Hey, ain't it good to know that you've got a friend? People can be so cold. They'll hurt you and desert you. Well they'll take your soul if you let them. Oh yeah, but don't you let them. - You've Got a Friend , James TaylorChapter Twelve: The Right TargetMonday mornings, in Sean's expert opinion, sucked. He was not someone who was eager to get to school and interact with his (he choked on the very thought of the word) ‘peers'. He didn't like people in general, and he especially didn't like peers.But still, as he clamored into Jack's van, he didn't feel… bad.He had on his new coat; Denise had made him get two. This one was for cold weather, like today, the end of February. But spring was coming up, so she'd gotten him a denim jacket, too. So he'd be prepared. She'd also wanted to get him new boots, but he hadn't wanted them; they'd haggled and settled on a new pair of sneakers. No holes, now.And Jack was being, well, not an asshole. Not really. It wasn't like they were talking about anything important, but Jack made it clear that he would just listen if Sean wanted him to. Not that he did—talking and listening and that kind of bullshit was for pussies, and Sean was not a pussy. But instead, they watched stupid TV together while Sean read and Jack did homework, and kind of joked around, and it wasn't bad.Not bad was the best Sean had had, well… ever.So he only growled a little bit when Blink called him Spot again when he got in Jack's van. "So boys," Blink said, clapping his hands together and looking even more flaming than usual. "It is high time we got me a boyfriend."Jack and Sean sent each other quick, dreading looks. Great. Blink was in one of those moods. Lately, 'one of those moods' were the only moods Blink was ever in."It's high time you were hate crimed," Sean replied."So I think we need to attend a party," Blink continued, as if Sean hadn't spoken."Any boy you try and get, I'll take," Sean said swiftly.Blink ignored him. "Jack, do you have any weird muscular bonehead friends like you, only gay?"Jack slowly turned and stared at Blink. "...No. And you know all my friends.""Go to the gym," Sean snapped. "That's where they are." Jack looked at Sean. "What, Jackass?""Nothing.""None of the guys at the gym like me..." Blink said."'Cause you're a fairy!" Jack sang."Can we pick up the other guys now?" Blink whined, slumping in his seat.Jack and Sean felt very proud of themselves; dampening Blink's spirits was oddly fun.They picked up Dutchy and Itey together, since Itey's dad had his car that day. Itey was holding a huge travel mug of coffee, and Dutchy reeked of pot. "Dude," Jack sighed. "When did you smoke?""Uh… woke up early, couldn't sleep… you know," Dutchy said, and giggled. "Can we stop at McDonalds or Dunkin or something? I need food.""No," Jack said."Awwww, c'mon, Jacky-Jacky-Jack-Jack-J—""Shut the hell up!" Sean snapped. "God, you're a moron, and you're worse when you're stoned."Dutchy looked momentarily upset, then started giggling again. "Man, I am soooooo high, I don't even care. Blink, you wanna smoke during lunch?”Blink looked conflicted, until Sean cleared his throat. "Yeah, Blink, look how cool it makes you.""What's your problem, anyway?" Blink asked. "You really don't ever… I mean, even Itey has once or twice.""It makes you act like a fucking idiot.""It's fun," Jack said."Yeah, you'd think so," Sean answered dismissively. Jack scowled and Sean smirked. It was good that their 'brotherhood' or whatever had progressed to the point where Sean didn't have to say aloud that Jack acted like an idiot anyway; Jack just assumed it was implied."You're no fun, Spotty-wotty," Dutchy finally said. "But you're hot. I'd do you. Again!""Shut the fuck up, Blondie.""I would.""Well, I wouldn't."Dutchy paused, then pouted. "You would so."Sean slowly turned and looked at Dutchy. "Normally, I'd throw you a little bone, and say 'why the fuck not? Let him hope.' Because, you see asshat, it's FUNNY to watch desperate fucks make an ass out of themselves. But I want you SO LITTLE, that I'm going to skip the fun part and just say it: Fuck. Off." Then Sean glanced at Blink. "Fuck HIM.."Dutchy snorted and burst out laughing while Blink made a face."No, thanks," Blink sneered. "I like my men to have, you know, an ass.""I like my men to have testicles.""FUCK YOU, DUTCHY."Sean turned in his seat and looked forward again, letting out an almost pleasant sigh. "Nice day."Jack smirked.--"Jack," Itey sighed, ten minutes later. "I'd appreciate it if, if you're gonna carpool us and get breakfast, be earlier?"Jack mumbled something through his Egg McMuffin."Because I really don't like being late, okay? I really don't.""Okay, David," Dutchy snickered, wolfing down his fries."Listen, I need my good grades, so--""Relax, we'll be fine," Jack said. "Look, even Spot is eating. This is a special occasion.""For what?" Itey asked, though he did give an interested look to Sean, who was munching slowly on a fry."I dunno," Jack shrugged. "Let's make one up.""Dutchy Shut Up Day," Sean supplied."Yeah, let's make it Dutchy Shut Up Day. Dutchy? Shut up.""Fuck you guys!""Can we PLEASE just get moving?"Jack didn't want to mention the obvious to Itey. It'd piss Sean off. But Jack happened to know that Steve was hunting for Sean's blood, and he wanted to avoid running into Steve at all costs. Like, hitting the parking lot at the last possible moment would give them a much better chance at avoiding a Steve encounter. Steve, for