5. At the Ice Skating Rink.
"Come on, Cyrus, stop being such a slow poke and tie your shoes already!"
He rolled his eyes. "Patient as ever, Driscoll. And for your information, I'm actually struggling to tie them right now."
Her smile was apologetic. "Ah, okay. Sorry."
"You know, we're really going to have to wrap you up in cotton wool already!" Andi joked.
"Or bubble wrap," Jonah added. Cyrus nudged him and they both laughed. One positive thing about hanging around TJ less frequently was that he could spend more valuable time with his other friends, and it was always fun to joke around with them without being too self conscious about his appearance or what came out of his mouth.
"Come on guys, I'm hardly made of glass," Cyrus pointed out, laughing again.
"Hey, that's a great idea for an art project!" Walker exclaimed, looking excited all of a sudden. "Drawing a person who's made of glass."
"How would that even work?"
"How much would you know about art, Mr Party?"
"I've told you time and time again, Brodsky, it's Mr from the Party." He folded his arms. "Not Mr Party."
"Why does it even matter?" Amber interrupted, her hand in Andi's. There had been a significant development on the Andi and Amber situation, which only made Cyrus feel as single as ever-everybody was here with their significant other, and here he was with nobody. Okay, not nobody. They were all his friends, even if they were wrapped up in their love lives.
And TJ was here, too.
Only just, it was important to stress. Marty had been about to lecture Amber on why it did, in fact, matter to him when he'd turned up fashionably late, flushed and out of breath.
"Hey, guys! Sorry I was late, I got stuck in traffic!" Cyrus could only bring himself to stare at the boy. His dark blond hair shone like a halo, his gorgeous eyes sparkling like diamonds and he looked way too adorable with magnolia cheeks. A stray tendril of hair escaped the grips of his hairspray and made an appearance, curling down onto his forehead. He groaned inwardly. Why did boys have to look like THAT?
"You good, Cy?" Jonah asked, snapping a finger in front of his phase, breaking his trance.
"Uh, yeah. I'm fine, just fine. Why do you ask?"
"You were out of it for a second back there, that's all."
"I know, I was miles away. I'm good, though." Jonah patted him on the shoulder.
"Good to hear." He walked off to talk to Marty and Buffy about something to do with strength. As he concentrated on his shoelaces, and how maybe he should get tested for Dyspraxia, a learning disability that affected the coordination because it was a serious concern of his, he was called over. Slipping into his normal shoes, he hobbled over to the gathering of people, deliberately avoiding eye contact with TJ as it would serve as a reminder that he had feelings for a straight boy.
Meanwhile, Kippen paid for his ticket and kept sneaking the occasional look at his crush, but, not wanting the ticket booth officer to get the wrong idea, he whipped back around again. It was difficult for him to do so; Cyrus looked beautiful today. Not that he didn't look beautiful every day, of course, but especially so right now. The lights ahead had given his eyes an extra glint, and he was wearing blue, which invariably suited him. His beam was like a ray of sunshine, exuding light for all those who were looking at him. He was a radiant being.
As he grabbed his ticket and contemplated who he should go up to and attempt to strike a conservation up with, Driscoll waved him over, wearing an enthusiastic smile that he didn't trust. Stood with her were Jonah, Marty and Cyrus (it appeared that Andi, Amber and Walker were in their own small huddle, discussing art). Jonah looked keen enough for him to be over there. Marty looked alright with it-they'd sorted things out between them. The boy he was into, on the other hand? Not so much. He had a face like thunder, and alternated between glaring at him and turning to Buffy, whispering in her ear. She shook her head at him. Feeling nauseated, he wondered what he'd been whispering. Why was he acting this way? Boys were so complicated sometimes.
Despite feeling unwelcome (by Cyrus, if not anybody else), he strolled over. The dark haired boy went to leave, but Buffy's grip on his arm was strong.
"Hey, guys!" Jonah fist bumped him and Marty waved. Buffy high fived him. Cyrus' gaze was focused on his watch. He turned to his crush and made direct eye contact with him. "Am I not welcome here? Okay, Cyrus, at least look at a guy when he's talking to you. Let me repeat myself: am I not welcome here?"
"Of course you are." His voice was wobbly. He faced TJ. "How's your girlfriend?"
"She's not my girlfriend."
"Who?" Jonah asked. For some reason, he never knew anything about anybody.
"Maria Walsh," Cyrus practically spat out before TJ could answer.
"Like I said, she's not my girlfriend. We talked about motor cross and basketball. That's it. If you care about Maria so much, why don't you ask about her yourself?"
"I'll pass, thanks. I'm glad you're happy with her."
"I'm NOT with her!"
"Exactly, and you're not with Cyrus, are you?" Marty questioned, his eyebrows raised.
