Double D sat with his friends during their lunch break, same as he did every day. Ed to his right was scarfing down his usual bag lunch from home with little to no table manners while Eddy had bullied another one of his "clients" into paying for his high dollar meal from a burger joint down the street. Sighing into his carefully measured and well made sandwich, Eddward realized he didn't have the will to eat. Too much had been on his mind and weighing heavy on him, it really killed his appetite.
Midterms were coming up and, as always, Eddward was well prepared. He had opted to stay inside night after night to study, sacrificing time with his friends. High school had matured them all a good bit but Eddy still endlessly gave him hell for being as studious as he was.
"What's the deal, sockhead?" Eddy blurted out, food spraying from his mouth, upsetting Eddward slightly.
"It's nothing," Eddward muttered, wiping the stray spittle from his glasses, "I am just not very hungry that's all."
Ed wrapped his rather long arms around the slender boy, a friendly smile plastered on his face. "It's okay Double D, with all the other stuff you been memorizin' you prolly forgot how to eat!"
Eddward giggled gently, Ed was quite the gentle giant. He was the oldest of the group, 18 now and slowly covering his body with odd tattoos. In his freshman year, Ed had been hired on for his dream job at the local comic book shop and now, basically lived there. Already assistant manager, Ed got paid enough to fund his weird body modification hobby. Eddward always hounded him about his studies though, he had been held back twice now since getting his job. Ed never cared, it kept him with his friends.
Eddy smirked, rolling his eyes at his two friends. Though shorter than Eddward, he was a few months older and since turning 16, had looked down upon the straight A student. Eddy had become mixed up in the wrong crowd... Eddward was never really sure what exactly it was that Eddy did to get so many people texting him at all hours or a full wallet, but Eddward knew that it couldn't possibly be legal.
"I just," Eddward began, his head running a million miles a minute, "I need to go... I'll see both of you after school, right?"
"Sure thing, Double D!" Ed announced, a thumbs up offering as a confirmation.
"Yeah, see ya," Eddy mumbled as he absentmindedly played with his cell phone.
Standing from the table, Eddward threw his food away and left the lunch room, walking toward his favorite tree in the front circle. He tossed his messenger bag to the ground by the tree before taking a seat in the cooling shade.
It was nearing the end of Fall, the leaves and grass turning shades of orange to brown, igniting the whole town in a technicolor only painted by this cool season. A breeze chilled the small frame of the young man as he sat alone, his knees quickly pulled into his chest to keep in as much warmth as possible.
"How am I going to tell them?" Eddward whimpered to the tree. "They will never understand... I'm not even sure I understand yet. They are my best friends but I just don't think they would stand by me. Maybe I don't give them enough credit."
Eddward ran his left hand along the bark of the old tree, a single tear rolling down his cheek. "You're the only one I can talk to."
"Hey Double D!" a blonde girl called to him suddenly, causing him to jump.
"Oh dear!" he exclaimed. "Hello there Naz! You gave me quite a scare!"
"Sorry about that," Nazz giggled, covering her mouth as she always did when she laughed.
"I'm quite fine now," Eddward smiled, the gap in his front teeth fully exposed. "Would you like to sit? There is plenty of room and this old tree is quite the charmer!"
Nazz smiled, her eyes full of kindness, "Yeah, why not?"
Nazz had always been the nicest person Eddward had ever known, even when they were kids. She was never really feminine, rocking the softball team as the star player, but she was still quite the knockout. She and Double D had grown closer during their eighth grade year after being assigned as lab partners and it thrilled him to no end that Nazz had actually been a joy to work alongside. Since then, they had begun to meet up for study groups and eventually finding that they enjoyed the others company, becoming near inseparable since.
"Why are you out here all alone?" Nazz questioned, her tone gentle and sincere. "Eddy on your nerves again?"
Laughing his his friend, Eddward shook his head, "Not this time, I'm afraid. It is simply my own thoughts that are plaguing me today."
"Wanna talk about it?" Nazz offered her ear, calmly placing her hand on the slender male's shoulder. "If you don't want to, that's okay, too! Just thought it would make you happy that I'm here!"
"I'm always happy that you are here!" Double D announced, smiling broadly at the girl. "But... I am not sure how to word what needs to be said. It's strange... I feel like it is my own nature and yet there are no words that can express... well... me."
Nazz tilted her head slightly, looking deep into Eddward's eyes, "You can always tell me... no matter what. I'm not one of these gossip whores in the hallways." She smiled softly to him, holding out her arms, offering a comforting hug.
