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"I'm Gay"

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For once in his life, TJ was excited for school to start. He probably had the most boring summer of his life. Usually, it was his favourite time of the year, since it meant no school and he had plenty of time to relax and play basketball all day long. However, that particular summer was the first summer since he and Cyrus had gotten together. He had been looking forward to spending it with his now official boyfriend, but Cyrus's parents (all four) had surprised him with a family vacation. So TJ had to spend his first summer with a boyfriend alone, while said boyfriend was on some cruise ship.

Well, alone might be a bit of an exaggeration. He had slowly gotten closer to the rest of the Good Hair Crew (as Cyrus kept insisting him to refer them as), Jonah, Amber, and Marty ever since he and Cyrus had become a couple last winter. He spent most of his summer playing basketball with Buffy and Marty and occasionally Jonah, and hanging out in The Spoon with Andi and Amber.

Life was really working well for him; he was about to start high school in Grant, he had an amazing group of friends, and—most of all—he had Cyrus. Thankfully, a few days before school was about to start, Cyrus got back so they could spend at least a couple of days together. He knew he had to share him though since the rest of their friends missed him, too. Plus the brunet wanted to spend as much time with Andi as possible since they would no longer be going to the same school.

Which is why he was ecstatic when he agreed to meet him at the park the day before school started.

"Hey," TJ grinned widely upon seeing his boyfriend approaching. He jogged up to meet him halfway, offering him a quick peck in the cheek in greeting, before intertwining their fingers.

"Hi," Cyrus smiled back, blushing slightly at the contact.

The two walked around the park for a bit, Cyrus doing a date-to-date rundown of everything that happened on his trip, before requesting TJ to do the same (in spite of them already knowing what the other had been up to since they had been texting everyday throughout the summer). Eventually the two found their way to their spot on the swings.

"As marvellous as that cruise ship was, its baby taters were a disgrace to all potatoes," the shorter boy shook his head, "I'm glad to be back in Shadyside."

"I'm sure The Spoon missed its favourite customer," TJ laughed, "and its daily dose of Tater Theatre."

"Oh I've come up with tons of screenplays for Tater Theatre while I was there!" Cyrus exclaimed, "You're in for a treat when we get there tomorrow."

"Can't wait," the taller boy smiled, "Even Amber has been complaining nonstop about The Spoon being so dull without you around."

"Well not for much longer," Cyrus grinned slyly before immediately widening his eyes and slapping a hand across his own face.

"What's that supposed to mean?" TJ raised a curious eyebrow.

"Nothing," Cyrus squeaked, "I can't say."

TJ started to count up to ten. The brunet didn't even make it until five.

"Amber's gonna ask Andi out later," he blurted, "That's why I got to spend the day with you."

"Well it's about time," the blond sighed in relief, "I've been watching those two stare longingly at each other for way too long. Between them and Buffy and Marty, Jonah and I felt left out."

"Oh goodness, Jonah," the shorter boy groaned, "Poor guy's gonna be the seventh wheel."

"It's Jonah," the taller boy brushed off, "He'll find a new girl who'll obsess over him when we start at Grant."

"I don't know how he does it," Cyrus shook his head, "I mean look at how long it took us to get together."

"Well, you were worth the wait," TJ grinned, eliciting a satisfyingly bright blush on his boyfriend's face. The basketball player leaned in, brushing his lips against the other boy.

"I can't believe we're all high schoolers now," Cyrus sighed, "And Andi will be all the way in SAVA."

"It's still in Shadyside," TJ laughed, "I don't think it would be called 'Shadyside Academy of Visual Arts' otherwise. And you still have Buffy and Jonah and Marty, and you'll finally get to be in the same school as Amber, and you'll have your soon-to-be captain of the basketball team boyfriend."

"That is all true," Cyrus mused, "You'll knock their socks off during tryouts, they'll want to make you captain on the spot. Although I hear Grant High's basketball team is co-ed, so Buffy will probably fight you for it."

"I look forward to a rematch," TJ smirked.

"I'm sure she does, too," Cyrus laughed, "Well, either way, I'll cheer for both of you and Marty in every game."

"I look forward to it," TJ started to laugh before seeing his boyfriend's anxious expression, "Hey, still worried about starting high school?"

"Yes," Cyrus groaned, "I'm just...concerned. I've been looking forward to high school for so long...there's so much I want to do and happen...what if things don't go the way I planned them?"

