Summary: When Cory is (mistakenly) diagnosed with cancer his last wish is for his two best friends to end their three year feud and apologize. So Skyler convinces Daniel to pretend they're okay and dating. Things get complicated, and if life was a romcom Daniel is not Renee Zellweger. Part of the Second Star 'Verse.
When they're eight years old
Daniel hated school. He hated being away from his mom and her warm comforting smell. He hated watching his mom drive away after dropping him off in front of the building, hugging him and murmuring "I'll see you later, sweet baby. Please be a good boy for mommy. I love you so very much. I'm so proud." He was eight and a big boy now. He knew that. But he still didn't know what to do without her. At home he'd sit on the floor with his blanket wrapped around him while he read big kid books, listening to his mom sing softly as she folded laundry or hugging each other and smelling the fresh baked brownies in the late afternoon after lunch. The big house too, with its stairs that took forever to climb up, the squeaky floorboards in the study, the steady tick tock of the grandfather clock, comforted Daniel and made the tight feeling in his chest pull loose and relax.
Daniel hated leaving home.
Skyler was Daniel's best friend. He had big blue eyes and his hair stood up funny like an anime character. But that was probably only purpose unlike Daniel's stupid curls. He wore light up shoes and said things like, "One day I'm going to marry you," and "Don't cry, Daniel. School is fun!"
Not a lot of kids wanted to be Daniel's friend and even though Skyler was kind of weird in that he wanted to marry Daniel he still liked the other boy. Daniel's mom said that it was perfectly normal for two boys to get married and he shouldn't let anyone tell him different. She also said that Skyler maybe picked it up from TV and that he would probably grow out of it, like a phase, like Daniel will grow out of his bad hair or his general dislike of school. Skyler had his prince phase, wherein he'd go to school with a vest and plastic sword strapped to his hip. Once, he declared he was on a mission to find a princess so he could be king and sit on his father's throne. He found Daniel at the top of the jungle gym after climbing it like some kind of locked tower and demanded Daniel had to be his wife now since Skyler had `saved' him. Skyler was so weird.
Daniel stood on the curb as his mom pulled away in her car and already he could feel the itch behind his eyes. He bit his bottom lip trying to be brave so he could make his mom proud. He could do this. The itch became more persistent. And oh god, he's going to cry. The tears slid down his face even as his breath stuttered out.
"Don't cry, Daniel," said Skyler, promptly taking Daniel's hand. He swung his arm so their clasped hands swung beside their hips.
Daniel's throat was dry like the time he swallowed a spoonful of cinnamon. "I can't help it," he mumbled.
"Hey," said Skyler. He stilled the swinging action and instead gave Daniel's hand a soft little squeeze. "Hey, don't cry."
He leaned in and his big doe eyes were close to Daniel's. Then he started wiping at the crying boy's cheeks with the edge of his Batman t-shirt. Daniel batted away Skyler's hand rubbing at his cheek.
"I'll take care of you, I promise," said Skyler.
Daniel hiccupped wetly. "You're not a grown up."
He started to cry harder because this boy was so overwhelming. Daniel flinched back instinctively when Skyler peered closely at him with a soft frown and then suddenly he's wrapped up in his skinny arms. Skyler smelled like grass in the spring.
"Let go, Skyler!" Daniel whined. He struggled but Skyler was taller and his arms longer, and he was sort of soft despite it all, and Daniel found his cheek pressed into a warm shoulder.
"Whenever I'm sad my mom hugs me until I feel better," Skyler said squeezing him tighter when he tried to wiggle loose.
"Stupid," Daniel said, sniffling. He slumped forward in Skyler's arms. He kept on him hugging him and if anything his grip on Daniel grew tighter.
Skyler tucked his chin into Daniel's curls. "Guess that means I'll keep on hugging you then. I'm okay with that."
Daniel ignored the warmth of Skyler's hand rubbing circles into his back. He looked up at the taller boy. "But you're always hugging me."
Skyler gave a delighted laugh and pulled back to study Daniel's face. His nerves had calmed down somewhat and his teeth stopped chattering. Skyler wiped his thumb at the lingering wetness at the corner of Daniel's eye.
"There now," he said, smiling. He patted Daniel's cheeks dry with the hem of his shirt. "Can't have the future Mrs. Phillips in tears."
Daniel pouted. "Why am I always the wife?"
"Because you cry a lot."
The comment was said teasingly and Daniel knew that but it still managed to set him off again. All he wanted to do was be back in his bedroom. He started to breathe shakily as his eyes welled up and he stopped only when Skyler grabbed him by the shoulder and kissed him on the mouth. Daniel quieted down and just blinked. Skyler's eyes stared wide and pale blue and Daniel's eyes crossed as he tried to watch him. Skyler's lips were wet and tasted like strawberry pop tarts and milk.
"Humph," Daniel wiped his lips. "I'm going to tell my mom you kissed me."
Skyler turned red and flailed his arms about. "What! Daniel! I thought you promised it'd be our secret."
"Don't kiss me anymore or I'm going to tell," Daniel threatened, not really meaning it. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands. No one was paying them any attention but he didn't like when people called him a crybaby. It was why no one wanted to be his friend.
Skyler scowled at him. "Fine. I won't kiss you anymore."
He turned away with a huff and crossed his arms, peeking at Daniel out of the corner of his eye to check his reaction. Daniel felt the knot in his stomach tighten and his chin wobbled. He always felt too strongly, too deeply, and his emotions always got the best of him. And the thought of Skyler never holding his hand again, kissing him or hugging him was as sad as not seeing his mom all afternoon.
