Outside noisy, inside empty.
"What's up with you?" Warren asked Will, frowning. His friend just shrugged, staring at the fire, and Warren raised an eyebrow.
Will had been acting weirder and weirder lately, and had been spending a lot more time hanging around the Paper Lantern. He never really ate much, seeing as he still didn't really like Chinese food – except for the fortune cookies, which he adored. But he still stayed for long amounts of time, all strangely coinciding with Warren's shifts.
Warren didn't mind – after all, it meant that he always had a friend to walk home with (or, occasionally, get a literal lift home from), and to talk to on his breaks. But he was a little bit worried about Will.
Not that he'd ever admit it, aloud or otherwise. He was a reclusive person by nature, and besides, he spent way too much time insulting Will to suddenly start spouting off touchy-feelys. Will had reacted badly enough the first time he'd called the younger boy a friend in front of witnesses.
But still, Warren had to wonder why Will was spending all his time at the Paper Lantern, when not in school. He was a senior now, and Warren was well into the world of college, so that could be it: he might just be making an extra effort not to lose contact with his best friend. But Will would be in college too next year, even if it was unlikely he'd be going to the same community college as Warren. They'd still end up taking at least a few classes together in Advanced Superhero Training, which was located in a separate building near Maxville. So that wasn't it, not completely anyway.
It was true that the other members of Will's little group of friends were spreading out more themselves. Zach and Magenta, who'd been dating for the past three years, had become more absorbed in themselves and their own problems, and Ethan was nose-deep in studies, preparing for the first three years of college before he was halfway through senior year. Layla had gotten a boyfriend, and even she was hanging out with the gang – and Will specifically – less.
Will was probably just suffering from the changes. Over the past few years, Warren had noticed that Will didn't cope very well with change. It made him uncomfortable, at least, if not downright anxious.
And that would explain some of his odd behaviour as well. Warren, who had never relied that much on anyone before, almost pitied him.
Instead, though, he nodded, and said, "Okay."
They fell into silence again, each caught up in their own thoughts, staring into the fire (Warren had casually lit it earlier, when they first entered Will's living room, and Steve Stronghold had given him an annoyed look that probably meant he struggled for half an hour to get a blaze going every time he tried to use the fireplace). They were alone in the house, the elder Strongholds off responding to some evil giant robot in Chicago, which meant they'd be a while, and both had lost interest in videogames a while ago. Somehow, they'd ended up just sitting side by side, staring into the fire.
Warren blinked, coming out of his trance to the feel of eyes upon him. How long had Will been staring at him in the silence? He had no clue, but the look in the other boy's eyes was odd, and he still wasn't talking.
Out of all the changes in Will lately, the silence was the one that unsettled Warren most. While Warren had always been quiet himself, Will had always been the one to fill the air with chatter, so much that it made Warren think of that proverb, and wonder just how empty his head was. But now, he almost missed that noise. The lack of it meant Will was thinking hard, battling with something, and Warren was naturally worried about whatever was worrying Will this much.
He didn't say that, though, just meeting Will's eyes and raising an eyebrow. Will stared back, looking like he desperately wanted to say something, but couldn't quite manage it. After a long pause, Warren nodded again, recognizing that he wouldn't get any answers yet, and suggested they watch a movie.
They sat together on the couch, the sound of various exploding things, gun fights, and car chases surrounding them, and let others fill the silence for now. Warren knew he'd find out soon enough. After all, men fated to be happy need not haste. He could be patient.
He remembered the proverbs, and applied them to his life.
Flowers leave some of their fragrance behind in the hand that bestows them.
Layla always smelled sweet, like honeysuckles and roses, and Warren could never decide whether he liked it or it just annoyed him. She probably loved it, it being a natural perfume and not animal-tested, and all. Her new boyfriend, who Warren had not-so-affectionately nicknamed Citrus (he grew lemons), seemed to like it just fine. Or maybe he was just overly cuddly/hiding from Warren, and the whole taking deep breaths thing was just a sinus problem/fear of Warren.
"Go away, Citrus," Warren snapped, annoyed. The guy was okay, he guessed, but he was scared stiff of Warren (as he should be) and frequently hung all over Layla, and sometimes emitted a citrusy smell (hence the nickname) when in a bad mood, or scared. Which basically meant whenever he was around Warren. "I need to talk to the Hippie."
