rubbed the back of his neck. It was an odd mixture. A feeling of wanting to edge her to answer his question...even though he didn’t have the guts to say it. And flattery that she still remembered. Even though it felt like it was his only achievement ever in school.

“And Kurtis is a friend of Roy’s, right? I think I’ve seen his artwork set up at those school performance nights,” she continued to ramble. Danny felt a little more at ease. At least she didn’t hate them. Luckily. Since Jay was probably spewing out bullshit to her.

“So you like them…?” he received a confident nod.

“I guess. I mean, I don't hate them,”

This is it. He had to insert the question here. Or else he wouldn’t get a chance again in...maybe a while. A long while.

“Even though they’re…?” he trailed off. Damn it.

“Gay?” she managed to end it for him again.

“Yeah,” he muttered. She smiled widely.

“I knew it,” confusion washed over his face. “You’re gay, aren’t you?” he felt his chest drop.

“No! I’m just saying--”

“Stop making this awkward Danny, I know that you are,” she laughed. “Is this your way of coming out?”

“No, I--”

“Because it’s a given,”

He paused.

“What?”

“You showed up to a Christmas gather in drag honey. It’s a given,” she gestured.

"B-But you were upset that night…” he fumbled with his thumbs.

“I wasn’t upset at you,” she rubbed her palm against his shoulder soothingly. “I hope you didn’t think that I was.”

He bit down on his lip.

“Oh…” is all he could muster up. He took a death breath.“So you're not…?”

“Mad? Of course not,” she sounded sympathetic. “I'm actually mad at myself for letting you see me cry like that,” he laughed like it was alright, but Danny couldn't help but to feel a tad guilty. It was his fault, after all. “I couldn't help it. No child deserved to be yelled at like that. Honestly.”

“I-its okay,” he chuckled a little. He was slightly unsure, but when his mom smiled over at him warmly, it made him feel like everything was going to be okay.

“Does it feel better now? Coming out and all?” Danny nodded excitedly. “That's good,” there was a slight pause. “...so…” a smirk spread across her lips. Fuck this shit. “Are you dating any of them?”

If Danny was drinking something then, he would have spat it out.

“No!” He flushed a deep red, making his mom cackle.

“I was joking! Geez, Danny. But not even Matt? He's a football player. They're stereotypically hot right?”

“He's dating Jason!” He pouted.

“So you're in a group of gay guys and you're not dating any of them?” She snickered.

“No,” he said firmly.

“Then what about…” she tapped her chin with great emphasis like she was in some broadway show. “Roy?”

Danny widened his eyes. What was with everyone and asking that nowadays?

“N-No!” He could feel himself tense. “He's straight and all--”

“So you would like him if he was gay?”

“No? Yes? Who cares!” His mom bursted out into laughter. Danny’s cheeks were burning.

“I do! I want to know who my future son-in-law is going to be,” she laughed excitedly. Danny rolled his eyes.

“You're full of it mom,” she wrapped an arm around him and pulled him closely towards her. It felt nostalgic for him. Whenever he was upset, she would always reel him in close and make him feel loved again.

He felt happy. A comfortable happy. The gladness you feel when everything feels...wonderful I guess. In a charming way.

“So is that a yes…?”

“I'm not saying anything mom.”

Chapter Text

It was 4PM and Danny was beginning to regret his decision. Well, it was actually 4:15PM, since Matt was late, but still.

In front of him was Kurtis’s car, with Jason still inside, and 20 cartons of eggs, all stacked up on top of each other by the leg space of the back seats. Matt widened his eyes.

“What the fuck is this? Are we egging someone's house?” he raised an eyebrow and instantly looked over to Jason, who spread a guilty smile.

“No…?” Jason hid away his mischievous grin with his hands.

“It’s someone we all hate. It's fine,” Kurtis covered him with a light shrug. Matt knitted his brows together.

“Oh really...?” an idea hit him. “You’re going to egg Brad’s house, aren’t you?”

“Nah, never,” he shook his head overdramatically and crossed his arms.

“You know that’s illegal, right?”

“This isn’t the first illegal thing we’ve done, genius,” he rolled his eyes and opened the door to the driver’s seat. “Well are you coming or what?”

Danny occupied the seat in the middle while Max and Jason sat on either sides of him. Jason was trying to contain his ever growing laughter and Max looked as if he wanted to neck himself. In the passenger seat was Matt, who was arguing with Kurtis (again) over how he ever came to the idea of egging his teammate’s house.

“He’s a dick, he deserves it,”

“Yeah, but we’ll get in trouble,”

“Oh, so you care about getting in trouble now, huh?” Matt pinched his nose.

“How do you think we’ll get away with this?”

“We have masks and everything. Also, we’re going to hide our number plate so he can’t tell,” Kurtis’s smile grew excitedly.

“Bitch, who else has a fucking BMW X1 in this whole fucking neighbourhood?!” Matt was basically shrieking. Probably meant that he was nervous.

“It’s fine. Max proofread our plan anyway,”

They all instantly snapped their heads over to Max.

“I-I didn’t think I would be involved…?” he shrugged stiffly.

“You have to be fucking kidding me. You got Max involved too?”

“Hey, hey, he agreed to it. If you’re so against it, you can close your eyes or something. Be the getaway driver,” Kurtis tried to reason, his voice ending with a nervous chuckle. Matt wasn’t having it. He just crossed his arms over his chest and glanced out the window.

“Fine, whatever,” Matt said coldly. Kurtis muttered a ‘thank god’ under his breath. “But know that I’m only doing this because I want Jason to be happy.”

“Sure, I’ll take that,” he took it with a grain of salt and continued to drive down the long road.

Danny knew this area well. Not only did he live around here (a few neighbourhoods across actually), but he came around here constantly as a kid. It equated to church (on Sundays) since Brad’s dad was a priest so it was super close by, and also painful get-togethers with his family.

See, his mom would often get invited over. Danny doesn't remember much about his parents, since he would be brought over to another room to “hang out” with Brad--which was more like him screaming at him to get lost and enthusing over things he didn't care about until he made fun of him (then he would retaliate with insults)--but they would also hate to see him. Did they smell the gay from him all those years ago? He wondered that nowadays.

“We’re here,” Kurtis slammed his foot on the break, propelling everyone forward.

“Be careful! Jesus, these eggs are gonna crack,” Jason grumbled, undoing his seatbelt.

“It'll be fine,” he hopped out and stretched out his skinny jeans. “Who wants to go first?”

He stuck his hand through the rolled down window and grabbed a carton. Opening it up, his eyes glanced over the displayed eggs. There were a few cracked ones, but they were mostly fine.

“No, I'm scared that they'll come out,” Matt protested, grabbing one of the masks from the boot. “What even are these?”

“I don't know! I got them from Roy,” Kurtis gave a small look over to Danny, who blushed as a response. “He lent them to me.”

“Does he know that we’re doing this?” He stretched the band over his head and let the thick plastic cover sit on his face. “Fuck me. I can barely breathe.”

“Ok I will then,” Jason smirked, brushing over his arm to reach over and get one for himself. As Matt laughed and smacked his ass, Max groaned to himself.

“No one knows we’re doing this. It's a secret,” Kurtis laughed maniacally like some stereotypical villain as he sticky taped paper onto the number plates, front and back.

“What if Danny goes first?”

“What?”

Max spoke up and pointed directly over to the youngest boy.

“Yeah, why not,” Kurtis opened the carton and showed him the insides like some dealer. “Pick your favourite and give it a toss.”

It sort of felt like one of those throwing games at fairs. The ones that Roy would be the best at and Danny would fail at. Well, eventually he got the hang of it, after he joined baseball. The ones that gave the best prizes when you scored a lot, but the worst prizes when you scored mediocrely.

Danny grabbed the one by the far right corner and gripped it tightly in his hand. The cold and smooth surface rolled nicely on his palm.

“Don't aim it at a window. We don't want to smash it,” Max (or so he thought because he couldn't see his face through the mask) reached over him and shifted a mask over his face. He patted his shoulders encouragingly and pointed towards the centre of the house, which was a creamy beige with no windows. “See there? Maybe around there so we don't damage anything.”

“Got it,” he stepped his right foot back and closed one eye to aim towards the blank canvas.

He launched it forcefully yet precisely, the white splashing over the wall. The other three cheered. The yellow yolk oozed down, and it was like the splatter was marking a statement. His statement.

“Oh fuck yeah!” Kurtis cheered, grabbing five in his hands to catapult it towards the house. He cackled as the shells toppled onto the garden in front of their “All American”, A-symmetrical, republican house.

“Fuck you Brad! And your stupid ass!” Jason practically held a whole carton in his hands as he fired it almost-violently. He laughed wildly and grabbed a whole nother carton with his hands.

He exchanged a look with Matt. The way he batted his eyes and pouted could make anyone fall for it. Especially Matt. Who has a soft spot for everything Jason did. It looked like an invite, a slight beg actually, for him to join in too. He gave in almost immediately. Of course.

“Fine,” he grabbed a few in both hands and threw it towards the house. The cracking sound brought a grin to his face.

“Fun, huh?” Jason edged closer, chortling as he wrapped his arms around Matt’s waist.

“Argh find, I’ll admit that much,” he laughed into his chest as he grabbed another few into his hands.

As he hurled the next few onto the beige base, the shells etched away to reveal a blue-purple colour. The football player glanced back into his hand, and back up to the now graffitied-on wall.

“Wait what the--!?” Matt turned his head over from bruise-like stain to Kurtis. “Why the fuck is it coloured?”

“Umm...Max…?” Kurtis looked over to the tallest boy who chuckled nervously.

“You told me to put in some colouring agency so…” he trailed off and rubbed the back of his neck. "...I mean I only put it in a few of them..."

“Kurtis?!” Matt shrieked, stomping over to him to probably choke him to death. Luckily Jason stood in the middle of them to press them apart.

“What? I wanted to be creative okay!” He threw his arms up into the air.

Danny eyed Max who couldn't seem to care less. He just continued to pound the eggs onto the house somewhat nonchalantly. It made him laugh.

“Well fuck! We’re in great shit now and--”

CRACK

Everyone snapped their attention towards Max who stood there. Not moving. He looked gobsmacked. He dropped the nearly empty carton of eggs to the ground as his expression slowly shifted into a much more horrified face.

“Umm…” he couldn't muster up any words.

Everyone's eyes went towards the window on the far left hand side of the house. It was completely shattered. The glass looked as if it had been cut, clean off by the egg, with only small shards hanging loosely by the frame.

“What the fuck!?”

You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who that voice was. Everyone dashed into the car at an instant, frantically screaming and wavering their arms in the air from panic.

Kurtis seemed to give a whole new meaning to “floor it”, because he just literally slammed his whole foot down onto the accelerator. Danny was so confused. He didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream. So he did all three of them at the same time, like some sort of weirdly disorganised, howling mess. But he wasn’t the only one, luckily. I guess. Not really, in the long run, since the panic-filled air felt hot and humid, and everyone was still losing their shits over what just happened.

“What the fuck was that?!” Jason screamed, whipping off his mask. The only way to describe his emotion was “frustrated”. Confused and frustrated.

“I missed okay!” Max was equally as loud as he gestured wildly. Guilt was rising up his throat, but it was overshadowed by his fears, which seemed like the big elephant in the room right now. Well, technically, car.

“We’re going to be in a lot of shit now…” Matt muttered, looking as pale as Banquo’s ghost. Actually, you could say their ghosts, by the end of the week. If Brad’s dad got a simple glance of the car, they all knew that they were screwed. Danny was slowly counting down the possibilities of him slipping away. Blaming it on the others didn’t seem like a bad choice right about now.

“Well, we’re all in this together now,” Kurtis took off his own mask and chucked it behind him.

The way Kurtis said it made it seem like they were on the run. I mean, they were. In a way. It wasn’t exactly like an action-filled, crime thriller, but it sure felt like it when adrenaline kicked through Danny’s body. It felt right. Almost like a Tumblr aesthetic. Of 5 guys fighting through society, robbing banks, giving to the unprivileged. Like Robin Hood. Robin Hoods. Gay Robin Hoods. It made him feel like he was borderline cool, for once. I mean, it was all up in his mind, though. But he couldn't feel like he fitted in. Belonged. Somewhere. With this group of misfits.

Chapter Text

“Marlboro or grass?” Jason had his body over the coffee table, his hands fiddling with unevenly ripped paper and a few small plastic bags.

“Grass, duh,” Matt swung his arm around his shoulder and took the spot next to him on the couch. He gave a light peck on the cheek and glanced down at him tightly wrapping the paper.

“Cigarettes for me,” Kurtis called, his eyes glued down to his screen.

“Neither, obviously,” Max shrugged, receiving a ‘boo’ from the brunette. The taller teen rolled his eyes. “You know my morals.”

“And you know that I hate boring people,” he pouted. Max just exhaled. “Come on! Just tonight?”

The high adrenaline rush of the “egging incident” had been running low after a few hours. As they slammed the door shut of Jason’s house after the getaway, they seemed to all scream to get out all their stress and anxiety at once. It probably sounded like a murder or house raid from the outside. It sounded like a queer mixture of happiness and fear. Successful, but they might be in great shit. Oh well. Kurtis was the first to shrug it off and turn on the TV, while all the others eventually found a comfortable spot on the couch and seats around him. It felt comfortable. Like a casual comfortable. Like what a teenage movie was supposed to be like.

Jason had those cool, pull-out couches that let all of them lie down lazily. Kurtis was in the middle with the remote control stuck to his hand, then Max was by his side, saying some sort of complaint about the movie they were all watching. He wasn't the biggest fan of ‘Legally Blonde’. Kurtis made up this bullshit conspiracy theory about how he hates blondes and how he was color blind so the colour pink had no effect on him. Then Max referred to some guy named “Brian” who used to go to school with them and how much he loved pink. Danny figured that it was some group member who moved away and lost contact with them. But they seemed to all be pretty invested in talking about him. Except Jason. Maybe this “Brian” didn’t rub him the right way.

Danny was by the end, his legs spread by the edge of the sofa and his back pressed against the soft texture. This meant that he could easily ignore the other four on the topic of “Brian”, aka a complete stranger. There was a likely chance that he saw his face before, but he casted him as a ‘nobody' went on with life. But it did make him feel a tad left out. Only a tad. Since Jason wasn’t exactly enjoying the conversation either. He threw eye roll after eye roll into the discussion, looking as if he was trying to regain Matt’s attention. He really did look attention deprived. He was cuddled up to him ever so tightly, his hands smoothing out his shirt and his head snuggled up by his neck. It was sort of adorable.

But by the time it was late afternoon, Jason’s attention span was wearing thin. Rightfully so. So instead, he tried to shift over the topic to getting piss drunk. Then Kurtis swooped in to rain on his parade, reminding him about their deal. After his infamous eye roll (once again) and a small pat of comfort from his boyfriend, they seemed to ease themselves into a new environment. Which consisted of drugs, alcohol and Max’s great disapprovement.

“Peer pressure never works on me,” he snickered, snatching the phone from his grasp.

“H-Hey!” he threw his arms up to try and whisk away the device. Max tapped onto an app, and at an instant, the room swelled up with music.

“That’s better,” he grinned, tossing it back over to him. Kurtis caught it sloppily, making the faux-grey haired teen laugh. “Danny? You’re awfully quiet today.”

The youngest teen snapped up from his daydreaming, his usual thoughts casting away at the call of his name. He saw Max raise an eyebrow with a subtle frown by his lips.

He was such a motherly figure at times. It made him laugh. Danny had to be honest; it wasn't exactly much. Just the thought of Brad was still fresh in his mind. And he was left alone for a few moments now, with the four of them interacting and being distracted by something else. It wasn't anyone’s fault, but it left Danny to think for a bit. Staring into space with only his mind.

“You okay?” he asked, making his way over to him. Danny replied with a purse of his lips and a small nod. Max could see through it. He wasn’t dumb.

Quite the opposite, really. He was band captain and an avid oboe player. Poster child for a perfect son, really. Said no to drugs when offered (which was constantly). Always said yes to extra work. If it weren’t for the...obvious flaw with his sexuality, he was the personification of excellence. Well, the flaw isn't exactly a flaw (which Danny learnt a few days ago), but by society’s eyes it is. Or it seemed like it. Honestly a shame, really. His only real flaw being something so...unfair.

“Uhh yeah…” Danny rubbed the back of his neck. “A tad tired,” he confessed. “All the adrenaline wore me out.”

“Have you been sleeping properly lately? You looked really tired yesterday too,” he noted. Danny thought about it for a bit. He wasn't really dead anymore, though a little bit of tiresomeness lingered.

“I mean...sort of?” He answered. Max seemed unhappy with the uncertain response. “No. No I haven't.”

“And why's that?” he questioned, his tone lined with sincere concern, but with that tad hint of strict guidance. “You don’t want to tell me?” Danny paused. He shouldn't bring Brad up into conversation. Ever. Especially after today. “Well, they do say teenagers are more likely to use their phones at night. Blue light rays actually make it harder for you to fall asleep. I advise switching them off 30 minutes before you rest.”

“T-Thanks…” Danny muttered. He felt bad for keeping the truth from him, especially because it was so simple. But he really didn't want to ruin the moment with a heavy topic.

“Do you have a regular sleeping pattern? That really helps,” he encouraged. When Danny responded stiffly, he continued. “If you’re really having troubles, drink camomile tea. Probably better to avoid sleeping pills. You grow dependant on them after awhile,” the younger boy snickered, bowing his head to gesture a thank you. Max didn’t seem to take it, however. Unsatisfied with the answer, he continued with his essay-like speech that seemed to be better than any assignment Danny had ever done. “Do you have a sealed mattresses? Air-tight, plastic, dust-proof covers work the best against allergies. If you have them, of course.”

“I actually have pretty bad allergies,” he said, his voice a tad lighter. Probably because he was subtly steering away the topic of the conversation. Into a very lighthearted one too.

“What are you allergic to?” Max leaned over a table set up by him. Danny actually sort of forgot that Kurtis set up food. He was really out of it. Grabbing the bowl of chips he popped a few into his mouth and gestured for Danny to take some. He took a handful and answered.

“I’m allergic to the weirdest fucking things,” he laughed, licking the salt around his lips. “Energy drinks, bell peppers, dark chocolate, lemongrass, meth--”

“Damn that sucks,” Matt chuckled, reaching towards the table to fetch a few drinks and red cups. “Meth’s some good shit.”

“Oh shut up Matt. We know you haven’t done anything more than caps,” Kurtis grabbed a can from his grasp and cracked it open. The football player crinkled his brows and shoved him lightly.

“Oh fuck off,” he slurred, an odour of thick herb escaping his lips. He couldn’t fool anyone with that slouch. “We all know you can only take like 2 shots.”

“But at least I can take solid dick you “top”,” he cackled, gulping down the drink. “Not like Jason has some big-ass dick though.”

“Don’t drag me into this,” he rolled his eyes, wrapping his arms around Matt’s waist.

“He does though,” Matt added, snuggling his nose against his neck. Jason replied with a loud guffaw and a cock of the shoulder to the amused Kurtis.

“Don’t be so vulgar,” Max gnawed on his bottom lip and glanced away. Covering his flustered face with a cup of creaming soda, he received a crowd of laughter.

“Trust Max to say that,” Kurtis jabbed, nonchalantly leaning over to him and messing up his hair. Max replied with a frustrated look, stroking his fingers through his silver locks to clean it up.

“I have the right to,” he raised his chin, squinting his eyes over to him sharply.

Kurtis seemed to take it sort of negatively. It sounded like Max was starting to get furious, and that he was fighting back. If Danny learnt something from hanging out with them, it was to never fight back to Kurtis. Because he’s one competitive bitch who doesn't like to lose.

“I never said you didn’t,” he narrowed his eyes slightly, lowering his canned drink onto the table. This wasn’t good.

“Well do you mind not making fun of me for my morals?” he was still retaliating. Danny swore that the couple took a step back to watch this unfold.

“I do mind when they’re stupid and offensive to every single person in this room,” he crossed his arms. Max bit down on his bottom lip and glanced away. “Do you know how we feel about it?” he was either ignoring him or trying to brush it off. “Do you?”

A dense silence filled the room for a moment. The uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty swelling up. Then it happened.

There seemed to be no hesitation. Kurtis lunged towards him, crashing their lips together in a messy, uncoordinated fashion. He trapped his intoxicated, bitter breath within their lips.

Jason and Matt instantly shrieked. From both surprise and excitement. Danny was too, though he was on the more excited half of the spectrum.

‘He did it. He actually fucking did it’ Danny thought, snickering slightly at Kurtis’s crinkled brows and obviously forceful nature. But he could only pipe out a small one since he was still taken back. He was surprised. Really surprised.

Kurtis parted, taking a deep, long exhale. He looked calm and collected. A little cocky. Max, on the other hand, looked shocked. He jolted backwards, his body collapsing onto the wall. He took in a sharp inhale, his eyes still wide open and his jaw still dropped.

There was a pause. A moment of silence. Again. Where the air filled up with anticipation.

“Dude,” Jason was the first to speak up, but it was only a singular word. It was barely audible, as if it was muffled by complete and utter bewilderment.

Danny felt a small laugh tickling by the back of his throat now that the tense and, overall stuffy atmosphere was slowly melting away. But then it hit him. Fuck. How had Danny been this stupid?

Max was homophobic.

“Too vulgar for you taste?” Kurtis looked over to Max confidently, but it drained away in a blink of an eye.

Max was pale. Much too pale. He was frozen in place, his eyes still dilated. His blue lips were slightly parted, a ghostly breath wavering in and out. It looked like he witnessed his life flash before him. His hands were trembling in front of him, which seemed to taunt Danny. He wanted to grab onto them and hold them tightly. But he couldn’t. He just stood there and gulped. “Max I…I didn’t mean to be so…” Kurtis trailed off. He clasped their fingers together, but the taller boy whipped his hand towards his chest and dashed away. “Wait Max!”

“I-I’ll go get him,” Danny mumbled chasing after him. He didn’t think twice about it. The words seemed to tumble out without a second thought. It was like his body had a mind of its own, leading him towards Max.

His inner self wanted to make him feel better. Comfort him. Danny stared at the bathroom door which was slightly creaked open. Max had to be in there.

He slammed it open, a loud bang echoing throughout the room as it crashed into the tiled walls. Max cowered away from the sound. He was in the corner, his knees close to his chest. He looked so...scared. Really frightened. Didn’t look anything like the Max that he expected when he heard about him through chains of gossip.

He was quiet, sure. And maybe a little soft. Mostly on the nice side. But he was also hard working. Determined. Always had his head in the game. Mind over matter, at all times. If you asked anyone in school, ‘Who is the most likely person to be successful when they’re older?’, most people would say Max. Why? Because he’s the type of person to work hard to achieve his goals and dreams. He always seemed like he had his life together. He knew exactly where he was going. He seemed so sure of himself all the time. And everyone seemed sure of him too. All the time.

So seeing him like this hurt Danny. A lot more than he thought it would.

He leaned down towards him, one hand in front. He hesitated when Max shuffled away and jerked his arm. He placed the other hand on top of his knee as gently as possible and exchanged a look of concern. Max’s eyes were bright red. It looked like he was breaking apart. Danny had to look more comforting than that. So he masked it with another layer; a warming smile, which he seemed to stretch out abnormally. Probably too fake for Max to not catch onto it.

“S-Sorry…”

Were his first few words. Danny parted his lips.

“For what?” the fabric of his black skinny jeans felt rough by his fingertips.

“For running. For crying,” he sniffed. “For overreacting.”

“Hey, no, it’s fine,” Danny smiled, adding another layer on top of his already crumbling expression. “There’s nothing wrong with what you did, okay?”

Danny, for once, sounded like the mature one. Their roles were switched around. It seemed like he knew what he was doing, for once. And Max was actually lost, for once.

“B-But…” Max’s voice was cracking, and it put a dent into Danny’s chest.

“Can I confess something to you right now?” Danny crossed his legs, trying to make himself feel comfortable as well as Max. The older boy gulped and nodded. “I was homophobic. Really homophobic,” he widened his eyes. “Until...yesterday…? Something like that.”

Max glanced down.

“...really…?” he mumbled, though it was more like a faint whisper.

“Yes, really,” he edged in closer. “And someone told me that you were too. And from your reaction…”

“...it’s obvious. I know,” he gave a light sigh. His back hunched as he cradled his thumbs with his palms.

“Its complicated to understand...I know. I went through it. I used to always wonder why the world was so against this. So against me. People like me. When I couldn't help it…” Max pressed his lips together, trying to shelter his eyes with his bangs.

“But then I realised. The world isn't against me. I mean, some people may be against it, but they're not the people you should listen to. Why would you want to put up with people who don't respect you for the way you are?” The younger boy exhaled.

“I know it's going to take you forever to wrap your head around...whatever. Whatever is going on but,” he weaved his fingers through his, gently pressing down on his knuckles.

“Know that Jason cares about. Kurtis cares about you. Matt cares about you. And I really care about you, okay? People don't have the right to hate you because of this. It's something you can't help. And either way, it's not like it's a bad thing,”

“B-But it is…” it was barely audible. It sounded like he was scared. “If there's no reason to hate on...you know…” he gulped. “...then why would people hate them--I-I mean us. Us.”

They exchanged looks of concern and worry. Danny felt his own chest crack when he looked into his glassy, wide eyed gaze.

“I…” he paused. “...I...I don't know.”

“There's a reason behind everything I just…” he shook his head and glanced away. “I appreciate it Danny but…” he buried his cheek into his elbow. “I can't wrap my head around something with no explanation. That's not me.”

“I…” he breathed out deeply. “I understand…” his hand lost touch with his. “Just know that, there's no use in trying to convince people to love you. Especially when there are people here, who already love you.”

He caresses his knee one more time before exiting the bathroom, gently shutting the door behind him.

He felt empty. Defeated. Like he went in, sure of himself that he could drag out a win, but then he came out with no bright flag under his belt. No treasure, no prize, no nothing. Just pity that he wanted to throw at him and endless amounts of self loathing.

Chapter Text

When he entered the living room again, the three others were sitting around anxiously by the sofa. Kurtis held his clasped hands by his lips, trying to calm down his breathing. Matt had his eyes towards the ground, looking pale and stiff as a statue. Jason was by his side, rubbing his waist comfortingly and planting his cheek by his shoulder.

“Hey…” Danny entered the room with weak and swaying steps.

Kurtis looked up immediately, dashing over to him. He looked like he was drunk off of regret. Danny felt bad.

“How is he? Is he okay? Do you think he wants to see me?” Danny didn't reply with anything definite. It sort of looked like an unknowing nod. “...I guess not. Fair enough. Tell him I said sorry. Because I really am.”

“I know you are…” he muttered, though Kurtis probably didn't hear it properly.

“Do you think I should talk to him?” Matt spoke up, wriggling out of Jason’s grasp. “I-I know him well so…”

“Yeah,” Danny glanced away, running his fingers through his hair. “I think he needs to talk to someone who understands...how his head works, I guess.”

He replied with an assuring nod as he rushed past him and towards the bathroom, which had a orange tinted light shining through the thin edges bordering the door frame. He first knocked and called out to Max with his name. When the door slowly creaked open, he seemed to lunge inside and shut the door behind him.

Jason exhaled.

“He's always so worried about him,” he pursed his lips. “I think Max should learn how to take care of himself.”

“He does. He's just…” he thought for an appropriate word. “Lacking. In this area. You know his home life.”

‘No, I don't know his home life’ was the first thing that popped into Danny’s mind, which he seemed to blurt out. He couldn't tell until he looked over to see Kurtis's surprised expression.

“Umm...I don't know whether Max wants me to…”

“Well he's in our group now. You might as well,” Jason took a seat by the sofa and grabbed a can of soda to drink. Kurtis eyed him sharply.

“Can you stop being so moody? I swear to god, if this is because you're jealous--”

“I'm not jealous! I'm just saying that Max needs to toughen up,” he rolled his eyes.

“Jason. We both know that we’re really good friends. You know I love you but, you need to let it go. Matt doesn't like him like that,” Jason glanced away and covered his lips with the can. “Anyway, Max has strict parents. Really religious, strict parents. Ones that don't exactly appreciate...us. Our kind…?” He snickered. “That makes us sound like some sort of savage group. Like a virus or something. But they don't like anything unconventional, to say the least.”

“They flipped when he dyed his hair grey,” Jason added, rolling his eyes.

“Yeah, he couldn't hang out with us for months that year. But hey, he loves it. And he still dyes it the same shade to this day,” he gave a little chortle. “He just says to his parents that the dye was permanent and it won't come off because he's naturally a light blonde.”

Danny laughed. So he could be a liar. But who wouldn't lie to their parents if they against anything I suppose.

“Parents are always the biggest influencers on children,” Jason shrugged. “And if they're dicks, obviously he's going to be a--”

“He's not a dick Jason,” he groaned, rolling his eyes. “I swear to god, I hate it when you're pissed off and I--”

The door swung open to reveal Matt and Max slowly walking out. Max’s eyes were bloodshot, and his feet dragged behind him, but Danny was just glad that he was okay enough to come out. By his side was Matt, who gave him a comforting and encouraging smile as he sat by the couch.

The atmosphere still sat eerily. Kurtis and Jason glanced towards each other, like they were trying to force the other to speak up. A song still played softly in the background as they all seemed to gulp nervously.

“H-Hey guess what?” Matt was the one to speak up. He tossed a phone in his hands before he clicked it open and showed a message. “Someone special is dropping by for a few months.”

Kurtis leaned his head over and widened his eyes.

“Oh my god!” He brought his hands to his lips. “We were just talking about him!”

“Yeah I know! That's the crazy thing,” Max joined. Danny gave a light smile to his returned state. Well, not physically. Maybe not mentally either. But he acted fine and everyone was just trying to brush it aside for now. So it seemed fine enough. Like Whitney Houston says, "It's not right. But it's okay."

“Let me see,” Jason looked over onto the screen and his face churned into horror. But he was quick to plaster on a smile and choke out a laugh. “Oh! Nice...how long is he staying for?”

Before he answered, it looked over to Danny, who seemed a little excluded from the circle. Feeling a tad bad, he shuffled over to him.

“Just scroll,” he handed the Iphone over to him.

Matt turned over the screen to face Danny as he lightly skimmed the grey box of the other person’s text. He scrolled somewhat high up.

BRIAN: Hey Matt! I'm coming over to visit for a few months. I'm staying at Brian M’s for a bit I think

And then his eyes continued down to Matt’s text.

MATT: oh shit dude! What about school and crap?

BRIAN: I'm transferring over to yours for a bit.

BRIAN: Something to do with this state exchange program thing

BRIAN: I don't know

BRIAN: I just sort of signed up for it

MATT: that's great!

MATT: we've missed you!

BRIAN: Jason hasn't

‘So he's aware…’ Danny thought. But then again, Jason likes to make it obvious when he doesn't like someone. He continued.

MATT: its fine

MATT: he just gets jealous easily

MATT: and obviously your personalities clash

No wonder Jason hates him. He hates anyone who messes with him or Matt. Especially anyone who messes with him and Matt, as well as their relationship.

BRIAN: exactly!

BRIAN: he’s not gonna like it

MATT: he’ll get over it

MATT: he always does

BRIAN: let's hope so

BRIAN: I'm gonna be there for a couple of months

Does this meant that he would sit with them? Did that mean that they would become a 6? Well fuck that. Now even Danny felt a little intimidated with this new 'Brian' guy coming into the mix. He seemed to jump into the boat of envy alongside Jason.

MATT: really?

BRIAN: yep! Get ready to see me next week, first period

BRIAN: ;)

When Danny glanced up from his phone, it looked as if they had some sort of conversation without him. Not like he needed to listen properly anyway, since it was around this “Brian” again. Who he didn’t even know existed until now.

Kurtis seemed incredibly excited, with wild gestures and over the top expressions. Matt was giggling along, having some sort of add-ons to whatever he was saying. Max seemed pretty entertained, with a few anecdotes up his sleeve. But Jason? Well Jason just seemed bored. He had himself tucked underneath Matt’s embrace with his frown pressed up against his shirt.

“Like that time we all did that group project together in year five?” Matt brought up, much to the distaste of Jason, who rolled his eyes yet again and cuddled up to him closer.

“Oh! The one about paper planes?” Kurtis laughed. “That was one hell of a group though.”

“Us four and the two Brians?” Max reminisced. “Yeah, I mean we lost but, it was pretty fun to work on.”

“Until you two starting fighting,” the brunette pointed directly over to the couple.

“Okay, Jason can come off as strong-headed at times. Well...all the time actually,” Max chuckled, the other boy cackling.

“True!” he joined enthusiastically. Maybe because they were steering away from ‘Brian’. Whoever that was.

“Aw, remember when you got mad at me because you thought I stole your pencil,” Matt recollected, jabbing slightly as his boyfriend.

“Remember when we hated each other for a bit because I was bitter of how hot you were and you would get annoyed with my existence,” they both laughed.

“I wasn’t annoyed with your existence! I just thought that you were really cocky. And you being a dick to Brian.F wasn’t exactly great,” Jason’s chest sunk at the name. “Especially because he was my best friend at the time.”

“I didn’t like how he was the self assigned leader,” his tone was a tad stronger. There was only a thin layer of his playful nature hovering over the top, the rest sounded bitter.

“Was Brian your boyfriend then?” Kurtis asked. Danny expected him to ask in a troublesome tone, but it came out like a nonchalant question. He just seemed a tad curious. Probably because he wasn’t trying to hurt his best friend intentionally, though he seemed to take a bit of offense to it. Kurtis was bad at reading the air sometimes.

“No, that was Year 7,” Max chimed in. “And then Kurtis dated him in Year 8.”

“Ha, does that mean you were sloppy second?” Matt said facetiously, pulling Jason closer to him to try and cheer up his boyfriend. Maybe he noticed that he didn’t like the topic too much, or maybe his slight frown was making himself feel upset.

“No, it means that he found someone better,” he bantered back.

“And so did I,” he pecked Jason lightly on the lips. The younger boy melted into the softness of it, smiling against him as he tightly held onto his shirt.

“That’s sweet Matt,” he let out a flattered chuckle. He had a bright beam by his lips, that looked like he drew out a win. Another victory for Jason Dardo. I mean, he did always win when it came to Matt. At the end of the day.

“What's the time?” Kurtis glanced towards his phone as he clicked it open.

10:00PM. Danny couldn't figure out whatever it felt later than that because of everything that happened. It felt dense. Or he was just tired. Because he always seemed tired nowadays.

“I think we should head off to bed. Danny's known to have an irregular sleeping pattern,” Max smiled towards him as he rubbed the back of his neck.

“W-We don't have to...its not even that late,” he chuckled off.

“Eh, but I think we’re all pretty tired. I'm actually so exhausted,” Kurtis yawned.

“Yeah, I’ll get a few blankets and pillows from upstairs. I guess we can all sleep on the couch if that’s fine,” Jason rubbed his eyes.

“If not, Jason and I could get a room by ourselves and…” Matt wriggled his eyebrows and received a chuckle.

“No. No. No fucking tonight,” Kurtis threw himself onto the couch and took his original position, looking like he was already waiting for Jason to fetch the blankets.

“We won’t be loud though, promise,” he joked on, following his boyfriend upstairs.

“We all know you can’t be quiet.”

The two disappeared into the blackness of upstairs. The other three were left wondering if they would fuck really quickly before they would come back. They were hoping not.

Thank god everyone else was tired too though. Didn't make him look too much like a pussy. Thank you Max (sarcasm).

“Who do you think will fall asleep first?” Max positioned himself next to Kurtis, with Danny by his other side.

“Probably me. I’m so fucking tired,” Danny spoke, his words slurred. Max chuckled.

“You sort of look it,” Danny faced him, deadpanned. “No offence.”

“None taken,”

“You don’t think they would fuck right next to us, right?” Kurtis wriggled over to his side.

“Hopefully not,” Max shook his head in disapproval. “No one wants to witness...them. You know…”

“True,” the other two chorus.

By the end of the night, they had all found comfortable positions by the large sofa. Though the couch was a little stiff so his back began to hurt over time, Danny found himself wiggling against the soft feel of the blankets as he pulled it over his chest. He propped the pillow up and pressed his cheek against it. He could see the couple on the far end spooning, and Kurtis already closing his eyes to find some mental stability with the couple by his side.

“Okay, goodnight guys.”

Max switched off the light and snuggled underneath the blankets to his spot. As the others sang a lazy goodnight of their own, Danny smiled to himself. They were the first lot of friends he had in...forever. They hung out. They did cool shit. They talked so casually. So comfortably. Fucking finally he found people that he could get along with. He could have fun with. And not that forced sort of fun. He loved it. He really did.

He shut his eyes and felt his heart's flutter come to an easy pace. As he heard silence fall in the room, he parted his lips to let out a relaxed exhale. This is what felt like when everything seemed alright.

Chapter Text

Danny had the urge to drink water during the night. It's not a regular habit, nor is it normal for him to wake up during his sleep, but his throat seemed to suddenly dry up that night. Maybe because he drank basically nothing that day. He felt parched, to a point where he could barely swallow. So he shuffled out the side of the blanket, trying to be as quiet as possible.

It was slightly difficult though. Max was so close to him. He tried his best to slip past him without a single touch, though it seemed nearly impossible at the time. Their hands were incredibly close, only a fingernail away, and his long legs were coiling over the and under the blankets, making it that much harder for Danny to manuever himself out of the tangled mess.

There was a large, empty spot between him and the couple. It was like the sofa was split into two, or there was an invisible wall separating them. Matt’s hands found a comfortable spot by Jason’s waist, pulling him in closely. Jason, in return, was holding onto his arms loosely, his lips parted as he softly snored.

Danny rubbed his eyes and took light steps by the tips of his toes over to the dining room. As he yawned and made his way through the chairs and tables, he could make out a light by the kitchen.

‘It must be Kurtis…’ he thought, remembering the empty gap on the sofa.

He pressed his palm against the wall and peered in. Kurtis had positioned himself by the barstool with his body over the the counter. He had a glass of some, probably alcoholic, beverage held between his middle finger and thumb. As he swirled the insides wearily, he hummed under his breath ever so quietly. Danny could just hear it, and he smiled to himself.

“Nice singing,” Danny teased, smiling along with the bittersweet melody. Kurtis flicked over to him and they locked eyesight. A little more intense than what Danny expected. He gulped.

He lowered the glass onto the table, filling the empty space with a small clank. His eyes were wide and red. There was a slight pause before he rubbed them with his sleeve and patted the barstool next to him.

“Why are you up?” he asked, his voice forcefully perky. “It's late, you know?”

Danny glanced over to the clock. 3:46AM.

“It's early actually,” he grinned, covering the curiosity and worry with a grin.

“Ha, very funny,” he ran his index finger around the thin rim of the glass. “But seriously. Why are you up?”

“Just thirsty. You?” he broke their eye contact to stare at the countertop. Kurtis slipped himself out of his chair to grab another glass by the cupboard.

“Couldn't sleep,” he confessed, turning the handle of the tap to let water ooze into the cup.

“Max said to drink camomile tea if you can't sleep,” he teased, accepting the cup into his hands as Kurtis slid it over.

“He also said that I made fun of his morals,” he gave a light snicker. “...do you think I did…?”

“Umm…” he brought the glass to his lips.

“Thought so…” he took a long sip of his drink. “I'm known to be extra.”

“Not like that though,” Danny chortled as Kurtis stiffened slightly. “More in, like, a gay, ‘Vogue model’-esque sort of way. Does that even make sense?”

Kurtis laughed, genuinely. It let Danny have a confident exhale.

“Yeah, yeah it does,” he shoved his nearly empty glass over to the sink. “...you really think so?”

“Yeah man,” Kurtis beamed.

“Good. Because I don't think people get what I'm going for sometimes. Like today, I tried out this couture, sort of 70s inspired coat and a--”

Kurtis continued with animated expressions and over the top gestures. Danny was happy. He could imagine him being a fashion icon. Or an executive designer. Or like a model. Did he just call him hot? Unintentionally I suppose.

But Danny really could see it. Kurtis, surrounded by a sea of flashing cameras with a loud applause filling the night sky-like room.

“I'm so glad someone understands it,” he smiled.

“It's pretty obvious that you're gonna become something Kurtis,” the older brunette smiled to himself.

“Really?” He pressed his lips together to try and hide his ever growing grin.

“Yeah,” Danny replied with a confident nod. “I honestly feel like everyone in the group will go somewhere. You guys seem so...successful-looking? Is that even possible?”

Kurtis laughed.

“Yeah, well, Max will probably be the only one who’ll make it out of this shitty town,” he folded his arm over the counter. His smile had fainted slightly, with the ends up his lips just lifted. “He’s the only one who’s bothered to try sometimes. The one person who likes to pay attention and work hard. It’s something that literally no one else in this fucking town does,” he lowered his head to his arms. “It’s what makes him so great,” he peered up at Danny with glassy eyes. “If you ever get the chance...can you apologise to him for me? I feel like I’ll make it worse if I ever say it myself.”

“I can’t,” he shook his head. “I feel like you should. He’ll listen. I know it.”

“You think?” Danny hummed. “Then maybe I should. He deserves the truth, I guess. He deserves to know that I’m sorry,” he trapped a groan between his lips and sleeves. “But I can’t help myself...I feel a little pissed off, you know? I feel like the only thing that’s holding him back are his parents. And sort of him too, since he’s listening to them. There is nothing wrong with him! He’s fucking amazing and he deserves to be happy but…” he rolled his eyes. “...but he’s holding himself back. I think he’s scared.”

“Scared of what?” Danny watched his gaze shift to the empty space in front. His pupils were dilated and his lips were slightly parted. He looked as if he was dozing off. Not because he was sleepy but because his mind began to drift. Drift off to countless possible futures. Of him. Max.

“Scared of what’s to come. Scared of the future,” he paused to crinkle his brows. “And he shouldn’t be because he basically everything in the bag.”

“But he can’t hide from his parents forever, huh?” Kurtis gave a small yet still melancholic nod.

“I regret what I did,” he said it so simply. It sounded sort of like a confession, from how crisp and thin his words seemed to be. “But I hope he’s thinking about it now. I hope he thinks of the future, and all the possible kisses that life will give him,” he snickered. “And I also hope that he’ll realise how great he is one day. He’s hard on himself, you know? Even though he comes off so confident and all-knowing when you talk to him. Internally, I know he picks himself apart to bits.”

“He’s all up in his head, I know. I’ve heard,” he takes another sip of his drink. “But he needs to take a look around.”

“When you're all up in your head, you forget to take in everything else because all you can hear are your thoughts,”

Danny mumbled along with the faint words that Kurtis told him that night.

“It’s not like you should trust everyone, but sometimes you need to take into account what other people say because they’re a bystander”

He smiled to himself as the words glided off his tongue.

“So they can see past all the shitty mist that builds up in your mind”

Kurtis widened his eyes.

“I wouldn’t have said it any better,” he lowly chuckled.

“You told me that. That night...after we ditched,” Kurtis rubbed his eyes.

“Argh, I barely remember because I got so pissed,” he grumbled. “How do you remember?”

“Because it stuck with me,” he sat back on the chair and crossed his legs.

“Really?” he seemed a little surprised, but it looked like he was trying to keep his calm and cool state.

“Yeah. It really did,” he folded his arms over his chest and let the cool wooden back temper with his heated body.

“I used to be like that, you know? All up in my head,” he had a soft and soothing voice.

“My parents used to be out a lot when I was a kid. It was pretty lonely, to be honest. I always felt like I was so alone. Like I had no one else but myself,” his eyes lowered.

“And so I kept to myself a lot. Never talked too much. Kept everything internal. Happiness, hate, misery, shock, excitement. Because it felt like the right thing to do...to bottle everything up,” one hand uncrossed itself as he tapped along the countertop.

“But then Jason came along one day. I don’t know how. I don’t know when. But he sort of just...sat next to me one day. With that dorky smile he puts on. What a fuck face,” Danny laughed at Kurtis’s small mumbles of insults.

“And he was so out there. He was such an extrovert, and he loved to talk and loved to talk about everything he was into. Which was himself. Basically he talked about himself a lot,”

“Yeah, sounds like him,” they both cackle.

“But he said something that stuck to me. ‘Don’t over analyse. Don’t fucking keep everything to yourself. Because you’re better than that and the world needs to hear what you got. Who you are.’,” he closed his eyes.

“And I’ve never looked back since.”

Chapter Text

It was a fairly lazy morning for them. Max whipped up a nice breakfast for the whole group, because he, of course, woke up at 6 while the others were forced to wake up around 8:30. After Jason groaned and whined to let them eat on the couch with Matt begging Max as well (probably because he wanted to back up his boyfriend) , he gave in and let them lazily chomp on their plates of fried eggs, bacon and pancakes. It was while Danny was half watching an episode of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ at 10 and half looking at his phone when they began to make plans for the day.

“I need to head off to work again,” Kurtis groaned, munching on his eggs.

“Still need to pay off that huge fine?” Matt teased, making the other boy huff.

“Yes,” he dragged out a lazy frown. “I mean, it wasn’t even that bad! I don’t get why I got charged like crazy.”

“Probably because you were drunk, underage I might add. Also you crashed the car and you just missed a few pedestrians and you smashed into a tree,” Matt explained, all with an amused grin by his lips. “Then, the tree fell down, crashed down onto a building and cracked a few windows as well as damage the walls,” the others began to cackle uncontrollably as Kurtis flushed deeply. “Wow gee, I wonder why they charged you so badly.”

“Fuck off Matt,” he covered his flustered face with his glass of orange juice. “I don’t see you having a job.”

“Because I’m privileged,” he cocked a shoulder arrogantly and returned to his meal.

“You mean spoilt?” Kurtis argued with a snarl.

“No, he’s simply a brat,” Max chimed in with a snicker as he grabbed his own empty dish. He was too distracted by the soapy mess in the sink to realise Matt’s genuinely hurt expression. Danny knew it was a joke, obviously since Max couldn’t even hurt a fly, but Matt seemed to take it to heart.

As he parted his lips to fire some angry comment, Jason hushed him with a small shake of the head and a peck by the cheek. Indicating for him to take a deep breath, Matt did as instructed and eased back onto the sofa.

“Anyways, does anyone else have plans?” Kurtis shoved aside his plate and clasped his hands behind his head.

“If everyone’s off doing something, maybe you and I should have a lazy day,” Jason poked his index finger onto the centre of Matt’s chest and giggled into his neck.

“I wouldn’t mind that,” he said with a low laugh. “We could watch a few movies, cuddle up with a mug of hot chocolate. Maybe after we could--”

“Okay, that’s enough,” Max butted in as he took a spot by Danny. Matt chuckled and rolled his eyes as he wrapped an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulder. “I’ll just head home I suppose. Practise my oboe.”

“Are you gonna practise your feature piece?” Matt asked. Max brightened and gave a confident nod. “Nice.”

“You ever gonna let us hear it?” Jason smiled as he played with the fabric of Matt’s shirt.

“You guys don’t even like classical music,” he rolled his eyes with a grin still visible.

“Okay true. But we support you nonetheless,” Kurtis encouraged on. They exchanged warming smiles as Danny cleared his throat.

“I don’t have anything to do. Is it okay if I hang out with you Max?” he asked. The older boy seemed a little startled. Like it slightly tampered with his beat.

“I mean you can if you want,” he shrugged. “There’s no guarantee that it’ll be fun though.”

“I don’t care. I don't have anything better to do,”

“Ok, sounds like a plan then,” Max smiled, gathering the last of his things to stuff them into his pockets. It was sort of a reluctant smile though. It was hard to explain. All Danny could do is express it the way saw it; and he honestly thought that Max was a tad nervous.

“Oh shit…” Matt muttered to himself as they all began to slowly arise from their lazy spots on the couch. His wide eyes were glued onto the screen of his phone.

“What is it?” Jason twirled his head around just as he grabbed his jacket.

“Dan’s asking me to come hang out at the diner,” he explained in a low tone.

The diner. It was that one ‘cool’ spot that Danny never went to because it was basically the area for the footballers. Which meant Brad. The dick. And not the good kind. It was the kind of place that they would call the “footballer’s turf” if they were in the 60s. Actually, it'll probably be the bikers turf. Danny could imagine Matt in a black leather jacket, a pair of tight fitted jeans and slicked back hair. Now that would be aesthetically pleasing and not just for Jason.

“Uhh...just go then,” Kurtis seemed a little confused.

“But he just asked me if my “other friends” are coming,” he stared at the screen blankly.

“Oh great, you're not gonna drag us along to it, are you?” when Matt hesitated with an answer, Kurtis’s eyes narrowed. “The answer is no Matt. I don't want to voluntarily get ass raped by jocks.”

“It's not rape if it's consensual,” Matt tried to play it off with a somewhat witty line and a typically suave expression. Kurtis rolled his eyes.

“He's hot, I know. But it doesn't give him the right to completely screw me over socially,” he continued with a tense gaze towards the boy. The footballer took a few steps back and decided to take another route to approach the topic.

“Fair enough. I'm just trying to negotiate something, okay? To be fair, you sort of screw yourself over socially by talking back to Brad,” Matt tried to sound calm as possible so he wouldn't burst the already riled up spirits of the other brunette.

“What do I gain from this?” Kurtis raised an eyebrow, willing to wager a little for the agreement.

“What about that new palette from Sephora?”

Kurtis halted.

“The one I was looking at the other day?”

“All yours if you come,”

They fought with looks of disbelief and confidence.

“Fine. I'm in,” Kurtis gave in to the temptations, leaving the other three boys startled.

There was a small silence between them that moment. A one where Kurtis gulped to rethink his decision and Matt swallowed as well, because he was scared that Kurtis would back out of their deal. And of course, the other three didn't want to actually go and face the music or whatever shit they had to do to overcome social distress. So they just froze and waited for them to do something.

Nothing.

And there was no use in trying to fight this argument. Max couldn't exactly win this fight, even if he wanted to, and there was no way Danny could pull out a victory with his spot in the hierarchy of this group. And Jason? Well he already threw away all his worries because he was silently rejoicing over Kurtis and Matt agreeing on something for once.

“What if I drive today?” Jason insisted on changing the topic with a light hearted one. Kurtis brightened.

“I wouldn't mind that,” he had a smug smile. Danny sighed to himself at the new genre of topic.

“I'm like the most sober one anyway. No hangover. No nothing,” he caught the keys that Kurtis threw at him swiftly, and beamed over to Matt. It sort of looked like he was waiting for some compliment from him, and he luckily gave him a round of applause.

“Anyone's better than Kurtis, let's be honest,” Danny decided to jab in a small joke of his own. The older brunette gasped over dramatically and brought a hand to his chest while the couple bursted out into laughter. Max snorted and muttered a little compliment over to him. He felt accomplished.

“H-Hey! I'm not even that bad!” He tried to reason.

“You crashed the car, you constantly speed, you run past red lights, you--” Matt began to list multiple experiences with Kurtis. Honestly, he could probably go on forever.

“Ok! Got it Matt. Thanks,” he rolled his eyes.

“You're not that bad Kurtis. Just restless, that's all,” Max reassured him with a bright smile. Typical Max. Making everyone feel better.

“Aw, thanks Max,” he smiled brightly. “Someone has my back.”

He narrowed his eyes towards everyone else before he strolled over to the tall boy's side. Danny was glad that they seemed to patch things up. Without talking, somehow. It was something that Danny realised after a while. They never...talk. Properly. To each other about anything remotely serious. Except to Danny, which was really odd. Even though they seem to find themselves in the most emotional, angsty, teenage drama-esque, scenes, they just...walk off. Act all casual about it, even with that thin layer of uncomfort and distress floating by the top. They never talked about it. Properly. Was never open about it. It wasn't like what he would have imagined because they all seem so honest. It probably explains why no one seemed to go after Max straight away and make sure he was okay. Because they're not used to confrontation as a four. And why Kurtis and Max were okay again. And how Kurtis and Matt were okay again from a couple of minutes ago. It left Danny with the most unsatisfied feeling. But he didn't want to do anything about it either. Without feeling even more uncomfortable anyway.

It wasn't anything for Danny to get his nose into, since he's glad that Max and Kurtis are on talking and joking terms again (even after a hastily and overall messy kiss), but he couldn't help but to feel a little uneasy about it. Especially because it was the biggest thing that's happened since he's joined.

“I call shot gun,” Matt called, dashing over to the passenger seat.

“Danny, what if you go in the middle?” Max opened the door for him and gestured for him to get in.

“Shouldn't the shortest go on the middle?” Kurtis asked, locking the door behind them as he put on his other shoe in a hurry.

“Wow Kurtis, you’re really loving Max. Aren't you?” Danny teased taking a step over so Kurtis could fit into the car. Max stiffened and and quickly rushed in to cover his flushing face, and Kurtis seemed to mutter some ancient satanic curse under his breath.

“Maybe Jason will also be a shit driver,” Kurtis closed the door beside him.

“As long as Matt doesn't give him a blowjob or something on the way, I think we’re fine,” Danny laughed.

“Won't. Promise,” he did a small salute.

“You've been so witty today Danny,” Max commented with an amused grin.

“More confident nowadays, I guess,” he shrugged.

“So you're comfortable with the group now?” Kurtis asked.

“Yeah. A lot more,” they all exchanged thankful smiles throughout the car.

“That's good. You're a really cool guy Danny,” Matt commented, having the widest smile that Danny could see by the mirror.

He was happy. Happy that there was mutual respect. Happy that he had found new friends. And happy that he could consider them best friends. It was something that…he wasn't exactly used to. Though Jay and Gia were around, they would always be each other’s number one. And Courtney and Roy? He could never really figure that one out.

The car ride was filled with shitty music being blasted at full volume. But it was good, shitty music. The radio station they stumbled onto was playing nonstop, nostalgic music. But not that really old nostalgic music that they couldn't relate to. That 'just right' sort of nostalgic music they could just remember from their childhood.

Danny laughed at Kurtis's overdramatic singing. He was pretty sure that he was singing properly, and it's not like he was bad. Just very loud. And it really sounded like he was being cocky with it. Fair enough. He was good. The only person who seemed to mind slightly was Matt, of course. But he seemed to stand back a little for this one. Probably because it wasn't his area of expertise. So instead, it looked like Max took his competitive spot next to Kurtis and sing a little loudly too. They were all a little taken back at how decent he was. Though it was more a theatrical style of tone, Danny smiled to himself. Also, Kurtis's shocked expression was pretty funny.

He was pretty sure that he never adored "Semi Charmed Life" by the Third Eye Blind before this experience, but now, he could only imagine their laughing faces and cracked high notes when he heard it. And it brought a smile to his lips.

“We’re here,” Jason eased towards the driveway. Max quickly hopped out and gathered his belongings. He gestured for Danny to stand by his side, and he did as told. “I hope you guys have a good day.”

“Yeah, see ya,”

“Bye!”

As they all waved goodbye and the two standing boys laughed at Kurtis’s over dramatic groan towards working, Danny was introduced to the inside of his house.

Just by looking at it from the front, he could tell that it was a typical family. White painted walls, A-symmetrical architecture and a simple line of windows with curtains visible from the outside. There seemed to be no pop of colour, and no livelihood to it. It was somehow a little less eye-catching than all the other houses.

As Max unlocked the house to let him in, Danny was instantly caught in awe of the design. Darkly coloured wallpaper spread across the entirety of the house, with paintings, all lined with golden frames, hung above places like the fireplace, sofa and dining table. They seemed to all fit a strict and formal colour scheme, with everything being from the limited colour palette of “monochrome”. Only a few sprinkles of gold were scattered across the room. But it seemed enchanting nonetheless. It looked like it could be one of the houses they use in movies to serve as the “rich and powerful family’s house”. Usually to set the mood for a murder/crime TV show, or for some popular drama airing at 6PM.

He had mixed feelings over the house. He thought it looked fairly cool, but could he live in it? No. Not at all. It would make him feel so gloomy.

“I'll be taking you to my favourite room in the house Danny,” Max explained with a wide grin.

They ascended the staircase and turned a sharp right. By the end of the hallway on the left hand side, right next to a large painting of Jesus decorated with another one of those golden frames, was a similar looking door to the rest. But from Max’s facial expression, Danny knew it was something special. Turning the knob, he enthusiastically pushed the boy in.

Inside was a room heavily decorated with antique goods. Even the rug was stitched ever so carefully and tightly as it sprayed its dark stay of colours across the wooden ground. Bookshelves were lined against the pure white walls, right next to another opening leading to another room. Two love seats faced the centre of the room, which was taken up by a large, grand piano. Just next to an oboe standing proudly by a stand.

“Now that's my bedroom in the far corner over there,” he pointed towards the large, white gate-like doors by the full bookshelves. “Make yourself at home. I'll brew some tea if you want.”

“O-Oh no I'm okay. Do whatever you were planning to do without me,” Danny smiled as he took a seat by the loveseat. It felt creamy and soft by his back as he eased himself towards the cushions.

“Well,” Max grabbed the oboe by the neck gently. With his other hand, he pinched a cloth laying by the piano and began to polish the keys. “I'm just planning to practise my oboe a bit. Maybe catch up with studies later,” he explained with a grin. “See, I'm playing at the auditorium of music soon and I really need to practise hard for my solo piece.”

“Oh! That's exciting. What's it called?” Max beamed at his comment.

“Well, why don't you guess?” He propped the reed between his lips.

A bright and full sound swelled through the room. The melody was smooth and serene, the clear accent flowing at a gentle yet expressive pace. He swayed the instrument beautifully, his expression melting into tranquility as the acerbic but still lustrous tune piped out of his instrument. It sounded a tad bittersweet, the higher notes softening a little around the edges. Or more...sad. Glum. Just a little. Like there was that tiny hint of it at the end of every musical phrase. But it was played so fluidly that Danny swore he could feel his own back easing up towards the chair. His own chest warmed at the humbling tune.

Max took a took a sharp inhale then a soothing exhale as he parted the mouthpiece from his lips. He gave a well deserved and tiresome bow, as Danny stood up from his seat and gave a loud round of applause.

“That was great Max!” He had a wide smile on his face. He felt a calming happiness flood through his veins. The one that made him feel so relaxed and refreshed, but with that high of being so glad as well.

“Thanks Danny,” he lowered the instrument onto the stand and took a seat by the sofa-like loveseat placed right next to Danny’s. “So, do you know what it's called?”

“Umm…” Danny pondered a little. It sounded strangely familiar. Like he heard it as a kid once or twice but he couldn't quite pinpoint a name. “I don't really know.”

Max piped out a chuckle. That chuckle he gives where he sounds like he's more mature and all-knowing to Danny. Which is fair enough. Because he is.

“It's called “Danny Boy”,” he explained with a smile. Danny felt like he was in some library listening to an adult read a book to him at the age of 6. “See, I got the opportunity to pick any song I wanted for my solo piece. It was around the time you sat with the group. I didn't think too much of your existence at first. No offence,”

“None taken,” Danny felt his lips curl up as he explained actively.

“But then I got to know you. And you drew me in,” he clicked his fingers.

“Just like that. It was odd, at first. I think it's the childlike charm you have. Its a little hard to explain due to how strange it is. But I just thought you were unbelievably adorable and when this song came up, I knew I just had to--”

He stopped. Danny felt his heart flutter slightly at Max’s sudden gush of affection. He gulped and bit down on his lips, trying to force all his embarrassment and slight flattery as well as bashfulness onto his plump bottom lip. He could feel it swell slightly from his anticipation of Max’s next move. The blushing sensation burned his cheeks as he watched the older boy twitch slightly in his seat and pace back and forth between excuses.

“I-I...did that come across a little…?” Even Max couldn't think of a way to scrape through this smoothly.

“No! I-I'm really thankful,” they came to the mutual agreement of the last word. Whatever it was supposed to be. “I'm thankful that you guys don't hate me…”

“Oh Danny,” he pursed his lips. “Of course we don't. How could we?”

“I don't know,” he rubbed his hand over the denim fabric of his jacket. “What group of seniors wants a junior hanging out with them?”

“Me. Us,” he had the most warming smile. It made him feel...comfortable. He could make anyone feel comfortable. Because he was Max. And he was a sweetheart. “You're odd. Really odd. In the best way possible.”

“I'll take it. Whatever it means,” he chuckled.

“I'm not an avid fan of ‘following your gut’, like Matt or Kurtis. I’d rather calculate everything and go through things in a logical sense but...you make me do something different. I'm trying to calculate as to why,” he sprayed his fingers across his cheek as he leant his elbow against the arm of his chair.

“I had a gut feeling that you were just...approachable. Nice. Sort of cool,” Danny snickered.

“Or however millennials say it. And it lead me to choosing this song. It reminded me of you. Not just because of the name but also the way it made me feel,” he had an oddly whimsical expression on his face. Like he was intrigued within the thoughts of his own mind. And Danny found that interesting himself. He wondered along with him.

‘Bittersweet…’ he mumbled under his breath. Quiet enough to only come out as a small exhale.

Maybe Danny was looking into it too much, but he felt as if he knew Max that much more. What was it supposed to mean though?“The way it made him feel”? How did Danny make him feel?

“And I thought the arrangement was so intriguing. You see, American bands tend to be very rash. Loud, intense and fast pace. But the arrangement is very ‘European’,” he was really in his element as he spoke.

“Smooth, rich and warm-sounding, you know? A great example of a European band arrangement is “1st Suite in E-Flat” by Gustav Holst. Now that's one absolutely gorgeous piece,” truth be told, Danny was incredibly lost. He was more into bands like Nirvana and Pink Floyd. Max seemed to have a taste that was the polar opposite of his. Which wasn't bad, of course. It just left him in a pit of complete confusement.

“And I wanted to resemble something like that, I suppose. I mean, we do play this piece as a chorale from time to time but--” he paused and looked over to Danny.

“You’re confused, aren’t you?” He gave a minimal and reluctant nod as a reply.

“I'm not that musically talented. Well, I'm into music but...not like this, I guess,” he tried not to sink the mood. Thankfully, he didn’t. From the looks of Max’s expression. It was strangely, the opposite.

“Oh really? I’d figure you're more into...rock. Correct?” Danny beamed at his perfect guess. But did he expect any less from someone like Max?

“Yeah! My dream was to always produce cool shit and travel around. See new things. Meet fans," he sighed glee at his potential future.

"That an adorable dream Danny," but with that comment, it made him feel stupid. Max didn't do it on purpose, but it felt like he was being treated paternalistically. Like he was a little kid in preschool who had wild dreams, but reality hadn't hit him yet so he didn't know that life was hard. And not all your dreams come true.

"...but it's nearly impossible," he admitted.

"Well, they always say to follow your dreams," he pushed him on. When Danny didn't reply right away, he continued. "But, you do always need something to fall back on."

"That's the problem..."

"Then study. Education is always key when it comes to plan Bs," Danny groaned.

"Do you think it's too late? I'm not exactly doing the best right now," he frowned.

"No, it's never too late," Max encouraged him further. He sounded like a guidance councillor or a proud dad that always wanted his son to reach his full potential. It made Danny feel better. "Have you ever talked to Kurtis on your own?"

"Yeah, a few times," he was trying to link the two topics together in his mind.

"Has he ever told you about his odd philosophy on life?" Danny raised an eyebrow at Max's question.

"I...I don't know...?" they had talked about deep shit before. Numerous times. But he couldn't really pinpoint one in his head that Max was talking about.

"About how life now doesn't matter in the future. Because it's high school and what not," he grumbled as he imagined his smug expression.

"Yeah, I think so," he pictured actual confrontation between the two and felt a bit confused. "Did he tell you too?"

"He told me one time when he was drunk and I had to walk him home," he complained. "It's sort of dumb. But it seems like Matt's walking in the same path."

"What do you mean?"

"See, they both seem to be in denial about...everything. In a way,"

'So are you...' Danny smacked his lips together to not form any words.

"But you need to resolve things, at the end of the day. Because life goes on. And you can't sweep absolutely everything under the rug," he pinched his nose. "And I just don't think they know that."

Before Danny could reply, his phone dinged and it cut off the conversation immediately. Max glanced down at his notification and widened his eyes.

"Oh! I need to go study," he stood up and opened the door.

"You set notifications for when you study?" Danny was gobsmacked.

"I like to have a schedule and keep everything organised," he smiled. "You're welcome to look around this room and my room. I'll be in the room across the hallway. Please don't go looking into the other ones, just in case it's my parents' rooms. Bye."

And with that, he shut the door behind him, leaving Danny in a completely silent room. He had a few hours to crush, so pushed himself off the love seat and began to look around.

Chapter Text

The keys felt cold on Danny’s fingers. As he pressed down on middle C, he let the note echo slightly before compressing it with the una corda, as fancy people call it, or soft pedal, as average people call it. He chuckled as he lined his fingertips against the white keys. The G note made him feel nostalgic. He let his faint memories lead him on. He slowly guided towards the F#, then to B, and E, D, G. He laughed. All he could manage to play on the piano was ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, and only the first line. His emo-ness was really showing.

As he parted the large instrument, his eyes glanced over to his room. The gate-like opening seemed so oddly intriguing. Well, Max did say that Danny could enter. And he did really want to know what the inside of a successful kid’s room looked like. So he opened up the white doors and peeked inside.

It was very clean. His open cupboards had neatly folded clothes piled up on top of each other, all lined in a perfect row. Most of them were pastel coloured, button up shirts, if not, long sleeved, dark sweaters. Hung on top of them, were countless jackets, all coloured black or a deep grey. Even his socks were carefully wrapped around each other, so they could never be separated or lost.

His bed had its sheets nicely tucked in, the simple colour of navy spraying across the whole of the mattress. It was placed right by the wall, where numerous awards and trophies sat proudly by a stand. A stand so long that it covered the whole wall, just so it could fit all his achievements. Next to it was a desk with a simple lamp, stacked up books and a wooden chair.

Note to self, keep everything organised and clean to become successful.

Danny glanced over the work on his desk. Upcoming assignments were pinned up against the back with highlighted key points and bold dates. Definitely organised.

On the near empty space in the middle of the desk, was a single pamphlet. “People Can Change”. It sounded odd. It had orange linings on the top and bottom and bold, black letters.

‘Men who have resolved, diminished or made peace with their unwanted same-sex attractions supporting others who seek similar change’

He widened his eyes. Flicking it open, he scanned through the thin lettered yet thick passages. Numerous accounts of stories about homosexuality and “successful” results flooded the pages. It looked revolting. Accompanied by pictures of the camp facility and a large group of men circled around a rug of Jesus, it was all too nauseating and disgusting for Danny to hold onto. It slipped through his shaking hands. Gasping, he took a few steps back and tried to regain his calm state. His heartbeat was booming through his eardrums. He could feel his chest on the verge of bursting. So he clutched onto the fabric of his sleeve and tried to calm down his breathing. Bit by bit.

He didn’t know where he got it. And he didn’t care. All he cared about was the fact that he was reading it. Considering it. And it couldn't have been by his parents, since he wasn’t out. So he must have took it himself. Kurtis was right. Too right.

Did they know about this? Did any of them know that it came this far? Danny quickly shoved it in his pocket and tried to not think about it. It felt messy and overly crinkled between his jacket and crammed in hand. Well, if he could, he would rip it up into shreds. Burn it. Find whoever made it and punch them in the face. But of course he just gulped it down.

Hopefully the others knew what to do.

The real trouble now was getting past Max smoothly, and managing to muster up words to tell the others. They both seemed like difficult tasks to him. He could feel sweat drip down his forehead. His heart was beating at a million km per hour. Please don't panic. He couldn't panic. Begging for himself to calm down, he found his feet shuffling beneath him.

He rushed out, the room feeling all the more stuffy the longer he stood there. He brushed past the piano, the door and halted at the knob of his study. All Danny needed to do was breathe. In and out. Slowly. To regain his posture and his state of mind.

And so he did. In and out. Just enough for him to inflame the courage to turn and thrust forward.

“Oh Danny,” he swung his chair around and Danny was met with a warming smile. He tried to brush away the lingering thoughts of pity for the boy. He knew what was inside all that. He knew the pain that pooled at his chest. And he couldn’t do anything about it.

“Hey Max,” he smiled fakely, the force tugging at his cheeks uncomfortably. “Sorry, I just got pretty bored in there. Hope I’m not distracting you.”

“Oh no, it’s okay. I was just finishing off,” he logged off of the computer and pushed away from the desk. “It might sound dumb, but I love doing work in here! It’s my father’s office, and I’m never allowed in here unless he’s away. Since I don’t have a computer, accessing my google docs for my assignments can be hard, you see.”

“Mhm…” he tried to go along with whatever odd struggles he was facing. Danny never really understood it properly. Not only did he have his own computer, but talking about assignments and work seemed so foreign to him. He liked to push them back as far as possible in his mind and clear the space for shit he actually cared about.

“Matt offered a computer to me. Ha, he’s the funniest guy I know. Unintentionally too,” he chuckled to himself. “He already gave me his old phone. I’m pretty sure he just doesn't understand the concept of money,” he shook his head. “Such a privileged kid.”

“You mean a brat?” Danny added with a grin. Max snickered.

“Of course. He always has been.”

With a swift sway to the topic of Matt, before the younger boy knew it, they were in his living room table, chatting over earl grey (luckily milky, sweet because Max probably figured out that Danny is inexperienced when it came to the flavour of tea) and laughing about Max’s numerous anecdotes about the football player. He was quick to note that he loved him dearly and he was a great friend to him. He just could be a little...stubborn at times. And a little foolish. And also a little stupid. Danny laughed.

“He’s a sweet kid at heart,” he brought the cup to his lips and gave a mature-looking nod. “But he doesn't know when to stop at times. He digs himself too deep a hole to get out of.”

“I get it,” Danny took small sips at the still boiling beverage. “I can do that sometimes. When I stop paying attention to reality, that is.”

“You have rash tendencies too?” he seemed intrigued.

“Sometimes. Depends on the situation. When I get angry...I can go off. I have the tendency to go off, actually,” he exhaled. “I’m learning how to not take things so seriously.”

“I understand completely. Though emotions haven’t exactly been the biggest downfall when it came to me, I’ve seen Kurtis and Jason completely break down sometimes. Well, Kurtis mainly,” Danny tried to hide his surprise. Not for Kurtis being a moody bitch (of course), but for Max to pick it up so easily. And discuss it easily too. He wondered whether it was addressed as a four or he stumbled onto it while they were alone. “With Jason...well...he has aggressive tendencies when it comes to some people.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t really know. I just thought that he wasn’t used to interactions. He likes to keep to himself. It was him and Kurtis for so long so…” he shrugged. “Probably became a habit.”

“Do you think it’ll be dangerous one day. I mean, the whole Brad thing a few months ago in the halls…” Max glanced down at the hellish memory. “I don’t want to say he started it, but he did--”

“Start it. Yes, he definitely did,” he lowered the cup onto table. “Jason has a tendency to be a bit…” he cleared his throat. “Bitchy.”

Danny scoffed and nearly spat out his drink.

“Y-You could say that again,” he tried to wipe off his ever-growing grin, thinking that it was too much. But Max just chuckled at it and he thankfully found it amusing.

