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Words and their Meanings

Chapter Text

"Hey, Sal?"

Sal looked up from the video game he was playing. "Hmm?" He and Larry had rented something new from Blickbluster when school had ended that Friday night, and they'd been in Larry's room ever since.

How many hours had it been? Sal had lost track. Time always felt different when he and Larry were together in his room; it seemed to go by slower, when it didn't stand still. It hung low and heavy in the air around the two of them; it was only affected by the sounds of Sanity's Fall, which Larry played on his stereo. Softly, so as not to wake his mother up. It made for an interesting soundtrack for the game Sal was playing on mute, at any rate.

"How good would you say you are with your guitar?"

Sal shrugged. "Okay, I guess. I need to practice more, if I want to be considered 'good.'" He loved his electric guitar; his father had scrimped and saved for years in order to get it for Christmas.

"I know you, Dude; pretty sure you're sellin' yourself short. I've heard you play."

"Aw, Larry Face, my ears are burning." Not really; the early hours of the morning had pulled at Sal's eyelids. His eyes ached, and everything had settled into a calm, comforting, dull weight around him. His emotions were at a low as his head swam.

"I'm serious, Sal. I was thinking; you and me? We should start a band."

"Yeah?" Sal clearly needed to sleep, because that actually sounded like a decent idea. "Like, a cover band?"

"We could start off with that, yeah, but maybe we could move onto writing our own shit."

"I'm not very good at writing, though." It had been Maple's idea for their friend group to try to get into Nockfell High's creative writing class. Sal had been maintaining a B-, up to this point. He considered himself fairly good with grammar and spelling; it was the creative part of creative writing that stumped him. At least he wasn't having as much trouble with it as Todd.

He definitely wasn't as good as Maple, who seemed to flourish in the class, even coming out of her shell a little. Chug seemed to enjoy it a lot, too; he was actually getting better grades than Sal was.

And then there was Ashley. She'd taken to poetry like a swan took to both the water and air.

"Ash is, though. Maybe she could be a part of it?" Sal suggested

"Hey, yeah! And Todd's got all that technology and crap; he could probably, like...synthesize drum beats and stuff like that."

"And you've got a decent singing voice!" This was sounding better and better by the minute.

"Fuck yeah! We should talk about it with them ASAP!"

Sal smiled behind his prosthetic, only feeling a part of it, as he went back to his game.

 ---

The band only lasted for six months. Only a handful of people came to their final show, and the only people who bought their demo tapes were Larry’s mom and Todd’s dad.

None of them regretted it one bit.

Chapter Text

The smell that surrounded Sal when he entered Larry's room was instantly recognizable.

He coughed as he closed the door behind him. "Larry Face?" he called. "You said you wanted to hang out?"

He saw Larry tap something into something else before he got up from his beanbag chair. A lazy grin was on his face, and the sclera around his black irises had a distinct pinkish color to them. "Heeeyyy, Man," he said.

Sal blinked in mild amusement. "I thought you sounded weird on the walkie talkie," he said. He'd gotten Larry new walkie-talkies, to replace the ones he'd destroyed. He'd caused quite a bit of damage since he'd moved into these apartments, he absently realized. "Are you high right now?"

Larry draped himself over Sal, loosely wrapping his arms around him. "Naw, Dude," he giggled. "Course not!"

Sal chuckled and returned the embrace. It felt nice, he thought; he hadn't realized just how touch-starved he was until he'd met Larry. "Uh-huh, sure," he said, patting Larry's back. Lisa was going to be disappointed; Sal knew she worried about her son, particularly when he did things like this. It wasn't that she judged him for doing things like smoking weed, she just wanted him to have the best life he could. The best future he could.

Moms were incredible that way, Sal thought wistfully.

"And y'know what else I'm not?" The hairs on the back of Sal's neck rose; Larry's breath was hot against his ear. "I'm not in love with youuu." Larry started laughing again as he let himself fall further onto Sal, leaning more of his weight on him.

Sal gulped. "Right, okay," he said, leading Larry to his bed. "You're definitely high right now. You stay put; I'm gonna go get you some water."

It wasn't too much of a hassle, getting Larry to lay down. He closed his eyes immediately, sleepy smile still on his face.

 

Unsurprisingly, Larry didn't remember a thing when he came down from his high.

Sal warred with himself, trying to decide whether or not to bring it up with him. By the time he came to a decision, weeks had passed, and the incident had been long forgotten.

