It doesn't hit for a while, because Billy can be a little slow about life-changing, world-rocking, paradigm-shifting events; and, also, these kinds of things really just don't happen to him. Not to skinny, pale, mouthy Billy with perpetually-ruffled hair, who is just one gay, Jewish, undersized nerd in the chaotic slurry of New York.
Developing powers had been a Godsend (or a geeksend? a geek Godsend?). Most of the time, he still can't believe that, and will end up thinking or, more unfortunately, blurting out "oh my God, I have powers" in the middle of, say, washing dishes. At least he's avoided doing this in the middle of practice because, one) it's not exactly the most confidence-inspiring thing for your teammates to hear, especially when said powers are all that stands between them and being a messy chalk outline on the sidewalk below; and, two) he's usually busy saying other things, like "oh my God I am going to die".
So, he'd accepted that discovering he has powers and getting the chance to become a real, world-saving superhero is probably going to be the high point of his life, and everything after will pale in comparison to that first euphoric, unforgettable rush. And it would have been totally fine, because that's infinitely better than having no powers at all, since he's still every bit the gay, Jewish, undersized nerd he'd been before.
It doesn't hit, until he's sprawled out on the dirty sidewalk, his face beginning to throb from an entirely different and more physical sort of impact. There's gravel and a crumpled soda can digging into his back, and Kessler 2.0 looming over him. Billy doesn't even know the guy, vaguely remembers seeing him in the cafeteria. The guy must have followed him all the way from school.
A shadow falls over Billy. Great, he thinks, he brought minions.
He braces himself, expects to be yanked up or held down, to be a wriggly punching bag for today's Anger Management Special. Neither happens. When Billy opens his eyes again, he sees that his prospective bully has backed off, is staring at whoever's behind Billy with a wide, rabbit-like expression. Heart racing, Billy tilts his head back, and sights a familiar mop of blond hair.
It's not really fair, grumbles his brain, which clearly has different priorities, he looks just as hot upside-down.
Teddy hasn't gone green, yet, but he looks a breath away from it; his body's bulked up to barely-human proportions, his clothes are bulging over musculature that looks to have been marinated in steroids, and each tightly-clenched fist must be bigger than Billy's head. The expression on Teddy's face is suggesting, very strongly, that he's in the mood to start swinging, just say the word and this town will see some good 'ole fashioned slaughtering of enemies, and he's also not averse to spreading the pain around.
The Unnamed Bully visibly swallows, does a full-body cringe, and flees the scene.
"Billy?" Teddy's head pops into view again, leaning over where Billy is breathing deep and trying to be one with the pavement. "Billy, are you okay?"
"Yeah. I think." He takes the proffered hand and pulls himself up.
Teddy is still radiating a please-give-me-something-to-hit vibe. The small gang that had been lurking in front of the abandoned cornershop is now inexplicably on the other side of the street, looking distinctly harmless and without a pocketknife in sight.
Wow, thinks Billy, my boyfriend is kind of badass.
And that's when it really hits him; feeling, unfortunately, like an echo of the much more physical fist that had collided with his face just minutes ago.
He has a boyfriend. Billy Kaplan has a boyfriend. He, Billy Kaplan, has a boyfriend.
Bad timing to be looking dazed, though. Teddy is visibly worried, calling Billy's name and waving fingers in front of his eyes.
"I'm fine," Billy quickly assures him, when it seems like Teddy's on the verge of picking him up and running him to the nearest emergency room. "Really, he only got one hit in. Um. Thanks."
The frowning eases up, and Teddy starts biting on his lower lip the way he does when he's uncertain about someone's reaction to him. "You're not mad?"
Now it's Billy's turn to frown. "About not being smeared on the pavement?"
Teddy shrugs. "I didn't want to, like, impugn your manly pride or whatever."
"Trust me, I care more about not getting another black eye than what the guy punching me thinks about my manliness."
This gets a full-on smile from Teddy, which leaves Billy feeling a little dazed again. "Oh, good. Because I don't think I can stand back and watch you get beaten up, not without doing anything."
"I guess I'll just have to deal with that."
They're grinning at each other now. Billy suspects it's not the first time, if Eli's side comments have been anything to go by, but he's never been in this space before: broad daylight, his cheek throbbing, clothing dirty from the street, and at the same time floating, skin thrumming like he's using magic; hopelessly, helplessly happy.
