The Bearded Bromance

A Sanitaria Springs Story

by Cynus

It is strongly suggested that you read the Sanitaria Springs story, “Another Day In Parodyse” before you begin this story.

It was much more difficult than Logan thought it would be, but that didn’t make it any less necessary. By this point he had to ask her out or he’d risk losing her. That was the last thing he wanted, no matter how big of a fool he had made of himself over the last few weeks. Maggie Bianchi was definitely the girl he wanted to be with, and Seth had been bugging him about that very fact for weeks.

“Just go apologize!” Seth insisted, bumping his shoulder into Logan’s and then nodding toward her. As if Logan needed Seth’s encouragement to know where Maggie was standing with her group of friends, chatting away as if Logan didn’t exist at all.

“Come on, you know that there’s no way she’d even want to see me after yesterday,” Logan said with a sigh. He collapsed against the lockers and stared down the hall toward Maggie, his eyes moist. “It’s over before it even started.”

“God, you’re hopeless!” Seth threw his hands in the air and then took a good look at Logan’s face, noticing his misty eyes. “Are you… No. We are not doing this. You’re going to talk to her, now.” Seth grabbed Logan’s arm and pulled him away from the lockers, using all of his weight to drag the bigger boy away.

Despite Logan’s initial resistance he found himself being dragged down the hall until he was finally able to free his arm. “No. I’m not doing it,” He said as he crossed his arms over his chest. “At least not like that.”

“Well if you don’t want me to drag you, then you’re going to have to do it yourself, otherwise…” Seth trailed off as he made another lunge for Logan’s arm. Laughing, Logan let Seth come forward and then stepped to the side at the last second, letting Seth stumble past him. Logan reached around and locked Seth in a headlock before he began tickling his ribs. Seth began laughing hysterically, drawing looks from several nearby students, but quickly realizing it was nothing more than a couple friends messing around they returned to their own conversations. Class would start in a few minutes and it was more important to focus on their friends than two students who thought they were being funny.

Logan continued to tickle his best friend until he looked up and locked eyes with Maggie. She had come over while he was distracted and was watching their display with an amused smile. Logan released Seth immediately and he collapsed against the lockers, panting, shooting a murderous look at Logan that he failed to notice. “Hey, Logan,” Maggie said before glancing over at Seth and smiling wide, “Hey, Seth. You all right?”

Seth straightened and smoothed out his clothes. “Yeah, I’m fine, thank you for your concern. How’s it going, Maggie?”

“I’m doing well,” Maggie answered quickly, and then turned her gaze back to Seth and raised an eyebrow slightly. “Thank you for asking, Seth.”

Logan felt Seth’s elbow in his side, sharp enough for him to feel it but not hard enough that he lost control. Instead he snapped his gaze down to Seth and raised an eyebrow. “What!?” He asked, clearly confused.

“Logan, don’t you have something to say to Maggie?” Seth asked with his eyebrows raised and a slight nod toward Maggie who was standing with her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

Logan turned back toward her, his blue eyes blinking several times as if he were seeing Maggie for the first time. Her brown eyes were sparkling with amusement, and her long brown braid danced as she began to laugh. Logan’s cheeks flushed crimson as he stuttered, “Uh-h… Lo-ook, M-mag-gie, a-bout yes-yesterday…” He took a deep breath to calm himself and then let it all out in a rush. “I’m sorry I hit you in the face when I was passing the assignment over my shoulder to you. It was an accident and I didn’t know you were leaning forward, and I didn’t…”

“Logan, it’s fine,” Maggie interrupted before losing complete control and erupting in laughter. Logan stared at her blankly until he heard laughter from his side and saw that Seth was doubled over in hysterics, holding his side as his backpack bounced against his back. Logan looked back to Maggie to see that she was starting to regain control as she wiped her eyes and looked up at him again. “Logan,” Maggie said with a wide grin. “It happens to people all the time. Seriously, is this why you avoided me yesterday?”

“Um… yeah,” Logan said, looking down at his shoes as he kicked at the linoleum floor tiles, unwilling to meet her eyes. “I thought you’d be mad.”

“Sore maybe, but not mad…” Maggie replied with another laugh. “Seth… take care of this kid, all right? Make sure he’s there on Friday?”

“Friday?” Seth echoed while Logan stared at his best friend for an answer.

“For our date, silly,” Maggie said as if it had already been decided. She then turned to Seth and said, “Oh, and you can come too, Seth. My best friend is as scared to talk to you as Logan was to me, but Kristin would really like it if we could double.”

“Kristin?” Seth said in surprise, glancing down the hall to see that the shoulder-length blonde girl was busy burying her face in her hands while she alternated between staring murder at Maggie and blushing when she made eye contact with Seth. Seth blushed himself and turned back to Maggie and said shyly, “See you Friday.”

