A note on the fridge.
“Heya, Sal. I have to stay late at work today, so ask Lisa if you can stay with her and Larry until tomorrow. I don’t feel real comfy with you on your own at night, with everything that’s been going on, so be safe. Love ya, bud. Dad.”
A night at a best friend’s house.
“’Course ya can, Sally! We’re always glad to have you. Larry could use the company, honestly.”
And a conversation at 3 A.M. about disfigured faces and confusing feelings.
It wasn’t like Larry hadn’t seen Sally’s face before. He’d been over at the Johnson’s house often enough that he knew all about it; the collapsed nose, the glass eye, the red, raw scar tissue, the sensitive flesh. Aside from Sal’s dad, Larry was the only one he’d willingly shown. He remembered the first time that Larry saw- a few months after they’d met. He was sleeping over at his house, just like he was now. Sal had to take his mask off, to sleep; he’d also brought a glass of water for his glass eye, and a soft eyepatch to cover the wall of flesh where the real one used to be.
He took off the mask facing away from Larry, pulled his hair out of the pigtails. He lay down so that Larry wouldn’t see what he looked like. Sure, Sal had no problems with the prosthetic anymore- Travis could call him a freak all he wants, it’s not his fault that he has to wear it- but his actual face was a different story. Sal thought he was hideous. A complete monster. And… he liked Larry, and didn’t want to horrify him, so.
“Hey, Sal?” Larry asked.
“Yeah?” Sal replied, without turning around.
“What does your face look like?”
“Sorry, man. Sorry. Forget I asked.”
“No, no. Don’t be.” Another pause. Sal shifted. “Uh… Are you… Are you sure you wanna see?”
“I… Yeah, man. If you’re okay with it.”
“Just… Don’t freak out, okay?”
“I won’t. Promise.”
So, Sal showed him. He took a deep breath. He turned around and tucked his hair behind his ears. He took off the eyepatch. Larry’s own eyes widened for a second. Then, they softened, and he smiled. “You look… cool, dude.”
Sal’s confusion must’ve been obvious, because Larry laughed, never taking his eyes off him. “It’s so weird to see you actually have facial expressions and stuff. But God, you were acting like you look like some kind of monster.”
I thought I did.
Sal smiled, a little sadly. “You don’t have to pretend. I’ve lived with it most of my life now.”
Larry shook his head, eyes serious. “Don’t say that. Your face is a hell of a fuckin’ battlescar, and it looks cool as shit, man, it really does. That’s a testament to what you’ve been through. That you’re strong. And, dude, for the record? You don’t look half bad.” Larry smiled, looking down at his hands. He was quiet for a moment before looking up, before speaking again.
“So… you’re kinda like Deadpool! Or like Ubermutant, you know, from Wolfenstein—whoa, Sally, are you crying?”
“Sorry,” Sal said quickly, wiping his eyes. “Sorry. I, uh— um, usually, people aren’t… nice about it.” He sniffled, and it hurt. The tears hurt more, so he put his eyepatch back on and stared at the floor, picking at his own chipped nailpolish. “Actually, you’re the only person to ever say something like that.”
Larry shifted so that he was sitting closer to Sal, and put an arm around his shoulder. A jolt ran through Sal’s body. “I’m so sorry. People are shitheads, huh?”
Sal smiled. “By ‘people’, you mean Travis.”
Larry scoffed. “If you ask me, he’s the real freak. How fuckin’ insecure do you have to be to pick on someone with a prosthetic face?”
“Maybe he just hates his own so much it’s the only way he feels better.”
“Everyone else hates his, so that checks out.”
A pause. Then they both burst out laughing. It wasn’t even that funny, but later, Sal would swear that it’s one of his best memories; that feeling of acceptance, the indifference Larry showed at something that other people tormented him for… Nothing compared to that. He knew he was lucky to have Larry.
