Mine (GAY!)

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Chapter 9: Date and soul crushing

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Zack squared his shoulders, his jaw setting as he continued his assault on the punching bag.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

His speed quickened, his breathing harsh as his brow furrowed in concentration and anger. He changed his stance to alternate between blows with his elbows, fists, and side kicks.

Bang bang bang, jab punch pow, bang bang bang.

His iPod changed then, and Zack found himself singing along with it.

"Life's too short to even care at all, oh.

I'm losing my mind losing my mind losing control, oh oh.

These fishes in the sea they're staring at me oh oh.

Oh oh oh oh,

A wet world aches for a beat of a drum,

Oh."

He was angry. So angry.

He had dealt with the football team for beating on Skyler, and their continued abuse. Slowly, and one by one, he found a way to punish them all. Spray painting possessions pink, drawing crude drawings on lockers or letterman jackets, filling the team gatorade cooler with salt. Little, irritating things that got the point across, but couldn't be proved or provoke trouble for Zack. That and the usual pinning against he lockers and verbal lashing, sometimes a black eye or two.

"If I could find a way to see this straight,

I'd run away,

To some fortune that I, I should have found by now.

I'm waiting for this cough syrup to come down, come down."

But Michael got a little... special treatment. Rainbow spray paintings, crude drawings and expressions, super glue on his jock strap, green hair dye in his shampoo bottle, athletes foot spray on his jersey. The humiliation was intoxicating, and oh so satisfying.

"Life's too short to even care at all, oh, oh.

I'm coming up now, coming up now out of the blue, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

These zombies in the park they're looking for my heart, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh.

A dark world aches for a splash of the sun, oh, oh."

But the attack was weeks ago. True they hadn't tried to beat Skyler up again, but their abuse wasn't stopping, or even slowing down. Name calling, locker shoving, and, unfortunately, Slushies and dumpster throws.

"If I could find a way to see this straight,

I'd run away,

To some fortune that I, I should have found by now.

And so I run now to the things they said could restore me,

Restore life the way it should be,

I'm waiting for this cough syrup to come down."

Zack was heartbroken when he heard Skyler had fallen victim to the two things he had hoped, rather naively, the boy would never have to experience. Skyler had cried over his ruined outfits, going to Zack for comfort, which he gladly gave, wrapping the brunette in his strong embrace and holding him close as he cried his frustrations out.

"Life's too short to even care at all, oh, oh.

I'm losing my mind losing my mind losing control.

If I could find a way to see this straight,

I'd run away,

To some fortune that I, I should have found by now."

He was tired of it. A month of friendship had passed between them, and they had quickly become the best of friends. Nick remained wary of the two, still not liking how comfortable they apparently were to always be touching each other somehow. They weren't dating, and they hadn't kissed since the beating, but they were aware of the mutual attraction and constant sexual tension. They were stuck being platonic until it was okay to continue on, but they just had this invisible draw to the other, they had to be touching each other whenever they could.

"So I run now to the things they said could restore me,

Restore life the way it should be,

I'm waiting for this cough syrup to come down.

One more spoon of cough syrup now, whoa.

One more spoon of cough syrup now, whoa."

A month. A month and the jocks weren't relenting. Still deciding to give Skyler shit, but not Zack, even if he was Zack's best friend. Zack pounded harder, his temper rising.

BANG. BANG. BANG!

Looks like he was going to have to resort to drastic measures.

~~~~

Skyler had his back against the wall, the brick digging into his back and probably scrapping the leather on his vintage teal jacket. His eyes were wide, his heart racing and making his breathing ragged and shaky.

In front of him, Michael had his hands on the countertenor's shoulders, pinning him to the wall. His hair was bright orange, and his letterman jacket had a rainbow with a cock under in spray painted on the front. He was pissed.

"I'm getting real tired of this shit, Day!" he hissed at Skyler, making the boy flinch. "Your pathetic faggy ass is making me mad enough, but your psychotic boy toy is gonna make me snap! THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS WEEK MY HAIR HAS BEEN DYED A NEON COLOR!"

Skyler whimpered as the boy's volume raised, terror and panic thrumming through his veins. He appreciated everything Zack did to protect him and stand up for him, and he had to admit watching the jocks fall victim to Zack's anger for a month was certainly entertaining, but he knew it wasn't enough.

It probably didn't help he was so eager to run his mouth anytime one of them pushed him around or called him a name.

~~~~

Skyler is talking with Nancy, heading to meet up with Zack. Michael and Jeff walk by, shoving into a locker. Skyler cries out in pain; a lock cut into his back.

Zack appears suddenly, pushing them back angrily. He stands in front of Skyler, his fighter stance in place as he hovers protectively over the boy.

Jeff holds Michael back, and they say a few jeers before they turn to leave. Skyler staggers to his feet, anger taking over.

"Yeah, you don't want to be late for your appointment at Supercuts!" he sneers out.

"Watch your mouth, Day!" Jeff threatens, mindful of the snarl Zack is sporting.

"Yeah, and you know what else, Lady?" Michael adds. "They love walk-ins!"

They walk away, and Zack returns to normal. He turns to them, opening his arms silently to Skyler.

He falls into them easily. Hiding his head in Zack's shoulder, no one sees the tears.

~~~~

Skyler is dragged from the parking lot where he was waiting for Zack. The jocks are preparing to toss him into the dumpster.

"Wait, this is Alexander McQueen!" he protests, terrified of the stains he'll get on them.

Michael shrugs, yanking off Skyler's jacket and satchel, tossing them to the side. Skyler stumbles away but doesn't run; he knows it's pointless. He's tried.

"One day, you all will work for me," he declares, looking down at them with distain.

Irritated, they dump him unceremoniously into the trash, laughing and high-fiving as they leave. Skyler sighs sadly, his phone is in his satchel, he can't call Zack.

He waits. Fifteen minutes after school lets out, Zacm turns the corner, seeing Skyler's jacket and satchel by the dumpster. His heart drops.

They don't say anything as he helps Skyler out. He doesn't comment on the smell, and Skyler doesn't protest when they go back to Zack's so Skyler can shower, where they sit close on the couch and watch Disney movies, Skyler in some of Zack's pajamas, that he'll probably return tomorrow, if he doesn't forget to or anything.

