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Pillow Talk (Boyf Riends)

Chapter Text

Jeremy's knee jiggled as he pressed the buttons on the DS. He looked up every now and then to check if Michael was asleep. He was out, non-communicative, and just... gone, but he wasn't asleep. Jeremy sighed and puffed his hair out of his face and continued whacking at the buttons. Michael had been talking in his sleep since at least fourteen; he hadn't found out yet, but It was always Jeremy's favourite part of a sleepover. Michael always said the funniest things in his sleep; secrets, one's people have told him. Like when he found out Jenna was gay. Or that Michael was blackmailing Rich because he caught him watching gay porn with Jake. He'd never heard any of Michael's but he was content with what he was getting. Jeremy's eyes started blurring from exhaustion and staring at the screen for so long. He put it down, sighed and rubbed his eyes. Then he heard the mumbling.

He eagerly shut the DS off and looked toward Michael. Michael seemed to have stopped. He was sleeping, his eyes were shut and light snores were coming out of his mouth. Jeremy grinned. No homo or anything (okay, all the homo), but Michael was... kinda cute. Especially when he slept. Okay, that was creepy. He smirked slightly when he heard Michael start up his mumbling again. One word. Over and over. Not... in any specific way, just the word. At first, Jeremy couldn't hear what it was. His words were muffled by his pillow. Then Michael rolled over a little and he heard it.

"Jeremy."

That was it. Nothing else. Just Jeremy's name over and over. He looked at him in confusion. Michael just rolled on his side and continued muttering Jeremy's name. Then he began to mutter something else. Jeremy was frustrated. Why couldn't Michael sleep talk clearly? Then he turned again. And Jeremy heard every word perfectly.

"Jeremy... I'm in love with you."

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-SHORT AND SWEET. I swear, it won't be so short for the remaining chapters. I just wanted to get this up and over with. Thanks for reading!

-Kieran-

Chapter Text

Michael's dream wasn't so much a dream as a flashback. Three important memories, all involving Jeremy.

The first, when they met in kindergarten. Michael was clutching at his mothers Walkman, the tape rolling over and the song blasting out of the headphones. But he wasn't listening to it. He was shrinking into the corner, trying to avoid the bully. He pushed up his glasses, too big for his face, and looked up at his bully nervously. The kid pulled at his hoodie and teased. Suddenly, a tiny beanpole of a kid was standing in front of him, glaring. He pulled back his leg... and kicked the bully hard in the shin. The bully ran off, and the other kid turned to him and grinned. He was missing his two front teeth, and he had a smattering of freckles on his nose.

"Hi." He said brightly. "I'm Jeremy."

Michael just looked at him. He just watched this kid kick someone twice his size, how did he know he could trust him? Jeremy frowned at him for a minute, then smiled again.

"Oh, are you worried about the nasty kid still? Don't worry, I'll protect you." he looked at Michael's Walkman. "Cool, I have one of those too! My daddy gave it to me."

Michael slowly smiled. He walked closer to Jeremy, offering the headphones. Jeremy took them, surprisingly gentle for someone who could apparently kick like a mule. He slid them on briefly, and grinned wider, his eyes shining.

"Hey, I love this band!" Michael giggled and took the headphones back off him, switching off the Walkman and sliding the headphones back around his neck.

"Michael." he said quietly.

The next memory was years later. He and Jeremy were sitting in his basement, eighth grade, thirteen years old. They were gaming on Michael's console, and Michael snuck a look over at Jeremy. He was hunched over, brow furrowed, tongue sticking out in concentration. He was pressing the buttons so hard Michael thought they'd stick. Michael grinned. Then snapped his head back to the game as he nearly died. Then, randomly, Jeremy paused the game.

"Jer, what are you doing?" Michael asked, dropping his controller on his lap.

"Michael, i have something really important to ask you." he said, meeting Michaels eyes seriously.

Michael tilted his head. "Oh?"

Jeremy took in a shaky breath.

"M-Michael... are you gay?"

Michael's breath caught in his throat. How had he guessed? Jeremy's eyes widened as he took in Michael's look.

"I-It's okay if you are. I mean, I won't tell anyone. And if anyone does find out, I'll kick their ass if they make fun of you." Jeremy took in another breath. "Plus... I'm bi."

Michael felt his face heat up, nodding. Jeremy grinned.

"That's great. Now you don't have to hide it from me. We're both gay losers."

Michael burst into a fit of laughter so intense he started crying. When he stopped, he grinned at his best friend. "Thanks, dude."

Jeremy looked serious again.

"Hey, it's no problem. I love you, okay? You're my best friend." His face split into a grin. "Now, we have a level to beat."

The game was unpaused, but Michael couldn't focus. All he could hear was his heart pounding and Jeremy's words in his ears.

'I love you.'

Then the last. The only painful of the three. Sitting in Jake's bathroom at his party, sobbing and out of breath. He felt numb; Jeremy had just called him a loser. Not in the joking way they'd usually done either, he was deadset serious. Jeremy was an asshole now, he'd gotten what he wanted, but that, unfortunately, didn't involve Michael. He'd wasted twelve years, three nursing an intense crush, all for nothing. He heard the knocking, muttering to himself,

"Fuck off." The knocking got to him, so he called, "I'll be out soon."

He stood and splashed his face, then opened up the door. No one was there. He just sighed, and left the house.

His eyes snapped open. Jeremy was looking at him intensely.

"Oh, good, it worked." he said cheerfully.

Michael stared at him in confusion. Jeremy looked sheepish.

"I woke up about an hour ago really hungry. I tried to use the force to wake you up."

Michael snorted and hit him with a pillow.

"Get up dork. I'll make some food." He felt around for his glasses and slid them onto his nose.

Jeremy was already out the door. "If it's that shitty ass cereal your mother bought you, I'll puke."

Michael threw something at him.

"You'll take whatever the fuck I give you, twink."

Jeremy dodged it and laughed, sliding down Michael's bannister. Since Jeremy had failed this once before and broken his ankle, Michael had a small heart attack. But Jeremy succeeded.

"Don't do that, idiot!" Michael shrieked. (Yes, shrieked. Jeremy gets Michael emotional.)

Jeremy just made a very rude gesture and sauntered into the kitchen.

"Get in here, I'm hungry." he shouted.

Michael grinned and rolled his eyes.

God he loved this idiot.

Chapter Text

What the hell was he meant to say? What was he meant to do? He wasn’t even one hundred percent sure who’s secret it was. He’d never heard one of Michael’s, it definitely wasn’t Jenna’s or Rich’s, and it probably wasn’t Christine’s… He cringed as he remembered their break up.
He’d been awkwardly fiddling with his phone when she came over to him. He’d asked her to meet him in the mall an hour ago, and Michael was milling around somewhere close by, looking at some video games. She beamed and threw her arms around him.
“Jeremy! You wanted to talk to me?”
She was adorable and he felt infinitely bad for what he was about to do. He stepped back and watched her face fall. He looked down.
“Look… I-I-I-I…” He cringed and took in a deep breath. “I do really like you, Christine. It’s just…” he bit his lip and looked at her. “I think I’m into someone else. I… I thought it wouldn’t be fair to you if I continued dating you when I’m into him.”
Christine looked at him, then over to Michael, who beamed and waved. She waved back with a small smile.
“It’s him, isn’t it?” she asked softly, looking back at him.
Jeremy turned a bright red and she sighed with a nod.
“That’s fine. You’re not into me. You didn’t cheat on me either, so…” she smiled at him and pecked him on the cheek. “I’ll see you round, Jeremy.”
Jeremy grabbed her hand as she went to walk away.
“I still want to be friends…” he started, but she held up a hand.
“We will.” She smiled and walked away with a wave.
He sighed.
The ride home was awkward and he’d had to tell Michael, who was shocked.
“You pined after her for years, and now you’ve just dropped her?”
He tried to shut him up, but he just kept talking.

He was brought back to earth with a twist of the ear.
“OW OW OW JEEZ MICHAEL!”
Michael laughed at him and slid the plate closer to him.
“Breakfast is served.” Michael frowned suddenly. “You okay?”
Jeremy rubbed his ear.
“I was thinking about Christine.” He said quietly.
Michael frowned.
“Why? She’s okay, right?”
Jeremy shrugged. “I think I made her cry. She sounded sniffly when I called her later that night.” He frowned. “Then she got all mad when she heard you ask me if I wanted a pizza.”
Michael frowned and shrugged. Jeremy was beginning to zone out again when Michael’s phone blared from his pocket.
“Hold up, dude.” He answered it. “Hello…? Who’s this?” There was a pause. Suddenly, Michael turned bright red. “What? Y-Y-You… Me? Yea. Yea okay. See you then.” Michael put his phone down. “Dude… You know that guy who sits behind me in math?”
Jeremy nodded. He was cute, but he was dopey and he’d forgotten his name. Was it… Ethan?
“Well… I’ve got a date on Saturday.” Michael’s eyes were shining. Or it could have been the lenses to his glasses.
Jeremy frowned. “He asked you on a date?”
Michael looked deflated and Jeremy tensed.
“That’s not what I meant…”
“Then what did you mean?” Shit, now Michael was mad at him…
Jeremy sighed.
“I mean… I’ve never even heard him ask for a pencil. He’s practically a mute and he shrunk away when I smiled at him. Where did he get the courage to ask you on a date?”
Michael shrugged and pouted. God he was so adorable…
“Don’t care. I’m going.” He said, turning back to what he was making.
Jeremy felt his heart sink. He couldn’t have honestly thought… He felt mad at himself. Someone beat him to it. He frowned and sighed. Michael looked at him weirdly, then shrugged. A sharp pain ripped itself through Jeremy’s head. It was very familiar… He stood up so fast that the chair flew across the room.
“I need to pee. I’ll be right back.” He ran out, not waiting for an answer.
A series of sharp pains wracked through his body. He bit down on his hand to keep from crying out.
SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT WHY IS THIS HAPPENING???
“Because there’s someone you want, Jeremy. And you want to win him over.” His Squip said with a calm certainty.

Chapter Text

That was weird. His eyes followed Jeremy as he ran out, then his mind wandered.
Why had he accepted that date?
Sure, Ethan was cute, and Michael was into him, but he liked Jeremy more. He’d been into Jeremy since the day he’d come out of the closet. Or, more accurately, pulled out. Forcefully. By a scrawny, fourteen year old Jeremy. Michael chuckled to himself a little.
“Christ on a damned boat.” He muttered.
Jeremy stumbled back in and sat back down. Except he missed. And smacked hard down on the floor. Michael laughed. He sat up and frowned at something in the corner. He fixed the chair and spun it around, sitting on it backwards. Michael raised an eyebrow.
“What are you doing?” he asked with a small giggle.
Jeremy turned red, then flinched harshly.
“I can’t help it.” He muttered firmly to himself. Then turned a brighter red.
Michael totally didn’t notice how the red made those freckles he’d nearly outgrown stand out. He also totally didn’t notice in that moment how adorable Jeremy was.
While he was busy not noticing these things, he also didn’t notice Jeremy had said something.
“I- uh- wha?”
Jeremy grinned and shook his head. “I asked if you wanted to do something today.”
Michael nodded.
“Sure. What did you have in mind?”
Jeremy shrugged and pushed his hair out of his face. He smiled sheepishly at Michael.
“I was hoping you’d think of something.” He said.
Michael laughed and threw a paper towel at him. Jeremy watched it flutter and fall in front of him.
“Why do you like to throw shit at me?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Michael shrugged. He turned around and threw something else at him over his shoulder. He grinned as he heard Jeremy yelp where it would have hit him, then shout out. Michael turned to him. He had tears in his eyes.
“Seriously, dude. You’re acting really weird. Are you okay?”
Jeremy nodded and put a hand on his back. He stood and stretched a little, and Michael frowned. Something weird was going on…
“Let’s just stay in and play video games.” Michael shrugged.
Jeremy grinned and leaned against the bench.
“That sounds great.”
Michael stared at him. He sounded weird. Something in his voice had changed. Was he… flirting with him?
“Do you need a drink? Or a joint?” he asked.
Jeremy’s eyes widened.
“No!” he said, sounding panicked. Then he coughed into his hand. “I mean, it’s like ten in the morning.”
Michael grinned at him, despite the growing feeling of worry in his stomach.
“It’s happy hour somewhere, my friend.” He grabbed Jeremy’s sleeve an pulled him up. “I’m going to get you high out of your mind.”

“Mikkeeey..”
Here we go. Jeremy only called him that when he was high. Now he was most definitely trying to flirt with him.
“You’re really pretty, Mikey.” He grinned at him and leaned closer.
Michael was starting to get a little buzzed himself, so he smiled back. Still sober enough to rebuff Jeremy’s efforts, he pushed him back slightly.
“You say that to everyone when you’re high.”
Jeremy shook his head.
“But I mean it. You’re pretty. I love you, Mikey.” Jeremy curled up on the basement floor and put his head in Michael’s lap.
Within a few seconds, he was out cold. Michael swallowed deeply, running his hands through Jeremy’s hair. He couldn’t count the times he’d done this, all while Jeremy was high or drunk. Jeremy never seemed to remember, although it was mostly when he was asleep. His hair was soft and thick, and slid through Michael’s fingers. Michael’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he stopped, pulling it out. A text. It was from his brother.
‘Yo. Michael. I’m hungry.’
He scowled. His brother interrupted him for this? His phone buzzed again.
‘Are you getting high?’
Michael sighed and turned off his phone, resuming what he was doing. He heard a call down from the top of the stairs.
“Michael!” his brother.
Michael groaned. “Make your own food.”
A curse was thrown at him and the door closed. He continued running his hands through Jeremy’s hair and smoking his joint.
Jeremy was adorable when he slept. He curled up, clutching onto the first thing he could grab, which was the beanbag Michael was sitting on. His mouth was open slightly, and he was drooling. Michael smiled.
Maybe he should cancel that date.

Chapter Text

He remembered the yelling, but didn’t know where it was coming from. Plus, he couldn’t understand it. One minute, it would be English, the Spanish, and then Japanese and so forth. And, let’s be honest, he was so high he probably imagined it. He remembered curling up on the floor and sitting down, then he fell asleep.
He was half awake now, and he could feel something sliding through his hair. He liked the way it felt, so he kept his eyes closed in fear it would stop. It stopped anyway, so he yawned and sat up. Michael was making his way through a joint, the same or a different one, he didn’t know. He was watching him, and then grinned.
“You drooled on my leg.” He pointed to a dark mark on his knee.
Jeremy wiped his mouth, embarrassed. His phone started buzzing, so he took it out of his pocket. Rich was calling.
“Hello?”
“Yo, homo. Everyone’s coming over on Saturday. You and Michael in?” he was too loud, and Jeremy wasn’t quite sober enough to tolerate it. He winced.
He looked at Michael, and he shrugged. “I’m in.” Then he paused. “Only if it’s after lunch, though.”
Right, that stupid date with the dopey shy kid.
“Yea, we’re in.” There was a shout on the other end, thankfully away from the phone.
“Okay, sweet.” He gave them a time, and then hung up.
Jeremy decided just to lay back down again, his head back in Michael’s lap. “I think I burned through that joint too quickly…”
Michael laughed and batted him on the head. Jeremy grimaced. His head…
“You’re an idiot.”
That wasn’t Michael. He looked to the left, where he’d heard the voice.
“You know this stuff messes with my-” his SQUIP started rambling in Spanish, and Jeremy raised an eyebrow. “But you did it anyway, didn’t you?”
Jeremy ignored him, even though he kept yelling at him. He looked up at Michael, who was staring down at him.
“Am I an idiot, Mikey?” he asked quietly.
Michael put his joint down.
“Why do you ask?” he frowned at him.
“I am, aren’t I?” Jeremy closed his eyes, and his SQUIP scowled, jolting another shock down his spine.
“Don’t ask him that.” He snapped as Jeremy yelped. “And don’t react.”
“Fuck you.” Jeremy muttered to himself.
Michael’s hand was on Jeremy’s shoulder.
“Seriously dude, are you okay?”
“I want it out.” He said bluntly. “I don’t like knowing it’s still in there.”
The SQUIP rolled his eyes and Jeremy had to remember he couldn’t punch him, and even if he could, he was a computer, and computers didn’t feel pain. Michael was looking at him sympathetically, and he pulled Jeremy in. Jeremy, a considerable amount shorter than Michael, rested his head on Michael’s shoulder and accepted the hug.
“Wait, no, this is good.” The SQUIP seemed to be muttering to himself, looking at things through his head. “Physical contact is always good.”
Jeremy held Michael tighter and bit his lip.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean what I said at Jake’s party…”
He felt Michael tense. “Don’t worry about it.”
Jeremy sighed. “No, I really hurt you. I didn’t mean any of it. Chloe and my SQUIP were trying to push me into something I didn’t want, and Jake was trying to beat me up… I came back to apologise later and heard you crying. I knocked, but you just kept telling me you’d be out soon. Then my SQUIP told me to leave the party.”
Michael sucked in a breath. Jeremy heard it next to his ear. He let go of Michael and stood.
“I’m gonna leave. Or my dad’ll call.”
He could hear his SQUIP protesting next to him. Fuck you. He thought, as he heard Michael say goodbye to him.
God, why couldn’t he just tell Michael he loved him?
“Because Michael’s not into you yet. If you tell him, the futures I’m envisioning aren’t favourable for you.” His SQUIP said bitterly as Jeremy walked down the street.
Jeremy pulled out his phone and put his headphones in.
“You can’t block me out, Jeremy.” SQUIP muttered.
Jeremy sighed. “I’m not trying to, God. I just want to listen to my music.”
He pressed shuffle and listened to the first song. Cecily Smith. He frowned. Why did everything make him think of Michael?

Chapter Text

He’d come back for him? He hadn’t known that. He’d just assumed… Oh great now he felt like a dick. He’d come back…
He went upstairs, after putting out his joint. He passed his brothers girlfriend on the couch with a, “Hey, Nicole.”
She was looking at her phone, and didn’t look up. “Hey, Mikey.”
He made his way into the kitchen to grab himself a drink. His brother was still in there, waving a towel over a smoking pan of something. Michael peered into it.
“What the fuck is that?” he asked, pulling back because his glasses had started to fog.
He grabbed the spatula that his brother was using and poked it. It was as hard as a rock. Michael turned the stove off. Nicole padded in, eyes widening at the sight of the smoke.
“Jesus, Jackson!” she coughed. “I told you I could do it.”
Michael laughed, grabbed his drink and walked out. He sat where Nicole had been sitting not a few minutes ago.
Bzz.
God, he was popular today. He pulled his phone out of his pocket. It was a text from Christine.
‘Wassup?’
She was weird. He grinned and sat back, putting his headphones over his ears.
‘Jeremy just left my house, before my brother tried to burn it down. So now, currently, nothing.’
He didn’t get a reply, so he just shrugged and fiddled with his phone. He wanted to call Jeremy, but he’d left in such a hurry he wasn’t sure he’d want him to. He heard Nicole and Jackson arguing in the kitchen, so he did the next best thing.
He texted Ethan.
His thumb hovered over the send button hesitantly. He did like him… And nothing was ever going to happen with Jeremy… So… He sighed and pressed send. There. Done.
No going back.
“Oh god.” He muttered, furiously going through his phone. “Is there a way to delete a text off someone’s phone?”
Nope. There wasn’t. He got a text back.
‘Oh, hey Michael. ’
He felt his face heat up. Before he knew it, he’d been sitting there for three hours, and he’d been texting back and forth with this boy. At one point, Ethan asked about Jeremy.
‘Why? Are you jealous :P’
‘No. I think it’s cute how close you are. And you two being so close, I feel I should get to know him.’
Michael grinned and told him everything he could think of. He realized after a while he sounded like he was gushing.
“Well that’s gay.” He muttered.
“You are gay.” A voice to his left said.
He looked over and had a small heart attack.
“Jesus, Jeremy! You have a fucking key to my front door!”
Jeremy grinned and pulled himself over the windowsill. He landed almost gracefully on the floor. Almost. He rolled his ankle and yelped slightly, then hopped over and sat next to Michael.
“Who are you talking to?”
Michael shrugged and put his phone away. “No one important.” He felt guilty, although he didn’t know why.
Jeremy threw an arm around him and grinned. “So you have time to hang out with me?”
Wow. Bipolar. He’d been a wreck a few hours ago. He glanced at Michael eagerly, and Michael nodded.
“Great! Let’s get food. I’m fucking starved.”
Michael laughed and shook his head, standing up and grabbing his keys. “I fed you three hours ago.”
Jeremy shrugged. “I’m a growing boy, Mikey.”
“Mikey?” Michael looked at him.
He only called him Mikey when he was high. Jeremy looked at him curiously.
“No? Don’t like it?” he asked.
Michael shrugged.
“You usually call me Michael, is all.”
Jeremy’s look turned sheepish and he smiled with a shrug.
“Where do you wanna eat?”
Michael watched Jeremy ramble a little. He’d been crying when he left, and now he was all happy and excited.
He didn’t know why, he didn’t know how, but somehow a suspicious feeling implanted itself in Michael’s stomach.
And he couldn’t ignore it as he followed Jeremy out.

Chapter Text

Saturday. The day of the date. Michael had called him and asked him what he was meant to do.
He’d had no idea.
He’d only been on like, two dates with Christine. Every other time he saw her was at school or with the group. He told Michael to wing it and he’d probably be fine.
Michael was always fine.
He felt his mind start to wander and then the sharp zap up his spine.
“No. No dirty thoughts. It leads to masturbation, and you know how I feel about masturbation.” his SQUIP reprimanded.
Jeremy rolled his eyes. They fell on something across the room.
A guitar case.
It’s been years since he played, he couldn’t even remember if he could anymore. He thought of Laura. He used to sing with her. He picked up the case, gathering dust, and opened it. His guitar. The one his father had bought him when he expressed interest in playing. He pulled the capo and the pick out from the bottom, put the capo on the guitar and strummed hesitantly. He thought of a song to play, and then remembered; he used to sing ‘Bright’ by Echosmith with Laura. He fiddled a bit more and began to play, singing to himself.
“You sprinkle stardust on my pillowcase. It's like a moon beam brushed across my face. Nights are good and that's the way it should be.”
His SQUIP sat on his bed and listened. When Jeremy finished, he looked impressed.
“You’re better than you remember.” He mused.
Jeremy shrugged and removed the capo, playing something else. There was a knock.
“Jer?” Michael. “What are you listening to?”
“Let him in.” the SQUIP said.
Jeremy stood and opened the door. Michael was smiling.
“How’d the date go?”
Michael beamed. That well. Jeremy felt deflated and his SQUIP shook his head.
“Well enough that we’re going on another next week.” He said, sitting next to Jeremy on his bed.
The SQUIP had to zap himself away to avoid being sat on. He scowled at Michael and shook his head.
“Why him? There are so many other people.”
Fuck off. Jeremy thought.
“Now, now.” SQUIP teased. (A/N: This is way too hard holy shit. I hate he doesn’t have a name.)
Jeremy thought of something and frowned.
“But next week is the-” he cast his eyes down as Michael blushed. “Oh.”
Michael sighed and looked at him.
“I’m sorry. I know I was gonna hang out with you that day, but he asked me and I couldn’t say no.”
Jeremy forced a smile as his SQUIP went off. “Warning! Warning! Warning!”
“I’m gonna get a drink. Want anything?” Michael nodded and his SQUIP moved him into the kitchen.
Jeremy felt a heat behind his eyes. Fuck, was he going to…?
He was. He raised a hand and wiped his eyes. His SQUIP rolled his eyes.
“This is like Christine all over again.”
Jeremy ignored him and pulled out a couple of cans from his fridge. He inspected his reflection in the window. He was still crying, so he took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. So what, Michael didn’t want to be his friend-date to the dance anymore? He could hang out with everyone else. He walked back upstairs and handed Michael his drink.
“Want to head over to Rich’s?” he asked.
Michael nodded and they headed out.
It was really not a big problem. He tried to convince himself.
“Don’t lie to yourself.” SQUIP said calmly.

Rich threw open the door and grabbed Jeremy’s sleeve. He pulled him in as Michael followed.
“You’re late, Tall-Ass.” He sang.
Jeremy smiled and rolled his eyes. Tall-Ass had become an endearment since they’d been friends, but it was still kind of annoying.
Everyone was there. Jake, Jenna, Chloe, Brooke, Christine. They all had a drink. Jeremy made his way over and sat next to Brooke, and felt Michael sit next to him. His SQUIP was awkwardly standing next to Rich, who was still at the door of the living room.
“Let’s get this party started!” he called, throwing himself between Jake and Christine.
Christine smiled at Jeremy and he smiled back.
“So, I had an idea.” Jake stood.
Shit. This wasn’t good. He exchanged a look with Chloe, who’d apparently thought the same thing. Jake handed everyone a drink and said the four words that humanity feared.
“Never Have I Ever!”

