Simple Physics

Chapter 9 - Collisions

“—you think?”

Dash frowned around a large spoonful of overcooked peas, notified by Paulina’s pause that her last comment required his input. “Erm,” he grunted unintelligibly, downing his mouthful in a single gulp. “What’d ‘ou say?” he asked, words slightly garbled by another serving of mushy veggies, an efficient—if not so tasteful—method of avoiding too much conversation.

She rolled her eyes. “I said,” she began again, but Dash had already lost interest.

He kept glancing over his shoulder, lifting his head every time the lunchroom doors gave to admit another gaggle of lunch-bound students. Each time, however, unfamiliar—or at least inconsequential—faces disappointed him, and he turned back to his food. Finally, Paulina grew weary of his antics, giving an exasperated sigh, exaggerated to the point where he could no more pretend to ignore it than a foghorn, and, reluctantly, he turned his attention to her.

“What are you expecting to come through those doors, huh?” she asked, obviously irritated. “Who are you waiting for?”

“No—” Dash started to say “no one,” but then, the doors opened, immediately followed by a very familiar voice, and he turned before he could stop himself. His sentence would remain forever unfinished; Tucker had entered the lunchroom.

“Dash?” Paulina prompted, to no avail. “Dash-” she snapped again, this time a good deal louder, and Dash jerked back to face her, cheeks a guilty pink.

“What?” he asked, trying his best to look innocent. “I was, umm…” No suitable excuse came to mind. Thankfully, Paulina gladly filled the space with her own rant.

“I,” she emphasized, “am far more important than anything coming through that door, okay? So I would appreciate it, if-”

“Do you think Tucker’s-” Dash faltered about a quarter second before blurting “hot,” and fumbled over the rest of the question, ending with a vague “err…” and a frown as he realized he probably shouldn’t have even begun to ask in the first place.

Paulina looked puzzled more than anything else. “Do I think who is what?” she asked.

Dash poked at his peas, then swallowed and squared his shoulders, intent on retaining every ounce of dignity possible at this point. “Foley,” he said, editing his choice of words to avoid giving the wrong impression. “Do you think he’s…attractive?”

Paulina wrinkled her nose, eyes flitting briefly over to where Tucker now stood in line with his geek squad, then back to Dash, disbelieving. “Why?” she asked, and Dash racked his brain for a suitable answer.

“I…uh…don’t know,” he filled in vaguely. “I guess I was just…wondering what girls are interested in, that’s all. I mean…he’s not that bad, right? Yeah, he’s a geek but…he’s not fat or scarred or retarded or anything… You’d figure he could at least get some shrimpy nerd girl…right?”

Paulina frowned, but seemed, for the most part, to accept his answer, and proceeded to inspect Tucker in earnest. “I guess,” she said eventually. “Maybe. I mean…if he dressed half decent, lost the glasses, put on some muscle and grew…oh…four or five inches…then yeah, he might be passably attractive. But…still…why?”

“Dunno,” Dash shrugged, taking a chunk out of his cheeseburger and reaching for the chocolate milk. “It’s just…you know…spending time with him in tutoring…I wonder if he might not be so bad…if he had someone to do stuff with, you know? Besides Fenton and that chick, I mean. He might not be so…uptight about his studies…”

Paulina raised her eyebrows. “Oh, now I see,” she said knowingly, and Dash looked up from a mouthful of cheeseburger. “You just want him to get a girlfriend so you don’t have to spend so much time in tutoring.”

“Urm…” Dash, thanking fate for his mouthful of food, opted not to reply; Paulina only snickered and shook her head.

“Fat chance, muscle man,” she teased. “That boy gets a date when the moon turns green. You’re better off praying for a bomb to hit the school. Besides…” She prodded her salad, untouched since she’d sat down. “I’m pretty sure he’s gay anyway.”

Dash choked on his cheeseburger. A prolonged fit of coughing ensued, followed by a rather strangled, “What…makes you say…that?” broken up by interspersed attempts to dislodge whatever piece of his burger had managed to wedge itself firmly in the back of his throat.