an asshole, didn't cut class TOO much. At least, Jack hoped he didn't."Do you think Jessica smokes up?" Dutchy asked."Dutchy Shut Up Day is set in motion...now," and Blink reached over and grabbed Dutchy's bag of McDonalds."You'll get fat, fairy.""Get a boyfriend, four-eyes.""Look who's talking!""Shut UP."Itey sighed, and quite childishly, slumped in his seat.They pulled into the parking lot halfway through first period, and had to wait for Dutchy to apply eyedrops. Blink and Sean made it into their class before it ended, and Steve glowered at them, but didn't say anything. The teacher just rolled his eyes. Jack had told Blink what was going on with Steve, and Blink grabbed Sean's arm and got him to wait while he apologized at length for being late, then was late to their next class and waited while the teacher wrote them a pass. But Steve wasn't waiting in the hall when they got out. Blink let out a breath. Keeping this up without Sean getting suspicious would be hard. They sauntered into their second class, which was thankfully Steve-free, and Blink put his head down as Sean began to write in a notebook. It was going to be a long day, if this kept up.They didn't have any more classes with Steve until the last period—gym. Blink dragged his feet as they walked to it. "Gym sucks. Let's skip."Sean glanced over at Blink, smirked a little. "And miss all that shirtless eyecandy? I thought you were horny.""Shut up, Spot.""Don't call me that, fairy.""Seaaaan," Blink whined. "I really don't want to go to gym. Let's just cut out and meet everyone else at home, okay?""Good, you take your fucking whining and go, then."Blink grumbled but didn't say anything. He trailed Sean into the locker room, late again, straggling in as the coach was finishing attendance."Getting some ass with your boyfriend before class?" Steve said, smirking."I'd rather get some ass with you," Sean answered. "What're you doing after class?""Kicking your ass," Steve hissed."You're awfully obsessed with my ass, for a straight guy," Sean said."Shut the fuck up!" Sean faux-sighed. "Well, fuck, Stevey, I just don't know which line to use first. You're cute when you're angry? Oooh, he's sassy? You pick.""Listen, faggot," Steve snarled, stepping forward and giving Sean's shoulder a hard shove. "If you keep pissing me off and getting in my way--""I guess I'll just get behind you then.""Shut the fuck up!"Steve pulled his arms back, and shoved Sean harder, pushing him into the lockers. Sean noticed Blink looking around the room for an ally; and of course, there was none. "Sean--" Blink started."I can fight my own battles, you fucking fairy," Sean said in a low voice. He realized what Blink had been doing all day and growled. "Back off.""But Denise--"Sean snarled, "Shut up!"Steve pushed Sean's shoulders harder into the lockers, and Sean felt a lock dig into his side. He couldn't fight back, could he? Well, he could, and he'd win, but...But the last thing he wanted was to get thrown in with another bunch of assholes, in some other city, all over again. At least here he managed to have somewhat of an appetite. And Blink could be a little more annoying than he actually was, he supposed.And Jack and Denise were bearable.And...And he didn't want to think about all this kind of sentimental shit, he really just wanted to punch Steve, hard, especially when Steve always left himself wide open, trying to show off. But he couldn't, his body wouldn't do it, and Sean didn't want to think for a second that his body wasn't doing something he wanted it to do."Hey, what the FUCK, Steve?"And Sean found himself mildly amused that Jack was glistening with sweat, bare-chested, as he pulled Steve away."Well, that's the gayest thing I've seen all day," Sean said, smirking."Get off me!" Steve yelled at Jack, pulling himself away from Jack and turning to shove him. Jack didn't shove back, but did clench a fist."Leave my brother alone!" Jack yelled back."Brother, yeah, right," Steve scoffed. "Neither one of you has a family. Your parents didn't want you, Kelly, everyone knows that." Sean snarled and started to lunge at Steve. No one talked about his dad at all, and he didn't want them to talk about Jack's, either. He didn't know what had happened to Jack before he was at Denise's, but figured it was no one's business. Especially not Steve's."Hey, hey!" Jack yelled again, grabbing Sean and holding him back. "Hey, some help over here?!"Just as Steve started for Sean, who Jack was still holding back, the gym coach moseyed over. "What's going on here? Kelly, I thought you said you wanted to lift weights?""I'm trying to stop a fist fight," Jack grunted. "You wanna help?"The coach looked at the three of them, then snapped, "Conlon, go lift weights with your brother this period. Olsen, give me five laps around the gym. You want to screw around, do it on your own time."Sean and Steve glared at each other, but Jack grabbed Sean's arm and dragged him along to the weight room. Steve began jogging lazily around the room."You don't know how to keep out of trouble, do you?" Jack muttered."Shut up," Sean muttered back. "I was taking care of it.""They'll take you away if you get in another fight.""What the hell was I supposed to do?" Sean demanded. "He started it.""You encouraged him. You always do that." Jack rolled his eyes."I'm not going to sit around like a pussy and just take the shit he throws at me, Jackass."Jack sighed, and shrugged. "Yeah, I wouldn't