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Mistaken

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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.

"Oh."

"Yeah."

"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?"

"Always."

And so they did pretend that they weren't mistaken for a couple-until it happened again just over a week later, that is.
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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?"

"Because."

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.

"Huh?"

"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."

"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!"

"Goodbye 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?"

"Shut up."

"Make me."

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.

Chapter Text

3. At the Cinema

"DC is obviously far superior to Marvel!"

"Jonah, have you lost brain cells overnight or something?" Andi checked.

"Evidently, he never had them in the first place," Buffy cut in, her mouth agape with horror at his words of utter betrayal.

"Cyrus, what do you think?"

Cyrus' head shot up at Jonah's invitation for him to participate in the conversation. Ever the diplomat, he glanced around the room in an attempt to gauge everybody's feelings on the matter. When he made eye contact with TJ, he was greeted with a shy smile and a little shrug. It had been two weeks since they'd been mistaken as a couple at the park, but it was taboo; they never discussed it, or the first time it happened, come to think of it. He supposed it made their friendship weird and awkward whenever somebody suggested that they were dating or should date, and Goodman valued his friendship with TJ more than pursuing his mental fantasies of going on dates with him, holding his hand and even kissing him. Perhaps this was because he knew it to be a fruitless endeavor. Why bother aiming for a goal you could never reach?

Jolted out of his thoughts by Marty reminding him that he had not yet spoken, he deliberated over his words for a while.

"I think that, although I do respect DC and all, Marvel is the superior company. I'm sorry to say it. By the way, did y'all know that Miles Morales is Jewish? Isn't that so cool? I thought it was awesome when they revealed that, though I suppose you would know that if you'd read the comics, wouldn't you, so maybe that means I'm not such a big fan, or not as big of a fan as I make myself out to be. I don't know. I mean, a Jewish Spiderman? Yes, just yes! Believe me, I am loving the representation, it's g-"

"Cyrus, man, stop it already. There's no need to make everything about representation, I don't understand why it's so important to you. Why should it matter? People are people, at the end of the day! Talk about some crap. Damn." Marty accompanied this with a shake of his head. "Some people these days, I swear to God. Chill out."

An unattractive beetroot color was the closest shade to describe the former's face at that moment. He wasn't angry at Marty, per se, but more at himself for letting it go too far, for focusing on himself and his own kind of representation which was entirely selfish-Marty's interruption had served as a stark reminder of this. Walker was there. What about him and his representation in regards to Miles Morales? That mattered just as much, didn't it, if not more. Yet here he was, being a stupid selfish prick in the way he always was.

TJ's first curled at his side and he looped his other arm around his close friend's shoulder in a defensive manner. "What the actual hell, Marty? He's just passionate about the representation in the movie. So what? He's allowed to be. Freedom of speech, remember? Cutting in was rude and unnecessary. Cyrus doesn't deserve to be treated like that, and yes, I know that he can stand up for himself-but he won't. I know he won't because he'll feel guilty and blame himself because of something you said. Because of you!" The guy punctuated his sentence by pointing his finger at Marty in a dramatic fashion. Marty, whose face vaguely resembled a tomato now, flipped him off.

"Listen here you little-" Out of nowhere, Buffy stepped back, her hands in the air. "Whoa, TJ. Marty. Chill out. We're talking about movies here. Marty, you shouldn't have been rude to him. Cyrus, you don't deserve that off my boyfriend here, I'm sorry. That was rude and uncalled for. As for you, TJ, you really shouldn't be pointing fingers at anyone considering how you used to treat others, no matter how admirable it is that you're defending my best friend. You did have some good, valid points, all the same-I'll give you that. Representation matters."

"Will you explain to Mr Party over here why it matters?" Cyrus queried, finding his voice again.

Buffy nodded. "Of course." Cyrus felt a hand on his shoulder. Andi.

"Ignore him, he can be a real ignorant asshole sometimes."

"Is Marty from the Party due his period, by any chance?" Amber stated, laughing.

"You gonna call out on that one?" Cyrus challenged Andi. She nodded, explaining no menace was meant towards trans girls, and Cyrus explained that even if not everything is about politics, offensive 'jokes' usually took things too far.

"I love Miles Morales," Walker reassured him with a warm smile. "I've always loved Spiderman, but to see someone who looks like me as him on the silver screen? It's empowering. Really, it is." He nodded along and listened, conscious of the green- eyed boy stood near him. Soon enough, it was time to walk into the movie and most of his friends had gone ahead without him.

"Wait!" Cyrus took his wallet out of his pocket and began fumbling about for his money. "I'm getting some candy floss." TJ volunteered to stay behind. Great, spending more alone time with his crush definitely wouldn't help his feelings for him grow.

"In fact, I'll get a bucket of candyfloss myself," TJ decided as they stood there in line, waiting to be served.

"Hello, sir, what will you be having today?" He sounded vaguely bored.

"Uhh...." He hadn't thought it through. Oops. He turned to the boy behind him. "What are you having?"

"Bubblegum-flavored candyfloss. Tell you what, you buy that, I'll get us a bucket of popcorn to share."

"Don't you want your own food?"

He waved it off. "I'm fine. Besides, I'm not even that hungry." Cyrus felt himself melt internally at his friend's kind act.

"If you insist."

"I do."

With that being said, he turned around and ordered his candyfloss, TJ ordering popcorn right after him. The cashier, a dude in his early thirties, smiled at them after charging TJ.

"It's sweet that you make decisions like that together as a couple, my girlfriend Roxanne and I are constantly bickering over that sort of thing. Bit petty, if you ask me, but there you go."

Cyrus paled. For goodness' sake. Was this seriously happening again? "Oh, um, uh-" He stammered, before his crush rescued him by answering instead.