The bell rang and Maggie started walking away, leaving Seth and Logan to stare after her in stunned silence. They glanced at each other and grinned, but there attention was snapped back toward Maggie as she called over her shoulder, “We’ll work out the details over lunch. Don’t avoid me this time.”

“What the hell just happened?” Logan asked, shaking his head in awe.

“Apparently you got us dates by accidentally hitting a girl in the face,” Seth said with a raised eyebrow as he watched Maggie walk away. “I suggest you avoid trying to hone that tactic, though. Something tells me it’s not one that will work more than once. Come on, we’ll be late for class. See you in gym.”

~ ~   ~ ~

Seth was distracted, and no amount of interference from the teacher was going to change that. No matter how many times she called on him and asked him to answer a question, he was still going to respond with the same blank look that he had been giving her all class. It didn’t matter. She was a substitute anyway, and substitute teachers had no real power over the class. He would ride out the day without incident, and she could do nothing about it.

Besides, he had more important things to think about than math. He had just been asked out on his first date. Well, perhaps asked was a bit too generous of a word, considering the fact that Maggie had practically thrust the idea on him and Logan. As excited as he was at the prospect of finally going out with a girl, there was something that didn’t sit well with him, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on it.

He knew without a doubt that he liked girls, despite Logan’s insistence a month earlier that Seth was gay. It had been a funny exchange when it was all said and done, and Seth and Logan had ended up as good friends because of it. So much had changed for Seth over the last month, and he was thrilled that it had. Logan’s friendship had given Seth confidence where before he had had none, and it had also opened up doors to more friendships that he would have never expected. Although he still had zero interest in the sport, Seth now had the entire basketball team as contacts in his phone, and he was considered an honorary member of the team for whatever reason. Logan liked him, so they liked him.

It was that same confidence instilled in him from Logan and the team that had allowed Seth to take command in the hall that morning; giving him the ability where his love struck best friend had failed at talking to Maggie. She had been easy to talk to, once he got past the initial awkwardness of her arrival, but she had also been holding something back.

That was it.

In his excitement at finding the source of his discomfort about the situation, Seth pounded the desk with his fist, the sound ringing through the classroom of students busy on their assignment for the day. He received looks of amusement and concern from the nearby students and a stern shushing from the old woman substituting the class. Seth waved an apology and then slid down into his chair, making himself look smaller as he withdrew into himself to contemplate his new findings.

Maggie had definitely been hiding something. There was more to what was going on than what she had said, but what it was remained to be determined. Seth traced his thoughts back to the situation again, focusing on the end when Maggie left them, and then he remembered Kristin. Maggie had just invited Seth, saying that Kristin wanted him there, and Seth had met Kristin’s eyes, saw how much she was blushing, and… She wasn’t blushing the way that Logan had been about Maggie. Kristin had been blushing because she was embarrassed, but the look in her eyes spoke volumes to Seth as he thought about it now. No matter what Maggie insisted, Kristin didn’t want to go on this date.

The bell rang, interrupting Seth’s thoughts as he moved to put his math book away, only to find that he had never retrieved it from his backpack in the first place. He smirked at the thought and looked up to see the substitute glaring at him. He shrugged and grinned at her, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he walked out of the room. It was time for gym, and there was no way he was going to be late.

~ ~   ~ ~

Logan saw Seth coming and his face immediately lit up. He had been daydreaming about Maggie all morning, and was glad to see the guy who had made it all happen when Logan had made a fool out of himself. He stuck out his fist and Seth bumped his fist against it, and they fell in line on the way to their gym lockers to change. Seth was strangely quiet as he walked ahead of Logan, and Logan noticed the tenseness in his face and shoulders that happened whenever Seth was deep in thought.

Waving to a couple of their friends further down the locker room aisle, Logan turned to find that Seth was having trouble with his lock, and was staring at it as if it were the first time he had ever seen it. “Dude…” Logan said, trying to draw his friend out of his thoughts, “I am so excited for Friday.”

Seth sighed his response. “Yeah…”

“What?” Logan asked, startled. “You’re not?”

“I don’t know,” Seth replied, shaking his head before meeting Logan’s eyes and smiling weakly. “Been thinking about it through all of first period. Something feels off… Maybe it’s just the fact that I had this date forced on me, and it didn’t look to me like Kristin was actually all that interested in the idea.”

Logan nodded slowly and then turned to his own locker as he mulled that thought over in his mind. He had switched lockers with a kid from another period so that he could be closer to Seth, and for the most part he had been glad that he had, but at the moment he wasn’t sure. It sounded to him like Seth was backing out of the date, and Logan was more than a little upset at that prospect. He opened his locker as quickly as he could and retrieved his gym clothes. He slid off his shirt and stuffed it into the locker before angrily pulling his gym shirt on over his bare chest.