Eddward took her up on her offer and gladly allowed the girl to envelop him in her arms. Nazz held him the way she knew the boy felt safe, firm but not enough to be uncomfortable. It was often she who Double D had gone to when his heart was heavy.
"Do you swear not to tell?" Double D whispered into his friend's hold, tears threatening to pour from his eyes at any second.
"Cross my heart, hope to die," Nazz whispered back, pushing Eddward back so she could look him in the eyes. She could see the pain behind them and knew that there was truly something important eating away at him.
Eddward took in a deep breath, "Okay... Please don't think any less of me."
"Never!" Nazz scoffed, a smile bright on her face.
"Okay... here goes nothing," Eddward removed the glasses from his face and wiped at his left eye before placing them back onto his nose. "Nazz... I... Oh dear... I am... I am... I like... Oh no..."
"Double D," Nazz said, placing her hand on the boy's, "Just say it real fast, like a band-aid!"
"Yes... a band-aid..." Double D gulped.. "Nazz, I'm... gay..."
Nazz stared open mouthed at her friend, nothing short of shock plastered on her face. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure," Double D sniffled, looking to the dirt hoping it would offer him some answers somehow. "I think I have always known though... I was never interested in the same magazines as Eddy and Ed and I've always been... I don't know... feminine I suppose is the word."
"Wow," Nazz sighed, still holding onto her friend's hand, "That's so crazy! I never would have guessed."
"You're not mad at me?" Double D squeaked.
"Why in the world would I be mad at you for being you?" Nazz laughed. "You're still wonderful and who you like will never change that!"
Double D practically beamed at his friend, he was so happy he could at least tell someone.
"Do Ed and Eddy know?" Nazz asked, wondering how long Eddward had hidden in the closet.
"Oh my, no!" Eddward quickly retorted. "Eddy is always making derogatory comments to people about being a 'fag' or 'gay'... I think our friendship would end."
"That's really awful..." Nazz sighed, seeing the two boys they spoke of inside, leaving their seats to wander the halls as they so often did. "Well, you're safe with me Double D!"
"Thank you Nazz," Eddward sniffled, overcome with joy that he was accepted by at least one friend.
Throwing his arms around the girl's neck, Eddward teared up, hopeful that telling the rest of his associates would go just as smooth.
"Now," Nazz giggled, returning the boy's hug, "we have to find you a boyfriend!"
As both erupted into laughter, the bell rang for the afternoon classes to begin. Quickly gathering their things and jogging inside, they hugged once more as they parted ways. Heart a little lighter, Eddward opened the door to his Advanced Placement Biology class and nearly jumped for joy at the sight of the frogs pinned to dissection tables at each desk.
Eddward shoved his books into his neatly organized locker, his friends waiting for him to complete his after school ritual of carefully planning out which books and notes he needed to complete his studies for the evening.
Nazz had texted him in his last class about meeting up at the local coffee shop for some help with her geometry homework and he was more than happy to agree. Ed had offered to drop him off on his way to work and though his friend's car was covered in trash, the offer had been accepted and greatly appreciated.
Sifting through his notes, Eddward was so far gone in his own thoughts that he nearly jumped from his skin when Eddy slammed his locker door shut.
"Let's go, Sockhead!" Eddy impatiently crowed, straining on his toes to attempt to reach his friend's face. "For fuck's sake I got shit to do!"
"Language," Eddward scolded as his heart rate returned to normal, "I am almost done. You can never spend too much time-"
"You can never spend too much time on perfection- blah, blah blah," Eddy mocked, placing his hand together in a mock prayer. "I know Double D... heard it a thousand times now let's gooooooo, come oooooonnnnn."
Eddward knew Eddy to be pushy and annoying, he was very much used to his best friend's behavior. All he could do was chuckle as his short pal did his impatient little dance in the empty hallway.
"...and there!" Eddward exclaimed, neatly filing away his notes into his bag and shouldering it before turning to Eddy with a large smile. "Let us be off, then!"
No sooner had the words left his lips did Eddy raise his arms in the air with a roll of his eyes and a loud, "Hallelujah!" Eddward giggled into his hand, hiding the gap in his front teeth shyly as they made their way to the front of the school. Ed was sitting in his beat up Ford Taurus happily singing along to some rock song on the static filled radio when Eddy and Eddward had reached the car. Eddy jumped in the front eat next to Ed and pointed his thumb to the back seat.
"Chumps get in the rear!" Eddy smirked as Eddward opened the rear driver's side and carefully climbed inside.
"I am more than happy to ride in the back, Eddy," Eddward sighed. "No need to make it a spectacle."
"Everything's a spectacle with me," Eddy beamed to his friend.