Chapter Text

He shrugged and drank. When Christine stared at him, he shrugged again.
“It wasn’t like it was a big secret.” He said, exasperated.
God. You have a crush on one friend…
He glanced at Jeremy, who was in a conversation with Brooke. Did he ever think it was weird that he was friends with two possible exes? He did date Brooke for a while…. Didn’t he? Anyway, it wasn’t Jeremy they were talking about.
“Hey, Christine! It’s your turn.” Rich called.
Christine thought and said, “Never have I ever made out with anyone of the same sex.”
Rich drank, so did Michael and Jenna. But, to everyone’s surprise, so did Jeremy. Everyone stared at him.
“What?” he asked.
“You have to tell us the story.” Michael said.
Jeremy turned a bright red and said, “Okay, so you remember Cameron, right? He went to our school freshman year.” He paused, and everyone nodded. “Well, I was questioning my sexuality that year, right? And he asked if I wanted to hang out. I said yes. He…” Jeremy turned a brighter red and closed his eyes. “He pulled me behind a locker bay and kissed me. I was surprised, because I’d already maybe had a crush on him, and he’d just kissed me, right?” Jeremy bit his lip. “He grabbed the front of my jumper and…” Jeremy as so red he must have been burning up. “The rest of the story is self-explanatory.” Jeremy shrugged it off.
Rich whooped and Jenna whistled. Michael stared. Why had he never heard this story? Then, Rich asked randomly, “Who’s going to the dance next weekend?” When everyone confirmed they were going, he asked, “Who has a date?”
Everyone except Jeremy raised a hand. Rich glanced at Jeremy and said something that shocked everyone;
“Let’s go together.”
Jeremy choked. Still coughing, he asked, “What?”
Rich sat up and waved his hand. “I’m not into you or anything. I mean, you’re cute and all, but I just thought, everyone else has a date, so why not?”
Jeremy shrugged with a small smile. “Sure. Why not?’
Michael felt something in the pit of his stomach. Something that felt suspiciously like jealousy.
He shouldn’t feel jealous like this. He had a date to the dance.
Yea, but it’s not Jeremy, is it? A snide little voice in the back of his head said. Michael washed it down with his drink.
“Let’s get back to the game. Michael?” Jake called.
“Never have I ever…” he paused. “Never have I ever been arrested.”
Rich. Right. The fire.
Jeremy.
“Oh my god.” Michael laughed. “What for?”
Jeremy mumbled to himself then drank again. “I’d rather not…”
“You have to tell them.” Rich said. “That’s the funniest story.”
Michael looked over at him. He knew, but Michael didn’t?
“Well… After Rich got out of hospital, he asked me to come over and drink with him. He said it’s because we’d been through the same experience and he thought we’d bonded. So…” Jeremy paused. “We got drunk. I ended up in a cemetery, a sheet over my head, shouting ‘woo!’ at everyone visiting their loved ones.” He frowned at Rich. “I don’t know what happened to you.”
He shrugged. “I passed out just before your arrest.” He grinned. “I was sleeping behind a gravestone.”
Everyone burst out laughing.
“That’s the best thing I’ve ever heard.” Jenna giggled.
Brooke and Chloe agreed, but Michael just frowned. He was spending so much time with Rich… He heard the unmistakeable sounds of zombie noises. Jeremy’s ringtone. He reached down and answered it.
“Hey dad.”
“Hey, Mr Heere!” Brooke.
“Come back to bed!” Rich.
Jake made various sex noises.
“Hiiii!” Christine.
“Put your pants on!” Jenna and Chloe together.
“Pass the weed!" Michael.
Jeremy waved a hand and smiled. “Just my friends…. Yea, okay…” he covered the phone. “Is everyone else staying here?” everyone looked at each other, shrugged and nodded. “Cool… Yea, dad? I’m staying. Okay. Tell Heidi I say hi.” He hung up.
“Heidi’s going over?” Michael asked.
Jeremy nodded. “Evan too, I think. But I make him nervous or some shit, so dad asked if I would stay here.”
Everyone looked at each other and Jeremy sighed.
“Dad’s girlfriend. And her son.” He shrugged. “He’s nice, but a bit antisocial.”
That was shrugged off, and a night of drinking and idioticness happened.
But Michael just couldn’t shake his jealousy.
Shit. This was going to be a problem…

Chapter Text

Silence. His SQUIP was gone. That was fine. He didn’t need him anyway. But the next morning was hell. He’d woken up, curled up with Michael, Brooke’s head on his stomach. Chloe was at her feet, Jake against the couch, his arm around Rich, with Christine curled up on the couch. Jenna was nowhere to be found. He moved away from Michael slightly, sitting up and holding his head. Brooke’s head fell onto his lap.
“Sleep well?” a sarcastic voice asked. Jeremy raised his eyes to his SQUIP. “I reviewed the footage from last night, and though I must commend you for taking up Rich’s offer on the dance, you know what alcohol does to me. This is the second time in three days, Jeremy.”
He looked at his SQUIP and sighed. He rubbed his throbbing temple and shook his head.
“At the moment, I couldn’t care less.” He breathed unhappily.
He closed his eyes and laid back down.
“Get up, Tall-Ass!”
Jeremy bolted upright. Rich had screamed in his ear, right into his headache.
“Fucking Christ, Rich!” he flailed slightly, and his hand connected with something.
A ‘whoosh’ left Rich’s mouth, and Michael sat up, then head-butted Jeremy, who was awkwardly leaning over him to get away from Rich.
“Owww.” He held and hand to his forehead and grimaced. “What the fuck, Jeremy.”
Jeremy laid himself back down. He could hear his SQUIP laughing off to the side.
“I’m really sorry. That entire scene was too much.” He teased.
Jeremy made a face at him and sat up again. “Everything about this night was a mistake. I shouldn’t have come over, fuck.” He groaned.
“Yea, my hangover’s a bitch.” Rich said brightly.
Michael puffed his cheeks out and crossed his legs. Jeremy felt a blush creep to his face, but not before the shock up his spine.
“Blushing, Jeremy.”
But… he’s just… so adorable. Jeremy thought, sighing in exasperation.
“At the moment, I couldn’t care less.” The mocking sound of his own words ringing in his ears caused him to scowl.
Are you going to help me, or am I gonna need some Mountain Dew Red?
“But you don’t want to do that.” SQUIP sung. “You don’t want Michael to know I’m back.”
God he was so right.
“He said something. Say yes.”
“Yes.” Jeremy said automatically.
Rich grinned and Michael raised an eyebrow, looking slightly deflated.
What did you make me say? Jeremy could see the red on the edge of his vision as he turned to a smirking, shitty ass Keanu Reeves look alike. I swear to fucking god, you glorified floppy disk, I will-
“Language, Jeremy.” His SQUIP ‘tsked’ condescendingly. “It wasn’t much. Just if you’d spent a lot of time with Rich. Better to make him jealous.”
He tried to look at Michael, but he just looked away.
I’m trying to make him like me! He scowled and put his head down. You’re doing what you did with Christine. You made her hate me.
“I assure you, Heere, you did that all on your own.”
Then he was gone. Nothing. Zapped himself away.
Fuck you. He thought angrily.
He had been spending a lot of time with Rich, but he wasn’t as fun as Michael. Like, on a funness scale, Rich didn’t even come close. He’d much prefer to be with Michael.
Seriously, he even found himself thinking ‘Michael wouldn’t do that’ when he was with anyone who wasn’t Michael.
He fiddled with his fingers, a little put out. He wouldn’t even look at him. Did he think he liked Rich more? Wait, did he think he liked Rich? Jeremy almost laughed. What the fuck. That surely couldn’t be it.
“Shhh. Stop talking. Sleepy, hung-over Brooke.” Brooke murmured, still in his lap.
Jeremy gently moved her head onto the floor next to him, then felt rude and tucked his jacket under her head.
“I never did ask why you got that.” Rich said, almost absently.
Jeremy followed his eye line. His tattoo. Oh, right.
“Michael and I got it… when we were sixteen? We somehow managed to convince our parents to let us do it.”
“By that, he means we lied and said that the others parent said it was okay.” Michael smiled.
Rich cocked his head and raised an eyebrow.
“Michael has one too?”
They nodded, and Michael lifted his sleeve. In the same place, the same tattoo.
“Anyway, once they found out, we were grounded. My dad actually told me, ‘no Michael for a month’.” Jeremy grinned at the memory.
Michael laughed. “Remember how you went green when he actually started? Then threw up at the end?”
Jeremy cringed.
“I was trying not to, but thanks.”
Rich was laughing, but Michael was grinning at him.
That was better than any friend in the world.

Chapter Text

Jeremy had all these stories with Rich.
But Michael had more.
That cheered him up a little. Rich fed them, and then kicked them out. But they never did find out what happened to Jenna.
Although he was currently feeling a lot better, he couldn’t shake the dream he’d had.
Another of the flashbacks; he was seven years old in the dream. Someone was pounding on the door, and although he’d been told countless times he wasn’t to open the door, he did anyway.
Jeremy was there. His face was streaked with tears and there was a large red mark on his cheek. Michael grabbed his sleeve and pulled him in.
“What’s wrong, Jeremy? Where’s your daddy?” Michael looked for Mr Heere’s car.
But he was nowhere to be found. Jeremy must have come on his own. He didn’t say anything, even when Michael’s mum came in.
“Jeremy? Sweetie what’s wrong?” she put a hand on his face and looked at the mark. Then she sighed. “Go up to Michael’s room, honey. I’ll let your mum know you’re here…”
“No!” Jeremy shrieked. Tears rolled down his face. “No, don’t tell her I’m here.”
Michael had never seen Jeremy like this. It scared him. He grabbed Jeremy’s hand.
“Let’s go to listen to music in my room.” Jeremy nodded and followed him.
Jeremy had just sat on the floor against his bed, looking down at his lap. Michael grabbed his Walkman and gave it to Jeremy. Jeremy took it absently.
“My mummy hit me again.” He said quietly. “She doesn’t like me. She told me.”
Jeremy’s eyes filled with tears. Michael did something that his mum did when he was crying; he pulled Jeremy into his lap and hugged him tightly, rocking back and forth slightly. Jeremy put his head on his shoulder and closed his eyes.
Michael’s hand tightened on his steering wheel as he watched Jeremy stare out the window. His mother had told him that day she hated him and had never wanted a child. Just because Jeremy had accidentally dropped his glass and broke it. Then he’d run off.
“Wanna come to mine?” Jeremy asked him, shattering his reverie.
Michael nodded. “Will Heidi and Evan still be there?”
Jeremy shook his head. “Heidi likes to be gone before I get home. She thinks she’s invading my space.”
Michael shook his head with a small smile. Heidi was nice. And Jeremy seemed to like her well enough.
His phone started going off. He’d gotten a text message.
“Want me to read it?” Jeremy asked.
Michael nodded. Jeremy picked up Michael’s phone, read the message and scowled.
“Ethan asked what time you wanted to meet at the dance.” The way Jeremy spat out his name made Michael turn.
“Do you really not like him?” Michael asked quietly.
Jeremy rubbed his eyes and put Michael’s phone down.
“No, no I’m sorry. I’m just… really tired. I just want to hang out in my room with you and be… chill.” He couldn’t tell if Jeremy was lying or not, so he just shrugged it off.
Jeremy leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes. Michael took this opportunity to look at him properly.
He hadn’t quite grown out his freckles, and he was still missing a tooth; his incisor, the one he’d lost in his skating phase when he’d skated into Michael. He was all thin with sharp angles. Michael sighed and looked ahead again.
“Wha’s wrong?” Jeremy murmured.
“Nothing… Just…” Sort of wishing I had a date with you instead of Ethan.
He closed his eyes briefly, and then remembered he was driving and opened them again.
“Mmkay, dude.” Then he was out.
Like that. 100 to 0 in a second. Michael grinned as he pulled up into Jeremy’s drive way. A car that was not Jeremy’s fathers was there, but Michael payed no attention. He leaned over, and in the shrillest possible voice imagined, shrieks,
“JEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYY.”
Jeremy flailed and almost hit Michael in the face.
“WhatthefuckdudeIhateyou.” He rambled in one breath.
Then he looked up. His facial expression became one of surprise, and he tilted his head.
“Heidi’s still here.”
Michael looked at him. “Is that okay?”
Jeremy waved a flippant hand. “Of course it is. I like Heidi.”
Michael opened his car door and proceeded to the door. He heard Jeremy get out and follow him.
“DAD I’M HOME!” he shouted. He looked at the surprised looking figure on the couch. “Hey, Evan. What’s up, dude?”
Evan stammered out a reply, and then went back to whatever he was doing.
“Michael and I are going into my room. Wanna join?” Jeremy surprised Michael.
It’s not that Michael didn’t want Evan to hang out with them, just that Jeremy rarely talked about the Hansen’s, so he’d mostly assumed that was rocky territory. Evan shook his head.
“I’m good, but thanks.” He said quietly.
Jeremy shrugged and bounded up the stairs, leaving Michael behind him.

Chapter Text

Jeremy flopped onto his bed and slung an arm over his eyes. He heard Michael sit at the chair at his desk.
“What’s that?”
“My drug stash.” Jeremy answered automatically.
“Haha. Quite the comedian.” SQUIP murmured.
Shut up.
“No, Jeremy, seriously.” He removed his arm and looked at what Michael was holding.
His guitar case.
Jeremy shrugged.
“What does it look like?”
Michael looked at him, then at the case. “A guitar.”
Jeremy shrugged again. “Then there you go.”
Michael opened the case and pulled the guitar out.
“Jeez, you have it all.” He put the guitar on the floor and pulled out everything else; the capo, a whole new thing of strings, and a sack which contained picks.
“I used to play. You know that.”
There was a pause, before Michael said quietly, “I never knew if you were any good.”
The guitar was set on his lap. Jeremy glanced at his SQUIP (he hoped) discreetly. He made a gesture like, ‘go on’. Jeremy sat up and positioned the guitar comfortably. He played the first song that came to his head; No Matter What.
“No matter what they tell us, no matter what they do. No matter what they teach us, what we believe is true. No matter what they call us, however they attack. No matter where they take us, we'll find our own way back. I can't deny what I believe, I can't be what I'm not. I know I'll love forever. I know no matter what”
Jeremy stopped playing after the first verse.
“That… almost sounded like a confession.” His SQUIP said quietly. Dangerously.
Michael looked almost stunned.
“Dude… That was awesome.”
Jeremy felt himself get all blushy, but he forced himself to think of something else.
“Hey. You’re learning.” SQUIP said sarcastically.
Shut up. I hate you.
“If you hated me so much, you’d have gotten rid of me.” His SQUIP sighed. “He’s said something. Honestly, you need to start paying attention. Say no.”
You’re not getting me again. He thought angrily. To Michael, he said, “Sorry, I spaced. What was that?”
Michael grinned at him and shook his head.
“I said I think someone’s at the door. Want to get it?”
Jeremy nodded despite the protests of the SQUIP and stood. It was Evan. He looked really awkward.
“We’re leaving and mum wants me to say goodbye. So… goodbye.”
Jeremy nodded. “See you, dude.”
Evan waved at Michael, who waved back, then left.
“You need to listen to me Jeremy.” The condescending voice got to him until…
“Fuck off!”
In an awkward split second, he realized he’d yelled it out loud. Michael raised his head slowly until his eyes met Jeremy’s. The SQUIP was snickering.
“What?” He asked, looking hurt.
Jeremy fell over himself to get to Michael.
“I wasn’t talking to you I swear! A little voice in my head was getting to me.”
Michael looked at him. “That SQUIP really got to you, didn’t it?”
Jeremy closed his eyes. “It still is.”
“Is it really that traumatising?”
“You have no fucking idea.”
Michael looked at his lap.
“I’m really sorry, Jeremy.”
Jeremy opened his eyes and bit his lip.
“You shouldn’t be. I heard you talking to yourself in the bathroom. I heard you say you wanted to off yourself. That was my fault.” He looked down as Michael looked up. “I’m so sorry.”
Michael stood. “I’m gonna… go home, Jer. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Jeremy looked up quickly, feeling panicked. Shit what had he said?
“Try everything.” His SQUIP said.
“I-I-I-I-I-I…” he stammered, then breathed. “I don’t want you to. Stay here. Please. I didn’t mean to upset you.” He looked up at Michael pleadingly.
Michael smiled at him.
“You didn’t. I actually need to leave. I never told mum I wasn’t coming home so she’d be having a heart attack.”
Jeremy giggled despite himself. “Okay. I’ll see you at school.”
Michael waved at him.
Jeremy was left on the floor of his bedroom, with the shitty floppy disk talking in his ear.
“Fuck I hate this.” He whined.

Chapter Text

Michael hadn’t exactly lied.
Jeremy hadn’t upset him, but he hadn’t left because of his mum. She never worried about him when he didn’t come home for the night; she always assumed he was with Jeremy. And she knew he’d be home before dinner.
He left because he felt queasy as hell and didn’t want to vomit all over Jeremy’s floor.
He blamed it on the hangover, and figured all he needed was a little sleep.
When he wasn’t better on Monday, he stayed home. He got a million calls from Jeremy, and he answered them all, but he still worried him anyway.
Tuesday he felt good enough to go to school, but told Jeremy not to get too close to him until he figured out what he had.
Wednesday morning, he felt perfect. The picture of health. Then, around second period, he felt the queasy feeling in his stomach again. Then he felt really hot. He took off his hoodie fourth period when the heat was unbearable and asked the teacher to turn on the AC, but she told him it was already going full blast. And kids were complaining how cold it was. She looked at him worriedly.
“Are you okay, buddy? You look really pale.”
He nodded. “I’m fi-..” then he paused. “Actually, it would be great if…” Then the bell rang.
Lunch period with Jeremy. But he really needed to get to the nurse. He felt really hot and dizzy. He swept all of his stuff into his backpack and made his way down the hall. He looked up and spotted Jeremy. He smiled and lifted a hand as Jeremy did the same… The light headed feeling got worse…
The last thing he heard before he blacked out was Jeremy yelling his name.

He woke up later in his bed, a wet cloth over his forehead. He tried to sit up, but a wave of nausea hit him, and he lay back down, closing his eyes.
“Michael? Michael! How are you feeling?” He couldn’t tell who it was… His mum? His dad? Jeremy?
He opened his eyes. Jeremy. He looked really worried.
“You fainted in the hall and really scared me.” He said quietly.
Michael smiled weakly and waved his hand around. “I’m fine. Really.”
Jeremy looked at his lap. “The doctor came in and when I described all of your symptoms, she said you had a stomach bug that should be gone within a few days. You should be okay by Friday.”
Jeremy sounded kind of bitter. But his voice shook. Michael sat up, but his lunch wanted out. Jeremy seemed to notice, because he passed him a bucket. Michael did something rather unattractive which I’m sure you can all figure out, then looked up at Jeremy slightly.
“Are you okay?” he asked weakly.
Jeremy frowned and closed his eyes.
“You fucking scared me, Michael. I thought you’d been… like, drugged or something.”
He honestly sounded like he was about to cry, then he winced.
“I’m fine, Jeremy. Just sick.”
Jeremy stood up and handed Michael a glass that was sitting on the bedside table.
“I’ll get your mum. She panicked... a lot.” He smiled.
“Hold on… what happened at school?” he asked.
Jeremy frowned.
“Everyone sort of gathered around you, and I was calling for someone to get the nurse, but they all just stared. So I…” Jeremy paused. “I lifted you and sort of half dragged you to the infirmary.”
Michael grinned. “My knight in shining armour.” He teased.
Jeremy muttered something and left the room. Michael kicked his blanket to the end of the bed and patted himself to see if he still had his phone. He didn’t. He looked over. There it was, on the dock. Across the room. Michael huffed and crossed his arms over his chest. He felt sick sitting up; he wasn’t going to make it across the room for his phone. He really wanted it though… Arming himself with his bucket, he prepared to stand up. The feeling hit him hard, but he managed to keep everything down. He awkwardly shuffled across the room, grabbed his phone, then moved back again. Sitting on the bed, the queasy feeling subsided a little, and Michael felt triumph despite himself. He’d done it! He didn’t need help.
Then Jeremy came in with his mum and he was smothered.
On second thought, maybe he did need help.

Chapter Text

Michael looked like absolute shit the next day. He claimed he felt a lot better, and he must have, because he wasn’t vomited and dying in his bed, but he was still way to pale for comfort and wrapped in a heavy blanket on his couch, now complaining of cold.
Jeremy had been told he couldn’t come over until he was better, but he’d come anyway and was sitting on the couch with Michael, playing his brother’s Xbox. They were playing the only multiplayer game he had; Call of Duty: Zombies.
“This game sucks major balls.” Michael grumbled more than once.
Jeremy would just laugh and kill another zombie.
“Like there has never been a worse game in the history of bad games.” He announced at one point.
Jeremy shook his head.
“No, remember when we played the Atari version of Pac-Man?” Jeremy grinned. “You actually cried how bad it was.”
“Shall I bring up the Legend of Zelda game you had such high hopes for?”
“WE AGREED NEVER TO TALK ABOUT ZELDA’S ADVENTURES.”
Michael laughed at him. Michael had a wonderful laugh. It was sort of dorky, but it was… genuine. Jeremy smiled lightly, feeling his face turn a little red,
“Anyway, shut up. We could be playing E.T.”
“Aw, God, I’m so happy Atari buried those, fuck.”
Jeremy shook his head and killed a few zombies. He looked over at his SQUIP. He was being strangely quiet. Jeremy didn’t like the silence, so he filled it.
“Do you remember my mum?”
Michael looked at him suspiciously, and then nodded.
“I remember that she liked you more than she liked me.” Jeremy said quietly.
Michael paused the game and looked at him. “What makes you think so?”
“She told me.”
“Jeremy, if you’re taking this approach to make Michael like you…” His SQUIP paused. “It may work. Keep going.”
Jeremy didn’t say anything… He just thought of the memory.

He heard the teacher talking.
“Jeremy’s just over there, with Michael Mell.”
They were facing each other, cross legged on the floor, knees touching, talking. Jeremy was telling Michael how much he liked his glasses. They were half the size of his face, and he looked adorable. Michael just hid himself in his hoodie and grinned. He was an energetic child, but tended to say very little. He tried to ignore the teacher, because he knew what was coming.
“Jeremy, let’s go. I’m busy.” His mother grumbled.
Jeremy waved sadly to Michael and stood. Michael didn’t say anything, of course, but smiled at him.
“Is that a friend?”
Jeremy perked up immediately. “Yea! His name is Michael and-“
“I like him. He’s quiet.”

“Jer? Are you okay?”
Jeremy jerked slightly and nodded. “Yea.. Yea I’m fine.”
He’d wanted to fill the silence, but like that? Was he stupid?
“Yes.”
No one asked you.
“Technically you did.”
Ugh. He looked back at Michael.
“She told me I talk too much.” Michael grinned slowly, and Jeremy was confused. “What?”
“I mean… Is she really wrong?” he asked.
Jeremy snorted and hit Michael with a cushion.
“No. She’d just never met you.” Jeremy giggled. Like, actually fucking giggled. Like a girl.
Michael laughed again and shook his head. “Play the fucking game, you twink.”
Jeremy grinned and killed a few zombies.
“I think I’m winning, Player One.” He teased.
Michael raised an eyebrow. “We’ll fucking see about that.”

Michael looked perfect the next day. He was still slightly pale, but he wasn’t complaining about incorrect temperatures. Jeremy was speaking to him as they entered the cafeteria for lunch, when he saw something flying towards them. He ducked, but didn’t have time to warn Michael, who was smacked right in the side of the head. It splattered to the floor, and Michael, stunned blinked.
“What the fuck was that?” he asked.
Jeremy looked at the thing on the floor and toed it with his Converse, then burst out laughing.
“It was a fucking cupcake.”
Rich stood and shouted, “Sorry dude! Jake thought it would be funny to project my cupcake across the caf.”
Jeremy was in pain. He had doubled over, and sharp pains made his way into his stomach. And he was crying of laughter.
He wiped his eyes and gasped, “Can’t. Fucking. Breathe.”
flipped him the bird and walked away, shaking his head. Jeremy followed, still laughing.

Chapter Text

He didn’t know what he was more nervous about; his own date or seeing Jeremy on a date with someone else. Rich had said he wasn’t into him, but Rich was a good liar and that said nothing about whether Jeremy was into Rich. Michael had agreed to meet Jeremy at his place so they could arrive at the dance together. He’d done it supposedly to make up for ditching him for Ethan. To be honest, he wasn’t sure how much time he’d spend with him at the dance and wanted to get in everything he could. He honked his horn a couple of times and watched Jeremy run out. And promptly run into his mailbox. Michael grinned.
Idiot.

The music was a loud techno beat that Michael hated. He regretted not bringing his headphones and sighed, putting his chin in his hands. Jeremy was chatting away next to him as the song changed, talking about the unreliability of dates and how he usually tried to avoid them if he could. Both of them ignored the fact Jeremy had been asked out on like two dates in his entire life, not including this one. Michael looked up. No one was on the dance floor… He stood and held his hand out to Jeremy.
“May I have this dance?” he asked with a grin.
Jeremy instantly took his hand with a laugh. Michael pulled him up and towards the dance floor. They engaged themselves in a dance routine that definitely didn’t match the song, laughing the whole time. Michael tried to pay attention to the lyrics. He had decided he quite liked this song. Jeremy clearly liked it, he was singing along.
“Oh don’t you dare look back, just keep your eyes on me. I said you’re holding back, she said shut up and dance with me!”
He thought he’d just enjoy the moment and ask Jeremy the song later. Michael pulled Jeremy into him as part of the dance (he swore). Jeremy collided hard with him, and he was so close that Michael could see the little flecks of gold in his brown eyes. The song ended, and Jeremy giggled, pulling himself away. Michael didn’t have time to feel disappointed; he felt someone’s hands on his shoulders.
“Can I steal him away?” someone said in his ear.
Jeremy smiled lightly and gestured toward Michael, before walking off and engaging in a conversation with Brooke. Michael was spun around. Ethan. He smiled down at him (woe, Ethan was taller than Michael) twirled him around again.
“HEERE!” he managed to hear it over the terrible music.
“GORANSKI. YOU’RE LATE.” He heard the reply.
HE looked up. His heart sank. Rich had arrived. Then he felt guilty. He was out with someone else. He had no right to feel so jealous. But he did.
And he didn’t like it.

They were too close. Get away from him, you short little prick. Ethan was talking away to one of his friends, and Michael was watching Jeremy and Rich on the dance floor. Jeremy was working well with what he had; Rich danced like a headless chicken. It was absolute fucking chaos. He checked his phone. He’d been here longer than he thought. A few hours at least. He felt a hand on the small of his back. He looked up.
“Sorry, Michael. I have to leave.” He did look sorry, and Michael tried not to fell deflated.
“It’s fine. I’ll see you at school.”
Ethan smiled and leant down to him. It wasn’t until his lips brushed Michael’s was it when he realized what was happening. A furious blush spread across his face.
“Bye.” Ethan pecked his cheek and left with a wave.
Michael felt good for all of five seconds. Then he saw Rich wrap his arms around Jeremy’s waist and pick him up. Jeremy screamed as he spun around, laughing. Michael felt a hot flush of anger. He wasn’t even sure who it was directed at. He looked down, then back up again. Jeremy was making his way over.
“Hey, Michael. You okay? You’re looking really red.” Jeremy said.
It could have been the concern in his voice, or it could have been Michael’s kiss. But he started.
“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” He snapped.
Jeremy looked surprised. Then mad.
“Hey dude, what’s your problem?”
Michael stood so fast the chair he was sitting on flew across the room and nearly hit a freshman.
“Ever think maybe it’s you?” he snarled, and then stormed out.
Fuck him.

Chapter Text

Rich took him home because Michael had left. He spent all of Sunday worrying about him.
On Monday, he sat in the spot Michael usually parked in. But he didn’t park there before the bell rang, so Jeremy just sighed and went inside. In fact, he didn’t see Michael until lunch.
Michael had his head down, his headphones on, and made a beeline for the table. But Jeremy stopped him early.
“Hey, I’m sorry about Saturday. Are we cool?”
Michael gave a strained little smile and nodded. Jeremy thought this was weird; Michael had the gift of the gab and would usually give him a long lecture before telling him he forgave him. He decided to ignore it, just this once, and went to sit with everyone else. Michael put his bag next to him and put his chin in his hands. Jeremy tried to engage him in conversation, but Michael would just nod or shake his head, or shrug. Jeremy himself heard the irony in his next sentence, but it was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.
“If you don’t want to talk to me, just tell me.”
Michael lost it. He burst into laughter, and it was then Jeremy saw what he was trying so hard to hide.
Braces glinted in Michael’s teeth, all wrapped in greenish bands.
“Holy shit, dude.” Jeremy’s face slid into a slow grin.
There was stunned silence at the table, then laughter.
“Thut up.” Michael said, turning bright red.
Everyone laughed harder, especially Rich, who had just kicked his lisp.
“M-My orthadontitht thaid I’d thpeak like thith for a couple of monthth.” Michael muttered.
“No better way to get the guy you like by laughing at him.” His SQUIP muttered. Jeremy ignored him.
“Anyway, Jer, I’m thorry. I didn’t mean what I thaid.” Michael said.
It was hard to take him seriously. Jeremy grinned and shook his head.
“Really dude, it’s no big deal.” He bit his lip. “Just… please stop talking.”
Michael flipped him the bird. Then he squealed. Someone had sat next to him.
“Yo. Braces? That’s cute.” Ethan said gently.
He put his arm around Michael’s shoulders and Michael leaned into him.
“Oh. We have a slight problem.” His SQUIP muttered.
You think? Jeremy thought, feeling his stomach sink as Ethan pecked Michael’s temple.
“Whoo, boyfriend, Mell?”
“Jutht becathe you’re jealoth you don’t have one, Goranthki.”
“And it comes with a lisp. How funny.” Ethan grinned.
Michael groaned. “Not you too.”
Jeremy felt sick. He stood hastily. He couldn’t stand it.
“I-I need to go. Mr Reyes needs help with the play programs.”
Michael frowned and opened his mouth to say something, but Jeremy already ran out, ignoring the tears stinging at the back of his eyes.

His father frowned at him when he walked in and drop his backpack.
“Aren’t you meant to be at school?”
Jeremy looked at him and nodded.
“I am. I got sick. So I came home.”
His father looked at him sceptically and nodded.
“I’ll call the school then.”
“Do whatever you want.”
He made his way up to his room. He’d felt his phone buzzing the whole way home.

From: Player One <3
Jeremy I know you’re lying I helped you with those programs last week.
From: Player One <3
Are you okay? Call me.
From: Player One <3
Fuck this. I’m calling you.

His phone started ringing loudly, and he ignored it. He threw his phone across the room.
“Ignoring him is the best thing to do, Jeremy.” He heard his SQUIP sing.
Then Jeremy picked up his phone and answered it.
“What?”
There was silence on the other end.
“Are you okay, Jer? Why did you run out like that?” Michael asked quietly.
Jeremy rubbed his temple and sat down.
“Are you dating him?” Silence. “You are.”
“He athked me yethterday. Tho I thaid yeth.”
“Do you like him, Michael?” Jeremy asked. More silence. “That’s good, I guess. If he makes you happy, then I guess I’m happy.” He winced at his words.
His SQUIP sat and watched him in silence. Jeremy hung up the phone. He looked at it for a moment, and then threw it hard at the wall.
“FUCK!”
“You handled it well.” His SQUIP said grudgingly. “I mean, just the right amount of jealousy. He knows you’re jealous, but he probably can’t figure out why. It’ll leave him wondering.”
Jeremy didn’t even care. He was probably too late, and everyone concerned knew it.

Chapter Text

He sat for a few seconds, stunned, listening to dead air. Jeremy had never hung up on him like that. His phone buzzed on his ear and he pulled it down to look at it.
“What does it say?” Ethan asked gently.
“Player 3 hath entered the game.” Michael muttered.
Ethan looked at him weirdly, and then answered whatever Rich had asked him. Michael just kept staring at his phone. What was wrong with him? Why would he say that?

To: <3 Player Two <3
What’s wrong? Why would you say that?

He paused, then pressed send. Player 3 has entered the game. He’d told him he didn’t have a problem with Ethan. So what was up with Jeremy? Ethan looked at his phone, pecked Michael’s temple again then stood.
“I need to meet someone. I’ll see you later.”
Michael smiled at him and he walked away. He hadn’t had a reply, which either meant Jeremy was busy or avoiding him. Michael really hoped it wasn’t the latter.
“Hey, Michael, why the green bands?” Brooke looked at him curiously.
Michael felt himself go red and looked at his feet.
“I liked the colour.”
Then they ignored him. So he stood up and exited the cafeteria.

