“No! Jeremy! I Refuse! Don’t make me be sociaaaaaaaaal!” Michael whined as Jeremy was dragging him towards the lunchroom.
“Come on, Michael, they're nice people and I’m sure you'll like them once you get to know ‘em,”
Jeremy said giving Michael a pleading look. It had been a month since the play incident and Jeremy had already gone on an almost apology tour talking to the people he had wronged and all the people who were taken over by a Squip. Even with his shy personality, Jeremy managed to have a real conversation with them all and make friends with them. Now he was trying to get Michael to join them all for lunch.
“Well they never made an effort to know me,” Michael said with a frown and then looked away from Jeremy.
“Mike, it’s different now, you know that,” Jeremy said, “they want to be friends with you can you at least make an effort?” Michael gave a long sigh and then a small smile.
“Okay, you stupid twink, I’ll do it for you.” Michael gave a smirk. Jeremy’s face reddened at him being called a twink. “You little- ugh let’s just go," Jeremy stomped to the lunchroom.
They made it to the lunchroom and at a circular table with everyone at the table with exactly two seats open. They walked up and Christine turned to talk to Jeremy but Jake said something first.
“Jeremy, bro! What’s up,” Jake crushed Jeremy in bro hug and Jeremy almost let out a squeak. He was still using crutches but his arms were as strong as ever. Then he turned to Michael and he prepared for the worst but Jake just shook his hand and smiled. “Yo, Michael, I’m glad you're here.” Michael was taken aback a bit by Jake’s respect for his space. “Yeah, um, thanks,” Michael said and was scanning his mind for something to say.
“I like your jacket it’s... red,” Michael said gesturing to his hoodie. He gave himself a mental facepalm. “Shit,” he thought, “that was intelligent Michael good job.” Jake looked at his lettermen and gave a big grin. “Yeah! Red Jacket Bros!” Jake said now putting his arm around Michael for a side hug. “Well,” Michael thought, “I guess he thinks we’re good enough friends now. I’ll give him a pass since he saved me from my dumbass comment.”
They all sat down at the circular table with Michael sat next to Jeremy, him next to Christine and staring at into her eyes. Then Jenna, Brooke, Chloe, Jake, Rich, then back to Michael. Christine started off a conversation by talking about the next play they were going to put on and she couldn't decide what they were going to pick. Everyone else was in on the conversation except Michael who was listening to what they were saying but he didn't have much to say and if he did he didn't know when to jump in or if what he said might seem random or out of place. So instead he just slipped on his headphones and looked at his phone until lunch was over. Jeremy was too focused on Christine with their hands laced together to notice. When the bell rang Michael immediately got out of his seat and left. Jeremy saw him leave and he realized he didn't even look at him the entire time. He facepalmed himself. “Idiot!” he said to himself and went to go after him when someone grabbed his arm. “Wait, let me go talk to him.” They said.
Michael was at his locker switching out his books when someone lightly slapped him on his shoulder. Michael slipped off his headphones and turned around expecting to see Jeremy. “Yo Jer, what the-” but he cut himself off when he saw it was Rich instead looking up at him with a smirk. “‘Sup, Headphones?” There was a silence between them for a few seconds. Michael hadn't expected see Rich here. They hadn't really talked that much since their encounters in the hospital.
Rich had been in the hospital for a couple of weeks only coming back into consciousness about three days ago. He hasn't had any contact with anyone since he didn't have his phone with him and no one has visited. His Squip had been bothering him since he woke up until tonight when he woke up with an enormous pain in his head and after about thirty seconds of pain it subsided and he asked his Squip what it was but there was no answer. He was confused why it decided not to talk to him until an hour later when the doctors rolled someone else in on a bed and Rich saw that it was Jeremy.
“Hey, Doc,” Rich asked the doctor, “what’s he doing here?”
“Is he a friend of yours?”
Rich reluctantly shook his head. He didn't deserve to call Jeremy his friend after all he’s done. The doctor explained that he and a few other students had passed out during a school play after what seemed like delirium from what they guessed what had been drugs. All the other students had woke up soon after but Jeremy was the only one still passed out when the ambulance showed up. Rich understood what had happened. He must have found Mountain Dew Red but he wondered how it took his Squip out. Probably through some tech reason he wouldn't understand but he didn't care that stupid thing was gone and his mind could be at peace for a while and he decided to sleep with no interruptions.
