Simple Physics

Chapter 15 - Magnetism

“So, you’re whipped,” Kwan concluded—and immediately doubled over with a pained grunt at the force of Dash’s next toss, football burying itself in his gut.

No,” Dash growled, “I’m just…” He frowned. “Whatever, it’s complicated.”

Kwan huffed, catching his breath before hiking the ball up. “You like him, right?” he asked, tossing, and Dash caught it smoothly.

“Well, yeah,” he said.

“And you’ve been seeing him for…how many months?” Kwan caught Dash’s return toss.

“Err…” Dash tried to think back, mentally tallying up the weeks in backwards succession. Somewhere around five, he gave up. “Man, hell if I know…too much math. Almost a semester, I guess.”

“But you haven’t fucked him,” stated Kwan, and Dash fumbled his catch, almost dropping it.

“Hey, now wait,” he objected, “it’s not my fault he’s not ready for-”

“You broke up with your cheerleader girlfriend…”

“Dude, she was drunk off her ass and slobbering all over Marcus’s dick…in my bedroom! What the hell was I supposed to do? Close the door, walk back out like nothing ever happened and go-”

“-fuck someone else? Sure,” said Kwan. “It’s not like you’ve never done it before…but this time… Man, you didn’t fuck anyone at that party, did you?”

Dash kept silent, rubbing a hand behind his neck and studying the football quizzically.

“Dash, seriously…do you even remember the last time you got laid?”

“Hey, yes,” Dash snapped. “Of course I do, it was, umm…” He frowned, “…that time…a while back…at that thing…the uhh…” Kwan looked unimpressed, “…the bonfire!” he said. “That was it. That beach thing, yeah.”

“The…huh?” It took Kwan a moment to remember. “Oh! The…oh…holy shit, dude, no wonder you’ve got your panties in a—owww, shit…Jesus, watch how you throw that thing, will you?” Kwan coughed, wincing and looking uncertain as to whether or not to risk returning the ball to Dash at all.

Dash snorted. “Whatever,” he grunted. “Just ‘cause I haven’t gotten laid in…” He trailed off, scowl deepening the more he thought on it. Eventually, he folded his arms. “Man, can you even get whipped over a guy?”

Kwan looked tempted to roll his eyes. “Uh…duh?” he responded, obviously still slightly piqued about having been the victim of not one, but two retaliatory gut-shots. “Whipped is like…a state of being, dude…totally not gender related…and anyway, saying you couldn’t get whipped over a guy would be like saying you couldn’t fall in love with a guy, and-”

“Hey, wait, I am not in love with him,” Dash cut in sharply—and something about Kwan’s look was deeply unsettling. “What? I’m not,” he insisted, and something told him Kwan’s acquiescent shrug might have been significantly more satisfying if he hadn’t looked so annoyingly unconvinced when he did it.

“Ok, whatever, man…didn’t say you were,” Kwan conceded, and, apparently deciding it wasn’t worth it to risk being the target of another angry outburst, he tucked the football under his arm, eyeing Dash thoughtfully instead. “So, you’re not even…‘dating’ him, then, huh?”

Dash grumbled something vague and barely intelligible, then kicked dully at the grass. “So?”

“You don’t think might be, like…a good first step…?” Kwan ventured.

Dash immediately fixed him with a that-is-the-stupidest-idea-I-have-ever-heard stare and shook his head sharply. “No, man, you don’t get it…he is pissed at me right now, ok? It’s like…how was I supposed to know beating up a guy’s best friend is like running over a girl’s puppy? But it is…and it’s like…he won’t even…I can’t…no,” He shook his head again, “just no. Anyway, at least not…not right now.”

“Ah,” said Kwan, “But…you’ve at least…called him, right?”

“I’ve called him fuck knows how many times,” Dash half growled, “but he never picks up. He ignores it when I text, never responds back, and I’ve tried apologizing but it’s near fucking impossible when he’s not even listening, and I can’t…it’s just…” Dash shut his eyes, shoving a hand back through his hair and squeezing—then releasing a held breath in a rush. “It’s just…frustrating,” he admitted, softer, “and now…I don’t even know what else I’m supposed to do anymore, you know?”