“Jeremy Heere!” Bang bang. “I know you’re in here, thit head, tho let me in!”
Jeremy opened the door. He looked like hell. Michael told him as much.
“I feel like hell.” He said quietly.
Michael pushed past Jeremy and stood in front of him.
“What’th with the weird text you thent me?”
Jeremy looked like he’d sprouted a third eye.
“What text?”
Michael showed it to him and Jeremy scowled.
“God damn it.” He muttered. “It wasn’t meant to send, fuck, I thought I’d deleted it.”
He was lying. Michael knew full well that Jeremy hadn’t deleted it, but he hadn’t known it had been sent either. So Jeremy hadn’t sent it. But… who had?
A weird feeling crept itself into Michael’s stomach. It made him feel queasy and terrified all at once. Surely not…? Surely Jeremy would have told him?
“Jeremy… ith everything okay? Where’th your head at?” He asked gently. “It’th not your thquip, ith it?” (A/N: Holy shit that was awkward to write.)
Jeremy laughed. Michael heard the tension around the edges.
“Of course not.” Jeremy rubbed his eyes. “I’m just… tired.”
Michael frowned. Jeremy put a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m fine, really. I just… need some time alone.” He said.
Michael took that as his cue.
“Okay… get better, I gueth. I don’t want to be dragging your dead body out of thith plathe.”
Jeremy’s laugh sounded strained. He grabbed Michael’s sleeve and pulled him into him, burying his face in the crook of his neck.
Michael was surprised, but he just hugged him back. When he pulled away, he smiled.
“Thee you tomorrow.”
Jeremy smiled and shut the door.
As Michael walked to his car, he pulled out his phone.

To: Rich, Chloe, Brooke, Jenna, Jake, Christine
Jeremy needs help. I think it’s back.

“So you think…” Jake asked, massaging his temples.
“I think hith thquip ith back. He had no idea that weird text had been thent to me, and I can’t think of anyone elthe who’d thend it.”
Rich looked serious, for once, and nodded.
“I could believe that.” He said.
Michael sighed. “I jutht don’t know why he wouldn’t tell me…”
Christine put a hand on his arm.
“He clearly didn’t want to worry you. He didn’t want you to know it was back.”
Chloe shrugged. “That’s if it even is back. He could just be acting weird. Or multiple personality or something.”
Michael put his head in his hands.
Fuck.

Chapter Text

“Why the fuck did you send that?” Jeremy seethed.
His SQUIP just smirked. Jeremy sat himself hard on his bed and ran a hand through his hair.
“God, I never asked for this.” He yanked at his fringe and put his head in his hands. “You’re just pushing him further away.”
His SQUIP went to protest, but he stood.
“No, don’t even tell me you’re not. You have access to all my memories, but you choose to ignore the fact that this is probably hurting him.”
His SQUIP rolled his eyes and zapped himself away.
Zapped himself away before Jeremy burst into tears.

A few days passed. He couldn’t even bring himself to get out of bed, let alone go to school. People came by, Rich, Christine, Brooke, even Jake. Michael came over the most. Sometimes he even bought his boyfriend, who’d just awkwardly sit in Jeremy’s desk chair and stare.
“Make him stop.” Jeremy muttered one day, pulling his blanket over his head.
Michael murmured something to Ethan, and the door opened and closed.
“He didn’t have to leave. I just wanted him to stop staring.” Jeremy pulled his blanket down.
He was secretly happy he’d left. There was something about him that felt… off.
“You’re right. Something does feel off.” His SQUIP’s eyes went blank. He was analysing something. Then he frowned. “I foresee that this relationship will not last more than a month.”
Jeremy paused. Michael was talking to him, but he probably put down his absentmindedness to depression or something.
Why?
“I’m… not in any position to talk about that.” His SQUIP murmured.
He was about to protest when his phone blared. Michael picked it up. “It’th Rich.”
“Answer it.”
“Hey dude.” Michael listened, then looked at Jeremy. “He wants to know if we want to go to a party at Jake’th houthe.”
Jeremy sat up slightly. “Why not? I’m up for a distraction.”
“Okay, Jeremy’th up for it, but I can’t go. Mum’th grounded me.”
Jeremy frowned. He’d only really wanted to go with Michael…
“Go anyway.”
He ignored his SQUIP as Michael hung up his phone.
“Michael?” There was a soft knock at the door.
“I’ll be right there.” He called, then gave Jeremy a sympathetic look.
“Tell him I said goodbye.”
“Feel better, Jeremy.” Ethan called.
Jeremy nodded softly and closed his eyes.
“Mmkay. I’m tired. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He felt Michael’s hand slip off his shoulder. He missed it already. As soon as Michael left, Jeremy stood up and began to get ready. Then he walked to Jake’s.

Rich was wasted. Jake was wasted. Everyone was wasted. Except for him. Jeremy had refrained from all of the drinks, just sitting in a chair.
“Why don’t you hook up with someone? Not only will it make Michael jealous, but boy, do you need it.” The SQUIP murmured.
What the fuck? No.
“Just a suggestion.”
Rich sat next to him and threw his arm around his shoulder.
“C’mon, Tall-Ass, have some fun.” He waved at Jake across the room. “Jake managed to get some pot.”
“If it’s not from Adam, don’t trust it.” He said automatically.
Rich didn’t ask how he knew this (Adam was Michael’s dealer), but just laughed.
“Whatever.” He shrugged. “I don’t care who it’s from, as long as it gets me high.”
Jeremy shrugged and looked at his SQUIP. They looked at each other for a minute.
“Oh, go ahead.” He said exasperatedly. “You’re probably going to do it anyway.”
You’re right. Jeremy grinned.
“Hey, he smiled! Weed cures depression.” Rich laughed.

Jeremy giggled hysterically in his chair.
“You’re. So. Fucking. Short.” He laughed, ruffling Rich’s hair.
Rich was so gone he just laughed. Brooke sat herself in his lap, and he wrapped his arms around her.
“You’re really pretty, you know that?” he asked. “If I weren’t into Michael, I’d so be after you again.”
That was the worst thing he’d said all night. Thank god, everyone was so wasted that it didn’t register.
“I know, though. Michael is actually so hot.” Jake called.
Rich stood.
“I needa piss. I’ll be back.” He stumbled into Jake’s bathroom.
Jeremy flirted with Brooke for a while, platonically, even in his state.
Nothing could bring him down currently.
Not even Michael.

Which eventually he did.

Chapter Text

The call came at three am. He’d fallen asleep on his couch, watching a movie with Jackson and Nicole. Everyone stirred when they heard Michael’s phone, but Nicole just grumbled and they were asleep again. Michael, however, grabbed his phone blearily.
“Hello?”
“Michael! Dude! You’re missing out on one hell of a party!” Rich shouted.
Michael winced.
“How’th Jeremy doing?”
Rich laughed on the other line.
“Oooooooh, man, he is so gone. He got himself so high.”
Michael nearly fell off the couch.
“What? Rich!”
“What’s wrong?”
Michael stumbled off the couch, throwing on a pair of shoes and his hoodie.
“You can’t get Jeremy high anywhere other than hith houthe or my houthe. Bad thingth happen, Rich. He’ll hurt himthelf.”
Rich suddenly sounded very sober. “Holy shit.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.” He didn’t care about his grounding; Jeremy needed help.
He ran out to his car and tripped over a crack in the sidewalk. He could hear Rich on the phone still.
“Stay with him, don’t let him move until I get there.” He hung up.

He let himself in when he got there. People were trickling out, and Michael dodged them all, very aware he was still in his pyjamas. He heard Jeremy before he saw him.
“Richiiiie.” Michael winced. “When’ll Mikey be here? Did you lie to me? Is he not coming?”
Michael felt himself grin, despite the situation. He rounded the corner into the kitchen. Jeremy was leaning against the sink, laughing about something. Then he looked up, and his eyes lit up.
“Mikey!” he ran at him, then suddenly, Michael was on the ground, Jeremy sitting over him.
“You came!” Jeremy grinned excitedly.
Michael went to say something, but was cut off. He sucked in a large breath, and his eyes widened.
Jeremy had kissed him.
There were a million things running through his mind, including, holy shit, he kissed me.
The thought of Ethan never occurred to him until Jeremy pulled away. Then he felt guilty. Jeremy was just doing what he always did when he was high; flirting.
“C’mon, Jer, let me up and we’ll go home.” Michael said gently.
Jeremy sprang up cheerfully. Michael was glad he seemed so happy… But it was probably just the drugs. He skipped out to Michael’s car and put himself in the back seat, laying across the seat. He shivered.
“Mikey, I’m cold.”
Without thinking, Michael pulled off his hoodie and gave it to Jeremy, who slipped it on and buried his face in the material.
“It smells good.” He said happily.
Then he was out. Again. Like a light. Michael shook his head and drove back to his house. He thanked the lord Jeremy was so thin when it came time to take him inside. Where his mum was waiting for him. She took one look at Jeremy and shook her head.
“Sofa.” She said.
Jeremy’s arms were wound around his neck, and he wouldn’t let go when Michael tried to put him down. He should have known. Jeremy latched on to the closest thing when he was asleep, and he wouldn’t let go easily. Michael had bought him something for this.
A little brown bear. But of course, it was at Jeremy’s house.
So Michael just sighed and lay down next to him. He brushed Jeremy’s hair out of his eyes and took him in.
He looked so innocent and relaxed when he slept, like a child. He had a small smile on his face, which made Michael wonder what he was dreaming about. He wondered if it was him. Jeremy snuggled in really close to Michael, and he rested his head over Jeremy’s.
How many times had they slept like this? It had never meant anything before, however much Michael wished it did. He had to be honest with himself; Jeremy just didn’t like him like that.
He felt guilty. He was with Ethan now, yet here he was, cuddling with the guy he’d been in love with for years who would never love him back, ever.
Not like he loved Jeremy.
Michael sighed and closed his eyes. Soon, he succumbed to sleep.

Jeremy’s arms were wrapped loosely enough around his neck the next morning that he was able to get away without waking him up. Michael looked down at him with a small smile.
That hoodie was big for Michael; it looked absolutely huge on Jeremy.
“Michael.” His mum. “I won’t yell at you because you were helping a friend. You aren’t in trouble.” She paused, and looked at Jeremy. “You need to take care of him. He succumbs to quickly to pressure.” She left.
Michael closed his eyes.
God, she was right. And didn’t he know.

Chapter Text

He woke up in a space so familiar he didn’t even bother to get up. He sat up, head pounding, the SQUIP at his feet. He could see a movie playing in his eyes, and blinked.
“Are you… are you watching The Matrix?”
His SQUIP’s eyes came back. “Even I get bored, Jeremy.” He shook his head. “Plus, I took his shape, I watched his movie.”
“But… you know everything.” Jeremy was baffled.
His SQUIP looked slightly exasperated. “Knowing about a movie and watching it is a different experience. It’s like knowing about the holocaust and being in the middle of it.”
He looked at Jeremy sceptically. Then, hesitantly, said, “You kissed Michael last night.”
Jeremy flailed and rolled off the couch.
“Jer? Are you okay?” Michael walked in, pulling him up.
“I-I-I-I-I-I….” Jeremy felt himself turn bright red. He looked over at SQUIP, who held up his hands in surrender.
“You did this to yourself.”
Jeremy’s heart sank as he thought, I’ve ruined it. I’ve ruined everything.
“Please don’t think back into that deprethion. I’d hate to think the only thing to make you happy would be pot.” Michael looked stern, but there was some hurt in his eyes.
Too late. He thought bitterly.
But he only grinned at Michael.
How could one guy make him feel so… down?

Jeremy slowly sank back into his bed. When he didn’t come back to school that next Monday, Michael came over to see him staring at the wall.
“That’th it.” He threw Jeremy his jacket, a pair of pants and his shoes. “No thchool today. We’re gonna do thomething fun.”
Jeremy didn’t bother protest. He just slowly got himself dressed and walked out to Michael’s car.
“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’th wrong.” He said gently.
Jeremy just shrugged and looked out the window.
“Ask him something.” His SQUIP urged. “He wants to know you’re engaged with him.”
“How long have you and Ethan been together now?” he asked as casually as he could.
Michael looked at him quickly. He frowned.
“About two weekth.”
“Two down, two to go.” His SQUIP said cheerfully.
Shut up. I don’t want to ruin his relationship.
“You aren’t. Ethan is.”
Sorry, what?
“Jer? Are you okay, Jeremy?” Michael nudged his shoulder.
He nodded and leaned his head against the window.
“Where are we going?” he asked.
Michael shrugged. “That’th jutht it. I want to take you thomewhere I go when I feel deprethed.”
Jeremy looked at him sceptically. For all he knew, that could be anywhere. Michael looked proud of himself. Then he pulled over.
“C’mon. We have to walk now.” Michael got out and began to run.
Jeremy followed, wondering where the hell Michael could be taking him.

Jeremy was breathless. And not just from the running.
“Michael…”
It was an old playground. It was huge, and over looked a large lake.
They were sat at the top of the equipment, and Michael grinned at him.
“It’th amazing, ithn’t it?” he said gently.
“It really is.” He whispered almost inaudibly.
Michael didn’t say anything, just looked out at the lake, throwing a stone every now and then.
“You can come here whenever you want, okay?” Michael said. “If I don’t come to thchool, jutht athume I’m Heere.” (A/N: Sorry I had to.)
Jeremy nodded. Then, he did the riskiest thing you could do when sitting on the roof of a huge playground; he laid himself down.
Then slipped. Right off the roof. In a panic, he flailed, latching on to the first thing he could.
The edge of the roof.
“Thit thit thit Jeremy are you okay?”
“Oh no, I’m fine. I love dangling over a massive playground.” He blinked at his own sarcasm.
Where was the SQUIP? Usually he got zapped if he used sarcasm inappropriately. And he hadn’t seen him since they got out of the car. Jeremy heaved himself back up. At least those push ups were doing something. Michael grabbed his forearm to make sure he didn’t fall again. They stared at each other for a moment.
“I think we thould go back.” Michael said finally.
Jeremy nodded breathlessly. Michael’s hand was still on his arm, and he just… stared for a moment.
Michael was really pretty. He had big brown eyes, like a puppy. Jeremy loved them. Then he realized something.
Michael was staring back.
Not in a way Jeremy found weird. Not in a way he noticed Jeremy was staring. He was just… staring.
And Jeremy loved it.

Chapter Text

When Jeremy didn’t come to school Tuesday, Michael was worried. Was he still in bed? Was he sick? What was wrong? He feigned a stomach ache and ended up driving to Jeremy’s. His father had seen him leave the house, but he’d assumed he’d gone to school. He decided to try the Playground of Death. Maybe he’d gone there? The trail walk usually calmed Michael down, but he didn’t know where Jeremy was, so it was only mildly soothing.
Then he saw him.
He was sitting on the roof again, sort of hunched over something in his lap. He was drawing, Michael realized.
“Yo, dude.” Michael called up.
Jeremy jumped a mile and whipped around, snapping his book shut. He grinned sheepishly at Michael.
“I felt like shit this morning, so I…” he swept his arm around the space.
Michael climbed up and sat next to Jeremy.
“What were you drawing?” he asked.
Jeremy looked at him sceptically, and then opened the book.
“I was designing characters for a video game.”
Michael took the book and flicked through it.
These pages were villains. He could tell by the way they looked.
Their eyes were blank. They looked… awesome. Michel ran his hand across one of them. It struck a chord in him, then he realized why.
It looked like Keanu Reeves, and had a circuit sort of pattern running across his face. He’d never seen it, but he knew exactly what it was.
Jeremy’s SQUIP.
Michael looked at him.
“My hero is my favourite.” Jeremy muttered, turning the page.
Michael looked down and found himself staring at himself. His breath caught in his throat.
“You… have helped me through a lot of shit stuff. You deserve to be the hero.”
They sat in silence for about an hour, Michael watching Jeremy draw. When they felt it was time to go home, Jeremy asked for a lift, and Michael gave him one. The comfortable silence remained in the car as Michael tried to push down the feeling in his stomach that threatened to ruin everything.
He kicked his lisp a month before the dentist said he would. He learned how to speak around his braces early, so now his boyfriend, friends and best friend had stopped laughing at him.
“Suck shit, I can speak normally! You have no material!” Michael grinned.
“Except for the fact that you’ve still reached ultimate nerd-dom.” Jeremy casually commented.
His depression seemed to be over; he was coming to school again and didn’t just stare or make excuses to leave. He still acted suspiciously like he did when he’d had his SQUIP, muttering to himself animatedly in the hall, crying out randomly in pain, etc. Michael tried to ignore this, but with Ethan commented on every little thing Jeremy did, it was a bit difficult.
“Why does he do that?”
“He had a really bad experience with something last year and… I really don’t want to get into it.” Michael said, exasperated.
His boyfriend sat up. “I need to go, Michael.” He gave Michael a quick kiss and started to leave.
“Okay… bye.” Michael muttered.
Jeremy had made an excuse to go to the bathroom (this one, although an excuse, meant he’d be back), so he was now alone at the table. Rich and Jake were wherever, Brooke hadn’t come to school, and Chloe and Jenna had followed Jeremy into their respective bathroom. He’d never understood why girls had to accompany their friends to the bathroom… He shrugged it off with a weird feeling.
Ethan always made excuses to leave when Jeremy did. He’d rarely seen one without the other.
It may not mean anything. Michael thought. But it could mean everything.
He sighed as Jeremy came back into the room. His best friend plonked himself onto the seat.
“Where’d he go?” Michael didn’t have to ask, he knew who Jeremy was talking about.
“No idea. He just left.” He put his head on the table and felt Jeremy put his hand on his back.
“I want to go home.”
“Then let’s.”
That’s how he ended up spending the rest of the day in the 7-11 car park with Jeremy, just doing nothing.

The next few weeks were pretty uneventful as far as everything went. School happened, he fucked around, nothing.
He was sitting in his room with Ethan one day when suddenly, his boyfriend stood up.
“Michael?”
“Mm?”
“I have something to tell you.”
Oh boy. This wasn’t good.

Chapter Text

He felt like shit. He felt his breathing shallow and he felt light headed and he just…
He needed Michael.
He grabbed his stuff and stumbled out the front door. He knew Ethan was at Michael’s at the moment, but he really didn’t care anymore. He ran all the way to Michael’s. He’d never run so far in his entire life.
“It’s hardly like you could get worse.” His SQUIP pointed out, practically gliding behind him.
“Sh-Sh-Shut u-u-up.” He was all but hyperventilating, and he was beginning to feel numb.
He threw open Michael’s gate and made his way to the front door, which opened before he could knock. Ethan brushed passed him, looking guilty, sad and hopeful all at once upon seeing Jeremy.
“He’s uh… Not in great shape.” He muttered, pushing past him, not particularly gently.
Jeremy frowned at him and walked inside.
“Michael?” he heard a grumble; all of his anxiety vanished and was replaced with concern. “Mikey are you okay?”
He climbed the stairs and opened Michael’s bedroom door. Michael sat on the bed, legs crossed, head down, hands folded in his lap. He looked up as the door opened; he had tears running down his face.
“Michael?” Jeremy said quietly. Cautiously.
Michael lost it. A loud sob forced its way out of his mouth and he threw himself at Jeremy, wrapping his arms tightly around him. Jeremy stood with his arms awkwardly pinned to his side, finding it very hard to ask Michael what was wrong. He laid his head in Michael’s shoulder as a way of returning the embrace.
“He-he-he… He never liked me. He used me as practice. That’s what he told me.” Michael let him go suddenly, as if he were hugging an electric fence.
He sat back on his bed. He looked so… childish. He couldn’t help were his mind took him next…

Ten years old, standing in the gym of the high school. Jeremy was shaking, and Michael tugged on his sleeve gently as a show of moral support. Jeremy’s mother had thrown him into a ballroom dancing class, as she encouraged him to do anything that go him out of the house. Michael’s mother had heard Jeremy was doing it and decided it would be good for Michael, so she signed him up too.
“Okay, kiddos, pair up.” Their teacher clapped her hands once with a beaming smile.
The only people that Jeremy knew here other than Michael were Brooke and Jake, but they’d already paired up. Jeremy seized Michael’s hand suddenly, gripping tightly, as if if he loosened his grip, he’d lose Michael. Their teacher walked over to them.
“Jeremy, sweetheart, you’re gonna have to let go of Michael’s hand and pair up with someone.” She said gently.
Jeremy looked at her and shook his head vigorously.
“He doesn’t like new people.” Michael said quietly.
Teacher sighed, and then looked at Jeremy. She looked at both of them for a moment, and then sighed again.
“Are you okay with pairing up with Jeremy?” she asked Michael.
Michael nodded. That’s how he ended up learning to waltz with Michael. He looked like he was having a lot of fun, he looked a lot younger than he actually was. He would be eleven in a few weeks, but the sparkle in his eye was that of the one he’d seen when they were five.
Jeremy felt a weird feeling in his stomach. Like… butterflies.
He didn’t know what this feeling was, but it scared him.

He’d ended up on Michael’s bed with him somehow during the memory, sitting against the headboard, Michael’s head in his lap. Michael had fallen asleep, but he was frowning and restless and still crying. Jeremy ran his hand through Michael’s hair, as Michael had done so many times when he was high or drunk and supposedly asleep. Michael put product through his hair, and Jeremy set to work trying to brush it out with his fingers. He succeeded after a while for the most part, and Michael’s hair flopped onto his forehead. He liked it. A thought struck him suddenly, and he awkwardly tried to pull his phone out of his pocket.

To: Christiiiiiine~
What are some good break up songs?

He pulled the list together as soon as he got the reply, pulling Michael’s phone off the bedside table and downloading them to his phone. He jerked Michael awake and grabbed his speaker.
“Do you know Ethan’s address?” when Michael nodded, he grabbed his keys from his desk. “Let’s go.”

The music blared from the speaker, Beyoncé at the moment.
“I can have another you by tomorrow, so don't you ever for a second get to thinking, you're irreplaceable.”
Michael sat on the hood of his car, and Jeremy was laughing in the front seat. A curtain pulled back, then was quickly shut again.
“What’s going on?” Someone called from the house.
Jeremy leaned out the window and called, “He used Michael, ma’am, so we’re just…” he gestured to Michael, who waved.
He turned the speaker off when the song finished and got back in the car. He looked at Jeremy for a moment, and then laughed.
“That was amazing. Thank you.”
Jeremy started the car and pulled out. “You’re welcome.”

Chapter Text

He needed to get out of the house, so even though this day gave him anxiety these days, he looked briefly at Jeremy.
“Let’s go trick or treating.”
Jeremy paused the game and looked at him, dropping his controller on his lap.
“I mean, sure, but are you sure you’re up for it?”
A painful flash made its way through Michael’s head, but he nodded. Jeremy’s eyes lit up and he suddenly got really excited.
He could see what Ethan liked.
Michael loved it too. Jeremy rambled on about what they should wear and what time they should go and whatnot. Jeremy paused.
“Are you okay? You look like you’re in pain.”
“He told me he wanted someone else.” He found himself saying. “Which wouldn’t have even been so bad. But he’d never liked me in the first place. He needed practice. And information.” The red settled around his eyes.
Jeremy’s brow furrowed. “Information? About what?”
“You.” Michael sighed so he wouldn’t start yelling. It wasn’t Jeremy’s fault. “He liked you, Jeremy.”
Silence.
“Surely not. Who would like me?”
Me. Michael managed to stop himself saying.
“I-I mean, I’m not even remotely likeable, plus, he’s a dick.” He said.
Michael smiled at him gently. “You’re very likeable, Jer.”
Jeremy grinned. Then he started talking about trick or treating again. Michael nodded along every now and then. He’d let Jeremy plan this.

“No.” He crossed his arms over his chest defiantly, but he couldn’t help the grin that spread across his face. “Absolutely fucking not.”
Jeremy shoved the costume at him. “You didn’t help me plan, so you don’t get a choice.” Jeremy grinned. “Plus, you agreed.”
Smartass. He knew very well that Michael hadn’t been listening. This is why he was doing this.
“As much as I love Pac Man, no way will you’ll ever get me to do this.” He poked at the costume. “Where the hell did you even find this?”
Jeremy grinned and shook his head.
“Put it on.”

Jeremy hummed to himself as he skipped over to the next house. How had he even managed to get him into this?
While he had to admit watching Jeremy skip around dressed as a Pac Man ghost, carrying a bag full of candy was the most adorable thing he’d ever seen, he was not so amused when Jeremy had shoved him in his own costume.
Pac Man himself.
Michael was trying to hide his face in the costume, but who else would Jeremy be trick or treating with? He hated this thing. Jeremy didn’t even let him wear his hoodie. Michael slowly walked up behind Jeremy as he pressed the doorbell. The lady who opened looked a little less than amused.
“Aren’t you boys too old to be trick or treating?”
Jeremy looked a little deflated as she regarded him harshly. Michael frowned.
“Does it matter how old he is? If he wants to do it, he’ll damn well do it.” He snapped.
The lady scowled and slammed her door shut. Jeremy put his head down and turned to him.
“Maybe we should go home.” He said quietly.
That was it. Michael grabbed his hand and pulled him down the street. No grumpy old lady was going to make his friend sad.
“I think we still have a few houses down this way.”

Jeremy looked like a kid in a candy store. Literally. He’d shed his costume and dumped all of his candy on the floor of Michael’s basement.
“Look at the candy we got, Michael! This is better than last time.”
Michael sat on a beanbag and lit himself a joint with a grin. Jeremy looked so excited, so childish. Jeremy had almost made him feel better, too.
Until Michael had had to harshly pull Jeremy back down the road when he saw Ethan and his sister. He’d hoped to god he hadn’t seen them, but he’d heard his name being called as they rounded the corner.
Jeremy looked up at Michael, throwing a candy bar at him.
“You didn’t even offer me any, you rude bitch.”
Michael passed Jeremy the joint, and he held it between his teeth for a moment as he put all his candy back in his bag before taking a hit and passing it back to Michael.
Jeremy yawned, and Michael looked at his phone. They’d been out longer than he thought.
“Alright, we have school tomorrow.” Michael said.
“Who are you, my dad?” Jeremy asked a little sleepily. All the excitement had worn off, Michael, amused, noticed. Jeremy was tired as hell now. He was practically sleeping sitting up.
“Alright, time for bed.”
Jeremy didn’t object.

Chapter Text

The Monday after Michael was no longer part of a relationship, the day after Halloween, Jeremy felt strangely happy. His best friend was depressed and he kept getting hopeful glances from Ethan in the hallway, but he skipped through the hallway.
“Don’t skip, Jeremy.” His SQUIP said in exasperation.
Jeremy ignored him and made his way to his lunch table, sitting himself down so hard next to Michael he winced.
“What are you so happy about?” Michael asked.
Jeremy shrugged and put his chin in his hand.
“It’s not too heinous a day today. Thought I’d enjoy it.” He saw his SQUIP roll his eyes.
“it’s because he’s single again. You feel you have a chance.” SQUIP muttered.
That’s why. Okay.
“Jeremiah fucking Heere, if you don’t stop staring at me, I’m getting you charged for stalking.” Michael announced.
Jeremy instantly turned a bright red as Jake snorted.
“Your name is Jeremiah?”
Jeremy turned a brighter red and turned to Michael. “Shall I tell them your middle name?”
Michael looked horrified instantly. His SQUIP was laughing. He’d found it.
“No. You swore you’d never-“
“You also swore you’d never call me Jeremiah in public, but you did.” Jeremy pointed out.
A blush spread across Michael’s face and he muttered something Jeremy didn’t understand. It wasn’t even all that bad, but Michael was so embarrassed about it. Jeremy didn’t even have a middle name. Then Jenna sat down and the conversation turned to Madeline, who’d slept with another guy. Jeremy exchanged a look with Michael, and then they grinned.
But of course someone had to come and fucking ruin it.

