Chapter Track: Paper Planes – M.I.A.

TW: Occasional use of homophobic slurs. Please note that these do not reflect my own views.

To be fair, Double D isn't paying the slightest bit of attention. A game of Sudoku on his phone is the pressing concern – he's so close, and on the most challenging difficulty as well. He's going to solve it in record time and –

CRASH.

Edd sails over the street. His phone leaps from his hand and his head cracks against the sidewalk.

"Aw, Jesus," he hears, and sees two Kevins spinning over him, "Can't you fuckin' watch where you're going, dork?"

"I nearly solved my Sudoku puzzle on 'excruciating,'" Edd mumbles, and rubs absently at one eye. After the dizziness passes, he sits up. Kevin remains right in front of him, a mixture of annoyance and pity on his face. Edd adds, "I'm fine, see. I will see you in gym class this afternoon." He waves, and looks back to his phone, which is in the middle of the street.

"Wait," Kevin says. He slides his backpack off his shoulders and pulls a small plastic box out of the front pocket. A red plus is emblazoned on the front – a first aid kit. He pops it open and grabs a couple of Band-Aids. He throws them at Edd and says, "You fucked up your elbows, asshole."

And without another word, Kevin zips his backpack, replaces it on his shoulders, mounts his bicycle, and pedals off toward the school. Edd stares at the paper packages in his lap for a moment before he decides to open one. Kevin was correct – the fall broke the skin over his elbows, and they sting, blood seeping down his arms.

He shifts and opens his messenger bag, removing a couple of sanitary wipes that he keeps on his person just in case. Edd grits his teeth against the sting and opens a bandage.

Hm. Clearly these did not come with the first aid kit in the beginning, as they're embellished with Batman mid-flight. Nonetheless, he peels off the protective backing and smooths it over his elbow – then repeats the entire process with his other elbow.

After he retrieves his cellphone from the middle of the road (the screen is cracked in yet another place, but he's used to that), Edd walks the rest of the way to school. Fortunately he always leaves earlier than necessary (one never knows what could happen on the way to school, as exampled by the incident a few minutes ago), and makes it to his locker with enough time to get to his AP Psychology class with five minutes to spare.

His AP classes are his most pleasant classes, free from his friends. He loves them dearly, but they're loud and sometimes taxing. His academics take his mind off lingering problems in his mind, like his parents being absent for an entire week now, or how magnetic Kevin seemed in his football letterman jacket, with his hair mussed from riding against the wind on his bicycle.

Yeah, focusing his mind elsewhere is without a doubt the most beneficial option available to him.

To Edd's good fortune, the wounds on his elbows don't inhibit his ability to complete schoolwork, and he makes it through his classes without a hitch. At lunchtime, Edd can hear Eddy speaking but he doesn't listen, and Eddy demands, "Are you fucking listening to me, man?"

Edd replies, "Not precisely, no."

"Well then, listen. I'm telling you, I've got the greatest idea, and this isn't like last time. It'll get us the big bucks, let me tell you," Eddy goes on.

It's there that Edd stops listening again, but he still nods when it's appropriate and gives pensive sounds of agreement when Eddy pauses for breath. By the end of lunch period, Edd has hardly eaten anything, but finds himself not hungry. Maybe he'll have a stomach ache by the time that physical education rolls around. There is nothing that he loathes more than that class – absolutely nothing. He's the tallest person in the class, but the gawkiest and weakest and least graceful. He all the athletic talent of a newborn giraffe, if even that.

But alas, as he shuffles into the locker room, he's at peak condition, bereft of any usable excuse to get out of gym class.

Edd twists his combination into his gym locker and removes his neatly folded uniform before he hangs his messenger bag inside. He never undresses in front of the other guys. It has little to do with nudity, he attempted to explain to Eddy once. He dislikes his physique. His skin is pallid, his face and back speckled with acne. He's skinny enough that his ribs show against his skin, and regardless of how many calories he consumes he fails to put on weight.

He swaps out his clothing in a stall, and waits a few minutes alone before he ventures out. Most of the other students have exited to the gymnasium, though a handful of stragglers remain. Kevin bursts in late and tosses his backpack into his locker. He removes his jacket and shirt in a single, fluid movement.

Edd stares.

He stares a lot, actually. It's a little hard not to. Kevin's skin is tan (sunburned in places) from time in the sun. Freckles darken his shoulders and across his nose. Edd watches the muscles shift under Kevin's skin, his shoulders rolling as he undoes the fly of his jeans and strips them off, tossing them haphazardly beside his backpack in his locker.