Paulina looked concerned. “Are you alr-”

“Fine,” Dash managed rather unconvincingly, wincing around a painful swallow and rubbing his neck. “Totally fine. Umm…just…what makes you think he’s…I mean how would you…”

Paulina, still eyeing him warily, shrugged. “I…don’t know. I mean…it’s sort of obvious, right?”

Dash allowed himself a stray glance in Tucker’s direction—no rainbow bracelets, multiple ear piercings, flamboyantly pink and purple school attire or any other flashing neon sign declarations of homosexuality. “Err…no?” he ventured. Paulina rolled her eyes.

“Last year?” she prompted.

“Umm…” Dash tried to think back—not much came to mind. “What about it?” he asked.

“You didn’t see the way he…?” Apparently, he still looked clueless, because she shook her head, aghast. “Last year was the most obvious, but he’s been head over heels for Fenton since ninth grade, and if you ask me, they’ve been a little more than just friends for-”

“Foley and Fenton?” Dash exclaimed, drawing more than a couple stares and not caring in the least. “But what about that goth chick? I always thought…” At Paulina’s look, he swallowed. “I mean…not like it matters…but…” He glanced to the line once more, and suddenly, Fenton was way
too close to Tucker, and though the urge to smash his face in was familiar, the intensity was not, and it unnerved him. Forcing himself to turn back to his food, he scowled. Like hell it didn’t matter.

“Her too,” Paulina was saying, “but when she gets prissy with Fenton, he turns to Foley as backup. Or, at least he used to, I think they got in some sort of spit near the end of last year, because they weren’t even talking for awhile.”

Dash was still trying to wrap his head around the idea of Tucker and Fenton—together—without storming his seat and wringing Fenton’s neck. At least now he knew where Tucker learned to give head, he tried to console himself, but somehow, the thought wasn’t very comforting.

“How do you know all this?” he asked, trying rather unsuccessfully to distract himself. Across from him, Paulina shrugged.

“You don’t stay on top without dirt, Dash. I make everyone’s business my business, even those at the bottom of the food chain, and then, no one’s a threat. You’d be surprised what lengths people go to to keep their secrets secret…not that Foley and Fenton were hiding anything, but for some people…it would be ruinous to their reputation if anyone found out such a thing.”

Dash swallowed. “Is that…right? I mean, using people’s private business to…”

“…get what I want?” she finished. “Perhaps not. But it’s the way of life. Besides…what do you care? It’s not like you have anything to hide. Right?” Her smile was positively feral, reminding Dash of those beautiful, wicked witches from the little kid’s fairytale cartoons he used to watch when he was younger, and suddenly, Dash wasn’t very hungry anymore. She laughed. “Don’t worry,” she soothed, “if I thought you were a faggot in the closet, I wouldn’t tell…unless you did something to piss me off.”

Then—did she just wink at him? Dash felt sick to his stomach and hastened to stand, nearly falling from his chair in the process. “I’m…gonna throw this away,” he said, gathering his lunch tray, and Paulina looked surprised.

“Already?” she asked. “But you haven’t even eaten your…” But Dash was gone, out of earshot, and certainly not paying any attention.

A faggot in the closet…

Did that mean she knew? Or suspected? She might have just been teasing, but, honestly, what were the chances of that? Then there was the Tucker and Fenton issue—and the fact that he cared at all was almost an issue in itself. Dash swore. His life was supposed to be nice, simple, and straight forward, not a mangled mess of—

“Hey! What’s the big idea?” someone sniped as Dash, not paying attention, accidentally bumped into them, and he turned with every intention of growling some threatening comeback and moving on his way. Instead, he came face to face with Danny Fenton. Fenton didn’t miss a beat. “Why don’t you watch where you’re going, huh?” he snapped. “Other people walk here too, you know. Maybe-”

“Come on, Danny,” that goth girl appeased, tugging at Fenton’s shirt sleeve, “he’s not worth it. Let’s go. Tucker’s already sitting down.”

“But-” Fenton looked unsatisfied, and Dash flexed his grip on his tray, the only thing currently keeping his fist from flying between those beady blue eyes. “Fine,” Fenton eventually consented, not a moment too soon, “but next time, pay more attention to where you’re stepping, alright?”

