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Story [The West Wing] No Matter What: The Chronicles of Joey and Kenny

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by SqueakyTheDuck, Sep 8, 2018.

  1. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Title: No Matter What: The Chronicles of Joey and Kenny
    Author: SqueakyTheDuck
    Series: The West Wing
    Timeframe: 1990 - 2007
    Summary: A story of friendship, self-discovery, loyalty, and finding purpose
    Characters: Joey Lucas, Kenny Thurman, Jonathan Alvarez (OC), other West Wing characters will be added in later chapters

    This fic tells the story of Joey Lucas and her longtime friendship/partnership with Kenny Thurman.

    A quick reference guide to the use of sign language in the story (because that's not an easy thing to convey in a text-based medium):

    Italics indicate sign language. Regular text denotes speaking out loud.

    If an italicized word is also bolded, it means the person signing is using their body language to put extra emphasis on that word.

    In later chapters, when Kenny becomes Joey's interpreter, italics indicate that Joey is signing (speaking through Kenny), and regular text means she's speaking out loud.

    If Kenny speaks for himself when Joey and hearing people are present, the text won't be italicized, but the implication is that he's both signing and speaking. I figure it's easier to explain that here rather than repeatedly describing it in the text.

    So without further ado, enjoy my Joey and Kenny origin story!

    Chapter 1: What Kind of Adventure
    Summary: It's the beginning of the fall quarter at UCLA, and two of Kenny's classmates catch his attention. He doesn't know it, but the course of his life is about to be changed.

    September 24, 1990

    There was a pulsing, almost frenetic energy in the air as Kenny Thurman walked down the sidewalk, headed for his first class of the fall quarter. A mixture of excitement and nervousness coursed through him like current from a pair of jumper cables, but that might’ve just been the two cups of coffee he’d had this morning. He didn’t sleep much the night before. His brain wouldn’t shut down. There was too much to think about.

    There was always too much to think about, but even more than usual on a day like this. Today marked the beginning of his senior year at UCLA. Less than a year from now, he would don a cap and gown, walk across the stage, receive his diploma, and then...

    And then...

    And then, what?

    After three years at this school, he still didn’t have an answer to that question.

    He stopped just outside Bunche Hall—the building affectionately known around campus as “The Waffle,” due to its grid-like appearance—and looked up at the enormous high-rise before him. The twelve-story building stood tall and sturdy, dwarfing the trees that surrounded it. Sunlight glinted off the windows high above.

    Kenny hefted his backpack, took a deep breath, and went inside.

    He pulled his folded up schedule from his back pocket and took a quick glance at the names and room numbers on the creased paper. His first class of the day was Public Opinion and Voting Behavior, taught by Mr. Petrocik. Kenny slid the paper back into his pocket and made his way down the hall.

    When he reached the classroom, he chose a seat towards the back, near a window. Experience had taught him that he was less likely to be called on from this particular spot. He wasn’t sure why exactly, but he wasn’t about to question it. He sat down, unzipped his backpack, took out a notebook and pencil, and arranged them neatly on his desk. Then he leaned forward, bouncing his leg impatiently as he waited for class to get started.

    Over the next few minutes, students began to file into the room, until it was almost full. Kenny sat quietly and watched each new arrival with interest. He recognized maybe half of them from previous quarters. At this course level, most of the people in the room were political science majors, like him, so he’d taken classes with a lot of them before.

    Kenny groaned internally when Andrew Martin walked into the room. Andrew was one of those privileged, middle class WASP-y types who thought he was smarter than all his professors and believed that everyone ought to be subject to his superior opinion. In the last three years, Kenny had been in about five different classes with Andrew, so he knew exactly what to expect.

    A young woman with dark blonde hair entered the room a moment later, communicating in sign language with a man in a suit who looked a little too old to be a student. There was always the possibility he was a non-traditional student, but Kenny figured it was more likely that the man was there as an interpreter for the young woman. His suspicion was confirmed when she took a seat near the front of the class, and the man in the suit went up and stood in her line of sight, near the teacher’s desk.

    The last few students made their way into the room, filling up the remaining empty seats. Among the stragglers was a tall, trim young man whom Kenny had never seen before. The newcomer glanced around the classroom, bright brown eyes taking in everything, and he flashed a smile in Kenny’s direction before sitting down across the room.

    Kenny found himself flushing red, and quickly looked down at his notebook. He busied himself writing the name of the class on the first page, and then pretended to keep writing so he wouldn’t have to look up again.

    The professor began calling the roll, and Kenny’s attention was drawn back to the young man across the room. Any minute now, he would raise a hand in response, and Kenny would know his name.

    It didn’t take long.

    “Jonathan Alvarez,” Mr. Petrocik read the name.

    The newcomer casually raised his hand. “Here.”

    Petrocik paused for a moment and looked up. “Now, I recognize most of the students in this room; I’ve had a lot of them in my classes before, or else I’ve seen them around the political science department. I don’t remember seeing you before, Mr. Alvarez. Are you new to this school?”

    “Yes sir,” Jonathan answered. “I just transferred here from UC Santa Cruz.”

    “All right,” Mr. Petrocik nodded. “Well, welcome to UCLA, we’re glad to have you here.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Jonathan leaned back in his chair and gave an easy smile, and Kenny’s heart fluttered.

    Mr. Petrocik continued down the list, and Kenny quickly looked away, hoping Jonathan hadn’t caught his surreptitious glance.

    He looked for somewhere else to direct his focus, and settled on watching the interpreter at the front of the room. Kenny tried to see if he recognized any signs, but right now, during the roll call, it was mostly just finger-spelling, and it was a little too fast for him to keep up with. It had been too long since he’d signed regularly. The truth was, he hadn’t thought much at all about sign language in almost a decade.

    The professor was in the L’s now. “Joey Lucas.”

    There was a slight delay, then the young blonde woman raised her hand.

    Petrocik peered over his clipboard. “And that’s short for Josephine?”

    She glanced over at the interpreter as he signed the question, then looked back to the professor.

    “Yes sir,” she said out loud.

    “But you prefer to be called Joey?”

    “Yes sir.”

    “All right,” Petrocik nodded and went back to his list for a second, then looked up again. “By the way, if anyone else has a different name that they prefer to go by—a middle name or a shortened version of your name, or anything that’s different from what’s on the roll, just let me know, and I’ll make the adjustment on here.”

    The roll call continued, and Kenny kept his head down, studiously avoiding looking across the room, and trying not to think about how that form-fitting, pastel purple button-down shirt really showed off Jonathan’s lean, well-muscled figure.

    No. No. Don’t.

    “Kenneth Thurman.”

    Kenny started, then quickly raised his hand.

    “Do you go by Kenneth?” the professor asked him.

    “Uh, Kenny, usually.”

    “All right,” Petrocik nodded and scribbled something on his clipboard. “I’ll make a note of that here.”

    A few names later, the roll was completed, and Petrocik set aside his clipboard and began the introductory lecture. He didn’t waste much time on the syllabus, choosing instead to move the class straight into a discussion. Kenny grimaced and tapped the eraser end of his pencil against his notebook with restless anticipation; he knew what was coming, and he was dreading it.

    No more than five minutes into the lecture, Andrew Martin spoke up from his seat in the middle of the room, launching into a spiel about how the textbook had got it wrong, because actually...

    This went on for a while, as per usual with Andrew. A few other students tried to interject their opinions, but Andrew talked them down like he always did.

    Then Joey raised her hand.

    “Go ahead, Joey,” Mr. Petrocik said, nodding in her direction.

    She half turned in her seat, positioning herself so she could look back at Andrew while keeping her hands in view of the interpreter, and proceeded to tear apart Andrew’s entire line of reasoning with the most solid counter-argument Kenny had ever heard in his three years studying political science.

    Andrew sat there slack-jawed, stunned into silence—a first for him, Kenny was certain—then promptly shut his mouth, looked down at his books, and muttered a half-hearted, “All right, whatever.”

    Joey raised her eyebrows and gave a satisfied smile, then turned in her seat, facing forward again, and eagerly watched Mr. Petrocik, who looked every bit as surprised as everyone else in the room.

    “All right,” he said a little hesitantly, “Let’s continue.”

    Andrew Martin didn’t say another word for the rest of the lecture—also a first for him—and when class was dismissed, he slunk out of the room without sticking around to talk obnoxiously with his frat buddies like he usually did, and Kenny found himself feeling exceptionally gleeful at having witnessed the unrestrained beatdown of someone he so vehemently detested.

    Kenny collected his things, stood, and slung his backpack over his shoulder. Referring to his schedule again, he saw that his next class was also in Bunche Hall—a lot of political and social science classes were in this building—two floors up, and it was starting in about fifteen minutes.

    He wanted to say something to Jonathan on the way out of class, just a simple “Hi, welcome to UCLA, I can show you around if you like,” sort of thing, but he thought it might seem weird. He didn’t want to come across the wrong way. He averted his gaze, passed Jonathan without saying anything, and made his way into the hall.

    Kenny was halfway to the stairwell when he heard someone call his name. He looked back, and was surprised to see Jonathan coming toward him.

    “Hey,” Jonathan said casually, falling into step beside him.

    “Oh, hi,” Kenny said.

    “Looks like we’re going the same way,” Jonathan observed, nodding toward the stairwell door just ahead. “Your next class wouldn’t happen to be Problems in 20th Century Political Theory, would it?”

    Kenny smiled. “Yeah, it is, actually.”

    “Nice,” Jonathan said. “Guess I’ll follow you then, if that’s okay. Don’t really know my way around yet. I know what floor I’m supposed to be on, but aside from that...”

    “Sure, I can show you,” Kenny pretended to consult his schedule again. “Yeah, it’s uh, it’s no problem. I can show you.”

    “Cool.”

    When they reached their next class, Kenny purposely chose a seat between two other students. There was no way he could sit next to Jonathan and have any hope of focusing on the lesson.

    Not for any weird reason, of course. It was just because...because...well, it wasn’t for any weird reason.

    Kenny pushed the thought out of his head before it could form into anything solid, and tried his best to pay attention as Mr. Rocco went over the syllabus.

    When the class let out, Kenny ducked out of the room as quickly as he could and made his way downstairs and out the door, breathing a sigh of relief as he emerged into the late morning sunshine.

    His next class wasn’t until two, so he had a few hours of free time. He began walking, not really certain where he was going, but enjoying the chance to be outdoors on a nice day. It might help him clear his head.

    “Hey.”

    Kenny turned and saw Joey Lucas sitting on a bench nearby, beckoning him over.

    “Kenny, right?” she asked.

    “Yeah,” he nodded. “And you’re...Joey?” he asked, tentatively finger-spelling her name.

    Joey’s face lit up. “You sign?

    “I used to,” Kenny said. “I, uh...” he paused, trying to remember how to indicate past tense in sign language. “Do you read lips?”

    “Yeah,” Joey said. She gestured to the spot on the bench next to her, and Kenny nodded and sat down. He continued, signing whatever words he could remember, and facing Joey so she could catch the rest by reading his lips.

    “In elementary school, I had a friend who was Deaf,” Kenny explained. “I learned to sign from him and his family. They moved away when I was twelve. I haven’t signed much since then. I think I’ve forgotten a lot of it.”

    Joey nodded. “It’ll come back to you the more you sign.”

    “Yeah,” Kenny said with a small smile. “Yeah, I’m already starting to remember.”

    They kept talking, and the language Kenny knew as a young boy began to come back to him as the conversation went on. Joey was patient with him, helping him out with signs he didn’t remember, and they spent the better part of an hour getting to know each other a little bit.

    Are you a political science major?” Joey asked.

    Yeah,” Kenny said. “Are you?”

    Joey nodded. “Yeah.”

    And you’re not a transfer student, like that new guy, Jonathan?” Kenny asked.

    Joey shook her head.

    You’ve been here...”

    “Three years,” Joey said.

    Three years. Same as me.” Kenny said, perplexed. “It’s strange that we’ve never had a class together.

    Joey looked surprised. We haven’t had a class together?”

    No, I think I would remember you,” Kenny said.

    “That’s true,” Joey acquiesced.

    Kenny grinned at her. “Anybody who can make Andrew Martin shut the hell up for once is somebody I would remember.”

    Joey cracked up laughing. “So you have had a class with him before?

    Five.

    “Oh God.”

    “Yeah,” Kenny said. “He’s...insufferable. He thinks he’s God’s gift to classroom discourse.”

