Disclaimer: These guys don't belong to me. And in fact the guys that do belong to me have been getting kind of mad because they're being ignored lately.
Pairings/Characters: Despite the title this is basically James/Logan, though I'm not sure yet how far it's going to go.
Rating: PG for content, PG-13 for language
Word Count: ~6500 for Part 1
Warnings: Homophobic slurs. I seriously, seriously apologize if it offends anyone. I actually couldn't even bring myself to type them yet; I'll be filling them in when I copy/paste the fic. Also run-on sentences, excessive use of semi-colons and em-dashes. Woo.
Summary: Logan and James make a secret pact that alters the course of their friendship.
Author's Notes: This is my first fic for these guys, so...be nice but be honest? It's totally self-edited, and since I'm just too excited to post it it probably hasn't been edited enough. Feel free to point out any mistakes or general weirdness :) And I have no idea how long this is going to be. This first part was supposed to be quick and to the point, but it ended up over 6,000 words, so we'll see. I think there probably won't be more than 5 parts, though.
Oh, and I suggest imagining the boys making their ridiculous faces while reading this. It totally makes it better. On to the fic!
Part 1: The Pact
Logan was putting his books away at the end of his fourth day of high school when he felt a looming presence next to him. The locker to the right of his own belonged to some guy who was way too big to be a freshman; Logan was pretty sure he'd been held back a year. Or three. Either way the dude seriously freaked Logan out, and he immediately regretted not going with James on his detour to the snack machines.
But maybe he was being too harsh, he told himself as his skin prickled with nervousness. Maybe the guy was actually really friendly, and he would, y'know, just wait patiently for Logan to leave so he could have access to his own locker.
"Out of my way, fag."
Logan's eyes went wide as the words hit him, and for one brief second confusion overrode his fear as he blinked up over his shoulder at the giant.
Logan Mitchell was no stranger to insults. 'Nerd,' 'geek,' 'bookworm,' 'science boy,' 'weirdo who likes math,' he had heard them all. 'Genius' was a common one, but that one always confused him when it wasn't used sarcastically, because how is that an insult? And it was usually followed up by a request for help with an assignment, which just made no sense at all.
If it had been any of the usual insults, Logan probably would have cowered or slammed his locker shut and hurried off, but this was new. He'd never had any sort of homophobic slurs directed at him before, and honestly he was having trouble figuring out where the guy was coming from on that one.
"You heard me, homo. Move." The menacing tone and expression he was being given were starting to seep through Logan's confusion.
This was a difference voice, a familiar voice; James's voice. Relief hit Logan at the sound of it, but it wasn't until he felt an arm around his shoulders—Kendall's arm, he knew without looking—that he felt truly safe.
"Is there a problem here?" Kendall asked, and Logan glanced up to see Kendall smiling at the guy in a way that most people would have thought was friendly. Logan knew better.
"Yeah, your little boyfriend won't get the hell away from my locker." Even with Kendall there next to him Logan couldn't help wincing at the harshness of the words.
"Woah, dude, chill," Kendal said, taking his arm off Logan's shoulders to maneuver them both so that Kendall was between Logan and the unnaturally large freshman. Logan liked this much better, standing behind his friend. "What's the hurry? Is your mom going to get all pissed if you're not outside in two minutes for her to pick you up?"
Carlos snorted a laugh. Logan hadn't realized he was there too, standing next to Kendall, wearing a helmet and carrying a hockey stick. The reason for that was anyone's guess; practice didn't even start for another two months but there was no point dwelling on it because, well. Carlos.
Since Kendall had pushed Logan back he was standing beside James, and Logan glanced over at him. Logan was actually blocking James's locker now, but James didn't seem to have any interest in opening it; he was too busy fixing the bully with a quizzical stare, like he was just as confused by the choice of insults as Logan. Or maybe he just wanted to see how the guy would react to Kendall.
