Sam was bored. He looked over at the blinking red numbers that told him what the time was supposed to be. The clock said 2:34, but that couldn't be right. He had never been able to stay up that late. He didn't even feel tired.
Groaning, he got up out of bed and made his way downstairs to the kitchen. His house was eerily quiet, his parents were out of town and even the cats were asleep. All he could hear was the high-pitched hum which seemed to show up when the rest of the world was quiet. He opened the refrigerator and stared blankly into the bright interior. There wasn't anything here he wanted. He wasn't even hungry. He lifted up the carton where he knew his dad kept a stash of cookies and took one for himself.
Silently he wondered what his friends were doing. Jack had said he was meeting up with Sarah, Quinten, and Joel at midnight. He tried to imagine what they would be up to. They would have met in the park that was about two blocks from his house, the closest central point to all of them.
He wondered if there was any chance they would still be there now. He looked up to the clock on the oven and sighed. He doubted it. Three hours is a long time for a group of mostly fifteen-year-olds to stay in a neighborhood park, especially if they were sneaking out. It wasn't likely. But damn, was he bored.
He was going for a walk. Yeah, that was it. He was just going for a walk, and if he happened to see a bunch of his friends, well wouldn't that be great. Sighing, he sat up from the kitchen table and went to go get his coat.
"Sam, how can you not be throwing a party this weekend!" Jack pushed his shoulder, knocking him off balance. "Your parents wont be back 'till Wednesday, so you'll have plenty of time to fix up your house afterwards, and your house is huge! It's perfect man!"
"I cant do that and you know it. No way." Sam pushed Jack back and continued walking home.
"C'mon dude. No one will know." Jack looked hopeful, and Sam hated turning Jack down for anything. That smile of his always made Sam feel like he couldn't say no. But he couldn't throw a party either. He looked away from Jack's face
"Yeah, until someone breaks some irreparable vase, or posts pictures online. Not happening Jack." They were approaching the corner where they would split, each heading to their respective houses.
"Well then… at least come hang out with us tonight. It's not like your parents will know, and we don't even have school tomorrow, so you can stay out as late as you want."
"Where are you meeting up?"
"The park. Me, Quinten, Sarah, and Joel are meeting up at Midnight. C'mon, you know u wanna."
"I'll think about it." Sam said, turning from his friend and making his way home.
"C'mon! I've got something you don't want to miss!" Jack called after him.
"I said I'll think about it!" Sam called back.
Sam pulled his jacket closer around his body as he muttered to himself. He saw the play set that sat in the park looming out of the dark night. He knew no one would be there at this time, but the sound of swings squeaking in the wind drifted through the air. He made his way slowly towards the picnic tables where he usually met his friends. He didn't need to be close to tell that no one was there anymore, but he kept walking until he was in the center of the tables.
"Of course," he muttered, "of course they're not here anymore." He looked around and considered going back home. Instead he headed over to the swings and dropped down onto one of the thin seats.
As he shivered on the swaying swing he tried to think of what it could have been Jack was going to show them. He wondered silently if it was a new girlfriend. It wouldn't be the first time he had gotten the group together to introduce them to some new girl who he would end up dumping in two weeks. Sam felt his heart drop. That was probably it. Some new girl who he would have to watch slobber all over Jack for half a month. He flinched at his harsh thoughts but knew it wasn't unlikely that he had a new girlfriend.
Jack was the kind of guy who could always get a girl. He was hot, he was popular, but he was also always polite and nice. He was a Prince Charming to Sam's Frog Prince. Not that Sam wanted a girl anyway. He was gay, and he knew it. He had long since resigned himself to a life a secrecy and rejection. He was still currently in the secrecy portion.
He just didn't want to lose any of his friends, especially not Jack. Jack was… special to him. And the rest had been hard enough for him to make.
Freshman Year: First Day
"Hi." Sam looked up from sandwich and came face to with a smiling boy. It was his first day of high school and he was eating lunch alone.