Skyler looking dismayed jumped back. "What! What is it? Why are you crying again?"
"Because you're being mean to me!" Daniel screamed in his face. He ran away and hid behind the bushes next to the drop-off zone.
"What!" Skyler said, running after him. "What!" But he hugged Daniel again and squeezed him, in pulses, before pulling back enough so that he could kiss Daniel's mouth. He kissed Daniel three times in rapid succession, loud smooching noises that made Daniel's lips curl, his shoulders sag. Skyler nuzzled his cheek and swayed Daniel in his arms.
"Daniel," Skyler sighed, his breath was warm and tickled Daniel's ear, "You're kind of, um, weird."
"Mom says weird is good," Daniel said, suddenly defensive.
"It is," Skyler laughed and pushed their faces together. Their noses rubbed. "That's why when I'm grown up I'm going to get a good job, and treat you really good, then I'm going to marry you and make you my wife."
"Why do you want to marry me?" Daniel tripped over every word. He stared down at his shoelaces and his cheeks and neck and ears, his entire face, burned with embarrassment.
Skyler didn't seem to notice. He just smiled and tilted his head. Then he spoke, as if the answer was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Because you're lovely."
Daniel frowned scrunching his nose. He didn't understand. "Um, okay?"
"And my mom says you should marry the lovely ones."
Daniel felt the itch behind his eyes again and raised his fists to rub at his eyes.
"Oh no! Daniel, I'm sorry. Did I say something wrong?"
When Daniel glanced up Skyler looked so funny with his big blue eyes blown wide and jabbering jaw as he tried to apologize. It made Daniel want to laugh and, maybe, hold Skyler's hand.
But he wouldn't do that. Because Skyler was weird.
When they're fourteen years old
Taunton Academy was the all-boys prep school of choice for New Yorkers. The rate of graduates obtaining a spot in any ivy league was extremely high and the school's zero tolerance policy on bullying made it stand out as a media darling in the academic community. It was almost two hours out of the city, near the Hamptons, so a majority of the boys boarded on campus in the dorms. They were well into their second semester and Daniel loved it, despite being just a freshmen.
The uniforms weren't that awful. Their blazers were dark blue and the ties were crimson with pale gold diagonal stripes. Totally workable. He walked into his dorm and plopped on the bed with a sigh. Cory tapped at something on his laptop and spun around in his chair looking over at his roommate with a raised eyebrow
"What's wrong now?"
Daniel stared at the ceiling. "Why does something have to be wrong?"
"Oh please," Cory replied. He waved his hand at him. "Just look at you. You look like a sad kitten."
Daniel threw up the finger in his vague direction. "I'm going to pretend you said I look cute and adorable."
"Two words that aren't in my vocabulary," Cory said promptly.
Daniel narrowed his eyes. "You're not my therapist. I'm not opening up to you."
"You're right. I should get paid for this."
The room's door opened without warning and Skyler strolled in like his name was on the door. He was going through a growth spurt so he was all long-limbed, sharp elbows and skinny and pouted whenever someone compared him to a giraffe. Cory grinned and threw him a sharp salute.
"And in enters your therapist," he said, reaching out to bro-fist Skyler.
Skyler sat on the bed immediately laying his hand on Daniel's ankle a little gesture of hey you. He peered closely at Daniel's face. "Hey, what's wrong?" He glanced at Cory. "And why does he need a therapist?"
Daniel groaned. "You can't talk about me like I left the room. Still right here."
"Well, spill," said Skyler, giving his ankle a squeeze. "Are you going to mope the whole day? We have to study for that chem test and we both know I'm terrible at chemistry. So the sooner we settle this the better."
"I don't feel like talking. So I bid you good day, sir." Daniel rolled over in his bed so he faced the wall. Anywhere so he wouldn't have to look into Skyler's big blue eyes, which are just ridiculous.
Skyler poked him in the ribs. "Come on."
"I said good day, sir," Daniel repeated, scooting further toward the wall.
A sigh was all he heard before Skyler laid down to fit himself against Daniel's side. "Did you find out that Wicked was leaving Broadway?" he mumbled into Daniel's shoulder. "It might not ever come back," he continued without waiting for a response. "And really off-Broadway is not that bad no matter what the elitist say."
"Shut up," Daniel said with a laugh. "You are a lying liar who lies."
He could feel Skyler's smile into his shoulder. "It made you laugh didn't it?"
"You guys are giving me cavities," said Cory from his bed. "It's like the Notebook except gayer."
Only the look he was giving them was way too fond and his smile was this bright thing that was reminiscent of a child's when they saw something that amused them greatly. Daniel rolled his eyes at him and sat up a little. Skyler moved with him and they rested with their backs pressed against the headboard. He closed his eyes and just blurted it out.
"I think Nate's going to break up with me."
Cory fist-pumped the air. "Good. He's a tool."
Skyler rolled his eyes. "Not helping. It's his first boyfriend, dude. Remember that sympathy thing we talked about." He laid his hand over Daniel's. "Are you sure?"
Daniel shrugged. "He's been really distant and doesn't answer all of my texts and I don't know. And we haven't hung out in awhile. Maybe he thinks I'm boring—"
It all just kind of spilled out in a word vomit. Daniel might have gotten over his separation anxiety when he was a kid, but it still lingered like a faint nagging insecurity that crept up when he thought too much. The ball of worry in his stomach was swelling and he chewed on his lower lip, thinking on their last meetings, what he did, what he could've done better, maybe he shouldn't—
"Hey now, stop that," said Skyler. He was rubbing the top of Daniel's hand with the pad of his thumb in soft little circles. "You're getting yourself all worked up and you're not even sure. Maybe, I don't know, its school getting to him or something. We just came back from winter break so he could be swamped. You shouldn't worry until you know for sure."
