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The Hidden Ones: The Spotlight - 31. Shoulder to Cry On

Quick house cleaning to do before getting into it. I decided to fuse two chapters for this one. It's not something I commonly due, but I felt like they go really well together and GA has a rule about an 8 hour minimum between posts. So, here's Chapter 31: Shoulder to Cry On parts one and two.

-------Ryder-------

I tried my hardest to fake a happy face as Teddy slammed the door behind him just as Mike had. Did I take it too far? Did I wind up provoking Mike? I thought Teddy was done with him! I thought he’d finally realized what a complete and utter asshole he was! But now, now I don’t know. For the first time in weeks I’m questioning Teddy’s loyalty, and I, I can’t bear the thought of that.

“Hey.” Liz let out, reaching over and grasping my arm. “Don’t overthink it. Teddy’s not angry at anything you did.”

“Then why’d he just shut me out?” I grumbled letting the smile fall from my face and slumping further into the couch. “He’s never said no to me.”

Blake looked to Liz and nodded as an unspoken conversation took place. “Mike was his best friend.” Blake shrugged. “They did everything together growing up. They’ve hung out nearly every day since Pre-K, it’s, he’s been acting like he doesn’t need Mike, but come on, don’t tell me you couldn’t tell how much it’s been bothering him.”

I bit down on my lip, the same way Teddy does when the world begins to close in on him and let out a deep sigh. “I’ve been away.” I shrugged, thinking it over. “I guess I just missed all the signs.”

“Stop.” Liz scolded, squeezing my arm. “You didn’t do anything wrong. This was a good thing for Teddy, why do you think we invited Mike over?”

“To tell him you’re dating?” I mumbled, as my eyes drifted away from them.

“That’s been obvious for like ever dude.” Blake shook his head. “This was just a good excuse to get everyone in the same place. It was one last test to see if Mike had changed or not, and surprise, surprise, he didn’t.”

“Mhm.” Liz hummed in support of her boyfriend. “So Teddy didn’t run away because he’s mad at you, he ran away because he needs to go process what just happened. If he wasn’t on your side do you really think he would’ve just tried to get at Mike?”

“I guess not.” I shrugged, still not looking up.

“Speaking of trying to get at Mike, what the hell were you thinking?” Blake cackled, reaching over and patting me on the back. “Were you really going to fight him?”

“Hell yeah.” I forced out, feeling my heart begin to race once more. “I’ve never fought back before. I know I can’t win, but it’s about time I try.”

“Teddy’s right.” Liz remarked with a nod of her head. “Warped Tour changed you.”

“In a good way!” Blake quickly clarified before I could misconstrue what she meant.

I shook my head, and tried my hardest to let it all fade away but couldn’t. “Why was he even friends with a guy like Mike in the first place? I know they grew up together, but Teddy’s nothing like him.”

“It’s amazing how much a little over two months of dating someone changes how you see them.” Blake provoked, trying to get me to look back up at him. “Because you were singing a completely different song back in May.”

“That’s because I didn’t know,”

“No, that’s because you changed Teddy.” Liz interrupted, before I could finish. “To be fair I guess Teddy wasn’t always as bad as he’s been these past few years, but god damn was he turning into a douchebag. He was losing himself fast and starting to follow after Mike, then you two started to date.”

“Teddy had nothing to stand for. He was just trying to impress as many people as possible.” Blake explained in support of his girlfriend. “Then you came into his life and I guess he found that something.”

“Me?” I asked, not fully understanding their point.

“No. Well kind of. People like you.” Blake answered. “He’s always said he stands up for the right thing, to try and stop bullying, but now he actually does. He’s stopped caring who likes him and who doesn’t. He has a backbone now, and that’s because of you.”

“So then this was the last piece to the puzzle.” I realized, finally connecting all the dots.

“Exactly.” Liz nodded with a proud smile. “He’s finally free to fully be himself. Now whatever little piece of Teddy that was holding onto Mike is gone.” I nodded, but couldn’t help but feel guilty for driving a wedge between him and his best friend. Sure he was a douchebag, but I hate seeing Teddy this upset. “Chin up.” She smiled. “Besides we need to leave for the game, unless you want to be stuck standing the whole time.”  

I kept silent but followed after them as we all quickly made our way up the stairs and to our cars. I couldn’t help but smile as Liz and Blake playfully pushed each other on the way to Blake’s car. To think, they’ve kept it to themselves this whole time. They deserve to be out with it, to show each other off to the world. I just hope people think of Teddy and I the way they will of Liz and Blake.

As we pulled into the parking lot, and started to approach the high school field I could feel the usual stares of my classmates, except this time the y weren’t dirty looks. I saw a few kids stop and point to me as we crossed in front of the bleachers and took our seat behind the home side bench. I fought off a small smile as I saw Teddy all geared up, and ready to go. Something about the way he looked before games always inspired me. His stare was always full of fire, as though he was ready to go to hell and back for his team.

“Holy shit, it’s Ryder!” I heard one of the guys exclaim as his eyes connected with mine.

Before he could say anything else Teddy pulled him over by the padding and angrily barked something into his ear. I could tell he was trying his hardest to stay focused on getting ready for the game. That he wanted nothing to distract him or his team, but every now and then he would pretend to stretch and look over at me.

“Um, Ryder.” I heard a voice call out as a face I’d seen every now and again in the halls nervously approached me. “Is there any way, can you um, can I get your autograph?”