"Uh… hi." Sam looked the other boy over. He had wavy brown hair and a big white smile. He was thin but looked fast and athletic. Comparatively Sam's shoulder length black hair was boring. He was pale, tall, and skinny. Not in the least athletic. He couldn't help but wonder what this other boy could want with him. He wasn't exactly the most enthralling figure to introduce yourself to. He looked up at the other boy in surprise.
"I'm Jack." He offered a hand, which Sam hesitantly shook, unsure quite what was going on.
"Cool. Wanna come have lunch with us?" Jack pointed over his shoulder to a table of three boys and two girl who were engaged in their own conversation.
"Um…" Sam hesitantly looked around the lunchroom. No one was paying attention to them. They were just two freshmen, invisible.
"C'mon. First day of freshman year is no time to eat alone."
"Oh… okay." He gathered up his stuff and made his way over to the other table with Jack beside him.
"Sam, meet Joel, Quinten, Sarah, Judy, and Paul." He pointed to each one in succession, and Sam filed away which was which into his memory.
"Hey guys." Sam said meekly. They all greeted him nicely enough, then went back to their earlier conversation.
It was another two days before he actually talked to anyone at the lunch table besides Jack. After that, he actually had friends.
Sam zoned out to the sound of creaking swing. Suddenly a large gust of wind brought him back to reality. He looked at his watch and saw that it was almost 3:30, deciding it was time to try to fall asleep again. He got up off the swing, and the steady squeaking stopped. The wind had died, and the night was almost silent.
As Sam made his way through the deserted play set he heard a new noise. A soft groan came from the other side of the jungle gym, where Sam suddenly noticed a dark lump.
"Hello?" Sam called out carefully. The last thing he needed was to get attacked by a drunken bum. He carefully made his way around the twisting metal bars towards the groaning figure. "Are you okay?"
Common sense told him to leave the bum alone, but he knelt down next to the figure who was face down in the sand. "Hey, are you okay?" he gently shook the shoulder only hear a loud groan emanate from the head. Reluctantly, he grabbed the figure by the shoulders and flipped him on his back. Sam almost couldn't recognize the boy under the swollen eye, bruises, and multiple scratches on his face. But regardless of what he looked like, Sam would always recognize that face. It was Jack.
Freshman Year: November
Sam groaned as he saw who was waiting for him next to his locker. He cursed his luck as Seth smirked and began cracking his knuckles.
"Drayfer. I've been waiting for you." The smile that spread across the Junior's lips was one of the ugliest Sam had ever seen. He tried to ignore the much larger boy and get to his locker.
"Hey, hey. That's not very nice, Drayfer. I greeted you and you just ignore me?" Seth pushed Sam into the wall of lockers and turned his around forcibly. "You shouldn't be rude to your superiors, Drayfer."
Sam didn't even put up a fight. He knew what was going to happen. It was the same thing that had happened the past three days after school. Somehow he had found himself on Seth's hit list, and now there wasn't much he could do about it. He could only hope that if he didn't respond, the meat head would get bored with him.
"I'm talking to you Drayfer." Seth's voice turned from sickly sweet to threatening. Sam's muscles tensed as he saw Seth's meaty had pull back, preparing for the punch he knew was coming. He didn't even look around to see if anyone would save him. It was almost 4:00, everyone would be gone by now.
He flinched when he saw Seth's face turn back into a smirk, looking away from his immanent pain, waiting. He kept waiting for almost ten seconds before he carefully turned back to see someone behind Seth, holding his arm back.
"Can I help you, Seth?" Jack's voice was calm, but it sounded different. Angry.
"We're good." Seth growled. "Just having a little fun with Sammy boy here." Sam could visibly see him try to pull his arm out of Jack's grasp, but he couldn't pull it out.
"Then you won't mind if I take him off your hands." Jack reached over and pulled Seth's other arm of Sam. "C'mon Sam." And then Sam was walking away with Jack beside him. Safe for one day, until Seth caught him alone again.
He heard Seth's loud footsteps before he realized that Jack was no longer beside him. He quickly turned around and saw Seth reaching back again, this time with Jack as his target.