Kwan frowned thoughtfully. “Well…it seemed like he, umm…let you talk to him the other day alright, right?”

Dash opened an eye. “Yeah…”

“So, he’s probably not totally off of you, it’s just, you know…a matter of getting him un-pissed. Like you said…think of it like you ran over his puppy,” reasoned Kwan. “What do you do when you run over your girlfriend’s puppy?”

“Uhh…” Dash blinked, tilted his head back and squinted up to the sky. “Pshh, heck if I know…girls never get over that kind of thing…buy her a new one? Or some flowers… Cook her dinner, give her a foot massage…watch as many chick flicks with her as she wants…” Kwan snickered, and Dash looked down. “What?”

“Does he like chick flicks as much as you?”

Dash narrowed his eyes. “You’re lucky you still have that ball…”

Kwan flashed a grin. “Yeah, I know…that’s why I kept it.”

“Hnph,” Dash snorted, lacing his fingers behind his head. After a moment he shook his head. “No, actually,” he said, “he doesn’t…” and at Kwan’s look added, “…like chick flicks, that is. Probably safer to go with the flowers…what?” Kwan shook his head. “What?” Dash insisted, and his friend smirked, mouthing whipped and just barely escaping Dash’s subsequent swing at his shoulder. “Ass,” Dash grumbled.

“Hey,” Kwan put his hands up, “I think I’m taking this pretty cool, all things considered…I mean, it’s not every day a guy finds out his best friend is like…a flamer with his heart set on some weird, geeky-”

“Hey, hey, no, no, not a flamer,” Dash stressed, “…flamer is like…twenty piercings, tight pink glitter shirts and rainbow shit…with like…sausage-fest orgies in gay clubs and stuff…” He shook his head, “not going there,” and Kwan looked slightly green. “Besides,” Dash ignored Kwan’s nauseous look, “I thought you said you guessed a while ago?”

“Uhh…” Kwan swallowed, shaking his head—probably to clear the images. “Well, I mean yeah…you watch the romance channel and collect stuffed bears, dude…that’s like…gotta mean something, right?”

Dash looked skeptical. “Not necessarily, but whatever…you are right,” he admitted after a bit. “You’re taking this really well. I guess I never…well,” He looked down, hating the heat in his cheeks and hoping Kwan wasn’t looking too closely, “just thanks, I guess.”

Kwan shrugged. “No sweat…what are friends for, right?” he said, smiling when Dash stole a glance up. “I mean, as long as you don’t go off and kiss me again…why should I care who you do?”

Dash snorted. “Yeah, right…no need to worry there. I think the chances of me ever kissing you are like-” It took until that moment for the full content of Kwan’s statement to sink in. “Wait…” He turned a sharp, accusing eye on Kwan. “Did you say ‘again?’”

“Uhh,” Kwan cleared his throat, “did I? You know, I think maybe I should head home. It’s getting a bit cold outside and-”

“When did I ever kiss you?” Dash demanded, and at least Kwan had the shame to blush.

“It was only once!” he defended desperately, “And a long time ago at that…I figured you might not have remembered, but it was, you know, the first time I really started seriously wondering about your sexuality, that’s all-”

“And you never decided to tell me?”

“It’s not like it just randomly comes up in conversation!” Kwan nearly squeaked, backing up because Dash was advancing. “Oh, yeah, dude, remember that time you got totally smashed and put your tongue down my throat? No? Oh, sorry I brought it up then, anyway, how’s the game looking?”

“So I was drunk…” said Dash, pausing, and Kwan nodded, swallowing.

“Yeah, man…off your ass, and then you never mentioned it later and didn’t even act weird or awkward or anything and you did date plenty of girls so I just, you know, kina shrugged it off, but, I mean…you can’t get mad at me, ok? I didn’t kiss you, and I didn’t figure you’d want me to bring it up if you never did…like, especially if it didn’t turn out that you really were…err…you know…into, um…swinging that way…or whatever…”

Dash regarded his friend—ball still tucked under one arm, cheeks pink, and apparently uncertain whether to look more guilty or embarrassed. Finally, snorting dismissively, he rolled his eyes, crossed his arms, and then fixed his friend with smirk. “So,” he asked, abruptly changing the pace, “how was it?”