He waited impatiently, hands slowly growing warmer and warmer as Layla placated her boy-toy ("It's okay, Ricky. I'll call you later, okay?") and they exchanged a brief peck.
Finally, the boy was gone, and Warren inhaled deeply, deciding that today he was glad for Layla's flowerlike fragrance; at least it was better than lemon.
"What's wrong, Warren?" She asked, patting the seat on the bench next to her, which Warren did not take. He was a little surprised that she wasn't angry or anything; after all, she was on a date that he'd just interrupted. But too bad for her. They needed to talk.
"It's Stronghold," he began, and before he could say another word, Layla squealed high-pitchedly and jumped up and clapped her hands together, looking for all the world like a demented cheerleader.
"Oh, I'm so glad he finally told you!" She said, still at a pitch that was incomprehensible to most members of the animal kingdom. Maybe dogs could understand it. "I mean, it's been going on practically since we broke up; probably since he first became friends with you, but we were just all too stupid to see it. I didn't believe he actuallymeant it when he said he was going to tell you! You were nice to him about it, right, Warren? I mean, you didn't laugh or anything, did you? Oh no, you laughed! You laughed, and now he's upset and you came to me for advice? Okay, well, I guess that you could – "
"Hippie… Hippie… Layla, I have no idea what the fuck you're talking about!" Warren finally yelled over her, and she froze, eyes going wide, hands covering her mouth. "All I was going to say was that Stronghold has been acting weird and I wanted to know if you knew what was wrong… But now I'm thinking you do." He crossed his arms and glared down at her.
Layla slowly sank back down onto the bench, her hands still over her mouth. She looked horrified. "You mean… you don't know?" She whispered, and Warren shook his head.
"I'm about to find out, though." His glare intensified. "Just what the hell is going on? And what did you mean, it's been going on for three years? What hasn't Stronghold told me?"
"Nothing!" Layla squeaked. Warren raised a sardonic eyebrow at her, and she relented.
"Okay, so it is something, but he told me just yesterday that he was going to tell you as soon as possible himself, so couldn't you just wait until you see him next?" she pleaded. "This really isn't something you learn second-hand."
Warren eyed her suspiciously, and curiously, but finally relented, nodding. It probably would be better if he found it out… whatever it was… from Will himself. "Fine."
Layla grinned brightly. "Oh, good! And look, just let him tell you, okay, don't mention that you talked to me. Oh, and don't rush him either, let him explain. And whatever you do, don't laugh at him." She suddenly glared, and the tree behind her creaked menacingly.
Warren, completely unthreatened, just rolled his eyes. "I'll try. Although if he tells me he's trying to win American Idol I don't think I'll be able to help it. There's just some things…"
Layla's 'threatening' face twitched, like she wanted to smile, but she stopped herself. "I'm serious, Warren Peace."
Warren nodded straightfaced. "So am I! I cannot be seen associating with an American Idol contestant. I refuse."
Layla gave up and snickered. "And he'd totally crash and burn, too," she joined in, "Have you heard his singing?" She proceeded to do an impression, and dark thoughts briefly left Warren's mind.
He who strikes the first blow admits he's lost the argument.
"So, Warren…" Will began, looking very nervous, and Warren arched an eyebrow, trying not to seem expectant.
"Um. Well, you see… I wanted to tell you about… I mean…" Will looked down at his hands. Fiddled a bit.
Warren sighed, leaning back and folding his arms behind his head, staring up at the stars. They were currently sitting on top of Will's roof. Will had invited him over, mentioning no parents (he knew Warren wasn't exactly fond of them) and X-box. However, they had ended up just laying out on the roof, looking at the stars. Quiet music drifted out Will's open window, and if Warren had been replaced with Layla, and they'd gone back in time a couple years, he had no doubt the two of them would be making out right now. It was kind of interesting that Will chose this atmosphere to dispense his huge secret, but maybe he thought it would relax Warren or something. It at least seemed like Will had put some effort into it, which was interesting.
Warren lay there, waiting through about four minutes of 'um, er, well', and then he lost his patience. He sat up, turned, and flicked Will's ear.
"Ow!" Despite his invulnerability, the boy reacted instantly, a hand snapping up to cover it. "What was that for!"