    Do you guys have a history?” Joey gave him a teasing grin and nudged his shoulder. “Are you...bitter rivals?”

    Well, I’ve thought of him as my arch nemesis for about three years now,” Kenny said. “But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know I exist.

    Joey laughed again, then glanced down at her watch. “Oh!” she stood and collected her bag. “I have to go. I’m meeting a friend for lunch.”

    Okay,” Kenny said. “I guess I’ll see you in class.

    “Yeah,” Joey smiled at him. “It was really nice meeting you.

    You too,” Kenny said, returning the smile.

    Joey started to walk away, then stopped and turned back. “Hey. You wanna see something cool?

    “Sure.”

    Meet me here tonight after dark,” Joey said, eyes dancing. “Maybe around...nine?

    Kenny tilted his head and regarded her with curiosity. There was something mischievous—almost conspiratorial—in the way Joey smiled at him, and Kenny recognized in that moment that his new friend possessed the kind of adventurous spirit that he had always felt he lacked. Whatever it was she wanted to show him, there was a good chance it was against the rules, given her suggestion that they meet after dark.

    She raised her eyebrows, waiting, and Kenny made up his mind.

    Okay,” he said. “I’ll be here.

    “Great!” Joey said with a grin. “See you tonight!”

    Then she headed off to go meet her friend. Kenny slid his hands into his pockets and stood there, contemplative, wondering what kind of adventure he was about to get dragged into.
     
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  2. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    First off, welcome to Fanfic here at the JCF! I'm so glad to see more West Wing fanfic here!

    This was such a great read. Joey is probably my favourite WW character, and I love all the development you have given both her and Kenny!

    I loved this description. I could see it... and totally relate to it.

    Again, this is so darn relatable!

    Yes! I can't wait to see where this goes.

    I love the budding relationship here. I can't wait to read what trouble Joey has planned!
     
  3. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Thanks! I've been working on this story all year. It's up to chapter 8 on ao3 and FFN, currently. I'll add the next seven chapters here over the next couple of days. After that, the updates will slow down quite a lot. I've been averaging one new chapter about every month or two since I started, so that's probably what you can expect. Anyway, here's chapter 2.

    Chapter 2: Someone Worth Listening To
    Summary: Joey shows Kenny her favorite place on campus, and Kenny opens up to his new friend about his family, future, and fears.

    The walkway was mostly deserted by now. Kenny glanced at his watch. 8:45. He was early. He’d gotten tired of waiting around in his dorm room and had shown up to their agreed-upon meeting place in the hopes that Joey might also be there early. He looked around again. No sign of her yet.

    He sat down on the bench he had shared with Joey that morning, then stood up again and paced a few steps. He stopped, shoved his hands in his pockets, and bounced impatiently on the balls of his feet a few times before resuming his pacing.

    So far it had been an interesting first day. After parting ways with Joey earlier, Kenny had made his way to the student center, where he ate lunch with a few people he knew; he wasn’t sure he could call them friends, since he didn’t really spend time with them outside of school—acquaintances was probably a better word.

    When he left the student center, Kenny unexpectedly crossed paths with Jonathan again. He was getting ready to play Frisbee with a small group of students, and he invited Kenny to join them. Thrown off by the attention from the new student—and a little baffled as to why Jonathan would want someone so clearly lacking in athletic prowess to be on his team—Kenny had made a quick excuse about needing to buy his textbooks, and beat a hasty retreat before Jonathan could ask any questions...in the exact opposite direction of the bookstore.

    As he walked away, Kenny cast a glance back over his shoulder at the Frisbee game. He watched how Jonathan interacted with the other students—these people he could have only just met today—and found himself marveling at the ease with which Jonathan was making friends. There was something admirable about that kind of openness, that kind of casual confidence. Jonathan made it look effortless. Kenny couldn’t help thinking it would be nice to be with someone like that.

    Friends. To be friends with someone like that.

    Kenny quickened his pace, leaving behind the Frisbee game and the charming new student, and desperately trying to snuff out the half-formed metaphor in his mind about “playing for the same team” as Jonathan.

    He had two more classes in the afternoon, both of which he found difficult to concentrate on. Thankfully there was little discussion of anything besides the syllabus, and Kenny hoped his attention span would improve before the real work of the quarter began.

    After class, he had spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening in his dorm, waiting aimlessly for nightfall so he could go back to the bench and meet up with Joey. He was eager to see what sort of mischief his new friend had in mind—which was odd for him, because Kenny wasn’t generally the mischievous type. There was something about Joey that brought out that side of him. Had he really only known her since this morning? How strange that she could have such a strong influence on him so quickly.

    It might not be a bad thing. Joey, like Jonathan, was confident and outgoing—maybe she was exactly the kind of influence Kenny needed. He had always been a little reserved. Maybe he should be a bit more adventurous.

    A tap on the arm startled him out of his reverie, and Kenny turned to see Joey standing by the bench; she was wearing dark clothes, and had a backpack casually slung over one shoulder, which seemed odd now that classes were done for the day.

    “Hey,” she said cheerfully.

    “Hi,” Kenny replied. He looked her up and down curiously. “Are you...planning a heist or something?

    Joey laughed. “Come with me and find out.

    She took off walking, and Kenny shrugged and followed her. After a few minutes, they entered a building that Kenny recognized as Boelter Hall, and Joey made for the stairwell. They went all the way up to the top floor, and then kept going until they reached a locked door, which didn’t stay locked for long. Kenny looked at Joey with a mixture of surprise and admiration as she casually slid the lock pick back into her pocket, and she grinned at him and pushed the door open.

    They emerged onto the roof of Boelter Hall, and Kenny looked around in awe. The campus stretched out before him in every direction, looking somehow massive and tiny all at the same time from this height. Kenny turned to Joey, who was watching him eagerly, waiting to see his reaction.

    This is fantastic!” he signed excitedly. “I didn’t know this building had roof access.

    Lots of buildings around campus have roof access,” Joey told him. “But this one’s my favorite.”

    You come up here a lot?”

    Joey nodded and slid the backpack off her shoulder. It hit the concrete with a soft thump, and she sat down next to it, and motioned for Kenny to join her. He did, and Joey unzipped the backpack, revealing an assortment of snacks inside.

    And here I thought you had heist equipment in there,” Kenny teased her. “This is better.

    Joey smirked and handed him a Pepsi. “I could totally pull off a heist if I wanted to.

    I believe that,” Kenny said, popping open the drink.

    They sat quietly for a few minutes, taking in the peacefulness of the night. A crescent moon hung in the clear, star-studded sky, shining bright and casting a soft glow onto the still, silent campus below.

    Joey tapped Kenny’s arm, and he turned to look at her.

    What made you choose UCLA?” she asked him. “You said you’re from Iowa, right?

    Kenny nodded.

    That’s a big change,” Joey observed.

    Yeah,” Kenny agreed. “I wanted to leave my home town, go to college somewhere else. And my dad’s family lives in this area, so...it seemed like a good choice.”

    Joey narrowed her eyes. “Wait...Thurman?”

    Kenny grimaced. “Yeah.

    The Beverly Hills Thurmans?”

    That’s my dad’s family,” Kenny said resignedly.

    They’re one of the wealthiest families in L.A. County!” Joey said.

    Yeah,” Kenny said.

    “I wouldn’t have guessed,” Joey said. “I mean, I don’t know you very well, but...you don’t seem anything like the other rich kids who go to this school.

    Kenny shrugged. “Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up here.”

    “Could be,” Joey agreed.

    Honestly,” Kenny admitted. “I don’t like my dad’s family very much. They’re kind of...” he paused for a second, then fingerspelled the word. “...snobs.

    “Here,” Joey showed him the sign for snob, and Kenny repeated it.

    Thanks,” he said. “Good sign to know.”

    “Yeah.”

    My dad is sort of the black sheep of his family,” Kenny went on. “They thought he was crazy because he fell in love with a farmer and moved to the middle of nowhere to be with her.”

    What about your mom’s family?” Joey asked.

    All farmers,” Kenny said. “Going back...several generations. I don’t even know how far back. So, basically...half my family are rural farmers, and the other half are wealthy west coast elites.”

    That’s a strange mix.”

    Kenny smiled wryly. “It made holidays interesting. And it made me feel like I didn’t have a lot of options. Growing up, my brother and I were made to feel like we only had two choices. Either stay in Iowa and be farmers for the rest of our lives, or move to California and live the high life with dad’s family. I don’t think my parents meant to make us feel boxed in. That’s just how it came across sometimes.

    “Sure,” Joey said.

    Kenny didn’t know why he was telling her all of this. He had never gone into this much detail about himself with his other college acquaintances. But there was something about the way Joey watched him while he talked—something about the attentiveness and patience in her expression, the depth of understanding in her eyes—that made him feel comfortable enough to open up to her.

    My brother went to a local college in Iowa,” Kenny went on. “He studied agriculture. He just bought some land out there and started planting crops. My mom’s family will be happy about that, I guess.

    “And you came here,” Joey said.

    Yeah,” Kenny nodded. “I think my mom was a little disappointed that I chose a school in California, but she tried not to show it. My grandparents—my dad’s parents—were happy about it, though. A lot of their family are alumni.

    Do you care what they think about you?” Joey asked.

    I shouldn’t,” Kenny admitted. “I don’t even like most of them. But...it’s hard not to care what they think.

    I get that,” Joey said.

    They’re glad I’m a Democrat, at least,” Kenny said with an ironic smile. “My aunt told me she’s happy I managed to ‘escape that tiny little hick town without being brainwashed by all those Republicans.’”

    Joey snorted.

    This is the same aunt who has two sons that almost got kicked out of Stanford because of their senior prank,” Kenny added. “But their parents are alumni...and major donors to the school, so the administration decided to overlook the incident.

    “Oh, of course,” Joey said sarcastically.

    Now they’re in their late twenties, neither of them has ever had a job, and they still live with their parents in the family mansion.” Kenny said. “And my aunt thinks I should be more like them.

    No wonder you don’t like them,” Joey said.

    I’ve always known I didn’t want to be a farmer,” Kenny said. “But I don’t want to be like my dad’s family either. They give a few thousand dollars at some charity event every few months, and they think that means they’re entitled to do whatever they want. Spend the rest of their time and money frivolously. That’s not what I want to do with my inheritance.

    Inheritance?” Joey asked.

    Kenny looked suddenly sheepish. “From my great-grandmother. She died when I was in high school, and she left a lot of money to be divided among the family. My brother used part of his inheritance to buy the land I told you about. I’ve barely touched mine. I don’t really like talking about it.

    There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of money,” Joey said.

    I know,” Kenny agreed. “I just...I don’t exactly have any good role models in that area, y’know?

    “I guess that’s understandable,” Joey agreed.

    I don’t want to be someone who lacks ambition.” Kenny told her. “I don’t want to be satisfied with doing the bare minimum. I want to do something important with my life, something that makes a real difference.”

    What do you have in mind?” Joey asked.

    I don’t know,” Kenny said. “I really have no idea. I chose to study political science because...I don’t know. Politics are...kind of interesting. But I have no idea what I’m gonna do with my degree. I keep trying to imagine life after graduation next year, and I’m just...coming up with nothing. All I know is that I want to do something that matters.

    But you don’t know what,” Joey said.

    Yeah,” Kenny nodded. “And I feel like I’m running out of time to figure it out.

    He got quiet after that, and turned to look out over the darkened campus again, and Joey didn’t ask him any more questions.

    What about you?” Kenny asked after a moment. “Why did you choose UCLA?”

    I grew up in Los Angeles,” Joey said. “I’ve always wanted to come here.

    What do you want to do after graduation?”

    I’m gonna go to Stanford,” Joey said. “Get a master’s degree, and then dive into politics in whatever way I can.

    That sounds great,” Kenny said. “Do you have a specific area of interest?”

    “I’m really good with numbers,” Joey said. “I think I’d make a good pollster. And I want to work on campaigns. Maybe even work in the White House. If we ever have a decent president.”

    Kenny laughed. “Yeah, really.

    I also want to run for office eventually,” Joey added.

    Hey, if you could destroy—is there a sign for ********?” Kenny asked, fingerspelling the word.

    Joey showed him.

    Thanks. If you could destroy ******** arguments in the House or Senate the way I saw you destroy Andrew today, C-SPAN might actually become interesting enough to watch again.”