This guy was huge, taller even than Kendall, and although Logan and his friends were all tough-as-nails hockey players, off the ice they didn't exactly look—or in Logan's case, feel—the part. So Logan was pretty sure this guy was just going to swing his giant arms around and send them all crashing against the lockers on either side of the hallway. And yeah, that would hurt, but getting knocked around with his friends was better than getting shoved into his locker on his own.
When no knocking around occurred Logan was probably more surprised than he should have been. He couldn't see Kendall's face, but whether it was something in his expression or just the fact that it was four against one, all the guy did was slam Logan's locker shut—because that was totally intimidating—and stalk off back down the hallway. Logan let out a sigh of relief and Carlos gave in to a fit of laughter.
Kendall turned to face them, arms crossed and an odd gleam in his eyes. "High school's fun," he said, leaning back against the locker. Carlos laughed even harder. Logan rolled his eyes and shook his head while James, smirking, nudged him out of the way so he could get to his locker.
The other three seemed to forget the whole incident even happened as soon as they stepped out of the school building, but Logan couldn't help dwelling on it as they rode their bikes to Kendall's house.
Logan had fully expected high school to be the grandest adventure of his life. He would finally be challenged in his classes, he would finally have a growth spurt, he would finally make some friends he could talk about geeky stuff with without getting blank stares in return.
The first disappointment came over the summer, when James hit a growth spurt. Logan had pretty much accepted the fact that Kendall would always be taller than him, but now James too? He consoled himself by thinking there was still time, he wasn't done growing yet. And…at least he was still taller than Carlos.
The second disappointment was on the day of their freshman registration. And it wasn't a big deal, really—at least at the time—but they were all planning to go together, which was cool because not only was Logan nervous to go alone but he knew lockers were assigned on a first-come, first-served basis and if they all registered together they'd have lockers next to each other. But Kendall and Carlos had gone at the planned time, while Logan had a lost-wallet crisis and ended up getting there right as his two friends were exiting the building. No one had heard from James yet so they waited around for him, and when he finally showed up—bad hair crisis, of course, they were getting their picture IDs that day as well—he and Logan went to register together. And so Kendall and Carlos had awesome lockers down the hallway from the second-floor snack machines, while Logan and James were stuck next to the boys' bathroom everyone was too afraid to go in. And right next to Mr. Giant Jerkface, apparently.
Disappointment #3 had been discovered on Logan's second day of school. His advanced-level math and biology classes looked like they were going to be everything he hoped, and he wasn't the only student who seemed excited about it. But when he tried to strike up a conversation with some of these fellow nerds, he found out that they were…well, just too nerdy. It was a shock to find guys more socially awkward than he felt, and although he thought he might be a horrible person for it the four minutes before class started were enough to make him want to run screaming into the classroom across the hall where he knew Carlos and Kendall had English.
Despite all of these setbacks Logan had been trying to stay optimistic about school. After all, if nothing else his parents had promised him a cell phone if he got straight As for the semester, and Logan was totally confident in his ability to make those grades.
The run-in that afternoon, though, had left him with a really unsettled feeling. Academics only made up one part of high school. Athletics, another part, wasn't worth worrying about this early in the year. But the third part—social interaction—was what could really make or break those four years for a guy. And if not even a week into school he was getting called…well, what that bully had called him, then what did that say about how the rest of the year was going to go? And the year after that, and the year after that? By his senior year he would be a total nerdy outcast and he'd regret not bonding with the other nerds when he had the chance, because by that point even they wouldn't deign to speak to him!
"Dude." They were at Kendall's house now—he always had the best snacks, and Logan loved his mom but Mrs. Knight was totally cooler—and apparently Logan's distracted mood hadn't gone unnoticed. "What's up with you?" Kendall asked, eyebrow raised.
"Nothing," Logan answered. He grabbed a soda and walked into the next room to plop down on the couch beside Carlos, who was flipping through channels on the TV.