either.""Fucking right you wouldn't either."Jack kind of grinned then. "What, you saying you want to have something in common with me?"Sean didn't say anything. Just glared."Well, I didn't want you to get in another fight, win or not."Sean glanced around the room, made a face at the weights."I mean, I'm kind of getting used to you being around."Sean glanced at Jack for only two seconds, before saying, "I don't lift weights.""Yeah, we can skip."Which Sean thought was kind of cool, because he could tell Jack really got off on his weights and his ripped body. Probably because David thought it was hot or something."Sooo…" Jack said, after he had pulled on his shirt, as they wandered towards the van. They'd wait for everyone else to get out of class before taking off."So." Sean thrust his hands into his pocket. He didn't feel like talking."Everyone at school knows that I'm adopted," Jack offered. They leaned against the van and Sean lit up a cigarette. "Most of them don't care. It's not a big deal or anything. Except sometimes, Steve is such an asshole…""Yeah.""See, David would be proud of me. Because I didn't let you hit him there. Even though I wanted to.""David would go totally gay for that. Oh, wait. David's already totally gay." Sean exhaled a plume of smoke, and Jack scowled."Davey's not gay," Jack said automatically. "Anyway, I know you'll just say you didn't do it for me, but… you know, it was cool that you did that. Tried to get Steve for me, I mean."Sean smoked for a minute, then said, "Your dad's in jail?""Yeah," Jack said. The cold air whipped around them. "He was such a charming bastard. He'd beat the shit out of my mom and the next day he'd bring her flowers and candy and say he was sorry. He got promoted at work for fucking his boss, he'd come home and slap me around.""Yeah?""Yeah, but… there was never enough money, so he got into some stuff he shouldn't have.""Like beating up his kid?"Jack shrugged. "I don't know, he was my dad. It was awful, but I'd fall for it, too. He'd smack me around one night, the next day he'd get us tickets to go see a ball game together. He was bipolar or something.""What'd they catch him on?" Sean asked."Armed robbery. Mom divorced him as soon as he was sentenced. Started dating sleazes. Like my dad, but without the charm. Wanted to get married again as soon as she could… One of them said he didn't like me, she kicked me out.""Jesus, how old were you?""Ten." Jack zipped up his coat. It was getting cold. "My teachers figured out I wasn't going home, just staying on the playground all night after a few days. Turned in my mom. She got slapped with neglect charges, I got thrown into the system… Two years until Denise took me out of it.""Jesus," Sean said again."No one around here knows all that, though. Not much of it, anyway."Sean bit his lip. "I'm not telling you about my dad, Jack.""That's fine." Jack shrugged. "Point was, I don't like it when people talk about my dad, either. So… thanks."Sean shrugged. "Whatever," he said. But he looked at Jack, and kind of nodded.--"Jesus, Dutchy," Jack exhaled, and passed the joint over to Blink. "This is strong. Did you fuck your dealer?"Dutchy muttered something that sounded like, "I'm that desperate..."Blink glanced at Jack for a moment, before taking a small toke. "How's Sean?"Jack kind of grinned. "He's fine.""Yeah?""Yeah." Jack nodded, before taking the joint back from Blink and inhaling again. "Thanks for helping today. Steve didn't give you any trouble, did he?" Blink shook his head. "Good.""You were very shiny," Blink supplied. Then made a face and looked at the joint with an annoyed face, "Dutchy, this is strong.""Horny and high don't mix," Dutchy muttered sleepily, leaning against the wall. The three of them had met outside of a 7/11 around six to smoke up, at Dutchy's request. Requests like that were getting more and more frequent, and frankly, making Blink more uncomfortable about the whole 'casual pot-smokers' thing."Did you go to any classes today?" Blink asked Dutchy. Then he narrowed his eyes at Jack. "Or did you?""I went to math!" Jack said defensively. "And some of gym." Dutchy took the roll-up from Jack's hand. Blink put his hands in his pockets and stared at the ground."Dutchy?""Fuck school," Dutchy said in a good-natured tone. "They don't want me there, anyway.""Dutchy, that is so stupid.""What? They don't.""Maybe this is why you can't get a date!"Dutchy blinked. "What's with you, Ryan? Did I do something?"Jack awkwardly shifted in place, and took the joint from Dutchy's hands, smoking it while he watched the scene in front of him unfold. Kind of like popcorn and watching a movie. Only not."No..." Blink sighed. "Just, like, it's fucking lame, you know, maybe Jessica would like you if you showed up and, like, tried.""I don't see you trying at school," Dutchy replied sleepily."I do, too. Some. Anyway, it's not like anyone's gonna suddenly go gay for me if I get straight As.""You need to get laid," Jack said."You want to volunteer?" Blink asked, grinning stupidly. Then he shook his head. Pot really made him dumb. He wondered what Sean would have thought of the three of them."Ew, shut up." Jack nudged him with his elbow. "Mom's gonna kill me. Dutch, did you bring eye drops?""Yeah.""I'm gonna have to, like, spill coffee on myself to cover the smell or something." "Guys?" Blink spoke up. "This is… lame. I mean… Jack's gotta lie to his mom about it, Dutchy's gotta sleep with his dealer to get the