~~~~

Skyler is heading to class, unaware that JBI is around the corner.

"Skyler Day! Is it true you spent your time at Magnum being the school whore? I mean, you are gay, and being at an all-boys boarding school is sure to have lead to something, correct?" he shouted, shoving a microphone in the countertenor's face.

Skyler stumbled back, horror and confusion coloring his features. "What? No, that's just- "

"What are your thoughts on the rumor that you're actually a female trapped in a male body?" Edward interrupted rudely.

"That's ridiculous!" Skyler sputtered. "I don't think I'm a girl! I identify as a boy because I am a boy! And-"

"What do you have to say about your father working in Congress just so he could get away from you more often?"

Skyler was pissed now. Like, pissed.

"How about instead of wasting my time asking me these useless and mediocre questions, you report about actual school problems?" Skyler snapped, his bitch glare making Edward swallow and step back slightly. "Like bullying at school, including Slushies and annoying harassment from Jew-fro maniacs who smell like a flea market!"

At that moment, Michael walked by Skyler, throwing a grape Slushie into his face. Skyler sputtered, the shock of the cold stunning him.

"HEY!" a voice cried out, and Michael looks over his shoulder quickly before a look of fear hits his face, and he breaks into a run down the hall.

Skyler blinked, his eyes stinging as a figure in leather rushed by, sprinting after the jock. "YOU'D BETTER RUN, YOU FUCKER!" Zack called down the hall as he hunted the jock down.

Skyler turned back to Edward, a murderous look on his face. "If you'll excuse me, I have to try and salvage this outfit before I take after Zack and hunt down someone, too. Someone with a ridiculously bad perm and a camera crew."

He stalked into the restroom, leaving Edward shaking slightly.

~~~

Well, it really was a matter of time at this point.

Michael raised his hand, a fist tight and threatening, and Skyler closed his eyes as he braced himself for the pain.

A motorcycle roar sounded in the parking lot, and Michael's eyes widened in fear and hatred. He lowered his fist, glancing over his shoulder to make sure it was actually Brian. Skyler looked past the jock to look as well, the relief rising in his heart and ready to spread through the moment Zack swooped in.

What he saw made his jaw open in shock, and Michael stiffened against him.

Zack had pulled up a few feet away on his second motorcycle, his red 2011 Chrysler, and had moved to pull his helmet off. His leather jacket had short spikes added to the shoulders and circling the wrists, a chain hanging from one of the lapels. A similar chain wrapped around his right motorcycle boot twice. His jeans were black and ripped, his V-neck shirt tight and white. The hair that curled and fell onto his forehead was dyed a bright purple, and his fingernails had been painted a sleek black. An eyebrow stud in his right eyebrow shone with a black diamond, and a matching stud, or two, were in the left cartilage of his ear.

His eyes bore into Zack's, the brown-green-hazel color heightened by the light lining of black eyeliner. Skyler breathed shakily, for an entirely different reason then he had moments before.

Zack broke the contact to glare at Michael, sending a smirk at him. He raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms, daring the jock to try anything with him there. Michael clenched his jaw, his eyes burning with loathing. With a final shove to Skyler's shoulders, where Skyler barely kept his cry inside, he charged at the kick-boxer, a fist raised and swung forward with brutal strength.

Zack dodged the punch, spinning to the side to land a hit to the jock's jaw. Michael stumbled back, Zack's class ring sure to leave a bruise, and lunged again. Zack skipped back and did a spin kick, hitting Michael in the side of his head.

"You think you can just do the things you do and not face the consequences?" Zack jeered at him, his leg snapping out in a kick to the chest. "Think you can hurt this boy because he's different, because you know you can't to me? Well think again!"

Disoriented, Michael tried to punch at Zack again, only to have the boy parr his hits and back him towards the wall, a little ways from Skyler. With the jock's back to the wall, Zack unleashed a series of punches, all hitting target, all while in perfect fighter stance.

"You don't deserve anything," Zack snarled. "Your popularity, your strength, your football position. Assholes like you don't deserve anything but the shit that comes out them."

Michael tried weakly to defend himself, holding his arms out to protect his face. Wanting to be fair, Zack stepped back, only for Michael to lunge and strike Zack in the jaw. He barely swayed, and returned his own, much stronger, right hook. Michael swayed slightly, and with a roundhouse kick Zack brought him down hard.

Zack broke his stance, spitting at the jock in disgust. "When will you learn? The outcome will be the same every time; I win, you get hurt."

Skyler stayed plastered to the wall, his heart racing and eyes impossibly wide. He just saw Zack fight. He knocked Michael out cold. It wasn't even worthy of being called a fight. That, and Zack's new appearance...

He was so incredibly turned on.

Huffing in distaste, Zack grabbed Skyler by the hand and pulled him to his bike. Skyler shook out of his daze and allowed Zack to lead him to the terrifying, (albeit sexy), death trap, where they climbed on quickly. Zack pealed it out the lot, speeding perhaps a little too much, not stopping until they were outside the Coffee Bean.

After dismounting and removing their helmets, Zack released a sigh of relief simultaneously with Skyler. He looked up and caught the gaze of the blue-eyed boy, and smiled happily at him. Skyler ginned back, the relief making him feel lightheaded.

"How'd your make-up quiz go?" Zack asked.

Skyler frowned at Zack's voice, now that the fear was gone and he could pay proper attention. It sounded heavy, muffled, like the boy's tongue was swollen.

"It was okay," he replied, still curious. "I take it this is why you skipped school today?" he asked, gesturing to all of the bad boy.

Zack shrugged, grinning. "Training, image, appearance. Been a good day, I'd say,"

Skyler studying his mouth closely as he talked, noticing a glint in his mouth. His eyes widened in shock.

"Did you pierce your tongue?!" he asked shocked.

Zack grinned cockily. "You like?" he teased, sticking out his tongue to show off the black diamond stud in the center.

Skyler blushed, trying desperately to fight off the images the knowledge was forming.

Zack was gorgeous before, and his look was threatening. Now he was stunningly sexy, his look borderline dangerous.

It turned him on at an alarming rate.

Zack laughed happily at Skyler's flustered look. "Like what you see, baby?" he asked cheekily, flashing a charming smile.

Skyler flushed brighter, his own smirk forming. "Just thinking how amazing the blowjobs I'm going to convince you to give me one day will feel, now."

Zack blushed heavily, eyebrows shooting upwards as his jaw dropped in shock.

Skyler had no idea just how hot that made him, did he?

He tried to speak, but Skyler already brushed past him with a wink, sashaying his hips as he went to enter the coffee house. Zack shot out his hand to grab his wrist, causing the brunette to look at him in confusion.

"Wait, don't go in yet," Zack asked. "I have something for you."

Skyler raised an eyebrow, a smile slowly growing on his lips as he nodded his consent. Surprised, Zack grinned excitedly as he grabbed his satchel from his bike, pulling out a small object. He held it up for Skyler's curious gaze.

It was a leather bracelet, three strands braided together with a heart in the center, a "Z" engraved on it. Skyler blushed, not one to wear leather, but finding it beautiful.

"I was hoping you'd wear it," Zack was saying, more mumbling, his face adorably shy. "I mean, you don't have to, what do I care or anything, but I just,... want people to see it on you."

"Why? You know it'll class with my outfits," Skyler asked, tilting his head curiously.

Zack grinned, taking Skyler's left wrist and tying it on. "Ownership. Males mark their territory. Mine now."

Skyler blushed, the excited feeling growing in his stomach and expanding. The idea of Zack claiming him was, well, incredibly hot.

"Now people know you're not on the market," Zack said as he finished the knot. "I know we aren't together, but I don't want anyone else to have you, Skyler. You're mine. I guess you could say this is a promise to... be more one day. ...Ah, that is, if you'd like?"

Skyler nodded, perhaps a little too eagerly for someone who was forcefully marked. "I'd really, really like that, Zack. I don't want anyone to have you, either."

He stepped closer to Zack, wrapping his arms around his neck as the badboy's wrapped around his waist. He rested their foreheads together, leaning to the side to whisper in Zack's ear. "If I'm yours, you're mine too."

Zack shivered involuntarily. No, they were't together "officially". But Skyler was his, to some extent, and he would do anything to keep it that way. He wanted more, but...

He tightened his arms, remembering what would have happened had he been a few moments too late to arrive there and fight Michael.

He needed to make sure Skyler was safe, first.