"It's not nothing," Kendall said as he followed Logan into the room. He sat on the other side of the L-shaped couch, and Logan could feel the scrutiny. "You've barely said a word since we left school."
"So not talking means something must be wrong?"
"Yep." James had suddenly appeared in the room, comb in hand, probably having just finished his after-school primping. He really liked the bathroom mirror at Kendall's house; it was usually his first stop when they got there, and he had made comments about stealing it that Logan wasn't entirely sure were jokes.
"How do you figure?" Logan asked him, curious what sort of illogical reasoning James would come up with.
"This is what, like the fourth day of school?" Logan nodded. "And the first three days you wouldn't shut up about how awesome your classes are and how you're 'going to learn so much this year' and 'have you seen the advanced biology lab!' and, you know, all that crap. And today nothing. So yeah, something's wrong."
Logan stared at James, embarrassed and impressed at the same time. He hadn't realized he'd been rambling so much about school, but he really hadn't realized anyone would listen if he had been.
"You worried about that guy messing with you again?" This was Carlos, still flipping through channels but sparing a glance at Logan. "I can hang with you when you go to your locker if you want. He totally knew not to mess with us when he saw my hockey stuff." He grinned, proud of himself.
Logan considered this, and tried for a second to see his friend as a stranger would. Would someone who didn't know Carlos, seeing him for the first time in hockey gear, actually find him intimidating? Maybe, Logan thought, but then the Carlos in his mind grinned and the illusion was ruined.
Caught up in his thought experiment, Logan forgot to respond to Carlos's offer, and then James was speaking again. "Dude, we'll totally kick his ass if he tries anything again. Right, Kendall?"
This was getting out of hand, and if Kendall got a chance to speak it would be too late. "Guys, no, it's fine. I'm not worried about that guy. Seriously," Logan said, eying them all in turn for emphasis. It wasn't entirely true, but he didn't need a bodyguard just to use his locker. He would just…make locker trips at the same time as James. And learn to keep them under 30 seconds.
No one said anything, and for a brief, pleasant moment Logan thought the matter was dropped. He settled back on the couch, wondering who was going to be the first to crack and grab the remote away from Carlos, when Kendall opened his big mouth again.
"So what is bothering you, then?"
Logan rolled his eyes. "Nothing. Geez. Carlos, pick a channel already!"
"You pick," Carlos said, tossing him the remote. "I'm getting a snack." They already had snacks, but…whatever. More couldn't hurt.
The channel Carlos had stopped on was some home-shopping thing. Logan looked at the remote in his hand; he needed to start on his homework soon, but he couldn't resist the idea he had. He turned on the Discovery Channel, hoping there was some sort of especially boring or disgusting show on.
All Logan could get from watching for 10 seconds was that it was something about the human body, and not in any of what his friends would call the 'good ways.' This show appeared to be both boring and disgusting. Jackpot.
He counted the seconds in his head, and was on 47 when James said "Yeah, I don't think so. Try again."
Logan shrugged, trying to hide a smirk. "Carlos said I could pick."
"Yeah and this is my house," Kendall cut in. "Change it."
"But I have the remote," Logan countered, waving it at them.
Kendall raised an eyebrow, but it was James who dove first, surprising Logan and almost grabbing the remote on his first try. Logan moved it out of his reach just in time; James might be taller than him now but he wasn't that much taller and Logan could still out-maneuver him when he needed to.
"Give it!" James said, squirming to get some leverage and try again.
"This is educational!" Logan shot back, trying to turn over so he could crawl away before James got his bearings.
No luck. James's hand was on his shoulder, dragging him back. "We've been educated enough today!"
"There's no such thing, James," Logan informed him, and was about to resort to tickling when he realized the remote wasn't in his hand anymore. He stopped struggling and looked up to see Kendall walking back to his seat.
"Dude, you let Kendall have it?" James asked, his tone accusing. He pushed himself off of Logan—well, mostly; he still had one leg draped over Logan's—and flopped against the back of the couch with a huff. "I don't want to watch Comedy Central, either. Most of that stuff's not even funny."
