Chapter 3: Cops & Robbers

I slept in. Not that I had anywhere to be, but it was almost noon by the time I woke up. Hazy visions of hitting the snooze button seemed to be more dream than reality as I opened my eyes and climbed out of bed.

I groaned a little. Ethan was probably wondering what had happened to me, since I'd promised to call him. I reached for my nightstand, where my cell phone was charging and unplugged it. Flipping the phone open I quickly called him.

"Hey, stud," Ethan's voice sounded rugged as he answered the phone.

"Stud?" I asked, wishing that I could have just ignored it. That was a new one. "Are you applying for a job with a phone sex hotline?"

"I figured since you didn't call me till now that there must be a good reason. The only thing I could conceive of that would possibly be more important than calling your best friend in the whole wide world was that you were getting laid all morning. You dog, you."

"Oh shut up, dude." I rolled my eyes. "I slept through my fucking alarm, douchebag," I muttered.

"Funny how that works; you're the one who was meant to call me and slept through it, yet you claim I'm the douchebag! Next time you sleep through a whole morning, I'm going to come into your room and dump you on the floor, and then have sex with a cheap hooker on your bed."

"Oh come on, man. Couldn't it at least be a middle class one?" I whined.

"Nope," the word rolled off his tongue. "It's going to be the cheapest, dirtiest slut I can find. A penny whore," he said smugly.

"Okay. Enjoy your AIDs," I replied.

"Oh, it's cool. I already got herpes from you. So I figure, what can a few more STDs hurt?"

"That's not even funny," I said my voice rising into a phony furor as I continued, "Do you know how offended I am right now? I am going to come over there and burn your house down."

"If you ever get out of bed, you mean?" he laughed.

"Hey, you with the face, shut your mouth," I muttered down the phone. "I'm already off my bed."

"Knowing you, you'll probably spill the kerosene and light yourself on fire. So, have fun burning to death. Maybe I'll roast some marshmallows over your blazing corpse," he replied casually.

"Ugh, that's probably true," I said dejectedly.

"Hey man, it's all good. Look, I know something you are good at–arcade games," he mentioned, as though trying to cheer me up.

"Huh? You mean we're going to the arcade today?" I said, excitement tainting my voice.

"Yeah, let's hit it up. You only got one week before school starts, might as well make the most of it," he replied.

"Sweet!" I exclaimed, I was eager to step foot in there again and lay down the law on some of those games.

"Uh… also…" he said, sounding a little anxious, "I was wondering..." he trailed off.

"You make another sex joke and I'm going to travel through this phone and tear your throat out," I warned him.

"Nah, I was just wondering if you wanted to go to a party tonight," he said, still sounding a bit uneasy.

"What kind of party?" I asked, sensing some tension in his voice.

"You know, just a house party." If it was just a run-of-the-mill house party, why did he sound so anxious?

"Sure, man. That sounds cool," I said, forcing some enthusiasm into my voice. I knew that he was either hoping to go, or felt obligated to do so. Due to his social status, he was frequently invited to parties. I would usually tag along if he ended up going. We had an agreement that if it fell on our Sunday night ritual that we wouldn't go. We'd already missed the last party as it had fallen on a Sunday, so I thought I should try to be agreeable this time.

"Really?" He sounded slightly surprised, but settled into the thought that maybe I was actually okay with it.

"Yeah, sure. Why not? I thought you said I needed to live life," I replied.

"Good point. Alright, I'll be there in twenty for the arcade," he said sounding rather cheerful.

"See you then," I said, hanging up. I quickly stripped and hopped into the shower.

I was ready this time when he barged into my room unannounced. Actually, I was just checking to make sure I had my keys, wallet and phone when he burst through the door. He was wearing a green polo that was tight against his chest. It rendered more as a blur of colour when he entered.

"Nice to see you too," I said casually, not even looking at him.

"Hm. Guess I came too late," he sighed dramatically. "If I'd only been ten minutes earlier I could've snuck up on you in the shower."

"You even so much as think about that," I glowered, "And I'll cut each of your toes off and feed them to you."

"Sounds like a challenge. You know I love a good work out, lil' buddy." He sauntered over and punched me lightly in the shoulder.

"Ugh. Can we just go to the arcade?" I could already envision the gleaming and flickering lights of the various machines.

"Yeah, I'll just have to give you a heart attack another day."

"It might help if you didn't try it when you were expected. You know, element of surprise and all that, seeing as how the point is to appear when you're not actually meant to be there," I deftly mentioned.

"I know what a surprise is, but thanks Professor Asshat," Ethan replied.

"Of course; you just don't know how to perform one," I said sweetly.

He leaned in for a second, close enough that I gave him my full attention, and his eyes narrowed a little. "Keep saying that and I'll give you a real surprise," he said smugly.

"Oh, I get it. I see now. You got a little wiser after the last time you impregnated me," I scoffed. "I got a paternity test and you're the father!"

"Could you imagine if you were really pregnant?" He suddenly burst into a fit of laughter.

"I'd rather not even think about that possibility. I'm pretty sure I'd be paraded through every trashy daytime talk show on air." I frowned at the thought.

"I think you'd look fucking hilarious," he remarked, walking out of my room.

"For all of five seconds, and then I'd be asking you to get me rhubarb ice cream, Brussels sprout pizza, and lamb chops drizzled with Nutella and fudge," I commented, following him.

"I think you'd just make the cutest little mother," he mocked me as we headed down the stairs.

"I think you'd just make the cutest little corpse sprawled out on my front lawn," I replied deadpan as we went out the front door.

"Car's unlocked," he said, climbing in and I did likewise.

"Hey, did you think about what day you wanted to reschedule Sunday to?" I asked.

"Oh, I don't know. Tomorrow would be fine. Is that cool?" he said casually as he started up the car and pulled away from my house.

"For sure," I nodded my head, eager to arrive at the arcade.

We stood in front of a boxy arcade machine with giant blue plastic guns. A screen flashing with an eerie white font asked us to insert coins and press the start button. Seconds later we were blowing the heads off a pack of rabid zombies. As bullets flashed across the screen, their heads exploded into a bloody mess. We entered a mansion while the onslaught of zombies staggered toward us. After moving through a few rooms, a hefty zombie came running at us from around a corner with a chainsaw. I kept firing, but it was upon us in no time flat.

"Dammit!" I sighed, putting the gun down. "This is why I hate first-person shooters," I grumbled.

"Yeah, but doesn't it fulfill some deep inner satisfaction to blow the heads off shambling undead corpses?" Ethan asked, putting his gun down as well.

