Chapter 8

Strong Sad had found it difficult to concentrate that morning. All he could think about was how he would soon be making cupcakes with his new - dare he say it - friend. He had felt the tension building in his stomach, but noticed it was more pleasant this time. Anticipation was a funny thing. It wasn't a new experience for him, no. He was very used to it when dealing with Strong Bad. He had to expect that he was going to be humiliated and hurt at any given time. However what he felt now…this was different. It was nice. Soon the drawling of his professors and the infinite ticks of the clock had irritated him because of it…but it was still good.

Strong Sad found himself walking surprisingly quickly down the pavement to his house. He never moved like this usually. He should probably calm down a bit. He still had about a half hour until Homeschool would come over. But every time he thought about it he felt a little jolt of excitement. That was it. Strong Sad was truly excited about something for the first time he could ever remember. Probably for the first time in his entire life. He allowed himself a quick smile at this revelation before reverting back to his normal depressing self once inside his house. There was no way Strong Bad was allowed to know about his change in attitude. All he would do is torture him.

Whilst busying himself in the kitchen, Strong Sad listened to the CD that he was currently borrowing without permission. The previous day he had skipped a song because it seemed far too upbeat for the mood he was in. But hearing it for the first time now, it had such an amazing rhythm that he decided to let it play through. It was incredibly bouncy and lively and…completely the opposite of the music he loved. Yet it was still alarmingly hypnotic. He felt as if everything else fell away as he heard the first few lyrics blend into the music, (which was not surprisingly made up mostly of random sounds with a variety of different melodies and bass lines.) In all reason, these contrasting noises mashed together should clash horribly but…they didn't. They went together beautifully.

Strong Sad was completely shocked that such a song could ever appeal to him. It was everything he was a stranger to. He usually loved the music that mellowed out a person, or even gave them a kind of inspiration only felt when depressed. But with this song, his worries seemed to leave him for that short amount of time. Inspiration seemed to blossom within him, yet he was too restless to do anything with it. He briefly lost himself in the music, then suddenly remembered that he would soon embark upon the biggest baking mission ever. He started on pre-heating the oven and making the mixture for the first batch while he waited. Barely two minutes after this the doorbell rang and Strong Sad nearly tripped over himself as he turned around to go let Homeschool in. He had barely ever been excited before that day, and now it was utterly bursting within him. It was so difficult to contain, so difficult to comprehend, that he let it take over. He just couldn't help but smile slightly when he opened the door and saw his new friend standing on the front step.

Homeschool had expected to see Strong Sad looking awkward and unsure of himself as he opened the door. Emphasis on 'had expected'. True, he was slightly surprised to see this pale boy made more so being slightly covered in blotches of flour, clinging to a wooden spoon and mixing bowl. It looked a little strange. However that wasn't what threw him completely off. It was the fact that this person who could make anything morbidly depressing had just flashed a smile at him. A sincere smile you give someone who you are happy to see. An actual smile and not the half-hearted attempt Strong Sad had managed two nights previously. Homeschool followed him through to the kitchen feeling almost bewildered by this display of positive emotion. It was particularly infectious and he started feeling as if baking about four dozens of cupcakes would actually be fun instead of an impossible task.

The two of them started to chat about arbitrary topics, all related to electronics at first, while they worked at making the mixture and pouring it into the tray. To any stranger they seemed like any pair of good friends…but unfortunately there were no strangers in this household. Strong Bad was making his way to the kitchen after sleeping in until noon as he usually did, when the noise started meeting his ears. That, and the smell of cupcakes. He remembered that his boring younger brother had drawled on about baking a whole lot or something. Not much else. So when he saw Homeschool assisting Strong Sad, he was unsure if he was still sleeping or not. He and the nerd-next-door didn't get along so great. And then he saw Strong Sad chattering at almost the speed of a normal conversation. Now he was sure he hadn't really woken up.

Strong Sad noticed Homeschool's gaze flicker uncomfortably as he glanced between the bowl in front of them and the figure behind them. He turned and saw his brother standing in the doorway with a puzzled look on his face. Feeling so energetic, the usually cowardly boy plucked up the courage to stand up to his brother for once. Lowering his eyelids in a manner not unlike the way Strong Bad often does, he quickly said "You can't have any, so don't even try." and then turned back to check the timer. This was a rather obvious sign for Homeschool to ignore the third wheel, but the tension wasn't gone just yet.

Judging by the creased pants and ruffled hair, it was obvious Strong Bad had just rolled out of bed. Or, off the couch. But he was in no way going to allow being treated this way. Defiantly, he strode forward, stretched out his hand and dipped his finger in the batter. He sucked the mixture off, glaring at his younger, far less awesome brother before leaving the room. This was a message that the dork was so going to get it later. When there would be no witnesses.

But Strong Sad couldn't be bothered by half-asleep threats. He glanced over at Homeschool who still seemed uncomfortable, deciding to offer some reassurance. "Never mind him. He's harmless. Most of the time, at least." He then smiled a bit to help ease the tension. With this, Homeschool allowed himself to smile in return. This was definitely the weirdest friendship he'd ever had, but it was still the best by far. He'd only really bonded with this boy a few days previously, and already he noticed a significant change in his behaviour. Going from awkward and brooding to open and more positive. Homeschool had an interest in such social behaviour regarding Homestar, but now he also seemed fascinated by this personality flip in Strong Sad. He felt more at ease now that he had an image of scientific study in his mind. It couldn't be too bad to observe the changes in behaviour and character in someone he spends time with, could it? All it would be is a study up close that he was a vital part of. A change in scenery.

