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Freaks Like Us
By Ren Martinez
Peter first laid eyes on Billy Fraser in the middle of the LEGO aisle at Toys R’ Us. Peter was already lanky for a six-year-old, scrounging along the higher shelves to find the medieval castle that would complete his collection. Or, at least, until the latest model came out. He was distracted by a rescue helicopter and didn’t notice he was being stared at until he looked up and met a pair of eyes the color of a blue raspberry slushie.
“Uhh…” Peter wrinkled his nose. “Hello?”
The boy across from him said nothing. He was by far the strangest creature that Peter had ever seen, and Peter was a fae halfling (on his mother’s side), so that was saying something. The boy had freckles across his nose and curly blonde hair. That wasn’t the unusual part. He was wearing a Spiderman t-shirt, also not that strange, but beneath that was a bright pink tutu, jean shorts, and striped socks stuck into lime green Converse sneakers. Peter was also wearing Converse, but that was about where the similarities ended.
Those slushie blue eyes blinked at him before the boy’s face split into a grin. A small hand clasped his own, forcing him to lean down.
“Hey!” He yelped.
“I’m Billy,” the boy introduced. “Do you like castles?”
Peter shrugged. “Yeah.”
Without ado, Billy began pulling him down the aisle.
“Where are we going?” His feet kept following even as he wondered why he was following in the first place.
“If you like castles, then you must like knights,” the boy named Billy reasoned. He turned them into another section, where a large blow-up castle and foam swords and pink tiaras littered the ground. “And, if you like knights, you must like princesses.”
Billy released his hand, scooping up a cone-hat with a pink scarf flowing from the top and tugging it onto his head.
“Well, come on!” He shouted, pointing to the castle. “How am I supposed to rescue you if you’re not in the castle?”
Peter frowned, serious in the way only six-year-olds are serious. “I’m not a princess. You’re the princess; you’re wearing pink!”
Instead of being suitably chastised, Billy just laughed, grabbing a wand off the floor and waving it like a sword.
“Of course, I’m a princess!” He giggled. “And, I’m gonna rescue you!”
Something loosened inside Peter’s chest, a double-knot he hadn’t known was tied in there. He saw a tiara on the ground, this one a radiant purple tufted with feathers. His fingers slid against plastic as he lifted it to his head, laying it carefully on his brow.
“See?” Billy squealed, rushing up to him and almost colliding his face into Peter’s chest. “You are a princess! Come on, I’ll rescue you!”
Once again, Peter found himself staring into too-blue eyes. “Are you one of the fae?”
Billy’s head tilted. “No. But, I get that a lot.”
“It’s your eyes,” Peter explained. “They look like they’ll change color, the way fae eyes do.”
“You mean, like yours?” Billy pointed out, reaching up to tap on the apples of Peter’s cheeks. “They were gray before, but they’re purple now.”
“... Really?” Peter’s flew up, covering Billy’s own. “I mean, my mom is one of the fae, but people can’t even tell I’m a halfling.” His heart took an unsteady step. “You don’t think I’m a… a freak, do you?”
“Nope!” Billy yelped, smiling. “You’re a princess like me!”
Small fingers slid between his, and Peter was slowly being pulled into the castle, into a smile. He squeezed Billy’s hand. Billy squeezed back.
Like the Evil Queen’s mirror, the moment shattered at his feet. He whirled around, his mother’s expression frozen over, her gaze an irritated green. Her brown hands snapped outwards like enchanted brambles; Peter flinched at the sharp movement. Peter felt the moment the tiara left his hair. He’d never felt anything so heavy in his life.
“What is this?” Mom scolded. “This is a girl’s toy, Peter. What are you doing wearing it?”
“I-” Peter stared down at his feet. His shoes were green, just like Billy’s. “I was having fun.”
Mom rolled her eyes, grabbing his hand in a way that didn’t fit with his fingers. “Don’t be ridiculous, Peter. Those are girls’ toys; you shouldn’t be playing with them. I thought you were looking at LEGO sets, anyway?”
Tugged behind, Peter said nothing. He just managed to glance over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of raspberry eyes and tiny hands clutching a fairy wand before his vision was filled with LEGO’s again.
The next time Peter encountered Billy Fraser, he was shopping for Solstice clothes and being thoroughly miserable about it.