"Get to the point, Stronghold."
Will sighed, and looked beseechingly at Warren, still rubbing his ear. "Fine. But… But you can't…" He stopped, and Warren employed his most effective tactic to get Will to crumble and tell him everything: he stared.
Unblinking, gaze never wavering, as Will waffled back and forth a bit more, half-completing words and mushing them together. Just staring. It never failed.
He raised one eyebrow.
"I think I'm gay," Will blurted, before his face turned bright red, and he avoided Warren's eyes.
Warren blinked, opened his mouth, and then shut it.
"Wait," Warren said, disbelieving. "This is your big secret? This is what Greenpeace was all upset about? That's it?"
"No, not exactly – wait, Layla told you?"
Warren rolled his eyes. "No. Forget her. So, you're gay. So what? You think I'm gonna laugh at you?" He remembered Layla's face in the park. "You think I'm gonna shun you? Stronghold, I've known you were gay for a long time."
"No, I didn't think you would laugh, but – what? You've known? But – but I haven't been gay for a long time!"
"Yes, you have," Warren said bluntly. "You always were. You were just too thickheaded to realize it."
"Wha – wha – wha?" Will gaped.
"You're missing a letter there," Warren grinned. "You might want to add a 't' to the end of that."
"There you go."
Will didn't look amused. "Are you serious? You… you don't care? You've known forever, and that's it?"
Warren shrugged. "What am I supposed to do, throw you a parade?"
Will scowled. "Well, thanks. You couldn't have just told me sooner, and saved me the anxiety, could you."
Warren lifted one shoulder briefly, in what could be interpreted as an apologetic shrug. It could also be interpreted to mean 'I don't give a shit', but he was pretty sure Will would be optimistic and go for the former.
"So," he said, after a brief pause, "Am I supposed to burst out with my own confession now, or are we done?"
Will turned and blinked at him, openmouthed. "You – you're gay?" He wore a funny expression, something like suspense, maybe?
Warren shook his head. "Well, that's not what I was planning on saying… And anyway, how's that any of your business?"
"What do you mean, how's that my business? I'm your best friend, that's how's it's my business! An-and besides, I just told you I was gay."
Warren rolled his eyes, a frequent occurrence around Will. "Well, yeah, but that doesn't mean we all have to start toting rainbow flags. And, Stronghold: grammar. 'That's how's it's my business!'" Warren mocked in a squeaky, high-pitched voice that did Will no credit.
Will ignored it. "Why can't you just tell me?"
Warren sighed. "What is this? First you tell me you're gay, then you start demanding I confess that I am, too? Look, I promise that when you fight with your dad about it, you can crash at my place. What more do you want?"
Will frowned, now looking confused. "Who says I'd fight with my dad? And maybe I've already talked to him." He looked defensive.
"No, you haven't," Warren said flatly. "And that's because he's a homophobe."
"He is not!"
"Uh-huh. Sure he's not."
Will appeared to be infuriated. He had such a short fuse about some things. "Oh yeah, like your dad isn't, too!"
…Then again, Warren had a short fuse about a few things, himself. In seconds, he'd rolled over and was pinning Will to the roof, leaning in close to his face with a dangerously hot hand on his throat.
What the hell was wrong with Stronghold? He knew better than to mention Baron Battle!
"I've told you before," Warren snarled softly, trying with all his might not to burn Will into a crisp. "Not to mention," he glared, "my dad."
Will was staring up at him, eyes wide, and seemed to be panting slightly, not so much from surprise as… anger, maybe? Although he didn't look very angry. He wasn't moving at all in Warren's close grip, not even when Warren leaned closer threateningly.
Their noses brushed and a strand of Warren's long hair slid to dangle on Will's cheek as Warren growled, "Now, I don't know what the fuck is going on here, Stronghold, but I don't care what – "
…You're going through, that doesn't give you any excuse to mention my father. That was what Warren had been about to say, followed by some threat or a slight burning or something of that sort, before a swift retreat. But he never got the chance, because Will cut him off.
"I-isn't it obvious?" he choked, and suddenly, things became very clear for Warren. He noticed them in flashes, everything snapping into place.
Will's body, tense beneath his, pressed way too close all of a sudden.
