Chapter 1: Zeke. Stop Making Refs to A/B/O Dynamics.
Zeke let his smirk settle onto his face as his natural swagger carried his beefy body down the halls. Pure testosterone sloshed about his veins haphazardly. His alpha male disposition kept his shoulders back and chest puffed out while his gaze swept over his peers. It was mostly scrawny guys he could easily beat up- beta males- and girls of assorted levels of beauty- potential mates. His innate cockiness told him he could have whichever girl he wanted and that, as top dog of Wagstaff, the jock owed it to himself to pick the hottest chick of the bunch. And yet he found himself approaching her locker.
She was not the standard definition of beauty- she’d never appear in one of the many dirty magazines piled under his bed. The girl was too thick around the waist, hips, and thighs to pass for the already ridiculous beauty standards set by the adult entertainment industry. What’s more this girl was smart. All his life, Zeke had been taught to go after girls dumber than he was (something that may seem almost impossible at first but can be quickly proven with a visit to the local mall). This girl was leagues smarter than him, although her motivations made it easy to miss the brain she housed.
Despite all this, she was the one his gaze drifted to when inattentive, she was the one who caused his heart to stutter like an old pick-up after spotting her at the other end of the hall, and she was the one that caused him to so frequently bite his cheek to stop himself from professing his feelings that a callus had formed inside his mouth over the raw flesh.
Reaching the outside of her open locker, he spoke to the girl concealed by the metal door. “Hey girl,” the undercut of his mild southern twang helped disguise the excitement in his voice as his usual over the top volume, “what’chu doin’?”
She groaned. She hated him or, rather, she used to. He was pretty sure she only disliked him now. “Zeke,” her monotone was strained, “hello.” The metal door shut with a clang and the jock could see her. Thick-rimmed glasses enlarged her chocolate eyes and sat upon a rounded nose. Dark hair outlined her face like a picture frame and slightly resembled a bicycle helmet. Her clothing was wrinkled and the colors had dulled. Tina Belcher looked nothing like the fashionable girl whose clones filled the halls of their school. It threw him for a loop and a half only to make a strange and heavy, yet fizzy sensation settle in the bottom of his stomach. He loved it.
Nerves caused his skin to prickle and his hair to stand on end as the jock fought to appear calm and relaxed. “J-ju n’ I were thinkin’ we’d hit Wonder Wharf after school today. We’re gonna have a contest ta see who can win the most carnival games n’ we need someone ta be judge.” It was a lame excuse. There were no plans to meet at the wharf- yet- but he could get Jimmy to agree easily enough. The redhead would probably assume Tina invited herself and wouldn’t put up a fight to her presence unless Zeke did first. His friend was a bit of a sheep but it was okay. The boy’s eyes stayed fixed on Tina’s expression. One fluffy, round eyebrow lifted in contemplation and her unpainted lips pressed together. He already knew her answer.
“Okay,” her tone was more pleasant now. For a split second his hormones flashed the idea of what her pleasured screams might sound like. This was shoved back down to his subconscious, only allowed to return in dreams and Freudian slips. Her dark amber eyes flashed back up to his. “But you should know that I won’t be an impartial judge-”
“I know,” Zeke interrupted her merely for his own amusement. The jock turned and began to walk away.
“Because I like Jimmy Junior,” she continued as though he’d never tried to stop her.
“I know,” he repeated with a wide grin stretched across his face despite the subject matter.
“So I’m probably going to side with him almost- pretty much every time. Just so you know.” Tina was finally done.
“I know.” The brunette called from the other end of the hall.
“Okay!” She called back. God she was adorable.
Zeke flopped into his seat next to Jimmy Junior. “Hey J-ju, what’s up?”
“Uhh… not much,” the redhead’s lisp was as thick as ever. The jock found it endearing now: a familiar sound that reminded him of friendship. “You?”
