"Arthur, what in the bloody hell were you thinking?!" Tony Shephard's voice broke through the telephone, and Artur Savage fought back the urge to end the call right there.

"I was thinking it would be a wonderful opportunity to bring funding into the school as well as offer a group of students the opportunity to experience a virtual-reality-"

"Bullshit. That's fucking BULLSHIT, Arthur! You didn't notify the parents until after you'd signed our kids up for us. That's illegal, I'm pretty sure! We all could have you brought up on charges-"

"-Tony, do you really think they'd take the word of a lowly school janitor over the soon-to-be headmaster of the school?"

Tony sat down on the couch in his living room, squeezing the bridge of his nose.

"For God's sake, Arthur. This isn't about our jobs, it's about my kid. I don't fucking care that you're headmaster, I care that you put Anna in danger and you didn't have the decency to fucking tell me!"

A moment of silence filled the receiver, before Arthur spoke.

"…It's a virtual reality simulation. None of the students are in any real-world danger. All they have to do is lie there and play out the scenarios in their heads. It's completely safe."

"Yeah, well. You still should've told the parents before the simulation started."

"It would have complicated matters more, Tony."

"I have a RIGHT to know what the school is doing with MY KID!"

"We couldn't risk the parents disclosing information to the students- if they found out that they were taking place in a simulation it would ruin the trial-"

"-Arthur, you're bloody lucky I need to keep my job or else we'd be settling this in the lot behind the school."

Tony's voice was bitter, and Arthur felt a twinge of remorse in the pit of his stomach. It was no coincidence that he'd picked six of the students who, if any teacher were to be asked, would say were some of the best and most promising students. Lisa was the head of the school's Queer-Straight Alliance, of which Chris, John and Anna were occasional attendees. Nick was the star rugby player at the school, already looking at being scouted by top university teams. Anna was a straight-A student, and Steph, albeit a transfer student, had a die-hard social justice streak and a very impressive transcript from the prestigious private school she'd attended back in Canada. Most of all, the six students he'd picked were happy. They were good kids, and they had bright futures ahead of them; just like Arthur and Tony had been back in secondary school all those years ago.


"Artie, come on-"

"NO. Tony, I can't. My dad's been up my ass all year about prepping for my A-levels, and I've got the play coming up, and honestly… I think… I think that this whole thing with us is just a distraction that's going to keep us from focusing on our classes, so maybe-"

Seventeen-year-old Arthur Savage pulled his head out of his locker, turning to face his boyfriend; whose face looked as if he'd just watched someone run over his dog.

Arthur pushed up his glasses, looking away from Tony's loving gaze; a gaze he'd done absolutely nothing to deserve.

"Look, Tony…"

"Did you… did you mean that?" Tony tugged at the sleeve of his navy-blue jumper, brows furrowed as he looked at Arthur; whose skinny frame looked as if it was ready to collapse in on itself.

Tony knew that Arthur's parents were the kind of people who would openly complain about how the gays were ruining society, and seeing how uninterested their oldest son seemed to be in dating and sports and all the things a young man of his age "should" be interested in concerned them far more than Tony understood. Arthur had been formally introduced to Tony's mum, father, and grandparents- but Tony hadn't even been over to Arthur's house. That was the way it was- and Tony had thought that he and Arthur had a fairly solid thing going. That is, until Arthur had come back to school in the fall and started acting more distant towards him than usual. Tony figured he was just going through a rough time at home, but today it became abundantly clear that Arthur and Tony had very different ideas about what their relationship meant.

"I mean, if you did, then that's okay, I just want to talk-" Ever understanding, Tony reached a hand out to him- but Arthur quickly pushed it away.

"-Just forget it, Shephard." Arthur ran a hand through his hair, trying to avoid looking at Tony for fear he'd break down in the middle of the school corridor.

"Look. I just, I-I can't have anything distracting me right now- especially if I want to get into a good college, right?"

"Yeah, okay."

Arthur tightened his grip on the strap of his backpack.

"Right… Then I guess…"

Tony nodded.

"I guess I'll see you around." He turned to leave, stopping just before as he locked eyes with Arthur.

"Ah, good luck with everything."

Arthur nodded, holding the strap of his bag so tightly he was afraid it might rip in half as he watched Tony walk away.


Back in present day, Arthur Savage grimaced. Eventually, all kids had to learn that the real world was something that was nothing like the idealistic little fantasies they had their heads. He'd learned it the hard way, and if anything, he was doing his students a favor by breaking that news to them sooner rather than later. And besides, kids were practically glued to their phones and laptops nowadays- virtual reality was any kids' dream.

"Always great talking to you, Tony." He quipped, hanging up the landline with a sharp click before the other man could respond.