He bends over to pull his gym shorts on. Edd's breath catches slightly in his throat. His eyes follow the movement of Kevin's body as he slips on his shirt.

And then Kevin turns around.

Oh…shit.

Kevin catches Edd's eyes and his brows sweep together. He straightens, and with one eyebrow cocked he swaggers to where Edd stands. Though Kevin is not quite as tall as Edd, he's still intimidating.

"You got a problem?" Kevin asks. He's so close that Edd can smell his breath.

"Have you been smoking cigarettes?" Edd squeaks, "That seems unwise for a football player."

"Yeah?" Kevin asks, "I don't think it's any of your damn business. I asked you a question, dickhead. You got a problem?"

Yes, Edd does have a problem. He is, against his will and better judgment, sexually attracted to Kevin.

But he replies, "Not at all."

Kevin leans in a little closer. His lips are only a half-inch from Edd's, his breath warm against Edd's skin, and his gray-green eyes boring right into him. Kevin pushes Edd back against the restroom door and grunts, "Then how about keeping your eyes off my ass, huh?"

Edd shrinks back, at a loss for words. He manages, "Sorry."

But Kevin doesn't drop it.

"You like boys?" Kevin's voice hisses out lowly.

"N-No," Edd lies, but his cheeks flush and he's awful at being dishonest.

Kevin shoves Edd into the door and backs off, but the damage is done. Kevin may not be an AP scholar, but he isn't exactly stupid, either. Kevin is intelligent in a way that Edd isn't, as much as he's loath to admit such a thing. Kevin knows people.

And now Kevin knows that Edd likes boys.

Edd tries not to panic as he exits to the gymnasium, where several volleyball nets are set up and teams have divided already. The gym teacher gives Edd a knowing look, and points him to a net at the end. Edd knows that wherever he's placed that he's doomed to failure, but he has to at least try. If he doesn't pass physical education, then he won't graduate with the proper amount of credits. Sure, he knows it's his senior year of high school and that many of his peers aren't nearly as worried as he is, but he doesn't want to stray from perfection…as difficult as it may be in this case.

The game begins, and Edd artfully keeps away from the ball as much as possible.

Which would have worked out beautifully, had another volleyball not come hurdling at him from another direction entirely. It strikes him in the head and he goes down. He lands with his hands and knees on the hard floor.

"Watch your head, faggot!"

Kevin and his friends are laughing as Edd climbs back to his feet. He lets out a little breath and picks up the volleyball. His knees are wobbly and his resolve is shot, so he rolls it back to them and turns away.

This class cannot end soon enough. He'll go home, he'll make himself a cup of tea, he'll feed his ants and mice, and he'll settle down to do his homework. Perhaps he'll have time to read more of his book, and then he can go to sleep and forget this awful day.

But his heart seems to clench up in his chest. When the team on the opposite side of the net sends the ball their way, it heads at him. He tries to bounce it back, but it hits him and he's flung backward for the second time.

The gym teacher blows her whistle and gestures for Edd to come over.

"Having a rough day, kid?" she says.

"It's been challenging," he replies.

She glances over him and says, "Look, why don't you head to the nurse's office and get yourself checked out? I'll excuse you for the rest of the period."

"I appreciate that," Edd sighs.

He changes in the restroom despite the fact that nobody else is in the locker room. In the bathroom mirror, he sees that his eye is beginning to swell and bruise. Within no time, he'll be sporting a massive black eye. At least his nose isn't broken, although that has happened before – leaving him with a slightly crooked nose that's a little too big for his face.

Edd exhales all the breath in his lungs and gathers his belongings. He doesn't go to the school nurse – he trusts his own knowledge more than he trusts hers, frankly.

He puts his headphones over his ears before he begins his walk home. He drones out the rest of the world with the beat of the song, pretending that today didn't happen, that he's turned back time, that nothing went as it truly did. But still, above his music he still feels that awful, sinking feeling low in his stomach and high in his heart.

Edd arrives home to no sticky notes from his parents. They've been out – he doesn't know where, really – and though he appreciates the peace, he can't help the sense of loneliness that settles over him as he arranges his shoes neatly on the rack by the front door. He hangs up his schoolbag and pads into the kitchen, where he turns on the stove and puts the tea kettle on. Surely, a cup of oolong will give him some peace of mind.

