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It was a fact widely known that people with good fortune would often send their children to the schools they deemed best for them.

Liam’s parents had been no exception to this, as when he’d been younger, that had been the elementary school in town where most of the kids had gone to. There, he’d met his best friend Mason for the first time, who he, when growing up, grew inseparable with. The amount of trees they climbed, and the bruises they got when they fell out of them, were still proof of that. Somehow, even elementary school became more bearable when you were looking forward to seeing your friend every day, and after school, they often came over to each other’s houses, opening up books and dove into the subjects that they had learned about that day at school and found the most interesting.

At the age of thirteen, when his parents had scraped together the money they’d saved for him to go to high school, Liam exchanged his elementary textbooks for bigger textbooks when he went to Beacon Hills Academy, and was happy to be placed in the same class with Mason and get to share a room with him. Their other two roommates, Alec and Nolan, were nice, enthusiastic guys and, despite them having different interests than Liam and Mason in their new school, they quickly formed a strong friendship. It was what allowed them to come to a routine in their dorm, and why living together in one room worked for them.

In his first year at Beacon Hills Academy, something else caught Liam’s eye. As a result of long, relentless practicing with his stepfather, the well-known, promising lacrosse team of the school caught Liam’s attention and he tried out for it, having gotten in after a particularly impressive goal.

He kept up his best efforts to get better and help win a few games, teaching Alec and helping him to get in too during his lacrosse-obsessed phase in their second year. In their third year, Liam had been ecstatic to see all of his efforts pay off when he was made team captain, carrying the title all the way into his fourth and last year.

He loved playing and practicing with the team, he really did, but he’d been quick to find that being team captain was something else, and Liam needed the time he got to find his footing in the new position. Fortunately, to him, there was former captain and now assistant-coach Scott McCall, who took a gap year and stuck around after graduating the year before Liam, and was there to help him find his way around and offer help for any questions or doubts he may have. Liam took all the opportunities he could get to practice with him, and fire shots at the goal with all his might. It was always a good outlet for the stress from how busy their daily lives were, and forget about it temporarily.

Now, today, that was also how Liam walked back to his room with his lacrosse gear after a fresh shower, having finished his afternoon lacrosse practice with Scott, and pushing the door to his room open. Only to find Mason, Alec and Nolan hovering eagerly close by the window.

‘Hi,’ he started, taking a moment to catch his breath and letting them know he was there, catching their attention, and his friends’ heads whipped around to him. ‘What are you all looking at? What’s so interesting outside?’

‘Liam!’ Alec started immediately as he saw him, turning around and gesturing to the street, an excited look twinkling eagerly in his eyes. ‘Good that you’re here, you have to come look! There’s a huge car outside!’

Liam looked up from where he had dropped his lacrosse bag on his bed, rummaging through it, and a chuckle escaped him, letting Alec’s words spark his interest. Even after four years at this school, with sharing classes with rich classmates and seeing the big cars of their parents, the excited amazement of seeing something they didn’t have access to hadn’t faded, and of course, it didn’t help that their school was built in the middle of nowhere and there was little else to be excited about. Still, Liam figured, they had to be exaggerating about this at least a little bit.

He chuckled, walking over to the window and leaving his sports bag behind on his bed, a curious feeling haven taken hold of him. ‘Really?’ he asked, grinning. ‘Then I would like to see that,’ joining his friends and pushing aside the white curtain hanging in the way, from behind which they were all peering outside, and he could see better.

What he expected to see, though, definitely hadn’t been that.

‘Wow…’ the word escaped him in awe, looking over at the big, expensive-looking black car standing at the edge of the driveway through the window, Alec hovering eagerly by his side, and watching where the doors of the car were just being pushed shut, with no passenger whatsoever in sight.

‘Wow indeed,’ Nolan commented behind him with wide eyes, as Liam leaned closer towards the window, curiously trying to make out a glimpse of whoever had been in the car, where they were, no doubt, already being ushered inside through the heavy wooden front doors of the school. ‘It’s looks like they have a chauffeur.’