It had been another day or so and Jeremy had woken up and they talked for a bit about what had happened and Rich’s coming out as bisexual. Another day went by and Jeremy was allowed visitors and as soon as that happened Michael had barged in. Sadly, Jeremy was asleep and Michael looked concerned but Rich was awake.
“Hey, it’s Michael right?” Rich said and Michael turned his head to see who it was and didn't expect to see Rich there. “He’s fine the doctors said he just needs rest. He’ll be good to talk when he wakes up.” Rich gave him a smile trying to be friendly. However, Michael didn't really respond and instead gave an icy cold glare and pulled up a chair to sit next to Jeremy. Rich didn't try to say anything for the rest of the visit. He tried to just watch the T.V in his room. He didn't blame Michael for not wanting to talk to him. He was just as big of a jerk to Michael as he was to Jeremy. He glanced over at Michael every so often but otherwise didn't say a word to him the entire time.
It was about eight in the morning when Rich woke up and unexpectedly there was a teddy bear with a little card that said “Get Well Soon” on it placed on his shoulder. Rich looked around but there was nobody there except Jeremy who was miraculously asleep and Michael sitting in a chair facing Jeremy.
“Hey, um,” Rich started, “do you know who left this here?” Michael looked at Rich this time but his eyes and voice still gave off a presence of cold that could have almost soothed Rich’s burns.
“I don't know,” he said, “it was here when I got here it was probably one of your friends.” Even though Rich didn't know who exactly sent it, he was happy someone was worried about him even though he was wondering why they hadn't come before. Maybe they would come by again. He had expected another silent morning from Michael but then Michael spoke to him.
“Rich. I…” Michael turned to Rich and this time all the malice in his attitude was gone. His face had softened and looked kind of sad. “I’m sorry for how I treated you yesterday. I had like three months worth of bitchiness pent up and let some of it out on you and… you didn't deserve it. Especially after talking to Jeremy about what had happened to you.” Rich was shocked by these words and interrupted Michael.
“No no no no no. You don't have to apologize to me. I should be on my knees begging for forgiveness, after all I did to you and Jeremy and then you go and save me from that holographic asshole. Jeremy told you what you did at the play and you're basically my hero dude!” There was a small blush from Michael but Rich didn't notice. Michael gave a small nervous laugh to cover it up and then dragged his chair over to Rich’s bed and sat in it backward.
“So,” Michael said, “Jeremy told me a few interesting things about you,” Michael gave a smirk and Rich’s face turned red. “Heere, you tall-ass dick!” Rich yelled but Jeremy remained in deep sleep. “Okay, Mell laugh it up. Yeah, I’m the stereotypical homophobic bully who was just really insecure and liked dudes. Let’s all just laugh at the irony and at my expense!” Michael didn't expect Rich to get so emotional about it.
“Dude relax,” Michael said, “I wasn't gonna make fun of you or anything I mean helloooooo.” Michael tapped the pride patch on his hoodie. “Welcome to the club man!” Rich didn't really know what to say this was the first time someone seemed to accept something about Rich that was really… Rich. “Thanks. Though I guess there are twice as many people to reject me now. Heh heh. I mean who would want a 5’5 pyromaniac with burn scars and a fucking lisp.” Rich’s voice broke a bit and he could feel his eyes tearing up a bit and he rubbed them a bit. “One who’s a little bitch at that.”
“Come on man,” Michael said placing a hand on Rich’s shoulder which stung him a bit but he didn't mind, “I’m sure someone will be very lucky to have you Rich. You seem like a really great guy when it’s just you.” Rich smiled and held back happy tears this time. “Really?” He said not believing what Michael had told him. “Yeah, besides I think your lisp is cuuuuuuuuuuooooool. Cool.” Michael switched his words last second to keep himself from saying ‘cute’ and thankfully Rich seemed completely unaware of what he said. He just seemed happy which made Michael glad.
“Hey,” Rich said, “since I’m a loser again and have probably lost all of my friends, would you consider… um… being my friend?” He held out his hand.
“Oh God,” Rich thought, “I sound like a little kid on his first day of Kindergarten.” Michael was surprised someone wanted to be his friend. The only real friends he had ever had was Jeremy, some people on the Internet, and maybe Dustin Kropp but he was his drug dealer so he didn't know if that counted. But he just gave a small chuckle a grabbed Rich’s hand.