But it doesn't. Edd's brain is so scattered that he can't bring himself to start on his essay for AP lit, and instead he sits outside on his back porch, rocking back and forth on the swing, and taking slow sips from his china teacup. He doesn't even hear his fence swing open, or notice that somebody's joined him until Ed is next to him on the swing, making the metal frame creak under his weight.

"Are you okay, Double D?" he asks slowly. Ed isn't the most brilliant of creatures, to be sure, but he is a good friend.

"Not precisely," Edd responds, "It was a trying day."

"At least you didn't get eaten by a monster," Ed tells him, "Then you'd be dead."

"At least," Edd agrees.

"Does your eye hurt?"

"It's a little tender."

"I could bring you some ice," Ed offers.

Edd manages a smile and shakes his head, "That's all right. I'll be fine on my own, Ed. Would you mind leaving me alone for now?"

"Okay," Ed complies, "But…if you need me. Text me. We could watch Superman." He stands and hops from the back porch.

Edd waits until he hears the creak of the fence closing before he exhales again. He finishes the last sip of tea, drags his feet back inside, and prepares to finish his homework. He changes into comfortable flannel pajama pants, a gray cotton t-shirt and his bunny slippers before he settles down at his desk and opens his laptop.

Analyzing the ins and outs of The Color Purple is far simpler than focusing on boys, anyway. He should understand other boys, being one, he sometimes thinks, but he hardly understands any variety of people, let alone the fellow members of his own gender. Even Ed and Eddy are difficult to diagnose.

Though English isn't his best subject when compared to his excellence in the maths and sciences, he's got the system down to a pat, and can produce a well-written essay in an hour and a half if he disconnects his internet (which he has).

Through the window, the sun begins to set, turning his bedroom a soft salmon-pink, and then orange, and then dim purple-blue as he adds the final touches on his essay. It isn't due until next week, but all his other homework tasks are completed…leaving him little to do to keep himself occupied.

He reads a chapter of The Disappearing Spoon, and writes an entry in his journal, and straightens all the framed specimens on his walls. When at last he's left himself nothing else to do, he repositions himself in front of his laptop again. He places his headphones over his ears and opens the music program he paid a solid amount of money for –

But doesn't start mixing, because he hears something clunk against his window. Edd shifts his headphones down to his neck and unplugs them from his computer.

In his front lawn stands Kevin.

"What in Sam Hill?" he mutters, and opens the window to whisper harshly, "Leave me alone!"

"C'mon, let me in, dickhead, I just want to like – say I'm sorry, or something, okay?"

Edd scowls and replies, "Only if you stop calling me names."

"Fine, dude, just let me in, okay?"

Edd closes his window with a long, world-weary sigh. He takes his hat off of the hook by the door and pulls it far over his head. He doesn't wear it nearly as much as he used to in junior high school, but from time to time he still uses it as a security blanket. If there's ever been a need for a security blanket, it's today.

He steps down the stairs, taking it one stair at a time, in case he changes his mind and wants Kevin to go away.

Well, he does want Kevin to go away, but he also wants Kevin to come in – it's a dilemma, to be sure, and he doesn't like it one bit. His heart races underneath his ribs, and his breath is short by the time he reaches the front door. He opens it with unsteady hands.

"Took you long enough, Double Dork," Kevin says.

"What did I say about calling me names?" Edd snips. His patience for this day has waned, and now he's nothing but angry.

"Fine. Yeah. Sorry," Kevin says.

"Apology accepted," Edd returns stiffly, "Have a nice night." He makes to close the door, but Kevin sticks his foot out in between the front door and the frame, jamming one huge work boot inside the house. Edd has no upper body strength to speak of, and so when he tries to herd Kevin out, it's not surprise that Kevin busts in.

"You put your hat on," he mentions, and closes the front door behind him.

"Astute observation," Edd acidly replies, "Honestly, I am in no mood to deal with your – your – shenanigans right now, so please, could you just leave?"

Kevin folds his arms, "Shenanigans?"

"That means –"

"I know what it means," Kevin interrupts. He stares at Edd, hard. It's not as intimidating now as it is infuriating. Kevin adds, "Sorry about your black eye."

"That wasn't your volleyball," Edd says.

Silence hangs in the air between them. Edd would like nothing more than to have his headphones over his hears and music blaring. He wants to drown out this awful day, but Kevin doesn't seem inclined to leave.

Oh well. Let him stay. Edd has things he wants to do.

Edd turns on his heel and makes toward the stairs.

Kevin's arm shoots out and grabs Edd's wrist, tightening like a vice around it. Kevin's hands are rough, his palm calloused. The sensation sends a shiver down Edd's spine. He struggles against Kevin's grip and turns around to glare, "Release me. This. Instant."