~~~~

The weather was perfect for the stroll they had decided on taking in the park. They had just gotten some ice cream from a vender, hoping to tone down the swelling of Zack's tongue. The boys sat on a bench near the playground, smiling at each other softly.

"So," Skyler started, taking a long lick of his vanilla cone. "What shall we converse about today, my good sir?"

Zack didn't respond at first, transfixed on the unintentional way Skyler was seducing him with his cone. His thoughts went wild as he pictured that pretty tongue, working on something other than the ice cream as it moved in slow, strong strokes...

"Zack?"

He shook his head quickly, trying to will down the blush as he faced the boy again. "Hmm?" he hummed, ignoring the smug grin on Skyler's lips as he caught on to what happened.

He smiled mischievously, licking his cone even slower, more sensually then before. Zack tracked it's every move, eyes widening when Skyler wrapped his lips on the top and sucked lightly, pulling back with white lips. Zack groaned quietly as Skyler slowly licked it away.

"I said," Skyler spoke, his voice lower, "What should we talk about?"

"Oh," Zack blushed, ducking his head shyly, trying to think of something to distract him from his undapper thoughts. "Umm... I know you were on the football team at Magnum, I guess I'm curious why you joined at all?"

Skyler frowned, memories of the unhappy time returning to him. "I wasn't there a long time, but I never really wanted to be there in the first place," he said softly. Zack took Skyler's free hand with his own, eliciting a small smile out of the brunette.

"It was my sophomore year. My father had started dating Lucy then, so naturally he spent time bonding with Nick. Nick never had a father figure in his life, so Dad took it upon himself to be one for him. It didn't hurt Nick liked to do guy things either, like watch sports and eat junk food and all those things. He was the son Dad never had, and I started to feel more and more distanced from him."

Zack frowned, running his thumb over Skyler's knuckles in a comforting manner. He could relate to a father's lack of affection or presence.

"I wasn't even out yet, but I was already so different. Dad and I never threw a ball back and forth, we played with tiny tea sets in the backyard. He bought me heels for my birthday, because they were all I wanted. I would walk around the house singing musical numbers, mostly by female singers. I wasn't anything like the boy he pictured raising."

"But after my mom died, we were all we had. He never fully understood me, but he tried to be involved so we could have a relationship. And I could feel it slowly being pulled away from me. So I thought, 'Maybe if I act straight my father will love me again.'"

Zack frowned, his heart clenching uncomfortably.

Yeah. He could relate to that indeed.

"So I made the football team. Dated a girl from the cheerleading team, but she was just a beard. Wore baseball caps and flannel, sung Mellencamp. I hate Mellencamp, but it's my Dad's favorite band. Everyone was concerned about me, thinking I was showing signs of suicide or depression or something. It was kinda ridiculous, really."

"It didn't seem to be working. Dad was always frowning at me, trying to understand what happened to make me change so much. He kept doing 'guy things' with Nick, not even asking me if I wanted to join. He said he knew it wasn't my thing, but he still should have thought to ask! He should have tried to make me feel included!"

Skyler stopped, taking a deep breath to compose himself, Zack scooting close to release Skyler's hand and wrap that arm around the boy's waist. Skyler sighed, leaning his head against the badboy's.