"Yeah, he's not. We're not together. As if I'd ever be interested in him!" Cyrus scoffed. The words stung like venom, but TJ tried to play it off. On the inside, however, he was crushed. He shouldn't be, he knew as much, but he couldn't help it. Really, he couldn't. He bit down on his lip, hard, before trusting himself to speak.
"Exactly, as if I'd ever, um, want to date him." He looked pale. "I need to use the restroom, but I'll be right back." Before anyone could think to stop him, he dashed off, leaving several worried faces in his wake. Not that he particularly cared, at that moment-he needed to escape the situation before he started tearing up.
Silence. "This all my fault," Cyrus began, but Buffy cut him off.
"No, it's not your fault. But I do need to have a quick word with you, if that's alright." She glanced up at Marty, who nodded, and Jonah, who gave her a thumbs up.
"Sure," he relented, walking to a more private spot.
"Cyrus Goodman, are you an idiot or what?"
He bristled at this. She'd never really called him an idiot before. Not a lot. And she never meant it when she did. "What do you mean?"
"You mean to tell me that you didn't see how he was looking at you when he walked in?"
"I was tying my shoelaces up..." Buffy sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, her impatience abundantly obvious.
"Of course you were."
"I don't get it-was he angry at me or something? Did I make it worse?"
"Why are you like this?"
"About what?" Why was Buffy being all weird and confusing? Already, he was consumed by guilt in the knowledge that he'd upset TJ earlier. In hindsight, maybe today hadn't been the best idea. His words were thrown back at him; TJ felt the same way in that he'd never date him. Well, that was a lie on his part, but his crush didn't need to know that, did he?
He scowled at his best friend. "Wasn't supposed to be."
Fed up with her best friend at this point (he didn't blame her), Buffy rolled her eyes and lightly tapped him on the forehead. "He has a crush on you, dumbass!"
Cyrus couldn't believe his ears. "No, he doesn't. He's straight, for goodness' sake!"
"Cyrus, Cyrus, Cyrus. If he didn't have feelings for you, he wouldn't have turned up today. If he didn't like you (as more than friends), we wouldn't even be having this conversation, because he wouldn't have ran off in that dramatic fashion earlier and he wouldn't have stared at you like that when he came in."
"That's nonsense! We're all friends, that's why he's here. Besides, I was a bit sharp with him. That's all there is to that. As for the way he gazed at me-well, I'm sure you were imagining it."
She shook her head so fast, it was a surprise her head didn't detach from the rest of her body. "Cy. There are a few ways he looks at you. The little peeks when he thinks nobody is looking, trying to be subtle and failing. Then there's the affectionate, puppy dog look he gives you-his eyes go all big and shiny. Sometimes, when you're laughing at a silly joke, or cracking one of your own, or rambling on and on because you're telling one of your long, convoluted stories again, gazing at you like you hung the stars in the sky. Other times, you enter the room and he might as well have been struck by lightning. Occasionally, his eyes scream 'I'm the luckiest guy in the world right now to be stood (or sat) next to him'. Not to mention the hungry look myself, Andi and Jonah have all witnessed on multiple different occasions-or all the times where he's checked you out. We have a tally. So far it's at twenty-one. And you've returned the favour twelve times. Think about it. That's around other people alone."
Cyrus laughed at the bizarre nature of it all. "Surely not. You've put a lot of thought into it, which I appreciate, don't get me wrong, but you can't have got that right."
"According to key eyewitnesses, he has looked at you in all the above ways." Buffy laughed at her use of lawyer-like language, but her voice soon took on a more serious tone. "He likes you, Cyrus. Just trust me on this one. His voice and demeanour completely change around you-he becomes soft spoken, and he's very touchy yet conscious of how he carries himself at the same time."
Wow. If Buffy was right, that would be...amazing. Incredible beyond belief. And he trusted her to tell him the truth, and given her honest nature, she could be onto something here. All the same, he didn't want to get his hopes up too high, only to be heartbroken later on.
"Are you sure? I really like him, and I don't want to mess things up."
She smiled at him, knowing she was right to talk to him. "Yes. I'm sure. Now go get your man!"
Mustering up as much confidence as humanely possible, Cyrus walked over to where TJ was standing, only he was in the middle of a conversation. Snippets of conversation drifted his way.
"I don't know how to deal with him....it's overwhelming....no, I'm not....yeah, I wish we were together, but I don't think it'll happen because of him....I don't think there's any right way to go about it, to be honest with you....love is hard....you're right, I should tell Cyrus, it's important that I do so...."
"Teej?" TJ turned around so fast, he could have got whiplash.
"Cyrus! Hi!" He folded his arms. "Wait. How much of that conversation did you hear?"
"The one I was having with Jonah."
"Oh, that. No, all I heard was, 'no, I'm not' and 'love is hard'."
TJ's eyes were narrowed; his skepticism carved in his face. But, because he loved Cyrus Goodman, and because love makes people do stupid things, he allowed it. "Okay..."
