Wow okay so it's here finally wooooooooo. Junior year, man. Procrastination, man.
Trying to get back in the habit of writing regularly after a shitty period of writers block, so yea. I hope y'all like it! skfjdhakjdhf
Trigger warning for slurs.
Leaves of all shades of red and brown scattered the sidewalks and roads, the chilly wind was biting to exposed skin, and Ben was making the routine walk home from school with none other than Travis, who was trying to make plans for certain upcoming spooky festivities about a mile a minute. "So how 'bout that Halloween party at my place, my man?" Travis elbowed Ben in the side.
"No thanks," Ben vehemently protested. "I don't really do parties. You know how the last one went."
Travis huffed and swiveled towards Ben, facing him while continuing the walk backwards. "Come on! It's not a big party. It's like– it's like a loser party. Like twenty people. All pretty loser-y." He assured.
"Except Ashleigh," Ben sighed, and continued walking past Travis to school.
"Well– yeah. But I mean, she might not even come. She might find a less loser-y Halloween party to go to! Don't get yourself worked up about it, man."
Easier said than done. Travis and Ashleigh had been "officially" dating for about two weeks, and even though Ben had gotten the "You're still my number one, man/Bros before hoes" talk, it obviously wasn't helping. Even so, since Ben had come out, things had become a little less awkward between the two, much to Ben's surprise. He had fully expected Travis to avoid him more than ever, but the next day, he had come up and said "Dude, I know you weren't really telling me specifically (Wrong: he sort of was), but I'm really glad you told me. And no, I'm not gonna get all weird about sleepovers." In fact, Travis almost seemed happier now that the secret was semi-out.
"So anyway," Travis changed the subject accordingly. "You got your sights set on some stud in GSA? Band? What about Jacob? Isn't he attractive?" He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at Ben, who was so caught up on the fact that Travis apparently thought another guy was attractive that he almost forgot to answer the question.
"Nah, man. He's not really, uh... my type, I guess." He dodged the question clumsily.
"Come oooonnnn," Travis whined. "You gotta think at least one guy in band is attractive." Ben noticed Travis getting a little pink in the face. He wondered if it was awkward for him to be discussing about the attractiveness of other males. He didn't dare to think of any other possibilities.
"Just... I mean, I guess a few of them are alright..." Ben stumbled across his words, getting flustered himself. He suddenly felt an unexpected flash of irritation at Travis's pushiness. "Just, can you please back off on this topic for a bit?"
Travis stared at him and Ben realized his words might have come out a little more accusingly than intended when he replied, "No need to get so offended, man, I was just wondering. Why do you get all defensive when I can clearly tell you're swooning over someone in your English journal?"
Fuck. Ben froze. His mind raced at a hundred miles a minute and he began to feel nauseous. In English, they had been assigned to write a short poem about the thing that was most important to them. Ben's choice was obvious. He took the assignment a little too seriously, and wrote more than just a short poem (try a whole page, front and back). It never mentioned any names, of course, but still...
"How could you read that?" He exploded, letting out every swallowed bit of rage he'd kept buried inside his core for months. "That's my personal journal, man. It literally says, do not open. You don't just go around nonchalantly peeking at that shit! And even if it weren't personal, I still wouldn't fucking appreciate you rummaging through my stuff without permission!"
Travis gazed up at him with wide, shocked eyes. Ben realized how terrifying he had just been. What the fuck is wrong with me...? He felt guilty immediately, tears already welling up in his eyes. "I'm–"
"No, I'm sorry." Travis interrupted. "You're right. I- I fucked up." He looked down, his voice remorseful. "I shouldn't have looked at it. I was just... worried about you."
Ben's eyes snapped back to Travis's. "What do you mean worried about me?"
"Like I said... you've been on edge. It's like a feather could break you. And I thought I could find the answer in there," Travis vaguely motioned towards Ben, "And I guess I did."
"I'm sorry." Ben took a step closer, trembling slightly. "I just really, really can't tell you." Lie. It barely matters at this point, Ben. You're screwed. He knows. He knows from the way you describe his eyes, from the way you say he makes you feel alive, from the fact that you can tell him anything and everything... except just how much he means to you.
It was painfully obvious and Ben knew it and he really just wanted to stop pretending right there, but something in him just couldn't do it. He wanted to scream "I love you" at the top of his lungs, but he couldn't, he was so afraid. Afraid of losing Travis, afraid of everyone else knowing, afraid of himself.
Instead, he just shook his head and said, "Let's just get to school."
The week before the party flew by faster than Ben has expected, and before he knew it he was sitting on Travis's couch in an embarrassing, itchy cowboy costume. In his defense, he had procrastinated for so long that it was the only option left at the costume store that would fit his ridiculously tall frame, and on top of that he was kind of broke and Travis refused to contribute to a purchase that he'd only wear once in his life. So dorky cowboy it was. Travis, however, was dressed as a classy gangster from the 40's. He looked like something out of Guys & Dolls, as Charlotte, always the theatre nerd, had excitedly pointed out when he emerged from his room after changing. Ben just thought he looked hot, plain and simple.