Cory dragged his hand through his shaggy hair. "He's also a major douchebag, so."
Daniel pointed at him. "You don't like him because he's in Spencer House."
"And we're in Lancaster," said Cory with a vehement nod. "It's like dating the enemy. They're practically Slytherins."
"For the love of," Skyler said exasperated. "Cory we're not at Hogwarts. Let it go. I don't why you and the other freshman are trying to, like, make this into a thing."
Cory smirked. "It's happening. Deal with it."
Daniel didn't think this was a good time to tell Skyler that they were trying to start a school Quidditch league since freshman weren't allowed to play on the school's lacrosse or rugby team. He may or may not be secretly excited to watch Cory run around on a broom making an ass of himself. His camera was charged and ready.
"Maybe I am worrying for nothing," Daniel muttered. Once he got it all out, most of it sounded like it was just nerves.
Skyler's lips curled into an honest smile. "There you go." He rested his forehead against Daniel's and they're face to face, noses brushing. Just like when they were kids. "Now give us a smile."
And like always, because he couldn't say no when Skyler was looking at him with those doe eyes, Daniel's face blossomed into a small bashful smile. An explosion of sound made them look up to find Cory staring at them with his chin in his hands, the wide-eyed beginnings of a significant look and an overeager smile creeping upon his face.
"What is air!" he yelled before breaking into an honest-to-god giggle fit. He waved his hand at them. "And you two don't—"
blinked. "Should we like get the nurse?"
Cory sucked in a huge gasp of air, cheeks red from laughing. "No, I'm. I'm good." He chuckled a little more. "I'm laughing because you two are perfect for each other. It's crazy you aren't together. You're both gay, so, what's the hold up?"
"All gay guys don't want each other," Daniel said dryly. "We're just friends."
Self conscious now he carefully pulled his foot back from Skyler's thigh. Skyler curled his hand around Daniel's ankle and pulled it back. Cory watched this all happen with that stupidly fond look on his face.
"Best friends," Skyler corrected him, like it's all no big deal, bumping their shoulders together. "And you aren't the first person to say that. But we've known each other since we were eight. It'd be weird."
Daniel nodded his head because the idea was, he didn't even want to think about it. "It would be like dating my brother."
Cory stared at them laying on the bed with their sides pressed together, Daniel's ankle held against Skyler's thigh, while Skyler carefully massaged the tendon with his fingers.
"Mmhmmm," he said thoughtfully.
Daniel didn't like the look on his face.
Skyler just laughed. He tilted his head so it lay on Daniel's shoulder. A playful frown tugged at Daniel's lips as his friend looked up at him through his lashes. He tapped his finger against Daniel's nose.
"Nate's on the lacrosse team with me so I can see what's on his mind," Skyler offered. "I'll be real subtle, promise."
Daniel felt the thing in his stomach unwind and he let out a sigh, a relieved smile breaking free. "That'll be awesome. Thanks, Sky."
Skyler's answering grin was brilliant. "Anything for you, Danny."
They ignored Cory's gagging sounds.
Over the next few days Daniel focused on schoolwork and tried not to worry about his boyfriend and whether or not Nate was going to break his heart. Whenever he did a dreadful feeling built in his gut and didn't leave until he wanted to run a mile around the school. So instead, he tried out for the school's a capella group, the Dappertones, and made it. He might not be athletic like Skyler but he had an excellent voice. The Dappertones were kind of stuck up but he was planning on going into musical theater in college and he needed the experience. Also, they gave him a standing ovation after his audition so he couldn't hate on them too much. It still made him blush when he thought about it.
Cory watched from his bed as Daniel fussed with his hair in the mirror. "You look like you're trying to solve the world's energy crisis."
"I wish I didn't have curly hair," Daniel frowned at his reflection. Hazel eyes glared at the black curls with a frown. It was like a permanent bad hair day. "I look like a Jonas."
"And that's a bad thing how? They've got mad game," Cory replied. He sighed at Daniel's flat stare. "Listen, my brother actually has a little jew fro going on when he's not shellacking his hair. I'll do you a solid and ask him what product he uses so you can tame those curls."
Daniel turned to him and grinned. "If this was a Disney film you'd totally be my fairy godmother."
"Got the fairy part right," he muttered, now ignoring Daniel in favor for his Sports Illustrated.
"I heard that," Daniel retorted as he stepped through the doorway.
"You were meant to," Cory called out as the door closed.
He laughed as he walked down the hall. He totally lucked out in the roommate department. If Skyler hadn't decided to enroll at the last minute they would've been rooming together. But it all worked out for the best. Cory was kind of fantastic. He was quickly becoming a good friend to both Skyler and Daniel. He was way better than that asshole Luke Walker that Skyler ended up with. Daniel refrained from making Star Wars jokes, but one time he couldn't help himself and told Luke to use the force when they're doing homework in Skyler's room. Luke's dark look was clearly irritated.
Daniel texted a silly message to Skyler on his way to Nate's room. Then he called Nate because whether the outcome was going to be a breakup or not, they needed to talk. Daniel couldn't live in this weird limbo state. It was making him anxious all the damn time. His phone went to voicemail but that wasn't anything new. Sometimes when Nate finished lacrosse practice he liked to wind down with some horrible 80's music that's so loud his hallmates constantly banged on his door to turn it down or swear to god they'll murder him in his sleep.
