He doesn't really think of it (until Pest), the way another boy's skin might feel pressed flush against his (until until until), the way callouses and course hands and — the way it'd feel to (until until) — push another boy down, down, down, the bed creaking soft and whining thin and high, protesting angrily, and the way (until Pest, until that) it'd feel to —

(Until, until, he's thirteen and Pest is paler than a sheet and he's small and skinny and quiet, and he gets loud when he's angry and angry when he's loud, and he grins wider than his face can handle, splitting his skull in two.)

And they're fifteen, and Pest's fingernails make half-moon marks indented into the nape of Moses's neck, and he breathes low and soft and urgent and whispers, "Look at me," and Moses is too scared, and the kisses are closed-mouth and taste like secrets and the night is young and they feel too old to be such children.

(Until, until, until — Pest makes the world turn again.)

His uncle comes home and whispers, "Faggot," into his sleeping ears, and mutters faggot into the air and everything feels like he's just been marked with a name that isn't his. The walls stained with faggot. His mouth tastes like — (againmoreshitfuckdon'tstopPest) — faggot.

His teeth are made of bone and his uncle punches him in the mouth, warm, sweet blood spilling from his lips, metallic and salty on his tongue, and he punches back until he can feel the bone crushing beneath his fists and he laughs loud and obnoxious and hateful and his uncle says he ain't coming back this time.

The echoes of the word (faggot faggot faggot) still bounce off the walls a million times and Pest tsks and shakes his head and tells him, "Moses, bruv, you can't control your temper worth shit, man."

And Moses doesn't know how to speak anymore so he touches him instead and there's a gasp of air in between them and the word that hangs still and silent and meaning something special and different and bitter.

(Until — and Pest breathes a word, a please, a promise — until Moses pushes him down [down, down] onto the bed and —)

(Faggot) — when Pest traces the curve of his collarbone and his breath is hot against the taut skin —

— and Moses kisses him open-mouthed and (faggot) his hand dips beneath Pest's trousers and curves around —

Pest swears and his head falls back onto the bed that creaks and whines and Moses doesn't remember ever touching a girl like he touches another boy, and maybe it says something about him. Maybe —


(Down, down, down.)

Pest stares right up at him and everything else is white noise.