Jehan was quietly sitting in the empty, quiet cafeteria, enjoying the quiet sounds of pen and paper scratching together. The other quiet kids in other tables paid no mind to him, and he paid no mind to them. Each was lost in their quiet world of homework, pleasure reading, studying, or idle frolicking. Even the cleaning staff was being quiet. The hum of the lights in the ceiling was the loudest sound in the room, and even then, it was soothing.
Someone turned the page. The sound reverberated through the room before going back to quiet.
At least until the telling sound of soles squeaking against the gleaming floor approached and filled the room with noise. Jehan looked up with a scowl at the inconsiderate intruder before seeing who it was and quickly turning back to his textbook.
Courfeyrac’s very breathing was loud as he squeaked his way to Jehan’s table, tossed his bag onto a chair with a loud bang, and dropped himself into another with a heavy thud.
“Hey,” he greeted loudly. Jehan had no choice but to look up, conveying no emotion.
“You’re in my Literature class, yeah?” asked he with a pleasant smile that couldn’t justify the loud volume of his voice. To add pain to the injury, he started drumming his fingers on the table. Jehan eyed his hands pointedly.
“Yes, I am.”
“Cool. You see, I’m having trouble with, like, everything from this class. Prof just gave me a warning. I need to pass the following test, so… you mind compressing this year’s worth of Literature for me?”
The other students looked up from their activities and shot Courfeyrac unamused glances. Jehan wanted nothing more than to join them, but he hadn’t an ounce of meanness in his bones.
“Umm… why me? I mean, do you even know my name?”
Courfeyrac’s smiling eyes widened in shock and he made a loud exclamation.
“Shit, sorry, I didn’t even introduce myself! I’m Courfeyrac.” He extended his hand. Jehan eyed it suspiciously and replied with the blankest tone of voice he could muster.
“Yes. I know.”
“Oh, you do?” he seemed genuinely surprised. Jehan didn’t bother with a reply. After a few seconds of silence, Courfeyrac raised an eyebrow expectantly. “And you are…?”
“Jean. Jean Prouvaire.”
“Nice to finally know your name, Jean.” He grinned and fished Jehan’s hand from his book, shaking it vigorously. He then turned to his backpack, pulled out the large Literature textbook and noisily dropped it on the table, followed by his vandalized pouch of utensils and a blank notebook, all the while talking about his busy and difficult student life. Jehan interrupted his tirade.
“Hey, listen, I don’t think I’m the best choice for—”
“Dude, you’re literally the teacher’s pet. And, like, the Prof always sets your notebook as an example, so…”
“Being responsible is not the same thing as being smart. I don’t even like Literature!”
“Bullshit.” Courfeyrac turned to Jehan again and cast him a friendly smile paired with pleading eyes. “Come on. Be a friend. Help a guy out.”
They stared at each other. Jehan looked away first, naturally. Courfeyrac scratched the back of his head.
“Listen, I know this is super out of the blue, and that I’ve never really talked to you, but I really need someone to help me with this. I’ll pay you back. What do you want? I have cash right now, if you want some dough. Or… have you seen The Hunger Games? That guy, Finnick Odair, who likes to be paid with secrets? I can do that, too, if you’re into gossip. Or I could introduce you to someone. D’you got your eye set on someone? Not to brag, but I probably know her, so… just tell me what you want, and you’ll get it. I just really need some help.”
“You talk a lot.”
Courfeyrac didn’t say anything for a second. He started tapping his fingers on the table. “Should I be offended?” he asked dubiously. Jehan took too long to answer.
Courfeyrac looked away. “Look, I know that you probably don’t like me, and I get it. I mean, I didn’t know your name until like a minute ago and I’m already asking for your help, but I promise you I’m not just some douche.”
“Not to be rude but… everyone in your social sphere is a douche,” he grimaced uncomfortably. Courfeyrac tilted his head.
“My social sphere?”
“Yeah. The… popular guys. Every popular guy and girl is a bit of a douche.”
Courfeyrac was stunned to silence once more. “So you think I’m popular?”
Jehan barked out a laugh. The rest of the cafeteria stopped pretending they weren’t listening in on their conversation and looked up at Courfeyrac disbelievingly. Courfeyrac looked at the lot of them, only a tiny bit scared.
“Okay, that’s creepy.”
“You’re kidding, right?” asked one of the kids.
“You’re like… a social butterfly.”
“Literally everybody knows you.”
“My aunt knows you.”
“Mr. Maas talks about you and you’ve never been in his class.”
“And she doesn’t even live here.”
“I know where you work and I don’t even know why.”
“I don’t like you and I’m obsessed with you.”
“You’re legit the most popular person in the district.”
“My cousin goes to Montwood High and she says that Romina Cox introduces herself as your girlfriend just to be more popular.”