“You’re a nice guy Danny. Really nice,” he simpered into his palm. “Can I tell you something that I haven’t told the others?”

Danny gulped. Instantly, he thought of the worst possible thing. Which is, the thing that was crumpling up in his pocket as they spoke.

“I’m actually a brunette,”

He sunk back onto the chair in relief. Danny felt as if he could relax a little because it wasn’t a sudden confrontation of something serious.

“Really?” he played on with a surprised act.

“Yeah. Well, I used to be blonde as a kid. When I first dyed my hair grey,” he messed with the ends of his locks. “But it eventually went brown. No issue though. Just a little harder now that I have to bleach it.”

“You haven’t even told Matt?” Danny was amused at the lighthearted topic.

“Nope. He’d probably accidentally spill it to my parents. He’s a horrible liar,” he rolled his eyes. “And plus my parents adore him, so he'll see them often,” he rambled. “Fair enough. He's a football player, his family is successful--not to mention Christian too. Plus, his ridiculously good looks can fool anyone, even parents.”

“And Jason,” he added with a snicker.

“I like to believe that he genuinely likes him. You never know though,” Danny was somewhat stunned by Max’s calm response. He knew he was homophobic, so he just assumed that he would be against it. I mean, he did find a few things a little repulsive when they flirted. But Danny could smile to himself happily, knowing that Max was fine with it.

“They get along well. Don't they?” He grinned.

“Yeah, they didn't use to though. Believe it or not, Matt didn't always adore every inch of his body,” he was reminiscing, but Danny couldn’t figure out whether it was in a positive light. “Quite the opposite, actually. I thought they were too similar at one point to get along. But still, Jason was too cocky and uptight for Matt to handle, and Matt was too privileged and pissed off for Jason to deal with. But then…” he narrowed his eyes slightly. “It seemed to click for them one day. I don’t know what it was but...it worked. Jason seemed to have a soft side that Matt unveiled and the rest was history.”

“So were they drawn to each other quickly after that?”

“Yeah...too quickly if you ask me,” he shook his head like a disapproving parent. “They sort of hit it off like boyfriends from the moment they became friends. It made the dynamic a little...weird for the group. At first anyway. Everything turned into friendly banter after that and...” he sighed. “...we’re now here. I guess. I’m fine with it. Sort of. I just needed time to get used to it but...” he pressed his lips together and amended the thoughts buzzing through his mind. “...I sometimes wonder if I’m a bad friend. Because I’m never supportive of Matt and Jason as much as he would like me to be.”

He takes a long sip of the earl grey. Presumably, it was long enough for the steam to numb his thoughts a little, because he seemed to pop his head up after that and give a light smile. Fake. But a forced fake. The one that etched Danny’s heart with guilt.

“But you want the best for Matt. And I think that’s what makes a great friend,” he tried to reassure with the cheesiest, most cliche words. But Danny meant it. That’s the thing. So even though he said some line that had been spoken numerous times in film, Max still took it in with a smile. Because Danny was sure that max knew what he meant.

“Thanks Danny. I think I needed to hear that,” before he could ease himself back onto his chair, both their phones buzzed in their jackets. Danny dug through the crinkled mess of a brochure in his pocket to reach his device.

MATT: we’re outside

With a simple nod of acknowledgement, Max stood up to put away the tea set while Danny zipped up his jacket. He roamed around the room one last time. He wondered if Max sat out here often, or if he was secluded in own room instead. There wasn’t exactly anything out here that was useful, I suppose. And his parents would be out here too. And from the sound of it, Danny wouldn't exactly want to put up with them. Nor anyone else who knew them as acquaintances.

Danny pondered as to if Max liked his parents. Even though, from the sound of it, they were anti everything. Everything to do with all his friends too. Even Matt. He chuckled. If only they knew the truth about the poster child for the perfect, republican son.

“You ready to head out Danny?” he pulled down the long sleeves of his jacket.

“Yeah.”

He shook his head and took his side so they could escape the house that seemed to be both heaven and hell at once. It was odd. But he liked it. In the weirdest way possible. Sort of like how he felt about Max, at the end of the day.

Chapter Text

Danny sighed to himself as they entered the diner. Monochrome checkered floorings led them over to a table by the far corner. Also the fact that they were one of the last groups to walk in (mostly because Kurtis tried to force them not to come and it took a solid 30 minutes of Max debating him to convince him that everything was going to be alright), made it all the more awkward since everyone looked around. And it was basically everyone they didn’t want to see from school. Except Brad. Luckily.

“Do you guys want anything to drink?” a waitress came over with a large smile by her lips.

“We’ll all have a coke, thanks,” Max ordered for them, having a pleasant grin of his own. He probably felt like a dad taking his four whiny kids to a nice diner after some football game or something.

“Sure thing,” as she walked away, Kurtis slumped himself over the table.

“Everyone we don’t like is here,” he fiddled with the centerpiece of their table. It was a small treble clef statue made out of plastic. Danny weirdly liked it though. He thought it was cute and it fit with the overall theme of the place.

“Kurtis, shut the fuck up,” Matt groaned, skimming through the menu.

“You’d be doing the same thing if you didn’t like the people here,” he replied coldly.

“It’s a tad hypocritical, but why don’t we all try to calm down a bit,” Max tapped in, scooping two fingers underneath Kurtis’s chin to lift him up from the table. “And please sit up Kurtis,” he grumbled and pressed his back against the seat. “That’s better.”

“Haven’t you been here before?” Jason asked, looking over his shoulder and at the menu.

“I’ve been invited quite a few times. I’ve maybe come twice. I never ordered anything though,” he shrugged. “I don't exactly adore the time I spend with my other teammates.”

“Well maybe they do. Because Dan’s coming over right now,” Kurtis’s voice hitched slightly from panic. He quickly grabbed a menu and turned his gaze over to the small letters. Danny gulped and hid his eyes also.

He seemed to swirl around the waitress who put down their drinks like some cocky asshole in a musical. Which wasn't really far off actually. He stomped his foot down onto the ground and stood his somewhat prideful stance. Danny felt like he was looked down upon by him.

“Hey Matt,” he rested his hands onto the table and looked towards the football player with an enthusiastic grin. “And friends.”

They all swung an uninterested wave.

“You did really well in your game the other week,” he commented. The wide grin made Danny uncomfortable. Though he was good looking. It was a confusing feeling because it was so fake. “We were just talking about it.”

He glanced over to the rest of the footballers who were all staring over. They all knew where this was going.

“T-Thanks,” Matt tried to remain calm and collected as he stretched out a smile himself.

“Do you wanna come over? Because we have a spare seat by—“

“No, I’m okay,” he sounded nice yet firm. Dan’s eyes seemed to dull a little by the defeat.

“You sure?” he questioned further, edging a little closer.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said nonchalantly, making the whole vibe a lot more casual.

“We did invite you over for a reason,” he tried to sound calm, but it was easy to pick up on the tensing of words.

“I-I'll come over in a bit. After I eat,” he tried to smile.

“…if you say so,” Dan left them with a small shrug and a shove to his pockets as he walked away, unsatisfied.

It was only a minor defeat in his terms though.

“I hate it when he does that,” he grumbled, looking back at the menu.

“What? Harass you to make you look socially acceptable? Yeah me too,” Jason chuckled through it. Matt exhaled.

Danny knew that Dan was a good guy at heart. A little misunderstood for the footballers in earlier years, which probably resulted in him being mistreated by them. He didn't really know, since they split ways after childhood. But before that, he knew him fairly well. Dan was actually a little artsy as a kid. He had imaginative ideas and he wanted to do kooky things and play around. But he presumably grew up quicker than Danny expected, or his team mates harassed him into fit the stereotype of a “good looking jock” and he eventually merged into it after time. He believed the latter. People tended to dissolve into casts of stereotypes because it's easier to live through high school that way.

“I mean…if hanging out with us means that you’re going to get kicked off or something like that, then—“ Max was cut off by Matt’s slightly harsh stare.

“It’s fine Max,” he seemed a little pissed off, like he was beginning to get sick of the topic.

“I just don’t want you to have enemies on your own football team,” Max tried to reason, his voice a little weak.

“It’ll be fine,” he rolled his eyes, his attention quickly switching over to the waitress who was slowly making her way over to them.

“It’s not fine if—“

“It’s fine, Max. Okay?” he snapped. The taller boy was taken aback. Danny cursed under his breath. He had a slightly hurt face now, and the slight pause between the group was not good. They all seemed to shift their gazes from each other just as the waitress came to take their order.

“Are you guys ready to order?” she had a pen and paper in her hands. Max was the first to break away.

“Yeah, yeah we are,” he plastered on a genuine expression. “I’ll have a pumpkin pie, thanks.”

“Custard french toast.”

“Buttermilk pancakes.”

“I’ll have a Classic Burger.”

“Brisket melt.”

“And is that all?” she wrote down the last of their order.

“Yes, thank you,” Max dismissed her with a perky goodbye.

There was another pregnant pause. Danny sipped on his coke quietly in the corner as he watched it slowly play out.

“I don’t think Max was trying to be rude,” of course it was Kurtis. He was the first one to stamp his foot when it came to an argument revolving around Matt.

“Yeah, but he should let it go,” he took a few gulps of his drink. Matt's dismissing demeanour seemed to light a fire under Kurtis's ass.

“You’re acting like a brat and you should cut it out,” he argued firmly. Matt crinkled his brows together.

“Maybe you should just shut the fuck up Kurtis. This is bullshit,” he shoved the glass aside and slammed his fist onto the table. Danny felt a shiver down his spine. “You don’t know fucking anything, okay? Just fucking leave it alone and stop with the stupid “I’m just trying to help” thing, because it’s really not helping. Okay?”

His eyes were the sharpest blue colour he had ever seen. Giving a harsh sigh, he sat back on his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Tell your boyfriend to calm down,” Kurtis turned his gaze over to Jason instead, who had his hand gripping onto Matt's forearm worriedly. He gave a small shake of the head over to him, signalling him to stop. Matt didn't respond. There were a few breaths of silence before Jason turned over again.

“He said he’s fine,” he shifted over to Max who went pale with guilt. “So maybe you should’ve stopped.”

Trust him to take the benefit of the doubt from Matt. Danny just sat back in his corner and continued to stay silent. But if he had the chance, he would run his mouth like there was no tomorrow. It seemed typical for Matt to get upset over something like that. He never really caught onto it when they first met, but he seemed more emotional than he expected. Or he just became more emotional in the last few weeks.

Either way, Kurtis wasn’t having it. Though it was oddly ironic for him to be complaining about being a rash teenager. He hated it. And he seemed to hate it more that Jason was backing him up. Because now he had his arms crossed and his angry stare elsewhere.

But it seemed fair enough. Jason was sharp and borderline bitchy when it came to everyone else, but when it came to Matt, he threw everything out the window. He cared about him, to a point where he was too soft. He kept on giving him chances, one after the other, and it was actually starting to piss Danny off a little. Just a little. Alongside the other two.

He couldn’t help but to feel like something major was about to hit. Like a bad feeling you get because your gut is predicting something. Something shitty. Something too serious. And with this random “Brian” guy coming, this wasn’t going to be good.

As their meals came, they all squirmed in the dense silence. Matt was quick to shove away his empty plate and dash away to the footballers, plastering on a smile as he was taken in by Dan with an arm around the shoulder.

Fuck him for fitting in. For being socially acceptable.

Jason fiddled with the last of his side salad as he tried not to meet Kurtis’s obviously pissed off expression.

“Are we not going to talk about this?” Kurtis asked, drinking the last of his coke.

“What? We shouldn't bitch about Matt while he's away. That's so...teen girl like,” Jason tried to cool if off with a shrug.

“He was a dickhead to Max for no reason! He was just trying to help,” his reasonings sounded like an angry whine.

“He's having issues right now. Okay?” Jason gave him a sharp look.

“Oh with his perfect and rich family? What a shame,” he sounded so sarcastic and bitter that it even made Danny wince.

“Oh fuck off Kurtis. You don't know anything,” Max seemed to shuffle further away from them and closer to Danny, as he could feel the ends of his jacket brush past his leg.

“But I do know that his life is hell a lot better than some other people. Okay? You know that,” he fought back, his brows crinkled and his ego looking like it was about to crack. Danny didn't really know if it's a positive or a negative.

From Max’s startled reaction, Danny figured that they had never argued like this before. Or at least in public. He wondered as to if Kurtis ever complained about Matt to Jason before. It wouldn't be too surprising. But it wouldn't end well either.

“It's a little thing called ‘crystal meth’," Danny widened eyes. "And if you haven't heard of it before, it's also called a “gateway to fucking hell”,” he slammed his hand onto the table, making everyone flinch. Danny lunged over to his glass to not let it topple and spill.

Kurtis tried to settle his boiling blood by clutching onto his hand and eyeing him with a look of concern and a little bit of regret. But Jason wasn’t backing down. His face somehow heated to a brighter red as he snatched his hand back and jolted back onto the seat. Danny swore that he saw Jason's eyes flicker red until he glanced down. The length of his bangs swayed to cover them.

They froze when Jason sniffed. Max tucked his chin into his chest and tried to ignore the situation. Danny found himself glaring at him, though it was a tad hypocritical since he wasn’t doing anything either.

“Jason I’m--”

Silence.

Kurtis’s first words were cut off by Jason suddenly getting up and leaving. Wiping a tear swiftly with his sleeve as he escaped the back door, they were left with anxiousness and a pool of pity. The brunette sighed to himself, dissolving whatever words he had in his throat.

“I’m getting him,” he swallowed hard and parted the table, quickly dashing over to him.

There was another pause. One that was much thicker and heavier than before. Danny fiddled with the end of his jacket, trying to distract himself from Max biting his lip as he nervously waited. Even he didn't know what to do. And that scared him a shit ton.

If Danny had the ability to level up his confidence and let his words jump out, he would be quick to ask how Max is feeling. Or what he thought would happen next. Discuss what the fuck just exploded in front of them. But he didn't. He liked to think that he was a lot more confident than before. It's just that...it still wasn't much.Baby steps--he told himself.

Small steps are just fine as long as he keeps on going forward.

"...I..." Max began with a singular word, which seemed to just be a slight extension of an exhale. So...barely anything. "...I didn't think it would blow up like that."

"Me either..." he mumbled back, not knowing what to say next.

They sat in a few beats of silence until the waitress came.

"I-I'll pay. How much will it be?"

Chapter Text

It was a silent ride home. Only a small tune played in the background of Kurtis's car, but it was so quiet that no one couldn't even make out the actual song. No one was saying a single word, but from Jason’s frustrated exhales, it felt like no one was supposed to say anything anyway. Not only did the whole blowout with Kurtis fizzle out his flame--which meant that there was a crack in their strong friendship--but right now, all he could think about was Matt. He wasn’t in the car, so Jason's empty and unattended hands felt all the more numb, and his simple wave of goodbye as he dashed away with the footballers back at the diner felt like a stab to the chest. His unwillingness to give him even a simple, verbal farewell (and the lack of affection with it too) made Jason crumble on the inside. It was odd. The queer mixture of anger and misery felt unsettling in his stomach.

Everyone stared out of their own respective windows in dense silence. Maybe it was a way to pretend that they were all preoccupied by something, anything, so they could avoid the awkwardness of stillness and the confrontation of what just happened.

It was better this way--is what Danny said to himself as they all ignored Jason hopping out of the car. It was only Kurtis who said a goodbye to him, but it was quiet, and he ignored it. He swallowed hard and drove on.

Next was Max, and that was a tad more pleasant. He said his partings himself, so it felt more natural when they all said it as a reply.

“You wanna come to the front?” Kurtis asked him with a tired tone. Fair enough. He had a rough evening.

Danny gave him a simple nod and rushed to the passenger seat. He heard the brochure crumpling and wrinkling as he sat down. The sudden sound through the mist of nothingness made Kurtis turn around. And from Danny’s guilt ridden face, it was obvious that something was wrong.

“What'cha got in your pocket Danny?” he tried to brighten the mood with an accented voice. And it worked slightly. He chuckled and shoved his hand into his jacket.

“I-I found something…” his voice flattened a little when he remembered the feel of it. Jagged and rigid. “A-And I want to show you it but--”

“Okay,” he seemed a little confused at Danny’s shy state. “Go ahead.”

He dug his hand in and choked the paper with his fingers. He felt it retaliate with its sharp edges. The cuts stung his palms.

“This," the ball of crushed paper rocked in his faced up, open palm. Kurtis stared at it, puzzled at what it was. "I found this in Max's room."

He pinched a pointed edge with the tip of his nails, in a semi nervous and semi suspicious manner. He looked like some sort of animal, trying to kick and nudge some bug with his paws. Nipping it by the corners, he stretched it out and scanned the bold text.

Kurtis immediately snapped his eyes up, a terrifying mixture of fury, anger and frustration staining his expression a deep red. It made Danny coward away in fear as a chill rushed through his veins. He’d never seen Kurtis so angry before. Pissed off, maybe. Frustrated, all the time. But never full blown anger. To a point where his skin discoloured into a reddy tinge and his jaw clenched back to a sharp hiss.

He drew a breath as he parted his lips.

“When did you find this?” his voice was strained, and yet his words were jagged and harsh.

“T-Today. When I went to his house,” he felt like he was being interrogated by the police. Like it was so serious and intense that his legs were ready to cave in, even though he wasn’t even standing.

“I just…can’t…” he raised his sleeve, trying to conceal his reddening eyes. “…where did you find it…?”

His words were smoothing out a little. Just a tad. Like it was dissolving under his collapsing sense of self.

Danny hesitated.

“His room…” he mumbled, hoping the more inaudible it was, the more likely that it wouldn’t hurt as much. But the sharp pain was still there. As piercing and agonising as ever.

“Are you fucking kidding me…?” he snickered, which made it all the more painful. Sniffing, he ran his hand through his hair, revealing the all too bloodshot eyes. “…well…? Is it all true…?”

Danny gulped and forced his head down. It was supposed to be a nod, but it was barely a movement. Sort of like a small jolt. But it was enough for Kurtis to try and gulp down the situation. Try being the key word, and he was hopelessly failing.

He gritted his teeth against his bottom lip.

“Max is stupid,” he spat. “He’s a fucking dumbass who everyone thinks is some sort of genius but he’s one shit face who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” he crinkled it in his palms, the sound making Danny’s chest hurt. “He’s destroying himself Danny. He’s really destroying himself.”

“…I know…” it was barely audible, like he mouthed it.

“I want to talk about it with him,”

It was just a statement. More like a demand, actually. For…the world maybe…? For life to get their shit together and do something about it. To do something about Max. But honestly, Danny didn’t know what to do. He didn’t feel comfortable enough to actually talk to the boy about it. And he knew that Kurtis was stubborn and a little childish at times, so he might be confident now, but the likelihood of him actually piping out a single sentence to do with this whole mess was close to 0.001%.

Kurtis was probably more likely to have hardcore sex with Matt while simultaneously becoming a Jehovah’s Witness than actually approaching Max. While topping him too.

To add onto that, they don’t even confront each other about anything. If it had to be someone, it would probably be Kurtis or Jason who would bring things up, but its never anything serious. Jason knows boundaries and usually keeps to the sunny side of the splitting paths. Matt’s usually too lazy to bat an eye towards the already "crossed" bridge. And Max tends to be a little shy and outspoken when it came to these serious topics. He’s like that one mom at neighbourhood barbecues who want her two sons to shut up and say nothing so they can look like they’re getting along, even though they should probably just civilly talk it out since keeping silent about things isn’t great. So a liberal, really.

People like Max are the reason why we have those posters up on councillor office walls across the world saying “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind”—And people on reddit are the reason why we shouldn't have those posters up on walls.

“What are you going to say?” Danny was sort of trying to help out. More like guide him into the right direction so he doesn’t start screaming at him because…well, that’s what Kurtis does when he gets upset.

“I don’t know. W-Who cares anyway?! He just needs to know that this is dumb, and stupid and—“ he was definitely upset. Mostly frustrated. From the way he stumbled with his words and his eyes paced back and forth. He was riling up from the inside out.

“What if,” the younger boy jumped in to pause his sentence. He looked up at him, his eyes practically bulging out of his skull. “What if we talk to him as a group,” Danny gestured for him to take in a deep breath. He did as told. “Calmly. To show him that we want to help. There’s no use in getting mad because…he’ll just get upset. And he’s really upset already.”

He tried to explain with a low and soothing voice. Danny had seen Kurtis hurt. Too many times before, really, in the past, so he tried to be as gentle as possible to not hammer in nails at his already formed cracks.

“…you’re right…” he ran his hand through his hair and sniffed. He tensed his shoulder blades like he was trying to sit up straight. Look confident. “We’ll talk to him one day as a group, a-and maybe we can make him snap out of it,” he tried to subtly wipe away a tear, looking like he was rubbing his eyes instead because he was tired. But Danny knew otherwise, and he continued to brush it off to make him feel better. “Is that too hopeful?”

“No, of course not,” he shook his head. “You guys are all great friends for helping him through it.”

“Thanks Danny,” he gripped the steering wheel tightly. “…I needed to hear that.”

“Hmm? Why’s that?” Kurtis's eyes were either distracted on the road, now that he swerved out, or were refusing to gaze at Danny's. Either way, the younger boy was quick to catch onto what he was implying. "You're not a bad friend Kurtis."

"It's easy to say it, but hard to believe it," he pressed his lips together. "I made him cry the other day Danny. I still haven't forgiven myself for it. A-And I just can't bring myself to apologise."

"Why?"

"Because it'll remind him," the car jerked underneath his pressure.

"R-Remind him of what...?"

"Remind him of what happened," he sniffled and scratched at the inner corner of his eye to dry his waterline. "...we have this weird pact, I think."

Danny arched his fingers around the seatbelt, trying to brace himself for what was to come. It was that odd feeling of knowing what he was going to say, but wanting to hear it anyway. He had caught onto it a while ago: that there was something going on with the group and fucked up situations. Why they would never talk about it as it passed. How would Danny describe it?

A blood oath--okay, no that's a little too intense

Some odd habit--could be.

An unspoken rule--more like.

"I don't even know when it began...it had to be Max. Maybe Matt, who started it," his rambles were more like mumbles.

"What are you talking about?"

"If I had to somehow explain it simply, they don't like talking. Maybe confrontation is a better word for it," he tried to sweeten it with a chuckle, but it came off like a bitter aftertaste. "Sometimes...shit gets so bad that all you want to do is forget."

"Trust me, I know what that feels like," Kurtis chuckled lightly at his answer.

"...but I think we all want to just leave it sometimes. Leave it alone so we don't have to deal with it. Even though it means we get no closure," his grin felt so forced. It was like he was a toddler, trying to patch up large sores with the tiniest band aid. "We go through so many shitstorms everyday, that I think we just stopped caring. I'd like to say that we learnt to get over it but..." he rubbed his temples. "...I don't actually know anymore."

"W-Well there's no point in dwelling on it forever, right?" Danny tried to add in a tint of encouragement into the mix so Kurtis didn't beat himself up too much. He was probably picking himself apart as they spoke.

"Exactly, that's what we think...or at least I'm pretty sure. W-We've never talked about it so..." he paused to give a small exhale. "...I think we thought it was a lot easier to never talk about it. It's not that we're forgetting what happened. And fucking hell, we're not forgiving them. But...brushing it aside and instead, doping up on happiness seems like the right thing to do. Seemed like the right thing to do."

He paused to give one last, long sigh.

“But...it gives me the worst feeling. It's like,” he gestured through the empty space. “All this muck that builds up from left behind conversations somehow swirls together to form this pile of rubbish that sits at the bottom of your stomach like some sort of disease.”

“And it's disgusting and nauseating?” Danny asked, nodding along with his horrid descriptions that honestly, seemed a little familiar.

“Yeah,” he agreed with a low voice. “Dissatisfaction is honestly such a sickening feeling,” he giggled at his own comment. “And not in a good way.”

“It's unsettling. Isn't it?"

“Yeah...yeah it is…” he shook his head and tried to regain a constant pace for the car. “It sort of became a habit for all of us over time. A bad habit…” he bit his lip as he confessed. “That's why I'm going to change,” he sounded like those typical teenagers in drama movies who, at the end of the day, wouldn't actually change. But there was this hint in his words that made Danny think otherwise. Hope otherwise, more like. "You think I can do it, right? Danny?"

"Yeah, of course you can Kurtis,” he gave a reassuring smile.

They were just words, but it was a start.

Kurtis leaned over and clutched Danny's clasped together hands. He stared over at him with slight confusion.

“Thanks Danny,” he simply said, his eyes on the road and his stance casual. The younger boy grinned.

“I believe in you Kurtis,”

He squeezed back and swore he saw the whole world brighten, just a bit.

Chapter Text

Fuck off.

Danny felt his phone buzz in his pocket, the sound drilling through the stillness of the classroom. It was probably the first time his science class fell silent in...forever. But of course Danny was the one to ruin it all with his shitty ass friends who couldn’t shut up on the group chat. And of course it was during a test too.

MATT: he’s here!

MATT: I JUST SAW HIM HOP OUT OF THE CAR

He subtly tried to sneak it out so he could glance down. If he was to get caught, it would probably result in a 0. Not like he was going to get a good result anyway.

KURTIS: guess we’ll see him at lunch

MAX: maybe you should stop texting in class

He should have probably turned off his phone alongside the rest of his classmates so the teacher didn’t have to stare down at him. But hey, it's too late now. And all he could do now was quickly finished off his paper and shoved it over to the teacher, before she could fully enforce her rage on him.

Fucking suck it.

Cocking a shoulder and smirking, he swung his legs over the chair and hopped up breezily.

“I’m going to the bathroom miss,”

Danny had an odd addiction to the rush he felt when he stood up to teachers. Recently anyway. And no, he wouldn't consider himself a hipster. Yet. It's slowly easing into him.

He rushed out of the room as quickly as possible and shoved his hand into his pocket to whip out his phone.

JASON: hypocrite

MAX: it’s music

MAX: it doesn’t count

MATT: you wanna come out to the bathrooms to see him?

MATT: I just invited him out

Danny laughed to himself.

DANNY: I’m heading over now

KURTIS: going to the bathroom in a pack?

KURTIS: that makes us sound like sissy girls

JASON: wow, don’t go hurting Kurtis’s manliness now

He snorted and eyed the bathroom doors, pushing forward to peer inside. Matt had his back against the wall, phone in one hand and a lit joint in the other. They exchanged glances before a lazy grin spread across his lips and he strolled over. Exhaling out a long trail of smoke, Danny breathed it in a let a smile creep up. Matt gestured for him to take it, wiggling it in front of his vision.

Danny tried to indicate that he wasn’t feeling it by lightly nudging it away. Mostly because he didn’t want to get high during school. Though it was fairly tempting and all—and the aroma of dense thickness drifting into his nostrils wasn't helping— he still had 3 periods left. And it wasn’t like Danny was some A+, good student either, but he did love music. Which was next. And he really didn’t want to be “out of it” during music.

“Your loss,” he shrugged, his tone mostly uncaring and a little aloof. Maybe a little cold. Danny liked to think that Matt was too stoned to speak properly, instead of, you know, just being a straight up dick. Like he was sometimes.

But then again, he wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. He could still imagine Jason’s cracked expression from yesterday. And his words…they repeated over and over again in his head. It made his body go numb. He looked towards Matt again, who was taking a long drag of his joint. He wondered if it was a way to make himself feel better. A coping mechanism. For life? For everything to do with life? It made him ache a little.

Was that too dramatic? Danny stared at the lit end of the joint. He didn’t know how often he did other drugs, and if Jason ever approached him about it. Well, he obviously knew about it.

He felt odd for wanting to know more about him. Just a tad more. What did he hate about life? What was he struggling with? What would his dad do if he found out that him and Jason are together. Danny had to wrap his head around him. Him as a person. He didn’t really…get him. Properly. Compared to the rest of the group anyway.

The last couple of days were tough. Really fucking tough, to say the least.
Matt’s eyes lit up ever so slightly when his phone buzzed.

“They’re heading over now,” he threw away the joint in the nearest trash can and cleared his throat.

KURTIS: fuck off Jason

KURTIS: I’m still coming though

JASON: you’re lucky I love you Matt

JASON: I have to escape English because of you

Before they could utter another word, the door opened to reveal the two boys, who were too deep in banter to even give them a proper greeting. It was more like a simple wave for Danny. And well, a shower of kisses for Matt from Jason.

“Babe, you smell like weed,” Jason breathed into his neck, his hands clasped around his waist.

“It’s just my shirt. I haven’t washed it in ages,” he spread his usual charming smile over his lips. The younger boy felt a little stiff. Jason bought it though. Danny would buy it too if he didn’t know the truth. But he did. And it made him feel a little uncomfortable.

Was this the first time Matt ever lied to Jason? Probably not. But how many times did he lie to him? It made Danny feel a little uneasy.

Before thoughts casted over his head, the door swung open again. A semi tall boy stood by the frame, one hand pressed up against the opened door and the other on his cocked out hip. His chin was raised high like an overdramatic diva, and his eyes were thinned like a supermodel. He inhales and lets a smile creep onto his lips slowly.

“Hey guys,” he sounded perky, like one of those typical gays you find at the mall.

Kurtis squealed.

“Oh my god! Brian!” he yelped, throwing his arms over is shoulder and reeling him into a tight hug. He jumped enthusiastically as he cried into his shoulder. Not literally cry. That happy cry he does when he gets shit that he wants. Which was often. “I haven't seen you in forever!”

“It’s so good to see you,” Matt snaked out of Jason’s grasp to go over to him, sharing a tight squeeze that seemed so familiar and comfortable with them.

“It’s good to see you too Matty,” he patted his shoulder. “You haven’t changed one bit.”

“You either. It’s good to have you back,” his tone seemed so delighted and sweet. Going in for another hug, the room was filled with an odd mixture of over-excitement and awkwardness.

His eyes met with Jason’s for a quick second. Danny gulped.

“Jason,” he parted from Matt to give him a nod. Pressing his lips together, he slowly made his way over to him.

“Brian,” he sounded a little firmer at first, but he melted away his gaze to give him a chuckle and a hug. “We’ve missed you.”

“I missed you too,” he exchanged looks of thankfulness. “I can’t believe this bathroom still reeks of weed,” he rolled his eyes over to Matt. “No thanks to you.”

“Fuck off,” the footballer laughed.

“H-Hey, how long have you been in there? It’s been like five minutes and—“

Eventually Max was at the door too, pushing it open to reveal (probably) the oddest gathering of boys crowded around the stalls. It probably looked really suspicious if anyone walked in. Like a drug deal was going on. Except this time, it was more like a gay get together. Like that was any better at this school.

“Oh my,” he brought his hands to his lips before dashing over to him and framed his long arms around his body. “Brian! I haven’t seen you in so long!”

“Hey Max,” he grinned up at him. “You’re as tall as ever.”

“You have no idea how much I struggle to get through doors,” he does that chipper chuckle he does that makes him sound so posh.

“You have no idea how much I struggle to live over there,” he groaned.

“There’s, like, nobody there! It’s so different without you guys.”

“Well,” Kurtis grabbed Danny by the hand and tugged him into their small circle. The younger boy glanced down shyly like some sort of new kid at kindergarten. He felt out of place, to say the least. They all gushed about how much they missed about each other, and he’d never even seen him before. And he was pretty sure that he would be able to recognise that short cut, brown hair and that sneer-like grin anywhere. “This is Danny. He’s a new addition to the group.”

“You brought in another gay to replace me?” he slurred with an accent, the others snickering as Danny fiddled with his hands in his pockets. “Nah, I’m kidding,” he took out a hand. “I’m Brian. Brian Firkus. Nice to meet you.”
Danny smiled at the oddly formal greeting. From his accent, he could pick up a slightly country background. And it weirdly intrigued him.
“Danny. Danny Noreiga.”

He shook it firmly and they shared smiles. Smiles that made him predict that there was going to be more to him. And something more to the group. But he was sort of excited for it. Just a little. And Brian’s excited and sort of cute grin didn’t help either.

***

The first thing wrong with lunch was Danny’s food. His sandwich was shitty and it made him lose appetite quickly. He swore that his milk was off as well, making him feel nauseous at the first gulp. He low-key missed preparatory school, where they had a much higher budget (enough for them to actually afford a good quality—and yet ugly—uniform), which meant that they could get nice food at the cafeteria. Aka, actually edible burgers and deliciously favoured milk that reeked of diabetes and nostalgia. And he could always get extra too, after Courtney became a vegan. Danny somewhat yearned for the days when things were nicer.

The second thing wrong with lunch was Kurtis. He would often peel away his attention from Brian’s anecdotes of Milwaukee and his travels around Wisconsin to face Max. Really obviously stare at Max too, with his eyes slightly squinted and his lips drawn out thinly. The other boy seemed to notice, but ignore it, continuing to listen to the new boy’s stories while he gulped and tried to brush away his harsh gaze. Danny was thankful that no one else noticed, except the victim, because they were distracted by Brian’s stories.

Well, Matt was anyway. And Jason was mostly, if you excluded that pulling of the footballer’s arm towards his chest that translated roughly to “Stay the fuck away from him, he’s mine”. If they were to notice that odd tension between Kurtis and Max (that could be taken as “sexual frustration” if Danny didn’t know better), they would probably point it out. By Jason, most likely. And from there it could be taken in two directions. One, where Kurtis snapped out of it and plastered on a smile, which was so obviously fake but Jason would give him the benefit of the doubt anyway. Or two, where he doesn’t deny it and he brings it up to Max.

He’ll probably say something like, “Oh, sorry. I was too shy to ask Max about this interesting brochure I read the other day and, it had something to do with…homophobia…?”, accompanied with a gay-looking gesture and an overdramatic tone which made him look more like a bottom somehow. And then the grey haired boy would shiver and glance away like he didn’t know any better. That’s how it would go down in Danny’s mind at least.

It was more likely to be the latter, but it wasn't good either way. So Danny just held his breath, and chimed into Brian and his stories that were more interesting than anything all 5 of them have done in the last 5 years combined. He was happy that he was confident and borderline self-centred enough to just talk about his own experiences. Danny would have panicked if he asked them to recite what they had done in the last few weeks. What would they go with?

Max — how he was going to perform a solo at the auditorium of music, which was much more exciting and serious than everything the other 4 had done.

Kurtis—and how he crashed the car, which wasn’t actually that positive, now that Danny thought about it

Jason—and how he got full blown punched by Brad in the hallways, which also wasn’t that great either…did anything good happen to these boys?

Matt—and how he…wait does he do anything? Danny likes him as a person—no doubt about that—but did he go through anything shit? Compared to them, well it seemed like a no. He wondered if that was one of the benefits of being popular. Probably. And he was a little jealous. Oh wait. He scored a single goal or something at that last game. Touchdown? Home run? Danny didn’t fucking know.

Danny—…okay, so he wasn’t much better. He’d like to think that going into a car with a drunk Kurtis was both thrilling and semi badass, and not idiotic and stupid.

…so obviously Brian was much more interesting then them. For now. Until he runs out of those stories and then they’ll go back to banter and Matt bullying Kurtis. Which Danny low-key liked because he thought it was funny.

But right now, Brian seemed to also be good at banter. He was wittier than Danny had expected. Really on his toes with his comments. He seemed to be braver than Max, and smarter than the rest, and yet oddly similar to all of them. So it basically created some mess of a teenager who had the oddest fashion sense, daddy issues and a strong attitude. Oh and he played the clarinet. That too.

The third thing wrong with lunch was…well…Brian. Sort of. You know how Brian was witty? Yeah, well it meant that he could catch any jab thrown at him and hurl it back twice as hard. It was something that Jason said that made him snap. Danny wasn’t exactly paying attention, because it was pretty common for him to just zone out during long stories, but he knew something happened when the cheerleader’s jaw dropped and his eyes looked as if they were about to pop out of his skull. Okay, so it wasn’t like some legendary and rare occurrence for him to be offended, but it was how Matt reacted that threw Danny off.

He was laughing. The Matthew Lent James had his head titled back, piping out chuckles which were directed at Jason. The Jason that he spent every day of his life adoring. Along with someone he hated too. Brian. The one that made Jason’s lip curl down just at the name before he came.

Jason must have said one of those comments that made him look really cocky. The ones that just skim the line between confidence and disdain, for comedy purposes (or that’s what Danny thinks anyway; who knows? He might be serious). And then, insert Matt’s small giggle here. Like he always does because he finds him so charming.

“Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and give the impression that you’re stupid than open it and remove all doubt,” Brian chewed on his food, his tone aloof and blaze.
Jason snapped his attention over to him and…cue his offended face.

And that’s when Matt laughed louder than Danny had ever heard. Borderline cackling as he slapped Brian on the shoulder to try and brace his fit of laughter. It wasn't really what he said that was funny, but his delivery. It felt so carefree and bitchy. That sort of bitchy where you laugh because it’s hilarious, but you know you'd feel hurt if it was directed at you. And that was Jason at that moment.

“Well that’s rude,” he commented back, his tone ice cold as he folded his arms. He rolled his eyes back and pursed his lips.

“It was a joke,” Brian brushed it off with an amused chuckle. “Don’t take it seriously.”

He didn’t reply with a direct comment. He instead, just glanced away and thinned out his eyes.

“We all joke around with each other Jason,” Matt defended (what Danny thought was) the wrong side. Mostly because Jason would flip. And well, he sort of did. His eyes widened and he swung his head around to face his boyfriend who was sitting next to him. “It’s what friends do.”

“Yeah, but he's no friend,” Jason threw at him. Kurtis scoffed at the comment and tried not to giggle. “Brian, you can’t just come back and expect everyone to worship you. You didn’t even sit with us for the last couple of months before you left.”

“Yeah, I’ll give you that. But is anyone really complaining that I’m here except you?” he blinked open his eyes widely as he gave an amused smile. “Even little Danny Boy isn’t complaining.”

“Yeah but I still don't consider you a friend,” he refused to meet his gaze. “So maybe you should lay off.”

“I’ll lay off being funny if you lay off being a complete fucking bitch,” he spat back, his words messy but his tone still spiked with confidence. Maybe it was his borderline theatrical expression, but he looked like he was head and shoulders above Jason, who’s ego was slowly crumbling.

“Umm, coming from you?”

“Yes, coming from me, because I have more to my personality than being a whiny bitch and dating a hot-ass footballer to fuel my own ego,” he sparred further, his tone equally as sarcastic as it was rude.

“Oh fuck off. You’re fucking shitting me if you think you're some modest saint,” he jabbed back.

“The difference is, I have the right to be because I’m actually capable of holding a conversation,”

“Okay Brian, that’s enough,” Kurtis buts in, just in time to cut off Jason who was presumably going to scream at him or slap him. “Maybe we should change the subject. I heard that Brian M was paid to throw a decapitated mouse’s head into the counsellor’s office.”
“Yeah, thats realistic. He has tendencies to be—“

“I’m leaving,” Jason shoves away Brian’s comment as he zipped up his bag and swung it over his shoulder.

“Wait. Don't go,” Matt reached over to him, giving him a look of concern.

“I can’t stand to be near that guy,” he glared over to him, who replied with a chirpy chuckle.

“It was a joke Jason. I don't get why you’re so offended,”

Danny wanted to classify this as the fourth thing wrong with lunch. He wanted to clarify Matt as someone who wasn't self aware, because someone in their right mind would not say something like that to their own boyfriend. Especially after they just got beaten down to the ground by someone they didn't like.

“I’m offended, because he doesn't shut the fuck up. Ever,” he stood up and dusted his pants.

“Umm, neither does Kurtis,” Matt replied, chortling a little at his comment.

“Oh fuck off. I’m not even in this,” he whined, Max snorting from the side lines.

“And he always thinks he's on top of the world,” he stared over again to give him a stern look. “Hasn’t changed a bit since elementary school. Or middle school.”

“Like you don't do that Jason,” he was firmer than he intended to be. And Jason was more hurt than he intended to be. But he didn’t back down with his gaze as the younger boy glanced down and scrunched up his fists.

“…fine,”

He stormed off, steps rough and breath heavy.

“Wait Jason!” Kurtis gathered his bag and scrambled after him, trying to gain the casualty he needed to act like he's fine. Except he barely could. Because he was genuinely shocked.

Danny watched the ashy grey-greens of their jackets fade from the emerald field (which he still loved for its colour and aura). He wrapped his arms around his legs and pulled it closely to his chest.

“Was it too harsh?” Brian spoke up, sounding a tad regretful.

“Don't worry about it. Jason can get like this sometimes,” Matt tried to reassure him, though his eyes lingered a little at Jason’s disappearing figure.

“Aren't you gonna apologise?”

Danny felt his lips quiver slightly at his own comment. He wasn't the one to speak up in this group, (mostly because, no matter how much time went on, he felt like the new kid. Either because the other four were too close, or he was young so it just wasn't the same), so it felt plain odd. And it made the others turn around and eye him strangely.
“I don’t…” Matt cleared his throat. “I don't want to…right now…”

“O-Okay, just asking.”

Danny couldn’t muster up the courage to talk any more than that. He just left Max to do all the talking. It was like he was passing the baton over to him or something. And the tall boy seemed to be able to gather a whole bunch of nothing and start a conversation.

“Did you see Kurtis’s shoes? Where do you think he got them from?”

“Oh those grey ones?” Brian joined in. “They were so extra. Such a Kurtis thing to do.”

Thank god for that. Maybe he should be a theatre kid after all. Maybe talk to Roy about putting him in the next musical. Actually no. First of all, he needed to talk to Roy. Period.

Chapter Text

Danny didn’t know what to do.

It was him, Kurtis and Jason, in the cheerleader’s bedroom. He was pacing back and forth, his arms punched down to his side and frustration bursting from his lips.

“I can't believe it! I can't fucking believe it!” he crossed his arms over his chest.

Danny felt a tad bad for Jason. He seemed so hurt, to a point where his emotions were exploding from his chest and he was frantically trying to patch it up with rants and insults.

Kurtis, on the other hand, was nonchalantly nodding towards everything. He seemed to give up after the first hour, going from the understanding, kind best friend, to an uncaring, tired friend who couldn't be bothered to listen to his first world problems anymore.

"That's great Jason…” was the only phrase he bothered to say, only scraping together the leftover crumbs of effort he had lingering like dust by his throat.

“That prick! Such a fucking jerk, who doesn't even know which side he's supposed to be on,” he exhaled and plotted down at the foot of the bed.

Kurtis parted his gaze from his phone screen to view his friend, eventually exhaling and shuffling over to him. Placing a hand onto his shoulder, he peered towards him with a frown.

“I said this before, but you need to listen. Okay?” They exchanged nods. “He didn't mean to hurt you. He was just laughing along with a friend he hadn't seen for a while. A friend, who I might add, that he considers really close. I'm pretty sure he just wanted to encourage him to stay.”

“...yeah, but still,” he glanced away and pursed his lips. “He never does that. Ever. Since Brian left anyway…” Jason knew he sounded like a pathetic whiner, but he continued. “I don't hate Brian. I think he can be cool and stuff but...I don't like the way Matt acts when he's around him. He changes. For the worse.”

“Maybe its, like, old habits coming back again. From middle school,” Kurtis reasoned further, a small but thoughtful and caring smile by his lips. “You know that we only became a four in high school. And well,” he looked over to Danny who was tucked away at the other side of Jason’s bed, his legs crossed and his stare tentatively directed at the two. “Now a 5, in senior year.”

“I get where you're coming from, but like…” Jason gnawed on his bottom lip. “...I still want to piss him off. Like, get back at him. I-It doesn't make sense to me! I'm here, supporting him with everything he's going through, and Brian left the moment we hit high school. He sat with Brian M for years!”

Kurtis sighed.

“That's true,” he acknowledged with a press of his lips. “Well I have a plan...but Matt’s not gonna like it,” the younger boy’s eyes glistened a little from excitement.

“When has that stopped you?” he snickered.

“Yeah, that's true,” he rubbed his hands together like he was collecting up thrill for this plan, that Danny was somewhat worried about because it was a Kurtis plan. And you never really know where that's gonna go. For Matt too. And that might be potentially dangerous, in every way possible.

“Well, was is it?”

“A really good friend of yours is gonna come and play.”

***

“So we need that deep indigo cloth to hang from there,” Max gestured above the stage lights. Matt lazily messed with the long trail of blue material.

“This bluey thing?” He wrapped the see-through fabric around his wrist and dangled it like a bored cat with a piece of string.

“Indigo is a shade of blue, isn't it?” He snatched it off of him and rolled his eyes at his dull and sleepy state. He was so tired that he didn't even catch onto the sarcasm.

“Is that a trick question?” He slumped himself down on the chair and crossed his arms.

Max parted his lips to scold him, but Brian was quick to swoop in and cut him off.

“So Matt’s had a hard day, that's obvious,” he rested his hands onto his shoulders. “But you can't blame him. Can you? Jason was pretty upset at him and--”

“I don't fucking care,” he ran his fingers through his hair. “I'm fucking sick of him being all moody all the time. It was a stupid joke and he should get over it.”

“...well alright then,” Brian took the chair next to him and gave up.

“Look Matt, I'm upset about Jason, and I secretly hope that he's feeling better too...” he tried to hint onto something but Matt replied with a small roll of the eyes. “...but we have bigger things on our hands right now,” he gestured over to the large banner reading “Annual Ball” hung above them. “Remember this?”

“Yeah that…” Matt didn't seem any more interested. Max crinkled his brows together, somewhat towards his attitude and somewhat towards the stress.

For something that only a handful of people actually cared about, he was putting a lot of effort into it. It was one of those events that the school held to ensure that the American stereotype still existed through the nation. You know, for tradition or some shit. It didn't really matter. Seniors and juniors would show up in pretty or handsome, sleek outfits to show off to each other. Well, mostly the popular kids, with their expensive outfits and over the top makeup. And then they would call out king and queen and everyone would act like they don't care even though most kids actually wanted to be up on the stage to win that plastic head piece that would probably cost around $10 at the store.

But really, the only people who seemed to put effort into it are the people who plan the event, and those who are popular enough to get nominated for the stupid title of being king, or royalty or something.

“No reply?” Max questioned Matt with a harsh tone. “Fine,” he gave one long, deep sigh before he lowered the fabric onto the table. “What if I give you a job you do like? Like, uhh...” he pondered. “Creating a playlist for the ball. I mean, you've recently been into DJing and things, right?”

“I-I need to clear my head,” Matt abruptly got up and jolted away, leaving Max to sigh and Brian to contemplate whether to stay in this group.

“I'm sorry Brian. It's not usually like this,” Max tried to reassure.

“I knew it wasn't going to be easy when I decided to sit with you guys,” he chuckled. “I didn't expect anything less.”

Max smiled.

“Well, I'm glad you're understanding,” he grabbed the cloth still lying on the table. “But that doesn't excuse you from helping me out. Now come here, I need you to lift this up.”

***

You know that stupid feeling you get when you contemplate your situation? Like that heavy feeling? Because you know that you're guilty, and yes, you've heard it so many times that you were too tough and that you chose the wrong side; but you're so stubborn. So stupid that you can't go against the guilt? Your own word? Yeah, that's Matt right now.

And he's handling this whole shitstorm by throwing rocks (and he's hoping his frustrations too) by the school's field. Even though it's been hours since the end of school. He wondered if his dad thought he was sneaking off to smoke again. No matter how many times he tried to convince him that he was helping Max out (which he was...originally...) he didn't seem to buy it.

He barely even did it anymore...sort of. Only on occasion when Jerrick feels nice enough to shout him some. And the rest of the stuff? Well that's from Brian number 2. He really didn't know where all that shit came from. All he knew was that the high made him feel like he could escape forever and it was hell of a lot better than spending every waking moment in this cruddy little town.

It was around the time Matt was about to head home when he ran into the two Brians. They were peering from the other side of the fence, smoothies in their hands.

"What are you still doing here?" his friend called, twirling his colourfully striped straw between his fingers.

"Uhh I..." he rubbed the back of his neck.

Brian sighed to himself as he ducked underneath the small hole at the bottom of the fence, which he could just manage to squeeze through. He took a spot near his feet and patted the spot next to him, indicated for Matt to sit down too.

"Are you thinking about Jason?" he asked taking a long sip of his icy drink.

"I'm thinking about life in general," he bent his knees to his chest.

"Contemplating it?" he tossed the cup towards him and watched as he took a gulp. Giving a reluctant nod he passed it back.

"Understandably. Isn't that what most people do these days?" Brian M commented, an oddly delightful grin by his lips. He seemed so weirdly joyful in this topic that it made Matt's lips curl. “What else would you do when all you see around here are endless horizons of boring-looking houses and white people?”

"That's true,” he chuckled lightly. “And all you do in your free time is go to church.”

"That," he pointed a finger towards him, and held the other by the tip of his nose. "Is exactly right pussy willow."

"Ehem," Brian F cleared his throat to intrude. "Anyways, how are you handling things?"

"What do you mean?" he skipped over the question with a sarcastic remark. "Everything's great Brian."

"Argh, I hate it when you think you're smart enough to use sarcasm," Matt could basically feel Brian roll his eyes next to him. "I don't think you're handling this the right way."

"You're the one who started it!"

"That's not the point. I can get away with being a dick to Jason. You can't because you're..." he glanced over to Brian who was staring right back at him with intrigued eyes. "...good friends...?"

"Oh no, I know they're fucking," he slurped his drink. "Continue."

"Well, I'm sorry for sticking up for you," Matt exhaled frustration.

"I'm not trying to get mad at you. You both have valid arguments, really. It's just..." he put a hand onto his shoulder. "...when's the last time Jason listened to someone else? Compromised for someone? Actually took in someone else's opinion?"

"He does do that...just not very often," he glanced away.

"Are you sure you want to be with someone who doesn't care enough to take in your opinions?" when Brian tried to bring him in closer, Matt winced away.

"He does care!" he shuffled out of his grasp. "I know he does. I-I just need to think by myself for a bit. Just give me some time..."

Brian sighed.

"I'll give you all the time you need," he chucked him the rest of his drink, which was three quarters of the way empty. "But you better talk to him sometime soon and sort this whole shit out."

"I will...eventually..." he reluctantly gave him a nod.

"Also," as Brian began to stand up, he looked below at Matt one last time. "You should probably help out your bestie."

"Huh?"

"For the annual ball. He told me that he's been working on it for months," they were already at the fence now, Brian M theatrically bowing for Brian F to go first. He laughed in return and crawled under the tight little hole.

"Really?" he almost whispered to himself, feeling the guilt.

"Yeah," he called back, somehow hearing Matt's words. "But he says that you only listen when you're 'out of it' so I guess you just don't remember."

Matt parted his lips.

"Oh shit..."

He gulped down the rest of the icy drink and felt the chill down his throat. He already royally fucked up his relationship. He wasn't going to do that to his best friend too.

Chapter Text

ROY: hey

ROY: do you mind coming over to help me with something?

It was late afternoon when Roy decided to text him. Danny was fiddling around on his laptop, skimming through his playlists on Spotify just like Max asked him to do. It was for that stupid “annual ball” thing that Courtney would go on about on their walks home, which Danny really couldn’t care less about. I mean, he listened, but it didn’t exactly excite him too much. He planned to show up in a black suit and a matching tie, with his hair maybe gelled back if he was pressured enough to do so by his mom. He would probably wear the same thing next year too, since both juniors and seniors were invited. Danny had a weird conspiracy theory that they combined the years for the ball so the popular kids could soak in as much applause and cheering as possible, before they would slave away at university and realise they had nothing going for them at the age of 40, and school popularity really did mean nothing at the end of the day.

But really, it was probably because they had smaller year groups. Danny’s year was already small enough, and more were planning to leave by the end of the year. And the year above him was basically non existent. There seemed to be some sort of “drop out” trend present at their school.

Either way, Max had asked him to gather music for the event. Yes, because having a boy who only listened to punk rock was a great DJ. He heard that Matt’s secret talent was mixing music so he wondered why Max didn’t put him onto the task. Maybe he was busy with something. Most likely, he distracted by Jason. Or his little shipping heart would like to think so.

DANNY: uhh sure

DANNY: with what?

He probably needed a break anyway. He painfully peeled his gaze away from the screen to face his phone. Rubbing his eyes, he yawned and shut his laptop as he pushed himself away from the desk. His usual grey jacket slumped over his shoulders as he trotted downstairs and turned the knob of his front door.

It was getting much warmer these days. Trees began to sprout their new leaves; flowers were starting to regain colour; and it seemed like birds were starting to sing melodies again. But the air still had that tint of sharpness to it, which made Danny swing the hood over his shaggy hair.

It was like this last time he went to Roy’s house. Properly went to his house, so not that time he asked for a favour to quickly pick up Courtney. That seemed like ages ago when it really wasn’t. Maybe it’s because so much happened in the last few months.

Danny wouldn’t like to admit it, but he felt chills when he stood by Roy’s house. It was as perfect looking as he remembered. It’s a house that looked much better during the day than at night. You just can’t see the beautiful sheer petals in the front garden while its dark.

He noted that it’d changed colours. The family must have planted some new flowers. He remembered that they used to be a bright red. A really striking and piercing red. Ones that somehow made him more excited when he looked at them.

Last time he went, it was a sunny day like this one. Must be around 3 years ago. He had a pillow under his right arm and a backpack swung over his left. It was odd because they were next door neighbours, and yet Danny carried days worth of clothes because he was just that excited.

He wasn't the type to get invited to sleepovers often. He could never really figure out whether they thought he was gay so they found him creepy, or he just lacked friends. Probably both.

But for once in his life, he decided to ask Roy himself. He wondered, at the time, whether he would want to. He’s a year older, and that age gap basically means nothing when you're an adult, but it means everything when you're younger. And Danny was pretty scared to admit that him and Roy weren’t that close anymore. So he decided to ask him out to a sleepover. At his house though…because he liked looking at the amazingly decorated interior.

Also, Jay and Gia asked him out for another Friday gathering, and he was sick to death of being the third wheel. Danny, to this day, gets flashbacks the moment he lays his eyes on the number ‘3’.

Even without that, he was still really excited to hang out with Roy. Just one on one. It hadn’t happened in…well a really long time.

He somehow still remembered little 15 year old Roy opening the door, the largest smile on his face when Danny was excitedly waiting. It made him feel like a kid again, seeing his best friend by the door before they would jump onto the couch and play video games. Except this time, they watched a movie. Roy laid back against his sofa, remote in hand as he flicked through the channels. Someway somehow, Danny managed to convince him to watch “Bring it On” with him. Presumably he said something like “Oh, its Courtney’s favourite movie and she wants me to watch it”, or something like that. Even though in reality, it was his guilty pleasure and he really just enjoyed watching it.

Danny really regretted choosing the movie. Nonetheless say the things that he did.

“What? Are you gay or something?” Roy chuckled, shoving him lightly before he propped back up.

“W-What?” little Danny stuttered, feeling a lump in his throat. “Of course not! Fuck off.”

And they exchanged small pockets of laughter like it was casual. When it really wasn’t. For Danny anyway.

And then he had to, of course, mention that he wanted it to be a lesbian movie. You know, because Torrance and Missy were really cute together, and they definitely had much more chemistry than her and whats-his-name. But it was one of those things you couldn't point out, even though everyone thinks so. Right? Thats what Danny thinks.

But that’s not what Roy thought at all. He gave him the weirdest look, like disgust and confusion mixed into one. That wasn't the first time either. He gave him the exact same look when Danny wanted to watch a romance movie.

Maybe it was a “16 year olds” thing. Like, it was something that all teenagers do, because they're all opinionated as fuck and they think they know everything. But it hurt Danny anyway. He remembered tucking himself into his sleeping bag that night and staring at the ceiling, praying to God that Roy didn't find him creepy.

Actually praying. Silently crying and clutching his chest. Begging for him to not lose one of the only friends he had.

“Uhh…have you been standing there for the last few minutes?”

Roy opened the door and looked towards Danny with a raised eyebrow. The younger boy quickly dabbed his sleeve over his glassy eyes and smiled.

“Yeah, sorry. T-Those flowers looked nice,” that was one hell of a dumb excuse. Roy laughed.

“Thanks, I thought the purple complimented the curtains really well so I had to get them,” no straight guy cared about the appearance of houses this much, right? Danny was hoping. “…so are you gonna come inside or…?”

“Right! Yeah,” he took a step inside and unzipped his jacket. Danny was undeniably a little jumpy today.

And there was no doubt that he was gonna be more excited for what's to come.

Chapter Text

“So, what’cha need help with?”

Danny tried to brighten the mood with a slightly tacky opening, and Roy was quick to take it and laugh.

“I’m organising another play,” he explained, guiding him up the staircase and down the hall towards his room. "Well, a musical to be exact."

Danny found a comfortable spot by the edge of his bed, which is where he seemed to sit every time he came over. Though it’s really been years since he had. It was odd. It still felt the same. As cushiony as ever. Tucking his legs above the bed to cross them, it honestly felt like they were young again. Except all his comic books and car magazines were swopped with school textbooks and binders which sort of pained Danny. Why couldn't they just be young forever?

“Oh, that’s cool,” he watched as Roy pulled out his notebook from the drawers of his desk. “Tell me what it is.”

“It’s the “Heathers”,” he said, flipping through his pages which were all filled with endless cursive and messy scribbles.

Danny gasped.

“I love the Heathers! Oh my god, it’s such a classic,” he excitedly clapped his hands together. Roy grinned.

“And not only do I want you to be in it but—“

“Really?!” Danny gasped, widening his eyes. Roy chuckled.

“Are you getting overwhelmed with all these surprises?” he teased with a sneer, his smile stretching out when he saw Danny jump up and down.

“Of course I fucking am!” he bit down on his lip to contain his ever-growing excitement. “I can’t believe you’d choose me! Thank you so much!”

“Why wouldn’t I want to cast one of the most fucking talented singers in this whole goddamn school?” he laughed, sounding as if there was no other person, in the world, he could cast other than Danny. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I don't know!” he pursed his lips. “I haven’t been in your plays for years…”

“Because you’ve never auditioned,” he argued, his voice still sweet. “But now you have no choice but to be in it. Okay?”

“Okay,” he tried to keep his blush to himself.

“Oh, but other than that,” he flipped the book over and placed it by his lap. “I have this character I’m trying to sort out,” he pointed the capped end of the pen by a blank space. It was under the subtitle “Kurt”. “I’ve seen you with Jason recently and I sort of need help with this character.”

Danny raised an eyebrow.

“Kurt is nothing like Jason,” he stated with confusion.

“I know but…how should I say this in an…appropriate way…?” he cleared his throat. “I sort of want to “Gay Up” this character, if you know what I mean.”

Danny knew that Jason wasn't directly out of the closet. He never dared to claim such a thing with the people at their school. But maybe it was painfully obvious. He didn't exactly do a good job at hiding it. However, Danny had respect for him. It wasn’t right to just out him like that, so he decided to play the role of a clueless friend. Even though he was lying to Roy, which pained him.

“J-Jason’s not gay though…is he?” he sounded as unsure as those achingly guilty people in movies. But now he was one of them. Damn it.

“Well, he sort of acts like it,” he shrugged. “I just want to replicate some of his vibes into Kurt’s character you know?”

“Hmm, okay. What do you need to know?” now Danny could take this in two ways. He could either be glad that Roy wanted to talk to him and spend time with him. Even if it’s over a play. Danny loved his plays, and he fucking loved spending time with Roy, so it was a win win.

But, he could also take it as a sign. A sign from the world that’s telling him that his closeted state wasn't stable. No matter how many times Jason told him that he was ‘in the closet’, everyone knew he was gay. He looked gay. He acted gay. And he hell of a lot sounded gay. And if the crowd shifted their gaze towards Kurtis, they’d see the same label. And then to Max. And then, fucking hell, maybe to Matt. And of course it’ll go to Danny. The one that’s always been made fun of for being a “fag”. The one that used to do anything, oh god anything, to not be known as one. To not be known as himself. And he didn’t want to be back in that dark place again.
Danny was scared that his world was going to turn upside down. He was walking on thin ice. The moment Brad caught onto them. Their group. And how it all worked, they were all gonna be in for one hell of a shit storm. And he wasn’t really ready for it. He wondered if he would ever be ready for it.

“So what’s he like? What does he do in his free time? Likes, hobbies, interests,” Roy stared tentatively at Danny, his eyes wide and circular and his lips just parted. He gulped. His eyes had this twinkle that made Danny heat up. It was just so…charming? Cute? Oddly alluring? Maybe it was a mix of all those things.

“Umm…he likes fashion. Quite a lot. It’s something that him and Kurtis bond over,” Danny gave in to the feeling of guilt he would probably feel if he was to lie.

What would he say? That Jason was a manly man who liked sport? Of course not. It was too much of a lie and Roy would find it funny instead.

“And they’re best friends, right?” Danny nodded.

“Yeah, really good friends,” he chuckled as he reminisced their conversations.

They had a dynamic that Danny had always wanted in a friend. They seemed to adore each other, and get exactly where each other came from, and even though they fought sometimes, everyone knew it was from a place of love. For self-centred people, they really looked after each other and Danny was slightly jealous of it. They’d make the same joke at the same time. They reference the same gay shit whenever it came up into conversation. And they somehow supported each other no matter what.

“Does he sit with you guys too?” Roy continued to write as he questioned.

“Yeah, also Matt and Max,” he informed, pressing his back against the wall.

“Group of 5. Nice number to work with,” he commented with a mildly entertained smile.

“Currently a 6 actually,” he rolled his eyes. He didn’t really have a problem with Brian…except he had a lot of problems with Brian.

He somehow became the poster child for what he wanted to be, but also a criminal on a Wanted Poster he wanted to stab. He thought he was funny, he thought he was pretty cool, and the amount of confidence he had raged envy within him. But the stupid fight started because of him, and he was much happier when he was friends with every member of the group. That way, he felt more useful. More needed in the group.

“Who’s the 6th?” he looked up, gliding his office chair over to him.

“Brian, Brian Firkus,” he probably did the worst job at hiding his distaste for the boy.

“I thought he left, like, a year ago,” he sprayed his fingers across his cheek and propped his elbow by the side of the bed. Ah, shit. Danny really did hate it when Roy paid attention to him this much. He didn’t really get why. It just made him flustered a little. He’d thought that it was because no one noticed him usually so he was uncomfortable with attention, but he soon found himself liking it a tad too much.

“Y-yeah, he’s over for this weird exchange students thing,” he sighed.

“Mmm, I’m guessing you don't like him much?” Danny pinched his nose at the response, making him laugh.

“There’s nothing wrong with him as a person but —“

“Do you feel slightly rejected because another guy just came in and fit right in with the friends you established without him?” Danny nodded. “Yeah, well, I’m pretty they'd all been friends before he left. Or at least good enough to sit with them. Don't take it personally Danny. I’m sure they still appreciate you.”

“But I don't even know what they're talking about half the time! They keep on going on and on about weird shit thats happened in the past. Why are they keep on bringing McCook? Who even is that?” he rambled, burying his face into his palms.

“Ohh, Brian McCook? Yeah, he’s the guy who probably makes most of his money off of drug dealing. The rest is presumably from distributing crappy sci-fi films illegally. Him and Firkus are “besties” or as friendly you can get without fully dating,” he snickered. “Is it just me or there’s a lot of sexually questionable people in our school? At least, for a Christian-loving, church-going community?”

Danny zipped his lips together and shrugged stiffly. Oh shit. If this was going where Danny was dreading then he swore to god—

“You wanna can of soda?” he wheeled himself over to a mini fridge tucked behind his desk. His head jerked into an odd nod. “Coke’s fine?”

“Y-Yeah,” Roy tossed it over to him, the younger boy somehow catching it, even though he’d probably never caught a ball in his life.

“Can I tell you something Danny?” the older boy shuffled to his side, taking the empty spot next to him by his bed.

Danny gulped.

“Yeah sure,” his voice lowered to sound more masculine. It’s what he tended to do when he was nervous.

“I don’t know if I agree with this “religion thing” all the time,” he exhaled. “I mean yeah, I believe in it but…what does the creation of the universe got to do with love? And who you love? And why does religion have to dictate how you think? And just—“ he shook his head. “I cant wrap my head around it. I’ve been brought up one way and that’s all I know, but who knows what’s out there.”

“I agree,” Danny cracked his can open, the fizzing sounding extremely comforting now. The sugary drink bubbled in his mouth as he gulped it down.

Everything felt so…heavy and confusing. He imagined realisation to feel a lot lighter, like his shoulders were going to curve back and he could stand up tall.

But what Roy said…it was true. You don't know any different when you're raised here. No one really made it out of this town. If you’re born here, you’ll most definitely stay here. But he wanted to see something different. He wanted to do something different. And that feeling, especially, felt heavy and confusing. Because he didn’t know how to get there.

“I think I want to leave when I graduate,” Roy said so simply, that it didn't strike Danny as anything too shocking. Just his eyes widening.

“Do you know where you wanna go? What you wanna do?” the older boy shook his head. The Roy; the one who’s always organised, the one who has everything covered doesn’t have a plan for once. And its his future.

“I’ll figure it out along the way,” he shrugged. “It feels sort of exciting to me, you know?” he took a long gulp of his drink. “That I’m doing something bold and exciting for once.”

“You’re gonna regret it,” Danny spewed out accidentally, giggling so it didn't come across too blunt or sharp.

“Look at Mr. Noriega, trying to look out for me,” he sneered. “I’ll be okay. I don't even know if I’ll do anything. Just a dream I suppose,” he rested his can on his windowsill. “In the mean time,” he grabbed his notebook again and flipped to his original page. “Casting. You think you can help me with that too?”

Danny blinked.

The sudden change of topic gave him whiplash. Maybe its because he’s a dreamer so he dwelled on what will happen in the future, but Roy didn't seem to care at all. Maybe they were really different.

Or he was good at hiding that he did care. He treated escape like it was nothing, though that’s what Danny wanted more than anything right now. Just to be able to take a step out and have a quick inhale of the real world.

“First of all Kurtis. It’ll be ironic because of his name. He can sing right?” Roy had already jumped to the next topic by the time Danny snapped back into reality.

“Yeah, he can sing,” his mind instantaneously struck the memory of him leaning over Jason’s kitchen counter, some drink in his hand as he hummed. What a picturesque person. “Can he act?”

“…no. No he can’t,” he’s a terrible liar.

“Dang it,” he ran his fingers through his hair and glanced down at the page again.

“What about Max?”

Danny tried to brighten the mood by putting his own suggestion in. He did promise himself that he would talk to Roy about it, and this seemed like the bet opportunity.

He scoffed as a response.

“…Max?” he questioned with a very high brow.

“Yeah, Max,” he nodded.

“Are you talking about Max Malanaphy?” Danny continued to nod. “Tall one. Grey hair, sorta nerdy, comes across as a huge perfectionist and know-it-all?”

“Yeah, that Max,” he confirmed with a grin.

“…he doesn’t really come across as a theatre type to me,”

“Really? Because he’s really fitting if you get to know him,”

“I’m pretty sure every man involved in theatre needs to have some strain of extroverted characteristics,”

“But I’m in it,”

Roy paused, and then sighed, as if he was giving in.

“Fine. You got a point there,”

Did Danny win an argument? No, the real question was: Did Danny win an argument against Roy?

Yes, the correct answer was yes. An incredibly thrilling yes.

“So…”

“So,” Roy rolled his eyes, but let a smile creep up anyway. Gathering from Danny’s enthusiasm, the younger boy was quite happy about his decision. And that made him all the more sure that he was doing the right thing. “I’ll consider him for the part.”

“Really?!”

“Yes really, Danny,” he rolled his eyes and gave a small exhale. “And stop your yelling. You’re mom can probably hear you from here.”

“Well that’s good! Because then, she can know how much of an amazing and giving person you are!” he exclaimed, rejoicing by throwing his arms up into the air. Roy cracked up as he messed his locks playfully.

“You’ve always been such a childish person Danny,” he commented with a beam.

“I’ll take that as a compliment, thanks,” he laughed.

“Its a good thing. It’s a great thing actually,” he wrapped his palm around his can and brought it to his lips. “You’ll always make me feel like we’re little toddlers. No matter what,” he paused to spread his smile wider. “You’ll always be my childhood.”

Chapter Text

Kurtis’s harsh and serious gaze made the whole atmosphere thick. That bad thickness that made Danny gulp from the moment he lowered himself by their usual spot.

Well, there was one positive. Talking to Roy really did help. Now, Max was at the first rehearsal for the musical. Danny remembered seeing his face drop when Roy approached him about it. It was when Max was gathering his books at his locker for period 3 when Roy swooped his way towards him with a smug grin. First of all, singing scared Max. In front of a large group of people...yeah that was unthinkable. Like on a stage, in front of all the people he despised at the school. But Roy seemed to nudge him on, encouraging him with that irresistible smile and cute presence.

And it worked. It basically works on anyone who is even slightly attracted to males. And it doesn't matter how much you deny it, it’s true. And maybe Max would enjoy it there. According to Danny’s own imagination, the AAA girls were playing the Heathers. Of course they would be. The most popular, most liked girls in school would most definitely be the stars of the musical.

Except well...Veronica. Aka, the actual protagonist of the show. She was played by Sharon. And no. That’s not from Danny’s brain. It’s actually from Roy himself who said her audition was amazing one afternoon they hung out. You know, that weird goth girl who had bleached blonde, near-white hair that made her look like a ghost. And only wore black or dark, dark, dark grey. Basically him but she's friends with Alaska somehow. Like really good friends. Why couldn’t he have friends who ruled the school like that.

“There’s something we need to talk about,” Danny shook away his thoughts and faced Kurtis, who was now eyeing everyone intensely. Brian put down the water bottle by his lips and proceeded to roll his eyes.

“Staring that hard is going to give you wrinkles,” he kidded with a light chuckle. The older brunette was quick to pick at his skin like some nervous beautician. “But if we need to talk about it, shouldn't Max be here?”

That’s when it hit Danny.

Well maybe Kurtis wasn’t such a coward after all. Underestimated him by a landslide. Wait, what did Danny compare him to earlier? Oh shit. Does that mean he needs to become a Jehovah's Witness now?

“Well the thing is…” he bit down on his lip which basically anticipated everything that was to come. “...it’s about Max.”

“Are we bitching about Max right now? Because I really needed to mention his overuse of jackets. It’s not even hot right now,” Jason commented with a sneer.

“I would like to bring that topic up later, not gonna lie,” he shook his head and returned to his serious gaze. “But this is serious. Like, really serious. I don’t think I can emphasise that enough.”

“Well, what is it?” even Matt turned around to look over to him with slight concern.

“The homophobia thing. It’s not helpful for Max whatsoever,” he stated the blatantly obvious, which made Matt snort.

“No shit sherlock. We covered that ground months ago,” he fought back.

Kurtis dug his hands into his pocket, pulling out what it seemed to be the bare remains of Danny’s findings at Max’s house. It looked like he scrunched it up many of times because of frustration, or stomped on it just to put it back into his pocket as evidence for the others. Evidence to support his fucking obvious claim.

Matt was the first to pick at it, slowly undoing it and unraveling the brochure suspiciously. He then read through it.

