Cyrus Goodman and TJ Kippen always had been close to each other, ever since they had established their relationship not long after they first met. Right from the get go, they were smitten but too oblivious to notice the other one's romantic feelings for them. Surprisingly (given how they were not too subtle in their loving words and actions), neither of the pair clocked on. Or, at least, they didn't until the first time they were openly mistaken as a couple. From then on, they would continue to be considered as a couple-until, one day, they finally confronted their feelings for each other, a month after the first occasion where this happened to them.
1. At the Spoon
"You two are such a cute couple!"
This erroneous comment directed at TJ and Cyrus came one Friday, after school, where the two of them and four of their friends were chilling at the Spoon. Cyrus was sat in the middle of Buffy and Jonah, opposite TJ, who was sat in the middle of Andi and Amber. Andi had arranged it so she wasn't confronted about her feelings for Amber-she could keep them more subtle if there was a person sat between them, and that person just so happened to be none other than TJ Kippen.
At the time, Cyrus had been regaling everyone with tales during his Tater Tot Theater performance. Coincidentally, this weeks's Shakespeare play was Romeo and Juliet. When he was finished, Buffy rolled eyes.
"Romeo and Juliet isn't romantic, it's dumb. You can live without romance in your life if you so choose. Or if something like that happens. They couldn't live without each other. That's not normal."
"I suppose so," Andi conceded as she sipped her strawberry milkshake. "Although there's a romantic living in all of us, willing to be released." Amber raised a perfect eyebrow at her from across the other side of the same booth.
"You're not wrong, Bambi. Still, we're teenagers. Aren't we all supposed to be cynics?" They laughed at that.
"Why not believe in true love?" Jonah pointed out.
"Because it's naive, plain and simple," Buffy said.
"No, it's not," TJ, who had been silent ever since the Tater Tot performance had started ten minutes ago, muttered. Everyone stared at him in surprise-they'd expected him to be a cynic, given his sarcastic nature. Unperturbed by this, he continued. "Love can be a truly beautiful thing, if you're willing to let it in. Sure, love fades over time for a lot of time. It's not perfect, it's messy and painful and downright terrifying at times, but hey, isn't that the point of it? If love's a roller coaster, then surely it has its downs as well as its ups, like life does? Love isn't how the media portrays it to be, of course not. Believing it is, now that's naive. True love exists for a lot of people, but it requires a lot of energy, time and effort put in to it. When that happens, it's rewarding and the love and connection that can blossom from all of those things being present is....breathtaking. Truly."
Needless to say, each and every person on the table was shocked into silence; this boy was hardly renowned for his big, dramatic speeches-but look at what he had just done.
Buffy was the first to speak. "And how do you know that, Kippen?" In response, TJ flushed a little and focused way too hard on his chocolate milkshake, with Cyrus looking at him like he was a puzzle to solve. Buffy picked up on this and nudged him, but soon stopped when she was shot a death glare. Amber and Andi both seemed to pick up on this, whereas Jonah remained as confused as ever. The silence that descended was tense and awkward.
Cyrus was the one to break it. "Teej, can we have a quick word, please?"
TJ's head shot up in an instant. Truth be told, he looked like a rabbit caught in headlights at that moment. "Oh, uh, sure."
Andi and Jonah moved at the same time to allow TJ and Cyrus to exist the booth, repositioning themselves back into the booth as soon as they did. They moved away from the tables, near to the toilets, and the boys lowered their voices before speaking.
"Hey, is everything alright with you? You seemed to be upset earlier, after Buffy's comment. Sorry about that, by the way. She has the tendency to be pretty forward, you know."
"I'm fine," TJ insisted, yet both of them knew that he was bluffing. "And it's alright, you can't be held accountable for the words or actions of your friends."
Much to TJ's surprise, Cyrus rolled his eyes. "Whenever someone says they're 'fine', they're usually anything but."
"Oh, and having four parents who are psychiatrists makes you the ultimate expert on human behavior, does it?" TJ regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth, but it was already too late. The damage was done. Cyrus' eyes shimmered with tears.
"Look, TJ, I don't know what the hell is wrong with you today, but you're acting weird. Like, really weird. It's so frustrating when you just deflect questions and don't talk to me! I know as much about your mental state now as I did two minutes ago. Actually, no, scratch that, I know less, because you're being evasive all the time."