    Joey grinned at him over the top of her Pepsi can. She finished off the last of it and stuffed the empty can into the open backpack. Then she unzipped the smaller pocket in the front of the bag and dug around for a second. After a moment, she produced a shiny silver flask.

    Kenny’s eyebrows went up. Joey really was the mischievous type. She unscrewed the cap and took a drink from the flask, then passed it to Kenny. He took a sip, then made a face.

    “This is apple juice.

    Well, yeah,” Joey looked at him like that was obvious. “We shouldn’t be getting drunk while we’re on a roof.

    Good point,” Kenny admitted. He drew up short. “Why put it in a flask, then?

    Because we look really cool sitting on a rooftop, drinking from a flask.” Joey said.

    So...you just did it for the...” he paused, unsure how to sign the word he was thinking of, and decided to fingerspell it instead. “...for the aesthetic?

    “Yeah.”

    You’re...weird.” Kenny said.

    Joey grinned at him.

    “...Give me that.” Kenny motioned for the flask.

    Joey gleefully passed it back to him, and he took another swig of apple juice. He had to admit, it did kind of make him feel cool.

    “Hey,” Joey said, nudging his arm again. “If you dislike Andrew so much, why didn’t you speak up in class today? Why didn’t you try to argue with him?

    I don’t usually get involved in classroom debates,” Kenny said. “Or...any class discussions, really.

    “You should speak up more,” Joey told him. “You notice everything. I think you have a lot more to say than you let on.

    “Yeah?”

    “Yeah.” Joey smiled at him. “I think you’re someone worth listening to.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 11, 2018
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  4. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    I'm really liking the character development behind Kenny - both his personality and his background. And Joey is just so in character, it is really a fun read.

    Haha! Joey does seem like the mischievous type, and of course she's a bad influence on him.
    SNACKS! This girl adventures well!
    Joey totally could.

    I love how opposite these two are: he has no idea what he wants to do (a fairly common trait among undergrads), but she knows exactly what she wants.
    Smart woman. I love this image of them taking swigs of apple juice from a flask.


    Just a note as I am a manager. We do have a disallowed words list that goes along with our NSWFF rules. We have limited profanity. Our autofill will censor some words automatically, but the entire word has to be censored out.
     
  5. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Well, there's not an excessive amount of profanity in this story, so the filter won't put much of a damper on things. But I'm keeping the few swear words I have already. Readers are smart enough to count the asterisks and figure out what word it's supposed to be, if they're so inclined.

    Anyway, onward!

    Chapter 3: I Like Your Sword
    Summary: Movie marathons, clever costumes, and fluttery feelings that can't be fought off.

    September 26, 1990

    Kenny only had one class on Tuesday, and to his disappointment, neither Joey nor Jonathan was in it. On the bright side, Andrew wasn’t in it either.

    Wednesday morning, Kenny walked into his first class of the day with a spring in his step. Joey was there already, and she waved at him as he came in. He smiled back at her and took his usual seat by the window.

    Jonathan walked in a moment later, and instead of sitting near the door like he had on Monday, he crossed the room and slid into the seat next to Kenny.

    “Hey Kenny,” he said.

    Kenny looked up from the abstract doodles he was making in his notebook. Jonathan was wearing an emerald green and white polo shirt today, which made his already bright eyes stand out even more.

    No. No.

    “Hi,” Kenny said quickly.

    “Can I see your book for a second?” Jonathan asked. “I think I might’ve got the wrong edition. Someone told me there’s two versions floating around the bookstore.”

    “Oh, sorry,” Kenny said. “I don’t have my books yet.”

    Jonathan looked confused. “I thought you got them on Monday.”

    Kenny stiffened, remembering the excuse he had made to get out of joining the Frisbee game. “Ah...I was going to, but I decided to wait. The bookstore is always really crowded on the first day of the quarter.”

    That wasn’t entirely a lie. He almost never bought his books on the first day.

    “And it’s, uh...it’s better to wait and see if we’ll actually be using it,” he went on. “I’ve had professors who don’t even teach from the book.”

    “Petrocik said on Monday that we’d be using it a lot this quarter,” Jonathan said.

    “Did he?”

    “Yeah.”

    “****,” Kenny muttered. “Dunno how I missed that.”

    “It’s fine,” Jonathan said with a shrug. “Nobody pays attention on the first day of class.”

    “You did,” Kenny said.

    “I’m that student,” Jonathan said with a self-deprecating smile.

    “Oh,” Kenny laughed. “Good to know. Hang on, I think I can help you. Joey!”

    At the front of the room, the interpreter got Joey’s attention, and motioned toward Kenny. Joey turned in her seat to face her new friend.

    “Did you get your textbooks yet?” Kenny signed, and Jonathan’s eyebrows went up.

    “Yeah,” Joey said.

    “Jonathan thinks he might have bought the wrong edition by mistake. Can he compare it to yours?”

    “Sure,” Joey unzipped her backpack and produced the heavy, hard-backed book and passed it back to them.

    Kenny glanced at the cover. “Sixth edition. Same as yours, Jonathan. So either you both got the wrong one, or you’re fine. Thanks, Joey.

    Jonathan watched Kenny’s movements, then passed Joey’s book back to her, and repeated the sign for thank you he had just seen Kenny do.

    Kenny went back to doodling in his notebook; out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Jonathan regarding him with curiosity. He looked like he was about to ask something, but at that moment the professor walked in and immediately began the lesson. Jonathan leaned back in his chair and settled in to listen to the lecture; whatever he wanted to say to Kenny would have to wait.

    When class was dismissed, Jonathan joined Kenny in the hallway and they made their way toward the stairwell together.

    “Hey, I wanted to ask you earlier,” Jonathan said. “Where’d you learn to sign?”

    “From my friend Simon, in third grade,” Kenny said.

    “He was deaf?”

    “Yeah,” Kenny said, nudging open the door to the stairwell. “Him and his mom. His dad and sister were both hearing, but the whole family was really proficient in sign language. I learned from them. They moved the summer after sixth grade, and I didn’t sign much after that, so I’ve been out of practice for a long time.”

    “Until you met Joey?” Jonathan ventured a guess.

    “Yeah, it’s weird,” Kenny said, glancing over his shoulder as Jonathan came up the stairs behind him. “We’re both poli-sci majors, but somehow we’d never met before this week. But yeah, we struck up a conversation after class on Monday, and uh...it started coming back to me.”

    “That’s pretty awesome,” Jonathan said. “I don’t know any ASL, but I know a few words in Mexican Sign Language. My dad bought a book about it a few years ago, when my abuela started losing her hearing. She’s eighty-something, I think. I skimmed through the book a couple of times...y’know, just cuz I was curious, but she refused to even look at it. Dad said she was just too stubborn.”

    “It’d be pretty daunting, I guess,” Kenny reasoned. “Can’t be easy to learn a whole new language that late in life.”

    Jonathan paused as they reached the landing. “That’s true. I never thought of it like that.”

    “And,” Kenny added. “On top of that, it’s probably pretty scary for your grandmother, slowly losing a sense she’s depended on her whole life. It’s one thing to grow up Deaf, like Simon...or Joey. I’d imagine it’s a lot harder to adapt to hearing loss as an adult.”

    “That makes more sense than what my dad said,” Jonathan grimaced. “He just says abuela’s getting grouchy in her old age.”

    “Sounds like your dad could stand to show a little more empathy,” Kenny said as they headed down the hall. Then he winced. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”

    “It’s fine,” Jonathan assured him, lightly resting a hand on Kenny’s arm. “I mean, you’re not wrong.”

    Jonathan’s touch was electric. Kenny felt a sudden rush of exhilaration, and it took every bit of self-restraint he had to keep from reaching over and grasping Jonathan’s hand.

    There was a split second of silence between them that seemed to stretch out for an eternity. Kenny fought to shake off the strange buoyant feeling inside him while outwardly maintaining his composure.

    “Still,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said it. I don’t know your dad.”

    “Well you’re pretty spot on when you say he needs to be more empathetic,” Jonathan said. “I mean, he’s not...he’s not mean or anything. It’s just...sometimes he can have a pretty narrow perspective on things.”

    “Hey, I’m from a small town in Iowa,” Kenny said, stopping at the door of their classroom and waving Jonathan through ahead of him. “I understand people having rigid viewpoints.”

    “Well you seem pretty open-minded,” Jonathan said. He took a seat and nodded to the one next to it, and Kenny sat down beside him.

    “I was probably the most liberal person in my hometown,” Kenny agreed. “Nobody there really knew that about me, though. I didn’t usually get involved in discussions about politics. I just didn’t want to start any arguments.”

    “You should speak up more,” Jonathan told him. “I mean, I know how hard it is to be the only dissenting voice, especially in a small community, but, y’know...I think it’s important.”

    “Yeah,” Kenny said distractedly. He was thinking about Monday night on the roof, when Joey said almost the exact same thing to him, and he was wondering why he felt suddenly drawn to these people who seemed intent on challenging him to grow in this way.

    And why was Jonathan even paying attention to him at all? Jonathan was charismatic, extroverted, and extremely likable. He could be friends with anyone on campus, so why did he care about Kenny?

    Kenny thought about their interactions over the past few days—Jonathan was always the one to initiate the conversation. Jonathan was the one asking questions, seemingly wanting to learn more about him, and Kenny wondered what it meant.

    No. No. It didn’t mean anything. Jonathan was just being nice.

    He spent the entire class period turning it over in his mind, trying to rationalize all of the confusing things going through his head, and when the professor dismissed them an hour later, Kenny left the class with a blank notebook page and no idea what the lesson was about.

    He was still caught up in his thoughts as he left Bunche Hall and made his way toward the bench where he had met Joey on Monday. He hoped she would be there again.

    She was, and her face lit up when he approached. “Hey.”

    “Hi.”

    Want to have lunch on the roof?” Joey asked him.

    Kenny raised his eyebrows. “Boelter?”

    “Yeah,” Joey said. “You’d be surprised how easy it is to sneak up there in the middle of the day.

    Kenny shrugged. “All right.



    The roof quickly became their go-to spot. Over the next few weeks, Joey and Kenny went up to the roof together almost daily. Joey even taught Kenny how to pick the lock at the top of the stairwell, in case he ever needed a place to go and be by himself for a while.

    One afternoon in late October, they were making their way up the stairs as usual, lunch sacks in hand, when Kenny slowed his pace and tilted his head to one side, listening.

    Joey noticed his hesitation. “What’s up?”

    Noises up there,” Kenny said, pointing above them. He strained to listen closer. “Machines whirring, men shouting.”

    Construction workers?” Joey asked.

    Kenny nodded. “Sounds like it.

    They went up the last flight of stairs and saw the door at the top slightly ajar. Peering through, they caught a glimpse of a few men in orange vests and yellow hardhats.

    Yeah,” Kenny said. “Thought so.

    They looked at each other and shrugged, then turned and went back down the stairs.

    I guess we’re having lunch somewhere else today,” Joey said as they went outside.

    Let’s go to my dorm,” Kenny said. “We can watch a movie. I just figured out how to make my TV display captions. I didn’t even know it could do that.

    Joey laughed. “Most TVs have that feature now, but they don’t make it easy to find.

    They crossed the campus and made their way to Kenny’s dorm room. When they got inside, Kenny flopped onto his bed with a little bounce and reached for the TV remote on his windowsill. While he fiddled with the TV controls, Joey wandered around the room, looking at the posters on the wall and the books on the shelf.

    “Hey,” she said.

    Kenny looked up from messing with the remote. “Yeah?”

    If you’re not broke, why do you have so much Ramen?” Joey asked, indicating the containers of cup noodles next to Kenny’s desk.

    I was told it was part of the college experience,” Kenny said with a sheepish smile.

    Joey looked at him for a second. “You’re a dork.”

    You’re just now figuring that out?

    "And you gave me crap for doing things 'just for the aesthetic'!" Joey said.

    "I called you weird," Kenny said. "You called me a dork. I think we're even."

    Joey laughed. “Okay dork, what movie do you want to watch?”

    “Oh!” Kenny rolled over on his stomach, reached down, and pulled a box filled with VHS tapes out from under his bed. “Take your pick.

    Joey dug around in the box for a minute, and finally made a choice. She held it up for Kenny to see.

    Sword in the Stone,” he said. “Great choice. I love that movie.

    He sat up and shifted into a cross-legged position, making room for Joey to sit next to him on the bed. She popped the tape into the VCR, and the two of them settled in to watch the movie.