Liam let out a sigh, turning and sliding down on the window seat, his face turned towards the street. ‘They must be so rich…’ he pondered, wistfully, as that was definitely something new to them, something no one at this school had ever had yet.

‘I know!’ Alec exclaimed next to him, pulling Liam back into reality. ‘I told you,’ laughing, seemingly pleased with Liam’s reaction to the news, and settling down beside him on the window seat. Liam sighed, turning towards the street once more where the black car was just driving off, something burning in his chest with curiosity, of desperately wanting to see the people behind such wealth, and wanting to meet the people who’s parents could afford a car like that.

‘You know, our running theory is…’ Mason said, Liam turning his head at the words, to where Mason just pulled out the desk chair from the corner and settled down on it, leaning back with a grin on his face. ‘That they’re the new students they told us would be coming last week.’

Something sparked in Liam’s chest at that, his lips twitching into a smile. ‘You know what, that might actually be true,’ he said, remembering having been told about that indeed, and he straightened his back, settling back more comfortably against the wall.

Nolan frowned, looking worried where he’d sat down on his bed, his legs crossed and said what was likely running through all their heads. ‘If that’s true, though, then they’re in for a ride,’ the four of them thinking about their richer classmates, the shallow interests they had and how they would all jump at the chance to talk about the new students and share their thoughts, and, more importantly, talk to them and get close to them. ‘They’ll be the most popular students at this school in no time.’

Liam nodded, lowering his eyes to where he had his hands in his lap, feeling somewhat understanding of what a reputation like that at this school entailed, since being lacrosse team captain he’d experienced some popularity and being talked about himself, and that was never easy. It helped that he and his parents weren’t so loaded that it would give him a reputation like that, though, and he shuddered at the thought of being picked apart by his classmates completely, with no consideration for him.

‘Well, I wouldn’t mind that,’ Alec declared, pulling Liam out of his own head. ‘Something to talk about, I mean. Nothing interesting has happened here at school for too long, I thought it might never happen again.’

He snickered, likely recalling the chaos that their school trip to the history museum had been, and Liam felt a smile tugging at his own lips at the memory.

‘Some people might beg to differ,’ he commented, thinking of their old, self-important principal Gerard Argent and how he ruled the school with an iron fist, especially after the school trip incident. ‘Speaking of which,’ he continued, standing up from the window seat and walking over to his bed, starting to clean up his lacrosse gear. ‘Who’s coming to the school party tonight?’

It was one of the only things Gerard allowed at the school solely for them, much to the students’ relief, and Liam knew he had to. Knew that as lacrosse team captain, he had to make an appearance, and he was looking forward to a night of letting to and being able to just be, forgetting about his homework for a little while and something excited for the party buzzing in his stomach, under his skin. But school parties were always more fun if his friends were there too.

‘I am!’ Mason said, spinning around on his desk chair, and Liam nodded, grinning. He and Mason did usually do most things together, and honestly, it would be more fun if he was there. ‘You know, I was thinking,’ Mason continued. ‘The new students might be there too, if they heard about this party.’

His statement seemed to have changed the atmosphere in the room, replacing the fun, joking one with one more serious than that, and Liam looked up, meeting his friends’ pensive gazes.

He hadn’t thought that way about it. But honestly, with their classmates most interested in mindless gossiping, that might be the best way for them to introduce themselves and making sure people knew of their arrival.

‘Why don’t we all go?’ Alec asked then, as the realization for him had settled and he stood up, making his way over to the closet and rummaging through it, in search of his favorite shirt. Liam smiled, Mason and Nolan chuckling, and Alec, making sure he never missed any of the action.

*****

The party, that night, wasn’t very different from their other school parties they had been to. Walking into the room, with a majority of the students already there livening it up, their voices loud over the sound of the music playing, they found the table with high school-appropriate drinks to their right. Being served by teachers, this time, professor Hale and professor Argent being the lucky ones, and the middle of the room, as always, was left open, a big empty space for them to dance in.