“I’m good,” the beefier male played it cool, nonchalantly glancing over his bruised and calloused hands. “You busy after school today? I was thinking we could hit the W. Wharf n’ have a tournament ta see who can win the most side games.”
“Oh, uh, I don’t think I can. There’s this… girl I was planning to meet. I think I’m gonna be busy.” The dancer’s voice was shaky and his coppery eyes darted away from his friend.
Zeke huffed in frustration. He knew the Pesto kid was bi even though the boy hadn’t come out to him yet. It might not be his cup of tea but the jock wasn’t going to judge. The wrestler didn’t want to rush his friend or make him feel uncomfortable but it was hard pretending to be oblivious. He wouldn’t sucker the boy out of a date just so Zeke could indulge in his guilty pleasure.
“Alright.” The mullet-sporting kid could easily stop his sentence there. It would be so perfectly neat and drama-free if he just- “Guess it’ll just be Tina n’ me then.” He could see the redhead’s head snap to the side in his peripheral vision. Why couldn’t he keep his mouth shut?
“W-what?” The nasal voice asked hesitantly. There was a hint of anger laced into his tone. God, Zeke wanted to just… punt something he was so frustrated. What he wouldn’t give to be able to wrestle all this awful preteen/tween/teen angst and drama nonsense to the ground followed by a quick kick to its nuts. One of his burly fists clenched as he fought to keep his cool. ‘You’re always cool with this weird territorial game J-ju plays. No need to burst now. You’re okay. Stay calm.’
“Nothin’,” the husky boy mumbled as he turned to look out the window.
“No, you- you said ‘guess it’ll just be Tina and me’!” The dancer was making it hard to stay relaxed. Zeke frowned. He was a boy- he wasn’t supposed to have to deal with drama.
“What does it matter?” The wrestler said monotonously as he turned back to his friend, “you’re going on a date with someone else.”
“It matters because she’s- she’s-” Jimmy junior couldn’t figure out what he wanted to say.
“Just go on your date and have a good time, buddy.” The good-natured tone of the southern voice frustrated the redhead. Instigating a fight with the usually adrenaline-filled Zeke should’ve been much easier than it was proving to be.
“No!” The Pesto kid folded his arms across his chest. “I’m going to the wharf with you two.”
“Great,” Zeke mumbled. “This’ll be fun.”
Chapter 2: Zeke. 13 is not the new 18.
Zeke is tired and porn isn't helping.
Jimmy jr. gets easily distracted.
Tina is still adorable.
Ayyy, been a while huh? Well, almost half a year is probably a reasonable amount of time to wait for an update… right?
Three teens stood in front of the entrance to Wonder Wharf, silently eyeing one of their companions. An air of discomfort swallowed the trio whole.
Zeke, standing to the front of their little group, tried to shoot small curious glances to the lone female with them. Jimmy jr. stood right at the wrestler’s shoulder with a pouting glare, something that wasn’t nearly as intimidating as the ginger probably would’ve liked. Finally, Tina stood back, eyes trained unflinchingly on Jimmy jr.’s back. With the three of them caught in a cycle of one-sided, incomplete looks, a loud cough interrupted the fragile hormone riddled ecosystem. Each teen glanced back to see Louise, glaring at them.
“I don’t know what you’re doing but you’re in my way. So move. I’ve got a small business to sabotage.” Marching past them, the bunny-eared girl paused at the sight of the Pesto child. “Andy and Ollie won’t be home until late tonight. They’re undercover as a health inspector.” She let silence consume the group before speaking out one last time. “Hey. Send them to drama camp. The natural stupidity of humanity will only carry them for so long” With that, the child disappeared into the small amusement park.
Coughing to call the trio’s attention to him, Zeke offered a loose grin to his two companions. “Let’s do this!” he declared cheerfully, chucking a thumb behind him at the entrance.