    It was Tuesday, and neither of them had classes after lunch, so they spent the rest of the afternoon in Kenny’s dorm. After Sword in the Stone, they watched Robin Hood, then Pinocchio, and then they broke the Disney streak with Raiders of the Lost Ark, and by the time they finished watching Indiana Jones brave death traps and despicable villains, it was nearly 6:30 and they were both hungry again.

    They agreed that they didn’t feel like going over to the student center for dinner, so Kenny picked up the phone and swiped the nearest take-out menu off his nightstand and ordered a pizza.

    While they waited for the delivery, Kenny got up and walked the length of his room, and Joey rolled over onto her back and tilted her head off the edge of the mattress, looking at Kenny upside-down as he paced around the room.

    “Are you going to the Halloween party tomorrow night?” she asked him.

    Kenny stopped and turned to her. “Uh, sorry, what was that?”

    Joey repeated the question in sign language.

    “Oh. Yeah, I am,” Kenny said. “I have a great costume. I mean, I think it’s great. It’s sort of a pun. I don’t think anyone else will get it.

    Joey grinned.

    What?

    My costume is a pun, too,” she told him.

    Really?

    Yeah. I guess great minds think alike.

    Guess so,” Kenny agreed. “What’s your costume?

    Joey smiled mischievously “You’ll find out tomorrow.



    I have to admit, that’s pretty clever,” Kenny said as they made their way toward the student center together.

    Joey gave a smirk and a self-satisfied nod as they passed under the black and orange balloon arch that formed the entryway into the party.

    And,” Kenny added, nudging her arm. “Enough people know your name, so it’s not too hard to figure out the pun.

    “Right,” Joey said.

    I on the other hand have already had to explain my costume to about twelve people,” Kenny said with a slightly exaggerated look of annoyance.

    I guess your subtle pun was a little too subtle,” Joey said.

    Kenny nodded emphatically, and they went inside.

    Everyone apparently brought their A-game for this party, because everywhere they looked, Joey and Kenny spotted brilliant and hilarious costumes. One student was wearing a dog mask and a t-shirt with “I EAT MY OWN HOMEWORK” in bold red letters across the front. Another student had on a graduation gown over a donkey costume. Kenny did a double take as the graduating donkey walked by, then he suddenly cracked up laughing.

    What?” Joey asked.

    Kenny gestured toward the donkey and fingerspelled, “Smartass.”

    “Oh,” Joey chuckled. “That’s brilliant.

    “Kenny, hey!”

    Kenny turned toward the voice and saw Jonathan making his way over to them through the crowd. He was decked out in a full pirate costume, complete with a semi-realistic looking toy sword, a sparkly sash around his waist, and a stuffed parrot mounted on his shoulder. The top two buttons of his billowy white shirt were undone, revealing his flawless collarbones and a tantalizing glimpse of fine black chest hair.

    No. No. Kenny stopped that train of thought in its tracks and did his best to derail it completely by coming up with something totally neutral to say instead.

    “Hey Jonathan. I like your...sword.”

    “Thanks,” Jonathan said, but his voice went up a little, making it sound more like a question. He stopped in front of Joey and Kenny and looked them up and down, inspecting their costumes with a mixture of amusement and confusion.

    “Okay, I get...this,” he said, indicating Joey’s costume. “Kangaroo, right?”

    “Yeah,” Joey nodded.

    “Kangaroo. Joey. That’s really funny.” Jonathan grinned. Then he flicked his gaze to Kenny and his expression reverted to confusion again. “I...don’t know what you’re supposed to be.”

    “I’m a phoenix,” Kenny told him. “The name Kenneth means ‘born of fire,’ so...”

    “Really?” Jonathan looked interested. “I thought it meant ‘handsome.’”

    “Why do you know that?” Joey asked.

    “Maybe it has two meanings,” Kenny said quickly.

    “Hm,” Jonathan shrugged. “Maybe. Hey, the party games are about to start. I heard someone say they’re gonna play ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey,’ but every time someone misses, they have to take a shot.”

    “I hope they’re not planning to use that guy in the donkey costume,” Kenny said with a wry smile.

    Jonathan burst out laughing, which made Kenny feel oddly satisfied, then he clapped a hand on Kenny’s shoulder, which made him feel something else entirely.

    “Wanna join me for a round of ‘Pin the Tail on What We Hope is a Poster of a Donkey’?” Jonathan flashed that easy grin of his, and Kenny couldn’t help but reciprocate with a smile and laugh of his own.

    “I think I’ll pass,” he said, trying to sound cool about it. “Doing shots isn’t really my thing.”

    “All right,” Jonathan said. “That’s fine. I’ll be over there if you change your mind. See your ’round, guys.”

    Then he left to go participate in the Halloween shenanigans, and Kenny made a beeline for the snack table on the other side of the room. He wanted to get as far away from that charming smile and the bubbly feelings inside him as he possibly could.

    But it was too late. The image of that good-natured grin was seared into his brain, and every time it came unbidden to the forefront of Kenny’s mind, the butterflies in the pit of his stomach threw a party.

    Terrified of what his heart and head were trying to tell him, Kenny did the only thing he could think of—he pushed the feelings down and desperately hoped they would go away soon.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    Anedon likes this.
  6. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Another really great chapter.

    :D This is so adorable!

    She's totally a bad influence and I love it!

    Bahahaha! I love how good natured their friendship and teasing is.
    Oh the 90s nostalgia. Great way to really put in the time setting.
    [face_laugh][face_tee_hee] This had me burst out laughing. Sorry, I have a dirty mind.
    :( this makes me feel for him so much. Again, a great reflection of the time setting.
     
  7. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Yeah, the sword innuendo was 100% intentional. XD

    The original line was "I like your parrot." It was just supposed to be this sort of awkward non-sequitur, but then I decided it would be funnier if Kenny accidentally said something dirty, so I went back and added a sword to the description of Jonathan's costume.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  8. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 4: Inconvenient Distractions
    Summary: During some particularly frustrating late-night contemplation, Kenny finally decides on a course of action.


    The feelings didn’t go away.

    Another month went by. Kenny spent most of his free time with Joey, and he spent a lot of time trying to avoid Jonathan without looking like he was avoiding Jonathan, while simultaneously longing to be around him almost constantly.

    It was becoming stressful.

    Having a friend like Joey made things a little less stressful, though. They quickly fell into a comfortable routine. On Mondays and Wednesdays, they ate lunch on the roof of Boelter. On Tuesdays they had movie marathons in Kenny’s dorm. On Thursdays they had a study group in the library with a few other poli-sci majors. On Friday evenings they would take Joey’s car and drive out to the beach, where they would share a six-pack of beer and watch the sun go down.

    Jonathan joined the Thursday study group sometimes, but Kenny found himself wanting to include him even more. Every week he thought about suggesting they invite Jonathan to join their other activities, and every week he talked himself out of it. He and Joey had something special. Bringing someone else into it might throw everything out of balance.

    Kenny wondered how Joey viewed their relationship. Did she see him as a friend, as a potential romantic partner, as something else? He didn’t know. A few of their mutual friends had already asked Kenny if he and Joey were dating. He always said no. He wondered if Joey got the same question, and he wondered what answer she gave. Kenny had no idea if Joey was actually into him, but he spent a lot of time trying to convince himself that he should be into her.

    He thought about her at night while he was lying in his bed. In the darkness of his room, he would stare up at the ceiling, let his hand slide down beneath the sheets, conjure up images of Joey, and try his damnedest to feel the things he knew he was supposed to feel about girls.

    One night in particular he was having an especially hard time getting, well...hard. Every time he tried to think about Joey, that goddamn smile of Jonathan’s came to his mind instead, to the point where he almost considered just going along with it. Really, what would be the harm of—

    No. No.

    Joey. He wanted to think about Joey. Not Jonathan. He just needed to push aside these inconvenient distractions and really get himself in the mood.

    He thought back to his teenage years, thought about the porn magazines he used to steal from his brother’s bedroom. He called to mind the glossy pages with their explicit full-color photos, remembered the rush of forbidden pleasure that came from looking at them in secret, and desperately tried to push aside the recollection that his young and curious gaze was more often drawn to the men in the pictures than the women. He was captivated by their chiseled jaws, their well-muscled chests, their rock hard abs and...other parts. A smile crept across his face. Beneath the sheets, his grip tightened a little.

    No. No. Kenny shook his head, dropped his hand to his side, and forced himself to lie perfectly still. He took a deep, shaking breath and repeated the same rationale he often reassured himself with as a teenager—it wasn’t attraction, it was...ambition. It was envy. He wanted to look like the men in those pictures so he could score with hot women. That was the only reason for his fascination. That had to be it.

    And he did score a couple of times in high school. Kenny was far from athletic, but he was cute and sweet and kind of shy, and some girls apparently liked that. He lost his virginity to a girl from his math class the summer before twelfth grade, in the bed of her beat-up red pickup truck on a hot night in the middle of a wheat field. There were other girls after that. They talked at lunch. They went on dates. They had sex. It was all very normal. It was exactly what teenage boys were supposed to do.

    What teenage boys weren’t supposed to do was get fluttery, confusing feelings in their stomachs every time they walked into the locker room and saw their male classmates getting undressed. What young men weren’t supposed to do was stare dreamily at the handsome guys on their college campuses. What Kenny wasn’t supposed to be thinking about in the solitude of his dorm room with his hand under the sheets was how it would feel to kiss Jonathan, to touch Jonathan, to lie in bed with Jonathan and—

    He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to force his mind’s eye back to the women on the pages of those old magazines, to the girl in the back of the truck. He remembered what she looked like naked, he remembered touching her, he remembered going all the way with her. Boy and girl. Man and woman. That was the way sex was supposed to be, according to his high school biology teachers. Not that the topic really came up all that much in his rural Iowa high school. Sex education in this country really was abysmal. Maybe one of these days he could help change that, if he decided to actually do anything with this political science degree. On the other hand, some of his prospects outside of politics looked a little interesting too, if he could just—

    Kenny stopped.

    Wasn’t he trying to get off a few seconds ago? How the hell could a person get distracted while—

    That was weird.

    Kenny grimaced. With effort, he directed his thoughts back to stolen porn magazines, back to women photographed in erotic poses, and tried his hardest to push out the images of Jonathan that kept surfacing in his mind.

    He tried instead to think about Joey. He imagined kissing her in the middle of one of their rooftop conversations, imagined bringing her to his dorm to make out instead of watch movies. He tried to imagine her naked, but...it seemed wrong, invasive almost, to be thinking about his friend sexually. How would Joey feel if she knew Kenny was fantasizing about her?

    For that matter, how would Jonathan feel if he knew that Kenny was—

    No. No. He wasn’t fantasizing about Jonathan. He wasn’t into Jonathan. He was into Joey. He had to be into Joey. She was smart, feisty, funny, confident as hell, and if there was any truth to the rumors around campus, she was phenomenal in bed. And, objectively speaking, she was very pretty. She was exactly the kind of person Kenny should be into.

    If he could be with Joey—if he could land in a stable, comfortable relationship with someone like her, someone he really liked and really enjoyed spending time with—then maybe these confusing feelings would finally go away once and for all.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
    Anedon likes this.
  9. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Intresting story
    I really like both Joey and Kenny in The West Wing and its nice to see some of their background and how they became friends. Joey really feels in character and its intresting to find out more about Kennys background. Though its sad to see Kenny tormented by his own feelings like that, how he tries to force himself to be "normal", while pushing down his actual atraction for Jonathan. I really hope that, with Joeys help, he can work this out and stop tormenting himself.
    I'm looking forward to the next chapter.
     
    SqueakyTheDuck likes this.
  10. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 5: Brave
    Summary: Kenny has a question for Joey, and Joey knows exactly how to respond.


    December 8, 1990
    The end of the quarter was fast approaching. Exams were only a few days away, and Kenny had plans to go back to Iowa for Christmas after the final grades were posted. If he was planning to take action, he needed to do it soon. Tonight, if he could work up the nerve.

    Joey usually spent Saturday evenings in the student center, so Kenny made his way there, going over the spiel one more time in his head as he walked across campus.

    He found Joey sitting at a table in the outdoor area, and he waved to get her attention. She looked up and smiled.

    Hey,” she said, and gestured for him to take a seat. “I didn’t expect to see you tonight.”

    Kenny pulled out the chair across from her and sat down. “Well, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

    “Sure.”

    It’s...it’s been on my mind for a while,” he began nervously. “And...I thought...I thought I should, y’know, just say it.”