Even now, years later, he never flinched at the sight of Sal’s face. Once, he recalled fondly, Larry pointed out that he had a loose eyelash, and pulled it off without batting an eye (ha). Sometimes Sal’s dad hesitated to touch his face, or even him, if he wasn’t wearing the prosthetic.
Sal didn’t blame him; it’s a pretty stark reminder of what happened to his mom. But to Larry, Sal wasn’t a tragic reminder, or a freak of nature- he was just Sal. As insignificant as it is to save someone from the torment of an eyelash-in-the-eye situation, it meant so much to him.
Larry was always a heavy sleeper, and he tended to fall asleep quickly. So, two nights after the bologna incident, when Sal was staying in his room, with its familiar smell of “sage”, next to him on the floor on the spare mattress, listening to Nirvana, he didn’t expect him to hear what he said.
Sal was thinking about when we were hiding in that closet together, so sure that they were about to die. He remembered what Larry said.
“What did it mean, Larry?” He said quietly.
“I didn’t realise you were awake.”
“Couldn’t sleep. What did you say?”
Sal sat up, and turned towards him. He was looking up. “What did it mean? What you said the other day. At Mrs Packerton’s.”
Larry shifted and looked up at the ceiling. “It meant what it meant, dude.” He answered carefully.
“Okay, and that is…?” Sal knew he was being obnoxious, but he wanted to know.
“Why do you care what it meant, Sal?” He asked, turning to face him again. It wasn’t malicious or sarcastic; it was a genuine question. And one worth answering. Why did Sal care?
Because Larry was the best friend he’d ever had.
Because he trusted him with his life.
Because they’d known each other two years.
Because he didn’t hate Sal’s face.
Because his art was incredible.
Because he was funny.
Because when he thought they were going to die, he threw an arm out in front of Sal to protect him.
Because he cared.
“Because… I like you. Uh… More than… you know, a friend.” He clarified nervously.
Larry’s eyes widened. “O-oh. You… uh, you do?”
“Yeah, I- I do. I meant what I said, too,” His heart was beating very, very fast. “I, um. I love you, Larry Face,” Sal said with a half-laugh, trying to quell the thousands of butterflies rising in his stomach. Rain sounded softly outside; Sal wasn’t sure why he recalled that part so vividly, but he did.
Larry stared at him for a moment, and his heart flipped. Oh, God, he meant it platonically, probably, didn’t he? He didn’t mean it the way that Sal—
But then his arms were around him and his lips were on Sal’s and nothing else mattered. It was as if a bolt of electricity ran through the both of them, burning away the rest of the world and leaving only their bodies, their feelings. It was short and messy and over in a second, but Sal loved it.
“Love you too, Sally Face.” Larry said once they pulled apart, his hands falling to meet Sal’s. He smiled the sleepy way he always did, half-lidded eyes rimmed with red, his face flushed. Sal smiled back, and Larry pushed a strand of blue hair away from his eye. “Not to be gay, but I love your smile.”
“Not to be gayer, but I love yours.”
“I don’t know, little dude, that’s pretty gay.”
“Fellas, is it gay to kiss your best friend who is male?”
They both laughed for a really long time. Eventually, the two managed to quiet down, and lay side by side. Larry had his arm around Sal, who had decided that Larry’s chest was the perfect pillow.
“’Night, Larry.” He said gently.
“Wait, wait, Sal. I have a question. It’s something I’ve always wanted to know,” Larry said, very seriously.
“Is your hair like… naturally blue?”
“Yeah. Don’t ask me how, it’s from my dad’s side.”
“Huh.” He paused. “Maybe your great-grandmother was an anime protagonist.”
Sal snorted softly. “Maybe.”
“Hey, one more thing… I’m glad that you moved here, little bud. And, you know, that we didn’t die.” Larry said, his hand finding Sal’s.
Sal smiled, feeling himself tear up as he laced his fingers with Larry’s. “Me, too.”
And he was.