Maxwell yawned. Rubbing an eye with his fist, he blinked blearily at the digital clock on his cluttered desk. The red numbers flashed evenly. 1:22 AM. Between trying to finish up his homework and chatting with his on-line buddies, he had lost track of the time. No wonder he was so tired.

The weary brunet shoved his school books out of the way, rising from his desk chair and stretching, which succeeded in popping and cracking his back. "I am going" a yawn, "to be soooo dead tomorrow morning." He muttered to himself.

Only bothering to change his pants, he soon flopped down among the pillows and down comforter of his bed. Burrowed in the cozy nest, he quickly drifted off into dreams of a certain blond…

-----

"You look rather exhausted, Maxwell." Misharei commented off-handedly as said brunet slid into his seat the next morning.

"I stayed up doing homework…" Maxwell ran a hand through his hair, pushing it from his face. A large yawn slipped out as he trailed off, and he smiled sheepishly at Misha. "I lost track of the time. It happens sometimes."

"It is unwise to not get a proper night's sleep." The younger boy replied, shuffling through his immaculate notebook to find the previous day's homework. He pulled out his translated paragraph, written in his small, neat handwriting, and double checked that his name was printed in the upper left-hand corner.

"Yeah…Well…What about you? Are you sure you should be back already?"

"I could not stay home again…I am stronger than that. They can beat me, but…" He steeled his expression, squaring his shoulders, "They'll never beat me."

Maxwell almost laughed. That deadly serious expression looked all wrong on Misharei and he in no way looked intimidating. The brunet smiled kindly at his friend, eyes twinkling. "I'm glad you're here today. I was lonely without you."

The other boy blushed shyly as Madame began class for the day.

-----

Lukas was sitting in his statistics classroom, trying to stay focused. Sure, he was thinking about statistics all right, but not of the mathematical variation. Far too many thoughts were rushing through his mind, all of them focusing on stereotypes and prejudices faced by people of the high school's homosexual community. He was well aware of the stigma they faced, which he now knew ranged anywhere from teasing to pushing and shoving to assault.

Random numbers and figures from a health lecture sped through his mind. Twenty-seven percent of gay and lesbians youths, he recalled, have been physically hurt by another student. They hear anti-gay slurs as many as 26 times in one day. They are the most frequent victims of hate crimes. Fifty percent are rejected by their parents. And over thirty percent of reported suicides each year are committed by homosexual teens…God; what else had the teacher said? As if all that wasn't bad enough, he was sure there was more he couldn't recall.

How much of this had Maxwell faced in his years in the Fell School District? Had the brunet always known he was gay? Or was this something he discovered about himself only recently? In the two months since their tentative friendship had formed, none of this had ever come up in a conversation. Lukas was suddenly suffocating in his desire to ask the other boy question upon question regarding his sexual orientation.

Lukas began to feel uneasy. He considered Maxwell a friend and it startled him to realize he knew virtually nothing about the boy. Was he truly that dysfunctional socially that he knew nothing about his friends?

He would have to do something about that.

He'd been scheduled to tutor Maxwell after school that day, but it now seemed more important that he just spend time with his friend. The scrawny teen had been mercifully undemanding in the aspect of friendship and Lukas had a sneaking suspicion that he confided in Misharei with his secrets and problems. It made sense, after all. Misha was like Maxwell's sidekick; where you found one, you inevitably found the other.

And they were so much more alike! He knew they were both into all that Japanese stuff, what was it called? Ani-something. And they seemed to have similar tastes in food, music and movies as well. Maybe it was something about being gay? Lukas didn't think so. He knew that was one of the stereotypes that often worked their way into society. They didn't like the same things because they were gay. That was a stupid thing to think. The blond's heart sank. Of course Misha would be a better friend to Maxwell. They had things to talk about; things in common.

All of this time, Lukas had been treating Maxwell like one of those statistics; like a little typed number on a page. He'd never bothered to know the person under the figures, just the figures themselves. Maxwell was gay. That was all that crossed his mind when he thought about the other teen.

How could he have let that happen? He'd always prided himself as being open-minded and accepting, yet here he was, unable to get past his friend's orientation. He suddenly felt as if he was no better than the idiots who failed to see past a person's skin color for the good inside.

This would have to change. Maxwell was not a statistic. He was a living, breathing, feeling individual who happened to stumble across Lukas as a friend. It wasn't fair to him that Lukas had made no effort to reciprocate the friendship; that Lukas failed to understand that Maxwell liked him for reasons other than being gay and having a crush.

Unless that's all it is in the end…A little voice in the back of his mind whispered.

No! Maxwell is my friend. He genuinely likes spending time with me. He is not pretending because he has some sappy crush on me and is trying to get close to me. He is interested in me as a person, not as a…God; I can't even think it. Lukas cut off his train of thought when he realized the next word coming to mind was "lover." An involuntary shiver ran down his spine. That school of thought was never to be explored, no matter what.

Lukas cut off his train of thought when he realized the next word coming to mind was "lover." An involuntary shiver ran down his spine. That school of thought was to be explored, no matter what.

But he would spend his scheduled time with Maxwell getting to know the other boy. But he didn't want to seem too interested; didn't want to be giving Maxwell false hope that he was into…that sort of thing. Perhaps he could pass it off as brainstorming or something. Yes; that would do. He could say they were asking each questions as part of a free writing exercise.