"You have the wrong end of the stick, we're not an item. We're friends. Just friends."

Cyrus nodded along, feeling like an idiot. "Yeah, we are. You're mistaken. Sorry." The man smiled tightly, his embarrassment obvious.

"Right. My apologies, I misread the situation. Have a good day!"

"You too!" Cyrus called as TJ practically dragged him away from the food booth.

"What are you playing at?" He hissed. "Don't scowl at me like that, you get what I'm about it."

"No, I really don't. What do you mean? I was being friendly." You should try it some time, he though bitterly, but did not vocalize his thoughts out loud as he would only regret doing so.

"He'll get the wrong idea!"

"You were the one who grabbed my arm two seconds ago, and who wrapped your arm around my shoulder after Marty had a go at me."

He wasn't wrong, TJ contemplated. In fact, if anyone was making it obvious, it was himself. "Yeah, fair enough. I see your point, I'm sorry. It's getting repetitive and awkward, is all."

Cyrus laughed, his eyes sparkling like diamonds. Cyrus Goodman was more precious than any diamond, to TJ Kippen, as he gazed at him. "I'll say."

"It's frustrating."

"It is, but what's so shameful about the concept of us dating?"

"Nothing! Nothing at all, I don't want people thinking the wrong thing, though. Do you understand that?"

"Sure. What I don't understand is why you're being so controlling." TJ massaged his head in a way suggestive of him being stressed.

"I didn't mean to me. Please, can we go in here with our mutual friends and enjoy this movie? I'll try not to do that, I'm aware it probably makes you anxious."

"Fine. And, uh, thanks for the popcorn."

His laurel eyes widened like a character in a comic book or cartoon show. "The WHAT sorry?"

"The popcorn. What did you think I said?"

"Never mind, it's no-"

"TJ KIPPEN! Get your head out of the gutter, Mister!" Cyrus teased, nudging the boy.

"Okay," He smirked. "I'll try my best."

"Good, good. Let's not speak a word about someone assuming we're a thing, yeah?"

"Yeah," TJ said, finding the role reversal comical. "It won't happen again. It can't, not after the third time."

Of course, he would soon be proven wrong by the universe, which, needless to say, was setting them up to be humiliated two more times before all of the feelings it reminded the two boys of would finally come bubbling to the surface and come to a head.
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4. At School

On the following Monday, the captain of the Basketball Team was nowhere to be seen; he'd allegedly been ill with the cold on Sunday and was suffering from the same ailment today. Despite this excuse, several people weren't buying it. 'Several' meant Andi Mack, Buffy Driscoll, Cyrus Goodman, Marty from the Party and Jonah Beck.

"He did seem off to me on Saturday," Buffy mused, perceptive as ever. "Not ill off, though. More like off in the way he was acting."

"Yeah, I've noticed that." Andi said.

"He doesn't seem like the type to get ill easily," Jonah pointed out. The others nodded along while Goodman stood there, frozen on the spot. His loyalties lay more towards his closest friends; it would only be the right thing to tell them, yet he'd promised his crush he wouldn't.

"Maybe he's still angry about Saturday?"

"What do you mean, Marty?"

"When he was defending you because of what I said to you."

"About that. You still haven't apologized to me."

Marty shrugged. "What I said wasn't right, which I am sorry for, but I'm not sorry for having an opinion. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right."

Cyrus sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in despair, being his usual dramatic self.f "I never said freedom of speech wasn't important. It most certainly is, but within reason, I'd say. Like how they do things in the UK, where you have a lot of freedom of speech, but saying certain things can get you into trouble with the law, it's classified as 'hate speech'."

"We're not in the UK, so leave it." Buffy told him, shocking him into silence. It was natural that she would defend her boyfriend-but over her best friend? Seriously? Meanwhile, Andi and Jonah stood there, torn.

"Whatever, this is about TJ, not me. I'm really worried about him, if you must know."

"Of course you are. I wonder why that is?" Buffy glared at her boyfriend the second the words tumbled out his mouth, but it was too late to take them back.

"What are you implying?"

"Don't play dumb. You know what I'm implying, Goodman. Good luck with your little crush." He slammed his locker and stormed off. Andi spoke first.

"Buffy, what the HELL is wrong with him?"

She stood there and bit her lip, not sure how to articulate this. "He was recently kicked off the running team. Also, he's failing most of his subjects, except for Gym Class and Biology."

"No excuse for being horrible," Jonah said. Andi folded her arms.

"Exactly." She turned to her other best friend. "Cy, what do you think of this?"

"If I'd known, I would never have argued with him."

"It's too late."

"You think I don't know that?" Andi focused too hard on her phone, not used to her two best friends fighting. Jonah stared off into distance.

"Oh look, there's Walker! See you guys later!" After saying this, he proceeded to rush over to his signficant other.

"Have fun with TJ, seeing as you seem to enjoy hanging around him so much these days." Her words sounded snarky and bitter.

Cyrus' heart was beating hard. Wait, was Buffy jealous of his crush and how often they were hanging out with each other? They were friends, he had a right to worry about the guy. His recent behaviour had been nothing short of odd and uncharacteristic of him. If Cyrus Goodman didn't know what was up, nobody else stood a chance-except maybe for Mr and Mrs Kippen. Not all children were close with their parents, come to think of it-it was probable that the Kippen parents were unaware of how their son was being around his friends. People were different around their friends versus their family, too. Great. That meant possibly only the Not-So-Scary-Basketball-Guy knew what was wrong. If only he could find it in himself to open up to his peers, but no. Apparently not.

Abruptly, he was broken out his thoughts by the bell ringing, symbolizing the start of lessons; this would have to wait. After saying two rushed goodbyes to his best friends, he rushed off to class.