I went to reach for the pen in his shaky hand, but suddenly my mind was swept with all my memories of high school. All the times of being picked on and pushed around. All the times people pointed and laughed, and yet no one said a god damn thing. “Sorry, I don’t do autographs.” I denied, looking away unforgivingly.

“Ouch.” Blake remarked watching the teen dejectedly walk away.

“Ryder.” Teddy growled, showing he had overheard the conversation. “Get your ass over here now!”

I hid a gulp, and slowly made my way over to the sidelines where the team was hastily trying to prepare for their game. “What?” I shrugged, trying to play calm.

“You know what.” He forced out, keeping the angry tone in his voice. “You’re too good for autographs now? I may be over here but I can still hear everything the crowd is saying.”

“I’m not too good.” I dismissed, as our eyes connected. “I’m just not signing anything for anyone from Hudson. Why the hell should I do favors for people that treated me like shit?”

“Because that kid did nothing to you.” Teddy lectured, keeping the intensity in his voice. “You want to take your anger out on someone? Take it out on all the popular kids. Take it out on the kids who actually did shit to you. But what you’re not going to do is be a dick to someone who’s never said a word to you in your fucking life. You got that?”

“What the fuck is your problem today?” I spit, taking a step back from him. For a moment I saw regret enter into his eyes, but the second he looked back into the crowd it vanished.

“My problem is my so called best friend turned out to be the biggest dick in the god damn world, and I’m going to be damned if I let my new one go down that same road.” He answered, taking a step forward. “You’re no longer the victim around here. You’re a leader, an icon. So get your shit together and start acting like it!”

“I’m your new best friend?” I asked, getting hung up on his words.

Teddy angrily shook his head and threw on his helmet. “Forget it.” He muttered, walking back towards his team.

“Wait.” I called out, walking up and giving him a pat on the back. “Thanks you.” I whispered as his words clicked in my head. “Now go give them hell bestie.” I teased.

“I love you.” He angrily murmured, reaching back and lightly stroking my back as I turned away.

“I love you too.” I giggled. As I headed back towards the bleachers I waived over the teen and took the marker from his hand. “You really want me to sign your phone case?”

“Yeah man, I, um, I really like your music.” He let out, trying his hardest not to smile too hard.

“Alright, alright.” I nodded, quickly signing my name. “And I’m sorry about before, I was just in a bad mood. I know it’s already one, but this is still kind of early for me.”

“Yeah I know what you mean.” He nervously laughed, scanning me once more.

“You don’t have to be nervous you know?” I tried to comfort, not sure exactly what to say. “It’s not like I haven’t seen you around before.”

The teen in front of me laughed and shook his head. “Yeah but that was different. Now you’re, you’re, the kid who survived.”

“I’m sorry?” I asked, reaching up and pulling the hair out of my face.

“You, we all thought you were going to kill yourself.” He shook his head. “Sorry, that, it’s just what we thought, but now, now you date Teddy Haner and you’re a freakin rockstar!” He shook his head once more. “It’s, if you can do that then why can’t we?”

I nodded my head as Teddy’s message finally hit me. They didn’t stand up for me, they left me to die, and I would’ve killed myself if I was left alone any longer. Yet, I still made it. Now I’m the one who survived. I’m the one for them to follow. I’m their example. “That’s true.” I encouraged. “But with me dropping out and touring the bullies are going to be on the prowl, so watch your back.” I warned, patting him on the arm and heading back towards Blake and Liz.

“Teddy’s really in a mood today huh?” Blake provoked, seeing what information he could get out of me. “Looked like he really tore into you?”

“He’s just mad at Mike is all.” I shrugged, throwing my hood over my head in hopes that it would discourage anyone else from approaching me. “Why? Should I be worried?”

“Possibly.” Liz weighed in. “He doesn’t really get mad. He just kind of sulks and gets all passive aggressive. I mean, this will probably fade, but if it doesn’t you better hold on tight.”

“I’m not worried.” I lied with another shake of my head. Blake went to say something but before he could I quickly shhed him. “The game is starting.”

“Yeah because you’re such a big lacrosse fan.” He mumbled, seeing right through my act.

“More like a fan of seeing Teddy in tight shorts.” Liz giggled, giving me one last jab.

The game seemed to take off the second the ball dropped. I’d be lying if I said I understood lacrosse, but it’s clear there was some type of war going on on that field. The two teams went at one another viciously hitting, shoving, pushing at every chance they got.

“HEY!” Blake shouted as the man that was covering Teddy slashed him across the arms. “Where’s the call ref?!” I shook my head as Teddy angrily shoved the man back, trying his hardest to numb the pain. Before Teddy could get his wits about him the defender reached over and used his stick to crosscheck him to the ground. “Hey stripes!” Blake shouted again. “You need to get a girlfriend because you’re screwing the game!”

Before I knew it Teddy jumped to his feet and started getting in the bigger kids face. The two quickly began to shove each other, as their helmets bucked. “Uh oh.” Liz let out as concern dripped into her eyes. “Teddy better back down.”

“Fuck that.” I shook my head. “Teddy better knock him the hell out.”

“That’s not how lacrosse works.” Blake sighed, as Teddy began to walk away. “See, it was just a,” but before he could finish Teddy turned back and tackled the kid to the ground. As fists began to fly kids from both sides flew in and tried pulling them apart. After a few moments one of his teammates was finally able to grab a hold of Teddy, and start pulling him off the field. “You better go get him before he gets a suspension.” Blake let out, pushing me towards the field.