"Cyrus, I'm so-"
"Don't even go there. You're only saying that because you want to make things right between us. Admirable as that is, you should apologize if you mean it, and never apologize when you don't."
"Wow, you're really assuming that I don't mean my apology?" TJ looked hurt. Cyrus ran his hands through his dark mess of hair and sighed.
"Okay, I'll admit this isn't going at all how I planned. I'm worried about you, that's all."
TJ wrinkled his nose in sheer disbelief. "Why?"
"Because I care about you," Cyrus replied, as though his answer was obvious. Without thinking, he placed a hand on TJ's shoulder. "A lot."
At these words, TJ flushed-or maybe Cyrus had just imagined it, he wasn't too sure. Cyrus removed his hand from where it had been.
"I didn't realize that. I care about you too, I'm sorry for snapping at you. I've been a bit on edge recently. I'll be alright-I only meant to reassure you, not lie to you, I swear," TJ said. "That's my way of caring about you." He smiled.
"Okay, well, I'm always here for you. I hope you know that."
"I do now." TJ smirked and raised his eyebrows. "By the way, nice performance earlier. Romeo and Juliet, eh?" Cyrus nodded. The boy he was talking to asked him whether he believed in true love or not, and he deliberated over the answer before finally giving him an answer.
"I don't have any reason not to..."
"I'm sure you'll find your Juliet one day, Underdog." TJ sounded a little sad, but it was probably wistful thinking. Cyrus laughed at the notion of finding the perfect girl.
"Huh. Fat chance of that."
"Aw, don't put yourself down like that."
"No, it's not that." Cyrus fiddled with the hem of the shirt, scanning the Spoon warily. "I-never mind." He sighed and was about to walk off when TJ stopped him.
"Wait, Cyrus, are you-are you saying that you're, um, that you don't, swing that way? That you're not interested in girls?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying," Cyrus whispered. Much to his surprise, instead of pushing away or being disgusted by him, his crush pulled him in for a hug.
"I'm so proud of you, Cy. That took a lot of courage."
Cyrus shrugged. "It was nothing."
"It was everything, I could tell. Now, what do you say we get back to the table and talk to the others?"
"Sounds good to me."
"You two are such a cute couple!"
In perfect synchronization with each other, the pair turned around to see who was addressing them. A pretty red haired waitress, whom they later learnt was an acquiantance of Amber's, was stood beaming at them.
"Us?" TJ asked, gesturing between the boy next to him. The girl nodded.
"Yeah, you two."
This time, it was Cyrus' turn to speak. "Oh, we're not together."
"Yeah, we're not an item." TJ's trainers suddenly looked to be the most interesting thing in the world to him at that moment. As soon as she learned this, her face dropped.
"Oh, I'm sorry for the misunderstanding. Have a good day!"
"Yeah, you too," Cyrus echoed hollowly as they walked back to the booth.
"Let's pretend that didn't happen, alright?" TJ suggested, looking anxious.
"Sure thing. Friends?"
And so they did pretend that they weren't mistaken for a couple-until it happened again just over a week later, that is.
2. At the Park.
"They're always intruding on my personal space, you know? It feels so invasive sometimes, I don't know what to do. I'm not sure how I can politely explain to my parents how overbearing I find them, without hurting their feelings in the process. It's too exhausting have parents who are Shrinks."
"I can imagine, Underdog. I'm sorry to hear that they're treating you that way. They most likely mean well by it."
Cyrus chuckled and slowed his momentum on the swing, coming to a halt. "Believe me, I know they do. I don't mean to disrespect them or anything, yet it's so overwhelming." He rubbed his hands over his face and groaned. "What do I do, Teej?"
"I have no idea. It's up to you, at the end of the day," TJ pointed out.
"That's true," Cyrus concluded. "Why does life have to be so complicated?"
They both laughed and decided that was true. TJ insisted that he could swing higher than Cyrus, a callback to the day they first spoke properly. Before they knew it, they'd re-enacted their whole conversation. Cyrus smiled softly.
"I don't think I'll ever forget that day," he said.
TJ's eyes glinted with nostalgia as he shot the guy he'd fallen for a mega-watt grin. "Me neither."
Twenty minutes later, the athlete jumped off the swing and into a back flip. Cyrus told him that he'd best teach him that one day, when they had more time. He promised that he would. That being said, they got up and strolled around the park, taking the route that guided them to the way back to Cyrus' place (he had a curfew, as per usual).