And that was it. Dash was dropping his tray right there and teaching the little smart-assed shrimp a thing or two about where to step and who to mess with—or, at least he was going to, until he realized his tray was already dropping. Fast. He hadn’t thought he’d fumbled it, and he certainly hadn’t knocked into anyone else, but sure enough, the next thing he knew it was just—gone—as if it had fallen straight through his palms just as Fenton had turned away, and then it was down, down. Crash!

Dash almost jumped, swearing loudly enough for anyone in the vicinity—teacher or otherwise—to hear. Then, cursing his luck and his fate and leaving Fenton for another day, he stooped to pick up his tray, now nothing but a smattered mess of green mush, chocolate milk, and—well, fuck—the mashed potatoes had gone just about everywhere. Especially his pants.

He vaguely registered angry words from across the room in a voice that sounded a lot like Tucker’s, but spectators and other swarming students blocked his view. Then, someone pushed through the crowd and there was a snow of napkins seconds before slim brown fingers joined his in the clean up. When he looked up though, Tucker wasn’t even looking at him, just scowling at the mess as he swooped through it with his mountains of tissue, muttering harsh words beneath his breath.

“Tucker, what-” Dash began, but Tucker waved him off shaking his head.

“Sorry if this is tainting your image-”

“No, it’s-”

“-but it’s just he’s such an ass sometimes, and don’t know what he was thinking but I swear I’ll be out of here in just a second-”

“Who’s an a-”

“-and what the heck were you eating anyway? This stuff is disgusting. It looks…” When Tucker finally lifted his head, he frowned. “You know you’ve got gravy and milk like…” He made a vague sweeping motion all over, and Dash nodded.

“Yeah,” he said. “I know.”

“Right.” In one quick swipe, Tucker shoveled the messy clump of soaked napkins onto Dash’s tray, grimacing slightly at the final result. Not a pretty picture. “You’ll need to dump that,” he advised, “and then head to the bathroom to try and get at least some of that off your clothes. I’ll…” He glanced as his hands and pursed his lips. “Actually…I need to wash up too.”

“But, wait,” Dash called as Tucker stood. “Who’s…” But Tucker was gone, swallowed up in the crowds as he made his way to the bathroom, and Dash sighed, gathering his sullied tray and dumping it with good riddance before following in his footsteps, making a strong effort to ignore the pointed stares and questioning looks he received along the way.

By the time he escaped the cafeteria, made it down the hall and into the bathroom, Tucker was drying his hands, sleeves shoved up to his elbows, trying to turn the wet faucet off with his wrist. He looked up at Dash’s entrance.

“There you are,” he said. “I wondered how long it would take you to escape that throng.” He dumped the crumpled remains of his paper towels in the receptacle. “You should probably see how much of that you can get off just by dabbing and save soap and water for only the toughest spots. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a mess, and probably have to suffer through wet pants all day. You could try-”

“Who’s the ass?” Dash asked.

Tucker blinked, thrown. “The…what?”

“The ass.” Dash stepped in fully, letting the door shut behind him and walking over to draw some paper towels from the dispenser. “You were apologizing and calling someone an ass but-”

“Oh,” Tucker said, and then he looked away, frowning. “Um…never mind that,” he said. “I guess I was just…muttering to myself. It really wasn’t…” Apparently, Dash’s disbelief showed, because when Tucker met his gaze again, his fumbling halted. “Danny,” he said finally. “Danny’s an ass. But that really doesn’t have anything to do with-”

“It wasn’t his fault the tray fell,” said Dash, surprising himself immensely. Defending Fenton was the last thing he’d planned on doing. But, Tucker only scowled.

“Oh, no, of course not,” he agreed, sounding strangely sarcastic. “It couldn’t possibly have been Danny’s fault because he never…” About there, he appeared to give up some internal argument and just sighed, shaking his head. “You know, never mind. You’re right. I’m just mad at him, is all. I…I really should go. Sorry you got pasted, and good luck with your pants, but if I hang around any longer-”

“Hey, wait,” Dash called, sidestepping to block Tucker’s path and nearly causing a collision. “I never said, umm…thanks,” he said, and Tucker eyed him curiously, sleeves still rolled up to his elbows, green eyes owlish with puzzlement behind his glasses, and surely no one had a right to look that cute—especially not in a baggy turtle neck and cargo pants.