"Hey," TJ squeezed the other boy's hand reassuringly, not even having realised he had never let go, "We've got our friends and each other, and that's all we need. We'll figure the rest out."

Cyrus looked up at the other boy, face already flushed and eyes already wet. Pulling him close, TJ pressed a kiss against his forehead. The two hummed contently, they had each other, and that was all that mattered.

Neither of them noticed the distinct flash followed by the distinct clicking sound of a photo being taken from behind them.

***

"You would not believe who was at tryouts," Buffy groaned out before she even had fully sat down at their table.

"Who?" Andi asked curiously, before popping a baby tater in her mouth.

"Kira," TJ answered upon joining them.

"What?" Cyrus exclaimed, eyes widening. Andi next to him almost choked on her baby tater.

"Was she that girl who kept glaring at you two?" Marty questioned, sliding into the booth next to Buffy.

"Yup," the other two basketball players groaned.

"Who's Kira?" Jonah asked.

"A mean, manipulative, untrustworthy witch," Cyrus summed up.

"I was gonna say a jerk, but that works, too," TJ snickered, reaching across the table to hold the other boy's hand.

As Andi and Buffy retold the awful tale of the wicked witch of Shadyside to Marty, Jonah, and Amber who soon joined them, TJ frowned thoughtfully.

"TJ?" Cyrus called out, a similar expression marring his face, "Are you that concerned about Kira?"

"Huh? No," TJ shook his head, before his frown deepened, "Well, yes. But something else happened earlier. All day long I've been getting weird looks...and after tryouts, in the locker room, the other guys kept icing me out, and I don't know why."

"I'm sure it's because they were impressed by you, like I said they would be," Cyrus smiled, rubbing his thumb against the back of the other boy's hand in a reassuring manner.

"I guess," TJ shrugged, "But it's not just that. I also saw...Lester and...Reed earlier."

"The guys who play with guns?" Andi exclaimed, unconsciously linking her hands with Amber.

"I'm sorry, they play with what?" Amber recoiled in shock, holding Andi even closer.

"Yeah," TJ sighed, "So both of them and Kira go to Grant now. Lucky me."

"Suddenly I'm glad I don't go to school with you guys anymore," Andi shook her head.

"Oh yeah, how is it in SAVA?" Jonah asked.

As the conversation shifted to Andi's new school, Cyrus's grip on TJ's hand tightened. The brunet wordlessly asked how the other was doing with everything. Instead of answering, the blond simply offered a small grin and leaned in, planting a kiss on the other boy's temple, eliciting a coo from the rest of the table.

He was sure tomorrow things would get better.

***

Things did not go better the next day. Or the next. Suddenly it wasn't just the other basketball players acting strangely around him. Even people outside the team started giving him weird looks, including Reed and Lester. He was also suspicious of Kira, who—while not having approached him at all since school started—kept looking at him smugly whenever she saw him. If that wasn't odd enough, the boys in the locker room—both in and out of the basketball team—suddenly stopped talking or changing whenever he came in for gym class.

What was going on?

***

Even after he officially got in the basketball team (along with Buffy, Marty, and unfortunately Kira), his by-then teammates wouldn't even give him the time of day.

"Hey," Marty approached him awkwardly as the last of the other basketball players left the locker room after they finished practice.

"Yeah?" TJ asked. He liked the other boy, but didn't talk to him as much without Buffy around.

"I...found out why the others have been treating you weirdly," the other basketball player spoke softly. He took in a deep breath, "I was talking to some of our teammates and...I don't know how but they...found out that you're...gay."

Suddenly TJ couldn't see straight. Marty started apologising to him and even tried to give him a hug, but TJ abruptly stood up, muttering his thanks as he stormed out of the locker room. As soon as he got out, he saw more and more strange looks thrown his way. He swore he even heard some of them murmuring amongst themselves. In the corner he saw Kira, a knowing smirk directed at him.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, he walked past the onlooking crowd, trying to ignore the stares.

***

"I'm gonna kick their butts," Buffy's breath was hitched as Marty (rather fearfully) rubbed circles around her back in a (mostly futile) attempt to get her to calm down. He had explained everything to her, Andi, and Amber as soon as he got to The Spoon to give them a heads up. The moment TJ came in, they rushed over to console him.

"How about instead we kick their reputation," Amber suggested, "That's even worse."

"You need to report them to the principal," Andi was gripping her milkshake cup so hard TJ was afraid it would break. Amber put her arm around the other girl, pulling her close.