Jimmy jr. nodded somewhat seriously while Tina pulled out the spiral notepad she’d used when investigating the Mad Pooper. Zeke fought down the wave of memories that threatened to overtake him while Tina clicked the release of her ballpoint pen. This was going to be fun. Zeke was supposed to be enjoying himself. He’s just spending some time with his good buddy and his crush. Everything was fine. It didn’t mean anything anyway. He could never win her over. Tina was stubborn to a fault. She’d never sink her teeth out of Jimmy jr., no matter how much the ginger scorned her. Zeke was fine with that. He was just young and full of hormones. He’d fall for someone else eventually. The wrestler just had to wait it out. He could hold on till then, clutch to a flimsy thread of hope, stretched to the limit by every wistful sigh the girl huffed from her unpainted lips.
“Imma destroy you at darts!” Zeke declared, rushing forward and keeping his eyes everywhere but on the competition’s spectator.
It didn’t take long for Jimmy jr. to forget how he’d been goaded into coming along. Within five minutes he was laughing gleefully, caught up in Zeke’s energy. After the first game of darts (which the wrestler easily won), Tina had given up on keeping score and instead began writing friend fiction on the pad. She stumbled after the two competing boys, mumbling about zombies with her head bent down, fixated on her prose. These were the times Zeke would look back on when he was forty and divorced, listening to his next favorite pop song on an oldies radio station in a car he couldn’t afford, the boy told himself as he glanced between his redheaded bestie and the too smart girl he liked too much.
Half an hour in and the ginger needed a bathroom break. The remaining two sat on a bench right outside the rundown shack, silent- or they had been until Zeke spoke up. “Do you suppose you n’ J-ju are gonna get married one day?”
Tina frowned thoughtfully. “Yeah,” she answered after a pause. “Probably.”
“You cool with me bein’ the best man an’ makin’ a speech?” He mused aloud, not making eye contact. “Seein’ as you don’t really like me n’ all.”
There was silence for a long moment. “It’s not that I don’t like you,” Tina spoke slowly, jotting down loose thoughts on her notepad. “You’re just in the way. Once you stop distracting Jimmy jr. so he can pay attention to me, we’ll get along fine.”
Zeke laughed boisterously while he settled back into the bench. “Good plan, T,” he declared with a grin.
“I think so,” Tina spoke without hesitation, “yes.”
“So I’m thinkin’ my speech should start with an old reference- really, really old. Old now old. If anyone under 50 laughs, I’ll have failed,” the Southern teen mused.
“Okay,” the Belcher teen replied immediately. “I’ll remember that.”
Zeke smiled a painfully strained smile while something twisted tortuously in his gut. Heaving himself off the bench, Zeke faked a stretch just so he wouldn’t have to look at her anymore. With his back to her, he let out a weary sigh he tried to disguise as a tired one. “I think I’m gonna head out- I’ll leave you two lovebirds alone. See you later!”
“Oh,” Tina sounded pleasantly surprised, he could tell by the slight inflection in her voice. “Bye.”
Zeke waved without turning around as he ambled away from the bathrooms. He couldn’t do this. He’d tried, he’d tried a lot of things, but it didn’t work and it hurt so much. Zeke was the alpha dog. He was supposed to get his pick of partner but Tina was the exception to the rule. Of course she was. He needed something else to think about, something else to occupy his time and his mind. Something to help him get over Tina. He thought he could build up an immunity to her so it stopped feeling like his organs were draining out of his body through the soles of his feet every time she sighed wistfully at Jimmy jr. but that clearly wasn’t working and he was running low on organs by now. So the alpha dog fled with his tail between his legs and a sopping trail of guts in his wake.
Zeke sat in front of his computer, staring down the pop-up.
You must be 18 years or older to access this website!
Are you 18 years or older? Yes / No
He sighed and scratched his head absently. He need to reprogram his brain to find something other than Tina attractive, so what was the opposite of Tina. Blonde, skinny, stupid, lots of make-up-- well, he should have an easy time then. That sounded like a classic. The athlete typed as much in the search bar and scrolled through the results as they appeared. Now he just had to jerk off to enough of these and he should be all nice and brainwashed into preferring the type of girl he was supposed to, right?