Math was a hard enough subject, but it was worse when you sat behind your best friends ex, who apparently had a crush on you. He saw Ethan reach his hand out a few times, but Michael would just shrug him off. Finally, he snapped. He slammed his pen on the table and whipped around.
“Touch me one more time, and I’ll end you.” He snarled.
Jeremy was a bit taken aback, and apparently, so was Ethan. He rocked back in his seat a little, and a loud whoosh of air flew out of his mouth, as if he were winded. Michael slammed his books shut and with a sweep of his arm, shoved them all in his backpack. Jeremy shut his own notebook and picked up his own backpack, ready to follow Michael if he left.
Conveniently, the bell went off, so Michael just upped and gone. Jeremy followed him quickly, but to his dismay, so did Ethan.
Him being taller than Jeremy meant he had longer strides, so he got to Michael first. He grabbed his sleeve. Michael shrugged him off, but Ethan grabbed his shoulder and spun him around.
“Please, Michael.”
Jeremy stepped between them and put a hand on Ethan’s chest, shoving him back slightly.
“He doesn’t want to talk to you. Leave him alone.” He said firmly.
Ethan scowled at him.
“This is none of your business.”
Jeremy drew himself to his full height. He was still shorter than Ethan, but they were all hopefully going to ignore this.
“The moment you hurt him is the moment it becomes my business.” Jeremy probably sounded braver than he felt. God, he was shitting himself.
“Enough.” Michael snapped behind them. “That’s fucking enough. Leave him the fuck alone.”
Ethan frowned.
“Oh sure, he’s such a coward his friend has to stick up for him.”
Before anyone knew what had happened, a loud crack echoed through the hallway. Everyone turned. Ethan looked stunned; there was a large red hand mark on his cheek.
“Christ.” Jeremy whispered.
For a moment, it looked like Michael was going to slap him again.
“Don’t you dare call him a coward. You couldn’t even grow the balls to ask him out yourself! You had to use me to…” Jeremy grabbed Michael around the waist and lifted him just enough to carry him away.
He was still screaming. Jeremy dumped him in front of his car and he stalked over to the driver’s side, slamming the door. Jeremy didn’t follow him. He watched for a while as Michael stared at him through the windscreen. Then he screamed. He beat a fist against the steering wheel, and the horn went off. Jeremy slid into the passenger’s seat.
“Feel better?”
“No.”
Jeremy looked at his SQUIP.
“There’s no way to make this better.”
Jeremy hated that.

Chapter Text

He was suspended for three days. He’d hit a guy, but he’d gotten off on good behaviour or some shit. He didn’t care. He didn’t even try to ignore the satisfied feeling he got when he slapped him. He sat on his bed, headphones on, going through his phone. He heard a tap on his window. He turned, pulling his headphones down slightly. Nothing. He shrugged and put them back on.
He didn’t hear the window open. He didn’t hear them come through.
He only heard him scream, “Boo!”
Michael jumped. “Christ, Jeremy!” he yelled, ripping his headphones off.
Jeremy grinned and sat himself next to him. “You like it?”
“No, Jeremy, I did not like you scaring the shit out of me.” Michael dug the heel of his hands into his eyes. “Christ. How did you even…?”
“I pulled myself up the drain pipe next to your window.” Jeremy pulled himself up because he was falling off the bed, and then threw his legs over Michael’s. “There is no room on this bed.”
Michael shoved him off. “Then get off, you fucking twink.”
Jeremy had flailed and awkwardly landed on his side. He just lay there for a moment, then…
“Michael. Help me up?”
Michael giggled a little and grabbed Jeremy’s arm. He yanked him up.
“Um, ow? If you hit him with even half the force you just yanked my arm with, he must still be in pain.”
Michael loosened his grip. “I think he might be.” He threw himself back against his pillows as Jeremy settled himself in his previous position.
“Like, dude, I didn’t even know you had it in you.” Jeremy pulled out his own phone and began humming. “You’ve spread a ton of rumours.”
“Oh?”
Jeremy looked at him and pulled up Jenna’s Facebook page. Of course. She’d tagged him in the post, but he’d ignored it at the time.
‘OMG Michael Mell xD gave him a good hit, didn’t you? He totally deserved it.’
There was so many comments, asking who he’d hit and if he’d literally hit the guy or if it was metaphorical or whatever. He snorted.
“Hell yea, I’m finally more popular than you.”
Jeremy went silent. He clicked his phone off then frowned.
Michael gave him a look. He was fiddling with the hem of his jacket, pulling at a loose thread.
“I’m not that popular.”
Michael shrugged. “People like you more than they like me…”
Jeremy started muttering to himself, digging his fingernails into his palms. Michael didn’t hear what he was saying, until he started getting a bit louder. He was repeating two sentences.
“Everything about me is so terrible. Everything about me makes me want to die…”
Michael grabbed both of Jeremy’s wrists. “Hey. Hey. That’s not true.”
“Isn’t it?”
Michael didn’t know what to say. Jeremy looked at him blankly, which kind of scared him. There was rarely an emotion didn’t show up on Jeremy’s face.
“No. It’s not.” He heard himself say. He didn’t know he was going to say them, but they came out regardless. “You’ve made some pretty shitty decisions, but you are not terrible. Your mum is terrible. But you are not.”
“You weren’t… She left because of me.” Jeremy whispered. “We were watching the news and they said something about legalizing gay marriage. She sort of scoffed and said, ‘all gays will go to hell.’ I’d had enough of her at that point, so I stood. She asked me where I was going, and I turned to her and said, ‘hell apparently.’”
Michael hadn’t known that. “But, surely that’s not…?”
“No.” he looked up at him. “We got into an argument and she slapped me. Then dad yelled at her for hitting me and she packed her shit and left.”
“I bet she hadn’t expected that.” He didn’t mean to say that, but apparently it was what he needed.
Jeremy giggled a little, and Michael smiled. Jeremy put his head on Michael’s shoulder.
“I don’t get why people don’t like you. I like you.”
“You like me, so that means everyone else should too?”
“Mmhm.”
Michael shook his head and put his head on Jeremy’s.
“I’m a loser. I’ve been a loser since Pre-K. You knew me in kindergarten, but I was a loser before that.” Jeremy made a noise in the back of his throat.
“That’s cool. So was I.”
Michael laughed. “So we were always gay losers.”
“Exactly.”
Nothing like a visit from Jeremy to cheer him up.

Chapter Text

“What is that?”
“I think it’s a zombie.”
“Should we shoot it?”
“Nah, we should wait to see what it is first.”
Of all the things that had been changed in the last year, Jeremy was happy that gaming with Michael was not one of them.
“Shoot it shoot it shoot it it’s a zombie!” Michael screeched, jerking his controller.
Jeremy flailed a little before shooting the zombie several times.
“Holy shit, that was close.” Michael whispered.
Jeremy giggled a little, a little manically. It turned into a cackle, then a zap as his SQUIP decided enough was enough. Jeremy pulled down his left sleeve a little, desperately hoping Michael would not notice.
But of course he fucking did.
“Dude, it’s like a million degrees today. Why did you do that?” As a sign of how hot it was, Michael had shed his hoodie and it lay abandoned across the room.
“Don’t show him.” His SQUIP said, but he didn’t sound particularly harsh, like he expected Jeremy to do exactly what he was about to do.
Jeremy lifted his sleeve.
He was still surprised he could breathe, because in that moment he could have sworn Michael sucked in all the air in the room.
The scars went all the way up his left arm, in a circuit pattern.
“They stem from my shoulder and go down my back.” Jeremy said quietly, lifting his shirt a little. “They’re from the shocks my SQUIP gave me.”
Michael traced his finger along one of the weird stem things. It tickled a little, and Jeremy shivered before pulling back his arm. He now had an excuse to take off his jacket and wouldn’t overheat, so that was always good. But now Michael looked at him in that way that made him sad.
Like he’d just realized the world was shit and no amount of video games could fix it.

Jeremy ran a hand over his weird scars, not liking the way Michael would keep looking at his arm. Finally, he snapped.
“It’s fine, Michael. Stop fucking looking.” He felt so damn embarrassed, and Michael wasn’t helping. “God, it’s not like I need an extra reminder they’re there.”
“Oh, that’s the perfect way to get him to like you.” His SQUIP sneered.
Shut the fuck up.
Michael was just looking at him. He mouthed something that Jeremy didn’t catch, then turned his head away.
“That’s it. That’s fucking it.” Jeremy stood.
“Don’t you dare do it, Jeremy.” His SQUIP sounded slightly desperate.
Michael looked at him curiously.
“What’s it?”
“I’m getting drunk. Possibly stoned. I need this.”
Michael looked puzzled, but not particularly keen to disagree.
Which Jeremy took a sign he’d be joining him.

They’d originally planned to match each other, but Michael had eventually slowed. Jeremy just kept knocking back drinks, and eventually asked Michael if he could roll a joint.
Michael seemed just tipsy enough to say yes.
They sat there for a while, passing the joint and drinking. Jeremy couldn’t hear his SQUIP anymore. He’d forgotten what day it was. He’d forgotten his name. How long had they been going for? Jeremy looked up at the clock, but he hadn’t known what time they started, so there was no point.
“Dude. I need some Mountain Dew Red.”
Even in his intoxicated state, he could see Michael hadn’t ascended past tipsy. Jeremy was gone, but Michael was barely even… anything.
“What for?”
“Because my SQUIP came back and I want him gone.”
Michael didn’t look particularly surprised. He just looked a little angry.
“I fucking knew it. I knew it. You fucking changed, especially since… he asked me out that first time.” Michael’s eyes narrowed. “You didn’t even fucking tell me. Me. Your best friend.”
Jeremy’s drunk mind didn’t process just how angry Michael was.
“That’s because I didn’t want you to know why he came back.”
“And why was that?”
Jeremy didn’t remember doing this until Michael told him later. Then it had come back with a painful clarity.
He threw his arms around Michael’s neck, then leaned in so close Michael had been sure he’d kiss him again. But he just ducked his head to the side and whispered in his ear.
“It’s a secret.” Then pulled away. He hit Michael’s chest lightly. “Pass me another drink.”
He wasn’t sure he got it, because his memory went black after that.

Chapter Text

Jeremy looked like hell when he woke up. Michael had been staring at him all night. He just couldn’t… Why would his SQUIP come back? He heard Jeremy groan and jumped.
“Mornin’ Mikey.” He said sleepily.
“It’s back. You lied to me.” Michael suddenly felt really hurt.
Too many people had lied to him lately. He’d hadn’t thought Jeremy would be one of them.
“I-uh-wha? How did you know?” He looked so surprised; he didn’t even bother denying it.
“You told me last night.”
“I did…?” Jeremy’s eyes went blank as he tried to recall the memory. Then he winced. “Oh shit I did.”
Jeremy looked down at his lap. He looked like hell, as recounted earlier.
“I didn’t want you to know… I thought you’d hate me again…”
Michael suddenly felt really tired.
“I could never hate you.” He muttered. He stood, patting Jeremy’s head. “I’ll be back dude.”
He made his way into the kitchen… And something happened in the living room.
“Michael?”
“Yea?”
Silence.
“M-Michael?”
Michael was confused, and went to answer again, when Jeremy called out in a panicked voice, “Michael this isn’t funny.”
Jeremy opened the door to the kitchen, scanned it for a bit, then ran out.
“That’s weird.” Michael muttered to himself. “Jer, dude I’m in here.”
He could still hear Jeremy opening and closing doors, calling out for Michael.
He couldn’t get passed the way his eyes had seemed to slide right over him like…
“Like he couldn’t see me.”
It dawned on Michael suddenly. Well, more like slammed into him.
“Jesus fucking-” He growled.
Jeremy was sitting back in the living room when he entered, looking lost. Michael’s heart broke for him.
“This isn’t funny. Answer me, where is he?” Jeremy said in a shaky voice. Then he scowled. “You did fucking what?”
Michael watched the exchange for a bit.
“I should have fucking known. Where the fuck would he have gone, it’s his house…. I don’t care why the fuck you did it, I want it off… NOW!” the last word came out so harshly Michael flinched.
Jeremy blinked a little, then looked towards Michael. Then his face lit up.
“I can see you!” he looked so happy…
Michael sat next to him and put a hand on his knee.
“We need to get rid of it, Jeremy.” He said quietly.
Jeremy nodded. He wrapped his jacket around himself and closed his eyes.
“I’ve been thinking that for months.”
Michael winced a little. He’d put up with this for months. For months on his own. Jeremy flinched a little and put a hand on his neck.
“Ow, fuck, what was that for?” he whined.
“Tell it that I hate it.”
“It knows, Mikey. It can hear you.”
“Good.”
Jeremy laughed a little, and Michael tried to ignore the new scar that had snaked its way down Jeremy’s left hand.

“Well, Jeremiah Heere, you are officially fucked.”
Jeremy groaned and flopped back on the beanbag.
“You’re out? Really?”
Michael nodded a little gravely, a bit embarrassed.
“I don’t think my guy has any either.”
Jeremy groaned again and curled himself up into a little ball.
“Kill me now.” Came a muffled reply.
Michael looked at Jeremy for a long time. It’s not like he’d never done this before. He could probably tell you all of Jeremy’s features and where they were.
The smattering of freckles across his nose he’d almost (regrettably) grown out.
The small scar above his left eyebrow he’d gotten from walking into a sign.
Just little things, you know? But he’d never quite noticed…
The way Jeremy held himself. Like he’d resigned himself to the fact the universe never noticed him. Like he’d never get the things he wanted because he was simply not cool enough.
The way he seemed to readily accept that everything was his fault, as if it were justified.
He’d known Jeremy was… insecure. It was hard not to, even not being friends for over a decade. He’d also thought Jeremy was okay with only Michael, so long as no one else noticed him.
But now he just seemed a little off-kilter, like someone had over balanced him and he hadn’t quite regained footing.
“Maybe I don’t want to.” Michael replied, trying to turn the mood around a little.
He didn’t know if it worked. But he tried.

Chapter Text

He’d panicked. He’d been on the verge of a panic attack, then his SQUIP told him he’d activated the fucking optic nerve blocking. It was a punishment, he’d said, for telling Michael.
And to top it off, he couldn’t even get rid of him.
“Do you even want to? You remember the pain, don’t you?” his SQUIP purred in his ear.
“Fuck off, don’t talk to me.”
Michael looked at him vacantly.
“Hm?”
Jeremy shook his head and pulled his jacket around him. The weather had gone from hell-fire-hot to I-hope-I-don’t-get-pneumonia-cold. Michael got off his bed and scrambled around, picking things up off his floor and pulling things out of his cupboard until he found what he was looking for. He tossed the black sweater to Jeremy, who pulled it on.
“Thanks, dude.”
Michael had a grin that seemed too big for his face. Now paired with the braces, it gave him the most adorable dorky look. Jeremy checked the time on his phone.
“Holy shit. It’s so late.”
Michael leaned over and looked at Jeremy’s phone. “Oh yea, so it is. It didn’t seem all that dark out so-“
Michael didn’t even get to finish his sentence before the power shut off.
“Shit.” Michael murmured. He scowled.
You may be wondering how Jeremy knew this, since he couldn’t even see his hand in front of him. He snickered a little, and Michael closed his mouth.
“Michael… Why are you teeth glowing?”
He couldn’t see Michael’s blush, he felt it as he sat next to him on his bed.
“So what? I have glow in the dark bands on my braces. I also have a stuffed bunny in the corner of my room.”
Jeremy recalled the memory. The local fair had happened, and Michael being Michael insisted on winning Jeremy a stuffed animal, like in a cheesy chick-flick (his words). Michael must have spent about twenty dollars on one game, but try as he might, he just couldn’t get the rabbit. Jeremy hadn’t seen the big deal; the rabbit had dirty white, matted fur and was missing an eye, but Michael was so frustrated with himself. And, naturally, as soon as Jeremy had tried, he won the rabbit. He’d given it to Michael because that was honestly the ugliest thing he’d ever seen, but Michael kept it, as motivation to win for next year.
“How is Ron anyway?”
Scratch that, Michael hadn’t taken it because of the motivation. He’d fallen in love with the bunny the minute he’d taken it from Jeremy. Not being able to think of a name for it, he’d asked the first person to pass him what their name was. So the bunny had become Ron.
“Ron’s fine. Shut up.” Jeremy could see Michael’s braces flashing every time he spoke, and eventually he couldn’t stand it anymore.
He laughed. He laughed hard.
Michael stuck his tongue out at him and snatched his phone up. A bright light broke through the darkness, and Jeremy blinked.
“I will win you a bear one day. It will be gay, but it will happen.”
Jeremy threw a pillow at him. “Sit down, twink.”
Michael flung the pillow back at him, then something landed on Jeremy’s lap.
Ron.
“Holy fuck germs get it off.”
Michael was laughing. “No, I fixed him and gave him a bath.”
Jeremy snorted. But what was really growing was the anxiety he was starting to feel. It was really dark… Something brushed against his hand and he screamed.
“Sorry, I forgot you’re afraid of the dark.” Michael said apologetically.
Jeremy grabbed his hand and squeezed. “Just… say something distracting.”
Silence for a moment.
“Did I ever tell you how I came out to my parents?”
Jeremy shook his head, then remembered Michael couldn’t see him. “No.”
“I was with them in the living room, on my phone. They were watching Modern Family and the fat gay guy came onscreen. My mum said ‘hey look it’s my favourite gay.’ I looked up at her and said, ‘I thought I was your favourite gay.’ She looked at me, shrugged, and went back to the show.”
Jeremy burst out laughing. Michael joined him after a moment. Somewhere in the middle of the fit, he’d realized they were in the same position they were the other night, when Jeremy had vented to Michael about his mother. His legs were thrown over Michael’s, and his head on his shoulder. Michael’s head rested on Jeremy’s, and his arm had snaked it’s way around his waist.
Jeremy didn’t want to move.
So he fell asleep.
Classy, right?

Chapter Text

His mum came in the next morning while Jeremy was still asleep. They were in the same position they were last night, only Michael had stolen his arm back to use his phone. He hadn’t wanted to move and disturb Jeremy, so he’d just let him sleep. His mum’s eyes glanced over Jeremy, and she raised an eyebrow. Michael shook his head. He felt his hair flop over his forehead and made a mental note to fix that.
He looked like an emo faggot when he didn’t style it, as opposed to a regular faggot.
Jeremy yawned next to him and stirred, but didn’t wake up. Michael didn’t know how he could sleep like this, but he looked like he needed the rest. Michael had last night noticed the huge bags under Jeremy’s eyes. When was the last time he’d slept?
“He can’t come over anymore.” His mother said. As soon as Michael went to protest, she said, “Only for as long as you’re grounded.”
Michael grumbled a little and nodded. Then remembered he wasn’t grounded tomorrow. “Kay, mum.”
She looked at Jeremy softly with a little smile.
“You need to tell him you like him, Micah.”
Michael choked on his own spit a little.
“I-I don’t… what?” he said, totally convincingly. “I don’t like him.”
His mother scoffed and shook her head.
“I wasn’t born yesterday. I see the way you look at each other.” There was an awkward pause as they looked at each other. “Um, that guy from called. He said your drink came in.”
She raised her eyes to a shelf on the wall, stocked entirely with pre-21st-Century soft drink bottles. Michael lowered his own eyes back to his phone.
“Thanks mum.”
And on that awkward note, she smiled and left.

“Ready? Are you sure your dad won’t be home?”
Tuesday marked the first official day of Michael’s freedom. He sat with Jeremy on the floor of Jeremy’s room, each boy cross legged, knees touching. Jeremy fiddled with the bottle a little, trying to flip it onto its cap.
“Nah. Dad’ll be at work till five, and then he’s staying at Heidi’s before she goes away.” He paused a moment, then smiled bitterly. “It’s freaking a little.”
“So am I. You were in hospital for days.” Michael said.
“Well, here goes nothing.” Jeremy sighed.
Michael had pulled out his phone, trying to remember what to do with him after he passed out. There were ways to make it less painful, his friend had said, but it was easier to just nurse him back to health. The fear in Jeremy’s eyes subsided a little, then was replaced entirely by triumph as he tipped the bottle back and downed half the drink. Then pain.
Jeremy screamed. Michael remembered this from last time, but it didn’t make it any less terrifying. He moved himself back, a little out of fear and a little trying to give Jeremy room. He regretted the choice to sit on the floor. Then it was over. Jeremy’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell like a rag doll.
“J-J-Jesus Christ.” Michael could feel himself shaking, so he gave himself a moment before breathing and pulling up the instructions he was given. He followed each of the orders to the last letter, then texted his mum to say he was staying with Jeremy. He didn’t give her detail other than he was sick.
He wouldn’t know how to explain it anyway.
She gave the go ahead, and he sat across the room and watched his friend.
“What the fuck do you get yourself into?” he muttered to himself.

He spent the night at Jeremy’s. He should have been okay half way through tomorrow with proper care, but Michael had to watch him in case he spasmed in his sleep or something. Michael had just remained in the same position from when he’d first helped Jeremy. Just across the room, watching him. He still felt like freaking out a little, but Jeremy looked at peace.
But it was finally gone, and they could go on with their lives.
They didn’t have to deal with that glorified floppy disk, and they were normal again. Or as normal as they got.
“Oh, fuck me.” Michael put his head between his knees and sighed.

Chapter Text

He remembered the pain.
Probably because he felt it the moment he woke up. He felt the pain wrack through his body and collapsed back onto his bed.
“Owowowowowowowowowow.”
He remembered the desperate voice in his head. He remembered thinking just before the pain….
“Game over.”
“What was that?”
He looked over to his right a little. Mell didn’t seem to suit Michael as a last name anymore.
Michael Hell more like.
Jeremy fought the urge to giggle at his own joke. Michael was curled up on the floor, cocooned in his hoodie. He looked really tired, like he hadn’t slept.
“No, I haven’t slept.” Michael mumbled into his patch of floor.
He’d forgotten Michael could practically read his mind. A car door slammed outside, and Jeremy gingerly pulled himself up. He was in so much pain… Michael scrambled to his feet with a yawn.
“Evan and dad are here.” Jeremy said, walking out although each move caused him a shit ton of pain.
He could hear the desperate voice in his ears still.
“Please, Jeremy don’t do this. We still haven’t got him yet I can help you get him COME ON PLEASE JEREMY!”
He’d looked him right in the eye. The fear on the SQUIP’s face had been enough to startle Jeremy. He hadn’t been this desperate last time.

Evan sat awkwardly across from Jeremy at lunch. His dad wanted to know why they weren’t at school. He’d said something vague about coming down with something, and he’d tried to flippantly wave his hand when a shot of pain flashed across his head. He’d winced and put a hand to it, which had served his purpose well enough. Michael fell asleep at the table. Evan watched him awkwardly. They were alone now, with Michael asleep.
“Is… Is he your boyfriend?”
Jeremy glanced up at Evan and shook his head. God, though he wanted him to be. Evan nodded and went back to picking at his sandwich.
“You should try the letter writing technique my therapist told me to use last year.” Evan’s voice was clear and not awkward anymore.
Jeremy looked up and met Evan’s clear blue eyes, watching expectantly.
“You have things you need to let out. It didn’t help me, but it may help you.”
Evan took his half full plate and left the room. Jeremy watched him as he came back in with a pen and notepad, dropping it in front of him.
“Do it. It may help.”
With that, he left again.
Jeremy started writing the letter.

With Evan’s help, they got Michael into his car and drove him home. He was very aware of the letter folded in his pocket.
He had no intention of giving it to Michael, but it did feel better to get everything out.
Nicole ended up helping Michael into bed when he got there. The pain was subsiding a little, but it still wasn’t enough to help the tiny girl pull her boyfriend’s brother out of his car.
The last words of his SQUIP replayed in his head over and over, the desperate shouting.
Something had changed this time, and he didn’t know what, but he thought he’d sure as shit find out.
He’d never pleaded with Jeremy. Jeremy turned that thought over in his head. He’d probably thought he didn’t have to, that if Jeremy wasn’t going to do something, he sure wasn’t going to do it, so there was no point pushing or pleading or anything.
“Come on, Jeremy, please!”
Everything had come out in one rambling voice. His cool, suave SQUIP had been rambling at him.
And, to be quite frank, it terrified him to no end.

Michael texted him later when he woke up. He’d been out cold for a good six hours.

From: <3 Player One <3
I’m up. I’m bored. Come over?

Jeremy thought for a moment. He looked at the letter on his desk, then texted him back.

To: <3 Player One <3
Sure, be there in twenty minutes.

He switched his phone off, and then decided that for a change, he’d walk to Michael’s house.
He needed the time to himself.
Jeremy told anyone who might be in the house (he wasn’t sure if anyone was, his dad was probably at work and Evan had said he may visit a friend) that he was leaving for Michael’s, then made his way so he could get lost in his thoughts.

-Surprise POV-
Evan opened Jeremy’s bedroom door.
“Jeremy?” he asked. Silence. “Jeremy, your dad asked me to come get you.”
He stepped into his room. He wasn’t there. There was a sheet of paper on the floor, and all Evan could see on the sheet was Michael’s name at the top.
Automatically assuming it to be his, he picked it up, planning to give it to him next time he saw him.
Evan shoved the paper in his pocket and left the room.

Chapter Text

When Michael took Jeremy home after a long day of nothing, he was a little surprised when Evan awkwardly knocked on the window. He’d been about to pull out of the driveway, and he’d heard a yelp, and narrowly missed Evan’s foot. Then Evan had tapped on the glass. Michael leaned over and rolled the window down.
“I think this is yours. It had your name on it.” Evan handed him a folded sheet of paper.
Michael opened it slightly, and saw his name. But it wasn’t in his handwriting.
It was in Jeremy’s weirdly loopy hand.
Michael went to protest it wasn’t his, but Evan had already left. And the page did have his name on it…
Michael tossed it onto the passenger seat and pulled out, driving home.

He turned the letter over in his hands. He hadn’t read it yet, but that’s what it must be, right? Why else would Michael’s name be on it?
He couldn’t bring himself to read it. If Jeremy hadn’t given it to him, it must have been private.
But… if it had his name on it, so it must be intended for him. Maybe not now, but at some point. Why not just speed up the process a little?
Then his phone buzzed in his pocket.

From: Ethan
Can I talk to you? Please?

Michael scowled and pulled up his text app.

To: Ethan
No. Fuck you. I never want to talk to you.

The letter went forgotten as Michael sulked on his shitty teen movie life.

The letter didn’t stay forgotten. Michael found his mind straying to it every few hours. Friday was hell. His teacher had caught him daydreaming and yelled at him in front of the class. He was used to this. Teachers constantly called him stupid and said he was ruining his future. The others students also constantly snickered at this. And usually it made him a little embarrassed, but today he just twirled his pen between his fingers and whatever she said went right over his head.
He hadn’t even noticed when everyone left.
Jeremy found him ten minutes later, still staring at the blackboard, twirling his pen. He stood there for another few minutes, calling out.
“-th to Michael. Mikey. Micah. Michael.”
Michael snapped out of his reverie and looked at Jeremy, blinking heavily.
“You okay, dude?” Jeremy looked a little concerned.
He had rolled his sleeves up and had shit all over his hands, so Michael assumed he’d just come back from his art class. Michael ignored the scars on Jeremy’s left arm. Jeremy was tracing along the circuit pattern, like he often did with his Pac-Man tattoo.
Which meant he was probably thinking about his SQUIP.
“Are you okay?” Michael threw at him cautiously.
Jeremy nodded briefly.
“Yea… I’m just thinking about that fucking tic tac of a computer program.” Michael laughed slightly, but Jeremy shook his head. “It sounded so desperate… Something changed, Mikey.”
Michael had noticed Jeremy often called him Mikey now, and to be a hundred percent honest, he didn’t hate it. It made him all teen girl on the inside, all butterflies and glowing and… fuck.
He’d fallen way too hard for Jeremy.

He tore into his room the minute he got home. He pulled the drawer out of his bedside table and flipped it upside down, spilling all of its contents onto the floor.
He rummaged around, picking up things that might be it.
College applications.
His phone bills from months ago he’d discarded after paying.
The letter.
Michael breathed out deeply and sat in the mess on his floor. Whatever the contents of this letter was could change anything and it terrified him, but he had to know what it said.
He unfolded the letter and scanned it slightly before reading.
A few words caught his eye.
Michael
Ballroom
Bisexual
Good looking
Bathroom
Christine
All in Jeremy’s weirdly neat cursive. He cast his eyes upward for a moment. Did he really want to do this? He felt his resolve weaken, then he shook his head.
Yes. He did. He one hundred percent wanted to know what was in that letter. Michael decided firmly he would do it.
“Michael,
I know you’re probably never going to read this letter, but I felt I had to tell it somehow. So here it goes…”
The next words knocked the wind out of Michael’s lungs. His hands started shaking, and he sucked in a harsh breath.
“I’m in love with you.”

Chapter Text

He tore his room apart looking for that letter. Everything was on the floor, and he was panicking. Evan knocked on his door gently, and opened it.
“Did you need help?”
Jeremy felt like he had that one time he’d had one coffee too many in sophomore year. Shaky and way too hyper active.
“I-I-I-I lost the l-l-letter.” He breathed out.
Suddenly, Evan looked a little nervous.
“Was it addressed to Michael?” he asked quietly.
Jeremy nodded, wondering how Evan knew that. Then Evan muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “I gave it to him.”
Jeremy blew up.
“Why the fuck did you do that?” he shouted.
Evan shrank back a little, some fear in his eyes.
“I-I-I-I thought it was his. I came in to get you for dinner and it was on the floor.” Evan whimpered.
Jeremy paced up and down his room a little, then caught sight of himself in the mirror. Wild eyed, bright red, curls pasted to his forehead and sticking all over the place.
He stormed into the bathroom and filled the bath with freezing water. Evan had followed him, apparently worried. Jeremy sank to his knees, and with a deep breath, plunged his head into the water.
He stayed under there until a hand grabbed his collar and pulled him out.
He met Evan’s terrified eyes.
“D-Don’t you ever do that again.” Evan’s voice was slightly higher than a whisper, and he was shaking. His hand was still gripping Jeremy’s collar.
Jeremy stood. His hair was hanging in his eyes. He brushed it back, but the limp curls just made their way back.
“I wasn’t… I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Just trying to cool my head.” Evan didn’t laugh at his joke.
“I-If it’s such a big problem, go and talk to him.”
That sounded like an idea. He nodded at Evan once and left.

