Disclaimer - All characters belogn to Ann M. Martin and Scholastic. I make no money writing them.

This is in no way related to my ongoing fic, "Blue." Written for thuribrandbuck.

---

Cowardice

---

Byron would not skateboard down the steepest hill in Stoneybrook with the rest of the guys. He wouldn't jump the creek on his bike, or dive from the highest board at the pool, or take a puff from the cigar that Adam had stolen from their Uncle Joe.

"Chicken," Jordan called his brother, even as he was wiping the traces of vomit caused by his turn with the cigar.

All the other guys agreed that Byron was a coward, and Jeff did too, at least out loud. Privately, he felt uneasy about the label, though he wasn't sure why; all signs pointed straight to Byron's scaredy-catness, no question. Even so, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of something in his chest as, more and more often, he and the other boys rode off on their bikes without Byron.

But they couldn't always avoid him, and on the night of the Baby-Sitters Club Summer Family Fest, which his mother insisted he attend, Jeff discovered it wasn't too bad to chase fireflies in the backyard with the younger kids, while everyone older sat on the porch and ate cool watermelon and Adam and Jordan, grounded for breaking their skateboards in half during a particularly perilous adventure, sulked in their room.

He and Byron laughed together, cowardice and the treachery of peer pressure forgetten, and followed a few straggling fireflies into the side yard. By some miracle, Jeff reached out and actually cupped one in his enclosed palms. He could see the glow peeking out between his fingers, and was suddenly feeling much younger than thirteen when, from the corner of his eye, he saw Byron falter, then lean in, brushing his mouth against the corner of Jeff's lips. And then, just as suddenly, he was much, much older. He blinked once, twice; the firefly made use of his twitching hands and broke free into the night.

"You're the bravest guy I know," Jeff whispered, astonished, and Byron smiled.