Hot blonde begs for more caught his attention. It was highly rated and, judging by the thumbnail, didn’t look like it was shot on someone’s old iPhone so it should be a good starting point. Zeke clicked on the link and waited.
He wondered how it was going for Tina and Jimmy jr. back on the wharf. Hopefully, J-ju stuck around even after he left. Maybe he was finally going to get his act together and treat Tina halfway to decently so the girl could live her happily ever after and Zeke would have a genuinely good excuse to move on. It’d be so, so much easier to move on if the girl was actually happy, if she was respected and valued for being the, frankly, brilliant woman she was. A creative powerhouse, a scholar, a witty comedian-- she was going to take the world by storm and she’d do it all while being awkward and adorable. Socially awkward will be the new cool when her best seller hits the shelves. Jimmy jr. could be her husband, live off of her work and never have to take over his father’s restaurant. Free from financial burden, he could dedicate himself and his time to dancing. Maybe open up a dance studio-- hell, he’d probably have an affair with another dancer. Tina’d be in the tabloids: smeared for not being able to satisfy a man who never loved her in the first place, shamed for being brilliant, for being more than a wife was supposed to be, for robbing her husband of “a good wife” in exchange for gifting the world with her genius and insight. Zeke growled and his fist curled into a tight ball. She didn’t deserve that shit. Tina’s a hopeless romantic, she couldn’t help falling in love with the wrong-
Oh, shit. The video had already ended. Zeke sighed and pulled a hand through his short hair. So far, his plan to get his mind off of Tina was going super swell. Whatever, he hadn’t been interested in that video anyway. Maybe the next one would work better. Aimlessly clicking on another thumbnail of a blonde with orange skin, the athlete settled back in his chair for what even he could recognize was an exercise in futility.
Chapter 3: Zeke. Watch Your Back.
Zeke is threatened.
Jimmy jr. isn't in this chapter.
Tina has a friend.
Less than six months!!
Zeke breathed in slowly as he let his lips stretch into a wide grin. Adrenaline pumped through his veins violently, rushing against the walls of his blood vessels with the force of a tsunami. The boy standing on the other edge of the mats shifted his weight ever so slightly, creating the perfect opening for the burly athlete. Zeke charged at his opponent, throwing all of his weight against the smaller body as he slipped his arms around certain joint to gain control of his opponent’s movement. Within moments Zeke had the boy’s unsteady weight turned into enough momentum to throw the boy over his shoulder. The Southern teen grinned as he heard the splat of a sprawled body hitting the mat behind him.
“Whaddaya think? I’ve been learnin’ some judo techniques lately just to spice up my wrestlin’ game, ya know?” Zeke asked proudly.
The other boy laughed weakly, pushing himself up off the mat a small bit. “Gee, Zeke. That was very cool. It was kind of like I was flying for a bit.”
Zeke moved off the mats to grab the inhaler sitting against the wall before tossing it to the boy still on the ground. “Yer voice is soundin’ a little tight there, buddy.” A grateful, airy chuckle and the hiss of the inhaler releasing medicine into the boy’s mouth was the only reply. “As I was sayin’ earlier, Rudy, judo ain’t ‘bout strength but ‘bout how ya take advantage o’ yer opponent’s strength n’ weight. ‘S exactly the thing ta answer ya question from the other time.”
“You really think I could learn to do that?” Rudy asked with a small smile as he sat up.
“Heck yeah. I’ll teach ya n’ everythin’. You’ll be throwin’ guys thrice yer size over yer shoulder ‘n no time!” Zeke replied with a grin.
“That’s great!” Rudy scrambled to his feet and bounced over to the teen. “Thank you so much, Zeke.”