"Do you think they know about you and Cyrus?" Jonah asked, eyebrows furrowed.

At that moment, Cyrus came bustling in, a cheery expression on his face, before he turned to see the tense air surrounding their booth.

"Hey," Cyrus greeted them nonetheless before facing TJ, pulling up a chair next to him, "I thought we were going to walk here together?"

"Cyrus," Andi called out slowly, "Have any of the students over there given you any trouble?"

"Do they ever treat you differently?" Buffy pressed.

"Huh?" Cyrus frowned, "Well, now that you mention, I do get odd looks every now and then, but that's nothing new. Why?"

TJ at least smiled softly at that, having been quiet and expressionless the entire conversation. The taller boy wrapped his arms around the shorter one's waist, placing his head on the crook of his neck, partially for the comfort of being in contact with his boyfriend, and partially to avoid being part of the discussion.

The other members of the Good Hair Crew exchanged a look. Glancing at TJ, Buffy cleared her throat.

"We found out why TJ was being bothered by so many people."

***

"TJ?" Cyrus pleaded, "Are you sure you don't want to talk about this?"

"Yes," TJ spoke a little harsher than intended, "I really don't."

The two were walking home together after the others broke the news to Cyrus. Before they left, the rest of their friends made them promise to text them if they ever needed something or if something else happened.

"You wanna stop by the swings first?" Cyrus offered.

"I'm not really in a swinging mood," TJ shrugged.

"But that's when you need swinging most!"

The two walked in silence for some time, not knowing what to say.

"This doesn't have to be an all bad thing, you know?" Cyrus spoke slowly.

"What do you mean?" TJ frowned.

"Well, at least now we can hold hands and stuff in school," Cyrus smiled, "It shouldn't be such a taboo thing, anyway. I mean, Marty and Buffy get to kiss and go on dates whenever and wherever, why shouldn't we? And the other day, Amber visited Andi in SAVA since they both had a free period, and they could do couple things over there, too!"

TJ nodded. It should be normal. He should feel normal. But why didn't he?

***

"I got a new phone," Kira hummed, as she approached. They were the only ones in the basketball court, having come early for practice, "It's supposed to take really good pictures. Wanna see?"

"Didn't know you were into photography," TJ resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but checked the screen anyway. Maybe if he played nice, she would leave him alone. However, as soon as his eyes landed on what was on her phone, all thoughts of him playing nice flew out the door.

On it (in admittedly high resolution) was the unmistakable image of him and Cyrus on the swings, sharing a kiss.

"It was you," TJ seethed, "You outed us to the team? To the whole school? Why?"

"I think you know why," Kira smirked slyly, "Or are you really as dumb as you look?"

TJ glared at her, but she was unfazed. Balling his fists, he resisted the sweet temptation to wipe that stupid grin off of her face. Before either could say another word, Buffy, Marty, and the other players started trickling in.

***

"I'm gonna kill her," Buffy slammed her fist onto the table—effectively shaking all of their plates—TJ was surprised it didn't break. This time, even Marty's back rubs weren't enough to soothe her.

"No killing," Andi stated, rather distastefully, "You really should tell the principal, though. This is bullying."

"On what grounds, though?" TJ's hands were shaking, "Nobody from the team has really said or done anything to me. Neither has anyone outside of the team, either. And it's not like she's spreading lies about me."

"Have you told Cyrus?" Marty asked, eyebrows furrowed.

"He's helping Jonah form an ultimate frisbee team in Grant," TJ shrugged, a fond expression forming on his face despite the horrid situation.

"You have to tell him," Amber frowned, "This affects him, too."

"I know," TJ sighed.

***

The two boys had been sitting silently on the swing set for what could have been seconds, minutes, or hours. TJ wasn't sure. Neither had said a word after the taller boy talked about his encounter with Kira. Cyrus all the while sat quietly and listened, letting the swing move back and forth slightly. For some time, the only sound that could be heard was the squeaking of the swing chains with every small movement.

"Like I said before," Cyrus spoke faintly, "this doesn't have to be all bad. Kira's intentions obviously were, but that doesn't mean the outcome has to be."

"I...I don't think I'm ready," TJ looked pointedly at the gravel beneath them.

"Are you...ashamed of me?" Cyrus turned to face him. The blond couldn't bear to do the same and risk seeing his expression.