“You’re out of control Haner!” I heard the ref yell as Teddy kept fighting to get back towards the kid. “Get off the field now!” Teddy ignored the warning, broke free, and ran back towards the scrum, desperate to get back at his attacker.

“Who the fuck are you?” The coach shook his head as I approached the sidelines. “What kind of free for all is this,”

“It’s cool,” One of the players interrupted. “That’s Teddy’s boyfriend, He’ll know how to calm him down.”

“Fine.” The coach shook his head, and threw his hands up. “Do whatever you have to! Just get him off the god damn field! Now!”

It took another minute but they finally dragged Teddy back over kicking and screaming. “You fucking try that!” Teddy shrieked at the top of his lungs, still trying to get at the other player. “I’m going to plant a tree in your mother’s ass and fuck your brother in the shade.” I heard some stifled laughter ring out from the crowd as a heated Teddy finally broke free and ripped off his helmet. Without warning he whipped it down into the track under him. “Don’t just look at me!” Teddy shouted at his teammates. “Go out there and light them the fuck up! This shit isn’t a spectator sport!”

“Alright.” I finally spoke up, walking up and grabbing his helmet off the ground. “You need to go.” It took me a few times but when I finally grabbed onto him I could feel the anger radiating off him.

“Let me go!” He fought as I began to pull him towards the exit. “I need to go shut that dumb fuck up!”

“Teddy!” I shouted, turning him towards me and staring into his eyes. “It’s over! You need to let it go!”  He turned away, and began to fight me once more but before he could break free I grabbed his face and turned it back towards me. “Let it go.” I repeated in a calm voice. “Trust your teammates. They’ve got this.” For a second I swear he was going to bolt back onto the field, but finally the rational side got back to him as he let me lead him towards the parking lot.

One by one the kids in the crowd got to their feet and began to clap for Teddy’s bravery. It wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever seen him do, but I can’t say I’m surprised. Of all days for a game like this, it had to be today? “I don’t need you babysitting me.” He growled, throwing his equipment into his trunk.

“I know,” I quickly let out, trying to gauge how angry he was. “but that doesn’t mean you’re not out of control.”

“Whatever.” He shook his head, and slammed the trunk of his car. “Are you coming over?”

“What?” I asked, caught off guard by the question.

“Are you coming back to my house?” He asked, changing the phrasing. “Apparently I have the whole god damn afternoon free now.”

“Oh, um, yeah.” I quickly nodded. “Lead the way and I’ll follow.”

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I couldn’t help but worry as I tailed him back to his house. Today’s not his day, but I’ve never seen him that out of control. I’ve never seen him completely lose his temper like that! Is losing Mike bothering him that much? Is he this angry over it? Is he going to blame me for it?

As he climbed out of his car and turned back towards me I saw a light black eye beginning to take form on the right side of his face. “Teddy.” I exhaled, getting a little bit closer.

“Don’t Teddy me right now.” He grumbled, turning away and heading towards the front door of his house. I gulped and nervously followed after him as we made our way into their home.

“Home already dear?” Harry called out, hearing the door shut. “Did you forget your purse or,”

“It’s me.” Teddy forced out, as we both stepped into the living room.

“What?” Harry shook his head, confusion growing. “Why are you already home? And why do you have a black eye? Did you hit your head?”

“No.” Teddy complained, trying to break for the basement, but before he could I grabbed onto his arm.

“He got into a fight.” I began, not sure what else to do.

“Dude!” He yelped, turning back towards me and shooting me a nasty look.

Harry let out a deep sigh and waived us towards the couch. “Have a seat boys.”

“No.” Teddy denied, pulling his arm free and walking towards the door.

“Theodore. Now!” Harry let out in a booming voice. “and don’t look at Ryder like that, you’re lucky to have someone who cares about you as much as him.”

Teddy frustradely mumbled something under his breath before letting his weight fall onto the couch. “What?” He grunted, keeping his head down.

“Teddy!” I let out, shocked by how he was acting.

“’Teddy’ is right.” His dad emphasized. Beginning to stare him down. “You better watch the tone, and tell me what happened.”

“It’s really not a big deal.” Teddy denied, still not looking up. “I was getting slashed, cross checked and trash talked, and I had enough. I stood up for myself, isn’t that what you taught me to do?”

Harry’s glance moved over to me in hopes that I could elaborate a little more. “That wasn’t the issue.” I began, taking a seat next to him. “The problem was you couldn’t let it go. It’s one thing to go back at him, it’s another to start a brawl!”

“Brawl?” His dad repeated in surprise. “What do you mean brawl?”

“It was not a brawl.” Teddy tried to reject, but for the first time in his life it was obvious he was lying.

“What do you call everyone on the field running over and fighting? I may not know sports that well, but I’m pretty sure that’s a brawl.” I insisted, staying on his case.

Teddy angrily clenched his fist and turned back towards me. “Who’s side are you on?”  

For a second I gulped and went to back off, but the moment our eyes connected I knew I couldn’t just sit back. Not anymore. “Whichever side helps you get out of this funk!” I yelped, unsure what else to say. “Sleeping in! Almost losing your temper at Blake’s! Actually losing your temper at your game!”

“What happened at Blake’s?” Harry spoke up, trying to interrupt our stare down.

“Nothing.” Teddy shook his head as his eyes returned to the floor.

“Either you tell him, or I tell him.” I insisted, starting to get frustrated by the way Teddy was acting.

“You’re being such a baby today.” Teddy pouted finally looking towards his dad. “Blake thought it would be a good idea to have Mike over.”

“Okay?” His dad let out. “You’ve been friends since pre-k, since when wouldn’t that be a good idea?”

