today (5).

You're pinned against the bedroom wall, Zeke's hands at your underarms and your shirt balled up in them; chest and belly and hipbones bare. It's spur of the moment, no fear and no thought, until. Charlie wanders in, head down and muttering nonsense, and you try to struggle free but Zeke holds on. Fingertips tight and his body pushed in; he doesn't meet your gaze but you read him loud and clear.

"We're … we have something," Zeke says, straight up and no room for question. You hear the pride in his voice, conviction, and it warms every inch of your skin.

"Yeah," Charlie agrees, slowly walking backward and heading for the door. "I did the math weeks ago."

When you're alone again, the moments passed, and you're giggling instead.

Zeke let's out a breath, starts, "Fu-" but you're kissing him to shut him up.

again (4).

Kelly North is a pretty, perky, persistent freshman who doesn't understand that 'no, thankyou' isn't code for 'sure, I'd love to go out with you!'. She spends the better part of a week standing in line for your lunch, or carrying your books or reserving your favourite seat in geometry; even though she's supposed to be in class on the other side of school.

On Friday morning, after Kelly climbs up to knock on your window, to make sure you don't miss the bus, you watch Zeke pace the length of your room. For five minutes.

"This stops. Today," he tells you, matter of fact.

You wave at him, bored. Tired. "She's harmless."

"That's not the point."

"Oh, you had a point? Please, go on."

"I'm serious, Virgil, she can't come in here and try to take what's mine."

There's quiet. You stop fiddling with your shoelace and look up at Zeke, who looks just as surprised as you. He stammers, "I meant - it's not-" because he has a reputation to uphold, and there's only so much gushing his cool dude façade can take. The blushing doesn't help, and neither does your laughing. You do, anyway.

"I'm building a cage and throwing her in," Zeke mutters as you approach him, grabbing him by his waistband and pulling him to you.

You're his, sure, but it goes both ways. He's yours, too.

once (3).

Charlie turns fifteen, retires any ideas of astral projection and moves onto cold fusion instead. Jeannette hands out party hats and Zeke brings the booze and you play pin the tail to Eugene because he's easy to catch. Later, when everyone else has gone home to their computers, you sit with Zeke in Charlie's wading pool and pretend to like beer.

"You have chicken legs," Zeke observes, drunkenly, clucking and kicking at you half-heartedly so you'll kick back. You call him Lurch, tell him to get you a sandwich and end up flipping out the pool, on your back, Zeke on top of you. He's just there, so close, not moving, not doing. He just stares, and waits.

"You can," you say, without thinking. You don't know how or if you should finish that sentence, but Zeke does it for you.

It's a quick, simple, unassuming kiss. It feels like thank you. "You want a time machine for that?" Zeke whispers, and you smile.

"Uh, yeah, I think you broke my back."

then (2).

Zeke's work-bench in shop says a lot about him. He needs space, and mess, and confusion. He likes to keep people guessing. Even you.

You're sitting up there while he marks a piece of 2x4, your legs dangling over the edge and your hand in a bag of Cheetos. He says, "If I could build you anything, what would you want?" just loud enough so you can hear him. It's the longest chain of words you've heard him say in a while, mostly quiet and reserved, mostly keeping secrets.

"A spaceship," you say, pondering, and he scoffs, rolls his eyes, standing up to full height. "Hey, at least it's legal."

Zeke shakes his head and says, "A boat," as if that's it and no arguing. You pull a face and say, "You can make a boat?" but Zeke's not listening. Instead he says, quietly, seriously, "Then you and me and genius-boy can get outta here. Forever."

"You don't like it here?"

Zeke shrugs and looks up and looks straight into your eyes. "I like being with you."

before (1).

It takes three years and a few botched attempts at Time Travel to realise hope was wasted on Stephanie (you're a nice guy and –rewinding aside- you were always going to finish last).

Zeke says, "Dude, burgers," (while Charlie explains that 'eating' isn't one of the five stages of grief) an arm around your shoulder and a gentle nudge in the other direction.

It's time to move on.