The closer he got to Nate's room the more nervous he became. He'd never been someone's boyfriend before. Trying to figure it out had taken time but he thought they were doing fine until Nate started pulling away. He just hoped—He shook the thought off. None of that. He wasn't some teenage girl. Daniel squared his shoulders and channeled a little confidence. If something was wrong he was going to man up and fix this goddamnit.
Daniel rapped at the door but there was no answer. Nate always told him to let himself in, so the door clicked open and Daniel froze in the doorway.
Skyler and Nate sat on his bed with barely a foot separating them. Daniel kind of wondered, hey what's my best friend doing in my boyfriend's room. But then reality set in and it clicked together piece by piece and their swollen lips gave away the punch line.
A sort of numbness filled him and he didn't realize he was walking away, Daniel's name echoing through the hallway in a pleading chant, until Skyler caught up with him at the top of the stairs. Skyler grabbed his arm and stopped him; Daniel's not ready for any of this. It fucking hurt to look at him, but it hurt more not to. His chest felt too tight like it wasn't big enough to hold everything inside it. It was an aching feeling that clutched at his heart and squeezed so damn hard it became an almost unbearable, physical pain. Everything was sort of blurry and it took him too long to realize it was because he was crying. Skyler reached out instinctively to wipe at them and Daniel flinched away; the action was like a taunt now.
"I'm so sorry. I—" Skyler stuttered out. Daniel finally looked up at him and Skyler looked shattered, like everything in him had been blown apart and then thrown back together and nothing's in the right place anymore.
"How long?" Daniel's voice came out rough with tears. He was going to be sick. His heart threatened to climb out of his body through his too tight throat.
"It wasn't like that," Skyler denied. He took a step forward and Daniel took one back and the action sent hurt flashing through Skyler's eyes. "I didn't mean. It was an accident. It was only this one time."
Daniel's laugh was ugly. "That's just awesome. I'm so flattered that you aren't going to hookup with my boyfriend again."
"No! I didn't mean it like that!" Daniel could see Skyler's hands fidgeting with the urge to reach out and grab him, little aborted movements that made him tear up. "I came to talk to him for you—"
"That looked like it was working out super."
The nickname felt like a slap. "Don't call me that."
Skyler's eyes welled up. "Please. Just let me explain."
Daniel felt like he might suffocate in it all. It was too much. His whole body was tight and he felt directionless and uneasy like nothing would ever make sense again. This feeling was strangling him. His knuckles were white around his phone. He was shaking from it, chest heaving, and his breath came out in pants. How dare Skyler stand there looking wrecked when he—
"Don't ever talk to me again," Daniel said and it felt like someone else was saying it. His mouth was moving but he was so very far away. Away from this pain, this hell he was living.
They stared at each other for awhile, Daniel with his heaving breath and Skyler with his mouth hanging open. Tears slid down his cheeks and he pressed his lips together looking down at Daniel's shoes.
"Don't say that," Skyler said, his voice trembled and he started blinking really fast, trying to fight the tears. "You're my best friend."
"That was yesterday," said Daniel, without thought, because he didn't know how he's talking when he felt raw, cut up and pulled apart and stung. "Now you're just the asshole who tore out my heart and cheated with my boyfriend."
Skyler's face crumbled and that was all Daniel could bear. He couldn't stand looking at his face anymore. He hated Skyler so much. Daniel pushed around him and took flight down the stairs, waiting for Skyler to grab his arm again and apologize some more, and Daniel really wanted to punch him in his face, curse at him, do something. Daniel didn't even know. He made it back to the room without intervention. He was breathing hard, not even crying anymore, and he's thankful the room was empty, and as soon as the door shut behind him he let loose a scream, practically spitting with curses that were coming out of his mouth.
It finally caught back up to him and he started crying again and whether it was out of anger or self-pity or humiliation he didn't know, and he fell into his bed, not bothering to fight the sobs that he muffled into his sheets.
His phone started ringing and there was a frantic knock at his door that he ignored. Daniel powered off his phone first and then turned on music from his laptop to drown out the knocking. It was so loud that he couldn't even hear himself think let alone the banging at the door.
Daniel didn't know when the knocking stopped. Time ticked by in a blur measured in feelings. When Cory got back that night, Daniel was sitting on his bed playing with his guitar. He didn't know what he looked like but Cory went still, standing in the middle of the room for a long time.
"I, uh, I ran into Skyler," Cory said the name like he wasn't sure if it was taboo. "He told me what happened."
Daniel stared at him, eyes red and a little puffy. "I think I really hate him."
"I can't even imagine how—" Cory tried to say, but something on Daniel's face made him quiet. "You've been best friends since you were kids. You don't mean that."
"If he never talks to me again I'll die happy," Daniel stated and there's real heat in his voice. Fresh pain and bitterness made the words lash out. And he meant it.
Cory frowned. "Alright, man. Listen, I won't get in between you two. But I wish—"
"I wish my best friend didn't betray me," Daniel interjected with a scathing edge.
If Cory was going to say something else he refrained. There was silence in the room for the rest of the night.
In the coming days the anger over Skyler didn't go away or waver. It was a fire in Daniel's chest that burned like a lighthouse. It wasn't easy to avoid Skyler but he managed. He didn't sit anywhere near him in the classes they shared, didn't go to his lacrosse practices and refused to eat in the same dining hall. He didn't answer Skyler's phone calls and let all his text messages go ignored. Cory didn't want to choose between them and Daniel didn't make him, as long as he didn't try to get Daniel in the same room as Skyler he didn't care if they were still friends. He made it almost a week before it all went to shit.