Teddy let out a deep sigh and looked back towards the kitchen “Mom!” He yelped, looking for support.

“She’s not home, you’re stuck with me.” Harry smiled, forcing his son to look at him once more.

“But she knows about everything that’s been happening.” He grumbled. “Mike’s been acting like a dick ever since I started dating Ryder. You know how he is.”

“Ahh.” Harry nodded, starting to get a good idea of what was happening. “Maybe he just needs time to accept that you don’t have the time to spend every second with him anymore. It can be hard but I’m sure,”

“It’s not that.” Teddy interrupted, growing visibly frustrated with every passing moment. “He’s hated Ryder ever since we were in kindergarten. He’s been Ryder’s bully his whole life, and now, I don’t know,” Teddy let out a grunt as his frustration turned back into anger. “I’m just sick of everyone telling me dating Ryder is a mistake!”

“Who’s telling you that?” I let out, wrapping my arm around him and pulling him in.

“My mom at first, my uncle acts like he’s joking but I know he’s not, guys on the team have been hinting at it, the baseball team won’t leave me the fuck alone, and worst of all I lost my best friend over it!” He yelped, trying his hardest to keep his emotions in check. “It’s never bothered me when people stared at me dating a guy, but now that it’s my own family and  friends, I-I don’t know!”

“If they care they’re not your friends.” I corrected, letting him fall into me. “Blake and Liz, they’re your real friends, and they’ve treated me like family. I know your uncle teases us, and I know part of it is serious but it’s just because he’s scared.” I pushed out, trying my hardest to comfort him. “He’s been dealing with rock stars since he got into the industry. He knows what they can be like. He just wants to protect you.” I reached up and gently started to rub his back. “Give him time and he’ll get to see that I’m, me, and well, that’s never going to change. I’m never going to stop putting you as a priority in my life. And you’re mom.” I shook my head. “I don’t know why you even brought her up. Sure, she didn’t approve of me at first, but she’s accepted me with open arms.” He let out a small hum and nodded in my arms. “Next time you start feeling like this you come tell me okay?” Once more he hummed and nodded. “Because overthinking isn’t you. It’s never been you, and that-that’s why I love you. You’re the calm to my chaos, without you there I’d-I’d implode! That’s how much you mean to me.”

“I love you.” He softly let out, trying to choke back tears.

“I love you too.” I nodded, closing my eyes and holding him tightly.

As the front door shut and I heard footsteps wander towards the living room I could feel another pair of eyes fall on us. “What’s going on in here?” I heard Teddy’s mom ask.

“Ryder’s taking care of Teddy.” Harry proudly let out, getting up and walking towards his wife. “I mean, just look at them!” He happily let out. “They remind me of another young couple I used to know.”

“You’re not as good a musician as Ryder.”  Mrs. Haner teased, patting her husband on the back. “But I guess Teddy and I do have a type.”

“Gross.” Teddy forced out, looking over at his mom.

“Theodore! What in the world happened to,”

“Leave it.” Harry whispered, not wanting to fall back down that rabbit hole.

She rolled her eyes, and shook her head. “We do have a type though.” She began once more, trying her hardest to ignore Teddy’s growing black eye. “You think your dad didn’t have skinny jeans, long hair and earrings?”

He happily hummed and nodded his head. “And I rocked them.”             

Mrs. Haner laughed, and nodded her head along to his words. “And now history is repeating itself.”

“That it is.” Harry nodded, proud smile growing as he took another good look at us.

I know they insist that I’m successful on my own, but that’s not true. No one is. Where would Lennon be without McCartney? Jagger without Richards? Osbourne without Iommi? No one’s done it on their own, and I won’t be the exception.

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----Teddy---

As the pain radiated from my face I couldn’t help but think what a rough day today was. Fighting with mike, fighting on the field, everything, it just got to me. But no matter what it was Ryder was right there with me. I’m starting to forget what life was like without him, how to handle things without leaning on him. But I’m not scared. For the first time in my life the people I call my friends are actually my friends. I’m not fake any more. I’m not that kid who did anything for anyone. Now I’m Teddy Haner. The real Teddy Haner.

I felt Ryder begin to run his hand and up down my side as he began to hum me a tune. Except this time it wasn’t a song I’d heard before. It wasn’t a song anyone had heard before. It was a song he was coming up with in the moment. One his beautiful mind was creating. A song just for me. Before I knew it his hand drifted to his pocket, and out popped his small black book. “What are you writing?” I couldn’t help but ask as he frantically jotted down whatever ideas were swirling around in his head.

“Nothing.” He softly smiled. “Probably something that will never get made.”

“Why not?” I asked. I went to pull away from him but he reached over and kept me in place.

“Too soft.” He shrugged. “I don’t know, most of this book is unusable.”

“That’s crazy.” I shook my head. “If you like the way it sounds, what do you care?”

“It’s not that.” He gently laughed. “I just want my albums to have a certain theme and style, and I want that to carry over to Messiah. But some of these songs, they’re too poppy and soft.”

“Poppy?” I asked, caught off guard by the description.

He swayed his head trying to come up with a better word for it. “Maybe not pop music, but like, softer rock, like a Twenty Seconds to Mars, Twenty One Pilots, or Imagine Dragons type of vibe.”

“Oh.” I let out, still trying to rap my mind around him singing that style. “Then why don’t you start a side project later on?”

“Maybe.” He shrugged, not buying too much into the suggestion. “But that would take away from Messiah and then I risk ruining the image I’m trying to build, I don’t know, I just want Messiah to be this big metal giant. I-I want to be the biggest face in metal.”

