-title: The Realization

-author: indulgance rodent

-email: hprice16@yahoo.com

-summary: After a battle, Jake goes to talk to Tobias and realizes something he hadn't noticed before.

-disclaimer: *walks up to podium, shuffles some papers and taps the microphone* i hereby declare that i own none of the characters that this story employs. they are the property of ms. applegate and scholastic, and i will gladly give them back when i've finished with them.

-author's note: hahahahaha ruler. *ahem* hopefully this one will be a lot better than the last chapter--i was really tired when i wrote it and have this quirky habit of -needing- to finish a chapter all in one sit. so yes, i sincerely apoloize for capter four's cruddiness and hope that this is much better and makes up for it. enjoy ^_^

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Slouched low in his chair, Jake tried to soak in his teacher's monotonous voice as it droned on about Napolean. On his desk were his notebook and pencil, both untouched since he'd placed them there forty-five minutes prior. A headache was beginning behind his eyes but he chose to ignore the dull throbbing and focus on figuring out how to stage the next mission. Tom's invitation was a good excuse to get that spy gig over with, but he wanted to have as many details worked out as possible before pitching the idea to the others. ((Wednesday night is just a typical meeting as far as Tom's mentioned, so sneaking the rest of the gang in as bugs should be a piece of cake. Cockroaches would work, but their eyesight is almost nill. What bugs can see well..?)) Staring off into space, Jake's eyes slowly drooped shut and remained that way for the remaining fifteen minutes of class.

"Mister Berenson," a stern, gravelly male voice snapped. "Mister Berenson, wake up." From far, far away, Jake's mind recognised the sound of his teacher speaking to him, but it refused to slip back to consciousness. The sharp sting on his bicep, however, sent his eyes flying open. "Mister Berenson, I'll not have you sleeping in class. Unless, of course, you were deep in thought about your studies! Would you care to explain what tarantulas have to do with Napolean's capture and exile to the island of Elba? You seemed to think them rather important, as you've been babbling incoherently about them for the past ten minutes." The irate history teacher was glaring at him, a ruler in one hand.

((He hit me with a -ruler-?)) Jake wondered to himself with amazement. ((I didn't know that was still legal.)) Aloud, he mumbled, "Sorry, Mister Phelps. It won't happen again." He kept his eyes level with those of his teacher as he rubbed the sting on his arm, one eyebrow raised.

"Well, Mister Berenson, you'd better hope it doesn't," the teacher snarled, "because the next time you fall asleep in my class, you'll find yourself in detention." Just then, the bell rang, and as the rest of the students stood to leave, he barked, "You all had better read chapter seventeen! There -will- be a quiz over the material tomorrow!" The kids filtering out of the room muttered amongst themselves many less-than-pleasant remarks about their instructor under their breath to each other. Off in his own world, the teacher began humming 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' to himself and tidying his desk.

((What a freak,)) Jake thought, exiting the room with the others. It was the end of the day, so he shuffled down the hall to his locker where Marco was waiting for him. "Hey," he said sleepily, leaning his head against the cold metal as he spun the combination on the lock, "what's up?"

"Not a whole lot," Marco replied. "I got a bunch of homework in English, but I'll survive. Wanna shoot hoops or something?" He leaned casually against the locker next to Jake's, obscuring himself from view behind the door as Jake opened it.

After taking and replacing the correct books, Jake shut his locker and said, "Actually, I have plans with someone."

"You mean your birdboy?" Marco asked in a low hiss. He folded his arms over his chest and glared up at his friend. "Seriously, why didn't you tell me about you guys? You're my best friend, I thought we were past keeping secrets like this from each other." When Jake turned to look at him, he was met with a hurt look that felt like a soft punch to the gut. Tobias had told him that Marco didn't appreciate being discluded, but now it was more than apparent. "I wouldn't, like, hate you or anything."

Jake sighed. "Listen, it's not like I told everyone -but- you. I didn't tell anyone at all," he replied, self-consciously shifting his eyes to see if anyone was eavesdropping. Satisfied, he went on. "We're still kind of getting used to the idea ourselves, and we didn't think it was a hot idea to draw a bunch of attention to us. There were a lot of factors going into our silence, not just whether we trusted you guys or not. A certain couple of girls' feelings are at stake, and we don't want to hurt anyone." Lowering his voice still further, he added, "Especially Rachel. She's our best fighter and I don't want her to be anything but normal when we go on our next mission. If she got too reckless, if she got herself killed, I don't know what I'd do. I talked to her last night and she was torn up enough because she -thinks- Tobias is involved with someone else. What would happen if she found out? I don't want to deal with any of that right now."

Chewing on his lip, Marco considered what his leader had told him. "Okay, I get what you're saying," he said slowly with a nod. "Sorry. I won't tell Rachel." Jerking his thumb behind him, he took a couple steps back and said, "I gotta get going."