His parents dragged him out every year, despite his eleven-year-old protests about being too old for Yule Mother's lap. After the horrid family photos, Peter trailed after Mom and Dad and Becca, who was texting furiously on her phone. They wandered into department store after department store, each overflowing with grumpy customers and forced holiday cheer.
(Every once in awhile, someone’s gaze would be too sharp as they raked across his mom’s nut-brown skin, glaring at the leaves growing intertwined in her dark hair, sneering at her pointed ears and ever-changing eyes. Security guards, bored by the throngs of customers, would suddenly stand at attention when their family passed, muttering into their radios and watching Mom and Becca’s hands as they searched through the racks.)
Peter fervently wished they had allowed him to bring his Gameboy.
“What do you think, Peter?” Mom called out, her inquisitive gaze shimmering between hazel and gold. “These jeans seem nice.”
“He’ll outgrow them in a month,” Dad grumbled. He wasn’t too fond of shopping either. “I don’t see why this has to be a family affair.”
“Because, it’s Solstice, that’s why.”
His parents bickered while Becca ignored all of them, her curtain of hair, peppered with lilacs, tucked behind her pointed ears. Peter did need new jeans, his growth spurt stretching him like taffy until his joints ached, but he’d rather do math homework or wrestle a satyr than try on fifty million pairs before his mom chose one.
Instead, Peter found himself trailing through the racks of clothes, dodging harried customers before coming across a family of undines who were waiting in front of the changing rooms. One of the younger kids glanced at him from beneath the green fringe of her bangs, watery eyes catching his. He lifted his hand, waving, and the little girl blushed blue and ducked behind her mother’s knees. The woman straightened upright, prepared to protect her brood, but that anger defused when she saw plain, ordinary (seemingly human) Peter. She turned away, threading her fingers in her daughter’s seaweed hair, and Peter continued on with knots in his stomach.
It wasn’t the first time people had made that mistake. Peter took after his father, after all.
Tired of wandering, he stopped in the middle of the men’s department, leaning against the wall covered in displays. Sandwiched between mannequins dressed in button-downs and argyle sweaters, Peter considered what joining the circus would be like.
Nearly jumping out of his skin, Peter managed to reduce his flailing to a minimum.
“Goddess bless!” He snapped. “Give a guy a heart attack, will you?”
“Sorry. I hope your arteries haven’t exploded.”
Brow furrowed, Peter turned, glaring at the kid next to him, who was obviously a weirdo. Who wears orange suspenders over a striped t-shirt and, blessed be, was that a jean skirt? It was, just cutting off before the kid’s knees, his skinny legs shooting down to end in green Converse sneakers.
“Uhhh, what are you wearing?”
Bright blue eyes peered at him like he were the weirdo specimen being examined. “Clothes.”
“Dude,” Peter huffed an almost-laugh. “No one wears clothes like that.”
He didn’t know how to answer that. “Okay, whatever.”
“You’re Peter, right?”
“... How did you know?”
The guy smiled. “I’m Billy. Come on!”
Slim fingers circled his wrist, and Peter remembered a similar hand grabbing his between stacks of LEGO’s. Once again, he found himself following Billy, twisting and turning between racks of clothes. The forest colors slowly gave way to pinks and purples, the sturdy cotton of polos thinning into lace-edged tanks.
“Dude, Billy!” A stone twisted in his gut. “What are you doing? This is the girl’s section!”
Billy made a face, freckled nose wrinkling. “It’s clothes, Peter. Are you really freaking out over some clothes?”
When he put it like that, it made it all sound a little ridiculous. “Fine, I’ll bite. What are we doing?”
An abrupt stop later, Peter collided into Billy’s back. Bemused, he lurked over Billy’s shoulder to see the boy holding up a t-shirt bearing the words Hashtag Selfie in turquoise glitter.
Billy frowned at him. “What?”
“You cannot be serious.”
“About this shirt? Why not?”
“Because it’s awful!”
If glares could burn, Peter would be a pile of ash on the ground.
“I like it,” Billy growled. “It’s got character.”
Rolling his eyes, Peter turned away from the horror that was that t-shirt and took in his surroundings. Becca shopped in places like this all the time, and Peter was more than familiar with the taste of older, bratty sisters. So, it only took a few inquisitive steps for him to find his prize.