“Don’t thank me yet, lil’ buddy. We gotta lot a’ work before we’re anywhere close ta where ya wanna be.”
Rudy shrugged with a large smile. “I’ve got to go now. Louise has something planned for later today and I’m involved so I need to go figure out what the mastermind wants me to do.”
“Ah yeah,” Zeke hummed. “‘M not a part o’ this one, right?”
“No, I don’t think so. This is related to our math teacher.” Rudy scratched his head and chuckled awkwardly. “You’ll know if she wants your help.”
The Southern teen laughed in response. “Don’t I know it. I’ll see you around, Rudy. G’luck with Louise n’ her master plan.”
Patting the smaller boy on the back, Zeke moved past him towards the exit of the gymnasium. As soon as he pushed outside of the double doors, he was ambushed.
“Hey, Zeke,” a nasal voice purred from his side.
Zeke spun and found the blonde leaning against the wall. “Tammy. Hey gurl. What’chu doin’ here?”
“Well, I was thinking. Seeing as the big wrestling tournament is coming up and you’re a favorite to win the whole thing, you should really be ready for your moment of glory. Sure, it’s impressive when you win, I guess, but you know what would really highlight how cool you are?” She pushed off the wall to walk in a small circle around him, her eyes never leaving him. “An extra cute, popular girlfriend on you arm. Someone like, well, like me.” Zeke raised an eyebrow as she came to a stop in front of him.
Zeke may be the alpha male of these halls but this girl was downright predatory. Hell, she even circled him like a shark and everything.The large smile she wore may as well have been filled with razor sharp teeth. She was dangerous; playing the part of the average, harmless student, when, in actuality, she could absolutely eviscerate her peers. Something in Zeke hackled at the challenge, something in him was interested in the fight-- but most of him was still clinging to ideas of too smart, too unique, too independent. He needed to let go of that attachment to the brilliant girl who’s never give him the time of day, Tammy could be just the distraction he needed. But would dating Tammy to forget Tina be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? Tina may have a vice grip around Zeke’s mind, but Tammy could pull him limb from limb if he slighted her. It was a question between dwelling in abject misery about impossible to realize dreams or gambling on danger and destruction if it meant escaping the constant pull Tina had on him.
His infatuation with Tina made him weak, undermined his alpha male status. Tammy could smell it, see it-- the weakness.
“Great,” she purred as she stepped towards him and took his arm in hers. His weakness was enough of an answer for her. “Let’s go, Zeke-y.”
The boy couldn’t shake the feeling that someone had just slipped a too-tight leash around his neck.
Tammy strolled down the halls with the ease of an underwater current cutting through the ocean. While the blonde didn’t clear the halls clean with her presence, like Zeke, backs plastered to lockers in order to ensure easy passage for the alpha dog, she wasn’t exactly bobbing and weaving around people either. Instead, the girl flowed down the hall effortlessly, using the natural movements of her peers to her advantage. It was graceful and spoke of substantial social power. Tammy truly wielded her influence with a certain finesse that spoke to her cunning nature.
It was her cunning that enabled her to ruthlessly pursue Zeke. The rambunctious teen was a popularity powerhouse that the blonde drooled at the thought of taking advantage of. Being Zeke’s girlfriend essentially ensured her the title of Queen Bee of Wagstaff High. He was the next rung on the ladder of popularity she needed to climb in order to attain the status and wealth of her dreams.
Spotting an awkward bob of dark hair ahead, Tammy smirked. She increased her strides before coming to a smooth stop beside Tina Belcher. Now, Tina Belcher was an odd creature; for all intents and purposes, she should be the scum of the Earth in high school, the literal gum smushed against the undersides of desks-- unseen, fairly disgusting, and surrounded only by similarly sodden wads of gum. The girl was practically a walking What Not to Do/Wear/Think article in every teen magazine. She dressed like Velma Dinkley, she wrote-- and openly discussed-- friend fiction, she got good grades, and had a pathetically obvious and dead end crush on someone out of her league. Tammy shouldn’t even know that Tina existed. Yet, somehow, in a very strange way, Tina was almost the closest thing to a friend that Tammy had ever had.