Seeing the set-up of it all, Liam felt ready to go almost as soon as he did, wanting to get something to drink first, and felt excitement for the night buzzing low in his stomach. Having taken a quick scan around the room, though, they realized that none of them had seen the new, unfamiliar faces of the students that had arrived that afternoon yet, and after a small wave of disappointment washing over them at that, the buzz returned at hearing the music, good songs to dance to, and they spotted their friendlier classmates across the room. Sydney and Gwen, the latter already with a drink in her hand, smiling and waving, and they made their way over to them, greeting them over the sound of the music as best as they could.

‘Hi!’ Liam called, earning a greeting in return, and he stepped to the side, turning and watching where more students poured in. ‘You’re here early tonight!’

‘A well, you know a party is always welcome!’ Gwen grinned to him. ‘I had to drag her away from her history assignment, or she was gonna overwork herself!’

Sydney rolled her eyes, and Liam chuckled, as he understood how that could be a bad thing. Being a huge history nerd himself, he didn’t mind their history assignments all that much. ‘It wasn’t that bad!’ Sydney called.

‘Neither is this,’ Gwen responded, following Liam’s lead, and turning back to the door with a pensive frown. ‘However, we seemed to have been promised two hot new classmates to talk to, hopefully better than literally any other guy I’ve ever known. Where are they?’

Liam’s head whipped over to her, unsurprised to find that the rumors the new students had arrived had reached her to, more focused on the fact she seemed to know they were guys, when the teachers up until this point had remained pretty vague about them. ‘You know them?’ he asked, incredulously.

At that, Gwen turned to him, a wicked grin on her face that told Liam enough. He sighed, shaking his head, unable to hide his smile at her gesture.

‘I already regret this,’ Sydney let them know, causing a wave of laughter to sound through their little group, and Liam watched as students started filling up the dance floor, never wanting to be the first one to go, but never wanting to wait too long either. He knew he’d likely dance laughing his ass off with Mason, Nolan and Alec as the night got later, like they always did, and they stopped caring about what other people thought of them.

With the party going, though, the music getting better as the time ticked on and Gwen putting down her empty glass and getting ready to lead them all onto the dance floor, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the moment it all froze again, the room turning silent, void of any voices and the music being the only thing that remained, and all eyes turning towards the door.

Liam held in his breath, and he could feel Mason doing the same next to him, his shoulders steeling. He tried to steal glances over his classmates’ shoulders standing before him, standing on his toes to do so, and even then he could just barely make out the figures of the two boys standing by the door.

They stood next to each other, the boy on the left skinny and slightly taller than the other, a curious look bright in his eyes as he looked around the room and seemingly didn’t the mind the people staring back at him. The other guy… Liam found he wasn’t quite sure how to describe.

As the whispering started around him, rising in volume until the conversations had fully started again, Liam looked at the guy at the front of the room, with his broad shoulders, his nice expensive-looking clothes from which he gathered he obviously had good taste, his short dark-blonde hair neatly cut and his blank, almost disinterested face, and Liam felt something warm fluttering in his chest at the sight.

He was attractive, there was no denying that, and by the talking of his classmates around him, excited to get to meet the new students at last, they seemed to know it too. The talking around him pulled him out of his daydream, shaking his head to shake it off of him for real, and just catching Mason’s question to Gwen, the two of them standing in front of him. ‘So who are they then?’

Answering his question, Gwen looked towards him. ‘That, is Corey Bryant,’ Gwen nodded towards the boy on the left, turning with a smug smile just twitching at the corner of her lip, seemingly pleased to include them all and tell them what she knew. She clearly seemed to have done her research, Liam couldn’t help but think, even if he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. ‘Rumor has it, he only came here because his friend did. And that…’ as she turned and nodded towards the guy on his right.

‘Is his friend Theo Raeken,’ Nolan cut her off, their heads snapping over to him in surprise, Gwen’s mouth hanging half open. ‘They transferred here from Devenford Prep.’

It stayed silent around the group, for a brief moment, and Liam’s eyes were wide, not having expected that coming from him, nearly as little as the rest of his friends did, and the question hung in the air between them. As the initial surprise faded, though, Mason snorted, crossing his arms and looking over at him. ‘I’m sorry,’ he started, hiccupping. ‘How exactly do you know that?’

