They met on the first day of second grade, on the playground. A pale boy with glasses was getting shoved off the swings by a young Muffler when Jarod ran by, with his cape tied around his neck.
"Stop, evildoer. I'm Wonder Boy and you can't push him off this swing." Jarod said this in a very serious, solemn tone.
"Um, yeah." The boy said, not very helpfully.
Muffler looked at the two of them, and socked Jarod in the mouth.
After Muffler was taken to time out by the P.E. teacher, Jarod said through a split lip. "Hi, I'm Jarod. Or Wonder Boy." The smaller, pale boy grinned, then looked down.
"Hi. I'm Griff."
And that was how their friendship started.
Jarod would admit cheerfully that he was a bit of a problem child before he discovered sports. In fact, he was probably slightly ADD. Sports gave him an outlet. Where before Griff and Jarod had run all over the playground together, now Jarod was playing baseball.
Griff started hanging out near the baseball field, reading. He nearly failed out of gym for not doing anything, but he didn't care. Jarod teased him once about the books. "Why aren't you at least watching me, huh?"
A smile and shake of a head. "I don't have to watch. I know you're good."
It was eighth grade and Griff cracked first. "I have to tell you something."
Jarod was changing out of his sweaty practice clothes, and stood in front of Griff without a shirt on. "Yeah?"
Griff hesitated for just a minute, then took a deep breath and started. "Now, I can't be a hundred percent certain, I haven't really tried to prove the hypothesis, but I think my theory is sound..."
Jarod interrupted. "Griff, spit it out."
"I think I'm gay."
"Yeah? You really think so?" Jarod stood there blinking.
Griff nodded. "I'm about ninety-five percent sure."
"Only ninety-five percent?" Jarod had to smile at that. Even standing in front of him, telling him that he was, um, gay, Griff never stopped being Griff.
"Well, I can't be one hundred percent. I haven't done anything. It's all theoretical." Griff sounded slightly annoyed.
"Well," Jarod sat down on his bed, close to where Griff was standing. "Do you ever think about girls?"
"Other than 'I hope Muffler doesn't give me a wedgie', not really."
"Ever jerk off to them?"
Griff's face screwed up. "Ew!"
"I guess not. It sounds like you are gay, then." Jarod looked up at him.
Griff had really beautiful eyes. They were looking at him with what seemed to be barely disguised fear. "So. Are we weird?"
"Because. I'm a fag." Griff mumbled it, face red. Jarod grabbed his arm.
"Look at me. Don't say that word, not like that. Not like it's something to be ashamed of. Griff, man, think for a second. Have you ever seen me with a girl?"
"Well. No, but you're busy with baseball and stuff, and hanging out with me, and..." his voice trailed off. "Wait, Jarod?"
Jarod just smiled at him.
Griff drew his fist back and punched him in the arm. "You bastard! Why didn't you say anything?"
Jarod fell back on the bed, laughing. "Wasn't a hundred percent sure, hadn't tested the hypothesis." He grinned up at Griff, who was straddling him on the bed.
"Fucker. When did you start thinking, you know, you might be?"
"A couple of months ago." He wasn't telling the whole truth, which would be more like "that night you stayed over and spooned me in your sleep." But he wasn't going to tell Griff that. It was...embarressing.
Griff looked serious. "You should have told me."
Jarod nodded. "I didn't want us to be weird."
Griff rolled off him, lying on the bed next to him, legs dangling off. "You didn't have anything to worry about. You're my best friend."
"You didn't either." Jarod got up. "Um, I'm gonna finish getting dressed and then let's go to the movies?"
That little fucker didn't even pretend not to be looking while Jarod got undressed this time. Jarod was three shades of red when they took off on their bikes to the multiplex.
Even after all that, Griff sometimes got adorably insecure about their friendship. Like every time the rumor got started that Jarod only hung with Griff for help with his homework.
"That's such bullshit anyway. I do fine. You only help me in calculus." Jarod handed the bag of chips over to Griff. They were sitting on the bleachers, as the sun set and the lights around the field came on.
"I know, but it's like...you're still Wonder Boy. And I'm just your brainy sidekick." Griff licked potato chip crumbs off his fingers.
"Fuck that. You're not anyone's sidekick." Griff looked over in surprise, Jarod's voice had lowered and he was glowering.
"You're a fuckin' genius, Griff. If anybody's the sidekick, it's me. You're gonna make a million dollars, and I'll be lucky if I hit the minor leagues. You know it, I do too."
"That's not true. You'll make it. You're a shoe-in for a athletic scholarship." Griff looked straight at him, like he believed it with everything in him.
"Nobody's a shoe-in. I could wreck my knee tomorrow. That's why I've always kept my grades up. Just in case." Jarod took the bag of chips back. "Fuck, why'd you get vinegar and salt chips? Gross."
"So I could eat most of them." Griff took the chips back, smiling.
Jarod had to question a lot of things in his life-his sexuality, his status as an athlete. He thought later that might be why he never questioned if his friendship with Griff was anything more. Although he damn well should have, probably. Because when Griff looked at him and said "I'm in love with you. I have been for a long time", it all...just made sense.
He'd been in love for years. Why didn't anyone tell him?