dragon challenge header

not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment


by Raven

He and Nick were half way across the parking lot when AJ spotted the person sitting on the bench outside of the restaurant. "You've got to be kidding me." AJ mumbled under his breath, wondering if he should just forget about eating and just go get on the bus. Probably not a good idea, it was a long ride back and they wouldn't be stopping again. Nick didn't even glance at the person on the bench, too busy rummaging through his backpack as he walked.

Joey stood up once they were closer. "AJ, can we talk?"


Joey sighed, "AJ, please. Five minutes, can you give me that much?"

Nick glared at Joey and moved his body in front of AJ, as if trying to shield the shorter man. "Get lost Fatone, he said no."

Joey didn't back down though, "AJ, seriously man, five minutes. I'm not asking for much, give me at least five minutes."

Nick moved closer to Joey and AJ was half afraid that Nick would take a swing at Joey and then there'd be a huge fight. He just didn't want to even think of what would happen then. "Fine. Five minutes, that's it. Nick, why don't you go in and get us a table. I'll be there in a minute."

Nick spun around and gaped at AJ in shock, "What? You're going to talk to him? Why?"

"Nicky, go on. I'll be ok, I promise." AJ said, gently pushing Nick towards the doors to the restaurant.

"Fine." Nick stalked off towards the building, shoving Joey hard as he passed him. "I'm timing you, Fatone." He hissed.

Joey motioned towards the bench he'd been sitting on, "Want to have a seat?"

"No. Say whatever you want to say and get it over with. I want to eat before I have to get back on the bus."

"You're not going to make it easy on me, are you?"

"Why should I? Now, tick tock Joey. Time is wasting and Nick's waiting on me."

"Are you dating him?"

AJ glared at Joey, "This is a joke, right? You hung out here waiting on me to show up so you could ask if I'm dating Nick? It's none of your business who I'm dating."

Joey took a step back, "No, no. That's not why I wanted to talk. I wanted to tell you, again, that I was sorry about what happened. I tried to tell you before and you didn't want to hear it. I figured that if I caught you here, you couldn't rush off someplace and hide."

AJ crossed his arms and just stood there giving Joey what he hoped was a glare of instant death. That or at least a glare that would render him impotent. "Listen to me carefully, Fatone. I have no plans to repeat myself again. I have never hid from you. I could not care less if you are sorry or not. If anyone needs to be apologizing to me, it's that little psychopath boytoy of yours. And yes, I know, you said that you broke up with the little creep, but apparently he didn't get the memo about it. I want you to go away Joey, I want you to leave me the hell alone. I don't want you to apologize, I don't want you to talk to me. I want you to forget I exist, just like I hope to forget that you exist. We went out on a few dates, it wasn't like we were having some grand romance and exchanging diamond rings. I'd like to say it's been fun, but your little psycho not only managed to get me fired from a job that I really liked, but he got me suspended from school for a week. So excuse me if I don't want to hear you say that you're sorry."

"I guess you've been waiting to say that to me for awhile, huh?" Joey asked.

"You think?" AJ snarked, "And if you have something else to say, say it quick you're almost out of time."

"Um... No, I guess I don't have anything else."

"Fine." AJ stalked off towards the restaurant, three more steps and he'd be at the door and could be inside. Three more steps and he'd be fine.

"You know that I never intended you to get hurt, AJ. I liked you, I really did and I really hoped that you liked me too."

AJ stops with his hand on the door, but doesn't turn around. "Then why. Why did you stop calling?"

"Because Justin saw us together and he flipped out. I was trying to protect you. I thought if he saw that we weren't dating anymore that he would settle down before he did something stupid. I guess I was wrong. I was trying to do the right thing, AJ."

"You could have told me what was going on. You could have warned me about the little psychopath before he made my life hell."

"I'm sorry."

"So am I."

"Do you still have the drawing?"

AJ stepped back away from the door and turned to face Joey, "The what?"

"AJ, I know you had to have found the drawing I did for you. I told you that there was a surprise for you in your book."