At that, Nolan flushed, looking flustered, as he seemed conflicted and unable to settle on just one expression, both proud and offended for the same reason of surprising them with his research. ‘I… asked around,’ he muttered in admission, crossing his arms over his chest in defense. ‘Professor Hale was willing to be more open about it.’

A second silence hit the group, shortly, before their lips curled up into smirks and Alec chuckled, crossing his arms and his eyes twinkled triumphantly. ‘Aah, Derek, of course we could count on him for this. Nicely done, Nol.’

Nolan grinned proudly at the words, a wave of laughter rolling through the group, as Derek was one of the cooler teachers they had at this school, and Liam frowned, the comment and current conversation not sitting right with him, as this was exactly what he meant, picking apart their new classmates like his friends and the students around them in the room were doing, and worried would only get worse from now on.

Turning back towards the door, Mason followed his lead, looking to where their new classmates had disappeared and walked further into the room.

‘Devenford Prep, though,’ Mason commented, his voice coming out in awe, and for that Liam couldn’t blame him, especially as something worried sounded through it. ‘Can you imagine what that must be like?’

Slowly, Liam shook his head, having his arms crossed over his chest, as he thought of their rival school. It was commonly known they were even richer there, and if their clothes were anything to go by, Theo and Corey weren’t any different. Everyone knew Devenford Prep was cold, strict, and Liam knew he was lucky that his own school, at least, was much more homely.

Letting his eyes wander through the room in search of Corey and Theo again, he found them by the table with the drinks, paying no mind to the little groups around them clearly whispering about them curiously, as they spoke and Theo nodded as Corey said something to him, laughing at his own comment.

Liam’s brows furrowed, as Theo definitely didn’t seem pleased to be here, his smiles seemingly hard to get out of him, though noticing the green of his eyes, Liam couldn’t help but hope to be proven wrong about him, should he get his chance to speak to him tonight.

*****

Stumbling away from the dance floor, stifling a laugh, Liam took in a deep breath, having had his fun dancing with Nolan and Alec and talking to people who stopped him every now and then, but feeling like he really needed a break and something else to drink after that, to calm his racing heart.

Having kept himself busy, having had fun and talking to other people, in the middle of his enjoying the night and letting go, he hadn’t noticed his friends drifting further from him, only now noticing them talking and dancing in small groups scattered throughout the room.

His eyes landed on Mason, standing over the table with the drinks, and his grin growing wider on his face as he saw Liam spotted him. ‘Liam!’ he called, gesturing him over. ‘Over here!’

A grin started on Liam’s face, Mason always being there when he needed it, and began making his way over to him, carefully through the crowd, until he was leaned up against the wall beside him and Mason pushed a cup in his hand.

‘I figured you could use one!’ he called, over the music. ‘You don’t look like you’re gonna dance again anytime soon.’

Liam let out a sigh, shaking his head as a smile played at his lips, and he looked over to where Alec and Nolan were still in the middle of enjoying themselves. ‘I don’t understand how I’m the one who is the captain of the lacrosse team, and yet they’re the ones who can hold out longer than I do!’ taking a sip from his soda.

‘I feel like we shouldn’t be surprised anymore at this point,’ Mason chuckled, looking over at him. ‘Though it is quite impressive,’ and a laugh escaped Liam, before everything suddenly happened all at once. A voice to their right interrupted them, calling out: ‘I’ll go get you a drink too then!’ and Liam barely had the chance to say: ‘Mason, look out!’ before their new classmate who they’d come to know as Corey knocked into him, walking backwards, and Mason huffed out a breath, catching himself against the wall to keep from stumbling and falling.

Immediately, upon the collision, Corey turned, a look that Liam could only describe as horrified on his face, his lips parted and his eyes widened in shock as they landed on Mason.

‘Oh, I’m… I’m so sorry, I did not see you there,’ he pressed out, embarrassed, his face fearfully apologetic as he brushed a hand through his hair anxiously.

Looking over at Mason, Liam didn’t miss the twinkle in his eye, the amused curl of his lip into a small smile.