Buffy smiled, and started boasting about how much she could lift, which Marty disputed her for multiple times.
"There's no way you could lift Cyrus!"
"What, because I'm heavy?" the boy in question asked, a little perturbed.
"No, because she's a girl."
"Wow. You did not just go there."
"You bet I did, Driscoll."
"I can prove it."
"I've witnessed it," Jonah added, wide-eyed.
"Go on, then." Marty dared his girlfriend. "And then we'll see how many of us guys can lift him, too." TJ looked terrified. Whether of his feelings and how picking up the boy he'd fallen for would complicate his feelings further, or because he was doubting his own strength, it was hard to tell.
Jonah turned to the person who was about to be lifted. "That okay with you, Cy Guy?" If the nickname made the blond in front of them jealous, he didn't show it.
"Yep," he squeaked. Smirking, Buffy picked him up.
"See?" She pointed out, triumphant as ever. "Easy." She went to tip the boy over, as a joke, and he let out a small scream. Jonah checked over at the ticket booth, not willing to be kicked out before they even left the ring. Fortunately, they weren't causing too much of a commotion for it to be noticeable. Marty tried next.
"Bro, do you even eat?" Indignant, he insisted that he did, and consistently at that, to which the party guy took his word for. Beck walked over, smiling, but anxious that he would drop his friend or end up embarrassing himself in front of their mutual friends. Andi, Amber and Walker, in the mean time, were all immersed in a conversation about their futures and how art would relate to it-Amber intending to become a fashion designer, Andi wanting to sell crafts online and do wedding photography, and Walker wishing to be an art therapist.
A little relieved but also apprehensive, Jonah lifted Cyrus up, relieved when he managed to do so with relative ease. "Wow, you're light!" TJ rolled his eyes at the comment, which didn't go unnoticed by Buffy or Cyrus.
"I bet I can pick him up like that," he told them, punctuating the end of sentence with a snap of his fingers. His heart was hammering hard, however-he was never as confident as he appeared to be. The aforementioned boy was shaking a little, for some reason or other, the basketball captain didn't know why. 'Okay', was all Cyrus needed to say on the matter, before walking over to him.
Big mistake. Up close, he looked more perfect than ever, the golden flecks in his eyes shining out for all to see. Screw him and his stupid eyes and stupid hair and-
"Are you alright, Underdog?" The boy who was about to lift him up checked, faint concern flitting across his face. He nodded. Breathe, he reminded himself. Breathe. You're fine, you're fine, you're-
"I'm sorry about being so rude to you earlier, I didn't mean it." TJ raised his eyebrows and Cyrus continued. "I mean, anyone would be fortunate to get the opportunity to date you, I hope you know that."
Tj smirked, smug. "Wait, so if you didn't mean what you said, you're therefore implying that you would d-"
"Hey, hey. I didn't say that, either." His cheeks were on fire. "I am sorry, though."
"It's fine, don't worry about it."
"Why haven't you picked him up yet?" Marty wondered out loud.
"Oh, no reason." TJ dismissed with a wave of his hand.
"What if people think we're together?" For once, TJ shrugged.
"So what if they do? There's worse things to happen in life, isn't there? Besides, it's happened four times before, and neither of us have come into any harm, have we?"
"I suppose not."
"Exactly." Barely a moment after those words had left his mouth, he picked him up.
He regretted this decision in an instant. Not because he couldn't carry the weight; he certainly could. Jonah had been correct, Cyrus was light. No, it was the fact that they'd been closer than ever before. He could see Cyrus' eyelashes, which were quite long for a boy, in high definition. His eyes were brighter than any star in the night sky. His lips looked soft and kissable, too irresistible-the temptation was too strong. They could have lit a bonfire with the sparks that were flying between them. Nobody else existed in that moment-not the friends, not well-meaning strangers who thought they were together, not the horrible people who would condemn them-nobody.
Cyrus tried to resist against the almost magnetic pull that was drawing him closer and closer to TJ, but it was too difficult. His cheeks were a shade of magenta (which was uncharacteristic for him-it was rare for him to blush) and dusted with tiny, almost invisible freckles. His lips were close and only seemed to be getting closer by the second. Powered by some mysterious force he had no control over, he belatedly realized that his thumb was not only resting on TJ's cheek, but stroking it. The whoops and cheers and wolf whistles behind them disappeared as his arms moved and wrapped themselves around TJ's back. They had retreated into a whole new world of their own making, and it was beautiful. That's when the unthinkable happened.