"We should put ice on that," Teddy says quietly. He reaches over and gently rubs a thumb over Billy's cheek. Even that small touch sends a wave of warmth over Billy's face; Billy tells himself that the extra blood is obviously there to start repairing the damage.
"Yeah," Billy says. "I don't think my mom's going to accept the basketball-hit-me-in-the-face excuse again."
Teddy's face tightens dangerously for a moment, but he shoulders his bag and hands Billy his. "Come on, my place is a bit further than yours, but mom's out and there's ice in the fridge."
So much has happened to him in such a short time that Billy forgets he has a life outside of the whole training-to-be-a-superhero thing. Not much of one, granted, but he's still got old friends to wonder at his sudden absences, which may be nice in the future when he meets his noble yet inevitable end, but is occasionally inconvenient now. Jon, who Billy has known since pre-school, pesters and finally guilt-trips him into hanging out at their usual diner. The mark on Billy's cheek gets a searching look, but Jon doesn't say anything about it.
Billy does his best to keep up the conversation, but Nate had worked them pretty hard the previous evening, and then he'd had to stay up all night to finish his homework. It's a small consolation that Teddy and Eli are in the same boat; they'd even set up a chat room in order to keep each other awake and bitch about still having to do schoolwork. Because they obviously don't spend enough time with each other.
Jon, at least, has friends other than Billy. Billy's just starting his costumed career, and he can already see why superheroes tend to stick to their own little communities, especially the ones who work in teams. He knows he'll try to remain on friendly terms, but there's such a huge gap between the kind of stuff that's worrying Jon (Mandy Chang going out with that loser Rick, his mom finding his Playboys) and the kind of stuff that's worrying Billy (not exploding his friends when he tries to teleport them, a possible confrontation with Kang the Conqueror).
Then Jon says, out of the blue, "Oh hey, Kaplan, have you been working on your drawing? Thought you gave that up ages ago." Billy looks at him questioningly from the other side of the diner booth. Jimmy points to the notebook that Billy's just opened up.
There, in the corner, is a rough but intricate drawing of a large dragon, fire and scales and all. It's looking down at a small stick figure; a good depiction of that scene in The Hobbit where Bilbo confronts Smaug. Billy vaguely recalls drawing the stick figure in a desperate attempt to stave off boredom. The dragon, though, is very definitely not his; the little stick Baggins represents and encompasses all of Billy's artistic ability.
But he'd left the book open on that page, hadn't he, when he and Teddy had been waiting for Eli and Nate two nights ago.
"s not mine," Billy admits. He traces the painstaking pattern of scales with his index finger, and feels that ridiculous smile taking over his face again.
"Since when do you let other people draw on your books?" Jon demands. "You hardly let your mom touch them. Have you finally got, like, a boyfriend or something?" He's teasing, expects Billy to be embarrassed and indignant.
Except. "Um. Yeah," and really, Billy will stop being so awed about it any day now.
"Wait, what?" Jon frowns at him. "Also, wow, your face looks kinda scary right now."
"I have a boyfriend." Okay, yeah, there's a distinct possibility that getting to say that will never get old. "Shit, I have a boyfriend."
"Shit," echoes Jon. "Like, for real? This can't be just one of those internet relationships if he's drawing on your stuff. Do I know him? When did this happen?" Billy sends a silent thank-you to his eleven-year-old self for making Jon the first person he came out to.
"Um." He sobers up a little at the reminder that he and Jon have different friends now. They go to different schools and move in different circles. "You haven't met him. And it's been less than a week." Not that Billy's counting. Or that he's circled the date in bright red marker on his wall calendar.
Jon hoots and grins, looking completely fascinated. "So that's why you've been Mr. Busy All The TIme. Come on, what's his name?"
"How'd you guys meet?"
Well, apparently they both have a deep and mysterious connection to the Avengers, and are part of a back-up plan in case the Avengers ever disbanded. "Mutual friend introduced us."
As if on cue, Billy's cell chimes its alert for new text messages. Billy scoops it up and checks; he tries not to smile too widely when he sees that the message is from Teddy.
moms making me buy flour eggs n asparagus on way home. idk wat dinners gonna b.
Billy can feel Jon's eyes on him when he quickly texts back a reply.
asparagus cake, obvsly.
"Man, you've got it bad," observes Jon.
Billy's jaw is starting to ache from all the smiling he's making it do, so he has no choice but to agree.