He hesitantly knocked on Michael’s bedroom door. Michael opened it, then blushed really hard.
“So you read it.”
“Um, yea.”
Then they both burst out talking.
“Look, I wish I’d told you sooner…” Then they stopped, and looked at each other.
“Told me sooner…” They really needed to stop speaking in unison. It was hard to get anything else in.
They looked at each other. Jeremy could see the hope in Michael’s eyes.
“Does this mean you…?” Jeremy’s hope began to match Michael’s. He could feel it bubbling in his chest, threatening to overflow.
A slow grin made its way across Michael’s face.
“Yea.”
Jeremy felt the grin split his face.
“S-so…”
“Since eighth grade, my dude.”
Jeremy giggled a little, and Michael looked at him curiously.
“I win. Since we were ten.”
They looked at each other a moment.
“So… Did you come here to…?”
“I did.”
Another beat passed before Michael asked, “So… What’s going on with… this?”
“I guess… Can we date now?”
Michael grinned again.
“One hundred percent we can date now.”
Jeremy felt like he was about to explode.

“You have to remind me to thank Evan.” Jeremy murmured quietly.
“Mm?” Michael said.
They sat next to each other on Michael’s bed. Michael looked like he was about to fall off, so Jeremy scooted a little closer to the wall. Michael slid his arm around Jeremy’s waist almost subconiously.
But Jeremy sure noticed. He felt the dark blush spread across his face as he grinned slowly.
Michael didn’t notice, he was too busy trying to use his phone around Jeremy.
Then he slipped off the bed.
And pulled Jeremy down with him.
Jeremy landed hard on his back, so hard the wind flew out of him.
“Shit, dude, I’m so sorry are you okay?”
Michael’s face appeared above him. Jeremy couldn’t speak, so he nodded hard.
“Fine.” He gasped.
Michael held out his hand and helped Jeremy up.
“Shit, Jer, I’m sorry.”
Jeremy nodded again, and he breathed deeply a moment.
“Wow, we’ve been dating for two hours and the abuse starts.” Jeremy grinned.
Michael threw a pillow at him.

Michael was absolutely exhausted, so he fell asleep on Jeremy’s lap. Jeremy ran his hands through Michael’s hair. It was smooth and slid through his fingers. But he’d said something to Jeremy that Jeremy couldn’t seem to get out of his head.
“I’ll take you on a proper date tomorrow.”
And now he was scared.

Chapter Text

Only he couldn’t take Jeremy on a proper date, because he woke up with the nastiest cold.
“Is your immune system non-existent?” Jeremy sighed.
Michael’s head felt like it was full of cotton. In reply to Jeremy’s question, he let out a sneeze so large his head smacked the table.
“Ooow…”
His boyfriend snickered at him. Boyfriend. He liked that. Michael’s mother had just gone out to get a shit ton of cold and flu tablets and tissues, because Michael had already used them all.
He felt like hell.
He put his head on the table, resting his cheek against the wood. He felt an awkward hand on his back and grinned.
“I mean… are you okay?” Jeremy asked, sitting next to him.
“I’m sick, Jeremy.”
Jeremy blushed really hard and Michael smiled.
He stood up awkwardly and made his way into the kitchen.
“I’ll make that shitty tea you like…” Jeremy said, walking away.
“You mean peppermint?”
“That’s the one.”
Michael rested on the table for a moment before following him. He watched Jeremy bustle around his kitchen, looking for the teabags. Michael leaned against the door frame and grinned. Jeremy rested for a moment, waiting for the kettle to boil.
Michael went over to him, wrapping his arms around his waist and putting his head on his shoulder. Jeremy made a funny noise and Michael chuckled.
“Hey, Michael, I- OH SHIT NIC, YOU OWE ME TWENTY BUCKS!”
Jackson had decided to walk into the kitchen to ask Michael for something. Michael groaned, but didn’t move.
“We’re gonna get so much shit.”
“Mmhm.”

Jeremy sat next to Michael on the hood of his car on Monday, looking at the school. He’d never felt so nervous.
He felt Jeremy’s hand slip into his own and looked at him. Jeremy looked like he was dying inside.
“Are you ready?” he asked him.
Jeremy shook his head, but pulled him forward anyway. Michael followed him quietly, and paused with Jeremy before they entered the school.
“I can do this.” He murmured to himself. Then he looked at Michael and grinned.
They stepped inside.

Whatever Jeremy was expecting probably didn’t happen. They mostly went ignored until they ran into Rich.
“I fucking knew you were into him, Heere! You tried to lie to me, but I knew it.”
Jeremy blushed next to him.
“So you’re with him now.”
Michael scowled and turned.
“I can be with whoever the fuck I want, Ethan.”
Ethan smirked a little, then looked down at Jeremy.
“Okay. Whatever. Have fun with the whore.”
Michael felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. That’s what he thought? He felt so shattered that he hadn’t even realized Jeremy had let go of his hand.
“You know what? You’ve just turned into a massive dick.” He said, shoving Ethan a little. “Michael is not a whore. He’s fucking amazing and you were lucky to ever be with him.”
It should have helped, but Michael was turning to ice. Whore.. He started shaking really bad and breathed out suddenly. Ethan shrugged.
“Can’t deny the truth, Heere.”
Rich pushed past Michael, but Jeremy had beaten him to the punch.
Literally.
In a strange déjà vu, a crack was heard as Ethan stumbled back, holding his nose.
“Y-You little shit!” he moved his hand away, and blood gushed out.
Jeremy shook his hand out. His middle finger was bent in a way that fingers were not supposed to bend, but he didn’t seem to notice. He scowled hard up at him. Ethan looked like he was about to hit him back, but a teacher stood in front of him.
“What’s going on here, boys?”
“He hit me! Punched me in the face!” Ethan wheezed. He made a funny noise when he breathed. So Michael assumed his nose had been broken.
The teacher turned to Jeremy, who looked scarily calm.
“What happened to your finger?”
Jeremy’s face split into a triumphant grin.
“Broke it on his face.”

He’d been asked to take him to the hospital so Jeremy could get his finger fixed. Jeremy was looking out the window.
“I could handle myself Jeremy. Fucking Christ. I didn’t need some fucking… cock fight.”
Jeremy listened to him as he rambled for what seemed like forever. Then he paused.
“I’m sorry.”
Michael sighed and shook his head.
“It’s okay.”

The doctor asked what Jeremy had done to his finger. Jeremy repeated what he’d told the teacher. Everyone in the room looked at Michael in surprise, as if asking him to confirm.
Michael grinned.
“He did.”

Chapter Text

“I still owe you a date.”
Jeremy looked up from his phone and looked at Michael curiously.
“What did you have in mind?”
Michael smirked at him and shook his head.
Jeremy lowered his eyes to his phone slowly and nodded.
He wasn’t gonna lie, he was a little scared.

With December brought snow, and with snow brought an over excited Michael.
Jeremy didn’t know what Michael loved so much about the snow. It was cold, wet, and everywhere.
But Michael was up and gone as soon as the first sign of snow appeared. He just stood there for a while, jumping excitedly like a four year girl who’d just met her favourite Disney princess, then ran back inside and grabbed Jeremy’s arm and pulled him out.
It wasn’t snowy enough yet to actually do anything. The snow just lightly dusted the ground, like icing sugar on a cake.
But Michael looked like he was in Heaven.
And although Jeremy hated the snow, he couldn’t help feeling like it was the best possible thing in the world.

Jeremy tugged at his scarf a little as Michael navigated them through the crowd. He had a hunch about where Michael was taking them, and if he was correct, he was going to murder Michael.
But he had that excited look on his face, and it was so adorable…
Michael was singing Christmas songs to himself, and Jeremy grinned. Then Michael stopped.
“We’re here!” he announced.
Jeremy hit Michael on the chest.
“I can’t even walk! How the fuck do you expect me to be able to ice skate?”
Michael just grinned.

“Fucking show off.” Jeremy muttered.
He felt his feet slip out from under him and landing hard on his ass. He gasped, and winced as he tried to stand up. He gripped the edge of the rink again, trying to steady himself.
He hadn’t made it far out on the ice. In fact, he was still standing next to the entry.
Michael however, skated like a pro.
Jeremy rolled his eyes in exasperation. Why had he expected any different? Michael skated over, and Jeremy thought he’d attempt to make it over without falling.
Of course he failed.
He felt himself pitch forward, and flung his arms out, grabbing Michael around the waist and pulling himself in tight. Michael had his hands on Jeremy’s elbows, as if to steady him. He heard Michael laughing and looked up.
“What,” he asked hotly. “Do you find so damn-“
That’s when Michael kissed him.
It was short, sweet and carried the feeling that Jeremy may spontaneously combust.
Despite the cold, he suddenly felt very warm, and he pulled back a little.
“I-I-I-I…” he stuttered.
Michael laughed and pulled back from him a little, sliding an arm around his waist and grabbing one of his hands.
“C’mon, it’s not really a date if you’re all the way over here.”
Jeremy blinked heavily. The last thing on his mind was ice skating. Michael began to move, and Jeremy awkwardly shuffled his feet to move along with him.
Michael was patient, which was good, because there was no way Jeremy would learn how to stay upright on the ice by himself.
After a while, Jeremy felt confident enough to say, “I-I think I’ve got it.”
Michael hesitantly let him go. Jeremy managed to stay by himself for a little.
Then he pitched forward again.
Only this time, there was no one to catch him.
He face planted hard in the ice. Everything suddenly hurt, so he just lay on the ice for a little. He felt Michael’s arms help him up, and he was greeted to the sight of his blood on the ice.
He put a hand to his face, and it came away glistening red. Michael looked at him in concern.
“I think I better get you to the hospital.”

“THE OUTSIDE WORLD MIGHT SEE US AS GAAY BUT BRO WE SWEAR WE’RE NOOOT.”
Michael snickered in the driver’s seat. They’d just got out of the hospital, where Jeremy had had to get stitches in his lip.
They’d used laughing gas as the anaesthetic, so Jeremy was feeling a little loopy.
“WE’RE JUST TWO BROS CHILLING OUT, AND I THINK YOU’RE REALLY HOT.”
His song changed course before he’d finished.
“I am the left brain, I am the left brain, I work really hard til my inevitable death brain. Got a job to do, you better do it riiight, and the right way, is with the left brains might.”
A little part of Jeremy was slightly mortified and wanted to stop, but the rest of Jeremy belted the songs out with him.
After a while, Michael joined in too.

Chapter Text

After spending their first date in the hospital, Michael thought he’d remedy it.
“Let’s do something cool.” He said.
Jeremy raised an eyebrow. Michael didn’t blame him for being sceptical. After the face plant that left him with a bloody nose and a split lip, he hadn’t really wanted to do anything.
He’d just wanted to stay home and sleep and eat and just…
“Hold on, my dad’s calling.” Jeremy answered the phone. “Hey dad. Yea, I’m with Michael…” Jeremy put his hand over the speaker. “Dad said hi.”
Michael grinned. “Hey, Mr Heere.”
“He said hi… Yea…? No shit. I mean-” Jeremy blushed. “I mean that’s awesome dad. Thanks for calling.” Jeremy hung up.
Michael grinned at him.
“Remember that program I signed up for?” Michael nodded. “I’m in.”
“Holy shit, dude, that’s awesome.”
Jeremy’s smile faltered a little. “Y-Yea I guess.”
Michael frowned.
“Jer, what’s wrong.”
It came out immediately, almost mechanically.
“I’ll be in a new place all by myself you won’t be there dad won’t be there fuck I’d even be happy with Rich but…”
Michael grabbed his hand.
“You’ll be fine.”
Jeremy nodded, but slowly, Michael saw the worry leak out of his body.
He’d thought ‘you’ll be fine’ was pretty weak reassurance, but hey, it worked.
Jeremy leaned back on the bed and closed his eyes.
“Fuck, I’m doing this.”
Michael grinned again.
“You are.”

Michael took the joint back from Jeremy, who had just taken too deep a hit and was coughing his lungs out. Michael watched for a little, knowing he’d come out of it soon enough. He took a hit of his own, blowing the smoke out of the side of his mouth.
As soon as Jeremy was okay, he reached for the joint. Michael held it back from him, and Jeremy whined a little.
“The last time you took a hit that deeply was the first time you smoked. Something’s distracting you. Spill.”
Jeremy sighed and motioned for the joint, which Michael gave him.
“So.” He took his hit and held it in his fingers for a moment before passing it back. “I have to get to New York right? But the program doesn’t provide accommodation, and dad can’t take time off. So we have to find someone to stay with me. Evan offered, but he’ll be busy. Heidi offered, but she doesn’t know. I asked if I can take you, but…” Jeremy shrugged.
No one addressed the underlying problem that hadn’t even been indicated, but Michael had picked up all the same.
“He can take me, because it’s a three hour drive, so getting off six hours isn’t much of a stretch, but the program is three days.”
They passed the joint back and forwards in silence for a moment, pondering.
“Evan was allowed to take you, but I’m not?” Michael asked.
Jeremy’s mouth lifted a little in the corner.
“Evan’s a year or so older than us. Dad probably thought he was old enough.”
Michael snorted a little. “When do you leave?”
“This Friday.” Jeremy looked at his phone and blushed. “In two days.”
Michael frowned. “That soon?”
Jeremy shrugged a little sadly. “Apparently.”
Michael paused a moment, then grinned.
“Well, let’s enjoy the time we have.”
Jeremy snorted and hit him with a cushion. “I’m not dying, Mell. I’ll be gone for three days. And there’s internet.”
Jeremy’s phone rang. He took it out of his pocket and read the name.
“Shit he’ll know I’m high.”
So he answered and put his phone on speaker.
“H-Hey dad.”
“Hey, Private. What are you up to?”
Jeremy panicked and looked at Michael, who grinned and mouthed, ‘video games’.
“Playing a video game with Michael.”
There was a pause. His dad was obviously gearing up to say what he wanted to say in the least impacting way he could.
“So, Jeremy… We have a problem.”
“Oh?” Jeremy’s voice sounded strained, and he was sure Mr Heere could hear it.
“Heidi can’t go to New York with you. Apparently a friend of Evan’s is going, and Heidi contacted them, but they haven’t answered. If they answer, you could probably stay with them. But you know…”
Jeremy’s face drained of all color.
“No. No, no, nononono…”
“I think it’s time to call her, Jeremy.”

Chapter Text

His phone was shaking in his hand, and he was staring at the name.
Linda.
Five letters that provoked the utmost terror in Jeremy. He took a deep breath in, grabbed Michael’s hand for comfort, and pressed the call button before he could freak and change his mind. The phone was answered in two rings.
“Hello?” The cold voice on the other end answered. “Jeremiah?”
Jeremy laughed nervously and looked at Michael.
“Hey, mum. How’s it going?”
There was a pause on the other end.
“What do you want, Jeremiah?”
Jeremy felt all the fear leave his body, and slowly get replaced by anger.
“I need to stay somewhere in New York for three days starting Friday. I need somewhere to stay.”
Another pause.
“Is there nowhere else for you to stay?”
Jeremy scowled.
“No, there’s nowhere else for me to stay. I was hoping you’d actually be my mother and help me out.”
Another fucking pause.
“Fucking say something! Can I stay, or not?”
“You can stay.” She surprised him by saying.
Then she hung up. Jeremy pitched his phone across the room.
“God, what a bitch.”
Michael laughed a little, and Jeremy was a little confused.
“If I spoke to my mother the way you just did, you’d never find my body.”
Jeremy giggled. “You’re an idiot.”
Michael pecked his forehead and smiled.
“You know it.”

Jeremy put his bag into his dad’s car. Michael grabbed his wrist and pulled him in for a hug.
“Call me when you get there?”
“Of course.” He raised himself on his tiptoes a little to give Michael a kiss.
Michael gave him a last little squeeze before letting him go.
“At least I don’t have to sit in a car with your dad for three hours.”
Jeremy stuck his finger up at his boyfriend before getting in the car.

Jeremy walked into the room full of strangers and immediately went to turn back around and leave.
After the meeting with his mother, added anxiety was not needed.
She’d immediately slapped him, as soon as his dad’s car turned the corner.
“Never talk to me like that.” She’d said coldly.
The she stalked inside and ignored him.
His eyes scanned the room. He walked towards the friendliest looking kid, a kid with a laptop balanced on his knees and a pair of headphones in. He tapped away at his computer, so Jeremy awkwardly coughed.
The kid ignored him.
“E-excuse me? Can I sit?” Jeremy gesture to the backpack on the next seat.
The guys eyes flicked up, and a small look of amusement crossed his face as he flicked the backpack off the seat.
“Thank you.” Jeremy whispered.
He was sitting for a while, just listening to this kid tap on his laptop, when suddenly he heard, “Jeremy, isn’t it?”
Jeremy looked at the kid, with a furrowed brow.
“Do I know you?”
The kid held his hand out.
“I’m Jared. I know Evan.”
Jeremy took Jared’s hand and nodded. Jared popped his headphone back in and went back to whatever he was doing.
In a room full of strangers and a strange person, Jeremy folded his hands in his lap and waited for the thing to begin.

Jeremy closed the door to the guest room and hit speed dial.
“Jeremy? You didn’t call me yesterday?”
Jeremy bit his lip. Jared had given him his details before he left, with a small shrug and a “maybe we can be friends or something.”
Linda had seen it. And she certainly hadn’t forgotten about Jeremy’s confession.
She’d snapped at him, and Jeremy flinched away from her, which had infuriated her more.
“I hate her, Mikey. I want to come home.” His voice sounded shaky.
“You come home soon, Jer. Stick it out. You’ve been looking forward to this for ages.” Michael’s voice on the other end soothed him, and he instantly felt more relaxed. “She hasn’t… you know, has she?”
Jeremy was glad that Michael couldn’t see him wince, and he was aware he was a terrible liar, but he answered the question anyway.
“No.”
It seemed to fool Michael though. There was a sigh, and Jeremy instantly felt bad for lying.
“That’s good. Hey, I need to go. I’ll see you in a couple days, okay?”
“I can’t wait to come home.”
“You’ll be fine, Jer. I love you.”
Despite the shitty feeling, Jeremy felt the grin split his face.
“I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Today was the day. Jeremy was coming home.
To say Michael was excited was an understatement.
Jeremy had seen a little withdrawn on the phone yesterday, so he was a little worried, but as soon as Jeremy stepped out of the car, he rushed at him and actually picked him up.
Jeremy giggled a little.
“Put me down, Mikey.”
Michael began asking him questions, and Jeremy laughed.
“Slow down.”
Michael grinned sheepishly. “Sorry… I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.”
Michael shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket and rocked himself back on the balls of his feet.
“So… what happened?”
Jeremy lifted his phone.
“Nothing much. I made a friend.”
“Dude, that’s great!” he lifted a hand to high five Jeremy, but put it down quickly.
Jeremy had violently flinched away from him. The grin in Michael’s face faltered a little, and Jeremy forced a smile.
“She…” Michael saw the red on the edge of his vision, and then he noticed something.
There was a small bracelet of bruises around Jeremy’s wrist. Jeremy noticed him noticing, and pushed his sleeve down, as if to prevent Michael from seeing what he’d already seen.
“She didn’t do it on purpose.” He said quietly. “She wanted to talk to me and grabbed my wrist.”
Michael had to accept this to be the truth. Jeremy hated his mother, there was no way he’d defend her like that.
But she’d definitely hurt him intentionally at some point, or he wouldn’t have flinched like that.
Evan, across the drive, had noticed as well, so he came over.
“What’s the guy’s name?” he asked gently.
“J-Jared Klienman.” The name brought a blush to Evan’s face. “H-He said he knew you.”
Evan stammered an excuse to leave then ran up the driveway. Michael saw Jeremy frown after him.
“That’s weird.”
Then he turned to Michael and started chatting about other things.
Michael tried hard to pretend Jeremy wasn’t trying to get out of the conversation about his mum.

The bruises around Jeremy’s wrist faded, but Michael’s memory of them didn’t. Jeremy was currently humming something to himself, rummaging around the top drawer in his room for his phone charger.
“My whole family now is shocked, I’m in the closet and the door is locked.”
Michael couldn’t help but grin. But then he saw the not quite faded bruises around Jeremy’s wrist.
“Jer, we have to talk about it.”
Jeremy tensed. Michael could see it in his shoulders.
“Talk about what?” he said in a strained voice.
“She hit you, didn’t she?”
Jeremy said nothing. He just winced and put a hand to his head.
“Jeremy?”
Jeremy waved a flippant hand and shook his head.
“It’s fine. Just a headache.” He said in an odd voice.
Michael noticed that, once again, he’d gotten out of the conversation about his mum.

He’d stopped pursuing the topic. But Jeremy slammed his hands down on the table at lunch the next day, with a scowl.
“Look, you’re so obviously still curious. The looks I’ve been getting say so much. But if I tell you what happened, you’ll pity me, and that’s not what I need right now.” Jeremy apparently didn’t care who was listening, and Michael saw everyone on the table lean in a little. “Yes, Michael, she fucking hit me. Are you happy?” He picked up his backpack and stood.
Michael was treated to the sight of faded marker before Jeremy left the cafeteria.
There was a pause, then Rich said, “I think you should go after him.”
Michael didn’t even pick up his backpack as he stumbled over the chair and ran out.

He found Jeremy in the music room, hugging his knees, his head between them, shaking. Michael went over and immediately put his arms around him. Jeremy crawled into his lap and buried his head in the crook of his neck. Michael rocked him back and forth a little, tracing circles on Jeremy’s back.
“I hate her.” Came his muffled voice. “I wouldn’t care less if she dropped dead.”
Michael didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. Nothing he could say would make Jeremy’s mood lighten.
“God… sh-sh-sh-she-she-she…” Jeremy hadn’t stuttered this badly in years.
He was still going.
Then he seemed to get frustrated with himself, because he burst into tears and grabbed at Michael like he was his life support.
“Hey. Hey.” Michael said, a little stunned. “It’ll be okay. You’re never gonna have to see her again. We’re off to college next year, and you won’t ever have to speak to her again.” He ran his fingers through Jeremy’s hair.
“It’ll be okay.”

Chapter Text

“Jeremy.”
He threw something across the room. There it was again. He’d been hearing whispers of his name for days, and he wasn’t sure if he was going crazy or if something bigger was happening.
“J-Jeremy… I’m-“
Then it was gone. But something else was happening. A shadow flickered at the edge of his vision, but as soon as he turned to see what it was, it wasn’t there.
He opened the door, a little frustrated and wanted to distract himself, but he saw Evan come out of the room dubbed his, tears streaking his face.
“Dude, are you okay?” he asked cautiously.
Evan’s eyes filled with tears again.
“J-Jared…” he whimpered, then ran into the bathroom.
Jeremy pulled out his phone.

To: The Insanely Cool Jared Klienman
Okay, first, what did you do to Evan?

To: The Insanely Cool Jared Klienman
Second, why in God’s name did you set that name for yourself on my phone? You sound desperate.

He pocketed his phone, not expecting a reply, but then his phone buzzed.

From: The Insanely Cool Jared Klienman
You didn’t change it, did you, Heere? And I am insanely cool.
Plus, Evan’s fine. He just told me he was.

Jeremy, slightly annoyed with Jared’s contact name, changed it before replying.

To: The Insanely DESPERATE Jared Klienman
That’s why he came out of his room crying?

Jeremy didn’t get a reply, but he heard Evan’s phone ring in the bathroom. Jeremy snuck over to the bathroom as Evan answered.
“H-Hello? Jared?” Pause. “I’m fine… No, I’m not crying… I’M AWARE I’M A SHITTY LIAR THANK YOU JARED.”
Jeremy moved away. Okay, eavesdropping was a bad idea.

He spent the rest of the day with Michael. The shadow kept flickering in the corner of his vision, so he tried to use his phone to distract himself. Michael was smoking a joint, humming to himself.
“Hey, Jer?”
“Mm?” Jeremy hummed, not looking at his phone.
“Shotgun.”
Jeremy looked up with a frown, intending to ask Michael what he was talking about, when Michael put his mouth on his. Jeremy made a noise in the back of his throat. He inhaled, mostly out of surprise, and breathed in a shit ton of weed smoke. He pulled back and aggressively proceeded to cough up a lung.
“Jesus, Mikey.” He coughed.
Michael grinned lazily at him. He went back to what he was doing, humming his song and smoking. Jeremy went back to fiddling with his phone. The flickering shadow was gone, and so was the voice.
To say that worried him was an understatement.
“Wanna watch a movie?” Michael asked.
He’d progressed past buzzed, but wasn’t quite high.
“I need the excuse to get food, so mum won’t realize I’m high.” He said brightly.
Or maybe he was. Jeremy shrugged.
“Sure. What do you want to watch?”
“FROZEN!”
Michael stumbled out of his beanbag and bolted up the stairs. Jeremy could still hear him belting out ‘Let it Go’. He shook his head with a grin.
Idiot.

Michael looked almost as excited as he did being out in the snow.
“DO YOU WANNA BUILD A SNOWMAAAN COME ON LET’S NOT DELAAAAAY!”
Jackson and Nicole had left the house because they already couldn’t stand Michael’s shouting. Jeremy laughed and pulled his end of the blanket tighter around him. He scooted a little closer to Michael so he could justify the blanket he was stealing, and, you know, just to get closer to Michael.
He put his head on Michael’s shoulder. Michael just kept singing.
And quoting the entire movie.
When it was over, he tugged Jeremy’s sleeve.
“I wanna go outside. Can we build a snowman, Jer?”
No way did Jeremy want to go outside. He looked at Michael and immediately melted. How could he say no?
“Sure.” He grumbled.
Michael whooped and ran upstairs. Jeremy laughed a little and followed him.

The snowman was finished. Michael looked like a child, eyes lit up like neon signs.
“Jeremy… I really want to-”
“No, Michael, do not. We just spent forever making this because your high ass couldn’t resist doing what you’re wanting to do right now.”
Then he did it. He ruined their snowman. He backed up a little, took a running start, then jumped on the snowman.
It crumbled from the bottom, and Michael slid down it.
Jeremy sighed, a little exasperated.
“AGAIN!” Michael shouted, running back down the yard.
Jeremy rolled his eyes, then went to join him.

Chapter Text

He was surprised to see Evan in the living room, on the floor, when they got back to Jeremy’s. The weirdest thing about it was that he wasn’t alone.
A guy sat across from him, talking animatedly.
“Jared?” Jeremy raised an eyebrow.
The kid raised an impatient hand in greeting and kept talking. Evan looked at Jeremy apologetically, then said something quietly, which shut Jared up real quickly.
“How’s it going, Jeremy?” Jared asked in an odd voice.
Michael watched the interaction. There was tension between Jared and Evan, each hitting with short remarks or sarcasm. Jeremy looked really confused and, quite frankly, a little scared.
“Fuck this. Evan, where are your parents?”
Evan turned to Michael in surprise. “They’re… They’ve gone away for the weekend.”
Michael looked at the time. “Great. Time to get drunk.”
Jeremy looked at him, and he nodded towards Jared, who had stood up. He knew Jeremy noticed, just as he had earlier.
The scars that ran down Jared’s arm.
The scars that looked like circuits.

They were all lying on the floor, looking at the ceiling. Evan had foregone the bottle, but, as the only sober person in the room, had decided that lying on the floor next to Jared was harmless enough.
“It’s quiet.” Jared suddenly whispered.
Jeremy lifted his head and nodded.
“Alcohol does that.” He said quietly.
Jared rolled onto his side so he could look at Jeremy easier.
“You have one too?”
Jeremy tapped his temple. “Had one.”
Michael saw a look of hope bloom on Jared’s face.
“You got rid of it? How?”
Jeremy rolled back towards Michael and put his head on his chest.
“Mountain Dew Red.” He mumbled with a yawn. “Tired.”
He fell asleep not long after. Evan looked at them, at Michael, Jeremy, then Jared, who’d rested the bottle on his chest.
“What are they talking about?” he asked.
Michael just shook his head. It’d always been hard for him to get drunk, so he was a little buzzed, but still able to form a coherent thought. Jared turned to Evan then, a small smile on his face.
“I really like you, dude.”
Evan frowned a little.
“I like you too, Jared.”
Jared pissed himself laughing then. He laughed so loudly he woke Jeremy up.
“You’re so stupid and adorable and god I love you.”
Except for Jared’s laughter, there was silence.