“So what you’re saying is,” Logan asked in deadpan, “You don’t want to go?” He was afraid to look up and meet Seth’s eyes. He had a sinking feeling that Seth was about to betray him.

“Don’t want to go?” Seth echoed, sounding bewildered. “No, that’s not it,” he continued, shaking his head and laughing nervously. “Kristin is certainly a pretty girl, and I think she’s pretty funny too, but…” He sighed and then growled in frustration. “I don’t know. This whole thing just feels weird to me.”

Logan was nearly overwhelmed by guilt as he heard the words, understanding that Seth had no intention of backing out. There was something legitimate bothering Seth, and Logan couldn’t believe he had immediately jumped to the worst case scenario. After mentally scolding himself for a few more seconds, Logan turned to Seth who was standing in just his underwear and staring into his locker as if he were trying to see into some other world hidden within it. Logan watched Seth briefly, considering how to approach the issue in his mind, and then deciding for the direct approach he laid a hand on Seth’s bare shoulder and asked, “Is this your first date, Seth?”

Seth blinked several times as he met Logan’s eyes. “Yeah.”

“Maybe that’s it,” Logan suggested with a shrug and a supportive grin.

“It could be,” Seth replied with a smirk. “But somehow I don’t think so.”

“Well what then?”

“You don’t think it’s weird that Maggie came and asked us both out?” Seth asked, raising an eyebrow. Logan couldn’t help himself and he giggled at the serious look on Seth’s face.

“Yes. But I’m not going to worry about it,” Logan said as he patted Seth’s shoulder and reached for his gym shorts. “I’m going to call us lucky and run with it. That’s all we can do, isn’t it?”

“I suppose so…” Seth said as he placed his school clothes inside of his locker and shut the door. “I guess you’re right then. We’ll just have to see how this plays out.”

“Now then,” Logan replied as he slid into his shorts and then reached for his shoes. “We should probably get out there before the teacher wonders what took us so long to get dressed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you stand so long in your underwear.”

Seth blushed and glanced down to see that Logan’s assessment was correct before sliding into his gym shorts. As he looked up to meet Logan’s grinning face he noticed a tag sticking out from underneath his chin. “You’re one to talk,” Seth observed with a nod toward the tag. “Your shirt’s on backwards.”

Logan pulled his shirt outward to look at the tag and then rolled his eyes as he began to spin the shirt around. “What can I say? I’m pleasantly distracted. You should be too.”

“We’ll see,” Seth replied as he straightened out his own shirt. “Either way, I’m your wingman; this is more about you than it is about me. You’re the one who is getting to date the girl of his dreams. I won’t cause any trouble. I’ll make sure it works out.”

“I know,” Logan said, giving Seth his widest smile yet. “You’re the best, dude.”

~ ~   ~ ~

“How about we go to a coffee shop after school gets out for something warm and then we can go see a movie?” It was the fourth suggestion that had been made, and Seth was getting tired of having his ideas shot down. He had made three attempts at solidifying plans and Maggie’s original suggestion had been the only other one offered. She wanted to have a quiet dinner at her house, but Seth really wanted to go out and do something.

Logan seemed torn between siding with his best friend and siding with Maggie, but Kristin had remained silent throughout the whole discussion. All of Logan’s usual careful planning seemed to fly out the window when faced with his crush, and Seth was at a loss at how to fix it.

“How about coffee and then we go to my house for dinner?” Maggie offered, showing her teeth to Seth. With a sigh Seth looked at Logan for support and realized that with the way he was staring at Maggie he should expect nothing.

Seth turned back to Maggie and nodded even though he was frowning. “All right, sounds good. Maybe we can see a movie next week?” He asked hopefully, and he saw Maggie’s eyes light up at the suggestion, which confused him more than the entire lunch period had.

“That would be great. I’m glad that we’ve finally decided on coming to my house though. I really want you guys to come over…” Maggie stopped suddenly as she glanced at Kristin who was shooting her a dangerous look. “We need to talk about how this is going to work out.”

Seth kicked Logan’s shin, breaking the dreamy look on his best friend’s face. Logan glanced in his direction and raised an eyebrow. Seth nodded toward the two girls, mouthing that Logan needed to pay attention, and then turned to meet Maggie’s eyes again. “What do we need to talk about?” He asked.

“We need…” The bell rang, interrupting Maggie’s sentence as she shared another look with Kristin. “It doesn’t matter now. We’ll talk Friday at the coffee shop. Where do you want to go? Café Perk Me Up or Roxanne’s?”

“Nothing wrong with Roxanne’s really, but Café Perk Me Up is more for the younger crowd,” Seth said shaking his head. “It it’s all the same to you I’d rather go there.”