"I got tired of it. I started going back to my old habits whenever Dad went to the shop. One day he walked in on me recording the video on my channel, the one where I spin the words of 'Rose's Turn'."

Skyler smiled. "I ended up coming out to him then. He said he knew since I was three, and he loved me just the same. We had a talk about how I was feeling, and now we're stronger than ever."

Zack smiled, unconsciously turning his head to place a soft kiss on the boy's soft hair. Skyler smiled widely, his past pain fading quickly from the small sign of affection.

They finished their ice cream, Zack's swelling down enough to make sense now. As they continued down the path, Zack reached out towards Skyler's wrist, wrapping two fingers on the leather band and tugging Skyler closer. He kept them there as they walked, Skyler flushing at the possessive act.

"Mister! Mister!"

They turned quickly at the noise, seeing a little girl, maybe five or six, running towards them. She had light brown hair and chocolate brown eyes, which were wide with fear.

Zack crouched down to her level, giving her his full attention. "What's the matter, Little Miss?" he asked gently, surprising Skyler at the little nickname he instantly gave her.

She sniffled as she pointed behind her. "My kitty got stuck in a tree, and he can't get down!" she cried.

Zack shushed her, petting her hair gently as he reassured her the cat would be okay. Skyler watched with fascination, in awe of how easily Zack responded to children.

"What's your name, hun?" Zack was asking her.

"Elizabeth. But I like going by Lizzy."

"Well, Lizzy, why don't you take me to Mr. Toothless and I'll see if I can help him, okay? How does that sound?"

She nodded her head, and he stood up and took her hand. Skyler smiled at her when she offered her other one to him, and he gladly took it, letting her lead the two of them towards the tree.

"Toothless?" Skyler asked curiously.

Lizzy nodded feverently. "Yes, like the dragon in the one movie!"

"How To Train Your Dragon?" Zack said.

She nodded her head, excited an older person understood the reference. Skyler glanced over at him questionably, and the boy just shrugged.

"Dreamworks is almost as good as Disney," he said.

Skyler smiled, letting Lizzy pull a little too hard. When she brought them to a tree and pointed up, Skyler understood the name. The cat was black, and looked down at them with bright green eyes. He had a red bandana around his neck. He meowed at them, baring his teeth slightly.

Zack kneeled next to the girl again. "Okay, Little Miss, you stay here with Skyler while I go up. He'll keep you company."

She promised she would and Zack started shimmying up the tree. Lizxy turned to Skyler, raising her arms above her head towards him.

"Will you hold me?" she asked sweetly. Skyler looked surprised, but agreed and scooped the child up into his arms. She wrapped her legs around his waist so he could support her on his hip. They looked up as Zack reached the branch below Toothless and started talking quietly to the cat.

"Are you two dating?" Lizzy asked suddenly, looking at Skyler expectantly.

Skyler's eyes widened, but he answered honestly. "No, we aren't, sweet pea."

"Why not? I saw you two holding hands earlier. And he kissed your head when you sat on that bench. I saw while I was on the slide."

Skyler blushed slightly. "Well, sometimes you hold hands and kiss when you like each other, but you aren't necessarily dating."

She nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. Like how Hiccup and Astrid kiss and ride dragons together, but aren't really dating either. That's okay. I'm sure they'll get married one day."

Skyler smiled at her innocence. It was so endearing to see the imaginative optimism of a child. He looked up to see Zack had gotten within reach of the cat. Toothless looked apprehensive, but wasn't snarling anymore.

"It's okay," Zack said softly. "I won't hurt you."

Zack held out his hand, his palm towards the cat and his fingers pointing up. Toothless hesitated slightly, but rubbed his head against the hand and purred softly. Zack grinned and pet the cat gently, who walked onto his shoulder and promptly sat down. Zack laughed happily.

Skyler was sure his heart melted from that point on.

Slowly Zack climbed back down, Toothless rubbing against his head and purring in thanks. Zack smiled as he reached the ground, extracting the feline from his shoulder to present to Lizzy.

"Your dragon, my dear," he said in a Scottish accent. Lizzy giggled as Skyler laughed, placing the child down so she could claim her pet.

"Thanks Mister, thank you Sky!" she smiled happily, giving them each a one handed hug before she ran back towards the playground. Skyler smiled happily at Zack, who was staring at Skyler with such a strange expression.

Zack was stunned. The sight of Skyler, so beautiful, with a child on his hip... it did things to him. He might have fallen just a little more for the angel.