Sure, the blonde had friends before-- she’d had lots. She was popular. However, Tammy knew with utmost certainty that those people would’ve deserted her in a heartbeat if she ever lost her popularity. She would’ve done the same to them. Tina, on the other hand, seemed completely oblivious to the social hierarchy in place at their school. She spoke to whomever she wanted to, she never cowered in fear of others’ popularity, and she was certainly never embarrassed. It was an infuriating quality at times but the blonde also found it soothing. With Tina, there were almost never any ulterior motives. The girl simply couldn’t do subtle.
“Tina!” Tammy called with a smirk. “Have you gained weight? That shirt’s looking a little lumpy.” Of course, just because Tina was the closest thing to a friend Tammy had ever had, that didn’t mean Tammy had to be nice to her.
Tina glanced at Tammy before looking down at her shirt and then returning her gaze to the blonde. “No, I don’t think so,” she said casually, entirely unaffected by the biting remark.
Tammy hummed and raised an eyebrow. “Agree to disagree.” Shifting her weight so her hip could jut out aggressively, the blonde changed the subject. “Anyway, I’ve got a little something planned with Zeke,” or, well, she would soon enough. “You should probably, like, bring Jimmy Jr. along or something.” With Jimmy jr. there, Zeke would be more likely to go.
“Oh geez,” Tina mumbled. “I don’t know if I’ve got the time.” She didn’t bother pausing before continuing, “oh okay. You wore me down. I’ll go.” And if Tammy had to hang out with Tina because of this, well, she’d just have to deal. But she wasn’t going to enjoy it-- even if it looked like she was, she totally wasn’t. You’re blind and unpopular, what do you know. Shut up.
Chapter 4: Zeke, Get Your Heart Off That Skateboard.
Zeke has an unexpectedly amazing day.
Jimmy jr. still isn't in the chapter.
Tina has a pretty great day too.
LESS THAN SIX MONThs. AGAIN.
Zeke scrubbed an angry hand through his short, curly hair with a huff. Tammy wasn’t just a shark but some kind of witch. A shark-witch. A Shatch-- wirk? Shitch. Yeah, Shitch felt right. He didn’t know how else to explain how the bottle blonde had convinced him to show up to the small movie theater in their town at 8 AM on a Saturday. Honestly, this early in the morning on a weekend? She’s evil incarnate.
Speak of the shitch-- the blonde turned the corner and was casually approaching. Only she wasn’t alone. Zeke’s heart did a kick flip out of nowhere and smacked into his lungs, pushing all the air out of them. While his intestines debated whether or not to pursue compensation for the damages caused in court, his eyes tracked the tall figure walking alongside the dangerous blonde. Fluffy hair that was brushed too much floated up in the air with static electricity, slightly crooked glasses sat on a rounded nose, and rumpled clothing sat awkwardly on a body that had yet to grow into itself. God, she was beautiful.
“T!” He yelped. Yelped like some kind of beta male-- the things she did to him. “What’re ya doin’ here?” The girls reached Zeke before he’d finished speaking. Tammy leveling the boy something along the lines of a sultry smirk and Tina simply bobbing her head in acknowledgement.
“Tammy invited Jimmy jr. and I. It’s a double date,” Tina answered.
Zeke was supposed to be doing anything other than thinking about the girl who’d invaded his heart and started a small encampment within. He was supposed to be getting over her, to be reprogramming his brain to settle for girls like Tammy regardless of what his heart wanted. The less time Zeke spent in her etherious presence, the (obviously) better! Distance makes the heart grow fonder was bullshit in the face of having the love of your life constantly right in front of your face, occupying your every waking moment with their wholesome, gorgeous existence. Zeke needed to be far away from Tina, to be distracted, disheartened, and hopeless. He needed to believe there was no such thing as true love because then he could convince himself that he wasn’t missing out on anything when Tina inevitably spent her whole life chasing after--
“Where’s J-ju?” Zeke asked. Again, it was basically the fucking witching hour being 8 AM on a Saturday, so there wasn’t exactly a crowd for the redhead to be lost in. The three teens were the only people standing in front of the movie theater.