‘Clearly,’ he commented, chuckling, eyeing the drink in Corey’s hand that by a miracle, somehow, hadn’t ended up all over his clothes, before glancing up and meeting Corey’s eyes, letting some of the tension that the situation had brought on seep away. ‘It’s okay, though,’ he continued, friendly. ‘It happens,’ causing Liam to snort in his drink as he remembered the one time it had happened to Mason.

Corey frowned, glancing over at him, still looking apprehensive at what had nearly happened. ‘Are you sure?’ he asked, unsurely.

Mason smiled, nodding. ‘Totally,’ he chuckled. ‘I’m Mason, by the way,’ sending him a grin. At that, Corey seemed to relax, his shoulders slumping and a small smile making its way onto his face. ‘Corey,’ he introduced himself, ‘I’m new here,’ Liam watching in amusement as Mason expertly acted as if he didn’t already know that. Something twinkled in both their eyes, their smiles widening in a moment of silence as the mutual understanding that they would get along settled between them, and Liam had just pushed off the wall to go find Alec and Nolan when Mason spoke up again.

‘Eh, I’d… Ask you what you think of it here so far, but clearly, this party is all you get just yet,’ he chuckled, and Corey let out a laugh.

‘Lucky me,’ he grinned, taking his moment to let Liam tell him his name and introduce him, before he continued. ‘As you’d probably heard before, though, I was just grabbing a drink for…’ He paused, looking over his shoulder and a frown forming on his face when there was nothing, Liam and Mason falling silent as they just caught Corey grumbling softly to himself: ‘Damn him… Always hanging back…’

He took in a deep breath, Liam shooting Mason a questioning look, before Corey called out: ‘Theo, come meet Mason and Liam! And the drinks are here, if you want one!’

Liam couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was, when his shoulders tensed up a little, straightening his back and something nervous taking a hold of him, the temperature of the room seemingly dropping just a little bit when Theo appeared from behind Corey, all dignity and self-assurance, his back straight and a nice-looking jacket hanging snugly from his shoulders, over the black shirt underneath it, and Liam’s mouth felt dry, something nervous fluttering in his chest. He hadn’t remembered his wanting to talk to Theo tonight, up until now, and a more perfect opportunity than this there couldn’t have been.

Liam felt his lips curl into a smile, some of his nervousness flowing away as he felt more at ease with the situation. ‘Hi. Theo, right?’ and the boy nodded.

After that, the introductions and first meeting politeness gotten out of the way, Liam felt more at ease with the conversation, his shoulders relaxed. They took the conversation to one of the small wooden tables at the back of the room, little cups with snacks standing on top of them and empty chairs waiting for them, and it seemed to have steered onto the professors at Beacon Hills Academy, the classes they had and the school’s lacrosse team, of which Liam was proud to say he was the captain.

It was easy, flowing naturally, with Corey fitting in with them effortlessly, laughing along with them and sharing his thoughts like they’d known each other for years, much to the annoyance of their classmates, wanting to get to know them too and shooting glances in their direction continuously.

The only one who didn’t participate, staying silent and keeping himself in the background, was Theo, the boy tapping his foot on the ground and turning his attention back towards his phone every other minute, like something there was more important than the world happening around him. Around him, there was an air of disinterest, seeming unimpressed with all he’d seen of the school so far, an almost bored expression settled on his face.

Liam couldn’t help but glance over at him every now and then, the boy’s impatience for the conversation to be over distracting him from it, and he couldn’t deny that it made him a little uneasy, having one person of their small group willfully ignore them, and making him feel like Theo felt better than them. Now, knowing that, Liam couldn’t help but wonder how he had ever felt a spark of interest towards the other boy when he first saw him at the start of the night, that spark gone completely with the boy’s attitude, and next to him, he could tell that Mason noticed it too.

Mason’s voice, next to him, pulled him out of his thoughts, the boy chuckling softly. ‘You got a little something… There,’ he chuckled, pointing towards Liam’s collar.