    Joey leaned forward, giving him her full attention. “What’s up?”

    I’ve been thinking,” he said. “About you and me. I’ve been thinking maybe we could be more than friends.

    There it was. He’d said it now and he couldn’t take it back, so he plowed on, listing all the reasons he had rehearsed and rephrased a dozen times in the last week.

    I mean, we spend so much time together, people already think we’re dating,” he went on, talking fast so he could say everything he’d been planning without forgetting any of it. “And, we really seem to like each other, and we get along really well. We always have a lot of fun together, and we have these great conversations, and I...I like your sense of humor, and...I like that you’re the smartest person in class, and I like that you don’t take **** from anyone, and uh...I just think we make a really good pair, and...I’d like to give it a shot. What do you think?”

    When he finished, Joey’s eyes narrowed a fraction. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms, studying him contemplatively. Kenny waited breathlessly, heart pounding in nervous anticipation of her response.

    Finally she broke the silence. “I have something for you.”

    She reached down, unzipped her backpack, and withdrew a flat white box with an indigo ribbon tied around it. She set it on the table in front of her and looked up at Kenny.

    I was going to give this to you after finals, as a Christmas present,” she said. “But I think you should have it now.

    She pushed it towards him. Curious, Kenny tugged at the ribbon to open it, but Joey reached across and rested her hand on his, stopping him for a moment.

    “Kenny.”

    He looked up.

    We both know,” she said gently. “It’s not me you want to be with.

    He stared at her for a moment, confused and a little suspicious. She gestured to the gift, and Kenny got the feeling that her meaning was about to be made clear by the contents of the box.

    Slowly, he untied the ribbon, then pulled off the lid and set it aside. What he saw made his heart do a somersault—inside the box, surrounded by crisp white tissue paper, lay a neatly folded rainbow-patterned scarf. At one end of the scarf, a small white tag bore a single word in bold blue letters.

    PRIDE

    He drew in a sharp breath and looked up at Joey, and she gave him an encouraging smile.

    You should ask Jonathan out,” she said. “I think he would say yes.

    Kenny sat there open-mouthed, completely at a loss for words. His eyes darted between Joey and the gift in front of him. He picked up the scarf and turned it over in his hands, felt the soft fabric, admired the colors, and thought about everything this one little article of clothing represented.

    The thought made him fearful again, and he had the sudden urge to stuff the rainbow scarf back in its box, run to his dorm, and shove it into the back of his closet where no one would ever see it.

    “I...I have to go,” he choked out.

    He stood quickly and left the table, leaving Joey and the rainbow scarf behind. He caught a glimpse of Joey in his peripheral vision as he rounded a corner; she made no move to follow him, but was watching him with a look on her face that seemed to be a mixture of concern and...something else. Disappointment, maybe?

    He hated the idea of disappointing his friend, but he couldn’t handle this right now. He needed to get away from everything, needed to shut out all the noise in his head and just breathe.

    And he knew exactly where to go for that.



    The night was still. The air was cool, but not cold. Pleasant. Like most winter nights in this town. The slightest breeze was beginning to pick up, a little stronger at this height than on the ground. It swept across the rooftop, ruffling Kenny’s short brown curls as it passed over him.

    He reached up and smoothed his hair down again, then dropped his hand back into his lap. He had spent the last hour sitting on the roof, deep in thought and desperately trying to sort out the thousand different things he was feeling.

    Behind him, he heard the door open, followed by soft footsteps, then Joey’s voice.

    “I thought I might find you here.”

    He half turned and looked at her over his shoulder. “I needed to be alone. Needed to think.”

    “Yeah,” Joey nodded.

    Thank you,” he said. “For not following right away.”

    Of course.”

    But I’m glad you’re here now.”

    Joey smiled at her friend and sat down beside him. She drew her knees up to her chest and stared out at the twinkling lights down below, and they sat together in silence for a while, until Kenny finally worked up the nerve to ask the question that was burning a hole in his chest.

    How did you know?”

    Your body language is completely different when you talk to him,” Joey explained.

    Kenny drew in a shaking breath, then released it slowly. “I’ve been trying so hard to...to fight off those feelings. I spent so much time convincing myself it wasn’t real, it didn’t even...occur to me that anyone else could see it.”

    And now you’re worried everyone can see it,” Joey said.

    Kenny pursed his lips and nodded.

    You don’t need to worry,” Joey assured him, resting a hand on his arm. “I know the rumors that go around this school. I hear all of them.

    At this, she grinned at Kenny and raised her eyebrows playfully, and managed to coax an eye roll and a chuckle out of him.

    I promise you,” she went on. “There aren’t any rumors about you being—

    Here Joey signed a word Kenny had never seen before, but it wasn’t hard to decipher through context. The letter G, touching her chin. There was only one word it could be.

    Kenny repeated the sign, tentatively, then clenched his hand and lowered it away from his face. Even signing it made him feel exposed.

    Joey didn’t say anything, just sat beside him, and Kenny appreciated the lack of pressure.

    I don’t know what I’m gonna do now,” he admitted.

    I’m sorry I freaked you out,” Joey said.

    Kenny ducked his head and smiled, then looked over at her. “It’s okay. Really. I’m glad you know.

    He leaned back a little and glanced at Joey’s backpack.

    You still have it with you?” he asked.

    Joey nodded.

    Can I...” he trailed off and gestured to the backpack.

    “Of course,” Joey said, sliding the bag off her shoulder. She unzipped it and produced the flat white box for the second time that night, and handed it to Kenny.

    He tipped the lid off and gently took the scarf out of its tissue paper packaging. He ran one hand along the length of the fabric, fingers brushing over every color of the rainbow. His heart began to pound, whether from fear or excitement he couldn’t quite tell. He thought it might be both.

    He held the scarf in his hands, staring at it and thinking once again about everything these colors represented. Slowly, he lifted it up and lowered it over his head, draping it onto his shoulders.

    “Looks good on you,” Joey said, and there was something about the softness in her expression, something about the warm reassurance in her eyes, that made him want to abandon all pretense and just be honest about who he was. It made him feel brave. She made him feel brave.

    Kenny tugged the scarf a little tighter and leaned against Joey’s shoulder. Whatever decision he made next, he knew she would be there for him.
     
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  11. Briannakin

    Briannakin Grand Moff Darth Fanfic & Costuming/Props Manager star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Feb 25, 2010
    Oh, you write Kenny's emotions so vividly, I'm really able to empathize with him. And I love that Joey just knows and is there for him as a best friend should be.
     
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  12. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    I can only agree with @Briannakin here. Joey is just the best friend we all need in a situation like this. Great chapter :)
     
  13. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 6: Thought You'd Never Ask
    Summary: The fall quarter comes to an end, and Kenny comes to a turning point.


    Finals week was...weird.

    Not because of the exams or anything. Those were pretty standard. Kenny did what he always did at the end of a quarter—he spent entirely too little time skimming through the incomprehensible jumble that could laughingly be called his class notes, went to sleep with the certainty that he was going to fail, and then showed up to the exam the next day and somehow breezed through it with very little difficulty. Rinse and repeat for the entire week.

    The weird part was that for the first time in, well...ever, Kenny was walking around with the knowledge that someone else knew his secret.

    Joey, incredible friend that she was, didn’t say anything about it to him all week, and Kenny felt an overwhelming sense of support in her silence. There was no pressure from her. She didn’t even ask him what he had done with the scarf.

    What he had done with the scarf, incidentally, was hang it on the coat rack next to the bookshelf in his room. Every morning when he got up he saw it, and every morning he thought about putting it on and wearing it to his next final, but he could never quite work up the nerve.

    But it stayed on the coat rack, in plain view. Despite the impulse he felt when he first saw it, Kenny resisted the urge to throw the rainbow scarf into some dark corner of his room—the irony of keeping it in the closet would have been a little too much for him to deal with.

    Finally it was Friday, and as Kenny turned in his final exam and walked out of Bunche Hall, he felt the familiar mix of relief, excitement, and just a little twinge of sadness at the thought of another quarter coming to an end. He found things to enjoy about every quarter, but this one was especially meaningful. This quarter he had met Joey, and he could already say—after only a few months of knowing her—that she was the closest friend he’d ever had. This quarter he had met Jonathan, the bright-eyed boy with the electric smile that made his heart soar. This quarter—just this week, really—he had found the strength inside himself to finally admit the one thing about who he was that he’d been trying so hard to supress.

    Almost. Almost admit it.

    Maybe it was sentiment, but Kenny suddenly realized that if he wanted to bring this quarter to a truly satisfying end, if he wanted to return home for the holidays really feeling like he had accomplished something spectacular this year—then there was one last thing he needed to do.

    But there was something he had to get first.



    Kenny exited his dorm just as twilight descended on the campus, and the moment he stepped outside, he felt like all eyes were on him, but he shook it off and kept walking. There was only one pair of eyes he wanted to catch right now.

    He went to the student center, stopped just inside the entrance, and looked around, searching the throng of students for the one person he really wanted to see.

    Across the room, Jonathan caught his eye and waved at him, and Kenny squared his shoulders and made his way over to him.

    “Hey Kenny,” Jonathan said in his usual good-natured way. He eyed him with interest. “Nice scarf.”

    “Thanks,” Kenny said, unconsciously reaching up to touch the brightly colored fabric. He tugged at it, a little self-consciously. “It was, uh...it was a Christmas present from Joey. She’s very...perceptive.”

    “Yeah?” Jonathan raised his eyebrows, and maybe it was Kenny’s imagination, but he could swear Jonathan looked almost...eager. Hopeful. Like he wanted Kenny to be—

    One way to find out.

    “Yeah,” Kenny said. He took a deep breath, thought about Joey, imagined her cheering him on, and decided to go for it. “Jonathan...would you...would you like to go out with me sometime?”

    Jonathan was silent for the space of two heartbeats—Kenny counted them by the pounding in his own chest—then his face broke into the biggest smile.

    “My god, Kenny, I thought you’d never ask.”
     
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  14. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Nice chapter
    I'm glad Jonathan reciprocates Kenny's feelings.
     
  15. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 7: A Place Where You Belong
    Summary: Joey has some parting words of encouragement for Kenny before he goes home for the holidays.


    December 20, 1990
    The change that came over Kenny was profound. In the week that followed finals, Joey saw a confidence and a lightness in her friend that she had never seen from him before. Gone were the surreptitious, almost guilty glances in Jonathan’s direction; now Kenny looked adoringly into the other boy’s eyes without reservation. Countless times these last few months, Joey had noticed a tension in Kenny’s shoulder blades when Jonathan was around, as if he were holding his breath, afraid that if he said the wrong thing or moved the wrong way or did anything too obvious, everyone would know the truth about him. Now it was like he had finally exhaled, and he walked beside Jonathan with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face, and Joey felt a sense of relief for her friend that she could only imagine paled in comparison to the relief he was feeling.

    At the end of the week, the campus was abuzz with activity as everyone prepared to go home for the holidays. Preparation was easy enough for Joey; it was a thirty minute drive to her parents’ house from UCLA, so she didn’t need to pack much. She knew that Kenny was going back to Iowa for two weeks, and Jonathan was planning to spend the winter break with family and friends in Santa Cruz.

    Thursday night, she met up with them outside the student center. They were sitting at a table together, holding hands, and Kenny was wearing his rainbow scarf. Joey couldn’t help but smile. When she approached, Kenny looked up and waved her over.

    “Hey guys,” Joey said, sitting down to join them. “You all packed for tomorrow?”

    “Almost,” Kenny said, releasing Jonathan’s hand so he could sign a response. “I was actually just about to go back to my dorm. I have a few last minute things I need to do. Oh! That reminds me!” He took off his scarf and held it out to Jonathan. “I’d like you to hold onto this for me while I’m gone.”

    Jonathan accepted the scarf, but looked a little confused. “You’re not taking it with you?”

    Kenny pushed his chair back and stood to leave. “If I wore that back home, you wouldn’t see me again in one piece.”

    Then he left to go back to his dorm, walking casually, as if he hadn’t just said the most startling and disturbing thing Joey had heard all quarter.

    She reached over and touched Jonathan’s arm, and when he turned to her, she asked, “Did he sound as matter-of-fact about that as he looked?”

    Jonathan pursed his lips and nodded grimly.

    “Do you think one of us should go talk to him?” Joey asked.