“It was no problem. Really,” he said eventually.

“Right. Well, thanks,” Dash said, mind racing for something, anything, to say to delay Tucker just a little longer, and then— “Are you and Fenton together?” he blurted, moments before Tucker’s hand reached the door, and Tucker froze on the spot. After several long seconds, he turned.

“Who told you that?” he asked quietly. Dash swallowed.

“Paulina said you were with him all last year,” he admitted, figuring he was beyond hiding the truth now, “that you’ve liked him since ninth grade.”

Tucker lingered by the door, eyes scrutinizing as they scanned him, leaving no detail unnoted. Finally, he snorted, folding his arms and turning his gaze to the floor. “And was all this before, or after, you fucked her?” he asked coldly.

Dash’s jaw dropped, dumbfounded. “How did you-”

“Know?” Tucker scoffed. “Please. She’s been pawing you all day, practically drooling—it’s pretty disgusting, actually.” He raised his head, meeting Dash’s staggered gaze with a pursed frown. “I suppose I didn’t know for sure, really, until now, but I guessed. Correctly, apparently. It’s kinda hard to miss if you’re paying any attention at all…and did you know you had lipstick on your neck? No, no, no! Don’t touch it,” Tucker scolded as soon as Dash, instinctively, raised his hand towards his neck. “Your hands are filthy, and you’ll get gravy everywhere. Here, just,” He sighed, shaking his head and stalking back into the room with a scowl, “wait one second, okay? We need to talk.”

Dash stared, struck speechless, as Tucker disappeared without another word into one of the bathroom stalls.

We need to talk.

The words echoed in his head with a sort of eerie ripple effect and he wondered if that phrase had ever been—in the history of all relationships, ever—a good sign. Probably not, he concluded as Tucker reemerged with about four squares of toilet paper, promptly spitting on them.

“Tucker, what-” he began, but Tucker waved him off.

“Shh,” he reprimanded. “Just hold still,” was the command as Tucker slipped a hand behind his neck, keeping him in place when he attempted to shirk from the touch. “Relax. It won’t kill you.”

“Well, yeah, but…tap water-”

“-doesn’t work as well,” Tucker finished for him, raising the dampened tissue to his neck. “Lipstick clings. Besides,” It wasn’t actually so bad, having Tucker pressed up against his chest, rubbing his throat, “it’s not like you haven’t come in contact with my spit before.” And okay maybe, just maybe, Dash could get used to this.

Was it wrong, he wondered, to be more attracted to a nerd scrubbing spit into his neck in a public school bathroom than a cheerleader trying to drag him off alone down a moonlit beach? Probably, he concluded as he observed Tucker’s sternly furrowed brow and tightly pursed lips and decided that he definitely, definitely wanted to kiss him senseless.

“So why was Paulina talking about me, anyway?” Tucker asked, drawing Dash from his reverie, and he blinked, distracted. “Aren’t geeks and losers usually the farthest thing from her mind?”

“Oh, umm…I asked her today…if she thought you were attractive,” Dash admitted, and Tucker’s head snapped up, surprised. “I think she thought I’d gone crazy.”

Tucker snorted. “I’m not surprised,” he said. “I’d have thought you’d gone crazy, too.” He dropped his hand from Dash’s neck, pulling it back to reveal a small pink stain. “So,” he asked, “what did she tell you? That I was a hideous, scrawny nerd-beast to be avoided at all costs?”

“No…” Dash’s eyes followed Tucker to the trash receptacle, starting at his sneakers and working steadily up, only to get caught on an ass not even puke-green army cargos could hide. “She said you were short…and skinny…and had awful fashion sense.”

Tucker glanced over his shoulder, a single eyebrow arched elegantly as he disposed of the tissue. “Oh?” He brushed his hands on his pants, then turned, hooking his thumbs on his pockets and leaning back against the nearest sink as he came to face Dash. “And do you agree with her?” he asked.