"You know, it's about the only thing that keeps me from taking down some of our teachers," I agreed.

"Speaking of which, did you see that one zombie chick? She closely resembled Ms. Price."

"After dealing with her in English last year, I took pleasure in exacting revenge, I assure you," I replied. "So what do you want to play next?"

"How about some Tekken?" I motioned toward where the machine was. I knew the location of everything in the arcade, top to bottom.

"Aw, man. You always win at Tekken."

"I always win at everything," I laughed. "But at least you won't lose that badly. If we were playing Street Fighter you wouldn't even stand a chance."

"Okay, hot stuff," he said sarcastically. "After this we play air hockey."

"Oh, you want to play non-arcade games again, huh?"

"Don't be a sore loser, lil' buddy," he patted me on the back as we weaved through the arcade.

In just under an hour he lost six times in a row at Tekken. I had recovered long strips of tickets from the machine after the massive victory.

"We should try again, I'll kick your ass this time," he said casually.

"Damn, man. I think you're just not cut out for this game," I replied.

"Okay, so I suck at arcade games. Rub it in a little more, why don't you?"

"You just lost six times. I don't think anything more needs to be said to make fun of you and how abysmally terrible you are," I teased.

"Alright, it's time for me to give you a taste of your own medicine," he said, heading toward the air hockey tables.

"Poor sport," I muttered, traipsing after him.

Some kids were just finishing their game at one of the air hockey tables and we waited for a few minutes as they finished up and left.

"I'm gonna destroy you, like last time!" Ethan said, bending down to feed some coins into the table.

"Hah, maybe when hell freezes over," I snorted.

We grabbed our respective paddles and the obnoxious hockey tune started up from the bowels of the machine. I went first, pausing for a moment to strategically create a course for the puck. As I tapped it with the paddle, it whizzed expertly toward the edge, bouncing at a sharp angle and sliding into the goal just to the right of Ethan's hands. The machine went hysterical as lights flashed and the music flared up.

"That was a fluke," Ethan said determinedly. He pulled the puck out from below and placed it carefully onto the table. It hovered for a moment as the machine pumped air beneath it. He swung with a good deal of force, but I managed to stand my ground and block it with the paddle, deflecting it back at him in a slow sweeping motion.

He drew his arm back, slamming it forward. The puck veered crazily across the table and flew into my end, flipping into the air and rolling onto the floor.

"Damn, Eth!" I whistled. "Need some anger management today?" I asked, my eyes resting where the puck had flown to. I returned my gaze to Ethan and quirked a brow.

"Yeah," he said, giving an almost embarrassed looking smile. "I didn't mean to hit it that hard."

"It's cool, man," I replied, turning around to go get the puck.

I placed the puck on the table, and narrowed my eyes. Ethan's arms were big and muscular, and he took up a lot of the table's surface in blocking shots. It required real strategy to knock the puck around him and into the goal slot. I had played enough Pong, Breakout, and even mini-golf to understand the principles of physics that were applicable: velocity, acceleration, and deflection.

The game was three-dimensional, existing in physical time and space, which was more of Ethan's territory; however, the miniature, hand-based element of it gave me a clear upper hand. The similarity of air hockey to many arcade games was striking and I had begun to get a glimmer of it the day before.

As the puck flew back and forth between us, he kept nailing shots into my goal with an incredible power and speed. There was simply no way I could keep up, despite the fact that they were direct shots. I couldn't move fast enough and lacked the arm length to move from one end of the goal to the other.

At one point I did manage to mimic his strategy and bang the puck into an unguarded corner, but he was quick to reach out and merely swipe with his paddle, flinging it back at me. We had a stalemate, knocking the orange disc back and forth.

For a moment, I tried to pretend that I was playing Pong. If my opponent kept knocking hard and fast balls in a diagonal line, I merely needed to hit it at the correct angle with the paddle to deflect it out of arm's reach. It was easier said than done to keep up with the forceful blasts of the puck that grew stronger and stronger.

I was lucky enough to catch one of his slower returns and managed to send it bouncing off the edge and slipped just past his reach, leaving him cross-eyed. His face went a little red as he pulled the puck out from under the table, and I could see his muscles bulging beneath his polo. He reached forward, serving a red hot shot; the puck looked like it left a blazing trail behind it. I braved a return, and tried to slow it down by letting it rebound off my motionless paddle. He looked frustrated that it hadn't gone in.

As the puck eased itself toward him, he drew back, his whole body melting into the arcade. Suddenly, he was on the puck like a ferocious wild cat, his paddle blasting forward in one deadly strike. I stared, unable to move as the puck slashed through the air like a blade, sloping upward as it hit the place just above my knuckles. The disc bounced off the table, landing on the floor a little distance away.

"Ow, shit!" I winced in pain as I dropped the paddle. I retracted my arm and cradled my bruised fingers with my other hand. Two of my fingers that had been hit directly were going red and throbbing in pain.

"Fuck! Ty!" Ethan shouted, dropping his paddle and running around the table, the game completely forgotten.

I looked helplessly at my fingers as I tried not to visibly display the pain I felt.

"Ty, are you okay? Fuck! Fuck! I'm really sorry, dude" he said, sounding frantic and worried at the same time.

"Y—yeah," I managed to get out, biting the inside of my mouth to keep from screaming.

"Shit, dude. We should get you some ice or cold water. Are you going to be okay?" he asked, putting a comforting arm around my shoulders.

"I… I'll be okay," I said between breaths, looking up at him. He looked totally crushed, I couldn't really bear to tell him I was in searing pain still.

"Ty," my friend said, his voice sounding particularly vulnerable, "Shit, I'm so sorry, man. I didn't mean to hurt you—I just got caught up in the game, and then I was getting frustrated 'cause I really wanted to win—and I didn't think…" he babbled incoherently.

"Didn't think what? That I'm frail and weak?" I asked without inflection.

"Dude, I didn't mean it like that," he said, his green eyes sending me a particularly pleading look.

"I'm fine, man," I lied. "It just caught me off-guard." I wasn't sure whether I was lying to seem tougher or to stop him from looking so upset.

"Are you sure?" He still looked worried.

"Dude. I'm fine. Look, I'll go to the bathroom and run my hand under cold water," I tried to appease him, hoping to slink off where I could get through the pain.

"I'll come with you," he said firmly, clutching onto my elbow and beginning to move with me toward the bathroom before I could object.

We managed to get through crowds of kids and teens. Ethan was relentless in pushing past people, the look on his face was unreadable, but I thought I saw a mix of concern and fear there.

