Ranboo had good grades. He was a good kid who always did as he was told, who always did his homework, who always helped out his friends wherever he could. Those who knew Ranboo absolutely adored him, and he loved most of them back.
Most of them.
Ranboo was forced to sit next to the most horrid person he possibly could for English in his last year; Tommy Innit. It wasn't that Tommy was an asshole (I mean he was, but that wasn't why Ranboo hated him), it was more of the image he had around school that Ranboo disliked.
Tommy was known as a troublemaker, a delinquent, a rebel. Aka, the complete opposite of Ranboo. While Ranboo had good grades, a good personality, a good circle of friends, a good public image - nobody knew Tommy’s grades but assumed they were shit considering he was an asshole with no friends who skipped classes often to smoke behind school. The only thing they had in common was their height, and the thought of them being similar in any way made Ranboo’s blood boil.
So sitting next to him for the entirety of a year that was made just to stress students out was probably not a good thing.
The first day was hell already. They were studying persuasive writing, and the article was something sarcastic about dogs in Japan. Unfortunately Ranboo didn't really pay attention due to a certain blonde.
Tommy was shaking his hand erratically, making his pen jingle between his fingers as it did. The clicking of the edge of the pen came second after second, and then sometimes they'd be just 5 seconds of relief until Tommy would continue with the clicking again. Ranboo could swear Tommy was doing it to taunt him.
Every day there would be something new; shaking his pen, clicking his tongue, popping his lips, tapping the table to some unknown beat. As much as Ranboo wanted to assume it was a subconscious thing, he couldn't.
At least Tommy never tried to talk to him. Ranboo would prefer anything else.
It was one of those common Februarys when England was blanketed in thick snow. Late in the month - just as Ranboo was going back to school. In fact, it was the first day of the new term.
And, of course, fate decided to be a bitch.
"Really?" Ranboo asked the blonde kid sitting in the snow, a lit cigarette in his hand and a red scarf wrapped messily around his neck, although his nose was still flushed from the bite of the cold.
He exhaled a puff of smoke, mixed in with the purity of a white cloud of cold, and trained pointed eyes at Ranboo. "What do you mean?" he responded nonchalantly.
"It's the first day back; hell you're not even in school grounds yet-" Ranboo motioned to the school gates that Tommy was laying on, just on the outskirts of school. "-and you're already smoking?"
"I needed a smoke. Got a problem, bitch?"
"I- yes I have a problem! That's why I'm bringing it up." Ranboo crossed his arms and watched as Tommy rose from where he sat on the layer of snow caressing the Earth's heat. “You shouldn’t smoke at all, but if you’re going to at least don’t do it in a public space - or this early in the morning!”
Tommy sighed and stood up, slotting the cigarette back in his mouth. He took a couple steps towards Ranboo and delved a hand into his pocket. He shuffled around and, while he spoke through his lips and a lack of teeth, a trickle of smoke fell from the cigarette bud. “Look, Jack-”
“Not even close.”
“I fear that you’re actually trying.” Tommy rolled his eyes and pulled a couple notes out of his pocket, handing over £5 to Ranboo.
Ranboo blinked rapidly, watching as the notes fell into his hands. “Shut up about me smoking in front of school and take the money, yeah?” Tommy placed the bud into a nearby wall and it unlit itself, scrunching against each other as Ranboo cringed at the mark it left. He was about to protest when Tommy pushed him with his shoulder while walking past. “And get that stick out your arse. Anger doesn’t look good on you.”
Later in that exact same day, Ranboo was stumbling up to Science just after completing a History exam. Younger years were being roundy - pushing their friends around and screaming about how they couldn’t wait for school to end, but Ranboo was shuffling through the halls, struggling to breath.
The walls were closing in, reaching out for any way to grab onto him and pull him even further into the shadows of the large crowd. It was a strange magic he couldn't escape, one that pounded on his lungs and grabbed the back of his neck, dragging him back into the horrible unknown.
He tried to swerve his way through the crowd but with each step he was flung from side to side, pushed backwards and forwards.