Danny could tell exactly when he read all of it. Because it’s the moment his eyes began to shift, sweat began to trickle down his face, and he grew a few shades paler.

“What the fuck,” he crushed the paper between his palms and chucked it towards Jason who clumsily caught it. “I didn’t know that it came this far. I didn’t think Max would - no. He couldn’t. He’s smart Kurtis. Unless his parents did. You don’t think his parents know, right?”

His words were tumbling over each other, like what his thoughts seemed to be doing. His throat went dry.

“B-But we can’t do anything, right?” Jason tried to laugh it off with one of those incredibly painful pockets of laughter. “He knows we’re accepting of him. It’s his family that's super against it.”

“Yeah, but I think what Kurtis is saying is that we should approach him about it. Like talk to him and try and sort things out,” Brian tried to approach him calmer. Or he was gobsmacked from the findings and was in a state of shock. A little bit of both probably.

“But we’re all gay!” he cried, throwing his arms up into the air frustratingly. “We literally do nothing but support him and yet he’s homophobic. Maybe it’s to do with him not--”

“Stop acting like the fucking victim,”

Matt spat it so venomously that Jason winced. Like a proper wince. Followed by a shiver in pain and instant regret.

“You guys always fucking make yourself out to be the victim,” he repeated with less emphasis on the coldness and more on the strong-willed tone. “Fucking enough is enough, we’re handling this shit. We can do something. We just won’t because we always feel like we’re doing enough, but it’s obviously not enough for Max. We’re fucking bullshit friends who don’t give two flying fucks about his mental state. I mean, he can’t stand to be himself for crying out loud! And now he wants to send himself to a torture prison? We didn't do anything up until this point. That’s the biggest problem.”

He assembled his things and threw his bag over his shoulder. He stomped away angrily, frustration pulsing out of every step he took as he escaped. He was just plain frustrated. No other way to describe it.

It left a wandering Brian, a guilty Kurtis, a shocked Danny and a heartbroken Jason. But the now three of them just sat there in silence for a few moments before Jason began to break down.

“What the fuck is going on?!” he howled into his palms. “Literally what the fuck? I don’t even…” he sniffed. “...I don’t know how to deal with any of this bullshit that’s going on right now...I just…”

Kurtis wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him in closely.

“It’s okay Jason. We’ll sort things out. I have faith in Matt sorting shit out. He always does. It just...takes a while,” he breathed out.

“And what about Max?”

There was a pause.

“We’ll all talk to him,” Danny was the one to fill the void with a reassuring smile and a pat on the back. “Great friends don’t just make up bullshit, you know? I think we all know exactly what to say. We just haven’t thought of a complete plan yet because we’re not there, in the moment, talking to him about it. I already know that everything’s going to wrap together nicely by the end of it.”

Jason dabbed at his eyes and lunged towards Danny with open arms. He wrapped him tightly like an action of gratitude.

“I wish we didn't handle it like we always do…” he snuggled towards him. “...where we just leave everything and hope for the best...we need to talk about things. Sort this shit out.”

“You're right,” Danny sat up right and felt Jason’s arm flop to his sides. The sudden press of his body made him feel like he had accomplished something here. He smiled to himself. “Everything’s going to be fine, I already know it.”

“I hope so,” he parted and grinned. “If it doesn't, you owe me a shopping spree to Mac.”

Danny chuckled.

“But we always go,” he jokingly whined.

“Yeah but you’ll still owe me,” he slapped him lightly on the shoulder and smiled wider.

“Sure whatever.”

Chapter Text

“I honest can't believe it Matt,”

Max brought the straw of his milkshake to his lips, the colourful pattern of it making this all the more festive.

It was a fairly warm afternoon. Max’s usually heavy jumpers were swapped for a lighter grey sweater, and Matt chose to just wear some plain, loose t-shirt with a light jumper on top. This was the definition of spring break for them. Sitting back, talking for hours while they sipped on milkshakes they got at the cafe down the street.

Except this time, school was still in and the spot of choice was where they usually sat at lunch; the back overall where no one came. But hey, at least it was a weekend. A weekend at school…maybe it wasn't that ideal.

“You actually helped me so much! I would have never expected you to do all that decorating while I was gone,” he was excited. Incredibly excited. That excited Max mode he only got into when Matt remembered his birthday and got him an amazing present, or he got another feature piece in band or something good like that. It wasn’t too often, but whenever he did, Matt’s spirits would be lifted too.

“Well, you know. It’s coming up really soon and I didn’t want you to do it all alone,” he slurped his drink nonchalantly.

“I didn’t want you to do it alone. But you went ahead and did it anyway,” he rolled his eyes but was quick to laugh it off. “It would’ve taken forever.”

“It was no sweat,”

That was a lie.

He had to sneak into school at the earliest time, somehow obeying by his alarm’s screech. He cracked the lock for the hall (luckily remembering all the weirdass tricks Brian M told him about in one of their hangouts), went through the storage closet and raided it out to finish off the decorations. He’d known Max for a lifetime. He knew the way he wanted to decorate it. With light blues and purples to make it dreamlike, with fairy lights and small lanterns decorating the hall. It looked all the more enchanting with the lit up dance floor. It was worth it though, by the end.

“I felt bad for not helping out earlier,” it was true. The guilt mixed in with the new revelation that Kurtis pulled out of his ass weighed down on him heavily. “I shouldn't have been so moody to begin with.”

Max just smiled warmingly.

“It’s okay Matt. I mean, you did all this so...honestly, thanks so much for doing all of this,” he patted him on the shoulder. He does that a lot when he’s truly appreciative. He gets more comfortable around you, enough to shuffle in closer. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“So do you still need me to do music or…?”

“Oh no, I asked Danny to do it,” Matt raised an eyebrow.

“Danny? I thought he only listened to punk rock music…” he chuckled a little. “Are you sure you wanna give that job over to him?”

“He liked my classical music, so I like to think that he has some sort of musical ability,” he brushed off with a beam.

“Doesn't he have to pick pop songs though?”

“Nonetheless, I put him onto the task and I believe in him,” they exchanged laughter.

“I am really sorry though...I shouldn't have just left like I did,” he shook his head. “I need to stop letting this stupid situation get to my head. I can’t believe I'm letting Jason get to me this much,” he groaned into his hand.

“It’s probably because you’re so used to having him around. The sudden change probably isn’t sitting with you too well,” he tried to approach it calmly.

“But it shouldn't be that big of a deal. Remember when it was just the two of us?”

Well of course Max remembered that. He remembered it like it was yesterday. He wished it was just yesterday. Things were a lot easier back then because it was less people. Less people to worry about. Less people to look after when they found themselves in the stupidest situations. Like crashing the car. It took him forever to individually approach every single parent, give them an apology present, think up a good speech and devise a plan for Kurtis to not get murdered by his family. It was a huge hassle, to say the least.

Max sometimes wondered if both of them would be sane if they were to go back and sit as a two.

“Look Matt, there’s something I need to tell you,” he suddenly morphed the conversation into a serious one. Matt chuckled.

“Sudden change of topic,” he laughed.

“N-No it just got me thinking…” he gulped. He took a quick inhale and continued in a rush. “Do you think things were better before we formed this group?”

Matt paused.

“What do you mean? When it was just the two of us? Maybe Brian, maybe other Brian?” Max nodded. “Well...it was different. Pretty different to what we have now. But not particularly bad, I mean, Jason and I are going through shit but...there’s no doubt that I like him. Danny’s just a sweetheart. I love him to bits. And I like Kurtis when he’s not being a cocky asshole so...I guess I like it the way it is now. Yeah,” he shrugged casually. “Why do you ask?”

“Don't you ever think things were easier back then?” he leaned towards him cautiously.

“Like school work?” he questioned with confusion.

“No. I mean socially. Like friends. Family? Life itself! I don’t freaking know. All that stupid stuff we have to deal with now,” he sort of yelped it in an odd mix of frustration and whining. Matt pursed his lips.

“I feel like you're trying to hint at something, but I can't tell what it is,” he confessed.

Max took a heavy inhale which completely filled his lungs to the top, and then exhaled slowly until there was little left.

“Jason told me...about you know,” he shrugged with no energy. Like his shoulders just slumped back down. “The meth.”

He widened his eyes.

“T-That’s nothing to get worked up about,” his chortle cracked under his breath. “Honestly, it's just experimenting with shit.”

Max leaned in closer to examine his features. He knew him well enough to identify the first few things he does when he’s nervous. His words stumble, he sweats, and then his eyes rush all over the place.

“You know crystal meth is incredibly addictive, right?” he gasped. “No wonder you’ve been looking so skinny nowadays. I should've noticed.”

Before Matt could back himself up, Max continued further.

“Its my fault. I shouldn't have even tolerated you smoking in the first place,”

“You didn't tolerate it one bit! It’s obviously my fault,” he tried to reason.

“A-And then you started the caps. Oh god, that was a warning sign right there and I didn’t even take it,” he pressed his lips together. “Give me your arm.”

“What? I-”

“Give me your arm,”

He yanked it towards him and pulled up his sleeve. His arms were stained with scratches, blotches of ugly reds running up and down his forearm. His skin was sickly pale with newly painted on sores.

“Have you been picking at your arm?” his voice wavered as tears clogged his throat.

Matt glanced away.

“Tell me. Have you been-?”

“Yes! Okay? I have,” he pulled himself back. “I feel like there’s...there’s bugs crawling under my skin,” he stretched out his sleeve. “It’s nothing to worry about.”

“I’m so stupid. I’m so dumb for not seeing this,” he bit down on his lip harshly. “The warning signs are all there and I just…” he sniffed. “I missed it all…”

Matt felt his heart shatter underneath his skin. Droplets ran down Max’s cheeks in fear as he clutched onto himself, his mind probably pacing as he tried to figure out a solution. But Matt already knew the answer. There was no answer. He knew that there wasn’t going to be some easy solution. This isn’t simple maths anymore. It was complicated shit that no one could really figure out in one sitting.

“Max,” he shuffled closer and ran his thumb over his hand. “Please don't get upset,” he sighed. “I’m really sorry for putting you through all this...I’m just-”

“I could've done something to stop it…” he mumbled.

That's exactly what I’m thinking with you.

Matt softened his gaze at the thought.

“I won't do it anymore, okay? I promise. The meth it’s...getting me down. I’m confused, like, all the time. I’m in the worst mood constantly. I snap at people irregularly. I don't feel like myself anymore,” Max lowered his hand so Matt could grip it tighter. “Its going to be really, really hard. Trust me. But-”

“I’m going to help you through everything, okay?” he threw himself towards him with wide arms and a warm embrace. “Absolutely everything.”

“But you need to promise me something as well, okay?”

The taller boy parted to meet his stare.

“Okay. What is it?”

This was it.

The realisation that Kurtis brought up echoed through his mind. I can’t stuff this shit up. It’s real now. It’s as real as it can get. And Max needs my help.

But he feels his throat clog at the thought. After this, they weren’t ever going to be the same again. Everything they talk about and do is going to be so...serious. Be so adult. There seemed to be no time to just chill. Talk. Have some banter and just go on with their days.

“You can’t pressure me to stop everything at once, okay?”

Fuck. And well, he somehow shifted the topic to himself. Maybe Max didn’t know how fucked up he was too. Or at least he was in denial. Matt would never know. He’s too much of a coward for that.

“Yeah but…” he gave a small nod. “Okay. Okay, I’ll try.”

“Thank you,” they exchanged smiles.

“You’re not...addicted are you? Like fully, fully?”

Matt just became one of those painfully obvious guys you see in advertising. What me? No! Never!. Maybe like those 60s ones about homosexuality. Either way, he was lying to himself and Max at this moment. But he gulped down his guilt.

“I don’t have an addictive personality, so it’s fine,” he gestured reassurance. Max gave a sigh of relief.

“Good. I know you wouldn't get that far but,” he smiled. “I was worried, that's all,” he giggled. “You’ll stop eventually though, right? Like completely?”

He shoved on a fake smile

“Of course,”

I don't have enough self respect to make myself stop.

“Promise?” he looked towards him and batted his eyes like a little boy who wanted a big present for Christmas.

“A double promise? Wow, that’s really pushing it for me,” Max pouted at the response. “But of course yeah. Promise.”

“And you’re not lying…?”

“Have I ever lied to you?”

I’ve lied to myself about the fact that I’m okay.

“I’m trusting you,” they did that stereotypical thing they do in movies where their pinkies wrap around each other like little girls.

“You can always count on me,”

But then again, I've lied to myself about the fact that you're okay.

“Now, why don't we get out of this place. I don't get why we’re even here,” Max laughed, grabbing his hand and hoisting him up. “We can go back to mine. Maybe watch a few movies or something.”

Matt beamed.

“Like old times?”

Can things be like old times too? Simpler?

“Of course.”

We’re both not okay anymore. And I wish we were.

Matt cursed under his breath on their walk home. He was pretty sure that Max was going on about the musical he was in now, and talking about how exciting it was for him. But Matt was right next to him, stabbing himself in the inside for being a pathetic person who didn’t have the heart to save his best friend from himself.

Chapter Text

The suit hung over his arms looser than he imagined. It made his shoulders look more broad tough and it did a good job at hiding his pale, lanky arms (that he lowkey liked because it suited his aesthetic). His dark hair was swept back with gel, which he did bother to do an hour before Kurtis picked him up. It amazed him that he did, in the end, but his mom was really exciting to see him in the mood to get ready. He felt...different that night. He stared at himself in the mirror and grinned.

He looked a lot more mature like this. Like he was a professional musician who was about to play the piano at the Opera House.

“Danny! They’re here,” his mom called for him, and it made him feel like a protagonist for those American high school movies. The typical ones where he would straighten his back, uncrinkle his suit jacket and stretch out his bowtie before he headed out. And then he'd see his hot future boyfriend waiting by the staircase and he would lead him outside where he'd drive them there. And when the perfect moment happened, they'd call out king and queen. And they'd win. And he would look over at him with a surprised smile and they would dance the night away. Roy looked really good in tuxedoes. He would look as amazing as his imagination. Wait. Did he just call himself a female? And Roy--wait. No. Well, the whole gender thing is admittedly getting confusing. Danny doesn't really care about all those labels anymore.

He trotted downstairs and watched his mom excitedly rush them in. He never realised how tall Max was until he watched him barely squeeze through their front door.

“Hey Danny,” Kurtis was the first to smile towards him, straightening his auburn coloured suit jacket. It was a gradient palette of brown which matched his trousers and hair. It looked pleasantly nice and it made Danny smiled. He looked a lot more confident than he usually did. Maybe it was because he could wear a coolass suit and rock the shiniest shoes. Danny thought Kurtis could rock anything though.

“Oh Danny,” Max swooped over to him, tightening his tie so it basically suffocated his neck. “You look amazing. So mature. Sophisticated. Oddly posh.”

“T-Thanks,” Danny flushed at the comment.

“Okay, okay, I have to take a few pictures and-” and now his mom was being that stereotypical mom who would take pictures before his big night. Now, how much more typical was this going to get?

“Mom, stop being so embarrassing,” he blushed further and buried his face into his hands.

“Oh, it’s alright Danny,” the tallest boy swung his arm around his shoulder and leaned in closely so their faces would be right next to each other.

“I actually love to be in photos,” Kurtis smiled, swooping his arm underneath Danny’s as he posed dramatically. His fingers fanned out by his cheeks and he flicked his leg back like some model. Typical Kurtis.

The flash blinded his eyes as he forced out a smile through all that piling embarrassment. It made him feel like the “baby of the group”, even more so than originally.

“Don’t be out too late, okay Danny?” she patted him on the shoulder and waved goodbye to all the boys.

“Won’t,” he smiled, trying to sneak his way through her stance so he could chase after Max and Kurtis.

“Are you hiding something from me?” she raised an eyebrow and smirked.

“Mom,” he rolled his eyes. “I’m not dating them.”

“Okay. Okay, just wondering,” she gestured towards the entrance borderline jokingly. “They’re pretty cute though.”

“Mom don’t do this,” he rolled his eyes and chuckled as he rushed after them and swung himself into the back seat.

Kurtis ran his fingers through his waxed hair, staring at himself in the rear view mirror. Max, on the other hand, was texting on his phone. Danny saw that it was to Matt as he peered over the seat.

“Your mom is so cute,” Max commented as he strapped himself in, paying extra attention to the seat belt so it didn’t crease his classic, black suit. He shoved his phone into his pocket and proceeded to smile towards him.

“T-Thanks,” Danny snickered. “Anyways, where are the others?”

“Matt’s off with the football dicks,” Kurtis stated with slight anger. “Going to the diner, then probably showing up late. Typical.”

“And Jason and Brian are off with McCook and his group,” Max said, batting an eye towards Kurtis like he was saying “watch your mouth”.

“Anyways, we were planning to have a quick maccas run before we head off. Sound good?” Kurtis smoothed his way onto the road. It was nice and calm, and thank god for that.

“Sounds great.”

It was a typical and welcoming beginning for the night, which Danny was grateful for.

But Courtney was on the other end of the spectrum just next door. How many hours has it been since she started getting ready? 3? 4? Maybe 6?

Either way, she was now dusting the apples of her cheeks with a light pink powder. Finally, completing the whole look.

“Courtney? You've been in here for so long!” Willam twisted the knob of her bedroom door and thrusted forward.

Courtney was sat right in front of her, the skirt of her long, slim-fitting dress tossed over her legs. It was a conservative pastel pink, not too bold or striking, but it complimented her so well. It made her look like a Disney princess. And her blonde locks curled by her shoulders made it all the more picturesque.

“Wow,” she blurted out.

Courtney beamed.

“Do you like it?” She excitedly giggled as Willam approached her.

“You look pretty…” she confessed, the statement basically a whisper.

“W-What?” She was surprised at the comment, but also admittedly a tad confused because it was so quiet.

Willam shook her head.

“I said you look shitty,” she laughed at her own joke as she placed her hands onto Courtney’s shoulders.

“I know what you really said,” the blonde gave a coy smile.

“What are you trying to accomplish here?” She questioned her sarcastically.

“A compliment from a very beautiful friend of mine,” she widened her grin.

“Yeah good on ya, trying to get into my good books by giving me a compliment,” she twirled a strand of her hair with her index finger. “Well I'm going to tell you now that I have guys giving me compliments and money. How are you gonna top that Miss Act?”

“With my raw talent,” it made her friend roll her eyes.

“Nice try,” she laughed, tucking one hand behind her back. “Now. I have a little present for you, but I don't know if you're gonna like it."

Courtney raised an eyebrow and gestured for her to come closer. Willam chuckled and took a step over to her, hovering by her side with a smug look on her face.

"I like presents," she smiled dumbly, making Willam cackle.

Giving in, she brought it in front of her, the box neatly wrapped on top of her palm. Courtney tipped her head to the side in confusion.

"What is it?" she looked down at it with a faint smile by her lips.

"It's what Dan should have gotten you," she slurred the name with slight distaste. She took the end of the ribbon and yanked it undone. Inside was a baby pink cascade of flowers, all tightly stitched together so it bloomed outwards like freshly picked roses. Courtney gasped. It was the corsage of her dreams.

"They look amazing!" she squealed, clasping her hands together. "It matches my dress," she pressed her lips together and gazed up at her. Willam looked more gorgeous from this angle. The edges of her cheekbones and jaw were more defined, her blue eyes shined so brightly under her bedroom light, and her lips were perfectly lined with a perky nude. "...thank you."

"No worries," she snorted. "It wasn't my job though. Maybe your boyfriend should've done the right thing."

"I-It's okay. I didn't exactly expect anything so..." she forced on a smile. "It means so much to me...that you actually got it," they exchanged thankful smiles. "Maybe you should be my date instead."

Courtney bit down on her lip. Was it a risky question? In her mind it was. But Willam was so quick to brush it off, it almost hurt her a little.

"I don't believe in relationships," she winked jokingly. "Unless it involves money."

She piped out another chuckle, this one was much more stiff and cold though.

But she was truely thankful for this.

How long had it been now? Around 2 years since her and Dan started going out? Either way, it wasn't exactly pleasant all the time. And it seemed like Willam and Alaska had to somehow patch it up for him all the time. Just so Courtney didn't release her all the rage she had stored up in her little, always-bikini-ready body of hers. But he was nice. A tad forgetful, but kind. And good looking, or at least, that’s what everyone said. Courtney didn’t even know if she found him that hot half the time. She couldn't really...tell…? If that made sense to anyone.

“And of course I got one for you. I'm not that much of a bitch. Anyway,” she grabbed onto Courtney’s hand, gently placing it on top of hers. The head cheerleader could feel her eyes dilate. Willam smoothed it down her wrist, the sensation, though stereotypical, sending sparks of excitement through her body. “There you go," she took a step back to let it all sink it. "It looks so great.”

Courtney smiled and carrsessed it within her fingers.

“It's so amazing…” she felt whimsically gracious. The petals felt waxy and soothing through her nails.

“See, Alaska said that the white would match the undertones of your skin more, but I convinced her that this was the right one. You agree, right?” Willam looked towards her with a confident gaze. Courtney nodded. “See? Oh god, I'm great.”

She dragged out her words with a husky chuckle.

“Okay, you ready to go?” She stood up, rocking her weight onto the balls of her feet. Her heels were ever so high and the crystallised pattern made a clicking noise as she walked but it made her feel more like a princess.

When she escaped her bedroom and saw Dan by the bottom of the staircase, she knew instantly that something was wrong. Her stomach churned at the thought. But everything was supposed to be...right. Stereotypical. Picturesque. Everything beneath her was.

Everything was playing out like the movies, but it didn't make her feel like she was apart of one.

She was draped in a beautiful, pink dress. One that no one could really afford. She wore heels that made her look like a million bucks. Her face was carved precisely. And there was her boyfriend, the one final touch, looking perfectly chiseled and handsome with his traditional, black suit.

And yet. It seemed all wrong.

Willam had let go of her hand by then, making her way down the stairs and into the other room where Alaska probably was. Courtney could imagine Alaska doing up her heels, brushing down her skirt that fanned out just enough to compliment her sharply toned legs and fetching her phone to take pictures of the perfect couple. She was basically a mom after all.

“You look amazing,” he breathed with awe, wrapping his arms around her to reel her in.

“Thank you…” She smiled gently. She could feel her cheeks cool against his shirt.

Her grin seemed to always fall weak against camera flashes. Or at least, it did in this moment. Where her arms felt limp and her legs felt like giving up already. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she didn't feel like herself. Or maybe, the self she really wanted to be.

Chapter Text

It was well into the night but Jason was still nowhere to be seen. Which was sort of a shame because one, Danny was missing him. And two, Matt looked hot as fuck.

With his slick, black suit and gelled back hair, he looked breathtakingly handsome. Ah, fuck this shit. Thank god for Jason not being able to read his thoughts. But seriously, he was missing out.

Max seemed to be having a nice time too, dancing around joyfully with the two Brians. Danny liked this side of Max. It made him look more...natural. Instead of that super mature, posh sort of vibe he had going on most of the time. And though Danny liked that part of him usually, it was nice to see another side of him. It reminded him that they were around the same age.

“Wait, where's Kurtis?” Max asked, his eyes scanning the room.

“Umm…”

And then for a split second, the room grew silent. very suddenly. Just as the song switched, everyone stopped talking and it seemed like the whole world stood still. And it was in that moment, when Danny and Max had found Kurtis. But there was no Jason in sight. No. They wished.

It was Violet, standing right next to him, their arms linked and heads raised high. They strutted down the parted crowd like celebrities at a red carpet. Everyone's eyes were glued on the couple like hawks. But they didn't mind. Not at that all. They seemed to absolutely love all the attention.

By the time the music switched back on, the loud chattering from before was swapped out with empty mutters. Ones that made Danny and Max nervous now that they were approaching them, with smug smiles on their lips and a cocky stance.

“Did you know that this was happening?” Max mumbled over, his eyes still stuck onto them. Danny could only reply with a stiff shake of the head.

“Honestly, I didn't plan on coming this late,” were Violet’s first words. It was accompanied with a chortle and it made her sound more cocky. Like her stance wasn't enough.

“Vi was telling me that it took forever to do her eye makeup,” Kurtis stated, his voice laced with some sort of posh accent as well.

Their presence reminded Danny of a rich, successful power couple. Ones that made millions overnight and owned a giant mansion, where they held amazing parties underneath their crystalised chandelier and had ice sculptures decorating the hall. They would sip martinis and watch the sunset, and Violet would have a large diamond on top of her engagement ring that matched the necklace Kurtis got for her on her birthday.

Danny got a little carried away with that description.

“B-But it looks amazing,” Max plastered on a smile and gestured awkwardly. If this was his attempt at warming up to whatever the fuck was happening, though it was sort of a failed one, Danny couldn’t help but to think that it was nice and kind of cute. “You honestly look so gorgeous...J-Jason..?”

“I’d rather be called Violet. Violet Chachki,” she took out her hand and fanned it downwards in front of him. Max examined it oddly before awkwardly taking it. Pecking it ever so lightly, it made Violet beam. What a gentlemen.

“Cute,” Kurtis jabbed gingerly. Max gave him a deadpan expression as he glanced away.

“Topic change for a second, when are they gonna announce king and queen?” Kurtis asked. Danny imagined Violet to start thinking of Matt sometime soon. He thought that they had an unsaid pledge to never talk about relationships while their relationship was on...hiatus? But it did seem like a Kurtis thing to do. You know, say something inappropriate at the wrong time.

“Uh…” Max glanced down at his watch. “Now. If it goes according to schedule.”

“Who’s nominated?” Kurtis seemed a little disinterested, but fair enough. The nominees weren’t people you wouldn’t expect.

“Court, Will, ‘Lasky,” Danny shrugged. “What most people expect.”

“Oooh, Danny has nicknames for them. Are they your besties?” Violet laughed. Danny rolled his eyes.

“I’ve hung with them a few times. I don’t think Willam remembers me at all. Maybe even Alaska but she would be nicer about it,” he chuckled. “Courtney and I are actually friends. Good friends.”

Or that’s what I’d like to think.

"Oh yeah, you guys are neighbours...?" Violet asked. Danny nodded. "Cute."

Surprisingly, the rest of the night was filled with small chat like this too. It was a little...stiffer than he would have wanted. It was a tad more awkward than he imagined this night would be. He was admittedly a little excited, but this wasn't at all what he hoped for.

It was when a microphone's screech echoed throughout the room when it went silent between them and it somehow eliminated that awkward feel. This is where Danny zoned out. It was like his mind was programmed to stop paying attention at this moment. It’s because nothing out of the ordinary occurs in places like this. In situations like this. It’s too typical at this point. And yeah, Courtney does look amazing on stage. Just like he imagined. Actually, maybe even more than he imagined. She did look like a princess. But still. It was kind of boring.

And of course the principal announced Dan as the king. He already is the king of the school, and now there’s an actual title that dubbed him as one. Great. Everyone was so excited about that.

And he probably said some speech, but Danny stopped listening to that too. He's not that great at talking anyway, there was no point. But after, his mind instantly darted over to Courtney, who he was waiting to see get crowned.

He was actually a little excited for this.

And then there was that pause for the queen. Courtney clasped her hands with Willam, then with Alaska as they excitedly wait for one of their names to be called. There was an obvious choice, but it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for any of them to win, really. They all...deserved it? Wait. What’s the title actually for? No one really knew. Was it for the most well rounded...?

All Danny knew was that Courtney was the ultimate front runner, and he was ready for his childhood friend to win already. And the crown would look so good with her whole outfit. It would complete her high school story, and the way she smiles when she’s absolutely full of joy is undeniably adorable and Danny loves that.

“And the queen is…”

Just call out her name. Just say Courtney already.

There’s another pause, this time, much more stale and awkward.

“V-Violet? Violet Chachki…?”

Violet felt her hands tremble. They all looked over at her, stares frozen with confusion, surprise and shock. She felt Kurtis loosen his grip on her arm, as if he was guiding her towards the stage. The blaring lights glared down at her, making her squint. At least it made her partially blind so she didn’t have to face the audience properly, she thought, as she slowly made her way towards the stage.

The clicking of her heels echoed throughout the deadly silent room. It felt both dull and striking at once. The crowd parted like there was some magical force around her. Like there was some 5m radius that prevented anyone from coming close to her. And she liked it that way.

It looked even more ridiculous when she stood up there, with everyone looking miniature and insignificant from the stage. Except the smiles, of course, which she was quick to spot from stage. It glistened through the empty crowd somehow. Danny had the most excited smile, the colour of awe already melting away to reveal his toothy grin underneath. Even Max seemed partially excited, his amusement just piercing through, enough for his eyes to widen but then stretch out again with his grin. And Kurtis gave him a confident nod and a thumbs up, reassuring her that everything was going to be okay. And it felt like it.

Even with Matt’s horrified expression which made regret pool in his stomach.

The principal seemed to nudge her towards the mic, even with an expression of absolute disregard. It stung her fingers with icy coldness.

Now, she had to make this perfect. The whole school was about to hear her voice for the first time. And so, she firstly smiled. A gentle smile which she just managed to muster up through the pounding pain of her schoolmates who still somehow looked down at her even though she was standing so much higher.

And then she chuckled. It was a light chuckle, but it was just enough to catch everyone's attention. Somehow even more than at that moment.

“Look, I’ve seen this on Glee before,” her voice was perky and joking, which sweetened the mood for her. Maybe just for her, but she liked it that way.

“And to be honest, the crowd looks exactly the same as it did on that guilty pleasure show. You all look so shocked. So bewildered at the situation, and trust me, me too. But I know that some of you may find this entertaining. Really funny. Like this is some creative masterplan you decided to think up last minute, when I walked in here. And you know what I’ve got to say for that?” she took a deep inhale. What she wanted to say was on the tip of her tongue, but there was a force holding her back. She knew that if she was to say it, the world was going to come down at her like a hurricane. But fuck that shit. She didn’t give a fuck anymore.

“You’re all so pathetic,”

The gasps fueled her ego. Like the tension was just lifting her spirits.

“The fact that you tried to humiliate me by making me stand up here in my unclockable mug and beautiful dress, is first of all, funny to me. Because, I mean, I obviously look better than everyone up here,” she flicked her head back, her hair flipping over her shoulder dramatically. Slender arms, chiseled out features and long, dark hair; she looked like a model.

“Sorry about it,” she spat it jarringly yet smoothly.

“Second of all. Humiliation? Really? The only humiliating thing is this “clever” plan of yours. FYI if you haven’t realised, it’s not clever. It’s not smart. It’s the furthest thing from anything intelligent. You just stole a plot point from a mildly popular series and it’s actually pathetic and downright laughable,” she oozed confidence when she’s on stage.

“Almost like what you’re all wearing tonight,” there’s another wisp of gasps, followed by mutters.

“Now I don’t know who exactly put this whole thing together, and I’m guessing that it’s quite a large group,” she batted an eye towards Dan who gulped and shuffled into a darker lit area of the stage.

“But whoever you people are,” she took the end of her crown and raised it into the air.

“Suck it. Because now, your miserable girlfriends who really wanted this $10 crown can’t have it. So I guess miss popular ultimately loses to a faggot who has more talent than you,” she laughed.

“Sorry for my language,” she snorted cockily.

“Oh and for anyone who’s wondering,” she flicked it, the long nails tapping the edge of the crown.

“It’s most definitely plastic. Thanks.”

She was quick to hop off the stage and strut back to her friends, the crowd parting away from her as she walked. It made her look like a queen. And she was, for all her friends. There was an uncomfortable silence for a moment before the music came back on, when the audience merged together again to circle around her. No one asked direct questions to her, but she liked it that way.

She liked how everyone just stared but didn't communicate with her whatsoever. That made her sound like a bitch, but that wasn’t wrong.

“Violet,” Kurtis started. “...I’m so proud of you!” they embraced each other quickly and jumped in joy. “You were amazing! You looked great up there, the speech was fucking genius and argh,” he beamed. “You are just perfect.”

“Jason, I mean Violet,” Max warned him with a strong gaze. “I feel like something bad’s gonna happen because of this.”

“Eh, they can fucking suck it,” he shrugged. “I don’t care.”

“But-”

He seemed genuinely worried. What she did up there was...bold. To say the least.

“This is probably my favourite moment of the year,” Danny laughed. “That was fucking great. You’re my idol.”

“Aw, Danny,” she towered over him as they shared a hug. It was odd for Danny to feel her body pressed up against him like this. She was so...tall. Like a model. Most notably, a 1960s model, from the way her hair was styled. “Okay, okay. You know what would make this night even better though?” she took him by the hand, and also grabbed Kurtis’s. Smugly smiling at all of them, she snickered. “If you all dance with me.”

They all exchanged laughter before they squeal like little girls and dance like teenage fools. That was the moment Danny felt happy. Completely happy. That really satisfying happy where it felt like nothing could get better. Time should have just frozen right then and there so he would be eternally happy. Because it was so picture perfect that he couldn’t get a grin off his face.

That label of “Sad Boy” disintegrated, right then and there, and he felt it fall through his fingers like sand as it pooled by his feet. It was gone. All that torment seemed to just...vanish. Right then.

Danny smiled. Smiled properly for the first time in his life.

They're immortal. They're perfect.

Chapter Text

For Violet, every punch, every kick and heck, even every grunt, felt familiar. The same as before. It felt sort of...nostalgic. In the most fucked up way possible. Jason howled in pain through Violet’s thick skin as her body curled over. She whimpered.

She was sure that she did the right thing tonight; standing up in front of everyone and announcing that she was on top and deserved respect, but he doesn't know anymore.

Blood always tasted oddly salty. Like tears but thicker and richer. She could feel her skin retreat as her body pulsed. They say to only give what you can take, and well, now she regretted it all. She realised right then and there, that she can’t take it. She just can’t take what she gives. She regretted standing up there, she regretted saying a dumb speech, and she really regretted showing up.

It was dumb for her to stand-out in this school of hers. Alone too. Because she knew something bad was going to happen, and she was warned. But after the dance, she decided to stand alone in the hallway, arms crossed over her chest with a confident smile. She wasn’t alone, at one point. But the crowd seemed to dwindle. Max left to check up on the cleaning, since he was the organizer. Danny rushed off to check up on Courtney, because of course queen bee needs a checkup to see if she’s mentally stable after losing for the first time. And Kurtis rushed off to the bathroom quickly before he drove them home. It was dumb of him to stay out here alone to let Violet suffer. He should've known better.

The fist by her cheek was dangerously sweaty. She never saw herself as a victim as much as she did then. Verbally, she could hurl it back with more force. Emotionally, she could take it. Mentally, she could handle it. But physically, she couldn’t. She couldn’t just swallow it up like the rest.

“Jason,”

A light suddenly pierced through the crowd like a blade, cutting apart the ambush around her. She squinted. A hand grabbed her own, yanking her through, what looked like, the opening to heaven. She grasped onto them, quickly gaining balance onto the tips of her feet before she ran. Her feet trotted beneath her rigidly, like they were on the verse of collapsing on top of each other, but she continued to run. She watched as the group, who was previously on top of her, yell and point at her escape. But they didn’t chase her. There was no use. She was already broken.

With a sharp turn of a corner and a kick, she was in an isolated science lab, the lights off and now, the door closed. It was a darkly lit room, with the windows just cracking in a few beams of light. There was pure silence for a moment.

“Matt…?” the inner Jason was crying his name, his bottom lip quivering like his legs.

“I’m so sorry,”

In one gulp of air, he slumped his arms around her neck and pulled her into a tight embrace. Violet was a little taken aback.

“I’m so sorry for all of this. I’m an idiot. A complete idiot,” he was practically falling on top of her frail body.

“Matt…” she whispered.

“I was being a dick and, and, I shouldn't have left you. I shouldn't have left you all those times--”

“Matt,” she repeated, pulling him in closer. “It’s okay…” she breathed out, the words feeling heavier in her throat than she expected. “I’m just glad you’re here again. With me.”

“Like I should be,” he smiled into her neck. “I’m never, ever leaving you again. Got that?”

She parted from the embrace to sit down by a desk. Patting the empty spot next to him, she gladly took the offer and sat down.

“I tried looking for a first aid kit but--”

“Couldn’t find one,” she finished. “I know. Max said they needed to gather them up and store it at the hall just in case something went wrong. No one really thought something dangerous would happen outside.”

Matt paused.

“I want to get back at them,”

It was a simple statement, but it made Violet’s heartbeat ring in her ears.

“I want to see them suffer. Because you’re my absolute world and I can’t believe they’d treat you like that,” he shook his head in disbelief. He knew it was bad but...not this bad.

“If I kill them, you better not dob me in,” he grinned lightly as he let out a husky chuckle. It was a true smile which formed within Violet.

“Well first of all, you can’t get away with it,” she reasoned playfully.

“True,”

“Second of all, you’ll get kicked off the football team which would forever ruin your relationship with your dad and--”

“I quit,” he shrugged. Violet flinched at the statement.

“You, what?” she scoffed, denying the claim.

“I quit,” he repeated, just as calm and nonchalant as before. “I’m not that great.”

“You scored the winning goal in so many games!”

“Did you know I failed 7th Grade PE?” he snickered.

“Of course I know that,” she sighed. “I was in your class,” she reminisced that moment. He looked really young. A little rounded face. Bright blue eyes. Pouty lips. He had a baby face for so long. “You got knocked out with a soccer ball to your head because Willam was pissed off at some guy who laughed at Courtney for failing to kick a ball.”

“I wonder who that dick was…” he guiltily glanced away.

“Your dad’s literally going to kill you. You know that right?” she said a tad firmer.

“Eh, it’ll be fine. I’ll tell him that I’m focusing on studies more, or like, it’s damaging my body or something like that,” he shrugged. “There’s so many more important things I could be doing other than football. Like hanging out with decent people that I actually like,” he nudged her lightly. “Or being with someone I care about deeply that I should have looked out for more,” she grinned through her blush. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry too,” he reeled her in closely and she swore her heart skipped a beat, no matter how stereotypical and cliche it that was to say that. It was like the world was restored for a split second as she felt her chest warm up. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” he felt her head fall onto his shoulder. “Do you remember when I asked you out?”

“Of course I fucking do,” she snorted. “Why wouldn't I?”

“Okay, tell me about it,” he snaked his arm towards her nipped in chest and pulled her into a familiar and comfortable position. She chuckled.

“Well, it was a Thursday,” she began, pondering at the fairly clear picture in her mind.

“Yeah?”

“And I said I craved ice cream. So you ditched fifth period with me so we could get some,” she smiled.

“Yeah, and?”

“You somehow guessed my favourite flavour, which is Rocky Road,”

“Got that information from Kurtis. Go on,”

“And when I wasn’t looking, you put a small letter in the corner and it said--”

“If you stop being such a tease, I’d ask you out properly,” he finished for her, both cackling at the gesture.

And Jason did remember that card very vividly. He still had it in his room. It was sticky taped to the wall by his desk so he could stare up at it. The corner is stained with ice cream, but it still had so much sentimental value to it. It was square, a little uneven from the scissors but even enough, and it was made of cardboard. The writing was obviously his, and even with his attempts at being neat, it was still a little rough. But it told so many stories for him. Jason loved it. Pastel markers and cursive writing didn’t really fit Matt all that much but it was so charming that Jason couldn’t help but to fall in love with it.

“Yeah,” she bit down on her lip, hard, to contain her smile. “And I said--”

“I want to ride your face,” Matt smirked. Violet sneered.

“That’s not what happened,” she rolled her eyes.

“Eh, that’s basically what happened,” he shrugged. “That’s what ended up happening that night.”

“And it was great,” she beamed, stretching out her smile widely. Matt sighed and gave her a light chaste kiss.

“And to celebrate a year and a half’s worth of amazing memories,” he tucked his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small present. It was wrapped tightly with a cute little bow on the top. “It’s rocky road. Actual rocky road.”

Violet gasped.

“Oh my god,” she felt her heart melt. “I can’t believe it!”

“I can’t believe it either,” he rubbed the back of his head. “Apparently it’s an Australian thing...? Courtney taught me how to make it the other day after endless rants from Dan saying that I was trying to fuck her. I wasn't, by the way. And I managed to whip up some for you. It might not be that great but--”

“I love it,” she took it into her hands. “Aw, the bow’s even violet.”

“You haven't even tried it. How do you know you like it?” he hopped off the desk.

“I like anything you give me,”

“That was cliche,”

“I’m the queen of cliches,”

“I like to think you’re just a queen. In general,” he grinned cheesily.

 

"And how do I look tonight?" she thinned out her eyes and posed dramatically, quickly dissolving into laughter.

"You look like you rule the world,"

He suddenly shot out his fingers like a gun, flashing a cardboard card between them. He raised his eyebrows flirtatiously, but jokingly, as Violet clapped her hands and tilted her head back to pipe out a laugh.

“And what’s this?” she asked, accepting the card.

Do you want to be with me forever?

A) yes
B) A
C)forever and ever until I die

“I don’t have a pen on me,” she chuckled. “But I’d check all of them.”

Matt gave a light chuckle.

“Good,"

Matt held out his hand like a typical gentleman, waiting for her response. She was quick to place her hand on top, every so lightly, so he could guide her outside, her long, long fingertips brushing against his palm gently.

You know, Matt wasn’t as dumb as everyone made him out to be. He was creatively smart. He had stirred up a plan that was so sweet and charming, and just creative enough that it made Violet pulse with happiness. She was so...happy. Plain and simple. She couldn’t be any happier than this.

He chose the perfect room, where there was a small verandah like opening by another door. It was probably to do experiments outside, like when chemistry gets a little too messy, but it still felt perfect. She placed a hand by his shoulder, he placed one by her waist and she felt the tips of her feet give out. Give out into a non-existent tune that they both happily followed.

Matt raised his arm and twirled her in a single motion, her skirt fanning out like a blooming flower. She nipped it between her fingers, laughing as Matt kissed her on the cheek.

“You’re cute when you’re smiling like that,” he grinned.

“And when I’m not?”

“You’re smoking hot,”

Violet cackled as a response. How much more amazing could this couple be?

“You know what…” she entwined her fingers behind his neck. “Even though this is the absolute sweetest gesture in the world and nothing could top this; with grand gestures or not, I still love you. Even all the small moments we have together.”

“Me too,”

You know, it felt like a romance movie right then and there. Where the camera pans out after a romantic kiss under the moonlight and a serene song plays that wraps everything up. And he’s holding her ever so tightly so she’d never slip through his fingertips. And she’s falling into his embrace like sleep so she’d never have to wake up.

They were in their own movie. And it was perfect.

Chapter Text

Danny’s suit stuck to him like super glue. Lucky it was black because there were sweat patches everywhere but it just wasn't too noticeable. He lost track of time ages ago and it seemed like he took the same route every single time as he ran around the corridors. He just continued to run through the halls until he eventually found her.

And there she was. Her hands covering her face, her back hunched over, and her knees bent towards her chest. And she was crying. Crying into her lap until she looked like she was going to dry out.

“Court!” Danny rushed over to her, slipping onto his knees swiftly in the process. “Court, oh my god, are you okay?”

She glanced up at him, her blue eyes stained red and her lips cracked. When Danny said she looked good in everything, maybe he was wrong. She didn’t look great like this. She looked...broken. Like there was an ever growing crack within her chest. All the bold colours from before were smudged together to create swirls of muck on her face.

“Oh Court,” he grabbed her hand softly, trying to encourage her to get up. “Why don’t we get you cleaned up and-?”

“Just stop it Danny,” she snatched back her hand. Jolting against the wall, she shook her head and glanced down.“I don’t want your help. Can you get Willam or Alaska?”

The old Danny would have said yes. He would’ve done anything to make Courtney feel better, but this Danny holted. He sat back down, one knee bent as he stared at her. His eyes were locked onto her, even though she refused to look back.

“Why? Why can’t I help?” he asked, leaning his index finger against her forearm. She flinched.

“Quit it Danny,” she fought back.

“What can they do that I can’t? I care about you just as much and I don’t appreciate you just pushing me aside like some-”

“Why did you let Jason do that...?” she whimpered under her breath.

“What?” he edged closer to view her face.

“Why did you let Jason do that?!” she screamed, scattering away from his stance. “He’s your friend! Why did you let him just humiliate me like that in front of everyone!”

“I had nothing to do with it! I didn’t even know he was going to do that until he walked in!” he argued, taking the offence personally.

“That was my big moment and he fucking ruined it!” the younger boy was quite taken back by her exclaim.

“Stop whining about it Courtney it was just a fucking crown. I could get you one for your birthday if you really want,”

“It’s about the title Danny! Everyone hypes it up like crazy and it ruins my image,”

“So you finally get a small glimpse at what my life is like,”

There was a pause.

“Not just my life. Everyone. Everyone but yours. You can go ahead and complain about not getting the crown, but you know that every other person doesn't get one either, right? Just one person. And at least you got nominated! That’s hell of a lot better than everyone else. You, Willam and Alaska are all living the fucking life. Why can’t you just recognise that?”

Courtney replied with a sniff. Burying her head into her arm, she choked out a cough. Danny’s heart began to beat slower, enough for the blood to stop rushing to his head so he could breath.

“Courtney...I’m sorry…” he muttered, trying to gain her attention. Or at least the recognition that he existed. “I didn’t mean to shout at you…”

“I-I don’t get it…” she gulped a quick inhale. “...I’ve done everything right. I’ve done exactly what god intended me to do but I still don’t get the happy ending I want. I’ve been praying every night. I go to church every Sunday. I have a nuclear family. A-And not even that...I'm also the perfect example of what society wants! I have the most perfect family, w-with a boyfriend who’s the quarterback and I’m head cheerleader,” she snapped her attention towards Danny. “They make movies about me. About people exactly like me and it never ends like this. They end up happy because that's what it's supposed to be like.”

She spat. Danny described her tone to be like babyish. Like a whine. Like she was complaining so much about first world problems and he couldn't wrap his head around it. How could she be unhappy? Because one thing went wrong? Everything goes wrong for him all the time.

But he didn’t say that. He gulped heavily and nodded to himself.

“I’m just going to get Willam and Alaska. They’d probably know your situation more than I’d ever get,” he simply helped her up and got out his phone, finding their contacts to shoot them a small message. “But I want you to know something before I go. You’re being a bitch Courtney.”

The words stung his tongue, as much as it hurt her to hear it.

“You’re being a complete bitch Courtney. Life is supposed to be hard. And sadly, you can't always get what you want. Like a stupid crown and a stupid title.”

“Okay, okay, break it up,”

Roy took a large step to intrude the two, pressing his palm against their shoulders to rip them apart. They both stumbled back. The older boy could instantly feel the tension the moment he stepped foot into the little bubble of theirs.

“We need to all calm down,” he sounded like an everyday therapist that barely scratched the surface of minimum wage but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t know what else to say. “Court, you look really hurt. Are you okay?”

She didn’t reply with anything direct. She just nodded and her eyes darted back to the ground.

Silence washed over them. It must have been the first time it was like this. Where it was just...quiet. And nothing was going on. No words, no nothing. Just Roy’s look of confusion, but not like either of them replied. Both Danny and Courtney refused to give him any reply or confirmation of what was going on.

“Courtney!”

Thank god for Willam and Alaska dashing over to them, looking like they were on the verge of running over their long dresses. Willam had her heels in one hand, the other was holding up her ever-so-long skirt. Alaska seemed to be trotting over to her speedily. They looked like the bestest friends Courtney could ask for in that moment.

As the blonde was whisked away into her friend’s grasps, Roy and Danny simultaneously took a sigh of relief.

“She needs to be with her people for a while, don’t you think?”

Before he knew it, he was sat down at his usual lunch spot. It was supposed to be cold and damp outside, but he found it instead, refreshing. At this moment at least. After he flared up and felt his blood literally boil.

It was a magnificent view. The sky was perfectly cloaked with black, no clouds in sight, and the stars were visible specks sprayed across like splashed paint. The moon was complete. There were no rough edges...like Danny. He looked down.

Roy was sat next to him, his legs crossed and his palms placed behind him to support his weight. He looked relaxed as he stared over the grassy field.

“What you said earlier…” Danny began. “Her people…”

“Yeah, anyone who’s popular now, right?” he snickered.

“...when did we stop being her people?” he rested his chin against his bent knees.

 

“Maybe around middle school…?” he pondered. “Maybe high school. Middle school was bearable, right?” he chuckled, but it came off airy and a little painful. “We still hung out a lot. Went to the mall, went to see movies, we hung out on the weekends, but…” he trailed off. “...high school’s a little different. We all drifted apart, I think.”

“I didn’t want us to,” he admitted, pursing his lips.

“You sound like a little kid,” he joked.

“B-But I didn’t want us to. I don’t want us to,” he whined, though he helplessly tried to sound more masculine. “It was so great. I don't understand what went wrong.”

“People change, they drift apart Danny. It’s just what happens,” he shrugged nonchalantly. “And we spend less and time together because we have different classes, different friends...we're in different grades. But don’t feel like we don’t like you anymore because you’re a year younger. We still love you Danny.”

Not in the way I want you to.

“But I want it to be so much simpler, like it used to be,” he flopped back, his head landing on a soft patch of grass. It intertwined within his hair, cooling his mind.

“When Courtney wasn’t so popular?” he tried to laugh it off, but he seemed a little hurt about. They seemed to have an unwritten pledge to not talk about how Roy was feeling about it all. Or the older boy didn’t want to talk about it at all, which seemed to be it. He wasn't the type to talk about his feelings all the time. As in ever. “She seems to really like it though. And...I think I was wrong about Willam,” he jerked his eyebrows and inhaled. “Or at least, I don't think she’s some huge threat like I used to think. She looks like she cares about her a lot. And I guess I can accept anyone who cares about Courtney that much,” he exhaled deeply. “It’s nice to know that other people care about her as much as we do.”

“...but it’s sort of hard to swallow that. I don’t know,” he slumped down his shoulders. “I think it’s still hard for me to comprehend the fact that things move on. You’re gonna all graduate soon and...I guess I will too eventually. And it's all going too quickly,” he bit down on his lip. "I still want to go back to the times where we just hung out at the park and played around on the playground. Or the times we watched crappy Christmas movies during December because Courtney loved them. Or all those times we put on the radio and started singing along because, once upon a time, we used to all listen to pop music. And..." he closed his eyes. "I don't think I'm ready to let that all go."

“Not ready to grow up?” He asked, his voice a tad sweet.

“Yeah, I guess not,” he blew a raspberry to calm his nerves. “I wanna be young forever!”

He exclaimed childishly, receiving an entertained laugh from Roy. Flapping his arms to his sides, he batted his legs up and down to release all the tension building up within his chest.

“I get it Danny. The future scares me too, admittedly," his confession was let out huskily. "It's coming so close and...I don't know where I'm going too. It seems so late to think about it like that, but I can't help but to think it's true. I wish you could go back and forth in age because that way, I can relive so many amazing moments we had together, while also experiencing new ones," he briefly reminisced a few of those moments in his mind, like a quick recap. But to him, it felt like a lifetime of stories. "You haven’t changed at all Danny,” he shook his head and pinched his nose. “Not that I mind though.”

Danny flushed, just light enough to go unnoticed in the dark.

“And you haven’t changed at all either,” he grinned back, but the older boy seemed much too distracted by the night sky. And yeah, it did look amazing from where they sat. Danny couldn’t blame him. But he couldn’t exactly peel away his eyes to view the sky.He was much too distracted by Roy. And the way he looked when he felt calm and relaxed. And the way his hair blew in the light zephyr. And the way his eyes squinted, just a tad, as he inhaled deeply and let out a sigh. “...and I like that too…”

“Well,” He quickly wiped his hands against his suit jacket and hopped up. “We should head back inside. It’s gonna get cold.”

“But I like it out here!” He cried, continuing his honeyed tone. Roy chuckled again, holding out a hand for him to take.

“You’re gonna get a cold,” he reasoned again, Danny eventually losing to the power of Roy’s persuasion. Which was really, just that small twinkle in his eyes and his dimples. That alone would convince a whole crowd of people to convert into Mormonism.

“Fine,” he pouted, taking his hand so he could yank him up in one swooping motion. As Danny stumbled for balance onto his feet, he found himself standing a tad too close to Roy. So close that his breath was practically scratching at his neck. He widened his eyes and quickly rushed apart. “Thanks for talking to me, I guess.”

He shoved his hands into his pocket and cleared his throat.

“You look like a prepubescent child when you do that,” He roughed up his hair a bit before cheekily grinning.

“But you don’t mind...right?” a small smile creeped onto his lips.

“Not at all.”

Chapter Text

“Oh Court,”

The paper towels soaked in cold water iced her skin as she dabbed at her under eyes. They looked so sunken in. So much more than she’d hoped for.

“We’ve been looking for you everywhere,” Alaska took out Courtney's tied up hair and brushed out her locks, the curls from before dying down into little waves. “You look so miserable.”

Placing down the brush, she grabbed the wet paper towel once again to circle around her cheeks and wipe away more excess mascara and eyeliner.

“I look like I’m genuinely melting,” Courtney pursed her lips, letting Alaska wipe away the barely existing lipstick stain.

“We should head home then. My place is free. We can burn some wood in the fireplace and get those fleece blankets out so we don’t get cold,” she reassured, pulling the warmest smile she could manage before rubbing the blonde’s shoulders.

“But what about the after party?” Willam had her back against the wall, looking over to them with a borderline bored expression. Alaska crinkled her brows.

“How could you think about a stupid party right now?” She snapped, gesturing towards Courtney. “Can’t you see her state right now?”

“You mean her overreaction?” Alaska scoffed at the comment and rolled her eyes. “Look, when Danny texted us that there was an emergency, I thought something was genuinely wrong. I should’ve known that you were just crying over your loss.”

“Don’t do this now Will,” she warned, her voice a little wary.

“No, I am doing this now. Reality check, we all lost today. Except Jason, or Violet or whatever. But really, he’s not winning either because he just got humiliated in front of the whole school,” she stepped past Alaska, dismissing her stance, and walked up to Courtney, taking both hands into her own.

“Court, look at yourself. Your mascara is running, your lipstick is smudged and you’re about to ruin the dress you spent too much money on. And it’s over a stupid crown,” Courtney glanced down.

“But it’s about—“

“But it’s about the title. I know. I figured. And it’ll look great with your dress and do amazing things for you reputation,” her words were laced with heavy sarcasm. “If you really think that you’ll receive supreme power over this school or something, you’re an idiot.”

“Will,” Alaska shot a cold look towards her. Willam already had two strikes against her name.

“You are a fucking idiot. People already part like the Red Sea when they see you. You strut down the halls like it’s nobody’s business, and you dominate this fucking school like a queen. Why are you whining and carrying on like a bratty bitch when you already have everything?” She took one last exhale and looked at her straight in the eyes.

Courtney tightened the grip of their intertwined fingers.

“I’m guessing, from your silence, I’m right, once again, and the shock of realisation has numbed your perfectly sculpted body,”

She suddenly lunged forward with open arms, trapping the taller girl in an embrace as she broke down. Until her lungs felt heavy and her breaths became too deep for her to stay afloat. And now she was drowning in her own tears. Courtney was hurt. Really hurt. But it somehow hurt less to basically choke on her sorrow in front of her friends than doing it alone.

“And what are you crying about now?” Willam raised her hand to the nape of her back, patting her calmingly.

“I…” her words clogged in her throat.

“Maybe she needed the title because she needed self-confidence. To know where she stood again,” Alaska butted in, trying to mellow down the mood. “Not everyone can be a self-entitled, cocky gutter whore like you Will.”

Alaska’s voice had just enough sweetness to make her sound genuine and thoughtful. Willam replied with a small grin.

“Well,” the blonde girl parted from her embrace and gazed at her face on. “I know you Court. And I know you’re not all that smart-”

“Will,” the tallest girl had to intrude again, rolled her eyes.

“-but if people worship the ground you walk and on and everyone wants to get to know you, it means that you’re still little miss popular,” Courtney could muster up a small chuckle. “Now why don’t we go back to mine and cry over something that’s actually sad. Like Alyssa’s singing voice. Or Alaska’s fashion sense.”

Alaska scoffed.

“Excuse me? You’re the one whose closet is entirely made up of slutty clothes,” she argued, laughing.

“You wore a dress made out of trash bags,” she snorted.

“...true.”

They all burst out into laughter in unison, trapping Courtney in a tight, tight bubble of joy. They wrapped their arms around each other and knotted her in a messy cluster of snickers and glee. It wasn’t as perfect as she wanted. But this seemed more than enough for her that night.

Chapter Text

“You wanted to see me?”

The grass was going dry in this season. So was the air. Jason’s hoodie was now hanging by his hip bone as he knotted it earlier by his waist. Wiping a sweat from his forehead, he took a seat by the familiar grounds.

“Yeah,” it was none other than Brian next to him, legs crossed and eyes elsewhere.

“Why did you invite me out? I have other things to do you know?” he straightened out his button up shirt and glanced out to the probably-dying-out field. No one seemed to water the grounds anymore and I guess it had a good run. Maybe it’s because the football team lost their last game so there seemed to be no use for it anymore. Jason would like to think that it was because of Matt, and his absence in the team, but apparently they got thrashed to hell. He didn’t really know though. He spent that night with Matt on a sofa while they watched a sappy movie.

“First of all, no you don’t Jason,” Brian snorted. “...that wasn’t a good start to what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“You could’ve just texted me,” he rolled his eyes. He was already over it.

“Well this is a little more serious…? At least for me,” he exhaled. “You know I don’t actually hate you, right?”

“Wow, you fooled me. You’re a great actor,” his voice was heavily intoxicated by sarcasm.

“Well, Max and I did meet at drama when we were younger,” he shook his head. “Not the point. I wanted to actually apologise.”

Jason was quick to give a sneer and brush off his sudden apologetic face and attitude.

“About what?”

“The whole annual ball thing,” Jason replied with a huff. “Okay, so I was going to apologise for the fact that I left you and did not support you in a night where you got humiliated by a large group of people but from your reaction, I’m guessing that it’s not the apology you wanted. Am I right?”

Jason only replied with a fairly unclear gesture as he tipped his head slightly.

“Okay, well first of all, I am really sorry. I should’ve supported you more than I did that night. I wanted to make sure that you were okay but...I wouldn’t be lying if I told you I was scared to. I was probably the last person you wanted to see that night and I didn't want to make you any more upset,” he confessed, exhaling. “McCook begged me to look for you though. He was scared shitless.”

“I’m glad. N-Not that he was scared but the fact that he cared…” he grinned. “I thought our friendship dwindled.”

“I think the power of friendships are underestimated, even though that’s cliche to say,” he looked over to Jason with a slightly smug look. Like a very tame, mild version. It’s the look he gives when he’s trying to hint at something. “And a lot of people, forget that friendships can still be really strong, even when you leave them for a while. Do you get what I’m hinting at?”

“The fact that you and Matt were good friends before you left and I should expect you guys to keep that friendship?” he mumbled.

“Yeah, but that also leads me to my next apology,” he pressed his lips together, like he was going to somewhat regret what he was going to say. “I’m sorry for shouting at you. And making really funny jokes directed at you,” he snorted at his own joke. “Friend or ex-friend or what not, I should’ve stopped when it was appropriate.”

“I’m sorry too. I probably shouldn't have fought back,” he shrugged stiffly.

“Did you want me to apologise for breaking up your little relationship for a few days too?”

“It was a week!” he disagreed.

“So? It was just a fight,” he said nonchalantly.

“Matt and I don’t fight,” his tone was backed up firmly.

“Well you did,” he snickered sarcastically. “Let me tell you something. Your relationship isn’t perfect. It just won’t ever be. You’re going to fight along the way. Good job for not butting heads so far in the relationship but you’re going to so many times in the future.”

“But it was you who basically started this whole mess,” he narrowed his eyes.

“Well, think about it like this. Let’s say you two were going to stay together forever. Have a bright future, run away, have cute ass children and all that gay shit. You’re gonna run into people like me or even worse for the rest of your life. Okay?” when Jason glanced away, he continued. “Fights are natural. You're bound to have one once in awhile. It shows how strong the relationship is. If you make it, great. It’s stronger. You’ve learnt another side of each other. If not, then well, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”

He looked at him, dead straight into his eyes, until he gazed up.

“So, how did it end?”

“...we’re great actually,” he let a small grin creep up to his lips.

“There you go. We can point towards anyone with blame and believe in whatever side of the story but the important thing is, you and Matt are still together and you guys are happy. And I’m happy for you two,” he ran his hand down his shoulder to his forearm.

“Really?”

“Yes really. Of course I’m going to be happy for a good friend. Wouldn’t you be happy if Brian M was in a happy relationship? Or Kurtis? Or Max?”

“I thought Brian Mwas in a happy relationship,” he nudged him lightly, Brian quickly brushing it off with a laugh.

“Very funny Jason. Can I mention how happy my relationship was with your boyfriend?” the other brunette froze. “That’s what I thought,” when there was another pregnant pause, he rolled his eyes. “...don’t tell me you’re actually jealous.”

“Uh…”

“We were like 13!”

“I don’t know…” he scratched the back of his neck. “He does care about you a lot.”

“As friends,” he slurred with slight annoyance.

“He was really really excited to have you back. Like, he couldn’t stop talking about it,” he fumbled with his thumbs.

“We were best friends you know,” he rubbed his thumb over his shoulder. “...until I got replaced by Max…”

“But I just don’t get it,” he shook his head. “You didn’t even sit with us for the last few months before you left.”

“Maybe it’s because he wanted to regain his childhood or something?”

“What?”

“You know... life lately hasn’t been the easiest for him. You know that,” Jason tucked his chin towards his chest and nodded. “I’ve talked to him a lot in the last few weeks, just one on one, and he’s...down. His attitude is low, his personality is dulling and he looks like he’s running out of ambition. He’s not the same, creative and fun-loving Matt I knew. I get that he’s a stoner but this is a whole new low for him."

“He’s battling some…” he tried to look for the right wording to not make it so obvious. “...issues right now,” he blinked away his slightly foggy gaze. “It’s nice that you’re trying to help though.”

“I doubt I can make a solid impact though," he admitted. "He told me that I remind him of his childhood. That's probably because we were friends when we were younger and...not after that," he shook his head. "Matt is one complex person surprisingly.”

“Yeah, I know,” he snickered. “But I love him anyway.”

“I know you do,” he gripped his shoulder tightly. “If anyone can help, it’s going to be you,” he gave a long exhale. “And you better fucking help him or you’ll never see the end of it.”

“I will...well, try at least,” he knitted his brows together loosely. “You know I care about him more than anything else.”

Brian groaned into his hand and suddenly got up. Shoving one hand into his pocket, he reached the other towards him.

“Okay, I’ve had enough sappy cliches for one day,” he smirked, waiting for him to take it. Jason stared at it for a moment before quickly accepting it and hopping up. “Do you wanna go to that smoothie place down the street? I haven’t been there since I left.”

Jason gazed over at him, a tad confused with the casual conversation, but when he stared back at him with a smile, he continued.

“Uhh, yeah. I’m down, but they bumped up the prices,” he smoothed out his trousers.

“By how much?”

“It’s like $6,”

“$6?! Jesus, I’m happy I left this place.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, hey,”

Danny never thought his guitar would fail him like this. He had absolutely nothing to do that day for once. No plans with friends, no school work. But he took it as a positive. He could actually write songs for once, which was something he hadn’t done for...way too long. But of course his strings snap the moment he starts. Okay, so he hadn’t touched it in a while but, he didn’t expect it to just...break.

So now he’s at the local music store, broken guitar in hand and his afternoon ruined.

“Oh hey Danny,”

It was a complete surprise to see Brian here with him, sweatshirt slumping over his body and sweatpants bagging over his usually pretty toned legs.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, strolling over to him casually.

“Getting my guitar fixed,” he exhaled, showing his guitar to him, which right then, looked at if it was pitifully staring up at him. His voice hitched.

“Yeah, same actually,” he snickered. Danny’s heart felt more at ease at the comment. “You write?”

“Whenever I have free time, yeah I do,” he smiled at the topic. “What about you?”

“From time to time. What genre?”

“Uh...alternative, I guess? Some grunge, some rock, all that,” he snickered.

“So, anything that suits your aesthetic?” he chuckled.

“Yeah, I guess,” he scratched the back of his neck. “What about you?”

“Country,”

“So, anything that suits your aesthetic?” he repeated with a cheesy tone. Brian laughed.

“I guess so, Danny Boy,” he smirked.

Danny didn't expect himself to be there for that long. There referring to Brian’s side. After a quick revival of his beloved guitar, him and Brian headed down to the grass oval of their school, sneaking through the same hole that, well, they probably all used. It looked so much smaller during the day.

Danny never really thought about the overuse of certain chords in his own songs until Brian brought it up. It was sort of interesting actually. Danny knew to keep this in mind for later.

“So, are you coming on the long weekend trip with us?” Danny asked, watching Brian tune his guitar.

“Don't think so,” he strummed his guitar lightly. “I promised Brian M that we’d hang out.”

“Are you guys going anywhere in particular?”

“Mm, I don’t think he wants to. I think we’re gonna hang around town,” he shrugged. “What about you guys?”

“We have a few things in mind but we haven’t really decided,” he watched Brain wrap his fingers around a few different chord positions. “Maybe the city.”

“That’d be nice. It’ll be something different. I bet it’ll be fun,” he encouraged with a smile.

“Why don’t you come then?” if it were a few weeks earlier, there was no way Danny would've asked Brian to hang out with them. But from that day, they seemed to grow closer. And he sort of liked him.

“I sort of need to make sure that McCook is okay,” he laughed it off cooly but Danny picked up on something underneath his initial tone. “...he’s going through...uhh, how should I say this subtly?”

Danny crinkled his brows.

“Is he okay?” his voice was now a little tentative.

“He’s okay. Well, he could be better but I know he’s getting better. Gradually…” his smile grew quiet like his guitar. “Do you know the issues that Matt's dealing with right now?” Danny stiffened and moved his head up and down awkwardly. “Yeah. It’s sort of like that.”

“Oh…” he pursed his lips.

“He’s more into coke nowadays, and all that stuff. Like meth and...yeah,” his volume was held back. “He’s always tired and he has the biggest bags under his eyes. He never wants to eat. He feels sick all the time, and there's times where he suddenly gets panic attacks. And I never know what to do. And he’s becoming so moody and I...I don’t know anymore…”

Before Danny could reply, Brian just continued.

“But he’s getting better. He’s currently relapsing and the after effects aren’t pretty but…” he chortled painfully. “Sorry for being honest all of a sudden...you just seem approachable.”

“N-No, it’s okay,” he smiled reassuringly. “I'm guessing that you don't have many people to talk to about this, right?” Brian gave a small nod. “Yeah...I get it. It's horrible. This whole situation is horrible and I'm so sorry that you have to see it unfold like this to your closest friends."

"I just hope that..." his thumb brushed down the lowest E string. "...it all gets better. I don't want to wake up one day and find that something bad happened to him. O-Or he's not going to be here..." he sniffed, quickly clearing his throat to cover his tracks. "I probably miss him the most after I left. He's the weirdest guy I know and no one can ever recreate his presence."

"I-I don't know him that well. Can you tell me about him?" Danny watched Brian smile to himself, a calmer aura washing over his body.

"He's a...loveable doofus. I guess. He has the dumbest ideas you'll ever hear. And he goest ahead with them sometimes! It's hilarious. Quirky is an understatement for him, because he is actually batshit crazy," he snickered. "But I love that. I never knew why we worked, or how we worked, but I guess I really stopped caring about that a few years ago. It's when I realised that we just...clicked. And that's about it. And that's all I should care about," he shrugged. "I don't think there's any real logic in our relationship but there's no real logic in Brian himself so it doesn't really matter."

Danny grinned.

"So...by "relationship" you're hinting at...?"

"Don't even finish that sentence Danny," he shot him a joking look. "He doesn't like labels, and I guess I don't like them either," he yawned. "So there's absolutely nothing."

"Just a really, really strong friendship that oozes sexual frustrations?"

"Yep, that's about it," he laughed. "Thanks for listening to my stupid ramblings. I tend to just...talk a lot."

"No problem," he grinned.

Brian strummed his guitar once more, humming along with some made up tune. He snickered.

“We should work together sometime.”

“Hmm? With songs?” he beamed.

“Yeah. I bet we’d make some good shit.”

Chapter Text

Jason's ideas never really came true. He gets really excited to do a whole bunch of things; like go to the movies, go out for breakfast, go out early in the morning to see the sunrise—but none of them actually end up happening. It always ends up being the five of them curled up on a sofa for the whole weekend as they binge watch crappy gay movies. Max really likes to critique them unless they’re musicals, and Kurtis always loves that sappy shit.

So it confused the heck out of Danny how, and why they were doing this. He was sat in Jason’s car as they loaded the last of Kurtis’s suitcases for the long weekend.

They're going to the city as a 5. He doesn't really know how this is going to play out. Every group seems to go away around this time though. Courtney and her friends were going to the beach for the long weekend. Its fairly far from where they're at, maybe like a 2 hour drive, but the city was so much further. He'd never been outside of his neighbourhood, which was sort of pathetic for a teenage boy to say.

It was exciting for him. His mom even raised an eyebrow when he said he was going to go. She thought he was going to hurt himself while there, knowing that he’s not exactly the...smartest person ever. So she packed him way too much clothes and money so he’d be okay. He reassured her that he was going to be fine, not knowing if he was really was 100% sure himself.

“I’ll probably drive for an hour,” Kurtis called, buckling up his seatbelt and adjusting the rear view mirror. “Can someone cover when we hit the bridge?”

“Umm yeah, I’ll take it,” Matt answered, taking up the last spot in the car.

Kurtis being the driver was probably not the best idea, but they all agreed to take equal turns in driving. Well, the three that could actually drive. Danny apparently wasn’t allowed to drive until he finished school according to his mom. She thought he’d be a dangerous driver.

“Is there an aux cord anywhere?” Jason sat in the middle seat, which usually meant that he could choose the songs. Actually, that’s a lie. It didn’t matter where he sat, he usually chose the songs anyway.

“Jason, please don’t play your weird fetish songs this time,” Max groaned, holding it within his hands.

“I won’t! I promise,” he snatched it and plugged his phone in.

“Can we make it an unwritten rule that we only play gay songs for the rest of the trip?” Kurtis began to reverse out of his driveway. Danny shook his head.

“No way. It takes like 5 hours to get there!” he moaned.

“You’re underestimating my abilities to name most of Mariah Carey’s power ballads,” he argued with a smirk.

“And Madonna,” Matt chimed in.

“And don’t forget Lady Gaga,” even Max joined in. Danny smiled at that. Baby steps.

“And obviously Beyonce,” Jason smacked Danny’s shoulder jokingly.

“Okay, got it. We can all name countless gay songs,” he rolled his eyes and chuckled.

“But what about you?” Matt asked, popping his head to the side.

“Yeah, you probably have some sort of guilty pleasure, right?” Jason nudged. Danny sighed.

“I mean, I have a soft spot for Britney but-”

They all shriek like little girls. What kind of movie were they in now? Danny rolled his eyes. But...he did admittedly like some of these songs, like the Spice Girls which was playing at the time.