When we finally got to the bathroom he hastily turned on the cold water, his fingers fumbling with the knob. I put my hands under and the stinging sensation started to fade away. I had hoped during the dash to the bathroom he hadn't noticed how much pain I was really in.

"Ty," he asked softly after a minute or two, "You feeling any better?" He was leaning against the black tiled wall and looking in my direction.

"I'm fine," I said. My hand was starting to feel a bit better. The cold water had a soothing effect.

"I'm really sorry Ty."

"You've said that like fifty times now. It's cool, man," I said firmly.

"Are you sure? It hit you hard and your hand still looks bright red," he said, concern continuing to seep into his voice.

"Dude. I'm fine, really. It was just air hockey. I'm not a little kid."

"Look," he said, putting a hand on my back. "I just got out of control. You know I wouldn't ever hurt you." I could feel his strong fingers pressed against the fabric of my shirt; it was comforting.

"Don't worry about it. I'm sure you're just used to channeling your anger through football and stuff, and you didn't really have outlet lately."

"Yeah, maybe that's it," he said vacantly, still eyeing me with concern.

I took my hand out of the cold water. A slight stinging sensation began to return to my fingers, but it was much weaker than before, and there was almost no pain.

"Are we going to go finish?" I asked.

"Are you kidding me?" he laughed. "There's no way I'm letting you play anything right now."

"What? Why not?" I groaned.

"Your fingers still look red and swollen. You're just going to make it worse." He traced his fingers along the back of my shirt and I relaxed a little.

"Fine then, what're we going to do now?"

"You should go home and rest up for tonight, tiger," he patted me on the back lightly and then guided me with his strong arm toward the bathroom door.

"For the party?" I asked, letting him lead me through the arcade.

"Yeah, it's going to be pretty wild."

"When're we going to meet?"

"How about after dinner," he said it more as a suggestion than a question. "My parents are going to one of their friend's tonight so we'd have the house to ourselves." We reached the arcade entrance. His parents were out, and I knew exactly what that meant.

"Sure. I'll see you later then," I said, turning to walk home.

"No, let me walk you back." He followed after me.

"The puck hit my hand, it didn't break my kneecaps. I think I can walk back just fine." I didn't enjoy being treated like I was a five year-old.

"It's fine, I could use the exercise," he said, patting his stomach, "I'm getting a little tubby."

"Give me a break. You probably work out more than any other guy in our grade," I snorted.

"I hardly ever work out."

"Do you remember last year, when you made me sit there and spot you while you did two-hundred push-ups in a row?"

"Yeah, so?"

"You're such a little show off," I replied, turning to walk off again.

"C'mon," he said, gripping my arm with his hand. "Don't make me feel worse than I already do," he said in a soothing tone. Ethan could be surprisingly gentle, but he rarely let it show.

"Okay," I muttered, knowing I'd already lost. "If it'll keep you from calling my cell phone the whole way back, asking me how I'm doing."

"Oh, as if. I'm not that bad!" Ethan huffed, looking a bit embarrassed.

"I never heard someone say they were sorry more times in their life," I badgered him.

"Ty, you're my best bud. Excuse me if I got a little concerned."

"Just 'cause I don't play football or work out every day it doesn't mean I need a babysitter."

"I'm not babysitting. I'm hanging out with you."

"And making sure I'm okay," I added.

"Alright, maybe a bit," he admitted begrudgingly. "You know I always got your back, man. I can go if you really want." His tone sounded a bit hurt.

"No… whatever, it's cool," I said, motioning for him to keep going, it was hard to dismiss him when he sounded so pathetic. He started walking next to me.

"Sweet. So what's on the list for tomorrow?"

Ethan had dropped me off at home and I spent the afternoon resting up while reading. My hand didn't hurt anymore, but the swelling hadn't completely gone down. After dinner I gave him a call.

"Hey lil' buddy. You finished eating?" He sounded cheerful.

"Yeah, all done. Your parents gone out yet?" I asked.

"They left, like, an hour ago."

"Okay, cool," I replied. "I'm going to get ready then."

"How's your hand?"

"It's fine," I replied.

"I wouldn't want to have ruined your Tyler Time," he laughed.

"Dude! Get your mind out of the gutter."

"We're teenagers. Our minds are meant to be permanently swimming around in a giant pool of filth," he retorted. "Anyway, what more important use of your hand is there?"

"I'm not even having this conversation, perv." I shook my head slightly. "I'll be there in thirty."

"You know, masturbation is a perfectly healthy and normal-" I snapped my phone shut and started changing.

About twenty-five minutes later I was knocking on his front door.

"Hey Ty," the jock welcomed me in with our personal handshake that was a mix between a fist-bump and a high-five which ended in a sort of shoulder-hug. He was still wearing the green polo from earlier in the day.

"Hey. So what's the plan?" I asked, watching him saunter toward his bedroom. The taut muscles in his back stretched visibly as he moved.

"Same old, same old. I figured we could pregame a bit," he said casually over his shoulder as he opened the bottom drawer of his dresser and rummaged around before pulling out a bottle of vodka. He turned to me and flashed me a smirk.

"Cool," I replied. I was actually happy for a few reasons. First, pre-drinking meant I wouldn't have to undergo as many awkward conversations with whoever was pouring liquor at the party. Second, I wouldn't have to wait in a lineup, if there happened to be one. Third, the possibility of something weird, like someone else's drugs, getting into my system was removed. Fourth, I wouldn't have to go to the party sober and pretend to care about the people there. Fifth, I got to spend more one-on-one time with Ethan.

"Want to play a drinking game, then?" he asked, sitting down on the edge of his bed and motioning for me to sit down next to him.

"Not flip-cup again," I groaned. "It's not that fun with only two people."

"How about 'Never have I ever'?"

"Uh, sure," I said.

"Alright. I'll begin. Never have I ever won six games of Tekken in a row," he said smugly.

"Dammit. I knew that the first chance you got you'd throw that back in my face," I muttered, "You're such a jerk. You're just targeting me."

"Rules are rules, tiger. Drink up." He handed me the bottle. I unscrewed the lid and took a swig of the vodka, making a sour face as I felt it burn a hot trail down my throat.

"Fine. Never have I ever lost six games of Tekken in a row," I replied, smugly adding extra emphasis to the word 'lost'.

"Asshole," he said, not sounding all that displeased as he put the bottle to his lips, taking a gulp of the colourless fluid. I saw the side of his face, the remnants of the sunset highlighting the edge of his nose. The upside down bottle glowed golden and peach as the light caught it. "Never have I ever glued my hand to a table."