I couldn’t help but smile as a blush filled his face. “It’s alright.” I supported, resting my head against him. “I think you can get there.”

“I don’t know.” He sheepishly laughed as the blush grew stronger. “I’ve seen so many bands try it just to fall apart. I want to bridge that gap between the music your dad likes and the music the band likes. I want to take both those styles I love and fuse them. When I’m done I don’t want to be another name that gets talked about, I want to be the name.

I couldn’t help but giggle at his ambition. “The kid who screamed at me about popularity wants to be popular.” I couldn’t help but tease. “Go figure.”

“I-it’s not that.” He shook his head. “It’s-I, forget it, it’s corny.”

“So?” I shrugged, eagerly wanting to hear what he had to say. “Spit.”

“I-I, sure, fine, popularity is kind of nice, but I want my grandma to look at me and know that I really really made it.” He finally forced out. “I want her to know that every second she’s spent worrying about me paid off. All those sacrifices she made, and times she had to scrape by just to buy me another guitar, or another bass, that it wasn’t for nothing.”

“She doesn’t need you to get famous to think that.” I denied, keeping a supportive smile.

“I know.” He exhaled. “But that moment, looking up from the stage and seeing her watching me, it would –I don’t know the words for it.” He began to get misty eyes thinking of the moment. Sure, he fights with his grandma a lot, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she means everything to him. She was the only one he had for the longest time, and it shows.

“I get it.” I nodded, grabbing his arm and gently stroking it. “But she’s extremely proud of you. When you were on tour she wouldn’t stop talking about it. She described you as the best thing to ever happen to her.” He looked away as he tried his hardest to fight a smile on his face. “It’s alright.” I teased, reaching over and starting to tickle him. “You can totally smile at that. You’re a grandma’s boy, it’s cool.”

“Stop!” he yelped, as laughter broke out into his words. “I’m not a grandma’s boy!”

“You are!” I continued, finally letting him go. “The big bad rock star Ryder Sullivan has a soft spot for his grandma, its okay, I’ll keep it a secret.”

“I’ve got a soft spot for my boyfriend too.” He muttered louder than he intended.

“Oh yeah?” I giggled as a wide grin began on my face.

“Yeah.” he doubled down, refusing to hide from it. “You’re my first everything. I don’t think I could ever love anyone else, and thankfully after your graduation I,”

“Ryder!” I interrupted, once more trying to stop him from ruining the surprise. “It’s not even going to be fun if you propose now!”

“Who said I was going to?” He asked, as he pushed me off of him and stood up. “Maybe I’ll break up with you.”

“You don’t have the balls.” I giggled, pushing my leg out and giving him a light kick to the butt.

Once more he had to turn away to hide his smile. “I don’t.” he agreed. “I’d die of heartbreak before I could.” The words came out in a joking tone, but as he turned back towards me I could tell he wasn’t kidding. “Love you Theodore Haner.” He let out, leaning back over and planting a kiss on my lips.

“Wait!” I let out as he pulled away and headed to the front door. “Where are you going?”

“Studio.” He answered, pulling the door open. “I’ve gotta put the finishing touches on a few songs.”

“Come back over later?” I asked, desperately trying to fit in as much time with him as possible.

“I’ve been here all day.” He giggled. “It’s already six, by time I get done in the studio it’ll be like ten and that’s just about your bed time. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He winked.

“Fine.” I grumbled. “But you better text me!”

“I will.” He answered, quickly shutting the door behind him.

“You two have gotten awfully touchy feely.” My dad let out from the kitchen, showing he had been listening in on our conversation.

“Dad!” I exclaimed, sitting up and turning back towards him.

“If you wanted privacy you should’ve went downstairs.” He shrugged, reading over some bills. “Boy he reads you like a book though.”

“No he doesn’t.” I pouted. “No one can.” I began to bite down on my lip as I thought it over in my head. I’ve always been good at keeping everything hidden. Not even my best friends can ever fully read what I’ll do next.

“Never understood why that’s such a bad thing.” My dad sighed, finally looking back up. “Deny it all you want, but he does. I could tell by the way he was looking at you when you fell asleep. He knows just what to say to you.”

“I didn’t fall asleep.” I lied, trying to hide the growing blush on my face. “And he’s just spent a lot of time with me, that doesn’t mean he can read me.”

“Tell yourself whatever you need to.” He shrugged, getting back to his work. I rolled my eyes, but as I got up and headed towards the stairs I saw my dad’s gaze shift back over to me. “You understand what it means to say the words ‘I love you’ right?”

“Of course.” I nodded, not slowing down.

“It means you trust that person. It means you’re completely and totally vulnerable to them, and that their emotions are completely and totally in your hand.” He explained anyway. “It would destroy Ryder if you every played with those emotions.”

“You think it wouldn’t destroy me?” I muttered, more to myself than him. A small smile formed on his face as he heard my words. He’s so weird. One day he’s lecturing me about not being too reliant on Ryder, but now he’s making sure I know what he should mean to me. I guess he just really wants us to work out without someone getting hurt.

The rest of the night flew by, Ryder was right about my bedtime and the second I jumped out of the shower I was knocked out. As I laid in my bed, ready to drift off into sleep I heard my door gently creek open.