Tuesday, which was the following day, greeted him with a punch to the face-there his crush stood, looking as fit as a fiddle, stood talking to a pretty girl at his locker (which was opposite Cyrus'). Desperately attempting to ignore the flare of jealousy this sight had ignited, he picked his books up from his locker, deposited them onto his bag, and messaged Amber. She was wise, she understood the situation perfectly.
. He may or may not have called her for an hour to discuss it with her. She'd agreed to getting one of her gay male friends to pretend to flirt with him (seeing as TJ was already aware that Cyrus was gay and Amber was a lesbian). Leo Candor (what an ironic last name for what was going down, he observed) strolled over. They already knew each other-Leo did theater, and Cyrus wrote scripts for them.

"Hey, Goodman. How's things going?"

"They're good, they're good. Been busy?"

"Oh, you know, just thinking about cute boys?" Cyrus let out a giggle, and felt a pair of eyes on him. He hoped it was the right one.

"Like who?"

"A magician never tells their secrets."

"Cute boys aren't magic, they're angels." At this, Leo raised an eyebrow.

"Like who?"

"I think you know who."

"You might have to tell me." Leo teased, punching him in the arm. A pair of eyes was burning a hole into the back of his head, he could sense-this gaze was probably intense. It was TJ. Instinct told him this. He was about to progress the discussion they were having, but thought better of it as he saw Leo tense up-Leo was facing TJ's direction, and he was not. Sensing a situation coming on, he whispered, 'good luck' into Cyrus' ears, winked at him and walked off. He smiled to himself, daring to have hope (God forbid) and think that his crush may be interested in him.

"Hey," a voice uttered from behind him, sending shivers down his spine. He turned around and feigned surprise.

"Hey, Teej! I didn't notice you there. You're back from the dead!" The person who had approached him scowled and crossed his arms, not taking a liking to the joke.

"Hmm. So, are you two hanging out now?" His voice was oozing with jealousy.

Quick. Think, think, think. Thinking on his feet had never been Cyrus Goodman's most upstanding quality, but hey, here he was. "Theater, you know?" TJ nodded, looking slightly unconvinced. To be fair, it wasn't a complete lie. He tapped TJ on the chest. "Hey! I wanted to ask you something. Where were you yesterday?"

Kippen scowled. "What are you on about? I was at home, sick."

"Sick of being mistaken as my boyfriend, you mean?"

"Shh! Keep your voice down, for God's sake! Someone could overhear you and come to the wrong conclusions."

"What is so bad about people thinking we're together? I understand it makes you uncomfortable. But you seem embarrassed by me, so it's most likely for the best if-" the smaller boy's voice cracked-"if, for now, we don't hang out. Then it won't happen again."

Even he himself could not believe what was being said. Nausea threatened to overtake him, but he remained composed. In the meantime, TJ looked horrified at this suggestion. "Wait, that's not what I meant!"

Cyrus couldn't meet his eyes. "I think it's for the best. It's clear you're very conscious of your reputation, and I'd hate to taint that for you."

"Oh, so you're going to drop me like that because you think it's for the best? Or is it because it's convenient for you? You don't want to be mixed up with me because why hang out with me when you've got a guy you're interested in?"

"Sorry, what?"

"You and him. Leon."

"It's Leo," Cyrus corrected him quietly.

"Right, him. Leo. Perfect. Abandon one of your closest friends because you've got a boyfriend now-"

"Leo's not my boyfriend, we were talking. That's it. I don't know why you care anyway, when you're so adamant that we're not together. It's like you're jealous or something."

Crap, he'd been found out. Those words were like a punch to the stomach. TJ swallowed. "Of course not. You deserve to be happy."

"You're a hypocrite regardless, because you were talking to this girl-"

"Maria Walsh. She was asking me about our Spanish project. Stop acting like a jealous boyfriend!"

"What? I’m not," Cyrus scoffed, as if the mere suggestion of being jealous of a girl talking to the person whom he liked was ridiculous or absurd. Or the concept of dating him (which it kind of was, in his head) "As if I would be jealous of someone who I suspected was flirting with you. In fact, I would be happy for you."

"Would you?"

"Of course, I would! I doubt the sentiment is shared, though."

"I would be happy for you!"

"Okay, well if I was like-'I'm dating Leo now', how would you react?"

"I would be happy for you!" TJ repeated, out of frustration.

"No, you wouldn't."

"Why don't you believe me?"

"Fine! I do, I do believe you, you'd be happy for me, and I for you." Tears filled his eyes, and his voice softened. "Why are we arguing, Teej?"

"I don't know," came a reply a few seconds later, but not before he'd wiped his sleeve across his face. "I'm sorry that I ever let my ego get in the way of our friendship. Arguing isn't the way to resolve all this."

Cyrus nodded. "Which is exactly why I suggested we see a little less of each other. Of course, it's not what I want to do, but what we might need to do. I mean, we're arguing like an old married couple. If that couple had some issues they were going through. Friends shouldn't be arguing like that. It's not a healthy resolution to the problem."

TJ considered these words and weighed them up. Cyrus was a very wise person-having four parents who were all involved with psychology and asking people how they felt all the time must help someone gain that sort of knowledge. He hated arguing with his crush, and just wanted it to stop already. It was toxic, arguing in the way that they did-anyone with half of a brain could pick up on that. Not to mention, the boy he was falling for didn't understand how much affection he held towards him. If they were together, in the way that everyone assumed they were, this would make the relationship very difficult. God, he wished they were together-minus the arguments. Maybe occasional bickering at the most. Arguing could be healthy, but not like this. Yet, the thought of being wrenched apart from Cyrus, for the third time in his life, it hurt his heart more than he could ever articulate to anybody-it crushed him. So, that was why they called it a crush, was it?