Daniel stepped through the doorway of the senior commons and froze when he caught sight of Skyler sitting at the table by the window. His chin was in his hand and he was gazing out the window with a distant stare. That's wasn't what made his body lock up. Nate was standing at Skyler's side and he was looking so perfectly gorgeous, smiling, and the sunlight struck the two of them just right and they looked like something out of a magazine. Daniel felt like second best. All the feelings came rushing back and everything turned into white noise. The fire in his chest blazed brighter than ever. He felt so many things but it was anger that was the strongest. He was all out of tears.
What he did next all happened in a haze of fury. There was a phone call here, a meeting with the Dean there, and the dominoes fell so ridiculously easy. Are you sure the Dean and Skyler's parents asked him over and over and he nods and confirmed it, and they're so disappointed. He's only fourteen, we raised him better, and it's not because he's gay, they've never cared about that, it's just the fact he was hooking up at school instead of worrying about his education. They expected so much more out of him. It was Friday when they pulled him out of school.
"Daniel you open this fucking door right now!"
The door opened, and Daniel scrambled up from the bed, standing with his back straight as if he was about to face a brutal storm. Instead, it's worse. Skyler was in a t-shirt and jeans, and Daniel already knew what this was about as he adjusted the tie of his uniform. He narrowed his eyes at Skyler standing there with an expression of absolute rage.
"You did this!" he spat out. It's the angriest that Daniel had ever seen him.
Daniel lifted an eyebrow. "Please, just come right into my room."
"Seriously? This is all—" Skyler said sort of disbelievingly, cutting himself off. He dragged his hand down his face. "My parents are sending me to St. Judes."
"A private school in Manhattan? Oh the horror," Daniel deadpanned.
"You really did this?" Skyler said quietly, a realization. The hurt on his face was overtaken by anger in one smooth stroke. "You're a fucking bastard."
lifted his chin. "It takes one to know one, right?"
"It's like I don't even know you right now," said Skyler shaking his head. "I can't believe you did this."
That right there made him grind his teeth. "That's ironic coming from you."
"I said I was sorry," Skyler said and his glare was the coldest thing that felt like ice and fire against Daniel's skin. "You won't even talk to me and I've tried to—" His abrupt laugh cut through the room like a knife. "You know what. Screw it then. I can't even anymore. You don't want to be friends. Fine."
"Sounds good to me," Daniel shrugged, staring at him with his best blank-faced expression. They both knew Skyler absolutely hated it when he couldn't read Daniel's emotions across his face.
Daniel wanted to push him out of the room. He was tired of those dumb blue eyes and his stupid face. Looking at Skyler just stirred up anger and made him feel like he wanted to vomit. What was between them was broken and fixing it just wasn't possible.
"Have a nice life, dick," Skyler muttered, and he stared at Daniel for a few seconds before turning to go.
Daniel shut himself in his room quickly, his heart thudding back to life, and apparently he could survive missing one piece of it.
When they're seventeen years old
A few days into senior year and already it was looking like a busy semester. Between glee practice with the Dappertones, Student Council, and Debate Team (which he might have to drop this year because Wes beat him out for captain and was being a royal dick about it), and classes and studying, Daniel didn't have a lot of free time. At least one of the perks of being a senior was he now had a single room. Rooming with Cory the last three years had been a blast but this was awesome.
Daniel had learned to trim down his morning hair routine from thirty minutes into fifteen. So by the time Cory came knocking on his door every curl was slicked down and his hair was styled into submission into a conservative look that wouldn't be out of place on Wall Street.
"Come in!" Daniel called out, adjusting his tie and blazer.
Cory breezed through the doorway. Daniel turned from the mirror to run his eyes over his friend that made himself right at home on his bed. He was wearing blue sweatpants and a black wifebeater. His muscles were shiny with sweat and Daniel's lips curled up in disgust.
"Are you seriously lying on my bed with your big sweaty body?"
Cory folded his arms behind his head, shaggy hair falling around the pillow like a halo. "First, by big sweaty body you totally mean `muscular and glistening, rock hard body'. Second, this is probably the most action your bed has gotten besides you whacking off in it this morning."
"You are the actual worst," Daniel stated, not for the first or last time. He tucked his homework in his messenger bag along with his sheet music for rehearsals. "You know we have like thirty minutes until class. Why aren't you dressed? You look like an extra from Teen Wolf."
"You watch that show not me, so that means nothing to me," replied Cory. He fiddled with his iphone for a second. "I told you yesterday I have a doctor's appointment. I have to get a physical for rugby."
Daniel leaned against his dresser. "Aw, look at you playing a normal sport. You're like a real boy and stuff."
"With Bryce Archibald breaking his arm and getting almost blinded during the Quidditch Finals last year, we had to disband the team."
"To avoid a lawsuit," Daniel said, sweetly, ignoring Cory's glower directed at him. "You always leave that part out."
"And you always remind me, dick breath," Cory replied back just as innocently.
Daniel threw his comb at him. "Your gay jokes suck."
"I went to Pride with you last year, got the flag and the glitter, so you can calm down," said Cory, laughing. "I'm a certified saint of the community."
"Saint is stretching it," Daniel muttered. "Since you're not here to go with me to Calculus I'm assuming you want something?"
Cory went quiet. Immediately his iphone became more interesting. Daniel's eyes narrowed. Cory deliberately ignored the flat stare Daniel was directing at him. He nonchalantly picked up a CD from the nightstand and inspected it.
"Oh look," said Cory, reading the back of the CD. "I didn't know Dreamgirls was a musical. Isn't that the movie with Beyonce?"