In a flash Jack's hand was in Seth's stomach, the older boy doubling over in pain. He fell to his knees, gasping for breath. Jack just walked away.
"See you around Seth." He then put his arm around Sam's shoulders and walked down the hall.
Sam struggled to carry Jack back to his house, the weak boy barely able to stand beside him. He had no idea how this could have happened. No one he knew would want to do this to Jack. Everyone loved him. Hell, he didn't even know anyone who could do this to Jack. He was tough, and he was strong, and he was fast.
He dragged Jack to the nearest bed, his parents, and settled him onto the thick white sheets. He ran to the bathroom closet where he knew the first aid was, grabbing the package and sprinting back down to Jack. The boy seemed to have fallen asleep by the time he was back, and Sam quickly pulled out the antiseptic and bandages.
He looked down at Jack and saw that his shirt was ripped, and there were very obvious wounds on his chest. He knew he would need to clean those too, but didn't want to wake Jack by taking off his shirt. He started with Jack's face instead.
Ten minutes later, he had carefully cleaned all the cuts on Jack's face, and bandaged the bleeding cuts on his chin and forehead. By then, the stinging antiseptic had woken Jack, and he tried to talk to him.
"Jack? What happened?" Sam sat on the edge of the bed, looking Jack over for what must have been the millionth time. There were no marks on his hands. He had't fought back, if there had been a fight. Jack didn't answer
"Are you okay? Do you want me to call your parents?" Sam started to get up to grab the phone. When Jack grabbed his hand and pulled him back.
"No, don't tell them." The look in Jack's eye told Sam not to defy him.
"Ok… then I need to get under your shirt… to fix what I can." Sam looked away, noticing Jack was still holding onto his hand, but quickly brought himself back to focus. "Can you help me take it off? It'll make things easier."
Jack nodded his head and reached down to the hem of his shirt, wincing. Together, the two boys pulled off the tattered shirt and Sam carefully folded it, placing it next to the bed.
The bruises covering Jack's chest made his face look clean by comparison. Sam gently pressed along the larger bruises, make sure Jack didn't have any broken ribs, or something serious. He silently thanked God he had taken that first aid course last year.
"It doesn't look like anything is broken. Just bruised…" Sam looked up into Jack's face and saw no response. "Do you want me to get you anything?"
"A glass of water, yeah." Jack said quietly, not looking Sam in the eyes. "Thanks."
By the time Sam had come back with the water, Jack had fallen asleep. Sam set the glass down next to Jack and pulled the comforter over Jack's bruised body. He sat down on the edge of the bed again, looking over Jack's bruised face, wondering what the hell could have happened. Who could have done this to Jack before he could even fight back?
Sam carefully lifted his hand to Jack's face, tracing the bruises lightly with his fingers. Even beaten and bruised, Jack's beauty wasn't lost on him. The softness that overtook his features in sleep made the injuries seem to fade, and Jack took on an almost angelic look. Without thinking, Sam leant down and pressed a small kiss to Jack's lips. He felt guilty for taking advantage of his friend, but he had wanted to do that for almost a year.
Sighing, he got up and made his way over to the large chair that sat in the corner of his parent's room. It wasn't very comfortable, but he wanted to make sure he would be there to help Jack when he woke up. It wasn't long before he too fell asleep to the rhythmic sounds of Jack's breathing.
Sam woke with a start to the sound of Jack hissing in pain. He saw the other boy trying to get out of his parents bed, and for a few seconds, wondered what he was doing there. Quickly, the events of the prior night flooded back into his mind, and he rushed to Jack's side to help him.
"Jack, what do you need?" he put his arm under Jack's arm and helped lift him to a standing position.
"Bathroom." Jack said, and Sam blushed. But still, he helped his friend towards his parent's large bathroom. He then left, giving him his privacy.
He turned around a few minutes later when he heard Jack wincing and ran to help him out again.
"You don't have to keep helping me, ya know." Jack winced, walking slowly next to Sam.
"I know." Sam said, matter-of-factly. "Are you hungry? Or thirsty?"