"My house, my remote," Kendall said, smug.
Carlos came back in the room then, and stopped just inside the doorway to stare at them all. "I missed something fun, didn't I?" Logan couldn't help laughing at his expression.
"Just these two idiots fighting over the remote, and both of them losing," Kendall explained, gesturing at James and Logan with the object in question.
"One show, Knight," James said, in what he probably thought was a no-nonsense voice but just sounded huffy to Logan. "Then it's my turn to pick."
"Yeah, yeah," Kendall said dismissively, but Logan knew he would give up the remote when the show was over. And then they'd probably be subjected to obnoxious music videos, before getting bored with TV and deciding to do something more fun, like see who could throw a Frisbee over the house first. Then somehow a neighbor's window would get broken, and—Logan should try to get some homework done while he could. He pushed James's leg off of him and went to find his backpack, pausing on the way to marvel at whatever concoction Carlos had brought back as his 'snack.'
"What is that?" he asked, staring.
Carlos beamed. "A Pizza Roll taco. Wanna try it?"
"No thanks," Logan said, eyebrow raised, but he doubted he was heard over James.
"Dude! I wanna try it!"
Logan shook his head and left them to their weird food experiments. When he had retrieved his backpack he settled on the floor behind the couch, where his friends and the TV would prove less of a distraction.
Except he soon found that without a distraction, he just started worrying about his future high school social life again. He tried to focus on his homework, but then he wondered what that said about him. Liking homework, liking school, that made him a nerd, right? A geek? But that didn't make him gay, did it? He was pretty sure it didn't.
So what did, then? Or rather, what made some complete stranger decide after four days of having neighboring lockers that Logan was gay?
Maybe the guy was just looking for any sort of insult to throw at him. But he had seemed pretty adamant about it. He had even said it to Kendall, calling Logan his 'boyfriend.' Why? Just because Kendall put his arm around Logan? But Kendall did that to all of them! And people didn't call Kendall gay. Did they?
"Hey guys," Logan said, the words and their volume both surprising him. He couldn't believe he was doing this, but he had to know, and there wasn't anyone else to ask.
"Yeah?" all three of them answered, and it even sounded like Kendall turned the volume on the TV down a bit.
"Do I…" He paused, and took a deep breath. "Do I ever…ever, like, seem gay to you guys?"
There was silence, and Logan didn't want to imagine the expressions on his friends' faces. He had expected laughter, a rushed 'No, of course not' or two, maybe a 'Dude, what are you talking about?'…but not silence. Maybe he should be grateful, or whatever, that they were actually considering it instead of just giving an arbitrary answer, but—he couldn't take this silence.
"Guys!" he said, moving up on his knees to look over the back of the couch at them. "This is not comforting!" The looks they were giving him were unreadable, and he wanted to sink back down behind the couch and hide forever.
"Is that what you were upset about? Because the dude called you—those names?" Kendall asked, eyes a little wide.
"He doesn't know you, Logan," Carlos said, offering a friendly smile. "Not like we do."
Okay, that really wasn't comforting. "What the hell, guys? You mean I've been going around acting gay and no one's bothered to tell me?!"
"No, no, that's not what we're saying," Kendall said quickly, jumping up to face Logan and putting his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture.
"So what are you saying, then?" Panic was starting to rise in Logan. What did this mean? Was it too late to change how he acted? Would he always come off as gay? Was he gay?
"What does it matter how you act?" Logan turned to James as he asked the question, noting that his expression hadn't changed, and was the most unreadable of all.
"Dude, this is high school," Logan said, trying to make him understand. "It matters. You should get that more than anyone."
"Just because I care about what people think about me doesn't mean you should." Logan gave him a 'yeah, uh-huh' look and James turned slightly in his seat to face him head-on. "No, seriously. Logan, you're you, and if someone wants to pick out certain aspects of you and base their entire opinion on that, and then use that to insult you, they're an idiot jackass who isn't worth your time. So don't worry about it."