Tina blinked in surprise as though she hadn’t yet realized the supposed apple of her eye wasn’t present. She quickly glanced around before frowning slightly. Tammy shrugged in an apathetic manner as she pushed closer to Zeke, clearly looking for a way to loop their arms together. The boy kept the arm Tammy was closest to pressed tight to his side while the other one lifted to pat Tina on the shoulder.
“I’m sure he’s just runnin’ late. Let’s get in so we can save him a seat,” Zeke said fighting back a yawn. Fucking Saturday morning.
“You’re probably right,” Tina said confidently. A small smile pulled at her lips that had his heart gearing up for another kick flip regardless of the lawsuit his lungs were threatening. Neither Zeke nor Tina made any attempt to remove his hand from his shoulder. Chances are they would’ve stood, exchanging quiet, small smiles for ten minutes straight if it hadn’t been for Tammy’s loud, demanding cough.
Retracting his arm and pasting it tight to torso before Tammy could worm her way in, the boy turned back to the movie theater. “So, what are we seein’, anyway?”
All eyes turned to Tammy whose lopsided frown assured them she’d completely forgotten to choose a movie. All bets were off. The three teens raced to look at the showtimes and different movies playing.
“Oh my gawd,” Tammy announced. “I didn’t realize the movie adaptation of Popular in the City was already out. We have to see it!”
“Or,” Zeke loudly cut in. “We could see an awesome movie! Like this one about the famous boxer!”
“Ew,” Tammy replied. “Sports movies are, like, so boring. And, ugh, sweaty. Popular in the City is sooooo much better. It’s about this blonde girl who is super popular and, like, five different guys like her but--”
“Barf,” Zeke interrupted her. “Straight up barf.”
“Oh, real mature,” Tammy hissed.
“We need to pick a movie,” Tina tried to argue.
“I’m telling you, Popular in the City!” Tammy cried out.
“I’m not going down without a fight!” Zeke announced. “Rock, Paper, Scissors. One Round. We go on ‘scissors’. Whoever wins picks the movie.”
“Fine by me,” Tammy answered, rolling up her sleeve.
“Rock,” Zeke chanted, shaking his fist.
“Paper,” Tammy cried out, her own small fist bobbing up and down.
The pair both held out enclosed fists.
“No,” Tina chimed in. She waved her open palm in the air. “Paper beats rock. I get to choose.” Zeke and Tammy blinked in realization. They’d completely forgotten. The boy burst out laughing even as Tammy pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. He smacked a hand against Tina’s back.
“Well played, T!” Zeke chortled. “So, what’re we watchin’?”
“Holy fuck,” Zeke breathed out as they exited the theater. “That was amazing?” He asked, his voice leaden with incredulity. “Aren’t artsy french films supposed ta be terrible?” He whirled around to face the two girls. “I had ta read and didn’t even care!”
Tammy huffed, averting her eyes. “It was, like, whatever,” she grumbled.
Tina nodded encouragingly. “I loved it!”
“Okay, okay,” Zeke spoke, his mind drifting back to the movie. “Seriously though! I was ready to fall asleep. It was so early, I thought for sure I’d fall asleep no matter what movie we were watchin’ but this one got me hooked so fast it’s like I downed a whole pot of coffee!”
“The air of romance,” Tina hummed happily.
“All those pranks she pulled on people! Like switching out his slippers for a pair that was a size too small!” Zeke agreed.
