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Zak leaned in and took a sip from one of the straws sitting in the only strawberry milkshake on the table. Josh did the same, washing down the half of the burger he just ate. As Zak finished, he quickly swiped a French fry out of his boyfriend’s basket and popped it into his mouth.

“Hey! You’ve got your own fries!” Josh squealed.

“Yeah, but I’m done with my burger and I was bored.”

“Then eat your own fries!”

“But I wanted yours!”

“Who cares!” Josh giggled. “Eat your own!” He picked up a fry from Zak’s basket and tossed it his way.

“Hey! No throwing!” Zak laughed. A passing waitress gave them both the stink eye and they returned cheeky smiles. “Maybe we oughta finish up here quick before we get kicked out.” Josh agreed and shoved as much of his burger into his mouth as he could. Zak ate a few more fries before taking another sip out of their shared milkshake. Their waitress plopped their check on their table, in a rush to get to her next table and take their orders.

“I’ll pay.” Josh said in the midst of chewing.

“No, I’ll pay.”

“No, it’s okay, I just got my allowance yesterday.”

“Yeah, and I just got my paycheck yesterday. I’m paying.”

“How ‘bout we split it.”

“No, I’m paying.” Zak finalized the argument by getting up with check in hand and walking over to the register. Josh continued eating, finishing off the hamburger and ate a few fries. As he returned, Zak continued. “I wanna treat my man right. You ready to go?”

“Yeah,” Josh answered with his mouth full. Zak smiled at this. They left the diner hand-in-hand, walking down the sidewalk with no real destination in mind. They had the whole rest of this Saturday to waste together. Zak pulled his hand out of Josh’s and slipped it behind his lower back.

Zak was bullied throughout middle school for various things: the way he dressed, the way he looked, what puberty was doing to him. His parents signed him up for MMA classes the day he graduated the 8th grade, and although he was wary at first, he grew to enjoy it, and even grew to become dedicated to it. He came out as gay towards the end his freshman year of high school— a month before they let out for summer break— and if he was bullied all throughout middle school, this only made it worse. Zak was happy enough with the timing though. He had gained enough muscle and experience to be able to fight back against his bullies.

In his junior year, there was a rumor going around that his grade had a new kid. Zak wasn’t originally all that interested, until he heard that he was gay too. He got the surprise of his life when he walked into his 8th period U.S. History class. The teacher had announced a small change to their assigned seats, and that Josh Gates would be sitting in the middle row, three seats back from the front, and that everyone else will move one desk back. Zak was stuck in the corner next to the window and an old heater, the perfect angle to see this beautiful creature with the baby face and the adorably nerdy glasses. When they got paired up for a project on any U.S. war of their choice, Zak knew that fate was working in his favor! Or Mr. Howard’s randomly assigning of partners was working on his side. Either way, Zak wasn’t gonna complain. They’ve been inseparable ever since.

Josh and Zak ended up at the park, Zak buying them both some food from the Mr. Tastee ice cream truck parked in the corner of the parking lot, and sat down at a nearby picnic table.

“How’s your ice cream sandwich?” Josh asked between licks.

“Mmm.” Zak said, swallowing his food before continuing. “How’s your Blue Tornado Bar?”

“Delicious.” Once they both finished, Zak noticed the distant look in Josh’s face.

“What?” He asked with a crooked grin, releasing a small laugh. Josh came back down to reality at the sound.

“I was just thinking, how lucky am I to get someone so... nice, so... gentle, as you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You look so... mean sometimes— and I don’t mean that in a bad way— but, you treat me so well, Zakkie. How? Why?”

“No one will know the violence it took to become this gentle.”