Billy's lounging out on the grass, wondering if texting Teddy again would be entering 'nagging boyfriend' territory, when a cloud of giggling, perfume, and brightly-colored cheerleading outfits drifts past him and settles down in the shade of a tree a few feet away. Normally, he would move, but the heat's making him loose-limbed and sort-of drowsy. The girls ignore him, and he lets their chatter wash over him. He ends up leaving his cell balanced on his belly; a safe distance away from his thumbs, but still keeping the option open.
He starts to drift off, feeling like a reptile basking in the sun. The part of his brain that remembers he's got certain prey-like qualities, though, picks up a couple of gruff, masculine voices joining the nearby group. He cracks an eye open and turns his head. The bulky, vaguely familiar shape of the school's star quarterback is hovering over the cheerleaders, flanked by a couple of similarly bulky specimens. They seem to be talking about some kind of party. The guys leave after only a couple of minutes, but the brief visit re-energizes the talk amongst the girls.
Billy's attention had already wandered elsewhere. It's not until one of the cheerleaders demands, in a hostile tone, "What are you looking at?" that he realizes his head is still turned towards them. He also realizes, lying flat on the ground as he is, combined with the girls' short skirts, that he can see-
He shuts his eyes and splutters apologetically. Any minute now, the guys are going to come back and defend the girls' honor or something similarly chauvinistic, never mind the extant damage to Billy’s brain, or even worse, there's currently a stiletto heel headed right for his face, he'll have to learn to fight with only one eye-
"Relax, Karen, he's gay," says the one girl in the lot who Billy knows, Sara.
Another girl makes a disparaging sound. "Watch out, then, Sara. He'll be after Ben next."
"Please," Billy says before he can help himself, "my boyfriend's a lot cuter."
There's a surprised pause. Billy's stomach and brain launch into a duet of nervous hopping and did I just tell a bunch of random cheerleaders that I have a boyfriend, what is wrong with me.
Then he hears giggling, and Karen saying, "oh, I like him."
Oh no, Billy thinks. They're going to adopt him as their token gay friend, grill him on how male body parts work, he's going to have to explain that he has less fashion sense than his very boring, unassailably heterosexual father, as should be obvious by his clothing.
Then his phone chirps and he sees a familiar figure waving at him from the front gate. Billy springs to his feet with an agility he had not known he possesses, gives the girls a vague nod of goodbye, and makes for the cheerleader-less sanctuary that is Teddy Altman.
Behind him, he hears Sara saying, "okay, yeah, he is cuter."
Turns out, it's one thing to agree that they should go on a date - and thus, by social contract and teenage logic, are currently dating - and another thing entirely to actually make said date happen. The internet, plus Jon, assure Billy that such a predicament is fairly standard.
"What's the main problem?" asks Jon, from Billy's bed. He's taken to coming over to Billy's at a frequency unseen since they started high school. Billy suspects he just wants to meet Teddy.
Between school, homework, chores, and training to defeat a time-traveling supervillain, any free time left is for sleeping, would be the correct answer. "Our schedules just don't match," Billy says lamely.
"But you still see each other every day, right?" Jon persists. "I mean, it sounds like you see him every day."
"Well, yeah. He meets me after school, or I meet him, depending on who gets out first. And we try to meet in between other commitments." It sounds thin, to his ears, but Jon nods and doesn't accuse him of leading a secret double-life as an underaged, unofficial superhero.
"That's cool. One of my friends, Chris, his girl is in two of his classes and they broke up after a week because they kept fighting over not seeing each other enough." Jon looks at Billy in a considering way. "You know, nothing says it has to be a big date. You can do something small, have coffee together or something before one of you has to run off somewhere."
It's... pretty sensible advice, actually. Billy gives Jon a suspicious look. "Since when did you start giving dating tips?"
Jon shrugs. "Since I started getting pestered for them? Angelica and I just passed six months; I think guys think I know some big secret about it."
Oh crap. Billy is a sucky friend. "Congratulations," he says, ducking his head, "How's, um, Angelica?"
"She's fine." Jon's grin says eloquently that he knows Billy had forgotten. "Man, don't worry about it. I've been where you are. Your head turns into a crazy place."
Crazy's right. Billy doesn't want to settle for a quick coffee-and-pastry, or burger-and-soda, rushed in some spare hour between school and training. Mainly because they've kind of been doing that, anyway, so it wouldn't feel - well, special. He tells himself that they'll get a break soon, during which they'll both be free, and he'll go on a damn date with his damn boyfriend.