Logan was blushing before the weight of what James had said even sunk in all the way. Then he noticed that James was turning a little pink, too, and suddenly things were awkward. Logan figured the best way to fix it would be to keep going. This probably made no sense, but Logan was embarrassed and it clouded his judgment.
"Okay, so…even still, I want to know. What do I do that makes me seem gay? I mean, I probably couldn't change it by this point even if I tried. But I still want to know." I need to know, Logan thought.
More silence, as they all exchanged glances. Logan wanted to throw something.
"It's kind of…" Kendall began.
"…Hard to explain?" Carlos finished for him, twisting his face up as he tried to come up with the right words.
"How hard could it be?" Logan demanded, voice cracking.
"Honestly Logan, I don't think anyone but us would even notice," Kendall tried, expression somewhere between calming and pensive.
"Well obviously someone did!" Logan nearly shrieked, his hands moving about on their own. His knees were starting to hurt, so he turned back around and huddled on the floor.
A second later he could feel three faces peering at him from over the back of the couch, but he didn't look up.
"No, he was just being a total jerk," James offered.
"Yeah, it's not like he knows you've never been interested in girls," Carlos added, sounding like he thought this was actually helpful.
Logan's head shot up from where it was resting on his knees and he spun around to face them, arms waving again. "I'm 14, guys! I'm a late bloomer!"
"No, Carlos was a late bloomer," Kendall corrected him. Carlos shrugged, not bothering to deny it. With the exception of their fifth-grade teacher, who Carlos spent several months thoroughly convinced he was going to marry (when Logan tried to point out she was already married it never seemed to make a difference), Carlos had insisted girls were 'icky' until halfway through 8th grade. "Besides," Kendall continued, driving the stake in further, "you're the oldest one here."
"But I—I could—That doesn't mean I—I'm not interested in boys, either!" Logan sputtered, feeling like a deer in the headlights.
"We didn't say you were, dude," James said, and if he was trying to sound reassuring he was failing.
"But it would be cool if you were," Kendall added quickly.
"Totally," Carlos agreed, nodding.
"If you don't know yet that's cool too," Kendall continued. "We're your friends, dude. No matter what."
Logan stared at them, wide-eyed, starting to feel a little sick to his stomach. Was this just some sort of elaborate prank? It had to be, right? Because this—they couldn't be serious. His best friends could not seriously be having the 'we'll love you no matter what' talk with him when he hadn't even told them he was gay. When he hadn't even decided he was, or discovered, or however the hell that worked. He was only 14! Well, almost 15, but still. And it's not like any of them had dated that much. He was about to point that out when James started talking again.
"Yeah, and these two would probably be happy about it if you were gay. Less competition."
All three of them stared at him. There were a few things wrong with that statement, Logan knew, but he was having trouble sorting them at the moment. Luckily Kendall did it for him.
"Wait, what?" Kendall asked, resting an arm on the back of the couch while he narrowed his eyes at James in confusion-bordering-on-offense. Carlos backed up a little to get out of the way. "You're saying Logan would be competition for me and Carlos, but not you?"
James shrugged. "Yes and no. It depends."
"It depends? Do elaborate, James," Kendall told him with a hand flourish, and there was a hint of a challenge in his eyes now.
Well this can't end well, Logan thought.
"Well, first of all," James began, propping an elbow on the back of the couch and resting his chin in his hand, "let's be honest here. As far as girls go, none of you are any real threat to me. It's just the way it is."
Kendall's eyes narrowed in a dangerous way and Logan was studying him, trying to decide if this was mock-danger or the real kind. Surely he wasn't actually surprised by what James was saying?
"But as far as guys go," James continued, and at this Logan's jaw dropped and his head spun to look at James again, "I really don't know. I'd probably still be in a different league than Logan, but I'd have to do some more research to know for sure."