Michael asked Jared about it later. Jared looked at his feet.
“One year, I decided enough was enough. I needed to change my image, but I couldn’t do it on my own. Someone told me about the fucking thing, and I thought it was a great idea. But holy shit it hurt.” Jared closed his eyes. “I blacked out a little. It’d been talking to me, and the voice sounded so familiar, until I opened my eyes and saw Evan staring at me.”
Michael looked at Jeremy, back to sleep in his lap.
“H-His eyes were so... cold. Like ice. It wasn’t the Evan I was used to… It just scowled at me and told me how pathetic I was. If I couldn’t handle a little pain, then how could I get what I wanted? Then, it ruined my life completely.” Jared paused. “Then I hid everything from Evan. Like, the real Evan. And I pushed him away. I just wanted to be other than this mess that I am.”
Michael knew the feeling. Evan came back from doing whatever he’d been doing. Evan and Jared made eye contact, then blushed and looked away from each other. Michael put one arm under Jeremy’s knees, the other under his shoulders. Jeremy’s arms immediately flew around his neck.
“I’m going to put this one in bed.” He said quietly. “Work it out.”
With that, he left.
“That was fucked.” Jeremy muttered.
Michael laughed. He couldn’t help it.

Jared knocked on the door later, and Jeremy groggily went to open it.
“Can you tell Michael I said thanks? We’ve talked now…” Jared smiled a little.
Michael sat up and leaned over a little to lift his hand to Jared.
“It’s not a problem.”
Jared just grinned and walked out. Michael grinned at Jeremy.
Jeremy grinned back and went back to be, back to his nap.

Chapter Text

Jeremy woke up, tangled up in blankets and Michael and everything on his bed. He couldn’t be bothered trying to untangle himself, so he just put his head back down and closed his eyes. He opened them again, soon realizing he couldn’t get back to sleep, and looked up. Michael was still sleeping, his hair sticking up in all directions due to the product he hadn’t washed out, his mouth open slightly, soft snores coming out of it. His face had red lines running across it from lying on his hoodie, and his face was smooshed into the pillow. Jeremy reached into his back pocket and pulled out his phone, opening the camera app and snapping a quick photo.
“Delete it.” Michael mumbled sleepily, still not opening his eyes.
“Nah.”
“I hate you.”
Michael cracked an eye open and yawned. “Morning.”
Jeremy pecked his cheek. “Morning.”
Michael’s eyes drifted a little, and Jeremy followed them. Michael was checking the time on his alarm clock.
“Is it really that late?” Michael asked.
It was about midday, and they’d fallen asleep last night at about nine after drinking with Jared.
Jared.
“Shit!” Despite the tangle, Jeremy fell off his bed. He bolted up and began to search his room.
Where had he put it?
“What’s wrong?” Michael rubbed his eyes and ran his hands through his hair, making it a tangled mess.
“Where is it, Michael? I was gonna give it to Jared.” He found it eventually, on his desk, behind…everything.
Michael sat up with another yawn. “It’s too early for this.” He grumbled.
Jeremy just gave him a look, then inspected the bottle.
“Go back to sleep then.”
“Mmkay.” Michael pulled Jeremy’s blanket over his head.
Jeremy made his way downstairs.

Jared was eating a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table.
“Isn’t that Evan’s?” he asked, sitting down next to him.
Jared shrugged.
“It’s lunchtime, why are you eating cereal?”
Jared looked at him.
“Because it’s food and I’m hungry.”
Jeremy shrugged and placed the bottle in front of him. He stared at it, then Jeremy felt fidgety.
“It’s for the tic tac.” Jeremy mumbled. “Don’t take it in public, it hurts and you’ll pass out. I ended up in hospital the first time.”
A look of excitement crossed Jared’s face. He took the bottle and nodded at Jeremy as thanks.
Jeremy just shrugged and stood, going back to his room.

Jeremy was watching a movie with Michael later in his room. Well, Jeremy was watching the movie. Michael was falling asleep on Jeremy’s shoulder. Or maybe not. He turned his head…
And bit Jeremy.
“Ow! What the fuck was that for?”
Michael was laughing silently. “I felt like it.”
Jeremy whacked his thigh.
“Well, that was stupid.”
Jeremy put his hand to the spot just below his jaw where Michael had bit him. Michael was still giggling. There was a knock on the door.
“Come in.” Jeremy called, and his dad opened the door.
“Hey, boys, I-” He paused. “What did you do to your neck?”
Jeremy was a little confused.
“What?”
Mr Heere pointed at a spot just below his jaw. “It looks like a bruise or something.”
Jeremy blushed a little and ran into the bathroom. Exactly where Michael had bitten him was a large, dark mark.
“MICHEAL!”
He could hear the laughter from his room.

He was asked several times about his mark. He’d had no way to cover it without shoving his scarf over his mouth, and that would have looked suspicious anyway. He ended up blowing up at Rich, who’d just then seen it, and no one asked him about it anymore.
He’d also realized something earlier in the day.
Christmas was painfully close, and he needed to get everyone gifts, and he just didn’t have the time.
Jeremy opened his notebook in English, one of the classes he had without any of his friends in it, and began making a list.
“Rich, Jenna, Christine, Michael…” he paused.
What was he going to get Michael?
He frowned, and went back to scribbling on the page.
“Brooke, Chloe, Jake…”
The paper was snatched from in front of him.
“I’m sorry my class is so boring, Jeremy.” His teacher’s cold voice seemed to suddenly fill the room, despite the fact he spoke quietly.
Jeremy felt himself turn bright red and he shrank back in his chair. His pen tapped the edge of the table, and he bit his lip.
“Get it back after class.”
Jeremy listened to his classmates snicker and reached for his notebook.

Chapter Text

He fiddled with the thing in his hoodie pocket and looked for Jeremy. His eyes scanned the hall… There he was.
He was hugging his books to his chest, and his head was down, and he was navigating the hall almost expertly, despite the fact that he often tripped over thin air.
Like he did then.
He dropped his books, and a whole bunch of sheets fell out of it. Michael saw one float over and picked it up. It was a typed sheet, and it had a load of tally marks on it. Michael’s eyes drifted up to the top, the date.
Sophomore year.
He looked at the columns down the side.
Snicker
Laugh
Snotty Comment
Mortification Event
Michael raised his eyes to look at Jeremy. Jeremy was scrambling around, trying to pick up all the pages. When he thought he’d grabbed them all, he looked through them, then panicked as he seemed to realize one was missing. He raised his head, and his eyes met Michael’s. Michael walked up to him, thrusted the paper at him, turned on his heel, then stalked off.

He tried to avoid Jeremy for the rest of the day. God, he was so mad at him. Why the hell would he do that? It was like he was looking for reasons it hate himself.
Every time he saw him, he’d take a major course correction and end up being late to his class.
He thought maybe he was over reacting. He was acting the same way his brother had when he thought he was being cheated on.
But God, was he mad.

He’d managed to go a whole day without talking to Jeremy, not even so much because he was mad anymore. He just needed time to cool down.
But of coursed he fucking followed him home.
He was at his desk, homework book open, when Jeremy fell through the door.
“D-Don’t be mad at me I swear-”
Michael slammed his fist on the desk, ignoring the shot of pain that ran up his arm.
“Fucking Christ, Jeremy! Why the fuck?”
Jeremy looked so startled all he could do was stammer.
“You’re weird. You stutter. You trip over your own feet.” Jeremy looked a little putout. “But that’s. What makes. You you.” He slammed his fist on the desk with every word. “This is going to sound so fucking cliché, but you should stop looking for reasons to hate yourself, because there are none. You. Are. Perfect.” Jeremy looked like he was about to protest, but Michael held up a hand. “I’m not saying this because I’m your boyfriend. I’m saying it because it’s true.”
Jeremy just stood there for a moment, opening and closing his mouth like a goldfish. He blinked heavily.
“You’ve never yelled at me like that.” He managed weakly.
Michael didn’t feel mad at him anymore.
Now he just felt bad for yelling at him.
Jeremy blinked at him a few more times, then smiled.
“Come with me.”
He left. Michael stood wearily and followed him into his basement. Jeremy held his hand out.
“Lighter?”
Michael pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to him. Jeremy dropped his backpack on the floor and pulled out a notebook. He opened it, and pulled the sheets out. He held both the sheets and the lighter towards Michael.
Then the idiot lit it on fire.
“Holy fuck!” Michael jumped back as Jeremy panicked and dropped the papers.
Michael grabbed the first bottle he could find and desperately hoped it wasn’t empty, then tipped it on the fire. It went out with a pathetic sizzle. They both stared at the ashes for a moment.
Then Jeremy giggled. He covered his mouth with both of his hands and giggled into them maniacally.
Michael couldn’t help but join him.
He walked over to him and wrapped his arms around him. Jeremy returned the gesture and they stood there for a moment, just wrapped in each other. Then Michael laughed again.
“We need to clean up before my mum finds it.”
Jeremy nodded, but didn’t move. Michael stood there for a moment, then tried to pull back. Jeremy’s grip around him just tightened.
“Jeremy, seriously.”
With a sigh, Jeremy let go. Michael shook his head at him and went to get the dustpan.
Idiot.

Chapter Text

When Jeremy’s alarm went off at 6:45 on Thursday morning, he was already up, showered, dressed and brushing his teeth. He was painfully aware by the bags under his eyes that he was going on 72 hours without sleep, but the voice accompanied the shadows this time, and it kept talking to him.
Well, talking to him was a little generous. All it whispered was his name.
He threw his toothbrush down and turned around.
It wasn’t a shadow anymore.
The image flickered before it became a shape. The shape then became a figure.
That figure was his SQUIP.
He looked at Jeremy a moment, looking a little scared, then hopeful as it opened its mouth to say something…
Then flickered out and was gone.
Jeremy blinked heavily. He wasn’t above tired hallucinations; maybe that’s what this was. Surely it wasn’t coming back.
Jeremy just shook his head, grabbed his backpack, and waited for the school bus.

“Jeremy.”
“Fuck off.”
“What? Are you okay?”
He looked up. Michael looked a little confused.
“Sorry. Thought you were someone else.” Jeremy rubbed his eyes and yawned.
Michael sat next to him and rubbed his back. “When was the last time you slept?”
Jeremy leaned into Michael and closed his eyes.
“Jeremyyyy….” That definitely wasn’t Michael.
He sighed. “Maybe… Monday? Tuesday?”
Michael sighed.
“Jeremy…”
Jeremy yawned again and looked up at him. “Please don’t. I don’t need this.”
“What you need is fucking sleep.”
“I’m very aware I need sleep, Mikey. Stop.”
Michael just rubbed small circles into his back and sighed.
“Christine wanted to know if we were free tonight. She wants us to come over. Jake and Rich are coming too.”
Jeremy nodded. The bell went off. Michael kissed Jeremy and stood.
“I have to go to class. I have Reyes for English.”
Jeremy smiled up at him. “Have fun with that.”
Michael made a face at him and left. Jeremy thought he should get to his study period, but he just didn’t want to move. He honestly felt like he was about to pass out, when the shadow flickered again. When it became the figure, it lurched towards him, as if glitching.
“Jeremy, just listen to me plea….” It flickered out with a frustrated yell.
He blinked, then grabbed his backpack and moved to the library.

Christine had a large backyard, and they’d all been scattered until Michael, Jake and Rich lifted the daybed over to the hammock. With Jeremy on it. Christine had brought over a chair for herself, and Jake and Rich squeezed themselves into the hammock. Michael had seated himself behind Jeremy, so Jeremy was sitting between his legs. He’d leaned back against him, and Michael had loosely wrapped his arms around his waist.
“How could you yell at Jeremy?” Jake asked from the hammock.
Michael laughed behind him and shook his head. “I don’t know. Yelling at Jeremy is like scolding a puppy. He turns those big brown eyes on you and it’s like…”
Everyone laughed and Jeremy hit his thigh.
“You’re a dork. I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.”
Jeremy grinned. “You’re right.”
Everyone chorused, “Awwwwww.”
Jeremy picked up a cushion and threw it. It hit Jake.
“Um, dude?” Jake threw it back at Jeremy, who ducked.
Then it hit Michael. Michael picked it up and hit Jeremy with it. Christine was giggling so hard she was almost wetting herself. Rich had fallen off the hammock. Jeremy just shook his head and hit Michael’s thigh again with his fist. Michael whacked him with the cushion again.
“You’re a dick.” Jeremy laughed.
Michael laughed back at him kissed his cheek.
Then Richard threw a pinecone at Jeremy.
“What the fuck, Richard?” Jeremy threw the pinecone back.

They’d fallen asleep on the hammock, and Michael’s head fell onto his shoulder. Christine had gone inside at some point, completely forgetting everyone was out there. Jeremy, still very awake, hadn’t even bothered to let her know they were still there. He heard the whispering.
“Jeremy… Jeremy…”
“Jeremy?” Michael’s sleepy voice muttered.
“Just go back to sleep, Mikey.” Jeremy smiled.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” He mumbled, before going back to sleep.
Jeremy just shook his head.
“You’re an idiot, Mikey.”

Chapter Text

“C’mon, just put them on.”
“No. No fucking way.”
“Please, Jer? Just once?”
“No, Michael.”
Michael went to put them on him anyway, and Jeremy fell back on his bed trying to get away. In a stroke of genius, he threw himself over Jeremy and pinned his arms to his side with his knees. Jeremy squirmed and bucked trying to get him off, but Michael jabbed his fingers into Jeremy’s ribs, and Jeremy squealed.
“Oh, I’m sorry, are you ticklish?” he smirked, jabbing Jeremy’s ribs again.
Jeremy let out a peal of laughter and began to buck harder.
“N-No! Fuck off, Mikey!” Jeremy laughed.
Michael kept poking him, and Jeremy was laughing so hard tears were pouring out of his eyes. Michael took advantage of this by putting the cat ears on Jeremy.
Jeremy stopped laughing and frowned at him. Michael laughed.
“Cute little furry.” He said, leaning down to kiss him.
“I hate you.” Jeremy said matter-of-factly.
Michael laughed and sat himself back down next to Jeremy. Before Jeremy took them off, he snapped a photo.
“Dick.” He threw the cat ears at Michael.
“I hope you’re ready for Christmas tomorrow.” Michael sang.
Jeremy grinned and nodded.
“My gift for you is at my house, so you’ll have to wait.” He said.
Michael grinned. He couldn’t wait.

“MIIKEEEEEEEEEEY WAKE UUUUUUUP ITS CHRISTMAAAAAS!!!”
Michael tried to shove his pillow over his face, but Jeremy ripped it off his face.
“MICHAEL WAKE UP!”
“I’m up, Jer. God.” He rubbed his eyes and sat up.
He looked at Jeremy, who was bright eyed and excited looking.
“My dad’s here and he brought your present so I can give it to you.”
Michael nodded and stood.
“I’m so tired.”
Jeremy just shook his head and made his way down the stairs.
Michael shook his head with a smile and chuckled. He went through his top drawer until he found what he was looking for, and then shoved it in his pocket.
“Michael get down here!” Michael’s mum called.
Michael shook his head. Why was everyone so damn impatient?

Jeremy shoved a box towards him. It was wrapped in newspaper, clearly showing Jeremy had wrapped it last minute. He smirked at him. Jeremy blushed. Michael unwrapped it.
A Tetris desk lamp.
“Dude, this is so cool!” he exclaimed.
Jeremy grinned. Michael slipped the gift out of his pocket, and then slid it to Jeremy.
It was small, and Jeremy looked at it, a little confused.
He unwrapped it, and then looked at him with a hard blush.
It was a leather bracelet, with a little charm on it. The charm was one of Pac-Man, with ‘P2’ engraved on the back.
“It’s a little girly, but…”
“I love it.” Jeremy whispered with a grin.
He leaned over and kissed Michael, even in front of the parents and his brother and his brother’s girlfriend. Michael felt himself flush slightly, then pulled away.
“Merry Christmas, Jeremy.” Michael said quietly.

Chapter Text

“Evan! Could you come in here please?’
Michael shook his head and looked at the frame on the screen. “Honestly, Jer… I don’t see it.”
“Then you’re blind- Evan!”
Evan came in, looking slightly irritated.
“What do you want?”
“Stand next to the screen please?” Evan awkwardly obliged, and Jeremy pointed at him with a triumphant grin. “There. He looks like Benji.”
Michael blinked. “You’re right.”
Evan left looking a little confused, and left Michael and Jeremy to finish the movie. When they did, Michael stood and flicked through the rest of Jeremy’s films.
“What about this one? Isn’t it your favourite?” He held up a movie.
Chain Reaction. Keanu Reeves.
“Was my favourite.” He looked away a little awkwardly.
Michael looked confused for a minute, then clicked.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, we don’t have to-“
“No, no… It should be fine.”
So Michael put on the movie. Jeremy bit his lip, but he started shaking. His chest got tight, and he fell over himself jumping up from the couch. Stumbling up the stairs and into the bathroom, he knocked things over until he found what he wanted. His hands were shaking so bad he couldn’t open the pill bottle, and that’s how Michael found him, hitting the bottle against the sink.
He felt it crack, and with one more hit, shattered in his hand.
Pills went everywhere, and the orange plastic sliced into his palm, but he didn’t notice.
He ingested two, and then sank to the floor with his head in his hands. Michael was sitting on the bathtub, watching him. Jeremy breathed until he felt the pills kick in. Then he looked at Michael.
“I’m sorry. I thought…”
“How long have you used them?”
Jeremy bit his lip again, then said, “The first time I got rid of it.”
Michael nodded. “They are?”
“Anti-anxiety pills.”
Michael sighed. “I didn’t realize…”
“No one does.”
Michael looked at him a moment before Jeremy smiled at him.
“Wanna watch your favourite movie?”
“Do you have it?”
Jeremy giggled a little. “Still Coraline?”
“You know it.”
“Then yes. Let’s go.”

Jeremy didn’t want to get out of bed. It was warm, and he was comfortable…
So why did Michael want to ruin that?
“Get up, get up, get uuuup.” He sat himself right on Jeremy’s stomach.
It hurt. A lot.
“Oooow you’re heavier than you look.”
“Too bad.”
Jeremy groaned and got out of bed.
“What’s so important you want to ruin my day for it?”
“I want to take you somewhere.”
“That always scares me.”
Jeremy assembled his clothes, got dressed, then let Michael drag him out of the house. He fell asleep in Michael’s car, so he didn’t even know where they were going. H only knew he was awoken when Michael’s horn went off. He jumped and was choked by his seatbelt.
“Get up, shithead.” Michael poked his side and he jumped again.
“Where are we? He rubbed his eyes, then looked ahead of him in disbelief. “No way.”
“I said I’d win you that bear one day.”
Jeremy was pulled into the carnival. Michael didn’t seem to know where he wanted to go first. Jeremy was just looking at the nearby Ferris wheel and decided he’d rather die than go on the thing. Michael looked at him, then up at the wheel.
“Do you want to on it?” he asked.
No fucking way did he want to go on it. But Michael must, or he wouldn’t ask, right?
So he shrugged and said, “Sure.”
He froze as soon as the thing started moving. He looked over at Michael, who had a strange look on his face. The car they were in rocked slightly, and Michael’s breath hitched in his throat as he darted for Jeremy’s hand as Jeremy did the same.
“Getmeoffgetmeoffgetmeoff.”
Jeremy looked at him.
“If you didn’t want to come on, why’d you ask?”
Michael was still looking at the ground. He looked as nervous as Jeremy felt, pale as hell.
“I thought you wanted to come on.” He said in a tight voice.
Jeremy couldn’t help it. He giggled.
“I thought you wanted to come on.”
Michael looked at him, a small smile on his face, then the car rocked again and he squeezed Jeremy’s hand.
“God, the things I do for you.” He sighed, closing his eyes.

Chapter Text

The things he did for him.
He walked into Chloe’s New Year’s party with Jeremy, wearing a jumper that was not his hoodie and without his headphones.
Jeremy looked equally as uncomfortable, but the only change he’d made to his appearance was wearing a pair of jeans that didn’t have a hole in them. He hated these things, but Jeremy had begged him to come because he didn’t want to be alone.
So now he was at a place where he knew like six people who would be doing something that didn’t involve Michael, most likely including his boyfriend.
Jeremy pulled him into the backyard, where Christine was having a conversation with Brooke.
Twenty minutes later and little contribution to the conversation, Michael spied Chloe’s pool. He looked at Jeremy, then back at the pool, an idea forming in his head. He tugged at Jeremy’s sleeve.
“Take this off.”
Jeremy looked a little bewildered. “What?”
“Take your cardigan off.” Michael tugged at his sleeve again.
Jeremy looked a little confused, but obliged. Michael gave it to Christine, then handed him her glasses.
Then he picked Jeremy up.
He started running….
Then jumped into the pool.
Jeremy squealed when they made contact with the water, which was cut off when he was dragged under. Both came up, and Jeremy sucked in too much air and choked. He hit a laughing Michael on the chest.
“I hate you so much.”

Lucky for Michael, he kept a backpack full of clothes in his car. You know, in case he was anywhere but home (aka Jeremy’s house) on a school night or something. He threw a shirt and a pair of pants at Jeremy, who stomped inside to change, squelching the whole way. Michael grabbed a spare change of clothes, which mercifully included his beloved hoodie, and followed him in. Chloe directed him to somewhere he could change, and he did so. He looked in a nearby mirror and frowned at his wet hair, hanging in his eyes. He pushed it off his face, sighed when it flopped back into his eyes, then walked out. Jeremy was sitting on a chair, cradling a cup in his hands, a slight look of disgust on his face as he watched a couple in the corner make out.
“What’s up?’ Michael sat next to him.
Jeremy frowned.
“They look like they’re trying to eat each other.”
Michael laughed and shook his head. “You’re a little shit.”
Jeremy just shook his head, then looked at Michael.
“We never look like that, do we?’
Michael felt himself turn a little red as he blinked. “I don’t think so. But then again, we’re not as… public.”
Jeremy also turned red. “Jesus…”

Jeremy was drunk. Like, really drunk.
He’d placed himself on Michael’s lap, and his head was on his shoulder, and every now and then he’d place a kiss on it and he’d blush.
“I’m tired, Mikey.”
Michael put a hand on the small of his back.
“I’ll take you home, then.”
“I don’t wanna go home.”
Michael sighed. “Then just go to sleep here.” Jeremy said nothing. “Aaand he’s out.”
He shifted him slightly so he could comfortably lift him, let Chloe know they were leaving and headed out to his car.
He had two options; his house or Jeremy’s house? He looked at Jeremy, passed out in the backseat.
Not Jeremy’s house.
Michael turned the key. The car spluttered a little, and then stopped.
“No.” he kept trying to start the car, but it wouldn’t go. “No no no no no.”
He smacked his hands against the steering wheel. Why did his shit box have to break down now? He put his head on the steering wheel, then someone tapped on the window. He looked up.
And to his surprise, found Evan.
He wound down his window. Evan smiled awkwardly.
“Need a ride?”
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Evan nodded towards a girl off in the distance a little. “A... friend called. She needed to get home.”
Michael nodded. “I just need to get him out.”

Zoe was pleasant enough. She rambled about her brother for a little to an increasingly nervous Evan, asked about Jared and a girl named Alana, then looked at Jeremy, still out on Michael.
She said goodbye when she got out, then told Evan she’d call him.
“Yours or mine?” Evan seemed a little relieved.
Michael didn’t blame him.

Chapter Text

Jeremy didn’t feel the pain until the faces appeared over him.
He just blinked at the ceiling and tried to figure out what had happened.
He’d been walking down the hall, then suddenly lost use of one of his legs.
He’d pitched forwards…
Then was lying at the bottom of the stairs, staring at the ceiling.
His father said something to him, and it took him a moment to realize what he’d said. He’d asked if he was okay. He nodded.
“As fine as I can be.”
Heidi lifted his hand. “You’ve rebroken your finger.”
She pulled at his arm a little, trying to pull him up. As soon as he put weight on his right foot, pain shot from his hip.
“What happened?”
He put a hand to his head. “Must have tripped.”
He limped into his living room, and then sat.
“You should probably get that finger fixed, Jeremy.” His dad said.
Jeremy looked at it and nodded. “Probably.”

“What did you do to your leg?” Michael asked. “And your finger?”
Jeremy lowered himself gently and smiled sheepishly. “Fell down the stairs.”
He felt bad for lying to him, but what was he meant to tell him; that his dead SQUIP had malfunctioned and basically pushed him? It didn’t matter that that was the truth, but it made Michael feel better.
“How the fuck did you fall down the stairs?” Michael blinked at him.
“Tripped over my own feet at the wrong time.”
Michael shook his head. He sat next to Jeremy, and lifted the hand with the broken finger. “You’re an idiot.” He kissed his temple.
Jeremy snorted. “Thank you. I so need that.”

Jeremy winced. Michael had fallen asleep on his lap, and he was really hurting his leg but he was so cute and he didn’t want to move him…
So he just sucked up the pain and let Michael sleep a little longer. But not for long.
BANGBANGBANG. “Michael, get up!” BANGBANGBANG
Michael opened his eyes sleepily and groaned.
“I don’t wanna.” He murmured.
A jolt went down Jeremy’s spine. “Jeremmyyy.”
Michael sat up and looked at him. “Are you okay?”
“Yea, I’m fine.” Jeremy blinked.
Then, the shadow flickered. For a split second, it turned into a form, then vanished again. Jeremy bit his lip. He’d thought it’d given up trying to contact him.
But nope.
Jeremy sighed as Michael looked at him, then turned his head and grinned. “I’m fine.”

“Can I have one of those?” Jeremy looked at Chloe.
Chloe shrugged and held out the packet. Jeremy took a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth, lighting it with Chloe’s lighter.
“You don’t smoke.” Michael frowned.
“Define smoke.” Jeremy muttered around the cigarette.
He inhaled, and then blew the smoke towards Michael. It was intercepted by Christine, who walked right in the middle of the smoke and died. While Christine coughed her lungs out, Jake stole his cigarette and took a hit before handing it back to him.
“If he wants a cigarette, you can’t stop him.” Chloe grinned.
Michael looked at him sceptically, but to be honest, the cigarette was working better than the pills.
Jeremy and Michael sat together, waiting for Jeremy to finish his cigarette (which was awkward because he was holding with his non dominant hand.)
“I can feel you dying, Jeremy.”
Jeremy threw his cigarette on the ground and put it out. “I am dead.”
The others engaged in a conversation, but Jeremy just looked at Michael, waiting for him to reply. Michael just shook his head and looked away.
“I guess one won’t kill you.”
Jeremy raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Maybe it will.”
“Don’t say that.”
Jeremy looked at Michael, but apparently that was all he was willing to offer.

Chapter Text

Eventually, school started again. He was late on his first day because Jeremy had missed his bus and was too sore to walk. He had carefully lowered himself into the car and Michael needed to help him with his seatbelt because he couldn’t do it with one hand.
“You need to sort your shit out, Jer.”
Jeremy smiled sheepishly at him. “I’m sorry, Mikey.”
Michael shook his head, and started the car. They ended up ten minutes late for their first class (which, by coincidence, they had together) and a scolding.
Michael looked at Jeremy behind him, who looked guilty.
Then surprised himself.
This was math. He shouldn’t be able to see Jeremy. Ethan sat behind him.
Jeremy caught his look and tilted his head. Michael mouthed Ethan’s name, then Jeremy clicked. His eyes widened.
“How long has he been gone?” he mouthed back.
Michael didn’t know. At least since the incident with Jeremy. Something stirred in Michael. He didn’t quite remember realizing he was gone, but he had acknowledged it subconsciously. He turned back around when the teacher called his name.
And he was in trouble again.

“What do you want for your birthday?” Michael asked Jeremy at lunch.
Jeremy’s birthday was the Saturday after the first week of school, and even with twelve years of friendship, he still had no idea what to get him. Jeremy frowned.
“I don’t want anything.”
Michael frowned back.
“Bullshit. It’s your birthday. I’m getting you something.”
Jeremy scowled at him. “I don’t fucking want anything. I told Heidi and Evan the same fucking thing. The only one who seems to actually get this is my dad.”
Michael blinked heavily. Jeremy sighed and put his head in his hands.
“I’m sorry. I’m really tired and school isn’t helping.”
Michael went to say something, but then Rich plonked himself down in front of him. “What’s up, homos?”
He forgot what he was going to say.