"Hungry." Jack flashed a small smile, which disappeared under a wince as Sam helped him into one of the chairs at his kitchen table.
Sam set to work making some food for the both of them. A few minutes later, he sat a plate with a sandwich on it in front of Jack and sat across from him with his own.
The two ate in a silence for a few minutes before it became too much for Sam to take.
"Jack… what—" Jack's head shot up to look Sam in the eyes, and intense stare told Sam not to finish that question, but he had to know. "What happened?"
For about a minute, Jack didn't respond. Sam looked down into his plate, disappointed at not being told what had happened to his best friend. Suddenly Jack's cracked voice snapped Sam back into reality.
"Joel… Quinten… Sarah…" Jack said quietly, not looking Sam in the eyes. Immediately Sam considered the worse. The four of them had been meeting. What if they had been attacked too. What if he just hadn't seen the others in the park, and they were lying there on the ground like he had found Jack last night.
"God… are they okay?" Sam asked quickly. Jack looked up to him and… glared. He wasn't expecting that.
"Of course they are." Jack's voice began growing in strength, but it was still cracking. "They're the ones who attacked me."
Last Summer: July
"Make way for the birthday boy!" Jack yelled as he fell into the small space between Joel and Sam on the couch. He laughed and threw an arm around both of them, pulling them into a hug.
"Jack." Sarah interrupted. "It's not technically your birthday for another three days."
"I know," Jack smiled, "but Sammy here's going out of town tomorrow, so we're celebrating tonight!"
Sam smiled goofily, but felt guilty about being out of town on Jack's birthday. He was by far Sam's best friend, and Sam had just recently realized that it was a little more than that to him. He really liked Jack, more than friends were supposed to. As that thought came to mind, he blushed and looked away from the birthday boy. Like that would ever happen.
"Calm down Sammy" Jack said, ruffling his black hair teasingly. "Just means I get one more night to hang out with my friends." Sam knew that whatever tonight was wouldn't even compare to Jack's real birthday party. There were going to be over one hundred kids there. A real party, for the popular kid Sam had somehow become best friends with. "Now what did you kids get me?"
That night had been one of the most fun Sam had that summer. There had been so much laughing that it was clear to anyone who was watching that the five of them were some of the closest friends.
"Wha…" Sam stared back at Jack, dumbstruck. "But…"
"Yeah." Jack looked back down at his now empty plate and didn't speak.
"But, they're our… your friends!" Sam could think of no reason their friends would do this to Jack. They had always been closer to Jack than anyone.
"Yeah. Some friends. Remind me to get them some Thank You gifts when I go home." Jack glared down at the stark white plate as Sam sat there, unsure what to say. One question stuck in his mind, he couldn't get rid of it.
"But… why?" Jack looked up at Sam, a sad look dressing his normally happy face. "Jack, why would anyone do that to you?" Softly, Jack sighed, breaking the silence.
"Because the didn't like hearing what I had to say." Jack held Sam's eyes this time. Sam found himself unable to look away as Jack took a deep breath. He could tell Jack was debating whether or not to tell him more.
"What… what did you have to say?" Sam said meekly. It must have been bad to cause such close friends to do this. Jack didn't look away. Sam could practically see the battle going on in his head, whether or not to tell Sam as well.
"Whatever it is, I would never do what they did to you." Sam said quietly. He could see the pain on Jack's face, but he needed to know. He needed for Jack to believe him. "You can trust me Jack. You're my best friend." Sam said, holding Jack's stare.
Suddenly, Jack inhaled deeply and broke the stare. He looked down at the kitchen floor and finally began to talk. "I told them the truth…" he looked at Sam one last time before finishing his sentence. "that I'm… gay."
Freshman Year: May
"Hey guys, this is Christie." Sam looked up from his pizza to see the tall brunette standing beside Jack. His heart fluttered and sank as he realized what was going on again. The only time Jack ever introduced someone to them like this was if she was…
"We're dating." Christie said excitedly. She sounded like she was telling them they had just gotten engaged. This wasn't the first time they had gone through this ritual, and it wouldn't be the last. Sam's stomach dropped. He wasn't hungry any more.