Dash eyed the figure before him: barely breaking the five foot mark, thin as a rail and garbed much like his grandmother’s clothesline in the summer, he had to admit, Paulina had a point. He shrugged. “Kinda, yeah,” he said, “but she made it sound sneery and nasty. Instead of short, skinny and out of style I’d say it more like,” He searched carefully for the right words as he started across the room, “Small, slender, and…umm…” By this point, he’d reduced the space between them from about ten feet to two, and Tucker had his head tilted back, eyes lifted to meet his gaze.

“And what?” he prompted, unfazed despite being virtually trapped to the sink at this point. “What of my ‘lack of fashion sense’?”

Dash’s eyes darted from the loose, roomy neck on Tucker’s top to the draped cargos he felt sure would slip to the floor at any given moment granted even the least bit of encouragement, and grinned.

“I don’t know, I think I like your clothes,” he concluded, leaning in to place a hand on the sink on either side of Tucker’s waist and further reinforcing the sense of entrapment. “They look easy to take off.” It was strangely thrilling, Dash thought, to watch those steadfast green eyes widen comically behind their glasses, and he chuckled—deep and dark and nothing if not self-satisfied. “You should let me test that for you sometime.”

The sound Tucker made then reminded Dash of a cross between a small dog and a chipmunk, quickly muffled, and almost immediately followed by hands on his chest that did very little, if anything, to put distance between them. “R-right…well, fun as that sounds,” he said with the tremulous air of cornered prey, “I really should be getting back to my lunch, and you haven’t even started work on your pants yet, so that gravy’s probably drying on there as we speak, and-”



“You know something?”


“You talk too much.”


And then—Paulina, Fenton, and gravy stains be damned—Dash kissed him, and pity on the poor soul who walked in then because Dash Baxter had Tucker Foley shoved up against a bathroom sink with his tongue down his throat, and anyone who happened to walk in would have had to come down with a forcible case of concussion-induced amnesia. Fortunately, the door remained closed.

“But,” Tucker panted as soon as they parted, “Paulina-”

“-was the absolutely fucking worst lay…of my life,” Dash finished, equally breathless. “I would have much rather,” Suddenly ‘fucked you,’ didn’t seem like quite the appropriate ending to that sentence, so Dash revised it midstream, concluding with, “spent the weekend with you,” instead.

“But…she’s a cheerleader,” Tucker argued incredulously. “Rich, hot, popular-”

“-and noisy,” Dash added, “don’t forget noisy. I mean, talk about a dairy farm…she bitches and moans about everything…”

“But she’s beautiful!” Tucker insisted. “Tall, slim, curvy…gorgeous hair from her empty head to her perfect ass. She-”

“-stuffs her bra, Tucker,” Dash interrupted, point blank. “Her hair gets everywhere, and after yours…no one’s ass is perfect.”

“But…” Tucker’s argument faltered, his cheeks warming to a delicious rosy brown, and he dipped his gaze, pouting dolefully. “You do realize you’re absolutely ruining all my pre-conceived notions about cheerleaders, right?”

Dash snorted and, unable to resist, leaned down, catching Tucker’s pout in an easy kiss. “They’re not all they’re cracked up to be,” he said. “Trust me.” And Tucker ‘hmmed,’ obviously not thoroughly convinced, but content enough to relent to more kissing, in any case.

“If you say so,” he murmured.

“I do,” Dash assured him.


“Oh, and speaking of Paulina…”


“What am I doing this weekend?”

Tucker blinked, confused. “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Dash clarified, “if I’m not doing something, she’ll want me to do something, so I need you to tell me what I’m doing now, so I won’t be able to do anything with her when she asks…”

Tucker rose his eyebrows. “She really wasn’t very good, was she?”


Tucker snickered. “Right, well, in that case…” He took a moment, then said, “You got a poor grade on your last Biology exam, so your teacher said you needed some extra credit, and you agreed to go to the astronomy observation this Saturday to help pull your grade up. Viola! No time for a date.”

Dash considered this. “Astronomy,” he repeated thoughtfully. “That’s like…with stars, right?”

Tucker stared. After a long moment, he nodded slowly. “Yes, Dash…stars.”

“Right. So I’m going to this…gathering of nerds in the dark…just to pull up my Biology grade and avoid Paulina?” he asked, and Tucker looked down, hooking his thumbs together nervously.