Will's hands, right there, able to grip onto his, to push Warren off, but not moving.
The hours at the Paper Lantern.
Layla, talking in the park. "Whatever you do, don't laugh at him."
Layla again, "…probably since he first became friends with you, but we were just all too stupid to see it."
The second time he broke up with Emily, and Will confirming that he was now single, grinning.
Will asking if he was gay, expression full of (now he knew) hope.
A secret admirer will soon send you a sign of affection.
Will's eyes, right now, flicking down his face, and back up again. Looking at a certain body part right under his nose. Getting closer.
Chapped lips, pressing against his for one, two… five seconds before Will chickened out and pulled back, eyes still wide and nervous. Hopeful.
Warren blinked, several things running through his head. He blinked again, swallowed, and said very definitely, "Oh."
He pulled back, and stood up, offering Will a hand up. Will took it. Warren waited until Will was back on his feet and had let go of his hand (held on a second longer than most people, he'd always done that).
Then he drew back a fist, and slammed it into Will's face.
Will hadn't expected that, and fell to the ground, hands going up to cup his face. Warren figured it was as much shock, or rather, more shock than it was pain. He stepped over Will, and deliberately climbed off of the roof, not looking back.
As he walked down the street, he caught sight of an anxious-looking Layla staring out of her window, and wondered what form of plant-related death he'd have.
Wondered why he'd punched Will.
Men in the game are blind to what men looking on see clearly.
Ethan nodded, Zach said something possibly involving the word 'dizzle', and Magenta simply gave him an I-pity-you look.
"I pity you," she said. Okay, then.
"It's been completely obvious that Will was in love with you for… a long time." Ethan frowned. "I'm not exactly sure when it started."
"Whoa, whoa." Warren put his hands up in a 'slow down' gesture, somewhat panicked. "In love with me? We never mentioned in love with me."
Magenta shook her head at him pityingly, and Warren glared at her. "Could you stop that?"
Zach took a step closer. "Hey, don't yell at my woman!" Magenta's gaze moved to him, and after a moment he shrank back, mumbling, "…Because she can take care of herself…"
Ethan snickered, and Warren couldn't contain a twitch at the corner of his lips. But neither one said anything, not wanting Magenta to look at them.
"In love with me?" Warren repeated.
Ethan nodded, Zach opened his mouth, but shut it at a look from everyone, and nodded, and Magenta gave him an I-pity-you look, not stopping.
"How the hell did I miss this?" Warren asked the air, but Ethan answered.
"Because you were involved. You would have been the first one to know it otherwise."
Warren couldn't really contest this, but he wasn't exactly happy about it. He grumbled something under his breath that no one, not even he, understood.
"So," Magenta smirked, "How'd you react?"
Warren looked down and chewed the inside of his lip for a moment. He shrugged. "Punched him."
"WHAT?" They all asked together, and Warren winced. Magenta chuckled.
"Oh, you are so in for it. Layla is going to kill you…"
Warren snorted and stood. "Hey, I didn't laugh."
"Wait, dude, where are you going?" Zach asked, and Ethan nodded. Magenta gave him a questioning look, and Warren ignored them all, turning and starting to walk away.
Mrs. Wu taught them to him at the Paper Lantern.
To listen well, is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.
She was sitting at her (and Will's, he tried not to remember) usual booth when he got off work, and when he sat down across from her, the little flower in the vase next to her leaned toward him threateningly. Warren lit the candle.
"Hey, Hippie. How's it going?"
"You punched him!" She hissed, eyes wide and furious.
Warren nodded. "Yeah. Your point?"
"He told you he was gay, and you punched him!"
Warren frowned. "Uh, no. He told me he was gay, and I told him it had been obvious for years."
"You – wait, what? You knew?"
Warren sighed. "You need to work on your listening skills, because apparently you just keep misinterpreting me – and Stronghold, too, unless he deliberately told you things differently. He told me that he was gay. I said that I'd known for years. I did not say that I'd known he was gay for me for years."
Layla sat back. "Oh. But still – you knew?"
Warren rolled his eyes. "Oh, everyone knew, except for you. And him, probably. It was pretty obvious."
"Everyone knew? You mean – "
"Picked up on that, huh? Yeah, everyone. Apparently he's in love with me." Warren's face became vaguely panicked for a moment, before he shook it off.