good stuff… We all sound so pathetic.""Why are you such a downer?" Jack asked, frowning. "I was having fun.""I wasn't," Blink said."You…" Dutchy pointed an accusing finger at him. "You suck. Is what you do." But Dutchy broke into a surprisingly dazzling grin, and laughed. Blink blinked. It was easy to forget that when Dutchy wasn't being self conscious and stupid, and when he smiled right, he was kind of hot. In a shaggy haired, stoner kind of way.Blink shuddered. He didn't like that. He wanted a boy with muscles and aftershave, not some scrawny blond pothead…"I think I'm gonna go," Blink said."Yeah?" Jack asked."Yeah." Blink nodded. "I, uh… I don't think I'm gonna do this anymore, guys. I just… I dunno." He dug into a pocket, and pulled out his last joint, wrapped in a plastic bag. He handed it to Jack. "Here, you guys enjoy it, okay?""Will do," Jack said.But Dutchy scowled. "You think I'm a loser too, don't you, Blink?""No, Dutchy, I—""You do so! Everyone does!" Dutchy looked really upset for a moment, and Blink sighed."Dutchy… It's not you, okay? You really need to slow down on this stuff, you're getting… kinda scary."Dutchy pouted, but Jack slung an arm around him. "Hey," Jack said. "More for you and me, man, right?""You're so hot, Jacky," Dutchy answered.Blink smirked. "Goodnight, lovebirds." He waved and hurried off before Dutchy could get all scary again. Dutchy was really, really starting to worry him.Dutchy paused. "You know, Jack," Dutchy said, observing the tall boy next to him and feeling, very much so, the weight of Jack's muscly arm around his shoulder. "You're very hot.""Yes. I am.""Do you wanna--""No, Dutchy, I never wanna." Dutchy grumbled. Then blinked. "I'm reaallyyy feeling this..." He dug into his pocket. "I got like, two baggies left of this shit that I don't need. I spend too much money on a supply I already got.""Go sell it, then," Jack said. Then re-thought it. "No, no, no, never mind, dealing is bad."Dutchy sighed. "I'm gonna go, okay?"Jack paused. "Where?""Just off. I need some tail, I really do, Jacky, I'm so horny and fucking...full of like, fuck, CUM, you know!?" Dutchy snorted, and kind of laughed, kind of choked.Jack stared at him for a moment. "....k.""Here, you have it," Dutchy said, shoving the pot in Jack's hands. "I got my own stash at home.""At least let me pay you," Jack mumbled."Get me breakfast all next week," Dutchy said, hurrying off. "I'll see ya..."Jack sighed, stuffing the baggies in his pocket. How was he gonna smoke all of this without Blink? And Dutchy was acting all weird...it wasn't as fun as it used to be.But then again, smoking it alone was what he did when he was fourteen anyway. Still, back then he'd been kind of miserable and bored, and now...Well, now he had nothing better to do.--Jack didn't think anything about it when he left his coat in his locker and walked off to class the next morning. He was actually pretty bored, never even thinking trouble might be around the corner. Not until he glanced out the window, and saw a policeman walk past. A dog barked a minute later, and Jack tensed up.Every few months, the police did a random locker search, bringing in dogs to try and sniff out any drugs. It was rare, though… but Jack had rotten luck, and had been nailed last year. That was strike one. Then he'd been caught skipping class and smoking up with Blink, strike two.There was no way…He'd taken the baggies out of his coat, hadn't he? It would be seriously, seriously stupid to just bring them to school…The PA buzzed into life. "Jack Kelly to the principal's office. Jack Kelly to the principal's office."Jack swallowed and stood up. Everyone watched him go. Everyone stared as he trudged into the hallway. He couldn't believe this… he hadn't even wanted those stupid baggies, they'd been given to him! And to get caught by random searches twice, when he didn't even smoke that often, at least not compared to Dutchy and Blink…He nervously made his way into the principal's office. Mr. Thibbs was holding his coat in one hand. A policeman and the drug dog were next to him. Jack's heart sank a little further.Three strikes and you got expelled and arrested.--"Sean," the put-upon English teacher said for about the seventh time. "Sean, just answer my… SEAN, are you paying any attention?"Sean looked up from his notebook. "No," he snorted. The English teacher had been patient with Sean. Very patient, more than any other teacher. She knew that Sean read on his own time, and had already read most of the books they had in class, so she tried not to get discouraged when he obviously didn't do his homework. Sometimes, he even participated in class. But the last few days, he'd been so stubborn and annoying, insulting her if she could get him to talk at all…"Sean, that is IT. Young man, you go to the office!"Sean stared at her, blinked, then shrugged. "Better than this fucking class, anyway." He stood up, grabbed his notebook and his bookbag, and stalked out of the room to the principal's office."Sean," the school secretary sighed. "Mr. Thibbs is busy right now.""Gee, what a shame.""Go have a seat," she said, pointing to a row of chairs against one wall. "I'll have him speak to you when he's free.""Can't wait, really," Sean said, and moved to sit down in the chair. He stared up at the ceiling, bored, only interested for a moment when Mr. Thibbs came out of his office with a policeman and dog. Jack was paged to the office, and Sean raised an eyebrow. Interesting.