"I know, but the thought of being away from you-it hurts me. A lot."

For some reason, his crush looked surprised at this. "It does?"

This was what drove TJ to tears. "Of course, Underdog. Are you serious? Your smile brightens any room you walk into. You are one of the kindest and most caring people I know-no, scratch that. You're the most caring person I know. You're funny, and fun, and there's nobody else I'd rather be misconstrued as being in a relationship, and this includes the most objectively attractive people in school, I would still choose you. Always."

Sobbing now, Cyrus flung his arms around TJ, who patted him on the back. "I'm sorry," he kept whispering. "I'm so sorry. I hope you know that it's the same here."

"We're both a bit of a mess now, aren't we?" They laughed. Several tissues and one agreement that they would still see each other, but for less time a day, it happened again. To seal the deal, they shook hands, but one of them-it could not be said who-held on to the other's song for a short while longer than was socially acceptable. At this moment, Gus, who was headed towards Math (lessons were starting in a minute or two; the teenagers had arrived at school early), spotted them together and that's when they were mistaken for being a couple for the fourth time.

"Aw, you two are adorable together! You make such a great couple." He beamed at them, all wholesome and friendly.

"JESUS CHRIST, WE'RE NOT TOGETHER!" Alarmed from being shouted out, Gus let out a mouse squeak and scurried off to his lesson.

"Wait, Gus!" Cyrus called out. The bespectacled redhead stopped in his path. "What he meant was, sorry but you are mistaken. We are not in a relationship with each other. I apologize for his lack of manners."

"Um, yeah, sorry for being rude to you, Gus. Have a good day."

"Bye, have a great day!"

"You too!" The boy called back to brown eyed boy, sounding perplexed.

"Damn, I need to work on my temper. Sorry, Cy."

Cyrus smiled at him; kindness visible in his eyes. "It's no problem. We should get going now, we don't want to be late for class, do we?"

"No, I suppose not. Mrs Advil hates me enough already." They started walking-they were down the same corridor, enabling them to walk to class together.

"Mrs Advil?"

"My chemistry teacher."

"That's a funny name."

"Yeah, it is."

"Why would she hate you?"

He shrugged. "I'm shit at science, I guess."

Goodman fake gasped. "Mr Kippen! Language!"

"English," he muttered as they reached the right corridor. Behind his hand, his friend stifled a giggle and he resisted the urge to kiss him right then and there.

"I'll see you later?"

"After school, maybe. Your idea was a good one, Underdog."

"I'm glad to hear it. I take it we shall not speak of you-know-what?" Funny, it had even gone as far as turning into another inside joke, the occurrence was that frequent.

"Yes, we shall not speak of you know what," TJ concluded with a mega-watt grin that made Cyrus' stomach do somersaults. "Bye, see you later!"

"Goodbye! I'll see you after school!"

They waved at one another, the basketball player disappeared to the other end of the corridor, and that was that. They would spend fifteen minutes a day together at school, sometimes less time, occasionally more. For the most part, their plan worked and people stopped thinking they were together. Until three weeks later, anyway, when the perpetrators would not be strangers or vaguely acquainted classmates, but their very own friends, and would be the last time they were ever mistaken as a couple.

Chapter Text

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?"

"Like what?"

"Oblivious."

"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?

"Very funny."

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?"

"What conversation?"

"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.

"Fine."

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.

They kissed.

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:

"Sure."

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."

"I am?"

"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?"

"Alright."

"Thanks."

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.

"Hey."

"You been avoiding me?"

"Never."

"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 do."

"Apparently so."

"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.

"Shut up."

"Make me."

"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.

"Who?"

"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?"

"Try again."

"Oh."

He chuckled.

"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."

"It isn't?"

"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.

"Thanks, Walker."

"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?"

"Kissing me."

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."

"Wait, TJ-"

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."

"How sweet."

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???"

"Um, no."

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."

"Why not?"

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.

"Perhaps."

"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?"

Chapter Text

Cyrus Goodman couldn't believe that he was seriously about to go through with this.

Now, he'd had his fair share of rebellion throughout the years: getting imprisoned with Andi, Buffy and Jonah, riding on Mr Baggs' golf cart with TJ (about a few weeks before they started getting mistaken as a couple) and even staying up past curfew once. But, never once had he headed to the house of the boy he liked in the middle of the night and thrown pebbles at his window in the pouring rain.

Until now.

"Maybe this isn't such a good idea, after all," he muttered to himself as the third pebble bounced off the window. Because he'd been over several times before, he knew that the front room at the top level was TJ's. Still, though. Perhaps, in hindsight, disturbing the boy by waking him up in the middle of the night was pretty is insensitive and rude of him.

He didn't know. In the movies, it was romantic, yet in real life this seemed to be a little stalkerish. Romantic gestures, though regarded by Cyrus as beautiful (when they went right), were not his thing. While waiting, he chewed his lips and considered his best friend's words.

She hadn't pressured him into trying to ask the basketball captain out; it was an independent decision. Earlier that day, he'd tried to get to the bottom of why he'd rejected the idea of dating the boy and quickly come to the realization that it was fear. TJ had taught him several things before, in a physical sense-how to stand up for himself (okay, so that one had failed and he'd had to step in), how to do a somersault, how to ride a motorbike-or whatever those motocross bikes were called.

In terms of life lessons, though, he'd taught him to leave his comfort zone and gain more confidence, in both himself and the things he did. If a baby bird wasn't pushed by its mother, it would never learn to fly.This newfound confidence extended to his relationships.