“Well, yeah…mostly…and to pull up your other grades too because a lot of teachers are actually giving credit if you sign your name on the guest list and it’s really pretty…especially if the sky is clear and the stars are out and they give talks about the constellations and…umm…well…” Tucker swallowed. “I mean…I’ll probably be there…you know…since I go every Saturday unless…err…something comes up…”

Well, fuck, if you put it that way. “Are you asking me out?” Dash asked, and Tucker blushed hotly.

“Well as long as you’re straight and I don’t date guys, then I couldn’t possibly be, could I?” he replied curtly. “No. On the contrary, I’m merely suggesting a manner of escaping your girlfriend’s clutches that will both raise your GPA…and…erm…put us in about the same place at about the same time on Saturday night.”

Dash snorted, smirking broadly. “Sounds like a plan to me,” he said. “But Tucker?” Tucker lifted his head. “Something better not come up…’cause there is no way I show up at a grand nerd-fest under the stars without a nerd to guide me through it, you got it?”

“Oh, I got it,” Tucker said, and they were about two fractions of an inch from more lips, and maybe some tongue, and definitely a little clutching and hip rolling when—
“Dash?” Kwan’s voice had the effect of a bombshell, sending Dash and Tucker fleeing each other faster than roaches from a kitchen light. By the time he made it fully in the room, he found Tucker nursing his lower back where he’d scrambled and hit the paper towel dispenser, and Dash sort of swaying, slightly off-kilter, over near the bathroom stalls, looking more flushed and bewildered than anything else. “Here you are,” he said. “I thought I saw you come in here, but…” He frowned. “What are you doing?”

“Uh…” Somewhere between opening his mouth and waiting for words to come out, Dash realized that “Making out with Tucker Foley, discussing the horrors of straight sex, and arranging a Saturday night in the dark with someone at the rock bottom of the social ladder” probably wouldn’t sound very good out loud, so he frowned. “I was…cleaning.”

“Dude, what happened to your pants?”

Dash glanced down. Oh. Right. “Uh…food,” he said. Across the room, Tucker gave him an odd look, and Dash blushed. “I mean, um…my tray. It…the food…fell. That’s why I’m…cleaning it up.” Smooth, Dash. Real smooth.

“Right,” Kwan replied. “Well, good luck with that, man. It’s just, you know, you’ve been in here like…twenty minutes. Lunch is almost over, and everyone was kinda wondering…” He glanced to Tucker, eying him with a sort of odd, curious expression for a moment, then shook his head and skipped over him without comment. “Whatever, man. I’ll just tell Paulina you’ve been cleaning your pants and uh…hope you make some progress soon, okay?”

“Okay…right,” said Dash. And then, wonderfully, blissfully, Kwan was gone—quick as he’d come.

Tucker raised his eyebrows. “Well, you heard him,” he said, leaning up off the towel dispenser and twisting his back gingerly, “better get to work on those pants…lunch is almost over.”

“Oh…yeah…but wait!” Dash called, halting Tucker for the last time just as he reached the door, and he gave Dash an inquiring look as he paused. “So I’ll…see you,” Dash said, “in umm…physics?”

“Yeah, Dash,” Tucker confirmed, looking curiously pleased. “Physics.”

“And Saturday,” Dash added, “at seven?”

“Seven in the park,” Tucker nodded, and Dash grinned sheepishly.

“Right. Okay. I’ll be there.”

Tucker smiled, moved to open the door, but then, at the last second, held back just once more. “Hey, Dash…?”

“Yeah?” Dash had gone to wet his paper towels, and looked up from the sink as he spoke.

“I know this might sound like an odd question but…what’s your favorite color?”

Dash blinked, mildly thrown, then replied, “Blue,” without hardly thinking. “Why?”

“Oh, umm…” From this distance, he couldn’t really see, but Dash could have sworn Tucker was blushing again. “No reason,” he said. “Thanks, though. Bye!”

“Bye,” Dash said, but Tucker had already gone, and as he shook his head, turning off the sink and kneeling to begin scrubbing on the now partially crusted-over, gravy-stained pants, Dash found himself wondering what Tucker’s favorite color was, and if maybe, just maybe, he would date him if he weren’t straight. 



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