AJ concentrated on giving Joey the blankest look he could, "I don't know what you are talking about."

"Fine. Forget about it." Joey snapped, "I have to go, our bus is leaving soon and I have to get back to the theatre to board it. "See you around."

"I don't think that would be a good idea." AJ replied, turning back to the door. He wanted to get inside before his hands started shaking. He wanted a cigarette in the worst way, but he didn't have any with him. AJ pulled the door open and stepped inside. He glanced around the dining room as he approached the hostess station, but he didn't see where Nick was sitting.

"Good afternoon, Sir. Welcome to The Paper Dragon, how many in your party?" The hostess asked.

"Big blond kid came in a few minutes ago, I'm with him."

"Let me show you to his table then." She said with a smile.

AJ followed the woman and wondered if he could manage to charm her or a waitress into letting him have a beer. He sees a couple teachers sitting at another table eating and knows that it wouldn't be a good idea to try. Nick's seated in a corner booth near a large fish tank. Nick's watching the fish and doesn't notice until AJ takes the seat across from him. "You alright?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. Did you order? I'm starving."

"No, I told the waitress I'd wait for you. I didn't know what you wanted to drink, I got you a glass of water and she's supposed to be bringing a pot of tea."

They sit in silence, looking over the menus until the waitress appears with the pot of tea and takes their order. Nick opens his mouth a few times, as if he wants to say something but then quickly closes it. After the fourth time AJ finally asks, "You got something to say or are you trying to catch flies?"

Nick fidgets in his seat, "I just wondered what he said to you. You don't have to tell me, I mean it's not like it's any of my business, but I just wondered."

"He wanted to say he was sorry about everything that happened. I told him that it wasn't him that needed to apologize."

"Oh. I know you liked him. I'm sorry it didn't work."

"Yeah, well, it wasn't meant to be. There's like people who fly and people who watch them, two different worlds or some crap like that."


"Don't worry about it, I'm just babbling."

The waitress appears with their food and they talk about other things as they eat. It's hours later, while they are on the crowded bus full of teachers and other students that AJ realizes that Nick hadn't seemed surprised to see Joey. He'd seemed angry and defensive that Joey was wanting to talk to AJ, but not surprised to see him. The more AJ thinks about it, the more it begins to bother him. Finally he reaches over to where Nick sits sleeping and begins to poke at Nick until wakes up. "Did you know Joey was going to be there? Not like that he'd be at the restaurant, but there in general?"


"Wake. Up. Did you know that Joey would be there. Did you know that his school would be seeing the same play? Did you know he was going to be there?"

Nick blinks and then rubs his eyes, "AJ, it's after midnight, I was sleeping."

AJ reaches out and this time instead of poking Nick, he pinches him in the side. "Did. You. Know?"

"Ow, man, quit that. No, I didn't know Joey would be there. I knew his school would be there, Lance mentioned that JC was going . That's why Lance wanted to go."

"And the fact that JC is Joey's best friend didn't make you think that possibly Joey would be there."

"No, I didn't. Quit pinching me. I didn't think about Joey, all I figured was that you might like the play and that even if you didn't at least the field trip was two days off school and you would like that part."


"Can I go back to sleep now or do you want to pinch me some more?"

"Go to sleep."

AJ waits until Nick is settled back in his seat and his breathing has eased out indicating sleep. He pulls his backpack out from under the seat and rummages through it until he can find the small sketchbook he knows he packed. He checks again to see if Nick's still asleep and then opens the book to one of the last pages. There on the page is a drawing of two dragons; one in flight and the other on the ground, looking up. AJ runs his fingers over it a few times and in his mind he can still remember the day it was drawn. He remembers the way that Joey had kissed him goodnight and told him with a smile that he'd left a surprise in his sketchbook. AJ thinks about tearing the page out of the book, of crumbling it up and tossing it into the trash. But he doesn't. He traces the flying dragon with his fingertips once more and then closes the book.


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