The library was quiet and fairly empty as Clay Jensen and Jeff Atkins sat one Thursday afternoon. A few other students milled around doing homework or trying to sneak a spot in the stacks to do...unsavoury activities. Tony sat alone on the next table, subtly listening in as he stared at an open textbook and a partially blank notebook page. Skye lurked nearby at the second closest table, a few books stacked next to her. Every now and then she would shoot dark glances at students who passed her, and she deemed unworthy of a smile.
"Jeff, this is...amazing," Clay said in awe as he read over Jeff's latest essay. Jeff sat smugly before him and grinned. "Genuinely, this is the best paper you've ever written," Clay continued. "No grammar mistakes, great vocab..."
"I even used a semi-colon," Jeff pointed out. He leaned over and rested his elbows on the table. His smile faded momentarily as he looked Clay in the eyes. "You're sure it's okay?"
Clay nodded and patted Jeff's bare forearm. "I'm sure."
Jeff exhaled and smiled dazzlingly at Clay and Clay felt his heartbeat stutter momentarily.
"If this gets my grade up to a B, I'm officially allowed to play baseball again." Jeff grinned at Clay from across the table. He held his hand up for a high-five and Clay tapped their hands together. He felt Tony's gaze lift from the table to them both and shifted self-consciously.
"It totally will."
There was a moment of comfortable silence before Jeff tapped his hand on the table in order to get Clay's attention from where he had been sorting out the papers in front of him. "Want to go to Rosie's to celebrate?" He asked.
Clay grinned. "Sure." He handed back a selection of papers to Jeff and threw the others rather unceremoniously into his bag. Jeff slipped his into a clear plastic folder before sliding them in his bad and swinging it over his shoulder. He stood and waited as Clay picked up his bag and tapped his pockets for his phone and keys.
"Ready to go?" Jeff asked. Clay nodded and they left the library together, headed to the parking lot.
As they made it outside the cool air hit Clay's face and he stopped short for a moment as simultaneously a realisation also hit him. "Hey, Jeff. Did you drive here?" He asked.
Jeff shot him a confused look and nodded. Clay bit his lip and thought for a moment. "I rode my bike here. What are we gonna do?"
Jeff stopped and stood next to him for a moment. "We could drive there and come back for your bike? It is locked up?" He proposed.
Clay thought on it and nodded. "Okay."
Jeff's car was really nice. Clay didn't know much about cars but even he could appreciate that it was a nice car. "Your car is really nice," he told Jeff as they climbed in and shut the doors. Jeff inserted the key into the ignition and turned to smile at Clay.
"Don't be letting Tony hear you say that, he might get jealous."
Clay laughed. "Tony treats his car like it's his child."
Jeff reversed out of the parking space and began to drive. Various groups of teenagers were spending their afternoon doing god-knows-what in the streets. Clay spotted Monty and Bryce milling next to a 7/11 looking rather shifty. He adverted his gaze. Knowing too much about what they were up to seemed like a death sentence. They sat in pleasant silence as the radio blared some popular music on a moderate volume. Jeff pulled into the parking lot of Rosie's diner within a few minutes and stopped the car.
"Come on," He said to Clay as he jumped out the car and waited for Clay to do the same.
Rosie's was quite full, Clay noticed as they pushed open the doors and scanned the room for a booth. Jeff pulled him by the arm and snagged a booth right in the corner of the room. The upside: It was clean and comfy, and it wasn't one of the booths with an overgrown plant interrupting your lunch. The downside: It was right next to a broken window that was letting in a breeze. Clay felt the wind through the sleeves of his thin shirt and shivered slightly. He thought he was subtle but evidently not as Jeff sent him a concerned look.
"Clay?" He questioned. "You alright?"
"Uh, yeah," Clay replied. "It just a little cold by here." He sent him a tight smile. Jeff looked unsure and studied him for a few moments before he moved his arms and shrugged it off. 'A bit odd, but maybe he's not cold,' Clay thought. Jeff then passed the jacket across the table to Clay. Clay stared at him for a few moments, jacket in hand.
Jeff rolled his eyes. "Fuck me, Jensen. Put it on."
"Are you sure? Won't you be cold?" He asked him.
"Yes, I'm sure. And no, I'll be fine." Jeff raised an eyebrow and stared Clay down until he slipped the jacket on. Jeff tilted his head as he examined him.