--"Mr. Kelly, is this your coat?""Uh…""Jack, answer the question," Mr. Thibbs snapped angrily. "Yes, sir, but—""Do you know what we found in this coat pocket?'"No…" Jack said softly. The lie was obvious to everyone in the room. Even the dog kind of snarled."We found, in the pocket of your coat, not one, but two bags of marijuana. Get into my office, Mr. Kelly!"Jack, head drooping like he was already defeated, shuffled into the office. Sean blinked, as he watched the door close. Jack looked so terrified, he hadn't noticed Sean was there."Poor Denise," the secretary muttered, and the young secretary at the back by the fax machine, a red head, clucked her tongue."Well, he can always transfer to--""Really professional, how you talk about people's lives like that," Sean snapped.The secretaries both gave him a long look. "You want us to make your stay in this office as long as possible?""Like I care." Sean glanced to Mr. Thibbs' office again. "So Jack just got busted?"The older secretary raised an eyebrow. "Yes, he did, and it's very serious."Sean didn't know why he did it. Maybe it was because he knew Jack was an okay guy, maybe it was because Denise was an okay woman. Maybe it was both those things. And also, because he owed Jack. He really did.He could admit that one...if he'd gotten in another fight with Steve...and Jack had looked for him."Uh," Sean muttered. Then kind of laughed. "I didn't think he'd get in this much trouble."Both secretaries' eyes were on him. "Pardon?""I didn't think you'd bring in fucking, like, dogs, and shit.""Young man, what are you talking about?""The pot. It's mine. I didn't want to get caught, so I put it in Jack's coat in case, but I didn't really think…"There was a long silence, and then the red headed secretary picked up the phone, pressed a button, and spoke in a very low, serious voice, "Mr. Thibbs, there's someone out here you should see."It took all of four minutes for them to usher a startled looking Jack back off to class, and Sean into Thibbs' office. He didn't say anything except that it was his as they called Denise and his social worker.Denise took half an hour to get there; Jared took forty-five minutes. "You give me migraines," Jared muttered, pointing a finger at Sean."You say the sweetest things," Sean answered.Jared looked at Denise and the principal. "You people do know he's lying, right?" he said to them. "Sean doesn't do drugs.""What makes you so sure of that?" Mr. Thibbs asked darkly."Sean doesn't do drugs. Ever," Jared said. "It's the one thing I've never been called in for with him. He lived with some… drug users for awhile. He hates drugs and drug users. He's always been very vehement about that."Denise raised an eyebrow. She knew Sean was more than capable of lying to everyone's faces, and she'd heard Sean refuse to even take Tylenol."So I'd like to get to the bottom of this," Jared said. "Sean?"Sean stared him down, irritated. "You keep telling me," he said slowly, "to try and make friends. And be social. You know what friendly, social teenagers do? They fucking smoke pot."He glared at Jared. Jared flinched. "Well," Jared finally said. "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, Sean, you and I need to have a long chat." He turned to Mr. Thibbs and the policeman. "No harm done, though, right? This is really a matter for me to handle. Clearly. You gentlemen just confiscate whatever he was carrying, and I'll take care of the matter. Can I talk to Sean alone for a minute, please?"Everyone looked kind of startled, but got up and left them alone. Jared looked mildly shocked that that had worked. Sean looked at Jared.Jared looked back at Sean. "So be honest. I know when you're bullshitting. Whose?""Jack's," Sean said hesitantly. Jared was being surprisingly… not bad. "He kept Steve off my back and he… you know, looked for me and shit. I didn't want him to get expelled.""I see." Jared leaned back in his chair. "You weren't smoking?""No. I hate that shit.""Do you think Jack's smoking is really problematic?""He gets okay grades. He doesn't cut every day." Sean shrugged. "He's normal.""Well, then." Jared looked at Sean. "I don't think the state needs to hear about this, do you?"Sean blinked. "Jared, when did you get cool?""About the same time you went soft." Jared smirked.--Sean was almost glad he was kind of in trouble. It showed Denise had balls, and he was glad she had those."So just eat your dinner, shut up, and no arguing," she said sternly, all the while eyeing Jack suspiciously. Both boys stared down at their plates (full of spaghetti), and were quiet. "If I hear one more word from Thibbs about pot, or fighting, or..." Denise stopped, sighed.Jack and Sean both glanced up at her at the same time. Which she noticed."Cut it out," she said. Her eyes shifted to Sean. "Both of you.""Okay," Jack said.Sean shrugged his shoulders.The phone rang, and Denise looked relieved to be out of the room. She disliked these kinds of situations as much as the boys did. She left the room, portable phone in hand.Sean wondered if he was going soft, since he'd let Denise, a woman he barely knew, lecture him. Like he was some little kid. Still, she didn't call him names or any of that shit, she just stood up to him. Which was something people really never did with Sean.They just gave up.As for Jack..."Mom can't cook," Jack said, chewing on some of the spaghetti. "It's like, still kind of hard.""I like it better that way," Sean