There were two exits from the stairs; he had the layout of the school practically memorised after so many years. Of course there was the one leading to the main hallway of the school - where most of the students were going and where there would be even more students. But there was also one right beside it that led outside, the complete opposite of his class but still a place of comfort.
Another shove and he was being pushed towards the door outside.
Science. This was the one class Ranboo felt bad at. Sure, he was second best in the class, but it wasn't a good class. He was in the top class for everything but Science. And that was on the first floor - a place he had already accidentally skipped on his way down the dreaded stairway to Hell.
The door opened and a punch of air thrust against the inside of his lungs. With eyes closed to ground himself, he breathed and breathed and breathed, grateful for every bit of air he could take in.
Until the air turned vile.
His eyes opened to a familiar blonde in front of him, yet another cigarette in his mouth. Another puff of that disgusting air was thrown his way, and he coughed as he once again couldn’t breathe.
After the continuous coughs and chokes, Ranboo finally composed himself enough to glare at Tommy. “Can you not breath that in my face?” he spat out, ignoring the strain from the repressed crying just a moment earlier.
“You look like shit.” Tommy ignored him as he took another drag.
Ranboo sighed, and slumped down against the wall, completely trying to avoid Tommy. The thing is, when you two are the only students outside at that moment and one seems to be a little too interested in the other’s business, it's very difficult to avoid each other.
Tommy sat down beside him, cigarette bud twisting against the floor as he stopped the burning. “What ‘appened to you then?”
“None of your business.” Ranboo sent him a glare from the corner of his eyes, one that the blonde happily and instantly returned. Tommy simply tutted and rolled his eyes in response.
Multiple toxins fell from his throat as he teasingly shot back, “I disagree.”
“You disagree with my crying not being part of your business?” Tommy nodded, and so Ranboo sighed. “You can’t do that - it’s my business. You don’t get a say.”
“I disagree,” repeated Tommy.
“Stop saying you disagree.”
“I want to stab you.”
“Do it, bitch.” Tommy let out a shrieking laughter, but all Ranboo did was roll his eyes. He definitely wasn’t suppressing a smile. The blonde soon contently sighed, allowing the laughter to die down as he plotted the cigarette back between his lips.
And the two just sat there, resting against the wall and letting the world pass by. Despite having class at that very moment, they breathed in the (mostly) fresh air and allowed themself to savour the moment. To feel safe and secure and leave the pool of anxiety and stress that school brought with it.
That was until Ranboo remembered who he was sitting with.
He jumped up from his seat, startling Tommy slightly, but even so glaring at him in anger and disbelief like there was no tomorrow. Tommy had just calmed him down; the evil, horrible, rude, brutish delinquent that was Tommy Innit. A sickening sensation pulled at Ranboo’s stomach and punched at his lungs.
“How did you do that?” Tommy looked at him innocently, pretending that he hadn’t just used some sort of wizardry on the boy. On the boy who is meant to be in class right now. He has to be in Science. Now.
“You alright?” he asked as if he cared. Ranboo scoffed and looked around. At least nobody was there. At least nobody saw him with Tommy Innit, of all people.
He rushed back inside, the crowd from earlier now being completely gone, and headed straight to his classroom, leaving the dumbfounded boy to sit alone yet again.
Only 2 hours had passed by the time he saw Tommy again - face bored and almost falling asleep on his hand throughout the entirety of the English lesson.
Ranboo’s gaze flickered to him every now and again, intently watching with disgust as Tommy’s eyelashes fluttered close and his head dropped down even lower. He kept having to push the boy awake and send him a little glare, until there was only 5 minutes left of the lesson and he let Tommy finally get to sleep without interruptions.
It was strange; watching someone so renowned for being an asshole sleep softly with his head resting between his arms, the top half of his body delicately placed against the table. He was a quiet sleeper, Ranboo found out. Tommy made no noise whatsoever, he just slept with innocence decorating his features and breathing steadier than Ranboo had ever seen someone’s be in a high school.
It was a strangely calming sight to see for someone so anxiety-inducing.
Class was soon over and Ranboo was forced to soon roam the packed halls yet again, although it was a little less packed as a few students had the pleasure of leaving already. And finally, it was his turn to join them, as English was thankfully his last class of the day.