Kwan gawked. “I…it…” His face screwed up in a grimace, “…eww, dude…no. I’m straight and you were hammered, ok?” he insisted, trying to keep a straight face despite Dash’s laughter. “It was wet and pushy and tasted like Budweiser…and you…it was…” The laughter died to snickering, and Kwan glared. “Whatever, you can laugh…just, no repeat experiences, deal?”

Dash grinned. “Deal. So, you, uh…gonna pass the ball back or what?”

Kwan snorted. “You gonna buy that kid some flowers?”

Dash groaned. “But-”

“Look, the whole rejected and depressed thing really doesn’t suit you,” Kwan stated, point blank, “and pretty soon, it’s not gonna be just me that’s noticing it. Now, if you just wanna get straight up laid, I’m pretty sure Richie’s gay too, so-”

“No, no, no,” Dash shook his head, “that’s…no. It’s not…I don’t…eh.” He grimaced. “It’s not that. I can wait for the sex, really.” Kwan gave him a Look which he promptly ignored. “It’s just…he’s not a girl, you know? And flowers are like…well…I mean, really girly…all I’m saying is…don’t you think…I mean are you sure he wouldn’t take it the wrong way? Plus…how am I supposed to get them to him if he’s not letting me get anywhere near him? It’s not like I can just chase him around the school…so, what? Walk up to his locker and tie roses on it…? That just doesn’t…it sounds lame…”

Kwan wasn’t buying it. “Yeah, ok,” he said, “so, one…you totally need to get him flowers. Anyone who’s worth putting off sex for is worth flowers. Two…yeah, uh, duh, I know he’s not a girl…but think of it this way…would you really have minded if one of your girlfriends had ever just randomly given you flowers? Sure, they almost never do…but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a cool gesture coming from either side…even if they are girly, so no, I don’t think he’ll take them the wrong way, and three…umm…what was the third thing you said?”

“Uhh…I can’t chase him around the school?”

“Oh, yeah, right,” said Kwan, “and you can’t just tie them to his locker like you said ‘cause…why?”

Dash scoffed. “Oh, I don’t know…maybe ‘cause it’s gay? ‘Dash Baxter, Outed Fag of Casper High Courts Tucker Foley in Hallway’…I’m sure that’d go over great.”

“Ah…so you’re not ready for anyone to know yet.”

“I’m…” Dash paused, thoughtful, “…actually, you know at this point…I really don’t give a shit. Yeah, sure, it’d be easier if no one knew…at least through the rest of basketball season, and I’d really rather not have my parents find out…at least until after I’m out of their house and preferably until they’re done giving me money, but…more than that, I don’t know how he feels about it…”

“Uhh…huh?” said Kwan.

“Look, at first, he’d say he didn’t date guys…so, you know…I kina got the impression it was at least a partial secret…and yeah, he doesn’t seem to think much one way or the other about it…certainly wasn’t worried like I was, but, you know, I still wouldn’t wanna just randomly out him to the whole school, but…I guess more important than that…” Dash shuffled a hand through his hair, frowning. “It’s just…I know I can take whatever gets thrown at me, ok? Maybe some lame ass gay jokes…jibes, whatever…but fact is, I doubt I’ll even get much of that. I’m bigger than most of the guys at our school, and I can handle myself even with the ones who got me beat…but the thing is…if anyone gets seriously pissed about it? I’m guessin’ it’s not me they’ll go after…”

“You think they’d…? Oh…” Comprehension dawned, and Kwan matched Dash’s frown. “Yeah, that’s…a point…” He eyed his friend curiously. “You’ve really thought about this haven’t you?”

Dash shrugged. “A little.”

“Hm…well…get some chick to do it,” Kwan suggested.