“All right. See you Friday!” Maggie said in her usual bubbly manner as she stood to clear her tray. “Meet you there at three thirty?”

“Um yeah, sure,” Seth said with a shrug.

“Three-thirty sounds great,” Logan murmured, still looking up at Maggie with starry eyes. Maggie smiled back awkwardly before being practically dragged away from the lunchroom by Kristin.

“You. Are. Hopeless,” Seth said as he smacked the back of Logan’s head. Logan turned to him sharply and opened his mouth to protest when Seth continued. “Are you seriously going to tell me that nothing weird is going on here?”

“Yeah, you’re acting kind of funny,” Logan said as he rubbed the back of his scalp. “Two attractive girls want to date us of all people and you’re trying to sabotage this whole thing! What’s gotten into you, Seth?”

“Logan…” Seth shook his head. “Come on, or we’ll be late. Again.”

~ ~   ~ ~

“Seth. We need to talk.”

Seth eyed Logan suspiciously as they entered his room. The plan had been for them to play video games for a while before getting to homework. After a long day at school, they needed a break before doing more work, especially with everything that had happened that day, but this was important, and Logan wasn’t going to let it go until it was said.

“All right, what is it this time?” Seth asked. He grinned and shook his head, though his eyes betrayed his depth of concern as he joked, “You’re not going to tell me that you want your magazine back, are you? Because I totally ruined it…”

“No…” Logan shook his head firmly and gestured for Seth to sit on the bed. “Come on, this is serious.”

“Uh-oh,” Seth replied, his grin disappearing immediately. “That doesn’t sound good.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, drumming his fingers nervously on his thighs as he stared up at Logan.

“It totally is good,” Logan said, flashing Seth a smile as me moved to sit at Seth’s left. “Right up your lovey-dovey musical alley…”

“Hey, you like them as much as I do,” Seth protested, glaring.

“True that,” Logan confirmed, nodding. “All jokes aside, we need to talk about something important.”

Seth took a deep breath and smiled, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Okay. I’m all ears.”

Logan swung his legs up onto the bed so that he was sitting cross-legged and facing toward Seth, the shifting of weight causing Seth to start falling toward him until he stabilized himself with his hand. Seth twisted uncomfortably as he reset his seating, glancing nervously down at his hands, and then up to Logan’s face. “I’m sorry for accusing you at lunch today,” Logan said, staring into Seth’s eyes. “I know you aren’t trying to mess things up for me and I get that you’re just suspicious about how everything played out.”

“Yeah…” Seth said, looking away again.

“Look, no matter what happens, it’s me and you, all right?” Logan said, gripping Seth’s arm and giving it a squeeze. “You’re my best friend, and we’ve been best friends for a long time…”

“A month isn’t exactly a lifetime…” Seth said, turning back to Logan and rolling his eyes. He wasn’t smiling, but Logan saw the desperation and hope hidden in Seth’s emerald gaze, and he smiled encouragingly.

“Oh, so you are worried about that, huh?” Logan asked, pushing slightly on Seth’s shoulder.

“Yeah, a little.”

“I thought so,” Logan replied. “I think you’re worried that I’m going to become so interested in Maggie and that you won’t be interested in Kristin and that I’ll choose Maggie and her friends over you. That isn’t going to happen, all right?”

“Okay,” Seth said, looking away again.

“You’re not convinced?” Logan asked, his smile fading a little.

“Logan, I’ve seen how you look at her…” Seth began, and stopped as his voice nearly broke.

“Seth, have you seen how I look at you?”

Logan let the words hang in the air as silence met him. Seth seemed completely taken back as his eyes widened in shock. He looked everywhere but at Logan as his cheeks flushed crimson. When he finally did speak his voice was in danger of breaking with every word. “Whoa… that may be the gayest thing you’ve actually said to me, and some of what you’ve said in the past is hard to top.”

“You’re hard to top…” Logan said with a snicker.

“Okay, that was gayer,” Seth replied, unable to suppress his chuckle.

“Seth, look at me,” Logan insisted, but Seth shook his head. Logan frowned and then was sparked with an idea. He poked Seth in the side, and Seth jumped a little but remained sitting as he was, turned away from him. Logan poked again, harder, and Seth snickered but otherwise didn’t respond. Unwilling to admit defeat, Logan launched himself on top of Seth and started to tickle him mercilessly as Seth closed his eyes and tried to roll away, laughing.

Logan straddled Seth’s squirming torso as he kept his fingers busy on Seth’s sides, looking down at Seth who refused to open his eyes. Redoubling his efforts Logan said loudly and firmly, “Look. At. Me!”