Fear shouldn't stop him from chasing after who or what he loved, and he was pretty sure he could say as much for TJ. Yes, they were young, so maybe that sounded unrealistic and stupid. Yet something inside him told him that this was important. That this was love, or would grow to be love. People were happy together. They argued. They raged. They hurt. They broke up. They forgave each other. They got back together. They healed. That was a natural progression of a relationship with a significant other. It shouldn't be feared, he'd decided that evening, but welcomed in open arms whenever the opportunity arised. Not if the feelings weren't returned, obviously, but if they were and it was safe for them to do so , then why not go for it?

He was glad that he'd gained some perspective on the situation. They'd kissed. Twice. And it was incredible both times, even though the second time was shorter than the first. It was no less sweet for it. It was difficult for Cyrus to believe that this was his life now. It had just turned eleven at night, as his watch had confirmed-which was the middle of the night to him-and he was drenched in rain. In his hand, he held a dozen small, pebbles which he was gently throwing up to his crush's window in a bid to get his attention.

When considering his options, he'd been stuck. He could have messaged or called him. Somehow, that option didn't ring true. He could have gone over after tea and discussed things with him, only he heard that he was having guests over for the evening-a bunch of his parent's music acquaintances, apparently. Now, they were gone-and he could attract the boy's attention. The concern that he could else up TJ's parents lingered at the back of mind, but he pushed it away.

Screwing his face up in concentration, Cyrus chucked yet another pebble at TJ's window-his fifth so far. As he watched, TJ's dark blue curtains swayed a little. He threw another pebble. That's when the curtains opened to reveal a very confused looking TJ Kippen.

"What the hell are you doing here?" He mouthed, scowling.

"I'm here to woo you." The taller of the two didn't seem to comprehend what was coming out of the mouth of the boy below him, and frowned. Sighing, Cyrus whipped his phone out and messaged him. He hadn't been anticipating this. TJ really was living up to the label of oblivious at the moment.

Here to woo you, he messaged him. He looked up at the blond, who was staring down at his phone, shocked.

His phone buzzed in his pocket. Were you throwing pebbles at my window?

Perhaps, was all he texted back.

"Wow." Kippen mouthed, miming a swooning motion. "Never before has someone done something do romantic for me. Wait there."

Doing as he was instructed to, Goodman shifted from one foot to another. What if his plan hadn't worked, and he'd gone off him? What if it went wrong and he said something messed up or that he didn't mean to say? What if he was rejected and told that it had all been an elaborate joke or prank?

However, he didn't have much time to contemplate this, as TJ had soon emerged, right in front of him, looking adorable with his mussed up, golden hair shining in the light radiating behind him (presumably the kitchen light had been turned on) and a dark green jacket layered over his pyjamas, matching perfectly. His eyes sparkled brighter than ever, although he did look tired.

"I'm sorry! Did I wake you up?"

He shook his head. "No, you didn't, don't worry about it." Seeing Cyrus' face, he added, "I was lay awake. Thinking about you, actually."

He couldn't think of how to respond to that. "Cool." In the dark, the glow of his cheeks seemed more obvious than ever, despite the fact that, of course, he couldn't tell for certain.

"Why did you come here?" TJ asked, his voice gentle. He moved closer to Cyrus.

"I told you, to win you over."

"What made you change your mind?"

He smiled. "If there's anything that you've taught me, it's that sometimes people need to do what scares them the most for the better. To quote what you told me earlier (the best I can), '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.' Dating you, when I like you more than you can even imagine, isn't shoving me off a cliff. It's giving me a gentle push out of my comfort zone, the way you've always made me do."

At first, the boy he had kissed previously that day stood there, his eyes glinting with the tears. "You mean that?"

"Of course." His voice was soft. "Buffy, of all people, told me to follow my heart and not my head when it came to you. And, every time, my heart leads me back to you."

"Oh, Cyrus," TJ whispered, stepping closer to him, so close that Cyrus could see the raindrops-or tears, he wasn't sure-on his eyelashes.

"I know we're young, and that we're both terrified of what people would think of two boys being in a relationship together. But, we've got to ignore that if this is what we really want. Our safety is important, of course it is. I've got a feeling you can stand up for the both of us, though."

TJ smiled. "And you'd be right. I really, really like you, Cyrus. You're smart, you're funny, you're kind, caring, interesting, adorable and an all round amazing guy. Come to think of it, you've the best person I've ever met. Any guy would be lucky to have you, but if I could be him, I'd be over the moon." The brown eyed boy stared up into the sky, where the moon glowed in all its radiant beauty.

"It would be pretty hard to position yourself over the moon, Kippen." This earned him a playful nudge.

"You know what I mean."

"I do. I can say the same about you-you're talented, you're athletic, you're good-looking, you're loads of fun to be around and you are one of the kindest people I've ever met."

"Wow. How did I get this lucky? What did I do to deserve this?"

"You came out of your shell and became a good person. Well, you always were one."

TJ smirked. "And all to think, that happened because I'm gay. If I hadn't fallen for you, I wouldn't have tried to better myself as a person."

"Oh right, so you're gay?" Cyrus checked. "Not bi or pan or anything?"

TJ shook his head. "No, I tried to be into girls, but it didn't click, if that makes sense. I wasn't going to force it. I respect women, as people, but I could never imagine loving them."

"Okay, that makes sense, I didn't want to assume anything, that's all. I totally get that. I'm the same. I mean, I'm gay, too." Breath quickening, TJ grabbed Cyrus' hands and placed them into his own.

"I'm sorry for freaking out when people assumed we were a couple, Underdog. I thought I had to be the person they expected me to be, which includes heterosexual when you're a star athlete. I was scared for my safety, but largely yours, too. I hope you can understand that, and where I was coming from. I also didn't want you thinking I was into you, I was so certain that the feeling wasn't mutual."