“Ah ha!” He exclaimed, holding it up. “This is much better.”
With a flourish, he held it forward for presentation. Billy’s mouth twisted as he took in the tank top, which had Spiderman’s mask but imbued with a floral pattern. Peter pretended that he wasn’t holding his breath, ignored the way he sighed in relief when Billy finally grinned.
“You are right,” he acceded. “This is much more awesome.”
“You see?” Peter spread his arms, smirking. “I got this.”
Billy’s smile softened, and Peter softened with it. “You do,” he agreed. “That’s why you’re going to be my assistant!”
If Peter had been told just an hour before that he would be fixed in front of the Junior’s dressing room, frowning thoughtfully as a boy his age carefully tried on outfits like it was a T.V fashion show, he would have laughed. Now, he just tilted his head, his mouth twisting.
“Those pants don’t quite work,” he confessed. “I think I like the other ones better.”
Billy rolled his eyes. “But, these totally work with the crop top!”
“Anything works with the crop top,” Peter pointed out. “It’s on you, remember?”
It had to be warm in here, because a flush spilled across Billy’s cheeks, even as he crossed his arms and pouted. “You’re just saying that.”
“I am not!” Peter protested, in part to ignore the blushing, but mostly because he was actually, weirdly, being honest. “There are few people in this galaxy that can rock that look.”
Something sparked in those raspberry eyes, Billy’s mouth pulling at the corner. Peter had seen that look many times, usually just before Meowsifer had attacked his toes beneath his bed sheets. And yet, somehow, Peter found himself in the dressing room, staring at his crop-topped torso like it was missing limbs.
“I refuse to be seen in public again.”
Billy whined outside the door. “Come on, Peter! Just show me.”
Hesitant, his hands brushed over his bare stomach, trailing bright lines that rocketed chills across his skin. Stomach in tingling knots, Peter slowly opened the door.
“Dude!” Billy rocketed to his feet, mouth gaping. “You look awesome!”
Heat crashed along his cheeks and down the back of his neck. “Now I really look like a-” His words stumbled in his mouth. “Like a…”
Billy’s eyes zeroed on him. “Like. What.”
The bitter word (freak) that had been rotting against his teeth slipped back down into the dark. “Nothing,” he mumbled. “It’s just weird, isn’t it?”
Peter didn’t notice he was looking down until he was staring at two scraped knees, just visible beneath the hem of a denim skirt.
“Maybe to other people,” Billy whispered. Peter pulled his eyes upwards, seeing the cracked lines of confidence marring those freckled cheeks. “To a lot of other people, maybe.”
Something clicked in the back of Peter’s throat.
“You’re embarrassed,” Billy mentioned. A finger tapped against his temple. “Your eyes get a little pink at the corners when that happens.”
Peter scowled, ignoring the very pink blush on his cheeks. “Stop making up stories,” he grumbled. “I’m barely a halfling; no one even notices.”
“Why would I make up that kind of story?” Billy raised an arched brow. When Peter’s frown refused to give way, he grabbed his wrist. “Come on and look then.”
The guy had more strength than it looked, because Peter found himself yanked in front of the mirror. The bare length of his stomach held his attention first, the way the crop top floated away from his ribs like a sigh. When he looked up, there was nothing different about him, the same sullen face and black brows that were set in a seemingly permanent scowl. His eyes were still boring, bland brown. Sighing, he shrugged his shoulders.
“Dude, I don’t even know what you’re doing-”
Peter looked and all he could see was mottled teal. He blinked, and the teal melted away into a shocked orange.
“What the hell?” He murmured. “They’ve never ever ever done that before.”
Billy was smiling next to him, like the kraken that ate the ship. “I bring out the best in you, fairy boy.”
When Peter turned to look at him, he didn’t know what his fae eyes were reflecting. It didn’t matter because his grin was answer enough.
“And plus, I’m totally rocking this crop top!”
Billy bubbled over with giggles and Peter quickly followed, the two boys holding onto each other to keep upright.
“You better take that off before you walk out of the store with it,” Billy reminded him when they had recovered.
Peter snorted. “Yeah, like that wouldn’t be obvious.”
Still, he went back in and changed anyway. His hands lingered over the simple cotton top, lingering on the neatly sewn hem. When he walked out, Billy was waiting for him and obviously getting distracted by a stack of floral headbands perched nearby.