said."You don't like food.""I like hard spaghetti."Jack made a face. "That's very weird." All the same, Jack was shoveling food in his mouth. They ate in silence, awkward silence, until Jack finally, with his mouth full, said, "Thank you."They both stopped chewing. Sean glanced at him.Jack swallowed, and returned his gaze. "I was really fucked, Sean. Thanks.""Yeah, do yourself a favor and stop smoking that stupid shit."Jack nodded a little. "I'll try and cut it down.""Fine. I don't care. I just won't save your ass again."Jack kind of grinned. "Okay.""And Jesus, Jackass, how stupid do you have to be to bring it to school? After you've been caught twice?""I know, I know! I forgot I had it in my coat. Believe it or not, none of that stuff was really mine. It was Blink's and Dutchy's. Blink gave it to me because he decided to quit, and Dutchy… just got weird.""Like there are times when Dutchy's not weird?'"Weird… weird even for Dutchy. I'm starting to worry about him. You should sleep with him again or something, cheer him up.""Yeah, right. I was nice to you, that was my act of kindness for the year. You want Dutchy to get laid, you fuck him.""I'm straight.""Sure you are.""Shut up." They lapsed into silence, and it was… comfortable. So Sean didn't talk, just ate his undercooked spaghetti and even a meatball.--"And here I thought Jack Kelly was okay," Benjamin said, passing the ball over to Steve, and then rushing past him to form a three point under the net. "That was lame shit he pulled in gym, man.""Whatever, just another fucking charity case at this fucking school," Steve muttered, receiving the pass, then sending it over to Itey. Who said nothing, and then quietly went in for a lay up. Which he got. But when he glanced back at Steve and Benjamin, they were both giving him those sneering looks they always gave lunchladies. The snobby looks."Lopez-ah," Steve snapped. "The point is to pass it back to Ben, he takes the lay up.""Okay," Itey said."Good, get the fuck back here.""And it's weird how he was defending like, fag one and two," Ben continued, taking a pass from Itey and dribbling up the court. "I thought he was straight.""Who fucking knows," Steve shrugged. "Fucking Ballatt. I'm gonna kill that kid, I swear, he dresses like a fucking girl.""So?" Itey mumbled. Steve gave him a look."You say something, Enrique?""No.""Good."The coach blew his whistle, and everyone started hustling at the other end of the gym. Steve rushed off, dribbling and showing off. Ben gave Itey an almost, but not quite, apologetic look. Kind of a condescending look, actually, well meant or not."Uh...Gabe," Ben said."What?" Itey asked."Gabe, right? Not Enrique?""NO, not Enrique! Oh, my god!"Ben smirked down at him a little. "Calm down, Lopez." Then he put his hands behind his head, and started to follow Steve. "Oh, and your lay up was sloppy."Itey sighed. And it wasn't because he was tired from playing. Three hours later, he stomped into Blink's garage, where everyone was hanging out and Dutchy was half-heartedly picking out something on his guitar, then collapsed immediately on the couch."Good practice?" Blink asked. "You're still sweaty.""It sucked, actually," Itey said."You want to talk about it?""No." "You dropped your bass off before school, wanna play?" Blink asked."Yeah, I guess… I dunno." Itey paused. "Why do people have to be such jerks?"Sean looked up from what he was reading for the first time. "Someone bothering you, Lopez?""Please call me Itey. Or Gabe. Lopez is what the team calls me…""Which is your name," Jack pointed out."Yeah, but when they say it… Never mind, I'm being stupid." Itey groaned. "Itey, babe," Dutchy said, smirking, "you know what you need?""What?""You need to relax. You know how?""…How?" Itey asked suspiciously.Dutchy waggled his eyebrows. "You need a blowjob. Let's go up to Blink's room.""Dutchy!" Itey yelped. "No! I'm not gay and… no! Jeeze, ew, are you high?""When is Dutchy not high?" Sean muttered."Just ignore them," Blink said. "That's what I do."Itey nodded. "Yeah...sorry, you get a worse time than I do."Blink shrugged. "It doesn't matter, it can still suck...so what happened?"Itey grinned. "Uh, just...don't...worry about it anddutchystopDOING THAT!" Itey leapt from the couch, where Dutchy had found a way to push his finger through the hole in the knee of Itey's jeans and feel around."I think you like it, but you're too nervous to tell me for fear of ruining the friendship!" Dutchy said with gusto."Stop it..." Itey whined."I actually think you go through a worse time with some things," Blink said, patting Itey on the back and giving Dutchy a weird look."Sorry you had a bad practice," Jack said. "I guess some of it is my fault."Itey shrugged. "Not really. They always find something to get mad about.""Like how sexy Latino you are?" Dutchy asked.Itey gave him a dark look. "Would you STOP smoking so much pot?""Don't be mad," Dutchy pouted. And his attempts at trying to seduce Itey publicly were so shameless that the entire garage felt uncomfortable.Except for Sean. He was amused."Throw him a bone, Lopez.""Don't call me that!""Don't call him that, Spot," Blink said. Itey, however, hadn't taken his eyes off of Dutchy. Who was very, very high."Uh… Dutch," Itey said hesitantly. "You know I really, really don't want to encourage you. But. Do you want to spend the night on Friday? Or the weekend?""Dude, I'd do you right now," Dutchy said. "Is that a yes?""Lopez gets laid…" Sean said lazily."Course it is, Itey, baby…""Great." Itey nodded. "By the way, no pot.""What?!""Yeah, no pot. We'll have a great time!" Itey even gave Dutchy's shoulder a pat."Sure," Dutchy finally said, nodding. "We'll do coke instead. I think I can get us some good stuff."Itey stared at him. "PLEASE tell me that was a joke.""Of course it was!" Dutchy laughed hysterically.Itey looked relieved, but no one was really convinced."Hey, guys, let's play," Blink said. "I mean, I know we're kind of stalled with no drummer… But we don't want to get rusty, right?""You think I'm gonna suck, don't you?""Dutchy, don't…""I'll suck," Dutchy said, and looked at Itey. "I'll suck your co—""OKAY, LET ME GET MY BASS!" Itey yelled, jumped up, and scurried to the other side of the garage.