"C'mon, Will, it's going to be great. I'll be the experienced sophomore, you'll be the hot new freshman..."
Will glared at Warren. "Are you ever going to let me live that down?" he asked, settling the couch for their new apartment firmly at the back of the U-Haul. When they'd ended up at the same university, Will following a year behind Warren, it had seemed impossible that they wouldn't live together. Will's parents had insisted on furnishing the boys' place, citing knowledge of what kind of furniture would best hold up to Will's strength. "What's wrong with liking Bring It On, anyway?"
Warren laughed and put down the box he was carrying. "Absolutely nothing. I just enjoy how much it bugs you when I bug you about it. It's a great-- well, no, it's a really fun movie."
"You... like Bring It On?"
"One word, Will: cheerleaders." Warren grinned a little wider. "And since I'm... equal opportunity, it's hot cheerleaders all the way down."
Will mock-gasped. "You speak fag?"
"... Wait," Will added, a moment later, as he caught up with the conversation. "Since when are you bi?"
Warren blinked. "Since always?"
Will narrowly resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at his best friend. "No, I mean, since when have you talked about it? I didn't know."
"Are you serious, Stronghold? I dated a guy for like half my senior year. Remember my boyfriend? Colin? We went to prom together?"
"Uh... I thought you two were just really good friends?"
Warren stared at Will for several long moments before he finally turned away, walking back to the house to grab another box. "I don't even know what to say to that," he muttered. Will followed morosely behind.
"I'm sorry? I'm a failure as a best friend and a human being!"
"You are not a failure as a best friend and a human being," Layla assured Will, that evening, over the phone. "I should know: we've been best friends for how many years now? And my brief tenure as your girlfriend does absolutely nothing to change my opinion."
"But how could I not know that Warren is bi?" Will moaned. Holding his phone to his ear with one hand, he dramatically threw his other across his bed, where he was lying. "Like, that's Best Friend 101: pay attention to who your best friend is dating. And apparently I missed this for... how long did he and, uh, Colin date?"
Will could picture Layla biting her lip on the other end of the line, trying to figure out how to let him know without hurting him more. "Uh," she started. "Uh, five months? From right around Christmas until graduation at the end of May. They decided to break up because they were going to school in different states."
Will thought back to the year before, trying to remember how Warren had been around graduation. "He was upset. I... offered to take him to mini-golf to try and cheer him up."
"See? You do notice things about your friends. And you try to fix things, too," Layla pointed out. "You're not a failure. You just... have some improvements you could make, that's all. And it's not like Warren ever told you, right? He just assumed that you knew? So, really, while you probably should have noticed he had a boyfriend, you were working from incomplete information, which makes it not really your fault at all, right? Or at least less your fault, which is kind of the same thing, aaaaand I'm going to stop talking now."
"No, really, keep going. You were on a roll."
And now Will could easily picture Layla sticking her tongue out at him. "Go apologise to your other best friend -- again -- and then just... ask him about things. Is he seeing anyone right now?"
"No, he was saying how he hasn't met anyone at school who's caught his interest," Will explained. "I just didn't realise at the time that they could have been guys, too. Ugh. And I don't want him to think that I'm freaked out by him being bi, because I'm really not, I'm just freaked that I didn't realise!"
"Besides, it would be kind of hypocritical of you, considering you've had a massive crush on him practically since the moment you met him."
"Yeah, exactl- What?"
Layla laughed. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I say that out loud? I forgot that we were still pretending that that never happened."
"But. Layla. What? I don't have a crush on Warren! I don't even like guys!"
Will could definitely picture the disapproving look that Layla would be giving him, given the tone her voice took on. "Are you really sure about that, Will? Because at this point I'm pretty sure the only people who don't know about your crush are you, your dad, and Warren, and Warren has at least figured out that you're into guys."
"Will, think about kissing Warren."
Before he'd even processed the words, images filled Will's head, and he let out an involuntary moan. "Oh- Oh, God, I have a crush on Warren," he admitted, not least because his reaction to the mental onslaught was... sudden, physical, and decisive. "Layla, what should I do?"
Layla snorted, and it was so unlike her that Will couldn't help but let out a (slightly hysterical) laugh. "You could try telling him," she suggested. "Maybe it'll help... clear the air."
"Uh. Okay. I can do that, I think. ... How do I do that?"
"... Boys," Layla muttered. "You'll figure it out, anyway. Just... start talking."
"Seriously, Stronghold, you can start talking any time now. The staring bit is really kinda creepy."