“All right!” Seth shouted through his fits of laughter and Logan stopped tickling him immediately, but stayed on top of Seth in case Seth didn’t do as he was told. When Seth’s eyes fluttered open, green met blue, and Logan put every ounce of feeling he could into his stare. It wasn’t difficult, he looked that way at Seth nearly every time that Seth wasn’t looking, but he wanted to make sure that Seth saw his feelings of loyalty, his devotion to their friendship. Seth’s laughter subsided completely as he maintained the gaze, and a small smile slowly crept onto his face. Logan saw the smile and nodded in satisfaction, but then he noticed something else. The feelings he was experiencing were reflected completely in Seth’s eyes.

“There, do you see it now?” Logan asked as he climbed off of Seth and lay down next to him, propping himself up on one arm as Seth mirrored his position. “Shit, I don’t know anything about life yet. We’re only fourteen, but I do know this. Somehow you and I ended up friends, and I couldn’t have chosen a better best friend than you. I’m not going to give that up for any girl, got it?” Seth nodded without hesitation and Logan moved to get up as his cheeks grew red again. “Now come on. Let’s go play some video games and not worry about Friday until it happens, all right?”

“All right,” Seth agreed, but then with a voice gentle but firm he said, “Logan…”

“Seth?” Logan said, afraid to turn around for fear of Seth seeing his embarrassment.

“You’re really awesome, you know that?”

“Yeah, I kind of do,” Logan said with a grin wider than any he had ever grinned. “Now stop making me blush. I’ve done enough of that today.” The grin fell slightly as Logan felt a different feeling than he expected, a stirring deep within him that he couldn’t deny, but wanted desperately to do so. He finally glanced back at Seth to see that he was watching Logan curiously, and he forced the grin to widen again.

“Logan, are you all right?’ Seth asked, moving to get up.

“Yeah,” Logan replied immediately. “I’m just tired. Let’s play so that I can wake up.”

Seth nodded and went to select a game from Logan’s shelf, while Logan continued to watch him, his face a mess of the confusion he felt inside. As Seth straightened and stood Logan excused himself to go to the bathroom, rushing down the hall and then closing the door quickly, heaving a sigh of relief that he was no longer in his bedroom with Seth. He leaned against the sink, splashing water in his face several times before looking up into the mirror to fix his hair. But instead of seeing his own blue eyes in the reflection all he could see were the green eyes of his best friend.

~ ~   ~ ~

“Are you ready for this, Logan? It’s the big day!” Seth asked as they walked down the road toward the coffee shop. They were heading into the business center of Sanitaria Springs now, and there were less students than there had been several blocks before. Most of the students that lived beyond this area had rides to school, but they did see some of their classmates on occasion.

Logan had been quiet for the past couple days, though Seth had taken it as merely anticipation of the coming date. He had responded warmly when Seth had spoken to him, but there had been a distance in his eyes that unnerved Seth just a little. He wasn’t too worried though. With the conversation they had had earlier, Seth was certain that Logan wasn’t going anywhere, and that he’d be told what was going on in his best friend’s mind as soon as Logan felt comfortable talking about it.

“Yeah, I’m curious how this is going to play out,” Logan said with a sigh. “I expected to be more excited today but I’m actually kind of nervous.”

“I get it. I am too,” Seth said as he wrapped his arm around Logan’s shoulder. He had grown an inch in the last month and he and Logan were now almost the same height, allowing Seth to perform the action. He withdrew his arm almost immediately though when he felt Logan tense up underneath him. “Hey, it’s going to be all right, okay?” Seth said, turning Logan to look at him. When Logan’s eyes met his however, Seth saw something he hadn’t expected to see within them; fear.

“I…” Logan began but he looked away and said, “I just want to get this over with.”

“… okay,” Seth replied. “Again, I’m your wingman so I’ll follow your lead and back you up, no matter what.”

Logan sighed and mumbled a half-hearted, “Thanks.”

Seth shook his head, wondering at Logan’s choice of words. He knew that pressing the issue further at the moment would get him nowhere and resolved that he would remain bewildered as they walked the rest of the way to the coffee shop. He checked the time on his phone despite the large clock on the wall over the register and saw that it was just before three-thirty. As he slid the phone back in his pocket he heard Maggie’s voice calling to them. He turned and saw Maggie and Kristin sitting in one of the booths, side by side.

“Logan, Seth!” Maggie called, “Order and then come join us. We just got here and we ordered only a few seconds ago.”

“What can I do for you gentlemen?” The proprietor asked as he stepped in through the swinging door that led to the back room. Seth turned back toward him and smiled warmly, something about the long-haired slender man putting him completely at ease. Seth looked down to the man’s chest and read the nametag. Kyle Lamb.

“I’ll just have a mocha. I know they’re good here,” Seth said, winking at Kyle as he turned to Logan and asked, “What are you getting? I’ll buy today. You spotted me last time.”

