Pairing/Characters: Logan and Carlos, friendship.
Rating: PG-13 for anger?
Summary/Notes: Written as a fill for a request in the BTR Fluff Meme on LJ. First time posting my fic outside of the Memes, so... let me know what you think? I think I'm going to pull my other two fills from there in the next few days and post them under this name, so I can be an active writer :P Anyway, still rusty at writing fic, so comments and critique are loved and adored :)
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize, sadly... :(
Carlos stared at the test page sitting in front of him; the test stared back, mocking him with its big, red "D-" scrawled across the top. He'd studied really hard for this one, too, especially since Kelly had threatened to get him a tutor after the last one… he really didn't want to spend any more time than he had to going over this stuff, especially since Gustavo would probably find the meanest, ugliest tutor he could.
It wasn't like Carlos had never seen a D- before. He had never been the smartest of their group—that was Logan, hands down—but it wasn't like he was stupid; he'd always managed to keep his grades safely in the C range, sometimes even in the low Bs if he really focused. This D-, though, was really the last straw. It wasn't enough that one of his best buds had to rub it in that he was that much smarter, now this?
At that moment, the door to the apartment opened, and Carlos quickly shoved the text toward his textbooks, hoping to slide it underneath. Unfortunately, the paper only crumpled against the spines and wadded up against the books. Frowning at it, he squashed it under his hand, turning to glance over his shoulder at Logan, who glanced at him askance.
"Hey, where've you been?" He asked, frowning as he dropped heavily into the oversized chair. Carlos only shrugged, not-so-subtly trying to crumple the paper in his fist and draw it away. He didn't feel much like talking to Logan right now, though, but before he could rise, Logan was shifting to sit up straight, looking him in the eye.
"What's up with you?" Logan asked, frowning uncertainly. "You didn't even come down to the pool after practice… you missed the Sims twins…" His voice dropped temptingly, but Carlos didn't take the bait, instead crumpling the remainder of the test noisily.
"Nothing," he mumbled, even as Logan watched him closely. Sticking his tongue out, Carlos tossed the crumpled up test at the trashcan—only for it to bounce off the rim, mockingly rolling back toward them. Before he could get up grab it, however, Logan reached out and snagged it, fingers already working to open the wadded up ball. "Hey! That's mine!"
"But you just tried to throw it away," Logan pointed out, brows raising pointedly. Carlos scowled, however, lunging toward Logan with a ferocity that clearly surprised the other boy. His frustration was boiling over, however, much as he tried to swallow it. He didn't like being mad—ever, just because it wasn't fun and it usually meant taking time away from doing fun things—but he really didn't want Logan to see that paper and see how badly he was doing in class…
Logan yelped as Carlos tackled him, knocking him clean out of the chair. For a few moments, they grappled on the floor; Logan had curled up defensively, trying to hide the wad of paper against his chest, while the shorter boy was trying as best he could to pry Logan's hands open.
"Dude, give it back!" Carlos demanded, frustration, and Logan only grinned tauntingly at him, shaking his head. In response, Carlos grabbed the other by the shoulders, shoving him hard against the floor before throwing his hands up. Rising quickly, he jerked away from Logan, ignoring his protests as he marched into his room, slamming the door shut.
Dropping down on his bed, he crossed his arms and scowled at the ceiling. God, even right now, he could already hear the genius out there, laughing as he read all the wrong answers. It had never been this bad back home, mostly because they'd all done their homework together most of the time anyway, and Logan had helped them all. Even Kendall, who was pretty smart, too, needed help with some things, and it had just been natural, he'd always thought. Since coming to California, however, and spending every single waking minute together, the homework sessions were one of the things to fall by the wayside. Carlos didn't mind doing his homework by himself, but all the same, maybe he needed their help more than he thought…
Okay, he definitely needed more help than he thought.
Suddenly, something hit him in the face, bouncing off and disappearing over the edge of the bed; startled, Carlos sat up, then tensed. Logan was in the doorway; apparently, he'd been caught up in his own thoughts, and hadn't even heard the door open. See, this was why Carlos never really liked getting angry… Turning onto his side, he pointedly faced away from the door, hoping the other would go away.
Instead, a cautious weight settled on the edge of the bed behind him, making the bed dip.
"So, um, I looked at that test," Logan started out awkwardly, unable to see how the other boy's jaw clenched at that. "It's only one test, though, Carlos—"
"Four," he corrected sullenly, frowning. Logan made a confused sound, and he sighed, "It's four tests."