"Well, it is."

"I think our two kisses confirmed that," the athlete pointed out. They both laughed.

"You've got a point there, Teej. They were amazing."

"They really were."

"It helps that you're amazing at kissing people." When he heard this, TJ rubbed his thumb along his crush's palm. None of this felt real. This whole day had been too surreal for him to take it all in.

"Are you sure I'm not dreaming?"

"Positive." Cyrus pinched him. He winced in pain.

"Nope, not dreaming. For the record, you're an amazing kisser, too. I thought I was going to combust on the spot when you kissed me." They laughed again.

"Well, I'm glad you didn't."

"So am I." TJ paused, as Cyrus traced his face with his thumb. "Does this mean that you'll go out with me?"

Tears sprung to Cyrus' eyes. "Absolutely."

"Are you sure?"

"Are you kidding me? Yes! I've never been so sure of anything else in my life, ever."

"Are we boyfriends, then?" TJ confirmed, more awkward than usual.

"I would love that."

"You do mean all of this, right?"

Cyrus laughed, filled to brim with joy and love, high on the feeling. "Don't you know, TJ Kippen? I love you."

Wow. He really just said that, didn't he? That big, dramatic declaration was out there. It held so much significance for a string of three small words. Most of all, they were true. At this point, they were both crying, tears running freely down their faces and mingling with the rain pouring down them. They were both pretty emotional for guys, he thought, but that was alright. It made them clearer to understand, at least.

"I love you too, Cyrus," TJ told him between sobs.

They didn't have much else to say to each other. Given that, they didn't speak. They were past words. Slowly, Cyrus leaned in and pressed his lips to his boyfriend's heart rate out of control. In an instant, TJ kissed him back, dipping him low as a call back to the kiss they'd shared earlier that day. As the rain poured down, they wrapped their arms around each other. The rest of the world melted away; nothing mattered in that moment, except for each other. This kiss was different to the two from earlier, both of which had been tentative and not quite as self assured as this. Cyrus felt electrified, like his body was full it and emitted light. TJ came close to combusting again; he thought he was going to explode, having his boyfriend's soft, warm lips on his. Thrilled, he pulled him in closer and stroked the back of his neck lovingly. This kiss was perfect, fiery and passionate-they never wanted this moment to end.

Sadly, it did, and they both emerged for air. The taller of the two pressed his forehead to the other boy's, both of them smiling.

"That was exhilarating."

"You're telling me."

Loved up and absolutely ecstatic, they kissed again, for longer this time. Fireworks would not have done this justice-sparks were flying for miles. Once they broke apart and caught their breathe, not saying anything to each other, they kissed one last time. Cyrus was already addicted to the feeling of TJ's lips moving against his, and the tender way they embraced during this.

"We should probably stop," Cyrus pointed out after they broke apart again. "I don't want either of us to develop frostbite out here in this rain."

TJ chuckled. "Isn't rain meant to be romantic?"

"Not if it gives you a cold, you idiot." He got smacked on the head in friendly manner.

"It would be totally worth it. Besides, you love me for it really."

Cyrus grinned at that, and TJ decided in that moment that he would do anything to see the boy smile in such a way. "Of course I do. That's why I kissed you in the first place."

"No, really? I hadn't gathered." He quipped, sarcasm lacing his voice. He looked to the heavens. "The rain is coming down hard, you're right."

"I'm always right."

"Huh. We'll see about that, Underdog." A light appeared upstairs and Cyrus' boyfriend clasped his hand urgently. "Listen, I've got to go now, but I really want to see you tomorrow."

"As do I. I keep forgetting it's Friday night, tonight has been that long."

"I know, right? Tell me about. What do we do? I've got work."

Cyrus contemplated this, hand on cheek. "How about I come along to work with you? If your boss doesn't mind, that is."

"Of course she doesn't, she likes you." TJ told Cyrus. "Because I adore you, and the kids do, she does by default. Of course you can go to work with me tomorrow."

"Great!" He jumped and hugged the boy, whispering in his ear that he had missed him. TJ confirmed that he'd missed him, too, and couldn't be more glad about what had happened.

"You're best heading off before my parents throw a fit, Cy."

Cyrus' smile was sheepish. "Sorry about that. It was worth it, though."

"Agreed. Wait, did you sneak out?"

"Maybe." TJ's jaw dropped, then he composed himself.

"I'm proud of you for that. Doing something you never have before."

"Yeah, well, if my parents find out, I'm dead. It still will have been worth it, despite that."

"Just make sure you don't get into too much trouble, okay?"

He nodded. "Okay."

They hugged for a long time-they couldn't tell you how long-and it was like returning home for the first time after being home sick. "I'd best go home now. I love you, Teej."

"Love you too, Underdog." Acting on impulse, the smaller boy stood on his tiptoes and pecked his boyfriend on the cheek.

"Bye, I'll see you tomorrow at ten. Meet me at the Spoon?"

"Sounds perfect. Bye, Cyrus!" He blew him a kiss and waved, watching him disappear in the dark and thinking about how he must be the luckiest guy alive.
....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The following day, TJ Kippen stood awaiting his boyfriend anxiously. His boyfriend. God, that would take a lot of getting used to. Last night's events were like a fever dream. Although his parents had chastised him for going out in the rain, they were relatively lenient with him. Cyrus had messaged him at eight, telling him that his parents never discovered what he'd been up to behind their backs. Yet, he'd stressed, ever the pessimist. TJ had reassured him and got ready to meet him and go to work. He was wearing one of his favourite hoodies and a little too much cologne, a futile attempt to look presentable for the boy he was dating.