Skyler smiled, holding his hand back out. Zack grinned and accepted it, and they resumed their walk.

~~~~

They ended up on Zack's bike to have dinner. After a half hour of driving, Zack pulled up in front of a cute looking diner, music waving out. It was the size of a big mall store, with stylish, modern designs and neon letters spelling out "Journey". Skyler dismounted and handed Zack the helmet, to which Zack ignored in favor of lifting his hands to Skyler's hair and fixing the slight shift the helmet had caused in the style.

Skyler blushed heavily, surprised he was allowing Zack to even touch his hair, much less style it like he was. Zack was glad he had strategically kept on his helmet before. The delighted expression he made at getting permission to do something so domestic and intimate as primping was far too embarrassing to let Skyler see.

When they finally walked in, Zack wrapped an arm around Skyler's waist possessively and led him to the back. He flashed his ID to the security, who waved him through. Skyler looked at him curiously, wondering how he had access like that.

"Oh, a relative of mine owns the place," Zack answered easily, and Skyler realized he must have spoken aloud.

"So you get to come in here often?" Skyler asked curiously.

Zack nodded. "Yeah, sometimes I work the tables to help out. Julie works here on the weekends, and the open mic is always a fun event to listen to."

They found a circular booth in the back, with the view of the stage for the open mic in clear view. Skyler scooted in the center, Zack following closely and sitting near enough for their legs to be flushed against the other. They both blushed slightly but chose not to comment. Skyler looked around a bit anxiously.

He looked up as Zack took his hand, a gentle smile on his face. "It's okay," he said fondly. "My aunt is gay too, she's completely supportive and doesn't allow homophobic behaviors here. This is a safe place."

Skyler smiled, relieved and excited he could show affection with another boy, not that he wanted to or anything, but the option was there. He's never had the option before; it was exhilarating.

He looked at Zack taking in the new accessories he adorned, his gorgeous face, silky curly hair, before gazing into the toffee brown-hazel green eyes, whose color seemed to always be shifting. The dark setting of the room, backdropped with neon lights like a nightclub, a candle glowing on the table with a rose and tulip bouquet, the soft background music during the lull of performances.

Skyler was falling in love. And he couldn't find it in himself to be concerned.

"What's going on in that beautiful mind?" Zack asked softly, transfixed in the sea of blues and bits of green and gray that was Skyler Day's eyes.

Skyler blushed softly, shaking his head. "We're on a date, aren't we?"

Zack startled, leaning back a bit to reflect. The coffee at the Coffee Bean, where Zack paid; the walk in the park, getting ice cream, where Skyler paid; the restaurant with an open mic, which Zack was planning on paying for.

Huh. He and Skyler were on a date.

A hesitant look appeared on his face. "We don't have to be, I mean neither of us even asked, and I don't want any pressuring..."

"Zack."

Zack stopped, taking a deep breathe, still not looking up. "I want it to be," he finally muttered. "But only if you want it to be, too."

Skyler smiled, putting his hand on Zack's chin to lift his head gently, looking eyes again. "Zack, will you go on the rest of this date with me?"

Zack smiled widely, suppressing the urge to kiss this perfect boy. "I'd be honored babe."

Skyler smiled. He was falling hard.

The night was going so perfectly.

They chattered and conversed easily, unconsciously getting closer and increasingly bold with one another. Zack would put his hand on Skyler's knee and stroke it, Skyler would touch Zack's arm and squeeze, and so forth.

Zack was excited. When he had first decided to change his look, he was pretty apprehensive. He didn't want to wear leather and piercings, much as they were growing on him. But he figured the more dangerous he appeared, the more the jocks would think twice about messing with him and his friends.

He was worried Skyler would be disappointed. He would see the look from Tough to Dangerous and be scared off, wouldn't want anything to do with him anymore.

But Skyler didn't do that. In fact, Zack had never seen so many bedroom eyes from Skyler in all the weeks they've known each other. And it was not helping out towards his affection for the boy, either.

Zack grinned brightly, taking Skyler's hand and pulling him up from the table. "Let's sing, Sky."

Skyler looked pleasantly surprised, a small blush adorning his cheeks. "Okay," he agreed quietly, a smile growing. Zack pulled him up to the mic, going to the DJ to request a song choice. He picked up the other microphone and whispered the name in Skyler's ear.

Skyler smiled adorably as the song started up. He was going to enjoy this.

"All this talking to you,

I don't know what I'm to do,

I don't know where you stand,

What's inside of your head."

Zack smiled as he watched Skyler's stage persona take hold. He loved getting to see the boy like this.

"All this thinkin' of you,

Is that what you're doin too?

You're always on my mind,

I talk about you all of the time."

They danced around each other, cordless microphones at their lips and hearts in their eyes.

"Don't waste another day,

Don't waste another minute.

I can't wait to see your face,

Just to show you how much I'm in it.

So open up your heart.

Help me understand.

Please tell me who you are,

So I can show you who I am."

The crowd around them was getting animated, loving the playful banter the boys were using as they sung around each other. They clapped along, calling out encouragement and cheers. Zack smiled at Skyler, waiting for the boy to make the connection to the song. For now, Skyler was still clueless.

"You're just standing by,

You're just wasting time.

Why don't you just tell me the truth,

About me and you."

"And as the time goes by,

I hope you realize,

If you ask me to,

I just might be with you."

Zack watched as a bit of dawning started to appear on Skyler's face. He grinned to himself; he was enjoying this so much. He nearly killed himself getting the nerves to even ask Skyler up here, but he was so happy he had. Singing with Skyler was like his personal heroin; he was addicted, with no hope of recovery.

"So don't waste another day,

Don't waste another minute.

I can't wait to see your face,

Just to show you how much I'm in it.

Open up your heart.

Help me understand.

Please tell me who you are,

So I can show you who I am."

A girl threw a rose from the vase at her table up at them. Zack caught it on a whirl, winking at her dramatically before sliding on his knees up to Skyler, presenting the rose.

"Stop standing there."

"Standing there."

"And stop acting like you don't care"

Zack held it expectantly, and Skyler looked down into his eyes. He bit his lip.

"And stop being scared.

"Being scared."

"Stop acting like you don't care-re-re"

Skyler took the rose. Zack smiled brilliantly as the crowd cheered. He got to his feet, taking Skyler into a playful waltz as they finished the number. Skyler laughed, their number more playful than a performance now, but the crowd was eating it up.

"So don't waste another day.

Don't waste another minute.

I can't wait to see your face,

Just to show you how much I'm in it.

Open up your heart.

Help me understand.

Please tell me who you are,

So I can show you who I am.

So don't waste another day.

Don't waste another minute.

I can't wait to see your face,

Just to show you how much I'm in it.

Open up your heart.

Help me understand.

Please tell me who you are,

So I can show you who I am."

Zack slowed them down, his hands on Kurt's hips. Skyler's arms were around his neck, the rose dangling from his fingers. They gazed into each other's eyes.

"Who I am."

"Who I am."

"Who I am."

The crowd applauded loudly. It was clear as day the affection the two boys had for each other; their chemistry was unmistakable. The girl who threw the rose cupped her hands to her face, and yelled out excitingly at them.

"Kiss him! Kiss him!"

The boys both blushed furiously. Amused, the rest of the patrons started to chant as well, adding foot stomps and banging on their tables.

"Kiss, him! Kiss, him! Kiss, him!"

"Are you talking to me, or him?" Zack asked jokingly into his microphone, winking as the crowd laughed and continued the chant.

Skyler looked at him, a shy smile on his face. He leaned closer to Zack, clutching the back of his leather jacket tightly.

"I do believe it's my turn to kiss you, Mr. Brian."

Before Zack could register the boy's words, Skyler pulled Zack flush and planted a passionate kiss against his lips, filled with pent-up desire and admiration. The crowd roared in delight as Zack tightened his grasp and kissed back with equal passion.

One by one, the rest of the women in the room threw their roses, red and yellow dotting the stage, cheering and applauding. Zack pulled back to breathe, winking at Skyler before dipping him and kissing him again. The womens' screams reached what Zack dubbed as 'fangirl' level, and he grinned against Skyler's lips.

A short, middle aged woman with short, straight black hair, olive skin, and dark green eyes tapped Zack on the shoulder. Reluctantly, he pulled Skyler up and faced her, knowing fully well who it was. Skyler clutched Zack's arm, a bit lightheaded.

"They may have asked, but I do believe you've kissed him enough, Zack," she said with a smirk.

Zack smiled sheepishly. "Sorry, Aunt Anne."

She laughed good naturally and pulled the two off-stage, leading them to their table, where she promptly sat in one of the seats. She rested her chin on her hands and looked at them with large, expectant eyes.

Zack rolled his eyes in mock annoyance. "Skyler, this is my aunt Anne. She owns this place."

Skyler held out his hand, a pleasant smile on his face. "Skyler Day, ma'am. It's wonderful to meet you. You have a beautiful place of business."

Anne raised her eyebrows in approval and shook the boy's hand. "How long have you been keeping this one from me, Zackey?" she asked teasingly as she released his hand.

Zack flushed slightly. "I haven't, Aunt Anne. We're... friends."

She looked at him disbelievingly. "I don't know about you, but I certainly don't kiss my friends like that, crowd pleaser or not."

Zack ran his hand through his hair, looking shy. "It's... complicated."

Anne looked at them again, raising an eyebrow. "I can tell," she murmured. "Because you've unconsciously held hands and sat flushed together again."

Both boys startled, looking down to see she was right. Their hands were joined on the table, Zack's thumb running across Skyler's knuckles. Skyler's wrist with the bracelet was on the table as well, the rose Zack had handed him held loosely between his fingers. They blushed heavily, but made no attempt to separate. This did not go unnoticed.

"You two are adorable," Anne stated. "I'll be sure to give Julie a bonus for throwing that rose and starting that chant. The people love interactive entertainment."

"Wait, that was Julie?" Skyler asked, confused.

Zack looked back at the table, seeing the girl and a boy her age with two older women. She caught his eye and winked.

He smiled. "Yeah, that's her. She brought her family with."

"Her family?" Skyler asked, looking at the table and waiving back at her.

Zack nodded. "That's her twin brother Jake, and her mothers Gwen and Beth."

Skyler's eyes widened in shock. "Her mothers?"

Zack grinned. "Yep. Guess which one is the biological one?"

Skyler looked closely. Both women and the boy had brown eyes, but only one of the mothers had brown hair; the other had jet black. "Umm... The brunette?"

"Ding Ding Ding!" Zack cheered.

Anne rolled her eyes. "Cavities. I have cavities now, I tell you."

Zack waved her off, smiling at Skyler, who pushed his shoulder playfully.

Anne stood up, ruffling Zack's hair. "I gotta head back, boys. Feel free to order some dessert; it's on the House."

"No, we can't - " Zack started to say, but with a twirl Anne headed towards the back, waving her fingers behind her back as a farewell.

Skyler smiled, but frowned as he looked back at Julie's table. She was arguing quietly with her brother, who had an uncomfortable look on his face. She looked disappointed.

"I wonder what happened?" he mused aloud.

Zack followed his line of sight, frowning as he caught eyes with Jake. The boy frowned deeper, making his sister angry.

"Jake isn't exactly... entirely comfortable, or accepting, of the LGBT community," Zack explained quietly.

Skyler looked confused. "How is that possible? His parents are gay, for God's sake!"

Zack shrugged. "Mystery of nature, I guess."

Skyler looked back at Julie, who was sending an apologetic look at him. He smiled back reassuringly, and she sighed in relief.

"Let's get dessert, okay? I'm dying for some of that cheesecake," Skyler said seriously.

Zack laughed, raising Skyler's hand to press a kiss to his knuckles, not even thinking about it. Skyler only smiled wider.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Julie smile as well.

