It was the little things, really. Small details that would seem inconsequential to anyone else that led Michael to form his hypothesis. The way Jeremy smiled a little easier, a sort of contentment in his expression that he seldom found on his perpetually nervous best friend. He was walking taller too. Granted, he’d been doing that since he got (and then got rid of) the Squip, but that walking was still and inhuman. Jeremy’s walk now almost held an air of confidence. The most obvious clue was that he was no longer staring at Christine with longing eyes as he had been ever since she gently turned him down. Every bit of Jeremy which used to have a pure earnestness beneath the surface was replaced with a soft air of satisfaction.
So, he had to be fucking someone.
Of course, Michael had to admit there were some glaring holes in his theory.
- Jeremy would tell him something like that
- Jeremy would have to seduce a girl, which seemed very unlikely
- Jeremy would tell him something like that
- Seriously, if Jeremy was really having sex, Michael would be the first to know
It was for all these reasons that Michael was side-eyeing Jeremy every few seconds as they sat at lunch with a few assorted cooler kids who had invited them to form a pseudo-friend group. To the untrained Jeremy observer, it would just look like a good mood. He seemed to be sharing a pleasant conversation with Jenna Rolan about some upcoming Marvel movie. Michael would join in if he wasn’t so focused on theorizing. Jeremy’s phone buzzed next to him. Michael leaned over as subtly as he could to catch a glimpse. It was an unsaved number…the message read “Hey don’t forget to do your homework!”
Jeremy shut his phone off, just a little too quickly and stood up.
“Where are you going?” Christine asked, pulling out an earbud.
“I just have some homework to finish before next period,” Jeremy said, scratching the back of his head. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow?” The group let out an assortment of goodbyes as Jeremy grabbed his backpack and headed off down the hallway, towards the library. If he really does have a fuckbuddy, Michael thought, he’s way better at hiding it than I gave him credit for. But of course, he wouldn’t have a secret fuckbuddy because he wouldn’t keep secrets from his best friend. Maybe from the others, who weren’t exactly their “friends” yet, but he’d never keep something like that secret from Michael, especially considering how fragile their friendship was.
“Okay. Who’s fucking Jeremy?” Chloe demanded after a minute. Brooke and Jake stopped their conversation, Jenna paused mid-tweet, and Christine just sort of raised her eyebrows incredulously. Michael scoffed.
“You think Jeremy… Jeremy Heere … has a fuckbuddy?” he asked.
“Duh,” she said, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “Can’t you guys tell? He’s acting less tightly wound -- that means someone screwed him.”
“Yeah, no,” Michael cut in. “Your argument has merit, but you forget that Jeremy tells me everything. So, obviously, he’s not . ”
“Like he told you about the computer in his head?”
“Below the belt, Valentine.”
“But really, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. I mean, since when did Jeremy care about homework that much? Did you see that unsaved number?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen him getting texts from an unsaved number before!” Christine cut in. “He was helping me organize the prop room last week after school and he just left early because he got a text from an unsaved number asking if he was free to work on a project.”
“Like a group project?” Brooke asked. “That isn’t too weird. He probably just has a friend in the class.”
“Nah, I’ve used the group project cover-up before,” Jake cut in. “I think Chloe’s right. Heere might be getting some.”
“Thank you!” Chloe said. “It’s really suspicious if you ask me. And have you noticed how disgustingly happy he seems? Boys always look that happy after good sex. That’s why Jake looks so sad today.” She turned to him and gave him a mock sad face.
“My legs are broken!” Jake protested.
“You’ll find a way,” Chloe shot back.
“I don’t know…” Christine said after a couple moments of silence. “Do you really think Jeremy would sneak around like that? And I really don’t think Jeremy would just hook up with a girl he doesn’t know… so if he’s sleeping with anyone, we’d know because it’d be one of his friends.” She looked around the table. “And… I think this is pretty much it.” Michael nodded to confirm. Christine did make a good point… I mean, he did date Brooke for a while . Then he looked up and noticed that everyone’s eyes were on him.
“We’re not gonna judge, bro!” Jake said with a smile. “You and Jeremy have been friends for a while, and it’s perfectly natural to-”
“I’m not fucking him!” Michael practically screeched. “Why would you think that?”
“Come on, Michael,” Jenna said with a snort. “Really?”
“Where is all this coming from?” Michael asked. “Why attack me with your questions? What about Brooke? She dated him!” He pointed a finger across the table at the girl in question.
“I’m not sleeping with him,” Brooke said indignantly, turning back to her sandwich. “And if I was, I wouldn’t try to hide it. Why not go after Jake? He sleeps with everything with a pulse.”
“You guys suck,” Jake laughed, rolling his eyes. “It’s not me. And besides, I’m pretty sure Heere doesn’t swing that way.” He turned to Michael with questioning eyes, waiting for him to confirm or deny it, but Michael could only shrug. Jeremy had never told him about any sort of sexuality crisis and had never shown explicit interest in boys.
“No… I didn’t sleep with him! Please, stop asking!” Jenna called out sarcastically from the end of the table.
“Sorry…” Brooke said. Michael tapped his fingers on his leg as he thought it over. He was sitting with literally every girl that Jeremy knew well enough to sleep with. And if he wasn’t sleeping with any of them, then obviously he wasn’t sleeping with anyone. Maybe it was just all in his head. Then again… Chloe had agreed with him. And she seemed to be well-versed in the art of scheming and observing.
“I’ll ask him,” Michael finally said, hoping to conclude the conversation. “And that’ll clear this all up.”
“Great!” Jake said. “Then tell us everything you learn.” Chloe, Brooke, and Jenna nodded in approval. Even Christine, through her disappointed look, gave a sort of curious smile.
“Damn,” Michael said, standing up to dump his tray. “We’re scheming and gossiping. It’s almost like we’re becoming a real friend group.”
He saw Jeremy again in Chemistry, and by some benevolent miracle, it was a lab day. Which meant he had plenty of time to chat Jeremy up about some of his recent activities.
“Can you hand me the chemical...thing?” Jeremy said as he adjusted the bunsen burner.
“The magnesium?” Michael asked with a smirk. Jeremy rolled his eyes and took the tiny container from Michael. “So, what have you been up to?” Michael asked as casually as he could. “You seem to be leaving lunch a lot to do schoolwork.” Jeremy nearly dropped the container.
“Uh, yeah!” he stuttered out in a poorly-disguised panic. “You know how it goes… they hit you hard with lots of tests before winter break.” He avoided Michael’s gaze and focused on scooping magnesium into the crucible.
“You can do your homework at the table, you know,” Michael pressed, walking downs Jeremy and pulling his lab goggles down over his glasses. “Is it working?”
“I think it needs to be hotter…” Jeremy mumbled. “And what did you say?”
“Do your work at the table. We’re trying to make friends, remember?” Jeremy, again, seemed to panic, accidentally turning the top of the bunsen burner the wrong was and extinguishing the flame. Michael sighed and retrieved the matches once again.
“I just concentrate better without people there, is all!” Jeremy said quickly. “I’m not avoiding anyone or anything. Why would I even do that? I mean, you guys are literally all my friends, so why would I ever be anywhere else?” He gave Michael a weak smile.
“Right. Yeah…” Michael said. He lit the bunsen burner once again and they resumed working in silence. Jeremy had all but confirmed it.
Something was definitely going on. And he was going to get to the bottom of it.