“Argh, she is the epitome of gay culture,” Max grinned.

“And Cher?” He laughed. “Oh no! You, know who's great? Fucking Paula Abdul.”

“Paula Abdul coming right up,” Jason scrolled through his Spotify.

Danny never imagined in a million years that he'd be sitting in a full car with Vibeology loudly screaming through the speakers. They were the annoying teenagers who blasted their music deafeningly for the whole world to hear, but Danny didn’t really mind it. He hated seeing them, but it’s different when you’re apart of it I guess. When he’s apart of something that made him feel so powerful and proud, it made him, no them, feel so undefeatable.

Around a few hours in, after many random stops for sight seeing, bathroom breaks and gas, they crossed the bridge that Kurtis was talking about. Danny didn’t really imagine it to be like this when he heard about it. He thought it was gonna be wimpy, small and maybe creaky, but it was huge. It stretched along a river which was bluer and sparkler than he ever imagined. Well, it was sad to say, but this was the first time he saw a river. And it looked beautiful and serene. It was just like the grassy fields at his school.

He rolled down the window and stuck his arm through, resting his elbow by the edge. The air smelt saltier than before. Much more crisp and thin. His shaggy hair blew back against the wind, tickling his lower neck as he brushed it aside. He didn’t realise how long it grew out.

“If you turn left here, you’ll find the beaches,” Max informed, gesturing over to a parted road like a flight stewardess.

“Sounds like something Courtney would do. What’s she doing this long weekend?” Kurtis, who was now sitting by his side, asked.

“Yeah she’s off the beach with Willam and Alaska,” he smiled at the thought. He watched Courtney play around in the water in his mind. Probably wearing that pink bikini she bought at the mall the other day, which Danny accompanied her to because she dragged him out. And Willam would be by her side, trying to dunk her into the water to make her scream. Or she’d do something really out of the blue and stupid because that’s exactly what she’s like and Court loves it. She liked surprises. Alaska would say some snarky and witty comment to make the whole atmosphere warm and secluded. They had such a tight bond, ever since Courtney joined the cheerleading squad. It must have been first year of high school when they all met, because Danny doesn’t remember how she became so popular and now that she’s a senior, the top of the social food chain. They’d been crazy close childhood friends so why did one of them end up being top dog who rules the school with an iron fist with the quarterback and the other as a forgettable nobody who writes songs in his free time and cry in the other hours of the day?

You know, now that Danny thought about it, no matter how mad he was supposed to be at Court, he really couldn’t be. He really did love her at the end of the day.

“Hmm, I’m pretty sure Roy's there too this weekend," Kurtis replied, before he could ease into a comfortable smile though, Jason flicked to his next song. “I swear to god Jason if you play one more Britney Spears song I will-“

“Sorry Kurtis, I accidentally pressed it,” he joked, guiltily pulling an over dramatic expression as he put down his phone. The shorter boy pinched his nose.

“Ooh, can we play Selena next?” Danny enthused.

“Of course!”

“Okay real talk for a second,” Kurtis intruded. “Do we know the directions to the hotel?”

“I have it up on Google Maps,” Max replied confidently.

“And what about-?”

“The restaurant? I also have the directions up in a different tab. I’m planning to make a reservation in 15 minutes so I can accurately estimate the time we get there,”

That was the moment when Danny knew that Max was too amazing and pure for this world. He was so organised. So good at planning that he was guaranteed to be the most successful person in the history of their school.

Even in saying that, he had a really soft and fun side to him. He sang along with everyone else in the car, though he was a little more on tune than the rest, and he laughed till his lungs gave out. The smile on his face reassured Danny that Max was safe and okay mentally.

By then, the sun was finally starting to set, just enough for the edges of the sky to crinkle a little into a red. The buildings approaching them looked ever so tall. So grand. They were stretched towards the skies. Billions of them, scattered around like a concrete jungle. Danny was shocked. It looked as if the car was going to get swallowed up by the city. Literally digested by the towers that never seemed to end. From there, he couldn’t see the top. Nowhere near.

He was still in awe by them when he stepped out. His eyes were practically glued onto them. Max had booked them two rooms, one with a king sized bed, and the other with a queen and a single. And of course the couple got the king sized so Kurtis, Max and Danny had to figure out who was going to sleep where.

As they walked into their assigned rooms, the two tallest boys immediately darted their gazes towards the queen sized bed. It would have been much more comfortable for the two of them, so Kurtis happily agreed to the single bed.

“Don’t forget to put on a jacket. It’s getting cooler,” Max reminded, being the typical mom of the group.

“Which brown coat looks better?” Kurtis pulled out two, probably much too expensive jackets from his suitcase.

“The darker one. It matches your hair better,” Danny shot in his point of view. Kurtis hummed in agreement.

“It’ll take us approximately five minutes to get there so that means we’ll arrive a tad early,” Max smiled to himself, zipping back up his suitcase. “Okay, let’s go.”

The boy absolutely loved being organised, and there was this certain smile he pulled whenever he was satisfied with his calculations. It also put a smile on everyone else’s face from how cute it was. Danny especially.

Grabbing his jacket, he slipped it on and joined the other two in the hallway. By then, the couple was waiting outside in the hallway, leaning against the wall with small chat filling the air.

“So, it’s down the street, then to the left of some bar,” Max explained, his eyes down on his screen. “Does everyone have their wallets?” Everyone replied with a nod. “Ok good. Let’s go.”

The city somehow smelt different to what he was used to. It had a scent of dense cigarettes and petrol, mixed in with the oddest aroma of dreams and aspirations. People around him were rushing home after a busy day of work. Many with their eyes on their phones, if not, then in the path in front of them, with their eyes narrowed and bold as if they knew exactly where they were going. They looked so stern and confident. Danny sort of loved that. He didn’t see himself in their shoes though. Not now, not ever. He couldn’t imagine himself growing old to have a desk job, putting on a suit every morning and rushing off to catch a train. That wasn’t him. But it sort of inspired him in the oddest way to continue on with life. He couldn’t exactly put his finger as to why. It just looked sort of...cool…? That they’re approaching life head on. Taking things seriously. That’s something he still couldn’t do and he’s going to graduate next year.

The people, overall, just looked different in the city too. Couples seemed happier. They would walk past him, hand in hand, of all genders, all races. And maybe they wouldn’t even bat an eye towards him, but he was gazing at them. Sort of jealous. Mostly inspired. That would never be accepted where he lived. But here, it looked normal. He was in awe.

And they seemed to all realise that, as a group. It was weird to be an environment where everything that was alien to their community was a reality. Where everyone just seemed...happy. Comfortable. The happy they all wished they could be.

But then again, everything was really busy. Everything was moving so quickly and constantly. They knew they wouldn’t be able to keep up forever. So the holiday thing was nice. Actual reality probably wouldn’t be. But it was sort of nice to think they were apart of that world. Just for a few days.

But it confused Danny. Danny didn’t really know what teenagers did anymore. Because what they’re doing, as teenagers, is probably what adults do. Or that’s what he imagined.

Their meals had an expensive taste, the clothes they were wearing was just on the smart casual spectrum, and they were at a fancy restaurant. Even though their drinks were lemonade, and it wasn’t some fancy wine that would make the mood much more mature, it was enough for them.

“This was great,” Max finished the last of his meal, neatly placing the fork and knife together and dabbing lightly at his lips with his napkin.

“Mmm agreed. It’s nice to do something other than sit around and watch movies all day,” Jason sat back, grinning.

The tallest boy coughed and reached for his near-empty glass of lemonade. They’d all agreed to pour it into their empty champagne glasses for fun, and it seemed fairly festive at this point.

“To us,” he raised. The other four beamed in unison. “For living yet, another amazing year. Thank you, for being some of the bestest friends I could’ve asked for. I really appreciate it.”

“And thank you guys. I appreciate how everyone stands up for me here. Even through all the hell we have to face,” Jason added, his eyes darting over to Matt, like he was passing on the baton.

“And I’m so happy that we’re all still here,” he chuckled. “That we’re all great friends and we’re having so much fun to this day.”

“And thanks guys, for putting up with me,” they all laughed at Kurtis's comment. “And also listening to all my problems, and in return I love listening to your problems. I just like the thought that we’re overcoming so much together. As friends.”

Kurtis nudged it onto Danny. The final one.

“And…” he sighed. “I’m really happy that you all let me into the group. You embraced me with open arms and I didn’t ever think I’d find a group who’s caring and as nice as you guys. I...I really mean it. It means a lot to me. I thought I was going to be stuck in dead end friendships and people that would never click with me properly and, well, I was wrong. The only thing I regret is not talking to you guys sooner.”

He shrugged.

“To us,” Max smiled towards him warmingly.

“To us!”

Chapter Text

The dirt rumbled beneath his feet. It was an odd sensation, feeling the crusty ground rub against the bottom of his shoes. Danny found that the uniform fit him better than it used to, the white fabric sitting on top of his shoulders shapely instead of slouching over his upper arms. The glove was still a tad too big though. He swore it would slip off any second now, and it felt hot and itchy anyway. He probably just wanted it to slip off.

His mom had signed him up for baseball so he actually had something to do. He’s not the most social kid you’ll ever meet and he lacks the confidence to speak up so she figured that this would be a good social sport for him. And also he could maybe learn how to throw a ball as well.
But of course he didn’t learn that skill. Yet? After a few moments of picking at his glove uncomfortably, he had tossed it aside to gaze at the flowers by the side of the field.

They were an array of pinks and reds, all looking glossy as they proudly faced towards him. He pursed his lips.

They wouldn’t notice him being gone, right? It would only be a few moments. And as of now, they didn’t seem to even hit the ball this far out.
So he slipped past supervision and ran towards the flowers, lunging hands first into the patch. The petals swayed by his knees. He laughed, his fingertips brushing along the grass.

“Fag boy!”

He suddenly sat up, panting, hands clutching onto the sheets of his hotel bed. Sweat trickled down his forehead passing his bitten lip.

Kurtis was fast asleep on the single bed, one leg hooked over the blankets and the other tucked under. He looked fairly peaceful.

Danny shuffled out of his bed, feeling the heat trapped within his sheets.

“You’re such a sissy Danny!”

One of the saddest things for him was knowing that it could never be erased from his memories. Like it was imprinted so deeply that there was no way he could rub it off.
Danny closed the door behind him. Kurtis wouldn’t mind. He briefly glanced at the buttons in the elevator before he chose the top level: the roof. He figured it was quiet and empty up there, which is just what he needed right now to clear his head. His chest continued to churn at the memory.

It’s not that he forgot about it, of course not, but he hadn’t thought about it in so long. He never needed to think about it but…

I guess his dreams just decided to ambush him out of nowhere.

He closed his eyes for a moment until the elevator made a small ‘ding’ sound and the doors opened.

“Danny?”

This time, it was a voice outside of his mind. He snapped up to see Max by a singular bench, his legs crossed over and his hair flipped over messily.

“Max?” he made his way over to him, sitting stiffly by his side. “What are you doing up here?”

“I-I couldn’t sleep,” he cleared his throat and glanced away. “I’m guessing you can’t either?”

“I’m...I’m not good at sleeping in unfamiliar mattresses,” he admitted, and though it was somewhat true, that wasn’t why he was here.

“Yeah, I get that,” he coughed. “Is it the bad allergies you were telling me about?” he nodded. “Yeah, I understand.”

“What about you?” he questioned back, unable to meet his gaze.

“I…” he exhaled. “I haven’t been able to sleep for a while…” he admitted, his hands cupping over each other. “My thoughts seem to keep me up. Constantly. And I can never sleep.”

“What kind of thoughts…?” his voice wavered just a tad from nerves.

“I can’t stop thinking about every single possible future that’s out there. I can’t stop imagining everything that might go wrong in the future. Or it’s like...my mind just doesn't stop working. Won’t stop thinking. And I can’t get to sleep,” his fingers ran up and down his hand. “I haven’t been able to sleep for months. And when I do finally get to sleep, I can’t wake up.”

Danny stayed silent for a moment, trying to comprehend everything.

“Max…” he began. “...I...I think you need to see someone.”

“W-What?” he squeezed out a nervous chuckle.

“Sleep’s, like, super important. This isn’t healthy. It’s not good for you. Trust me, maybe you need to talk to someone. A school counselor is--”

“Thanks Danny, but I’m pretty sure I’m fine,” he somewhat snapped, his voice growing a little firmer. “I think it’s all the studying, and everyone’s lives and--”

“Being a pessimist is one thing but--”

“I’m not a pessimist Danny,” he informed him, sounding like he was a teacher talking to a student. “I’m a perfectionist. A realist. I think of every possible future and I try and fix it before it comes.”

“That sounds like anxiety to me…” it was almost a whisper

“You’re no psychologist Danny. I don’t think you have the right to--” he continued to fidget in his lap.

“Yeah, I’m not. But I’m worried about you and I want you to see someone. Someone who is informed and can help you,” he edged his way over to him.

“I don’t think I appreciate being told that I’m mentally ill,”

“It’s just to be safe! Max, you’re so generous and caring, but I don’t want you to dwell on everything so much,” he grabbed onto his hands, stopping him from squirming.

“But I need to Danny!” he thrusted backwards, taking back his hands to his chest. “I-I need to think of every possible outcome just in case something goes wrong. What if something goes terribly wrong and I can’t...I can’t fix it. I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re smart enough to figure something out,” he tried again; edging closer to try and comfort him.

“But that’s the problem! I don't think I’m smart enough,” he bit down on his lip. “...everyone always expects me to be but...I’m not actually that intelligent. I’m not that capable. And heck, people need to stop thinking I can do more than I’m actually able to.”

Danny paused.

“...what’s gotten into you so suddenly? I thought--”

“Whatever you thought is wrong. This is the truth, okay?” his words were quivering as he hiccuped.

The younger boy just sat there instead. He completely turned his attention over to him and crossed his legs on top of the bench.

“Is this because you’re gay…?” his voice was more of a faint murmur.

“N-Nothing goes well for me...” he wrinkled his brows together faintly. “...I think the world’s just looking down on me constantly. I never get the results I want, and everyone else seems like they do. I don’t think the world likes me being happy,” he parted his lips before halting and looking over to Danny. “...I don’t think I’ve been properly happy for a really long time…”

“Max…” he placed his hand on on top of his again, ever so lightly, just so Max wouldn’t flinch. “Please don’t think like that. Trust me it gets better. People say it gets better for a reason,” he exhaled. “I know what it’s like, to think that nothing goes well and you’re going nowhere in life. I’ve been there. I was there less than a year ago. But you need to keep on fighting through it. Just a little bit longer.”

“But how much longer?” His bottom lip quavered. He was looking up at him innocently, like a little child who looked lost. Really lost. And Danny felt like he knew something Max didn’t. And he was somehow smart in someway for knowing this. And in the past, he would’ve probably been really happy that he was on top of someone who was known for being...well, on top. But this time he wasn’t.

He felt bad for him. He pitied him. Not like some homeless person on the street, but pitied him like his friend who couldn’t really understand how amazing he was. And it was something that everyone knew except him.

Danny sighed.

“Let me tell you something that’s worked for me,” he started, Max’s eyes instantly glowing with intrigue. “It’s how you think of the situation. Okay? I know that might sound stupid but it’s all the little things that make life amazing. It’s how grateful you feel for every small thing, how bright that day seems compared to others, how far you’ve come.”

“I...I don’t get it…?” He didn’t seem to be able to wrap his head around the situation.

“I know, I’ve been there,” he tried to laugh it off to sweeten the mood. “I think I’ve taken all of you guys for granted honestly. Some things that I’ve brushed off...I look back and smile because they were truly amazing memories and I didn’t realise it at the time.”

“Like what?”

“Like,” he grinned. “All those weekends where we hung at Jason’s, and he gossips so much. I love the face he makes when he gets excited and claps his hands.”

Danny gazed over at him like he was nudging him playfully.

“Or that time we all went to Kurtis’s cafe while he was working, just to give him the most complex order. And it pissed him off so much,” he chuckled at the memory. He really did look angry that day, but the way he laughed it off afterwards was priceless.

“Or all those times Matt scored a goal at his games, and he did this stupid dorky dance,”

“He really does have two left feet,” he snorted, though it came off a little weak.

“And he would point towards us like what boyfriends do to girlfriends in American movies,” he bit down on his lip when Max’s expression stood still. “Or, that time I went back to yours and you let me hear your amazing oboe solo,” Max blushed at the comment. “I loved it. Also, how did that solo go?”

“I-It went really well,” he cleared his throat. “...really good. The director said it was his favourite piece of the day…”

“There you go, that’s an amazing memory right?”

“I mean…” he gave a faint smile. “Yeah, yeah it was.”

“What you said about the world; how it doesn’t look out for you? Well, I don’t believe in fate so maybe I’m not the biggest help, but for me, I think that you make your path as you go along with it. Like..." he pondered for a moment. "You like the 'Wizard of Oz' right?"

Max gasped.

"I love it! It's my favourite movie and book of all time,"

"Well, it's like putting down the actual yellow bricks, as you go along the yellow brick road. You make your own future, you know?"

"Danny, that literally has nothing to do with the movie,"

"I just wanted to make a point," he pouted jokingly. "Anyway, just know that whatever happens in the future, and all these moments passing, you can do whatever you want.”

“What…?” Max crinkled his brows. “You’re making no sense Danny…”

“You can do whatever you want!” He was borderline laughing. “The future isn’t planned out for you. It’s not written yet,” he grabbed his hands and yanked him up. “So that means you can go like this,” he whacked his hands, the taller boy’s arms flicking backwards. “Or this.”

He lunged up towards him, wrapping his arms around his waist tightly.

“D-Danny?” A mumble-like giggle rumbled through Max's throat.

“And we could dance like idiots up here,” Danny's hands held onto his tightly, basically suffocating his wrists as he held out their arms and swung him around.

Max bursted out into laughter. His cackle echoed throughout the empty space as he spread his lips wider than he ever did before and beamed. His chest began to collapse into his ribs as he tumbled onto Danny, his legs quickly giving out beneath him. He was borderline crying. He wiped a tear from his eye as he roared out his final breath of hiccuping chuckles.

“I bet you didn’t see that coming a few seconds ago,” he laughed, a toothy grin piercing through. Max finally caught his breath.

“Yeah, you’re right,” he caved in, an incredibly satisfied expression washing over his face.

“See? You write your future as you go along with the present. You’ll miss out on all the absolutely amazing things you can create if you just give up now,” he held their gazes firmly. It was just long enough for Max to completely melt into bliss in that moment.

“Yeah,” he mumbled through his parted lips.

Danny stretched his smile further, even with the peaking scratches by Max’s wrists, which just made it into his field of vision. It was deep, from what Danny saw. Fresh. But Max picked at his long jumper and pulled it over his hands, like he was freezing a little in the cold temperature.

“It’s getting cold, isn’t it?” his eyes skimmed above him and towards the sky.

“Yeah it is,” he pressed his lips together, hard. Max wrapped his arms over his slightly smaller body. He felt a little more at ease with the warmth.
“We should head inside.”

Danny couldn’t stop thinking about that split second. That split second when he saw a little too much. Now Max was curled up beside him, his hands snugly placed by his waist for comfort and his breath hovering by his neck. And there Danny was, staring blankly at the ceiling, wondering what to do with himself and the boy next to him.

Chapter Text

It felt familiar to Danny. They were all chatting over breakfast like they usually do on the weekend, except this time, they went to nicely decorated cafe in the city, and it was much better here than at Jason’s. No offence to Jason. It was a nice modern cafe with splashes of flora everywhere. It’s what Danny imagined as a cafe designed for vegans. He had to take Courtney here one day. Also the avocado toast was to die for, even though that’s such a typical white girl thing to say.

“Okay, okay but I really wanted to go catch a ferry to the other side of the city! It looked so cool and none of us have ever been on a boat. It’ll be a cool experience right?” Matt was trying to encourage his point of view, while sipping on his morning coffee.

“But I really wanted to go to Starbucks. Seriously, we have none in our area and I want to live out my white girl fantasy,” Jason whined, eating the last of his food before shoving it aside.

“Ok, what about this?” Max always seemed to suggest something smart in these situations, which was something they all appreciated. “We’ll all pick something that we want to do. We can talk about them now so we can make a set schedule for the day. Well, I will. And we'll, I mean technically I'll, make a plan to suit everybody. Sound good?" he received nods from everyone. "Okay then. Suggest away."

“Starbucks,” Jason jabbed in his suggestion first.

“I say ferry,” Matt joined in.

“I want to go shopping. At that really big mall we saw when we drove here,” Kurtis smiled.

“What about you Danny?” Max asked before whipping out his phone, presumably, to look at Google Maps again.

“Umm…” he pondered for a moment. “I don’t really have anything I want to do in particular.”

“Nothing?” Kurtis asked.

“Yeah,” he nonchalantly shrugged.

“He can decide something while we’re out I suppose,” Max noted. “Okay, I want to go to an aquarium, and that’s…” he scrolled down his virtual map. “Okay. Got it. I have a plan set.”

“What would we do without you?” Matt grinned towards him, the taller boy pressing his lips together to smooth out his smile. “Seriously, you’re the best. Thanks so much.”

Max and Danny exchange a small look before the youngest boy gave him a small wink. Max beamed.

The day started off with Jason’s request. And yeah, the pumpkin spice lattes were good, which Danny hated to admit. But the selfies weren’t fun. Both Kurtis and Jason loved taking them. Like, really liked them. After an endless sea of selfies with the whole group, they somehow took more individually. He wondered if they had botox injections so they stopped feeling the muscles in their face. No normal person can pull such a stunning expression for that long, right?

He could imagine Courtney getting one of these. He wondered if they had a starbucks near where they were. He betted that they would have all loved it. And Courtney would accidentally let the froth stain her lips and her collar, and Willam would cackle while Alaska laughed encouragingly and tried to help. And eventually, the head cheerleader would laugh too, giving in to that overwhelming sense of comfort.

He shook his head.

The streets somehow felt different too in the city. The breeze was a tad cooler, but it was a nice sense of cool. It was just enough to make him feel more refreshed and relaxed. It intertwined with his hair and his clothes but in the most oddly satisfying way. The seaside air also smelt amazing too. Just a tad salty, but it made him feel more awake. No wonder Matt wanted to go onboard.

“I’ve never seen colours like this before…” Max mumbled, his hands clutched onto the edge of the rails. They were stood at the front of the boat, which was an area with no shelter. It felt...freeing. To stand there and soak in the air like this.

“I’m flying Jack! I’m flying!” Jason screamed cheesily at the top of his lungs, somehow accomplishing, the single handedly most cliche thing he could’ve done on the nose of the ferry. Matt was tightly holding onto his waist, his body pressed up against him from the back. Kurtis bursted out into laughter.

“You know it’s a pity I didn’t keep on drawing! It would’ve been worth more in the morning!” Kurtis called, cupping his hands by his lips.

“You bastard!” Jason squealed back.

“How many times have they watched the Titanic?” Danny asked, literal confusion staining his face.

“Too many times,” Max informed, pinching his nose.

The aquarium was probably the most typical place they could’ve gone...if they were all on a date…? Either way, it wasn’t like what Danny expected. It was calming. The deep blues and the dark lit pathways. Fish majestically swimming above him. It was so picturesque it hurt.

Max was strolling beside him, his hands clasped behind his back. He looked like such an old soul.

“Do you enjoy it Danny?” he asked, his voice quiet.

“Yeah, it’s really relaxing,” he watched Max’s eyes roam elsewhere.

“My parents took me to an aquarium when I was younger. But they lost me in the first few minutes because I began running towards the dolphins,” he laughed. “That was probably the last trip we’ve ever gone as a family.”

“When was it?”

“When I was 8,” he chuckled airily. “...I don't know. My father changed that year. And my mother’s always been loyal to my father so she just went along with everything he did. He just become so much more...angry. Vicious. And he began to lash out at us a lot. Especially me,” he tucked his hands into his pockets. “He thinks that we lost touch after a few years. Because I’m not as masculine as he wants me to be…maybe I'm glad we haven't gone out as a family.”

“My dad hated that too,” he confessed. Max gazed over at him. “He left, ages ago though. And I don’t even like to admit that he has any impact in my life,” he huffed. “But when he was there, he put me in every sport possible, and I used to fail at every single one. I just wanted to sing. To dance. To stay home and draw and it infuriated him.”

“I’m glad someone understands,” he murmured. “My father wants me to quit oboe.”

“What?” his sudden volume made other spectators turn around. He froze in the attention. “...why?”

“He thinks it’s for girls,” he rolled his eyes. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Don’t let him get in the way of what you love, okay?” Danny tried to reassure his confidence. “You’re your own individual. And he’s not going to fucking take that away from you, okay?”

Before Max could fully reply, the couple came waltzing past, hand in hand, super lovey dovey. Enough to make the young boy knit his brows together. Man, he was lonely.

Kurtis was the last to come out, arms trapping the bags of gifts he seemed to buy. Max asked him why he decided to, since they still had one more thing to do, which was to shop, but he reassured him that everything was going to be fine.

And he somehow was. Lucky he was rich enough to afford all this, because he had trolleys worth of clothes he wanted. And shit, they would look good on him. Danny thought he could pull off everything.

“That jacket’s nice though. Gives me a very 90s boy band vibe,” Jason pointed over, quickly joining in on the fun. They were always on the same page somehow.

Their arms were linked, and they proceeded to strut down the walkway. Matt rolled his eyes, continuing to push the overflowing trolley.

“Shouldn't we go back soon? We still need to do what Danny wants,” Matt informed, already done with all of this.

“It’s sundown in just under an hour,” Max noted. Danny gulped.

“I...haven’t really thought of anything actually,” he admitted.

“See? We’re fine then,” Kuris brushed off.

“Also…” Matt rubbed his eyes. “I feel really sick…” his steps became slower and slower until he eventually stopped. Danny looked behind him and quickly ran over. “Sorry...I’m feeling really, really nauseous all of a sudden.”

“T-That’s okay,” Danny pressed his palm against his forehead. “Oh my god Matt, you’re burning.”

Jason suddenly dropped his stance and rushed over.

“Babe?” he slumped Matt's arm over his own shoulder. “We’ll go back to the hotel room, okay? It’s okay.”

So the whole happy vibe they had going was short lived. With a speedy trip in a taxi back to the hotel, the couple quickly dashed back to their own room, never to be seen again for the rest of the night.

Max sighed.

“I’m really sorry that we couldn’t figure out something to do for you,” he apologised to Danny back in their own hotel room. The younger boy shrugged.

“It’s okay, honestly,” he grinned. “I finally thought up something though.”

“What is it?” Kurtis was now taking off his shoes.

“We can still do it now actually.”

And so he took both of their hands and lead them to the exact spot he was imagined.

The roof looked much more majestic with the sunset, though it did look pretty nice during the night too. He lead them to the familiar bench.

“I wanted to watch the sunset,” he gave a toothy grin.

“Wow, is it just me, or is the sky so much redder than I remembered?” Kurtis’s eyes were glued on the cloak above them, which was dyed a mix of orange and red.

“It does look amazing from here,” Max slumped back, his head lightly resting on the top of the bench. It looked like the sky was coated over them like a painting, with the brush strokes almost like gentle glides.

“Mmm, I think it probably looks as good in our usual lunch spot. But I guess we’re not there to appreciate that,” his voice eventually muted itself as he gazed up at the stars.

He watched the sky drift into a deep blue. Like it was a play at its final scene. With darkness dying above, and only a few sparkles for light and a slim shaped moon. He watched the last winds of colour completely dissolve into black.

“The skyline looks amazing from here,” Max’s index finger traced around the buildings far away like he was carving them out. He glanced over to Danny, his face completely in awe. His pupils were dilated and his lips were slightly parted. “You look like you’re swimming in the stars.”

“I feel like I am one,” he gave a husky chortle. “...it’s amazing.”

“I think your activity was my favourite,” Kurtis murmured through his still expression. “...even though I got an awesome vintage, leather jacket today.”

And Danny, himself, right then, felt his whole body give out. Like it was going limp all of a sudden. And he felt the bottom of his feet tingle, like he was falling into the state of complete bliss. Somehow the sky seemed to be swallowing him, the serene feeling rushing through his body.

And he felt completely at peace with life at that moment.

Chapter Text

“You told me you quit,”

Matt was now lying in their queen sized bed, his whole body neatly tucked underneath the sheets. A cool towel was resting on top of his forehead, the water oozing down to the tip of his nose. Jason was sat beside him, his hand lightly tracing down the features of his face.

“I did…” he mumbled, his voice just audible through his slightly parted lips. “It’s just relapsing.”

“How long is that supposed to last? It’s been so long,” he hunched his shoulders over. “You’ve become so skinny lately. And you seem less responsive. I don’t know...you don’t chime into the conversations as much as you used to I guess. Maybe it’s something that I only realise…”

“I’m getting better. Don’t worry,” his words were muffled. “...the hardest part for me is the urge…”

“To continue doing it?” he nodded stiffly. “Well," he repositioned himself so he could be closer to him. "Don’t give in. Seriously Matt, you’re not going to let it get to you. I know you can overcome this.”

He dug his hand underneath the sheets and shuffled around to grasp onto his hand. When he did so, he could feel how hot he was. He was literally burning.

“You’re burning Matt,” he practically blurted out, tracing the backside of his hand. “Do you need water? Anything to eat? Or do you want to just rest?”

Matt groaned.

“...can you just come here…?” he sleepily raised the sheets, only able to just lift them up a millimetre.

“Of course babe,” he helped him with the motion, quickly ducking under and embracing him. “Anything else?”

“...can you tell me a bedtime story?” he asked, his voice lacking that joking tone Jason wanted to hear. But he chuckled anyway. To fill up the emptiness he didn't want to admit to.

“How old are you?”

“Not only enough…” he snickered. Jason rolled his eyes.

“Fine, okay,” he thought for a moment. “What genre?"

"Fantasy..." he sort of moaned it tiresomely but with an enthusiastic face.

"Once upon a time there was an incredibly beautiful princess. Like she was so beautiful and gorgeous and breathtaking that no one could clock her look,”

“Wow I wonder who that is…” he practically whispered down his neck.

“And she was taken away by this dick with a stupid hairstyle because she was unique and he didn’t like that. He’s basically a communist,” he blabbered, Matt gently laughing.

“And she thought there was absolutely no way out. She was kept in this tower that made her feel claustrophobic. He would never let her out. She had to wake up every single day, knowing that he would ruin that day for her. He used to beat her, punch her across the face and kick her until she turned purple, and she absolutely hated that. She honestly couldn’t find any way to escape it except...ok that’s too dark for a bedtime story,” he cleared his throat. Matt watched his face twitch slightly and he felt his heart nearly drop out of his body.

“But one day, this amazing prince decided to step in. He rode in this cool majestic horse and he rescued the princess. But he wasn’t violent like the asshole. No, he was kind. And he used words to make him back off. And he took her hand and they ran away together to live happily ever after,” he whimsically expressed.

“And she was totally trying to come onto him after that. It was weird, because, they knew each other before but they didn’t get along too well at first. Because she was, admittedly, pretty bitchy. But he saved her anyway because he’s really nice. And even though she got friend zoned at first, they eventually got together. And that was the absolute best moment of her life,”

“Wow that’s really original…” he rested his hands by his waist.

“I know! I made it up all by myself,” he smiled playfully.

“My favourite part hasn’t happened yet though…” Matt’s voice was a tad hoarse.

“What do you mean?” Jason turned around, feeling the heat basically radiating off of his body.

“The part where the princess and the prince run away together forever. And they get married and live the life they truly want to,” Jason blushed at the comment.

“That’s my favourite part too,” he murmured, his sentence quickly cut off by their lips locking.

Jason tasted something he’d never tasted before that moment. It was...bitter. That citrus-like taste that made him feel like something was wrong. But he couldn’t really put his finger on as to why.

“You’re going to stay here forever, right?” Jason couldn’t help but to blurt out, an oddly heavy feeling weighing down on his chest.

“By your side?” He parted slightly to gaze at his eyes. “Of course.”

“Good.”

He felt his arms wrap around him somewhat loosely. And he was sweating, burning behind his own skin but Jason didn’t care. He still loved the feeling of being held like that.

And when he felt Matt's heartbeat settle into an easily countable pace, he relaxed himself. He had lost track of time by then, not knowing how many seconds, minutes or hours went by. All he knew was that his eyes felt heavier and Matt was now falling asleep. But he wasn't that tired. He didn't really care about that feeling. He just wanted to make sure that Matt was happy and he was sleeping. And now he was

And also that face filled with complete bliss was to die for. So Jason glanced up, scanned over his expression one more time, smiled to himself, and let his body ease into slumber.

Chapter Text

Danny was a little thankful when he started recognising the houses again. He was back in the neighbourhood, exhausted and incredibly tired, but still happy with the experience. It was something he’d never experienced before, and thank god he actually did something exciting for once. If only he did that before Brian came so he could’ve bragged about it.

“So who am I dropping off first?” Kurtis decided to drive the last few miles home since Jason seemed tired. Him and Matt were curled up in the back seats, looking as dead as ever. It looked like he struggled to sleep the night before.

“Probably Matt. He doesn’t look too good,” Max replied, his eyes tentatively gazed at him.

“I-I’m okay. Just a little tired,” he rubbed his eyes. “I actually promised to meet up with Brian McCook today.”

Danny widened his eyes a tad.

“I thought he was off with Brian Firkus,” he said, his mind quick to link the two individuals together.

And then the thoughts of relapsing crossed his mind, and Brian M’s current state, and Matt’s and—

“He’s the one who asked me to hang out,” he shrugged. “So I just agreed. And plus it’s only, like, for a few hours since it’s already 1.”

“I’ll probably be heading off to study then. I still need to catch up on that assignment,” Max rubbed his temples.

“The English one? I thought that was a group task,” Kurtis raised an eyebrow.

“I mean, it is but the people in my group seem pretty useless at the task so…”

“Don’t push yourself too hard, okay?” Matt gave him a small smile before uncomfortably shifting in his seat. Yeah, he still seemed really tired and it baffled Danny as to why he wanted to still go out.

“Thanks. But I think I’m fine,” the taller boy grinned to himself.

“And what about you Jason? Where are you off to?” The driver questioned.

“I don’t really have any plans actually…” he thought for a moment. “Hey Danny, do you wanna hang out?”

The younger boy was a little surprised.

“Uh, yeah sure,” he beamed.

“Then can you drop us off at mine?”

The cheerleader’s house was as pleasant as Danny remembered. The large windows made the overall lighting bright, and there was a gentle breeze blowing through which refreshed the younger boy. Its design was much more modernised compared to all the other houses in the area with a lot of open space and simple, block colours.

“Make yourself at home,” he called, Danny losing grip of his luggage by his entrance. “Do you want anything to drink? Anything to eat?”

“I’m pretty full to be honest,” he confessed, following in the taller boy’s footsteps. “That was a pretty big brunch.”

“Tell me about it. I think I’m going to lose this amazingly corseted figure of mine,” he chortled lightly.

“Ha, very funny. You still look fucking great,” Danny chuckled.

“Even though corsets hurts like a bitch, I sort of like it. I like the whole thing. It feels…” he gushed. “Amazing. To feel so glamorous and beautiful.”

“It must be,” he glanced down for a moment, the events of that one Christmas dinner playing through his mind for a split second.

“You’d look great in drag,” he turned the doorknob to his bedroom, letting the younger boy in. “I mean, look at those lips. It looks like you’ve gotten injections.”

“I’d love to try it,” he smiled, sitting down by his bed.

“Yeah?” Jason opened up his closet to reveal a wide range of makeup stacked on top of each other in a box. “It might take a while.”

“No, it seems fucking cool. I wanna do it,” he enthused, clapping his hands together excitedly.

“Okay. Okay,” his eyes squinted slightly as he smiled.

Jason took a seat in front of him, quickly glancing over his features. His palm ran over his cheek lightly.

“Mm, I’ve never worked on your face before, so no guarantees,” he gave a small wink before rummaging through his equipment. “Have you done anything like this before?”

“Uhh...once. Maybe. It doesn’t really count though,” he shrugged, feeling the cold liquid foundation hit his skin. “Courtney dressed me up when we were 8. And then we went to a neighbourhood gathering for Christmas.”

Jason hissed in slight discomfort.

“That’s not good,”

“It really wasn’t,” he laughed it off. “Brad’s dad screamed at me for an hour. And then my mom started crying. And Roy and Court had to comfort me while I sat and cried outside.”

“Jesus Christ, that’s crazy,” Jason shook his head. “Some people are so disgusting.”

“I know. It scarred me for life, trust me,” he rolled his eyes. “Brad teased me every single day for years because of it.”

“Teasing? Or bullying? Because there is a fine line between the two,” Jason patted along his cheekbones with a brush.

“...I don’t really know. I guess I had to deal with it everyday so it seemed normal after a while,” he closed his eyes to let Jason dust along his forehead.

“That’s bullying Danny. And we shouldn’t tolerate people like that,” he exhaled deeply. “It’s a horrible feeling; knowing that there are some things, we don’t have the power to stop. Even though we know it’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening but...there’s nothing we can do.”

“Does Brad still pick on you?”

“Yeah, I guess so. Every single day. It’s getting tamer though. Or maybe the pain from it is numbing,” he shook his head. “Sorry for being a Debbie downer for a second there. But I’m serious, it’s not as bad. I don’t think he really has anything more to pick on me for. He probably thought that I was ruining Matt’s reputation, but now that he quit football, it doesn’t matter as much.”

“I just wish that those type of people would stop pushing others down,”

“But that’s the only way they can remain on top. Why else would they even be up there to begin with?” He harshly pressed a glue stick to his eyebrows.

“Ow! Why are you using a glue stick?” Danny flinched.

“Because, that’s how you get rid of your brows. I’m going to draw on top of them,” he grinned, pressing down harder. “Trust me. I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“You better,” he chuckled.

“Okay, bold or subtle eyes?” he ran through a few of his palettes quickly.

“Bold everything,” he replied with a wide smile. Jason raised an eyebrow.

“Really? It’ll be like...super intense,”

“Just how I like it,” Jason shrugged at his answer.

“I’ll go with it,” the brush was ever so light and fluffy. He stroked along the top of his eyelids. “Have you talked to Courtney after the whole fiasco?”

Danny tensed at the name.

“Uhh...I only talked to her on the day. Like straight after but…” he trailed off.

“Is she okay? Or is she still mad at me?” Danny halted. He wanted to tell him the truth, really, but he didn’t really know whether he should.

The old Danny would’ve stopped there, but he knew better now.

“Truth be told, she’s not. She was really upset over it and we had a minor fight because of it,” he confessed, seeing no real reason to lie to him about it.

“Do you fight often?”

“We don’t fight at all. This must be the first time we have in...a really long time. But I don’t care. I still stand by my actions and I think that she was in the wrong,” he shook his head as Jason parted from his face. “No matter how popular you are, you don’t have the right to tear other people down. Anyways, how are you handling the whole thing?”

Jason exhaled.

“I don’t really care. I mean, I don’t care about other people’s words, whether they say it to my face or not. I was just scared of what Brad and the rest of them would do because of it. And I really regretted doing the whole thing right after it but,” he snorted. “I don’t fucking care anymore. I can just avoid them probably, and they’re none of my business. I’m just hoping that they don’t hassle me since I’m choosing not to interact with them.”

“Do you think they’ll get back at you when we get back to school?”

“Hopefully not. You’d think I’d be used to it by now,” he brushed it aside. “Either way, I'm planning to apologise to Courtney. She’s cheer captain and I feel sort of weird if she doesn’t like me. Since I’m a cheerleader and all.”

“Don’t do that,” he accidentally came off harsher than he intended. “You don’t have to apologise. I’ve been friends with her for years, and trust me, she sometimes needs to realise that reality isn’t picturesque all the time like what she wants it to be.”

“Are you sure?” Danny nodded.

“We’re practically best friends. Well we were…” he pursed his lips. “But trust me. She’ll realise she’s wrong eventually. She just takes a while to come to terms with losing.”

“If you say so…” as a final touch up, he applied a generous coat of lipstick to his fully plumped lips.

He shuffled backwards, easing himself into a position which allowed him to take a look at Danny's whole face.

Jason gasped.

“This came out really well,” he mumbled, a little in shock. “I’m fucking talented.”

“Okay, let me see.”

He hopped off the bed and dashed over to a mirror.

And there Adore was, looking back at him with a big smile. She was more beautiful than he ever imagined. Big, doey eyes sparkling like they belonged to a dreamer. Long, long eyelashes which just dusted along the bottom of his eyebrows, which were fully coloured with a dark charcoal-like colour. Cheekbones chiseled to perfection. Full, soft lips parted to form a gracious smile. He sort of liked how his hair grew out now.

“She looks…” He was taken back.

“You look?” Jason placed his hands by his shoulders.

“...amazing. More than amazing. More than I can actually describe,” he chuckled in slight denial. “I can’t believe it.”

“Well it’s real,”

Danny couldn't tell whether it was Jason or Adore who said that. But it sent a shiver down his spine anyway.

“Umm, I have a few gowns I think you’d fit into. Wanna take a look?”

Adore turned around, her face filled with complete joy. Jason opened up his closet, revealing a wide range of gowns hung up. Wigs were placed on top of the shelves below.

“You’d look good in a red gown. Like a shapely one,” he flicked through the lot and drew one out. “With an ombré wig,” he turned around to glance at her quickly. “Yeah, definitely.”

So he slipped on a wig cap for her, covering the old dark, Danny hair with the new Adore hair which looked like an actual model was shaved for it.

“We need to lace you up,” he pulled out a corset. “Or you’ll have a hog body.”

“A hog body?” She scoffed.

“Yep. A hog body,”

Yeah, Adore didn’t really imagine a corset to restrict her so much. She felt the last of her breath basically being squeezed out of her body before she was able to put on her dress and be deemed appropriate for Jason.

“Okay, now you’re polished,” he smiled, scanning her up and down one more time.

“Maybe I don’t want to be polished,” she pouted, trying to breathe out. “Maybe I’m...polish remover! Yeah, polish remover.”

Jason rolled his eyes and laughed.

“You are so weird…” he stopped when he didn’t know what to call her. He smirked at that.

“Adore. Adore Delano,” it was like she was introducing herself as a completely new person. She felt like a completely new person.

“Well,” he gave a light chuckle. “You look amazing Adore. Do you wanna go out? See the world?”

She scoffed.

“Are you serious? Already?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Why not? I’m sure that everyone’s going to gag over this look.”

Adore paused, looking at herself one more time in the mirror. Confidence suddenly shot itself through her veins, making her feel more awake and lively.

“Sure, why not,” she laughed. “I’d want as many people to see me like this as possible.”

“Yeah, we could head down to--”

And his phone started to ring in his pocket. He excused himself with a simple gesture before holding it up to his ear.

“Hello? Oh hey McCook. You should grab Matt and come down there’s--” he stopped. He gazed at Adore. He then looked down. “...what? Are you being...c-can you slow down a bit I don’t think I can…”

And then the device fell from his hand, falling onto the ground, looking like it was collapsing.

Adore gently leaned down to pick it up, staring over at Jason with the look of complete confusion.

“...hello…?” she chirped worriedly.

“Matt! H-He’s fainted! I don’t know if it’s an overdose or something but he’s not moving and I don’t know what to do.”

Chapter Text

Danny’s legs fidgeted beneath him. His fingers were twitching irritatedly along the armchair and he could feel his heart throb in his ears. His feet were basically running beneath him, going nowhere but feeling like they were. The anticipation ached like hell but he stayed put. He scratched at the skin where he could still feel some foundation left.

Max was pacing back and forth, biting his nails by Danny’s foreground. His eyes were roaming intensely like he was trying to focus on every single little detail on the ground. The younger boy wanted to grab his hands and sit him down so he would take at least a single second to breathe.

“We should’ve fucking helped him! I fucking knew this was going to be bad but did we do anything? No! Fucking no because we’re fucking pussies and-!”

It’s 10pm and the hospital is darkly lit and completely empty. Matt’s whole family is out at his older sister’s graduation so they’re not even in the state. So there’s them, sitting through Jason's echoing rant, brushing away thoughts of sleep, and being the family he needs.

“I want to stab every single fucking person here right now because we did nothing to help!”

Jason screams when he’s upset. He turns everything into anger and starts to burn from the inside out. Until his lungs give out and he takes one last huff. That huff hasn’t come yet. And Danny doubts it’s coming anytime soon.

“Jason, we’re honestly all so upset by this but it’s too late,” Max whispered huskily.

“Jason’s right. We talked about it. We knew what was going on and we did nothing. This is basically our fault,” Kurtis mumbled, his head knocked down completely. His locks shaded his view.

“I wouldn’t say it’s our fault necessarily. His problem was caused by many different factors,” Max tried to keep a straight tone.

“I just want Matt to be okay,” Jason collapsed into his lap, hands over his face and his chest fallen.

“We all do,”

Brian F came rushing in, his body cloaked with a loose hoodie. As he pulled it down, Danny saw how sunken in his eyes were.

“I came here as fast as I could after McCook called me. Do we know how Matt is?”

“He’s still passed out as far as we know,” Kurtis informed, at first strongly, but soon melting into a sense of guilt and worry as he wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into an embrace. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“He’s still in there fighting. And I think we just need to wait until he’s ready,” Danny muttered, mustering up the remaining bits of confidence he had to say something that was much needed. He felt Max’s head fall onto his shoulder for support.

“... do you think he’s going to be alright…?” Max whispered over to him, sounding helpless.

“I believe in him,”

It took hours and hours of waiting. Max was sleeping soundly by his side, his head still resting on his shoulder and now, his hand resting by his lap. And Kurtis was fast asleep by his other side, lying on top of a few of the seats. His head was resting on Brian’s lap, who was already asleep, with his head knocked back.

Danny was barely awake but he was trying to stay up as much as possible...even though his eyes were closing every second he wasn’t paying attention. The clock struck 12 at that moment, and he could feel his hands going numb.

Jason somehow seemed wide awake. Still tapping his feet and rubbing his hands together. Danny would have loved to go over and comfort him, if he could actually get out without disturbing Max that is.

Suddenly, the door creaked open. A slim figure walked through the light to enter the dark. Danny quickly shook everyone awake, regaining a little more consciousness as he watched the doctor approach them.

“You’d all be happy to know that Matt’s awake now,” he informed, pushing up his glasses. “Just regained consciousness. Now, do you know if his family is available?”

Everyone gave a heavy sigh of relief.

“They’re currently off at another state,” Max answered formally, rubbing his eyes and containing a yawn.

“I see…” he cleared his throat. “Do you have their details?”

“Umm yes, of course,” he pulled out his phone, looking through his contacts, his eyes blinking away sleep. Before he could mutter the first few digits of their number, Jason interrupted, his voice cracked and his stance broken.

“Can we go see Matt?”

The doctor looked towards him.

“I don’t know if he’s fully comfortable. He just woke up and--”

“Trust me, I know him hell of a lot better than anyone else on earth. I know what he needs when he wakes up,” he came off firm, maybe too firm, and the older man seemed to be a little taken aback by his words.

He exchanged a quick glance with Max, probably assuming that he was the most mature member, and the teenager gave him a small nod.

“Make sure not to disturb him. He’s still incredibly tired.”

And with that simple comment, he dashed off, gently closing the door behind him.

It must have been half an hour from there when they were allowed to go see him. One by one. It went from Jason, to Max, to Brian, to Kurtis and then Danny. Each session got shorter and shorter.

It was bittersweet. Danny was exhausted, but he was glad to see him. He was happy to know that he was okay. Not as okay as he wanted him to be but...okay. Fine.

But the way he looked in that bed made him think otherwise. He looked frail and pale, like his breaths weren’t properly circulating through his lungs. His eyes were mostly thinned out, making him wonder if he really was awake.

“Lucky last,” he painfully choked out a laugh. “Danny Noriega. How are you?”

“I’ve been better…” he thought it but didn’t say it.

“More importantly, how are you?” he took a seat by a chair messily positioned by his bedside. It looked like Kurtis kicked it aside when he presumably stormed out.

“Eh, I could be doing better,” he chuckled. It made Danny feel nauseous. Stop acting like everything is okay when it’s not. “I’m happy you’re not screaming at me though.”

“What?”

“I-It’s all overwhelming you know...and it doesn't make it any better when all your best friends come in, crying and shouting at you for your stupid mistake,” his head collapsed to its side to face him. “Max crying has always been my least favourite thing in the world. The way he looks is just so…” he paused to swallow. “And Kurtis frustrated makes everything more real. And Brian upset,” he snickered forcefully. “I haven’t seen that in so long,” he stopped when he got to Jason. “...I don’t want to keep ruining things like this with Jason. I accidentally ruin everything with him. All the time.”

“That’s not true Matt,” Danny tried to console him. “He loves you. You know that.”

“I know. Of course I know that. That’s the problem,” his voice cracked. “He deserves the world, and right now, I’m ruining his world. That’s the last thing I want.”

“I don’t think it’s necessarily you who’s ruining it,” he lightly creased his brows. “He’s just worried sick about you. I-It’s you ruining your own world that’s destroying his...if that makes sense.”

Matt’s facial expression seemed to falter a tad at the comment. And then he thinned out his lips and gave a sigh.

“That’s true…” it was a simple statement, but it meant a lot to Danny; the fact that he knew that he was in the wrong.

There was another pregnant pause.

“You just gave me a lot of time to think Danny,” Matt grinned slightly. “I like that about you,” he shuffled to reposition himself to sit up a tad. “I’m trying. I really am. But it’s really hard to get through this all, you know?”

“Yeah, I get it,” he nodded.

“And I guess, to this day, I can’t really fully admit that I have a problem. That I have an addiction…? I suppose,”

“First step is admitting you have a problem,” he clasped his hands together. “And Jason’s counting on you to do the right thing. He loves you so much, you know? If you’re not going to do this for yourself, do it for him.”

The older boy exhaled looking elsewhere to wrap his head around the situation. And Danny gave him the space he needed to do so.

“I needed to hear that,” he confessed, tucking his chin towards his chest. “Thanks Danny.”

“Have a good rest, okay? We’re all going to give you as much time as you need to feel better again,” he gave him one last smile before rising from his chair and heading towards the door.

“W-Wait Danny,” the younger boy’s hand wrapped around the knob. “...can you tell Jason not to worry about me so much? That I’m slowly recovering and he has nothing to worry about?”

“Sure thing.”

And with that, he opened the door to let himself through.

Sorry Matt.

He swallowed and headed back to the rest of his group, who were all sitting around, the mix of relief and worry staining the air.

I can’t lie to him like that.

“Are you ready to go?” Kurtis asked, his words quieter than usual. He zipped up his jacket and exchanged a look with the younger boy.

“Yeah, yeah. Matt needs some space, I think.”

And they headed over to his car, took their vaguely familiar spots, but with Brian replacing Matt, and Kurtis slowly drove home, the atmosphere not thinning out like they all hoped.

You're gonna thank me later.

Chapter Text

Danny was in an odd situation of being tired, but being so tired that he felt awake. Like he was so beyond the feeling of exhaust, that his body seemed to just adjust itself so he felt...normal? But knowing he’s not actually fully awake.

And Max was over at his house, sort of going through that same phase. It was because he lied to his parents about going to a sleepover to see Matt. And Danny’s mom didn't mind that much. Sh giggled it off…? Danny laughed at the thought actually.

Max volunteered to cook them a meal early in the morning. And Danny was admittedly hungry so he was thankful. It was 3am and it wasn’t the best time to eat but, fuck it.

And Max was also totally fine with sharing Danny’s bed. Again…? He wished Roy was like that. Either way, Max was an incredibly pleasant friend to have around.

“I didn’t know you liked spicy food Danny,” they were sat in Danny’s back porch, which the younger boy never went to anymore. It was nice out there though, especially at night. Or morning…?

“I like anything spicy,” he said it in a teasing tone. “And I didn’t know you cooked so much.”

“I mean, I don’t want people to hassle over what I eat, so it’s easier if I just do it myself, so I don’t bother them I guess,” he shrugged. “And plus, it’s a useful skill and I mildly enjoy it,” he looked down at the brunette’s plate. “Already done?”

“Yep,” he licked his lips, wiping off the excess. Max chuckled.

“Wow you’re a fast eater,” he exhaled. “...Matt was too…”

Danny parted his lips slightly at the comment. He’s not going to lie, he couldn't get Matt out of his mind either. At all. Obviously. That was probably to be expected after that but...

“How was it…?” he lowered his bowl into his lap. “You know, talking to him and all that?”

Max sighed.

“It was…” he took a deep breath and thought for a moment. “...very confronting. Very real...I suppose. It’s like brutal truth. Barbarous truth. And it’s something I really hate…” he wrinkled his brows. “I don’t think I was ready for that. And I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for something like that.”

“I’m worried about him,” Danny watched him shift back and give a cracked sigh.

“Me too. Completely and utterly,” Max dropped his bowl down to the ground. “We’ve been friends for so long. He was the only person who had my back for most of my life. And I love all of you guys so much but…Matt’s just so important to me. He’s someone I can never ever replace in my life. You know? His presence is irreplaceable.”

“I get you,” he noted. “I was basically like that with Roy. We’re childhood friends and, everyone hated me except him. No matter what happened. He still looked out for me.”

“That was the literal definition of my schooling life,” he laughed. “It was me and Matt for so long. With Matt being one of the only good things in my life,” he paused. “...I kind of liked him. You know. Like that.”

Danny tried to stop himself from scoffing right in front of him. He never expected him to confess something like that. And the younger boy’s heart literally jumped when he said it.

“For a while…” he sighed into his chest. “It hurt a lot to have those feelings build up. Every single day. Every single moment of school,” he shook his head. “Maybe that’s why I hated Jason at first...because he was taking away the only person that liked me for me. And I loved him because of it…”

The younger boy had so many questions within his mind tumbling on top of each other. He wanted to ask all of them but he stopped. And he breathed. And then he asked a singular one.

“What did you like about him?” he wanted to cheer him up a tad. And he was hoping that this question would help. But then again, he was a tad scared that he was going to miss him even more.

“Well...I don’t know,” he flustered up a bit. “He has really amazing eyes. That was cliche. B-But, you know? I really liked them. They drew me in every time.”

“What else?” Danny watched his eyes float upwards and towards the sky, like he was dreaming.

“He has a really calm personality. It’s kind of aloof, but I like how soothing it is. It’s just so...refreshing to hear his thoughts and opinions. It’s something that’s never been apart of me. It compliments my nervous and hardworking personality. If that makes sense…”

“Yeah, I get that completely,” he nodded. “He’s just...cool. I get that.”

“But sometimes his point of view is a little childish. Naive. It’s kind of cute actually,” he leaned back to press against the chair. “It’s kind of like you.”

Danny widened his eyes, feeling the atmosphere grow quiet for a moment.

Max slowly turned his gaze over to the younger boy, feeling that high of rejuvenation from the night air. He breathed it in one last time, his lungs feeling cold inside his burning body.

He watched Danny’s appearance melt. His dark locks lightening until it became a light brown. It was then cut short, just by his ears. And his complexion grew a tad darker but his rosy cheeks stayed the same. The same pallet of red. And his usual eyes brightened a tad, becoming more thin but just as luminous.

And then the boy was sitting in front of him. Looking both nostalgic and new, but still amazing in every way possible.

He couldn't help it.

With one quick gulp of the intoxicating air, he lunged forward, feeling the other boy dissolve within his own trapping embrace. And he felt his eyes close, the moment soaking into his skin. His lips were soft. Softer than what he would have ever imagined. There was a bit of a spicy taste left lingering, which bounced off his tongue playfully.

And when he parted, he saw Danny again, his eyes circular once again and now, fully stretched out with surprise. Max didn’t even realise what he had done until the moment’s high washed away and he was left, gripping onto his shoulders somewhat firmly.

“Oh my god I’m so--”

Before he could finish his sentence, Danny had smiled. Genuinely smiled. And it made all the words which were tangled in his chest unknot.

“It’s okay,” he reassured, somehow brushing it off with ease. The older boy stuttered for what to say next. “I kinda liked it,” he patted his lips to dry them. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to kiss me, right?”

He chuckled. A truthful sort of chortle.

“You’re starting to sound like Kurtis. Stop it,” he snorted, the air replacing itself with a much more, domestic, nice vibe.

“I’m just saying,” he grinned, coughing. “You’re not too bad either…”

Max choked on his own air.

“D-Danny, don’t say that--!” he tried to scream it but it completely dissolved into laughter.

“What? I’m telling the truth!”

And they laughed in their shared bed, leaving Max to still feel comfortable by his side. And maybe it wasn’t anything. Maybe this wasn’t really as romantic as Jason and Matt, and it wasn’t going to be some amazing gay power couple, but it was nice. Pleasant. The older boy thought that as he leaned over to Danny and hugged him while he slept.

And the younger boy traced over his lips one more time before he fell asleep. He never expected his first kiss to be like that. But he likes surprises.

Chapter Text

“Brian? What are you doing here?”

Brian Firkus. He’s a person that goes after what he wants. He doesn't exactly know what he wants sometimes, but he does dive head first into any opportunity when he finds one. And well, this isn’t something he’d dub as an “opportunity”, but it’s something he knows he wants to do. And he’s gonna do it.

“I came back home to see you,”

And that's what he wants. To help, to be with, and protect Brian McCook.

He just won’t admit the fact that he needs help though.

“I just wanted to stay home today, I guess,”

Brian let himself into the familiar house, going to the lounge room like he usually did. McCook’s house was never that clean, and he learnt to accept that after living there for a bit.

Clothes were thrown everywhere and there were dirty plates lying around. He wondered where the heck his parents were. Maybe they’re trying to give him space right now. Trying to make him feel better because of what happened with Matt. And he’s not exactly healthy either, as of now. But it made Firkus even more uncomfortable because they weren't there. There wasn't anyone else that could be there to look after him.

“Umm...what about school?” he hurried to his side, taking a seat next to him in slight uncomfort.

“I have straight A’s and the rest of the grade are all idiots. I’m pretty sure that I can miss one day,” he reasoned, taking off his jacket.

“But you left this morning to go. What made you turn back?” he started to put away his plates. Something he would do to keep himself preoccupied.

“I realised that school didn’t need me and you needed me a lot more,” he joined his side in the kitchen, stopping the other boy in his tracks, having a handful of dirty plates himself.

“I-I don’t need help, really,” he shook his head, taking the plates from his hands. “I just need to rest a bit. Let my thoughts come back and my appetite.”

He laughed. Brian Firkus didn’t like that though. And he knew exactly what he likes and what he doesn't like.

“Okay, well you’re already failing at the whole “resting” thing,” he grabbed his hand, leading him back into the lounge room and gently laying him down. “Where do you keep your blankets again?”

“In the top draw of the cabinet,” he gave in, sighing to himself. “You don’t need to do this.”

“But I do, that’s the thing,” he smiled, spreading the thick fabric over his body. “Okay, so what do you want to watch? I’m not a big fan of Contact, but I’ll make an exception today.”

“...I don’t really want to watch anything to be honest…” he muttered into the sheets.

“Do you need something to eat then? Drink?”

“I don’t need help. I’m okay,” he tried to push the sheets away from him, but the younger boy quickly grabbed it and shoved him back down. “Can’t you just go back to school? You’re going to go nowhere in life if you don’t get an education.”

He joked, laughing once again at his own comment. Firkus let himself smile a little at it though. He kind of liked it when he did that. Joked around. But he would never admit that to McCook. Because that giggle he does when he's happy killed him on the inside. In the best way possible.

“Shut up and let me take care of you. I’m being nice for once so accept it,” he rolled his eyes. “I might have to stay home for a week depending on how you feel.”

“I’m not the one who had to be taken to hospital,” he glanced aside. Matt. That's the last person Brian Firkus would like to think of. “Maybe you should check up on him.”

“But you were getting fucked with him before it,” he gently ran his thumb across his forehead, checking his temperature. A tad less hot than before. “What was it, anyway?”

“...meth,” the brunette didn’t seem to be able to look at him straight in the eyes.

“You told me you quit,” he said quietly.

“We both did. It was originally gonna be coke but--”

Brian sometimes forgot that his body reacted automatically when he got upset. And he sometimes zones out when it happens. So when he opened his eyes again, that’s when he realised that he had slapped him across the face, forcing his face back. Like his face was completely knocked aside. His voice hitched at that moment.

“Oh my god,” he lunged towards him, cupping his hands by his cheeks. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t-”

“No, I deserved that,” after a moment, he piped out a small chuckle. “It made me feel more alive. If that makes sense…” he trailed off. The brunette snickered achingly, covering his face with his hand. It was nasally and painful, but he couldn't actually stop. “What?”

“I-I can’t believe it,” he laughed. “I am such a bad friend. What the fuck was I doing for the past few years? Was I just sitting around just watching you destroy yourself?”

“I-It’s not that bad. Come on,” he sat up, holding up his chin. “Don’t say that. I fucking hate it when you look sad.”

“I don’t think I can stand to see this anymore…” he ran his fingers through his hair.

“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry for putting you through this,” his gaze softened. “I-I just thought…” he shrugged. “I always thought that I’d rather be known as the creepy weird kid than being known as the gay kid. You know? Royally fucked and drug addict...not fag.”

“But it’s another thing when you’re ruining your body,” he inched his hands towards his lap. “I know it sucks here and I know you want to get out, but at this point, you’re not going to fucking get out. And I don’t want to see that. Because I see you graduating, getting out of this shit hole and living a life you want to. So don’t fucking ruin this for yourself before any of these amazing things happen. You have the rest of your life to live. Don’t let it fall short.”

There was silence for a moment, until the other Brian’s lips fully curled down and he began to weep into his hands. Until his lungs gave out and he broke down into his lap. The brunette cradled him, feeling his cries muffle against his stomach.

“I hate myself. I hate my life. And I really hate where I’m going,” he sobbed. “...is that normal? Feeling like you’re going nowhere?”

“Yeah, it happens to people sometimes. I’ve been there,” he admitted. “But life hasn’t even properly started yet. This is like the “prologue” of our life, essentially, right? We haven’t even graduated yet. You can’t say you hate yourself when you haven’t even grown into your full self.”

“I...I guess so,” he coughed.

“But I don’t care what stage of your life you are. I’m still gonna care about you. And this isn’t okay with me,” he confessed firmly. “I’m gonna love you for you until you learnt to love yourself. Got that?”

The older boy gave a wheezy cackle through that thick fog of cries.

“I’m never gonna learnt to love myself just so you can love me,” he laughed, snuggling a little closer to him. He exhaled into his neck and plopped his cheek onto his shoulder. The younger Brian felt his body shift its weight onto him. “...I don’t want to die. I don’t want to go down the path I’m going down.”

“I’m not going to let you.”

And they lay there together for the rest of the day and then till the middle of night. They binge watched movies that the blonde mostly wanted, but Firkus was fine with that. Okay, admittedly he didn't love all his movie choices, but he was okay.

He glanced down at him, who was curled up against his chest, lazily yawning as he flicked the TV off.

"Are you tired?" he asked, pouting a tad when he watched the younger boy rub his eyes.

"No," he lied. "You?"

"No," he lied back, smiling a little. "I wanna sleep here."

"Okay, we can sleep here then," he smiled, barely opening his eyes. He shuffled down, finding a comfortable spot where Brian McCook could also lie next to him. They exchanged small grins.

"I'm not sleeping until you kiss me," he blurted out, feeling a little stunned himself from the confession. The younger boy laughed.

"Fine," and they gave each other a small peck. One that was both casual and romantic. Somehow at once.

"...I'm not sleeping until you make out with me,"

"Go to sleep Brian."

Chapter Text

“Yeah, sorry to invite you over so suddenly Danny. I just wanted to quickly run over your lines and songs and all that,”

“Dude, I live next door. It’s fine.”

Danny plopped down on Roy’s familiar bed, script in hand. He hadn’t, admittedly ran over his lines all too much, but Danny was a master bullshitter, according to himself. So that meant that he was good...? Maybe.

“How are your lines coming along?” The older boy asked, pulling out a chair. Danny gave a nervous chuckle.

“...fine,” he coughed. Roy shot him a look of doubt before laughing.

“I know you Danny. And I know that you’re bad at remembering lines sometimes,”

“Not true! That’s so rude,” he whined playfully.

“Okay, what about the song? You know, “Freeze your Brain”?” He questioned, looking over his notes in his book.

“I’ve listened to it almost everyday. And I know all the words now,” he beamed, hoping Roy would fall for that charm of his. And it worked. The older boy believed him in an instant and checked it off his list.

“Good job Danny. I knew you’d remember the song,” he nodded.

The younger boy eased into a more comfortable position, a little more relieved. He wasn't technically lying, but the whole "listening to it everyday" thing was a little bit of a hyperbole.

“But why didn’t you just text me? I mean, I don’t care that much since I live next door, but still,” he lay stomach-down on top of his bed.

“Because,” he closed the book. “I wanted to see you,” Danny’s heart skipped a beat. “I haven’t caught up with you in a while and I wanted to see how school was going.”

Danny raised an eyebrow, but quickly brushed it off.

“Aw thanks Roy,” he gave a toothy grin. “I’ve been fine though. I mean, classes are a trek and I don’t like going to most of them. And my teachers are rude. But I like lunch. I like my friends.”

Roy nodded along with his words.

“That’s good. I’m glad you finally found your people,” he sat next to him. “Because I hate Gia and Jay and I can’t believe you hung out with them.”

Danny bursted out into laughter.

“Bitch, why didn’t you tell me earlier?! I would’ve left if you hated them too!” He groaned. “I thought it was just me!”

“Bitch, I did tell you. And you said that you couldn’t find anyone else,” Danny’s laughter settled a little. “Why didn’t you just hang out with me instead?”

“I felt like I couldn’t be with seniors…” he muttered. “...until I actually sat with seniors and realised how fun it was.”

“Well I’m happy you found your people,” he grinned. “It’s good to see you actually happy to go out and do stuff, you know? It’s been a while.”

“B-But it doesn’t beat hanging out with you and Court,” he butted in, feeling unsatisfied with Roy’s expression. “I miss that the most…”

“I miss that too,” he confessed, exhaling. “I think I want everything to be simple again. I guess I don’t want to grow up,” his eyes glanced over the outside world. “Or at least, become an adult in a place like this.”

Danny pursed his lips.

“A-Are you going to leave? After you graduate?” He asked, trying to regain his attention. But Roy seemed faraway mentally. And sooner or later, he was going to be faraway physically. Danny hated the thought of it. He had always hated the thought of it. It was something that he was starting to consider even in middle school, but the closer they approach Roy’s graduation, the more he felt nauseous just thinking about it.

“Maybe. Probably,” he shrugged. “The closer I get to graduation, the more I want to actually just go away. For a bit? Maybe a long while,” he sighed. “I don’t know what it’ll be like but…” he looked over to Danny, who already had his head down and back hunched. He didn't want him to continue. Because if he continued, it meant that he was serious about this. It meant that he had it planned out. And Roy commits to things like this. “Maybe the city? You’ve gone to the city for the long weekend right?” He chuckled. “Tell me. Was it a nice place?” He received no reply. He edged a little closer and raised his gaze. “Was it?”

“C-Can you stop talking about this now?”

Their eyes met, linking together perfectly for a second before Danny blushed and glanced away.

“I don’t really like all this talk about the future,” he shook his head. “I never have. I never fucking have.”

Roy’s eyes softened.

“Are you okay?”

“You guys don’t understand how hard it is to be the youngest friend,” he shouted, coming off louder than he expected. “It always happens. It happened with you and Courtney during middle school, and high school, and now life!”

“W-What are you talking about?”

“You leave me behind!” He sniffed. “...I know you can’t help it, but it hurts. It feels like I’m getting abandoned…”

“But Danny, it’s not like that,” Roy tried to reassure, placing a hand gently by his shoulder.

“But it feels like it,” he looked towards him, his stare a little foggy. “Have you ever bothered to think about how I feel? It’s not a movie. It doesn’t just stop after you graduate. It still keeps going on for me. With people I don’t like, with more priorities I need to deal with.”

The older boy wrapped his arms around him, drawing him into a tight embrace. That’s when Danny felt his heart completely break, making him cry into his shoulder. It was relieving. Painful, but relieving. And the way Roy's clothes folded against his almost trembling body would never get old.

“I’m so so sorry,” he ran his hands through his hair. “It was selfish of me to do,” he tried to shoosh his cries by soothingly running his fingers over the back of his neck. It’s what he used to do often when they were younger. “I didn’t know you were so upset about it, but maybe I was just being self centred and stupid.”

“Y-You weren’t being…” He hiccuped, not being able to fully say the words.

“I’m sorry that you always had to have the burden of being left behind like that…” he spoke softly.

“But it’s not like I ever forgot about you. Trust me,” he parted to smile towards him warmly.

“You’re always on my mind, Okay? If you weren’t, well, I wouldn’t have asked you to be in this musical. Or come over tonight,” he wiped a tear as it swerved around his cheeks.

“Maybe you should stay over at mine tonight?” Danny widened his eyes, taking in a quick inhale.

“A-Are you sure? I mean we have school tomorrow and--”

“Danny you live next door,” he hopped off the bed and reached down to grab his hand. “We can go over now, get your stuff for tonight and tomorrow, and you can stay with me tonight. Like old times.”

Danny smiled widely, his mind not being able to properly wrap itself around the actual situation. He sort of just looked up at him, dumbfounded but incredibly happy, as he accepted his offer and they walked back to his for a few minutes.

It was an oddly nostalgic feeling; having Roy look after him like this again. It felt...right. Like it was supposed to be.

He felt like the 5 year old Danny again, going to his first sleepover with Roy. And the older boy had taken his hand to guide him home, because the youngest boy was so scared of going out of his house alone, even to the house next door. And Roy made him feel better by supporting him through it. Them, together, always felt like it was meant to be. For him anyway.

“I’m sorry my sleeping bag doesn't fit me anymore,” he could feel his tears already drying by his cheeks. Roy gestured reassurance.

“Eh, it’s okay. I figured it wouldn’t. I mean, how long has it been now?” he let out a small snicker. “I mean, we could share a bed maybe?” Danny widened his eyes further than he thought possible. But Roy seemed so nonchalant about it, just moving around a few of his stuff around the room. “If not, then I guess you can crash on the sofa and--”

“No, no, I’m cool with that. Cool,” he hurried to answer, sounding like a complete idiot in the process. Roy just laughed again.

“Okay then,” he put down the load of Danny’s stuff that he was holding onto his desk. “At least you’re not one of those idiots who scream “gay!” when I say that. Some people, right?” He rolled his eyes. “It’s not like you’re gonna wake up with my dick in your mouth.”

I wish I did.

“Yeah totally,” he chortled along.

“You’ve always been so cool with me,” he exhaled happily. “I honestly ask myself why we don’t hang out more often,” before Danny could fully think of an answer (which he already knew was going to be cliche and stupid anyway), Roy continued. “Maybe studies?” he laughed. “Not that you would. Let’s be honest.”

“Shut up!” he chuckled. “I have been taking my studies more seriously! I passed the latest science test, you know?”