~~~~

"Don't make me go inside," Skyler whined, still clutching Zack from behind, adamant to never let go.

Zack laughed quietly, shaking his head fondly. "Believe me, if it was up to me I wouldn't, but I've yet to meet your father. I don't want a bad first impression by kidnapping you."

Skyler sighed dramatically. "I know, you're right. I just don't want today to end."

Zack sighed sadly. He turned around in Skyler's arms, still straddling his bike, and took Skyler's helmet off his head. The boy pouted up at him, giving him puppy eyes. Zack felt his stomach swoop.

"Nope, sorry. I quite like life, thank you very much. You gotta go in."

Skyler stood up, keeping his hold on the boy and burying his face in his neck. "Don't wanna," he said, his voice muffled. "Don't want to leave your arms, ever."

Zack could feel the heat of Kurt's face as he blushed, clearly not having meant to say that out loud. He was glad the boy couldn't see his own blush.

"Me neither," he whispered, wrapping his own arms tightly around the slightly taller boy.

Skyler buried his face in deeper. "I hate saying goodbye to you," he whispered, barely audible against Zack's skin.

Zack kissed his temple gently. "I hate it more."

"Impossible."

"No, I do."

"You liar."

"I can't lie to you, baby," Zack admitted. Skyler pulled back to look at him. "Not anymore. I just... can't."

Skyler smiled sadly. "Walk me to the door?" he requested gently.

Zack smiled. "What kind of first date would this be if I didn't?"

Too soon Skyler had to let go of his hand. He turned to the boy; he looked so beautiful under the glow of the porch light, the night sky behind him.