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As he walked through the door, Jake glanced at his watch. ((Good, I've got ten minutes before Tobias gets here.)) Still feeling like a zombie, he headed up to his room and rummaged through his desk drawer until he found the small box of caffeine pills. Popping a couple of Nodoze, he ran a hand through his hair and straightened his room a little. When the doorbell finally rang, he felt the slight buzz of energy from the pills starting to kick in. "Hey," he greeted the boy at the door.

Tobias smiled and tucked a strand of his unruly hair behind his ear. He wore what Jake recognized as Marco's favourite Nine Inch Nails tee-shirt under an unzipped charcoal hoodie. "Hey," he replied. Walking past Jake into the house, he gestured toward the kitchen. "Can I grab something to eat?"

"Of course." They moved into the kitchen, Jake experiencing a bit of deja vu while he scanned the contents of the cupboard. "I guess we need to go get groceries," he murmurred apologetically, "but is Ramen okay? That's pretty much the only good thing we have." He glanced over at his friend, who sat at the table gnawing on his fingernails absentmindedly. ((I'll assume he'd say 'yes,')) he thought. Jake put a pot of water on to boil while Tobias clicked the television onto MTV2. Smiling to himself as his lover quietly hummed along to a Hot Hot Heat video, the brunette finished up the noodles and carefully poured them into a large bowl. "Here you go," he said as he slid the bowl across the table.

"Thank yoooooou," Tobias grinned before digging in. The music played on in the background, switching to Rancid's latest single. Pleased, Tobias tapped his foot against the table leg along to the beat, sometimes humming along, off in his own little world. As far as he was concerned, it was just him and the Ramen for the next few minutes. When the bowl was empty and Justin Timberlake was on the TV, Tobias snapped back to reality and wrinkled his nose. "What the hell are we listening to?"

Laughing, Jake turned the television off. "Nothing," he replied, taking the bowl and fork to the sink. "C'mon, let's go hang out upstairs." He led Tobias by the hand across the kitchen, through the front room, and up the stairs. By now, the caffeine was in full effect and he felt wonderful, full of energy. Watching his blonde companion take a seat on his bed, he admired the way that the light fell across Tobias' face and hair, accidentally mumbling aloud, "You're so fucking beautiful." Tobias only blushed and shook his head, so Jake went on. "No, I'm serious." Approaching the other boy quickly, he silenced any potential argument with a kiss. "Honestly," he added after breaking away.

"Uhm, thanks," Tobias responded shyly. "You're not so bad yourself, you know." More and more shades of red layered upon themselves as he blushed and looked away. "So what d'you want to do?" he asked, seeming uncomfortable at the center of attention. Leaned back against the wall on Jake's bed, he appeared to have lost the vigor he'd displayed that morning and reverted back to his usual, quiet demeanor.

((Don't push him,)) Jake reminded himself. Fighting the urge to mimic the morning's activities, he gestured to the small television on his desk. "Playstation 2?" he suggested. In response to Tobias' wrinkled nose and head shake, he tried again. "Movie? I've got a bunch of DVDs downstairs we can pick from." This seemed to please the blonde, who nodded and hopped up from the bed silently. The pair traipsed down the stairway into the large living room. After taking several minutes deciding what to watch (Jake suggested Spiderman but Tobias insisted on Donnie Darko because of his secret love for Jake Gyllenhaal), they turned the light out and settled onto the couch. Throughout the film, Tobias amused his friend with theories on what Ax would have to say about the film's time-travel philosophy and comments about the antagonist's mullet.

"Seriously, it's bad enough that he acts like he lived on a steady diet of paint chips and turpentine until age eight," the boy said, "but does he -have- to look like a hick too?" The look of disgust on his face made Jake chuckle.

Toward the middle of the film, Tobias took Jake's hand and leaned against his shoulder, and minutes later was snoozing peacefully. Jake, too, found the call of sleep irresistable; the caffeine pills had started wearing off and his hour of sleep proved too little to sustain him. Thinking that he'd only close his eyes for a few moments, he drifted off and wasn't awoken until the credits had finished rolling and his older brother had strolled in.

Flipping the lights on, Tom entered the living room and asked, "Hey Jake, have you seen--" Realizing that the slumbering Tobias still rested on his shoulder and had a grip on his hand, Jake stared at his brother and braced himself for an interrogation or barrage of insults. Surprisingly, Tom just grinned, held his hands up, and backed out of the room, saying simply, "Don't worry, I didn't see a thing." A moment later, he returned. Poking his head around the corner into the room, Tom asked, "Hey, we're still on for that Sharing meeting Wednesday night, right? Why don't you bring him? The more the merrier."

((He didn't even bat an eye,)) Jake marvelled. He nodded his response to his brother in a half-daze and Tom left once more. ((The yeerks must really need new recruits if he's going to discover his brother cuddling with a guy and push a Sharing meeting instead of saying something. Especially Tom--normally he'd never let me live it down. We must have done more damage to them than we thought.)) Gently shaking his slumbering friend by the shoulder, he whispered, "Wake up, Tobias." When Tobias stirred and looked at him curiously, Jake said, "Let's go upstairs, I have to talk to you about something."

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