As Kevin seems inclined to do exactly the opposite of each of Edd's demands, he instead yanks Edd forward. They're close, almost as close as they got in the locker room.

And then…they're even closer. Kevin pulls Edd up against him and covers Edd's mouth with his own. He reeks like cigarettes and Tic-Tacs and expensive cologne. For a mere moment, Edd wants to melt into the kiss. He's had kisses before, but nothing quite like this one – but wait. This is the same boy that referred to him as that…that slur in the gymnasium.

Edd wrenches himself from Kevin's grip and says, "How dare you?"

"I –" begins Kevin.

But no. No, this cannot be allowed. Edd says, "Quiet! You – you have some nerve, really, you do. Is this your idea of a joke? All right, I'm attracted to boys, and I thought you and your idiot friends found that unacceptable. You threw things at me and called me names and then you – you do this? Are you serious? You've been releasing all your frustration with your own sexuality on me? I know who I am. I know what I like and I've come to terms with that. I understand it's not as easy as that for others, but confusion is not a reasonable excuse to inflict pain on other people."

Edd inhales. His whole face is red. He can feel the heat of the blood in his cheeks. He hasn't shouted at somebody like that in ages, but he's furious.

Kevin says, "I'm sorry, I just thought –"

"You just thought what, precisely? That I'm such a wallflower that I'd accept any brand of attention from just anybody? I have news for you, Kevin. You may be attractive and you may be charismatic, but those traits are not enough to make up for cruelty and childishness," Edd shakes with anger, "Leave me alone." He can't stand another instant here. He rushes to the stairs and climbs up, making his way to his bedroom. He'll lock himself in and then Kevin will have to leave.

Naturally, this is not how it goes. Kevin follows Edd and pushes his bedroom door open.

"Will you let me get a word in? Jesus," Kevin runs a hand through his hair and says, "Seriously, Double D, I'm sorry."

"Don't call me Double D," Edd says, "That's what my friends call me, and you are most definitely not that."

"Okay, okay," Kevin holds his hands up in defense, "Look, you're really smart, okay? I don't…like, know what's going on with me." He rubs his temples and drags his hands down his face, looking abruptly less scary and much sadder, instead. He goes on, "I didn't – I still don't know what I'm supposed to do, you know? I mean, I like girls, right? But then I see guys like you and it's the same deal."

"'Guys like me'?" echoes Edd, "Are you blind?" Certainly, he isn't the worst that the planet has to offer, but even optimistically he couldn't be called attractive.

"You, um, you're cute, or something," Kevin mutters. He doesn't look Edd in the eye, and instead fixes his eyes on the carpet.

"What are you talking about?" Edd manages.

"I dunno, dude, I kinda like you, or something," Kevin says, "Like, I notice when you look at me, you know? I thought I was making it up, and I thought today maybe I wasn't, and then I freaked and…did what I did, okay?"

"And what, precisely, do you want me to do about this?"

Kevin is pink in the face. A sheen of sweat covers his forehead. He says, "Help? Maybe?"

"Help you with what? Be homosexual? Because that's fairly easy, as you're already on top of that," Edd says.

"No, dipshit. Like, help me, I dunno. Not hate this part of myself, or whatever," Kevin explains, "Please, man, I'm desperate. I don't know how to fucking handle this, and I can't like, drink the gay out of me. I've tried. I can't make it go away."

Edd scratches the back of his neck and says, "Tell me if I'm interpreting this correctly. You want me, out of the goodness of my heart, to help you learn to be comfortable with an attraction to men."

"Yeah," Kevin says lamely, "Like kissing and shit, I dunno."

"In essence, you're requesting that I be your booty call," Edd says.

Kevin licks his lips, and, after a long second, nods. He says, "I guess. If you want to call it that."

Edd exhales through his nostrils and agrees, "…Very well. But, I want to make this clear: We are not friends. I don't like you, and I know you don't like me. We're not to be seen together whatsoever, and this arrangement is only to be carried out after school hours, when I have completed my homework. If I want to terminate the arrangement, I will. You have that power, too," he pauses, "And never wear your shoes in my bedroom ever again. Is it a deal?"

"Deal," Kevin says, and holds out his hand.

Edd takes it, and shakes.

xxx

Hey all, this is indeed a KevEdd chapter fic. (If you're a SP reader I'm sorry to disappoint) This is a huge experiment! Feel free to leave thoughts if you have them.