“Teddy?” My mom let out, but I stayed quiet, too tired to talk about whatever nonsense was on her mind. I heard the door shut as quiet footsteps grew closer. “How many times have I told you, if you’re going to sleep without a shirt on you need to have your covers on.” She quietly spoke. “It’s bad enough you’re blasting the A.C. you’re going to catch a cold.” I felt her reach down and pull my covers up over my shoulders. “That eye is so bad.” She groaned, gently sitting on the side of the bed. “Of all places, he had to catch you on the face?”

A minute or two passed of her just sitting there, watching me ‘sleep’, until finally she reached up and softly moved the hair from my face. “Your father told me what you said this afternoon.” She began, trying her hardest to stay as quiet as possible. “That it really bothered you when I didn’t approve of Ryder. He said Ryder shooed it away, but I need you to understand why I didn’t think he was good enough for you. It’s because I don’t think anyone is good enough for you.” She confessed. “You’re so smart, and kind and handsome, and the idea of you getting tied down so young, it just got to me.” Another few seconds passed as she thought it all over. “But I guess it wasn’t just that. I guess I was being selfish. I-I don’t want you to grow up. I don’t want to have to share you. I miss that little boy who used to rush up to me when he scrapped his knee, or stubbed his toe. It’s always been you and me. I’ve always had you there.” I could tell by the way she was talking that she needed to hear this more than me. “I remember one night in the middle of my pregnancy, my parents wanted me to give you up, and my friends said Harrison wouldn’t stick around.  They told me if band practice is already more important than taking care of his pregnant girlfriend then he wouldn’t stay when the baby came. I was so alone and scared.” She breathed as emotions broke through in her words. “Then I reached down and you kicked, like you knew what was going on. Like you wanted to remind me I wasn’t alone. Just like a teddy bear you were there to comfort me, and as stupid as it sounds, that’s where I got your name.” Her hand returned to my hair as she combed it a little bit more. “I know I’ve got another one on the way, and you’re getting old, but I’m just not ready to let you go yet.”

I could feel her eyes on me as she thought it over. “I guess that’s no excuse for me to hold you back is it?” She asked the open air. “Dad said he heard Ryder joke about proposing again. God I hope he does, and I hope you say yes. I hope you grab onto that adventure with both hands and jump head first into it. I know I’ll never say it to you when you’re awake, but maybe, maybe if he locked you down it would make it easier to let you go.” She exhaled. “I’d know you were taken care of. I know he’d be there to hold you when you fell. I’m so happy you found him, and Mike, I always knew he was a douchebag.” She confessed, leaning over and laying a kiss on my forehead. “Good night Theodore. I love you.”

“I will say yes.” I forced out, turning over and looking at her.

“Please tell me you’re sleep talking.” She groaned, as she saw my eyes slowly open.

“No.” I denied, still not opening them all the way. “I’ve been awake the whole time.”

“And you ignored me?” She asked, shooting me a serious look.

“I let the situation play itself out.” I shrugged as a soft smile crossed my face. “You really like Ryder?”

“Of course.” She quickly nodded. “He held you for hours on our couch today just because he was worried. I don’t think I can ask for more than that.”

I reached out and grabbed onto her arm. “I love him, and I can’t wait for our life together to start but that doesn’t mean you have to let me go.” I forced out. “I’ll never leave you alone.”

“Good.” She smiled, pulling her arm up and locking her fingers around mine. “I’ll have to talk to you when you’re exhausted more often. I don’t think I’ve seen you be this sweet in years.” 

I shrugged my shoulders as my smile grew. “I’m not that tired, you just said all the right things.”

“The part about Mike being a douchebag?” She teased as I nodded my head. “He is.” She doubled down. “You’re better without him.”

“Yeah.” I agreed as my hand fell from hers. “Can we not tell dad about this?”

“Why? Are you embarrassed?” She teased once more, but slowly began to nod her head. “It’ll be our secret. Good night Teddy.” She whispered, laying a kiss on my forehead.

“Good night.” I forced out before I drifted off into sleep.

When I woke up I finally seemed back to my usual self. It absolutely sucks that I’ve lost Mike, but at the end of the day I don’t need someone like him. Someone so resentful and immature. Someone so, so, fake. Ryder’s shown me that now, and there’s not going back.

“Are we going to play or are you going to keep checking your phone?” My dad impatiently sighed. “I get you like talking to Ryder and all, but I’m sure it can wait like twenty minutes.”

“I’m not talking to Ryder.” I shook my head, picking my stick back up. “I mean, I guess I am, but he hasn’t answered yet today. It’s already one, he usually at least sends me a good morning text by now.”

“He probably just stayed at the studio all night.” My dad shrugged, whipping a ball towards me. “No reason to be worried.”

I quickly flashed my stick in front of me just catching the ball before it could hit me. “DAD!” I yelped. “Apparently you’re my reason to be worried!”

“Oh please,” He waived off. “You caught it didn’t you?”

“Just barely!” I complained, ripping it towards the net. “It’s bad enough I’ve got one black eye! Are you trying to give me a second one?”

“It would even it out.” He provoked, scooping up another ball and lobbing it to me. “That better princess?”

Once more I whipped the ball towards this net, this time adding as much force as I could to it. “I’ll give you a black eye.” I muttered.

“Ohhh.” He laughed, getting the reaction he wanted out of me. “You couldn’t if you tried.”

“You want to test that?” I playfully mocked. “You’re getting old now.”

“Thirty-eight is not old.” He defended, walking over and giving me a light crosscheck. “Besides you’ve got your mother’s height.”

“I’m taller than her!” I defended, giving him a shove back. “And you haven’t worked out since I was a kid, I could totally take you.”