Chapter Text

In prison, Sal dreams. There's very little else to do, after all.

It starts off in a park. It's a mix of the one his family had picnicked in once, decades ago, and the one near Addison Apartments, where the grass had turned brown and dead. 

He and Larry had loved it there. It had been their stomping grounds whenever either of their bedrooms or Larry's treehouse had become too stifling and full of ghosts. Metaphorically, and literally. 

Larry is there, sitting on the picnic blanket, which Sal has long forgotten the color of. He looks just like when Sal first met him, and he's smiling in that way that crinkles his eyes. 

They're talking. Not about anything important; the color orange, Sal's cat Gizmo, aliens...

It doesn't matter. It's just nice to see him again. 

Sal looks down at the sandwich in his hands--it's wriggling and black, with strange green goo dribbling from the slices of bread--then back up. Larry looks different, now; just like when Sal would come home to visit from college. Taller, distinct layer of fuzz on his chin, but still skinny, still angular, and still long-haired. 

What's really different are his eyes. They're more serious, and there's a gleam of desperation in them. 

"Sal," he's saying. “Sal, listen! It’s important!” Sal strains his ears, trying to listen, but now Larry is being drowned out.

"I'm sorry; what?" he asks. Sirens are bombarding his ear drums; they're drowning out his childhood friend and high school sweetheart.

Larry tries again, but disappears. 

Sal is awakened by the prison alarms. It's time for breakfast. 

He's been having a lot of dreams like this, lately. He knows he's missing something; knows Larry, or something or someone else, is trying to tell him something important.

He just wishes he had more time to dream.

Chapter Text

“Hello?”

“Larry Face!”

Larry grinned. “Sally Face! Big Man on Campus! How ya doin’?”

“Pretty good. College is way different from high school. It’s a lot easier. Relaxed, too. None of the professors seem to care what we do.”

Larry nodded, “Sounds cool. Definitely different from high school.” Larry kind of wished his high school teachers hadn’t given a shit about him. Maybe then he wouldn’t have wound up in detention so often. “How’s living in a dorm?” He wasn’t sure he liked the idea of his boyfriend living with another guy, but there wasn’t really anything he could do about it now.

“Honestly? Pretty cool. I like my roommate.”

Larry shoved down the bit of jealousy. “Cool, cool.”

“How’s your mom?” asked Sal.

“Getting better. Which means she went right back to work.”

He heard Sal laugh on the other end. It made Larry smile. He’d missed hearing his laugh. He’d missed hearing his voice. “That sounds just like her!”

Larry sighed contentedly. The day had been a rough one; working in retail had  showed Larry a new depth of human stupidity and cruelty he hadn’t known existed. This one phone call had completely turned his day around. “Dude, it’s so good to hear your voice,” he couldn’t help but say.

“Yours too. I’m having a good time, but…I miss you so much.”

Larry’s heart ached. “I miss you too, Babe.”

“I’m sorry for interrupting anything…I just wanted to talk.”

“You’re not interrupting anything, Sal. I’m glad you called.”

“Okay. That’s good. I’ll let you go. Love you!”

Larry smiled. “Bye, Sal. Love you, too.”

He hung up, planning a surprise road trip to Sal’s college.

Chapter Text

“I guess, since there’s no curse, this all means that my dad…He just…just…”

Larry gazed helplessly at Sal as his face crumpled.

His mom had been right all along. His dad had left them. No letter, no phone calls…nothing.

His tears finally fell as he felt a pair of arms wrap around him. Sal was considerably shorter than him; the top of his head just barely reached Larry’s shoulders, and that was when his hair was up in pigtails. Which meant that his arms were awkwardly wrapped around Larry’s upper arms.

It didn’t matter. Larry let himself break down, burying his face in Sal’s hair, hoping his best friend didn’t mind tears and snot getting into it.

If he did, he didn’t say anything about it. He didn’t say anything at all; Sal just held him until he’d finished crying.

Chapter Text

It was weird, celebrating the fourth of July without Larry’s dad around. Ordinarily he’d be outside with his family and several other tenants of Addison Apartments, grilling burgers and hot dogs for them all.

“Whoa! Look at that one!”

Sal was here for this one, though, and that made things better.

“Dude, how do you think they make fireworks?” asked Larry. How had they gotten red, gold, and green sparks into that one firework? It was giving Larry some serious inspiration for an upcoming painting.