“Of course, you like those.”
Another eye roll. “I like what I like. Shove it.”
A slither ran down his spine, curling in his gut in a guilty coil. A moment later, his mother appeared, Becca following after.
“What are you doing here?” She asked. Her coral gaze flickered downwards to the cotton twisted in his hands. “What are you holding?”
His hands trembled as he lifted it. “Just a shirt.”
“For your sister? That’s awful nice of you, Peter.”
That’s when Becca finally looked up, iridescent eyes swirling. “Thanks, bro,” she said, swiping it out of his hands. “This actually totally rocks.”
Mom smiled, obviously impressed with this gesture of sibling good will. That’s when she noticed Billy for the first time.
“Oh, hello,” she greeted. Confusion wrinkled between her eyebrows. “Are you a friend of Peter’s?”
Panic gripped his lungs; it was suddenly hard to breathe.
“Just a classmate,” Billy answered, and Peter was at once terribly grateful and horribly ashamed. “Passing through, really. Gotta dash!”
Peter listened to the sound of his racing footsteps until they faded away into the buzz of the store. His mother was still frowning, while Becca had once against retreated into her phone.
“What was that boy even wearing?” She clucked her tongue. “Some parents will force the worst things onto their children.”
“I don’t think he’s even a halfling,” Becca pointed out, nose wrinkling. “I mean, that would at least give him some reason to be a freak.”
“Mom! You were thinking the same thing!”
Mom huffed, waving it off. “It’s still rude to say out loud.”
Peter didn’t glance over his shoulder this time, just followed Mom and Becca to where Dad was waiting in line. When Becca officially received the crop top as a Christmas gift, trying it on over her tank top, Peter didn’t tell her it looked better on him.
The next time Peter laid eyes on Billy Fraser, he didn’t say anything at first.
Scrubbing his hands through his dark hair, Peter started the onerous task of snaking through the high school crowds to make it to Conversational Elvish on time. Of all the languages offered, it sucked the least. Seriously, anything was better than French.
Junior year was almost over and the atmosphere was buzzing with summertime excitement. Peter did his best to keep his nose clean and his head ducked down, trying not to give into the end-of-year madness that had already taken hold of his classmates. His grades had managed not to plummet this last quarter, despite going to the state competition for Speech and Debate. As it was, he only had to take his Pre-Calc final and then his year would finally start wrapping up.
When he entered the language hallway, he was met with the sharp slam of a body against lockers. He watched as the body in question shuddered against the metal, before turning around to face his attackers and rubbing away the blood at his mouth.
“Tell me again, why do I offend you so much?” Billy asked, his lips smeared red. “Is it jealousy? Because, I get it - I am much prettier than you.”
One of the boys sneered, his fingers sharp in Billy’s face. “You may not be some inhuman freak,” he snapped, ”but queers like you are freaks, too.”
Billy shoved his hands in his jean pockets, his lace camisole almost falling off his shoulder as he shrugged. “Way to be racist and homophobic. Then again, maybe it’s the latent homosexual tension between you and Lizard Brain over here that’s got you all riled up.”
“What?” Lizard Brain snarled, his hands curling into fists. “Say that again.”
Billy’s smile was bloody and sweet. “Seriously, guys, I’m sorry. You’re just not my type.”
Drums thundered in his temples; Peter felt them vibrating in his marrow. It called his feet forward, a slow shuffle against the twenty-year-old tile. The two bullies shoved Billy further up the locker, his head thudding against the metal.
“You’re supposed to be fucking human,” the first one growled. “But, you’d rather out-freak those monster fucks.”
“And, we got policy here for what we do to freaks,” Lizard Brain sniggered. His knuckles cracked.
Billy hadn’t moved, his glare blazing cold. He licked at his split lip, blood having dripped down his chin, and Peter couldn’t look away from that bright red, a scorching crimson that seeped through his veins and burned through his eyes until that was all he could see. He didn’t see his fist cracking into the bully’s jaw, his elbow spearing into the other boy’s sternum. He didn’t see Lizard Brain’s head smack on the tile at his feet or the other slide down the lockers, groaning. All he saw was red until he turned and he saw blue.
Those eyes blinked at him once, twice. Then thin fingers slid between his.
