They met on the very first day of second grade, Robbie's first day at his new private school that his parents took out a loan to afford. Some boy, Allen Walker, kicked Robbie's chair out from under him, and before he even had time to yell out, Allen had been tackled to the ground by another boy. Luther ended up breaking Allen's nose and it was the start of a beautiful, if mutually destructive, friendship.
Luther's parents were elitists, though, turning down their noses at some poor kid who'd invaded their world. Their attempts to separate them, limiting the amount of time they spend together, were met with defiance from Luther (typical) until they eventually gave in. Luther and Robbie were inseperable. When they were young, they would chase each other through the expanse of Luther's house and through the gardens, finally collapsing onto the poolside chairs. As soon as they managed to catch their breath, they were back to the same tricks.
When they were older, in middle school, they turned to chasing girls, or rather Luther did. He'd flirt with the high school girls while Robbie would watch, from the sidelines. They should have been out of his league, really, but apparently even older girls weren't immune to Luther's charms. He could get anyone to do anything he wanted with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes- Robbie himself had given up trying to resist years ago. Luther would shoot Robbie a wink before he walked away with a girl, mouthing, "See you soon."
Then, later, he'd tell Robbie of his exploits. On one occasion, they were sitting on top of Luther's kitchen cabinets, even though his family's maid had warned them time and time again not to.
"Too much information," Robbie said, stabbing his fork into the bowl of Easy Mac he'd made for himself. "Like, seriously, I don't need to know these things." There were still little flakes of cheesy powder around the rim of the bowl, he noted, his eyes unconsciously avoiding Luther's direction.
Luther's foot nudged Robbie's, first soft, then a kick. "God, Robbie, don't be jealous. We'll get you some girls one day."
The words were on the tip of his tongue, waiting to spill out, "Who says I want girls, anyway?" but Robbie clamps down on his fork and lets Luther babble on.
And it's not an issue, anymore, when they both get into prestigious Catholic high school and there's not a girl in sight. (Okay, well there were some girls nearby, which Luther wasted no time in figuring out, but that was how he rolled.) Robbie was on scholarship, once again, but Luther promised that if any boy tried to give him shit, "I'll punch his lights out like old Allen Walker."
"You don't have to protect me," Robbie protested. Not that he planned on it, but couldn't he be the one to punch someone's lights out for once? He didn't need to, though, because everyone seemed to like him and being friends with Luther, the big man on campus, had its perks.
And then in their junior year, before he even started selling it, Luther switched from harmless banned items- Playboys, The Fast and Furious on DVD, and even fireworks- to the harder items. His trunk was now a beer cooler, which he proudly showed to Robbie after Christmas break.
"See, we can have a little more fun at this place," Luther said, extending a beer to Robbie. "Come on, drink it."
He said "no," but Luther pushed the beer can into Robbie's hand and took a long swig of his own. Only with Luther staring at him did he finally take a hesitant sip.
It was the first time Robbie had ever had any alcohol (wine at communion didn't count, according to Luther), and it didn't take long for it to go to his head. Luther had moved onto something stronger, though, and soon, they were on the floor at the foot of Robbie's bed, laughing at nothing.
"I like sex," Luther announced, happily. He was trying to stack the empty beer cans into a pyramid, but he kept knocking it over, grinning to himself.
In the back of his mind, Robbie vaguely knew that the words floating around in his brain (on little lifeboats, he imagined, which seemed like the funniest thing ever) weren't supposed to come out, but that didn't stop him from smiling up at Luther and saying, "I don't like girls."
Luther was silent, for a second, then he pointed a finger at Robbie. "Do you think Father Kelly is hot? You totally think Father Kelly is hot."
"He's like forty or something!" Robbie said, which set off another round of laughter, ending with Robbie laying his head down on the floor next to Luther's knee.
"Do you think I'm hot?" Luther said, poking Robbie in the back and causing him to sit up. "Robbie, Robbie, do you think I'm hot?"
What Robbie should have said was, "Not at all, you're my best friend, that's stupid," and laughed it off. His tongue got in the way, though, betrayed him and made him say, "Well yeah, you really are."
Luther grinned. "It's okay," he said, lowering his voice as though he was telling a secret. "I am kind of hot."
And with that, Luther leaned in close to Robbie, still smiling with unblinking eyes, then kissed him. Robbie immediately jerked away, unsure of what was happening. "Luther, what are you doing?" He resisted the urge to press his fingers to his lips.
"Just let it happen," said Luther, his voice low and, oddly, seductive. Then he kissed him again, harder. Luther's mouth tasted like beer and cinnamon gum, but also like years of a schoolboy crush. Years of blaming his jealous feelings on the fact that Luther's girlfriends took up all of his time, rather than admitting he was jealous because they got to do this with him. Robbie moved his hand up, curling his fingers loosely around Luther's neck, though in his mind he felt like he was clinging, so when Luther inevitably pulled away, thinking it was a bad idea, Robbie could say, "Please, don't go."
He could remember the first time that his feelings for Luther shifted from something vague into an often overwhelming desire. It was in the middle of an unnaturally hot summer, before they left for ninth grade at Catholic school. Luther had been busy, apparently, but he'd called Robbie up that day and invited him to swim with him at his house.
While Robbie was carefully applying sunblock, Luther bypassed protection from the sun and jumped off the diving board with his shirt still on. He rose to the surface, shaking out his hair (he needed a trim) like a dog. Then, he swam over to the ladder and pulled himself out of the water. Robbie wasn't even looking, until Luther flung droplets of water in his direction and he looked up to find Luther stripping off his wet shirt, pulling it gracefully over his head. He was skinny, but muscular, his chest bronzed by the summer sun. In the middle of his chest hung a small, gold cross. Robbie took a deep breath, trying hard to keep his hands steady and his gaze neutral as he rubbed sunblock onto his shoulders.
"You just going to put on sunscreen all day or are you going to swim?" Luther asked, tossing his wet shirt in Robbie's direction.
Robbie laughed, uneasy. "I'm just being a cautious swimmer." Rolling his eyes, Luther jumped back into the water, leaving Robbie alone to compose his thoughts.
He couldn't help but wonder, now, with Luther's tongue in his mouth and fingers trailing over his neck and ears, if luck had truly worked out in his favor.
Eventually, Luther pulled away and mentioned something about wanting to play Jenga before he began to tear up the room in search of it. It was stupid, but Robbie couldn't keep a smile off of his face as Luther rummaged around under his bed. Three years of crushing, culminating in that night, and he hoped to God that it meant something.
The next morning, instead of ignoring the night like Robbie expected him to, Luther woke Robbie up with a kiss on his cheek and fingers jabbing him in the side. "I'm up, I'm up," Robbie grumbled, but then Luther collapsed down on top of him and he didn't feel much like getting up after all.
But now, all of that didn't mean a thing. There was blood on Robbie's hands, caked under his fingernails, and he wanted nothing more than to get to his dorm and wash them, but he was left cradling the head of a dead boy in his lap. All of the promises they'd made before- "Promise you won't laugh?" "Promise you won't get me killed?" "Promise you'll actually go to Confession?" ("What are you, my mother?")- didn't mean a thing, because Luther had asked Robbie to make the worst promise of his life and he'd agreed.
Blood under his nails, tears in his eyes, and he'd agreed, because it was all he knew.