Will tried to make a sound in response, but his voice caught in his throat. Warren was lounging on their couch in the apartment's living room, jacket and overshirt shed, and his tanktop was stretched taut over his chest. He'd put on some muscle, Will realised; not a lot, but it was clear that Warren had been taking his training seriously both at school and during the summer break. "I- Uh. I."
"You Will, me Warren. Me hungry. You want me to order a pizza, or should we actually try cooking?"
"Pizz-" Will's voice squeaked and broke; he cleared his throat and tried again. "Pizza's fine," he agreed. "We can... figure out cooking tomorrow. Or never."
"Works for me." Warren reached for his phone. "So," he added, scrolling through his contacts for one of his usual pizza places. "Are you going to tell me what's up, or am I going to have to guess?"
Will shook his head. "There's-- there's nothing up," he insisted. "Nothing at all. I certainly don't have a crush on you." Warren, all at once, went completely still, and Will started to groan as he processed what he'd said. "No, ugh, wait, Warren, I didn't mean-"
Warren cut him off. "It's about fucking time. Seriously, Stronghold, you thought I didn't know?"
"I didn't even know until Layla told me!"
"You're so incredibly hopeless, Stronghold. I can't imagine why I even like you in the first place." Warren put his phone down and gestured for Will to come over to the couch. He sat up, making room for Will to sit down. "Seriously, Stronghold, it's okay. We can talk about it later. Just... It's okay."
"When did you become so cool? Like, you were a total hothead for most of high school."
"I was always cool, Will," Warren pointed out. "I guess you missed seeing that, too." He slung an arm over the back of the couch, close to but not actually touching Will's shoulders.
Will laughed. "I guess I did." He leaned over and nudged Warren. "Sorry I'm a failure as a best friend and human being."
"It could be worse," Warren pointed out. "You could be a homicidal maniac hellbent on turning all of the heroes into babies so that you can raise them up as supervillains."
"Hey, do I make fun of you for the people you dated?"
Warren laughed, but he grinned and nudged Will in an attempt to show that he was just teasing. "That would require you to notice I was dating someone in the first place."
"Oh, shut up," Will spat petulantly.
"Make me," Warren goaded him.
"Fine, I will," Will retorted, and then leaned up and kissed Warren on the lips.
The kiss took Will's breath away. He'd known that Warren ran warmer than most people, a side effect of his powers, but getting it from this position was suddenly so much more intimate. And the tingle that was running down his spine had nothing do with the warmth and everything to do with Warren, and...
Will pulled back, stricken, and though Warren tried to follow for just a moment, he sat back, too. "So..." Warren drawled. "That was. Something."
"I'm sorry?" Will squeaked.
"Hey, it wasn't that bad a kiss," Warren teased. "You just need a little more practice." Will punched Warren in the shoulder, at something approximating 'regular' strength. At least Warren only said, "Ow," rather than flying across the room. "Seriously, though," Warren continued, rubbing at his shoulder a little before grinning at Will. "If you'd like more practice..."
"We should probably talk about it first?"
Warren's phone chimed, with Layla's ring tone. He glanced at it; the text notification said, Are you two kissing yet? He ignored it -- for the moment -- and said, "... Yeah, probably. Are you okay?"
The expression on Will's face made Warren want to laugh, as a series of very different emotions ran across it in quick succession. "I... Maybe? It's weird, because I didn't know, y'know? And I feel, like, how could I not know? Because it's me. But clearly I didn't, because it's kinda true, I mean, more than kinda, I think I really like you, but oh my god can I just shut up now?"
"... I think I can manage that," Warren replied, and then, slowly enough that Will could stop him if he wanted to, he leaned in, rested his forehead against Will's for a moment, and then closed the distance between their lips. He held it, just for a moment, a perfectly chaste kiss, and then he pulled away. "Was that okay?"
Will nodded, smiling. "Yeah. Yeah, that was definitely okay. I am definitely okay with doing that more."
Layla's ringtone chimed again. They both looked, this time. One of you needs to send me a picture. For science. Another text followed a moment later. ... And to prove that you haven't tried to kill each other again.
"What do you say?" Warren asked. "Should we?"
"Well, if she hadn't said anything to me, I probably would never have... Uh, figured out that I have a massive, enormous crush on you," Will pointed out. "So she should be rewarded for her handiwork, right?"
Their third kiss was a little less chaste; Layla's succession of texts in response was ignored in favour of kisses four, five, six, and seven. By the time they traumatised the pizza guy, Will was pretty sure they were on kiss twenty-three.
And to think, Will had thought his freshman year of high school had been life-changing.