"You okay, Underdog?"

Grant High School was nothing like Jefferson Middle. The teachers were meaner. The classes were harder. The kids were bigger.  And not even TJ Kippen could stop his best friend from being forcibly hauled into a dumpster by some of the bulkier Juniors on the first day, though he is the first person to rush over and pull him out.

"I'm going to smell like last year's meatloaf for the rest of the day, which means I have officially hit rock bottom. Things can only get better from here."

"C'mon, you can shower  in the locker room," TJ said laughing as he started pulling Cyrus along with him. "I've got some spare sweats in my bag."

"But we're going to be late to homeroom!"

TJ looked back at him with a smile but tugged at his wrist anyway.

"D'you trust me?"

"Unfortunately," Cyrus agreed, following after TJ in a way that was both happy and dejected.

TJ looked away as he dropped his arm, blush on his cheeks  when they were finally walking together in sync. He didn't want to  stand so close and send the wrong message, even if it was exactly what he wanted.

The walk to the gym was quicker than Cyrus thought it could ever be, but things with TJ had always been different. The showers were empty when they entered so TJ went over to his locker to grab the extra clothes.

"You promise this won't be weird?" Cyrus asked staring  at the folded sweatpants and t-shirt.

"What? You wearing my stuff?" TJ motioned to his friend's bookbag where he knew one of his old hoodies was stuffed under fresh textbooks and brightly colored highlighters. "You do that anyway, Underdog."

"You can't prove anything!" Cyrus hurried into a stall, leaving TJ to wonder if he was blushing just as hard as the smaller teen.

When Cyrus had finally put on the sweats TJ was waiting at the door with both of their book bags in his hands.

"C'mon or we're really going to be late." The taller boy said with a smirk. Cyrus stuck his tongue out, but followed him back towards the main building nonetheless. He tried to grab his bag back, but TJ assured him that he was fine with carrying it to class for him. They didn't get many looks on the way to class considering the bell had just rung and there was nobody in the hall to watch them, though a few students did look up when they walked in together, TJ grabbing a seat in the back once he placed Cyrus' bag on an empty desk in the front. Cyrus smiled when he noticed and the brightness of that look was enough to completely end him. He didn't know exactly where they stood, but he knew he couldn't see himself falling  for anyone the way he fell for Cyrus Goodman.

* * *

The day went by much slower considering the pair of boys didn't have any more classes together after homeroom, though they found time to talk between classes when TJ would walk Cyrus to class before walking in the opposite direction to his own.

In History they did a brief rehash of war after war after war; in English they were all given copies of To Kill a Mockingbird; and by Math TJ was drained. His head fell to the desk as Ms. Burnes droned on and on about how they were going to learn all about quadratic equations. He could barely deal with normal equations if there were too many factors. He groaned.

"Excuse me, Mr. Kippen, am I boring you?"

"No, ma'am," he said loud enough for her to hear, then quieter he added: "Stressing me out, more like it."

A few of his classmates giggled and she narrowed her eyes at him.

"See me after class."

He kept his head down for the rest of class. He only sat back up when he noticed that his classmates were clearing out. Ms. Burnes walked over to him before he could stand up too. He wonders if it's because even nearing 14, he towers over her.

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