Who had kissed who, it was hard to tell. What wasn't hard to tell, though, was that the moment their lips connected, it was magic-the atmosphere between them was electric. All of their pent up feelings and frustrations dissipated in that moment. It was everything they'd wanted and more. Cyrus was buzzing with energy, the type of energy he'd never found within himself before, in addition to being on cloud ten, never mind cloud nine. TJ felt like he was on fire, in the best way possible. Neither of them could believe this turn of events. Cyrus had always imagined his first kiss-his first proper kiss, because his kiss with Iris didn't count-to be romantic, but the feelings imaging doing this with a boy had invoked were not nearly as strong as this. And he hadn't thought that TJ had liked him back, until his little pep talk with Buffy earlier. This had confirmed her suspicions for sure. For a brief moment, he was ecstatic about this. TJ Kippen liked him back! Despite this, reality would soon hit him.
Unfortunately, like all good things, it had to come to an end. They broke apart and TJ set Cyrus down. The latter looked mortified, his eyes shining with tears. His feelings scared him and backed him into a corner.
"I'm so sorry, TJ. I can't do this." He did what TJ had before him and bolted off to the restrooms without uttering another word.
"What WAS that?" Buffy demanded, incredulous.
"I..." for once, he was lost for words. "I have no idea. I felt drawn to him, I couldn't resist, and when he stroked my cheek with his thumb, I couldn't not kiss him. And he felt the same way-you saw it for yourselves. He kissed me back."
"Then why is he acting like this?" Jonah mused.
"I've no idea," TJ said, on the verge of tears. "Does he even like me back? Or was he just faking it the whole time?"
"Oh, he likes you alright." Buffy told him. "We've talked about you. A lot. Sorry. Good things, I promise. He goes all soppy around you, and his eyes sparkle brighter, and he has a smile that is reserved just for you. He told me the last thing himself, to explain how far in he was. You know what smile I mean, right?"
He did. It was the sweetest smile he'd ever seen, both maybe that was because he was the cutest person he'd ever laid eyes upon. It was for him? He couldn't picture that. But that didn't matter. What did matter was how Cyrus had ran off from him.
"It hurts so much. If he liked me, couldn't we just discuss it and that would be it?"
"I think his own feelings scare him," Marty added, surprisingly insightful for him.
TJ frowned. "But why?"
"Your chemistry is very strong," Jonah pointed out. Maybe he did know something about people, after all. "So strong, you can see it from a mile away. He's terrified of getting hurt."
"Yet in the process, he's hurt me. Should I go after him?"
Everyone nodded. Buffy gave him some advice on how to approach the situation, before he could let his feelings tangle his words up.
Shaking, he entered the restroom, not knowing what to expect. "Underdog?" His tone was as gentle as he could make it without becoming patronizing. He heard a sniffle. There were a few painful seconds of silence.
"I'm sorry. I've let you down and hurt you. I'm a selfish person, aren't I?"
Although the other boy couldn't see him, Kippen shook his head. "No, not in the slightest. I am a little hurt, but mostly because I thought that the kiss was fake."
This time, the answer was instant. "No, no, not at all! You were so afraid of being seen as a couple. If we were one, I'm worried about what people would think or say. We have received glares before when others thought we were..."
"Boyfriends?" TJ supplied, raising an eyebrow.
"Yeah, that." Another sniffle. "I really like you, Teej, but I don't think it would be a good idea right now. That's all." TJ nodded and sighed. He did want to date Cyrus, so very badly, and it was torture not being able to knowing that his feelings were reciprocated but being unable to act on them-yet, he respected his wishes.
"That's fine, Cy. So, can we get out of here and act like everything's normal." Silence. Again. Then:
He emerged from the stall, all blotchy faced in a way that made TJ's heart hurt. He watched as his requited crush (he couldn't quite comprehend that-it would take getting used to) splashed his face with water, before enveloping him in a hug. After a few seconds longer than was usual for friends to hug, they broke apart.
"Are you alright?"
Cyrus smiled and squeezed the hand of the boy stood next to him, catching him off guard. "I am now."
They emerged from the restrooms a few second after each other. Andi walked over to her best friend.
"Hi, Cyrus. Sorry I haven't spoken to you much."
"It's okay. You're in a new relationship, it's expected."
Andi folded her arms and looked in TJ's general direction. "And you're not?"
"I'm not, actually."
"But Buffy said you kissed when I was over there!"
"Kissing does not always equate a relationship, or a longlasting one. Look at you and Jonah, or Iris and I. Those relationships, though they ended amicably enough, were not there to stay. I'm not with TJ."
"But why not? You two have insane chemistry, and you'd be too cute together."
"I'm scared of getting hurt," Cyrus explained in a small voice. "I really do like him, though. A lot."
Andi smirked. "Trust me, I know. You're always going on about him."
"Yeah, duh. I can tell you've missed him over the past few weeks."
He nodded and bit his lip, glancing over to where the boy in question was stood conversing with Buffy, looking hurt.
Marty clapped his hands. "Right, folks. Are we ready to go in?" Most people nodded and made the move to enter the rink. TJ grabbed his shoes and put them on with ease, before looking in his direction-it was no secret that, given his lack of coordination, he was struggling. That's when he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Here, let me help you."
Great. This is just what he needed. "You really don't have to."