“Oh, um…” Logan, startled by the question began to survey the menu, before finally shaking his head and saying, “Whatever you’re getting is fine.”

“O…kay,” Seth replied. He then turned back to Kyle and said, “Surprise him with something vanilla. He doesn’t like mochas.”

Kyle looked between the two boys and when Logan didn’t object he settled on Seth and said. “One mocha and something vanilla. Got it. What sizes on these?”

Seth completed the order and then started toward the table where Maggie and Kristin were waiting. He only made it a few steps before he realized that Logan wasn’t following. He turned back to see Logan staring at the menu still as if he were lost in thought. Seth walked up and tapped him on the arm, and Logan spun around, blinking several times until Seth gestured toward the table.

“Oh, right. Sorry,” Logan said with a half-smile and a blush, and then he started walking toward the table. Seth rolled his eyes and followed. “Hey Maggie, hey Kristin,” Logan said as Seth approached from behind. “Sorry it took so long for us to get over here. I’m distracted today.”

“I can see that,” Maggie said, giving Logan a strange smile that Seth couldn’t interpret, especially when she turned and winked at Seth. “I’m not worried about it. We’ll figure out how to pull you out of whatever you’re thinking about, won’t we Kristin?”

“Yes we will. It’s good to see you guys,” Kristin said, gesturing to the opposite side of the booth. Seth blinked several times as he regarded Kristin curiously. Ever since the date had been set up, Kristin had been practically silent, and seemed as if she wanted nothing to do with it, but now she was meeting his eyes and smiling warmly.

“It’s good to see you too, Kristin, Maggie,” Seth replied as Logan slid into the booth first so that he sat across from Maggie. Seth sat down as soon as Logan was against the wall and looked across at Kristin. “You both look great today.”

Kristin blushed but her eyes showed more, that she was put off by the remark. Maggie’s expression grew dark for a brief moment, but Seth noticed it before she was back to smiling at him. “Thanks, Seth,” she said. “You guys are looking good today as well.”

“Sorry to interrupt, but here are your drinks,” A mature feminine voice said from the edge of the table. Seth looked up and met the intelligent brown eyes of a young Asian woman, with black hair that hung neatly around her shoulders, and a smile that felt motherly. He glanced down to her nametag, which gave her name as Sonya Lamb, and also couldn’t help but notice that she was pregnant. She carried the tray of drinks awkwardly in front of her baby bulge, but she expertly maintained the tray’s balance as she placed the drinks down on the table. “Okay, so who had the vanilla latte?”

When neither Maggie nor Kristin responded, Seth knew it was Logan’s and slid the drink his way, and then proceeded to be the facilitator for the rest of the drinks as well. When Sonya left the table she winked at Seth and said, “If you guys need anything else, just let me or my husband know. We’ll be happy to serve you.”

“Thanks,” Seth said with a nod, and then turned toward the girls and asked, “So how was school today?”

The conversation went much more smoothly than Seth had expected from how it had begun. As long as they talked about things that they all had in common, it seemed as if Maggie and Kristin were comfortable, and Logan also began to participate. The only times in which the others seemed to shut down were whenever Seth asked a personal question. Although he had never been on a date before, Seth was confused as to how it was playing out. By displaying interest in Kristin, he seemed to be pushing her away, rather than connecting to her, and in his bewilderment he eventually decided to keep the topics mundane.

And it worked. By the end of an hour and a half, they were all laughing like old friends, and seemed to be enjoying each other’s company a great deal. Seth glanced at Logan and smiled, glad to see that his best friend was finally starting to return to normal again, and then he excused himself to go to the bathroom.

“Hey, actually, how about I call my dad while you’re in there and he can come pick us up?” Maggie asked as Seth stood. “Then we can get to dinner at my house.”

“Sure,” Seth said with a shrug. “I’m ready to leave.”

“Sounds good. We’ll meet you outside,” Maggie said as she too started motioning for Kristin to slide out of the booth. As Kristin and Logan followed her directions, Seth left and walked down the long hall that lay beyond the front counter and led to a storeroom and the two restrooms. He noticed Sonya busily writing in a ledger as he walked past and decided to be quiet so as to not bother her. He entered the restroom and locked the door behind him, finding the welcome sight of the very clean restroom in front of him.

After much needed relief from the coffee he had consumed, he went back into the coffee shop and saw that Logan, Maggie, and Kristin were just leaving through the doors after saying goodbye to Sonya and Kyle who were standing at the counter. The two adults didn’t seem to notice Seth, and he started down the hallway to rejoin them when he heard Kyle and Sonya’s conversation and stopped briefly to listen.