Layla frowned, her flower drooping slightly. "Wait… so what did Will tell you, then?"
Warren sighed. "Nothing." After a brief pause, he relented and added, "I offered to let him stay at my house when he came out to his parents, and then he insinuated that my dad was homophobic."
Layla frowned. "It did not just happen like that."
Warren shrugged. "I may have flat-out told him that his dad was homophobic, but that's not the point. He shouldn't have mentioned my father."
Layla glared at him.
Warren rolled his eyes.
"But – but wait, if he said that your dad… You're gay?" Layla sounded suspiciously squeaky, just like she had in the park.
Warren sighed. "Don't get out the pom-poms just yet, Hippie, I never said that I was gay. To you or Stronghold."
"Well, then why did he…"
"He was upset, who knows? But I never said anything of the kind."
Layla frowned. "And… well. Then why did you punch him?"
"He called my father homophobic. Why do you think?"
Layla pointed at Warren excitedly. "But that's not why! It can't be, or else you would have told me. You've just been implying that you punched him after he said that. I bet you didn't. You were just letting me think that."
Warren groaned quietly. "Couldn't you have waited to start listening until later?"
She stared at him, the flower once again standing tall. It looked oddly imperious, for a daisy.
Warren sighed, and gave in. It wasn't like she wouldn't find out from Stronghold later, anyway. "He kissed me."
Layla's eyes grew round, and she clamped a hand over her mouth. Warren heard a quiet sort of squealing escaping anyway, and winced. Ugh.
After the knowledge that Warren and Will weren't exactly in a cutesy gay paradise at the moment, seeing as Warren had punched Will, had penetrated her brain, Layla stopped squealing.
"I don't get it," she said. "If you're gay, then why did you punch him?"
Warren blinked. "Who said I was gay?"
Layla waved that off. "Well, you never said you weren't. So why'd you punch him?"
Warren grunted quietly, annoyed. "Has it ever crossed your mind that I might be one of the three people on earth who isn't a Stronghold groupie?"
"Obviously not. Here's your cookie. Have fun."
The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher.
Warren was trying to get used to the idea that Will was. Well. He couldn't even think it, not just like that. He'd mentioned it, but never names. It was easier that way.
After all, it just made no sense! Why the hell would Will…
Why him? And what on earth had led the Wonderboy to actually believe he had a chance? Had Warren done something to let him think that? Said something?
It was so much harder to tell, because Warren had never had any friends before, let alone any that fell for him. He just didn't know how to cope. Will was the one who had experience in the best-friend-kissing-you area, not Warren.
…Actually, now that he thought about it, Will had been to the one to kiss Layla. And him. So really, he was the one who – who – well, Warren wasn't quite sure where he was going with that, but if it involved serial best friend kisser award of the decade (it had been several years, after all), Will won, hands down.
Anyway, the point was that Warren had no clue how to handle this. And it wasn't like he was going to go ask anyone for advice. To be honest, he'd probably just scoff at any suggestions anyway. What was the point?
No, he was going to have to work this out on his own. First order of business: himself.
Why had he reacted the way he had? After all, being startled made sense, but punching Will was a little extreme. Especially considering that Will really hadn't been doing anything that horrible. Well, he'd kissed Warren. That, while not necessarily horrible, was not a good move, for sure. But did it warrant a punch? Probably not.
Warren was extremely put out to realize that he owed Will an apology. Great.
Warren Peace did not do apologies. Usually, he didn't even do guilty. But now he was guilty, and if what the sidekicks were saying was true – and even if it wasn't, really – he still owed Will an apology. He couldn't just ignore this until it blew over, because if he tried that, it wasn't likely to blow over.
Well, Warren could do it. Really, he could adapt. He was best friends with Will, after all, and if he could accept the guy being gay, he could accept him having a crush on Warren, too. He'd just try to make things less awkward. He could do it, if he had to.
And he was beginning to think that if he wanted to keep his friendship with Will, he'd have to.
Warren was a little surprised at how absolutely certain he was that he did not want to lose this friendship. To think that he'd pitied Will's dependency on him and his other friends…
Warren nodded to himself, suddenly resolute. He was going to apologize, things would be awkward for a while, but eventually they'd go back to normal.