"No, I don't. But I want to."
"Oh. Okay, then. Thanks."
"No problem." An awkward silence filled the air as TJ knelt down.
"Can we start again? To ensure things aren't so weird between us?"
TJ decided to discuss the past few weeks. They'd been weird, but it would give them both closure, at least.
"Hey," TJ greeted Cyrus as she sorted out his shoelace. The awkwardness of their previous kiss still lingered in the air.
"You been avoiding me?"
"Kind of feels like it."
"You've been...otherwise occupied." This statement earnt him a blank stare. "You've been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks with your friends, or playing basketball."
"I could say the same thing about you. Not the basketball part, the friends part. Obviously."
"Obviously," Cyrus agreed. "Have you seen me in gym class?" His crush laughed.
"I'm sure you're not awful at it."
"Then you're wrong, because I am." TJ stood up, finished with Cyrus' shoe lace.
Not wanting to ruin things by arguing with the boy he'd kissed when their relationship was already fragile as it was, he shrugged. "Oh well. At least you can do a somersault, right?"
Cyrus nodded. "Right. Thanks to you."
"You're the one who performed the somersault, Underdog. Not me."
"Yeah, but you're the one who taught me how to in the first place."
"That's true," TJ smiled, and everything between them almost felt back to normal, and not as if someone had taken the kaleidoscope known as their relationship, shook it and turned it upside down.
"We should probably get onto the ice rink now," Cyrus pointed out with a blush. TJ agreed with him and they went out there, where pop music was blaring out of the loudspeakers.
For the most part, it was an enjoyable experience. As expected, Marty and Buffy were competitive with each other, like their lives depended on their iceskating abilities. Jonah and TJ skated around with ease as they discussed soccer, Cyrus watching them with envy. Andi alternated what she did, refereeing Muffy and then doing laps around the rink, stopping to talk to Jonah and TJ every now and then.Walker and Amber were doing some elaborate dances on ice, and pretending not to glance over at Jonah and Andi respectively. Amber was in the process of teaching Walker how to do a figure eight and succeeding.
Cyrus, meanwhile, felt like Bambi, gripping onto the edge at the side and failing to stay upright. After about twenty minutes or so, Andi returned to referee the happy couple and Jonah skated over to Walker and Amber, giving Walker a kiss on the cheek for good measure. That could be you and your crush, a nasty voice in his head pointed out. But you keep pushing him away, don't you?
Speaking of the devil himself, he'd decided to invite himself over to the side of the rink, wheres Cyrus happened to be located.
"Hey, Cyrus. What are you doing?" Amusement crept into his voice and frustrated the boy, who was gripping to the sides tightly like a madman.
"Oh, you know. Just struggling to remain vertical. As you do. And trying not to be humiliated in front of someone he has a crush on."
"Are you succeeding?"
"No, because that someone happened to come over."
"He did? He sounds like a real charmer."
Cyrus glared at him. "Don't flatter yourself."
"Okay, I won't." He moved his hands on top of Cyrus'. "There. Now you've got a solid grip. And we both have warmer hands for it."
"Yeah, I suppose so," the darker haired boy relented. "Still. I don't need your help."
TJ smirked, his voice light and teasing. "Is that so?"
He let go of his hands, and he stumbled about in a way that suggested he didn't know how to use his legs.
"Ah! Sugar Honey Iced Tea!" Cyrus cried out as he fell onto the ice. TJ placed a hand out for him to take, but he tried to pull himself up instead. He failed and took his help.
"Sugar Honey Iced Tea? Seriously? Who the hell even says that?"
"I'll have you know that it's an acronym for a swear word."
"Oh yeah? Which one?" He knew, obviously, but wanted to hear his crush swear. He thought it would be funny.
He fell silent and turned beetroot. Then, he spoke.
"Nope. I'm not kissing you again, as much as you might want me to do."
TJ pouted in the same way he did when they spoke properly for the first time at the swings. "Aw, shame. You're not a bad kisser, you know. For an amateur."
"Who said I'm an amateur?"
"Go on. Name one person you've kissed other than me."
"Iris." TJ's face fell.
"Some girl I dated a year ago. I hated every moment of it, though."
"You didn't hate our kiss, did you?" He sounded nervous.
"No, no. Think more the opposite."
"Ah, right. Well, that's good to know. How would you rate my kissing skills?"
"That sounded really cringy," Cyrus commented.
"I know." There was a pause. "Go on. Rate them. Please?"
"The kiss itself was a solid nine or ten out of ten-" Kippen's face lit up like a light bulb-"but I can't speak for all your kisses."
"That was my first kiss," TJ admitted, his face a shade of tomato.
"Oh." Why did he have to keep messing up all the time? "I didn't know that. I assumed that-"
"Because I'm that good looking, everyone wanted to kiss me? What you're forgetting is that I wasn't such a nice person to be around before I met you."