“We gotta go! Come on!”
They were running, through the now empty school halls and out the back doors. They kept running past the tennis court and the practice field, until the open space faded into woods. That whole time, Billy never let go of his hand.
When the finally stopped running, they were panting hard, leaning up against the tree for support. Peter caught his hands on his knees, head hanging heavy. Billy sighed, his jaw slacking until he winced, his mouth pulling shut.
“Are you okay?” Peter mumbled, straightening up.
Billy shrugged. “It’s not so bad,” he answered. “I’ve had worse.”
“That doesn’t actually make me feel better.”
“It wasn’t meant to.”
Peter rolled his eyes. This kid was such a shit. He didn’t know why he liked it.
“Do you have a death wish?” He sniped. “Talking to those guys like that isn’t exactly what I’d call smart.”
“Those dudes are more terrified of being caught making out in the janitor’s closet than they are of someone like me wearing a skirt,” Billy countered. “It’s an easy way for them to stay out of sight if they pick on the queer.”
“Don’t call yourself that.” Peter ignored the heat swimming in his belly when he found himself scrutinized. “It’s not… just don’t.”
“It’s really okay, dude,” Billy huffed. “I’m reclaiming the word. It’s mine so I can use it. Besides-” His jaw clenched. “-it’s better than the racist slurs they were slinging around. What dickbiscuits.”
“Alright, fairy boy, I get it.” Billy was smiling. “Thank you for defending my honor.”
His cheeks flushed; Peter ducked his head. “Was nothing.”
“No.” A line of heat nearly pressed against him as Billy drew closer. The boy was only a little shorter than him, but his shoulders were slim and his wrists delicate. Peter didn’t want to see him break.
“It was definitely something,” Billy finished.
Rather than go back and face inevitable detention, Peter and Billy wandered through the trail to the neighborhood alongside the school. They fell into conversation like gravity, their easy banter trailing brightly behind them. Eventually, they came to a black-shuttered house with roses climbing up the brick walls, twining through trellis.
“Looks like Mom’s home,” Billy sighed, thumb swiping at his split lip. He smirked at Peter. “Ready to enter the gallows?”
Rolling his eyes, Peter follow him inside. The interior was warm, with muted colors and cat toys strewn about the wood floors. A voice was coming from further inside, singing softly. Billy led him to the kitchen, where a woman with a mane of blonde hair was fussing over a stove.
“Hey, Mom,” Billy greeted.
She turned, grinning. “Hello, darling,” she replied. Her smile melted to a frown. “What happened to your mouth?”
“What usually happens, Mom.”
Her eyes narrowed, then shot over to where Peter was hovering in the doorway. “Is he one of those narrow-minded, talking trashcans coming to apologize? Because, I’m not of the mind to accept it.”
“No, of course not. Why would I bring one of them home like a lost puppy?” Their gazes caught, and Peter’s cheeks flushed. “He’s the one that stopped them. This is Peter.”
Like rainclouds dissolving, Billy’s mom was radiant with the return of the sun.
“Oh, you’re that lovely boy Billy’s told me about. From the store?” She bustled over to him, wrapping him in an oven-warm embrace. “I’m Ellen Fraser, Billy’s mother.”
“Uhh,” Peter mumbled, overwhelmed from affection. “Hi, Mrs. Fraser.”
“Call me Ellen. I insist.” She released him to hurry back to her cooking. “I really do appreciate you helping Billy out. He’s always danced to his own tune, Hera help him, and somehow letting him wear whatever he wants makes me a terrible mother, those bigoted cheeseweasels. I’m sorry, I know I’m babbling a bit, but I’m so glad that he found you again!”
Something warm bubbled in his veins, sugary and sweet.
“Yeah,” he agreed. “Me too.”
For the next several weeks, Peter found himself in Billy’s room every day. Being suspended was massively unjust, but the two bullies had been expelled, so he figured he got off lightly. He had been able to come back to school to take his last final before summer officially started. Yet, despite his friends begging him to come to the pool to flirt with the lifeguards or sneak into a college party, Peter always ended up on Billy’s bed, lounging against the nest of pillows while they played Call of Duty or marathoned The Walking Dead. Sometimes Billy wore t-shirts and jeans, sometimes cotton dresses, sometimes he looked like an extra from the circus. But, it was always Billy, who could eat a whole pizza by himself and knew all the words to Led Zeppelin’s album IV and had freckles only across the bridge of his nose. Who was the only person who could coax Peter’s fae eyes to change.