He would adapt.
Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown.
When Warren swung open the door, it was to Will standing on the other side, glancing briefly at him before looking down at his feet, his face red. Warren stared.
Will wore a backpack, the straps of which he fiddled with.
"Uh…" He flushed redder, looking supremely upset. "You said, I could come over… and crash here?"
"You told your dad?" Warren's voice gave away none of his confusion, none of his guilt; Will's head tilted downward a bit more.
"Yeah. He really didn't like the idea of me being gay – and seeing me trying to kiss Baron Battle's son on the roof was the last straw."
Warren digested this, face blank.
He stepped out of the way, and Will walked inside.
A people without faith in themselves cannot survive.
"You can sleep on the couch," Warren told Will, and his (ex?) friend nodded.
Warren grunted, and sat down, on one half of said couch. Will had a choice of standing, sitting on the floor, taking the armchair, or sitting next to Warren.
He slid his backpack to the ground, then hesitantly sat in the spot next to Warren. On the small couch, their knees almost touched, and Warren wondered whether or not Will could feel the heat emanating from his skin.
They sat in silence for a few moments, neither looking at the other. The TV remote was right in front of them, on the coffee table, but neither reached for it.
Then Warren broke the silence.
"Why me?" he asked, and he could feel Will turning, gaze landing on his skin. It felt like a physical touch, the eyes on his face, and he wondered how he'd ever been able to not notice Will watching him.
"Why me?" Warren asked again, when Will still didn't say anything after several minutes, and this time he turned his head and looked Will in the eyes.
He felt oddly desperate, for a reason he didn't understand.
"Why would you ever want to kiss Baron Battle's son on the roof? Why would you worry about this for years? Why would you watch me, and not say anything? Why am I worth all that?"
Will blinked. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse, but his eyes didn't leave Warren's. "What do you mean?" He asked, "You don't think you're worth it?"
"Don't turn the question around on me, Stronghold," Warren snarled. "I want to know why."
Will shrugged, and his gaze briefly flickered down, taking in Warren's body. Warren's hands heated.
"Why not?" he finally asked, looking back up at Warren. "I don't get how you don't get this."
Warren sneered. "What, am I pretty? Want to go out with the bad boy? What's in it for you?"
Will looked taken aback at the sarcasm and bitterness, but only for a few seconds. Then he just looked sad, and somehow, desperate, just like Warren felt.
"You really don't get it, do you?" Will buried a hand in his hair, looking miserable. "I know you, Warren – you're my best friend. You really think I'm into that? No offense, but Layla's way prettier than you, and I already know perfectly well you're not the bad guy you act like. That's not why I like you."
Warren's breath felt shallow. He felt caged, like a small animal backed into a corner, and even though he'd asked, he just wanted Will to stop talking. He didn't want to know this. He wanted to say sorry for punching Will, and then he wanted to turn on the TV and stop talking altogether. He didn't want Will looking at him like this, eyes wide and sincere, hands coming down from his head to gesture towards Warren. This wasn't right, this wasn't what Warren got, this wasn't what he deserved or wanted or needed, not really.
"I like you," Will said, leaning closer, "because even though you absolutely hated me the first time you saw me, even though I mentioned your dad, you still aimed to miss me with those fireballs."
Warren had never known Will noticed.
"Because you helped Layla even though it meant that none of our other friends left you alone, and you hated it. Because you unfroze me. Because you listen to us and give us advice, even if you insult us while you do it. Because you haven't left us behind now you're in college. Because you always stick up for your friends, and because you still love your dad. Because you're too lazy to buy a microwave, and just use your powers. Because you – you're you! Because the fortune cookies told me to."
Warren blinked. "The fortune cookies…?"
"The point is," Will interrupted him hastily, "That it's got nothing to do with Baron Battle, or the fact that you look really hot right now, or some sort of gay experimentation or rebellion or anything. I like you because you're worth it."
He glared fiercely at Warren, or at least intently gave him pleading, sincere puppy-dog eyes.
Warren opened his mouth, and faltered twice. He didn't want – he didn't – not this.
Why did Will have to say that? How did he know? Why – just why?
Warren closed his eyes briefly, Will's gaze on him so intent. It felt like it was molten lava or bubbling water, or something so hot it froze.