"Ah, right. Yeah, I don't know. You were always kind to me, no matter what."
Slowly, TJ grabbed Cyrus' hands and led him towards the outer area of the rink. "And why do you think that was?"
"You being friendly to me?"
"Yet you had the audacity to call me the oblivious one?"
"I don't regret it."
"Fair enough." Once he'd finished speaking, he twirled the boy around, causing him to emit a high pitched squeal.
"What are you doing?"
"Teaching you how to skate on ice. Like how one day, I'll hopefully teach you how to shoot a hoop or how to play piano." He scratched the back of his neck. "If you'd like to, that is."
Cyrus was honoured that he'd even considered that. "Of course. I'd love to."
He beamed. "Great. Can I teach you how to ice skate now?"
"I'm not a charity case."
His smile left his eyes. "I never thought you were. Can't a guy help a friend out?"
Cyrus winced at TJ's use of the word 'friend' in reference to their relationship, before remembering he'd inflicted this pain upon himself. "I suppose so, yes."
"What are you waiting for? Let's get going!"
They started slow, with them holding hands to ensure Cyrus had something to grip onto to keep him up. Several times, he fell down, but he would always have TJ to help him get back up again, time after time.
Soon enough, he caught the hang of it and didn't need any help. He spun in circles around Andi and Buffy, who did the same to see who was the fastest. Buffy insisted it was Buffy. Andi insisted it was Andi. Cyrus insisted it was Andi. Nobody insisted that was Cyrus.
Jonah asked him over to see who the fastest and most competent male was, which Cyrus agreed to, albeit with great reluctance.
"Who do you think will win?"
"Jonah, let's be real here. Marty is going to claim he won no matter what."
"That's true. But who do you think it'll actually be?"
"TJ." His answer was instant; he didn't even need to think about it. How could it not be him, when he was the most athletic of them all? He said as much to the singer, and he agreed but claimed that maybe he could be the underdog of the whole competition, which earnt him a nudge.
"We'll see about that. Walker would be my second bet for winner, so I doubt you'd win. No offense."
"None taken." The look in his eyes grew dreamy. "He's so talented. He's an amazing artist, an incredible ice skater, the most caring person I've ever met and funny. Really funny."
"Someone has it bad!"
Jonah waggled his finger at Cyrus. "Don't throw glass at people who live in stone houses."
He facepalmed. "That's not how they proverb goes."
"No. Not even close."
"Then, pray tell me, how does it go, exactly?"
"Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. And you have a point there, but just because I've really fallen for someone, doesn't mean to say you haven't."
Jonah grinned. "I know, I know. Just saying."
The others stood waiting for them, impatient looks on their faces. It had been divided into two categories: speed and performance. You all did individual performances, before they all raced. Walker started; Jonah was right, he was flawless on the ice. In terms of performance, he was the best. There was no doubt about it-the boy belonged on ice. Next up, it was Marty's turn. He was alright, but lacked the elegance that his predecessor had possessed. Jonah went up after him, and he was okay but a bit wobbly in places. Second to last, came TJ. They all watched, transfixed, as he put on an excellent performance. Not quite as impressive as Walker, but not far off, either. To Cyrus, he was perfect.
After he finished, he high fived everyone, Cyrus being the last person. He interlinked their fingers as he did so, sending electricity down his arm.
"Good luck, Underdog," he whispered in his ear, his breath warm on Cyrus' neck. "I'll be rooting for you. I always do." He moved his fingers away and patted him on the back, before moving over to discuss something with Jonah.
Taking a deep breath, he wobbled his way around the rink. Huh. This wasn't so bad. Gaining courage, he spun around and around, but the world wouldn't stop spinning. Spin spin spin. Why wouldn't it stop spinning?
"CYRUS!" Several voices uttered at once, sounding like they were underwater due to being that distant. Unsurprisingly, Kippen was the first to reach him. That's who it looked like. He wasn't sure if it was him or not, just guessing. Until his hand felt like it was on fire, and he realized it must be him.
"You've fallen and it looks like you've grazed your hand. You shouldn't push yourself past your limits. You gave us all a heart attack."
"You always push me...." He whispered, still in shock from the fall.
"Not like that! There's a difference between giving someone a gentle push out of their comfort zone if it's for the best, and shoving them off a cliff and demanding that they fly. What were you thinking?"
"I was confident. I could do anything." Cyrus winced in pain and glanced down at his hand. Perhaps not.
"You had just learned to stand on ice, let alone move around on it! You shouldn't have done that."
"Teej, I'm sorry."
Andi and Buffy appeared, shoving him aside.
"CYRUS, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!"
"You don't have to yell into my ear, Andi. I've grazed my hand, not turned deaf. And I'll be fine. I've been through much worse."
"That doesn't mean much. We were terrified!" Buffy exclaimed, picking him up.
"Are you okay, dude?" Jonah questioned him as he skated over.