The first time his mom had come to pick him up, Billy had been wearing a sundress and combat boots, his blonde curls covered with a flower crown that Peter had woven himself. The dark of Mom’s hair was now brightly threaded with dahlias, but her gaze had been slate-gray, like a sheet of winter rain.
“Hello! You must be Mrs. Ephram!” Billy had greeted, sticking out his hand. “I’m Billy. It’s nice to finally meet you!”
“Are you, now?” She crooked a finger at Peter. “Come on, son. We’re leaving.”
“But, Mom, you said I could stay till after dinner,” Peter had protested. Fear was gurgling at the back of his throat. “Mrs. Fraser just got done.”
“Boys!” Like she was summoned, Mrs. Fraser had appeared at the door. “Dinner is served. Oh! You must be Peter’s mom,” she gushed. “He is such a lovely boy. You must be so proud!”
His mom’s throat had clicked. “While I’m glad my son stood up to bullies, I don’t approve of Peter getting into fights that could have easily been avoided.”
That fear frothed over into anger and shame, bitter on Peter’s tongue.
“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Fraser allowed, though her smile was turning sharp. “I can’t imagine what you mean.”
“You must have known what you were getting your boy into, letting him dress like that.” Mom’s words were cold and soft. “Violence is never okay, but I’m not quite sure what you expected when you force your child to become a social experiment.”
Mrs. Fraser grit her teeth; Billy bristled like a cat. But, it was Peter that had stepped forward, eyes flashing red.
“What is wrong with you?” He hissed. “Who gives a flying fuck what he’s wearing? Billy is Billy and he likes what he likes and none of us have a problem with it but you!”
Mom took a step back, mouth parting. “Peter, your eyes are…how…?”
“And, you better accept it because he’s my best friend and that’s it,” Peter snapped. “So, get used to it.”
“It’s not that,” his mother insisted. “It’s just…Peter. I know that you don’t look it, but you’re still a halfling. That’s difficult enough, as it is. So, I don’t understand why someone would deliberately…would set themselves up-”
“To be a freak, you mean.”
His mom’s jaw snapped shut, but Peter pressed on.
“Mom, don’t you get it? I’m not normal, okay? I’m a halfling—a freak!” This was the first time he had used that word on his own terms, and it felt like owning it. “And, you know what, it’s okay, because Billy has never, ever made me feel like one. Ever.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Peter watched Billy, eyes glistening wet, smile so brightly it burned bright in his chest for days, and he knew he had finally done the right thing. Sure, he had ended up grounded for a week, but Mom hadn’t said a thing against Billy since. She had even gone so far as to bake cookies once, packaged in pink cellophane.
“For your friend,” she explained.
It was a Tuesday in July, a month that seemed eager to begin the dog days of summer. Peter was sprawled across Billy’s bed, watching the fan above him spin in slow circles. Billy was splayed out on the floor, his cheek pressed against the cool wood.
“I hate summer so much,” he grumbled.
“No, you don’t,” Peter disagreed. “You love that yellow sundress too much to hate summer.”
“You’re the worst.”
“Only because I’m right.”
Billy sighed, flopping onto his back, his bare skin sticking to the floor as he moved. “Why does my mom have to be such a hippie? Can’t she be all granola and still have air conditioning?”
Peter shrugged, but the movement was melted by heat. Stretching like molasses, he reached his hand over the end of the bed.
“Come on,” he murmured. “Hop up.”
Billy’s mumbled reply was probably not even English.
“You know you want to,” Peter continued, his fingers dangling. “You only get this grumpy because you haven’t hit your cuddling quota.”
“It’s too hot to cuddle.”
“You’re going to get really annoying in like five minutes.”
A moment later, Billy’s hand slid into his.
“I’m already annoying,” he pointed out, fitting his head underneath Peter’s chin. Their skin stuck together, but the heat rolled between them like the ocean. Peter’s fingers tangled in Billy’s curls, the blond strands catching the afternoon light. Billy’s leg was slotted between his and Peter couldn’t find a reason to move ever again.
“You’re so weird,” he murmured.