"I had a wonderful day, Zack," Skyler said, suddenly bashful. "I couldn't ask for a better first date."

"It was perfect because it was with you babe," Zack said gently. He leaned in, but turned his head and pressed a lingering kiss to the boy's smooth cheek. Skyler exhaled shakily.

"Goodnight, babe," Zack whispered.

Skyler swallowed audibly. "Goodnight, Blaine."

Zack smiled before walking back towards his bike. Skyler watched him ride off, the roar of the motor fading into the night. He smiled a bittersweet smile.

No, they weren't dating. Going on a date didn't make you boyfriends.

...But maybe after a few more, he would be ready to take that step.

Maybe it'll be safe by then.

~~~~

Hi, you've reached the voicemail of Skyler Day. Sorry I missed your call, I can't get to the phone right now. I probably won't call back, so try again later! Leave a message if you want, but I probably won't listen to it. *Beep.*

"Skyler, it's Dad. What's going on? Your principal called, said there was an incident, and this girl called Josey said she got my number from your phone, you're hurt and I need to get to school now. Are you okay? What's wrong? Son, answer the phone, please!"

~~~~

(A few hours prier...)

It was inevitable, really. It was na簿ve to think he could be saved from every incident.

But it still hurt. Hurt his pride, his spirit, not to mention his body...

He never even saw it coming.

It had been a week since the date. Zack was in detention, and there wasn't choir practice today, so Skyler was going to stay in the library and wait for the boy. He was the last in the locker room, finishing his hair.

And that's when they struck.

It was innocent enough. A boy or two came back in, opening their lockers and rummaging through like they forgot something. Skyler paid them no mind.

Then more came in, sticking up conversation with the rest, giving them a reason to stay in the room. Skyler looked at them warily but continued his routine.

One came in and walked up to the mirror, saying he forgot a spot when he shaved. Skyler glanced at him suspiciously. There wasn't a single hair on the boy's face.

Walking back to his locker, Skyler searched for his satchel. He put his phone in the bag, knowing it needed to be off if he was going to be studying.

That was the sign they were waiting for.

Skyler jumped as Jeff appeared, shutting Skyler's locker closed in his face. He went to back away, only to run into a much larger mass. Turning around quickly, he looked as Michael smirked, and two boys ripped Skyler's satchel from his hands.

Skyler's heart stuttered. "What the hell do you Neanderthals want now?" he asked hautily, crossing his arms across his chest in an aggressive manner.

"Oh, The Fury's just been dying to meet you, Lady," Michael sneered, backing Skyler into his locker.

"The Fury?" Skyker asked in bewilderment, refusing to let them see his fear.

"Yeah, it's what I named my fist."

"Well, with that level of creativity you could easily become assistant manager at a rendering plant," Skyler snarked out, hiding his fear with irritation.

Michael snarled, pinning Skyler up against the lockers. "I don't know what that is, but since you said it, I'm gonna assume it's bad."

Skyler's eyes widened as Michael made physical contact. He was growing accustomed to the bullying, against his better judgement, but this felt ... different.

This felt like that attempt made weeks ago. The one where he called Zack for help.

Skyler looked at his satchel in the unknown boys' hands. His phone was in there.

He couldn't call Zack this time.

He couldn't call anyone.

Grinning manically, Michael nodded his head, stepping back.

Skyler closed his eyes, one thought on his mind.

Zack.

~~~~

The moment Zack stepped out into the hallway and found it void of any fashionable brunettes, he began to worry.

He tried calling first.

Hi, you've reached the voicemail of Skyler Day. Sorry I missed your call, I can't get to the phone right now. I probably won't call back, so try again later! Leave a message if you want, but I probably won't listen to it. *Beep.*

Okay. He tried not to panic. Skyler probably turned his phone off, that's all. No reason to panic.

He walked to the library, hopping to find the countertenor hunched over some books, working avidly on his schoolwork so he could spend more time with Zack.

No Skyler.

Panic.

Do. Not. Panic.

'Maybe he's waiting by his car?' he thought, hoping to find the beautiful designer leaning against his Navigator, or even Zack's bike, a flirty smile on his lips.

Nothing. Nothing but said Navigator still in the parking lot.

"No, no no no!" He exclaimed, panic seeping in fully.

Skyler was in trouble. Something happened.

And Zack hadn't been there to stop it.

~~~~

The pain was unbearable.

He couldn't even remember what they did. All he knew was that it hurt.

They didn't break anything, his head wasn't bleeding, overall he wasn't hurt too badly. They were strangely strategic in their assault.

But it wasn't the physical pain that kept him on the dirty, cold floor.

It was the emotional.

'Look at your faggy ass. Is it really such a surprise you're a pussy virgin?

I betcha' no one is gonna want you after we give your face some actual color.

This is what happens when you act the way you do. Not in this town, freak.

What a fag, can't even throw a decent punch back. And you call yourself a man.

Your boy toy can't save you now, homo.

No one, not even Brian, is ever gonna love you. You'll die all alone, just like you deserve.'

He just laid there and took it. All his snark, all his wit, his fight just drained the moment they mentioned Zack.

Sweet, beautiful Zack, who hid behind leather and spikes to save himself from attacks like this. Talented, amazing Zack, who was going to go so far in life. Zack, who stood up for the underdogs, who wanted to make life better for everyone.

They were right. Why would Zack ever love him? Why would anyone for that matter?

He didn't deserve love. He never had.

The tears were still falling silently when a noise startled him. Zack had burst through the door, calling out "Skyler!" in a desperate tone, panic and fear resonating in his voice. Skyler closed his eyes, his head falling back to the cold, dirty tiles. The tears came faster, a relieved sob breaking through his lips.

My Zack's here. Zack came for me. He really came for me.

"Skyler!" Zack cried again, freezing as he caught sight of the boy in question. He sucked in a gasp, shaky hand coming up to cover his mouth in agony. He felt a roll of nausea wash through his stomach, and he blinked back the rising moisture in his eyes.