"What?" Clay pulled the sleeved over his hands and looked at Jeff. "What?!"
"Nothing, nothing." Jeff smiled at Clay. It was odd, seeing Clay in a varsity jacket but...it kinda suited him. The blue and white muted tones complimented his dark hair and pale skin really well, and the slight too-big size made him look...cute.
"Does it look stupid?" Clay asked, worried.
Jeff shook his head. "It suits you. You look good."
Clay opened his mouth to reply but was in interrupted by a server coming over to ask for their orders.
"Vanilla milkshake, please," Jeff said.
"Uh, same for me, please."
The server left with their orders scribbled down and Clay and Jeff returned their attention to each other. "So," Jeff began. "You going to the winter formal?"
Clay grimaced slightly. Dances were so not his scene; he hated being lonely. "Probably not. Not really my thing," he explained. He thought he saw Jeff's smile fall but it was back in place immediately and Clay wasn't sure he hadn't imagined it.
"Well, why not?" Jeff asked. He smiled at their server who dropped off their drinks and took a sip of his milkshake.
Clay reached out for his and drank it while formulating his response. "I've got no one to go with. I'd just be alone." He drank more of his milkshake to make himself stop talking, else he'd be spilling all his greatest insecurities to Jeff Atkins, of all people, right in the middle of Rosie's diner.
Jeff pursed his lips and then frowned at Clay. "You wouldn't be alone, I'd be there. And Tony," he said. He'd noticed that Clay kept to himself, but he'd just assumed his other friends were elsewhere. But no. It seemed he was more alone than Jeff had first realised.
"I wouldn't want to intrude on your time with your friends. And Tony does DJ, it's not the same." Clay sighed.
Jeff looked at him oddly. "Clay...we're friends too. You know that, right?" He looked at Clay, concerned.
"Yeah, but I... well, you have better friends. You know?" Clay replied.
"That settles it. Let's go together." Jeff said.
Clay startled. "What?"
"I said, let go together. To the dance." Jeff clarified. He watched Clay consider it, probably listing the pros and cons in his head as they spoke.
"I - you're sure?" Clay asked.
Jeff just rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, sure, why not," Clay replied.
"Hell yeah, Jensen!" Jeff exclaimed, high-fiving him.
Clay smiled and took another sip of his milkshake. Maybe this time he could finally enjoy a dance...
He and Jeff had just fallen into a companionable silence when he door to Rosie's opened again and raucous laughter filtered in from outside. Clay turned and saw Bryce and co. spill in through the small door.
"Hey, Jeff!" Monty called over. Jeff simply raised a hand to him.
Bryce sauntered over as they made their way to a booth. "Didn't know you guys were going steady," he joked.
Jeff simply smiled a tight smile until they had all passed, taking their laughter and loud, obnoxious voices with them.
"Going steady?" Clay asked with a raised eyebrow.
Jeff laughed softly. "It was like a thing, girls used to wear their boyfriend's varsity jackets to show that they were 'going steady'. It's all very traditional." He finished off the last of his milkshake and set the glass down.
Clay followed suit and flushed a little at the implication that he was Jeff's boyfriend. Despite it being an old tradition, he still felt...well, he didn't know what he felt. He finished off his partially melted milkshake and set the glass down beside Jeff's.
"So..." Jeff said. "Shall we go pick up your bike?"
Clay nodded. "Yeah, yeah sure. Let's go."
Clay lead Jeff to where his bike was locked up, unsure as to why he was following but happy to continue spending time with him, nonetheless. "Well, uh, guess I'll see you around?"
Jeff nodded and clapped Clay on the back. "Ride safely. Don't fall."
Clay grinned and pushed away, cycling off into the parking lot and to home.
Jeff watched him go and walked back to his car, not even realising that he didn't have his jacket.
"Hey, Mom," Jeff called as he got in.
"Hey, honey. How was tutoring?" She asked from where she was arranging books on a bookshelf.
"Good, good," he said. He grabbed an apple as he passed through the front room.
"Oh, honey?" His mom called before he left. "Where's your jacket? You didn't go out without one, did you? It's awfully cold."
"No, mom," Jeff reassured her. "I let a friend borrow it." He climbed the stairs to his room, smiling. Clay suited his jacket.