He was so lost in his own thoughts, he didn't notice him approach, but when he did, his face lit up. "Cyrus, my man!" They hugged for a fraction of the time they had the previous night.

"Teej, looking good!" Cyrus smiled. "Always looking good."

"I know."

"You're not supposed to say that, you're meant to be all modest about it."

"Yeah? Well, maybe I'm done caring about what everyone else tells me that I'm supposed to be doing."

"Good for you." Cyrus adjusted the hem of his shirt. "How do I look?"

"Angelic, as per usual."

"Aw, that's too kind of you."

"Hey, I'm only stating the truth." He watched with bemusement as his boyfriend blushed.

"Thanks. You have almost an hour until you need to go into work, right?"

"Right."

"Then you'll have enough time for a nice milkshake, correct?"

TJ's face split into a grin. "Correct. I thought you'd never ask, Underdog."

One hour, one shared chocolate milkshake and two straws later, they were walking to the gym, close enough that their hands were brushing but not too close to suggest that they were a couple.

"TJ!" All the kids shouted in glee, running head first at him.

"Oomph! Hey, kids. I've brought a special guest with me today who you've all met before. Say hi to Cyrus!" Their gazes turned to him. He waved at them, shy all of a sudden.

"Hi everyone!"

"Cyrus! We missed you!" A red haired girl exclaimed with a squeal. He'd forgotten how sweet and innocent children of their age could be.

"Is TJ your boyfriend?"

"He used to write TJ Kippen-Goodman when he was doodling on the back of the register!"

TJ's cheeks burned up. "That's a blatant lie!"

No, it wasn't. He had, in fact, done that several times before. "Is that so?" Cyrus was asking the children. They all nodded in eerily perfect unison. To snap them out of it and stop them revealing embarrassing things he said or did, he clapped his hands and announced that he was about to take the register.

The next few hours whizzed past in a blur. Layton and Ara both kept getting stuck on the climbing net, and he'd had to peel them off it with a sigh. Cyrus was attempting to use a hula hoop, much to the encouragement of approximately half a dozen of the kids, but he almost tripped up-he'd had to get over there and make sure that his boyfriend was alright, only leaving when he knew that he was fine. He'd had to hold a five-year-old's hand as they walked off a beam and teach another how to crab walk while his significant other giggled behind his hands and pretended like he hadn't. At one point, Cyrus managed to perform a somersault, unassisted, and the two teenage boys had high fived, but the blond had linked their fingers for several seconds and winked at him, then moved along to some kids doing star jumps. To top it all off, they'd finished off the session with TJ, being the athlete he was, performing several backflips and somersaults for the bunch of eager little ones. Cyrus had ran forward and congratulated him, squeezing his hand with a surprising tenderness.

Now, it was one in the afternoon and their time at the gym was over. "Say goodbye to Cyrus, everyone!"

"Goodbye!" They all called.

"We'll miss you, Simon!"

"It's Cyrus, silly billy!" One of the older boys corrected his younger brother.

"Bye, Cyrus!"

"Tee-jay?" A little blonde girl asked, tugging onto his jacket.

"Yes?"

"Do you promise to bring him back? He was so fun, he taught us a swing song and a slide song and we did hula hoop and somersaults and cartwheels and it was awesome!" Murmurs of assent rose among the group.

"Yes, he's great!" Cyrus thanked them all.

"You're such a cute couple!" Lara, a little girl, stated.

"They are!" Mikey, a six-year-old-boy agreed, jumping up and down and clapping his hands in an excitable manner.

Cyrus turned to TJ, who nodded his approval at him. "Thank you, that's a very kind thing for you to say."

"It's true!"

"Thanks everyone!" TJ replied, retreating in the back to discuss something with his boss. Several seconds later, he was shoving a couple of twenties into his pocket. They said their final goodbyes and exited the building, and TJ's boss waited for their parents with them.

Cyrus smiled at his boyfriend. "That was fun."

"I agree. It was." There was a pause that filled the air as they looked both ways and crossed the road together.

"Can we do it again some other time?"

"Sure. Sounds good to me. Oh, and-" TJ winked at Cyrus-"milkshakes are on me next time."

"You don't have to do that."

"But I want to, because I care about you. A lot."

"I care about you a lot too, which is why I don't want you burning your cash on me."

"Cyrus, look at me." He did so. "It's fine."

"Oh, okay. But I'm spending money on you next time."

"There, that's more like it."

Cyrus answered him with a laugh, prompting TJ to ask him what was funny.

"Just you," he whispered into his ear, his hot breath on TJ's neck and his mouth tickling his ear.

"The kids were right." TJ's mouth moved upwards into a mega watt grin. "We are a cute couple."

"The cutest."

Glancing around them, Tj looped an arm around his boyfriend's shoulder. "How does the park sound?"

"Sounds perfect to me."

Right there, in that moment, they were both happier than they had ever been, knowing that their love was returned. The young couple would get through it all together: the highs, the lows, everything. Best of all, they would never be mistaken as a couple again when they weren't, because they stayed together for their rest of their lives.

And it had only just begun.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure we should go through with it?"

TJ Kippen rolled his eyes and took his boyfriend's hands into his own. In part, this was done to calm him down. It also prevented him from pacing up and down frantically and biting his nails. "For the thousandth time already, yes. They'll have it figured out regardless if we haven't told them by the end of next week." Cyrus squeezed his hand like a stress ball and nodded.

"That's true. Tomorrow morning, then, at the Spoon?"

"Yes," he said, frustrated. "How hard can it be, at the end of the day?"