“You know,” he continued, gaining confidence as his idea developed, “use your Baxter charm…woo some blushing freshman, make your proposition…”

Dash blinked, then, slowly, started to smirk. “Right, so…pull the ‘Hey, baby, what’s your name? Ah, yeah, that’s nice…here, look, can you do me a huge favor…?”

Kwan rolled his eyes. “Uh, yeah, something along those lines,” he muttered, smiling in spite of himself, “but you know the saddest part is…that would probably actually work just like that…”

“Of course it would,” Dash’s grin was wicked, “’cause I’m that good.”

“Yeah, uh-huh…” Kwan shook his head, taking the football out from under his arm and clapping it between his hands, “…now, be useful and back all of your fantastic self up so I can throw this thing to you…”

“Aye-aye, Date Doctor,” Dash conceded, still grinning even as he followed through, backing up accordingly.

A week later, the first Wednesday back after break, Dash shared the gym with three others—Kwan, Enrique “Richie,” and Marcus—the rest of the team already rushing in typical stampede fashion to the locker room, ready for the usual battle of brawn to determine who got first dibs on ideal shower stalls and hot water.




The clap of the basketball hitting the court floor echoed sharply in the wide, near-empty room, ricocheting off the flat walls and high ceiling.

“Dash!” was his only warning before Kwan passed, and Dash swerved in obligingly.

Eyes on his target, he barely evaded Richie’s close block, fingertips just nicking the ball enough to change its momentum, catching it and sending it immediately down into a fast dribble. He moved for the net.

“Marcus! Hijo de punta…” Richie’s cursing followed close behind him, “he’s got-”

Not a second too soon, Dash swept his arms up, passing just out of range of Marcus’s reaching fingers and—he held his breath for a half second—landing safely into Kwan’s capable hands again. He grinned, breathing again. With another few shuffled steps, he positioned himself close enough to the net for a dunk should Kwan manage to get the ball to him for a clear shot, and yes, Kwan avoided Richie, slung the ball up, and—the gym door opened with an echoing clang, drawing Dash’s attention in spite of himself—the ball smacked him in the face.

“Aw, shit…”

“Fucking hell, what did you do to him?”

“Who shot that?”


“Damn, ‘omie, you hit him up good…”

“Way to watch the ball, Baxter…”

Dash groaned, blinking dully upwards and bringing a hand to his abused nose. Once his vision cleared, he threw a loaded glare towards Marcus—the last to speak. “Hey, whatever,” he growled, “I was…” He made the mistake of looking back towards the door again, where the source of his distraction had one hand over his mouth—probably stifling laugher—and Dash shut his eyes again with another suppressed groan.

So it wasn’t an apparition—even better.

“No, man, seriously,” Kwan’s voice came in over the throbbing, “you alright? I totally expected you to catch that…what got into y—ohh…” Dash didn’t have to open his eyes to know where Kwan was looking. “Well,” His friend cleared his throat, “that’s probably enough extra practice for now anyway, yeah?” he said, obviously trying to usher the others out as quickly as possible after taking note of Dash’s reason for failure. “This leaves the final score at seven to thirteen…” Dash opened his mouth to object to having Richie and Marcus’s last shot count, but gave up in light of a particularly stubborn throb across the bridge of his nose, “…and we can pick up from here tomorrow.”

“Oh, ,” Richie agreed sarcastically, following Kwan towards the door in spite of his objection, “so you two can whip our asses again? No…next time, I say we switch it up…you can take Señor Ball-hog, and I’ll-”

“’Ey, ‘ey, wait, now…who are you calling ball hog, Pretty Richie?” Marcus jumped in. “If your little wandering eyes spent more time on the ball, and less time on our esteemed captain’s a-”

“Hey, now, watch it, ‘omie,” Richie snapped back. “If-”

“Oh hey-ho, look-it here,” Marcus cut him off, attention diverted for the moment. “Looks like we have ourselves a little geek-freak come to join the party…” Still at the far end of the court, Dash frowned uneasily, not particularly liking the undercurrent to Marcus’s words. “What brings you to our side of school, pixie stick?” Marcus continued, addressing Tucker directly this time. “Thought you were through callin’ dibs on the chief’s time after last semester…aren’t your little ‘study sessions’ over yet?”