"Are you sure it has nothing to do with my looks?" He raised an eyebrow at Will, and smirked, and Will smiled back, tentatively.
"Nah, I've… been better."
Warren's eyes narrowed. Oh, it was on.
Don't consider your reputation and you may do anything you like.
He was obviously not mad at Will, he didn't need to apologize. He didn't.
And he was Warren Peace. Warren Peace did not apologize to anyone (except sometimes to Magenta, and more rarely to Layla, but they were different; they were just plain scary. Oh, and to his mom).
Warren Peace could just sit there in silence, watching TV with Will Stronghold, and never apologize for punching his friend last night. He could, and he would, and he wouldn't feel guilty about it, either.
He could just sit there, trying not to be uncomfortable or hyperaware of how the distance between their thighs had slowly decreased until it was only an inch or two wide, and he could not care that Will had called him worth it or that he'd gotten kicked out of his house, and he could just watch whatever this was (something about cheetahs?) and not apologize.
Warren growled softly, and brushed his hair out of his eyes. Goddamnit, he couldn't.
He ignored the fact that Will was staring at him again, fingers appearing to twitch and eyes wide, and leaned over towards him. He ignored Will's breath catching and the odd urge to smile when he noticed that. He ignored the voice in his head that told him that this was wrong, that Warren Peace did not apologize, that he should get up and walk away now.
"Hey, Will," he said quietly, and ignored the way Will's eyes lit up at the use of his first name. "I'm sorry I punched you."
Will nodded after a second, and Warren ignored how now, due to his leaning closer, their thighs actually were touching. Also ignored Will's gulp.
Warren met Will's eyes. "Good."
And then he got up swiftly and left the room, because maybe Warren Peace had apologized this once, but he was not about to stick around the scene of the crime any longer than he had to.
Kissing is like drinking salted water: you drink and your thirst increases.
Warren could probably consider it his own fault, but he chose to put it all on Will's shoulders. In all likelihood, Will didn't mind at all. Actually, Warren was pretty much positive he didn't mind.
He'd forgotten, that was all. Just for a few minutes. Could you blame him? He was a sleepy pyro, it was early, he was just going to watch some TV to wake up. So he sat on the couch.
Will was his best friend, he'd slept over before. They hadn't been fighting (for lack of a better word) even two days, and they'd been friends for years. So if Warren had briefly forgotten that he'd recently learned that Will was gay for him, what of it? It really was understandable.
If he'd plopped down on the couch next to a wide-awake Will, and leaned across his friend to grab the remote, brushing their chests together and completely invading personal space, it really wasn't his fault.
But it was Will's fault that he froze so completely, and made that weird little noise. And it was that weird little noise's fault that Warren turned to look at Will in confusion, putting their faces very close together.
It was Will's fault, therefore, that right then Warren remembered, and his eyes widened. "Will – " he started to say, and it was totally Will's fault that he kissed Warren.
The same chapped lips from several nights ago, only this time Warren had words in his head about being worth it, and puppy-dog eyes, and he loves you and since you first became friends and even the fortune cookies told me to, and it was not his fault if he didn't immediately shove Will away.
Will was breathing hard when he pulled back, and looking at Warren like the older guy was Zeus and about to unleash the lightning, and at the same time licking his lips and soaking up the warmth of Warren's skin.
Warren stared and didn't say anything for a long, long minute. He licked his lips, and swallowed, and Will's expression flickered, fingers twitching.
Warren blinked a few times then, and considered unleashing the fire, but changed his mind. He was a bit foggy on how this was Will's fault, but it had to be, and when Warren smirked at Will and deliberately wrapped a hot hand around his neck, Will made another half-noise, mouth falling open a little bit.
He still had puppy-dog eyes, he always did, even when he was trying to look menacing or actively fighting, and Warren's thumb angled Will's chin up a little bit.
Then he leaned down, and kissed Will.
Will reacted instantly, a sudden shiver coursing through him as his hands flew up and landed on Warren's shoulders, gripping hard. His eyes were still wide open and meeting Warren's, and Warren smirked wider against his mouth.
He moved his other hand up to cup Will's face, and deepened the kiss, his tongue reaching into the kid's mouth.