"That was an accident!" I pointed out.

"You still have to drink." The brunet handed me the bottle. I sighed and drank a bit more.

"Let's see… never have I ever played on a football team." He reached over and took the vodka off me, his arm brushing against mine in the process.

"Never have I ever read the Complete Sherlock Holmes," Ethan cast me a sideways grin, handing me the bottle back. I could feel my face and chest beginning to warm up from the liquor.

"Damnit," I muttered. "This is unfair, you know too much about me," I said sourly.

"Okay," he said, elbowing me lightly in the side. "Let's say stuff we don't know if the other person did then."

"Uh, like what?"

"I don't know. Isn't there anything you always wanted to ask, but never did?"

"Not really. If I wanted to know that badly I'd have asked," I pointed out.

"Man, don't be such a buzz-kill. It's your turn."

"Um… never have I ever gotten a grade lower than a C plus" I said.

"Dude," he laughed, "that was weak." He grabbed the bottle from me and downed some more of it.

"Well, since you're so good at this game, why don't you do a better one?" I replied.

"Okay," he lowered the bottle to his lap, "Never have I ever snowballed."

"Snowballed?" I raised an eyebrow, "What the hell is that?"

"It's, like, when someone blowing you spits it back in your mouth after," he said, his voice brimming with a twisted glee.

"Dude! That sounds nasty. I didn't even know what it meant. Of course I never did anything like that."

"Hah. Okay, your turn, lil' buddy. It better be a good one."

"Good for you just means dirty," I snorted.

"Okay, so ask something dirty then," he jabbed me in the ribs.

"Ugh. Okay, never have I ever blown someone," I said. To my surprise, he lifted the bottle up to his lips and began to tip it back. I stared at him in silence for a second; I think my jaw dropped.

"Psyche!" he said, lowering the bottle and punching me in the arm.

"You're a fucking tard," I rolled my eyes. Maybe the alcohol was starting to get to me.

"You really believed me for a sec there, though," he laughed, his green eyes seeming to shine with the reflected light from the window.

"As if," I huffed.

"Okay. My turn–" he began as I interrupted him.

"This game sucks. I don't want to play anymore."

"Don't be a poor sport, just because you're gullible."

"I'm not," I replied, defensively. "Anyway, isn't it about time we got going?"

"Have another drink first," he said, putting the lid on the bottle and passing me the vodka.

"What, why me? I'm more of a lightweight than you are," I pointed out during a moment of clarity. Due to his sheer size, it took Ethan a lot longer to get drunk.

"Wrestle you to see who drinks first," he said, turning toward me.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me, Eth. You'll pulverize m—" I was cut off as he pinned me to the bed, the bottle falling next to me, on top of the comforter.

"I win," he said looking down and smirking arrogantly.

"That wasn't fair," I protested, the room spinning a little from being knocked back and the alcohol taking effect.

"You mean like the way you that your beating me senseless in Tekken six times in a row was so fair?"

"That's different!" I squirmed a little, but he held me down.

"Really? You took advantage of your strength. What's the difference?"

"At least you had fair warning and went into the game knowing full well!"

"Okay, so I'm sneaky. That's just an added bonus."

"Let me up, already."

"Not unless you agree to have a drink."

"Whatever, I'll have a drink, just let go," I grunted. He released my arms and pulled himself back slowly, waiting for me to take another drink of the vodka.

"Good boy," he patronized me, I could see he was getting a little tipsy. "Wrestle to see who drinks—"

"Don't. Even. Think about it."

"You're such a killjoy, Ty."

"A killjoy that would prefer not to have alcohol poisoning by the end of the night, or a broken leg from wrestling with someone twice his muscle mass."

"I haven't a clue what you're talking about."

The bottle was nearly empty by the time we decided to head to the party. Luckily for my liver's sake, Ethan had drunk a good deal more of it, but I was pretty sure he was still more sober than I. We had spent a good hour or two at his place; I lost track at some point when the vodka became involved.

"Hey, I gotta change before we go," my friend said, walking toward his closet.

"Okay," I replied, a little dazed from the vodka.

Ethan opened the closet and pulled out a different shirt. From behind, I could see as he tugged at his collar with his hands, drawing the green polo up and over his head, revealing inch after inch of his smooth, toned back. He was wearing his shorts a little too low and the waistband of his underwear was visible. Just above that, I could see the curve of his ass and how it tapered into his waist. As he slipped the sleeves off his arms, his biceps flexed and it became even more apparent how broad his shoulders were.

He reached down to his waist and I heard a distinct metal sound as he undid his belt and shorts. He lowered his hands and quickly tugged them off in a smooth movement. His boxers clung to his round cheeks, appearing skin tight.

"You think it'll be too cold for shorts tonight?" he asked, turning his head over his shoulder nonchalantly. He didn't seem at all concerned that I'd been watching him change.

"Uh, yeah... probably." I said, still zoned out. I quickly moved my gaze up his body to return his glance.

"Cool. I'll put some pants on then." He grabbed a pair from his closet. I watched, in a trance as he lifted and bent his legs at the knee to put them through the pants. He pulled them up at the waist and was fumbling with something for a few moments.

"Fuck," he muttered.

"Huh?" I don't think I intended to say anything, but the utterance came out of my mouth anyway.

"Zipper's stuck half-way." he explained, turning around slowly to show me. He was pointing at the zipper, which, sure enough, was stuck. He was still shirtless, and the muscles in his arms and chest seemed to become even more visible as he pointed down. My eyes followed his massive, smooth chest, down his clearly defined abs, to where his pants lingered around his waist.

"Take them off and try to fix it?" I suggested, the liquor still making me a bit dizzy.

"I don't want to risk breaking it. I just got these pants."

"Shit, dude. You could try to force it up."

"You know me. I'm liable to break it."

"So, what are you going to do about it?"

"Uh, I was wondering…" he began, his face was going quite red. I'm not sure whether it was the result of drinking over half a bottle of vodka, or because he was embarrassed. "Could you, y'know… give me a hand?" His self-conscious smile betrayed him; I could tell he was anxious about asking. It might've been the drink coursing through my system, or simply the vulnerability I saw in him, but suddenly I grew confident.

I guess it would be embarrassing and uncomfortable if my zipper was stuck, but in my current position it wasn't a big deal. We were best friends; we shared food, drinks, and sometimes even clothes. Ethan often felt like the brother I never had. Strangely, I never felt jealous of his physique or his popularity. I never wanted to be him or be like him. I just enjoyed spending time with him.

