• He sat down on the couch, watching the party unfold around him. All of his buds were there. He pulled up some doritos and chewed methodically, scanning the crowd.

    Jamie and Phil were screaming "Yo Mama" jokes at each other over/across Nate, who was sprawled on the recliner, eyes glued to the football game on TV. Pete and Paul demanded a little was down the hall that Matt Google himself.

    "I've got over 3 million hits!" That was Pete.

    "P-shaw! Who would bother Googling you?" Bart had to scream as Nate tried to force the remote to make the TV louder than the maximum volume.

    Simon, Andy, and the rest were crowded around the DDR, punching the air while a red-headed blur moved around on the matt, chanting, "Go Johnny, go Johnny, go Johnny!" and sloshing their precariously filled cups.

    The surveyer of this took the scene in with great understanding. Why not let them party? he wondered. It's their night too. Pete, sticking his head out from behind the wall, called, "Hey! Where've you been?"

    "It's not exactly easy finding a parking space between a Volvo and a Hummer," said the newcomer's voice, an exasperated sigh beneath floofed helmet-hair and flitting gray eyes. He grinned over at the seated figure, who threw him an acknowledging wave.

    "If you've so much as chipped my baby's paint I'll shove your bike's tailpipe up your a**!" Thad.

    "That idea's appealing to you, isn't it, Thaddy?" Tom.

    "That's Thaddeus! And shut up!" A scarlet face. John switched places with Luke, which immediately ensued, "Skywalker! Skywalker!"

    "Hey, Jude." The sing-song calling of his name rousing him from his contented state of mind, the newcomer glanced down at their--everyone's present--mutual friend and teacher. "C'mon." He was led outside, down the steps, around the back of the house.

    "What's up?" The smile, so hard to bring out, vanished back into whatever drawer it was usually placed in upon seeing the somber face. "Dude? Josh, man, what's going on? I mean, you didn't bring me out here for nothing, right? No big gag this time?"

    "Jude...listen, okay? Just...listen." The words were forced, slowly, hazel-green eyes watching the other's face turn a few shades of pastel pale, the eyes growing wider as every sentence brought on an added weight. By the end of his quiet recitation, the listener wondered whether or not he should simply tilt his head back and say, "Kill me now."

    "You're kidding, right? Right?" Disbelief. "Josh? ...No. No! No, no way!" Anger, fear. "No...no...no, no. No...No way in hell!" Anguish now. Tears fell from the eyes of Judas Iscariot as his teacher, mentor, best friend, took him in his arms.

    "Hey, Judey, Judey, Judey. Shhh." Another choked sob. "Shhh." Humming to the broken soul before him, Jesus of Nazereth was almost certain he'd never see anyone cry so hard ever again.