“I don’t know,” admitted Sal. “Maybe we should look it up, some time.” He lifted his prosthetic just enough so that he could take a sip from his hot cocoa. Larry’s mother had made it; Sal had fallen in love with the cayenne and nutmeg that made it so unique, so Larry and Lisa made sure to make it any time they were with Sal.

“Guess that’d be interesting.”

“Cool! It’s a date!”

Larry chuckled, trying to ignore the flutter he felt in his heart. Another burst of colors, pink and purple and blue, exploded against the night sky. He watched the reflection in Sal’s glass eye; even with the prosthetic on, Larry could see the wonder and delight his friend was experiencing.

Without thinking, he scooted closer to Sal and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. His friend smelled like the fresh cut grass and the chilly autumn air, and Larry realized he hadn’t been quite this happy in a long time.

Chapter Text

“Ugh,” spat Larry. He took his eyes off the road just long enough to glare at the car’s radio. “I don’t get why this shit is popular. It’s so…fake.”

Sal shrugged. “That’s corporate America for you; make a group of non-threatening guys harmonize, and you make money.” Truth be told, he didn’t think the boy band sounded too bad, though he wasn’t sure he would necessarily call them a band. Did any of them actually play instruments?

Larry laughed. “That’s beautiful, Dude. Maybe they should hire you to write their songs.”

Sal laughed. “Right, yeah. No thanks; if I wanted something I wrote to go uncredited, I’d be taking classes in Nockfell Community College.” It didn’t matter how many times he’d gone to the police or the press with any proof of gruesome crimes that happened in this tiny town; it’d get censored, if it got mentioned at all. His name hadn’t come up once.

They continued listening to the pop music in silence for a moment before Larry starting talking. “You lookin’ forward to your full ride to university?” he asked.

Sal didn’t miss the wistfulness in his boyfriend’s voice. “Yeah. I mean…I’m nervous. But excited, too.” This was the next step for the rest of his life, after all.

“You’ll call me, right? At least once a week? Keep me up to date and shit?”

There it was. Larry was finally addressing the elephant in the room. How they’d keep their relationship going when they had states separating them.

“Yeah; of course.” If Sal had his way, he’d call Larry every day with updates and a steady supply of ‘I love yous.’

“Okay. Good. Awesome!” It was at that moment that they came across a red light. After the car came to a stop, Larry took one hand off the wheel and held it out to Sal. He took it gladly. “Don’t mean to be a pain in the ass, Dude. I’m happy for ya; really. I’m just gonna miss you.”

Sal gave his hand a squeeze. “I know, Larry Face. I’ll miss you, too.” It was going to be something hard to get used to, not being able to pop into Larry’s apartment whenever he wanted.

There would be a lot of things to get used to, from here on out. But Sal was determined not to let this one thing change.

Chapter Text

Larry awoke to the sound of whimpering. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he sat up and looked over the edge of his bed, where Sal lay in his sleeping bag.

“No…no, please…”

Larry’s heart ached. Sal was having one of his nightmares.

He sat there for a moment, unsure of what to do, until the next words out of Sal’s mouth.

“Mom,” he sobbed. “M-Mom!”

That did it. Larry got down from his bed, maneuvering his long legs rather clumsily so as not to accidentally step on his friend. He gripped one of Sal’s shoulders and gave it a shake. “Sal,” he said. “Sal, wake up!”

Sal woke up with a sharp gasp. He wasn’t wearing either of his prosthetics; leaning over his friend, Larry could just make Sal's real eye looking about wildly.

“It’s okay, Dude,” Larry murmured. “You’re okay; you’re safe.” Sal was always going to be safe with Larry; he’d decided that just days into their relationship. He’d do anything for Sal.

“Right,” panted Sal. “Safe…I-I’m…safe…”

“Sounds like a Hell of a nightmare, Dude.” Larry had known about them, but this was the first time he’d actually seen one. “You wanna talk about it?”

Sal sat up. Larry couldn’t help but stare; this wasn’t the first time he’d seen Sal without his prosthetic, but now that his eyes were adjusted to the darkness, he found the skin grafts and scar tissue mesmerizing. Sal’s face was a fucking masterpiece; if he didn’t know how Sal, himself, felt about it, Larry would have loved to draw it.