"No," TJ shook his head, "I'm ashamed of...me."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of," the brunet placed a tentative hand on his shoulder.

"I know, it's just...I don't know," TJ shut his eyes tight, clenching his fists, "I'm not like you."

Suddenly the reassuring hand on his back retreated. TJ dared to glance back.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Cyrus frowned.

"You're just so...open about all of this," TJ sighed.

"All of this?" Cyrus echoed in question.

"You know...everything about you," TJ struggled finding the right words, "Every quirk and imperfection."

"You think us liking boys is a flaw?" Cyrus jumped to his feet. The shorter boy levelled his gaze to the other boy. Forcing him to meet his eyes.

"No, no, of course not," the taller boy fisted the chains on the swings in frustration.

"Then what?" Cyrus asked, "What are you so afraid of?"

"Being seen differently," TJ whispered, breaking away from his gaze.

"Thelonious Jagger Kippen," Cyrus stated, "Is that how you see me?"

"No," the other boy recoiled at the sound of his full name.

"But that's how you see yourself?" Cyrus bit his lip.

TJ simply shrugged.

***

"I always knew there was something different about you," an eerily familiar voice spat out.

TJ grit his teeth and steeled his face. Turning around, he saw Reed and Lester.

"I just couldn't put my finger on what," Reed smirked, "And now we know."

"I always had a feeling," Lester grimaced, "Bet you just wanted to hang out with us 'cause you were into us."

"Gross," Reed shivered, "Is that why that little pansy didn't rat you out along with us? You found out you were both fags?"

"Cyrus didn't report you guys," TJ growled, "I did."

"So you just replaced us with your new boyfriend," Reed snickered, "Figures."

With that , the two shoved him aside, slamming him to the nearby lockers, snickering all the way.

***

"Well now I have to add them with Kira on my kill list," Buffy was visibly shaking from anger.

"TJ," Andi pleaded, "Seriously, now you have to report them. They're bullying you. It's a hate crime!"

"It can't be a hate crime if they didn't do anything to me," TJ shook his head, "They just said some mean stuff."

"Sometimes that can be worse," Amber spoke with a bitter edge to her voice.

"Why didn't you fight back?" Marty asked, "I'm sure you could've taken them."

"They're not worth it," TJ shrugged, "And I would've been the one getting in trouble."

"Well, next time, we've got your back," Jonah assured him.

"We could be like your bodyguards!" Andi exclaimed.

TJ was about to say he didn't need their help but something in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Cyrus, who hadn't said a word the entire time, had snuck off outside of The Spoon.

The basketball player muttered something about wanting some fresh air and excused himself to join his boyfriend while the rest started discussing a TJ-Watch scheduling plan. Cyrus stood outside, eyeing the pavement with an unreadable expression.

"Hey, Houdini," TJ greeted, "Nice disappearing trick."

"Why do you let them treat you like that?" Cyrus asked, eyes focused on the street before them.

"Reed and Lester?" TJ frowned.

"Reed, Lester, Kira, your teammates, the other students, all of them!" Cyrus exclaimed, flailing his arms into the air.

"That's just the way kids are," TJ shrugged, "Nothing's gonna change that."

"Not if you don't try," Cyrus turned to face him. TJ took a step back, he had never seen Cyrus so mad before.

"It's alright, I can take it," TJ tried to reach out and hold him, but he was brushed off.

"Well I can't!" Cyrus shook his head, "It's not fine, and you're clearly not okay with it, either! What on earth could possibly stop you from letting all of them get away with this?"

"I'm just not ready!" TJ exclaimed.

"You keep saying that, but what are you not ready for? To be with me?" Cyrus started sprouting tears, "Do you want to break up?"

"No! No!" TJ pleaded, "I'm just—"

"What?" Cyrus urged.

"I'm just scared!" TJ tugged at his hair.

"Of what?" Cyrus pressed.

"Of being me!" TJ cried.

Cyrus mutely watched as TJ slumped against the glass wall of The Spoon's entrance, head in his hands, and practically collapse onto the sidewalk bellow. The shorter boy breathed out a heavy sigh as he followed his example.

"So, what are we gonna do now?" Cyrus asked.

"I don't know," the taller boy spoke distantly, tilting his head so it it would rest on his boyfriend's shoulder.

***

"You're the reason TJ and I didn't get together in middle school," Kira snapped, glaring as Cyrus cowered into the end of the deserted hallway.