    “It should be you,” Jonathan said. “Don’t get me wrong, I understand where he’s coming from. I know what it’s like facing discrimination in a small community. It’s just...” he trailed off and looked down.

    “What?” Joey prodded gently.

    “I tried to ask him about his family a few days ago,” Jonathan said, “and he just sort of...shut down. Got all evasive. Maybe he feels like...like it would make it all too real for him? I don’t know. Anyway, I don’t think he’s ready to talk to me about it.”

    “But you think he’d talk to me?” Joey asked.

    Jonathan shrugged. “He seems to open up to you more than anyone else.”

    “Really?”

    “Yeah,” Jonathan said. “I have this theory, and...I could be way off, but...”

    “What is it?” Joey urged him.

    “I think there are certain things he’s more comfortable talking about when he doesn’t have to say them out loud.” Jonathan said. He looked hesitant, like he wasn’t sure whether that was an okay thing to say.

    Joey gave it a moment’s consideration, then nodded her agreement. “Yeah, I think you’re right.”

    “So you’ll talk to him?” Jonathan asked, sitting up a little straighter.

    “It’s worth a try.” Joey said.

    She stood and collected her things, then paused for a moment and rested a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder.

    “Hey,” she said.

    He looked up at her.

    “You guys are really great together.”

    Jonathan smiled. “Thanks.”

    Joey returned the smile, gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, then set off towards Kenny’s dorm.

    When she reached his room, she knocked twice, and Kenny’s eyebrows went up in surprise when he opened the door and saw her standing there, but he waved her inside and returned to his last minute packing.

    Joey crossed her arms and leaned against the bookshelf, watching him, wondering if he had given any more thought to his offhanded comment after he left the table. He did seem a little distracted right now, but then again he usually got like that when he was trying to remember several things at once. It was just as likely that the source of his distraction was his mental packing checklist, rather than thoughts of bigoted friends and relatives. Regardless, Joey knew she needed to address the issue.

    “Would it really be that bad?”

    Kenny stopped, tennis shoes in hand, and turned to her. He looked confused for an instant, then understanding dawned on his face, and he grimaced.

    Yeah, I think it would be,” he said, dropping the shoes into the open suitcase on his bed. “I remember guys at my high school used to joke about what they would do if they ever saw two boys together. They said some pretty violent things. I have no idea if they were serious. But I’m not keen to find out.

    Do you think anyone in your family would hurt you?” Joey asked.

    My parents would never physically harm me,” Kenny said. “But I know they wouldn’t accept it, either.” He shrugged, like it didn’t really matter, but every part of his body language told Joey that it mattered immensely.

    Kenny went back to packing, and Joey gave a frustrated sigh and sat down on the bed. She hated the thought of Kenny facing hatred and rejection from the people who were supposed to love and accept him the most. It made her blood boil to think that people could be so small-minded that they would turn on someone they cared about simply because of who he loved.

    Finally, as Kenny finished packing and zipped up his suitcase, Joey reached out and laid her hand on top of his.

    “Hey,” she said, and he met her eyes. “I’m not gonna tell you that it doesn’t matter what your parents think of you,” Joey said. “Because...it does matter, even if it shouldn’t. Everyone cares what their parents think. It’s in our nature. We all want our family to be proud of us. But I will tell you that you will always have a place where you belong. And that’s here, with us. You have a boyfriend who absolutely loves you, and a best friend—that’s me,” she added with a little grin. “—who would do anything for you.”

    Kenny stared at her, blinking fast like he was trying to fight back tears, then he pulled her to her feet and into a tight hug. She returned the embrace and rested her head on his shoulder for a moment before pulling back and looking up at him with a smile.

    I’m really proud of you, Kenny,” she said. “No matter what.”
     
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  16. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Great chapter
    Nice to see a bit from Joeys perspective as well.
     
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  17. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 8: The Next Two Quarters
    Summary: Shakespeare quotes, bad jokes, modern art, a bout of the flu, and some exciting news. The school year presses onward, and big things await just over the horizon.
    A/N: This is my favorite chapter that I've written so far. It was so much fun to write.


    January
    Kenny returned to school the first week of January in high spirits. He was excited to be back in California and resume his studies once again, and although graduation day was looming ever closer and he still had no idea what career path he intended to take after finishing college, he felt a little calmer about it now than he had in previous quarters. He suspected the presence of Joey and Jonathan in his life had something to do with that.

    The first thing he did upon returning to school was find his boyfriend, and they spent a glorious Saturday night together in Jonathan’s dorm, making up for the weeks they had spent apart. Sunday morning Jonathan left for Mass, and Kenny set out to find Joey.

    It was only a few minutes before they crossed paths. Joey was walking toward the student center, and she picked up her pace when she saw Kenny.

    “Hey!” Kenny exclaimed, catching his friend in a tight hug. Joey grinned and returned the embrace. Then she pulled back and looked up at him.

    How was your Christmas?” she asked.

    It was good,” Kenny said. “Pretty normal. Mom’s family and Dad’s family made passive aggressive comments about each other’s lifestyles, everyone just barely avoided bringing politics into the discussion...same as every holiday. How was yours?”

    It was nice,” Joey said. “We watched White Christmas and made fun of them for thinking it wouldn’t be a real Christmas without snow. It’s sort of a family tradition.

    Kenny snorted. “That’s funny. When my family watches that movie, we make jokes about the snow not starting until Christmas Eve.

    Joey laughed. “Yeah, when does it start snowing in Iowa, anyway? October?

    Sometimes,” Kenny nodded, then he grinned. “I got you a Christmas present.

    “Ooh, what is it?” Joey asked.

    Well,” Kenny said, “I was reading ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on the plane yesterday, and there was this one line that really reminded me of you, and when I got to LAX, I saw one of those custom t-shirt stores as I was leaving the airport, so...”

    He trailed off and slid his backpack off his shoulder. Unzipping it, he withdrew a folded, light turquoise t-shirt. He shook it out to reveal the Shakespeare quote in cursive black letters on the front—“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

    Joey cracked up laughing and eagerly took the shirt, holding it up in front of her to see how it would look. She looked up at Kenny and grinned. “It’s perfect.”

    Kenny returned the smile. “Glad you like it.



    The next day, Joey and Kenny met up outside Bunche Hall and made their way to their first class of the quarter, and Kenny was delighted to see Joey wearing the t-shirt he had given her.

    Joey’s interpreter was already there when they got to the classroom—it was a different guy than last year, and Kenny wondered if interpreters ever got long-term placements, or if Joey had to get used to a new person every quarter—and Joey took her customary seat in the front row. Kenny took the seat beside her without a second thought, and it was about ten minutes before he realized what he had done. He thought about moving back to his preferred spot by the window, but decided he would rather sit with Joey.

    The professor walked into the room a moment later. Kenny didn’t recognize him, but he thought he remembered hearing someone say that the man had just been hired by the administration over the break. A new professor among students who had mostly been together since freshman year was always a roll of the dice.

    “I taught a course on international politics for two semesters in England, some years back,” the professor said, by way of introduction. “And during those two semesters, not one single student pronounced my name wrong. Would anyone care to guess why?”

    Kenny looked down at his class schedule again to jog his memory, and noted that the professor’s last name was Leicester. Students in the UK would be more likely to know the correct pronunciation, as there was a town of the same name and spelling in the East Midlands of England. Kenny glanced up again and saw the professor looking around the room expectantly, waiting for someone to answer his question. No one did, and Kenny sure as hell didn’t plan to.

    Leicester let out an exasperated sigh. “Students in England had no trouble pronouncing my name because there is a town in England which shares my name. They used context, and common sense, to determine that if the spellings are the same, the pronunciation likely is as well. Upon returning to the States, I carried with me the vain hope that American students might have magically developed some common sense of their own.” He scowled. “You have not. In my many years teaching, I have heard every possible mispronunciation of my name that you might imagine, and quite a few that go well beyond the imagination into the realm of pure stupidity. Which tells me that not only are students in this country completely lacking in critical thinking skills, you’re also shockingly ignorant of world geography. Because if you knew about that little town in England, and you had critical thinking skills, it wouldn’t take much to figure out how to pronounce the damn name!”

    Kenny blinked a few times, baffled by the professor’s hostility, then he picked up his pencil and jotted a quick note on the first page of his notebook.

    The professor has decided to start off the quarter by telling us how ignorant we all are. This is going to be a fun class.

    He doodled a little cartoon face rolling its eyes, to indicate sarcasm, then looked up to see Professor Leicester writing his name on the whiteboard in large red letters.

    “It is pronounced Lester,” he said emphatically. Raising the marker again, he circled the letters i, c, and e in the middle of his surname. “These three letters are silent.”

    Joey nudged Kenny, and he glanced over at her. She slid back in her seat and lowered her hands so the interpreter couldn’t see what she was signing.

    They’re all silent to me.”

    Kenny laughed out loud, then quickly ducked his head and covered his mouth, but it was too late. His outburst had drawn Mr. Leicester’s attention, and like an angry owl, the professor swiveled his head straight toward the offending student.

    “Something you want to share with the class?” Leicester asked in a clipped tone.

    “No sir,” Kenny cleared his throat in a vain attempt at composing himself, fighting the urge to laugh again, while studiously avoiding eye contact with either the professor or Joey. “No, I’m good.”

    Leicester’s narrow gaze lingered on him for a few uncomfortable seconds, then with a dubious grunt, the professor shifted his eyes back to the rest of the class and returned to his lecture.

    Kenny gave Joey a half-hearted glare, which she seemed to find amusing, then he looked down at his notebook and added another comment on the next line.

    Joey just made me crack up laughing in the middle of the professor’s rant. This might actually be a fun class after all.


    February
    The sun had just set over the campus as Joey and Kenny emerged from their late-afternoon class on a cool, clear Friday evening and headed towards the student center together. Kenny had a total of two classes with Joey this quarter, and three with Jonathan. It was nice to be able to spend so much time—both in and out of class—with the two people he cared about the most.

    Tonight he had dressed up a little and thrown on a splash of cologne before leaving his dorm; he was planning to meet Jonathan after class for a date, as had become their custom on Friday nights.

    I’ll meet up with you tomorrow afternoon to go over our notes for the test on Monday,” Joey said as they approached the outdoor area of the student center. “Oh, and make sure to tell Jonathan that our study group beach party has been moved to next Saturday.”

    You’re not going to join us?” Kenny asked with a glint of mischief in his eyes.

    Of course not,” Joey said. “I would never intrude on your date night with Jonathan.”

    No,” Kenny teased her. “You just sit across the room and read our lips from a distance.”

    I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Joey said, looking away innocently.

    “Uh-huh.”

    They parted ways when they reached the outdoor area; Joey joined a couple of friends who waved her over to their table near the door, and Kenny made his way toward Jonathan, who was waiting for him further out on the pavilion.

    “Hey,” Jonathan said, greeting his boyfriend with a quick kiss. They sat down, and Kenny looked with curiosity at the tin-foil bundles on the table.

    “What’d you get us?” he asked.

    “Chicago-style hotdogs,” Jonathan said. “I found this tiny little Vienna beef restaurant near campus, and decided we should try something new. They should still be warm.”

    Kenny unwrapped his hotdog and examined it for a moment. “What all is on this?”

    “Let’s see if I can remember,” Jonathan said. “It’s, uh...a poppyseed bun, an all-beef hotdog, mustard, relish, celery salt, pickles, sport peppers, tomatoes, onions, and no ketchup because people in Chicago are weirdly pedantic about that.”

    “That’s a really specific combination of ingredients,” Kenny said before taking a bite.

    “What do you think?” Jonathan asked.

    “I like it.”

    “It was made with love,” Jonathan said with an exaggerated grin.

    “Love tastes an awful lot like pickles,” Kenny observed through a mouthful of hotdog.

    “Well, love is bittersweet,” Jonathan said.

    Kenny laughed. “Sure.”

    “Do you like pickles?” Jonathan asked.

    “Yeah.”

    Jonathan waggled his eyebrows suggestively. “Yeah, I know you do.”

    Kenny dropped his hotdog into its cardboard container and stared at his boyfriend in exasperated disbelief. “We’re eating wieners, Jonathan. You reached so much farther for that joke than you had to.”

    Across the room, Joey cracked up laughing.


    March
    “I’m just saying I think we’re a little too old for field trips, especially to see stupid stuff like this.”

    Andrew Martin’s voice carried over from the Langston exhibit in the next room, and Kenny sighed and rolled his eyes.