--"I don't like going to movies with people," Sean griped."Yeah, that's normal," Jack said with a grin, slipping his change into his wallet and glancing at his ticket, and then at his watch. "We've got like, ten minutes.""Popcooorn," Dutchy sang. "Let's go hassle the Itey-ster.""You're gonna pay me back, right?" Blink asked, as they walked over to concessions.Sean gave him a look. "No.""Okay, well, I can wait--""I will not pay you back, now or ever.""But--""Having to listen to you play shitty music in your garage? Yeah, a real trial, you're buying and I'm not paying back.""Sean!""You want popcorn?" Jack asked Sean. Sean gave him an odd look, and felt kind of... embarrassed for a moment. It was obvious Jack was making sure he ate every day. Lately, he'd taken to sharing food with him in public places. It was gay. But not the kind of gay Sean liked.Still."Yes," Sean snapped. If he was going to eat popcorn with Jack, he was going to be a dick about it.The line was fairly short, about two people in front of them, and they saw Itey filling up a cup with soda behind the counter, looking tired. "Jobs suck.""Mom'll want us to work over the summer," Jack reminded Sean."Too bad I won't be emotionally stable enough to work," Sean said with a smirk."You lazy shit," Dutchy laughed. "I think maybe you aren't an asshole, you just want people to think you are so you can get out of things," Jack said."Where's your wife, Jackass?" Sean answered."David, who is not gay and is definitely not my wife, is out with friends," Jack answered, huffy."Oh, the people from his school he likes more than you?""He does not!"Sean snorted. That was never going to stop being funny. He kind of wondered what David's other friends were like, because he couldn't picture losers and stoners at that rich fucking school. Nerds, yeah, but guys like Jack? Nah.They stepped up to the front of the line, and found Itey standing behind the register, wearing an ugly purple and green uniform, and a nametag. He looked like he might collapse at any moment."Good evening, how can I…" He saw who it was and grimaced. "I don't suppose one of you could kill me and put me out of my misery? Sean, you could plead insanity or… general assholeness, right? Please?""No, but we'll have two large popcorns and four medium sodas," Jack said."That's a combo, thank god," Itey mumbled. "Oh, you get free candy with that.""Sweet!" Blink yelled."So, how you doing, Itey, baby?" Dutchy asked, as Itey started to fill popcorn bags."Friday nights suck," Itey answered. "Especially when there are new releases. And the managers here are—""Lopez!"The voice echoed across the lobby, and Itey winced. He finished his comment in a hiss, "The managers are on the warpath."An overweight man, with a red face and a nametag that said 'Ted,' stormed over to Itey. "You having a nice chat there, Lopez?""I was just--""Why not stop the yapping and get the orders going! There are lines in customer service, and right now, you're holding one up."Itey sighed, nodded, and quickly finished ringing up the order. "I'll be right back with your order," he said to Sean and the others in an odd, friendly-sad kind of voice, while Ted the manager finished the transaction."And while you're at it," Ted snapped. "Clean the washrooms."Itey kind of shifted. "I did. Forty minutes ago."Ted turned, and snorted. "And now you'll do it again.""Okay, but usually I wait until--""No habla eeenglish?" Ted snapped. "You finish up the popcorn, Tonto, and then you do what I say."Everyone went kind of silent, and when Itey finished the popcorn, he slammed the tubs down on the table and stalked over to where a broom and dustpan were sitting in the corner. Jack cleared his throat and forked over some cash to one of the other employees, and nudged Blink's arm. They started off towards the entrance to the theater, but Sean, standing right in front of the manager and register, grabbed Dutchy's arm before they could run off."Wow," he said, enunciating clearly and glaring at the manager. "So that's why all those kids at school said they didn't want to come to this theater any more.""What?" Dutchy asked, blinking stupidly."Because of the fucking racist, asshole manager," Sean clarified. "Makes me wonder why Gabe stands up for this place. If it were me, I'd quit. What a fucking douchebag."Then he walked off, and Dutchy kind of gaped and followed him. The manager stared at him, and then looked over at Gabe, who looked back at him, stood up a little straighter, and walked off with the broom and dustpan."Dude," Dutchy hissed, as they showed their tickets and breezed into the theater. "You're bipoloar! You're such a dick and then… Like, out of nowhere…""Shut up, Blondie," Sean snapped."You were just nice to Itey!""No, I told off an asshole.""Yeah, but—""That's all I did. Shut up." He glared at Dutchy, who blinked. He didn't say anything else, and Sean kicked his feet up over the seat in front of them, satisfied. Sometimes, it was more satisfying to turn his powers of evil against people who deserved it.