"I think the real reason for that is because you're not a nice person," Cyrus taunted in spite of his fear. He quickly glanced at the two boys on either side of her.

"How rude of me, have you met my new friends?" Kira mocked.

"Oh we've been acquainted," Lester cracked his knuckles.

"This little pipsqueak turned our friend into a fag and a snitch," Reed seethed, "He never would have ratted us out before!"

"As much as you all flatter me," Cyrus gulped as he backed himself into a corner, "TJ had always been a good person deep down. He just needed a good influence. And I'm pretty sure he already liked boys before we met. I don't think my charming good looks are that good."

"I was just trying to fix him," Kira leaned in so close Cyrus could feel her breath on his skin.

She lifted a fist, and Cyrus shut his eyes tight, trying to psych himself up for the impact. Only it never came.

"I'm thankful for the offer," TJ narrowed his eyes at her as he gripped her arm, before pulling her back, "But I don't need to be fixed."

Lester and Reed exchanged a look before jumping on TJ. The basketball player managed to stand his ground, but was delivered several blows.

"Cyrus!" TJ ordered, "Run!"

"I'm not leaving you behind with them!" Cyrus jumped on Reed, but the much stronger boy simply tossed him to the ground.

"I can handle this on my own!" TJ assured, "Go!"

Cyrus seemed to contemplate for a moment before bolting off down the hall.

"Aww, abandoned by your little boy toy," Lester teased, kicking away at his legs.

"Now you know how I felt," Kira barked, using his imbalance to her advantage and threw a solid punch to his face, knocking him down to the ground.

"Look at you," Reed shook his head, stepping on his chest, effectively knocking the wind out of him and pinning him to the ground, "Now you're the one left all alone."

"I don't care what you do to me," TJ glared, "But don't you dare lay a hand on Cyrus or any of my friends."

"You're not really in a position to be making demands," Reed cackled.

"Why do you want to save that pesky little brat anyway?" Kira questioned, "He left you."

"I wouldn't say that," Cyrus called out.

"Back for more?" Lester laughed.

"Cyrus!" TJ exclaimed, "I told you to get out of here!"

"I did," Cyrus smiled, "And I got help."

Behind him, TJ saw the rest of his friends approaching, all in varying states of anger.

"Jonah, Marty, you can take on the boys," Buffy commanded, "But you leave that witch to me."

Kira sneered at the sight of her old rival. Marty and Lester started grappling, Jonah was able to get to Reed from behind and put him in a headlock, meanwhile Buffy and Kira were already rolling around on the floor. Amber and Andi helped Cyrus in getting TJ up and bringing him away from the fight.

"I don't want them to get in trouble because of me," TJ groaned as he was ushered away.

"Don't worry, we gave specific instructions for them to merely restrain them," Andi assured, "Although it took Buffy some convincing when she heard Kira was involved."

"You came back," TJ's face was pointed to the tiled floor, but the statement was directed to his boyfriend.

"Of course I came," Cyrus grinned softly, "I'll always come back for you."

"Why don't you and Andi go to the principal's office?" Amber suggested, before turning pointedly at TJ, "Because we obviously have to report them this time."

TJ couldn't find the energy in him to argue.

"Amber will take you to the infirmary," Cyrus said, a small smile on his face. With that, the two headed down another hallway, but not before Andi gave her girlfriend a quick kiss goodbye.

Neither of the blonds said a word for the first couple of paces. They were moving a bit slower since TJ only had her to support him, having his arm around her. Eventually it was TJ who broke the silence.

"How do you do it?" He asked.

"Do what?" Amber asked quietly.

"Be so...open about...you know...what you are?" TJ specified.

"I'm a lot of things," Amber shrugged (or as much as she could, with being his human crutch and all), "Being bisexual is just one of them."

"But you and Andi, you're both so...public," TJ shook his head, "How do you do it?"

"It helps that SAVA is full of people we've never met before," Amber cocked her head thoughtfully, "Plus it's a modern art school, so most of them are a lot more accepting. Andi's family already knows, too, so we don't really have anything to hide around them."

"I haven't even told my parents yet," TJ bit his lip.

"Neither have I," the two shared a smile. Amber paused before continuing, "But I guess the biggest reason is that we don't have as much time to spend together. She's over in SAVA, while I'm over here. Plus, I'm already a junior. Soon I'll be off to college, and we'll spend even less time together. I want to make most of the time we do have."

"It's just...harder for me, I guess," TJ sighed, "I'm the problem. Again."