    It wasn’t a field trip, incidentally. It was an opportunity for extra credit, and it was entirely voluntary. The professor gave the class the option to visit the museum, write three paragraphs about the new installations, and get 20 points added to their final grade. Leave it to Andrew to complain about something he was doing by choice.

    Joey noticed Kenny’s annoyance and gave him a questioning look, and Kenny nodded to the other room. Joey turned and watched as Andrew ranted to his friends about one of the paintings. When he turned away and Joey couldn’t see his face, she glanced at Kenny, who signed the rest of what Andrew was saying.

    Joey watched the scene unfold for a moment longer, and a slow, mischievous grin began to spread across her face.

    I know that look,” Kenny said. “What are you thinking?”

    I’m thinking I want to go over there and give him a little art lesson,” Joey said. “Will you interpret for me?”

    Absolutely!” Kenny said, looking a lot more eager than he probably should. “Let’s do this!”

    He followed Joey into the Langston exhibit, and they made their way toward Andrew and his group of friends, coming to a stop in front of the painting that seemed to currently be the object of Andrew’s ridicule. Joey caught Andrew’s eye and waved to him.

    He let out an exasperated groan. “Oh, not you again.”

    Kenny angled toward Joey, and repeated Andrew’s lament in sign language, and Joey laughed. Confused, Andrew turned to her. “Is he...interpreting for you?”

    “Yeah,” Joey said, then signed, “You have a problem with this painting?”

    Andrew flicked his eyes back and forth between them as Kenny interpreted the question, then he looked at Joey again.

    “Yeah, I have a problem with it,” he said. “It’s crap. It looks like a five-year-old’s crayon drawing.”

    She made it that way on purpose,” Joey explained. “Millie Langston’s art addresses very dark subject matter—issues like violence, domestic abuse, bigotry, corporate greed, racism—and she uses this child-like art style to create a contrast between the innocence we all want to hold onto, and the reality of the darkness and ugliness that exists in the world.”

    “So it’s a metaphor?” Andrew asked dubiously.

    “Yeah,” Joey nodded.

    “Art isn’t supposed to be about metaphors,” Andrew protested.

    That’s exactly what art is supposed to be,” Joey countered.

    Andrew glanced back at the painting with an expression of disgust. “But...this...ugh. Her stuff takes no skill to make! I could have painted this!”

    You could have,” Joey agreed. “But you didn’t. And that’s why Langston is in a museum, and you’re just some guy standing here complaining about it.”

    “Yeah?” Andrew scoffed. “Well maybe I should do something like this. Y’know what, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna make the crappiest thing I can think of and claim it’s a ‘metaphor,’ and I’m gonna put it on display somewhere and get some snooty curator to declare it a masterpiece, just to prove that people will gather around and fawn over anything if someone tells them it has meaning.”

    Joey tilted her head and gave Andrew a little smile, and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

    “What?”

    I think that’s a great idea,” Joey said. “I think you should absolutely do that.”

    “Yeah?” Andrew looked even more suspicious. “Why?”

    If you create something with the intention of criticizing an aspect of society that you think is wrong, or just ridiculous,” Joey said, “and you put your creation on display to make a statement, to call attention to that problem, then congratulations! You just made art!”

    Andrew stood there for a few seconds, open-mouthed, looking confused and enraged and defeated all at once. Joey raised her eyebrows, waiting for a response, and when Andrew couldn’t give one, she gave a triumphant little nod and walked away. Kenny looked at Andrew and grinned, making no effort to hide his gleefulness.

    Andrew scowled at him. “Aren’t interpreters supposed to be unbiased?”

    “In general, yeah, I think so,” Kenny said. “But this was a very informal thing.” He hesitated for a moment, then added. “And I really don’t like you.”

    Then he turned and followed Joey out of the exhibit. As he left, he cast a glance over his shoulder and saw Andrew turn to one of his friends to ask a question. Kenny slowed his pace a little so he could remain in earshot long enough to hear it.

    “Who the heck is that guy?”

    Kenny chuckled and kept walking.


    April
    The spring quarter brought with it a persistent feeling of something incredible waiting just over the horizon, a feeling which Kenny was certain was now shared by everyone in his senior class. It was as if they all had the same sense of urgency, the same drive—to figure things out, to finish well, to make the most of their college experience before it was over—and the days seemed to simultaneously whiz by and drag on as graduation day drew ever nearer.

    Kenny found himself enjoying the quiet moments more and more because of this. Nights on the rooftop, alone or with Joey, seemed even more important than they had before. Solitary walks around campus—few and far between as they were in the chaos of coursework and study groups—seemed more precious now than ever before.

    Most of all Kenny relished the intimate moments spent in bed with Jonathan, lying naked beside his lover with the sheets kicked off, as the early morning sunlight streamed through the blinds and formed valleys of light and shadow on the planes of their bodies.

    Kenny rolled over on his side one warm April morning and laid his head against Jonathan’s shoulder, his fingers absently tracing paths over his boyfriend’s chest as they lay beside each other talking about nothing in particular.

    “I have a question for you,” Kenny said softly.

    “Mm,” Jonathan murmured through half-closed lids, lulled into a comfortable drowsiness by his lover’s gentle touch. “What is it?”

    “How do you think I would look with a beard?” Kenny asked.

    “Well,” Jonathan smirked without opening his eyes. “You did try to ask Joey out that one time.”

    Kenny stopped stroking Jonathan’s chest and gave him a light, playful smack on the shoulder, eliciting a soft “oof” from the dark-haired boy.

    “Very funny.”

    Jonathan chuckled sleepily. “I thought so. Anyway, facial hair wouldn’t work on you.”

    “Why not?”

    Jonathan raised his head and looked at Kenny. “You’re too baby-faced.”

    Kenny scowled. “That’s why I want to grow a beard. You don’t think it would make me look older?”

    “I think it would make you look like a supervillain,” Jonathan said. “You don’t need to look older. You’ve got that whole boyish cuteness thing going on—”

    “Thanks for that,” Kenny said flatly.

    “You should make it work for you,” Jonathan continued. He grinned. “It sure did a number on me.”

    “True,” Kenny acquiesced slowly. “Still, I’m gonna get Joey’s input, see if she says something different.”

    “Oh sure, get a second opinion,” Jonathan said, feigning indignance. “Cuz the gay man’s advice on fashion isn’t good enough for you, huh?”

    “Don’t be a stereotype, Jonathan.”

    “Boy, come with me to a gay club sometime and I’ll show you how much of a stereotype I’m willing to be.”

    Kenny laughed and walloped his boyfriend with the nearest pillow he could grab, and in seconds they were chasing each other around the room, flinging pillows and stuffed animals at each other and giggling like children.

    The pillow fight turned quickly to wrestling, which then turned to sex, and an hour later they found themselves once again lying in bed in post-coital bliss, content to stay there in each other’s arms and let the world outside keep turning without them, until Kenny happened to catch a glimpse of the alarm clock on the bedside table and realized they had to be in class in ten minutes.

    They scrambled out of bed, dug some clothes out of Jonathan’s closet, hurriedly got dressed, and booked it across campus toward Bunche Hall, laughing as they raced each other up the stairs, and finally skidded to a halt in the doorway of their classroom, breathless and a little sweaty, but proud of themselves for making it with two minutes to spare.

    It wasn’t the first time Kenny had shown up to class wearing Jonathan’s clothes, and it wasn’t too long ago that he would’ve been self-conscious about it, but today he barely gave it a second thought.

    The roll call began a few minutes later, and Kenny took notice of the empty seat at the front of the room. Joey was absent. Her interpreter wasn’t there either, which meant that Joey must’ve known ahead of time that she wouldn’t be in class today.

    After class, Kenny was approached in the hallway by a brunette girl with French braids whom he recognized only vaguely. He might’ve had a class with her freshman or sophomore year.

    “Hey,” she said. “You’re Kenny, right? Joey’s friend?”

    “Yeah,” Kenny said.

    “I’m Lily,” the girl said. “I’m the RA for her dorm. She asked me to tell you that she won’t be in class for a couple days.”

    “Yeah, I didn’t see her this morning,” Kenny said, nodding back to the classroom. “Is she sick?”

    “Yeah,” Lily said. “She has the flu, I think. She wanted you to come by her room sometime today; she was hoping to copy your class notes.”

    “Sure,” Kenny said. “I’ll go over there after my next class.”

    “I’ll let her know,” Lily said, turning to leave. “Thanks, Kenny.”

    As promised, Kenny made a beeline for Joey’s dorm as soon as his next class let out. When he got there, he pressed the button on the wall that would make the light inside her room flash, and a moment later, Joey opened the door, still in her pajamas and looking absolutely miserable. She waved Kenny inside and immediately got back into bed.

    Kenny shut the door behind him and crossed the room to sit in the chair by Joey’s desk. “Your RA said you have the flu.”

    Joey groaned in lieu of giving an actual response, and Kenny grimaced sympathetically.

    I’m sorry you’re feeling so bad,” he said. “What can I do? Lily said you needed my class notes?”

    Joey nodded, and Kenny dug a couple of notebooks out of his backpack. Opening one, he flipped to the most recent page and glanced over his notes, and a frown crossed his face.

    Joey pushed herself into a half-sitting position. “What’s wrong?”

    “Uh,” Kenny looked hesitant. “My notes are...well, they make sense to me, but...”

    Let me see,” Joey motioned for Kenny to hand her the notebook, and he reluctantly passed it to her. She perused his notes for a few moments, and the range of facial expressions she went through while reading was enough to tell Kenny that he was right about his notes being indecipherable to anyone besides him.

    She looked up at him after a few minutes, and he smiled sheepishly. “Like I said...”

    You have an interesting style,” Joey said.

    That’s a nice way to say it,” Kenny said. “How about I copy the notes myself? I can make them a little more coherent if I do it with the textbook in front of me.”

    Joey shook her head. “I don’t want you to go to all that trouble,” she protested.

    It’s no trouble,” Kenny insisted. “I need to study this material anyway, and writing it down a second time will probably help me absorb it better.”

    Joey still looked reluctant. “You’re sure?”

    Absolutely,” Kenny said earnestly.

    All right,” Joey finally acquiesced. She flopped back down against her pillow and halfheartedly signed a few words that Kenny didn’t quite catch, but he was fairly sure it was something like, “I’m going back to sleep.”

    Joey slept for most of the afternoon, and Kenny spent the next few hours sitting at her desk, poring over his notes and consulting his textbooks in an attempt to make a second set of notes that would make sense to people who didn’t share his tangential thought process.

    Kenny had no trouble understanding his original notes. He remembered the train of thought that had started with bullet points on the topic of today’s lesson and ended with him writing a paragraph about the Energizer bunny. He could look at the sketch of Wile E. Coyote next to another set of incomplete bullet points and recall exactly what the professor was talking about while he was shading in the Coyote’s left paw. He understood that the movie quote he had written next to a textbook definition was meant to jog his memory on the practical application of that concept. But of course none of that would make sense to anyone else.

    Oddly, there were certain sections from previous days where his notes looked perfectly coherent. Kenny thought back to what he was doing while taking those notes, and he was surprised to remember that in each of those instances, he was watching Joey’s interpreter.

    “Interesting,” he murmured.


    May
    Spring gave way to summer as the weeks wore on, bringing longer days, higher temperatures, and increased stress levels as final exams drew nearer.

    It was a hot afternoon three weeks before graduation day, and Kenny was making his way toward the library for a study session with some classmates, going over a mental checklist on the way of all the things he still needed to review.

    “Kenny!”

    Jarred from his reverie, he turned on his heel and saw Joey running toward him, waving an envelope and looking almost feverish with excitement.

    “Hey,” he smiled at her as she slowed to a stop and took a moment to catch her breath. “What’s going on?”

    Joey stood up straight and pulled a thick, cream-colored piece of paper out of the envelope and handed it to him. Unfolding it, he quickly skimmed the contents, then looked up at Joey in awe.

    You’ve been chosen—”

    I’ve been chosen to give the commencement speech for our graduating class!” Joey interrupted, bouncing elatedly on the balls of her feet.

    Joey, that’s fantastic!” Kenny broke into a huge grin and gave his friend a joyful hug. He pulled back again and raised his eyebrows at her. “You didn’t tell me you had applied for this.”