Daniel blinked. "You saw it in the theaters with me and fell asleep. And stop avoiding my question."
"Well I wasn't sure how to tell you this," he said slowly, wringing his hands like a worried mom on a Saturday night when her kids were late for curfew.
"Are you coming out to me?" Daniel asked suddenly.
Cory sat up. "What? No."
Daniel let out a breath. "Oh, okay."
said Cory, staring at him with wide eyes. "Why would you say that?"
The laugh Cory received in response wasn't what he expected if his pout was anything to go by. Daniel sobered up relatively quickly because frankly there wasn't a lot of time before first period.
"So can you like summarize this or just text me whatever news you have. I really have to go."
"Skyler transferred back to Taunton."
Daniel's body went rigid. The shock paralyzed him. He couldn't think. He couldn't respond. Cory watched him, silent. Fifteen seconds, fifteen insane, static seconds passed before Daniel felt the world tilt back on its correct axis.
"Skyler who?" asked Daniel, and it sounded lame even to his ears.
"Skyler Phillips," Cory said carefully, watching Daniel move
around the room like he was looking for something important. They both knew he
wasn't. "Oh, that was rhetorical wasn't it?"
Daniel's lips thinned. "What's he doing back here?"
"It doesn't matter. He's coming back. Actually he's already here, as of this morning," said Cory.
Cory sighed heavily, turning pleading brown eyes on him. "You haven't spoken in three years. Can you two be nice? For me, please. I told him the same thing. I don't want to spend senior year playing referee between my friends. It'll be awesome having him so close again."
"Of course, I'll be on my best behavior," said Daniel with a forced smile.
The look Cory leveled him with was telling. "I don't believe you. But thanks for saying it."
"Well some of us don't get the day off so I'm going to class," said Daniel deliberately changing the subject. He stared disdainfully at his comforter Cory lay on. "Feel free to wash my sheets."
"We both know that's not happening," said Cory, riffling through Daniel's magazine collection on the nightstand. Yeah he totally did. He closed the door shut behind him. Cory would let himself out at some point.
He shouldered his bag and made his way through the dorms. Lancaster House was located West of the North of the Main Building and one of the three main dormitories at Taunton. The others being Spencer House, located in the North wing, and York House in the East wing. The Main and South were where the classes and other facilities were found.
The massive manor-style building with its ancient columns, marble floors and vaulted entrance hall was intimidating the first few months boarding in Lancaster. But now the dormitory was home. His housemates were all friends and the school held some of the best memories of his life. Daniel frowned when thinking back to three years ago—and the worst.
He put it out of his head. That was three years ago. There was no need to dwell on things like some kind of psycho. He was seventeen years old. He was lead soloist in the glee club, college was on the horizon, and senior year was going to be awesome goddamnit and no one was going to ruin this for him. Especially not cheating dickwads that were better off staying in the past.
If that wasn't enough to keep him focused and keep his thoughts off the inevitable encounter that was in his future then Calculus at eight thirty in the morning sure did it. An hour later and then it was AP French followed by Criminal Justice (which he was taking for dual college credit but was turning out to be pretty interesting), and finally it was time for lunch.
The dining hall was its typical loud and boisterous affair when Daniel entered. He usually took his lunches with Cory or a couple of the Dappertones. He took a seat between Sasha and Dean. Sasha's hair was crayola red and he was born in Moscow. He was always dancing and kind of was the glee club's go-to choreographer.
"So I heard we got a transfer into Lancaster," said Dean, chewing on his macaroni.
Sasha nodded. "You weren't here freshman year but he used to be a student. He left for some reason. No one really knows why." He looked off thoughtfully. "I can't remember who his friends were then. They probably know."
Daniel kept his face perfectly blank. It was too early for the gossip mill to get all their facts together. It would be the end of the day before people knew that Skyler and Daniel were old friends and the history between them. Boys were worse gossips than girls, really. Nate graduated last year so he couldn't fuel the flames and Daniel wasn't going to be the one giving out details.
A shadow fell over their table and the boys quieted in the presence of the newcomer. Daniel looked up and tried to keep his mouth from gaping. Of course Skyler would seek him out. He always loved to make an entrance. Time had done him well Daniel could begrudgingly admit. He filled out from the skinny fourteen year old boy. Six feet of lean muscle had replaced lankiness; his brown hair was cut short and close to his square-jawed face. He was tanned a soft gold, as if it were as dark a tan as his pale skin was capable of. He looked at Daniel with piercing blue eyes, the color of icebergs in the arctic. They were as beautiful as ever and right now they were filled with contempt.
"Hey there, I've been going around introducing myself and doing the new kid shuffle. I'm Skyler Phillips."
"Dean Smith," said Dean smiling that charming grin that earned him Best Smile two years running. The mocha skinned boy extended his hand out to shake after Sasha did the same.
Skyler's grin was taunting as he turned his full attention to Daniel. "You I don't like."
Daniel put down his latte and crossed his arms, not even surprised. He looked up at Skyler and his smile was just as sharp. "Awesome. I don't like you either."
Ignoring the stunned two boys at the table, Skyler continued on. "I don't like what you did to me. I don't like your freaky man curls that you've managed to plaster to your head with enough hair gel to last a normal person a month. And I don't like your stupid smirky face. I want it to be clear. We're not friends."
Daniel leaned back in his chair and his smile was colder now. "Let's go ahead and set the record straight. I'm the one that decided we shouldn't be friends anymore, your entire existence here is a joke, and chances are you're going to do something to get yourself kicked out anyway. Then by the end of the school year I'll have a Nationals trophy, an acceptant letter to Tisch, and awesome friends, and you'll still have those serial killer eyes and a job as janitor at the kiddy carnival."