Logan was gaping at James, and although he couldn't pry his eyes away to check he figured the other two probably were too. James looked coolly back at them all.
"So…wait," Carlos tried, sounding beyond confused. "You…you're gay? But, I thought…" He trailed off into nothing, and he sounded so lost Logan half-expected him to whimper.
James shrugged. "I haven't decided. I mean, if Logan doesn't have to pick one right now, then neither do I, right?"
Okay, this was officially the weirdest day of Logan's life. Probably. He couldn't be bothered to reexamine all the other weird days right this instant.
"Dude, I don't think that's something you just get to decide," Kendall reasoned.
"Why not?" James countered, crossing his arms in front of him. They had all settled further down on the couch and Logan was having trouble seeing them now. "Girls have been fun so far, but that doesn't mean guys wouldn't be fun too. Maybe even more fun, I don't know. But right now we're in the middle of nowhere, Minnesota, so there hasn't exactly been a lot of opportunity to find out. I don't know if any dudes at our school are gay, but I'm pretty sure none of them are hot enough to be worth it if they are. But it's still early in the year, so we'll see."
"You two aren't…going to start dating or anything, are you? Because that would be weird."
When Logan realized Carlos was talking about him and James he couldn't take it anymore, any of it. He started putting his things back in his backpack.
"What are you doing?" Kendall asked.
"Heading home," he answered without looking up. "I just—I have a lot of homework, and I can't concentrate here, so I'm going home to work on it. I'll see you guys tomorrow."
He stood up and started heading for the door, and was almost stopped by a near-desperate "Logan…" from Carlos. He understood the tone; Logan was the voice of reason, and he was leaving. James was being extra-weird, Kendall was probably still eying James like he might decide to hit him, and Carlos was caught in the middle of it.
If Logan turned around and looked at him he'd probably end up staying and trying to fix things, so instead he just said "Bye" and hurried out the door.
Once he was safely outside Logan took a deep breath before heading to his bike. Getting away from that weird tension definitely helped, but he had a sudden vision of feeling jittery or distracted on his bicycle and careening into a ditch, crushing all the bones in his hand and ruining his chances of becoming a surgeon (not that he was sure he wanted to be one, but he liked to keep his options open). So he decided he'd just walk his bike home. It wasn't that far.
He was halfway down the driveway when he heard the front door open and shut. He sighed, wondering who it was. Kendall, coming to check on him? Carlos, pleading with him to stay?
When he turned to look, James was bounding down the sidewalk, and suddenly Logan felt nervous.
"Wait up!" James called to him as he retrieved his own bike, then walked it down the driveway to meet Logan.
"What are you doing?" Logan asked, trying to keep his voice neutral but still sounding a little aggravated.
"I wanted you to help me with some homework."
Logan stared at his friend for a moment. It wasn't that he never helped James with his homework; Carlos too. But that was usually after a frantic late-night call, or after something was due a day ago. James never cared about his homework this early in the afternoon.
"Okay, what are you really doing?" he asked suspiciously. "Did Kendall send you to check on me?"
"I volunteered," James admitted with a shrug. "I wanted to talk to you about something." He motioned with his head, and they started walking their bikes together in the direction of Logan's house. "Oh, and I told Carlos we're not going to start dating or anything."
"Good," Logan said, actually relieved. He felt bad that he hadn't answered the question himself; it was probably part of why Carlos seemed so upset.
A few houses later James still hadn't said anything else, and Logan cracked. "So what did you want to talk to me about?"
There was no answer, and Logan was considering shoving James until—"Things kind of got out of hand in there, and uh…no one even asked you if you ever thought you, y'know, might be gay."
And now Logan knew he was right to be nervous. "No one ever answered my question, either."