"I don't think so," Amber looked at him, "I can see why it freaks you out. You're in a school full of people who already know you. They already have a specific perception of you, so it can feel weird for you thinking about them seeing you in a different way."

"Yeah," TJ nodded, "I mean, I feel different about me."

"But you're not," Amber deadpanned, "You're still the same 'not so scary basketball guy' Buffy and Marty love to compete with. You're still same the overconfident friend who loves playing around with the oblivious Jonah and the naive Andi. And you're still the same nice boy who Cyrus absolutely adores. You're still the same person, just like Cyrus said earlier. You just have layers."

"Yeah," TJ grinned, "I guess you're right."

"Duh," Amber smirked, "And for the record, I've only ever known you after you and Cyrus got together. And I see you the same way the rest of our friends do."

"Thanks, Amber," TJ nudged her in a weak sign of affection, huffing when the gesture was mimicked.

"Now don't get all sentimental on me," Amber rolled her eyes, "I'm not wearing my waterproof mascara. Now come on, let's get you healed up."

***

A few minutes after their trip to the clinic (there were more than a handful of scrapes and bruises, but nothing serious) the two blonds met up with Andi and Cyrus outside the principal's office.

"She wants to talk with you," Andi explained, unconsciously liking hands with Amber when she came near.

"What did you tell her?" TJ asked, eyebrows furrowed.

"Just that they were picking on you," Cyrus assured, reaching his hand out before reconsidering it and letting the hand fall back to his side.

"I overheard that a teacher had caught the others fighting and that they were sent to the nurse's office," Andi frowned.

"Yeah, we saw them on the way over here," Amber confirmed.

It was true. It had been a surprising encounter, but a satisfying one. None of them had looked worse for wear. However, Kira, Reed, and Lester, all looked like they had their egos beaten to a pulp, if the way they glared daggers at him was any indication. Their friends all the while offered them cocky grins as they walked past, despite being escorted by a bored (if not mildly inconvenienced) looking teacher.

TJ took a deep breath before he entered, throwing a reassuring glance at his friends and Cyrus.

"Mr. Kippen, your friends have already given me the rundown of what happened," she motioned for him to sit down, "But I would like to hear your side of the story, as well."

"Kira, Reed, Lester, and some others have been tormenting me since the school year started," TJ stated factually.

"And would you happen to know the reason?" The principal frowned.

TJ took a moment to try and steady his breathing before making direct eye contact with her, determination flowing through his veins.

"I'm gay."

***

After what felt like years had passed, he exited the office, only to be tackled by his friends into a sudden group hug. He didn't even mind that they were putting a little too much pressure on his still sensitive wounds. Eventually they pulled away, all except one. Cyrus still clung to him like he was about to disappear any moment. Grinning to himself, he leaned into the embrace.

"Get a room," Kira's voice suddenly hit him. He turned to see that her, Reed, and Lester were sitting on the bench by the door, most likely waiting to be questioned.

"Are you fags gonna kiss now?" Reed gagged.

Before he could blink, his friends were already all over them, surrounding them like a pack of guard dogs.

"You know what," TJ grinned, "Why not?"

Turning to Cyrus, he captured his lips with his own, placing his hands in is waist and pulling him close once more. Cyrus gasped in surprise but quickly leaned into the touch, wrapping his arms around his waist. When the two stopped to catch their breaths, TJ turned to them, smirking.

"And I prefer the term gay."

"Settle down now, students," the principal called out, standing in the middle of the doorframe to her office, "And Mr. Kippen, Mr. Goodman, the no PDA rule still applies to you."

"Yes, ma'am," Cyrus spoke in between heavy breaths. TJ simply offered her a salute, smirk still intact.

***

"I love you," TJ said simply.

Cyrus seemed to choke on air, almost tripping and throwing them both off balance (he had replaced Amber as his human crutch as he walked TJ home).

"You can't just say something like that out of the blue!" Cyrus whined, pouting, "Not when you're covered in cartoon bandages and I have baby tater breath! Where's the romance, the pizazz, the showmanship!"

"I'm sorry," TJ laughed, resting his head against Cyrus's, "I've been meaning to say it for a while now."

"And you thought us being all sweaty and gross would be the right moment?" Cyrus shook his head, "I love you, too."

"Well, to me, any moment with you is already perfect, Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffin," TJ grinned, leaning down until their lips met.

"That's more like it," Cyrus smiled back.