“Of course man. But,” Michael started and Rich had a panicked look on his face, “don't call yourself a loser. You're NOT a loser. Neither is Jeremy and neither am I. Thinking that about yourselves is what caused all of this. Just because we’re a little introverted and like different stuff and we’re not getting drunk and having sex every night doesn't mean we’re less fun or less interesting or worth less than other people. I realize now that I should have told that to Jeremy. His problem wasn't really that he wanted to be popular. I think he just wanted to like himself and to not be the loser, the geek, or whatever. I kinda just to told him to own being a loser instead of telling him he wasn't. Which of course doesn't excuse his twink ass for ditching me, but I understand a little more why he did it. I didn't realize how much he just hated himself which I guess is on me a bit as his best friend.” He let go of Rich’s hand and looked at Jeremy. “I guess we have a lot to talk about.” Now Michael was tearing up a bit but he held it back.
“Man,” Rich said, “when we get out of this hospital I’m gonna kick Heere’s ass for leaving you.” Rich put a hand on Michael’s shoulder and Michael gave a small snort. “Don't worry I can take him whenever an argument gets a little heated I always manage to pin him down.” Rich gave a smirk. “Wow, Headphones, I didn't take you for a top.” Rich expected Michael to get embarrassed but he doubled down. He rested his arm on his bed and looked Rich dead in the eyes and smiled. “Bitch I’m a power bottom.”
Okay, Michael had won. Rich turned red and Michael laughed and gave him a couple finger guns. “No homo, tho.” Now they were both laughing and this woke Jeremy up. “What are you dorks laughing about?” He said groggily and rubbing his eyes. Then they started laughing more and Jeremy looked more confused until he decided to put his pillow over his head and lie under the covers and in order to go back to sleep.
The three of them had managed to be friends during their time in the hospital even though they didn't talk much about the Squip they mostly focused on forgetting that and having fun. Then Jeremy was finally discharged and Rich was meant to be discharged in a couple more days (he was meant to be discharged in another two weeks, but at his request was allowed to leave earlier if he promised to take his meds and not irritate his burns). But even during those two days Jeremy and Michael didn't visit him but he understood that they might have been busy. He had been out of the hospital for about a week and managed to give a pretty shitty apologize to Jake for burning down his house and Jake, being the kind soul he is, told Rich they were good and they didn't talk much about it after that. He also hadn't brought up the teddy bear that was left in his room. Even though they said they were good Rich could tell Jake was putting up some wall that he didn't want to press right now.
*End of Flashback*
Now, there they were. Rich was giving a small smile looking up at Michael but there was an awkward silence. They hadn't talked in about a week. “Whatchu want, Shorty?” Michael immediately regretted saying that because he didn't know if that was a dickish thing to say right now. But Rich didn't look mad he seemed like he didn't hear it.
“Dude, I-” Rich started, “I know how it feels to be with a group and feel like you don't belong. Believe me, I did it for over a year. I could tell you didn't really feel comfortable while you were sitting there and I didn't really know how to include you. I’m still getting used to not waiting for the voice in my head to tell me what to say. But know I’m here for you man and even though Jeremy was super distracted by Christine, he cares a lot too.”
“Hey, don't worry about it,” Michael said, “I don’t need to be Mr. Popular.” He gave a very forced smile. Rich didn't want to make this issue a big deal right now so he decided to change the subject. “Sorry we didn't talk much after I got out of the hospital. I was kinda busy trying to patch things up with Jake and I’m guessing you were trying to do the same with Jeremy. And besides that, there was one major problem.” Rich eyed Michael’s jacket pocket with his phone sticking out. “And what would that be?” Michael asked.
In one swift motion, Rich grabbed Michael’s phone out of his hoodie pocket and leaned against the lockers. “I didn't have my phone so I never got your phone number. Now.. what is Michael Mell’s password? Is it… 6969? Oh my God, it is,” he said putting his information into his phone. He gave it back to him and said, “you are so easy.” He gave a wink.
“You wish,” Michael replied as he took his phone back. He looked back at it and noticed Rich had put his name in as ‘Spicy Bi Boy’ and he gave him a look. “Really?” Rich just laughed, giving finger guns while walking backward. Michael just laughed and called him a dork. He didn't expect to make friends with Richard Goranski of all people at the beginning of this year, but he had a good feeling about this new friendship.
End of Chapter 1