The kids continued affirming just how popular Courfeyrac was while he looked at Jehan in bewilderment. Jehan motioned to the expanse of the room with his arms and smiled pointedly, as if to say ‘you see?’. Courfeyrac raised a hand to placate the onslaught of voices and there was immediate silence.
He looked around in astonishment before speaking; “Okay, first of all, I’ve met Romina Cox just once, and it was at an extended family reunion.”
“Oh, my god.”
“Second of all, what has that to do with anything?! I like having a lot of friends; so what? That doesn’t mean I’m a jerk.”
“That’s easy to disprove,” said Jehan easily. “Are you homophobic?”
Courfeyrac raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think so.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. You’re a jerk.”
“Well, talk about prejudices,” said the indignant brunet. “Why would I be homophobic? I have two moms and I’m queer as shit.”
It was Jehan who was startled this time. The rest of the cafeteria quickly looked down and went back to pretending not to be eavesdropping. When nobody said anything for a full minute, Courfeyrac’s eyebrow climbed further up.
“Are you homophobic?” he asked dryly, but Jehan said nothing still. He looked at the room at large. “Why is it that y’all say that I’m so popular and well-known if none of y’all knew that I’m the pansexual son of two lesbian women?”
“Um,” Jehan said quietly, his blush growing by the second, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed. And… I’m pan, too, by the way.”
Courfeyrac looked like the sky had opened up after a year of darkness. He beamed and slumped down in his chair. “Oh, thank god.”
“I’m so relieved that you brought it up, Jehan. Is it alright if I call you Jehan? Cool. I’m so relieved that you brought it up. I didn’t want to ask you myself, I mean, what if I made an ass out of myself? Pretty sure I’ve done that already, but—I mean, you look kinda queer—” Jehan raised his eyebrows dryly, “—but I didn’t want to just assume, you know. And I did know your name before today; I just didn’t wanna seem stalker-ish. I like you a lot, to be honest. Do you have anywhere to be after school? Would you like to go for an ice cream, or something? It’s okay if you don’t have a ride—I do. I can drive us there, if you want. You can totally say no; I’ve just been dying to ask you since, like, forever. What do you say? I won’t be offended, or, like, creepily ecstatic, whatever your answer is.” He looked expectantly at Jehan, who was having trouble making coherent thoughts. It took a while before he could talk again.
“Or, I don’t know, if you’re not into that stuff, there’s a bakery owned by mammi’s friend—”
“Not ‘into that stuff’? Are we talking about normal ice cream, or some extravagant, new teenage fad that I haven’t heard of called ice cream?”
Courfeyrac laughed. “Normal ice cream.”
Jehan blushed furiously. “So you’re asking me out?”
“Yes. I mean, it’s not mandatory. You can say no, I mean, it’s an invitation. An open invitation. It doesn’t have to be right now, I mean, there’s always a tomorrow. You have time to think, or, I mean, if you don’t wanna, just, I mean—”
“You talk a lot.”
“Well, yeah, I mean, mum says so, too, but I mean—”
“Why not what? To the date? Are you agreeing?”
“I guess. And I have to ask permission first, but—”
“Do you want to borrow my phone to call your parents? Or do you have a phone?”
“Um, I have a phone—”
“Could you give it to me? Your number, I mean.”
Jehan blushed again. “I don’t know if I’m just too new at this, of if your flirting is really aggressive,” he mumbled.
“Both, maybe?” Courfeyrac smiled slightly. “Why not both?”
Jehan giggled. “Why not all of them?” he joked. Courfeyrac took a moment to get it, but when he did, he blushed adorably and laughed happily, creating two dimples in his cheeks. Jehan quickly looked down and pulled his phone out, texting his mother for a minute.
He put it back in his pocket and looked up to see Courfeyrac eagerly awaiting a final response.
“Um, mom’s fine with it. So… okay.”
Courfeyrac jumped right out of his seat. “Great! So, do you have any classes left?”
“I’m in my last one at the moment,” admitted Jehan. “Phys-ed.”
“Well, I’m in Art,” shrugged Courfeyrac. “D’you wanna go?”
“Okay,” said a shy Jehan. He stood up and walked alongside Courfeyrac, not really knowing what to do. As they were leaving the cafeteria, he turned to the brunet.
“Did you just use the Literature exam as an excuse to talk to me?” he blushed, flattered and touched by the cuteness of it all.
“No, I actually am failing Lit and I do need your help,” shrugged Courfeyrac, halting any sweet emotion in Jehan, “but I’m glad we had the ‘I’m queer’ conversation so early on. Otherwise, I was gonna ask you about it maybe next week, when we were properly acquainted. This is better, though.”
“A date, and a passing grade.”
“And hopefully a phone number. For educational purposes, of course.”
They closed the door behind them.
The remaining occupants of the cafeteria immediately started gossiping. The cleaning staff listened attentively.