"Yeah, sure, man. Come here." I waved him over, sitting up a little more. He staggered toward me, having trouble walking due to the jeans. When he stopped, his navel was just about level with my face. I spread my legs and pulled him a little closer, focusing on the zipper.

Carefully, I reached up and gave it a little tug. The zipper was definitely fixed in place.

"Fuck. I'm fucked, aren't I?" he whined. Ethan only got like this when he was tipsy.

"Chill out and stop moving. You're only making it more difficult," I replied, still trying to focus on the zipper.

"Ty, you're gonna have to cut me out of these pants or something," he moaned dramatically.

"I got it!" I exclaimed, having wiggled the zipper free from where it had been lodged on something—a piece of fabric or a loose thread. Having finally liberated it, I guided the zipper all the way up, as though to show off the fact that I had actually fixed it.

"Damn," he seemed surprised and clasped his big hands onto my shoulders. "You're a miracle worker, Ty. Seems you got some magic fingers, after all." He smiled broadly at me, looking relieved. I wiggled my fingers at him in response.

"What can I say? I'm a regular clothing Houdini."

Trying to do some damage control from any further drinking we were going to do that night, I suggested we grab something to eat. It was either that, or I was hungry. My memory on the exact details is kind of foggy. Arties' was our post-party cool off spot, so it was pretty clear we wouldn't be going there. Also, in the state Ethan was in, I couldn't conceive of how we would drive there.

That's how we ended up at Burger King. I don't know which one of us suggested it, since I was pretty smashed. Ethan, still less drunk than I, managed to lumber the whole way there with me hanging off of him. We were talking more nonsense than usual, and giggling at our own idiocy.

Apparently we weren't the only ones who had decided to go binge at Burger King late at night. A group of high school girls I didn't recognize were in one corner laughing and talking. I caught a couple of them sneaking looks at Ethan but ignored it.

My friend seemed oblivious as always. I could never figure out whether he was aware of the people who were checking him out and was so used to the attention that he consciously chose to ignore it, or whether he was completely unaware. I was so accustomed to the unwanted attention Ethan picked up that it no longer irked me. I knew he wouldn't reciprocate and that he was only interested in spending time with me when we hung out, which felt nice.

I redirected my vision from the school girls who were whispering something and tried to focus on the large back-lit signs. My vision seemed a bit of a haze and I had trouble honing in on the menus. Even when I did manage to lock my gaze upon the words, I couldn't quite read them.

"Hey, dude, what're you doing?" Ethan's voice called out from somewhere I couldn't locate. In a daze, I found myself staring blankly at the brunet who was already waiting in line.

"Uh, sorry," I muttered sheepishly, stumbling forward. My face felt hot. It appeared that I wasn't capable of walking in a straight line. I must also have overestimated the distance between us, because in a matter of moments I was knocking into my friend. Luckily he was big and still sober enough that the movement was absorbed into his body.

"So, what're you gonna get?" Ethan asks, snaking an arm around my shoulder. He would get more 'hands-on' than usual when he'd had a few drinks. There hadn't been very much personal space between Ethan and I since the start of our friendship, but if he was tipsy he would take it to a whole other level.

"Uh…" I paused. "Sorry, what did you ask?" I thought that my words came out as a coherent question, but I must have slurred or done something funny because he chuckled. He tilted his head toward me, and I caught his green eyes giving me a sharp look that pierced through my dizziness.

"What're you getting?" he asked again, and this time I processed his question. "A Whopper, a Chicken Sandwich, or the Steakhouse Burger?"

"Woah. Dude. Hold on, they have steak at Burger King?" I felt myself laughing uncontrollably. "You gotta be shittin' me." I tried to continue looking back at him, but my body seemed unwilling. My eyes were focusing blearily on the menus again. This was playing out like a bad dream. I hadn't even noticed when the effects of the vodka had hit me so strongly.

"Alright, I'm going to get the Double Whopper. I'll just get you the regular," my friend replied, knowing me too well. Most of his body was muscle, but he was a big guy, and he often ate more. He had probably figured out by that point that I was too lost to order properly. His arm around my shoulders kept me from wandering off. He was buzzed, but still coherent enough to take control of the situation.

"Hi, can I take your order?" the girl at the cash register asked. My friend ordered, but I was occupied at the moment, infatuated with a poster on the wall.

"Ty?" Ethan asked, shaking me suddenly.

"I'll take a Big Mac," I said, turning back toward the counter as though to order. The girl gave me a funny look, but at the time I couldn't understand why. I thought she was just being a bitch, and muttered something incoherent under my breath.

"Dude," Ethan said, turning to me, "I already ordered five minutes ago." He was definitely more coherent than I was.

Our food came and he wouldn't trust me with it. I can only guess that he footed the bill, as I don't remember paying.

"Duuude. I can handle it. C'mon. Give me the tray," I pleaded.

"So you can drop it?" He shook his head as he walked away.

"Ugh. You suck," I replied.

"Go get us some ketchup and straws."

"Yes, master," I grumbled, walking toward the place where condiments were kept on the side. I grabbed some packets of ketchup and a fistful of straws, stumbling hazily in the direction I'd seen my friend go.

I found him after lurching around aimlessly for a few minutes. The restaurant opened up into a dining area that hadn't been visible from the entrance. A few more people were scattered about. Ethan was sitting in the middle of a row of booths. As I got closer, he dragged me into the booth next to him, yanking me in by the arm.

"Hey," he whispered, "Do you see that guy in the booth next to us?" He leaned in conspiratorially as he spoke. I looked hazily toward the guy. He had thick red-rimmed glasses and short brown hair and appeared to be bouncing in his seat. He looked like he was in his early twenties.

"Uh, yeah, man. What's with him?" I asked, snorting.

"Dude, that guy's Jonny. He's totally weird. He's practically lives in this place when he's not getting thrown out." Ethan slid my tray over to me and started unwrapping his burger.

"Did you get me mayo?" I asked.

"Yeah, Ty. You think I'd forget, tiger?" he said, motioning to the pack of mayonnaise on my tray. He put his straw into his drink and grabbed a hold of his burger in one hand, sidling closer and putting his other arm around me.

"Sweet!" I said, starting to dig into my food.

"Dude," he motioned to the straws I'd dumped onto the table. "You think you got enough?"

"Just doing my part to destroy the environment, one straw at a time," I quipped.