As more people showed up, music started playing and Ben found himself retreating farther into the corner. These were people he knew and saw on a daily basis, but he couldn't shake the feeling that everyone was looking at him differently, and he had a pretty good clue why. I don't get it, I only told like ten people- He started to think, but then he remembered This is fucking high school. Did I really expect it to stay a secret? Then again, he hadn't really expected anyone to even really give a shit.
After a minute Quinn joined him on the outer ring of the social circle, leaving him grateful for her presence. "They're getting out the alcohol, I see," she observed, a grim note to her voice. "I think they need a reality check. We are band kids. We are huge nerds."
Ben was absentmindedly cracking a smile at her words when he realized that Travis was among the ones who were drinking. A dreadful sensation washed over him. "Should Travis really be..." he began, then realized that Quinn had no idea about Travis's previous problems with it. She was staring at him expectantly. "I mean..."
"Nobody's told me about what happened that night you brought him home from the park," she said quietly. "And the weird behavior. Even though it seems to have stopped."
Ben scratched the back of his head and sighed. "Well.. I'm not fully sure myself. It just doesn't seem like a good thing to bring up while everything's going pretty well. I just found him there with a bottle of something in his hand and he was obviously drunk off his ass. And so I took care of him and he had a bunch of mood swings and I stayed overnight, and all that junk." He looked down at his hands in his lap. "And then... the same thing happened a little while ago, he was out in the forest and looked like he was.. I don't know, having a panic attack or something... he obviously wasn't himself. But I mean he's fine now right?" He tried to convince himself with a cheerful change of tone. "He hasn't done anything weird for a while.."
Quinn looked straight ahead. "I don't know. He's your best friend."
Ben was trying to process what this meant when he heard a crash from the kitchen, and several people gasp and utter sounds of surprise. Alarmed, he stood up quickly and looked into the kitchen to see what was going on. "HOW DARE YOU?" he heard a shrill voice ask.
Ashleigh had thrown a bottle of something on the floor, and had Travis cornered up against the wall.
"THE ONE GUY I THOUGHT MIGHT ACTUALLY BE TRUSTWORTHY, AND YOU CHEAT ON ME? AFTER TWO WEEKS? NEVER IN MY FUCKING LIFE HAVE I EVER BEEN SO FUCKING ASHAMED TO KNOW A HUMAN BEING-"
Travis raised his voice, a fearful look in his eyes. "But I didn-"
Ben saw Ashleigh's hand collide with Travis's face and heard a smack, and he immediately reacted.
"HEY!" he shouted, anger consuming him, no time to think this through, have to defend Travis. His long strides carried him into the area immediately, and he grabbed her still raised hand, which seemed like it was itching to do more damage. Ben usually was not the confrontational type and he knew this, but he wasn't going to sit around and let Travis get hurt, no matter what he'd supposedly done. His eyes burned a hole into hers, and he could tell she was scared now as well as angry. She jerked her hand away from his grasp and snarled at him. "I always fucking knew it," she spat at him, "You two-"
"What?" Ben asked, confusion replacing rage. "Us two?" How could she...?
She got even closer up into his face, and he could feel the spittle from her mouth as she hissed, as venomously as she possibly could, "Fucking fags. That's what you two are."
Ben would never hit a girl, but he came so close to doing it just then that if she had stayed where she had been a second longer, he didn't know if he could have controlled his rage. Thankfully, she whipped out of sight without a glance backwards or any hesitation, and slammed the door with a sickening crack.
A horrified silence settled over the room. Ben stood there in the same place for what seemed like forever, trembling, trying to process everything that had just taken place. He slowly turned over to Travis, who looked equally shaken.
Their eyes met. "We need to talk," Ben's said. In unspoken agreement, they followed the hallway that took them outside to the backyard.
Ben stood there, arms crossed, drawing into himself, waiting for the explanation. The familiar place didn't seem so inviting now, taking him back to better times. Their first playdates as little kids, when time outdoors was spent playing imaginary characters, running around, instead of revealing secrets that shouldn't exist. The air was damp and the sky was devoid of stars except for a few, lonely ones that could have been airplanes, and he and his best friend were standing out there in their stupid looking costumes going through this bullshit and he almost started to cry, even though nothing had been said yet.
"It wasn't even cheating," Travis blurted out, just as Ben was about to say something. "I tried to cut it off before I even asked her out."
Ben was silent for a moment. "What's more important, " he said through clenched teeth, "Is why you didn't tell me that... whatever it was was going on in the first place."
Travis rose his eyes from the ground to look at Ben. His brown gaze met Ben's blue one and they shared one, tense, heavy moment of silence. Travis finally managed to choke out, "Why do we keep doing this?"