--David stared down at Race's homework as Race munched away on some leftover spaghetti. David sighed. Race ignored him. David sighed louder. Race slurped louder. Finally, David snapped, "When are you going to try to get this right? I'm not going to do all of your homework for you, okay, I said I would help.""Go easy on Tony," Mush said, peering through the Higgins's fridge. "He's not good at chem.""Yeah, I'm not good at chem," Race said with a cocky smile."It's kind of eerie, being in this house without anyone in it but us," Mush said, peering around the kitchen. "It's so huge.""Yeah, well, Dad didn't feel like seeing me tonight, so the whole family gets a nice dinner out at a nice restaurant, and I get this," Race snapped, with a fake smile."Yes, you're very hard done by, Tony," David muttered. Race made a face at him."Can I have..." Mush considered. "Some of those tomatoes in like, sauce? There's a tupperware container in here with--""Yeah, have whatever you want," Race said.Mush smiled at him, but Race looked down at his plate before Mush noticed. Mush sighed. "I really need a boyfriend.""You could have any guy you wanted, Mikey, you know that," David said kindly."No...""You're whining again," Race said, unhelpfully."Of course I am," Mush answered, plopping the Tupperware container into the microwave. "I'm frustrated. Tony, can you die of sexual frustration?""I wouldn't know." Race's voice was incredibly smug."Oh, yes, Tracy Marshall, there's someone to brag about…" David mumbled."Quiet, you," Race said, pointing at him. "At least I got some.""Actually, I hear you wimped out at second base," David said.Tony glowered. "I didn't wimp out. I chose not to take advantage of a drunk girl. I'm Catholic, god damn it!""Yes, because I hear you Catholics are encouraged to swear like that," Mush said."Why are you both being jerks all of a sudden?" Race sulked. "You make it way too easy," David said, smiling. "Now, look, half of these mistakes are just stupid little math—""Dave, it's Friday night and my parents aren't home. Don't you think we could do something a little less lame than homework?""Like what, cocaine?" David shot back.Tony looked genuinely offended for a second, and David sighed. Mush's food dinged in the microwave and he pulled it out."No being mean, you two," he declared, resuming his seat between them at the table."We should watch a movie. Tony, didn't your dad just get a new flatscreen TV?""Yeah, last week," Race said, avoiding David's gaze."Let's go watch a movie," Mush suggested."We should watch like, Sopranos or something," David said. "Jack got it on DVD, we could watch it. He lent it to me, I could--"Race shifted. "Nah.""You have a good movie collection," Mush said to Race."I don't feel like watching movies on my dad's stupid television set," Race snapped. "Let's just go out or something. Find a party.""Yes, Tony," David said. "Because Mike and I are definitely people welcome in the households of rich kids everywhere."Race rolled his eyes. "Then we'll hang out with your stupid friends.""No.""Why not?" Race snapped. "You ashamed of us?""You wouldn't like them," David said."Why not?""'Cause you're a snob?" David said lightly. Race paused, almost flinching for a second. "I'm not a total snob.""Okay, so," Mush interrupted. "Hey, maybe we can go out for supper. At a restaurant, since Tony didn't get to."Race glanced at Mush, and sort of grinned. "Michael...""It'll be fun!""You are so gay," Race said, and pushed Mush a little, playfully."I am," Mush agreed. "And I need a boyfriend. Oh! We could go to a gay bar. I'm too fabulous for them to ID.""I'm not going to a gay bar!" Tony yelped.David snickered. "Imagine if that got out at school. You could be an outcast like us.""I already am, just for being friends with you. The things I do for you guys…""Like being seen with us in public. Bless you, Tony," David said, mock serious."Shut up. You know, I used to be popular…""And you gave that all up for us." Mush batted his eyelashes. "You must really love us.""Not at times like these…" Tony slumped in his chair. "I want to do something fun. Why can't we just be normal?""Normal? Like the assholes who beat Mush up last weekend?" David asked."No, normal like… I don't know, not sitting around my kitchen doing homework on a Friday night!" He groaned. "Let's go play pool and try to avoid getting IDed. Dave, I'll cover you if you want.""Well, with an offer like that, how can I resist?" David grinned. "Don't think this means I'm not making you do your own chem homework."
I am rereading all of this out of excitement for the upcoming Newsies musical in New Jersey. I actually made a Newsies fanzine and a huge chunk of it is about the Everything You've Done Wrong Universe. If you are interested: http://issuu.com/inertia./docs/angrykidswithnomoney
Maybe this isn't the right place for this comment, but...I've suddenly realized that, just like Harry Potter has come to define a generation, so too has EYDW. Perhaps on a more limited scale, but no less profoundly. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can say they've honestly grown up on EYDW.Thank you.