"Fine," he muttered through gritted teeth. "Can you all stop asking me that, please? I'm alright, once I'm plastered up, I'll be back at it again."
Walker, who was trained in first aid, plastered him up, seeing as the two teenager employees who were supposed to be on duty had slacked off. "It was a little scary. One minute, you were doing a lap around the rink, about to return to us, if wobbly on your feet, but you started spinning and basically tripped over your own feet."
"Of course I did," Cyrus laughed. "It's classic Cyrus Goodman behaviour."
Walker smiled. "We know that, and we love you." He gestured to all of their mutual friends, whom were situated around them. "I know we don't always talk loads, but I'm here for you, man." He patted him on the back.
"No problem." He finished sorting Cyrus out. "There. All done."
"Thanks for the first aid." Walker laughed.
"Again, no problem."
"What did I say about wrapping you up in cotton wool, eh?" Andi said as soo as he returned to the ice, ruffling Cyrus' hair affectionately and messing it up whilst doing so.
"Hey!" he quipped, playfully. "Don't mess with the 'do!" Andi and Cyrus laughed.
"Sorry," Andi laughed, not sounding sorry in the slightest. "We wouldn't want to mess it up for your Prince Charming over there, would we?" She pointed at TJ, who was shooting Cyrus worried glances every thirty seconds.
"Whatever. Have fun with your Cinderella. She sure is beautiful."
"She is," Andi sighed. "I'm really happy to be with her. I'm aware it hasn't been long, but we're really hitting it off."
"That's great. I'm really happy for you," Cyrus said. The pair hugged. When they broke apart, somebody could be heard clearing their throat. Buffy.
"What were you thinking, you doofus? Okay, you know what, that doesn't matter, what matters is that you're safe." She enveloped them into a group hug, and it was warm and lovely.
"Okay, I'm going to go talk to Jonah," Andi informed them, waving them goodbye and skating them off. Buffy shoved him in the shoulder.
"Take it easy, Cy. We don't want a repeat performance of earlier, understand?"
He nodded. "Got it."
For a good while, the Good Hair Crew (including Jonah) hung out. Andi and Buffy took to linking Cyrus' arm on either side to keep him safe. He loved those girls, but, at times, they could be overly protective of him.
After an hour of laughter, chaos and fun, including: Andi being dragged around backwards by her best friends, Jonah not realizing that ice was frozen water (Marty, the most scientific of them all, had been outraged), TJ and Walker pretending to be on 'Dancing On Ice' (a British TV show they'd heard of) together and Buffy and Cyrus spinning Amber around in circles until she had fallen, dizzily, into Andi's arms, a slow, romantic song came onto the speakers. Elvis Presley's 'Can't Help Falling In Love with You', to be exact.
Naturally, all the couples present paired up to dance with each other. TJ and Cyrus stood awkwardly on opposite sides of the room to each other; they hadn't hung out with each other for an hour, to keep their distance from their feelings.
Mustering up all the confidence he had developed ovee the past few months (thanks to TJ Kippen himself) Cyrus skated over to the guy he liked and extended his hand out towards him.
"I know we may have been avoiding each other over the past hour, but would you like to dance with me, Mr Kippen?"
TJ's smile broadened into a grin. He faked a bow and grabbed the boy's soft hand. "I would be honored, Mr Goodman."
As they danced, slowly and intimately, TJ began singing into Cyrus' ear. "Wise men say, only fools rush in. But I can't help falling in love with you." He giggled. It tickled. But TJ's warm breath caused hairs on Cyrus' neck to stand up.
Smiling wider than ever, he took over the singing. "Shall I stay? Would it be a sin, if I can't help falling in love with you?" When Cyrus stopped singing those lines, TJ spun him around the rink, being careful after the prior incident.
"Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be."
"Take my hand, take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with you." Sparks flew between them, igniting a fire in both their hearts.
"Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes. Some things are meant to be." Like their kiss earlier, establishing their feelings for each other once and for all.
"Take my hand. Take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with you." Cyrus finished off, cupping TJ's face in his hands. TJ dipped him low, giving him a chaste kiss as he did so.
This time, neither of them ran away from what they were feeling inside, but they hardly acknowledged it, either.
"Thanks," Cyrus whispered.
"Huh? For what?"
TJ laughed, albeit sadly. "It's no trouble. Consider it a goodbye kiss."
"A goodbye kiss?!"
"A, this isn't going to work out, so I'm kissing you for the last time kind of kiss."
But he simply skated off to chat with Amber about next year's French Exchange Trip, leaving him stood all alone. Sensing that his friend was in a low mood, Walker moved over to him.
"Hey, man. Let me show you some moves. We're going to dance."
Perplexed, the smaller teenager went along with it any way. "What did you think of that song, Walker?"
"It was beautiful. I think pretty much everyone kissed after it, you know."
