As they walked inside, Taylor couldn't help but notice the number of conversations that stopped as they passed. It made him feel awkward and embarrassed at the same time.
"I feel like I'm wearing a sign that says victim on it," Taylor grumbled.
Devlin came rushing over and put an arm around Christian's shoulders. "Just flip them off. That's what I would do."
Taylor smiled, happy to see his friend. "You would flip off the Pope."
"Only if he ticked me off."
Devlin tilted head down and playfully nibbled on Christian's neck.
"Gah." Taylor pretended to cover his eyes. "I don't know what's stranger, seeing you in a good mood or the fact that you two are actually a couple."
"I say both of them are disgusting," Andy said as he came over and started walking on the other side of Taylor.
Taylor realized they'd been waiting for him to arrive, and they'd made sure to be there to walk in with him. It made him love his friends all the more. Then they turned the corner, and Taylor spotted somebody waiting by his locker.
"James," Taylor breathed.
The stress of having to face his classmates must have gotten to Taylor because all of a sudden his heart pounded a little harder in his chest. Or maybe it was just because he'd never seen James look so sad ... so vulnerable ... so lost.
James glanced up from under the fringe of his dark hair, his blue eyes rimmed with red, like he'd been crying. It tore at Taylor to think of how much James must be beating himself up over the whole situation. It was hard enough to come out as it was, but James had basically done it in front of the whole school.
Before he even realized it, Taylor rushed toward James. His friend let out a soft sob as he wrapped his arms around Taylor in a hug. There was a bit of pain, since his ribs were still tender, but Taylor didn't care. He enjoyed being in James's warm embrace and that was all that mattered.
"I'm so sorry," James whispered.
"It's okay. I still love you."
As they continued to hold each other, Taylor realized that James needed the hug just as much if not more than he did. So, he just stood there and let James take in the comfort. It was several moments before James pulled away.
"Are we okay now?" James asked as he shuffled his feet.
"Of course we are."