“My, what cute couples,” Sonya exclaimed as soon as the three teens were out the door. Kyle began laughing uncontrollably, and Sonya shot her husband a dirty look. “What’s so funny?”

“Between the four of them, I can’t tell you who the couples were…” Kyle said, shaking his head as tears came to his eyes. “The boys seemed interested in the girls, the girls seemed interested in them, but the boys kept looking at each other like lost puppies and… the girls…”

“What is it, Kyle?” Sonya asked, her brown eyes flashing hot with the promise that if he didn’t tell her he would soon face her wrath.

Kyle quickly gained control of himself and said clearly enough that Seth easily picked it up from the other side of the wall. “The two girls were playing footsie through the entire time they were here.”

Seth gasped and Kyle swore under his breath, but before Kyle could apologize for what he had said, Seth was out the door and into the cold. He saw Logan, Maggie, and Kristin chatting on the sidewalk but kept his distance at first, processing what he had just heard. His first concern was with what the girls had been doing under the table, but what Kyle had said about he and Logan was equally disconcerting. Why had Logan been looking at me that way? He wondered as he watched his best friend shift nervously on his feet while chatting away with Maggie.

Kristin glanced up and Seth was busted, and she quickly drew the attention of the other two to where Seth was standing by the door. Knowing that his time for observation and thinking was over, Seth made the best of it and moved over to the group as they slowly walked to meet him part of the way.

“Ready to go?” Maggie asked, smiling at Seth sweetly. Not trusting himself to speak, Seth merely nodded his response. “Good,” Maggie continued, “My dad will be here in a minute and then we’ll ride to my house for dinner.”

“Sounds great,” Logan said cheerfully but Seth read Logan’s eyes and knew without any doubt that Logan would rather do anything other than go to Maggie’s house.

“What’s for dinner tonight?” Seth asked. Kristin and Logan both gave him a look of gratitude for keeping the subject mundane. He returned Kristin’s look with a smile and Logan’s with a blank stare. Logan’s eyes widened and he looked away.

“Something with pasta…” Maggie said with a shrug. “My dad’s Italian and cooks for Fratelli Esposito’s in Binghamton. He insisted on cooking for us tonight. That’s why I insisted on doing dinner at my house tonight.”

Seth scratched his head as he replied, “Why didn’t you just tell us that at lunch?”

Maggie shared a look with Kristin before turning back to Seth with a sigh. “Some things are best left for discussing in other settings.”

Seth glanced down at Maggie and Kristin’s hands which were almost touching and then up to her eyes with a knowing look. “I’d imagine so.”

~ ~   ~ ~

“Oh man, this is good!” Logan exclaimed as he looked across the table at Mr. Bianchi, who was glowing with pride at the way Logan was devouring his food. Seth was no different, and despite the fact that he had been quiet since the ride to the house and throughout dinner, Seth’s appetite had apparently remained unaffected, and he had easily cleaned his plate twice.

“You’ve already told me that, Logan,” Mr. Bianchi replied with a wide grin. “Keep it coming. I can always hear it again!”

“This is officially one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life,” Logan said, easily rising to the challenge of complimenting the chef. “I’m going to have to make this a more regular thing.” He winked at Seth and then smiled at the two Bianchi’s. Mr. Bianchi laughed heartily at the remark, but while Maggie smiled, her eyes were dangerous as she quietly stuffed another forkful of the pasta into her mouth.

“It really is delicious, Mr. Bianchi,” Seth added, some of the first words he had said during the meal. “Thank you for cooking for us tonight.”

“Well, Seth,” Mr. Bianchi said with a conspiring wink. “I have to make sure I know my daughter’s dates before I let them go out with anyone.”

“Oh, is Kristin your daughter too then?” Seth asked, winking at Kristin and then giving both her and Maggie another knowing look.

“Definitely. I love them both dearly,” Mr. Bianchi said carefully, glancing down at Maggie and then Kristin who both looked back with bashful eyes. “Daughters, I’m going to go get started on dishes. You’re welcome to use the living room for any talking you’d like to do. I approve.”

The last line carried more weight than Logan expected from simple approval to use a room, but he didn’t get a chance to dwell on the thought as Maggie stood and helped her father gather the dishes. Seth and Kristin moved to do the same and Logan quickly shoveled the last bite into his mouth before following their lead. As good as the meal had been, he was glad that the night was almost over. He was completely off his game and he needed to go home to think some more about the things going through his mind.

Once the dishes had been collected and delivered to Mr. Bianchi, Logan followed the others into the living room. It was a very large space, filled with two large couches that faced each other over a large coffee table made of some dark wood. A large centerpiece dominated the table, elegant and floral, but it still sat low enough that from either couch one could easily see those sitting across from them without being distracted. Paintings from various artists hung on the walls, and a large fireplace dominated one wall, the mantel decorated in a manner that matched the style of the rest of the room. Logan was momentarily distracted from the others as he looked at the decorations, and then blushed as he realized that they had all sat down, Maggie and Kristin on one couch while Seth sat opposite them.