Frowning, Liam looked down, plucking at his collar where he could barely see, and saw he had spilled some dust from his cocktail nuts there as he was lost in his thoughts, and paying no attention. ‘…Oh,’ he let out a laugh, wiping off his collar and catching Theo looking at him from the corner of his eye. He let out a soft breath, brushing the remains of the nuts from his shirt and onto the floor. Theo’s gaze followed the movement with raised eyebrows.

‘I’m gonna go grab something else to drink,’ Mason said next, standing up and looking around the table. ‘Anyone else want anything?’

After a quick response, shaking their heads, he started towards the table with drinks, Liam watching him go and being left alone in the conversation with Corey and Theo. ‘So what do you guys think so far?’ he asked. ‘A party must be a strange way to start at a new school. Have you guys danced already? I’m not sure how different this is from Devenford, but usually we have pretty good music here.’

Corey laughed, shaking his head and putting his glass down. ‘It is, kind of,’ he chuckled. ‘But you’re right, the music is nice. I just… Didn’t really want to dance first thing after coming here.’

Liam nodded, he could understand that, and his gaze wandered over to Theo, who, despite the impression he’d made on Liam so far, didn’t seem to have any trouble deciphering the silent question written over his face. And you?

‘I don’t really like to dance,’ he replied shortly, coughing, and placing his hands in his lap. ‘Not really my thing.’

Liam smiled, the corner of his lip just curling up, crossing his arms over his chest as he held his gaze. ‘Okay. Well, what is your thing, then?’

The question had Theo rendered speechless for a moment, his lips parted, as he looked right back at Liam. Liam could see the wheels spinning behind his eyes.

‘Lacrosse,’ Theo said then, catching Liam off guard with the admission. ‘Devenford’s got quite a good team.’

Liam faltered, not having expected that kind of response, leaving a bad feeling settling in his stomach. He knew Devenford Prep’s lacrosse team was good, he didn’t need anyone telling him that, but that didn’t mean Beacon Hills Academy’s team couldn’t be good as well. Especially when he was working so hard to be a good team captain.

‘They seem to have had bad luck with winning lately, though,’ Liam replied as he found his footing again, thinking of the games between the two rival schools and how they always brought chaos and heavy emotion from their respective audiences. ‘We’ve won the past few matches.’

Theo nodded, his brows furrowed in thought. ‘The team captain has had a foot injury, he’s recovering from it.’

‘There are more players on a team,’ Liam countered, as Corey followed their talk with wide eyes, like a tennis match.

‘I always thought the team captain was the most important one.’

‘He is,’ Liam said, taking in a deep breath, wondering how much longer Theo was going to avoid saying anything good about Beacon Hills’ lacrosse team. ‘But it is a team sport, and so the other players are just as indispensable.’

With that, letting out a deep breath hoping his racing heart would calm, Theo looking up at him, he stood up, sending him a smile. ‘You are at Beacon Hills Academy now, though, and you’re both more than welcome to try out for our lacrosse team. And, now I should probably go find Mason.’ He turned, walking away from the table and ducking expertly through the crowd, making his way towards the drinks and finding Mason already half on his way back to them.

‘There you are!’ he called, an immense feeling of relief washing over him. ‘Why don’t we go find Nolan and Alec instead?’

He didn’t miss the moment Mason’s brows furrowed, his best friend looking over at him in confusion. ‘Why? Is everything okay?’

Liam sighed, taking a moment to take in a breath and brush through his hair, thinking of the best words to say this without sounding as agitated as he had the moment before. ‘I think… Theo and Corey are not the best people to be friends with,’ he said, as honestly as he could, and Nolan and Alec joined them cheerfully from behind. ‘Hey guys!’

Mason shot them a grin, greeting them, before looking back at Liam with a frown. ‘Why not? Corey is very nice…’ A chuckle escaping Liam’s lips at the comment, as he’d noticed his friend and the new boy getting along quite well, noticing the way they slowly made their way back to the table after all, Nolan and Alec following after them. ‘I’ll admit, Theo’s a little…’ Mason continued, though he was cut off as voices coming from their table, a little further ahead, floated their way.

‘Come on, Theo,’ Corey’s voice sounded, exasperated. ‘You can’t always keep doing this. I don’t get it.’