Jon would ask why he's being stubborn about it. And it's hard to explain - yeah, Jon has about the same level of social finesse as Billy, is as big of a nerd; they'd once made a pact that they'd share an apartment in Florida when they're lonely octogenarians together. But Jon had had a wealth of TV, movies, and pop culture to fall back on when he'd started dating Angelica. Jon can reasonably expect the support of all his friends, family, even random strangers on the street. He doesn't have to think about where the two of them can go, what they can be seen to be doing.
Billy, on the other hand, has absolutely no idea what to do. He'd accepted that he wasn't going to have the usual sort of landmarks that straight teenagers conventionally look forward to: first boyfriend, first date, first dance, first kiss. Now, beyond all expectations, life is dangling these just out of reach, and there's only 1.5 people he can talk to about it (the 0.5 being Eli and Nate combined) and Billy... feels ready to explode, to be honest.
Maybe Teddy can tell that Billy's close to doing something stupid, like pre-emptively breaking up with Teddy before they even do anything; because it's not like it'll be awkward when they have to work in close proximity to one another in high-stress, life-or-death situations; but even that must be better than Billy making a colossal asshat of himself in front of the guy he's had a crush on since they'd first met, thus establishing a complex that will forever doom all future relationships and see him dying alone and unloved.
In any case, Teddy shows up while Billy and Jon are in the comic book store. Billy's been in a surly mood all day, which Jon has no qualms about calling him out on, and there's a sleep-deprivation headache building up behind his eyeballs. He thinks about having to break up with Teddy before he psychologically damages them both and kind of, sort of, wants to cry a little.
Which is when a Starbucks cup pops into his field of vision, wafting gorgeous caramel macchiato straight into his olfactory receptors. He's got the cup in his hands and sweet, sweet caffeine pouring down his throat before it occurs to him that the cup must have arrived via someone else.
Teddy is smiling at him, a little smug but mostly happy. He's genuinely happy to see Billy. He brought Billy coffee, and exactly what Billy would have ordered. Just like that, what willpower he might have had for a it-is-for-your-own-good breaking-up crumbles to dust.
It's a little worrying that his good intentions can be defeated by coffee, really.
Somebody clears his throat in a very unsubtle way. Billy grunts, still not tearing eyes away from Teddy, and waves vaguely to his side. "Teddy, meet Jon. Jon, this is Teddy."
Jon extends a hand. "Hey! Billy's been telling me a lot about you."
A weird expression crosses Teddy's face, but Teddy shakes Jon's hand in his usual warm manner. "Nice to meet you. Jon. You're... Billy's friend from pre-school right?"
"Yup." Jon looks between Teddy and Billy, and clears his throat with exaggerated casualness. "Right, well, I gotta get home. You two have fun."
"Hmm," says Billy vaguely. Teddy is definitely a sight for sore eyes. What’s more, he can feel the coffee kicking his flagging brain awake again. Just in time, he realizes, "oh, damn, I'm holding Jon's comics. Be right back."
He rushes out of the store, hoping Jon hadn't gone too far yet. To his surprise, his friend is waiting by a fire hydrant outside. And smirking.
"I was concerned, not gonna lie," says Jon, "but your boy's got it as bad as you do."
"What are you talking about? Here, take your comics." Billy shoves the plastic bag at Jon.
"Didn't you see? He was totally jealous!" Jon grins, and smacks Billy hard on the shoulder. "Not bad, Kaplan. Tip - you may want to mention me being with Angelica once or twice."
Jon saunters off, leaving Billy staring in bewilderment after him. Teddy was jealous? But Jon is – okay, not exactly ugly, but they’d once tried to see who could get the most Play-Doh up his nose.
Billy walks back into the store, contemplative, and finds Teddy rummaging through the discounted bins.
"Did you catch him?" asks Teddy.
"Yeah," says Billy. He sips at his coffee. Which Teddy had brought him. He adds, improvising wildly, "Good thing, too - he had his anniversary present for his girlfriend in it."
It could be his imagination, but he thinks Teddy's shoulders and the line of his broad back relax slightly. Billy hides his grin behind the Starbucks cup. "So - found anything good?"