Skyler, his beautiful, perfect Skyler, was lying on the hard tiles, his clothes torn, hair a mess, lip busted, black eye forming, and probably so much more he couldn't see. He looked so battered, so vulnerable, so defeated. It nearly killed him to see the tears dripping from his eyes.

Skyler's bloody lips pulled apart, his voice barley audible and raspy, and so beautiful at once; "Zack."

Letting a sob escape his chest, Zack crouched below the boy, gathering him in his arms carefully. He cradled Skyler's head to his chest, who turned into him and began crying harder, his entire frame shaking as he clutched the leather jacket around the one thing he considered safe anymore.

"These battle scars don't look like they're fading," Zack sang softly, rocking Skyler gently as he comforted him. Skyler started to quiet, feeling soothed and protected, despite the odd song choice.

"Don't look like they're ever going away.

They ain't never gonna change."

This wasn't technically a good song, but it showed up in Zack's mind so he went with it. He'd have to skip parts and keep it short, or the point would be lost.

"Now you're down on the ground screaming medic,

The only thing that comes is the post-traumatic stresses.

Shields, body armors and vests don't properly work,

That's why you're in a locker full of hurt.

The enemy within and all the fires from your friends."

He startled as a pale hand wiped away wetness on his cheek. He didn't even know he was crying. He breathed shakily, nuzzling into the hand as he closed his eyes, his voice barely a whisper.

"I wish that I could stop cause it hurts so much."

A hiccup broke from his chest, and he lifted his head to lock gazes with the boy that meant so much to him. Skyler starred back, an undeniable sadness shadowing the sparkle Zack loved seeing.

"Skyler," He choked out, pressing soft, butterfly kisses to Skyler's temple, nose, cheeks, eyelids, any part he could reach. He wanted to lament his inability to kiss his lips, given the blood and cut, but there were more important things to worry about.

"Zack," Skyler whispered, placing his head over Zack's heart, the steady thumping setting him at ease. Zack's arms tightened around him in response.

~~~~

The clock ticked away in the background.

"So what's the verdict?"

Zack rubbed his eyes, just having returned from Skyler's place, sighing before turning back to face Julie.

"Bruising, outward and internal, along with a split lip, black eye, and a slight concussion. He's going to be okay."

"Oh, honey, that's wonderful," she smiled, placing her hand on his upper arm in a comforting manor. He smiled slightly, his concern still showing through. She tilted her head, a calculating look on her face.

"You really care about him, don't you?" she asked softly.

Zack looked into her eyes, which were fiery with determination. "He's my best friend. Il mio migliore amico. Any pain he has is my pain."

She smiled softly. "You know what I'm asking."

He sighed, his shoulder dropping like it held the weight of the world. "I don't know what to do anymore," he whispered. "The teachers don't care, the jocks won't stop, no matter what I do to them. I did this to my appearance in hopes they'd be more intimidated. But they just won't stop."

"I don't know what to do," he repeated, sounding broken.

Julie put her hand under his chin, lifting his head to look at her. "Sometimes you can't solve everything by fighting," she murmured. "It seems like the ultimate solution, being able to fight, but it doesn't change someone's mindset."

She released him and smiled sadly, getting up leave the room. She paused in the doorway, looking back at him.

"I think the best you can do right now is be there to keep him together. Let him know he matters, he's cared for," she said. She paused, a look of contemplation gracing her features. "Help him feel loved."

With that she turned and softly closed the door behind her.

Zack stared at the door, a look of comprehension dawning.

Loved.

He could work with that.

~~~~

Zack sat by the piano, facing the entire choir, but keeping his eyes glued to Skyler. Skyler, who, even with cuts and bruises, still looked as beautiful as the day Zack met him. The piano played slowly, letting the violins and others. Zack recruited in the back turn the song into a haunting ballad.

"Much as you blame yourself, you can't be blamed for the way that you feel.

Had no example of a love that was even remotely real.

How can you understand something that you never had?

Ooh, baby, if you let me, I can help you out with all of that."

The members looked back at Skyler, offering sympathetic smiles and reassuring looks. But they went unnoticed as Skyler was visibly affected and completely captivated.

"Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

I know your trouble,

Don't be afraid, boy let me help.

Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

A heart of numbness gets brought to life,

I'll take you there.

Boy let me love you,

Boy let me love you, baby, oh,

Let me love you, let me love you, oh."

Zack knew what Skyler was thinking. The after effects of a beating usually involves self-loathing, insecurity, pointlessness and fear. He had to get rid of it; no one did for him, and it still remained, deep inside, where only Skyler had been able to catch glimpses.

"I can see the pain behind your eyes,

It's been there for quite a while.

I just wanna be the one to remind you what it is to smile.

I would like to show you what true love can really do."

Skyler showed a ghost of a smile as the song rose in power, crescendos and pitch empowering the lyrics and the performance. He could never get tired of being serenaded, circumstances none ideal or no.

"Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

I know your trouble,

Don't be afraid, boy let me help.

Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

A heart of numbness, gets brought to life,

I'll take you there.

Boy let me love you

Let me love you, let me love you, baby

Boy let me love you

Let me love you, boy let me love you, baby

For every heart that beats,

For every heart that beats,

Heart that beats

Heart that beats...

Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

I know your trouble,

Don't be afraid, boy let me help.

Boy let me love you,

And I will love you,

Until you learn to love yourself.

Boy let me love you,

A heart of numbness, gets brought to life,

I'll take you there.

Boy let me love you

Let me love you, baby, love you, baby

Boy let me love you

Let me love you babe, love you babe, ooh-ooh-ah."

The choir clapped politely, staying silent as they watched Skyler break out of his daze and clap with enthusiasm, tears marks tracked on his pale skin.

No one said anything when Zack sat next to Skyler, pulling him into his arms, the other boy wrapping around him tightly.

No one commented how they stayed cuddled together the rest of the practice. And when Zack whispered in Skyler's ear, and the boy smiled his first real smile all day, they knew he was gonna be okay.
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