Will's eyes closed, and his grip tightened, and he made another low noise that somehow managed to sound tingly. Warren kept his eyes open a few seconds longer, but his soon closed too, and he felt his temperature rising.
Will was kissing back now, kissing back like he'd never get another chance, and his hands were over Warren's shoulders and on his back now, holding him in place with unmatchable strength. And when Warren finally drew back for air, his muscles tightened desperately for a second.
They were both panting, and Will seemed to be swallowing a lot, hands still on Warren's back, eyes huge.
Warren frowned for about half an instant, and started to move back, but then Will suddenly moaned and lurched forward and they were kissing again, this time harder and Warren didn't even consider stopping.
"Warren," Will panted in between kisses, fingers scrabbling across Warren's back and the rest of his body inching closer and closer, "Warren, I lo-"
Warren stopped him with a kiss, and slid his knee in between Will's and his fingers into Will's hair, because hearing that he was worth it was already obviously having an affect on him, and he didn't think he'd be able to handle that word at all. And Will seemed to understand, through the heat haze that literally surrounded them now, and just gasped out another, "Warren."
Warren knew that it was Will's fault, and also that he was thinking incoherently and kissing his best friend, and most of all that he didn't really care.
The tiny little Chinese lady with the harsh voice so unsuited to her size always seemed to smile mysteriously when Warren took notice of a proverb.
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
"Wait a second," Will said suddenly. "This means you are gay."
Warren yawned and stretched his arms. "Not necessarily."
"Well, are you? Because I think it kind of matters."
"It's none of your business what I am," Warren said, and gave Will a look.
Will, who seemed to be smiling an awful lot lately, just grinned and looked back. "Come on. Aren't you? What else could you be?"
"Bisexual," Warren said, and considered adding, pitying you, but that would just be cruel. Not to mention a lie.
Warren sighed. "No."
"So you're gay."
Warren clenched his teeth, and Will frowned. "What? What's wrong? You don't want to admit it?"
"Could you shut up with all the questions already?"
Warren growled. "Because." He waited for the inevitable question, and blinked when it didn't come, glancing at Will only to find him staring at Warren, eyes wide.
Warren considered this, and then growled again. Will shivered; Warren smirked.
"Because," he admitted reluctantly, "do you have any idea how ridiculous it is? Christ, I'm… flaming."
Will, respecting/being the best friend of/possibly being in love with Warren, promptly proceeded to laugh. Lengthily. At the top of his lungs. Warren scowled, and flicked sparks at him, before resorting to the more mundane thumping him over the head. "Shut up, Stronghold."
Will kept snickering, and Warren was mildly surprised that he didn't mind. It was weird. In fact, he wasn't really annoyed at much of anything at the moment, which was very much out of the norm. In fact, he might go so far as to say he felt… happy. Really happy, for the first time in a long time. Too bad this had taken so long to get to this point; he really liked this feeling.
Men fated to be happy need not haste.
Mrs. Wu sounded unbelievably smug in his head, and Warren couldn't help but recall all those little smiles she'd give him as she spouted proverbs at him, with suspicion.
Now that he thought about it, the proverbs had kept coming to mind during this whole thing with Will…
And what was that Will had said about fortune cookies?
Will kept on laughing, and with that proverb and the word 'happy' in his head, Warren still couldn't muster up any anger.
So... to address a few things:
1) This is quite clearly longer and has more interaction between all of the characters. It is also quite clearly from Warren's POV. I was a bit nervous about all of this, so I'd love reassurance.
2) Ricky (AKA Citrus) is all my own. I mentioned him in FOF. His power is growing lemons. Only lemons. I thought it was amusing, even ironic. Cause, you know, Layla can grow anything but lemons...
3) I used Chinese proverbs this time, instead of fortune cookies, and I did have one central one: "Men fated to be happy need not haste." These (like the fortunes) were all gathered online and are real Chinese proverbs. And as for Mrs. Wu being a secret sneaky superpowered matchmaker for the boys... that's up to you.
4) I used the same format as last time, with 1 long bit, then 1 tiny bit about the proverbs (or fortunes), then 3 long bits followed by 1 more short one, then 6 long, 1 short, 1 long, 1 short. I was almost tempted to write more, but I think that this is a good place to stop. Hope you agree.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. Thank you for reading!