Finally, finally, they do get a break. One afternoon, Eli's grandmother wants him home for something, and Nate wants to play around the Mansion's computer systems, and miraculously neither Billy nor Teddy's families expect them home until late. The free evening stretches out before them, like a night-time sea full of undertows and unseen reefs.
"So," says Teddy, not quite meeting Billy's eyes. "Eight o'clock movie at the Regal on Fifth?"
"There's a nice Italian place a block away," says Billy.
By unspoken agreement, they both slip home to change. Billy is grateful for the last-minute nature of their plans; given more time, he'd have spent ages in choosing his outfit, even though Teddy has already seen him muddy and scorched and hasn't been repulsed by his mismatched socks. Now he just has time to change into one of his nicer t-shirts. After a bit of thought, he throws on a button-down, and digs out his newest pair of jeans.
Teddy is already at the Italian place when Billy gets there. He's in a white shirt and dark pants; chunky metallic jewelry strung on a dark cord gleam around his neck and wrists, matching the row of earrings on both ears. Billy mentally votes it one of his favorite looks for Teddy, even as he regrets his choice of tighter-than-usual jeans.
Though, judging by the appreciative look he gets, Teddy approves.
Then it's- easy, ridiculously easy, once Billy stops worrying about everything and lets himself be pulled into the natural, relaxed rhythm he always has with Teddy. It feels just like any other time they've hung out. Just with different food and nicer clothing.
Paying for the food presents a new conundrum. They look at each other over the check. The usual method of splitting it seems very against the whole date vibe. Billy resists the urge to call Jon; he's sure his friend wouldn't know any better, anyway.
"What about," Teddy says slowly, "I pay for dinner and you can pay for the movie? And we can swap next time?"
Something lurches in Billy's stomach at the mention of 'next time'. He tells himself it's probably the heavy carbs settling.
The movie theatre is busy by the time they get there, despite it being a weekday. They decide on an action movie. Billy forgets the title right after he tells it to the box office cashier, because it hits him, oh my God, I'm on a date, and it's all he can do to hold on to the tickets and shuffle his way back to Teddy.
He thinks Teddy remembers, too, because Teddy smiles at him and drifts closer, under the guise of letting a family walk past them in the crowded lobby. Billy picks up the subtle aftershave that Teddy likes to wear, normally almost gone by the time they start training, and takes a deep breath of it. Teddy is warm, solid, and looks really, really good in that white shirt.
"Hi," says Billy, feeling almost shy.
"Hey," echoes Teddy.
I'm on a date, Billy's mind repeats, and people can tell. He can see it in the little glances from other people, the way the ticket attendant smiles at them both, how the concessions cashier hands their popcorn directly to Teddy while Billy counts out his cash. At one point, he feels Teddy's hand against the small of his back, and it's nowhere Teddy hasn't touched him before, but for some inexplicable reason he feels himself blushing furiously.
They get seats at the back. Billy is an odd mix of relieved and disappointed at how full the theatre is. The two of them sit somewhat normally for a while, watching things explode on screen and passing the bucket of popcorn between them. Billy's brain refuses to catch on to the plot, far more interested in the line of warmth that is Teddy pressed against his side.
A sudden burst of noise from the movie - gunfire, probably - startles Billy, has him jerking instinctively in his seat. The movement shifts his body closer to Teddy's.
After a moment, Teddy lowers the empty bucket of popcorn to the floor, reaches over, and twines his fingers with Billy's - all without taking his eyes off the screen. Billy sucks in a breath, and returns Teddy's grip.
The rest of the movie passes by in a blur of onscreen fire and heroic orchestral music. All Billy can think about is how warm Teddy's skin feels against his, the way Teddy is absently brushing his thumb over Billy's knuckle. If a supervillain had shown up, they'd have been doomed.
Teddy doesn't let go of his hand until they're out of the movie theatre. Billy feels warm all over, and his face probably looks as red as the carpet, and he has no idea why. When Teddy releases him, his hand feels cold.
The walk back home is quiet, but comfortable. They bump arms every now and then, and glance shyly when the other's not looking, and it's all kinds of ridiculous and fantastic. Billy's never yearned for normal, not really, and this doesn't feel normal at all; he's nervous and and light and energized, like his magic is crackling over his skin, like he can take on any villain in the multiverse right at that moment. It is, in some strange, bone-deep way, close to what he thinks saving the world must feel like.
"You know, you have this- this look. When you're thinking really deep," says Teddy with a smile.