“I don’t need to work out,” He laughed, fending me off. “I’ve got dad strength.”

“Dad strength to eat three donuts every morning.” I giggled, scooping up a ball and flicking it to him. “You should really start eating healthier.”

“Says the kid who used to eat bags of chips like they were going out of style.” He shot back, shooting the ball towards the net.

“I was growing.” I shrugged, running up and catching his ball as it launched off the post. “What’s your excuse tubby?”

Suddenly I felt the weight of his stick holding down mine as I pulled back for another shot. “You did not just call me tubby.” He laughed, pushing me with his free hand.

“Tubby.” I repeated as he gave me another light shove.

“You’re going down Theodore!” He began, giving him shove after shove.

“Harrison!” My mom yelled, pulling open the glass doors. “He’s already got one black eye! Are you trying to give him another?”

“I’m fine.” I groaned, as she stared us both down.

“Idiots.” She sighed, judgmentally shaking her head. “Lunch is ready once you both decide to be mature again.”

I couldn’t help but fool around for a few more minutes before heading back inside and eating lunch. My mom can say all she wants about my relationship with my dad, but at the end of the day he knows just how and when to distract me. He could read the worry on my face, and did everything he could to replace it with a smile. If I can be even half the man he is then I’ll be okay.

Minutes felt like an eternity as I sat on the couch, eagerly waiting for a text from Ryder. Odds are my dad’s right and he’s still fast asleep, but still, it’s not like him to go completely dark out of nowhere.

“Going to wake up Ryder?” My mom laughed as she saw me swipe the keys off the counter.

“Yeah.” I nodded, quickly heading towards the door.

“He’s okay,” She tried to comfort. “just sleeping, so no speeding, okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah.” I rolled my eyes, running out to my car and booking it to Ryder’s house.

The worry seemed to intensify as I saw Mrs. Sullivan quietly rocking on her porch. “Good afternoon.” I nervously forced out, quickly walking to the front door.

“I was wondering when you’d show up.” She exhaled, almost in a sigh of relief. “I think Ryder needs you.”

“Why?” I gulped, as my heart began to race.

“He’s okay.” She quickly clarified, reading the look on my face. “It’s just, you know how his mind can get.” She sighed. “And he’s been overworking himself in the studio, and coming home late. He doesn’t know how to take a break.” She complained, standing up and leading me to his room. “But I’ll let you take over.”              

I graciously nodded as she opened the door then quietly shut it behind me. I took in a deep breath as I saw Ryder lying on his back staring at the ceiling. His eyes were wide open, but looked fake. As though they were replaced with a doll’s. His skin was as pale as a ghost. The only movement in his body coming from his shallow breathing. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t terrify me, but I need to be strong.

“So this is why you haven’t texted me yet. “I let out, forcing a smile. “I’m sorry,” I began, not sure what to say. “Maybe if I didn’t lose my cool yesterday you would still have strength left to fight for yourself.” I looked him over once more and shook my head. “I was being selfish, and you deserve better than that.”

He let out a deep breath, and forced himself to turn towards me, but still kept his silence. I couldn’t help but gulp hard as his dead eyes fell on me. “I’d do anything to free you from whatever’s going on in your head right now.” I groaned. “I can’t even begin to imagine how terrible it must feel.”

“Don’t feel bad for me.” He managed to force out, connecting eyes with me. “Just, stay here with me for a while.”

I felt my eyes grow wider from the shock of him speaking. “I’ll stay all day if you want.” I quickly nodded. He mimicked my nod, and before I knew it I saw a hand reach out for me.             

Silence filled the air for a few minutes as he stared off at the door. “I’m a disappointment.” He finally let out. “I should be in the studio writing and recording. The album’s so close to being done, and look at me.” He exhaled. “Chained here in bed like a fucking loser.”

“No you’re not.” I shook my head. “You’ve worked non-stop since you got back. You need to take breaks for yourself every now and again.”

He shook his head, but his eyes still stayed fixated on the door. “Why? It’s not like I’m writing anything ground breaking. Just generic shit.” He let out a breathe, and for the first time since I met him I got to see just how deep his depression ran. “I say I want to be this amazing musician, but who am I kidding? This tours going to be a failure. This albums going to be a failure. Then no one will touch me. Get off the sinking ship while you still can.”

“Your album is incredible.” I shook my head, amazed by the hopeless words pouring out of his mouth. “I, when I was listening to you guys recording it; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The lyrics, the guitar, the drums, it’s all so-so-so powerful.” I encouraged, beginning to squeeze his hand. “And this moment right here. This-This depressive episode, it’s only going to make you stronger.” I fought through the bubbling emotions and let my fears turn into anger. “Fuck your depression! Fuck your anxiety! It’s all-all fucking bullshit! You’re Ryder Sullivan. This will be another blip on your radar, and when you come out of it it’ll give you something powerful to write about.” He stayed quiet as my words began to hit him. “And for the record, if it all does go south, if the ship does sink, I’ll be right there with you, going down with it all.”

“That’s stupid.” He decided, letting the darkness grab a tighter hold of him. “Everything I touch turns to shit. That’s why I’ve never had any friends. That’s why my mom died. That’s why my dad hung himself. Right now, everything that seems to be going good, it’s just one big joke. It’ll blow up in my face, just like everything else in my life.”

“Ryder,” I exhaled, trying my hardest to force eye contact. “It’s not your fault your mom got sick, it’s, I don’t know why she got sick, but I know for a fact it didn’t have anything to do with you. And your dad, you’re not the reason, well, you.”