His equipment was barely packed away when he was preparing to bolt out the door, only to be interrupted when the teacher called the class’ attention for a quick announcement. “I know we don’t usually do this,” she began, a thick Geordie accent accentuating her pronunciation of certain words. “But we’ve recently decided to start incorporating more hands-on tasks for our students.”
Ranboo immediately felt a punch to his gut, knocking the wind out of him.
“We’ll be pairing you all up for a small group project, just with one other person in the class since we’re lucky to have even numbers.” Yet another punch. “Your task is to right a story-” Fuck. “Based on the prompt given to your specific class. It’s a sort of competition we are having in the English department.”
It was safe to say Ranboo was fucked, even though the rest of the class seemed unfairly excited.
A pink haired lady to his left was frantically rapping on her brunet friend’s arm, both of them smiling the largest grins at the news; at the other end of the room a man he recognised to be called George was glaring at one of his friends, one with stubble and a bandana tied under their bangs; and at another end was a guy with glasses and dressed in full on green staring lovingly (lovingly? threateningly?) at another man with a blue beanie on.
“I have chosen the best prompt I was allowed and, since you’re the top set, we obviously got first choice. And since I know what you all like to write based on the exams you have every term, I chose the darkest one I could.”
She prolonged the wait with dramatic silence, something Ranboo never liked (even though he himself did Drama). He figured a drumroll would play if this was a TV show or movie.
And, finally, she announced the prompt. “A desolate home.” FUCK.
It became even worse when the teacher began reading the names out. In this class he only had one friend - Niki, the pink-haired girl who had been punching a different tall, white brunet (there were a lot of them) just a few moments prior. If he was going to be paired with anyone, he would hope it was her.
But he knew fate was never that kind, especially to him.
“Bad.” was chosen first, and another name was picked out of the metaphorical hat (aka the teacher had pulled up one of those wheels you could find on the internet and put everyone’s names in, much to some people’s dismay). “You are paired with… Mr Jacobs!”
He smiled and bounded over to his friend, leaving once the teacher gave him a nod of approval. They both began giggling as they walked down the halls, and Ranboo could have sworn he already heard them brainstorming story-ideas.
“Next up is Wilbur and… Quackity! What a lovely pair.” Ranboo heard Wilbur let out a very audible gasp, and he swore his eyes lit up when the two’s gazes met.
A few others were called: George and Dream, Sapnap and Punz, Charlie and Schlatt. Seemingly everyone but him. The majority of the class were gone by now, with 8 groups already being chosen out of the class of 24. The next to be called was Niki.
“And you will be with…” Ranboo decided to send a hopeful stare Niki’s way, only to be met with the same one. Niki could obviously sense how nervous her childhood friend was, she was always so good at that. She had other friends in the class like Puffy, she’d be fine. But she knew Ranboo would panic.
He crossed his fingers and waited for the name to be called. The teacher let out a shocked but serendipitous gasp, making the hope in him swell once more. “You’re paired with Sam! I’m especially excited to see what you two come up with.” He didn’t even realise he was holding in his breath until he finally exhaled.
With one apologetic gaze, Niki was soon off, and Ranboo was left with no one in the class he would ever feel comfortable talking to, let alone collaborating with.
And then his name was finally called just once too late.
And then it somehow got worse.
The teacher let out a sympathetic sigh. “You’re with Mr Innit.”
Soon after, he searched the halls for any exit yet again, this time being wary of just who might be waiting outside. Although there was no use in that as the one he was trying to avoid bounded up to him as soon as he had left the main door. “Hey, Raegan!”
Ranboo sighed and turned around to see the blond, both still dressed in the boring uniform the school gave them, even though Tommy’s had been altered slightly. “You know for a fact that’s not my name.”
“Yeah whatever,” Ranboo ‘Raegan’ Beloved just sighed, deciding not to bother correcting the nickname. “Anyways, here's my number.”
Ranboo stared down at the paper the blonde was clutching, ignoring the innocent look softly painted on his face and the scribbles he knew to be numbers. “...What? Why the heck would I want your number, Innit?”