"We know," Ed laughed as he popped Eddy on the back of his head. "Now put your seat belt on, I don't want the cops to make a spectacle out of me!"
Eddward was already buckled in, two steps ahead as usual, but he was very thankful that Ed refused to hit the road until the shortest of them was strapped in. As the two boys fought in front, an interesting sight caught Eddward's eye, pulling all focus away from his friends as it called to him.
A blood red motorcycle roared to life across the parking lot, the rider donned in a black leather jacket and a backwards baseball cap matching the color of the bike. Eddward could see the slightest showing of a Peach Creek High football jersey beneath the jacket and saw the familiar number glinting at him, number 19, Kevin.
Kevin was the star of the football and basketball team, there weren't many sports the young man couldn't dominate. Eddward didn't know much about the boy other than he was the childhood bully he feared above all others. Kevin's dad had worked at the candy factory Eddward and his friends had drooled over in their younger days and Kevin had always held that over their heads, denying them friendship and any attempt at resolving their differences. Now, there he sat on his chrome beast, revving the red machine in an almost taunting manner.
"Double D!" Eddy shouted as he reached in the back seat to grab at Eddward's black beanie. "I'm talkin' to ya!"
"Oh!" Eddward snapped out of his thoughts. "So sorry, Eddy! Repeat your inquiry."
Eddy sighed, as he often did when talking to the other two, "Which coffee place? Starbolt's? Peach Pitt?"
"The Peach Pitt," Eddward confirmed, smiling to his friends with as much as he could muster.
"Sure thing!" Ed called as he cranked his radio and tore through the parking lot toward their destination.
Eddward gripped the seat a little tighter than he meant to as they took off. Ed was a good driver, just always took him by surprise when he floored it. Turning his head to where the motorcycle had been, the spot now sat empty and still.
He wasn't sure what part of him it was that had always regretted never reaching out to Kevin as a friend but it had always bothered him. Eddward had avoided most of the childhood beatings unlike his two friends by simply being the most agreeable and the first to leave well enough alone. Ed younger sister, Sarah, had always been a ticking time bomb and Rolf had always got in a good punch or two but Kevin, he was another beast entirely.
Most of the time, Kevin had simply attacked Eddward out of frustration of not being able to get his hands around Eddy's throat. He could understand, there had been times where Eddward had wanted to wring his friend's neck, too... however... it never made the pain stop.
Shaking the thoughts from his mind, Eddward pulled his phone from his pocket to make sure Nazz knew he was on his way. He never liked to keep people in the dark, especially when they were waiting on him.
"You're wrong, Eddy," Ed stated flatly as Eddward sent the message. "Juggernaut is not a mutant. That's why the third X-Men was so stupid! That and like... four hundred and thirty-nine thousand other reasons!"
"Whatever, Lumpy!" Eddy shot back. "Juggernaut is totally a mutant! Isn't he the X dude's brother or something? So, if one of them is a mutant, that makes the other one right? Cause like, both Psyclops and his brother are mutants!"
"They're not related by blood!" Ed shouted back clearly frustrated at his over-confidant friend. "They are step-brothers! Cain Marko's dad married Xavier's mom! That's beside the point though... Cain found a gem in this temple that cursed him with his powers, he wasn't born with them!"
"You're making this shit up!" Eddy snorted as he put his feet up on the dashboard. "What the hell kinda gem would give you powers like that? That's ridiculous!"
"Finding a gem that gives you powers is ridiculous but HAVING powers is completely rational?" Eddward chimed from the back seat, his hand covering his giggling mouth.
"Shut it, Sockhead!" Eddy was quick to shoot back. "No one asked you!"
"Perhaps you are correct," Eddward nodded, "but I do know that you are wrong about the topic at hand. So asking me or not doesn't change the accuracy of your initial standpoint."
Eddy rolled his eyes, "And what do you know about comic books Mr. I-don't-have-time-for-normal-human-shit? Hmmm?!"
"Well," Eddward readjusted the glasses on his nose, "I ran out of things to read at home... and the library at the school... and they won't let me back in the city library after I rearranged the Dewey Decimal system, to a much more orderly fashion if I might add. So Ed has been lending me his comics. They are quite whimsical!"
Eddy raised an eyebrow at his scholarly friend, "Whimsical?"
"Yes, Eddy. Whimsical," Eddward teased. "It means-"
"I know what it means!" Eddy cut him off, crossing his arms as he sulked into the front seat. "Stupid know-it-all comic hounds."
Eddward giggled in the back seat knowing he had won, yet another, debate with his friend. Sinking back into his seat, he looked out the window and listened intently to the song that rang out over the speakers, enjoying the ride on the way to the coffee shop.