I can't recollect how far into our meal we were due to the vodka coursing through my body, but at some point the guy at the next booth over stood up and came toward us, muttering. Ethan's grip around me got a bit tighter, as though his arm was tensing up.

"I seen her! I seen her!" the man was saying as he staggered toward us, beginning to gesticulate wildly. He stopped at our table and turned abruptly in our direction. He had an obnoxiously loud red shirt with some kind of a yellow pattern on it, and the most bizarre necklace I'd ever seen.

"What?" I asked, sounding confused.

"I seen her!" he said, a little more audibly.

"Huh? Seen who?" Ethan replied, his voice stern. I looked toward him for a second and caught his eyes carefully scrutinizing the guy, who now had his palms face down on the edge of our table.

"I seen her," the man said, lowering his head like a zoo animal sinking into the mud. He gave a suspicious glance back and forth before speaking again. "I seen Beyoncé."

"Beyoncé?" I said incredulously. "Was Jay-Z with her?"

"No!" the guy said, "I seen her. I seen Beyoncé, she was here!" he exclaimed in a grating, nasally voice.

"Wait," I turned to Ethan and took a moment to let the room stop spinning, "Where are we again?"

"Burger King," he replied calmly.

"Oh. Right," I said, turning back to the guy, "So what was your point again?"

"I seen Beyoncé!" the guy said, even more frantically than before, "She was eatin'!"

"She was what?" I tilted my head, as if to get a better look at the guy.

"She was eatin'!" Jonny repeated, peering at us from behind his glasses.

"Oh," I muttered, unable to really think of a response.

"I seen her here! I seen her at Burger King!" he insisted, as though we still didn't believe him. He reached out to grab at my arm, as though to shake me demandingly. The next thing I knew Ethan had somehow ejected both of us from the booth and was standing between me and the now hysterically screaming man. The whole scene was surreal as hell.

"Stay the fuck back," I heard Ethan growl.

"I seen her! I seen her!" the man's voice rung out through the restaurant, attracting attention from the other customers who had been disturbed from their meals. Jonny continued to wave his hands around like a madman, refusing to back off. He probably wasn't even coherent enough to understand Ethan's command.

"I said… stay away from him, or I'll beat the shit—" my friend snarled as two employees came up from behind the man and one grabbed him by the shoulder.

"Sir, you need to leave," the worker said to the disgruntled man.

"But I seen her! I seen her here!" he continued to insist.

"Sir, we're going to call the cops unless you vacate the premises," the other employee said calmly. I think she was a manager.

"I seen her! I seen her!" the man cried out as the employees began dragging the man away, presumably throwing him out of the restaurant.

"Eth?" I peered over his shoulder.

"Are you okay?" his tone softened as he turned around and inspected me.

"I'm fine," I tried to stop his worrying. "He didn't do anything to me."

"Well you never know. He could've had a knife or something." There was an awkward pause. I broke the silence a moment later.

"Dude, that was unreal," I laughed nervously.

"Yeah, it was seriously nuts," the brunet admitted as we sat back down. He seemed to collect himself for a moment before patting me on the shoulder. "You sure you're okay, lil' buddy?"

"I said I'm fine, dude. Chill."

We went back to eating. Ethan was a quick eater and finished well before me, polishing his food off in record time. It took me a little longer to finish, partially because I was having difficulty controlling my fingers. After a few drinks, I usually couldn't even walk in a straight line.

"Alright. Let's hit up this party," Ethan remarked as I ate the last of my fries.

"Uh, whose party is it, anyway?" I asked.

"It's at Kelly's place."

"Kelly?" I asked, squinting at Ethan. "Who's that?"

"You know. Kelly… shit, I forgot her last name. She's the one that dated Aaron last year?"

"Oh. You mean that really stupid chick?"

"She's not that stupid, dude," he said a bit defensively.

"If she's smart, then I'm super sexy." I laughed. Ethan gave me an unreadable look. I could only assume he didn't find my drunken attempt at a joke to be funny.

"Okay, so she's kinda dumb," the jock admitted, chuckling. "Just don't say that at the party."

"Hey, just because I'm hot and built like a Chippendales' dancer, it doesn't mean I'm stupid," I laughed.

"Totally! Drop dead sexy and intelligent, you've just got the whole package going," he played along.

"I'm just so pretty I can hardly stand it. They should build sculptures of me."

"They should sell drops of your sweat in online auctions for billions."

"They should give me a key to the city."

"And then hold a death metal tribute concert to you."

"In fact, I don't even know why you insist on going to this party; I'm going to be so much hotter than everyone else there. It will be a travesty, like venetian blind glasses."

"I'll be sure to take photos, mostly so I can do perverted things with them," Ethan snickered.

"You will not deface my sacred image!"

We got lost a few times on the way to the house. Though we were both still coherent, we were laughing at stupid, senseless jokes like a pair of hyenas. We rocked back and forth, moving together as a single unit, nearly careening into the occasional tree or lamppost.

We circled the block where Ethan swore the house was located and somehow on the second time around managed to find it. How we had missed it the first time was mysterious given the curb was littered with cars and the house itself blasting music at a decibel that would annoy most neighbours.

As we got closer I had enough clarity of mind to notice that the house was huge, and judging from what I could see through the windows, packed with people. Ethan nearly dragged me up the driveway and onto the doorstep. The moment we entered the house a guy I recognized from our school greeted us. I hadn't spoken much to him before.

Ethan must've had his hand raised when he opened the door, and was in the process of lowering it when the guy stepped forward and did something to our wrists. I incorrectly assumed it was wristbands for drinks, or some kind of a stamp like they give at events. Then I felt the cold metal touch my skin and looked down. It was a pair of handcuffs.

"What the—" I started, looking helplessly toward my friend, as though for guidance. My eyes must've been wide as saucers.

"I dunno, dude." He shrugged effortlessly in return. His green eyes gave me a sympathetic look, although he was now stuck in the same situation. We turned to the guy who had handcuffed us for some sort of explanation.

"It's called a Cops and Robbers party," the guy began. "Everyone who comes in gets handcuffed, and you have to drink six beers before you can remove them and choose someone else to be handcuffed to."

"Six beers?" I said, shocked.

"What's the matter, lil' buddy? You that eager to get rid of me?" Ethan shot me a fake hurt look.

"Excuse me for not wanting to look like a perp," I grumbled, motioning to the handcuffs with my free hand.

"So, uh, is this an honours system kind of thing?" my friend asked the guy at the entrance, scratching his head.

"It's an open bar—there's a girl there who will write your name down and keep tabs on how much beer you grab. Some people get so drunk they can't remember."