Armed with a plan, Lukas glanced back up at the chalkboard to finish copying the problem they were supposed to be working on. Much to his horror, he'd been daydreaming longer than he thought and a classmate was now solving said problem. The blond shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts. It was going to be very difficult concentrating until school let out…

-----

"So, when is your audition for the show choir?" Maxwell asked as he and Misharei ambled down the hall after school. The Japanese teen had been adamant that he was fine with being back at school and had finally lost patience with Maxwell's inquiries after his well-being, so the brunet was attempting to stick to safe subjects.

"Next Friday." Misha grinned excitedly, "You will come listen to me sing, ne?" He paused, pushing the strap of his book bag back up his shoulder and brushing his hair from his eyes.

"Of course I will! After listening to you practice for so long, I want to hear you do it for real. Plus, you're a really good singer. If they don't let you in, it'll be their loss."

The younger boy ducked his head. "I am not that good…" He blushed.

"Yes you are! If I could sing like you, I'd try out for the choir too." Maxwell paused, "You know, I don't think I've heard you sing anything in English though. It's always been J-pop or French stuff."

Misha looked pensive for a moment, probably running through a list of songs he had memorized. Maxwell peered at him, curious, wondering what he was thinking. Then the younger boy smiled. "Do you like Coldplay? I saw them live in London when we were on vacation last year and I can sing one of their songs."

Maxwell nodded, wondering which song his friend would sing. He had their most recent album and liked them well enough. Maybe not as much as some of the other bands he listened too, but they were okay.

Misha hiked his book bag strap up again and softly began to sing. "Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry; you don't know how lovely you are…"

-----

Lukas was waiting nervously in the career center for Maxwell to show up. His brown-haired friend seemed to have little sense of time and was often late for their appointments, but Lukas couldn't help fidgeting as he waited.

He shuffled through some homework, reading over his lab notes and scribbling some new things on the sheet. Then he dug out his statistics book and did a few problems. Finally, when he thought he was going to be stood up, he heard Maxwell's approach.

The brunet burst into the room, that stupid cat-hat on pulled over his forehead like always. Lukas stared at him for a moment, wondering if they ever would have met, were it not for that ridiculous hat. Maxwell was grinning, humming, his hair bouncing around his shoulders, indigo eyes wide and innocent. Misharei glided into the room behind him, still singing.

"Questions of science; science and progress do not speak as loud as my heart…Tell me you love me; come back and haunt me…Oh and I rush to the start…"

Maxwell dropped his backpack on the floor and sank into a chair, his head tipped back slightly, listening to music only he could hear. Lukas stared at him, barely paying any attention to Misharei, who had stopped in the door and was working his way through the rest of the song. Maxwell's fingers tapped lightly against the top of the table. He was sitting directly in a patch of sunlight that was pouring through the room's one window and the rays caught the longer, scraggly strands of his hair, causing them to shimmer as his head moved slightly. In the sunlight like that, his hair almost seemed to have a reddish tint.

Lukas swallowed. Maxwell was sitting there, carefree and content, and he probably had no idea just how lovely he looked. He looked…pretty and alive and oh God; this wasn't supposed to happen! Lukas wasn't supposed to think this sort of thing about his friend; especially since it was a male friend. But he couldn't help it; God, he couldn't help it! It wasn't his fault that Maxwell was adorable…

The blond suddenly realized that Misha had stopped singing and both other boys were looking at him oddly. He felt his face heat up and cursed himself mentally. They'd caught him staring!

Although…He frowned slightly. He didn't feel like doing work any more. The entire plan he'd concocted during statistics flew right out the window. "Why don't we go somewhere today? It's too nice to stay in here doing boring English assignments." He suggested almost shyly, looking hopefully at the other two boys.

Maxwell's face light up and Lukas felt his heart lurch. There was something about that smile…

The brunet jumped up from his chair, knocking it over in the process. "Can we!? Oh, let's go to the mall! They FINALLY translated Weiss Kreuz into English and I want to get volume one." He bounced impatiently, eyes glittering.

Lukas nearly laughed. When Maxwell wanted to do something, he was like a puppy. He was too damn excitable. "Sure…As long as that's okay with you, Misha."

The Japanese boy smiled shyly. "I can come too? I just walked Maxwell here and then I was going to go home." He had sensed that Lukas enjoyed his time alone with their friend -even if Lukas himself hadn't realized it yet- and tried not to intrude on their tutoring sessions.

A kind smile crossed Lukas' face. "As long as you don't need to be home right away, sure." He did like Misha, after all. He just had yet to spend any time getting to know the younger teen.

Misha's smile widened. "Let me just call Aikan and tell him not to worry." He waited in the doorway for Lukas to gather his things and Maxwell to retrieve his bag, then the trio headed to the lobby towards the payphone.

Lukas followed behind the two brunets, smiling to himself. Misha was singing again, this time some bouncy Japanese song, and Maxwell was practically skipping. Those two certainly made life interesting and shopping with them would surely drive him mad, but, well, it was a good way to get to know them both better, after all.

-----

Note: I'm leaving to work at a summer camp today and will only be around on weekends. Hopefully, I'll be able to do some writing in my (ha ha) free time while at camp, otherwise, all of you shall have to bear with me and be patient until I'm back to school in August. Thank you for reading and happy summer. -Misha