“And what was the average?” he sat on his bed, looking over at him amusingly.

“...85%...” he whispered.

“And what did you get?”

“...63%...” Roy cackled.

“Wow, look at you improving,” Danny slumped down beside him.

“Shut up! I don’t even need science for what I want to be,”

“And what do you want to be?”

Danny stopped. And looked up at him. And then sort of froze.

Had he...thought about that? Properly yet? It was probably stupid that he hadn’t at his age but he really hadn’t. Like, at all recently.

“That’s okay. Most people haven’t figured out what they want to do,” he shrugged. “Mine’s really rough. I say I’m going to the city, but let’s be honest, who knows where I’ll be after college.”

Danny was the type of person who liked to focus on the present. He wasn’t always like this. As a child, he liked to think of the future. All the possibilities of the future. Because there seemed to be hope for absolutely anything to happen and he loved that. But now, as a junior in high school, his possibilities seemed shortened, so he just stopped thinking. He stopped dreaming. Because he already knew his dreams would be crushed. But now that his future is coming much too soon, he had to think about it. There was no other choice.

“Are you going to the college around town?” Danny sort of hesitantly asked. He was admittedly scared for the answer. Yes, then well, he would most likely be moving anyway to the city later on anyway, realising how boring it is around here. Or no...he’s moving. He’ll be gone.

When he paused to take a breath, Danny didn’t even need to hear it.

“I was scared of you asking me that,” he chuckled. That chuckle he gave when he’s actually quite frightened of what’s to come.

“Is that why you asked me to come over?” he muttered.

“Not necessarily. I did want to see you,” he crossed his legs and swung himself around to face him. “But it was mostly to spend time with you before I left…”

“Y-You’re joking right? Where is this college?”

“I mean I applied for one near the city but…” he coughed. Danny breathed out heavily. “Danny don’t think about it like that. I’m not leaving you. I’m just going on with my life. You need to understand that.”

“I know but,”

For a moment, he closed his eyes. Took in deep breaths so his head didn’t feel so lightheaded anymore. And so his fists wouldn’t tremble with this confusing state of frustration but sadness. And when he opened them up again, he saw Roy frown at him through his somewhat misty gaze.

“Yeah, yeah I get it,” he sniffed. “I’m so happy for you.”

Roy exhaled into a gentle smile.

“Thanks Danny,” he roughed up his hair a little bit. “But that’s why I sort of wanted to ask what you wanted to be when you were older.”

Danny raised an eyebrow.

“Why does that matter?”

The older boy exhaled and rolled his eyes.

“Okay, this is going to sound incredibly stupid but-”

“No, no, tell me,” the anticipation made him feel a little excited.

“I was wondering if you wanted to come out to the city with me…” the younger boy nearly choked. “...maybe…” a subtle blush brushed along his cheeks, making Danny burn on the inside. Shit. “It depends on what you wanted to be right? I mean I figured something like musician or something like that for you so-”

“No I want to!” he hassled to answer. His heartbeat was uncountable and sweat dripped down from his forehead nervously. Roy was a little taken aback by his answer. “I mean,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah, that sounds...nice…”

“Obviously I’m not expecting you to. It means dropping out of school, and abandoning your life here, and leaving your friends, and-”

“I’m considering it,” Roy stared over at him, and then melted into a giggle and a look of denial.

“I will never understand how your head works,” he snickered. “You have always been so spontaneous and fun. It’s something I lack in my usual day-to-day life.”

Flattery made Danny feel like he could fly. That tingly feeling that rushed through his body made him feel like he would collapse. In the best way possible. Roy was looking towards him with that grin he does when he’s truly happy. And it made him feel like he was truly happy. Ah fuck. He’s so happy. He couldn't help but to just beam back at him. He fought himself internally, trying to force his body not to move whatsoever.

Roy plunged down onto his bed so his back was resting against his sheets. He then looked up at Danny. Okay, did he look good in every angle? Because Danny wasn’t okay with this fact.

“Do you remember how I said you were my childhood?” he began.

At the annual ball. That night. After Courtney. Of course he remembered. He remembered how the air even felt that night. He remembered everything.

“Yeah…” he filtered it all down into one mumble.

“Well, maybe you’re my future too,”

That meant a lot of things to Danny. Endless, endless things to Danny. Like, so many possibilities streamed through his mind.

“Either way I know you’re a really important person in my life,” he looked towards him and ran his thumb over his knees. Danny froze under his touch. Do straight guys often do this? If that’s the case, he really needed to find more straight friends. “And you’re always gonna be.”

“You too…” he breathed out, his mind trying to grasp the current reality. “You’ll always be my favourite person ever,” the older brunette laughed. “Ever and ever.”

“Okay,” he gave him one last smile before yawning. “It’s getting late and we should probably go to sleep.”

Danny pouted.

“But I’m old enough to stay up,” he whined childishly.

“We still have school tomorrow,” he groaned. “Yay,” Sarcasm suited him. “What do you have first period?”

“Maths,” he moaned. “Great. You?”

“English,” he smirked. “Not much better.”

He shuffled underneath the covers. Danny had to confess something. He had slept in the same bed as guys before, obviously. He slept with Max all the time...not like that. But Roy was different. It was somehow nervously exciting but...inviting…? It sort of sucked to think of him like that, in a way, because I guess, this feeling meant that Danny really did feel something for Roy. It meant he really had an undying feeling in his chest that made him still feel thrilled when Roy gave him a charming line or a cute look. Why was he like that? Crushes sounded stupid, but love makes it sound too real.

He was now lying next to him, too close for comfort. But that was because at this rate, Roy could probably feel Danny’s heart beating much too quickly and that made him even more nervous to think about.

He gulped.

“Are you cold? Hot? Just right?” Roy gazed at him.

This couldn't be real. Danny had to be dreaming. He had to be.

“I-I’m fine. Yeah thanks,” he closed his eyes to avoid eye contact. Are childhood friends still supposed to be this socially awkward? Admittedly, Danny did like the rush it gave him. Just a little bit. A very slight bit.

You know, Roy hadn’t changed much if Danny thought about it. The way he softly snored. He was never the type to move that much during his sleep, just from one side to the other in the middle of the night. Danny felt him shift closer a tad. He should’ve slept by then. He really should’ve but he couldn't. At all.

Glancing up, he saw Roy’s calm expression. It melted his heart just watching him, with his eyes closed and lips parted just a tad. He snuggled up to him just a little (barely noticeable, he hoped) and bit down on his lip to contain his smile.

Danny missed him too much.

He realised something that night. There was something about Roy that made him feel amazing. And no one else could replace him like that. Max was a living, breathing example of that. They've shared the same bed, they've spent countless hours together, and heck, they've kissed, which is something Roy and Danny haven't done (yet). But Danny never felt so excited to see Max. Or anxious whenever he looked nervous. Or truly, truly happy when he said something nice to him. Because Roy understood him. And he understood Roy. And they had this connection that no one else could have. It was irreplaceable, and absolutely perfect for Danny. It wouldn't matter how many years went by, because he knew that they have something, in some shape or form. And that meant the world to him.

Chapter Text

“Do you usually drive to school?” Danny asked, zipping up his hoodie. Roy laughed and checked himself in the mirror of his car.

“Nope. But somebody slept in so we’re in a bit of a hurry,” he chuckled.

Danny usually doesn't sleep well in other people’s beds, but surprisingly, that wasn’t the problem for him last night. It was the fact that he was too comfortable. If that made sense. He didn’t really want to...ruin it? Waste it. All that cliche stuff that Danny would never want to admit to.

So he was completely exhausted by the morning. But Roy helped him through it with a nice cup of coffee and a nice breakfast. It was weird to see his parents again for the first time in years. They were as uptight as he remembered. He always wondered how someone like Roy could stem from parents like that. But they were the most typical type of people you saw around the area.

“What class do you have first?” Roy asked, pulling up to their already fairly populated school.

“English, probably,” he rolled his eyes. “Fuck my teacher.”

“Miss Mitchell?” the younger brunette nodded and groaned. “Yeah, she’s a bitch.”

They hop out of the car, Danny reluctantly closing the door behind him. The real question was, how long was it going to be until he saw Roy again? Hung out with him again? Because it had been years until last night.

“Oh hey Danny,”

Damn it Kurtis.

“Hey Roy,” he sort of leaped over to him primly and stretched out a grin on top of his real expression, which was a smirk. A really excited and mischievous smirk. “What are you guys doing?”

Stop ruining this for me.

“Oh uhh…” Danny cleared his throat.

“We hung out last night,” Roy explained casually. “Anyways, I actually need to check up with Sharon about her lines quickly. I’ll see you later, okay?”

"O-Okay,"

And he headed off, leaving Danny with a feeling of annoyance and regret. The moment Roy disappeared from his sight, he glared towards Kurtis, who shrugged it off jokingly.

“What?”

“Really?” he rolled his eyes.

“Were you having a moment? I didn’t notice,” he sneered.

“Leave him alone Kurtis,” Max warned lightheartedly, slapping him on the shoulder.

“What? I’m just having fun,” he pouted, as they entered their school building.

Danny noticed something really odd. It was much easier to walk in a straight line when there’s only three people. Trying to oddly fit five people was always a trek but...it was sort of sad. Knowing that Jason wasn’t okay and Matt certainly wasn't.

“Where’s Jason?” Danny asked, leaning against the lockers as he watched Max unlock it.

“I went to his house today in the morning and apparently he’s sick,” Kurtis said. “Like vomiting, according to his parents.”

“I’m planning to go over to his house this afternoon,” Max grinned to himself like he was a tad confident in his planning. “I’ve done it plenty of times before and I know how to make vegetable soup perfectly so he loves it.”

“But I don’t think he’s sick like that…” the tallest boy’s smile grew quiet.

“I wish I could do something to make him feel better,” Danny sighed.

“Well…” the brunette began. “There is something but…”

“What is it?” he chirped.

“Jason wants to quit cheerleading,” Kurtis explained. “He sees no point in doing it anymore since Matt quit football,” Max closed his locker and they began walking down the hall again. “So maybe you could give a heads up to Courtney?”

Danny gulped.

“S-Sure,” he plastered on a smile.

“Great,” he beamed. “He’ll appreciate it. Trust me.”

At this point, Danny would basically do anything to make Jason feel better and...well if this would really make him feel better than he guessed that he’d do it. Even though that meant confrontation with the childhood bestie that he made cry over the most intense fight they ever had. But you know, it’s okay.

So he went to the basically dead oval at the end of school. He saw Courtney, her hands on her hips, standing in front of her squad, nodding along with Alaska’s quick and sharp counting. Danny hadn’t seen them perform this properly for a while. He was pretty sure that they had a competition coming up. Maybe...? He’s sure that Courtney told him about it somewhat recently.

He didn't want to disturb it. You know, it was important and all that. So he waited until they took their final position to then run up to Courtney and lightly tap her shoulder to get her attention. She basically whipped her pony around, eyed him sharply, then breathed down on him until he shivered.

“Hey Court?” his throat was dry. “C-Can I talk to you quickly?”

She turned around and glanced over her team once again.

“Take five,” she shouted. Danny watched the human pyramid dissolve into nothingness as he turned his stare over to the blonde again. “What do you want?”

Danny doesn't like the way Courtney sounded when she was mad. She always sounded like the biggest bitch. Those typical high school bitches. And he knew that Courtney wasn't really like that.

“Umm…it’s just about Jason,” he whispered, somewhat unconsciously. “He wants to quit.”

“Oh…” she pursed her lips. “Okay. I’ll tell the coach,” she nodded to herself. “Is that all?”

Danny paused. This meant that Courtney wanted to hear something. Something very specific. Unlike most guys out there, he was pretty good at guessing what Courtney, and typical girls, were referring to within their minds. He liked to think that he could read girls’ complex thoughts. He told Roy that once and he called him a sissy. But fuck it, maybe he was.

“Courtney,” he started. “We need to talk about what happened at the Annual Ball,” she crossed her arms at the comment. Well, it was exactly what she wanted to hear. “Or more, what happened to us. And our friendship.”

“Or what’s left of it…” she muttered under her breath. Danny knitted his brows together.

“Look Courtney, I don’t want to start shit like this but-”

“Court?”

Willam had cut him off somewhat harshly, which Danny expected anyway, and swooped to the head cheerleader’s side, placing a hand by her hip to basically shelter her. She reeled her in closely and narrowed her eyes at the junior. No matter how much taller Danny was, he still gulped when she eyed him down like that.

“Is he giving you trouble?” her voice slurred with annoyance. Courtney eyed her with gratitude, smiling a tad at her action.

“No, he’s fine,” she brushed off. Willam jerked her eyebrows and eyed him head to toe. He felt like he was literally getting a TSA passenger screening at an airport.

“Okay, I’ll cover for you then,” she patted her soothingly. “You go talk to him.”

She gently pushed her over to the bleachers, Courtney then guiding Danny to follow her too. They took a seat by the first row as they watched the squad reform again. Danny always secretly liked the uniforms. It always looked so cool and...well, prestigious. They’re top shit at their school, so obviously its looked up to.

Danny sighed for a moment.

“I’m sorry that I yelled at you,” the younger boy apologised, his voice a tad hesitant. “I shouldn't have done that.”

“You never have done that…” Courtney bit down on her lip. “It was really different...actually,” she ran her fingers through her hair. “It made me think though, about what happened, and how I reacted because of how real it was. And how stupid I was being.”

Danny nodded.

“I honestly wasn’t planning to scream at you like that. No matter how mad I was, I wish I handled it better,”

“Me too,”

They exchanged a look of gratitude, not as soft and smiley as what they both hoped for, but it was something.

“I was hoping that Jason would come back today,” the blonde confessed. “I wanted to apologise but…” she cleared her throat. “I heard about Matt, and I’m guessing…?”

“Umm, yeah sort of,” he shook his head. “Wait, how did you know?”

“Brad’s telling everyone, actually,” the younger boy widened his eyes. “Matt’s parents called his, and they’re starting this whole drug awareness thing at the church. I don’t know too much but-”

“Are you serious?” Danny almost snapped. “S-Sorry, it’s just so…” he grumbled. “I wish they would respect him.”

“Have you gone to see him?” Danny nodded.

“Yeah…it was. Really real. Like, confronting, seeing him like that,” he pressed his lips together firmly. “So I don’t want people going around and spreading shit, you know?”

Courtney placed her hands on top of his.

“I’m gonna shut down everyone who ever brings it up, okay?” she calmingly ran her fingers down his hand. “I have your back.”

His eyes saw a flash at that moment. He saw her, as a young girl, grabbing onto his hand, there to support him with a serious expression.

“I’m gonna become super super popular! So I can rule the school and tell them to back off!”

It echoed within his mind.

He blinked and rubbed his eyes.

“T-Thanks Court,” he glanced away. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too,” she wrapped her arms around him, bringing him into a tight hug. “I missed being with you. Like this.”

“Me too,” they parted, intertwining their fingers together. “But the whole thing also made me think. A lot.”

“What about?” she encouragingly brushed her thumb over the back of his palm.

“...did you want to get the crown so you could keep up your image?”

Courtney paused. She looked at him. Looked down again. Sighed. And gazed towards him.

All of that meant virtually one thousand words for him.

“I knew it,” he glanced over at their squad again, going over their routine precisely with Alaska’s quick counts. He sighed. “You know, you don’t need to hide behind a picturesque view of yourself to be happy,” he tried to grin. “You’ll be much happier if you just expressed yourself naturally,” she didn’t reply with anything direct. It was something...undetermined, in a way. “That’s why you wanted the crown, wasn’t it? Because that way, you can end the year with the image that you’re perfect, and amazing and you’re the person everyone wants to be. But you know that this isn’t the person you want to be. It’s the person everyone else wants you to be. So you go along with it.”

Her gaze fell into her lap. So low, that Danny couldn't meet it.

“B-But I’m a head cheerleader,” she started, her voice a tad cracked. “I have a perfect family, I live the perfect life. I’m even blonde for god sake,” she shook her head. “I’m literally the definition of what Marina wants to be in “Teen Idle”,” she laughed. “What more does life want?”

“It’s not the true you, you want to be,” he raised her eyes. “I know you. I know you want to truly be with Willam and you want to--”

“Stop,” she snapped. “Don’t say that.”

“Don't you think I saw the way you looked at her just then? Or the way she looked at you?”

“Just stop it…” she looked towards her cheer squad again, looking as perfect as you expect, but not feeling anywhere near perfect. “...the more you say it out loud…” she muttered. “The more I might actually believe it…”

“Maybe it’s because it’s the truth…?” his grin fully spread itself out onto his lips. He collected a single tear which was about to roll down her cheek.

“I don’t want it to be…” her bottom lip quivered. “I don’t want any of this to be. I want to be satisfied with what I have. I literally have the High School American Dream. Why am I wasting this? What God gave me?”

Danny parted his lips and rubbed away his appending frown.

“You have the chance to be happy, you know?”

“You know I don’t Danny,” the way her words curl at his name made his heart pulse achingly. “It’s so much easier said than done. If life and God is telling me to be one way, then I have to be that way. I’m so lucky, to have all this, and why would I waste all of that?”

“But maybe if God is really out there,” he collected her gentle hands within his. “Shouldn't he be happy for you being yourself?”

Her eyes widened at the comment.

She gently smiled.

“Maybe,” she lightly chuckled. “Maybe not,” she glanced over at them again, well, more specifically Willam, who was taking charge of her role, her hips cocked out as she clapped her hands. Courtney liked it when she was firm and a tad bitchy like that. She knew what she wanted, and that was a whole lot more than what she could ever do. She loved it. “Hopefully.”

Danny smiled at it. Smiled at her being so happy like that. It was a weird sensation, knowing how much someone loves someone else without them even realising. He knew he was going to laugh about this one day. He knew he was going to see Courtney and Willam in like 4 years time, and they’d be together, and really really happy, and they wouldn’t be in a shithole like here. They’d be out in the city where they would be happy. And Courtney can go to that vegan cafe he saw once. And Willam would accompany her and order for her and it would be so cute. And sometime s Danny would come with Roy and--

He coughed.

“...gay…” he whispered, making her snap over and sneer.

“Shut up,” she slapped him on the shoulder.

“Seriously though,” he grinned. “Marina and the Diamonds? That’s the single handedly most lesbian thing you could’ve said.”

“Jesus Danny,” she slapped him again. “I’m going to slap you in the face you dog if you don’t shut up!”

They suddenly bursted out into laughter, squeezing each other admiringly.

Willam watched over them, smiling to herself as she concluded their practise session. Alaska hopped off the top of the pyramid, joining her side.

“Your stares make it a little more obvious, you know?” she teased, glancing down at her with a wide smirk. Willam rolled her eyes.

“What are you talking about?” she denied casually, brushing down her skirt and walking over to the pair’s side.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” she snuck in a quick little nudge and a punch before they entered Courtney and Danny’s view.

“Practice is over. Do you wanna head over to mine?” Willam asked coolly, brushing off Alaska’s chuckles.

“Umm, sure I’d love to,” the blonde hopped up and gave a coy smile to Danny.

“Oh actually, I’m busy this afternoon. I’m hanging out with Sharon for the musical,” Alaska slumped her bag over her shoulder. “So I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”

“Okay, bye ‘Lasky,” Courtney waved goodbye, eyeing Danny to scatter too. “So you wanna head off?”

“Yeah,”

Danny thought they stood too close to each other for it to be platonic. And Courtney would laugh a tad too long to be considered friendly. And Willam would brush past her hand and linger there a moment too long for it to be not intimate.

“Wait, I didn’t bring anything though,”

“Oh come on Court, you stay over, like, all the time. I have a pile of your clothes and PJs at my house. It’s cool.”

Chapter Text

Courtney didn't let many people make her over like this. So she was sort of wondering why she was totally fine with Willam, standing way too close to her, with a brush that’s completely dripping in glitter, dabbing at her eye somewhat harshly. Actually, she couldn't really tell if she was being harsh. Maybe this was her usual force.

When she opened her eyes again, she saw herself virtually looking like Willam, maybe a little softer on the features.

She scoffed.

“I look…”

“Amazing,” her friend sat next to her on the bed. “I know.”

“...just like you,” she mumbled.

“Yeah. So great,” she shrugged. “I know.”

She blinked.

“I look like a hooker dressed as Britney Spears, dressed as a rejected cheerleader from Glee who’s trying to look like Farrah Moan,” Willam suddenly swooped down to her side, cupping her cheeks and scanning her for a second. She seemed to be inspecting her intently.

“Oh nah, you’re prettier,” she grinned. “Much prettier.”

She parted, leaving a somewhat stunned Courtney, who could only just swallow as she shuffled slightly in her chair. She glanced at herself in the mirror one more time. She smiled.

“I sort of like it though,” she tossed her hair back. “Maybe I should wear it for a competition one day.”

“Yeah, the glitter looks great from the stands,” she shoved her hand into the bowl of popcorn, crunching on a handful. “It’ll overshadow your smile though.”

“T-Thanks…?” she somewhat took the compliment. “Anyways,” she swung herself around. “How do you think the squad’s going? You know, with formations and all that.”

“I think it’s going pretty well,” she handed the bowl over to Courtney, who took a few and popped them in her mouth. “We could be a little tighter but we have a few more weeks. In saying that, that ending pose is utter shit,” Courtney bursted out into laughter. “It’s a tall-ass human pyramid that falls apart every time we get to it. And we haven't even placed you on the top yet. What the fuck are we going to do?”

“I don’t really know,” she hummed. “As cheer captain, I’m thinking of repositioning a few members. And maybe think up a new position."

“This is why we shouldn't put some airhead like Tatianna at the bottom,” she rolled her eyes.

“Maybe we need another guy for support…?” she suggested.

“How quickly can we get another guy?” she asked. “Well, unless you want me to-”

“For the last time Will, I’m not going to accept guys who come onto the squad, soelely because you sucked their dick,” she groaned.

“Just a suggestion,” she nonchalantly brushed off.

“Oh!” an idea sprung to her mind. “What about Jason? Maybe we can get him back again.”

“Oh that gay guy?” the other blonde opened her eyes a tad. “I doubt it. Bad news, his boy toy dropped out of the football team.”

“Are you talking about Matt?” Willam looked over at her with actual confusion.

“Yeah. Who else would I be talking about?” she cocked her head to the side. “It’s, like, super obvious. Or is it just me?”

“Um...now that you mention it…?” she was lying. She really didn’t know. Like, at all. She spent most football games, if not performing, thinking about what she would do after. Or gossiping with Willam and Alaska. Or staring at Willam. Scratch that last point.

“And who wouldn’t, right? He’s like,” she kissed her teeth. “Super good looking.”

“Totally,” lie #2. Willam laughed.

“You can’t say that. You’re dating Dan, remember?” she joked.

“Totally,” somewhat of a lie #3. She sometimes brushed that fact off. And sometimes meant all the time. He’s sort of a...second thought sometimes. He would come over in the mornings while she’s at her locker, which was luckily situated right next to her friends’, and he’d give her a quick peck, maybe grab something if he’s feeling like an asshole, and they’d walk down to their first period class and give that quick parade-like march to showcase their amazingly picturesque look. And then she would run off with Willam, quietly wiping her lips in the process, and join her in a much more pleasant and nice conversation.

“But you can appreciate, obviously, right?” jesus stop asking these questions, I don’t care.

“Totally,” lie #whoeverthefuckcares. This is Courtney’s go-to line when she’s bullshitting. “Anyways, Jason. Let’s get him back.”

“How?” she raised an eyebrow.

“I’m best friends with Danny. Virtually. I bet I can convince him to convince Jason,” she gestured.

“Good luck with that,” she grinned. “In the meantime, I’ll figure out what to do with our current squad with ‘Lasky.”

“When? ‘Lasky’s out with Sharon. Tonight and tomorrow,” she explained. “Another sleepover.”

Willam grumbled.

“Is there something going on between them?” she moaned. “I’m being fucking serious. They’re always together.”

“I don’t know. We hang out a lot too, right?”

That’s when it hit her. Was there something between them? In a way that was similar to Sharon and Alaska’s? Because it sort of...seemed like it. They hung out often, they were touchy-feely, they were comfortable around each other--

“I guess so,” she shrugged off way too quickly for Courtney’s liking. “I don’t know. Alaska seems so much happier when they’re together...if that makes sense.”

“Who knows? Maybe we’re shitty friends,” they both laughed.

“True. That’s probably why,” she chuckled off, slumping down on her bed. Courtney shuffled over to her, lying right next to her. Like they usually did on Friday nights. They’d clasp their hands together, and the older girl would giggle into her neck.

“Okay, I need to get this shit off of my face,” her lips lightly grazed her right shoulder. Was that normal? Normal, girl-friends do that, right? Specifically “girl-friend”, not “girlfriend”.

“I’ll help,” she answered back, as they both sat up.

“You better actually help. Last time you sent snapchats to ‘Lasky of mascara smudged across my face,”

“It was a one time thing. I swear.”

Chapter Text

Watching a movie, eating a nice lunch, and wandering around the mall was something that Danny missed too much. How long had it been? He probably hadn't done it since even middle school. Since he’d done this with Roy and Courtney. The original trio.

“Courtney, that looks disgusting,” Roy laughed, jabbing at her plate with his fork.

“Well, it’s not,” she squealed back. “It’s vegan cheese, and gluten-free bread with rocket and-”

“That sounds stupid,” Danny grinned, picking at his own plate, which was basically clean now anyway.

“It’s called ‘health’ Danny,” she pointed out with a sharp but still playful tone. “I need to be in tip, top shape for the cheerleading competition coming up.”

“How is that going?” Roy asked.

“Great, mostly,” she swallowed down her food.

“Yeah, it did look pretty great when I saw it in rehearsals,” Danny smiled.

“The only problem is…” she pressed her lips together. “The human pyramid, which is our end position, isn’t that great. It’s just so...imbalanced. And it doesn't work.”

“That sucks,” Danny tried to sympathise with her.

“Yeah…” she sighed. “But I mean, we could bring Jason back and all…”

She gave a small smile, which the younger boy quickly picked up. He rolled his eyes and chuckled a little. He shoved aside his plate.

“I mean I can ask him but-”

“Great. Cool. Thanks,” she grinned. Danny snorted.

“Is that why we came out here?” he sipped on his glass of water somewhat amusingly. Roy raised an eyebrow, like he was supporting his view and he looked over to Courtney.

“What? No, I mean,” she pursed her lips. “Not necessarily.”

“Court,” the oldest boy eyed her firmly. “Is there something you’re not telling us?”

“Can I just say that I’m very happy to be here?” she noted, to begin. “Like, I’m incredibly happy. I missed you guys and it’s been a great day.”

“Cut the shit Court. Did you invite Danny out to get Jason back on the squad?” Roy asked in an overly dramatic tone. Like a voice you expect from a crime-thriller drama.

“Maybe,” she squeaked out. “B-But it’s been a great day and-”

Danny bursted out into laughter.

“You sound so guilty,” he chuckled. “I don’t think you’re cut out to be a popular girl Court. You need to be more remorseless than that!”

He enthused jokingly, making Roy laugh too.

“Oh shut up! I can be such a bitch if I want to,” she argued back childishly.

“Can not,”

“Can to,”

“Can not,”

“Jesus shut up!” Roy cracked up. “You two never change, do you?”

“Nope,” they chorused with a sing-song voice.

“Okay, what about this?” he began. “We’ve all finished our meals. Why don't we get ice cream-?” as Courtney opened her lips, Roy quickly managed to rush past her and cut her off. “Or sorbet,” she nodded. “And then maybe walk home. If we want, we could actually come over to mine. My parents are out tonight, so we could watch a movie or whatever.”

Danny’s face completely lit up.

“We totally should! That sounds great,” he enthused, instantly looking towards Courtney for her approval.

“Yeah okay,” she grinned. “I was planning to meet up with Willam tonight but…”

“I thought you saw her yesterday,” Danny tried to nudge her, but it was so subtle that it ran under Roy’s radar, and kind of hers too.

“Yeah, but we see each other a lot,” she shrugged.

“Don’t girls usually do that though?” Roy pointed out.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Courtney agreed, brushing it off obliviously.

Danny was somewhat upset that neither of them realised what he was trying to hint at.

In saying that, maybe it was unconsciously, but Courtney continued to talk about Willam. It wasn’t originally just about Willam. It was also about Alaska too, after Roy brought up the musical. And then she talked about all the latest gossip while they ate their dessert and wandered home, with a whole tub of sorbet which Courtney accidentally bought because of the temptations. She threw the whole 'health' thing out the window. Then it went to cheerleading. To Willam and her really stupid stunts at parties. Then to Roy warning her about parties. And Courtney confessed to them that she sort of hated that life. That “popular life”.

And then they were sitting on top of Roy’s sofa, the TV softly playing in the background, after hours and hours of talking. And they didn’t even realise that they had been talking for around 6 hours straight.

It was probably a normal thing for teenagers; to talk for hours on end because when you’re that young, conversations are like a bottomless pit. Topics fall and fall until you find something else, and like Alice, you latch onto another topic when you find it, and you do that a couple of times I guess. Especially teenage friends. Best friends.

“I don't even want to do it sometimes, you know?” she wailed, on her fourth bowl of sorbet. She was basically in tears - that state that most girls went through when they were going through a break up. But this wasn’t a break up. Somewhat sadly.

“Yeah, it’s okay Court,” Roy tried to sympathise with her. Even though he didn’t understand it at all.

“We have talked about this before,” Danny tried to hint at an earlier conversation. And she looked over at him, and narrowed her eyes just a tad. "You know? Labels, expectations, being "fake"...?"

Courtney shook her head.

"Quit it Danny," her words sharped a little.

“What’s he talking about?” the brunette asked, somewhat concerned.

“Umm…” she murmured. Her eyes instantly went over to Danny, a little cautious. He boomeranged the gaze back, trying to smile a little to push Courtney forward. “Stuff happened between us.”

“The annual ball thing?”

“Kind of, yeah,” Danny shrugged. “We talked about that...and…?”

“I don't think Roy should know,” she argued.

"Begins with W..." he hinted again. But it made Courtney more anxious.

"Stop it,"

"Something to do with the letter "L"...?"

"I mean it, shut the fuck up,"

The harsh word made Danny both nervous and upset.

"Why the fuck not?"

“What shouldn't I know?”

“Why can't Roy know?”

“Because he doesn't know,”

“Doesn't know what?”

“I think he should know,”

She paused. Danny looked at her, his eyes bulging with anticipation. And Roy just sat beside him with utter confusion. He felt like he was standing outside of a little bubble that the other two were apart of.

“It’s something really stupid though,” she pulled out a cry, her bottom lip quivering just a bit. When Courtney's shaky, it made the other two shaky.

“I bet it’s not,” Roy stretched out his infamous smile. Could fool anyone. And it fooled Danny every single time.

Courtney inhaled and exhaled incredibly deeply. So deeply, that she didn’t even realise that she could breathe that much. Her chest was achingly pulsing within her grasp, and it made her gaze foggy and misty. Her head felt light all of a sudden.

Then there was a pause, where she hitched her breath and the other two leaped over to her in concern.

“Courtney, are you feeling okay?” the oldest boy swooped down to her side, lightly curving around Danny to inspect her. “You’re giving me that look of concern you pull when you’re about to pass out. If this is so serious, you don’t need to-”

The two boys looked at each other for a moment. Danny was sure that Roy would understand. The whole Willam thing. The whole coming out thing. Right?

Roy, on the other hand, was still confused, trying to catch onto the little hints of detail Danny expressed on his face. He didn't get it though. Like, at all.

What they were more worried about, was Courtney. She looked physically drained. Like all the life was sucked out of her. And she inhaled one more time, looking like she was gathering all the force she had left inside of her to say what she was just about to say.

But there seemed to be one more thing that was holding her back. That force that was building in her chest. That overwhelming sense of anxiety that stopped the flow of her words. But with Danny's warming smile and Roy's genuine affection, it gave her one more push. A push that she really needed at that moment, that peeled open her lips to finally say it.

“I’m a lesbian.”

Chapter Text

Roy almost laughed. Like he found it funny enough to actually not believe it. But he stopped when she didn’t gain any more colour onto her face. And plus, this wasn’t her type of comedy.

“W-What did you say?” he let out one more chuckle to try and sweeten the mood.

“I-I’m…” she felt like she was choking on her own words. And she couldn't bare to say it again because she felt sick. She felt like she couldn't swallow.

Roy snapped his attention to Danny.

“Is she being serious?” he was so baffled. You could just tell by his face. “Danny, she has to be kidding right?” the youngest boy didn’t even need to answer that. He just gazed up at him, his eyes wide and circular, sweat dripping from his forehead. “Are you actually kidding me?” he stared over at Courtney with absolute discomfort. “What about Dan? How long have you been together now?” she stiffly shrugged, hiccuping. “What does he mean to you?”

Danny instantly lunged over to her, wrapping his arms around her nearly trembling body. She looked so skinny and frail and almost defenceless.

“Roy, she’s trying to come out to you. Can’t you be a little nicer than that?” his voice was firm.

“I-I’m just trying to comprehend it,” he reasoned harshly. Courtney sniffed. “I don’t get it. At all.”

“But it’s not for you to get,” he argued. “It’s for her to understand. It’s apart of her identity and the least you can do is-”

“But I want to understand it,” he snaked his gaze around him and towards Courtney. “You’re one of my best friends and I’m trying to wrap my head around this fucking situation!” he yelled, sending shivers down both his friends’ spines. “Why are you now telling me that you’ve been in the closet? Does Dan know? Does anyone else know?”

“I’m the only one…” Danny mumbled back.

Roy widened his eyes.

“Do you have a thing with Willam?”

“What? No!” Courtney spurted out through thick tears. “I-It’s not like that.”

“Is that why you always go out with her. Hang out with her?” he shook his head. “Is that what you've been doing behind closed doors?!”

“Roy calm down!” Danny screamed, so much louder than he wanted and he imagined. But it made the boy halt and stay silent. “I-It’s not Court’s fault. She was born like this, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. No one can do anything about it,” he felt Courtney brush against his arm. “But there is nothing wrong with it either.”

“Danny, you need to understand that-”

“Whatever you’re going to say,” he began, realising that this was probably the first time he properly cut him off. “Make sure that you think it through. Because whatever you’re going to say is going to determine whether we’re all friends or not.”

Roy gulped.

“D-Danny, what are you saying?” he crinkled his brows. But Danny didn’t stand back down.

“Courtney’s love for herself matters more than whatever friendship we have,” his words trembled. “Because I need to make sure that she can have enough strength in herself and her identity. This is going to affect her for the rest of her life, you know that right?”

Roy gulped again.

“You two mean the world to me, you know? I’m don't want to judge you Court,” he rationed. “I was just confused,” he was trying to clarify calmly. “But you need to understand something. I’m going to be worried about you. The stares, the looks, all the rumours that’ll spread around,” she glanced away from his strong gaze. “Do you see how this school treats Jason? And he’s still considered closeted.”

“I-I never said I wanted to come out,” she stammered. “I just wanted to…” she tilted her head to the side to puzzle-piece it underneath Danny’s chin. “...tell you. That’s all.”

Roy gave an uneasy sigh.

“Well,” he sat back down, trying to relax himself as much as possible. “Okay. Thanks for telling me.”

It was an answer that was much too simple for Roy. Too short. Too unfinished. It meant that he was confused. And he didn’t know how to plant his feet back into the ground again.

“So…?” Danny started. Mostly because whatever his answer was, his true answer, was going to affect him too. In a way.

He didn’t want to be selfish in this situation, because this was a challenge for Courtney more than him at this point, but in reality, it really did affect him. Because if Roy really was still homophobic, that means he would never like Danny again. Nonetheless understand him and feel comfortable around him. He could imagine Roy thinking of all the times they hung out, how they slept in the same bed, shared food...Danny wondered if he found him disgusting if he ever found out. It made him feel incredibly self-conscious.

“I don’t understand what the creation of the universe had to do with who you love and who you can’t,” he stated, shrugging. “So religion isn’t going to get between us,” the others widened their eyes. “Even though it’s not something that’s completely accepted within this community..." he halted to take a small sigh. "And maybe me...in a way, because that's how I was brought up to think but,” he opened his arms up, like he was inviting her in for a hug. "I don't want to get in the way of this relationship. Sorry for coming off so strong earlier, I tend to do that. But, I want you to know that I accept you, and I’m going to try my best to support you,” she instantly wriggled out of Danny’s grasp to lunge over to him and cry into his shoulder for relief. He patted her calmingly and smiled into her neck. “Because I love you. And something like this isn’t going to get in the middle of that, ok?”

His eyes roamed up, meeting Danny’s. And for a moment, their eyes locked perfectly into a gaze of awe. For that moment, Danny swore that Roy gave him a little wink, like he was hinting towards something. But he could’ve been hinting towards anything, really. Whether it was what he said before about protecting Courtney, their rekindling friendship or...sexuality. He didn’t really know. He hoped it was the latter.

“Okay, but it is getting late,” he parted from their embrace. “We’ll walk you home now, okay? Make sure to get some sleep, and,” he nudged her. “Whenever you need someone, call me, okay? I got you.”

All three of them exchanged warm smiles. Smiles filled with absolute perfection. They were forever.

Chapter Text

Courtney went home that night, after dabbing her cheeks dry, and she slept soundly and calmly in her own bed. Danny, on the other hand, accidentally stayed over at Roy’s house again. He didn’t mean to. It just sort of happened.

But it was somehow even better than the other night. He couldn't get a grin off his lips as he tucked himself into bed right next to Roy. The older boy’s head fell to his side, smiling towards Danny with a sense of tiredsomness.

“Today’s been…” he mumbled through his lips, looking physically drained. “...tiring.”

Danny chuckled.

“I get you. Completely,”

Yeah, Courtney coming out, before him too, was the biggest shock of his life. And it seemed to drain everything out of his body, leaving him to sort of go numb. But it worked out in the end. After an odd fight that he never thought they would have.

“...sorry for shouting at you earlier,” he pressed his lips together.

“It’s okay,” Roy exhaled. “I deserved it. I was being the biggest douche bag. I hated myself in that moment,” the younger boy glanced down at the comment. “I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I can’t believe it took me that long to actually say something nice to her.”

“I-It’s understandable,” he tried to lift up his spirits. “Have you seen what this place is like? This school? This neighbourhood? Everyone’s so much more hateful than you are.”

“I’m scared it’s getting to me,” he confessed with a deep voice. “I really don’t want to push her away. And people like her, you know? What if they’re my friends? I don’t want to ruin it just because I’m a homophobic asshole.”

Danny gently smiled.

“It’s okay Roy. You’ll never push me away,”

He widened his eyes.

Danny gasped at his own words, flustering instantly as he felt himself shiver.

“I-I meant because you’re homophobic and you’re against people I know. I didn't mean like-” he laughed nervously. “That sounded stupid, I’m.”

“Danny,” he cut him off.

He sort of groaned, like he was somewhat conflicted. And he brushed his fingers through his hair and let out a long sigh.

“Okay. Look, whether you are or not, I don’t care. This,” he guided his hands between them. “Between us. As friends,” that stung him. “Won’t ever change. But, just know that…” he pursed his lips. “This process for me...i-it’s not going to be quick and easy. I’m trying my best to get over it. What I’ve been taught and all that but…”

“I’m sort of confused…” Danny confessed with a small chuckle.

“I’m trying to be okay with Court, and probably Jason and everyone like that but,” he bit down on his lip. “I don’t think I can fully accept anyone yet. If they’re in a relationship, like, if Court begins to date Willam, or some other girl…” Danny felt his heart crack a little. “I don’t think I can accept that. I don’t think I want to see them hug, or kiss...especially guys.”

That’s the moment his heart completely shattered into a million pieces. Millions and trillions of small pieces that were blowing away in the wind. With his small exhale. And he felt his chest completely fall onto itself, like his heart was beating without an actual time signature.

“R-Right,” he just managed to choke out, the words scratching the sides of his throat.

“It’s not like I’m against them. Like, it’s not like I hate them in anyway, it’s just like. I don’t want to see it. It’s what you’re taught, from when you’re young. It's seen as wrong. And it's just implanted in my brain and I can't get it out of my system. And it's sort of gross actually-”

Danny blacked out in a second. Actually, he didn’t know what it was like to just pass out. He never have in his life. So this was a new experience for him. But his whole body just seemed to...give out. Go limp and collapse.

That word. “Gross”.

Who was he? Roy, the guy who meant virtually everything to him before, now meant virtually nothing. He was borderline worthless to him now. He maybe wouldn’t have felt like this if Roy told him that before he met Jason that day. Because Danny didn’t have enough self confidence to tell himself that it was okay to disagree with someone who is homophobic. Someone that is against him for the way he is. For the way he was born.

But it didn’t mean that it was any less painful to hate the guy you loved. For years. Because it felt like they had your back. But he really didn’t. He just made himself believe that. Made himself believe in this picturesque view of what he wanted in life because he just wasn’t satisfied enough. So...he really was just as bad as everyone else in his school. They all believed in this dreamlike fairytale that would never work out. Because he was an idiot for thinking that Roy would be happy with him. Or anyone would be happy with him. Ever.

He was so embarrassed. How could he think that Roy would ever love him back?

“You’re disgusting,”

It was something that he sort of thought about for himself, but he found himself saying it to Roy.

And when he blinked to see what was in front of him, he couldn't fully wrap his head around why he couldn't. But it was because he was crying. Unconsciously.

Tears followed down his cheeks and he couldn't stop feeling like his whole body was knotting together. He hunched over, completely breaking down into his hands.

He wiped away the droplets with his sleeve, his gaze slowly defrosting. He saw Roy looking up at him, his eyes wide and his jaw dropped. He was sprawled across the floor of his bedroom. His body had fallen down, and Danny didn’t even know how he got down there. How he forced him down there. It looked like he kicked or punched him in the stomach forcefully, leaving the boy to hit his back against his desk.

“I-I’m so…” he rushed towards him instantly, tears still rolling down his cheeks, staining his shirt. He couldn't even finish his sentence. Because he was conflicted. He felt bad for...whatever just happened. But he’s still a complete dick. He’s rubbish.

“W-What the fuck?!” he stammered. “What the fuck was that Danny?”

“I didn’t mean to…” his reasonings sat lopsidedly.

“You’re doing that,” he smacked away Danny’s hand and got up himself.

“I-I’m doing what?” his eyes never left him as he brushed off dust from his trousers.

“You’re doing that thing you do,” he stated, his voice hoarse and cracked. “When you’re beating yourself down internally,” he raised his eyebrows. “It’s what I said. I know. We should go downstairs and talk about it properly.”

Stop. Fucking stop it.

It physically hurt him when Roy looked at him like that, and cared about him like that. He filled a glass to the top with water and they sat by the counter in the kitchen as Danny quietly sipped on it.

“I’m an asshole,” the older boy began as he leaned over towards him.

“Yeah, you fucking are,” he spat. “I-I can’t believe you.”

“You said you would understand,”

“Gross? Are you fucking kidding me?!” he slammed down the glass. “You know what? I fucking dare you to spend a day with someone like Max. Someone that is so amazing, and great and talented-”

“I already said that I don’t hate gay people just-

“He fucking hated himself because of people like you!” he screamed. “Do you know he was planning to fucking torture himself for a month at conversion camp?!” Roy took a step back. “He hates himself because of people like you who call him disgusting, and gross and creepy and maybe he’ll never get to be fucking happy,” he shook his head and blinked away the tears. “And he fucking deserves happiness a lot more than most people at this fucking school.”

“Well I’m…” he trailed off. “Sorry...I guess…”

He seemed genuinely speechless.

"A lot more than someone like you..." he mumbled, his face swollen with hurt. Roy reached over to him, his chest feeling heavy.

"Danny, I actually like Max. He's great and-"

"But do you think of him any differently now that you know that he's gay?" he received no real response.

"I-I mean..." he trailed off. "No. I don't. O-Or eventually I'll feel that way, I don't..."

"Roy, I honestly don't feel like I know you anymore," he shook his head.

"If you're taught that it's wrong, then-"

"How old are you?!" he shouted. "Seriously? You're acting like some 60 year old grandma who's trying to accept her gay grandson. You're fucking 17! You're not even an adult yet. Is it really that hard to change your opinions and views?" he snickered sarcastically. "You're making excuses right now Roy."

"It's not an excuse!" he exclaimed back. "Do you honestly think that I willingly act hateful!?"

“I will never be able to understand why the fuck you can be so rude,” he pushed aside his glass and eyed Roy harshly. “Fuck you. I’m heading home.”

“Wait Danny-” he sort of grumbled it, his mindset going from blind anger to pleading.

“I can’t be with you. At all. I feel sick from just standing next to you.”

When he stepped foot into his own bedroom again, he completely fell apart into his hands. He cried so much that his jaw was hanging achingly. And he couldn't even muster up any courage to talk to him ever again, even though the first thing he wanted to do was talk to him again to resolve it.

He hated himself at that moment. But what he hated more was that he let Roy get to him this much. For all these years.

Chapter Text

“It’ll be okay Danny…”

The only place where he felt truly safe now was in his mom’s arms. They sipped on warm tea together in the morning, sitting by the backyard sofa. It gave him a warm feeling in his chest. Comfort and absolute glee.

“I figured something like this would happen,” she muttered sadly. Danny looked up at her with a slight frown.

“Then why didn’t you warn me?” he sniffed, his eyes still a little misty from tears. But it was still calm and wonderful nonetheless.

“Because,” she grinned. “I was hoping that Roy would understand...I always knew you liked him dear.”

Danny giggled somewhat painfully. It was right, yeah, at one point. But...he wished it wasn't. The way his mom smiled at him made him feel nostalgic and more at home.

“And I bet he’ll come around sometime. If you tell him something logical, he'll believe it. Trust me. I've known him since he was just a little baby,” she encouraged. “But I don’t think you should be talking to him all that much anymore. It looks like he’s really getting to you and I don't want him to hurt you anymore, okay?”

There was a pause. Where Danny gave a deep sigh for what he wanted to say.

“H-He…” he hiccuped. There was no going back now. “He asked me to go to the city with him when he graduates.”

“He, what?” she scoffed. “And he’s homophobic?” Danny bursted out into laughter, wiping away his tears. “He’s really giving you mixed signals there.”

“I know!”

“What a douchebag,”

“I know!” he chuckled.

“Well, I didn't see that coming from Roy..." she took a gulp of her tea which steamed in her mouth. “He's filled with many surprises. But I know that overprotective parents create the best liars. And his parents are…?”

“Incredibly overprotective?” he received a nod. “Mom, are you trying to hint that-?”

“Roy might be gay and in complete denial. Maybe,” she grinned to herself. “No theatre kid is straight dear. I thought we all knew that.”

“Either way I don’t want to see him anymore. Or talk to him. I want him to apologise before I do because he’s more of a dick than I am,”

“Didn’t you push him off the bed?” she chuckled.

“Well, I didn’t mean to,” they chorused a lighthearted laugh. It felt airy and light within Danny’s chest.

“Thanks mom…” he mumbled. “I needed that.”

“Anytime,” she stood up from the sofa, brushing herself off. “Tell me how it goes when you talk to him again, okay?”

“Okay mom.”

He sat on his own for a couple of minutes after that, feeling the tea pool within his stomach. Uncomfort seemed to cast over his body and it never died down after what happened, even though he slept through it. He was hoping that it would sort out, but he knew what was right, and he needed to stick to his own morals. Even if it cut off ties.

Because he knew that he wasn't exactly in the wrong. Actually no, he wasn't in the wrong. At all. And he was going to stick to that.

***

Danny sort of liked playing the role of “best friend”, if that made sense. After finding out that Kurtis was busy for the whole weekend from his cafe job, and Max was off at some band performance out west, it left the youngest, and most free member of the group to go support Jason at the hospital. His mom had dropped him off in front of the building and waved to him casually like she was dropping her son off at the kindergarten. Even though it was actually the hospital, and he needed to visit his friend who had a drug overdose.

But this was a positive day for him and Jason. Well, the former cheerleader didn’t really want to be at the hospital, really, but Matt was feeling a lot better now which made him feel a lot better. He made sure to visit him everyday basically. After a few days of feeling completely sick at home, he decided to actually be productive. The moment he felt well enough to get up, he put on a nice jacket, actually put on presentable pair of pants and drove to the hospital to see his boyfriend. And he looked pale, frail and skinny on the very first day. But the way he smiled when Jason twisted the knob and thrusted forward, made him feel amazing. It was indescribable.

So it basically meant that Jason had to come and visit him everyday. Before school, then after school until the nurse had to come in for Matt’s dinner. And then he’d drive home, and call him until they both went to bed. It was a little excessive, yeah, but he figured that Matt was pretty lonely at the hospital by himself.

“Has any of the others come to see you?” Jason asked, tucking him under the covers nicely.

“Not that often, but yeah,” he smiled. “Kurtis came a few days ago and Max pops in with vegetable soup every now and then.”

“It’s so good, isn’t it?” he chuckled. “I had some the other day.”

Matt’s expression dulled in concern. Jason gulped at the sudden change in expression.

“Were you sick the other day?” he said worriedly. “He only makes that whenever somebody’s sick.”

Jason gave a small smile to reassure him, and he raised his hand to lightly caress his cheek.

“I wasn’t sick, really,” he brushed off. “I just wasn’t feeling the best so I stayed home for a few days.”

They exchanged concerned looks, but Jason tried his best to swat every one of them away.

“Was it because of me?” and when he asked, it made Jason shudder.

Silence.

“Of course not. I mean-” he sighed. “I’m just happy to see you being healthier nowadays. Forget about my health for a second, you’re doing amazingly. Look at you, you’re regaining colour and weight, you can talk clearly now and-”

“But I can’t just forget about your health Jason. I care about you,” his look of concern, where his eyes seemed to droop and his lips parted, made Jason heat up a little from flattery. Jason pressed his lips together and shuffled a little closer.

“I’m okay,” he placed his hand on top of his under the covers and squeezed it. “Trust me.”

“I trust you,” they exchanged familiar grins. Ones that puzzle-pieced together perfectly. "But promise me one thing babe."

"What is it?" Jason leaned in a little closer.

"You're gonna need to look after yourself, okay? Properly. Because I'm not always gonna be there to do that," he smiled a little. "And I care about you so much. I don't think love can muster up the amount of love I have for you."

Jason giggled like a giddy little girl.

"I feel the same way," he bit down on his lip to contain his smile.

"So stay healthy. Eat. Drink plenty of water. Maybe exercise, I heard that's good,"

"Do you even exercise. Ever?"

"No," he laughed. "But I still encourage it."

"But okay," he grinned subtly. "I'll do it for you."

"No," he said firmly. "You should do it for you."

Jason couldn't help but lunge over towards him and kiss him deeply. He wondered how he found someone like Matt. And he wondered why someone like Matt would be into him. Love him the way he did. Because it was so heart-warmingly perfect that it sort of hurt him sometimes. He also wondered how he would cope if he was to ever leave. If Matt somehow disappeared from his life.

“Anyways, I’m sure Danny wants to come in and see you too,” Jason shook his head and regained the essence of reality. Matt smiled at his comment.

“Danny’s here?” he brightened.

“Yeah, he said he wanted to see you,” more like he was coming to support me because I think I have an obsession with coming to see you.

“That’s great, he can come in, right?” he shuffled to sit up just a little in his bed. Jason swooped down and gave him a light peck on the lips before he opened the door and fetched Danny by the waiting room.

The air outside the room was so much cooler and less stuffy. It felt a little refreshing. He couldn't wait until Matt could get up again so he could smell the fresh air. And he wanted them to go down to a cafe and have some brunch, and then take a nice stroll at the park or their school, and they would lie down with each other and Jason would feel the grass by his back. And he would laugh into his neck and Matt would wrap his arms around him to make him feel safe and loved and perfect.

He really wanted him to get out already so they could be perfectly imperfect together.

Chapter Text

When the youngest boy walked in, he was a little surprised by all the gifts surrounding Matt. He figured that a few of the stuff was from Kurtis. He had overheard him say something about getting a pay rise and wanting to spend it on a pillow or blanket for Matt during school. But there were additional teddy bears, and vegan chocolates for some reason, and knitted scarfs and letters piled up by Matt’s bedside table. It made Danny gulp. Not only did he bring him nothing, but he thought all the gifts were a little excessive. It had only been like 6 days.

“Hey Danny,” Matt looked excited to see him though. He lowered himself to give him a small hug.

“Hey Matt,” he smiled. “How’ve you been?”

“I feel a lot better thanks,” he always had this amazing smile. That genuine one that made you feel better by just talking to him. But Danny couldn't get rid of that sinking feeling of defeat because of their setting. Because Matt was sat in bed in the hospital because of an overdose. Sometimes Danny wondered what would’ve happened if Matt had more, or something went horribly wrong. Somehow more than it had. And then maybe he would’ve been…

No. He refused to say that.

“So? How has your weekend been?” Matt asked politely.

“Umm…” he cleared his throat. “...fine.”

That was the biggest lie of the century.

“I heard you hung out with Courtney and Roy?” Jason nudged him playfully. But with the look of distraught that covered Danny’s face, he stopped immediately. “Oh no. Something happened, didn’t it?”

Danny never imagined himself to tell the whole anecdote so soon, or at a hospital where he wanted to actually talk to Matt, and how he had been going. But the older boy encouraged him, saying that all he had been seeing are “white walls and bad TV” and it wasn’t interesting anyway, so he gave in. But he missed that whole huge section about Courtney and her coming out. Outing her would be obviously wrong, so he just made up a lie saying that it somehow got brought up in conversation.

“Oh wow…” Jason was dipping his hand into one of the boxes of chocolates he got for Matt like he it was some box of popcorn. “That’s…”

“I hate Roy,”

“Same,”

Danny chuckled at the comment.

“I don’t want to hate him or anything though. I’ve known him for my whole life and I really don’t want to ruin it because of this…” he explained with a slight frown.

“If anyone was ruining this friendship, it would be him,” Jason argued. “He’s being a dick. Wait, why did he think I was gay.”

Danny blinked.

“Umm…”

“I have no idea babe. Maybe it’s because you’re a cheerleader,” Matt nervously laughed, brushing his fingers through his hair. Jason grinned towards him and gave him a chocolate. Graciously taking it between his lips, they shared that heartwarming chuckle they do. Which physically hurts everyone watching with extreme jealousy. They’re so perfect for each other. The way they look at each other lovingly was so cliche. Danny wondered how they found each other in a place like this. And what hurt him more, was that he could probably never find someone like that for him.

“About that,” Danny intruded, not the conversation as such, but mostly his thoughts because he was wandering off mentally. “Courtney wants you back.”

“What?” Jason seemed genuinely confused. “I didn’t even go to most of the practises.”

“Yeah but apparently the human pyramid is falling apart and they need you to hold it up or something,”

“Me?” he blinked again.

“Him? He has twink arms,” even Matt joined in with complete confusion.

“Well, it’s either you or Tatianna apparently so…”

“Fair enough then,” he nodded.

“You should join the squad again babe,” Matt encouraged, running his palm over his back.

“I don’t know…” he rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t really have a point anymore.”

“But your butt looks so cute in those pants babe,”

“Okay I’m in,”

Danny bursted out into laughter accidentally. He slapped a hand over his mouth to hold it in.

“Do you want me on the squad or not?” Jason argued, an eyebrow raised.

“Of course I do! It’ll make Court so happy and I love it when she’s happy,” he gushed excitedly.

“Wow, I’d think you were straight if I didn’t know any better,” Matt gently laughed, his head resting against the pillow.

They shared a few more anecdotes and stories that they spontaneously remembered during Jason’s prime cheerleading days. Turns out he could actually do a handstand. Once upon a time. And Willam originally didn’t want him in the squad because he’d outshine her, but Alaska accepted him because it was fair. Typical, Danny thought.

And of course he joined to get Matt’s attention, conveniently joining right after they created their little foursome. Matt thought it was really cute though, you know, like most things that Jason did. And Danny noticed something he never have before. They do this thing, where they look at each other, and then they give this particular sort of laugh. One that rolled off of their tongues with familiarity and this homey-vibe that Danny couldn't quite understand or describe. He liked it though. He thought it was cute. Slightly jealous but, when was he not jealous of them? When was anyone not jealous of them? If they were out of the closet, they would’ve been the leading, gay power couple of their time. Danny was sure of it.

But that meant that their goodbyes were painful too. They exchanged sweet kisses and Jason couldn't bare to walk away, but Matt reassured him with a warm smile and it sat a little better within his chest.

Their ride home started off a little silent, with Jason giving a long sigh when he was at the wheel.

“I want him to be okay,” he began, reversing out of the parking spot.

“We all do,” the younger boy agreed. “And he will be.”

“He’s coming back to school tomorrow,” he gave a small snicker. “It’s going to be crazy. You know? Just all of it. I bet everyone knows about it already.”

“Yeah…” he confirmed with pity. “Brad apparently spread it, b-but you don’t need to worry about him.”

“I can’t believe he’s one of my problems again,” he groaned, a heavy emphasis of anger in his words. “He will never fail to fucking piss me off. Big time.”

Danny tried to laugh at it, but it mostly failed. He instead, choked out this breathy mess that made him sound like a dying pigeon. But Jason didn’t exactly look over, or seem to care all that much.

“I feel so bad for Matt. I swear the world really isn’t looking out for him right now. Did you know his parents are threatening to kick him out?”

Danny felt his stomach drop.

“N-No. Wait what? Are you serious?”

“It’s fucking insane! Jesus, I knew his parents were crazy but I didn’t know that they’d be this fucking ruthless,” he hiccuped, but seemed to gulp it down at the same time. “When I told my parents that I was going out with Matt now, their faces went pale.”

“Why?”

“They were happy for me, but they knew that Matt’s parents would never accept him. And it was going to be one hell of a fucking mess if they did ever find out,” he sighed. “If they somehow find out, Matt’s definitely done for. And I don’t want that fractured, broken relationship in his life. He doesn't deserve it.”

“I get it…” Danny hummed. “He’s going to be just fine Jason. We’re gonna all go back to school tomorrow and it’ll be like nothing happened.”

Jason looked over to him, his eyes glossier than Danny once remembered.

“You think so?” he asked, his voice timid.

“I know so.”

The problem? Danny didn’t know so. If anything, he thought that the opposite would happen.

Chapter Text

Matt felt like he somehow committed a murder in his sleep, and he didn't even know about it. Because every person looked over at him when he was walking down the hallway. And it wasn’t the usual smiles and grins, or the occasional high-five. No. They were stares. Ones that dug into his soul. And some even gasped. Whispers seemed to be his new theme song.

He went from the very top, and then sunk to the very bottom of the food chain.

It was a mix of a lot of things that “conveniently” rose up at the same time. Rumours somehow emerged about him and Jason. Something that made his chest plummet down his body the moment he heard it through the chain of whispers in front of him in class that he overheard. He wondered how they could even pin point it down to that. Apparently it was because of the annual ball thing, where Matt rescued Violet when all those guys surrounded her. Apparently being a genuine person to someone means that they're dating now. Even though that was the truth and all. And then that stupid overdose happened...something he really regrets...and now his life turned upside down.

Literally last week, he was a football player that virtually ruled the school. And now he's here. He was really unlucky or something.

But lunch was nice. Amazing, actually. Everything went back to normal when there were 5 of them. Without anyone else or anyone missing. It was perfect. Their little bubble.

Max and Kurtis were having some stupid debate over the Ottoman empire. Everyone else was incredibly confused, but Matt liked how genuine it was. How it was casual and laid back.

“Kurtis, I already told you, the Ottoman Empire’s history was kept orally. That’s why you can’t find anything on it that’s reliable,” Max rolled his eyes for the 100th time that lunch.

“Oral? So what? They were all gay?” he laughed at his own joke.

“No! It means that they never wrote down their history,” he pinched his nose. “And I told you to stop being so damn vulgar.”

“But why didn’t they document everything?” he asked.

“I don’t know! It’s their culture Kurtis,”

“And plus, wouldn’t you be happy that they didn’t write anything down? Imagine what would happen if we had to remember everything they did,” Jason added.

“Then it would be like English,” Danny pointed out. “Where we have to read endlessly and write so much!”

They all laughed.

“Don’t get me started on English,” Kurtis groaned. “I’m so done with Shakespeare. Macbeth is so boring.”

“What’s Macbeth?” Matt casually questioned, his mind more set on straightening out his jeans than looking towards everyone gawking at him.

“What?” Max raised an eyebrow. “Are you kidding?”

“Yes…?” he gave a light chuckle. “What?”

“You have never heard of Macbeth?” he was bewildered.

“Even I have,” Danny joined in. “And I’m a fucking dumbass.”

“Theatre’s stupid anyway,” he poked out his tongue, receiving a snicker from the others. Except Max. He gave a little gasp.

“Theatre is not stupid,” he sounded like a whiny child, and it made Jason and Kurtis laugh amongst themselves. “You guys haven’t even been apart of theatre. The musical is actually going great right now,” Danny gulped. “Oh! Except Danny. Of course. He's apart of it.”

“Umm…” the youngest boy pursed his lips. “I’m thinking of dropping out.”

They all snapped their attentions towards him with confusion.

Danny gulped again.

Don't think about Roy. Don't think about Roy.

“Why? I thought-” before Max could finish his sentence, Jason cut him off.

“It’s time consuming anyway. Instead, you could hang out with me,” he enthused playfully, leaving Max a little off beat. “Right Danny?”

“Y-Yeah,” he gave a small smile.

That musical reminder was another one of the things that messed with his head. All day. It was a constant reminder that Roy and him weren’t a thing anymore. Well, okay. It never was a thing. But still. It was still a painful reminder. He somehow thought about him more when he absolutely hated his guts.

Danny was over by his locker, getting his textbook for his next subject, when he saw something that sent a cold shiver down his spine. It was just after forgetting his locker combination again. Somehow. He was the type of person to just punch open his locker when stuff like this happened, but he began to talk to Sharon more, which meant that he learnt a few new tricks. The musical did have a few benefits, and she was one of them. She taught him how to pick locks and shoplift without getting caught. And to make a good grilled cheese. Danny hadn't tried that one out yet. She wasn’t actually as scary as he once thought.

And hey, his locker was also situated at a nice spot. He was a little lucky for having his locker right next to the music room, because it was convenient and he always heard good music seeping out. But today was different. There wasn’t any music.

He peered through a slim window on the door and he saw…

Well, an odd couple.

Couple wasn't a good word for it.

It was Roy and Dan. Danny thought that they never talked. At all. So it caught him a little off guard to see them. But he tried to focus on collecting his books, mostly because just looking at Roy actually made him ache. Just a little.

He shook his head vigourously.

He couldn't tell what they were actually saying, but he could tell that Roy was in his serious mode. Because he looked a certain way when he was being serious and lowkey scary. It must have been a mature matter, Danny thought, as he left as soon as possible for his next class.

Truth is, he should have actually done something when he could've. Because Courtney got a text message from Dan that next moment, which turned her life upside down.

Chapter Text

“I-I can't believe it,”

Courtney was sat on her bed, her body frozen and her lips turned down. She was in a complete state of shock, not knowing what to do.

“It’s going to be okay Court,” Alaska reassured her, holding her hand tightly.

They were all over at her house, all in their pajamas, going through their third bowl of popcorn. It was Courtney’s comfort food.

“Plus he’s a fucking dickhead,” Willam added. “Seriously? What the fuck is up with him?”

The blonde could feel his words just pulse through her body.

“You’re a fucking cheater! I can’t fucking believe you!”

She didn’t know what he was talking about. At all. She didn’t even have time to explain herself and tell him that she didn't cheat. Ever. And whatever he heard was a lie. She was just plain confused as to what happened, and she didn’t really know what to do from there.

She wasn’t even upset at the fact that her and Dan broke up. She never cared for the guy that much anyway. It was just the fact that no one else knew yet. But it wasn’t long until everyone at school eventually found out. And then her reputation is damaged, her dream of having a childhood sweetheart and fitting in is cracked, and her facade starts to fade away slowly. And then she’ll become nothing.

Just as she tried to dig her hand into the bowl again, she got a call from her phone. She instantly dived for it, seeing Danny’s name flashing. She saw his icon picture, which was of him jokingly pulling out his tongue towards the camera, playing the air guitar. It was such a stupid picture of him. It made her smile every time.

“Hello?” her voice was admittedly, a little shaky.

“Look outside,”

Courtney instantly went to her doors, opening the large doorway to her verandah. As she rushed out and held the rails, she saw Danny down below, a phone in one hand, held to his ear, and the other waving towards her.

“Hey Courtney,” he ended the call. “I thought you needed my help!”

She swore his exclaim accidentally echoed throughout the street. She chuckled to herself. Even being his clumsy self, he climbed up the tree, using the same technique she used to use to get into his house, and he eventually made it up to her verandah, brushing himself off as he stretched out his smile.

“Hey Danny,” she squeezed him tightly. “I can’t believe you came.”

“I heard what happened Court,” he gave a small sigh. “And he’s an asshole and I hate him.”

She grinned.

“Me too,” she scratched at a dry tear by her cheek.

“But hey, doesn't matter. You’re an independent woman and you don’t need a man,” he encouraged. “And you don’t even like men so like-”

“Shh, Will and ‘Lasky are still in there,” she whispered. “But yeah. It’s not even like I liked him. Ever,” she shrugged. “But it’s like, all that social stuff, you know? What if people think differently of me?”

“I know there are pressures from being the power couple of the year,” he reassured. “I get it. But hey, maybe it’s one step closer to being the person you truly are.”

He eyed Willam who was still in her room, talking to Alaska casually as they listened to the music quietly playing through the radio.

“Stop trying to imply it Danny,” she groaned, rolling her eyes. “It’s never gonna happen.”

“Eh, I think it will eventually,” he smiled. “Well, I’m off. I’m just here to enlighten you with my amazing knowledge.”

“And what’s that?” she laughed.

“You don’t need to hide behind labels. Maybe this was the world telling you something, you know? Maybe it’s telling you to ditch guys and not pretend that you’re something you’re not. Who knows? You might be so much happier just being real with yourself. And the first step to that is coming out to the people who support you,” he placed his hands onto her shoulder and twirled her around. “And maybe they’re in there.”

He giggled to himself and pushed her into the room again. As she awkwardly regained her stance, the other two girls looked up at her and smiled. Courtney rushed to turn around and give Danny a face but he was already gone.

“Well,” Alaska stood up. “We ran out of popcorn, so I’ll get more.”

She cheerfully left the room, the bowl held tightly between her crossed arms. There was a breath of silence

“I hated him anyway,” Willam began, making Courtney laugh. “Seriously. I hate seeing you like this babe,” as Courtney sat back down, she brushed her fingers down her shoulder. “You don't deserve it. I should've fucking told you that I hated him from the fucking beginning.”

“That's true,” she chuckled. Their eye contact didn't break like she expected it to.

She never realised how amazing her eyes were until that moment. Well, she did always know, but this backed up that claim I suppose. She looked gorgeous when her brows were just creased together a tad to make her seem a little disappointed. And the fact that she was disappointed for Courtney made her feel even more amazing. Just the fact that she cared so much. It felt flattering, even though she sort of wished that she didn’t feel like that because it made her feel guilty. And all she wanted to do was feel like she actually did like Dan, and she never liked Willam.

Because it still felt sort of horrible that she was lying to herself about all of this. But what was worse was that she could never ever convince herself that what she was feeling now was normal, so she was stuck in the mindset of never feeling good about anything she was doing or thinking.

“Hey, what are you thinking about?”

Willam asked out of the blue, her gaze somehow feeling more intense. Courtney felt her lips part at the look. The whole world around them seemed to completely melt at that moment, like the colours were all merging together into some sort of warm technicolour that Courtney couldn't really identify. Or actually care at this point.

She closed her eyes to stop that from messing with her head too much, but she never seemed to open them again. Mostly because she felt something ever so soft on her lips. She held in her exhale and gulped. It felt amazing. She’d kissed people, sure, but it had never been so...perfect. Like literal sparks were flying. That was cliche but there weren’t any other ways to describe it. It was indescribable.

As they parted, the world came together again, Willam still looking toward her with a thoughtful gaze. Her lips came apart just a tad so she could talk, but she was cut off by Alaska kicking open the door.

“I brought popcorn,” she called, leaving the two to collapse onto the bed and exhale deeply.

Courtney wondered if they would ever talk about that. That...perfect thing that just happened. That she was lucky enough to be graced with. She couldn't believe it.

It really did happen.

Goddamn, she was happy that she didn't make a bet with Danny because she would’ve lost money just then.

She looked over at Willam one more time, a faint smile buzzing by her lips, making her feel like she wanted to smile. She didn't though, as she was still in an odd state of shock.

But when the other girl looked over, and gave her a coy smile, Courtney felt better. They had this little secret now. One that no one else knew and maybe, no one else will ever find out about.

It was indescribably satisfying. It left tingles through her whole body as she shoved a mouthful of popcorn in her mouth and painfully swallowed.

This was something new. But it didn't feel like it was. It felt more like it needed to eventually happen, and it finally did.

Chapter Text

Sharon had a really nice voice, Danny thought. He used to think that she was just into rock music, so she should just stick with that, but turns out she’s actually doing so well as Veronica. Like she was basically written for her.

“What are you writing about?” after a brief run through of Dead Girl Walking, they both sat back down in their chairs. It was just a rehearsal with the two of them that they hastily organised after realising that they never rehearsed this song yet.

But Danny was a little preoccupied with his thoughts as he continued to write down on his notepad in the virtually empty music room.

“Uhh, I’m making dot points on things that Courtney would like,” he fidgeted with his pen. Sharon came to his side, looking over his shoulder.

“Oh, her and Dan broke up, right?” she asked nonchalantly. “‘But I’m a cheerleader’? That’s a lesbian movie though.”

He suddenly shut the notebook and completely dismissed her comment.

“Yeah, it sucks. She’s upset about it so I’m trying to make her feel better,” he continued.

“I heard from Alaska that she apparently cheated on Dan or something,” Danny widened his eyes. “I mean, none of it is confirmed and ‘Lasky fully supports Courtney and says, if anyone, he’s cheating but-”

And then all the sounds began to blur. Because it clicked. It all clicked. Anger washed over his gaze.

“I need to go,” he nimbly crammed all his beginnings into his bag and left the room.

Danny left Sharon a little speechless as he ran home. He didn't realise how quickly he could actually run because he completely felt himself submerging into the air. It felt a little refreshing, but his body was still achingly hot from anger. He slammed his fist against Roy’s front door, his heart starting to catch up with his unathleticism. Okay, so he was a little unfit. But at least he could run to a certain extent.

He heard a groan from the other side of the door. And then he slowly opened it, eyeing at Danny with wrinkled brows.

Danny almost gasped.

He was holding an ice pack to his right eye, and his cheek seemed to be stained a purple. A deep, shaded purple. One that dyed even the furthest creases of his face. He seemed incredibly pissed off, his body curled over tiresomely. The younger boy felt a little more guilty at that.

“What do you want Danny?” his voice cracked, his free hand holding onto the door frame.