“They are,” Tucker answered flatly, apparently unaffected by either Marcus’s looming or his snide tone. He lifted a sheet of paper and a hall pass. “Delivery.”

“Hn,” Marcus grunted disinterestedly, apparently convinced and looking about ready to turn away when his gaze dipped and landed on—shit, Dash mentally cursed when he followed Marcus’s line of sight—“Flowers, four-eyes?” Marcus asked, curiosity reborn, and he looked torn between laughter and a sneer. “Where did these come from? Don’t tell me you actually found a serious lady friend…”

Tucker jerked back when Marcus reached for the spoken of flora, scowling and taking a step away, out of grabbing range. “Don’t you have some place to be?” he countered, ignoring the question entirely, and Marcus took a step in.

“Why?” he taunted, similarly ignoring Kwan’s muttered suggestion to just leave it be and get moving. “Not enjoying my company, geek-freak? Or maybe you’d rather have some alone time with-”

“Marcus,” Dash grunted sharply, cutting the other off, and Marcus’s head jerked up, surprised. “Lay off,” Dash ordered, and at first, Marcus looked fully ready to argue, glaring and opening his mouth for a retort, but, after a brief pause, he apparently changed his mind. Grousing unintelligibly, he shrugged it off, shaking his head.

“Whatever, then…you deal with him,” he grumbled, and a moment later he followed Kwan and Richie out, muttering some last comment about flowers and geek fags before his voice faded out of hearing distance.

When the door clicked shut, finalizing their privacy, Tucker tilted his head. “You know…” he began at last, “you didn’t have t-”

“I know,” said Dash, and he let his eyes drift over his visitor more speculatively—paper and hall pass still hanging loosely from one hand, backpack slung over a shoulder and three roses tucked neatly into an open outside pocket. He was wearing those lame-ass, several-sizes-too-big army green cargos again, but no hat, and Dash wondered if Tucker had just skipped haircuts altogether this year, because he certainly didn’t remember those braids reaching past his shoulders before—at least not in the beginning. All through the inspection, Tucker surprised him by not fidgeting, holding still and waiting wordlessly instead until Dash finished, lifting his gaze once more.

“So…” said Dash.

“So?” repeated Tucker.

“You…have something for me?” Dash asked.

“I…” Tucker blinked. “Oh, right,” He shook his head, as if the supposed reason for him showing up in the first place had slipped his mind completely, “here…” He held out the slip of paper previously resting on top of his hall pass. “Not sure what it is, didn’t look, but…something from Ms. Watson, anyway.”

“Ah,” Dash accepted the sheet without a spare glance, “thanks…” he mumbled, more focused on the brush of their fingers during the exchange and noting with some satisfaction that Tucker didn’t rush to withdraw any more than he did. “So that’s…not why you came?” he asked.

“Oh, no, it was…” said Tucker, making no move to depart.

“I see.” Dash waited. Tucker stayed silent. “That’s all, then?”

“You…” Tucker hesitated, eyeing him with a strange, unreadable expression, “you tied roses to my locker…”

Oh, so they were on to that then.

Dash weighed his options. Eventually, he replied, “I haven’t touched your locker in months,” and it was the truth—technically. He loved the way heat darkened Tucker’s cheeks—turning a soft, toffee brown into a rich, smooth chocolate.

“Ok,” Tucker amended, cheeks fetchingly aglow, “so you got someone else to tie roses to my locker…”

“Mm…” Dash pretended to consider the statement, “…and what makes you sure it was me?” he asked. “Maybe someone has a crush on you, Foley…you could have a secret admirer…” He watched with growing amusement as Tucker narrowed his eyes, opened his mouth, faltered, and then finally pursed his lips with a half-assed glower. “Hey, it could happen,” Dash asserted, “Stranger shit has gone on…” and Tucker rolled his eyes.

