11. The Ouchy Place
As for what had happened between Josh and Zack in the auditorium after he and Dean had left, Lucas could only guess.
"Maybe Josh brainwashed him or something." Dean suggested as the choir members sat together in the cafeteria, watching Zack move along the line of the lunch queue.
"Get real," Tatia told him with a roll of her eyes. "This is real life, not one of those dorky sci-fi things you're obsessed with. It has to be blackmail. Josh must have some serious dirt on Zack to keep him quiet."
"Something more serious than sexuality?" Sakura asked doubtfully. "That doesn't seem likely."
"Perhaps they discussed things like mature young adults and came to an agreement to give each other some space for a while and not spread vicious rumours or truths about one another." Jane said.
"You do realise you used the word 'mature' when referring to Josh and Zack right?" Elena asked.
"Not unless it has 'Im' in front of it." Molly said.
"Who knows?" Benny asked. "They used to be friends. Maybe they care enough not to deliberately hurt one another past a few cuts and bruises."
"Oh please," Laura scoffed. "Dudes like that don't care about anyone but themselves."
"But something must be keeping Zack quiet." Jake said. "The guy is a complete douche; it isn't in his character to protect someone other than himself."
"Especially now he knows of Josh's true sexual orientation." Lucas added. "Zack is a total homophobe, he should have told everyone about Josh by now and led the troupes to beat him up, cover him in slushie and throw him in the dumpster."
"Maybe Josh's paying him to stay quiet." Brent shrugged.
"Josh must be rich if he can silence homophobia." Lucas said.
"Or maybe Josh kicked Zack's ass and he's scared of him." Brent offered as he scoffed down his food.
"Hey, Frankenteen, it's called chewing." Tatia said pointedly. "And have you even looked at Josh today?" She asked him glancing to the other side of the room where Josh was seated with a few hockey jocks.
"Well for Brent that would be like apologizing for breathing." Lucas remarked scathingly and Brent's brows furrowed in confusion as he tried to work out what Lucas had meant.
"Give Brent a break," Jane defended half-heartedly and Lucas strongly suspected the two had been quarrelling a fair amount recently. "He made a mistake, we all do and we forgive each other, so please, let it drop."
"No, Tatia's right." Dean said. "Brent owes Lucas an apology."
"I'm sorry ok." Brent mumbled through a mouthful of food.
"Oh that was really heartfelt," Tatia commented sardonically. "I'm touched and I'm sure Lucas is too."
"I just said sorry." Brent complained.
"Just forget about it." Lucas sighed. "As much as he denies it we all know popularity is important to Brent, even more than friendship and relationships, so let's just move on from Brent's friendship with Josh and talk about something more interesting and light-hearted."
"Mr Peaunut managed to climb the stairs by himself yesterday." Molly told him referring to her big fat cat. "Then he fell asleep for three hours so I had time to hide my diary. He'll never find it now."
That afternoon, after Lucas collected Lizzy, it was time to watch more of the duets.
"Guys, what's wrong?" Mr. Blake asked after they'd performed. "Your singing was great and it was an excellent song choice but I didn't believe you like I usually do. It didn't seem like you two felt what you were singing. Is everything ok between you two? Brent, do you need to talk?"
"I don't know." Brent shrugged. "Jane's just yelling at me all the time lately."
"The truth is Mr. Blake; things have been awkward in the choir ever since you welcomed Josh into the group." Jane said shooting a look to the boy who was sat alone on the back riser.
"Guys, come on." Mr. Blake said addressing them all. "What have I been trying to teach you in this room since last year? Acceptance." He said enthusiastically. "I want you all to accept yourselves but I want you to accept other people too. I don't think you're being fair to Josh. Jane, I think you owe him an apology."
"Excuse me?" Jane asked looking scandalised. "You want me to apologise to him? He's thrown more slushies at me than anyone."
"It's ok, Mr. Blake." Josh chipped in. "Jane is under no obligation to apologise. I should be the one making amends for the awful way I've treated her in the past. I'm sorry, Jane. I do hope that one day you can forgive me."
"See, that's the kind of maturity I want to see in this room." Mr. Blake praised moving over to Josh and clapping a hand on his shoulder. "You can all learn a thing or two from Josh here. Now Jane, do you have something you want to say?"
"I will never apologise to him." Jane stated stubbornly before turning on her heel and storming out, the action proving more dramatic as she hadn't done it in at least two weeks.
The rest of the rehearsal went by without incident. Josh remained polite and focused on leaning the dance moves and singing songs.
"Why does Blake have to see the good in everyone?" Laura asked Lucas as they left school together, Lizzy skipping along behind them.
"I don't know. That's just the way he is I suppose." Lucas shrugged. "To be fair, we shouldn't stay angry at Blake. Inviting Josh to join the choir in the hopes that our issues would be resolved would have been a good idea if he wasn't a complete psycho. You witnessed Josh's behaviour in there just now as well as the rest of us. He's playing the good guy so well, it's no wonder Mr. Blake's been fooled. Not to mention that Jane can be… you know?"
"Yeah, we all know Jane can be… well, Jane." Laura said. "But this is some serious business going on here. Josh is dangerous."
"Why is he dangerous?" Lizzy asked clutching hold of Lucas's hand. "Has he hurt you? Do you want me to kick him in the ouchy place? I'm good at it. I do it to Jensen all the time."
"That's alright, Little Lady." Lucas told her.
"Lulu, I think you should tell Papa Jamey." Lizzy replied giving him a serious look that made her resemblance to her older brother suddenly striking. "He'd want to know about whatever's going on."
"I know, but my dad still isn't one hundred percent better." Lucas explained. "Hearing about this would make him very angry and upset. That kind of stress could make him ill again and we don't want that."
"You're just using that as an excuse." Lizzy stated knowingly. "You just don't want to tell him because you're being a silly proud and stubborn boy. That's why girls are better. We're smart enough to admit when we need help, and then we sit back and relax while the men fix everything." She grinned.
"Liz, sweetheart," Lucas said crouching to her level and resting his hands on her shoulders.
"Fine," she sighed. "I promise."
"Good girl." Lucas smiled in relief pressing a kiss to her cheek. "Come on, let's get you home."