"That's because we can't, Logan," he said, and when Logan glanced at him James was staring steadfastly at the ground. "Like I said, to us, you're just you. I mean, I don't think any of us had ever even thought about it till you brought it up, and then it was like 'Yeah, I guess maybe someone might think that…' but we don't really know why. If you want I can try telling you when I notice things? But seriously, man, none of us care and you shouldn't either."
Logan sighed. "No, it's fine. I was just—really surprised, you know? I've been called names before, but never like that."
"Yeah, I know. I was pretty confused by it, too. So, then…you really think you'll start liking chicks at some point? And you've never had an interest in guys?"
As much as he didn't want to, Logan thought about it. James was being honest with him, so he should be honest back. Finally he shrugged. "About girls…I don't know. It's not like I think that they're icky, or anything," he said, and they both chuckled. "It's just…there's always been something more important. And we just started high school, so there's still time for that to change. I might just be a really late bloomer." That got another laugh from James, and Logan smiled. "As for guys…I mean, I've never thought about it before, but no. I don't think, at least. I don't feel weird when I wrestle around with you guys or anything. And I don't know how else to tell."
James made a noise in acknowledgment, and they walked in silence for a little while longer. Then Logan asked tentatively, "What about you? Have you…ever had an interest in guys?" Logan glanced sidelong at James, and saw him lift his head up and stand a little straighter. He was entering confidence-mode, and hopefully that didn't mean he would stop being honest.
"Yeah," James answered, and Logan's heart thudded a little louder at this revelation. "I mean, not anyone in particular. Not you guys or anything, because, ew. But like, celebrities? Yeah, sometimes."
"Oh." It was the only safe thing to say, Logan felt. But then he remembered what Kendall and Carlos had told him. "That's, that's totally cool James, you know that right?" He felt awkward saying it, but it was the truth and he wanted James to hear it.
James laughed. "Yeah, I know. Thanks though. And it's not like I've, y'know, done anything with a guy before. Like I said, there haven't been any chances. Which is…the other thing I wanted to talk to you about."
Logan stopped in his tracks and looked at James, wide-eyed and with that panicked feeling returning. "What?"
"Dude, no, hear me out," James said, stopping as well to turn and face Logan. There was a plan brewing in those hazel eyes, and Logan didn't like it at all.
"I don't think I want to."
"Come on, just listen. If you don't like it you don't have to agree."
He looked so hopeful that Logan knew there was no point fighting it; he'd give in eventually. "Okay, what is it?" he said with a sigh.
"Okay, so," James began, lowering the kickstand on his bike so he could have his hands free. After looking around almost furtively, he continued. "We're pretty much in the worst place in the country for figuring out if you like making out with dudes. Right?" Logan didn't say anything, but he was pretty sure there were worse places to be. He was too busy trying not to be sick to think of one. "There are seriously no hot guys around. At least none even close to my standards. Except maybe you guys, but again, ew. Although, we're young, that might change."
Logan could only imagine what his face looked like at that moment. He found himself hoping parents really were lying when they told kids their faces would 'get stuck like that'.
"And even if it doesn't," James went on, "once we graduate I'm out of here. And I cannot go out into the world without having ever even kissed a guy. Because what if I meet some super-hot dude out there and he wants to make out with me but then it turns out it's not fun at all? And then I break his heart and he's related to some super record producer and it ruins my chances to be famous forever?"
Caught somewhere between abject horror and the unexpected laughter building in his chest, Logan just stood and stared.
"And I know—I know—you won't ever figure this out on your own. Sure, you'll probably end up kissing a girl at some point, but you'll be too nervous or freaked out or whatever to ever try it with a guy. And maybe I'm wrong, but for both of us I think we'll never really know until we do try it. So this'll be good for both of us."
Horror was starting to win out as the point James was making finally dawned on Logan. "Wait, are you—do you mean you think we should make out?"
"Not right now," James hurriedly assured him, but it only made Logan feel the slightest bit better. "Sometime in the future. If one of us still hasn't ever kissed a guy. Just so we can know. We can make one of those pack things."