“Uh, yeah, right,” he agreed, words dripping with sarcasm. “Last I checked, girls don’t randomly leave flowers attached to the lockers of total strangers on a daily basis…or did I miss the memo where short and nerdy became the new hot and popular and freshman chicks now totally dig the four-eyes and tech lore gig?”

Dash shrugged. “Never know…” He watched Tucker lean his weight against the wall, a I-totally-don’t-believe-a-word-you’re-saying-but-I’ll-listen-silently-for-now-anyway expression solidly in place, “…but whatever it is…you have to admit someone seems pretty set on you…” and the patiently-waiting-out-the-bullshit expression vanished.


“Look,” Dash cut him off and took a breath, gathering his nerve, “if all you came here for was to give me this note…fine. Just tell me to piss off…and if that’s what you want…I will, ok? But if you don’t…” He planted a hand to the side of Tucker’s head, watched his shoulders tense as he drew a small, quick breath, “…I’m not gonna quit. I’ll keep coming, and coming, and coming, until eventually…”

Tucker’s brow furrowed, but not in anger—more a befuddled, seeking curiosity—and his eyes were large and searching behind his glasses. “You’re serious,” he realized aloud, and Dash resisted the urge to throw his arms skyward.

“Of course I’m serious! Haven’t I made it obvious that I’m serious yet? I-”

“But…” Tucker shook his head, confusion marring his features, “I’ve been such an asshole…” he insisted, and Dash’s frustration evaporated, eclipsed by surprise. “I mean yeah,” Tucker continued, “at first I had some reason to be pissed…what you did was stupid and immature, but…I knew from the beginning it wasn’t all your fault…it takes two people to fight, after all…but I acted like it was. It was so easy to shove all the blame you that I did…I didn’t give you even half a chance to talk to me for a week…and when you quit calling over the break…well, I felt for sure I’d blown it, ‘cause I mean it made perfect sense…why would you still want to talk to me?”


“And then you gave me that note before Christmas…and there was just no excuse then…” Tucker barreled on without pause. “I almost called you after that…I almost called you that night, and maybe I should have, but it was late and I didn’t know what to say and I was still angry…though almost more at myself by that point I guess, but-”


“-you’re right, too. Even after all that, I never even had the decency to say so much as ‘Hey, just back off’ or ‘Ok, maybe we can talk about this…’ Not a word one way or the other. So even after you apologized umpteen thousand times without a single response, I didn’t even…” For the first time, Tucker came to a wavering pause. He shut his eyes. “I guess…the moral of the story is not only do I fail epically at ever getting into a proper relationship with you…but I also fail at breaking up with you…is that about it?” he asked, venturing a glance up when he did, and Dash tilted his head, raising an eyebrow.

“Well yeah, you fail at breaking up with me…” he said, a smile tugging on his lips even as he said it, “I mean…you couldn’t have broken up with me even if you’d wanted to…” and Tucker’s eyebrows shot up.

“Oh, is that so?” he asked.

“’Course,” said Dash.

“And why…might I ask…is that?” responded Tucker. “Because you’re rich, hot, popular, and better hung than-”

“Well, yeah, duh all that…” said Dash, smile curving into a smirk at Tucker’s eye roll, “but also…” He slid his hand on the wall in closer and leaned in, purposefully looming, “…you can’t break up with someone you’re not dating yet, ya know…basic rules…”

“Ah, yeah, and that’s…‘yet’?”

“Yeah,” Dash confirmed, “yet,” and Tucker watched him—intrigued, cautious, evaluating.

“Are you-”

“No,” Dash cut him off again, “but…” Why the hell not? He took a breath and reached down, catching Tucker’s hand with his free one and clasping, gently, barely daring to twine their fingers, “…I was kina thinking about it…” and when Tucker’s shuddered exhale rippled across his cheek, his fingers twitching just the tiniest bit tighter into his grasp, it sent shivers from the palm of his hand to the soles of his feet and back up, and Dash came to a stark realization: they had never held hands before. Swallowing his sudden bout of nerves, he returned the squeeze. “So, how about it,” he asked, “be my boyfriend?"  



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