“Okay, first off, ‘Innit’? You sound like we’re enemies in an anime but will eventually become friends, perhaps even lovers.”
“That is the plot of this one shot, sans the lovers.”
“Uh-uh, sure. Secondly, you’d want it so we can brainstorm on story ideas.” Tommy waved the paper a little, basically shoving it in Ranboo’s face and almost tickling his nose with it (it grazed it, and that was an attack to Ranboo). “Believe or not, Little Miss Perfect, I’m willing to do this project -”
“So am I, just not with you.” The brunet subconsciously muttered, interrupting Tommy and stopping him where he was. A strange look crossed his face until it was back to it’s usual Resting Bitch Face. Strangely, Ranboo felt a peculiar pang to his heart, but brushed it off as nerves from talking to someone he didn’t want to.
Tommy simply sighed and retracted his hand, now avoiding eye contact, while fiddling with the paper. “Look, Rosaline-”
“You know for a fact that’s not my name.”
“- You’re going to have to work with me no matter what. Teach’ picked us both out of a metaphorical hat at random. Call it destiny, if you will.” Destiny was never nice to Ranboo. “You’re going to have to learn to at least tolerate me, so take my fucking number."
It was annoying. Hell, Tommy was annoying. But, he had a point. So Ranboo reluctantly took the paper off him and turned his back, walking away from a blonde he could sense the sick grin of from a while away.
There was a ringing by Ranboo's ear and he sighed, hating how he had given in so easily. He didn't like the annoying but slightly endearing asshole he was forced to sit next to - yet here he was, ringing the idiot.
It picked up after the second ring, a small bit of yelling was immediately picked up, but it was soon deterred by the closing of a door. "Hello?" a British voice called, and Ranboo internally groaned at the fact that he was actually calling Tommy.
"You busy?" he decided to cut right to the chase.
Tommy let out a small giggle, one that sounded full of energy yet still so broken. Ranboo didn’t like to look too far into things like that, but there was something about the way Tommy sounded that made him pinch his eyebrows together in concern.
“No, I’m not. Why? Miss me already?”
Ranboo scoffed, ignoring how his lips twitched upwards just a little bit. “Of course not.”
“Right.” he replied, dragging out the “I” as Ranboo brushed off the insinuation. “So why are you calling me if you don’t miss me oh so very much, Roxanne?”
“That’s not my-!” He cut himself off, dragging a hand over his face and sitting up on his bed from where he had previously been laying. He glared at his reflection in the mirror, disgusted in the small smile that danced on his face. “I’ll give you my address, come and work on the project.”
It didn’t take long for Tommy to arrive. There was a loud rapping at the door and Ranboo, trying to hide his annoyance at how annoying it was for the case of being civil, ran towards it like a kid on Christmas Day. He ignored how his smile grew slightly when he saw the blonde at his door.
He wasn’t dressed well, just a simple white shirt, a red hoodie, and some very scuffed (and slightly burnt?) jeans. Still, he didn’t look so evil and horrid and “bleh” in the sunlight, when he was actually smiling.
“Your dress sense is terrible.” Tommy said, immediately scrunching his nose up at Ranboo’s fit. It was a black jumper hanging over an equally black pair of jeans, the slight shine of a chain peeking out from under it. He honestly thought he didn’t look that bad, but Tommy probably had no sense of fashion anyways.
Ranboo scoffed, something he found himself doing often around Tommy. “You can’t say anything. You look like you just rolled out of bed!”
“Funny you think I sleep on a bed.” Tommy shot back, a slight smirk on his face that Ranboo ignored the meaning behind. He also chose to ignore the friendly banter, inviting Tommy to come into his house.
It was strange, having Tommy Innit of all people sat on his couch when even Niki hadn’t really been there before. It was even stranger how easily they seemed to settle into talking. It became a daily routine.
Every Saturday Tommy would come around to Ranboo’s house and they would brainstorm ideas for the story. It took forever to come up with one both were happy with.
Hercules played from the TV, the two deciding to watch it one night for “inspiration” as Tommy called it. In reality, Ranboo knew that Tommy just really wanted to watch a Disney film.