“Yeah.” The word spilled warm across his collarbone. “You too.”
The next time Peter saw Billy Fraser, his heart nearly leapt out of his chest.
He couldn’t make himself go into the airport, squeezed into the crowds of people with glitter signs and waving hands. Instead, he waited in a side courtyard between the airport and the parking deck, a small place with a bench shaded by a dogwood, blooms were flooded with pink. Billy’s yearly trip to visit his dad was one of daily emails and constant text-messaging, of threats to toss his step-mom’s dog in the pool and Peter laughing too hard to convince him otherwise. Thirteen days of wondering what to do ending with thirteen nights of phone calls, alone in the dark of his room but for Billy’s voice whispering in his ear.
Becca had teased him about it mercilessly.
“Stop your pining, nerdbreath.”
“How about you stop your face?”
He couldn’t help it that, every time his phone buzzed in his pocket, fireworks exploded in his stomach and butterflies ran rampant under his skin. Billy was his best friend; of course, he missed him. This was the boy that had proclaimed him a princess and wrangled him into a crop top and smiled with a bloodied lip. So what if those too-blue eyes followed him into dreams? He’d been dreaming about Billy for years.
Though, none of this really disproved Becca’s point.
Sitting under the dogwood, Peter turned his phone over in his hands, his knee bouncing. Billy’s plane had arrived ten minutes ago, but Peter had no idea how long it would take to disembark or if he had luggage or-
His phone rang.
“Hey, fairy boy! Miss me?”
His pulse rocketed forward, his smile nearly hurting his face. “Not even a little.”
“Liar. Are you here to get me?”
“I told you I would be, didn’t I?”
There was a clutter of noise behind Billy’s voice. “The confusion comes from you not actually being here.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “Walk outside, you dingus.”
Moments later, the automatic doors opened, and Billy spilled out into the light. It was like Peter had never seen him before, with the way his eyes trailed up long legs clad in skinny jeans and the slim stomach bared by a cut-off white t-shirt. When his gaze raked low again, he saw the bright green Converse sneakers. His heart thudded hard against his ribs.
It took a minute for Billy to see him, as Peter couldn’t find the strength to lift a hand. When their eyes met, he was convinced that this was what it was like to have an aneurysm. His blood pressure skyrocketed and his arteries ached and Billy was standing right in front of him.
Peter’s heart attempted escape again, and the realization filtered through like sunlight.
“Are you okay?” Billy asked. “I mean, I’m sure you are okay because you would have said something—but, anyway, umm, hi again?”
Billy was babbling, but that was ridiculous because Billy Fraser never babbled; he always had the right words. And, that couldn’t be a blush sweeping across Billy’s cheeks, because there was nothing that embarrassed him, not even that time when he had faked an orgasm a la “When Harry Met Sally” even with an actual unicorn standing right behind him and silently judging him the whole time (unicorns were sticklers for the purity thing).
“I’m better now. You’re here, remember?” (Had his tongue finally mutinied?)
The blush intensified and Peter couldn’t possibly be reading this right, except Billy was staring at his toes and tugging at his hair the way he had when they had gone to his favorite band’s concert and the singer had winked straight at him.
“Yeah!” Billy agreed, smiling like he was trying not to hyperventilate. “Yeah, I’m here and you can officially stop missing me. Not that you have! I mean, I guess you did, but you probably had other things to do to keep busy - not that you forgot me! I just mean-”
Billy trailed off, the corners of his mouth softening against Peter’s thumbs as his hands melted into the curve of his face.
“Hey, weirdo,” he greeted, smiling. “Seems like I finally found a way to shut you up.”
Two well-loved hands slid up his sides and pulled at his shirt.
“Not quite,” Billy murmured.
The first time Peter kissed Billy Fraser, he could barely breathe enough to enjoy it, just caught up in the feel of chapped lips, the taste of too-sweet coffee. He swallowed a breathy whimper that wasn’t his own; he savored it like lightning. Their mouths parted only for Billy’s hands tightened their hold. There was barely a breath between them, so Peter felt it all the way in his bones the moment Billy smiled.
The second time Peter kissed Billy Fraser, he knew that he would very quickly lose count.
#Unreal #ShortStory #Prose #Fiction #FreaksLikeUs #LEGOs #ToyAisle #ChanceMeetings
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