A group of people were opening the door and entering behind us. I guessed from their laughter and loud voices that they'd already had plenty to drink before arriving. We were ushered in and away from the doorway.

As we made our way into the foyer it became evident how packed the place was. There were teenagers hanging off various chairs and leather couches. All of them were cuffed in pairs. One guy was doing some very close talking with a girl who was leaning against the mantelpiece of a rather ornate fireplace; his hand pressed hers against the wall, the chain of their handcuffs hung between their arms. I didn't think they'd be interested in switching partners any time soon from the look of it.

I saw plenty of familiar faces, though many I'd seen in school but never spoken to. Ethan attracted many looks and, as always, failed to notice any of them. A few people greeted us, but were either busy in their own conversations, on their way to another room, or assumed we were already occupied.

"At least I won't lose track of you," Ethan remarked as we pushed past a crowded hallway and into an oversized living room.

"Have you considered how we're going to go to the bathroom?" I asked. It seemed like a legitimate question.

"Oh, Ty. You're such a wimp sometimes. It's a party, it's supposed to be wild and crazy."

"Why do I feel another speech about grabbing life by the balls coming on?"

"Look, sometimes it's life you have to grab, other times it's your best friend when they have to use the bathroom at a crazy party involving handcuffs. So, I'll have to give you a hand," he teased, wiggling fingers from his free hand in my direction. "Unless you manage to down six beers before you need to use the bathroom, in which case maybe someone else will be kind enough to assist you. Besides, after the first five you'll want someone to cosy up to—if you can still walk," the jock smirked.

"I think I'd rather let my bladder explode," I said calmly.

"Great pick-up line. Maybe you should try it tonight. It could work wonders. Anyway, I doubt you could make it to six, not only do you have a tiny bladder, but you're a complete lightweight."

"Oh, poor Eth," I crooned sarcastically, "He'll never get rid of that mangy friend he's cuffed to. All his adoring freshman fans will have to sit on the sidelines and wait till the next football game."

"You mean to check out my chiselled pecs and sexy rock hard muscles?"

"You know, usually sarcasm has an element of irony in it, which means that the statement you're making should be false. It sort of defeats the purpose when you're just gloating."

"Slow down there, tiger. It was a jest."

"I'm getting a beer. Where's the bar?" I asked, looking around but not being able to see beyond the sea of people's heads.

"Not sure," my friend replied. He was also straining to look around.

"I think it's over there," I said, motioning toward the direction I thought led to the kitchen. In doing so, I had forgotten that our hands were connected, and accidentally whipped Ethan's hand into the air along with my own, causing his elbow to almost bash into a girl's head.

"Want to be a little more careful there, Ty?" he asked, leaning toward me with a grin on his face.

"If a big oaf wasn't attached to my arm, it wouldn't have happened," I huffed.

"To the bar?" he asked.

"Lead on." I sighed, following him slowly as we tried to become accustomed to having our wrists cuffed together.

His sheer size combined with sports and working out made Ethan pretty good at simply barrelling past people, however, it was sometimes at the cost of public safety. Even in their various states of inebriation, people seemed to melt to the sides as Ethan moved through the crowd, and I quietly slunk into the empty trail he left behind.

The brunet casually swung me around to his side when we reached the roped off island in the kitchen that was serving as a bar. A pretty platinum blonde in a halter top greeted us. She was the first person since the guy at the door who wasn't physically attached to someone.

"Hi boys," she said as she finished handing another party-goer a beer."

"Hey," Ethan replied.

"Well, if it isn't Ethan and Tyler," she said, looking us over.

"You know my name?" I sounded surprised.

"We had English together last year," she said, "I sat near the front and had brown hair back then?"

"Uh..." I trailed off.

"I'm Emily," she provided.

"Nice to meet you... again," I said weakly.

"It's no surprise seeing you two here together," she said nonchalantly.

"How do you mean?" I asked.

"At school you're practically joined at the hip. The only times I ever saw you apart were when you didn't have class together or at games."

"He was in the bleachers." Ethan said smugly, prodding me with a finger from his free hand.

"Of course, otherwise you'd never stop harassing me afterward," I said, trying to fold my arms but failing to do so since our wrists were still locked closely together.

"Case in point, you're very observant," Ethan said, leaning onto the bar with his free arm. He was giving her an intense look. I wasn't sure whether it was just my tipsiness from before, or if there was something going on I'd not yet caught onto.

"Hmm... You could say that," she said, giving him an equally intense look in return. It was a bit like watching two mountain lions go at it. I couldn't figure out if they were flirting or trying to kill each other.

"I did say that, just now," he replied.

"So you did. Just exactly what are you accusing me of? Is being observant a crime?" she asked, her voice almost coy. I couldn't tell whether or not she was sober.

"What are you then, some kind of a stalker?" he said in a way that was difficult to tell whether he was being sarcastic or deadly serious.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe you should get over yourself," she laughed, waving a hand. Her laugh was quite musical and soft. "Just because the rest of the school hails you as the new Jesus, it doesn't mean I'm interested. I'm not into big jocks. Sorry to disappoint," she replied. Ethan didn't even look hurt. He didn't care if people liked him, except those he was close to.

"I get it, I'm not your type," he said in a surprisingly amiable tone. "So then, what is?" I figured he was getting at something, but I felt out of the loop.

"That's not really your business, now is it?" she said, flickering a glance toward me for a moment. Something about what she'd said must have really ticked him off, because his face started to go a little red at that point.

"Come on, Ty. There's probably another bar. Let's go," he said, turning around and yanking me with him.

"I promise you, there isn't," she called out after us, but Ethan was in no mood to stop. "I'm also the only one with the keys to the handcuffs," she said, dangling a silver key on a metal ring as we turned back around.

"Give me the keys then," he said tersely.

"You have to drink six beers before you get the keys."

"Then get me a beer," Ethan scowled at her.

"What kind?" she asked sweetly, knowing she'd won whatever strange contest they'd been having.

"I don't care," he grumbled sourly. It was odd to see him in such a strange mood.

"Eth, chill out. The girl is giving us free beer and working while everyone else is partying. You could at least show some respect," I interjected.

"You should listen to your friend," Emily agreed slyly, "Besides, girls prefer a gentleman over a troll." Ethan grumbled at the insult, but said nothing.

"Alright, what do you have?" I asked.

"Bud, Blue, Miller, Heineken, Guinness, and Sleemans," she recited.

"A Blue and a Heineken, please," I replied.