"Well, I'm sorry for this being a big deal for me." The dark-haired boy told his boyfriend as he gripped one of the chains on the swings too tight, a thinly veiled layer of hurt hiding under his sarcastic tone. Sometimes, TJ really underestimated how nerve-wracking even the smallest of tasks could be for him, let alone telling his friends about the first guy he'd ever dated. Yes, they'd probably suspected that they were together by now, but that didn't mean they couldn't officially announce it to them.

Seeing the hurt flit across Cyrus' face, the blond stopped in his tracks, his face softening. "I'm sorry, Cy. You know I didn't mean it like that. I'll try to be more understanding about your anxiety in the future, I promise." He accompanied this by stroking his thumb across the boy's hand.

He shrugged. "It's okay. I know you're learning still, and I'm used to people underestimating or disregarding it anyway. That's just what it's like to be me."

The corners of TJ's lips turned downwards into a frown. "Well, it shouldn't be. People should be more understanding of you."

Those words brought out a little smile in him. "Thanks, Teej."

"No problem. Now, what do you say we head over to the bakery and pick up a batch of fresh baked chocolate chocolate chip muffins?" His grin lit his face up.

"That sounds perfect to me," he said, and off they went, just another happy couple out on a late afternoon walk, mentally steeling themselves for what they were about do the very next day.

"Then I was like, that's amazing!"

Cyrus nodded along as Andi told him about an art friend of hers, the closest friend she'd made at SAVA-Jenny, he recalled-discovering that she was about to become an older sister. "It is! I bet she's excited."

"She is, for sure! That's big news," she pointed out. Boy, do I have some big news for you (and everyone else here), the boy thought. Yet the words got stuck at the back of his throat. He fixed a tight smile on his face and glanced over to the next table at his boyfriend, who was currently arm wrestling with Buffy and winning, despite Marty (the commentator) claiming otherwise, and arguing with the referee, Jonah, about it. Amber and Walker were sketching together on opposite ends of this table to them. It was a peaceful scene.

That was, until TJ officially thrashed his best friend at the arm wrestling match. "No fair!" she complained, competitive as ever and acting like a petulant child who'd just been denied a shiny new toy. "Your hands are bigger than mine! How am I supposed to win when your hands are elephantine?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Elephantine? That's a rather impressive word to come out of a loser's mouth, Driscoll."

Sipping on his chocolate milkshake, amused, he watched Marty and Buffy proceed to bicker with TJ, while Jonah tried his best to mediate and prevent a genuine argument from arising. "Boys, eh?" Amber muttered to Andi, who murmured her agreement and gave her girlfriend the most lovesick puppy eyes Cyrus had ever seen. He turned away. TJ caught his eye and smirked in acknowledgement.

Once the dispute had been settled, all was serene again; nobody else was present in the Spoon at that particular time, what with it being so early on in the morning. Walker and Amber seemed satisfied with their artwork, and a lull had appeared in his conversation with Andi. Taking a deep breath, he pushed his chair back and tapped a spoon against the side of his drink. "I have an important announcement to make!" TJ gazed at him, confused, and he amended himself, gesturing for the boy to stand with him. "We've got an announcement to make." They held the entire group's full attention now.

"Go on, Cyrus!" Andi yelled. "You've got this!" He shot her a grateful smile and continued.

Andi, Buffy, Jonah, Amber, Walker, Marty. We've got something big to tell you all..." Smiling, he turned to his boyfriend, who nodded at him reassuringly.

"Oh my God, you're pregnant with TJ's baby, aren't you?" This was punctuated by an overly dramatic gasp.

"I swear to God, Martin-"

"It's Marty from the Party. You should know that, Driscoll." He shook his head in despair and turned to the couple. "So, when's the baby due?"

"MARTY!" Naturally, he didn't get the memo and back down.

"No baby, then?"

"No baby!" They confirmed.

"Alright. So, you're getting married and moving to Spain, right?"

Cyrus sighed. "Marty..."

"Am I invited to the wedding?"

TJ gritted his teeth. "Not at this rate, you're not."

"Who invited him?" Andi asked.

"I don't know, but never again." Buffy groaned, banging her head on the table she was sat on.

Feeling as anxious as ever, Cyrus cleared his throat to bring the attention back to him. "On a more serious note, TJ and I are dating. What do you guys think of this?"

A silence descenced among the group. TJ grabbed Cyrus' hand to drive the point home.

"You are?" Jonah, the first person to break the silence, wondered out loud.

Both boys nodded at the same time. "Congratulations! I'm so happy for you both!" Amber articulated.

"As am I," Walker added with a small nod of approval.

"I can't say I'm surprised in the slightest," Marty deadpanned.

That was fair enough. They'd hardly been subtle over the course of the week, giving each other warm smiles and affectionate looks the entire time. Which hadn't been very long. But still.

"You're together? Like, you're a couple now?" Andi checked.

"Yep," Cyrus confirmed with a chuckle. His nerves had largely abandoned him. Only Buffy was left to contribute. She was zoning in on their hands, her facial expression unreadable. That girl would probably win a game of Poker with ease, he observed.

"Buffy?" TJ prompted. "What do you think about the two of us getting together?"

She grinned. "So you finally listened to my advice, dumbass." Everyone laughed at this. "I'm happy for you both, of course."

"As is everyone here, I think it's safe to say," Andi commented. Murmurs of assent rose among the members of the group. TJ kissed Cyrus' hand. They all surged towards the couple, moving as one, and enveloped the overjoyed couple into a group hug.

"I love you," TJ mouthed to Cyrus over everybody else's heads.

"I love you too," Cyrus mouthed back. And it was true. As it turned out, it always would be.

They were happier than they'd ever been before now that their friends were made aware of their relationship, and for the time being, that was all that mattered in the world.