Logan hurried to the couch that Seth had sat down on and sat down in the middle, mirroring the closeness of the two on the other side. He noticed Seth shift slightly as he sat down, and glanced over to see Seth watching him out of the corner of his eye. He was about to comment when Maggie spoke.

“So… that was my dad…”

“He’s very nice,” Logan said as he turned to face her. “I liked him a lot.”

“I’m glad…” Maggie trailed off, looking at Kristin before sighing and turning back to face him and Seth. “We need to talk.”

“Yes we do,” Seth said suddenly, drawing her gaze. “I’m really quite sick of this sneaking around thing, and I am damn curious to find out what’s going on.”

Logan looked at Seth with wide eyes. Seth’s eyes were hard as they locked with Maggie’s, and any trace of a smile was gone from his face. Looking to Maggie for an explanation, he found that her expression was equally dour, and her mouth was tight and on the verge of frowning. “What’s going on?” Logan asked, looking finally to Kristin who refused to look at anyone.

Maggie sighed and broke the staring contest before looking at Logan. “It seems I was wrong about the two of you, and I apologize, but after having spent the day with you, I suppose I owe you an explanation. Kristin is my girlfriend, and we’ve been dating for over a year now.”

“What!?” Logan asked, glancing between the two girls as Maggie took Kristin’s hand in hers. Kristin initially resisted but when Maggie grabbed her hand again she didn’t pull back. Logan then looked at Seth who was nodding slowly. “You knew about this?”

Seth turned toward him and smiled weakly. “Yeah, I found out at the coffee shop. It seems that Kyle, the guy at the counter, saw them playing footsie under the table. I overheard his conversation with his wife right before I left.” He turned back to Maggie and Kristin and said, “If you’re trying to hide your relationship, you might want to keep it down in public.”

“What does this have to do with us?” Logan asked, gesturing between Seth and himself.

Maggie chuckled weakly as Kristin gave her a smirk. “Well, I was positive because of how you two act together that… And Kristin thought I was crazy for this but… I thought you were a couple and you might be interested in being our fake boyfriends so that we could keep each other safe.”

Logan’s eyes widened as he looked at Seth, who seemed to be smiling wryly. “You thought that we were a couple? How many other people think that?”

“I assure you that we are both currently single,” Seth said before the girls could respond. “Though I think we could still help you out.”

Ignoring Logan’s question Kristin’s eyes lit up and she addressed Seth immediately. “Really? How?”

“We can still pretend to be your boyfriends for the time being. Logan said something really important to me recently, and I think it applies here as well.” Seth turned to ward Logan and winked, and suddenly his usual twinkle was back in his eye as he turned back toward Kristin. “But before I say anything, I want to know why you need protection. Is it from someone specific?”

Kristin nodded slowly, “Yes. My family is extremely conservative and also Christian, not the good kind that helps their neighbors but the kind that preaches to everyone about how they’re sinners and are going to hell. If they ever found out I was a lesbian, I don’t know what they’d do. Until today, Mr. Bianchi was the only one who knew about us, and he’s been protecting us for as long as he’s known. When Maggie came up with this idea, I was scared, and her dad said that he’d only allow it if he got to meet the boys first.”

“Well count me in… No matter what, friends have to stick together, even if you have no idea what crazy ideas are going through their heads,” Seth said as he glanced back at Logan who was staring at him with curious eyes before turning back to her. “Kristin, will you be my fake girlfriend?”

“You’ll really do it?” Kristin asked, her eyes lighting up with excitement. Seth nodded and she jumped out of her seat and ran around the coffee table to give him a hug, accidentally falling into his lap in the process.

“Hey now, this is supposed to be fake, right? How hard are you trying to sell this thing?” Seth asked, laughing as he helped her to her feet. She blushed as he stood and hugged her more effectively, and then she returned to her own couch where she quickly took Maggie’s hand in hers before kissing her girlfriend on the lips.

“Well that’s one, and it’s the important one. But… Logan?” Maggie asked Logan as he watched Seth who was nodding slowly to himself.

Logan turned toward her and blinked several times before responding. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my best friend, it’s that I can’t do anything without him. I’m along for the ride, wherever it takes us.”

He glanced back at Seth as the girls squealed with delight, and found Seth’s green eyes waiting for him. They held their look for only a few seconds, but it was long enough for Logan to see everything he needed in there. While he still didn’t understand how he felt when their eyes were locked together, Seth had made one thing clear to him. No matter what, they were going to stick together, and to Logan, that was the only thing that mattered.

Author’s Note

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