“Just stop.” He interrupted, as the glaze over his eyes only seemed to grow stronger. “He killed himself because he knew I was a curse. His life with her was perfect before I came along, and then four years after I’m born everything went to shit. He hated me because of it. I know he did.”

“How would you know that?” I let out, desperately trying to get him to see reality. I felt a chill run down my spine as his eyes finally met mine. Now I see that his depression isn’t something that will ever fully go away. It’ll always be there, lurking in his mind, convincing him that he’s not good enough. Convincing him that he’s waste of life.

“Because the second it was just him and me. The moment I was all he had left. Well he ran to move back in with his mother.” Ryder explained, as his gaze grew heavier. “He couldn’t even stomach alone time with me. And then, when he realized he couldn’t run from me. Well he found the only way out.”

“Ryder that’s just your depression talking.” I tried to level with him, but I could tell there was no breaking through. “You, you were five. There was no way you could know that. Your minds just telling you that so you fall apart.”

His hand slipped away from mine as our eye contact broke. “If it wasn’t true then he would’ve left something.” Ryder concluded, taking the last of his energy and turning his back to me. “Maybe you should just leave before,”

“No!” I interrupted, thinking of the letter his father actually did leave. “I’m not going anywhere.” I shook my head. “Not until this episode leaves and I get the Ryder I know back.”

He mumbled something to himself, but I leaned back in my chair, refusing to leave his side. The second he gets better his grandmother is showing him that note. The second he can tell reality from fiction he’s going to read it in it’s entirety and learn from his father’s mistakes. The second I get MY Ryder back I’m holding onto him and never letting go again.

2017, Ace
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Chapter Comments

Ryder really needs to read that letter from his father. His grandmother thought she was doing what was best by not letting him know he had written something for Ryder. Clearly, he needs to know what his father was actually dealing with instead of the fears that he came up with on his own.

 

They each take turns taking care of each other.  ;-)

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Haha - is it bad that I enjoyed seeing angry Teddy?  

 

We finally get to see Ryder helping Teddy through an episode of sorts - and now Teddy will help through another one of his - full circle.

 

And yes, Mike’s a dick and the sort of Billy I despised in high school and still do.  But I still feel a little bad about him and Teddy.  Dammit, Ace, why you have to make me empathize with those I hate?  

 

And Teddy was being a little hard on Ryder at the game.  Sure, that kid and others may not have hurt him but they didn’t help him either.  Yeah, it’s easier said than done but Ryder’s entitled to a degree of bitterness.

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3 hours ago, Israfil said:

Haha - is it bad that I enjoyed seeing angry Teddy?  

 

We finally get to see Ryder helping Teddy through an episode of sorts - and now Teddy will help through another one of his - full circle.

 

And yes, Mike’s a dick and the sort of Billy I despised in high school and still do.  But I still feel a little bad about him and Teddy.  Dammit, Ace, why you have to make me empathize with those I hate?  

 

And Teddy was being a little hard on Ryder at the game.  Sure, that kid and others may not have hurt him but they didn’t help him either.  Yeah, it’s easier said than done but Ryder’s entitled to a degree of bitterness.

 

Haha I'm glad you empathize, it means I've done a good job of making him feel human. Whenever I write a "villian" I always keep this George RR Martin quote in my head:

 

"People do things for what they think are justified reasons. Everybody is the hero of their own story, and you have to keep that in mind. If you read a lot of history, as I do, even the worst and most monstrous people thought they were the good guys. We're all very tangled knots.”"

 

Mike truly believes Ryder is a shitty person, and one that's threatening to bring down all his best friends. As wrong or right as he may be, it's hard to watch someone go through that. 

 

I agree that Teddy was harsh. I don't know about you guys but if I was Ryder I don't think I would've signed anything for anybody at that school

 

 

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3 hours ago, Wesley8890 said:

Wow a lot in this chapter!!!

 

Hopefully I didn't overwhelm you guys! I just like having the two chapters back to back to see how they've both grown, and how they have their own unique ways of taking care of one another.

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4 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Ryder really needs to read that letter from his father. His grandmother thought she was doing what was best by not letting him know he had written something for Ryder. Clearly, he needs to know what his father was actually dealing with instead of the fears that he came up with on his own.

 

They each take turns taking care of each other.  ;-)

 

It's funny, how much damage we can accidentally do when we think we're protecting our loved ones.

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Ryder and Teddy are burning brightly. Son't let them burn out - hell don't burn your readers out. This is wonderful, deep, real and exhausting and that just reading it. You not only gave us a double dose but each part was very emotional. The boys are growing and growing together.

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4 hours ago, Rndmrunner said:

Ryder and Teddy are burning brightly. Son't let them burn out - hell don't burn your readers out. This is wonderful, deep, real and exhausting and that just reading it. You not only gave us a double dose but each part was very emotional. The boys are growing and growing together.

Haha only runs deeper from here! I'll probably delay next chapter until tomorrow night to let this one sink in and sit for a while.

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I loved Mom's conversation with "sleeping" Teddy. It was good for him to hear what she said, and I'm glad he "woke up" and talked to her about it. I was glad to see Teddy being the strong one. I like the way he and Ryder seem to trade off on that role. I can't remember if I've said it lately, but I love these characters and their story! Thank you!

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WOW!  This was a powerful double chapter.  Both Teddy and Ryder went to the depths of their soul trying to deny their relationship and their deep love for each other. 

Ryder's grandmother definitely needs to share the letter from his father.  He needs to read it soon.

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