When Jeremy didn’t show up to class, Michael thought he knew exactly where he was. So first chance he got, he raised his hand and asked to be excused. Hall pass safely on his pocket, he walked to the place Jeremy often went when he didn’t want anyone to find him; the locker room in the gym.
His logic is that no one expected him to be in there, so no one would look for him there. And he liked to squeeze between two of the lockers, so no one would find him.
Michael opened the door cautiously. “Jer?”
No answer. He pushed the door the rest of the way open and walked inside. He found his way to the lockers Jeremy liked to sit between, and then smiled slightly despite himself.
Jeremy’s sore leg was stretched out in front of him, the other pulled up to his chest. His head had fallen back against the wall behind him, and he was asleep.
Michael hated to do it, because he looked like he really needed sleep, but he crouched and shook Jeremy’s shoulder lightly.
Jeremy’s eyes opened slowly, and he expelled a large yawn, like a kitten. Michael smiled a little.
“C’mon. You still have about an hour left before you can leave.”
Jeremy grimaced at him, then held up his hand. Michael grabbed it and helped him up.
“Let’s get to class.”

Jeremy looked about ready to pass out by the end of the day. He awkwardly limped to Michael’s car and threw himself into the backseat, curling himself up as far as he could without hurting his leg. Then he did pass out. Michael couldn’t count the amount of times Jeremy had fallen asleep in his car.
He looked at him in the rear view mirror and shook his head. He was drooling.
Michael grinned. He looked so at peace when he slept, like nothing was wrong and he felt great. Like the SQUIP had never happened. The song on his radio changed. He’d made himself a CD to play in his car, a vast range of music. He didn’t recognise this one; it must have been Jeremy’s. It was sad, and personal and sweet.
“What would I do, if I had not met you? Who would I blame my life on? Once I was told that all men get what they deserve. Who the hell then threw this curve? There are no answers, but who would I be, if you had not been my friend?”
Michael looked back at him. He went to change the song, and then Jeremy piped up sleepily from the back.
“Don’t change it.”
Michael laughed a little.
“Go back to sleep, Jer.”

Chapter Text

“Jemmy!”
Jeremy grinned. “Hey, princess!”
She ran over to him and he caught her, giving her a large hug.
Sadie Heere was his favourite cousin. She was four years old today, and adorable. She was born the day he turned thirteen, and, being thirteen, had fallen in love with her simply because they were born on the same day. She was his father’s brother’s daughter.
“How are you?”
Sadie grinned and held up four fingers. “I’m this many now!”
Jeremy laughed. “That you are.”
She started talking rapidly at him, about the new doll her mum had bought her, her new friend at school, and something Jeremy couldn’t pick up.
Jeremy’s dad and Sadie’s parents were watching them as they played with her dolls, and after about an hour, the doorbell rang. Jeremy got up to answer it. When he opened the door, his boyfriend stood there, grinning.
You could practically see the hearts pop out of Sadie’s eyes. “Michael!”
She ran up to him, clinging to his leg. Michael patted her head and smiled.
“Hey, kiddo.”
Sadie loved Michael. Maybe more than she loved anyone. He tried to move, but Sadie was still clinging to his leg, so he had to awkwardly drag her around. Then Michael actually looked at him. He raised an eyebrow and tugged at the hem of the shirt Jeremy was wearing.
“Isn’t that mine?”
Jeremy stuck his tongue out at him as they sat on the floor with Sadie.
“Mine now.”

The girls took to Sadie right away.
“She’s so cute!” Christine cooed.
Sadie batted her big brown eyes at them and smiled. Brooke looked at Sadie’s mother.
“Can we like, dress her up?”
When they were given the okay, they grabbed Jeremy’s poor cousin and whisked her away.
Which left Jake and Rich standing awkwardly in the middle of Jeremy’s living room.
Michael was on the floor with Jeremy, doll still in hand. He put it down quickly, then just sat there. So Rich sat down with them, then picked up a doll, looked it over, and dropped it.
“Sit down, Jake.” Jake sat, then Rich looked at Jeremy. “Happy birthday homo.”
Jeremy laughed. “Thanks.”
Everyone in the room pushed something towards Jeremy.
He frowned at every single one of them.
“I told you I didn’t want anything.”
They all shrugged. He sighed and picked everything up.
Rich had given him twenty bucks. He’d shoved it in an envelope, with a card that had nothing on it except Jeremy’s name, but… It was the thought that counts.
Jake had gotten him the soundtrack to Wicked, which he didn’t actually like all that much.
And Michael had gotten him PC game that his computer wouldn’t support.
Jeremy raised an eyebrow at him, and Michael smiled at him.
Then the girls came back in. Sadie sat with Jeremy.
“They did my nails!” she showed him her nails, painted in a sparkly red color.
He smiled. “They look great, Sadie.”
She grinned. She was sitting next to Brooke, who grinned at her. They all sat in a circle, eight 17 year olds and a four year old. The dolls lay abandoned in the middle, and Sadie reached for a few. She played with them by herself.
Christine pushed a sweater towards him. “You wanted this, didn’t you, Jeremy?”
He lifted the sweater, it was blue and white, had cats and dogs on it…
From the Thomas Sanders merch line. It was Morality’s Christmas sweater.
“Dude, thanks!” He grinned at her, and she grinned back.
Everyone else just gave him money. They all seemed to be at a loss for what to give him.
So that’s how he walked out with nearly a hundred dollars.

He knew why Michael had given him the game.
His dad had gotten him a new computer.
As Michael help him set it up, Jeremy explained to Sadie why he needed another computer. Sadie said she understood, but she looked as confused as ever.
But she did enjoy playing around with his old computer.

Chapter Text

About a month after Jeremy’s birthday, Michael got to school to find a note and a flower taped to his locker. He took the note down and opened the note.
‘Happy Valentines xx’
Michael smiled, folded the note back, and placed the flower in the empty spot in his locker.
Then his mind went to work.
How could he one-up Jeremy?
Then it came to him and he grinned. It wasn’t dissimilar from Jeremy’s idea, but it was bigger.
He checked his schedule to make sure of his free period. Then he got to work.

He saw Jeremy sitting at the table with their friends. He blinked hard. Then he went in and stood behind Jeremy.
“Happy valentines.”
Jeremy spun around and blushed when Michael handed him the flowers. They were a large bunch, and Michael didn’t know what they were, except that they were pretty. Jeremy blinked at him.
“Th-Thank you…” Jeremy blushed a little harder and put his face in the flowers.
Michael was aware everyone in the room was looking at them, so he knew Jeremy was hyper-aware.
But he still stood to kiss him.
Then he sat back down and looked at his lap.
“You embarrass me.”
Michael sat next to him and grinned.
“I know.”

They spent the night at Michael’s house, watching videos.
“Don’t click on that one.” Jeremy bit his lip.
Michael raised an eyebrow at him and Jeremy looked away.
“That one made me really upset.”
Michael shook his head and pressed another one.
“This is the first time I haven’t been single on Valentine’s day.” Jeremy said.
“I know.”
Jeremy turned to him. He looked like he was going to say something, then he just smiled and looked away.
“What?” Michael asked with a small smile.
Jeremy looked down.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”

“Jeremy. You need to get out of bed.”
“Nooooooo… I don’t wanna.”
Michael poked Jeremy, leading him to pull his blanket over his head.
“If you don’t get out of bed, you can’t watch American Horror Story.”
“I’ll just watch it on my laptop.”
“Hmm, except you can’t, because it’s flat and the charger’s at my house.”
At this, Jeremy pulled the blanket down. His curls were a mess, and he had the sort of bags under his eyes that a million years of sleep wouldn’t fix.
“Why’s the charger at your house?”
Michael grinned. “Because I stole it. Get out of bed.”
Jeremy groaned dramatically and rolled out of bed. He assembled his stuff and went into his bathroom. Michael heard the shower turn on. He waited for a second, then, with a grin, pulled the laptop charger out of his backpack.

Jeremy was still falling asleep at his desk.
Out of all the classes they had, he shared three periods with Jeremy.
History, math and lunch.
He sat next to Jeremy in History, and he kept nudging him to make sure he didn’t actually fall asleep. He missed one time.
But Jeremy didn’t.
His head slipped off his hand and smacked on the desk.
The teacher whipped her head around as Jeremy lifted his and put his hand to it.
“Am I boring you, Jeremy?” the teacher asked drily.
Jeremy smiled awkwardly at her, but didn’t say anything. She sighed and turned around.
Michael tried not to laugh at him. Jeremy shot him a glare.
“Shit head.”

Chapter Text

He honestly didn’t have the energy to get out of bed. Everything hurt, and he was so tired.
Not to mention the whispers.
The flickering form of his SQUIP.
He was scared. What did it mean? Was it coming back?
“Are you okay, Jeremy?” his father opened the door and sat on the bed.
Jeremy buried his face in the pillow and sighed. “Tired.” He murmured.
He felt his dad pat his head awkwardly. “Are you sick?”
Jeremy closed his eyes.
“You could say that.”
“Jeremyyyyy…”
His eyes snapped open. Not here. Not now.
He turned, but there was just his father.
“You look really pale. I’m gonna call the school.” He went to stand, but Jeremy shook his head.
“No, I’m fine. I’ll go.”
Suddenly, something felt off. He blinked, but he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. And then… He’d missed his bus. Shit. He was gonna be late.
He pulled out his phone, trying to call Michael. The phone didn’t ring out. In fact, it was answered. But nothing was said. He frowned and hung up. He looked around the house. No one was home.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
He grabbed his backpack, then made the executive decision.

Every head snapped in his direction when he slammed the door open, red faced, breathing heavily, limping harder than ever. His teacher looked stunned.
“Jeremy… Are you okay? What’s happened?”
Jeremy blinked hard, trying to get his words out. “Missed… bus… Ran to… school…”
He’d stunned her further.
“Jeremy…”
He limped into the class and sank into his seat, despite feeling like his legs were going to give out beneath him.
His teacher blinked her eyes at him for what seemed like half an hour, but she eventually went back to teaching.

Jeremy laid his head on the table in the cafeteria. Pearl Jam blasted in his ears, the song his father showed him when he was six.
The one about the kid who’d shot himself in class.
The one that shared his name.
The song depressed him now, but when he was six he’d loved it. They had the same name. He didn’t know anyone else named Jeremy.
The song changed. He frowned to himself.
Oh, yes, another moment where his phone wanted to depress him.
The only other Pearl Jam song he had come on. Better Man. He changed it quickly. He sighed. At least he liked this song better…
“How long, how long, can I slide? Separate my side. I don’t, I don’t believe it’s bad. Slitting my throat, it’s all I ever…”
He sighed. He went to change it, but he paused. What was it about this song? He wanted to change it, but found he couldn’t…
Then the shadow flickered. It took a form.
Jeremy closed his eyes. Leave me alone.
His SQUIP tilted his head.
“Hm. Let’s just hope Michael understands.”
Jeremy snapped his eyes open. What? That was the first thing he’d said to Jeremy in months… And suddenly it clicked.
He scanned the room…
And there was Michael, sitting cross legged on the floor across the cafeteria. His head was down, he was on his phone. When he looked up, he scowled, picked up his backpack, and left the room.
Jeremy felt horrified.
What had he done?

Michael couldn’t avoid him now. He couldn’t leave or he’d be late for class, and Jeremy would just talk to him in class. He was sitting against the wall, waiting to be let in.
“Michael?”
He looked up at Jeremy blankly. Jeremy sat with him.
“So you aren’t avoiding me anymore?”
Jeremy blinked. “I haven’t seen you all day.”
Michael raised an eyebrow.
“You called me this morning, then hung up, and have been avoiding me ever since.”
Jeremy blinked again. Only this time, not of confusion.
“I’m sorry.”
This time Michael kept blinking at him.
“I-I’m sorry.”
Michael forced a smile at him. “Really?”
Jeremy nodded. “I… Can’t explain to you why I’ve done it. But I am sorry.”
This time Michael’s smile was real. “I guess it’s okay.” He cocked his head at him. “Although I don’t know why you can’t tell me.”
As a distraction, Jeremy pulled out his phone. He handed Michael a headphone. Michael put it in. Jeremy put his phone on shuffle.
Oh great.
‘Jeremy’ again.

Chapter Text

Jeremy was looking worse and worse. He was getting paler, and he looked like he was trying to copy one of the Sanders Sides. The one with the dark eye shadow.
He smiled at Michael. It looked like his leg was getting better, because he jumped off the bus. Well, more like a hop, but it was pretty adorable.
Jeremy came over and grinned at him.
“Hi.”
They began to walk, and Michael looked down at him.
“You look like shit.”
Jeremy snorted and bumped him with his hip. “Thank you, boyfriend.”
Michael laughed a little. “That was so gay.”
Jeremy winked at him and blew him a kiss before skipping off.
Michael shook his head. Jeremy was in a better mood than he had been in ages.
He was bipolar, but this was good. He was happy.
At least for the moment.

They ended up at Michael’s house after school, helping Michael’s mother wash the dishes.
She was washing, Jeremy was drying, and Michael packed them away. She was talking on about the new trainer at her gym, how he was totally a closet homosexual. Michael looked at her.
“When did you know I was gay?”
She paused. “When you told me. But… I thought you might have been when you were about thirteen.”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t even know then.”
She shrugged.
“That was when you started wearing my eyeliner and nail polish.”
Michael looked at her, a little exasperated. “That was my emo phase mum. It wasn’t gay.”
She looked a little confused. “There’s a difference?”
Jeremy was lucky the only thing he was holding was the dish cloth. He dropped it and covered his mouth with his hands. They didn’t hide his giggles.
Michael blinked at his mother. “Yes, mum. There’s a difference.”
She just shrugged at him. Then she turned to Jeremy.
“I always knew about you, though. I watched you with Michael one day, and you were looking at him like he was the only thing that mattered…”
Michael blushed, then turned to Jeremy, who was doing the same thing.
His mother didn’t notice. She just turned and went back to her story.

Michael balanced Jeremy’s laptop on his knees, clicking away at screen.
“What the fuck is this?” He clicked on a video.
Jeremy leaned over his shoulder to look. “That’s a musical.”
Michael continued to watch the actors dance around the screen.
“What the fuck is happening?”
“He’s… Arguing with his boyfriend I think?”
“It doesn’t look like arguing.”
Jeremy smiled at him. “No. But apparently they like arguing.”
Michael blinked a couple of times, then left the video. “You’re a weird kid.”
Jeremy smiled and went back to whatever he was doing. Michael navigated his internet browser for a bit longer. Then he shut Jeremy’s computer. Jeremy sat cross-legged in front of him.
Jeremy looked at him for a moment. Then he smiled.
“What?” Michael asked.
Jeremy tilted his head a little. “Nothing… I…” he looked at his lap. “I love you.”
Michael raised an eyebrow. “I love you, too.”
Jeremy yawned.
“Tired?”
He nodded. “Yeah, a bit.”
“Then take a nap.”
He laid himself down and fell right asleep.
He didn’t end up waking up that night.

They had a good week. Jeremy was in a continuously good mood, skipping around with Christine singing musical songs, messing around with Rich, just a good mood. Michael would just sit off to the edge, watching him. He looked like he was out of whatever mess he was in. He looked like he may be sleeping better.
Jeremy sat next to Michael.
“Are you coming to watch me in the play?”
Michael blinked at him. “Of course I am. Why the hell would you ask that?”
Jeremy shrugged. “It’s just last time I mentioned it, you gave me a look.”
He imitated the supposed look, and Michael snorted.
“Last time you mentioned it, you asked me to audition with you.” He looked at him. “You know how I do in front of people.”
Jeremy scrunched up his nose. “Mm. Eighth grade.”
Michael had been in the eighth grade play with Jeremy. He’d learned all his lines, and he was doing well… Until he got on stage. He’d frozen, just stood there and blinked, all too aware of so many people watching him. Jeremy was urging him on from side stage, but then he’d ran off and thrown up.
That’s how Michael realized he had extreme stage fright.
That was the last play either of them had done until last year.
Jeremy nudged him with his shoulder. “So you’re coming?”
Michael rolled his eyes and nodded.
“Yes, Jeremy.”

Chapter Text

He wasn’t in a great mood. He hadn’t been in a while, but he was faking so well even Michael believed him. He winced as the mild shock went down his back. Nothing serious, but just noticeable.
“You okay?” Michael traced the scars on his arm, almost as if he was checking for new ones.
Jeremy grinned. “Yea, just a shiver.”
Michael smiled gently at him and dropped his hand. Jeremy went back to watching his musical. He’d almost finished it…
Then his computer died.
“Ugh!” he threw himself back and pouted.
Michael sighed and picked his computer up. He plugged it in, then the thing started up again.
“No need to be so dramatic.” Michael leaned over a little to kiss him.
“I’m a theatre kid. Fight me.” Jeremy closed his eyes.
Michael snorted and shook his head. He ran his tongue over his braces, like he’d been doing whenever he was thinking.
“What’s up?” Jeremy leaned forward and looked up at him.
Michael shook his head, and Jeremy knew he was lying, but how could he get it out of him? So he poked him.
“Tell me.”
Michael tried to squirm himself away, but Jeremy wouldn’t give up.
“Tell me.”
“Fuck off, Jeremy!” Michael laughed and tried to bat his hand away.
“Then tell me what’s up?”
“Gas prices.”
Jeremy paused.
“… You little shit.”
Michael winked at him.

He was hiding. He knew he was hiding. He had squeezed himself into his little locker space and was on his phone. He was humming a little to himself.
“Jeremy.” Michael’s face appeared in front of his. “What’s going on?”
Jeremy looked at him and smiled. “Nothing. I just wanted to get away.”
Michael looked at him a little sceptically. Then he sat in front of him. Michael didn’t like small spaces. So he just sat in front of him, out in the open.
“You’re not okay, are you.”
Jeremy smiled a little. “Not at the moment, but I’ll be fine.”
Michael closed his eyes. “Thanks for being honest.”
Jeremy leaned forward and put his head on his shoulder. “Mm. You’re welcome.”

He was glad no one was home. He was honestly freaking out. It would glitch in front of him, then to the other side of the room, then all around.
“Leave me alone! Leave me alone!”
Jeremy thought he heard a knock, but it was probably just in his head. The SQUIP kept flickering and muttering his name, as if trying to get his attention.
“Fuck off! Leave me alone! Stop hurting me! You already pushed me down the stairs!”
“What?”
That voice didn’t belong to the SQUIP. He turned to find Michael scowling at him.
“You told me you fell. You lied to me?”
Jeremy rubbed his eyes and sighed. Now it stopped. Whatever.
“I did.”
Michael narrowed his eyes. “So it’s back.”
Jeremy shook his head. “No, Michael. It’s not.”
“How could I believe you? You said that last time.”
That felt like a blow to the stomach. Jeremy actually genuinely got winded.
“You don’t trust me.” It wasn’t a question.
Michael knew that, but he answered him anyway.
“No, Jeremy. I don’t.”
Jeremy narrowed his eyes at him. They stared at each other for a moment.
“Leave.”
Michael blinked. “What?”
“Leave. Get out of my house. I don’t want you here.”
Michael stumbled back as if hit. But he didn’t leave. Jeremy stomped his foot.
“Get out! I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t trust me!” He felt the tears sting at the back of his eyes, but he blinked them back.
Michael looked a little surprised, but then he scowled and left, slamming the door behind him.
And like a teenage girl, Jeremy threw himself on the bed and cried.

“Jeremy.”
Jeremy wiped his face and sat up. “What the fuck do you want?”
His SQUIP glitched a little.
“I-I-I think I found a way to spend my remaining time talking to you.” (A/N: When the SQUIP ‘stammers’ he glitches)
Jeremy blinked, and then scowled. “I don’t want to.”
“Please, Jeremy. I want to explain.”
Jeremy looked at him.
“Jeremy, I’m sorry.”
Whatever Jeremy was expecting, it wasn’t that. His SQUIP stared at him, but he had no idea what to say.
“My-my primary function is to he-hel-help you achieve what you want. I am programed to help you. Th-that is all I was trying to do.”
“You just ruined my relationship and expect me to believe you?” Jeremy frowned.
His SQUIP sighed.
“No, I-I-I did-didn’t think so. I just wanted to… I’m sorry.”
Then it faded out.
Jeremy didn’t know it, but that was the last he’d hear from it.
All he knew at that moment was that he’d lost Michael.

Chapter Text

If Jeremy was in the cafeteria, Michael wasn’t. Sometimes he couldn’t help it. But when he could, they avoided each other wherever they could.
He looked like he was sleeping better, but even in the space of a week, and apparently ignoring the fact that he’d left Michael, he looked miserable.
He looked just as bad as Michael felt.
Even so, Michael worried for him. He’d watch him some days from the other side of the cafeteria, wondering how he was doing and how he was coping. He wasn’t doing well, anyone could see, but just how badly he was doing was unknown.
“What happened?”
Michael turned to look at who had spoken. Rich looked down at him, an eyebrow raised.
“He broke up with me.”
Rich sat next to him. “What did you do?”
Michael raised an eyebrow at him.
“You’re actually the third person to ask me that today.” Other than Brooke and Jake. “It’s been a week.”
Rich shrugged.
“He asked me if I trusted him.”
Rich winced. “You said no, didn’t you?”
Michael just shrugged at him. Rich shook his head. “You don’t say that to him. You of all people should know he would’ve blown up.”
They both looked at him. Christine was talking to him, but his gaze was fixed to a spot above her left shoulder. They followed it, but there seemed to be nothing of interest, except…
It dawned on him.
“The play.” He muttered.
He’d promised Jeremy just over a week ago that he’d go. But what was going to happen now?
“I’m going. Come with me.” Rich had drawn the same conclusion.
“Why are you going?”
“Jeremy, Brooke, Jake and Christine are in it.” Rich shrugged. “Moral support.”
Michael nodded. “Sure. Why not.”

As the thunder rumbled outside, Michael fumbled for his phone and shook.
Of course it was a thunderstorm.
Maybe it was childish to still be afraid of thunder, but to admit why he’d never tried to kick his fear was a little more embarrassing.
It was because Jeremy would always sing him to sleep.
It started when they were at a sleepover when they were six. Michael had crawled under the blankets, and Jeremy had crawled under with him, and sung the song his dad taught him.
Weezer, Across The Sea.
It had been his favourite ever since.
Last time Jeremy was over, Michael had recorded it. Jeremy hadn’t realized, but Michael had thought he couldn’t always be there when a thunderstorm was going on. Not since…

Michael was hugging his knees to his chest, head buried between them. It was certainly a little embarrassing, at fourteen, but at least no one knew about it.
He heard a tap on the window and screamed.
“Sorry!” A muffled voice called from the outside.
He turned. Jeremy was hanging from his window with a pleading look. Michael let him in.
Jeremy discarded his wet jacket and shook his limp curls out of his face.
“I got on my bike as soon as I heard it start.”
Michael made room for him on his bed, and Jeremy climbed on and put his arms around him. Michael leaned into him, closing his eyes, trying not to enjoy the embrace. Jeremy rocked him back and forth and sung to him until he felt himself grow tired.
Then he fell asleep.

Michael put his headphones on and pressed the recording.
Jeremy’s soft, hesitant voice poured through the headphones and made Michael instantly relax.
“Why are you so far away from me? I need help, and you’re across the sea. I could never touch you; I think it would be wrong. I’ve got your letter, you’ve got my song.”
Slowly, Michael began to feel drowsy, but a tear drop fell on his hand.
He was too tired to brush them away.
That’s why Michael’s mother found him asleep an hour later, crying in his sleep.

Chapter Text

He could’ve sworn he was being watched, but every time he turned around, no one of interest was there.
Not that he saw, anyway.
“Rich.” He drawled. “I know you’re there.”
Rich stepped out from behind a really tall guy (who, frankly, looked really startled) and crossed his arms.
“How’d you know?”
Jeremy rubbed his eyes. “Because I’m not an idiot.”
Rich puffed out a breath of air and scowled. Jeremy stared back at him for a moment.
“Why are you following me?”
“I was asked to take care of you.”
Jeremy pushed his hair out of his face and sighed.
“Even if that were true, taking care of me does not include stalking, Rich.”
Rich blinked and shook his head a little.
“I was. Michael asked.”
Something inside Jeremy snapped, and he scowled.
“Well, you can tell Michael that I’m managing just fine, no thanks to him, and he can mind his own damn fucking business!” The words echoed through the hallway, and everyone turned to stare at him.
Jeremy payed no mind. He just spun on his heel and stalked away.

His chest hurt and he had to work to suck in a breath. He hadn’t cried since Michael left, but this even seemed to be particularly bad.
“Are you okay?” the voice was unfamiliar, and he couldn’t place it to a face because it hadn’t revealed itself, but he doubted it would be any help anyway. He couldn’t see through the tears.
He wiped his eyes with his sleeve and coughed into his hand.
“Yea, I’ll be fine.” He said feebly.
The voice was quiet. There was a noise of acknowledgment, then the door opened and shut. Jeremy strained his ears. They’d left.
The tears started again.

When he smacked into Jake later, he was too exhausted to apologise. His head was pounding, and he felt sick to the stomach, although he couldn’t pinpoint why.
“Sorry, dude.” Jake put a hand on his shoulder and bent himself at the waist to look at Jeremy. “You doin’ okay?’
Jeremy shook his head. Words seemed to take too much energy. He couldn’t speak, and…
He was going to be sick. He smacked a hand to his mouth, bolted around Jake, and ran into the nearest bathroom. He locked himself in a stall, and expelled the contents of his stomach into the toilet. He could feel his stomach do a one eighty, and heaved as it tried to come to the surface.
“Are you okay?” Jake had followed him in.
Jeremy made a sick little noise at the back of his throat, and coughed. He rummaged through his backpack, pulling out his water bottle and rinsing his mouth before flushing the toilet and opening the door. Jake looked concerned, but did nothing more than hand him a stick of gum.
“I think you should go home.” He said quietly after a while.
Jeremy nodded. “I think I should go home.”

He texted Brooke, telling her he was going to skip out on rehearsal, then made his way home. His father had said he could pick him up, but he decided to get a head start. He was dragging his feet, he felt so sick. Someone stopped next to him.
“Jeremy.”
Jeremy scowled and moved as fast as he could without feeling sick.
“Jeremy.” He heard Michael get out of his car behind him.
He must have been walking faster than Jeremy, because Michael caught his wrist and pulled him back a little.
“Jeremy. Are you okay?”
Jeremy’s scowl deepened and he snatched his hand back.
“Why would you care? You probably won’t believe me anyway.”
Michael looked stunned. Jeremy just looked at him a moment. He turned and stalked away.
Down the street, his dad picked him up.

Chapter Text

Jeremy didn’t come to school for the rest of the week.
Christine, who’d gone to take him all the work he’d missed, said he looked like hell and had spent most of her visit with his head in a bucket.
Michael felt guilty, although surely he couldn’t be responsible for whatever bug Jeremy had contracted.
But he didn’t go to school that Monday either.
Both of his parents had work, and neither Jackson or Nicole had classes at college today. So it was fairly easy to pretend he was sick with his parents, but it wasn’t so easy to pretend to his brother.
He was still in bed when his brother knocked on his door.
“Micha, we’re hungry.”
Michael groaned incoherently and pulled his blanket back over his head. His brother kept knocking. He tried an excuse he’d only used once before, just to Jenna, but she’d believed it, so…
“I’m having my period.”
There was a pause, then a snort.
“Shut the fuck up, Michael. You’re gay, not a girl.” Michael paused. “C’mon, I can’t cook and Nicole isn’t great either. And I know you’re not sick.” Michael didn’t say anything. “C’mon, dude, I liked Jeremy too, but you need to stop fucking moping.”
Michael sighed and stood up. He opened the door and looked at his brother. Jackson grinned.
“Theerre he is.”
Michael flipped him off and went into the kitchen. He cooked something for the three of them, and ate it in the living room, ignoring his brother’s questions and Nicole’s pitying looks.
“You need to fucking stop.” Something was thrown at him.
He frowned at his brother.
“You were dumped. It’s not the end of the fucking world.”
Michael snorted. “Says the one who cried for an hour when Chester Bennington died.”
His brother didn’t miss a beat. “That man was a god.”
Michael laughed and shook his head. His brother wasn’t laughing. Nicole was studiously ignoring them.
“You either fucking fix it, or move on.” Jackson tilted his head. “Remember when I got dumped by Nicole for being an idiot?”
Michael nodded. “Yea, you got mad at everyone all the time.”
Jackson nodded.
“But I fixed it, and now we’re moving out together.”
Michael blinked. “What? When?”
Jackson grinned.
“When we’ve finished college.”
Michael blinked owlishly and looked back and forth between Nicole and Jackson.
“Wow.”
“I know.”
Michael nodded. “Thanks.”
Jackson clapped him on the back so hard he winced.
“No prob, little brother.”

Michael was tired, but he sat in his basement with his video games until he was bored of them. They weren’t as fun without Jeremy.
He loved the way Jeremy’s nose would screw up when he was concentrating, and he would stick his tongue out a little, and hunch over as if protecting the controller…
Michael stopped thinking and threw his controller next to him. Fuck this.

