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Rounding The Bases

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The first time it happens it’s after a game. Scotty skins his knee something pretty bad when he tries to steal third base, getting tagged out in the process. He goes to stand up and brush the dirt off of him, trying to walk off the pain, but his leg buckles and Scotty staggers to the ground once more. He draws his leg up so that it’s bent slightly and he clutches at it just below the knee, wincing in pain.

Benny throws down his mitt and trods over to Scotty with a concerned look on his face. He kneels down next to Scotty, placing a hand on his shoulder while the other one hovers over the affected area on Scotty’s knee. He studies the raw patch of skin as blood starts to slowly come towards the surface and he frowns, knowing what this means.

“Alright guys, I think we should call it a day,” Benny announces, addressing his teammates as they enclose around him.

“Aw, come on man! We barely just started,” Timmy bemoans.

“Barely just started!” Tommy repeats, earning him an elbow from his older brother.

“Yeah!” the other guys agree almost unanimously.

“It’s just a scrape, Benny. I'm fine,” Scotty groans, trying to get up again but Benny stops him.

“You can’t even stand up,” Benny states, lowering his voice as if he were telling him a secret.

“If Smalls says he can handle it, then why stop?” Squints complains, putting a hand on his hip as the other pushes his glasses back up the bridge of his nose.

“He could’ve twisted his ankle,” Benny argues, looking up at Squints.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen that happen before! You know Marty Moore in sixth? He totally bit it! Broke his leg in three different spots,” Yeah-Yeah yammers, snapping his gum as DeNunez and Ham throw their gloves at him in disbelief.

“Shut up, Yeah-Yeah,” Bertram sighs with a roll of his eyes.

“It’s true!”

“Guys, guys!” Benny exclaims, dispersing the crowd around him. “If I say we can’t play, then we can’t play!”

All of them start whining in unison and after a moment of putting up with this Benny gets up, snatches the ball out of Bertram’s mitt and chucks it over old man Myrtle’s fence, lost forever. The complaining dies down and all of the guys stare at Benny as if he just got done murdering someone in front of them.

“There! Are you happy now?” Benny snaps, staring down every shocked expression he’s met with.

“Come on, guys. Let’s go home,” Squints huffs.

Benny watches as all his friends drag their feet off the field to hesitantly make their way home. He waits until they’re all gone before he kneels back down to worry over Scotty’s wound. He moves Scotty’s hands out of the way and he carefully prods the irritated skin around the fleshy, bloody patch. He accidentally pokes a little too close to the scrape and Scotty hisses through his teeth, making Benny mumble out a sorry.

Scotty sits there in the dirt, watching Benny inspect his skinned knee, and feels kind of embarrassed by the attention he’s getting. He was always self conscious when Benny took him under his wing. Benny grabs a hold of his calf, cupping it before he gently extends it to try and see if anything was broken. Luckily, Scotty doesn’t wince, not even when Benny rolls his ankle to test that as well.

After a few seconds, Benny pulls a blue bandana out of his back pocket and goes to tie it around Scotty’s knee as gently as he can. He can’t have Scotty bleeding all over the place and he doesn’t want dirt to get in it either. Benny wraps up the wound with the article of cloth, making Scotty wince each time it rubs uncomfortably against his tender flesh. He ties it off when he’s done and peers up at Scotty through his lashes.

“You okay?” Benny asks softly, gazing at the smaller boy with a worried expression.

“Yeah, I told you I was. Even if I wasn’t, you guys could’ve played while I watched,” Scotty replies, inspecting the bandana. He can’t help but feel responsible for Benny throwing their only ball away. “You didn’t have to stop the game just for me.”

“We can’t have you limping around the field,” Benny tells him ardently, sounding truly concerned. He reaches out and rubs an affectionate hand down one of Scotty’s arms. “Besides, we’re not a team without you, man.”

“You mean it?” Scotty inquires, doubting Benny for a second.

“Of course.”

“Thanks,” Scotty beams with a blush.

“Don’t mention it,” Benny says with a smile of his own.

A long stretch of silence overwhelms the space between them. It comes completely out of left field and neither of them don’t know what to say as they stare into each other’s eyes, waiting for something to happen. Benny’s been a nice guy to him since the start, and he truly is, but sometimes if feels like he’s nicer to Scotty than the other guys. After all, Benny gave him his old cap and a mitt. That has to mean something. Scotty can’t just be imagining this odd tension between them, right?

As if answering his unspoken question, Benny leans in closer to Scotty and plucks the baseball cap off of his head. Scotty blinks up at him as the sun hits him directly in the eyes, squinting past the sudden ray of light that obscures his view of Benny. The taller boy kneels there at Scotty’s side, flicking his gaze all over the boy as if contemplating whether he should do what he intended to or not.

Seeing Scotty sitting there on the non-existent baseline covered in dirt and making a goofy face to block out the sun really made Benny’s heart pound faster. He feels like he just got done hitting a home run and the adrenaline is still pumping through him, so when Benny finally decides to move forward to kiss Scotty, he almost blames it on his nerves getting the best of him. Almost.

Scotty’s eyes widen when he feels Benny press his lips against his and he tenses up, not knowing what he should be doing. Neither of them move, so they both just sit there in the dirt for ten agonizingly embarrassing seconds with both of their lips tightly pursed together. It’s awkward and stiff and out of place, given the situation, but neither of the boys can deny the way it makes their stomaches flutter.

Benny is the first to pull away and immediately searches Scotty’s face for any sign of disapproval, worried that he might have overstepped a boundary on impulse, but to his surprise he finds Scotty blushing softly. It’s clearly his first kiss, Benny realizes, and he almost feels selfish because of that, but Scotty doesn’t look as if he minds. He just looks kind of shocked more than anything. A good kind of shocked, though.

“I think we oughta get you home now,” Benny suggests, when Scotty doesn’t say a word. Benny would be more worried, but he figures Scotty is probably too gobsmacked to articulate words right now.

“Okay,” Scotty finally agrees and Benny helps him up from the ground.

The arrive at Scotty’s door not long after that and they both stand there awkwardly for a brief interlude. Scotty is looking down at his feet pointedly as Benny pretends as if he’s really interested in the front of Scotty’s house. Scotty is biting his lip, still at a loss for words, but he attempts to disperse the awkward silence.

“Thank you,” Scotty reiterates.

Neither are sure if he’s referring to the kiss or the fact that Benny stopped the game just for him. Either way, both are valid answers.

“Yeah, sure,” Benny concurs, feeling nervous. On a whim he reaches out to touch Scotty much in the same manner as he did at the sandlot, but lingers longer. “I hope you get better. We need you.”

What Benny really wants to say is I need you, but he doesn’t have the guts to say it. He embarrassed himself enough already by kissing Scotty.

“So, uh, I’ll see you tomorrow? At eight?” Scotty asks in a meek voice.

“Sure,” Benny nods, wanting to end the conversation so he can just crawl underneath a rock already. “Tomorrow.”

“Alright, c-cool,” Scotty stammers, licking his lips.

“Cool,” Benny returns awkwardly, going to walk away as fast as he can.

He gets down near the sidewalk when Scotty calls out to him, making him pause and turn back to his friend.

“Benny, wait! Your bandana!” Scotty points out, remembering that Benny had tried to patch him up.

“Keep it,” Benny replies, before going on his way.

He doesn’t know why, but Scotty swears his heart leaps. All he does know for sure is that he has a scraped knee and a big dumb smile on his face the size of Texas and he’s going to have to explain it to his mom and Bill.