Logan furrowed his eyebrows at this, his brain so overloaded that it took him a second to figure out what James meant. "A pact? You want to make a pact?"
"Yeah, that!" James said, face lighting up. "Just so neither of us graduates without knowing what we want."
Logan started pushing his bike again, needing to move while he thought about this. The fact that he even was thinking about it scared him on a deep level, but his logical brain couldn't deny that James had a point. James followed along with him, thankfully giving Logan the time to think uninterrupted.
"Can we make it so that it has to be if both of us have never…kissed a guy?" Logan's cheeks were hot, and his voice was small, and he couldn't believe what he was saying. But this was a loophole he had latched onto; the chance that James would in fact find some other guy to kiss before they graduated was big enough to bet on.
"No, that won't work," James said, shaking his head. "This is to help both of us, Logan, it won't work unless we're in it together. What if some hot new transfer student shows up in a year or two and falls instantly in love with me? Then I'll get to find out whether I'm gay, or halfway-gay, or whatever, but what about you? This is important for you too."
"Halfway-gay, James? Do you mean bisexual?"
"Right, that's the word," he agreed, nodding. "But yeah. It has to be if either of us still hasn't kissed a guy."
"And what if you're dating this hypothetical transfer student?" Logan was grasping at straws here, he knew. "I don't think he'd like you making out with me just because of a pact."
"And I care? I knew you first. And besides, I'll probably break up with him before graduation anyway. Can't be tied down when I leave."
Logan tried not to laugh at James's choice of words: 'I will' instead of 'I would'. Apparently this guy wasn't just hypothetical anymore.
"So do we have a deal then?"
They stopped again, and Logan could feel James's eyes on him. This was a bad idea. This was a really bad idea.
"Graduation, right?" Logan asked.
"Before graduation," James clarified. "At least the night before. Earlier if you want."
Yeah, Logan didn't see that happening. He took a deep breath. "Okay then."
"Okay, really?" James asked, voice excited. Logan nodded, but still wouldn't look at him. "Awesome! Let's shake on it."
He stuck out his hand, and Logan eyed it for a second. There was no going back once they shook. He held his own hand out tentatively, and then James was grasping it. Logan finally looked up to see James smiling at him, and Logan smiled back, and a little voice in the back of his mind was saying this is a terrible, terrible idea.
The pact formed, they started walking with their bikes again. "I really do need help with my homework," James said after a few moments of not-too-awkward silence.
Logan laughed. "Okay, fine. Let's go." He hopped on his bike, and had about a 3-second head start before James caught on and they raced the rest of the way to Logan's house.
Things between Logan and James were a little different after that, although Logan sometimes wondered if he was the only one who noticed. Their pact wasn't mentioned again while they were in Minnesota, but it still hung in the air between them, connecting them, bringing a new dimension to their friendship. It was subtle, but after that day Logan always felt a little more aware of James than he had before. That first year of high school ended up being tougher on all of them than they expected, and they all grew closer because of it but with James it wasn't just that they got closer. It was like something shifted, slightly. Logan couldn't really explain it; maybe having this secret promise between them just made even normal interactions something a little special.
Whatever it was, the move to Hollywood during their sophomore year changed things again. Circumstances were different; suddenly they were surrounded by hot guys—Logan could admit that, even if he wasn't sure he wanted to actually, like, touch them or anything—and so the whole underlying basis for the pact was gone. Logan thought James might have forgotten about it entirely. Which should have been a relief, but oddly enough it wasn't; that pact had always been there, lingering in the back of of Logan's mind, reminding him you don't have to know now, it's okay to still be confused, don't worry about it yet. When it came down to it, if Logan still didn't know exactly what he wanted, James would help him figure it out. And that was comforting, somehow. It gave him one less thing to stress about.
But now they were in L.A., and everyone wanted James—everyone—and Logan felt like he was being left to fend for himself. At least until one day, over a year and a half into their California adventure, when things changed yet again. Big time.