“You fucking told Dan, didn't you?!” his voice was still strong and firm like he imagined it to be, but he didn’t quite imagine how bitter it tasted in his mouth. He tried his hardest not to let the sympathy get the better of him.

“What are you talking about?” he moaned, rubbing his temples.

“About Courtney! About her,” he began to whisper. “Sexuality.”

Danny suddenly heard footsteps emerging from inside Roy’s house. And a call from an incredibly familiar voice that made him choke.

“Roy? Who is it?”

Max strolled into the room, instantly stopping when his eyes met with Danny's.

“Max?” he nearly shouted it from shock.

“Danny?” he raised an eyebrow. “What are you doing here?”

“I-I could ask you the same thing,”

What surprised him most was the fact that Roy was still...you know, homophobic. That night. That night spoke one thousand words and Danny would never forget it. And Max is-

“I was going to practise a few things with Roy for the musical but he didn’t show up so I was worried,” he started, Danny blinking back into reality. “And obviously...things happened,” he gestured over to him. “So I decided to make some vegetable soup so he would feel better.”

He smiled. Danny always felt better whenever Max smiled like that. He was adorable.

He didn’t really see himself actually in Roy’s house a few minutes ago, but here he was, eating Max’s soup along with the both of them. It was quiet for a few moments because of that gunk of awkwardness that they built up.

“I feel like I’m missing out on something…” Max was the one to start as he took a mouthful of soup.

“This is really good, by the way,” Danny smiled over to him, clearly pushing away his comment. “It’s just as good as everyone says it is.”

“Aww, thanks Danny,” he lightly patted his shoulder. “But I’m serious. Is there something going on here?”

“No, there’s nothing,” Roy dismissed borderline coldly.

“Okay,” the tallest boy lowered his bowl onto the table. “I guess I have to just leave.”

“Wait Max,” Danny hurried.

“I mean to the other room, don’t worry,” he laughed.

“No you don’t need to,” the brunette held onto his sleeve.

“No, I am.”

And then there were the two of them. It was more awkward. And it gave Danny pure paranoia. But Max obviously knew that something was up. Danny wondered if it was too obvious. Too obvious that him and Roy are going through something.

He gulped and looked over to him, half his face completely bruised.

“W-What happened?” he gestured over to him without an actual clear indication of what he was talking about.

“Something really interesting happened actually…” he began, his words sounding like it should be amusing but it was more cold and distant. “With Dan.”

“With Dan?”

“What did you expect?”

“I was sure you outed Courtney…? Because her and Dan-”

“Broke up? Yeah,” he shoved away his empty bowl. “It’s a much better story than that.”

“Are you going to tell me what it is?”

“It’s an interesting story actually…”

And then Danny felt his body tremble from complete guilt.

Chapter Text

“W-What do you mean you didn’t “out” Courtney?” he bit down on his lip. “A-And plus, what’s with this cheating thing? Her and Will were never a thing.”

“Well this,” he ran his hand gently over his black eye then down to his cheek. “Is from Dan. It was to do with Courtney, yeah, but it wasn’t to do with her sexuality.”

“Why aren’t you just fucking telling me Roy? You’re dragging this out for so-”

“I told him that we hooked up,”

Danny scoffed from disbelief.

“W-What…?” he rubbed his eyes. “What did you say?”

“I told him that we hooked up,” he repeated, his voice stale and borderline rotten. “So he would break up with her.”

“W-Why would you do that? You’re clearly lying,” he shook his head.

“Court will never have the guts to break up with him. And obviously she would've had to to actually be happy,” he reasoned. “So he had to break up with her instead.”

“I’m so confused,” he rubbed his temples. “What’s with this plan? And why is this so sudden? I’m so confused.”

“Because Courtney full heartedly believes that being happy comes from a relationship like this,” he explained. “And that’s a fucking lie. Being with an asshole just because everyone else thinks he’s hot will never make her happy. And I know that to be truly, truly happy, she would need to forget about that jerk and go towards a better goal.”

Danny sat there for a moment, his head feeling lightheaded. He felt like he was dreaming and he imagined all of this happening as a coping mechanism or something for him and Roy earlier. But it wasn’t. This was real. And he was so thankful.

“T-Thanks, I guess,” he said in a low voice. “I didn’t know that you would do something like that for Courtney and...it’s nice but…” he sighed. “You should tell her the truth. She deserves it and I think she’d appreciate it.”

Roy gave a gentle smile.

“I will eventually…” his fingertips lightly touched the folds of his eyes, the swollen up, discoloured parts of it. “Maybe after this heals. Because she’ll absolutely freak if she found out how I got this.”

“Fair enough,” Danny reasoned. “She really wouldn’t have wanted you to get hurt just for her.”

“Yeah, but it was no big deal,” he shrugged. “I do really love her, and care about her. It’s a risk that I’m willing to take to make sure that, she slowly learns to love herself.”

Danny grinned, feeling so grateful for this action. The older boy shuffled in a little closer, his arms opening for an inviting hug, but the heavy feeling in his chest returned, making Danny move away without even thinking.

“U-Umm I can’t,” he denied his admiration. “I still respect you as a friend and everything but as long as you're homophobic-”

Max, figuring that he gave them enough time, began to wander back into the room again but instantly stopped when Danny said the word. He felt a little uncomfortable immediately.

“I can’t do this,” Danny shook his head. “I don’t want to mend everything we used to have together.”

Roy swallowed hard, and grinned stiffly.

“O-Oh, okay…” he bit down on his lip. “Fair enough I guess…” before Danny could continue, he cut him off to reason with him. “But I’m learning. I’m trying to become better and more understanding and-”

“I know Roy,” he soothingly brushed his hand over his knee. “But don’t forget about what I said about Max,” he reminded, the grey haired boy shivering by the corner as he hid. “He’s an incredibly special person to me,” the tallest boy gave a small gasp into his palm, trying to contain it. “Don’t hurt him. Because you will never see the end of it.”

Max brightened at the comment, biting down on his lip incredibly hard to contain his ever growing smile. It felt amazing. The wall cooled him down just a tad, and he really needed that. Really, really. He couldn't really believe Danny’s effects on his life. He somehow changed him as a person without him even realising.

“I understand…” he pursed his lips. “Talking to Max this afternoon made me realising something,” he admitted. “He’s an amazing person. And what I said that night...it was wrong. I was being a fucking asshole because there is no way I can call someone fucking gross. Like, what was I thinking? It was so ignorant and stupid and absolutely uncalled for,” he was nearly shouting with his own passion. “And I take back everything I said. Every single word. Because it was completely wrong of me to say that about someone, and so many people around the world before even knowing them as a person. It was insensitive, it was disgusting….I’m the really disgusting one. I’m the one who’s disgusting, and vile and I’m so so sorry Danny.”

The younger boy froze.

“I’m so so sorry for saying everything I did because I’m a truly vile person and I can’t believe I said all those things,” he sniffed. Danny was shocked at Roy’s state. “I take back everything I said, I’m so sorry Danny.”

Even Max was in a complete state of shock around the corner, his eyes intently watching over the revelation. They watched Roy eventually break down, his hands covering his face as he began to cry.

“Roy I…” he came a little closer, wrapping his arms around him. “Roy don’t be so down, please,” he raised his gaze. “I didn’t think-”

“I’m so sorry,” he hiccuped.

“Don’t beat yourself up about it Roy,” he brushed aside his locks. “Please don’t. I know you’re trying to do better, and I know you’re trying to learn and that means everything to me Roy. Trust me. And it’ll mean so much to so many people. And you’re going to get to a point where you overcome this. And overcome all this stupid brainwashing this fucking town cursed you with. And it’ll be alright,” he reassured, feeling his eyes fog up a little. “You’re gonna be alright Roy. Trust me. And I’m going to help you through this.”

“R-Really?” he sniffed. Danny didn’t know how he felt about Roy being so sensitive and real like this. It was so...different. So raw and so new. He pitied him.

“Of course Roy. Why wouldn’t I support you? You mean the world to me,” he brightened, his gaze softening at his state.

“You too Danny,” he began to move a little closer so his hand was resting against the younger boy’s knee. Danny felt his whole body freeze at that moment. The way he gazed up at him made him look so sensitive and soft. It was a different side to Roy he barely ever saw. Even with all these years of friendship under their belts.

The older boy chuckled lightly, regaining a little colour onto his face.

“You know Danny,” he started, repositioning himself to sit up slightly. “You have a weird effect on me. You make me realise all these different things I wouldn’t have realised on my own, and you have this amazing point of view...I appreciate you. I don’t appreciate you enough because you’ve always been so great and I’ve been an idiot because... I began letting you go as high school started.”

Those were the words Danny always wanted to hear. Always, always. Because he never really accepted that Roy liked him much, maybe because he had a hard time showing it sometimes. But he...loved it, really, when he said stuff like this to him.

He felt his eyes water just a tad as he placed his hand onto his shoulder. His mind went blank again. That state he went into when his body took over his thoughts too, and he couldn't think properly for himself. He could say it was reflexes, in a way.

He always wanted his first kiss to be Roy, and even though, now, it’s his second kiss, it’s just as amazing as he imagined. Probably more, since this was now a reality. It’s different to him and Max. It was like they collided together perfectly, and it made Danny realise all the sensations he had been missing in his life before that. It was indescribable.

Soulmates aren’t something he believed in, but this was something. Something surreal and breathtaking. Something that made him speechless for the first time in his life and made him feel both calm and giddy. It wasn’t anything that he could put to words, because you needed to experience it to fully understand the meaning behind it. If that made sense.

As he parted, he watched Roy’s eyes glisten, like the universe was sparkling in his gaze. He looked dazed, like he was dreaming or he just woke up from a soothing slumber, and he looked up to see some saviour by his side.

Roy’s hands clamped onto Danny’s sleeves, pulling him towards him again for another kiss. The younger boy nearly resisted out of shock, but instantly melted when he felt it again. Those sparks. Those perfect sparks.

Danny wasn't a believer of fate, but he couldn't help but to feel that this was meant to be. That his life lead to this moment and this was a turning point. He felt like he was the protagonist of his own life for once, and he was getting what he deserved.

Then there was a gasp.

And they flung apart from the new breath of air that breathed into the room. Max had his hands by his lips, and his knees bent as he took rigid steps back. He sprung towards the door, grabbing his bag quickly by the entrance before dashing out.

Danny’s chest fell.

“Oh my god,” Roy’s jaw dropped. “I forgot that-”

“I’m gonna go get him,” Danny, like it was a protective reflex, grabbed his own stuff and chased after Max, leaving Roy gobsmacked on the sofa as he traced over his lips again.

The young brunette watched his friend dash down the street, face covered in his hands and bag messily swung over his shoulder as he hastily scattered away.

Danny gave a long sigh. Whether this was positive or negative, he didn’t really know. Both. An overwhelming sense of mixed emotions arose from his chest.

He stared towards the open door of Roy’s house, then back at his own. He didn’t really know what to think of what happened.

He was delighted. Happy. More than that. He didn’t want anything more but...his pessimistic self started to take over his body again. What’s going to happen from here? Will Roy ever bring it up? Will something happen to them?

There were endless possibilities and Danny didn’t know what was going to happen from here.

All he knew was that they were meant to be together, because there was no one else but Roy that could make him scream like that internally. To make him feel like he actually lived the most of his life without the other half of him that he did need.

But he knew that he couldn't go back in either. Because he already knew what was going to happen. He would make excuses, and Danny would fluster and do the same. Because they're both socially awkward and they don't know what to do in a situation like that.

So he gulped, let the bag sit a little lower than he was used to, and walked to his house, his back a little straighter and his walk a little primmer than he's used to.

Chapter Text

Max gave a long exhale. It’s Wednesday afternoon; the middle of the week, but he really wished that it was Friday already. That day in particular felt like it dragged on for much too long.

“Am I just really unlikeable?” Max mumbled, looking down at his lap.

Kurtis was next to him. No one else. Just Kurtis. It was a weird pair, in a way, but he seemed to be the only person Max felt comfortable enough to talk to at this point. It wasn't like he hated Jason or Matt, obviously. He loved them, but were they going to help him? In a situation that they don't understand at all?

“You’re super likeable Max,” he answered back, his voice a little wary from the shock of his story.

It was sudden. He knew the taller boy seemed a little off that day. He barely talked, and he didn't even bother to talk back to Kurtis when he said some snarky comment. So he was the one who actually asked Max out, from worry, and he was surprised to find him quickly saying yes, denying Matt’s help along with Jason’s. Kurtis obviously liked him. Him and Max were an odd pair but they got along. Kurtis just found it odd that Max wanted his help over everyone else's.

And then he got told the story of Danny. And Roy. And the moment Max felt his heartbreak. And Kurtis gulped and then understood.

“Do you really think that?” he whimpered almost helplessly. He fell back onto Kurtis’s sofa, feeling his body collapse into the fabric.

“Of course I do,” he consoled. “Honestly, I think you’re one of the most likeable people I know. You’re smart, you’re caring, incredibly kind, you know exactly what to say to make everyone feel better-”

“Then why does no one ever like me back…?” Kurtis pursed his lips at the answer. “First, it was Matt, and now it’s Danny and nothing works out,” he exhaled. “And they always end up finding someone else. Someone that is better, nicer, better looking and they end up being super compatible...and...and they’re virtually perfect for each other!”

His rant made Kurtis swallow hard. He felt bad. Really bad. He clutched onto his own knee harshly and looked up at him with a sympathetic gaze.

“Max…” he began, his voice quivering a little. “I get you…”

The grey haired boy’s eyes widened a tad.

“What do you mean?” he shuffled a little closer for comfort’s sake.

“You think Matt finding Jason was hard?” he gave a stiff chuckle. “Jason finding Matt was so much harder. He found a hunky footballer who was not only gay, but he had to also be so hot. And popular. And literally the guy that Jason always wanted.”

“So you liked…?”

“Eh,” he shrugged. “I guess so but it was never a proper thing.”

“Same as mine,”

They exchanged small smiles. They didn’t know what they were really smiling about. Maybe the fact that they had something in common for once. Other than being gay.

“We used to make out though,”

“Okay not same as mine,” Kurtis snorted at his comment.

“...have you had your first kiss?”

“It was you Kurtis,” he answered with a chuckle.

“Oh yeah,” he pulled a face at the memory. “Forgot about that.”

“Who was yours?”

“Jason,” he answered somewhat stiffly.

“Was it amazing?”

“No,” he laughed. “To be honest, it’s probably not any better than yours,” he crossed his arms. “I wanted it to be more, at that point, but I don’t think it ever was. And it wasn’t ever supposed to be. And that’s fine,” he exhaled. “He still means more than anything to me. It doesn't have to be romantic and it’s something that I realised through the years.”

“But don’t you want it to be? W-Well used to?” he asked, his lips sagging.

“Of course I did. I wanted it to work so badly,” he gave a small smile towards Max to try and cheer him up. “But I guess it lacked that spark in a way. I don’t know. I don’t know what love is yet so I can’t make a clear judgement on it but,” he shrugged. “I wonder sometimes if that’s why I hated Matt the first time I properly met him. I didn’t really mean to do it…”

“I know you didn’t,” Max placed his hand on top of Kurtis’s. “I was the same to Jason, don’t worry.”

“Is it normal to still feel guilty about it even though I don’t hate him anymore?” the brunette asked quietly.

“I feel the exact same way. If that makes you feel any better,” they exchanged grins.

Kurtis exhaled deeply from relief.

“But about Danny now,” he reminded. Max’s heart sunk a little. “Just know that everyone has crushes in their life. It’s completely normal and most of them don’t end up going down that well. Trust me. And you’re going to eventually find someone that will adore you. And love you. And you’ll realise how silly all the past crushes were.”

“Can I be honest…?” he started, his hand tightening around Kurtis’s. The brunette gripped back. “The crush...doesn't feel silly, right now.”

“Trust me, you’ll look back on Matt and Danny, and laugh. And when we’re all older, we’ll all see each other again, with our super bomb husbands, and we’re all gonna have a dinner party together. I see Matt and Jason wondering if they want a kid. You’ll probably already have one who’s super smart and musically talented,” the taller boy snickered. “I’ll just have a dog. Maybe two,” he laughed. “And you’ll be like “Wow gee I’m so happy with my husband now. And Danny’s happy now with another guy and I don’t even care. We’re still friends”. I can guarantee it.”

He gazed towards him reluctantly.

“Promise?” he raised his hand from their grasp, his pinky sticking up. It was a cliche, but it seemed like the glimmer of hope he needed at that moment. Kurtis smiled towards him warmly.

“Promise. Wholeheartedly,” he wrapped his pinky around his, widening his smile. “If not, you can totally get mad at me when we’re older.”

“I don’t know,” he glanced down, his smile still present. “I believe in what you said. I don’t think I need to get mad at you.”

Kurtis chuckled, wrapping his arms around him to reel him into a tight hug. Max felt at home in his grasp. He didn’t exactly know why but it felt so comfortable. So homey.

“Hey Max?” the brunette parted.

“Yeah?”

“Can you stay here tonight?” he asked. Max brightened.

“Of course,”

“Good,” he brushed down his shoulder. “Because it wasn’t actually a question. It was a demand.”

Max bursted out into laughter.

“Well, I want to stay. Definitely.”

Chapter Text

Danny was going through something mentally. Well, he had been for a while, ever since that Roy thing happened, but it was getting harder and harder for him to deal with his own mental state everyday. It was mostly because the thoughts were getting overwhelming, taking over every other thought, like what he was going to do after class with his friends, what he was going to eat, or how he was actually going to finish this geography assignment he hadn’t even started yet.

So, his only resolution seemed to actually talk to Roy about it. Aka his biggest fear. Aka something he did not want to do whatsoever. But he felt like he needed to do it. To get it off of his chest and to feel better about it, so he did.

He showed up at the end of the day, his bag feeling heavier than he remembered, and met up with Roy at the music room right next to his locker.

“H-Hey Roy,” the older boy was already waiting for him there, his hands resting against the piano keys.

“Hey Danny,” he was cold. It made Danny’s legs quiver for a moment.

He couldn't do it. He just couldn't.

“I just wanted to talk about the musical…” lies. It’s what he did when he was overwhelmed. Pussy.

“Oh,” Roy didn’t seem that startled though. It was sort of like he was obliged to say it so he did.

Pause.

Now it was Danny’s turn to say his lines, right? But he didn’t. He just stood there, his nails starting to scratch the fabric of his bag strap.

Say something.

“Or is it about what happened?” that was obvious to Roy too, of course, but Danny was still surprised that he wanted to mention it. “Because I want to talk about that.”

“Really?” he blurted out. “I-I mean…”

“Let’s forget about what happened,” he cut him off completely, both verbally and mentally. “I-It was nothing. It was a mistake that I didn’t mean to make and I feel bad for taking advantage of you or something I-”

“N-No it was okay,” more than okay, in reality. But Danny wouldn’t say that. “Everyone makes mistakes…”

“Yeah, thanks umm,” he shook his head. “Thanks for understanding. I guess. I didn’t think you’d take it well or anything.”

“No, no it’s okay. I understand…” he pursed his lips. “Shit happens. We don’t even think sometimes when we’re in the moment.”

“Exactly. Thanks for getting it,” he grabbed his own bag. “I didn’t want it to be some big deal or anything.”

Danny was sort of used to this feeling now. Heartbreak. It happened to him all the time, virtually, right? He laughed at that thought. Maybe Sad Boy was a good nickname for him after all, even though he didn’t like to admit it. He wondered why life liked to tease him like that. It just wasn’t fair. It was never fucking fair.

“Yeah, I just wanted to say umm…” Danny trailed off, his head too clogged up with hurt and upset that he couldn't even form sentences.

“Oh? About the musical?” he reminded.

“Yeah, yeah,” he fell a few steps back. “I can’t be apart of it anymore. S-Sorry I didn’t want to…”

He dashed out, not finishing his sentence. Not knowing how to finish his lines. It didn’t matter what he said and what he was going to say because it wasn’t about that. It was about what happened. About how close he was to getting something he wanted for years, and then it ended up being worse than it ever was. Not only did he lose it, but he lost everything in some sense. Lost everything that they had, in some sense. It kept on happening for him.

Yeah, Danny’s been an unlucky person. But it’s never gone to this point. He exhaled deeply, trying to calm down his pulse as he brought the bag straps closer to his chest. It ached like hell but...this was reality. Reality was, this was never meant to be.

“Danny! Wait!”

Roy came running after him, panting, his feet falling on top of each other as he reached out towards him. Instantly lunging towards him, their lips crashed together. The older boy grabbed onto his upper arm, adjusting the force to just graze their lips together softly.

He parted to embrace him tightly, his bag dropping onto the ground carelessly.

Danny felt his body completely fall over and collapse into his grasp. Exactly what he wanted to do at that moment. He couldn't tell whether he was absolutely delusional or not.

“Sorry,” he breathed out heavily. “I-”

"No,” the younger boy mumbled into his neck. “This isn’t bad. At all. This is…”

“Great,” he rested his hands by his waist comfortably. “I know. I agree.”

Danny felt his whole body buzz. Like he could fly at this point. He smiled widely.

“I want to keep this secret though,” Danny blurted, that sense of insecurity still penetrating through that thick wall of dreamy perfection.

“Same,” he brushed up and down his back. “Glad we’re on the same page.”

Danny chuckled.

“Yeah,” he bit down on his lip. “Not even Courtney?"

“Not even Courtney,” he answered back, his voice almost a whisper.

His arms fell to his sides, like they were lifelessly flopping to his legs. And then there was a pause. And they looked at each other for another moment until they bursted out into laughter.

A satisfying, belly laugh that had Danny toppled over onto Roy for support.

“That was,” he tried to speak through his fit of laughter. “Oh god! I don’t even know what to say.”

“I don’t think we need to say anything,” he nudged him lightly.

“So is this…?” he gestured in the space between them. “A…?”

“Thing?” he shrugged. “I guess so.”

The way he smirked towards him made Danny fluster like crazy. It made him feel so much more...happy, knowing that Roy liked him back. It was crazy. It felt crazy. All of this. Surreal. Completely surreal. His dreams came true? That was cliche but...he couldn't say it in any other way.

He confidently took his hand, felt how hot it was, and excitedly walked down the hall with him. It was empty. But it didn’t feel empty. It was completely filled with over excitement and nervousness for what was to come. With anticipation for the future ahead of them. And calmness for how far they’ve come. Together and as individuals.

Danny looked over at him one more time, and watched his smile continue to brighten. He felt happy at that moment. It was one of those moments that made him feel like they were immortal. No. They were immortal. This was immortal. And this; Danny and Roy, would never die.

Chapter Text

Courtney never imagined Willam to be so soft in bed. Okay. That sounded much worse than she wanted it to. When they were making out in bed? Okay. Still not tame and SFW, but still.

Days like these were becoming quite normal, like it was some sort of routine now, but Courtney wasn’t complaining at all. It was amazing, actually. They had cheer practice every afternoon now that the competition was approaching incredibly quickly. And even though that was super stressful, every practice was going well. Jason was back, which meant stability in the human pyramid was restored. Hell yes. And the routine was sharp and together now, which made Courtney so happy.

And with Alaska gone to study or fuck Sharon, or whatever (Courtney didn’t really know) that meant that she could hang out with Willam. The icing on the cake. Well, the icing that costed more than the cake because it’s so good. But still.

“Don’t be stupid Court, you’ll do great in the final position,”

See, Courtney had never been in a relationship which she wanted to actually be in until then. Even though this wasn’t an official relationship.

Anyways, she wondered whether it was normal to just talk through sessions like this. They’d kiss, do something and talk all at once. Like it was casual. Like they were just gal pals, and all gals obviously made out with their friends while gossiping. Right?

“I don’t know, I’m still stressed out about it,” Courtney explained, feeling Willam kiss down her neck softly.

“Wait,” she glanced up. “You and Dan are definitely, definitely not a thing right?” the blonde nodded. “Oh good. Anyways, no, you’ll do great.”

“Why did you ask?” she sat up to lightly nudge Willam away from her. The other girl sighed. It made Courtney a little nervous.

“Look Court, what we’re doing here,” she gestured. “It’s not a you and Dan situation,” the other girl parted her lips to reply but she stopped herself. “It’s not a relationship like that.”

“I-I know,” she wished it wasn’t true though. “I get it.”

“It’s not gonna go anywhere and I was just…” she rubbed the back of her neck. “Sorry for making it all serious suddenly. I-”

“No, don’t worry about it,” she reassured with a smile. “I don’t take it personally…”

“I know you don’t. I just didn’t want you to have the wrong idea…” Courtney knew Willam very well. Not only had they hung out with each other virtually every moment of everyday for 3 years now, but Willam was easy to read. She had particular habits that Courtney could recognise. One of those, was talking and making excuses all too much whenever she was nervous. “I mean, it won’t go anywhere, right? Like your parents would hate it. Everyone around here will hate it. And if that happens, where would we go? Where would we stay?”

“I get it Will-”

“And would everyone know eventually? Or is it going to be a secret forever?”

“I didn’t think about any of that…” Courtney muttered, feeling the wall stick to her back. “I guess I didn’t really want to think about it.”

It’s been two weeks since their first kiss but, she hadn’t thought about it. Thinking about it was too hard. It meant the future. It meant more things to overcome. And that just stressed her out even more than it did then.

Willam suddenly shook her head, grumbling to herself.

Courtney knew that this meant that she was going to doubt herself. She does this a lot, but Courtney always tries to step in before she acts on it.

“I-I can’t do this anymore,” she groaned. “Cheer comps are coming up, and studies are getting harder,” she rubbed her temples. “This is just another thing that makes my life harder and I don’t want that.”

“I understand…” she mumbled. “I honestly get you. Completely. I don't want to make you any more stressed. Obviously. Because I care about you and that's the last thing I'd wanna do," Willam looked over to her with a reluctant smile. "I care about you so much Will. You know I've always have."

"I know," she eased towards her a little.

"So obviously we can call this all off and we can go back to just being regular friends," she subtly bit down on her own lip. "And that'll be okay with me too but..."

"But...?"

Courtney gazed up.

"I was just wondering if this is a thing...?”

She glanced down, trying to avoid her gaze. Probably because she could've guessed the answer right then and there by just looking at Willam’s face. And she was dreading it.

“Officially, no,” she shuffled even closer and cheekily raised her view with her thumb. “But in a way, yeah.”

Courtney let herself ease into a chuckle, even though it hurt her throat a bit because she didn’t want to be falling for Willam in the way she was. Currently. And for a while.

She never understood how her own brain worked. She somehow wanted Willam, so much, still, even though she’s flat out telling her that they’re not a thing and they probably shouldn't be.

“Calling it love is too easy though,” Willam made her snap into reality. She blushed at the comment. “But I’m in love with you in every possible way. Maybe less on the romantic.”

Courtney pouted. Somewhat jokingly, somewhat seriously.

“Why?”

“Maybe,” she rocked back on her heels. “I’m a little scared of loving you in a romantic way because that means that I can never avoid having feelings for you.”

The cheer captain bursted out into laughter, not being able to stop herself from wrapping her arms around her neck and reeling her in tightly.

“What’s so bad about that, huh?” she jokingly asked, rocking left to right.

“It means that I accidentally fell in love with a vegan, which would mentally ruin me for life,” she snickered back, planting a sweet kiss by her lips.

“Do I still count as a vegan if I eat you out?”

Willam lost her shit and gasped.

“Are you fucking kidding me Court?!”

“What?” she blinked. “I’m just asking!”

Willam groaned into her neck, rolling her eyes.

“What did you do with my innocent Courtney?”

“Oh, she’s still here,” she piped to. “She likes to have a little fun sometimes.”

“Jesus Court you’re killing me here. You need to stop!”

Chapter Text

“How do you like your grilled cheese babe?”

Matt and Jason were in the cheerleader’s backyard, where they laid out a large pleated mat and brought out a picnic basket. This was their version of a picnic. It was a way to still be in the closet but still have a cute, romantic date once in a while.

“It’s great,” Jason laughed, partially at his attempt to make food, and partially because of the setting.

You could say it was more for the feel of having a cute date, instead of the practicality, because they made all this picnic food together in the kitchen just then, and yet they’re sitting out here like they just stumbled out onto the park on a nice summer afternoon and they’re apart of a picturesque 60s theme aesthetic. You know, with the sunlight beaming down on them, and glistening smiles, and a lazy breeze.

“I’ve always been the best at making those,” Matt smiled, leaning back on his arm.

“I know babe,” he smiled back. “But you can’t cook anything else.”

“Eh, I’ll live off grilled cheeses for the rest of my life,” he snickered.

“You’re cholesterol will be so shit though,” he brushed the crumbs off of his fingers and grinned towards him. “Good luck living by yourself.”

"Well you'll be living with me,” they both laughed. “You better know how to cook.”

“I like to think that I’m pretty good,” Jason wondered when they came to the conclusion of living together. And how it went down because he doesn't remember at all. It’s sort of like they didn’t talk about it out loud or anything, and instead, they just decided that they would. Because there’s no other logical reason.

“You are pretty good actually,” he agreed. “Nothing compared to Max though.”

“Yeah, but that’s because no one can beat his vegetable soup,” Jason popped a chip into his mouth from a hastily opened packet.

“It always makes me feel better. It tastes like nostalgia and childhood,” he grinned to himself. His boyfriend peered up at him with a small spark of jealousy.

“B-But I’ll get better,” he blurted, shuffling a little closer to him. Matt raised an eyebrow towards him.

“You don’t need to be worried or anything babe,” he softened into a gentle laugh. “You know I’ve been friends with him for so long.”

“I-I know,” he stammered. “I don’t think I’ll ever be that good at making soup but-”

“Jason,” he stated, running his hands over his hair. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. There’s literally nothing to be worried about,” he helped Jason sit up so he could comfortably prop him up underneath his grasp. “Don’t ever forget that I love you dearly. There’s nothing I will change about you, okay? Don’t feel self-conscious over something as little as not being able to make fucking soup,” he snickered lightly. “And plus you’re a good baker, so it’s not even like you can’t cook.”

Jason laughed.

“I’m a bit scared...” he admitted. Matt exhaled.

“Please don’t tell me it’s because of the overdose because that’s nothing to do with you Jason. It’s not your fault in any way,” he explained.

“I can’t help but to feel like it is though,” he gazed up at him. “I feel like I’m not enough or something. I don’t know.”

“You’re enough. You’re more than enough. Don’t ever let your thoughts make you believe otherwise,” he grinned towards him supportively. “C’mere.”

The exchanged a sweet kiss that made Jason smile wider.

“I am a good baker, aren’t I?” he chuckled.

“Yes, yes you are,” Matt ran his hand down his shoulder. “I absolutely love your chocolate cake. It’s the best.”

“Aww Kurtis says that too,” he teased, making Matt twitch his brows a little.

“Haha, very funny Jason,” he joked. “I love how seriously Kurtis takes himself though sometimes. It’s hilarious.”

“I like to think that he's a professional in making,”

“A professional…?”

“I don’t know, something gay,” they both laughed. “Like a fashion designer. He can design couture dresses. Oh damn, that would be amazing. I’d love to do that.”

“With the 1950s silhouette?”

“Obviously!” he chortled. “You know me so well.”

“Of course babe,” he ran his fingers through the ends of his hair. “You’re my best friend.”

“Friend zoned,” he called playfully.

“You know what I mean,” he grinned. “I haven’t known you since the day I was born or anything like that, but it feels like I’ve known you in a past life or something. It’s amazing.”

“I couldn't agree more,” he smiled back, pecking him on the cheek. “But let’s be honest, it’s not even like knowing someone from the moment you’re born is good for relationships. Look at Danny and Roy.”

Matt groaned and slapped himself across the face.

“Do not get me started on Roy. That asshole,” he drawled out.

“I hate that guy so much. You have no idea,” he complained. “Homophobic asshole. And I thought he was funny and nice.”

If Danny was there at that moment, he would’ve wanted to cut them off. To interrupt them and tell them the truth, and explain what happened, and that it was okay now. But obviously he was absent. And they were fuming.

“Me too,” Matt agreed. “Do you think Danny still has a thing for him?”

“No way, if he does, I’m gonna lose it,” he gestured wildly. “You don’t really think so though, right?”

Matt paused to think about it.

“No…?” His voice hitched. “I mean, it’s Danny. He’s an unpredictable person.”

“True that,”

“He’s bound to have a soft spot for him, knowing him. Argh, that means we can’t trash his house or anything to get back at him,” he grumbled childishly.

“Yeah, let’s not go back to that babe. Remember what happened last time?” He reminded.

“At Brad’s? We didn’t even get caught,” Jason replied with a reasoning look, which made him think for a moment. “...but we did nearly get caught. And Max broke a window. And we vandalised property. And Kurtis nearly crashed the car again. And-“

“We also dyed their house blue,” he added.

“That too,” he reached over for the can of soda and cracked open one. “I can’t believe we didn’t get caught.”

“Me either,” he took a sip of Matt’s drink.

“So is it a ‘no’ to pranking Roy?” He pouted.

“Geez, how old are you?” He chuckled.

“It’s for the greater good, I swear,” he smiled. “It’s for our dear friend who’s in love with someone, who is not only straight, but also homophobic.”

Is he straight though? He’s a theatre kid,”

“Now that you mention it…” he shook his head. “Either way. Homophobe. Let’s egg his house.”

They exchanged conflicting looks for a moment, like they were trying to wrinkle their brows until it would make the other collapse. But with one swift movement from Matt that allowed him to successfully land a peck by Jason’s lips, he instantly won.

“Fine,” the cheerleader caved in. “But, Kurtis has to be in on it too.”

“Fine,” he negotiated reluctantly. “But not Max. I’m pretty sure he’s been mentally scarred since he broke that window.”

“And not Danny. Obviously,” they nodded in unison. “Great. No food colouring this time?”

Matt rolled his eyes.

“Obviously not. That was crazy,” he groaned. “No more surprises this time. Okay babe?”

“Of course.”

And they somehow went from a cute picnic to planning something that would break Danny’s heart.

Chapter Text

“You’re flat Danny,” Roy complained jokingly, his fingers lightly brushing over the piano keys. The younger boy flicked his head back and rolled his eyes.

They were at musical practise with just the two of them. Well, it was supposed to be. But it wasn’t really working out at this point. They seemed to be much more dedicated to just messing around.

The older boy threw a ruler at him, Danny just missing it with a swift turn. He gasped overdramatically.

“That could have killed me!” he shrieked playfully, dashing over to him. He jumped onto him, wrapping his arms around his neck to virtually suffocate him. Roy gasped for laughter.

“Well I didn’t! Did I?” he choked out, nudging Danny away lightly. “Wow, you’re the one who’s gonna kill me now.”

He bursted out into laughter, letting his hands comfortable rest by his shoulders. Rocking back and forth on his heels, Danny found himself softly humming some familiar tune. It felt nice. This whole thing. Like an oddly humble date in some way. Roy melted back into his grasp, smiling up at him.

“Wrong song Danny,” he playfully poked at his cheek, gently brushing down to his chin. “That’s ‘Danny Boy’.”

Danny inhaled slightly at the comment. The first thing that came to his mind was Max.

He hadn’t talked to him at all. About what happened or in general. Just in the group sometimes but they never locked eye contact or had a one on one conversation. He seemed to completely remove himself from Danny’s side and now to Kurtis’s instead. The younger boy felt a little replaced and ditched in a way. Even though he did do something wrong. In some sense.

“What’s wrong Danny?” Roy asked tentatively, watching his face melt a little. He shook his head.

“N-Nothing,” he grinned it off, taking a chair to sit right next to him, a little closer than usual. Roy smiled.

“You’re lying,” he said simply, clasping their hands together caringly. Danny chuckled.

“How did you know?”

“Because I know you way too well,” he prided himself in that knowledge of Danny. Both of them knew that. “Anyways, why did you react like that? I didn’t say something wrong, did I?”

“What? No,” he denied. “It just made me think about something.”

“And that something is…?”

“Max,” he confessed. “He played the song for his solo performance.”

Roy acknowledged his statement with a simple hum, and then a sigh, and he proceeded to grip onto his hand a little tighter. Danny questioned him with a look of confusion.

“Hm, thought so,” he said to himself somewhat quietly. The brunette gazed towards him with even more confusion.

“What?”

“Max,” he began. “He likes you.”

“W-What?” he seemed genuinely taken aback. “We’re just friends-”

“You’ve always been so oblivious,” he snickered. “Cute.”

“T-Thanks?” he blushed a little. “But what are you talking about?”

“Everything's been piling up through the weeks. I mean, he used to talk about you all the time. He would start by talking about the group, but then he’d go to just you. And that’s it. I mean I didn’t mind,” he shrugged as Danny laughed with flattery. “But still. And he joined the musical because you wanted him to be apart of it. And he does a oboe solo dedicated to you-”

“And we kissed,”

“And you kissed and-” he stopped. “Wait what?”

“Wait what?” he mimicked.

There was a breath of silence until Danny bursted out into a fit of overjoy and amused laughter. Roy just sat there. Stunned.

“Are you fucking kidding?” Roy snapped, but Danny brushed it aside quickly with laughs.

“No,” he choked out through the thick coats in his chest. “It was a one time thing though! It wasn’t even serious.”

“Danny!” he whined. “Oh come on, was he your first kiss?”

“Maybe,”

“Danny!” he repeated. “Was it his first kiss?”

“No,” he shook his head and calmed down a little. “It was Kurtis.”

“Kurtis?!” he rubbed his temples. “Jesus, who’s actually straight in your group?”

“Me,” Roy shoved him playfully.

“I hate you,”

“I love you too.”

Roy groaned lazily and collapsed onto him from tiresomness.

“You’re amazing Danny,” he breathed out, bringing him in tightly towards his chest. “Why am I always such a dick to you?”

“I like dicks,” Roy rolled his eyes.

“Jesus stop it,” he yelled weakly.

“Sorry,” he rested his arms around his body. He peered down to see him calmly resting against him. “You make me so happy.”

“Couldn't agree more,” they exchanged small smiles. “Why didn’t I do anything earlier?”

“Yeah, why didn’t you?” he played along, brushing down his locks that seemed to be growing out a little. Danny liked it though. “I’ve liked you forever.”

“I’ve liked you forever too,” he sat up a little to line up their eye contact. “I’m just a stupid pussy.”

“I know,” he cupped his cheek softly.”But you’re my stupid pussy.”

“That sounded stupid,”

“I always sound stupid.”

Roy leaned over to him and kissed him lightly, holding onto him ever so sweetly. Danny parted and bit down on his lip as he blinked back into reality.

“You’re cute Danny,” Roy gave a light wink over to him before chuckling. “I’m never gonna let Max take you away from me.”

He lightly chuckled.

“That won’t ever be a thing, don't worry,” he reassured.

“Do you know how he’s feeling about it all?” he questioned. Danny pondered for a moment, quickly figuring out that he literally never talked to him about it. And he barely thought about it. Danny wondered if this meant he was a bad friend, because he was much too distracted with something else other than his friend.

He gulped.

“I don’t know…” he muttered. Roy seemed a little surprised.

“Oh…” he mumbled. “Maybe you should ask him…?”

“Yeah,” he cleared his throat. “I will. Eventually…” he cleared his throat. “Thanks for the concern Roy.”

“I’ll always be here when you need me.”

Danny smiled. Those were the words he wanted to hear. In a context like this. In a world like this.

He couldn't help but to sit by his lap and wrap his arms around him tightly. Roy was caught a little off guard, but he warmed up to his affections quickly.

If this wasn’t perfection for Danny, he didn’t know what was.

Chapter Text

“You know Matt…” Kurtis lowered the sunglasses so they would sit by the bridge of his nose. “I like you more now.”

The three of them sat in front of Roy’s house at the weirdest time of day: 3:14pm. It was an awkward time of day, but they figured that no one was home. According to Danny’s numerous gushes about Roy gathered from different times that they’d hung out, his parents both worked in the same company, and they don’t get home until pretty late. So that left Roy alone and sad blah, blah blah. Whatever Danny said after that didn’t really matter.

“This should be fun,” Jason grinned.

What did matter, was that Roy also wasn’t home from school yet. He had musical practice, according to Max. It was a Thursday; which meant that Max himself was in band as well.

So everything fell into place, really. They probably wouldn't get caught. Maybe. Hopefully.

“Wait,” Matt butted in. “What about Courtney? Do you think she’ll get home soon?”

He pulled over the all too familiar mask over his face and got out a carton of eggs from the back seat.

“Oh nah, she’s out with Willam tonight,” Jason explained. “Overheard them at practice.”

“They’re getting pretty close, huh?” Kurtis began to nonchalantly throw some eggs at his house, lacking that excitement that they had last time. He gave a long sigh. “Is it just me, or is there something wrong about this?”

“I can’t tell whether it’s because we’re missing two people, or it’s because I’m just not that mad at Roy,” Jason pondered, figuring out quickly that he had no patience for this, and so he threw the whole cartoon at the house, hoping that most of them would just crack against the wall. He was somewhat satisfied. “I actually kind of still like Roy. I mean, I hate the fact that he’s homophobic but...he’s sort of cool actually.”

“Agreed,” the other two chorused.

“But think about it. Danny still likes him,” Matt explained, his words sort of disattached from his actions of somewhat violent vandalism. “And Roy told him, to his face, that he would never be with him if he was gay. And called him disgusting.”

“I can’t believe it,” Jason grumbled. “I can’t believe someone would say something like that all together.”

“And I can’t believe that Danny would still like him,” Kurtis rolled his eyes, though the other two couldn't pick up on it through the mask. He practically threw the whole carton onto the house and watched the yolks fuze together and ooze down the white paint.

Matt took a step back and saw the whole front side of the house virtually stained with an off-yellow. The carton fell from his hands.

“Well shit,” he began, his voice nearly muted. “I didn’t think it would be that quick…”

Jason took his side to gaze at the property in front of them. He instantly contained his gasp by closing his lips and coughing.

“Well…” he started. “Roy’s not gonna be able to take this off, is he?”

“Not at all,” Kurtis chimed in, his hands brushing down his jeans. “Oh well. Let’s go home.”

They all shrugged and got back in the car, an odd sense of casuality in their actions. Kurtis got behind the wheel and drove off in the direction of their neighbourhood.

There was a large gulp of silence until Matt pursed his lips.

“I feel bad,” he confessed.

“Me too,” the other two chorused.

“I have this weird gut feeling that what we did was…” Jason wondered for a moment. “...wrong? Somehow.”

“It’s because you did,” is what Danny would've said if he could’ve. Because in all reality, they just didn’t know any better. Not that it was anyone’s fault, really.

“But think about Danny,” Kurtis reminded. “He just needs to be driven into the right direction. You know? He’s too forgiving if he’s still into Roy. Plus,” he looked towards the two of them. “It’s basically revenge for a homophobic asshole. He hates us, remember? Without even knowing us that well.”

They all nodded in unison.

“We should start to egg every homophobic person’s house,” Jason laughed.

“Yeah, but we couldn't get away with it,” Matt reasoned. “Even though that’s a good idea.”

They all laughed to shrug off that feeling of guilt off of their shoulders. The only problem? Roy came back a moment too late, and his bag fell from his back.

Chapter Text

“Well…” Max lowered himself on the sofa. “You don’t seem to have a fever.”

Danny’s a very socially awkward person. Everyone knew that. So of course he failed to actually ask Max to talk.

“Hey Max,”

“Danny?”

Danny decided to stand outside of the school, his hands in his jacket and his gaze a little lowered compared to the usual bright smile he put on when he was with Max.

This seemed like the only way to properly approach him. In his mind.

“What are you doing here?” the older boy stammered, his oboe case feeling loose within his fingers.

“I-I…” his voice trailed off, his heart beating in his ear. He gulped. And gulped again. And breathed out. “I’m sick.”

He blurted out a lie without even wanting to. He couldn't help it. And it made him feel even worse when Max’s brows crinkled from pity and he came to his side to take him home.

They caught a public bus home, Max quickly explaining that his parents didn’t like to drive, but he brushed that off quickly. He wanted to just see if Danny was okay, reading his face as sickly instead of the reality, which was nervousness. He was pale and discolored, but because of fear, not illness. But only Danny knew that.

“I feel kind of light headed actually…” he continued to lie. He didn’t know why he went along with it. Max comfortably spread out a blanket on top of his body, tucking him in nicely.

He brought a spoon to his lips, with vegetable soup of course, and gave him a evenly portioned mouthful. Danny graciously took it.

“It’ll be okay Danny,” he frowned. “Well, for lightheadedness, vitamin B-6 and E work the best. Oh and iron of course. So if you don’t mind having red meat for dinner and a side of-”

“Max,” he cut him off. “I-I don’t need to stay and have you cook for me,” he sat up slightly. “I feel bad if you do that.”

The silver haired boy gave a hum and sat by his side. His thumbs fumbled in his lap for a moment until he gave a long sigh.

“I think I finally figured out why you wanted to come,” he said, his voice low. “You wanted to talk to me about…”

His hands awkwardly gestured for a moment.

“Roy?” he mumbled. “Yeah...I did, I’m sorry.”

“No it’s okay,” he shook his head.

“I didn’t feel comfortable just bringing it up so-”

“It’s fine Danny,” he grinned over reluctantly. “I get it,” he glanced back down. “...so what did you want to say?”

“Umm…” he coughed. “I guess I wanted to know how you were feeling with everything…? That sounded weird. I don’t know...I’m sorry. In a way. To do that in front of you and it obviously made you uncomfortable so...”

“It’s okay…” he bit down on his lip.

“It’s obviously not fine. I know you Max. I know you’re not okay with what happened and I want to make sure you’re okay. Because if you’re not I don’t feel okay, and I can’t go on with life,” he shuffled over to him. “Please tell me what’s wrong. And what I did wrong.”

“This,” his eyes narrowed on the younger boy. “This is all wrong. Everything you do is so wrong.”

“What do you-?”

“You give me so many mixed signals!” he shouted. Danny sat back. “Every single day. You act like we’re so much more than we are. A-And in reality, we're...we're nothing.”

“W-We’re not nothing though Max,”

“You’re just like Matt!” Danny zipped his lips and gulped. “You act like I’m this important person to you but you would easily cast me aside for some other guy.”

The younger boy’s brows crinkled as he bit down on his lip. He tried to shuffle even closer to him but Max held back.

“I didn’t know…” his voice muted itself.

“I didn’t think you’d be the same Danny,” he shook his head. “I thought you understood, and sympathised and cared but-”

“I do still care about you Max. I-I don’t get it,” he leaned over to him. “We’ve always been friends. Great friends. I still consider you an amazing friend but what changed now?”

“Roy. That’s what’s changed,”

“So now that Roy’s in the picture we can’t be friends?”

“You’re such an idiot Danny,” he spat, so much harsher than he wanted. Hurt and hatred intertwined with his words, making Danny part his lips into a frown. “You are so stupid. It’s because I like you! Isn't that obvious?” tears built up beneath his eyes. “And you obviously don’t like me back at all. And no one ever will apparently because I never win.”

“Come on Max,” Danny fought. “That’s not true.”

“I feel like I will never be happy. When the heck has something gone for me?!”

“We talked about this on our trip! Remember? On that rooftop at night that was-”

“Way too romantic to be platonic? Yes, I do remember that,” he sniffed, and collected the tears with his index finger. “Way too clearly in fact because I probably remembered it differently to you.”

“Max!” his bold words pierced through the building mist. The tallest boy’s voice hitched as he froze for a second. Danny finally caught his breath as his hands slowly released from being a fist. “Let me talk for a second. And don’t talk back,” he said firmly. Max seemed to subtly nod at that, his face still stunned. “Max, I like you as a friend. And I’m really sorry that I lead you on. I wasn’t aware of it and I didn’t mean to hurt you in any way. Because I care about you. And there’s not gonna be a day when I wouldn’t care about you. But…” he sighed deeply. Danny knew exactly what old Danny would’ve done. He would’ve done something really stupid and went with it, feeling sorry for Max. Understanding what he was feeling. To feel rejected and unloved. But he had morals. And that wasn’t going to change. Even for someone he cared deeply about. It was complex but...he knew what was right. And he was confident in himself to act on it. “...I can’t be with you. I’m really sorry. And I don’t know what the future holds so I can’t exactly guarantee anything but…”

“I know, I got it,” he was practically crying by this point.

“But you don’t get it. Because I’m still going,” he argued. “Because this might not be romantic. This might not be going exactly to plan, and I’m really sorry that it isn’t, but I still love you. I still care about you, I’m still going to be here whenever you need me, and listen to your problems, and help you out. Because that’s what friends do too. We might not get married, but that doesn't mean I’m not going to be there to watch you get married and cheer the absolute loudest in the crowd. Or be there to watch your musical performances and be there when you graduate. It’s not going to be romantic, I’m sorry. But that doesn't mean we’re not going to be friends, and I’m not going to try my hardest to make you happy Max. I’m sorry, that my actions got interpreted differently, but I want you to know that I still care. And it doesn't matter if we’re together, or I’m with Roy, and you’re with someone else, or whatever. None of that matters. Okay? I’m truly sorry that I don’t feel the same way in that sense, but that doesn't mean I care about you any less.”

Max sat there for a moment, his body cemented into a polite position. And his face just frozen with shock. Danny was puffing, his voice thinned with exhaust and his chest filled with light breaths.

“...Danny I’m…” Max’s eyes crinkled shut as he lunged over to him, his arms wrapped around his waist. He wailed into his shoulder, feeling his feelings crack under the weight of his own body. His face curled into a red until he couldn't breathe properly anymore, and his fingers scrunched the fabric of his shirt until it got drenched in tears. But Danny didn’t care about those details. He just rested his hands on his back and let him cry onto him for support. He soothingly ran his fingers up and down his spine, until Max parted slightly.

“Sorry…” he cried, his eyes bloodshot. Danny pursed his lips.

“It’s okay. I’ll always be here to help,” he reassured with a bright grin. “Tell me anything and everything.”

“C-Can I be honest?” he hiccuped, his hands calming down a little. “...I don’t really think that I’ll find someone...I don’t know.”

“I get it,” he nodded. “I think everyone goes through that. Trust me. But know this,” he placed his hands onto his shoulders. “You’re going to graduate soon. Soon enough, you can do whatever you want, okay? Do whatever makes you happy. There’s nothing else holding you back at that point. And why wouldn’t you, right? You deserve it.”

“...thanks Danny,” he grinned. “I needed to hear that…”

“No worries,” he exchanged a quick hug.

“One more thing…” he started, his voice low.

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“...do you think Kurtis and I would be a thing?”

“Max!” he unintentionally exclaimed. “I-I don’t know…? Why? Do you like him?”

“What? No. I just figured because everyone’s finding someone,” he shrugged it somewhat too casually. “And we’re the leftovers I guess.”

“I mean, you might find someone outside of school. Right?”

“I don’t know, it seemed like the most plausible theory I guess,”

Danny chuckled.

“You’re funny Max,”

“Am I?”

“Most definitely.”

Chapter Text

“So...Danny…”

Danny felt bad.

Max had mentioned that his parents didn't like driving, but they basically forced him to take their offer when he was going to go home. Danny somewhat wished that he left earlier than he did, because he really didn't want to meet Max’s parents. The way he described them was so...uptight. Negative. And that didn’t seem like something that Max would say about someone unless it was true. He was an incredibly kind person, so he figured that his parents must have been pretty bad.

And well, they sort of were.

They were just how he imagined. His mom, well Max called her “mother” which he wasn’t used to at all, was out shopping for groceries when they were home, so she came home just as Danny got up. And she seemed fairly pleasant. A little soft spoken, but she seemed like someone who enforced strict rules. Danny just got a glimpse of his dad, or his “father”, when he was just about to leave. He was dressed in a crisp suit, looking like it got ironed almost every day. And his hair was gelled to cement and he looked like he had never smiled in his life. He seemed like what you expect, I suppose. A businessman. A proper father. Someone who might not like Max all too much.

And now he was in the car with them, the air much too thick and quiet.

“What year are you in again?” Max’s mother asked, her eyes never meeting his.

“I-I’m a year below Max,” he answered, his voice quivering a little more than he would’ve liked. She was a little intimidating, he thought.

“Oh, so you’re younger,” she said, her voice somewhat leading into a sarcastic tone. “Well...you dress...like that. Yes, I see that.”

“Mother? What do you mean?” Max asked, his mom snapping over to him like he was speaking out of line.

“All that...black,” her eyes bounced off of his old dark jacket, to his ripped jeans, to his dusty shoes. Yeah, he wasn’t dressed nicely. At all. He looked homeless compared to them.

It’s something Danny looked past after a while. He began to look past Max’s nicely ironed shirts, and neutral toned sweaters after a while, and soon he just forgot about what he wore too. It just didn't matter all too much. Danny thought that Max was more than that.

“It was laundry day,” Danny butted in a lie. “...so these aren’t clothes I’d…” he pondered for the right wording. “...prefer to wear…?”

“Oh,” his mother piped. “Understood. Everyone has bad days.”

“Of course,” he chuckled uncomfortably.

“And how was school today?” typical line, Danny told himself.

“Good,” Max answered typically too.

“It must be better than good. More description Max. Like great, exceptional, wonderful-”

“Mediocre. School was mediocre,” his tone was a little firmer. “Maths was incredibly repetitive. English hasn’t progressed any further. And physics continues to be a complete drag.”

“In what sense?”

“It is repetition from work I have already completed, thus I find it boring,” his tone remained firm, even a little edged. His mother didn’t meet his eye.

“What about you Danny? Do you enjoy school?” damn it, he muttered under his breath, gulping.

“It’s…” he pondered for the right word. “Wonderful.”

Probably the wrong word.

“What is your favourite subject?”

“Music,” he blurted out honestly.

“Wow,” she nodded to herself stiffly. “What instrument do you play?”

“Guitar…”

“Oh,” he cleared her throat. “Wow…”

Danny knew that he said all the wrong things when she stopped talking all together. He wondered why he didn’t say a lie. She was never going to see him again, so he could’ve gotten away with lying about everything, but he didn’t. He cursed at himself for it.

“Thank you so much Mrs Malanaphy,” he tried to sound as cheerful as possible when he hopped out of the car, his bag swung over his shoulder. She didn't reply. Great.

He began to make his way over to his own house until he heard a bursting splash against, what sounded like, wood. And then a loud flowing sound, like it was harshly running down the house. Glancing over, he saw Roy washing his house with a strong hose, his brows crinkles and sweat beating his forehead.

Danny instantly dashed over, dropping his bag by the doorstep of his house.

“What are you doing?” he asked, his tone forcefully happy. Roy grumbled to himself.

“Someone egged the house,”

Danny’s heart cracked a few inches. Because he knew exactly who did it. His eyes narrowed.

“I’ll help,” he plasteed on a smile and fetched his own hose from his house to help him hose down the off-yellow colour that seemed to dry itself onto the paint.

“Thanks Danny,” he grinned over, looking incredibly thankful at his action. “I have no idea who would do this.”

“M-Me either,” he stammered, nervous chuckles ending his sentence.

“It’s such a trek to get off and…” he rubbed his temples. “Who the fuck would do this? Seriously? Who the fuck would do this?”

“I-I don’t know…”

“Have I done something fucking wrong? Because I don’t think I deserved any of this,” he shook his head aggressively.

“We’ll get this cleaned up Roy. It’ll be okay,” he tried to calm him down. “Trust me. I can get some soap from upstairs. My mom can help if you want-”

“It’s just,” he stopped the flow of the water and slammed it onto the ground angrily, groaning to himself as he sat onto the ground. Danny instantly rushed to his side. “I can’t fucking believe it. This is the last thing I need right now. All my tests are lining up, the musical is fucking going to shit, and then this happens? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Roy it’s gonna be-”

“Oh stop it Danny,” he snapped. “I don’t need this happy bullshit right now.”

Danny stayed silent.

He crossed his legs and clasped his hands into his lap like some kindergartner. A child who was too scared and upset to fight back. So he just sat back and watched Roy reach towards the hose to turn it on.

“I don’t even know what I should be doing any-”

Pause.

Danny peered down to see his shirt completely drenched. Roy had accidentally blasted him with the hose, his shirt now dripping with water. He scoffed.

“Oh my god Danny I’m so-”

He bursted out into laughter. Unintentionally, really. He grabbed onto his shirt and laughed at the wet mess.

And Roy did too. He ditched the hose and leaned over to him, cackling at the top of his lungs as he saw the water seep through the fabric of his clothes.

Danny instantly went towards it, blasting it towards Roy. He went tumbling back, laughing as he fought back and tackled him to the ground. They were a mess. With limbs tangled and loud laughter. Danny felt at home.

“You’re an idiot,” he screamed, trying to aim the water at Roy’s face. The older boy squealed and pushed back.

You’re an idiot!” he argued childishly, ultimately turning it off so he could actually breathe. He panted for a moment before he looked up at him. “I’m sorry...for earlier.”

Danny wiped a sweat from his face.

“It’s no problem,” he shrugged. “Don't do it again though.”

“Won’t. Promise.”

And they exchanged gracious smiles before going back to Roy’s for a few hours. Filled with remenisense and familiarity.

Unknown to them, Courtney was looking outside her window at the time, gently smiling over to the scene play out in her bedroom. She felt a flutter by her chest. Gladness, she called it. But it was also a mix of nostalgia and happiness for Danny. Like a ‘thank god’ moment for him.

“What are you looking at?” Willam peered over her shoulder to see the two entering the house again, standing a little closer than what’s probably normal. “Roy and Danny?”

“Yeah,” she sat back. “They’ve been friends for ages.”

She hummed with amusement. Much like Courtney who was internally shrieking for Danny’s success.

Chapter Text

“Guess what?” Jason sat down angrily at their usual spot for lunch, but his expression was unusually frustrated.

“What?” Matt asked, his tone a tad concerned.

“I overheard Willam and Courtney talking,” he grumbled. “And they said that Roy and Danny are, like, best friends now. Like they’re doing great and Danny actually helped him clean up his house after our mess.”

“Wait, wait, what mess?” Max questioned, his brows crinkled. The other three simultaneously gulped. He gave a long, frustrated sigh. “Don’t tell me that you-”

“Egged someone’s house again?” Kurtis ended the sentence with guilt. “I mean…”

“Are you kidding me?!” he shrieked. “Why would you do that?!”

“It was to protect Danny,” Matt tried to reason. “We heard from Danny that Roy is a homophobic asshole, so we were trying to…?”

“Give him a piece of our mind,” Jason finished for him.

“And you’re going to do something illegal to do this?” he rubbed his temples. “I get what you’re going for but this is just plain stupid! Also if Danny finds out, he’ll be incredibly mad. You know that right?”

“It’s for the greater good. Think about it like this Max: we’re trying to help Danny by punishing Roy. He’s an asshole, and he doesn't deserve someone like that,” Kurtis said confidently. Max groaned at the answer.

“Wait,” Jason paused. “Where is Danny anyway?”

“Oh. He’s on some school excursion today. His whole grade is,” Kurtis explained.

“That one to the garbage dump?”

“That one to the garbage dump,”

“Oh gross I hated that one,” Max shook his head. “That’s besides the point. Don't you think it’s inappropriate to talk about him while he’s gone?”

“What? We bitch about people all the time,” Jason rolled his eyes. “And it’s not like we’re saying something bad about Danny. Just about Roy.”

Max gave a deep sigh, filling up his lungs and completely sucking them out.

“But have you ever stopped to consider why he likes Roy?” he tried to reason, his voice already half way through being pissed off.

“Oh? The homophobic asshole?”

“No, I mean the childhood friend who cares and loves Danny, and has looked after him and looked out for him way longer than we’ve known his existence,” he dragged out. “Look, I love Danny as much as all of you guys and I get what you’re trying to do, but we need to remember that he’s not a stupid kid. He’s Danny,” he paused to think about it. “Okay, he’s a little bit stupid sometimes, but overall, he’s a bright kid. And I believe in him to make good decisions.”

“I mean…” Kurtis started. “Okay...yeah. I get where you’re coming from.”

“If Roy is completely bad news, Danny wouldn’t be with him,” he choked on his own words. “I-I mean like friends wise. You know.”

Matt nodded in agreement.

“I agree with Max,” he smiled. “Maybe we shouldn't manage things for him. I sometimes forget that he’s only a few months younger than us.”

“Yeah, I guess we did get a little carried away…” Kurtis scratched the back of his neck. “But he does come across as the baby of the group. Like, he’s the baby spice of this group.”

“That’s true,” Jason acknowledged. “But still, if Roy does something shitty, I will flip out.”

“I mean if Roy does end up hurting Danny we could always egg his house again,” Max grinned, the others cheering enthusiastically.

“There you go. Max has officially joined the dark side,” Jason cackled.

“Plot twist, maybe he’s the most evil out of all of us. I mean, he did break a window,” the brunette laughed.

“Oh shut up! Don’t even bring that up,” the tallest boy slapped himself in the face. “That was the most stupid thing I have ever done.”

“Tell me about it. How did we get away with it again?” the cheerleader laughed.

“Because of my amazing driving skills, of course,” Kurtis cocked a shoulder, making Matt groan.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,”

“Oh shut up. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for me,”

“Yeah, we’d probably be better off,” he joked, the others snorting. Kurtis narrowed his eyes, but quickly chuckled.

“I hate you,”

“I hate you too.”

Chapter Text

“Look, I’m not saying she’s a bitch but,” Willam started, getting her stuff out of her locker. “She’s a bitch. We all know it.”

“I like her actually,” Courtney smiled. “She’s funny and nice and she’s done my hair at competitions before.”

“But that’s because you like everyone Court,” Alaska chuckled. “And Will, she is actually pretty nice. Have you ever had a conversation with her?”

“I don't need to have a conversation with Alyssa fucking Edwards to figure out that she’s sort of a delusional bitch,” she argued, her voice still relatively soft.

They do this every morning. They collect their books together by their lockers which are conveniently next to each other and they do their daily strut around the school, to show off how amazing they are. But Courtney was so thankful that the “main part” was cut out now, now that her and Dan weren’t together anymore. It meant that she could hang out with her two friends and not be intruded by some asshole. Two friends that she actually wanted to be around. And it was great.

“She is a great asset to our squad too. Don’t forget,” Courtney pointed out, tightening her ponytail.

“That’s true,” Willam acknowledged reluctantly. “As long as she's not talking, I’m fine with her.”

“Oh come on guys, she’s not even that bad,” as the tallest girl tried to reason with her, someone suddenly stopped them on their path.

“Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen you.”

Courtney hated sarcasm from particular people. It rubbed her the wrong way. And as she peered up to see Dan’s face, she felt her blood boil.

“Hey Courtney,” he slurred cockily. She gritted her teeth. “Long time no see.”

“Jesus Christ, what do you want Dan?” Willam stepped in front of her.

“I just wanted to ask questions, that’s all,” he shrugged.

“We all know that you’re trying to start shit right now, and I don't think you'll want to,” her voice was firm and comforting for Courtney.

“Oh wow I’m intimidated,” he laughed sarcastically. “Anyways, I’m just here to ask Courtney: why? Why did you cheat on me?”

The whole world around them seemed to freeze at his line. Everyone in the hallway looked over to them, their conversations dying down to mutters of gossip, and all their attentions shifting over to them. Courtney felt her whole body shiver at their narrowed eyes.

“I-I didn’t cheat on you,” she tried to stand her ground. “I’ve said that before and you didn’t even bother to listen to me.”

“Because Roy told me otherwise,” the head cheerleader scoffed, on the verge of tears. Willam leaned over a little for protection's sake.

“Roy?” she stuttered. “Why would Roy tell you something like that?”

“You’re the one who hooked up with him!” the gasps in the room overshadowed her own sense of misery at that moment. She felt her whole heart just drop, with complete confusion and realisation. It was conflicting but...well, it was something alright.

“I-I wouldn't do such a thing,” she argued, her bottom lip quivering from shame, anger and embarrassment.

“Are you telling me that he’s lying?” Dan raised an eyebrow, his stance looking so much bigger than it did before for Courtney. “Because I don't think he’ll do something like that. Why would he do something like that?”

“I-I don’t know,” she stammered, her voice shrinking in her own throat. Stop asking me so many things. “Don't ask me.”

“So…” he stepped closer, but she unintentionally stepped back, the pressure from him making her uncomfortable. “...you didn’t actually?”

“N-No, I wouldn't…” she shook her head, mostly because the thoughts were starting to become overwhelming for her and she didn’t want to think about anything at this point. “I’m not that type of person.”

“Well...I’m sorry Court,” when the nickname came back to his lips, it made Courtney’s world spiral. Like everything was getting sucked into what it used to be. Rewinding. She felt her knees on the verge of giving out. “I didn't mean to accuse you of anything,” he slapped himself on the forehead. “I hope I didn’t come across as an asshole.”

“Well you did,” Willam intruded, entering their little bubble with a harsh foot in. “And you're not gonna come back from this, you know that right? You fucking screamed at her in front of the whole goddamn school!”

“Because I thought she fucking cheated on me with some theatre kid,” he growled back, his voice just as intense as hers. He looked past her to try and meet Courtney’s gaze. “Come on Court. You know me. I didn't mean it.”

She felt her chest collapse onto itself. Willam brought an arm to her shoulder, reeling her in closely. It was like a reminder, for a moment, of what they had. Of all the things they had for a few months now.

“Well if it’s such a big deal,” Alaska broke through the barriers too. “Why didn't you ask her months ago? It’s been so long.”

“Because I’ve been thinking about it nonstop, and I needed to get closure,” he was practically begging now. Guilt tasted sour in Courtney’s mouth. “I still love you to this day,” the aww’s in the background made the blonde close her eyes from fright. “And I just want to say that I want you back.”

Fuck no. Don't say that.

“Look Dan,” Alaska started off for her, deciphering quickly that Courtney’s lips were zipped shut. “She doesn't want to-”

“I want Courtney to answer it herself,” Dan dismissed her entirely, making the tallest girl gulp. Willam crinkled her brows.

“Dude, are you joking? Don't put her on the spot like that. You're being an even bigger asshole than-”

“Dan,” Courtney blurted out the name louder than she wanted it to, like her words tumbled out awkwardly.

“Yeah?”

“I…”

She looked at both her friends for a moment before she opened her lips again.

“Let me have time to think about it.”

Chapter Text

“Are you kidding me Court?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,”

The tension between all three of them was so much thicker than what they were used to. It was mostly quiet, and each pause was so much longer than their usual conversations. It was Courtney’s room, the place they usually stayed on Friday afternoons, and they were all sitting miles apart from each other. Alaska was positioned by a seat in the far corner, and Willam was by the verandah, leaning up against the shut doors. The head cheerleader was tucked away by the end of her bed, her legs crossed and her spirits down.

“I don’t want to talk about it…” the blonde sighed. Willam narrowed her eyes.

“You’re not getting back together with him,” she demanded it like a stuck up child. The tallest girl crossed her arms.

“You can't say that Will,” she argued harshly yet maturely. “It’s her choice,” she turned her attention to the other girl. “But if you do get back together with him, I’ll think you're a dumb blonde.”

“I know,” she pursed her lips, even though she was joking. “It’s just…”

“It’s some stupid reason, I bet,” Willam fought, rolling her eyes. They instantly locked eyes at that, and the older girl felt her own heart shatter.

“Are you kidding me?” she snapped, her voice weak. “Don’t say that shit to me Will. Don’t even get me started.”

“Why? Because I’m telling the truth?”

“No!” she threw a pillow at her angrily, leaving the other girl to dodge it hastily. “Because you always disregard me like some idiot! And I’m not that stupid, you know? I’m sick and tired of you casting me aside because I deserve more respect than that. Okay?”

Willam blinked, speechless, and Alaska was silently rooting for her. She grinned over to her, before she began to speak.

“She’s right Will,” she acknowledged. “She can make her own decision. And we’re gonna support her.”

“No,” she snorted sarcastically, making the other two crinkle their brows in shock. “I know what’s right-”

“Your opinion isn't worth more than hers,” the tallest blonde argued. “Stop it Will.”

“But this is obviously so wrong!” she shouted, a snicker of disbelief on her tongue. “He’s a dickhead Court. He didn't believe you, told you that you were lying and you didn't hear back from him until a whole month later! Can I also mention the fact that he didn’t bother to ask you about it and believed a story from a theatre kid dickhead? Over you? And how long were you two together for?”

“2 years…”

“Wow, it must’ve been a useless build up of trust in those 2 years because he did jackshit. In the relationship too,”

“Okay, that’s enough Will,”

“I’m not done,” she stormed over to her on the bed and sat directly in front of her. Alaska rushed over to hold them apart. “Look at me Court,” she raised her gaze with a light touch by chin. “You deserve better than Dan. He forgot to get you a corsage for the annual ball for godsake. And when has he ever asked about how you felt? Or what you want to do? Or how you’re going? Tell me.”

“Well, when have you?” her voice slurred with distaste. Alaska nearly gasped at the comment. Willam’s face lightened from realisation. “The only person who ever does is Danny and Alaska. Even Roy does it more than you and Dan,” she shook her head and glanced away. “Why do I always end up with people who don't care about me as much as I care about myself?”

“I-I do care about you,” Willam reached out her hands to place them onto her shoulders lightly. She felt her collapse slightly in her grasp. “I’m sorry, oh my god, I didn't think…”

“I know you didn't think about it. Are you even used to thinking about someone other than yourself?” tears built up beneath her eyes. Alaska’s lips parted. “I didn't think so…”

“I’m learning,” she interrupted. “I’m learning. I’m sorry I guess I never...had to. B-But I do now…so...I hope you accept my apology…?” Courtney didn’t reply for a few breaths of silence, and it made Willam gulp. “I’m a bitch. I know. Everyone points it out every day and they act like I don't know. I have to put up with me everyday, so I know. Trust me. But if it hurts you, I can learn. I'll change. I promise.”

Courtney sighed.

“Don't change too much…” she mumbled. Willam widened her eyes. “...because I still like you.”

Willam smiled brightly, bringing her into a tight hug. She felt Courtney laugh into her shoulder comfortably, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“You guys fight like a couple,” Alaska joked, the other two flinging apart from awkwardness. They both swallowed hard. “...guys I’m joking. Geez you guys are acting like…” she paused, and screamed. “Wait! You two aren't-”

“What the fuck ‘Laska?! No!” Willam stepped in with a shaky breath. “How the hell did you get to that conclusion?”

“What? I don't know,” she shrugged. “Is it that far fetched?”

“Y-Yes,” she cleared her throat. “You don't think we’re straight?”

“Truth be told, not really,” she lightheartedly chuckled. “Are you two homophobic?”

“No,” the two chorused, accidentally talking at the same time. The three sat there for a moment.

“Then what's the problem with calling it out as a joke?” she questioned obliviously. Willam groaned and looked over to Courtney who gave an indecipherable expression. “What? Oh my god, you guys always do this thing where you look at each other and I have no idea what’s going on.”

Willam have a heavy sigh, which made Alaska look over to her with a slightly lopsided grin.

“Look Alaska…” she began, her eyes still on Courtney. The other girl just gave a small shrug, but an encouraging expression. “There’s something...we need to tell you.”