The god (Ranboo rolled his eyes at the inaccuracies in the film, “He’s a demigod”) had only just been taken from Hera and Zeus when Tommy spoke up for the first time in the movie. He popped off his coke’s straw, dismissing it on the coffee table in front of them. “We could write something like this.”
Ranboo turned to him, eyebrows knitting together in intrigue. “What do you mean?”
“Hercules-'' Tommy paused the TV and turned his whole body to Ranboo, crossing his legs on the sofa despite Ranboo always telling him to keep his feet off it. “-he was stolen from his parents and forced to live a life that held him back. We could write something like that for the project.”
Ranboo hummed. “So like a child is taken and grows up in this world that, in a way, controls them?”
A smile tugged at his lips, and he found himself not pulling it back. “That’s good, Tommy!” He moved to face the aforementioned blonde, breaking his own rule and crossing his legs on the sofa. “Maybe… maybe they were stolen for some sort of science experiment? And the story is them trying to find a way to escape the laboratory.”
Tommy pulled out a notepad, presumably jotting down what Ranboo had said. “Or, some sort of government and military thing!”
Ranboo subconsciously wafted his hands around, excitement and inspiration coursing through his veins. This is the closest thing to an idea they had within 3 weeks, and they only had 2 more weeks to write it before half term. He didn’t think about the future, Ranboo was just glad they were finally getting somewhere.
“Like someone kidnapped them because they’re magical or superhuman-”
“And they were hiding them from a country that wanted to declare war on them, because a superweapon would make them a target!”
“Exactly!” Ranboo fell back on the couch, breathing heavily and listening to the scratches of lead on paper and the occasional rocks from Tommy at the end of his feet. “They were hidden within a normal family life, but that eventually turned into a desolate home when they found out the truth.”
Tommy chuckled and bounced where he was sat, the strokes of his pencil slowly coming to an end. “We did it, we actually came up with an idea.”
“Ha, about time too.”
“... Will we have enough time to write this?”
Ranboo’s large grin softened slightly as he sat back up, knees bumping against Tommy’s. “We can write during break at school too, and if you want you can come to mine after school on Wednesdays, both my parents work until 7, so that gives us like 4 hours to write.”
“You’re willing to be seen with me in school?”
“Yeah, of course! We’re just writing anyways, it’s not like we’re frie-” Ranboo cut himself off, his gaze shooting up to Tommy’s. There was a strange glint in them and he couldn’t help but feel a punch to his stomach. He ignored the bizarre guilt building in him, brushing it off as disgust after realising how close they were.
He let out an exhale he didn’t realise he was holding in. “... friends.”
“Tommy? Really?” Niki asked, sitting next to Ranboo and placing her lunch down on the table. He moved his food to the side and scooted away from her a little, allowing there to be a comfortable amount of room between them.
Only then did his attention turn to her question. “What do you mean, ‘Tommy’?”
Niki sighed, shuffling in her seat so her legs were pulled under the table. “You keep hanging around with Innit and avoiding your friends. What ever happened to going bowling last Saturday?”
Ranboo cleared his throat, placing his fork and knife back down. “I have to get this English assignment done so I was brainstorming with Tommy. I wasn’t avoiding you, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
“It is a little bit, if I’m being honest.” Ranboo sighed and Niki’s angry face softened slightly. “I’m sorry Ranboo, I'm just worried. He’s a bad kid, you know that better than anyone. You’re like a brother to me, I don’t want to see you get hurt, or - or pressured into smoking or something-”
“Tommy quit! And even then he’d never pressure me into anything.” Her eyes shone with a worrying pink glaze, and Ranboo couldn’t help but remember just why he was friends with Niki. “You care about me so much, and you know I love you for it, but you need to trust me. Trust me like I trust you with Wilbur.”
Her breath audibly was caught in her throat.
The rest of their friend group - Tubbo, Aimsey, and Wilbur - plotted themselves down on the table, bringing their conversation to a close.