"You look like a hobbit on his way to business school."
Dean looked between them. "Can we go ahead and assume you two know each other?"
"Unfortunately," Daniel said dryly.
"Good luck on that National's trophy. I hope you break a leg," Skyler said. "Literally."
"You should throw yourself off a cliff," Daniel suggested.
Skyler's lips quirked. "I really hate you."
"I really hate you too."
They fake-smiled at each other.
Skyler turned his back to them, a clear dismissal, and walked away to continue making his rounds around the hall. Daniel tore a vicious bite out of his club sandwich, glaring after him. It was silent at the table. Sasha cleared his throat.
"Anything you want to share?"
Daniel shook his head feigning innocence. "I don't think so. Why?"
"What's happening right now?" Dean asked. "Are you pretending like we weren't sitting here when you and new kid pissed on each other?"
"That's gross." Daniel made a face.
Sasha held up a finger. "But weirdly accurate."
They both stared at him and Daniel let out a sigh and put down his sandwich because at this point he was just postponing the inevitable. He might as well tell them now before they turned it into a huge thing during rehearsals. They couldn't afford any distractions.
Daniel sighed. "Fine. Skyler and I used to be friends. Things happened and now we're not. End of story."
"Your ability to tell a good story is sorely lacking," Dean noted.
Sasha nodded. "Agreed."
"What can I say, it's a skill."
Sasha rolled his eyes. "Or lack thereof. But whatever. We won't get all in your business."
"Plus Cory will probably just tell us later anyway," Dean tacked on.
And he would too. If they bribed him with food that boy turned into your best friend, like a stray dog. It would be annoying if it wasn't so funny. Sasha scanned the hall quickly looking around.
"Speaking of," he said. "Where's Cory at anyway? I wanted to see what he would actually do for a Klondike bar."
Daniel snorted. He was feeling lighter now that the subject of Skyler was apparently dropped for now. "He went off campus. He has a doctor's accompaniment. Something about a physical for rugby, I think."
Dean's eyebrows rose so high they were practically in his hairline. "He's playing regular sports now? Good for him."
Sasha sighed and threw a hand over his heart. "Our little boy is growing up."
"You know he weighs almost two hundred pounds and could probably bench-press all of us put together," Daniel pointed out.
Sasha shook his head. "They really do grow up so fast don't they? It was only yesterday when he was in the quad with a lighter and trying to invent that psychotic fire ball game."
Daniel grimaced. "That was yesterday."
They laughed and then switched topics to songs they were rehearsing tomorrow for glee club. They missed out on making it past Regional's last year. But Daniel had his eye on the prize and that prize was a spot at National's. Winning the National trophy would be the ultimate coup to cap off senior year.
The secret of secrets that he wouldn't let himself think about while sitting at that table was how jarring it was to see Skyler again. There had been a quiet pang in his heart at the sight of that familiar face, but it was drowned out by sadness, distant hurt, and a giant dose of anger that he couldn't get over three years later.
Daniel had been the crybaby in their early years and Skyler had been his brave friend, wiping away his tears and always cheering him up with his giant grin and overwhelming personality. Skyler was everything. Then he reached deep inside Daniel's chest, crushed his heart and took a piece of it with him. There was nothing but a hollow ache whenever he thought of their childhood spent in sunshine and laughter and hugs and Daniel hated him for tarnishing those precious memories.
Without Skyler at his side Daniel had to learn to stand on his own two feet. He didn't have anyone to cry to or run behind and soothe away his hurts. He was stronger for it. Daniel carved out his place in Taunton all on his own. He was the proper gentlemen that the broachers assured prospects were molded into. Daniel smiled more, laughed harder, and perfected it all into ideal manners that made the faculty and his parents proud. His life was planned out perfectly: Graduate from Taunton, obtain a degree in Musical Theater at Tisch, get cast on Broadway, married when's thirty, find the perfect house, dog, then kids, etcetera. It was going to be wonderful. He didn't need Skyler coming in and stomping on his plans. He was a life ruiner.
Finishing the rest of the school day turned into a long nightmare. Seeing Skyler in the hallways laughing with the other Lancaster boys and making friends was an unexpected mindfuck. Half of him tagged their encounter in the dining hall down to a food poisoning induced hallucination. The cold reality was like ice sinking into his veins and it made him sick.
Daniel slammed the door when he made it back to his room. Sure enough by five o'clock everyone had the full scoop on Skyler and Daniel's drama. Their show in the dining hall hadn't gone unnoticed. In fact, someone had recorded it on their phone and put it up on Youtube and titled it Mean Girls: The Gay Version. It was almost up to a thousand hits already. Someone in the comments said Daniel looked like a young Burt Reynolds and he didn't know whether to be mad or flattered. Rumors were circulating around and everyone even Spencer House and York were waiting on a round two.
He dropped his blazer on the bed and closed his eyes. Maybe it wasn't too late to get a fake ID from Reece Little because he needed a drink bad. Daniel glanced at the clock and frowned thoughtfully. It was a little after six and he hadn't heard from Cory all day. Which was strange in itself since that boy was a texting maniac. He practically live-texted his entire life. Daniel grabbed his phone. He should've been back by now from the doctor's. It would be easy to call but he needed to vent and that was always better face to face, so Cory could shake his shoulders and tell him to get his shit together.
Cory lived on the same floor but further down the hall. When Daniel knocked on the door the reply to come in sounded subdued even through the barrier. Daniel was taken aback to see Cory sitting on his bed and staring at his hands with an absent frown.