However while Homeschool was justifying his friendship with Strong Sad for the gain of information, Strong Sad was trying to hold down his swelling emotions. It was becoming a bit unnerving how often he had to remind himself to remain calm, not to mention the fact that he was actually standing up for himself for once. Perhaps he just didn't have any motivation in the past. He didn't have any reason to do so. Life seemed to now have a bit more to it than before. Considering the fact that Strong Sad had someone to actually share his experiences with, he wanted to make them worth sharing; in other words not only filled with being picked on by his brother. The pale boy looked at his new companion and decided that as long as he spent time with this person he would have reason to actually live, and not just survive. It wasn't taking advantage of him. He wasn't becoming a bad person by doing this or anything.

Of course while both socially awkward boys where deep in thought, time carried on as it seems to do so often. The first dozen cupcakes had finished baking and they placed the second tray in the oven. Strong Sad came to the realisation that baking the cupcakes wasn't going to be the problem…decorating them was. He started mixing some ridiculously bright red and yellow icing while Homeschool kept an eye on the oven.

Or was at least he was supposed to. He found his gaze unconsciously drifting toward the pale boy next to him, amused by his fussing over getting the right balance between icing sugar and water. Strong Sad was sometimes just too helpful for his own good. For someone so depressing, he actually had a lot of heart. Unfortunately good intentions don't always seem to stay good, as he had learned from dealing with Homestar. He only meant to observe a growing relationship, and forced the android on Marzipan. Then when Homestar had finally found someone he could have a real relationship with, Homeschool separated them in fear of disturbing his research. Perhaps being around an actual person will help him to distinguish the line between good intentions and good actions… Wow that sounded ridiculously corny.

Homeschool was so deep in thought that he didn't hear the timer at first. He then snapped to attention and quickly removed the cupcakes from the oven before they could burn. He removed the oven mitts and accidentally brushed his hand against the tray, feeling a sharp pain on the back of his fingers. "Ow!" Damn metal trays that get so hot so quickly. He sucked on the back of his index finger which had suffered the most of the slight burn.

Strong Sad had turned away from his intricate icing, concern creeping across his features. "Are you alright?" Of course the last thing he needed was his only set of helping hands to be out of operation. (He was barely through with his first dozen cupcakes.) But he was also worried about his new friend. Strong Sad worried about people quite a lot sometimes, but no one cared enough to notice.

Homeschool nodded awkwardly and stuck his hand under running cold water. He felt absolutely ridiculous. He was meant to be helping Strong Sad, and all he had managed to do so far was hurt himself. Granted, they had managed to get two dozen cupcakes baked, but that wasn't even half of the required amount. He turned off the faucet and looked at the pink marks developing on his fingers.

Strong Sad had a little more experience with burns than Homeschool, due to his brother's occasional pyromania. He stepped closer and mumbled "Let me see…" before gently taking his friend's hand and inspecting the marks. It wasn't a particularly bad burn, but it probably stung a lot. He wouldn't need to put anything on it…Homeschool just had to try not to burn himself again.

Homeschool pushed his glasses up his nose and realised his cheeks were a little rosy. He assumed it would have been due to the embarrassment of burning himself on a baking tray, but it only worsened as he tried to think of its cause. He just stood still and let Strong Sad look over the damage. He felt strangely comforted that someone was there to look after him, if only just to inspect a tiny burn. He had been looking after himself for so long, it felt rather foreign to him.

"It's not too bad. You should be fine." Strong Sad released his friend's hand feeling confident that there was nothing wrong. He glanced at Homeschool, noticing how awkward he looked. "Don't worry, I'm used to dealing with baking-induced injuries." He gave him a reassuring look and returned to his icing. It was almost depressing how much work it was turning out to be. Strong Sad was contemplating only properly decorating a dozen and just having bright colours on the rest. No one would really look at the cupcakes anyway.

Homeschool took a minute to fully snap out of his awkward trance. He was almost missing the feeling of Strong Sad's hand around his own. It wasn't for any weird reasons, surely…it was probably just about the feel of real human contact. Thinking about it, he could hardly remember the last time he even touched another person. It was…rather pathetic, honestly.

After that little incident and a slightly awkward silence, the two continued their mission with no other issues. Deciding not to decorate the other cupcakes was probably the best decision Strong Sad could ever make, because finishing off the massive task took quite a few hours. Before they knew it, it was five in the afternoon - the sun had almost completely set by then. Homeschool had work he wanted to get done, and Strong Sad had to make some food before his brother came to terrorise him for it. They agreed to leave it at that. Homeschool turned to Strong Sad just as he was walking out the door, and added "I'll help you deliver these to the rally on Saturday." before wandering down the sidewalk. He was sure he'd see Strong Sad before then; the awkward boy needed the company just as much as he did.

Strong Sad watched Homeschool until he had reached his own front yard before closing the door. He had spent an entire afternoon with him, (baking cupcakes of all the things they could have done), and was feeling not ridiculously depressed like he usually would have done. It was a pretty good day, all in all.