On their way back, they were laughing and joking about when they encountered a dog walker with an adorable golden retriever, who would soon pick up on the chemistry between the two teenagers.
"He told me that I should get over dinosaurs, that even the mere act of being fascinated with them was childish and immature, though not in as many words-I know, can you believe it-so I told him that even the mere act of being such an obnoxious idiot was childish and immature. It shut Reed right up."
"You really told him, Cy," TJ chortled. He accompanied this with a friendly punch in the shoulder. "I would have loved to see the look on his stupid, smarmy face!"
"It was priceless," Cyrus said, glowing at the attention he was currently receiving from someone he was so smitten with.
"I bet it was. Being his friend was a mistake, Underdog." The said 'Underdog' was spared from a reply, however, when they spotted an actual dog, a fluffy little golden retriever. The owner, a tan woman in her mid-to-late twenties, was passing them by, wearing an almost omniscient smile.
"Hi, sorry to disturb you, but could we possibly pet your dog please?"
"Hey," she greeted them. "Of course you can."
"What is it called?" Cyrus asked, out of genuine curiosity as he stroked the dog's body, while the other boy patted its head. As TJ moved backwards, their fingers almost touched.
"He's called Benji," she said, her smile proud.
"How old is he?" the taller of the two wondered out loud.
"Three years old, I think? Yeah, three. As of January, anyway."
"He's adorable," Tyrus spoke out loud at the same time. The lady laughed.
"Well, aren't you two just the perfect match for each other?"
"What? No, TJ isn't-"
"No, we're not, Cyrus is a friend of mine. We're not a couple."
"And don't I know it?" Cyrus muttered under his breath. Granted, he should have known better than to almost give himself away like that, but his emotions overtook him. At times, he really hated being such a sensitive person who let their emotions dominate their decisions.
"Nothing!" Cyrus continued to give the dog attention, while TJ stood up and looked at the woman.
"Okay," he responded, feeling wary and like they were words he should have heard. He turned to the friendly dog walker, unable to believe that this was actually happening again. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but you're mistaken, uh...?"
"Laura. Right. You're mistaken, Laura. Sorry; I don't mean to be rude. But we're not boyfriends." She looked crestfallen but amused all the same.
"Ah, I see. My wife, Alexa, would have found that hilarious." She rolled her eyes. "And, before you bother to ask, yes, she does get tons of 'Hey, Alexa' jokes."
"Oh." Neither of them knew what to say, either about this woman having a wife or her calling a situation they found humiliating hilarious. Lucky for them, she did. Smiling, she shook their hands, telling them it was nice to meet them both.
"Nice to meet you too. Bye, Laura!"
They waved at her until she disappeared. TJ scratched his neck and let out some nervous laughter, not really sure what to think or do. This was the second time they'd been called a couple as of recent. Was it a simple coincidence? Or was it deeper than that? Who knew?
He was the first to speak. "Ha, that was weird."
Cyrus hummed in agreement. "Yes, it kind of was."
"Pinky promise not to tell anybody about it?"
"Aren't pinky promises childish, Kippen?" This earned him an eye roll and a playful nudge.
"Come on, pinky swear already."
"Alright, I pinky swear not to tell anyone about that predicament."
"Predicament? How old are you again, eighty?"
All too aware of the romantic tension between them, the dark haired boy turned away, focusing on a tree about twenty meters ahead of him. "I like using long words occasionally. That's all."
"Really?" TJ gasped to ring home his sarcasm. "I hadn't noticed."
"You're too oblivious."
"Sure, sure." He never had told him why he called him oblivious that day, meaning he was therefore eager to know now, yet he sensed today was not the day to push it. "Hey, you still haven't pinky sworn."
"Alright. I'll do it."
Laughing at the goddamn absurdity of all, he begrudgingly raised his pinky into the air and linked it with his friend's. A spark of electricity passed through Cyrus, consequently causing him to be unable to think straight. Ha. Ironic, really. Anyway, he was sure that he was the only one out of the two who felt that.
Whatever had happened back there had to be buried to die, he thought to himself.
"Let's hope that doesn't happen again."
Feeling a little hurt, Cyrus agreed with the boy. "Hmm. Don't worry, it won't happen again."
Little did Cyrus Goodman know, it would happen not once again but three more times-the closest of those being two weeks away at the local cinema.