Walker looked curious. "Did you and TJ...?"
Cyrus sighed, not sire wjeyher to tell tje truh or lie. Then again, lying never had been his strong point. If his life depended on doing so efficiently, he would most likely die on the spot."Yeah, but we're not, like, together."
"You're not together???"
Unfortunately, Walker's over the top exclamation had been loud enough to garner attention from the others.
"But you and TJ are so cute! I don't understand," Amber commented, making her way over (TJ had moved on to talking about basketball with Buffy). "You are a couple, aren't you?"
He shook his head vehemently. "No, we're not. I'm afraid you're mistaken, Amber."
At this response, her jaw dropped in a comical, cartoon way. "Really?"
Cyrus fixed a small smile on his face. "Really."
Because I'm scared of falling in too deep, arguing, breaking up and having my heart shattered into a million pieces, he wanted to say. Because I can't trust anyone to treat me right as I'm too paranoid and anxious all the time, which would only be a burden to him. Because it might be a disappointing relationship and not live up to what I want it to be and how my romantic fantasies play out in my head at night.
He said none of this.
"It's complicated," he opted for, instead. Amber fixed him a strange, sad smile.
"Aren't all relationships?" Before he could possibly reply to such a broad statement, she skated off to Andi, who she was attached to by the hip these days.
"You want to talk about it?" Walker asked, making him almost jump out of skin. He'd forgotten that he was there. "I'm always here for you, Cyrus, like I told you earlier. I meant it."
Roping other people in would only worsen things. "No thanks. I'm good, Walker. But I really appreciate it. And I'm there for you, too."
Walker thanked him and left him to his thoughts. Marty, however, was the type of person that was very inconsiderate towards other people's thoughts.
"Dude, I overheard something earlier. Tell me it isn't true?"
"What did you hear?" Cyrus rubbed his hand over his face, feeling weary and about a million years old suddenly. He already knew the answer to his question.
"You and TJ, I thought you were a couple. That you got together in the bathroom-not like that, get your head out of the gutter, Goodman-I thought you asked each other out in there."
"Well, you're mistaken."
"Alright. I guess I'll leave you to it now. Good luck."
Now, he truly was alone. He felt like crying. He had earlier, why not now? So what if he was in public? It was only him and his closest friends here at the moment.
Andi and Buffy, knowing what was up already, went over to him to cheer him up. For the following fifteen minutes, he forgot all about people named TJ Kippen who kissed you one second and pretended it hadn't occurred the next. They were too busy being children and enjoying themselves.
Before he knew it, their two hour long slot was up.
"You know," Jonah chipped in chirpily, "you really should rent this place out for a group of eight again, Cy Guy." A forced smile made its way upon the teenager's face.
"Please!" Andi implored, wide-eyed and tugging on his sleeve. "It would be awesome."
"I'll think about it, alright? No guarantees." He needed to get them off his back and think about this predicament.
They all made chatty small talk whilst they waited to be picked up, hugging and fist bumping and high fiving each other, waving whenever anybody left.
TJ was the second to go. In the spur of the moment, Cyrus rushed at the guy and hugged him, hard.
"Thankyou for today. For my first real kiss, for your kindness, for everything."
"It was nothing," the Kippen responded, his face glowing, although you could sense his sadness.
As TJ left and the others waved him off, Cyrus touched his lips and wondered what might have been, reliving the sensation of TJ's lips on his over and over again, like a broken record.
Buffy was the second to last to go. After ten minutes of goodbyes, only her and her friend remained there.
"Cyrus," she hissed urgently. "You have to tell him. Tonight. As soon as possible. That you want to be with him. You're making a grave mistake here. Think about it. You both like each other. What have you got to lose?"
He could only stare. Was she for real? "It's none of your business."
The girl stepped back. "There's no need to snap at me. Geez. Anyway, he told me that he's giving up on you if there's no chance by Monday, because it would allegedly be pointless pursuing you otherwise, in his words."
Nausea threatened to take him over. "He did?"
"Yes! I wouldn't make this up, I promise." The look in her eyes informed him she as serious.
"Whoa, you mean it!"
"Of course I do! If you like him as much as you say you do, you need to be proactive about it. I know you said you didn't want to go out with him, but your head is saying that. Not your heart."
Cyrus raised an eyebrow at her, unimpressed. "Wow. Buffy Driscoll, of all people, telling me to follow my heart instead of my head? It's miraculous!"
She nudged him. "For real, though. Don't think I haven't spotted the way you look at him. He means the world to you, I know it."
As much as he hated to admit it, she was right. TJ Kippen was funny, smart, kind, witty, caring, beautiful and he brought out the best in him. He couldn't live without him. "You're right. What do I do?"
Her face told him the answer was obvious ."Talk to him, plain and simple."
"And if I don't?"
"If you don't tell him you love him, you'll risk losing him forever. So, what are you going to do, Cyrus Goodman?"