It was small looks, sighs Niki tried to repress, and the holding on to Ranboo’s elbow whenever Tommy was near, that really set him off. He was talking with Tommy, a rare experience to happen outside of their agreed times, but still a nice one. He didn’t remember what they were talking about, he was more excited at the sheer fact they were actually talking.
That’s when Niki came in.
She grabbed the brunet’s elbow and offered Tommy a kind smile as she butted in. “Hi, I just need to talk to Ranboo quickly.” Hesitantly, Tommy nodded and allowed Niki to (literally) drag him away.
When they were out of earshot, Ranboo finally broke free of her grasp, as lovingly violent as it was. “Everything okay?”
“I know you said not to worry and that I can trust you like how you trust me with Wilbur, but he has to want something from you. He has to have a reason for-!”
“Niki!” He interrupted, sending her an incredulous glare. “C’mon, you can’t do this-”
“He’s not your friend, Ranboo. Someone like that, you can’t trust. I don’t trust Wilbur!”
“You don’t trust your best friend?”
“After everything he’s done - smoking, drinking, partying, and… that - of course I don’t trust him. But I like him, he’s funny and he’s trying to change. Tommy isn’t.”
“I’m not listening to this.”
Tommy let out an exhale while he was sat on Ranboo’s sofa, legs crossed again and knees practically flushed against the brunet’s. “She said that?” he let out a whisper, staring at Ranboo unblinkingly. “I know people don’t trust me, but she said not to even associate with me?”
Ranboo’s face hardened as he spoke. “Yeah… She did. She doesn’t want us to be ‘friends’, or whatever.”
“But-!” Tommy began, his voice raising slightly as his eyebrows pinched together. “But that’s not her place to comment. It’s our friendship!”
“Yeah, I know!” Ranboo leaned back on the sofa, knees lifting slightly away from Tommy’s. His left hand ran across his face and pulled at the roots of his hair in frustration. “She’s just paranoid, of course I can trust you.”
He couldn’t trust him. Niki may have been right; what if she was right? What if she knew how untrustworthy Tommy was and her warnings were all true? What if Ranboo had actually messed up this time?
It was a nice day, Ranboo just wanted a nice walk outside to clear his head from everything Niki had said recently, as well as the existence of Wilbur. He stalked around the playground, kicking away loose rocks and dead flowers laying in the field.
And at the end of the field he saw a familiar blond head.
But when he walked up, he also saw a lit cigarette in his mouth, hanging loose since he looked like he was about to sleep.
Ranboo kicked his shoe, making Tommy cough from being woken up with such a thing in his mouth. He allowed the blond to compose himself, glaring at him the whole time.
“What the fu-” he stopped himself once sea-blue met grey. Ranboo watched as Tommy’s gaze shot between his ‘friend’ and the cigarette, the cogs quickly turning in his head and breathing rapidly increasing. “Ranboo, it’s not what it-”
“You’re smoking? You promised you would stop, Toms.”
“Yes, I know, but-”
“No buts! You promised you would! You broke our promise… Niki was right, I can’t trust you.”
“Of course you can! It’s just a cigarette.” Tommy crawled up from the floor, moving around erratically. “It’s, like, my first one since we became friends!” Ranboo shuffled backwards, watching his ‘friend’ make excuse after excuse. “I couldn’t exactly go cold turkey, my mental health is already shit so-”
“You promised me.”
“... Yeah. I did, didn't I?”
Ranboo had good grades. He was a good kid who always did as he was told, who always did his homework, who always helped out his friends wherever he could. Those who knew Ranboo absolutely adored him, and he loved most of them back.
Most of them.
He had felt love for this person - the purest of platonic love anyone could feel. Seeing him always brought a smile to Ranboo’s face, and their time together was always the most fun. He would always be laughing, or listening intently to an amazing story, or amazed at how childlike they were when they watched a Disney movie like Hercules.
He remembered conversations about their future, how they said “I wanna be an author, so fucking bad” and how Ranboo encouraged them to pursue their dreams and how in love with the idea of them making it was.
He loved them; being with them, flushing his knees against theirs, brainstorming story ideas with them.
But he couldn’t trust them. They never stopped, despite promising to.
And now Ranboo couldn’t even bring himself to say their name.