Sam tried to get a good image of Christie in his mind. She was brunette, heavy make-up on her face. Ridiculously skinny for someone as tall as she was. She was holding a tiny purse in the crook of her arm. Too tight top, too short skirt; she reminded Sam of a brunette Paris Hilton, and he was sort of disgusted.
He never understood Jack's choice of girls. He could get anyone he wanted and he always seemed to go for the girls that sent shivers down Sam's spine. Every time Jack brought a new girl over, Sam hated her more than the last. The only consolation was that she was always gone within a month, but Sam couldn't help but feel that it was all wrong. He wanted nothing more than to be the one to give Jack that goofy smile he only ever got when he was introducing a new girl to the group.
And he didn't care if that was wrong.
"Oh…" Sam said, quietly. Inside, his heart was beating insanely fast. He was sure he'd misheard. Jack couldn't be… "But what about… all those girls." Sam couldn't look Jack in the eyes. He didn't want Jack to realize how happy he was right now.
"I never actually did anything with them." Jack said quietly. "Didn't even kiss most of them. The few girls I did kiss… it didn't do anything for me. Why do you think none of them lasted?"
"Look, Sam. I know it's weird, but it's the truth. And… I'm sorry. But this is who I am."
Inside, So much was going through Sam's head: Jack being gay, his own feeling for Jack, his friends reactions to Jack, Jack trusting him; he didn't even notice as Jack reached across the table and put his hand on his own.
"Are you gonna say anything?" Jack asked quietly. Once again, Sam felt unable to break Jack's stare. "Because, out of everyone… I don't think I could handle it if you hated me too…" he carefully removed his hand from Sam's, but held his eyes in an almost pleading stare.
"I…" Sam was at a loss for words, but the look on Jack's face told him he needed to tell him. Now. "I… I am too."
Sam watched Jack's eyes widened in surprise, unsure what that meant. "And I… sorta—"
Before he knew what was happening, Jack had taken his hand again, grasping it in his own. "Me too…" A smile spread on his lips for the first time since they had started talking. "Sam, I like you." He squeezed Sam's hand hoping he hadn't misunderstood.
"I…" Sam was so excited. He had resigned himself to never getting Jack. He was fine with that. And now, he was getting what he had wanted for a year. "I like you too, Jack. A lot."
Jack's smile grew, showing his beautifully white teeth. Sam's small, shy smile was nothing in comparison. Letting go of Jack's hand, Sam carefully got up and walked around the table. He softly put his hand on Jack's shoulder, leaning in to softly press their lips together for the second time. This time, Jack returned the kiss.
Sam knew it was stupid. It was dangerous, and it would probably end in them both getting beat up, but right now, he didn't care. He and Jack had spent the day not letting anyone know about them. As far as anyone knew, Jack had gotten in a random fight that weekend. No one really questioned them.
But it was lunchtime, and Jack and Sam had entered the lunchroom together. They had talked about this beforehand. They had agreed to this stupid plan, because they knew they had to do something. Within a week, their old friends would have told the entire school about Jack. The fact that the school wasn't a buzz of gossip was surprising enough, but they wanted to cut it off before it could begin. The two of them made their way to their normal table, Where Sarah, Joel, and Quinten were already chatting amongst themselves. They didn't even notice the other two had approached until Jack cleared his throat.
Jack swallowed the lump in his throat and smiled as the other three recovered from their surprise at seeing him. He put on his happiest voice, and a goofy smile spread across his face. "Hey guys, this is Sam." He said like they hadn't all known each other for two years, like he hadn't just been almost killed by them. The other three stared at the two of them like they were idiots.
Smiling, Sam turned to the table, and exclaimed in his most excited voice "We're dating!"
And then Jack pulled Sam into a close embrace, and pressed his lips to Sam's, to his new boyfriends. The cafeteria grew quiet as the two broke apart, smiling.
"Just wanted to introduce you!" Jack said.
And then the two took off running, laughing their asses off.