    I didn’t tell anyone,” Joey explained. “But I’ve been preparing outlines for weeks, just in case they picked me. I’ve narrowed it down to three topics, and I think I know which one I’m gonna choose. And I'm gonna ask Nelson to get here two hours early that day, just to be sure he doesn’t get delayed by traffic or anything. I don’t want to take the chance of getting stuck without an interpreter.”

    Wow,” Kenny was impressed. “You’re really prepared for this. If it was me, I’d probably procrastinate for weeks and then write the whole speech the night before the ceremony.”

    Yeah,” Joey agreed. “But you usually get A’s on papers you write that way, so it would probably still be a really good speech.”

    Kenny shrugged and laughed a little. “Thanks. Anything I can do to help you before the big day?”

    I could use an audience when I practice the speech,” Joey said.

    You want constructive criticism?” Kenny asked. “Heckling? Both? I can do both. I’ll bring popcorn. And maybe Jonathan.”

    Joey laughed and gave him a good-natured whack on the arm. “You’re gonna be a great audience.”
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
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  18. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    Nice chapter
    I curious for Jeoys speech and I'm wondering if Kenny might be the one to interpretit it to the whole audience after all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2018
  19. SqueakyTheDuck

    SqueakyTheDuck Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2018
    Chapter 9: We'll Be Unstoppable
    Summary: Joey faces a last-minute crisis on Graduation Day, and Kenny has a revelation about his future.

    June 16, 1991

    Graduation day dawned bright and clear. Kenny awoke in Jonathan’s bed, and rolled over to find it empty. He sat up and glanced around the room, then shrugged and laid back down. Jonathan sometimes went over to the student center in the early mornings to get breakfast for the two of them. He would be back any minute.

    In the meantime, Kenny took the opportunity to appreciate the silence and solitude before the chaos of the day began in earnest. He clasped his hands behind his head and kicked off the sheets, letting the early morning sun warm his bare skin. Closing his eyes again, he smiled and thought about the day ahead.

    The doorknob rattled, and Kenny opened his eyes and looked toward the door just as Jonathan came in, carrying two Styrofoam cups and a brown paper bag.

    “Morning,” he said with a grin.

    “Hey,” Kenny said sleepily. He eyed the cups in his boyfriend’s hands. “I might have to pass on the coffee today. I think I’m gonna be jittery enough already.”

    “Which is why I got you tea,” Jonathan said. He brought one of the cups up to his face and sniffed near the lid to make sure it was the right one, then held it out for Kenny.

    Yawning, Kenny sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. He took the offered drink and looked up at Jonathan with a smile. “You know me so well.”

    “I do, don’t I?” Jonathan said, sitting down in the wooden office chair by his desk. He dug in the paper bag and produced two blueberry muffins, one of which he gave to Kenny, and started in on the other one himself.

    They ate together in silence, and Kenny noticed his boyfriend fidgeting in his seat, like he was on edge, which was unusual for Jonathan.

    When he finished eating, Jonathan leaned forward and ran a hand through his tousled black hair. “Kenny, there’s uh...there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

    Kenny regarded him with curiosity, wondering if he should be concerned. “Sure, what is it?”

    Jonathan rubbed the back of his neck nervously and swiveled back and forth in his chair a couple of times. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. Y’know, what’s next for us, after we graduate. This...what we have here, I don’t want it to end. I love waking up next to you, and getting ready for the day together. I love coming back here after a long day and just...being with you. I love seeing your smile and knowing that tomorrow is another day I get to spend with you. And...I want to keep doing all of that.”

    Kenny sat up a little straighter. “Jonathan, are you asking me to move in with you?”

    Jonathan smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I am. Is that something you would want to do?”

    Kenny set his tea on the bedside table and stood up. Crossing the room, he took Jonathan’s hands and pulled him to his feet.

    “I would love nothing more than to wake up next to you every morning,” he whispered, “and fall asleep in your arms every night. Yes, Jonathan, I’ll move in with you.”

    He brushed his hand against the crisp white collar of his boyfriend’s dress shirt and trailed slowly upward to caress his cheek, before sliding his hand behind Jonathan’s neck to pull him in for a kiss. Jonathan leaned in and wrapped his arms around Kenny’s waist, holding him close. They stayed that way for a while, standing in the middle of the room, basking in the stillness, clinging to the moment and to each other.

    “We need to get ready,” Jonathan murmured at last. “The ceremony is starting soon.”

    “Mm, yeah,” Kenny agreed reluctantly, lifting his head off Jonathan’s shoulder. He smiled into his boyfriend’s eyes and gave him another quick kiss before pulling away.

    He picked up his boxer shorts from off the floor and tugged them on, then started looking around for his pants. While Kenny got dressed, Jonathan crossed the room and took their graduation gowns off the coat hook where he had hung them the night before. He held them up, and the boys looked at each other and grinned. This was it. Today was the day everything would change.

    Fifteen minutes later, they were making their way across campus to join their fellow seniors for the commencement ceremony. It was an outdoor event, and when they reached the field where the stage and chairs were set up, they were met by a sea of black caps and gowns identical to their own. Everyone was milling around, talking excitedly, and Kenny felt a buzz of anticipation in the air.

    The graduates were assigned seats in alphabetical order, by last name. Jonathan found his seat in the A section, and Kenny was just about to head for the T’s further back when he spotted Joey near the base of the stage, engaged in what looked like a very tense conversation with the dean. Kenny hung back, waiting, and a moment later Joey came over to him. She looked upset.

    What was that about?” Kenny asked, nodding toward the professor.

    She just got a call from Nelson,” Joey said. “I guess he has a cell phone, because he called from his car. He’s stuck on the freeway. There was some kind of accident this morning. Traffic is really backed up.”

    I thought he was supposed to get here early,” Kenny said, frowning. “To avoid this exact problem.”

    He was trying to get here early,” Joey said. “He’s been stuck in traffic for three hours already. It’s not his fault. It’s not anyone’s fault. It just...happened.”

    What are you going to do?” Kenny asked.

    Joey was beginning to look panicked. “I don’t know. I don’t speak clearly enough to do this without an interpreter. The speech is in fifteen minutes. There’s no way Nelson can get here in time—I don’t know,” she repeated.

    She ran a hand through her hair and looked around anxiously, at a loss for what to do. It was deeply unsettling to see her like this. Joey always knew what to do. More than that, Joey prided herself on her independence, and Kenny could only imagine how frustrating it must be for her in this moment, to be faced with a situation that left her feeling so utterly helpless.

    An idea struck him like a flash of lightning, and he lit up.

    Joey, let me do it,” he said. “Let me interpret for you.”

    Joey looked at him like he was crazy. “Your signing is good, especially for someone who was out of practice until last year, but you’re not ready for this.”

    I’ve interpreted for you before,” Kenny argued.

    Sure, in informal settings,” Joey said. “In our study group, with our friends...”

    That one time at the museum,” Kenny added, smiling at the memory.

    Yeah, this is completely different,” Joey told him.

    Joey, I’ve watched you practice this speech more times than I can count,” Kenny said. “I practically have the whole thing memorized. I can do this.”

    Joey sighed and looked around at the assembled students. “I guess I don’t have a choice. Yeah, you can do it.”

    Kenny grinned, elated, but his excitement was almost immediately quelled by a nagging sensation in the back of his mind. Something felt wrong about this.

    Wait,” he said. “No.”

    Joey looked confused, then annoyed. “What the hell, Kenny? You just said—”

    I know, but...” Kenny frowned. “It should be your choice. If this isn’t what you want, then...I won’t do it.”

    I’m kind of desperate here,” Joey said.

    I know,” Kenny nodded. “But you shouldn’t have to agree out of desperation.”

    Joey let out an exasperated sigh and looked at her watch. “It’s fifteen minutes. What other option do we have?”

    We’ll figure something out,” Kenny insisted.

    Joey looked skeptical.

    Come on,” Kenny pressed. “You’ve seen me do homework. You know I always get my best ideas when it’s down to the wire. And if anybody can come up with creative solutions to tough problems, it’s you. If we work together, we can absolutely think of something in the next fifteen minutes. But I’m not going up on that stage with you unless it’s what you want.”

    He moved in close, put his hand on her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.

    “Joey, you have been in my corner since day one,” he said. Let me show you that I’m in yours.”

    Joey stared at him for a moment, her brows knitted together in contemplation. After a long silence, a smile spread across her face. “You know what? You just did.”

    Kenny looked at her curiously.

    You can interpret for me,” Joey said. “I want you to do it.”

    You’re sure?”

    “Yeah.”

    Kenny returned the smile. “Okay. Let’s do this.”

    They made their way to the front row, where the dean was sitting with a few of the professors, and told her about the change of plans. She agreed to it, and got one of the sound techs to fix Kenny up with a lapel microphone. Then she motioned for them to sit down, as the ceremony was about to begin. Joey sat in the chair reserved for the commencement speaker, and Kenny took the empty seat beside her, which he assumed was originally meant for Nelson.

    The dean got up and made the welcoming remarks, and then it was time for Joey to take the stage. She exchanged an excited look with Kenny, and they went up together. Joey took her place behind the podium, and Kenny stood a few feet away, poised and waiting.

    In the last three weeks, Kenny had seen Joey practice this speech dozens of times; he had listened to Nelson interpret it dozens of times, so much in fact that he had grown accustomed to the cadence and rhythms of the interpreter’s speaking style. Now as he stood opposite Joey on the stage, Kenny was a little concerned that he might find himself mimicking Nelson’s delivery.

    Joey opened with a funny anecdote about her freshman year, then went on to talk about the ways she had grown and changed since then. From there, she segued into talking about the future, and the opportunities opening up to all of them as they went out into the world to begin putting what they had learned into practice.

    It was a beautiful speech. Kenny had loved it since the first time he watched Joey practice it. He loved it more every time he heard it after that. And in this moment, as he interpreted the speech he knew and loved so well, Kenny was struck by how effortless it felt. There was something indescribably organic in the words and tone he used to convey the passion and brilliance of Joey’s speech. It wasn’t Nelson’s style. It wasn’t even Kenny’s style. It was Joey, through and through—her thoughts, her ideas, her emotions, expressed through Kenny as if he wasn’t even there. It was the most incredible feeling in the world.

    Joey concluded with an imperative for her fellow graduates to go out and make the world a better place, and the crowd erupted into a standing ovation.

    Joey looked over and beamed at him as the cheering continued, and all at once, Kenny felt a sense of clarity so strong and so compelling that it nearly took his breath away.

    They returned to their seats amid more applause, then the students were called up on stage one by one to receive their diplomas. Kenny barely listened to the endless list of names; his mind was racing with possibilities. He almost missed when his own name was called, and he went up and accepted his diploma as if in a haze, then he spent the remainder of the ceremony waiting impatiently for it to be over so he could talk to Joey.

    Finally the ceremony came to an end, and Kenny made his way through the sea of graduates all surrounded by their friends and families, looking for Joey.

    He met her halfway, and he knew from the look on her face that she had been trying to find him too. She laughed and caught him in a tight hug, then pulled back and took his hand, leading him away from the crowd.

    They went around to the far side of the stage, and Joey released his hand. She looked like she was about to say something, but Kenny couldn’t contain his excitement any longer.

    Joey, I’ve figured it out!” he exclaimed. “I know what I want to do!”

    Joey’s eyebrows went up. “You do?”

    I want to be your interpreter!” Kenny said. “I mean... from now on. Full-time. I asked Nelson once, just out of curiosity, and he said the RID doesn’t do long-term placements—”

    Kenny,” Joey started to say.

    So I won’t be able to officially register as an interpreter,” Kenny rambled on. “But I don’t have to be registered. It can be an informal arrangement. I can work directly for you—”

    Kenny.”

    And I know my signing needs a lot of improvement, but I can work on that—”

    “Kenny!” Joey exclaimed out loud.

    Kenny stopped rambling and grimaced sheepishly. “Sorry.”

    I brought you over here,” Joey said, “to ask you to be my interpreter.”

    Kenny drew back in surprise, staring at her in open-mouthed astonishment. “Really?”

    “Yes.”

    He laughed, shakily, like he couldn’t quite believe it. “We had the same idea.”

    Great minds think alike,” Joey said, taking a step toward him. “And great teams change the world. That’s what we’re going to be—a great team.”

    Their eyes met, shining with excitement, and Joey grasped his arm.

    The two of us working together...we’ll be unstoppable, Kenny.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
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  20. Anedon

    Anedon Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 11, 2016
    They sure will. :)
    Great chapter.
     
    SqueakyTheDuck likes this.