"Oh," Logan replied, obviously not knowing what to say to that. For a moment, he didn't talk, and Carlos had a flash of resentful glee; it made him feel bad, but so did Logan acting like he knew everything, so there. He shoved it away, though. He knew Logan didn't mean anything by it… but that was exactly it. He didn't mean to, but he did, and that just made it worse.
"So, um, why didn't you say anything?" Logan asked after a long moment, and Carlos jerked himself on to his back, frowning at him that way.
"Because I thought I could fix it," he retorted, unhappiness still warring with frustration. Then, trying to laugh it off, he forced a grin, though his eyes didn't quite meet Logan's. "Oh, well, I guess I'm just going to have to study harder for the next one—"
"Carlos, the note said you have to get a parental signature, and Mrs. Knight's probably going to get really upset," Logan pointed out, and Carlos' smile fell slightly. For a moment, neither knew what to say, until Logan started again, awkwardly, "It's not that hard—"
Unfortunately, that was exactly the wrong thing to say, and Carlos didn't even think before shoving Logan off of the bed. He landed on the floor with a thud, but Carlos was already up and moving, striding back toward the door.
"Hey, what's your problem?" The other boy demanded, obviously growing a little angry now.
"Dude, I'm failing," Carlos snapped. "So yeah, obviously it is 'that hard,' okay?" He went to yank open the door and leave, because he still didn't really feel like hanging out with the other boy right now. Logan had faster reflexes, though, managing to appear in front of Carlos and blocking the door, face determined now.
"No, it's not—" He started, then paused once he noticed Carlos' fleeting pained expression. "You're just—"
"What, stupid? Yeah, I get it," Carlos shot back, leaning into Logan's personal space. As expected, once the other understood exactly how angry he was, his eyes widened and he pulled away slightly. "I'm the stupid one, okay? Ghosts aren't real, I suck at math and English, and you're the genius, okay?"
"Carlos," Logan muttered, then frowned. "You think you're stupid?"
"Well, everyone else obviously does," He snapped, his normally cheerful expression nowhere to be found; instead, he couldn't seem to lose the shaky, upset expression, and he turned away.
"No, we don't," Logan offered, and Carlos laughed humorlessly.
"Yeah, you do," he retorted. He managed to unclench his hands, hearing Logan shifting awkwardly behind him. "You only said it like a million times the other day, and now, here's your proof, Mr. Scientist Genius Man."
"But Carlos, I didn't mean—"
"Yes, you did!" Carlos interrupted, voice low and quiet—hurt enough that it apparently really surprised Logan, because he stopped moving, dark eyes confused, questioning, and startled all at once. Carlos closed his eyes briefly, not liking that he was taking it out on Logan this much; it was usually easy enough for Carlos to just let everything roll off his back, to grin and laugh everything away, but that didn't mean that stuff like this didn't matter.
"You totally meant it," he continued, finally pressing past Logan to leave the room.
When Carlos returned to the apartment several hours later, his head was a little clearer, courtesy of a well-planned adrenaline rush. Nothing was better than doing something reckless, so naturally, the obvious solution had been to borrow a bunch of spare mattresses to build a make-shift trampoline next to the pool. It had actually worked for a while, kinda, right up until the point when Bitters had come out and yelled, scaring one of the Jennifers so much she actually fell into the pool.
Everything after that was a blur of mixed-up confusion, mostly because they needed to get out of the way before Bitters actually figured out who was who. He didn't think he would be at the top of Bitters' list of suspects—this time—mostly because thankfully, someone else had taken like three of the spare mattresses for a stair-sledding session in the middle of the night.
Removing his lucky helmet, Carlos absently patted it happily, grin back in place. He could hear James and Kendall in the living room, fighting over something, and shook his head as he headed for his room. The only thing that he had left to do was his homework, the thought enough to knock his grin right from his face. How was he supposed to focus on his homework when he obviously didn't get what was going on? Was there even a point to doing the homework anymore?
When Carlos opened his bedroom door, however, he came to a standstill. He'd left his light on all this time? No, wait, there was Logan, sitting at his desk, and—
"I have a desk?" He asked blankly, for a moment distracted, and Logan looked torn between laughing and dropping his head into his palm.
"Yeah, we all do," Logan finally replied, but he was smiling, so Carlos guessed it was okay. Glancing around, he saw that the desk and the area around it had been cleared and straightened up, and somehow he'd gained a neat stack of books and a cup of pens and pencils. Frowning slightly, he tilted his head, confused.