“Leaving all those mysterious notes for him all over town,” Tina continued. The pair continued speaking in broken sentence fragments, carrying on an odd facsimile of a conversation, completely unaware of the scowling blonde right next to them.
“I thought it was dumb,” Tammy announced as she placed her hands on her hips.
“--think the movie was rated R. We’re sure lucky the theater doesn’t give half a crap,” Zeke continued speaking, clearly not hearing a single thing the blonde had said.
“I’m very mature,” Tina spoke. “I could pass for 18 and get us in easily.”
Zeke cackled in response. “13 is the new 18, amirite?”
Tammy growled under her breath. Whatever. She stormed away, leaving the pair alone.
“Wait,” Zeke almost shouted, shock dancing across his features. “You’re tellin’ me you have more of these movies on DVD? Like, the good artsy french ones?”
“Yeah,” Tina said with a nod. “My aunt Gayle went through a phase. It ended a few months ago and she gave me all the movies she’d collected.”
“T,” Zeke said, desperation clear in his voice. “I need to watch these movies. How many more badass french girls who break into their local grocer’s apartment to torment them am I missing out on?”
Tina’s eyebrows furrowed. “Well, none because that is really specific.”
“You know what I mean!” Zeke replied, throwing his arms up in the air. Right as his elbows reached the crown of his head, the teen’s stomach let out a loud gurgle. “Ah,” he chuckled. “Didn’t have time for breakfast on account of headin’ out so early. Wanna eat somewhere?” He asked before his mind even caught up to him. Had he just--?
Tina nodded with a smile. “We can go to my dad’s place. He misses you. You can probably get a good discount.”
Zeke’s stomach gurgled louder at the thought of the burgers Bob made. Good food was enough of a distraction from the horrifying realization that he’d-- “Nah, I’m payin’ full price. That food’s too good to be cheap.”
The pair were back to talking about the movie as the set off down the street. Their conversation didn’t come to a natural stopping point until they were already pushing inside the See-through door of Bob’s Burgers.
“Tina, is that-- Oh my god, Zeke.” A familiar voice called from the kitchen.
“Mr. B!” Zeke called out with a smile. “Long time no see! Lookin’ forward to some of your cookin’!” Zeke’s favorite teacher he’d ever had walked out of the kitchen and to the front with a large smile on his face.
“Zeke! It’s always good to see you,” the man said. “Honestly, kid, I’d love to know what you think about this burger idea I’m workin’ on right now. Your palette is so--”
“Lay it on me, Mr. B!” Zeke cut him off. “And I’ll also take a burger of the day!”
Bob’s happy chuckle as he gave Zeke a small salute and slid back into the kitchen only made Zeke’s grin shine even brighter. Honestly, in his fantasies about having an actual relationship with Tina, Zeke always imagined that the second best thing about the relationship would be having Bob as a father figure. (Tina, obviously, being the first best thing.) Zeke’s relationships with his birth father and step father were so strained, the boy couldn’t help but seek out something, anything else.
It wasn’t until the two teens were pushing into a booth that a thought occurred to Tina. “Oh,” she muttered, looking around. “Where’s Tammy?”
Zeke paused, his gaze similarly dragging lazily about the room. “‘Dunno,” he answered. “Guess she wasn’t hungry?”
The air shrugged off the blonde’s absence easily enough. Sitting in silence, listening to the sounds of Bob working in the back, the teens found an odd sense of comfort, so foreign to the typical experiences of teenagedom. “Remember how we were talking the other day,” Tina suddenly spoke, “about you being the best man and Jimmy jr.’s and my wedding?” Zeke nodded mutely. “Well, I think I’d definitely like that,” she said with a smile. Zeke felt his heart go straight past kickflip and jump into a 360. “We’re friends,” Tina said aloud as though deciding as much in that very moment. “You know, she said with a teasing lilt to her voice which holy fuck, “as long as you stay this interesting.”
Zeke’s heart stopped beating entirely.