"Just a second," she said, scribbling our names down on a piece of paper and marking off that we'd each gotten one beer. "Here you are," she added, a moment later as she handed over two cans. I passed the Heineken to Ethan who had fallen silent for once, before opening my can.

"Thanks a ton Emily." I said, smiling. She gave me a warm grin back as we walked away.

"I don't know how you can drink that shit," Ethan shook his head as he watched me take a swig of the Labatt's.

"It's just beer," I shook my head. "I'm sorry that I don't share your enthusiasm for some snobby German lager."

"It's fine. You've obviously not yet acquired the fine tastes of a liquor connoisseur. One day, when you are an adult, you will understand what I have mastered in such a short time," and with that, he took a pompous little sip from his can.

"That's fine," I commented, "Until then there's plenty of years of college—where everyone will be drinking shitty, cheap booze from giant kegs. Believe me, in college your teammates will be aghast when they learn that their star quarterback drinks sissy foreigner beer at parties."

"It doesn't matter what I drink so long as the team keeps scoring touchdowns and winning games," he pointed out.

"You know, sometimes you shouldn't be such a douche to people."

"Are you talking about that chick back at the bar?" he asked.

"Yeah. You know, you two were practically locking lips one second, and then about to rip each other's intestinal tracts out the next. What the hell was that about?" I asked.

"Nothing, dude. She was just being a bitch."

"Yeah well, she seemed pretty interested in you, until you started trash-talking her."

"You don't know what you're saying," he replied icily, taking a sip of his beer.

"What the hell do you mean?" I felt irritated at being left-out of whatever had happened.

"Dude," he said, pausing emphatically. "She was hitting on you. Not me."

"Huh? What're you talking about?"

"When I asked her who she liked... she looked over at you. She was flirting with you the whole time, idiot." His words hit me like a stomach ache caused by cafeteria meatloaf.

"Really?" I asked, surprised and somewhat disbelieving.

"If it wasn't plainly obvious enough, yes," he said, letting the words sunk in. There was a bit of a pause.

"Hey, wait a minute. So when you figured out she was interested in me, you got mad. Does that mean you were... jealous?" I teased.

"No way," he said, his face starting to flush red as the colour crept along his cheeks.

"Then why are you turning so red?" I said, knowing I had caught him.

"Must be the heat from all the crowds of people in here," he said innocently.

"Eth, you know, you get hit on a lot. Do you really need to be jealous of the one time it happens to me?" I asked. He didn't reply. He just took another sip of his beer. "I mean, isn't that kind of selfish? Like, the attention has to all be on you, all the time?"

"It's not like that, Ty." He said, starting to walk away, although it didn't work very well as we were still attached. Instead, he ended up dragging me along behind him.

"Then how's it like?" I asked.

He tugged me suddenly, and we went veering off into a room I hadn't even seen. A little bit of light from the hallway crept into the room and he managed to flick a switch on. It was a small laundry room, judging from the washer and dryer housed against the wall.

He slumped against one of the white walls, and I turned inward to face him. Due to the handcuffs we would have been uncomfortably close; however, we were so accustomed to being near each other that it didn't bother me. He placed his can of beer onto the washing machine, and in that moment, the most popular and highly desired jock in our school looked pathetic, like a lost child.

"Did you ever think about the fact that you're my best friend, and maybe if you started dating you wouldn't hang out with me anymore? Did you ever think that I always put our friendship above everything and anyone else—including romance, school, or even sports? Do you remember last year when you got sick during History and I took you to the nurses' office, and then carried you home—"

"Even though you had football tryouts." I finished for him, "And you were damn lucky that your coach agreed to let you reschedule because you were taking care of me. You could've just had my parents pick me up, you know."

"No," he said firmly, leaning in, so close our faces were only a few inches apart. He put his free hand on my arm, just below my shoulder. "I wanted to make sure you were okay."

"I would've been fine," I muttered, looking away. It felt like I was telling a lie. The look in his eyes was too fierce for me to face. "It was just food poisoning."

"It doesn't matter. I'm always here for you, Ty," he said, squeezing my upper arm. "No matter what you do or who you are. I've got your back."

Ethan's fingers lifted through the air and caught my chin, angling my face back toward him. His expression was relentless and powerful, filled with some kind of intense emotion.

He broke our gaze first, turning his head when a bunch of rowdy guys burst into the little room. There were four of them, cuffed in two pairs.

"Hurry the fuck up, dude. I can't wait to get these cuffs off so I can go bang that Tracey chick," one of them was saying to the guy he was attached to.

"Tracey? I heard she slept with a bunch of freshmen last year," the other guy replied.

"No way, dude. That was just a bunch of rumours. She's one hot dark haired lay."

The two guys in front recognized Ethan and stopped in their tracks.

"Ethan! Dude, what've you been doing all summer, man?" a guy in an open dress shirt with a t-shirt beneath it reached out to give my friend a high-five. Ethan returned it.

"You guys having a laundry room party without us?" the guy cuffed to him asked, waving his Budweiser accusingly in our direction.

"Yeah, totally," my friend replied in a non-committal tone.

"Bro," one of the guys in the back chimed in, "we should totally throw all the soap in the washer and have a mad bubble party!" The other guys seemed to like this idea because they started laughing and joking about it. They got so caught up in whatever they were up to that they didn't seem to notice when Ethan and I grabbed our beers and took off.

"I think I need another drink," I muttered.

"That eager to get rid of me?" Ethan replied.

"I didn't mean it like that. I just—nevermind."

"Want to see your sexy barmaid mama again?" he nudged me.

"No. I just need another drink after having to listen to those retards. I think I lost a few hundred brain cells being in the same vicinity as them."

"Try being on the football team," he said. "Sometimes the stereotypes are true."

"That sounds like a bit of a generalization."

"I only said sometimes, not all the time. I mean, look at me."

"Yeah, you're a regular Nikola Tesla," I snorted.


"He was a famous inventor. Remember, he was a character in The Prestige?"

"Dude, that was a real guy?" he said, sounding surprised. I shook my head and started attempting to drag him toward the bar. Of course, it was only an attempt, as he could easily overpower me if he really wanted to. "Okay, okay. Another drink it is, lil' buddy," he laughed, close at my heels.

Despite the crowd, I was still able to walk straight without falling over other people. It was going to be a long night. I knew that the only way I could pretend to enjoy dealing with all of the people there would be if I got shit-faced, so that's what we did.

A/N: Deepest gratitude to my beta, theearthisdoomed, and my apologies for the length of time this chapter took to come out. I had some rather life-changing events to deal with.