“Umm okay,” she positioned herself into a more comfortable position. “Tell me,” the couple exchanged a set of looks that made her pace back and forth slightly. “Is it that important?”

“If we tell you...you can’t tell anyone, okay?” Courtney’s hands clasped over Willam’s and they both looked over at the final girl with pleading eyes.

“Yeah, of course,”

“Do you want to say it?” Willam asked over to Courtney, nudging her slightly. She gulped.

“Alaska…” she started.

“...Courtney…?” she kind of chuckled at the intensity to wear it off a little. “Come on. What is it?”

“I’m...actually dating someone,” she admitted, trying to keep it vague. Alaska widened her eyes.

“W-Wait what? So you were cheating on-?”

“No, no,” she hastily butted in. “I started dating…them, after. And I’m really happy now.”

“So why would you say that you were going to “think about it” with Dan?” she blinked.

“I-I don’t know…” she shrugged stiffly. “I guess I didn’t want to be rude…”

“But you could’ve just told him, right? That you’re in a relationship and all?”

“Right. See. There’s the thing...I…”

“Okay this is too tedious. Spit it out Court,” Willam snapped, somewhat frustrated but still somewhat sweet.

“...you do it. I-I can’t-”

“We’re dating.”

Chapter Text

“E-Excuse me?” Alaska stared at them for a moment, and let out a few chuckles like she was just trying to decipher the situation. And that feeling of awkwardness wasn’t helping at all. Why did it have to be so quiet? “L-Like you and…?” she pointed over to Willam with slightly shaky hands. “...what? Sorry I’m kind of confused but…”

“I-It’s a relationship,” Courtney heard Willam’s voice tremble for the first time. From fear. From upset. And she felt herself move towards her for comfort.

Alaska chuckled into her hand. Courtney felt her own chest clench. She looked like she was oddly denying it in her head, like she was avoiding it in a way. And then she crinkled her eyes shut and let out a sigh.

“I...I can’t believe it,” she bit down on her lip. “...fuck you.”

“Wait what-”

“I fucking lost a bet with Sharon,”

There was a moment of silence, filled with an overwhelming sense of confusion and surprise, until Willam knocked through it.

“What the fuck?” she blurted out, her voice cracked with shock.

“What?” Alaska gazed at both of them with complete oblivion. “You told me that you liked her like 3 years ago.”

“You have?” the blonde piped out with slight contained excitement, looking at her with wide eyes. Willam gulped.

“You’re being the worst friend right now,” she groaned into her hand.

“I guess I’m just sort of surprised that Courtney said yes,” her eyes darted over to her. “Will? Really? You could do better than that Courtney.”

“Alaska!” she jokingly shrieked, leaving her to laugh loudly.

“What? I’m obviously joking,” she slapped her on the shoulder. “No, no, I’m happy for you two. Obviously. Fucking hell, we’ve been friends for, how long now? A long time. And I just want you guys to be happy. I’ll support you.”

“Aww ‘Lasky,” Courtney wrapped her arms around her tightly and brought her into a messy hug, giggling into her neck as she toppled to her side. Willam pinched her nose.

“You built up all that tension for nothing,” she grumbled. “You scared me shitless.”

“I’m sorry. Maybe it’s a thing that I picked up from Sharon,” she playfully shrugged, looking up a Wilam with a wide grin.

“Oh Jesus, don’t tell me that you’re actually dating her,” Willam slurred, receiving a joking smile. “Oh fuck off.”

“You’ve known it for a while though!” Alaska pouted.

“Okay, I’ve guessed it. Doesn't mean I actually knew it,” she snickered. “So…?”

“It’s a yes! Of course it’s a yes,” she laughed. “We’ve been together for, like, months now,” the other two girls giggled excitedly. They had a weird vibe going on. It was nice. Unfamiliar. But none of them were opposed to it. “What was I supposed to do, huh? I’ve always been the third wheel.”

Courtney gasped.

“Oh my god, you don’t really think that, do you?” Alaska didn’t fully meet her eye. “Aw, ‘Lasky.”

“No, I’ve always understood why,” she brushed off.

“But it’s still not right. Alaska, we love you,” she smiled over. “That’s not going to change just because we’re together now, you know? It’s like a threesome but…”

“It’s not a threesome Court,” Willam laughed over. “We’re just together and Alaska’s with some punk rock dyke.”

“We’re all dykes you idiot,” the words rolled off her tongue with a colloquial yet fun tone.

“Yeah, but only one of us are edgy,” Willam teased her.

“Oh come on, we’re all a little fake, right?” she tried to justify, raising her eyebrows.

“Can't we all just be happy?” Courtney wheezed out through her grin. “This is like the happiest moment of my life so far.”

“Yeah, yeah it’s pretty great,” her girlfriend brought her arm around her shoulder, reeling her in tightly and comfortably. “Does anyone else find it weird that we’re all closeted lesbians?”

“They do say that similar people are brought together. You know, people with similar interests,” Alaska smiled over, admiring the sight.

“You mean boobs?” they all laughed. “Yeah I guess,” she shrugged. “But I’m happy too.”

And they exchanged smiles. Perfectly slotted together smiles, and Courtney finally felt like she loved herself.

Chapter Text

“Thanks for joining me,”

Danny could imagine himself at a desk in a darkly lit room. He was kind of a villain, in his head, dressed in a tux with his hair gelled back. And he would clasp his hands on top of the desk and eye all his victims harshly.

Well, in his dream he was that cool. In reality he was at a pizza restaurant with his friends.

He missed the last day of school because of some stupid excursion that was just utterly shit. Seriously. Most of it was literal shit. Danny hated it. It also made him realise how much he hated his grade. Like, before he at least had Jay and Gia, but now they completely ignored him. And he didn’t have many other friends in his own class. He kind of stuck with Tatianna and said nothing so she wouldn’t leave him too.

“No worries Danny,” Max smiled. “Plus, this was a perfect way to finally use up the coupons I got from Brian F.”

“Okay on more important issues,” Jason started. “Pineapple on pizza. Yes or not?” it was pretty typical for him to start some sort of debate for them.

Danny mentally slapped Jason. He was here to start some rant he had building up inside of him about what happened with Roy but of course they start talking about something else entirely.

“No,” Danny and Kurtis chorused, their eyes falling on the other boys when they stayed silent. “Really?”

“I don’t really care,” Max shrugged. “I just feel a little bad if I don’t eat them though.”

“I like Hawaiian,” Matt grinned. “This place is just great, to be honest. Anything they have here is like crack to me.”

Danny couldn't help but to gulp at the slight irony. That was inappropriate.

But he shook his head, figuring out that this was the best time to just insert something in there.

“The first time I came here was with Roy,” he saw Kurtis nearly choke on his own drink, and Jason spit his out. Matt stopped himself from coughing. “He really likes pizza actually. One of his favourite foods.”

“A lot of people like pizza though, right?” Max tried to reason, staring over at the others with an awkward expression.

“But he’s such a picky eater actually,” he slurred jokingly. “He especially hates eggs.”

Max just pinched his nose, giving up straight away. The youngest boy leaned forward from his own entertainment, watching the other three boys just crumble under the pressure.

“...damn how did he find out?” Matt sipped on his glass of water quietly.

“I'm his next door neighbour stupid,” he groaned, rubbing temples. “What the fuck were you guys thinking?”

“Can I just quickly say that it was for a greater good?” Jason added, defending them poorly.

“How the fuck was it a good idea?” he snapped.

“It was because you still liked him even though he was a dickhead to you,” Kurtis said, somewhat harshly, somewhat defensively. Almost too casually. “It was like pay back, you know?”

“You guys are idiots,” he groaned into his hand.

“Can I mention that I didn’t take part in this?” Max piped in, his eyes pacing back and forth between the boys.

“Okay, everyone but Max is an idiot,” Danny pointed out, the tallest boy letting out a sigh of relief.

“It was Matt’s idea!” Kurtis stammered out, receiving death stares from the former footballer.

“Wow geez thanks for throwing me under the bus…” he murmured, stuffing his face with another pizza.

“But everyone fucking did it,” Danny crinkled his brows.“Jesus guys. Roy doesn't deserve that.”

“But he’s homophobic! Come on,” Jason whined.

“We wouldn't get anywhere in life if we just egged every homophobic person’s house,” the youngest boy, for once in his life, sounded like the most mature and logical one in the group. “Maybe this shows that we shouldn't pick fights and we should only go after people when they go for us first.”

“Exactly! Roy came for you!” Jason argued. “He was an asshole and we were here to like…” he looked towards Matt who gave him a shrug. “I don’t know, do justice.”

Danny rubbed his temples

“Okay...I get where you’re coming from…” he exhaled. “...and I’m thankful for trying to look out for me...but…” he rolled his eyes. “Okay there’s something that I need to say about Roy...”

“Oh my god, I knew he was gay,” he uttered accidentally, clearing his throat straight away.

“W-What...no…?” Danny lied lamely. It was that instinct of lying coming back up again. He didn't know whether it was a lame excuse or a habit that still lasted, but he couldn't help it. And plus, they promised to keep it a secret. And that meant that this had to be a secret from his closest friends too.

Oh and also Jason and Kurtis are blabber mouths. That too.

“I was just gonna say that he apologised,” he smiled it off lopsidedly, but it was just convincing enough for all the other boys to nod along with it. Max eyed him oddly.

Max and him were in a weird situation. Well, at least it wasn’t exactly as weird as it once was. But Danny sort of hinted at the whole Roy thing with Max, even though there were no actual verbal confirmations for this. And Max didn’t fully know, right? Danny didn’t want to ask. And Max didn’t want to either.

“Properly, properly? Or like weakly?” Jason examined him.

“Was he a dickhead about it?” Matt added.

“Does he know that you're gay?” Kurtis finally asked.

“Uh…” Danny pondered. “Properly, no, probably.”

“Okay,” they chorused.

There was just enough of a pause for Danny to breathe.

“And…” Matt broke it. “We’re sorry. About what happened. Max actually finally made us realise that what we were doing was...wrong.”

Danny gazed over to the boy on the other side of the table, and he replied with a minimal grin and a flush of the cheeks. He felt a little flutter by his chest.

“Thanks Max,” he brightly said. Max just replied with a small nod and a press of the lips to conceal his growing blush.

“Okay, back to less serious matters,” Jason slowly shifted the conversation into warmer territories.

“If you’re going to ask whether diet coke is that bad, the answer is yes,” Matt laughed over, his boyfriend pouting.

“But I don’t see the difference,” he pouted.

“Diet coke is disgusting,” Kurtis rolled his eyes, joining in on the banter.

“All coke is bad for you. Maybe we should lay off them for a little while,” motherly guidance, Danny thought.

“Or,” Danny began. “We won’t because we’re only teenagers once and so we have an excuse to completely ruin our bodies for 2 years,” he grinned cheesily. “Well, one for you guys.”

“Oh no, I’m not graduating. I’m repeating,” Jason joked. “I’m virtually failing all my classes anyway.”

“That's not true Jason,” Matt smiled over. “But I’m not dismissing the idea of repeating.”

“Come on guys, you guys aren't that bad at school. Plus, adulthood means we can do whatever we want,” Kurtis confidently arched his back. “You guys can run away and get hitched or whatever, Max can go off and make lots of money, Danny can go be a musician or whatever, and I’ll get a cute ass dog.”

“...is getting a dog your only ambition?”

“Yes. Yes it is.”

And they laughed for the rest of the night, feeling like actual teenagers that fit in and love life for the first time in awhile. And Danny watched as the world around him blended together like some technicolour dream. He took a bite of his ordinarily typical “teenager” food and it brought a grin to his smile. He finally slotted himself into picturesque picture that he wanted to be apart of.

Chapter Text

“You’re such a dickhead!”

Danny wasn't a fan of fights. I mean, that’s pretty normal. Most people don’t like fights. But he really hated fights. Especially when it’s between some of his favourite people.

He watched Courtney stand virtually on top of Roy, with his body cowering down onto the ground, his expression terrified. Danny didn’t really know what to do. Or what just happened. He swore that Courtney had just slapped Roy across the face but he didn't know whether she actually did or not.

And he didn't know what to say. Or if he was even supposed to say something. He just sort of stood there and watched it unfold, his body frozen in a stance of shock.

All he knew was that, a moment earlier, they were fine. Well, as fine as it could be. Courtney demanded for them to all hang out one afternoon at Danny’s house for once, mostly because his mom wasn’t going to be home for a while. And so they sat by the lounge room with a freshly opened packet of chips and a mostly fine atmosphere.

It was until Courtney brought up that whole Dan thing that things went to absolute shit. Danny wondered why Roy never decided to defend himself. Say what he told him. That he told Dan a lie to protect her. But he just stayed silent the whole time, taking in Courtney’s screams. And it hurt him. But what hurt him more was that he didn’t say anything to help him out.

“Why did you fucking tell him that?! You embarrassed me in front of the whole school!”

“Sorry Court...I guess I said an inappropriate joke again and he took it seriously…”

“A joke?! Really?!”

“Come on tell her the truth Roy,” it was the first thing Danny said. And Courtney snapped her attention towards him with a shocked expression.

“What is he talking about?” she asked him sharply. Roy gulped.

“I-I don’t…”

“You obviously do. Tell me Roy, what is he saying?” she was on the verge of shouting, her words echoing through his house.

Roy glared over to him, Danny instantly feeling horrible.

“Fine then,” she grumbled. “Danny,” the younger boy looked over to her. “You tell me then. What did Roy do?”

“I-I don’t think I should…” he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. “I don’t really want to be involved in this…”

“You got involved in it the moment you knew about whatever the heck is going on!” she cried. “Danny? Who’s side are you on? I mean, I didn’t do anything wrong! Obviously Roy did some shitty-”

“He did it to protect you Courtney,”

She took a step back.

“W-What…?” she stammered. Danny sighed heavily.

“He did it to protect you Courtney,” he repeated. “He thought that if Dan broke up with you...you’d be happy. He knew that you wouldn't break up with him, so this was the only way.”

“Roy…” she gazed down at him and helped him up. “I didn’t…” she groaned into her hand. “I feel like an idiot...I just thought…”

“Why would I humiliate you in front of the whole school? Oh come on Court, I care about you,” he frowned. She gasped.

“So that black eye the other day-?”

“That had nothing to do with it,” he reassured. “I-It was something stupid that happened in the musical and-”

“That’s not true,” Danny stepped in, giving him a worried yet firm look. “...Dan hurt him. Because of what happened.”

“Roy!” she bit down on her lip. “I can't believe you'd get yourself in danger like that, a-and not tell me. We’re going to fix this. We’ll get back at him and-”

“No, don’t do that,” he soothingly ran his hand over her back. “You don't need to do that. It'll make everything worse…” he shook his head. “Plus, it’s alright now. There's nothing we can do and Dan’s out of your life now which is all I wanted.”

“Well...about that…” she cleared her throat. “Wait. Didn't you see what happened at school the other day? With Dan and…?”

“No,” he denied. “I guess that’s why I didn't really get what you meant by humiliating but…”

“He wants us to get back together,”

“W-What?” the boys nearly screamed at her.

“Shit Court,” Danny mumbled. “Are you kidding? You don’t even like him.”

“I know I don't,” she looked aside. “But I guess…” she shrugged. “I don’t know…”

“Please don't tell me it’s because of your image because we’re not going back there,” he argued.

“I’m just considering it,” she sighed. “That's all. But...I…can't...because-”

“Spit it out Court,”

“Getting back with Dan would mean I’m cheating on him…?”

Roy raised an eyebrow.

“Uh...we didn't actually hook up…?” he said in confusion.

“No I mean,” she shut her eyes tightly. “I’m dating Willam.”

“What?!” they actually screamed at her this time, complete shock washing over their faces.

“Oh my god,” Danny’s expression melted into laughter. “I can’t believe it!” he hugged her tightly. “Good job! Oh holy fucking shit Court! I can't believe it! Finally.”

“Aww Danny,” she smiled into his neck.

“Who asked who out? What happened? Have you guys slept together?”

“Ummm...no one really asked anyone out. We kind of kissed one time and it became a thing, it was cute though and…” she coughed. “No comment Danny.”

He shrieked at the response like an excited teenage girl.

“Oh my god Courtney!” he wheezed. “This is adorable. Is your ship name Witney?”

“Danny!” she giggled. “Stop it! Jeez, you’re so embarrassing.”

“But it’s so cute!” he excitedly grabbed onto her hands.

“Yeah…” Roy joined in with a small murmur. “G-Good job Court…”

He awkwardly patted her on the back, only giving a minimal grin, which made her back hunch over with discomfort.

“Wow...sounds very nice Roy…” his nose twitched at the answer.

“Roy has good intentions though, right?” Danny intruded with a positive voice.

“I want to hear Roy say that,” the blonde grumbled.

“I don’t think you want to hear that…” Roy confessed with a slightly minimal voice.

“You should watch what you say then,” she sounded a little more riled up.

“I just don’t think that she’s a good influence…” he tried to warn, standing his own ground. “Like, really Court? Willam? She’s dodgy as hell, she’s a heavy drinker, she’s really bitchy, and didn’t she try and kick you off the squad once?”

“Well,” she crossed her arms and kissed her lips. “She used to be dodgy, I admit that. But the last time she went to the party was, like, a year ago. Especially since ‘Lasky became sober, everyone stopped. And Will’s super supportive of her and promised that she would lay off too. And she tried to kick me off the squad because she was intimidated by me.”

“Wow sounds like a stable relationship…” he rolled his eyes.

“You've been such a dick to me for this whole day,” she complained. “Maybe the reason why we broke apart is because you became such a dick in the last few years.”

Danny gasped.

“Court, come on,” Danny tried to reason, but she pushed him aside.

“I'm done with you people.”

And she stormed out, leaving Danny to stare over to Roy with shock. Like their relationship suddenly plummeted in a single moment.

“...why did you do that?” Danny mumbled, guilt and doubt filling his chest.

“I was just telling the truth,” he shrugged, his voice almost too stiff.

“Why would you say something like to Courtney?”

“Are you taking her side right now?” he snickered. Danny gritted his teeth.

“Of course I am! She did nothing wrong! Unlike you apparently…”

“Oh, so you are taking her side,” he rolled his eyes again.

“Because she deserves our support!” he groaned. “Why do you have to be such a dick all the time?”

“A dick? I’m just trying to help,”

“I can’t be with someone who makes fun of Courtney like that!”

Roy bit his tongue and inhaled quickly. He clenched his fists and gave a small hint of vulnerability before he rushed out of his house.

And Danny just stood there. Stunned.

Chapter Text

Danny wasn't used to this weird break between the three of them. They'd fought before, obviously, actually quite a lot this year, but they weren’t used to...this. This was different.

It wasn’t some petty fight or a situation that let them cheer each other up. It was just a mess, to say it simply. Courtney was hurt by Roy, and so was Danny, but it wasn't something they could “bond” over.

Danny tried. He really did. To make everything work. Courtney stopped texting him and she left him on read a couple of times which hurt him. But in return, he’d read Roy’s texts and refused to reply. To a point where it became overbearing and hurtful so he had to switch his phone off. Because just seeing them made him feel bad but, he knew that he couldn't forgive him. Because he always did that and he didn't want to anymore. For the sake of Courtney.

“This is such a crap movie”

To get his mind off of everything, he decided to meet up with his friends. Other friends. The friends that weren’t being over the top and dramatic for once. It was different, but he wasn't complaining. He was just thankful that he had somewhere to go. And someone to talk to.

“Is not. This is a classic”

He watched Kurtis and Max’s usual banter unfold on the sofa. The sofa he hadn’t laid on for a while. He missed the feeling of the fabric. He just felt like he was in his second home in a way, especially while he was in his own space on the sofa. It felt...right to have their own little section of the couch as they sat there and chatted like regular teenagers.

“That romance was unnecessary,” Matt joined in with a small chortle.

“Aww I liked that romance. I thought it was so cute,” Jason pouted by his lap.

“Okay, nevermind, it was a great romance,”

Max rolled his eyes.

“That's so biased,” he drew out a loss from the debate. “It’s unfair.”

“I didn't like the movie that much,” Danny chimed in with a smile, receiving an equally bright smile back. Well, more bright. Mostly because Danny’s was a little forced more than is should’ve been.

But then again, Max was looking at him like he knew something was wrong.

It was mostly due to the text he gave him before.

DANNY: can we meet up?

MAX: with the whole group?

MAX: or just us two?

DANNY: whole group

MAX: sure thing

MAX: do you want to talk about it?

DANNY: not really…

MAX: that’s fine

MAX: I’ll organise it now on the group chat

He always seemed like the most understanding one. A person that never questioned Danny because he didn't need to. He just understood. And Danny loved that about him.

“So…?” Jason started, his voice filled with confidence. This usually meant that he wanted gossip. “Roy. How's that going? After you rekindled your relationship and all.”

His chest sunk.

“Umm...yeah. It’s been…” he pondered for the word. “...you know.”

Shit.

“You guys are so on and off,” Kurtis complained. “I can never keep up.”

“It’s a complex situation I guess,” he explained, his throat aching from the distaste for the topic. “It wasn’t really a problem between us. More like Courtney...b-but it’s just...hard to explain.”

“Explain it then,” Jason enthused. “I love gossip.”

“But it isn't exactly gossip,” he brushed off. “And it’s not really my place to say.”

“Okay, that’s enough for Danny,” Max intruded. “We shouldn't just hassle him for information that doesn't affect us whatsoever.”

“But Courtney’s a cheerleader too. We’re, like, basically friends,” Jason joked.

“Maybe it’s been an emotional ride for Danny though. Maybe we shouldn't just talk about it…”

“Yeah...I just don't really want to think about it right now…” he admitted. “I’m just trying to help Courtney through the situation though I guess. As of now. She’s sort of struggling with things right now and it’s bothering me. I always need to cheer her up. I-I mean I’m not complaining. I want her to be happy but...it can get overbearing. Sometimes.”

Max pursed his lips.

“...is there something else going on for you though Danny?” he asked quite minimamly.

“Yeah, because you’re having to handle quite a large load with all this crap about other people,” Kurtis continued on.

“Yeah, of course,” he denied weakly. “I’m used to it though...I guess.”

“Don't act like everything is always okay Danny because we’ve all seen how you’ve been going,” Max said firmly, throwing the atmosphere off a few degrees. “And I feel like you need to tell us something but for some reason...you’re not."

There was a pause, like it was for Danny to breathe.

“Everyone has their own reasons, sure,” Kurtis helped him through it, gazing towards Max with a reassuring look in his eyes. And then he looked at Danny with the same aura of confidence. “But I think what we’re trying to get here is…” he swallowed. “We’re worried about you,” Danny widened his eyes. “You've spent so much time worrying about us that I think that you don’t worry about yourself. And what you’re going through. And how much burden you put on yourself because of others.”

The youngest boy didn't reply. He couldn't reply. He gave a quick inhale and bit down on his lip, from confusion and somewhat fear.

“I remember that you said that you had bad sleeping patterns like half a year ago,” the cheerleader also entered the conversation, his voice soft and sweet. “But you still look like you’re not sleeping well enough. You have huge circles under your eyes, you’re losing so much weight and your hair is really growing out. You honestly look like you’re withering away…” he cleared his throat to wash away his cracking words. Matt soothingly embraced him.“...and it makes us really worried...”

“And you know you can trust us with anything, right?” Matt finally added, his expression softening. “You’re allowed to spill the T, and say whatever you want to say. You deserve it. You can trust us to listen to you and help you.”

“Because you deserve that,” Max finalised, shuffling a little closer to him.

He proceeded to wipe away a tear that Danny didn’t even realise was there. One that was travelling down his cheek. And he felt his stomach fold over at the way they all looked at him.

He cried. Danny Noriega, for the first time in so long, cried in front of people. Instead of smashing his face into a pillow and wailing until his throat went dry, he was there, crying into the shoulder of a friend, and comforted by those who loved him.

It felt better, to be crying, surrounded by the people that you love dearly. Because for the first time in...well, forever, he felt like he wasn't alone. Alone in fighting and living. And it felt fucking great.

He felt Max’s warm hand press against the middle of his back.

“It’s okay Danny,” he whispered through his hair, his voice calm. “You’re allowed to be stressed, and you’re allowed to feel like things are too much sometimes. And it’s okay to take breaks to take your mind off of things.”

“Maybe we need to go out and have some fun. Mindless fun. Just for a little while,” Kurtis suggested with a small smile. “Act like teenagers and fool around.”

“But still be true to ourselves, you know?” Matt added. “Let’s be honest, we’re a little different from most kids our age,” he chuckled. “But there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s kind of cool actually. We’re, like, super punk rock.”

“We’re alty,”

“Jason, don’t say alty,”

“And we’re sorry it’s a Sunday night so we can’t do anything…” Max explained with a slight frown. “But if we had time, we could’ve done something really fun.”

“I mean…”

“No Kurtis, we’re not going to ditch school,” he rubbed his temples.

“Why not?”

“Because it’s nearly the end of the term and we want to all do well. Of course,” he grinned. “We can do something fun in spring break.”

Jason gasped.

“Oh my god Max! Are we finally going to get drunk at the beach because I’ve been waiting for-”

“What? No! I’m saying we can do stuff like...go-karting! Or like bowling, or like the movies and all that jazz,” he explained, somewhat flustered.

“Over spring break? Maybe we can do something like the city trip again. That was fun right?” Matt asked over to Danny with a huge grin. “You loved that, right?”

“Of course I did…” he choked out, his voice trembling a little. “I honestly just like being with you guys,” the others chuckled at his teary words. “I don’t mind. Even this is more than enough for me.”

“You know what?” Jason began, running his hand down his arm. “We’re going to organise something for us. And it’ll be a fun surprise for you,” he exchanged looks with the other boys. “Seriously Danny. You deserve it. I’ll plan something so bomb, it’s unforgettable.”

“Y-You really don’t need-”

“Shut up Danny. I’m doing it.”

And they laughed for the rest of the night, curled up on the couch with some irrelevant TV show playing in the background. They shared stories and anecdotes and embarrassing gossip they all seemed to store up, and the had the best night in a while. Danny finally realised something. They really were forever. They really were eternal.

Chapter Text

It’s been an odd week for Danny. He had no contact with Roy or Courtney but had plenty with his friends. It was like it once was, but Danny wasn’t really keen on calling it nostalgia. It felt a little empty, actually. But he managed.

Until he couldn't really so he invited Courtney over to his house.

She had a short temper sometimes, depending on what it was, so he knew that he had to give her a week until she completely watered down. But she seemed fine now. Like the atmosphere between them was virtually back to normal when she sat down on his sofa.

“Okay, how was the cheer comp though?” Danny asked, nibbling on biscuits his mom provided for them. That was actual nostalgia. Them, on Danny’s couch, sipping on tea and eating biscuits. They used to do that a lot when they were younger, and they would act like posh adults and laugh at their acting.

“We won!” she rejoiced with a huge grin. She lowered the cup of tea onto the table.

“Oh my god Court! That’s amazing! Did you get a trophy and everything?”

“Yeah! It was like…” she reminisce with a dorky smile. “Amazing. Borderliner perfect.”

“That sounds great…” he rested his head against the back of the sofa. “I’m glad. I know you guys were working really hard for it.”

“We really were…” she glanced down at her lap. “I’m glad. It feels like we've gone through a full circle, you know? With the squad and all…” she sniffed. “And soon, I’m not going to be captain anymore…”

“You still have so much time until you give it up though Court,” Danny reminded with a smile.

“I know...but…” she pursed her lips. “I don't want all of this to be over just yet. I want to wake up and see my uniform hung up every morning, and come to school to sit on the popular table with Will and ‘Lasky. And I want to walk back from school with you and do the cycle over and over again,” she teared up slightly. “I’m not ready to grow up. At all. I hate this place, I hate this town and I really hate that I can’t be openly happy but…” she brushed aside her tears. “...I like the feeling of being here. I like the feeling of having a routine and have everything fit into place so perfectly. I can’t...think of stepping out of here. Having real responsibilities and having real problems I have to deal with.”

“Court…” he sympathetically gazed over to her.

“I don’t want this all to just disappear…” she mumbled. “I don’t want to choose between growing old here and eventually dying unhappy, or move away and be forgotten altogether.”

“Courtney, no one’s going to forget you,” she widened her eyes. “You’re unforgettable,” he smiled warmly. “And no one should discredit you for following your dreams to be happy. If they do, you don't need them. You do only live once, and why would you want to waste that limited time we have on people who don't want you? People who don't want to get to know you?”

Courtney embraced him tightly, squeezing him tightly to vent out her frustrations. And then she sighed deeply, exhaling a warm breath into his neck until she felt alright again.

“You’re absolutely right Danny…” she nuzzled into his neck. “Why would I want to be with people who would actually hate me anyway, right?”

They snickered together.

“Look Court, there’s one thing I need to tell you…” Danny explained, his voice a tad firmer. She nodded over to him. “...it’s about Roy.”

She rolled her eyes at the name.

“Do not get me started on him,” she slapped her own face.

“Yeah...we’re not on talking terms either,” he pressed his lips together. “I haven't even seen him at all at school.”

“Me either…” she pondered for a while. “I wonder if he’s okay actually…”

“I bet he is,” he brushed off.

“Well,” Courtney started. “You do know him better than I do. You always have.”

“Yeah about that…” he cleared his throat. “I don't know what's happening between us now, so it might not matter but…” he found it a lot easier to admit it. Now that Roy was virtually out of the picture. Which was a weird thought. “We were actually kind of dating…”

Courtney gasped loudly, her voice echoing through the whole house.

“No way!” she screamed. “What the heck?! How?!”

“I-I don’t really know,” he flustered. “All I know is that...one day it kind of clicked. I guess. And we weren't supposed to tell anyone but…”

“Are you two still together?”

“I have no idea, actually,” he glanced down.

“Wait, then why was he against Willam and I?”

“I have no idea,” he repeated. “I know him well but...sometimes I just really don't get him. Honestly. He confuses me.”

“Old morals maybe?” she suggested. “But I don't get him either…” she shook her head. “I bet he’s thinking about you nonstop. That's something I know for sure.”

“Well I am too…” he admitted with a reluctant expression.

“I’m sorry I kind of ruined it for you two I didn’t mean-”

“Courtney, it’s not your fault,” he grinned. “Honestly. If Roy has issues like this, I don’t know if I can handle him anyway. Maybe it’s for the best…” he shook his head. “But that doesn't mean I’m giving up on him.”

“Maybe…” she began. “You should stop over complicating everything in your head? It sounds like this mess is jumbling up with your thoughts a little. I think you need a break from Roy for a while and just focus on you and your school work maybe.”

Danny snickered.

“School work? When have I ever cared about school work?”

“Yeah, I’ve never been that big of a fan myself but, it might come in handy since this is your second last year of school. Ever,” she emphasised greatly. “Maybe you’ll regret it. Have you ever thought of next year?”

“All the time,”

“Because all of us will be gone. And that includes the friends you sit with now,” she pursed her lips. “Which is ashame.”

“Yeah...it is…” he bit down on his lip. “But that also makes me wonder if...I want to drop out…?”

Courtney scoffed.

“You say crazy stuff sometimes Danny, but this has to be the craziest,”

“Why? What am I going to get with an education anyway?”

“A good paying job,”

“That I don’t like,” he argued. “I’ve never liked school, but I’ll also hate being an adult if I have some desk job! I’ve never been like that Court, and you know it. I want to be a-”

“Musician. I know. Probably a singer, songwriter. Does alternative rock mostly, maybe a little pop if you’re willing. Maybe when you become more popular,” she snickered. “And you’ll write angsty lyrics that you’ve saved up from your teenage years and you’ll be popular on Tumblr mostly as this new, hot, gay alternative artist that wears beanies,” Danny laughed amusingly. “I know you Danny...and if that’s really want you want then…” she sighed. “I guess I can’t stop you in any way. You would also really suck at sitting still in an office.”

“I can’t even sit still in class,” they both giggled. “...thanks for understanding Court.”

“I’m always going to be here for you Danny. I always have, and I always will.”

Chapter Text

Bourbon and coke. Danny’s new favourite drink. He forgot how much he drank, but he knew that he drank enough to feel light headed. He thought that they all stopped doing shit like this. Especially because of Matt and his current state, but he thought wrong.

It was the first night of spring break. A week of nothing. Thank god.

He was pretty sure some song was playing through the radio. It was indistinguishable but it felt tingly and nice to listen to. The glass loosely sat between his fingertips as he collapsed his head down onto the sofa.

It’s spring break - the week of nothing - but all he could do was think about Roy. And what he was doing. Danny didn’t see him at all for a whole week, but he didn't have the heart to try and find him or even text him.

“Stop it Danny,” Kurtis slurred, stumbling next to him. He virtually fell on top of him as he sat down. “Stop thinking about Roy! I told you already, he’s fine! He’s been at school...he’s been in his classes, I think...he’s been at school…”

“Kurtis, you already said that,” Max rolled his eyes, partially annoyed at the atmosphere. Danny figured that Max was just having a bad day. Well, a really bad day. His time over at Kurtis’s was made up of sulking in the corner and reading some news article on his phone with a huge frown on his face. Danny felt a little bad at the image.

Jason and Matt were long gone. Well, not really. They were in the house but...somewhere else? Danny was glad that they weren’t near them because things would’ve been awkward, but he actually had no idea where they went either. And so there’s the three of them.

Danny glanced down to the ground and saw Kurtis rolling around like an idiot.

Scratch that. The two of them. Because Kurtis is acting incredibly strange.

“What’s wrong Max?” Danny felt like he was on anesthesia or something because he felt drowsy all of a sudden.

“Today’s just been...too much…” Max pinched his nose. “I don't enjoy this stuff. Everyone knows that but chooses to ignore it constantly. And with Matt’s current state, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the best.”

“B-But it’s the first day of Spring Break!” he whined.

“Danny, I was really hoping you weren’t going to be this type of person,” he complained back, making the younger boy swallow his words.

“...sorry…” he mumbled out.

“You should sober up a bit,” he leaned over to the side table and reached over to a bottle of water. He unscrewed the cap for him and made Danny hold onto it. “You should drink this. If you feel like throwing up tell me, then I’ll take you to the bathroom.”

“...why are you doing all of this...for me?” he just managed to speak out.

“Because I still care about you Danny. And I’m going to look after you,” he gazed past the boy and stared over at Kurtis and groaned. “But let me take care of Kurtis first.”

He hopped up from the couch and dragged him by the hand. Danny’s vision blurred around the sight of Kurtis being picked up and physically taken to the bathroom.

He felt sick. But not in the way he thought he would. He just kind of felt like he wanted to breathe fresh air and collapse onto the clouds. Or he wanted to shout into the night sky and sing until the stars took him in as one of his own. He just wanted to collapse and sink into the sea. He was just tired.

Especially now that the musical was abruptly cancelled, he went back to doing nothing. Courtney was especially devastated, but she blamed Roy harshly the moment she heard it and Danny didn’t want to bring up anything with her. But he was upset too. He actually felt like he was apart of something, and spending time with people he never knew he could get along with, like Sharon, was a nice change in his life. He was going to miss it. But he didn’t really want to beg Roy to hold it again anyway.

It felt like a break up to him, in a sense. The fact that he just messaged the messenger group chat, left it, and disbanded the Facebook group just to never speak of it again in real life was kind of harsh. And Danny hated it. But of course he did nothing about it.

Max. That was probably why he was so upset. He really was passionate about being in the musical. Danny instantly felt bad, like a banging of guilt hit his chest. He lowered the glass of bourbon coke as best as he could with his shaky hands onto the table, seeing only a thin liquid pooling at the bottom. His eyes oddly fixated onto it as he tried to regain his composure.

“Kurtis is throwing up in the bathroom. Gross,” the taller boy came walking in with a frustrated walk. Danny couldn't blame him though. “I’m just going to leave him in there until he feels better. And what about you? Have you been drinking the water.”

“No,” he, for some reason, told the truth. Max eyed him like a motherly parent.

“Danny, drink the water. You need it,” and so he held the bottle by his lips, forcing him to drink a few gulps until Danny resisted against him. He felt like a stupid child. But at this point, he kind of was.

“You don't need to mother me all the time,” he said as firmly as possible, though he stumbled a little.

“But you do need my help right now,” Max grinned, maybe borderline smirked at Danny’s state. It was a really different look for him, but Danny wasn’t complaining. The taller boy, in this angle and with this expression, looked amazing in his eyes. Almost unrecognisable but still so likeable. He blushed at the thought. “So you should sit back. And drink more water.”

So he did as told and crossed his legs on the sofa, chugging the water. It felt cool down his throat as he gulped.

“There you go,” the older boy smiled. “Now let’s position you down sideways. We don’t want you to choke on your own vomit, so this is the best position.”

Max continued to blabber on, more than usual, but mostly because he finally had the opportunity to completely take charge. And he was kind of taking advantage of Danny’s state. He couldn't lie. He borderline liked it.

“Do you still like me?” he blurted out, his body collapsing onto its side. Max exhaled at the answer and gazed down at him.

“Does that matter?” he muttered out, kneeling in front of him to meet his eyes.

“A little…” he hugged himself.

“I’ll tell you when you’re sober,” he chuckled to himself.

“But I won’t remember to ask you when I’m sober!” he tried to sit up again, but Max hurriedly tried to make him lie back down. “I just wanna know…”

“But it doesn't matter Danny. Like you said, we’re still friends,” he rested his hands onto his shoulders and gently pushed him down. “And it doesn't matter whether we’re together or not.”

Roy.

The thought just pulsed into his mind. And his voice hitched.

“Max,” he uttered, falling back onto his shoulder. “Kiss me.”

“W-What?” he sputtered out, blinking like he just awoke. “Danny, come on. Don’t do this.”

“I want you to,” he gulped his thoughts down, the aftertaste of the alcohol still on his tongue. “Just do it Max.”

“Danny,” he let himself snicker a little as he shook his head. “I know that you and Roy are together,” Danny widened his eyes. “You’ve hinted at it, so I just figured that that was the case. Anyway, I’m happy for you. And I don’t want you to go off and ruin this relationship for yourself.”

“R-Roy and I...aren’t…?”

“Things seem to constantly be complicated between you two, but either way, I’m guessing that you’re still officially together, correct?” Danny stared over to him, dumbfounded, and gave him a small nod. “Then the most mature thing to do is to be loyal to him. I can tell that you’re upset by something that happened, but hopefully you’ll make it through. At this point, you just need to sort things out with him, not avoid him, and resolve the conflict. And what you’re trying to do here,” he gestured in the space between them. “With us? Is not fixing the problem. You’re making the problem worse. And you don't want to do that. I know you. I know you want to be with Roy and patch things up. You just don’t have the heart to it.”

As Max breathed out his final words, he felt his own heart pulse under his own weight. He just tried to hold up the confident look for as long as he could. Max tried to wrap his head around what just happened. What he just did. In a way, he kind of threw himself under the bus. But maybe it was because he was the bigger person. He knew what was right and he stuck by it. He sucked in his lips and bit down on his tongue.

He gazed back at Danny, his eyes wide with awe. He looked like he completely melted into the moment, his words seeping into the skin.

Maybe, in a way, this is all that Max wanted to do. To see Danny like this. To let Danny experience something as amazing at the power of words. To let Danny experience the state that Max was in on that night in the city. When the skyline was perfect and the stars looked down at them with joy.

“...why didn't I fall in love with you instead…?” the phrase escaped his lips unintentionally.

Max’s chest clenched and unclenched with his breathing pattern.

“Because we’re friends Danny…” he felt the urge for tears building up in his chest. It was about to overfill. “And we’re better off as friends…”

And so he sealed the deal with that. Max signed his letter goodbye to their relationship ever meaning more. Ever being more. But he was okay with it. More than he thought he would be.

Danny froze and went pale.

“W-What's wrong Danny?” Max asked, concerned.

And he suddenly got up and ran.

Turns out he needed to throw up. Thank god Max missed that sight. As he sat back on the lounge chair, he reimagined the night, wondering the countless possibilities they could have had together. All the things they could have experienced and seen.

“You okay?” Matt came stumbling into the room, clearing his throat. He was much more sober than the rest of them. “Sorry I took so long. I convinced Jason to sleep so he wouldn’t feel so sick.”

Max smiled, feeling the book of him and Danny close politely.

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “A little over it, to be honest. Kurtis and Danny are throwing up in the bathroom.”

“Gross,”

“I know,” they both snickered. “You should head off to bed too, I think. I’ll take care of the other two, don’t worry.”

“Are you sure?” a yawn fluttered in his cheeks.

“Yeah. You deserve a rest,” he shrugged off. “Goodnight Max.”

“Goodnight Matt.”

Chapter Text

“Wait, wait maybe I don’t want this cut,” Danny hastily butted in. He stared at himself in the mirror, maybe for the last time with long hair. Or the last time in general. He gulped.

“Why not? Your hair’s way too long,” Kurtis measured the tips of his hair with his fingers.

“You’ll look great with short hair Danny,” Max complimented through the mirror.

Danny gulped.

They were all in the bathroom, huddled around the youngest boy who sat on a chair by the mirror. He knew that 5 would be squishy, but today was a 6. Matt told him that Brian F was supposedly a hairstylist, well in training anyway, so he would be great for the task. But Danny didn't know what to believe really.

“Okay I’m thinking…” Brian started, scissors angled so that it would shine into his eyes. “We just cut this short. Just completely short. Go all out.”

“What? No!” Danny protested. “I-I’d look...stupid.”

“No you won’t Danny. You need this. Seriously,” Jason grinned towards him, a little bit devilishly.

His voice hitched as the scissors snapped right by his ear. It sent a tremble through his body, and when he opened his eyes reluctantly to look over, he saw that his locks sat just by his ear. He sat there in shock.

“Oh my god,” he exclaimed as Brian wavered the bundle towards his face.

“Look at all that hair, jesus,” he gave a small chuckle. “Okay, now the rest of it.”

Danny felt like he needed to hold onto Max’s hand while he chopped off the rest of it. He felt it feather down his face as they fell. Danny knew something was a little off between them. That’s the only thing he seemed to think while getting his haircut, so he could get his mind off of the literal metres-long-worth-of-hair getting chopped down. He was sure that something went down last night between them. But he wasn’t exactly sure what actually happened. All he remembers was the banging headache that he had when he woke up and the bitter taste of bourbon on his lips. Like old bourbon left in the sewers of something. He didn't like it.

And after a few hangover remedies for all of them that Max provided, they fetched Brian F and started randomly making him over. Even though Danny kind of liked his own aesthetic.

“All done Danny Boy,”

When he opened his eyes again, he saw a completely new person. Who knew a haircut could make someone look so different? His dark locks were now evenly trimmed by the tops of his ears, and they swerved down to the brace of his neck, but nothing grazed the shoulders. It was much shorter than what he was used to. But he oddly liked it. It made him look...a little younger, yeah, but you could see his features more. His expression. Maybe his voice would come out clearly now too.

“There you go,” Brian lowered the scissors onto the sink.

“Now we can see that pretty little face of yours,” Jason snickered. “I like this on you.”

“Yeah, it makes you look a lot more genuine,” Kurtis said honestly, making Danny feel a little self conscious.

“You look good either way though,” Max chimed in with a grin. “Okay, now let’s get this mess cleaned up,” they all gazed down at the ground, the marble floor pooling with his hair. “And then watch a movie or something.”

“Can it be legally blonde?”

“No Jason, we’re not watching legally blonde again.”

Danny liked it when they sat back and watched movies, but he wasn't a big fan of doing it with another person. He was fine with Brian now, sure, but he still didn't particularly want a whole nother body added onto the couch. And he could tell that a lot of the others didn't like that either, so they were quick to ditch the movie idea and go out to town.

Kurtis’s house was situated somewhat around the mall, mostly around more shops which was nice. Danny didn't really have a chance to go around that area because he didn't live conveniently enough around the shops. So this was a nice change.

“We should go to the beach or something in a few days,” Jason suggested, his lips around a straw. Danny liked the taste of the milkshakes from this random cafe they decided to sit at.

“Mmm, it is getting a little colder though,” Kurtis reminded. “This is probably the coldest spring we’ve ever had.”

“It’s only early spring I guess,” Danny noted. “Maybe we can go in a few weeks or something.”

“And I can’t make it,” Max played around with the straw with his index finger. “I have a performance at the Conservatorium of Music again.”

“Oh my god Max. Good job,” Brian smiled over.

“Thanks,” he glanced down at his drink. “But you’re obviously allowed to go out and do something by yourselves. I don't mind.”

“We can do something else on another day though,” Matt twirled his colourful straw. “I know a really fun place out of town.”

“Is it that the place McCook keeps on mentioning?” Brian rolled his eyes. “Because I don’t know if Max would like that place…”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Max fought.

“It’s a gay bar,” he said blatantly.

“Oh…”

“Wait, why would you want to go? You’re already taken,” Danny pointed out.

“Because it’ll be fun. I wouldn’t mind going somewhere that only played good music and served fruity cocktails,” he shrugged.

“How would we get in?”

“McCook knows a guy,” Brian added with a small hint of excitement. “I’m not coming though. Not really my gig.”

“Me either,” Max rolled his eyes. “And please stop being so attracted to danger Matt.”

“Well it is my middle name,” Jason piped in, laughing at his own joke as he nudged Matt.

“I hate this,” Kurtis cackled, taking a sip of his sweet drink. “But it’s settled. This will be the best spring break ever.”

“No regrets,” Brian started a toast, holding his drink up into the air.

“No regrets.”

Chapter Text

This was Danny’s favourite idea. He excitedly fiddled with his tie, trying to straighten it up as he stared at himself in the mirror.

“C’mere,” Jason turned him around, tightening up the tie up to his neck. Maybe suffocating him a little. “Babe have you finished ironing his jacket?”

“I think so…?” Matt walked over to him, Danny’s suit jacket held between his hands. “I-I don’t really know how to iron…”

Jason inspected it.

“Good enough,” he made the younger boy put it on before he judged him up and down. “Yeah, okay. He looks good.”

“Wait let me gel down his hair,” Kurtis swerved around him.

“We’re gonna run late,” Matt rushed to fetch the keys, opening the front door.

Danny cringed at the smell of the gel, and fought against Kurtis’s harsh force through his locks. He swore that they cared about this more than the annual ball.

They dashed into the car hastily, and Kurtis slammed his whole foot down onto the accelerator. Danny brought out his phone to examine himself.

“Do you have the directions?” Kurtis asked, preoccupied by his unpolished hair.

“What? Oh fuck,” Jason hurried to open his phone.

“Shit. We’re really unorganised without Max,” Matt wiped a sweat from his forehead. “And we have to get there in time because we’re doing this for him.”

“I’m actually so excited to see him perform,” Kurtis excitedly said. “And he’s going to be so surprised to see us.”

“Do you think we’ll be late?” Jason asked.

“No, we’ll make it. Traffic’s good today,” Danny informed, running his hands down his trousers. “Well, that’s what my mom said anyway. There’s a game on kind of close to here but it's just far enough to miss the traffic.”

“That hockey one?” Kurtis asked.

“Yeah,” Matt answered. “All of the footballers are going and they won’t stop talking about it.”

“You still sit with them?”

“In class sometimes,” he shrugged. “Timber and construction is kind of made up of them so…”

“You’d think that they would break up their little “squad” now that they lost their games so they’re inactive for awhile,” Jason pointed out with a smirk.

“It’s for popularity’s sake,” Kurtis rolled his eyes. “Isn’t that why most people stay together? Let’s be honest, high school’s all about labels.”

“But it’s funny because none of it matters when we graduate,” Danny snickered. “I doubt they’ll get a job just for being “popular in high school”.”

Danny sat there for a moment, thinking over his own words. He realised something. Something from a random phrase he thought was fitting for the topic. He was right. It was easy to say it all the time but it was different to understanding it. Just to sit there and know that what they do now, in a way, doesn't matter. The things that people claim that are important, like labels and popularity and whatever group of friends you sit with, don't actually matter when you graduate. They don't determine how amazingly successful you will be.

Danny couldn't help but to think about it for the whole trip. Just let the thought sink in. It felt oddly satisfying, but sadly draining, knowing that he probably wasted his time sitting with Jay and Gia for so long. And knowing that his time with his friends were limited.

Matt glanced down at his watch.

“Fuck yeah. We’re like ten minutes early,” they all hopped out of the car, Danny quickly realising that they had arrived without him noticing.

He couldn't recognise this place. It was a large building, looking semi-grand but feeling really grand. Everyone was pleasantly dressed, formal and uptight, and Danny felt odd for actually fitting in in a place like this.

The inside was pretty populated, filled with light volumed chatter and a strong sense of formality. Danny gulped.

They all walked through the crowd, feeling a tad claustrophobic in the unfamiliar environment. Until they saw him.

Max was nervously waiting by the corner of the room, his hands fumbling with the keys of his oboe. He was tapping his feet uncontrollably, and pulling his collar away from his neck.

“Max!” Danny was the first one to call out, dashing over to him excitedly.

Max’s face completely lit up. He was beaming.

“Oh my god!” he bursted out into hysterical excitement. “W-What are you doing here?!”

“We’re here to see you perform,” Matt nudged him lightly. “We’ve always wanted to see it.”

Max held his breath to not let the tears fall.

“You guys…” he held a hand to his lips.

“No need to thank us,” Jason cocked his shoulder. “It’s for you.”

Danny had never been to a concert before. Actually, none of them had ever been to a concert before. Not like this. They were conveniently sat near the middle on a higher angle, which gave them an amazing view of the stage.

A single spotlight struck. And Max came walking out. It was quiet, so quiet that you could hear his footsteps towards the light. He held the reed between his lips and he blew through the instrument.

The youngest boy pressed his back against his chair. He was blown away by the sound. It was just as crisp and precise as he remembered. Reedy and bronzy but still calming.

He grinned to himself.

So familiar.

“Is that Danny Boy?” Kurtis whispered over in an awe struck state.

“Yeah…” he mumbled back, barely audible.

He clutched onto the arm of the chair and exhaled deeply. Holy Jesus. He had such an appreciation for Max.

There was a breath of silence between Max’s lips parting from the reed and the audience clapping. And that split moment of silence, is what determined how perfect it was. It left people speechless, lead them through this oddly enchanting mindset. Danny actually sat there for a moment, and then cracked a smile for how blown away he was.

“Go Max!”

...so he didn't even think about what his body was doing. He had gotten up, smashing his hands together loudly. Max instantly looked over to him, seeing that one small body standing up from the sea of black, and crazily gestured for him to sit down.

Danny froze.

Their eyes met and the gazes melted together as Danny found himself unable to sit back down from the awkwardness. It grew a little quiet again, and Danny felt him cringe from the inside out.

Until he felt a presence by his side. Kurtis stood up next to him, clapping just as loud, and screaming with just as much passion. He peered his head to the side to see Matt and Jason doing the same, cheering with wide smiles. The musician’s gestures grew, trying to force them to sit down from the embarrassment. He chuckled into his hand, trying to hide his reddening face.

That’s when the applause was revived, like it was rising from the ashes. Max’s face instantly lit up, like his expression was refreshed and renewed. His chuckle grew to a cackle of flattery, as he turned even redder and tried to hide it awkwardly.

His friends laughed admirably at it. It was really cute, actually. Seeing him so flustered and excited. Danny giggled at the sight. He would have never expected him to be like this just under a year back.

Max Malanaphy. He seemed so uptight. Smart. Resilient. Resourceful. Mind over matter. But Danny loved seeing him like this. Seeing him with emotion. Seeing him so flustered and embarrassed, but excited and overwhelmed. In a good way for once.

He was truly a shining star.

Chapter Text

“This...this is the dumbest thing I have ever done”

Danny was super excited. He’d gone out with his friends before, obviously, but this was different. Max was still emotionally high from the concert, so it was the best time for Matt to shove in his idea again. And he actually agreed.

And so they all decided to meet up with him early to arrange a look for him. A look that was so different for him, but still suited him.

“What are you talking about? These clothes look great on you,” Jason took a step back and grinned. They were still his regular clothes, just rearranged and fitted differently. And also throw in a few of Danny’s shirts too.

The only thing that Danny’s mind was slightly caught up on, was the marks by Max’s wrist. He remembers how they looked on the city trip. How raw and red they were. And as he helped him slip on a jacket, he saw them only faintly. Like they were just accidental. He hated that it was a reality but, he was glad that they weren’t new. That he must've felt better and they were just the rotten aftertaste.

“You genuinely look smoking hot,” Kurtis commented, almost kind of speechless. Max turned red, somewhat from flattery, somewhat from distaste.

“K-Kurtis,” he choked out, as firmly as he could, though it was pretty frail.

“What? I’m just saying,” he shrugged.

Danny glanced towards Max to fully scan him. The black jeans made him look like a regular teenager for once. The younger boy never really noticed how tall he really was until the clothes he was wearing actually hugged his body. He usually accompanied his shirts with a loose cardigan, non-fitting sweater or large jacket that covered his body a lot. Danny liked this new ensemble of clothing on him more. He was fine to give up that grey shirt he was wearing too. It looked better on him anyway. And that beanie? He had like 10 beanies anyway.

“You kind of look like Danny,” Matt commented, making the two snap over to each other. “Maybe even more emo and hipster.”

“Hey! That’s my thing,” Danny joked, shoving him lightly.

“It’s the grey hair,” Jason pointed out.

“I really dig it,” Kurtis added in again, smirking. Max pinched his nose.

“Thanks but…” he pulled at his fitted, black jacket. “It’s not really my style.”

“But it’s something different right? It’s just for one night,” the ex-football player tried to brighten the mood.

Max looked at himself in the mirror one more time.

“That’s true,” he nodded. “It’s a nice change.”

So they all hopped into the car, Matt driving, and Max instantly felt nauseous. He was already sick of it. He was never the type to enjoy these things, of course, but it was spring break. And he had to do something fun before he graduated, right? This would be the first illegal act he had ever done. Ok, other than egging someone’s house. And breaking that window. Maybe this wasn't so bad.

They pulled up at a shady looking bar just out of town. Just far enough to not catch the homophobia. Max gulped. It was darkly lit, the sign barely viewable, and it was a pretty empty street. It meant that if he got stabbed, no one would hear him.

“So I have the fake IDs right here,” Matt dug his hands into his pockets and provided one for each boy. How would they get away with this? This was incredibly fake looking. “From McCook who was kind enough to get them for me.”

“We’re not gonna get away with this,” Kurtis stared down at his ID, which was made up of his fake birthday and a really sketchy looking portrait.

But of course they got away with it. Which left Kurtis completely speechless as he passed. Like gobsmacked. Completely. He swallowed his own words and groaned into his glass of pomegranate martini. Probably the gayest drink he could’ve ordered. He rested his back against the bar, sipping on it with a prideful stance.

“You gonna get something fun Max?” he asked, the fruity flavour by his tongue.

“No,” he felt obviously uncomfortable. “I’m fine with ginger ale and bitters.”

“I’m honestly fine with cranberry soda,” Danny pitched into the conversation, instantly having flashbacks of the other night. He shook his head. “I’m staying sober tonight.”

“Babe can you get me a Égalité?” Jason asked over, feeling the sense of acceptance from the environment immediately. It was a nice feeling. He felt like he could be open with Matt for the first time in public. The first time in his life. It was exciting. Almost too exciting, really.

“That’s really gay,” his boyfriend joked, leaning against the counter in a suave manner. “I’ll get an apple martini.”

“Oh like that’s any less gay,” he playfully wrapped his arms around him, giggling into his neck excitedly. Matt liked the affection a lot, but the feeling of the whole atmosphere even better.

“Different kind of Love Song” by Cher was playing in the background, loud enough to feel the rhythm by the dance floor. Danny felt his body ease into the beat, tapping his feet along as he sipped on his drink. It fizzed in his jaw, making him snicker.

“Do you wanna dance with me?” Kurtis swerved over to him, taking him by one hand and swinging him around. Danny giggled.

“Very smooth Kurtis,” he laughed, lowering the glass onto the counter next to Max, who seemed to be more preoccupied with his drink than anything.

Danny wrapped his arms around his waist loosely, rocking from side to side to the song as Kurtis jokingly hugged him. He faintly wondered if he would bring Roy to a place like this. So they could dance like this and laugh without any care in the world.

The lit up dance floor was filled with couples, groups and friends who all seemed comfortable and happy with themselves and each other. It had an aroma of acceptance and joy. Danny felt at home here.

“Oh hey,” Kurtis spoke up, his words by his right ear. “Look over there.”

He pointed over to Max, who was timidly sipping on his drink, except this time, with a guy talking to him, resting on his elbow casually and standing almost too close. Danny felt a little uneasy.

“S-Should we help him out? He looks kind of uncomfortable…” he wheezed slightly out of his grasp, but Kurtis quickly reeled him back in.

“What are you talking about? He’s totally fine,” they watched Max lower his finished drink onto the counter and talk back, shoving it aside so he had room to rest his arm on top. He shuffled a little closer, looking like he was easing up to the guy a little more. Danny heard Jason call out a tease excitedly. “Good on Max.”

“H-He looks like he’s 30…” the younger boy said worriedly.

“What? He looks like he’s maybe mid 20s,” Kurtis peered down at him. “You’re really paranoid Danny. They're just talking.”

“Hey,” Matt swooped into their conversation, placing a hand onto Danny’s shoulder. He looked towards Jason to see him somewhat frustrated as he clung to his arm. “Do you think Max looks uncomfortable over there? Should we help him?"

“Jesus Christ, not you too,” Kurtis slapped himself. “He’s fucking fine! Look,” Max was now leaning over closer, chortling lightly. “He loves it. Why can't we just be happy that he’s easing into loving himself more now?”

Matt and Danny swallowed.

“Fine…” Danny drawed out, pursing his lips. “I’m just worried about him.”

“Why? Because he’s finally into someone that’s not you?”

Danny was pretty sure that it was a joke. Okay, mostly sure that it was a joke. But it accidentally made him widen his eyes at the comment, and reevaluate himself as a person. Danny never thought that he’d become a person like that. A person that was this selfish. Honestly.

Kurtis draped his arms around him again, just as loosely as last time, and he hummed along with a Cyndi Lauper song softly into his neck. “True Colours”. The technicolour lights around them melted into a colourful hue, surrounding Danny in a warmth he’d never really felt before.

Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy, can't remember

He began to sing lightly, gazing up at Kurtis with a grin. If he closed his eyes, he could actually feel his body completely warm up. His skin soaked in the atmosphere, and it was buzzing through his limbs. It was like he was high, even though he was completely sober. It was indescribable.

When I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy

He wanted to be in a state like this forever. He wanted to live in a place where he got these highs and he could breathe it every moment.

And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up

Why couldn't Roy by there. He pursed his lips at his own comment.

Because you know I'll be there

Danny parted his lips to speak, but he was cut off by his own phone ringing. He glanced down at his beaming pocket, and he shot Kurtis an apologetic look before squeezing through the crowd and towards the bar.

He met up with Max for a short moment, only exchanging small grins, before being cut off by that random guy he was talking to. Danny didn't even talk to him once but he had a bad feeling about him. He rubbed him the wrong way.

Danny pulled out his phone and stared at the screen. It was Courtney’s photo, blindingly bright on his phone screen. He accepted it and placed it by his ear.

“Hello?”

“Are you seeing this?” Courtney’s voice was obviously distressed.

“I-I’m out right now. With friends,” he said, confused. “Why? What’s going on?”

“Something weird is going on on our street,” her voice muffled slightly.

“What are you talking about?” Danny called over the bartender with a small gesture.

“There are sirens going off Danny,” the younger boy immediately stopped. “I think they’re the police but I don’t know at this point.”

“What the fuck?” the song dissolved behind him and he felt the cold rush of reality hit him. “S-Should I head straight home? I-I don’t-”

“I don’t know Danny. Maybe you shouldn't head home tonight. At least a few hours,”

“I’m gonna come back in a few hours. I want to know what happened,”

“Okay, bye,”

“See ya.”

Danny reluctantly ended the call, shoving it back into his pocket in a somewhat frustrated manner. He sighed heavily, running his hand through his hair.

“What’s wrong Danny?”

Max came by his side, just as the bartender came to his attention.

“Long island iced tea,” he answered somewhat harshly, slamming the bill onto the counter.

“I thought you weren't drinking tonight,” he said worriedly.

“I can afford to have a bit,” he sipped on it for a moment before sighing again.

“What’s wrong Danny?” he repeated.

“Something’s going on on my street and Courtney told me it was apparently the police or something,” he rubbed his temples. “And I have no idea why.”

“That sucks,” Max pouted at the answer. “Should you stay over at someone’s house for the night?”

“I’d rather go home but…” he took a few more sips. “Maybe in a few hours. When it dies down.”

“That’s fair enough,” Max pulled out a chair.

“Why’d you leave me on the dance floor Danny?” Kurtis joined them, and so did Matt and Jason eventually.

“Sorry,” he drew out a lighthearted apology. “I needed to get a drink.”

“Well the night’s still young and we can still fit in plenty of dances,” Matt reasoned.

“Why don’t we all go out now? This song is amazing,” Jason enthused, grabbing him by the shoulders. “And Max better come this time too.”

“Fine,” he rolled his eyes and laughed. “Just know that I’m doing this for Whitney Houston. Not you.”

He chuckled lightly, holding Danny’s hand through the crowd so they could huddle around the centre of the dance floor. He watched his feet dissolve into the bright lights.

Danny looked around at this friends, all messily dancing and cackling at the top of their lungs. And it was perfect. As perfect as it gets. He wondered how he forgot how picturesque they were sometimes. How he just seemed to forget how great they are together and how great he felt when he was with them. Perfect. They were perfect.

Chapter Text

Danny managed to spend a few more hours at the club before he stumbled home. He was grateful for Matt staying sober because he was actually able to drive them all home safely. Well, “sober”. He had a single drink, but he sobered up with a few glasses of water and he seemed to enjoy dancing so much more than the drinks anyway. Danny loved that. He loved the fact that Matt was stronger now and he was fine without anything. He was fine without the drugs and the drinking and he seemed much happier. He figured that it was probably because of the lack of toxic masculinity in his life after he quit being a footballer. And he focused more on being with his friends, and more specifically, Jason. The younger boy liked watching him dance around with Jason. You could see that he was visibly much healthier. He wasn't as pale anymore and he started to gain back the weight. His clothes were hugging his body much better than it did before. Danny was incredibly happy to see that.

“Uhh, are you sure you don’t want to stay over at one of our houses?”

Kurtis asked over, peering out the window. Matt had parked the car around the corner, because the police seemed to still be there. Danny swallowed but trusted his gut.

“Yeah, it’s fine,” he nodded. “I’ll just sneak in from my backyard.”

“Have a good night Danny,” Max smiled over, unusually a little happy.

He had been since he received that phone number from whoever that guy was. Danny didn’t know his name. He didn’t want to know his name. He was still oddly bitter over what happened, even though Max reassured him that he probably wouldn't ever see him again. Mostly because he was actually underage and the stranger didn't know that. But still.

“You too. See ya.”

He rushed around the corner, and saw the blinding red and blue lights. There were multiple cars parked along the street, now surrounding his and Roy’s. He instantly gulped.

Confusion flooded his body as he dashed into his backyard, jumped the fence and unlocked the back door. He peered outside from the kitchen window, pretending to get a glass of water as casually as he could. Just in case.

He saw a police officer lower his gaze and talk to Roy’s parents. Odd. It was the middle of the night, actually closer to the morning really, and they seemed to have a strong expression of concern. Until his mother began to cry.

And then it hit him.

He pulled out his phone and ran through his contacts, instantly unblocking Roy. A flood of messages began to pop up, each ding sounding more deafening than the last. His phone was genuinely blowing up to a point that it was lagging behind because of the large load.

ROY: pick up

ROY: please pick up Danny

ROY: I want to talk it out

He sent all these message on the night it happened. At 3 AM.

ROY: Danny, I need to talk to you

ROY: and it’s really important

And that was the next day. They weren't the only texts that day. Danny didn’t have the heart to read them all as he scrolled through the countless.

ROY: please Danny

ROY: it’s been three days

ROY: you can’t do this to me

He wondered why he didn't talk to him in person. If it was that important, why didn't Roy come up to him in school and talk to him.

ROY: I don't have the heart to say anything in person…

Danny crinkled his brows.

ROY: I know I’m a coward

ROY: I know I’m an idiot

ROY: but I don't have the heart to talk to you in person

ROY: but I want to still talk it out

Missed call.

ROY: pick it up

ROY: I know you’ve blocked me now

ROY: but I miss you

ROY: please

Then why didn’t he approach him? Why didn't he come up to Danny? Maybe it was because he knew that Danny would’ve been stubborn and he wouldn't have listened at all.

ROY: I want to talk things out

It was the last day of school.

ROY: I know you’re not going to see this

ROY: maybe ever

ROY: but I want to let you know

ROY: that I love you

ROY: and I always have

ROY: more than you would ever know

ROY: bye

That was a few days ago.

Danny dragged his feet behind him as he stared out of the window and towards his house. His parents were still out, talking with the police officer. And he glanced back at his phone, his head suddenly feeling lightheaded and his steps feeling lost.

He dialed his number.

“Roy,” he sputtered out. Not even a hello or a how are you going. He heard him groan on the other side, like he was rubbing his eyes and slowly getting up.

“W-Who is this?” he mumbled, yawning.

“It’s Danny,”

“D-Danny?!” he heard him hastily sit up and gain consciousness. “I’m so glad you finally picked up. I-I have to tell you something.”

“No, I need to tell you something,” he said firmly, on the verge of shouting. “Where are you?! Police cars are all over the street and your parents are crying.”

Roy stopped for a moment.

“...I didn't want to make a big deal out of this...” he muttered. “I honestly didn't…”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Danny continued to peer out the window. “Tell me where you are. Now.”

“...the city…” he reluctantly explained. Danny gasped.

“Why? H-How did you even get there? It takes like five hours!”

“I drove there a couple of days ago...at the middle of the night…” he sighed. “I stopped thinking. I just knew where I wanted to go...and I went.”

“Are you stupid?! You can’t live out there forever! You’re gonna have to come back eventually and face everything you know?” worry pooled in his stomach, and he contemplated whether he wanted to go all the way to the city just to see him or not.

“I know…” he whispered. “Of course I know that. I just...needed to get away for a bit.”

“Why? This is stupid. You’re going to hurt yourself, and get yourself in trouble and this is all for nothing!”

“I needed to get your attention!”

His scream made Danny freeze.

“...what are you talking about?”

“You ignored me for weeks Danny! I felt alone, I didn’t know where to go...and I guess I just figured that I needed to get out…” his voice cracked. “And maybe this was risky enough to make you look over...even for a moment…”

“R-Roy…” he mumbled. “I never stopped caring about you. I don’t know why you thought that…”

“Because you blocked me and refused to even look at me,”

“I know…” he regretted it immediately, looking back on the countless moments he could have done something. “...I’m sorry. I didn’t...I just thought that-”

“I know I get it. I got where you were coming from, and Courtney and-” he heard him slap himself across the face. “I’m stupid. I know. But I just feel so claustrophobic there. I just needed to get out and get fresh air. For real this time.”

“I understand that Roy, but why did you have to run away like that? You left everyone so confused,” he said worriedly.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” he confessed heavily. “I act like I know everything, and I know how to fix everything. B-Because everyone says I know shit but I don’t. I don't know what I’m doing and I don't know how to handle all of this shit.”

“None of us know what we’re doing and we don't need to all the time,” Danny explained, his voice soft. “That's life. And you're not expected to hold all the answers of the world either Roy. It’s okay,” he sighed. “I guess I’m just here to say...I’m worried about you. I want you to come back home. And I really love you.”

“...but I don't want to come back...I just can’t,”

“I know you feel like you can't. But this is just for your safety Roy. I’m scared,” he pleaded. “Come home. Please.”

“I…” he shook his head. “I might come back tomorrow...day after? I don’t know at this point…”

“Well, it’s spring break. You have time but, I guess I’m just here to ask you to come back as soon as possible. So you’re okay,” he watched the police part from their houses. “...unless…”

“Unless what?”

“...it’s spring break,”

“And?”

“I’ll meet you. In between,”

“W-What?”

“Let’s go to the beach. It’s near the city,” he hastily thought up a plan, his mind racing.

“T-The one near the bridge? How are you gonna?”

“I’ll go with Courtney,”

“Court hates me,”

“She won’t anymore. Trust me. J-Just sit tight, we’ll see each other soon. It’s going to all be alright…”

“I trust you Danny. Full heartedly,” Roy swallowed. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

The phone beeped by his ear. He slowly lowered it to his side, until his arm gave out and it dangled down. And he felt lost and broken. He watched the sirens completely fade away in the distance.

“I don’t know what you’re doing anymore Danny…”

Chapter Text

“Mom...I’m sorry,” Danny sniffed.

He couldn't help but to just be embraced in her arms and sit on the sofa with her. It was the only way to feel completely safe. She had steamed up a pot of earl grey, his personal favourite, and she positioned him under her arm comfortably on the couch.

“You’re such a troublemaker,” she chuckled. “You’ve always been so drawn to danger. I don’t get it.”

“I’m not even trying,” he sipped the warm tea. “...I don’t know what to do anymore…”

“Teenage years are hard. Trust me. We all have to go through it,” she sighed. “I guess everyone handles it in different ways. But trust me, everyone feels giving up sometimes. Because things are hard. And sometimes people just want to run away for a while because things are too hard. It’s normal to feel like things are too heavy and you want to dump the load somewhere for a while. But I guess what makes us really adults is when we learn to deal with it. Slowly but surely, carry the load to the end.”

“I don’t think Roy wants to deal with it...and I don't know if I want to deal with it either…” he pursed his lips.

“Are you talking about your sexuality?” she didn't need an answer. “I understand. Well, that’s a whole nother story. I’m going to be honest here, this town...probably isn't the best. For anyone who’s not “conventional”.”

“I know…”

“But there’s a whole world out there that's going to love you. Nearly as much as I love you,” she explained brightly, running her hand through his hair. “Trust me.”

“So you're saying…?”

“You should move out? Well, not straight away. I wouldn’t want you to move out too soon, but I know you will eventually. And when you do, I want you to find somewhere that’ll accept you. Because that’s how you truly learn to accept yourself,” she grinned. “And I think that’s what Roy needs. You know what his parents are like. They can be a little overbearing.”

“A little?” he snickered.

“Okay, very. Either way, I guess I’m just saying...chase your dreams. Go out and achieve the things you want to achieve because there isn't much holding you back. You only live once and you don’t want to be kept back by all those worries you have right now,” she gazed down at him with a sincere smile. “Life never gets easier, sadly, but if you have more fun along the way, it makes the whole thing much more worthwhile.”

“...thanks mom,” Danny tucked himself back into the embrace a little more. “I needed to hear that.”

“I know you did,” she shrugged off. “Everyone needs to hear it sometimes. And I’m guessing you’re going to go out and tell Roy that, right?”

“...yeah…” he reluctantly admitted. “...I shouldn't though, should I?”

“Courtney’s coming with you?” he nodded at the answer. “Then I trust you.”