"What's all this?" He asked, and Logan smiled, gesturing to the desk.
"You're supposed to have a clean place to sit and do homework and stuff," he started, trying hard not to sound like he was lecturing. "Soooo… here's a desk. And I, um, looked at what was giving you trouble, and made notes and stuff so you can look at those easier, instead of having to look them up in the books."
Indeed, there were note cards and minor flash cards taped to the wall behind the desk, all written in Logan's neat hand and even color-coded with some illustrations, and hey, that's kind of cool. Tossing his helmet onto his bed and coming closer, Carlos leaned in, studying the notes, speechless. These notes were all written neatly and, most importantly, easy to understand, especially since they were coded and colored. They all have the things that he's been having the most trouble with on them, the things that he's getting wrong on the questions—those must have taken Logan a while.
"Wow, thanks, Logan," Carlos managed, then paused. "Wait, when did I get a second chair?"
"When I brought it in here," Logan said dryly, though his eyes were smiling. "I thought, um, I mean… did you want to do homework together again? I could help you—if you wanted."
Carlos grinned at that, even though he didn't like seeing Logan this hesitant and uncertain around him. The other boy was nervous and awkward around other people, like strangers and girls, but never around him or Kendall or James… and he didn't want to change that.
"That'd be cool," he said, smile fading to a more sober expression. "Sorry for snapping on you earlier, man."
"Sorry for calling you stupid," Logan replied simply, though his smile seemed easier now. "I didn't mean it."
"I know," Carlos said, dropping himself into the other chair. He sighed, then reached for his backpack, rifling through in search of his homework assignments for the night. While he was looking down and distracted by his search, he found it easy to mutter, "It's not like I haven't been trying, you know, it's just… I don't get these equations and stuff."
"That doesn't make you stupid," Logan replied quietly, shifting his chair over to give Carlos more room to put his stuff down on the desk. "I mean, you were the first one to pick up chess, and I still can't beat you."
"Yeah, that's right!" Carlos grinned, cheering up. It was true; Logan was the genius, but even he couldn't beat Carlos at chess most of the time. When they'd learned as part of a unit in fifth grade, Carlos had taken to it like a duck to water; the others guessed that it probably had something to do with how the shorter boy always knew just where to be at the right moment in a hockey game, appearing out of nowhere to score the crucial goal—or capture a piece they hadn't even noticed in danger.
"You know, I kinda missed our group homework sessions," Logan admitted, and Carlos nodded fervently. "Should we ask Kendall and James if they need help, too?"
"No," Carlos replied, shaking his head. "I… don't want them to know, okay?"
"Okay," he agreed easily enough, understanding. "But you know you can ask me for help anytime, right?" Carlos nodded, shuffling through his papers for a second before tilting his chin slightly to the side, thinking.
"So, wanna tell the teacher you'll help me? I really don't want to get a tutor," Carlos complained, and Logan nodded. "Thanks, man…"
"Not a problem," he said, then grinned. "And I already got Katie to forge Mrs. Knight's signature for you, too."
"Awesome!" the shorter boy grinned, relief contagious—for a split second before his nose wrinkled and he frowned in thought. "Wait, don't you hate that kind of thing?"
"Well, you didn't want anyone to know, right?" Logan asked, receiving a nod. "So now they won't, and we'll get your grades up, too—"
"Why are you doing this?" Carlos blurted out, unable to help himself, and Logan shrugged, though he still looked guilty.
"Because I owe you, and besides, we all—"
"No, why are you?" Carlos interrupted, face twisted up in thought, and Logan sighed. Carlos knew where Logan was going with that—they had all done their part in keeping one another out of trouble through the years, but Logan had always been the most reluctant to do anything that went so blatantly against the rules.
"Everyone else jumps right in to do what they think is right and to get what they want," Logan finally explained, not quite meeting his eyes now. Then, looking up and meeting Carlos' stunned eyes, he said firmly, "I know you can do this. Besides, if Mrs. Knight grounds you and you have to get a tutor, that means you won't have time to play in our hockey game—and I can't beat James and Kendall by myself!"
Carlos laughed, grinning, and playfully shoved Logan's shoulder as he finally turned his attention to the pile of homework on the desk. Logan scooted his chair in as well, readying himself to figure this thing out, even as Carlos thought of one last thing.
"So what did you bribe Katie with for that signature?"
Edited 6/12 to fix html fail and add my missing divider line thingy.