Teddy doesn't look annoyed about it - he's smiling and everything - but Billy looks to the ground and mumbles, "Sorry."
"Don't be. I like looking at you." They're passing under a lamppost, so Billy sees the flush of color on Teddy's face. "Um. It's a habit? Because of my, um, shapeshifting. I have to pay attention to details."
Billy can't help grinning. "I like looking at you, too."
They turn a corner, and Billy's house is visible down the street.
It's a real shame, Billy reflects, that saying something like "this whole evening has been kind of magical" would bring the Gods of Corny Lines down upon his head to compel him to smack himself in the face.
Because, well, it's true.
"Thanks for dinner," Billy tries.
"Thanks for the movie."
Billy huffs a laugh at the frustrated look on Teddy's face. It's nice to know he's not alone in feeling that they've reached a conversational impasse. C'mon, Kaplan. Regular, non-superhero people figure this out all the time. "Okay. I'm gonna- I'm gonna say goodnight, and we'll, y'know, chat later? Text me when you get home so I know you didn't run into, like, Dr. Doom on the way."
Teddy nods, but he seems to be staring at Billy's face. No, wait, he's staring at Billy's mouth, which makes Billy realize that he'd started chewing on his lower lip, as is his habit when in the throes of social anxiety. Teddy steps close, so Billy instinctively turns towards him, his body leaning in of its own accord; it's a good thing some part of him knows what it's doing, really, because the rest of Billy is utterly at sea; Teddy's hand on his elbow feels like a hot weight, his heart is trying to pound its way out of his ribs. Oh God oh God Teddy's going to kiss me-
There's a faint hiss and crack of glass; the streetlamps nearest to them sputter and die out.
The sudden darkness is a blessing, really, because Billy forgets about closing his eyes and he doesn't know what to do with his hands and it's awkward, awkward, so awkward. Teddy's lips are soft, a bit of chapping on the lower one, and they don't move away even when Billy starts wheezing and flaps weakly at Teddy's shoulders, because his default response to a situation he doesn't know how to deal with is to get his spazz on.
Teddy shifts, hands coming up to hold Billy's like he knows Billy is seconds away from fleeing the scene, and tilts his head. Billy tilts the other way, it's not exactly rocket science, and okay, his nose is no longer bumping against Teddy's, he can even breathe properly. Teddy's lips move a little; a gentle, close-mouthed tease. It's, it's nice, and Billy's heart is still racing but he no longer feels like he's about to die, and there's warmth spreading over his chest and face. Teddy presses in closer, Billy's hands find their way onto Teddy's nice, broad shoulders; his mind finally gives up the ghost and blanks out.
He has no idea how long they stand there for, kissing. Kissing! When Teddy moves back, it takes a couple of seconds for Billy to remember to open his eyes. The darkness over the street confuses him until he remembers, "I think I killed the streetlamps."
He can still see Teddy, thanks to the neighborhood's lit windows. Teddy hesitates, then asks, "Is it bad to feel a little bit smug about that?"
Aware that it'd been very much due to Teddy that Billy's first kiss hadn't ended with Teddy getting an accidental flail in the face and Billy subsequently sprinting the remaining dozens of feet to his house to hide in his bedroom for the rest of time, Billy shrugs magnanimously. "I'm willing to overlook it." He peers up at the house they're in front of. His magic had probably had the right idea; if Mrs. Brown had seen them, the whole neighborhood would be buzzing with tales of his rampant gay debauchery by tomorrow. "Guess this is another reason to work on controlling my powers better."
The implications of what he'd just said hits him mere seconds before it hits Teddy. He can tell, because there's a sudden... charge in the air.
"Yeah," says Teddy. He sounds a little breathless. "So. Um. Goodnight."
Billy nods. "'Night." He means to move away, he does, but he leans in again and presses his lips to Teddy's. A briefer, but harder kiss; Billy's lips tingle slightly when he forces himself to step back.
He doesn't quite remember walking the rest of the way home, or what he says to his parents when he passes them on his way to the stairs. He only takes a full breath again, or so it feels like, once he's in the privacy of his own room, sprawled out on his bed. He brings a hand up to his lips, as if he can find some sign of Teddy there.
"I think," he tells the model plane formation floating several feet above him, "life's about to get a lot more interesting." Then he adds, conscientiously, and with that ridiculous smile back on his face, "good thing I've got the best boyfriend ever."