“Wait what?”

“She’s responsible. And I trust her to make sure that you’re not in any trouble,” she chuckled. “I don’t know what’s been happening with your friends, but you suddenly came back with a whole new haircut and a new attitude and I don’t know what to think,” she joked. "So right now I need that motherly guidance that Courtney has just to reassure me that everything is fine."

“Yeah…” he played with his locks. “Sorry about that.”

“Nothing to be sorry about. I like it a lot actually. You can see your face now,” she widened her smile. “Who cut it for you?”

“B-Brian. Brian Firkus. He’s a-”

“Oh, he’s the boy who played guitar at an assembly that one time,” she reminisced. “I specifically remember him playing a country song.”

“Yeah...that’s him,” he nodded.

“I didn’t know he was a great hairstylist,” she laughed. “You’re friends are so interesting Danny.”

“Yep, they are,” he chuckled.

“Do they know about you and Roy?”

“I mean Max might but,” he stopped. “Wait what?”

“What? It’s obviously that it's not a platonic relationship dear,” Danny instantly flushed.

“W-What is that even supposed to mean?!”

“You’re not just friends, right? You can't be. Especially nowadays. You talk about him a lot,”

“Do I?”

“Oh, that's cute dear,” she gently patted him on the back. “Well, I’m off to bed now.”

"Thanks mom."

Danny finished off the last few sips of his tea as he leaned back. He wondered for a few moments. Just about everything, anything, nothing. And he felt a little more at peace with everything. He loved his mom. He definitely needed to hear that. And so did Roy.

So he gathered his things, changed into a new set of clothes and set off.

Chapter Text

“This is stupid Danny. I don’t understand it,” Courtney turned a sharp left, running her hands over the steering wheel. “But I trust that you’re doing the right thing.”

“...thanks,” Danny exhaled. “I don’t fully know what I’m doing but...this feels right. This feels really right.”

“And everything you told me about Roy. About the phone call and the texts…?”

“They’re true, yeah,” he confirmed. “Surprising, I know.”

“...I’m trusting you Danny. With all of this,” she shook her head. “I don’t know what the heck is going on with you and Roy, and why he’s still missing, but I do know that,” she pulled up at a red light. “I trust your judgement. I love you. And I want Roy back. I might hate him now but...at the end of the day, I love him too. And I want him to come back.”

Danny smiled brightly and looked over to her.

“I love you too,” he bit down on his lip. “Let’s go get Roy back.”

They gripped onto each other's hands tightly for a moment as they drove off into the rising sun. They set off pretty early in the morning; something that Roy organised with them. Danny didn't care about anything else at this point. He just wanted to get there, and see him, and make sure that everything was okay.

“Hey, can you pull out the directions?” she asked, her eyes on the road.

“Uhh yeah, sure,” he pulled out his phone. “I think I screen shotted the directions actually…”

“Good, because the service cuts off around here.”

He began to scroll through his photo album, trying to find the directions until he stopped. And he stared. And he instantly felt his heart crack.

ROY: I have your back

They were the texts they exchanged nearly a year ago. A really long time ago. It was from the very first time Danny hung out with the boys. After the whole Brad incident…

ROY: I’ll go to bed when you do

ROY: you need a rest too

And now they were here. So many things had happened. And it felt so surreal. He read over the words, wishing that he was having a rest. It was weird knowing that Roy was asking him to sleep at the time, and there he was, knowing that Roy wasn’t properly rested either. Everyone needed a break, and he wondered why it took him this long to realise that he was pushing himself too hard.

“Danny?” Courtney perked. “Directions? I mean, I don’t need them right now, but-”

“Court,” he cut her off. “...I’m sorry about what Roy said.”

“Huh? I mean, it wasn't even you so-”

“I know, I know but,” he teared up a little just thinking about it. “I don't think Roy meant to hurt you in any way. I know because…” he vividly saw the annual ball night, and all those other nights they spent together. Just talking. And what it was like to know Roy. “He really cares about you Courtney. He would never want to hurt you. I know he has weird issues, but I think he just needs time to think over everything that’s going on. In life in general.”

Courtney sighed deeply.

“I know...” she pursed her lips. “I know he pushes himself too hard and I know he’s tired. I get it. I suspected it. But what he said…” she shrugged. “I guess I’m going to find out how he really feels when we talk to him. I’m going to talk to him about it properly, listen this time, and hopefully get an answer.”

Danny grinned.

“I don’t believe in fate, but I do believe that we were all destined to be friends,” Courtney chuckled at the comment. “And I know this is going to end really well.”

“Well we’ve started together,” she ran her finger down the back of Danny’s hand. “And we’re gonna end together.”

The rest of the trip seemed to pass fairly quickly. It was probably because it was still pretty dark, even with the small peaks of the sun. But maybe it was because they were singing the whole way there, like they used to when they listened to the radio. Yeah, Danny wasn’t the biggest fan of pop music, but he did kind of have a guilty pleasure for them now. They sang for hours, from upbeat songs to power ballads, and Danny couldn't stop laughing through all of them. It felt perfect for him. Just listening along to songs and singing duets like they’ve been rehearsed. He was an absolute sucker for harmonies. And he definitely missed Courtney’s soprano voice on top of his alto. It just worked so well together that it made him excited and thrilled. He missed it, a lot more than he actually realised.

It was still somewhat early in the morning when they arrived by the bayside. Courtney gazed over at the sand and the sea like it was vaguely nostalgic, her eyes slightly squinted. Danny stared over at the glistening water with awe. It really was beautiful here.

“Danny? Courtney?”

He could recognise that voice absolutely anywhere. Of course he could. It was the voice he was waiting to hear. He immediately turned his head around, his ears ringing with an overwhelming sense of excitement.

“Roy!”

He dashed towards him, arms wide, as he hugged him tightly into his embrace. He felt at home. More than he imagined. He felt Roy breathe through is locks, a long deep sigh. His warm breath intertwined with his locks as he rested his hands around his waist.

“Oh my god Danny! I can’t believe it’s you,” he exhaled, his chin pressing against the younger boy’s shoulder. “I-I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” he parted from the embrace to lunge over to him, pressing their lips together. He felt his body tremble for a second from how surreal it felt.

“H-Hey Roy,” Courtney waved over, using the other hand to brush through her long locks. “...cute moment.”

She cleared her throat awkwardly, not knowing what to say.

“Sarcasm doesn't suit you,” Danny chuckled over, parting so she could join the small social bubble. Courtney snickered.

“I’m kidding,” she crossed her arms and strolled over to them. “You guys are cute,” she exchanged looks with Danny for a moment, the younger boy eyeing her a little firmly. “...like Willam and I.”

“Goddamnit Court,” Danny accidentally let out.

“No, no she has the right to say that,” Roy dismissed his worry. “I’m sorry. I genuinely really sorry about what I said. It was...honestly stupid. I don’t really know why I said it, and what I was going on about…” he sighed. “I think I act like I know more shit than I actually do. Let’s be honest,” it made the blonde girl chuckle a little. “And I’m sorry for degrading you guys,” he reeled Danny a little closer. “And I realised how incredibly stupid it was, when I realised how much I cared about Danny.”

The younger boy instantly blushed at the comment, coughing and smiling widely like a dork. Courtney rolled her eyes.

“Very cute,” she commented with a smirk. “And yeah, I accept your apology. I mean, I kind of have to when you love Danny that much, right?” she brought her jacket over her shoulder. Her cheerleading uniform. “Can I be honest though? That apology wasn’t good enough so…”

“Court,” Roy giggled at her over dramatic gestures. “Jesus, okay, you get my blessing to be with Will…? Is that what you want? I’m happy for you two. Is it revolutionary? Not exactly. You’re both hot cheerleaders. We’ve already seen that storyline before,” Courtney bursted out into laughter. “But she seems nice. Now. And I hope everything works out for you in the future,” Courtney widened her eyes a tad at the comment. “Yeah I said future. That big thing that’s happening soon. Don't forget that this fantasy isn’t going to last forever.”

“Don’t remind me,” she rolled her eyes, going in for a quick hug with Roy herself. She grinned. “I don’t want it to be over yet.”

They somehow spent the whole day talking about it. Or almost the whole day. They checked in by a nearby motel, nowhere near the standard they were used to, but good enough for all of them to be fairly satisfied. And they went out to a bayside cafe, sipping on warm drinks as they watched people arrive by the beach. Danny liked watching them. It was calming and blissful.

“No one’s truly ready for the future Court,” Roy reminded, finely brewed coffee by his lips. “But we might as well have fun along the way, and fun as we grow up,” he took a sip. “Do you know what you want to do after you graduate?”

“Umm...kind of,” she shrugged. “Not really. You?”

“Barely,” he admitted. “But I’m having fun trying to figure it out. What about you Danny?”

“...I don’t know, I guess,” he bit down on his lip. “It’s too complicated. All I know is that I don't want to be at school, so I’m probably dropping out early.”

“I’m excited to see you leave school,” Courtney commented with an amused smile. “You’d be so much better off without it.”

“I know,” he sipped on his cup of tea. “I’m just not cut out for school, and why should I stay if I get nothing out of it, right?”

“Right,” Roy nodded over. “I just want you to be happy.”

“Ha gay,” Courtney slurred jokingly, making Roy snap over to her with a glaring look. That usual one. “What? I’m right, aren't I?”

“Yeah,” Roy coughed. “Sure.”

Danny giggled into his cup. He slowly watched Courtney warm up to Roy over time, letting go of the previous baggage so she could laugh along with his sarcastic jokes. They went back to the motel room that night, all three of them, and everything felt like tingly nostalgia.

He watched Courtney tie up her hair, looking like her nine year old self, her grin wide and her cheeks rosy with laughter. Roy never stopped spilling out jokes, like he always used to as a child, sipping on a can of cola as he gestured for Danny to sit down next to him.

And then there was Danny. Feeling like a little kid, his smile wide and cheesy and his giggles higher pitched, as he swung his legs excitedly and joined along with their stupid debate over whether vegan cheese was actually good or not. And he smiled.

He couldn't really believe how far they had become as friends. And how the future was so uncertain. It was an exciting thought for Danny, actually. He didn't think it would be. But it really is.

And he lay back on his bed, his head resting against the pillow, and felt Roy curl an arm around him.

"Hey," he whispered over, his voice quiet. "I'm glad you came."

"I'm glad I did too."

Chapter Text

“Then we sang all the way home!” Courtney laughed. “And Roy refused to sing for, like, hours, but he finally did and then,” she sighed happily. “It was hilarious. It was so much fun.”

Willam grinned towards her, her fingers combing through her long, blonde locks. They were positioned by Courtney’s bed, with the head cheerleader right by her feet so Willam could play with her hair.

“I’m glad you had fun,” she said, amused.

“I think the best thing is how Roy’s parents reacted. They weren’t really that upset actually,” she reminisced. “They were just really happy to see him.”

“Well that’s good,” Willam sincerely stroked her hair. “I’m guessing you had a lot of time to talk to him?”

“Yeah, we talked about a lot of things,” for a moment, she looked back on what they talked about. Most notably, about the future. All the things that were going to happen, might happen and will never happen. The endless possibilities. “Hey Will…”

“Yeah?” she peered down at her, lowering her hands to her lap.

“What do you want to do when we graduate?” Willam groaned a little at the answer.

“Mmm, maybe do a uni course. Like something to do with fashion or designing,” she shrugged. “I’m thinking of going to a university out of town. Since this place is kind of shitty. What about you?”

“Maybe...something to do with musical theatre? I’m kind of into that. I always have been,” she explained with uncertainty. “But one of the only musical universities I’ve seen around are situated pretty far away so...I don’t really know.”

“That sucks,” she commented, her voice only having a hint of sadness.

“Are you gonna miss me?” she teased.

“No,” she lied, chuckling. “Why would I?”

“Very funny Will,” she rolled her eyes. “You know that…” she sighed. “You know that this will have to stop, right? This isn’t going to last, in the future...if we don’t talk about it now.”

“But maybe I don’t want to think about it now,” she brushed off.

“Why not?”

“Because I have better things to focus on,” Courtney scoffed at the answer, taking full offence to it. “I-I mean, I think things will work out on their own. We don’t need to stress out about it.”

“This is potentially dangerous Will. What do you mean ‘we don’t need to stress about it’?”

“It’s not that I see no future but-”

Courtney halted, her bottom lip quivering for a moment before she swallowed.

“Wait, n-no I’m saying that…” the other blonde tried to reassure. “I don't know what the future is...I don’t want to think about it.”

“So no planning?” Courtney’s words cracked for a moment. “Nothing is going to happen if we just avoid it,” she spat. “Will, I want to be with you. And I want to be happy with you...I’m just worried...”

“Court, I’ve virtually been with you for years now,” she positioned herself right next to her. “I don't want to think that we've been together for a few months because we’ve basically been together from the moment we met. Right?”

“You hated me when we met,”

“I thought you were threatening. There's a difference,” she joked. “I didn’t want another hot blonde coming in.”

“And now you've learnt to appreciate me more now?” she warmed up to her a little more, allowing her to sneak in a joking comment.

“Let’s say I learnt more about you. Which made me realise how lovable you are,” she smooth talked, Courtney giggling at it.

“Fine,” she sighed. “...but can we please talk about the future. Please? It’s making me a little nervous, to be honest.”

“Okay,” she groaned a little as she shuffled a little closer to her. “So you want to do musical theatre, right?”

“Right,”

“Well, from my knowledge, the closest one is, like, near the city. Well, in that direction. Since that’s virtually the only way to escape this stupid town,” Willam rolled her eyes. “Unless we go East and we’ll somehow end up in a more conservative town.”

“Yeah, I wouldn't want that,” Courtney chuckled.

“And since I want to do fashion, the city is a great place,”

“So you’re saying…?”

“We should probably escape here. Together,” Willam said it so oddly nonchalantly that it made Courtney a little confused.

“B-But that’s like, risky, and stuff. We have to basically ditch this town,” she said, her voice pitched.

“I don’t know about your parents, but mine will be fine with the fact that I’m getting an education,” she chuckled. “I don’t think they really care about anything else. They think I’m some washed up blonde.”

“You’re 17,”

“Still washed up,”

“Well,” she gulped. “I mean, I’d like that but,” she shook her head. “I don’t know if my parents would be okay with it. I think they want me to go to a community college at most around here, find a boy, get married.”

“Right, they’re...really white,” she coughed. “Forgot that for a second.”

Courtney rolled her eyes.

“So there’s that,”

“But maybe you should tell them. Might as well give it a try, right?” Willam encouraged.

“You know what? You’re right,” she nodded. “Maybe I should tell them that I want to study in uni.”

“Atta’ girl,” she smiled, pecking her cheek. “Look at you, stepping it up.”

“Well you know me,” she cocked a shoulder playfully.

“When are you gonna tell them?”

“I don’t know yet,” she shrugged. “I guess I would want to talk about it with Danny and Roy first.”

“Of course,” Willam smiled. “You always go to them.”

“What?” she questioned. “We’re best friends,” she paused. “Are you jealous?”

“What? No,” she denied quickly. Courtney bursted out into laughter.

“That’s so cute!”

“Don’t patronise me,”

“What? It is!” she gushed. “Who knew?”

“You’re a bitch,”

“A lovable one?”

“A hateable one,” she quickly fell for a fit of laughter as she brought an arm around her shoulder and brought her in closely to her chest. As she leaned in slowly, her phone suddenly buzzed in her pocket, making their heads dart over. “Uh, sorry.”

She dug her hand in to grab her device.

ALASKA: do you wanna go to the diner tonight?

Willam raised an eyebrow and showed it over to Courtney.

“The diner? Um, no thanks. The football guys are always there,” she replied.

WILLAM: why do you want to go?

“I swear to god if she says for Sharon I-”

ALASKA: Sharon’s performing there

Willam instantly slapped herself across the face.

WILLAM: and you want us to come because…?

ALASKA: I need support

The two blondes stared over at each other for consultation.

“I’m down,” Courtney shrugged. Willam groaned.

WILLAM: fine

ALASKA: thank god

ALASKA: thanks so much

ALASKA: meet at 6?

WILLAM: we’ll be there

Chapter Text

DANNY: hey

DANNY: do you wanna hang out?

The young boy spent virtually the whole day just rolling around in his room doing nothing. Maybe spending a few hours on assignments that he forgot to do - something that Max had been nudging him on to do more often - but nothing, really.

ROY: can’t

ROY: stupid church stuff

Danny liked to just shut that thought away at the back of his mind; the fact that Roy had to be sent to “counselling” now. Because his parents think there’s something wrong with him. And well, in some ways...yes? Danny does want him to go to counselling because something was obviously disturbing him and the younger boy wanted to get him some help. But what his parents dubbed as “counselling” was at church, which wasn’t exactly what Danny had in mind.

And he knew that being in a place like that wasn’t going to make Roy all that happy.

ROY: sorry

DANNY: It’s okay

He groaned into his sheets, immediately getting up to do something. His eyes darted around the room to find something remotely interesting.

Broken lamp; he forgot that he never had it fixed. Rubbish bin; filled with all his screwed up pieces of paper of useless notes from school. Half empty water bottle; from this morning.

He sighed.

Half eaten chocolate bar; the one that Court took a single block of because she craved dark chocolate so badly. A stuffed toy; that Roy got for him on their small “trip” because he realised that Danny was eyeing a small teddy bear in the window of a corner store. And a notebook.

He walked over to it, taking it into his hands. His song book. He hadn't touched it in years. He flipped through the pages, looking back at the messy scribbles which often turned into melodic songs by the end of the process. His guitar sat by the corner of his room, right next to the book, resting against his desk.

Mood rings never worked on me
They were never purple or green
Aqua, orchid, teal, or pink

His mind rushed back to that “mood ring” incident. The ring that was still sitting by his desk, now dusty and old.

A dark horse a double minority
Children always love to tease
Get your tickets here it’s free

He gulped at the thought. His old thoughts. The ones that hadn’t risen up in years.

And all the kids sing along
“It’s the sad boy
The no dad boy
Just a bad boy

His voice hitched.

Picking flowers during baseball
It’s the fag boy
Always mad boy
Just a sad boy”

The notebook fell from his grasp, collapsing onto the top of his desk. His hands trembled for a moment. He kind of forgot that he used to be feel like this. He used to write these thoughts down, at quite a young age too, because he felt like this. Because he felt like he had nothing else he could do to cope.

Soaked laying on the windowpane
Couldn’t tell momma the shame
I can’t tell my mom my pain

His vision instantly became hazier. Like the weight of the world was back to haunt his thoughts. He remembered exactly what it felt like to feel hopeless. And to feel like he was going nowhere. To feel like he had no one to turn to but himself, his guitar and his music.

His eyes teared up slightly as he imagined himself, little Danny, crying into his desk, his fingers trembling as they wrapped themselves around the slim pencil.

He wasn’t going back there. Ever. He wasn’t ever going to be that unhappy again. He will never allow himself to get to that dark place.

His phone buzzed suddenly, startling him. The feeling of darkness seemed to seep away as he snapped back into reality and lunged over to his phone.

SHARON: hey Danny

This was probably the last person he was expecting to text him.

SHARON: I’m playing at the diner tonight

SHARON: it would be pretty cool if you came to watch

Danny smiled.

DANNY: sure

DANNY: I’ll bring my friends along too

SHARON: cool shit

Finally, he had something to do now. He grinned as he clicked into the group chat and texted his friends to meet at the diner.

He took a seat by his desk, his hands running down the old paper.

JASON: fuck no

Danny rolled his eyes.

DANNY: why not?

JASON: one word

JASON: Brad

MAX: that’s a name actually

Danny snickered.

KURTIS: I’ll come

KURTIS: I like Sharon

MAX: same

MATT: come on babe

MATT: I don't like the jocks either

MATT: but if everyone wants to go…

JASON: fine

JASON: whatever

Danny rejoiced as he put on a jacket and headed out. He was excited to finally do something, and to get the thought of his song out of his head.

Chapter Text

“Wow, you’re dressed nicely,” Sharon slurred jokingly, resting her elbow by the bar. Her guitar case slung over her shoulder and it rested on her back. She was wearing her typical “rock star” attire that outed her out of the closet the moment you looked at her. But Alaska liked that. In a weird way.

“Thanks,” she flushed slightly. She didn’t really think her outfit was all that great. Maybe nicer than usual though. Her skirt was maybe a little too short and she was wearing the jacket that Sharon left at her house the other day just to remind her that they were together, but you know. She was wearing her usual clothing.

“I like that jacket,” she joked. “I’ve never seen it before.”

“Well, yeah,” she brushed it off. “It’s one of a kind,” she chuckled. “Anyways, are you ready to perform?”

“I’m really excited actually. Not nervous at all,” she waved down an employee. “Can we get two diet cokes?”

“Yeah, you do seem pretty laid back today,” the other girl commented. “And thanks knowing my order.”

“You have always liked diet cokes more than actual cokes for some reason,” Sharon smiled. “It’s so odd.”

“Maybe I’m just unique,”

“You sure are,” they clinked their served drinks. “Wish me luck.”

“Good luck.”

By then, Danny had just walked in with his friends, already feeling out of place the moment they had. They’d come here before as a group, but it honestly still felt fairly alien to them.

They took a seat by a booth near the far end of the room. One of the closest to the stage. It was the one they previously sat at, but Danny just liked the fact that all the tension of last time was nonexistent this time.

“We’ll all have cokes please,” Max ordered, like he usually did.

“I’m so ready for Sharon to perform,” Danny enthused.

“I’m excited too,” Kurtis chimed in. “She was great in the musical right?”

“Too soon,” Max joined in. “But yes, yes she was.”

“Do you know what she’s performing?” Jason instantly lunged over to the glasses of coke being placed down onto the table.

“I’m guessing something that’s alternative rock,” the youngest boy shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Well, to Sharon?” Matt raised his glass of coke.

“To Sharon,” they all took a large gulp of their drink.

Danny somehow forgot how much he loved Sharon’s voice. He used to work with her a lot, when the musical was a thing, but hearing her sing by herself on a stage with just a guitar was definitely more amazing than he imagined. She had a deep alto voice that not only suited his, which made them such an amazing duo, but the alternative rock style as well. He gazed at the site.

He was the one who gave the biggest applause when she finished.

“Thanks,” she spoke through the mic, lowering the guitar onto her lap. “I’m honestly really glad to be here.”

Danny loved watching her glow on stage. It must’ve been around 30 minutes in by then, and so he expected her to be wrapping up soon. Everyone was intrigued by her. Not just her presence on stage, but just her persona. Everyone at that school knew that she kind of had a reputation. Not a particularly good one. She was always known to be kind of alternative. Different. Unique. And so no one really expected her to be some great singer.

And Danny just figured that everyone was interested in her as a person now. And she was a person that no one really gave a damn about except Alaska for a while.

“If you know me, well, you probably don’t know me,” she snickered. “It’s weird. I’m a nobody. But a somebody when they need someone to blame,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m the alternative, emo kid that’s just cringy enough to get some attention,” Danny chuckled a little at the comment, but no one else seemed to find it too funny. “Well, I guess I’m just standing up here to say,” she cleared her throat. “ ‘I exist. And I’m not just some rebel wannabe. I’m an actual person, and you should probably just stop stereotyping me. Because it’s getting boring. Maybe even for you’,” she laughed at her own words. “Anyway, before I wrap up completely and just brush off my 15 minutes of fame, I want to call someone up,” she looked directly towards Danny, and he immediately froze. “Danny Noriega. He was in the musical with me, and we were both the leads until it canceled so,” she pulled up another chair and pointed at it directly. “If you wouldn't mind coming up.”

Max instantly pushed him forward so the younger boy would stumble to his feet. His eyes met with Courtney's who then held her breath from surprise and excitement.

He gulped.

And walked over to her. A little slowly to regain his usual state of mind.

As he sat down on stage, the audience suddenly looked so much bigger. He could see absolutely everyone in that room, and they were looking directly at him.

He gulped again.

“Hey Danny,” She teasingly slurred. “Now, we have two options here. We can either sing 'Dead Girl Walking', you know, since that’s what we used to perform a lot. Maybe Seventeen or…” she smirked and Danny squirmed in his seat. “We could sing one your original songs.”

The crowd began to cheer, and it was oddly encouraging yet nerve wracking.

“Now, I don’t know about you, but I wanna hear you sing an original,” Sharon teased, adjusting the microphone to Danny’s lips. “Just give me a chord progression and I'll play it.”

“Umm, I don't have an original song I’ve completed recently,” Danny whispered over nervously. “I only have like a maybe half completed one.”

“Wing it,” she shrugged all too casually for Danny to feel safe. He cleared his throat and stared back at the crowd.

His mind went through the possible choices. He could do the one he was working on most recently, which was the one he saw before he left. But he could barely figure out the chords, let alone the lyrics and melody. And some of his lyrics...well, were maybe too depressing for his liking. So he shoved that one aside.

I Adore You. It’s an old one, but a good one. Courtney’s the only one who had ever heard it, mostly because it was based off of his drag persona, but he never had the heart to perform it again. But it seemed like the only good choice right now.

He groaned at his own procrastination for writing music.

“Okay, thought of something,” he sighed. “The chord progression is E to G# minor.”

“Only two chords?” she strummed her guitar lightly.

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “I wrote this ages ago, okay? Don’t judge me.”

Danny Noriega. He never knew that he would be here. Singing in front of people. An original song too. It was amazing. He gulped. And mustered up the courage to sing his first words.

This is how it ends, never meant to hurt you.

It kind of reminded him of Adore. Her. Like she was talking to him. His eyes gazed over at Courtney, and she nodded over to him confidently.

I’m a pretty mess and I don’t deserve you.

He felt bad. For himself? A little. It didn't make too much sense, but in a way, it made a lot of sense. It was like Adore was apologising for everything that happened to Danny.

I ran out of time and second chances.

His eyes glanced over to his friends, ones that were staring back up at him in awe. They were silently rejoicing and cheering him on. He suddenly felt so much more confident.

Sorry couldn't build your white picket fences.

It was odd sensation to see people listen. Listen properly to you for the first time. Because this is Danny Noriega. No one cared about him. No one liked to listen to him talk and some didn't even bother to know his name. But here he was, sitting up on stage at the most popular hang out in town, singing an original song, that he composed himself. About, well, himself? That was a complex story he wouldn't want to touch on. Identity was the last complex thing he wanted to think about.

And every time I see you, it’s like all I am is see through

He seemed to zone out throughout his song. Like he was dissolving into the song. It made his body tingle satisfyingly as he sang along. If only Roy was here to see him.

‘Cause I adore you

The final line trembled by his tongue before he gave one last sigh. The crowd went wild. They cheered, whistled and called his name endlessly. Danny’s cheeks burnt up as he laughed into his palm.

Sharon patted him on the back reassuringly as she excused herself from the stage and wrapped up the show, once and for all.

But Danny was way too caught up in that one moment to pay attention to anything else that was happening. His feet felt light when he pushed down on them. He felt airy. Like the world was lifting him up as he walked. He was floating.

“Danny,” Max laughed. “That was exceptional.”

“Honestly that was so good,” their little group gave him another round of applause, making him blush to unbelieveable shades of red.

“T-Thanks,” he piped out awkwardly, trying to hide his embarrassed face. “It was so embarrassing…”

“But the song was so good!” Kurtis encouraged excitingly.

“Honestly, you need to become a singer,” Jason smiled.

“Let’s celebrate,” the ex-footballer swiftly shoved over his glass of coke and raised his own into the air. “To Danny and his amazing performance.”

“To Danny!”

Chapter Text

“Hey Matt,”

They were having an amazing night. Chatting about school and shit. Danny was still on his high from his performance and he felt absolutely amazing from it.

He was half way through his second glass of coke and finishing off his meal when they came. Those guys.

Matt wiped his lips with a napkin and glared up at them.

“Hey,” he sarcastically drew out, trying to shut down the conversation as quickly as possible.

“Long time no see,” Brad. Danny’s skin itched whenever he heard his voice.

“We’re in the same timber construction class,” he clarified, his eye contact missing him. "We saw each other, like, last week."

“I just wanted to ask something really quickly,” Dan came to his side, looking just as confident in his football jersey. “Why’d you leave the team Matt? Just before our big game?”

“Because I hate football,” he replied coldly. “I was thinking of dropping out earlier, to be honest,” he shook his head. “Why are you even asking now? You had your last game ages ago.”

“Because it got me thinking…” Brad began, his voice having a hint of excitement. Devious excitement.

“Matt we didn't want to say it,” Dan’s voice was a tad nicer, but still too intense for the boys to feel comfortable. “But we think there was another reason.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” he argued. “I left because I hated the sport, I hated the team and I need more time to study,” that was a lie. “Why’s that such a big problem?”

“Because you left before the final game,” Dan complained.

“Well if you were that good, you could have managed to win without me,” he let himself ease into a small smirk. “And it’s just a stupid football game.”

“But it’s the final game for us. Ever,” he slammed his fist onto the table.

“Not if you actually went through to the finals,” Matt began to notice people slowly starting to turn around to watch this unfold. He gulped. People whispering always marked the beginning of a downfall. “Look, I’m sorry for leaving,” he apologised somewhat harshly. “It was bad timing, but you guys were complete dickheads to Jason and that annual ball incident was the final straw. You’ve never treated him right, but this was way too far. Even for fucking cum-rags like you.”

He drew out a victory in his eyes, so that was enough for him. He couldn't be bothered to fight anymore. So he zipped his lips and slurped a few gulps of his coke.

“Oh…” Brad laughs. “Jason? It’s about Jason?”

Matt froze. He felt his boyfriend stiffen next to him.

“Y-Yeah,” his voice was now breaking with the pressure. The air was getting thicker. “He’s my friend,” it broke his own heart to say it. “Why’s it a problem to back up my friend?”

“Are you a faggot?” Brad suddenly spat.

Matt’s heart stopped. And everyone on the table, no, the room, went completely silent. Everything completely cemented itself into utter shock. And Matt felt like all the colours of his skin drained out of his body. He went pale. Numb. And he felt like his literal pulse. Stopped. Dead in its tracks. He couldn't believe what just got uttered out of the asshole’s lips.

Brad’s snicker brought everything back to reality. A reality that was much denser and darker than the one Matt previously knew.

“Okay Brad, just lay off,” Danny had to be the one to cut in. For the first time in his life, he just stood up to Brad. And the footballer wasn't taking it. But Danny didn't feel like he had another choice. No one was standing up for Matt (who seemed like he just lost all blood in his body) and he couldn't just leave him like that.

“Oh wow,” the older boy drew out with an overly sarcastic tone. Danny gulped. “Some other faggot’s trying to stand up as well now, huh?” he chuckled. “This should be really funny.”

“That’s enough,” even Dan stepped in, his voice a little wary. “We should just leave them alone Brad…”

“But this is way too funny,” he laughed.

Matt was still in a frozen state of shock. One that left his fingers tingling. It was the only thing he could feel in his body. Jason wanted to grip onto him ever so tightly, and absolute kick the shit out of Brad and maybe even Dan, but he knew he couldn't ever win to that. No matter how much he desperately wanted to. And he was really desperate to.

“Just leave while you can,” Kurtis muttered, almost under his breath. Brad raised an eyebrow.

“What’d you say?” his glare made the brunette coward away. “Matt hasn't denied it though, has he?” the ex-footballer tried to swallow, but his dry throat didn't allow him to. “Oh shit. This is too good. What a plot twist.”

“Brad!” Matt choked out, tears starting to form beneath his eyes. Fuck. This was too much for him. “Stop it. Okay. J-Just fucking leave right now.”

“Yeah come on,” Dan pinched his jacket and harshly yanked him aside, giving Matt a small and subtle apologetic look as he parted ways with the group.

All five of them sat in silence. Matt needed to throw up.

He immediately dashed outside, leaving the group complete and utterly shocked with what happened as he ran towards his car and locked himself inside.

As Jason tried to chase after him, Kurtis stopped him, gathering the fabric of his shirt to keep him back.

“I don't know if you should,” the brunette said, eyeing Matt who now had tears rolling down his cheeks as he started up his car. “It’ll look bad if you leave now.”

“I don’t care!” he cried weakly, squirming under the pressure. “I need to know if he's okay.”

“He's not okay,” Max answered, speaking up for the first time. And his voice seemed to be worn out. “And there's no point. Trust me. Brad’s going to treat you even worse if you do something now.”

“Matt’s already outed, I don’t know what’s going to happen to you,” Kurtis tried to warn him. “Or us. I don't think we should do anything right now.”

Jason swallowed harshly, trying to gulp up all of the tears building up in his chest. He was overwhelmed, like everything he dreaded happening just basically happened. Right then in front of him. He hated it. He wished they could go back in time and said something different. Did something different. Just something. He was praying mentally, but he knew he couldn't do anything about it.

He sniffed and sat back in his chair, the air between them feeling cool. No one said a single word for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

“Why the fuck would you do that?!”

Even Dan was upset with Brad. Frustrated was probably a better word for it.

“What?” he let out a snicker. “It wasn't even that bad. It was kind of funny, actually.”

“You’re a mother fucking douchebag,” Willam chimed in, shoving aside her empty glass of coke. “Really Brad? You’re really going to fucking do that?”

“Why do you care?” he chortled. “You’re just some slut that-”

“Shut the fuck up Brad!” Courtney fought. “You did something shitty. Own up to it. Apologise for goodness sake.”

“Why should I? He’s a faggot. God hates faggots. We hate faggots,”

“We fucking hate people like you, you asshole,” Alaska snorted back, leaning up against her chair. “Matt’s a nice guy. I don't understand why you were such a dickhead about it.”

“But he’s a fag!”

“We don’t even know if that’s true,” Dan tried to defend. “Why can't we just leave him alone?” he slumped down by an empty spot. “I’m fucking mad that he left the team before the final game but dude, we can’t just be mad at that for the rest of the year. We’re seniors. There’s no fucking point.”

“Gees, I’m sorry,” he rolled his eyes. “I don't understand that it made all of you so upset,” he chuckled forcefully. “Seriously. Were you even friends with him?”

“Who cares? You were still being a dick,” Courtney turned herself around to face her friends. She didn't really understand why they decided to get a booth right next to the footballers. It literally made no sense. Maybe it was because they were used to do that. You know, before her and Dan broke up.

“I hate him,” Willam mouthed over to her as she sipped on Courtney’s leftover coke. The other blonde chuckled.

“Same,” she rolled her eyes. “Remember that time you went out with him?”

“Please don't remind me,” she drew out.

“Anyways,” Alaska piped. “I might head off soon. I’m going home with Shar'.”

“Is she taking you home or are you staying over?” Willam raised an eyebrow knowingly.

“Well, it’s spring break so might as well stay over, right?” she shrugged, getting up and brushing down her skirt. “I’m gonna see if she’s ready to head out. What are you two gonna do?”

“I don’t know actually,” Courtney peered over to her girlfriend.

“My place is free tonight. Wanna come over?”

“Love to,”

“It’s settled then.”

Courtney wondered how they got to this. And she also wondered if they were together too often sometimes, because it seemed like they were literally attached to each other nowadays. She didn’t care all too much though, and every thought seemed to fade away the moment Willam kissed her lips. Then her mind would just go blank.

She moaned against her lips, feeling her kiss down her neck. She held her tightly in her embrace as she shifted her against the wall.

“Will…” she mumbled out, exhaling. She knocked her head back. “Babe.”

“Mmm...you’re so loud babe,” she giggled, breathing down on her collarbone. Her hands grip around her body harshly, Courtney gasping at it.

“Willma?!”

“Shit,” they flung apart, both frantically sweating and hyperventilating like maniacs. Courtney swore she could see her life flash before her eyes.

Willam peered around the room to just make out the silhouette of her mom by the far corner, looking as if she just crawled out of bed.

“I thought you were off tonight,” Willam struggled to piece together a confident sounding sentence.

“We came back early because your dad wasn’t feeling well,” she wrapped her robe around her. “Are you serious Willma?”

“Mom, my name is Willam. Remember?” she rolled her eyes at the reply, trying to stay as aloof as possible.

Courtney remembered hearing that story for the first time. Apparently her real name was “Willma” but they misspelt it on her birth certificate, giving her an oddly masculine sounding name. The head cheerleader thought it was a lighthearted and somewhat funny tale. At first. Until she actually met her parents.

They weren't rude by any means. Just...less privileged, in a sense. They weren't from the richest part of town, and they seemed to forget Willam a lot. She jokes that it’s because she’s a mistake and they never wanted her, but the more Courtney heard it from her mouth, the more she started figuring out that it’s not a joke and she's telling the truth. That Willam is trying to make a joke out of it to cope with it but she's actually pretty hurt about it.

“And who’s this?” her mom asked.

“Courtney,” she replied coldly. “She’s coming up to my room.”

“I don't think so Willma,”

“Why do you care anyway? And for the last time, it’s Willam. Willam,”

“Please don't tell me that this is Courtney Act. Isn't she supposed to be your captain?”

“Yes she is, now, let me go upstairs,” she grabbed her girlfriend by the hand and hurried up the staircase, actively avoiding whatever her mom was saying. At least she had the satisfaction to slam the shit out of her door and lock it.

She sighed deeply before plotting down on her bed.

“She’s going to get mad at you,” Courtney said quietly, not knowing why she really said it in the first place.

“She's not going to bother coming up here to say anything about it though,” Willam chuckled painfully. “Trust me. She struggles to get upstairs.”

“I don't think that's something you can joke about Will,” Courtney warned softly, knowing that her mom had genuine problems.

“Yeah, but I’m allowed to joke about it. She's my own mom,” she rolled her eyes and slumped down onto her bed, resting her head against the pillow.

There were a few moments of silence until Courtney curled up by her shoulder.

“...sorry,” Willam was the first to speak up again. “I didn't want you to see that.”

“It’s alright,” she reassured. “I honestly don't mind.”

“But I mind,” she kissed her forehead lightly. “Trust me Court. We’re gonna make it out of here. We’re gonna escape, and be happy and leave this whole place behind us.”

“Really? Do you really think so?”

“Definitely,” she pressed her lips against hers swiftly. “I’ll make sure of it.”

Chapter Text

“He’s not picking up…”

Jason’s hands trembled as he clutched onto his phone. He stared down at his own device and turned it on and off to see if he got a notification. It was making him anxious.

“It’s going to be okay Jason,” Kurtis tried to reassure.

They were both in Jason’s bedroom. It was just the two of them for the first time in forever. Kurtis decided to just invite himself over to make sure that Jason was okay. After the whole diner incident, none of them spoke a word to each other in person, mostly because they couldn't figure out what to say after it.

They did talk to each other over text though. Or they tried to. Everyone spammed Matt endlessly, but he didn’t pick up his phone a single time. Then they tried to make sure that Jason was okay, but he didn’t have the heart to reply either.

So Kurtis just decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I-I can't get a hold of Matt…” his voice quivered. “I’ve called him almost every minute and texted him and-”

“Jason, maybe he needs space,”

“-he hasn’t even read a single text,” he complained, mostly with worry. “Maybe I should go over to his house and-”

“Jason,” he repeated. “He might need space. Everything that went down was...really intense. And maybe he’s trying to be alone to rethink everything.”

“But I don’t want him to,” he spat. Kurtis groaned.

“Jason you’re being so childish,”

“It’s because he gets caught up in drugs Kurtis,” he shouted, sniffing. “He always does. Whenever things get too much, he always feels like he has nowhere to fucking go. So he turns to this shit. That’s why I want him to pick up.”

“E-Everything’s going to be okay...Jason,” Kurtis swallowed. “He stopped now, didn’t he? He promised he wouldn't.”

“I know but…” he pursed his lips. “You never know, and I’m really scared.”

“It’ll be okay. Trust me. He’s going to be better, but he needs to do it in his own pace.”

Jason stared down at his phone again and opened it one more time.

JASON: please babe

JASON: you need to pick up

JASON: I’m worried about you

JASON: I love you

He stared down at his messages and felt his chest churn with the lack of replies. And how he wasn’t reading it. Jason’s bottom lip quivered as he bit down and slammed it face down so he could avoid looking at it.

Matt watched his own phone buzz continuously. He was positioned by his bed, head resting against his pillow. He hadn’t moved for hours. He just stared off into space, doing nothing but thinking blankly and listening to the buzzes of his device.

It was an odd feeling; to feel so empty. Broken in a way. It was probably the first time he felt like this since being with Jason. He tried to chuckle at the thought, but he failed. It came out as a small, airy exhale instead, and it grazed the sides of his neck.

He remembered what happened horrifyingly vividly. Absolutely everything that happened. When his gaze dulled into grey and it felt like the whole world just darkened. He spent the whole day wondering. Wondering what would happen in the future. What would happen when school came back in and everyone saw him again. He could imagine them staring at him, with narrowed eyes and then misery would cast over. He couldn't help but to feel a tad guilty for some odd reason. He hadn’t been quite against his own sexuality for a while. A long while, and he was kind of proud of that. Since the group joined together and Jason was introduced more fondly into his life, he never had to feel guilty about himself. He never had to hate himself.

But now that everyone knew...well that was a different story.

He should’ve known that things were going to topple over soon enough. That things weren’t going to be picture perfect and fun forever. He should’ve known but. He couldn't help but to feel like this was single-handedly the worst way it could've gone down.

Matt stared over at the phone again. It grew silent for a few pauses and it gave him time to breathe. To take up a few gulps of air before he felt his chest collapse.

His parents were out of town, like they always seemed to be. Fair enough, he understood why they didn't want to be with him anyway. They were never a close knit family by any means.

But it did make him feel a tad...and only a tad, lonely. It made his mind drift off. And the only voice he was used to hearing was his own. It got boring at its best, and overwhelming at its worst.

He just wanted to escape. To disappear for a while. And then it hit him...

He told himself that he would never do it again. Said that he would quit forever. Because he promised Jason. But the urges rose through his compressed chest and he couldn't take it anymore. His body just felt too empty. And this was the only way to fill it up.

He cursed, lunging over to his bedside table and yanking out the bottom cabinet. It had everything he hadn’t touched in months. All his bongs, from his shitty ones to the ones that McCook got for him, to roll up paper and old, small plastic bags that used to contain substances. Mostly powder nowadays. There wasn’t anything left in most of them. All except one.

It’s pure white like snow. It made him feel so much emptier as he stared back at it. Like fucked up nostalgia.

He sighed.

“I’m sorry…”

He didn’t really know who he was apologizing to. His family. His friends. Jason. Himself.

Just breathing it in was honestly enchanting. Really fucked up but still meltingly homey. He felt comfortable in the high, with his heart thumping at thousands of miles per hour and his pupils dilating at the euphoric rush. He let himself chuckle a little, maybe laugh, at how amazing it felt. Why did he ever quit? He cackled at the thought.

He slumped down onto his bed, feeling it fog up in his mouth. And he cracked a smile. If this wasn’t perfect bliss, he didn't know what was.

Chapter Text

Danny felt, admittedly, a tad lonely. He felt like he was running out of people to turn to. Roy was always away now with his family so they could make sure that he wasn't running off again. He wondered why they didn't just ask Roy about how he was feeling, because it might have helped him. Danny already knew that this whole “counselling” thing at church would actually trigger Roy to run off again then stay. But he couldn't exactly tell Roy's parents that either.

And his usual friends weren’t really available either. Max was sometimes, so he met up with him the most, but it still felt kind of stale and empty. Nothing against the grey-haired boy. It was mostly due to his extreme paranoia for Matt. He looked really stiff. He was nervous about school and what would happen when the holidays were over. And Danny couldn't help but to agree. He couldn't cheer him up this time. He met up with Kurtis a couple of times too, but he tended to be busy. Not only did he have work, but he was also mustering up the rest of his effort to look after Jason. To make sure that he wasn't doing anything dangerous because of what happened to Matt. He was really worried about his best friend.

Danny could relate, in a way. Because he wanted to meet up with Jason to make sure he was okay too, but he continuously said that he was busy. Said that he had work, and his parents liked to travel and they were on road trips. But Danny knew that he was probably lying.

“Danny? Are you okay?”

So he was really glad when he found out that Courtney was available. Because he felt like tearing his hair out of his head. She looked over to him with wide eyes of curiosity before she yawned.

“You’ve been really distracted lately,” she commented, sipping on her green smoothie.

Danny kind of forgot that they were out at the mall. At a cafe situated near the outskirts of the large building. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes.

“I’m a little tired…” he spent the last few nights writing music to get his mind off of things, which made him sleep deprived. It’s not like he had anything to do anyway.

“I can tell,” she pointed directly over to the bags underneath his eyes. “...and I understand why.”

“Hmm?” he gulped down his ice tea.

“The whole Matt thing, right?” she questioned. “I’m really sorry about what happened.”

“I-It’s okay,” he sighed. “I don't know where he is though. I’m guessing he's probably at home but he’s not picking up his phone. He hasn't looked at any of our messages and he hasn't even been online.”

Courtney pursed her lips.

“I honestly can't believe it,” she pulled a concerned expression. “I feel so bad for him. Especially because it was in front of everyone.”

“Yeah. Man, I hate Brad,” he rolled his eyes.

“And since it’s Brad, it probably means that everyone knows by now. All the footballers were there, and everyone else in school probably saw. That probably means that it’ll spread through the chains of gossip really quickly and-”

Danny began to sniff, inhaling beats of air. Courtney immediately widened her eyes and leaned over.

“Oh my god Danny! I-I’m so sorry-”

“It’s fine,” he sighed for a moment, and took a sip of his drink to cool himself off. “Sorry, it just got overwhelming for a second.”

“I get it…” Courtney gave him a sympathetic look as she rubbed his upper arm for comfort’s sake. “...honestly I wish there was something I could do. Because I really want to help out with Matt’s situation. And just all of your friends.”

“Thanks Court,” he smiled over. His eyes grazed past her face and to the far distance until he spotted...him.

He widened his eyes.

It was Matt. Actually Matt. He had to close his eyes deeply and open them up again just to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating. He shoved his drink aside for a moment and stumbled to his feet. Danny quickly muttered a “I’ll be back” over to Courtney as he rushed over to Matt and some other boy strolling beside him.

“M-Matt,” he sputtered out. The older boy turned around slowly, looking towards him with wide circular eyes. “I-I haven’t seen you around for awhile. How have you been?”

The more Danny looked at him, the more unrecognisable he looked. Matt had recently, well as recently as Danny saw him, looked fine. Really good looking if he had to be honest. But he wouldn't tell Jason that. But now he looked...like the self he was before. When he used to do drugs.

That’s the last thing Danny was hoping for and he immediately held his breath for aching anticipation as Matt’s eyes met his.

They were painfully dilated and lost. Danny really, really was hoping that he wasn’t on drugs. Praying to god.

“Great actually,” he piped out a chuckle, his breath having a dense odor. Danny cringed at it.

“Y-You’re on drugs, aren't you?” he immediately piped out, coming out kind of like a squeak because of his nerves. Matt slowly crinkled open his eyes. He was pretty sure it was a blink but he was so out of it, it looked stupid.

“Is it that obvious?” Brian McCook was the boy next to him, looking just as out of it as he was.

“Yeah, it is,” Danny wrinkled his brows together. “You promised us you wouldn't.”

“Sorry,” he shrugged. “I gotta get going so-”

“Stop,” Danny held onto his sleeve. “Stay. I want to talk.”

“I can barely talk,” he drew out with a low chortle.

“What did you take?”

“What did I even take?” he asked over to Brian, who was rubbing his temples.

“Uhh...GHB?” his voice was far too unknowing for Danny’s comfort.

“Are you fucking kidding?”

“It...came in this blue bottle. No, blue liquid in-”

“Matt,” he cried, feeling a little hopeless. “Do you remember what happened last time?”

“That was meth,” he reassured poorly. “Come on. It’s different. And it takes my mind off the shit that’s happening.”

“I’m telling Jason,” he let go of his grip around his arm. An arm that was far too skinny for him to not feel nauseous.

“D-Don't,” he tried to act firm. “Don't tell him. Don't tell anyone.”

“It’s for your own good,” he rushed away from him, gazing at him a final time with sympathetic eyes. He grabbed onto Courtney’s arm, the girl stumbling lopsidedly on her feet as she followed Danny.

“W-What’s happening?” she said in confusion, flipping her head back to try and catch a glimpse of Matt.

“We need to go,” he hurried inside, knowing that he was far enough from Matt to get away with it. “...it was Matt.”

“Oh,” she grinned a little. “That's good, right?”

“No, it’s not good,” he pressed his lips together. “Something really shitty is going to happen. Is happening.”

He frantically texted all the boys individually, and they seemed to bolt back an answer in the first couple of minutes. If this wasn't a prologue for the shit that was to come, he didn’t know what was.

Chapter Text

Danny nervously fumbled his thumbs on Kurtis’s sofa. It felt a lot less comfortable than he imagined. Maybe it was because he was hoping for the best? Truth be told, the young boy wasn't expecting anything good to come from this.

There were 5 of them today. The problem problem was, well, it wasn't Matt. It was Brian Firkus. And they were deliberating on what to do. With this shitty mess.

“McCook’s the one who supplied him,” the country boy said in a low voice. “I managed to convince him to talk about it with me. But he won't say too much about it all..."

“I thought he quit all of that,” Max gazed down.

“...me too,” Brian sighed. “I told him not to. And he said he didn’t want to either but…” he shook his head to snap back into a state of logical reality. “I’m just worried. I’m going back home soon to Wisconsin and I’m nervous that something really bad is going to happen the moment I leave.”

“We’ll look out for him. Promise,” Kurtis reassured, his stance still. “We need to do something though. And we need some sort of idea.”

“What if…” Jason began. “...what if we did something. Like really cool.”

“T-that’s a great idea…?” Max said in somewhat sarcastic encouragement.

“No, like something so fun, that we get his mind off of it. Make him realise that we can leave soon, after we graduate and shit, so if we just survive these last few months, we can do whatever,” he shrugged. “Right? The school finding out shouldn’t be that big of a deal.”

“I agree,” Kurtis backed up. “We should invite him over and remind him how fun it is to go out. Sober. And to hang out with friends.”

“But he won’t even pick up his phone,” Max pointed out.

“I guess that means we have to go over to him and force our way into his house,” Danny grinned. The other boys gasped with excitement.

“Finally!” Jason rejoiced, running over to his car keys.

“What about his parents?” the grey haired boy asked.

“Oh they’re out,” Brian informed. “Business trip.”

“Great! Maybe we should bring along stuff that’ll remind him of us. Remind him of things we love to do together,” Danny suggested.

“I know he loves watching movies. Especially gay ones,” Jason enthused. “Oh! And he likes it when we get popcorn, and sit back, and joke along with the movie. Maybe have a few sodas. All that casual stuff.”

“Then that's exactly what we’ll bring,” the youngest boy beamed. “We can actually get a movie legally for once.”

It took about an hour to get everything together. The food, the drinks and the movie. The latter probably took the longest, because they debated over every single possible movie they could actually watch until they settled on “Brokeback Mountain”. Yeah, the god of all gay movies. Max was the least impressed by it.

Danny excitedly hopped into the car, grocery bags of junk food pooling by his feet. Brian was the last to take the seat next to him, smiling over.

“Have you ever been to his house before?” he asked, closing the door behind him.

“No actually,” his excitement grew. “I’m so excited. Isn't he rich?”

“Really rich,” Kurtis fastened his seatbelt in the driver’s seat. “I’m butt poor compared to him.”

“Wow,” Danny gasped. “Does he live in a mansion and everything?”

He didn't need anyone to answer that question. As they arrived to his house, large gates were standing by the front of the car. They were glistening golden. Perfect. Grand.

“How are we gonna get in?” Brian asked, peering out of the window. Danny was frozen in his seat, the giant gates making him shiver slightly.

“There’s a spare remote control in the mailbox,” Jason hopped out, lifting up the flap of the mailbox to draw out a small black controller. “They decided to put one in here because Matt’s really forgetful.”

He clicked it, the gates slowly reeling open a long, wide driveway to the top. Danny honestly wondered how his friends were so privileged. The cheerleader entered the car again as Kurtis drove up the cemented road.

The house in front of them was unbelievably beautiful. Perfectly painted. All the bushes were wonderfully trimmed. Everything, to the flowers, to the rocks to the fucking birds were placed perfectly. To fit the picturesque image of a beautiful household.

So of course the family had to be perfect too. With each member being attractive, and successful and somewhat likeable by first glance. Danny honestly felt like getting out and running away. He was intimidated by how perfect this place was.

He shook his head.

Jason had already hopped out of the car, rushing over to the door to knock excitedly. He seemed so oddly casual in this place.

Matt slowly opened the door. He seemed incredibly tired. He rubbed his eyes and raised his gaze to meet his face, instantly widening his eyes.

“J-Jason?!” he screamed it like it was unbelievable insane. His eyes landed onto Kurtis’s car, then onto everyone’s faces. “Everyone? What are you doing here? How did you get in?”

“We’re here to see you babe,” he reached out for his hand. “And also the remote’s still in the mailbox.”

“W-We decided to bring a movie,” Max gulped, slowly making his way over to him.

“And we brought some snacks, and some drinks,” Danny smiled.

“So...can we come in?” Kurtis finished, locking the car.

Matt debated internally for a bit. He looked back and forth from everyone, to their belongings, to Jason, who was pleading with his eyes. Until he caved in.

“Fine,” he huffed. “I-I mean…” he rubbed the back of his head. “Come in.”

Jason lunged over to him, wrapping his arms around him tightly, but he pushed him aside. Everyone gasped. Pause. Matt cleared his throat and rushed inside, leaving his own boyfriend gobsmacked by the door. Jason awkwardly straightened out his shirt and rushed inside, his head held down low.

“...this is bad,” Brian muttered under his breath. “I’ve literally never seen him like this.”

“Me either,” Max squeaked.

“I’m gonna punch him,” Kurtis stared over at the door and grumbled.

“Kurtis don’t do that,” Danny gave a long sigh. He wondered why they were here again for a moment.

If Danny had to describe the night in one word, it was surprising. It started off awkwardly. Very awkwardly. No one really knew how to start conversations, and Brian started to give up after the first five minutes. But eventually they switched on the movie, everyone got engaged within the story in a flick of a switch, and everything seemed better again. A little childish, they know, but it was fun for them.

“T-That was so good…” Jason mumbled out, sniffing by the end of the movie.

This is where Danny expected Matt to comfort him like he usually did. He would usually hug him, and stroke his arm, and kiss his forehead. But he didn’t this time.

They were sitting by the opposite sides of the room. With Matt in a single loveseat by the corner, and Jason on a sofa with Kurtis by his side.

Danny could feel Max humming “awkward” under his breath as he pulled a face.

“It really was,” Kurtis gave a long sigh. “Why didn't we just rent out a light hearted comedy?”

“Aren't you the one who chose it?” Brian asked over.

“...no,” the brunette looked away.

“I’m gonna go get a drink,” see, Danny hypothesised that Matt would be feeling better after the movie. He was wrong. He was swayed for a little while over the sense of familiarity and comfort with the boys, but Matt slipped back into the moaning and groaning a few moments after. Danny was really upset by it.

The five boys sat there for a quiet moment.

“Jason…” Kurtis mumbled over to him. “...do you wanna go talk to him?”

“I don’t think he wants to talk to me,” he sighed, defeated.

“Come on, that’s not the Jason I know,” Danny encouragingly nudged. “You should go talk to him and sort things out.”

“You know what?” He got from his spot. “You’re right. I’m gonna make him snap out of it.”

Kurtis comforted him right out of the door and then sighed.

“Good job Danny,” he grinned over as he messed up his hair. “Now we have to just wait and see if this works out…”

They paused.

“...do you guys wanna watch Glee?”

“Oh god, I thought you’d never ask.”

Chapter Text

Matt managed to gulp down a whole tall glass of water. He didn’t know how. He just knew that he was really thirsty and his throat was extremely dry. Too dry. It was due to either his relapsing or the tension in that room with those boys, and he was guessing the mixture of the two.

Glancing down at the glass, he decided to fill it up to the top again by the tap as he recounted the whole night. The dripping and bubbling of the liquid distracted him just enough for him to ease into his thoughts.

He did want to help out Jason. Well, comfort him. On the sofa after the movie. He loved to do that whenever they watched movies. It didn’t feel the same to be huddled up on a single chair alone. And to watch him just sniff by himself on the couch.

But he really was thankful for his friends’ thoughts and efforts. Really thankful. More than he would ever express. It meant the world to him that they still cared after he completely abandoned them and refused to talk to them. It made him rethink whether he was doing the right thing or not. Being in this weird state of isolation.

But it hurt, in a way. To see them. To have them near. Because it was a constant reminder of school. And what would happen when they got back. He just felt like it was easier to push them away. And to pretend that none of this was happening as he spent his time curled up in a ball in his room. he was grateful for everything they did, but in a way, he was just too selfish to realise why they were doing it.

“Babe?” Jason peered into the kitchen, his presence small and muted compared to usual. “Matt?” he coughed out oddly. Like he wasn’t used to saying it. “Can we talk?”

“Umm,” Matt’s thoughts scattered. “I-I think I’m about to go back.”

“I know you're not,” Jason cut him off. “I know you well. Don't act like I don't.”

Matt swallowed down a few gulps of his water.

“What do you want to talk about…?” he reluctantly gave in, taking a seat by the counter.

“This. This fucking thing that just happened,” Jason stood by the other side. “You ignoring this, this stupid drug thing, isn't going to make anything better," Matt jolted backwards with the intensity of his words. "You ignoring what happened at the diner isn't going to make anything better. We’re all worried about you and you're pushing us all away.”

“Jason, don't make it out to be this massive thing because it’s not,” his tone was colder than what they were both used to. “I just need time and space to rethink everything.”

“Why can't you think when you're sober then?” Matt’s voice hitched at the sentence. “...you promised you wouldn't.”

“I promised myself I wouldn't too but I guess…” he glanced away, knowing that he couldn't say it to his face. “...I can break promises.”

“...you can't say that confidently. I know you Matt. Maybe better than you know yourself,”

“No way,”

“Yes way,” he crinkled his brows. “You're underestimating me,” he turned his gaze over to him by lightly pressing his fingers under his chin and swerving his face around. “I’m going to tell you like I would anyone else…” he held his breath. “You’re an idiot.”

“Jas-”

“You’re a complete fucking idiot,” he teared up slightly as he uttered. “You know this isn’t going to blow over right? You know Brad. You were in a fucking football team with him for ages! You know how petty he is and you know exactly what he’s like!” he screamed at him. “He’ll never let this go, and he’s never going to fucking make you feel any better but you know what will?” he looked at him dead in the eyes. “Us. We could make it better.”

“That's not-”

“It is fucking true and you know it. And you hate to admit it,” he bit down on his lip. “And you hate to admit that you basically have nothing else sometimes. And it gets you down. But we love you Matt. Especially me…”

“Jason I…” he swerved around the kitchen counter and towards him, wrapping his arms around him tightly. This felt right. He missed this feeling. Of being able to feel his heartbeat next to his own. “I’m...stupid. I know. I’m stupid. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, I know you fucking are,” he muttered through tears. “You fucking ignored me for a week Matt! A week. And you went off to ruin your body and your life again thinking that it’ll get better...a-and you know it won't.”

“I’m sorry Jason!” he shouted. “I-I’m...sorry. Okay? I don’t know what to do with this mess. This is just insane to me! I never thought something like this would happen and I wanted to do anything to just get my mind off of it,” he shook his head. “My mind is travelling in three million directions and I just want, for one moment, to stop. To stop. And to pretend that none of this is happening. Drugs,” he sputtered the word out with crinkles in his voice. “...they let me do that. They let me escape, just for a little while. And I feel free.”

“Babe…” he sniffed into his chest. “Please...please don't say that,” he raised his face, his blood shot eyes meeting his bright blue ones. “You mean the absolute world to me...you know that. I can't, I feel-”

He ran to the sink, throwing up all that tenseness in his stomach. Matt widened his eyes at the sight, almost instantly doing everything in his power to make him feel better. The ex-football player rubbed his back comfortingly, making sure he didn’t choke on any vomit. Filling up a glass of water, he helped him take a few sips before the cheerleader fell to his knees.

“J-Jason,” Matt’s hands trembled at he rubbed his thumb over Jason’s clasped ones. “I-I’m…” tears fell from his cheeks as his boyfriend rested his head onto his shoulder. “I’m quitting. That’s it. I promise I can’t. I won’t. Ever. Again,” he shook his head. “I’m sorry for putting you through all of this. All of my bullshit. I stopped talking to everyone b-because I thought avoiding everything was the best solution. But it wasn't. It isn't. Because I know things don't actually get better and nothing will sort out. I need to step it up, and man up, and realise that I need to do something about the situation if I want to fix it. I-I realised that now,” he raised his gaze. “S-So don’t...freak out. Do that. I-I don’t know. Get sick? The only thing I know is that...I love you. So much and I can't see you like this.”

He rushed to get up, stumbling to his feet as he threw out all the drawers of his kitchen messily.

“I have medicine, to help with nausea,” he popped out a tablet and held it in his hand. “Take it. And we can make you warm tea and-”

“Matt,” he coughed out. His boyfriend paused. “It’s okay,” he graciously took the pill though with a gulp. “I’m feeling better because...this is all I wanted to hear. For you to realise that,” he hugged him tightly, letting go of the glass by the bench. “We all love you. Especially me. I really, really love you.”

“I love you too,” he kissed him gently yet firmly, holding him tightly in his arms. He felt relieved. Like he was where he truly belonged. By Jason. It made him thankful and happy that Jason was still there for him. Even after all his bullshit.

“Also,” as they parted, Jason shoved his hand into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a small card. It triggered nostalgia immediately with Matt as he took it into his hands.

Let’s live on so we can make more memories together. I’m looking forward to living the rest of my life with you

Matt teared up at the note, a single tear staining the edge of the paper. He sniffed, and kissed Jason again, feeling like he absolutely needed to.

“I want to spend the rest of my life just loving you,” he mumbled into his lips. Jason melted into the sense of comfort.

“And I’ll spend the rest of my life loving you back.”

Chapter Text

Danny was extremely delighted when he saw that the couple had rekindled. They were back by each other’s sides again, like they never left. Inseparable.

It was around 10 PM when they headed off to bed. He was thankful for Matt’s godly riches. Literally, he swore that he had godly powers or something just because of his family's riches. The things money could do.

He had two spare bedrooms so it meant that they could all conveniently split off. Matt gestured casually, saying that he had a lot of extended family that would stay over at their house so they needed to have quite a few spare rooms, but having 2 large ones with their own en suite was a little too much.

Jason obviously stayed in Matt’s room, which had a large King sized bed from what Danny saw. Brian and Kurtis broke off together in one room with two single beds, so Max and Danny got stuck with the room with the queen sized bed. Well, getting “stuck with it” was a rude way to say it. They both didn't mind. It was a beautifully set out room, and the bed itself was comfortable. But of course Brian had to sleep in a single. Because he had to stay loyal to his not-boyfriend.

Danny rolled his eyes at that.

He slipped into his pajamas in the bathroom and strolled out, messing up his own hair as he slumped himself down on the bed. By then, Max had turned on the bedside lamp, so the room was a dimly lit.

“Did you have a good day today Danny?” Max asked, turning to his side.

“Yeah everything went to plan, I guess,” he shrugged. “Maybe a little differently to what I expected but...I’m happy.”

He casually scrolled down his Facebook feed as Max gushed about how good the movie was. He was happy to know that he ended up liking the movie, especially because he was so against it when they originally got it. Maybe it was a sign that he was warming up to the whole "gay" thing. Scratch that. He seemed to be much happier about it now. Like he completely accepted himself. Well, nearly. Soon enough he would get there. Danny believed that full heartedly.

“I’m just happy that Matt’s feeling better, you know?” the older boy grinned to himself as he brought the blankets closer to his chin.

“Yeah…” he mumbled, stumbling onto a post on his feed. He paused. “Hey Max, look at this.”

It was a post made by Brad. Originally made by Brad. He wasn’t friends with him on Facebook, obviously, but it seemed to be shared or commented on by every single one of his peers. Like every single person at school. The one he saw was by Jay. His favourite person.

Went to the usual diner today and found out that Matt was a fag. Yeah, that Matthew Lent.

Danny wondered why it didn't automatically tag him, but then realised that he deleted his account a few days prior. It was his way to disappear for a while.

I don't know how I didn't realise that there was a literal gay guy in the football team. What a great way to stay closeted.

Max gulped.

“Is he serious?” he crinkled his brows. “What did everyone else say?”

Danny scrolled down to the comments. If he had to put a statistic on it, it would be like 70% calling out Matt, 25% that was confused, and 5% actually saying shit to Brad. In that 5% was Court, Will and ‘Laska, which Danny was happy to know.

Jay Jackson: I knew it all along

Lies. Danny thought immediately, rolling his eyes.

But the comments went on. So many people were just plain confused, some saying that he was lying, but then replied to by so many people who were actually there. It blew up to a point where Danny couldn't take it. There were over a hundred comments and around 50 shares. It was posted a few days ago and it was just some shitty post made by some asshole. It wasn't even like it affected anyone other than the seniors at their small, mundane school. He didn’t understand the whole “popularity” circulating around it. They went to a small school, in virtually the middle of nowhere. There was absolutely no appeal to where they lived, nonetheless the school. It was an average place with too many similar looking houses and way too many white people.

So nothing like this had ever happened before. To this extent of popularity. Especially for some Facebook post.

“Look at this one,” Max pointed at it. “ ‘I thought people like this wouldn't exist in our school but I was wrong’. Really? How old are they?”

“I have no idea how we go to the same school,” Danny groaned. “Honestly, I thought everything was gonna get better. Aren't we supposed to be the new generation or whatever? Like be more progressive and accepting?”

“Not around here Danny. It’s what happens when all we hear is homophobia and sinning,” Max sighed deeply. “That’s why I ended up like this, right?”

“How are you feeling about it?” Danny mumbled over.

“...I feel better,” he cocked his head to the side to ponder. “A lot better, actually. I’m...what's the word?” he snickered. “Happy.”

“That's oddly non descriptive for you Max,” he teased.

“No other word I can use Danny. I’m happy. Happy,” he smiled. “With myself. Well happier. To a point where I can wake up every morning and feel comfortable in my own skin.”

“That sounds amazing Max,” Danny shuffled a little closer, instantly rethinking over whether that was a good choice or not. The whole “leading him on” thing was still fresh in his mind. “I’m so so happy.”

“You can't use a better word Danny?” he teased back, making Danny pull a joking face.

“Fine,” he huffed. “Wonderful. Delighted. Ecstatic.”

“That's better,” they both laughed. “Now, all that's left is for us is to convince Matt that he should love himself too, despite what everyone else thinks.”

“Or, we can just make him realise that he's super lovable,” Danny pointed out, and they exchanged acknowledging looks.

“That's a good point,” he smiled. “Okay, off to bed-”

“Wait,” he stopped him from reaching over to the lamp. “Hey, I’m...sorry. About everything that-”

“Shoosh Danny,” Max held his index finger to his lips and grinned. “Don't. If you're going to apologise about us. And everything going on between us, or whatever that went on, just stop yourself from doing it. Number one, I don't want to hear it. Number two, you don't need to. You don't need to apologise for anything.”

“Not even like the whole “leading you on” thing. I don't even know what that means,” Danny whined as Max chuckled at his words. “I just know that it's bad and I didn’t mean to do it and I’m sorry.”

“Danny, it’s fine. I'm over it,” he shrugged. “I guess its something you realise when you grow up. That some things are out of your control, and you can't just make things better. No matter how hard you try. And you start to realise that, it’s for the better,” he pressed his lips together. “Things happen for a reason, so it means that this happened for a reason too. And I’m at peace with that.”

“Wow…” Danny couldn't help but to gasp in awe. “...you're the best person in the world.”

“Haha, very funny Danny. Thanks for the thought though,”

“I’m being serious,” he cleared his throat to regain actual consciousness. “You’re pretty amazing Max. You’re gonna go be successful one day, you know that?”

“Let’s hope so,”

“No, I know so,” Danny nodded confidently. “So hopefully we're still friends in the future so I can brag about you.”

Max bursted out into laughter and shook his head. As he took a deep breath, he reached over to the lamp to turn it off.

“You’re amazing Danny. You should give yourself more credit,” he sighed into the sheets as he closed his eyes. “And when you do,” he grinned. “I’ll give you a chunk of my salary.”

“Oh thank god,” he melted into the covers. “Because I’m planning to be a musician when I grow up which means I’ll be virtually homeless so-”

“Go to sleep Danny.”

Chapter Text

It was the next day, around early noon, when he came in.

The 6 boys were all circled around the TV. It was the usual, lazy morning. Max cooked up a warm breakfast for all of them, Danny learning that Brian was a vegetarian for the first time in his life. They briefly talked about it, you know, just casual small talk, and then they turned to the TV and binge watched stupid cartoon shows from their childhood. It was pretty nice morning. The smell of coffee and the taste of scrambled eggs was the definition of his mornings with them.

“Matthew?”

But then he had to come in and ruin it. Well, technically it was a 'they', but the woman left almost immediately. They were Matthew’s parents. The ones that were supposedly off in a business trip, except they seemed to come back 3 days early.

Matt stumbled to his feet, quickly turning off the TV. The room was struck with sudden silence. He straightened out his shirt and gazed towards them with a shocked expression.

“Mom? Dad?” he cleared his throat. “W-What are you doing here?”

“It’s our house,” his mom tried to joke lightheartedly as she strolled into the other room. Almost too casually. “I’m kidding dear. Your father’s work was…” she looked over at her partner. “Cut short.”

Matt looked over to his dad, and they locked eyes for a moment. It was so intense that the other boys could feel their chests churn awkwardly.

Danny could tell that his dad was physically agitated and frustrated. He couldn't exactly figure out why, but it was pretty obvious by his body actions. The way he slammed down his belongings by the front door. The way he rubbed his temples and cursed under his breath.

Matt didn’t know whether to help, ask or just stay quiet. So he just stayed quiet.

“Maybe you boys should go home,” his dad said, not looking at any of them. Danny watched Max wrinkled his brows with frustration and his lack of respect, but he was quick to give in. He already began to shuffle forward until Matt cut him off.

“Wait, why?” he questioned.

“Because we’re home now,” the older man exhaled.

“B-But they don't need to leave,” he persisted further. His father eyed him harshly and rubbed his chin.

“Matthew,” he addressed firmly. “We need to have a chat. And I’d appreciate it if your friends left. Is that clear?”

“Very clear,” Jason just decided to jump in for him. His boyfriend looked over to him, a tad annoyed due to everything that was happening, but Jason reassured him with a small look. “Thank you for letting us stay.”

They all dragged their feet behind them, awkwardly gathering their belongings to then leave. Matt accompanied them towards the door, pressing his lips together and glancing down.

“I’m sorry guys…” he mumbled.

“It’s okay,” Max brushed off quickly with a smile.

“Yeah,” Brian agreed.

“Now I realise why we can never go over to yours,” Kurtis snickered, unlocking his car. “But hey, it’s fine. Hopefully this “chat” goes down well.”

“Mmm, le