"Hey what's up?" Daniel asked, already concerned at the somberness that hung around Cory. He stood in the middle of the room and the strange silence was worrying him.
When Cory looked up it was like he was seeing Daniel for the first time. "Oh, hey, man. Um—you just missed Skyler. He's going to get drinks. But maybe you shouldn't see him. You'll just fight anyway."
"I can be civil!" Daniel argued, defensive.
Cory shook his head, eyes dark with frustration. "You're going to spend the rest of your lives fighting about something that shouldn't even matter anymore. Life shouldn't be about focusing on people's mistakes. You get one life and my best friends are going to spend the rest of mine fighting."
The anger in his voice stopped Daniel cold. A sinking filling settled in his stomach. He sat down on the bed touching a hand to Cory's shoulder. He was hunched up on himself and when he looked at Daniel his smile was a sad little lopsided thing.
"Hey, what's wrong with you?" asked Daniel, confused and a little scared.
"I have cancer," said Cory quietly.
Daniel let out a short empty laugh. He couldn't help it. This was Cory. Always laughing, always joking, always happy. That just wasn't possible. The quiet resigned expression on Cory's face stole Daniel's breath and suddenly he's hugging him and all he wanted to do was take that expression off Cory's face. He shouldn't ever look like that.
"You're okay though right?" asked Daniel. "Like, you can beat this."
Cory shrugged kind of half-heartedly. "There's a tumor on my spine. I... looked it up." He shook his head. "I can't even pronounce it. It even sounds awful. When the doctor was going on about my genes, percentages, and chemo all I could think was—I never got to third base with Mandy Richardson. Her tits are amazing."
"You loved that girl," said Daniel fondly, remembering his epic sophomore year relationship that went up in flames. Mandy was crazy. "What did your parents say?"
Cory's face paled. "I was so out of it. I barely remember leaving the doctor's office. I haven't told them. My mom's going to freak." He slapped his hand over his mouth and he went gray. "I think I'm going to be sick."
The bed shook as he jumped up and rushed into the bathroom. The door slammed behind him. Daniel dropped his face into his hands. Damn it if his eyes started to itch. He sucked in a breath. He wasn't going to cry. He needed to be strong right now. Cory didn't need him blubbering like a kid when he was the one that needed a shoulder to cry on. This was all so fucked up.
The door opened again but it wasn't the bathroom door. Daniel's tensed impulsively as Skyler entered the room carrying something wrapped in a paper sack. He couldn't help glaring.
"What are you doing here?" Daniel bit off.
Skyler rolled his eyes. "He's my friend, genius."
"He doesn't need you here, I got it handled in the friend department," Daniel retorted. "So you can just go run along now."
"I was here first," Skyler said shortly. "I just went to get us something to drink. At a time like this whiskey is called for."
Daniel started at the bottle he slipped from the bag. "Careful. Drinking in the dorms will get you suspended. Or maybe they'll do all of us a favor and expel you."
"Going to tattle again?" Skyler sneered.
Daniel blew out an annoyed sigh. "Look this isn't the time or the place. Cory doesn't need this shit right now. You already know he's sick. All that boy wants right now is for us to get along. It's practically his last wish. Now if you can't respect that then get the hell out."
He was not prepared for the look on Skyler's face. It was unexpected how his face seemed to open a little, blue eyes going sort of soft before the bathroom door flew open, and Cory was standing there in the doorway, and Skyler's face smoothly closed off. Daniel felt a weird sense of loss.
"Are you two fighting?" asked Cory suspiciously, staring at them with narrowed eyes.
Skyler shook his head, grinning. "Dude, catch up." He dropped down to where Daniel was sitting on the bed and snaked his arm around Daniel's shoulders, pulling him into an abrupt hug. Long buried instincts made Daniel fold into the hug before he could think it through and Skyler's lips hovered directly over his ear, as he said in a breathless whisper, "Just go with it. Pretend to be my boyfriend."
Cory leaned against the doorjamb, staring at them. "What's happening?" he asked weakly. "Am I dreaming?"
Daniel was completely confused and he was straining to breathe.
"We're dating," Skyler answered smoothly, fingering the baby-fine hairs at the back of Daniel's neck with his fingers. He gave Daniel's shoulder a squeeze and pressed a soft kiss against his temple. "Uh, surprise."
Daniel grinned faintly. "Yeah, surprise."
The smile that overtook Cory's face was wide and bright. He threw his fist in the air. "I knew it!" he yelled, pointing at them. "I fucking told you! You've probably been doing the dirty this whole time! When, where, how? Come on, I need details!"
Daniel adopted a shy smile and buried his head into the crook of Skyler's neck. "I'm going to break your legs for this," he whispered into Skyler's shoulder.
Skyler dropped a kiss into his hair and hissed, "Not now, honey."
Cory crossed the room and he was like an overexcited puppy. He gloomped all over them and the laughter was real because Cory was happy and that was a breathtaking sight after the somberness that was etched on his face. Daniel knew this whole lying was fucked up but if this was the end result then he couldn't be terribly upset. Although, his heart was doing somersaults in his chest because he had a bad feeling he was in over his head.
[end part i]
It took me longer than I thought to get this story posted but here it is! Thank you so much to everyone who reads these little stories and I hope this new series lives up to the standards of the past works. I'm planning for this to be completed in four parts, it may stretch to five. I hope you all like it!
I love love love hearing what all you lovely people say and think. You always write such awesome things. Please email here at Batmanhater@aol.com
Also check out my other story here!