He wandered. What time was it? He pulled his phone out of his pocket before realizing he didn’t have it. He was really fucking high.
Like, more high then he’d ever felt before.
He couldn’t go home. It was really late, and surely his mother would notice he was gone, and he didn’t want her to know he was high. So where could he go? Where even was he? He hadn’t been paying attention. He looked around. He knew round about where he was.
His high brain didn’t think maybe he didn’t want to be seen, but he did it anyway.
He tucked his hands in his pockets and made his way to Jeremy’s house.

Chapter Text

Tap. Tap. Tap.
It drove him mad.
He figured it was probably a tree, or Evan tapping his pen like he did, and he tried to ignore it.
Then he remembered.
There aren’t any trees outside his window.
Evan was with a friend and the parents were away for his dad’s business trip.
Jeremy stood and opened the curtain to his window.
A pebble struck the glass, followed by another. Jeremy opened the window, and one hit him in the eye. His head snapped back like he was in an anime, and he blinked.
Ow.
He leaned his head out the window. Michael was there, preparing to throw another rock.
“No no no no no!” he blinked. “Don’t throw it.”
Michael dropped the rock and grinned at him. Was he high? He was probably high.
“Jeremy!” he was yelling. He was yelling too loud. “Jeremy, I love you!”
The light on next doors bedroom began to turn on, and Jeremy looked at them nervously.
“Come in before you wake my neighbours.” Michael saluted him and grinned.
Jeremy went down to let him in. He opened the door to find Michael grinning at him. He was totally high.
“Get in. Go to my room. Wait there.”
Michael winked and Jeremy blushed with a scowl. He stalked into the kitchen and rummaged through the cupboards. He found a bag of M&Ms, and pulled them out. Michael was sitting on his bed, trying to open his computer.
“Get the fuck off, Michael. You’ll break it.” He tossed him the bag of M&Ms, and Michael tore into it and grabbed a handful.
Jeremy pulled his phone out of his pocket just as he got a call. It was Michael’s mum.
“He’s here, Mrs Mell. He’s fine. He’s…” Jeremy looked over at Michael, who had passed out and dropped the fucking bag of M&Ms all over his floor. “Sleeping.”
Michael’s mother thanked him and hung up. Jeremy looked at Michael, then sighed and began to clean up the M&Ms.

Michael was out like a fucking light. Jeremy hadn’t exactly been the most considerate of people, and had made a lot of noise, but Michael had just rolled over and stayed asleep. Jeremy looked at him and felt himself soften. He’d been made at him for a couple of weeks now, and now… Suddenly it was gone.
He blinked and shook his head. Michael looked miserable. Jeremy sat next to him and pushed Michael’s hair out of his face.
“Jesus, Michael…” he whispered.

He was reading a book when Michael bolted upright and screamed. Jeremy was so startled he dropped his book. He moved over to Michael and put a hand on his shoulder. Michael jumped and looked at him, then scuttled back a little.
“Fuck…” he was shaking really hard.
He hadn’t quite slept off his high, so who knows what was happening in his mind at that moment.
Jeremy managed to calm Michael down and get him back to sleep.
Jeremy looked at him sadly and shook his head.
Then he covered Michael with the blanket, took his book and his phone and went into the living room.

Jeremy finished his book and grabbed his phone to check when the movie was coming out.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapien Agenda was seriously the greatest book.
Jeremy picked the book up and went to put it back in his room. He looked at Michael, sound asleep in his bed, and threw the book on the floor. Fuck.
He missed him.
He’d been an asshole, but he missed him. And he was so mad at him, but… He punched the wall closest to him.
“Fuck!”

He ran his fingers gently over his eye. The rock had taken a toll and he bruised easily.
He’d been presented with a large black eye the moment he’d looked in the mirror. He sighed. He just needed some fucking sleep, Christ.
He snuck back into his room with a shit load of blankets, and set them up on the floor. Then he sat against the wall and watched Michael sleep until he followed suit.

Chapter Text

There’s’ nothing like waking up in your ex-boyfriends bed with no idea how you got there.
Jeremy was scrolling through his phone on the floor, headphones in, legs crossed. He had a large black eye, and he looked like he didn’t sleep. Suddenly, he looked up.
“Oh, you’re awake.” He didn’t sound happy to see him. But he didn’t sound displeased either.
Which quite frankly scared the shit out of Michael, because Jeremy never had an emotion that didn’t show up on his face.
“What am I doing here.”
“Well, I’m not sure if you’ll believe this…” Sarcasm drowned every word. “But someone was throwing rocks at my window and hit me in the eye when I opened it. Then he was being very loud and woke up my neighbours, so I invited him inside. He spilled M&Ms all over my room and passed out.”
Michael looked at him sadly. “Jeremy…”
“Okay, you’re awake now. I’ve called your mum and she’s expecting you home.” And just like that, he was dismissed.
Michael stood up. He wasn’t wanted. He didn’t want to be somewhere he wasn’t wanted.
He began to move, but on a whim, turned around.
Jeremy was looking out the window, rubbing at the bracelet on his wrist. Michael turned back around, suddenly grinning.
He didn’t know why, but he saw that as a good sign.

Jeremy was great, as always. But Michael was so tired. Rich had fallen asleep and was drooling on his shoulder. Michael tried to nudge him off.
“So much for moral support.” He muttered.
The cast were taking their bows, and when Jeremy and Brooke (the lead characters) came on, the crowd went crazy. Michael even heard a wolf-whistle from somewhere, and he turned. The cast must have walked off, because when he turned back, the curtains were closing. He shoved Rich off his shoulder and stood. He ignored Rich’s annoyed mumbling, and ran around to greet his friends.
Christine came out first with Jake close behind. They spotted Michael, and Christine grinned and ran to hug him.
“That was so awesome! You did amazing!” Christine grinned sheepishly at him.
Then Jeremy came out.
He hadn’t changed out of his costume for whatever reason, so he was still wearing the collared shirt and tie, but with a hoodie thrown over it. He was laughing about something with another member of the cast, who broke away as soon as they crossed the threshold of the school. He hadn’t washed his stage make up off either, Michael noticed, and the eyeliner made his eyes look huge.
He looked awesome.
He brushed past Michael, very deliberately, and said hello to Rich. Christine swatted Michael on the shoulder.
“There’s a cast party! You two should come!”
Michael raised an eyebrow, but then Christine hinted they had no one else to take them, and guilt got the better of him.
That’s how he ended up with too many people in his car and extreme paranoia that he was gonna be pulled over.
Someone bright had put Jeremy in the front seat, and neither of them said anything until they got to the party. They just listened to the noise in the backseat.
“Thanks.” Jeremy said quietly when they got there. Then he got out and left.

“No, Rich.”
Rich shook his backpack at Michael, then frowned.
“Just pick something, god. Everyone else is participating.”
Michael sighed and stuck his hand in the bag. Why was he humouring him? Seven Minutes in fucking Heaven… Such a cliché. His hand closed around something. Leather. Michael’s heart jumped in his throat.
He pulled out Jeremy’s bracelet.
Rich’s face slowly broke into a dopey little grin. He turned and hollered, “Heere! You’re up!”
Jeremy rolled his eyes and pushed past a couple of kids. He froze when he saw Michael holding his bracelet, but it was too late. Rich grabbed their arms and threw them into a closet together.
A tiny closet.
He could feel Jeremy’s shoulder on one side, the wall on the other. If he lifted his hand, he could feel the door too close.
He hadn’t realized he stopped breathing until Jeremy turned. Michael felt the walls closing in on him. He took in a sharp, rattling breath.
“Michael. Look at me.” Michael tried to swallow the lump in his throat as he turned.
Jeremy took Michael’s face in his hands. One of his thumbs brushed Michael’s cheekbone.
“Remember when we went to watch Spiderman? You spent the next hour talking about how cute Tom Holland is.”
“Mmhm.” Michael sounded like he was being strangled.
His chest was tight, and he was having trouble breathing.
“Focus on that. That was fun…”
Michael felt like bursting into tears, but he felt himself calming down. The door opened before they knew it, but Jeremy just pushed past him and left.
Michael felt kind of rejected.

Chapter Text

Surprisingly, no one noticed the Monday mouse until school the next day. Although he supposed it could’ve been covered by the stage make up. They asked him about it, but with Michael sitting at the other end of the table, he didn’t feel like divulging.
Oh yea, that was a new thing.
Michael had come to sit with them again. It was… A little awkward, but it wasn’t the end of the world. But after the incident at the party, Jeremy noticed Michael had a hard time looking at him.
He wasn’t gonna lie, that hurt a little.
But, it was his own fault. Even so, he tried to engage Michael, indirectly, in the conversations.
“I think it’s funny how the only thing that’s changed since freshman year was that Jeremy got quieter and quieter.” Rich said to Michael.
Everyone stopped.
“Did you even go here freshman year?” Jake asked.
Jeremy winced. Here we go again.
Rich reached into his backpack and slammed a yearbook on the table. Everyone, including Jeremy, although he’d already seen it, crowded around.
The first thing Jeremy noticed was his own photo. He cringed, but Rich jabbed at a picture, titled ‘Richard Goranski’. A nerdy looking kid smiled off the page, and everyone, absolutely everyone, blinked. For Rich it was cringe.
For Jeremy it was remembrance, then cringe.
For everyone else, it was surprise, then cringe.
Until the entire group was just having a massive cringe fest.
“Oh my god. What is that?” Jake laughed.
Rich blushed and put his head in his hands. “Shut up. I only changed for you.”
Jake blinked at the confession. “Me? Why?”
Rich paused for a moment. “I wanted in. At first, I must’ve thought I wanted to be friends with you, but looking back, it was a massive gay crush I wasn’t aware of.”
Jeremy snorted. “Who didn’t have a crush on Jake in freshman year?”
Michael paused, then turned to Jeremy slowly. He knew exactly what Jeremy was talking about. Jeremy probably wouldn’t have elaborated, but Michael gave himself up.
“You promised you wouldn’t speak of it.” Michael crossed his arms over his chest.
Jake turned towards Michael, looking extremely startled.
“I-uh-you?” Both Michael and Jake turned a bright red color and turned away.
Michael looked at Jeremy and mouthed, “Why?”
Jeremy grinned. It was almost like it was normal again.
Almost.

A feeling suddenly hit Jeremy, a feeling so strong he felt he’d been punched in the chest.
Panic attack.
Fuck, why’d he get rid of those pills?
Because of Michael.
Fuck. He sat on his bed, his head between his knees, and breathed. In, out. Slowly. Someone knocked, and he made an embarrassing little squeak before the door opened. Evan looked at him worriedly.
“I have mine if you need some.” He said quietly.
Jeremy nodded, and Evan left briefly before coming back with a couple of pills and a glass of water.
“I actually came in for a pen, but…” Jeremy waved briefly at his desk, and Evan grabbed a pen and left again with a sheepish smile.
Jeremy felt himself calm down. He tried to remember what he was thinking about before the panic had started, so he could avoid thinking about that again. But he couldn’t.
Which made it likely it would happen again.
Fuck.

Jeremy was in a surprisingly good mood when he went to school the next day. He infected everyone, including Michael, who past him with a small ‘hi.’
The most he’d said to him since the Jake incident.
Jeremy grinned at him and kept moving, although the small encounter made him unbelievably happy.
He was a fucking mess.
But at the moment, he couldn’t care less.

Chapter Text

The edgy music wasn’t helping.
Jeremy could usually just throw on something emo, like Linkin Park or something, and bam. Mood gone.
But today, he just wasn’t feeling it. God.
God. They’d broken up because Michael had over exaggerated.
Jeremy wanted to throw something, or hit something. So he did.
He threw his phone across the room, then punched the wall. Pain shot up his hand as he realized he’d punched the wall with his broken finger and hurt his hand again.
Thankfully, he didn’t rebreak the finger for the second time and have to go to the hospital again, where THE SAME DAMN RECEPTIONIST always seemed to be working when he showed up needing stitches or a new cast for his newly broken finger. The same one, the really cute one, who would give him the disapproving look, wondering what the fuck he always did to hurt himself.
He shook his hand as if it would shake the pain out, then sat back down to listen to his emo music.

He tried to avoid Michael for the next few days, but one day, inevitably, he was cornered.
“Jeremy.”
He sped up, but too many people walked in front of him and Michael caught his wrist.
“Jeremy, please. Talk to me.”
Jeremy turned to him, then turned back and kept moving. Michael dug his heels into the floor, then Jeremy turned to him, exasperated.
“I want you to follow me, idiot. I’m not trying to run away.”
Michael stopped resisting, but he didn’t let go of Jeremy’s wrist.
Jeremy made his way into the boy’s locker room, where he usually hid when he wanted to be alone. He turned to Michael, who still hadn’t let go of his wrist. He blinked at their Michael’s hand, then back at Michael.
“Let go of me.”
Michael let go of him like he’d put his hand on a hotplate and backed up a step.
“What did you want?”
Michael rocked on his heels, and ran his teeth over his braces.
“I don’t want to be given the cold shoulder anymore. It’s fucking killing me, Jeremy.”
Jeremy blinked at him, then scowled.
“Really? You…” Jeremy didn’t even know what to say.
Michael sighed and cast his eyes to the floor.
“I’m… I’m not asking you to, you know…” he trailed off, apparently losing his nerve. Then he shook his head. “I just… I want to be civil.”
“Civil.” Jeremy repeated.
Michael sighed again, and nodded. “We were best friends for over twelve years Jeremy. More than that, we were together.” He put his head in his hands. “I’m just asking for a ‘hi’ or something. A conversation every now and then at most.”
Jeremy looked at him, then searched his eyes for a moment. He was being sincere.
“Fine. Fine.” Jeremy shook his head. “I’m not promising much to you, but I’ll try.”
Michael grinned. “I guess I’ll take it.”
Jeremy looked at him, then shrugged. “I’ll see you around.”
He waved at Michael, and walked out.

Michael grinned across the table at him.
“Hi.”
Jeremy raised an eyebrow and bit back a smile. He was happy, Jesus.
“Hi.”
He looked away and went back to his food. Michael was still grinning at him, he could see out the corner of his eye.
“You look like you’re about to murder him.” Rich said, plonking himself down next to Jeremy.
Michael put a finger to his lips. “Shhh, he’ll find out.”
Jeremy snorted and shook his head.
“You’re a fucking idiot.”
Michael just smiled at him. “You aren’t wrong.”
“We all know I’m right, Michael.”
“Shut up, Jeremiah.”
Jeremy grinned. “Angelo.”
Michael turned a bright red color. Rich turned to him, a little confused. Jeremy grinned wider and turned to Rich.
“It’s Michael’s middle name.”
Rich paused to think about it. “Michael… Angelo…” He clapped his hands over his mouth. “Holy shit, you’re a ninja turtle!”
Michael whined and pulled his hood up. He looked at Jeremy mournfully. “You promised.”
“You promised you’d never tell people my name.” Jeremy pointed out.
Michael just continued to look at him. Jeremy’s smile softened. Those eyes would be the death of him.
He shook the thought out of his head and went back to his lunch.

Chapter Text

Michael was tired.
Not just tired, but tired of his school.
“Who decides on the themes of these dances?” he whined. “I don’t want to attend a damn masquerade, but Jenna asked me to go with her so she can meet up with this girl.”
Brooke bit into her food and looked at him. “Why can’t she take her?”
Michael stabbed his fork into his food moodily.
“Because this one has a discrimination rule.” He scowled. “You can’t take someone of the same gender.”
Jenna frowned. “If you didn’t want to come, you could’ve said no.”
Michael sighed. “I would’ve felt bad.”
“I asked Jeremy.” Christine said.
Michael tried to pick up the edge in her voice. She was hinting at something, and Michael had a general idea, but what exactly…
“So he’s going?”
Then Jeremy sat down and Christine smoothly pretended they weren’t talking about him.

Jenna kept texting him about the dance, and then he got one from Christine.

From: Christine
I think Jeremy’s happy you’re going.

To: Christine
No he’s not.

He didn’t get a reply after that. She never sent him more than one text, unless he prompted. Like now.

To: Christine
Christine.

Chris.
Chrissy.

Christine.

From: Christine
Oh my god Michael leave it xD

But he didn’t want to. He puffed frustratedly and put his phone in his pocket. Surely Jeremy wasn’t excited he was going. Jeremy wouldn’t even speak to him. If Jeremy interacted with him at all, he’d follow that up with days of avoidance. He knew exactly why.

To: <3 Player Two <3
I didn’t mean it. I swear I didn’t mean what I said.

He didn’t expect the text, but he got one anyway.

From: <3 Player Two <3
Then why did you say it?

Michael didn’t have a reply for that.

He sat around in his room, listening to a podcast he’d for some reason found on his phone.
It was alright. It was funny, but he still didn’t know why it was on his phone.
He was sort of zoned out, so when his phone rang, he fell off his bed. He looked at his phone, confused.
That was Jeremy’s ringtone. Jeremy was calling him.
“Hello?”
“Why did you say it?”
Michael blinked. They were getting straight into it.
“Because at the time, I didn’t. It’s not like it’s a new thing to lie about your feelings, and for about three months you lied about your SQUIP. I didn’t mean I didn’t trust you in general, I just didn’t believe you at the time.”
Silence. Jeremy was still listening, because the call was still going, but he said nothing.
“Why the fuck didn’t you say that?” Jeremy’s voice was shaky, but Michael didn’t know if he was angry or about to cry.
Michael sighed. “I-I don’t know, Jeremy.”
Then Jeremy hung up. The podcast began again, and Michael knew Jeremy was still mad.

“God, I hate this place.” Michael smacked his head on the table, scaring the shit out of Chloe.
“Fucking hell, Michael. Now I’ve got lipstick all over my face.” Chloe smacked him upside the head.
Michael just ignored her. “God.”
“You sound like you’re dying inside.” Jake said, seemingly around a mouthful of food.
“I am.”
That got a laugh, but he was dead- no pun intended- serious. He felt like everything was shutting down, and he could feel himself getting sick.
“Jesus, Michael, maybe you should go home.” He felt Brooke’s hand on his head, and he lifted it to see everyone looking at him in concern.
He turned down going home, but regretted the decision all day.

Chapter Text

This was gonna suck.
Sure, he and Jeremy had been talking, but Jeremy always looked like he always wanted to be anywhere else.
And now, he had to take him home.
Mr Heere had called and asked if he could drive Jeremy home. Apparently, Jeremy had already reluctantly agreed to it, so now all that had to happen was Michael agreeing. He wanted to do it, but the awkward silence that would inevitably ensue would kill him.
He’d been right.
Jeremy was staring out the window, sort of shifted as far over to the door as he could be as was comfortable.
“Why did your dad want me to drop you home?” Michael tried to break the silence, but when Jeremy looked at him, he regretted it.
Jeremy just shrugged and looked back out of the window. When they pulled into Jeremy’s driveway, Jeremy got out of the car, then turned and bent to look at Michael. He smiled at him. At least that looked genuine.
“Thanks.”
Michael smiled back at him, and Jeremy shut the door. When he got to his front door, he turned and waved at him.
Michael grinned before pulling out of the drive way.

“Wait.” Michael looked at the mask Jenna had pushed at him. “That’s what you want me to wear?”
Jenna shrugged. “Why not?”
Michael picked it up and shook his head. “Because I’ll look like the fucking Phantom of the Opera, that’s why.”
Jenna threw her arms up. “Fine. Get your own.”
Michael turned the mask over in his hands. “Give it to Christine. She needs one. She’ll love it.” He turned to Christine. “Want this?”
She looked like he’d just given her the greatest gift on earth. She took it, and thanked him so many times he had to move away. He leaned over so he could speak to Jenna.
“I told you.” She looked at him moodily. “Look, I don’t see why you’d even care. You aren’t gonna hang around me.”
Jenna shrugged and turned away. Michael sighed.
“Fine. I offended you. I’m sorry.”
She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I don’t… give a shit, Michael. Leave it.” She rolled her eyes at his look. “Fine. I’m a little annoyed, but it’s not a problem.”
Michael ignored her. Jeremy had sat next to him. Willingly. There were spaces at the other end of the table he could have sat at. He was sitting pretty close, too. Or maybe that was just his imagination.
But he really hoped it wasn’t.

Jeremy was starting to warm up to him. He actually started conversations with him, and they were nice conversations.
He’d smile at him in the hall instead of ducking away, and he’d wave to him instead of pretending he wasn’t there.
So that was nice. Right now, he was in a passionate debate about the cafeteria food with Rich, and would every now and then nudge Michael for an input of his opinion.
Luckily for him, Jeremy followed through on his promise.

The dance was really sucking. He tugged at the mask on his face as he stood by the snack table.
He was hungry as hell, but he couldn’t get the mask off, and he couldn’t get any food around it for some reason.
This was shit.
Michael wanted to run off and just… not, but then…
Jeremy walked in with Christine. Michael sucked a breath in.
He looked great. Michael was an idiot.
He missed him. Jesus, he missed him…
Jeremy made eye contact with him, then smiled and looked away.
He was gonna be the death of him.

Chapter Text

He could usually track where Michael was by the flash of his braces.
Due to the low lighting, the braces would glow dimly every time he spoke or laughed, and Jeremy would vaguely think, ‘oh, there he is’. Then he would feel like a creep, like he was stalking him or something. He would then look away, only to find himself searching for him again.
Christine was speaking to him. He was trying to listen, and she realized he wasn’t, because she stopped and poked his shoulder.
“Go talk to him.”
Jeremy shook his head. “Nuh uh.”
Christine rolled her eyes.
“Talk to him, Jeremy.”
Jeremy sighed and looked at Christine. They got in a stare down for a moment, before Jeremy realized that Christine would not let him get away with not talking to him.
“I’ll… do it later. Just give me the time to work up the nerve.”
Christine rolled her eyes again, but seemed to realize that this was the best she was getting, so she let it go.

He didn’t want to go out there. He was just standing at the sink in the bathroom, looking at himself, trying to work up the nerve not only to talk to Michael, but actually go back outside, with just about everyone in the school.
“Hnnnng, fuck.” He put his head in his hands and sighed.
“You okay, Jer?”
He whipped around and pressed himself to the sink, startled. Michael looked at him quizzically, then sort of scanned him, eyebrow raised.
“I’m fine.” His voice came out sort of squeaky, and he winced.
He pushed past Michael and went outside to Christine.

He just continued to watch him during the night. Even when the group converged later in the night, he didn’t say anything to Michael; he’d just look at him. Michael would look back at him every now and then and smile at him, but he wouldn’t say anything. Then Jeremy would blush and look away, like a nine year old with a crush. He looked the exact same way Sadie looked whenever she looked at Michael, which probably didn’t help his case any. At one point, Michael went to walk past him and gently touched his elbow, which made Jeremy jump a mile. When Michael looked at him, he just stammered something unintelligible, and looked at the floor. Christine looked at him, but he noticed she wasn’t the only one. Everyone looked at him, and everyone else wasn’t as dense as Michael. They knew. Jeremy stared each of them down, trying not to let on more than he already had, but he’d ruined it. Jeremy just sighed and made an excuse to leave, then went back to the bathroom to re-evaluate his night.

He didn’t feel like moving. Everyone was on the dance floor, or, in Rich’s case, of somewhere else doing something suspicious.
This dance sucked.
Jeremy’s head was perched in his hands, his elbows balanced on his knees. He was watching Christine, before he moved on to Jake and Chloe, before moving to Brooke, and strategically skimming over Michael before going back to Christine. Jenna had left with her girl about an hour ago, and Christine seemed to be about to do the same thing. He followed her as she moved across the gym to talk to Michael. They seemed to be having the equivalent of a ‘don’t look now’ conversation, because when Michael glanced at Jeremy, Christine smacked him on the chest and he looked away. Then Michael said something, and…
Jeremy sat up straight. Oh, sweet Jesus, he was coming over.
The song had changed about thirty seconds ago, but Jeremy hadn’t noticed. Michael held his hand out with a sheepish grin.
“May I have this dance?”
Jeremy debated his options for a moment, before going against his better judgement and taking Michael’s hand. Michael directed him to a spot in the middle before pulling him in and putting a hand on his waist. Jeremy’s went to his shoulder, and they did an awkward little shuffle that he guessed could have passed for dancing? Michael smiled down at him.
“Christine said you’d might want to talk to me, and me being a nervous wreck, wanted to get this over with.” When Jeremy frowned at him, he hesitated. “I’m sorry. That sounded really bad.”
Jeremy took a deep breath in, then out again. “I miss you.”
Michael blinked at him, and would have stopped if Jeremy had not kept them moving.
“Really?”
Jeremy nodded and looked past his shoulder.
“Soo… is there hope?” Michael certainly sounded hopeful, but he was quiet, and Jeremy smiled.
“Maybe… Depends if you’re free on Saturday.”
Michael winced and pulled back.
“Mm, maybe not…” He looked sheepish again. “I got a job.”
Jeremy laughed. “I’d love to know why you took that seriously.”
Michael blushed and went to say something, but he didn’t get to.
Jeremy grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him in for a kiss.
When he pulled back, he wrapped his arms around Michael’s neck, and continued dancing with a smile.

Chapter Text

When Michael woke up alone in the middle of the night, he found it a little weird.
If Jeremy had fallen asleep, he’d still be there, passed out. He heard a noise in the kitchen, so he went to check it out.
Jeremy was sitting at the island, a glass of water in hand, staring into the glass. Michael stood behind him and put his hands on his shoulders.
“You okay, Jer?”
Jeremy leaned into him and closed his eyes.
“Yea. Yea. I’m just… thinking.”
“’Bout what?”
Jeremy looked up at him and bit his lip. “College.”
They’d been accepted into different schools, and Jeremy was off in a few days. He seemed to be worrying though, and it may not help to push, but…
“What about college?”
Jeremy turned to him and put his head on his chest.
“I don’t know, I mean, I’ve never been good at relationships in general…” Michael snickered, and Jeremy hit his thigh. “Shut up. I’m… I mean, a bad boyfriend. What if I suck at long distance?”
Michael lifted his chin so Jeremy was looking at him.
“You’re not a bad boyfriend, mmkay? So… there’s one thing. And for another, I’ll be like, an hour away. It’s not exactly long distance.”
Jeremy smiled softly. “Maybe I just don’t wanna go.”
Michael reached into his pocket, pulling out a pair of earphones and his phone. He put one in Jeremy’s ear, pulled him up, and played the song. His singular guilty pleasure song.
“I found a love for me. Darling just dive right in, and follow my lead. Well I found a girl beautiful and sweet . I never knew you were the someone waiting for me…”
He grabbed one of Jeremy’s hands and put his other on his waist, and did the same little shuffle they did at the dance.
Jeremy put his head on Michael’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
That’s where they stayed, until two in the morning, before Jeremy felt tired enough to fall asleep.

Jeremy shoved the last box into the car, and turned to his family. His father smiled at him, Heidi looked like she was going to cry, and Evan just looked characteristically awkward. Michael leaned against his car, not looking at Jeremy. Jeremy swallowed and looked at the floor.
“God, it seems so… real, now, I guess.”
His father clapped him on the shoulder so hard his knees buckled. Evan shot a quick smile at him, then looked away.
“College can be hard, but I’m not majoring in acting, so…” Evan shrugged.
Jeremy smiled at him. “Thanks.”
Michael cleared his throat. “You ready to go?”
Jeremy returned a hug Heidi had rushed at him, and nodded. “Yea. I’m ready.”

Jeremy lay on his bed, playing around on his phone, when his roommate walked in and slammed the door. Jeremy looked up.
“Mm?” he put his phone down and got up.
His roommate just shrugged and sat on his own bed, so Jeremy went to the bathroom. He was washing his hands when he heard the Weezer song from his phone, suggesting Michael was calling.
“Hey who’s this?”
Jeremy turned and went to walk back out.
“Don’t touch my phone!”
“Yo, what’s up?” Jeremy put his head in his hands. “I’m Will… Jeremy’s roommate… Oh hey, you’re the boyfriend!”
Jeremy sighed. “Give me my phone.”
When his phone was safely in his hand, he glared at Will across the room and held the phone to his ear.
“What’s up?”
Michael’s voice sounded higher on the phone, slightly feminine.
“I just… I’m sitting on my bed in my dorm, and I wanted to talk to you.”
So he did. They spent an hour on the phone. They annoyed the shit out of Will, but he deserved that.

The next time they saw each other, Michael had gone to visit him. He met Will at Jeremy’s dorm, but was informed Jeremy was probably at the coffee shop, where he usually worked on his assignments. Armed with the directions, Michael made his way over.
On a bench in the front of the coffee place, Jeremy was sitting, back turned to him, a textbook open in his lap, writing in a notebook perched on the seat next to him. Michael went over to him, thought of the most cliché thing he could do, and did it.
He put his hands over Jeremy’s eyes. “Guess who?”
Jeremy gasped and whipped around with a grin. “Mikey!”
He threw himself at Michael and wrapped his arms around his neck. Michael grinned as he hugged him back.
He couldn’t help but remember that dance.
God, did he love it.