"We never used to fight. Ever. Sure, we disagreed. On a lot of things. But we didn't care! We didn't bullshit each other! That's why I lo-" a quarter of a second's stutter, Ben just missed it- "why I like you, Ben! We work together. But now it's just... everything is so fucked up..." Travis looked worn down, tired, older than he was, and he was slouched over, and bags were developing under his eyes, and Ben regarded him silently still, not having any clue what to say.
"...I fucked up." Travis swallowed hard. "I fucked up big time. I know. This is my fault." Ben couldn't meet his eyes anymore through the tears. "You deserve to know what's been going on." An inhale of shaky breath followed and Ben took a tentative step closer. "I was... seeing someone. In the summer."
Ben's expression somehow remained the same while lightning struck in his mind.
"You know, at band camp..." Travis folded his arms, closing in on himself. "You couldn't go cause you were sick, remember? And I thought I was gonna be miserable all by myself with people I hated and couldn't make fun of with you," he cracked a little smile, "and we didn't talk much those few weeks because phones weren't allowed. But I..." the words had a great deal of difficulty forcing themselves out. "I made a friend... and we got really close... and yeah..." Travis got quieter and quieter as he spoke.
Finally Ben replied. "And you didn't think to tell me about her..."
"I thought you'd get mad at me... and yeah, I know waiting and you finding out ended up being much worse. I know. But I was just... really embarrassed." He had been staring at one particular brick in the wall for quite a while now.
"So then why Ashleigh...?"
Travis bit his lip. "It... the band camp thing... wasn't working out and I... tried to move on."
"Tried?" Ben pressed.
"They were... just... kind of being... controlling... and I tried to stop talking to them, and it worked sometimes, and sometimes not, but we haven't talked in more than a month so I thought it was pretty much over."
Ben repeated, quietly, "Why Ashleigh? And so soon..."
"Do you want the truth? Fine. I... she was sort of a rebound. To try and... get over the other person. I kept telling myself that wasn't the case but now that I think about it... I used her. So she has every right to be pissed off at me. But I wasn't cheating on her." He took a deep sigh. "I honestly have no idea how she found out. They probably texted me or something and she saw it..."
"I'm sorry, Ben." Tears glistened in his eyes. He was telling the truth. "This kind of shit will never happen again. Ever. I fucking swear it."
Before Ben knew it, Travis had enveloped him in a tight, warm hug, his cheek pressed against his neck, on the tip of his toes to reach him. Ben hugged him back tight, squeezing his eyes shut, grateful for his honesty even if the anxious feeling bubbling up in the pit of his stomach like acid was back. Now that Ashleigh was out of the picture, he really was back to number one. But the other person he had described... they had been number one while Ben thought he'd had that title months ago.
As if he could tell what Ben was thinking, Travis said "I don't want to talk about them. It's in the past," and he looked confident enough, but the tone of his words suggested that he wasn't too sure. "Let's go back inside and shove candy into our mouths like the fucking animals we are." Ben giggled.
The rest of the party went smoothly, and the physical anxiety slowly melted away as Ben laughed and partied with his friends. After everyone else had left, he, Charlotte and Quinn stayed over to watch horror movies. There was still a occasional paranoid thought that ran through his mind, distracting him from the movie, but he quickly shook them away, enjoying moments spent with the people he loved. Travis and Quinn had a snark-off in between handfuls of candy during the first cheesy nightmare of a movie while Charlotte was on her phone most of the time -horror movies not really being her thing- but she still tuned in every once in a while. Ben gave the title of winner to Travis in the end, quite obviously, earning another cheeky, triumphant grin from him. Those never failed to make him smile back.
Halfway through the second movie, Travis rested his head against Ben's shoulder, and despite the rather disturbing scene that was occurring onscreen, he seemed relaxed, if not bored, and Ben hardly dared to move. A few minutes later, Travis had fallen asleep. Ben thought it right to lay him down on the floor (as Charlotte and Quinn had taken the couch), and cover him with the softest blanket within reach.
Soon, he too gave in and laid down next to Travis, watching him while he slept, noting the slow rise and fall of his chest, the peaceful expression that graced his face. Ben knew he would never, ever get tired of falling asleep next to Travis as long as he lived. Minutes blurred into seconds as his eyelids become heavier and he fought to stay awake, but try as he might, he could not help but succumb to the gentle grip of sleep, having forgotten all about the movie and the previous events of the night.
Charlotte got up from her spot, covered both of them with the blanket, and whispered to Quinn, "Five bucks says they're gonna wake up spooning again."
The next morning, Charlotte was the proud owner of a crisp five dollar bill.
Alright. I promise the fighting between them is done. There are still some things left unsaid that we'll find out later... but no more fights. Cause they make me sad too. However, we are still a long way to being resolved. Fasten your seatbelts y'all, it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
And thank all of you who are still reading this for being so patient, omg. I love you guys.
Until next time,