‘I wish we didn’t have to be here,’ Theo’s response came, and Liam stayed still pinned to his spot, frozen, only partly because he knew they shouldn’t be eavesdropping this, and partly because Theo had just said something that demeaned their school again, where, despite it being cold and strict and his classmates leaning towards the snobby side at times, Liam really loved being.

‘I know,’ Corey interrupted his thoughts. ‘But it’s only our last year, so why not make the most of it? Mason and Liam seem nice.’

A silence followed, where Liam imagined Theo making that skeptical, eyebrows furrowed face of him again, as he questioned Corey’s words.

‘Sorry,’ Theo sounded then, and Liam turned to his friends beside him. ‘But I’m not going to be friends with a lacrosse team captain who tries too hard and can’t control his teammates, and won his past few games solely on good luck!’

Well, then.

Liam stood frozen, pinned to his spot with his hands clenched tightly by his side, and he felt something hot buzzing underneath his skin as he turned to his friends, all with equally shocked looks on their faces. Mason stared at him, stunned, his mouth hanging open, and having heard only half the conversation, Nolan and Alec seemed confused of what was going on.

Liam couldn’t blame them. He felt pretty confused himself too, as to what he had done to deserve having Theo insult him in that way.

The silence lasted, questions hanging in the air between them, until Mason broke it. ‘Well,’ he said, cutting through the confusion, his voice cooling down the anger thrumming under Liam’s skin, his hand twitching, and he turned to him. ‘Look at it this way. If he thought you were nice, you’d actually have to be friends with him.’

And like that, the anger was gone, Liam exhaling a shaky breath and closing his eyes for a moment, taking in a breath. ‘That’s true,’ he said when he opened them again, chuckling shakily, his voice sounding weak even to his ears.

Mason smiled, Alec’s hand on his shoulder for a moment and taking just another second before returning to their table, ‘Here we are again!’ and Nolan and Alec introducing themselves. Liam would sit with them, but couldn’t really bring himself to enjoy the rest of his night anymore, not sitting at a table with Theo, and not going dancing with Alec and Nolan again, standing in the middle of the dance floor and trying to clear his head.

He only had a smile just tugging at his lips, every now and then, when he caught Mason and Corey talking together, just the two of them seemingly have a good time, his best friend throwing his head back with laughter, and Liam’s heart skipped a beat, warm with how happy he was for him. Otherwise, beside that, the night couldn’t be over quick enough for him.

*****

In the quiet, empty hallway leading up to their room, Liam let out a breath, finally feeling able to clear his head, and calm down without the sensory overload parties typically brought with them. Behind him, he could hear Nolan and Alec talking with each other softly, keeping their voices down, and Mason caught up with him. Liam looked up.

‘You okay?’

Liam shrugged. ‘I think so,’ he said, looking over. Initially, after hearing what Theo’d said about him, he’d felt attacked, weirdly hurt, when the words hit him hard in the wrong way. He had experience with it though, people trying to get him down, making him stronger as a result, and he knew he was good at lacrosse. That was what all the training was for, and Scott and Coach had let him know more than once.

Mason nodded, smiling. ‘Luckily it’s still weekend first, before classes with him start.’

Liam chuckled at that, nodding, and he could hear Nolan chuckling softly behind them, as he caught onto the conversation. ‘Is it really lucky, though?’ he asked, coming to walk beside them, Alec catching up on Liam’s other side. ‘I saw how you looked at him when he first walked into the room.’

A snort escaped Liam, looking over at him. ‘And how was that?’ he asked. ‘As if I wanted to see him leave again?’

Nolan didn’t say anything, instead just wiggling his eyebrows, and a chuckle spilled past Liam’s lips. He sighed, turning to his friends when their room came into view, straightening his shoulders as he felt like they should just get this out of the way now, before more jokes coming from them could be thrown his way.

‘Trust me,’ he said, reaching their door and Nolan opening it, letting them inside, thinking of how much easier it would’ve been to forgive Theo for his comment had he not attacked one of Liam’s biggest weak spots, even if he was strong enough to get over it. ‘Theo Raeken will never, find me caring about him like that.’