Sal gulped. “It…it was a bunch of shit, really. The dog attack…” One of Sal’s hands went to his face. "Charley, Mrs. Sanderson..." Sal gulped. “M-my mom…”

Larry nodded. “Her death, right?” Sal didn’t talk about that very often. He didn’t blame him.

Sal shook his head in an almost violent way, making his wild blue hair that much wilder. “She didn’t just die; she didn’t get sick, she…” Larry’s heart clenched as Sal let out another sob. “She was murdered. She was murdered, and I saw wh-what was left of her, and I—” Sal was now holding himself, as though trying to keep himself together. “I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do a goddamn thing, I just stood there staring—”

Larry gathered Sal up in his arms, practically forcing his friend’s head against his shoulder. “Shhhh,” he soothed. “It wasn’t your fault, Dude…you have nothing to feel guilty about.” Sal had been young. Was still young; what was he supposed to do after witnessing something like that?

Sal seemed to be fighting internally for a full minute before something broke. Larry’s shoulder did a pretty good job of muffling his sobs, though the tight hold Larry had around him still wasn’t enough to stop the hard shaking of his shoulders.

He decided, right then and there, that Sal crying was officially the worst thing ever. Worse than puppies getting kicked; worse than kittens drowning. Even worse than learning that his dad had abandoned him and his mom; even worse than walking in on his mom crying when she'd thought he wouldn't be home for hours.

Larry suspected Sal had to; everyone needed to cry every once in a while. But once this was over, he would do whatever it took to make Sal smile again.

Chapter Text

Larry stared at the pink and white scars that littered Sal’s arms. Sal stood there, sleeves rolled up, hands wet, looking like a deer in the headlights. Neither of them said anything for the longest time.

He should have suspected sooner, Larry thought. Sal always wore long sleeves, even during the summer, and he’d never once thought about why.

Larry completely forgot why he opened the bathroom door, completely forgot what it was he’d wanted to ask Sal. He stepped up to his friend and gingerly took one of his hands, turning it over to get a better look. The scars were all old, all healed. But there were so many of them; Larry couldn’t even count them all.

“I…” The word broke through the tense atmosphere. “I’m sorry.”

Larry hadn’t even been aware of the tears welling up in his eyes until Sal brushed one away with his other hand. He was well aware that this wasn’t the right way to handle this; this reaction was probably the sort of thing Sal tried to avoid getting out of people. Still, once the tears came, they refused to stop falling.

“Things were rough,” Sal was saying. “Really, really rough. The bullying was bad…so were the Depression and Anxiety. It…it would make me feel a little better. For a while.” Sal wiped more of Larry’s tears away. “I haven’t done it in two years.”

Larry nodded. “That’s good. That…that’s great.” Without thinking about it, Larry lifted Sal’s arm to his lips. Sal looked as surprised by the kiss as Larry felt. “Those feelings come back, you…you know you can talk to me, right?”

Sal nodded. “Yeah. Of course. I’ll do that.”

Larry looked him in the eye. The guilt and shame in Sal’s good eye was enough to make him cry even harder. “You promise?”

Sal nodded. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

“Aw, Dude, I love when you take your prosthetic off. Your face is so cool!”

“Larry, please…don’t.”

“What?”

“You don’t have to do that. I mean…I know what I look like.”

“No, yeah; I know. I mean it!”

“…”

“What’s wrong, Sal? Talk to me.”

“It’s just…hard for me to believe that. Larry…maybe you don’t realize this, but I wear this prosthetic for a reason, you know?”

“…”

“I try to believe you. Really. But sometimes, it feels like you’re making fun of me.”

Shit…I swear, I didn’t…I’m sorry…”

“I don’t want you to feel bad. I’m just trying to be honest.”

“Thanks for telling me.”

“Sure. Any time.”

Chapter Text

"Dude, you’re a lightweight!"

Sal is slumped against Larry, giggling uncontrollably. The red flush has reached his ears, and his pigtails wiggle with each laugh that shakes his body.

It's just about the cutest fucking thing Larry's ever seen. 

"Nahhh, Larry Face! I'm heavy! Suuuuper heavy!" Admittedly, Larry can feel his weight a bit more than past times they've cuddled. Probably because Sal isn't paying attention and is leaning into him more than usual.

Larry can't complain. "Right. That's why me and everyone else in the gang can pick you up with, like...one hand." He takes a swig of his beer. It tastes lousy, but he kind of likes how it's making him feel right now. 

His mom is gonna be pissed if she finds out that her boys were smoking and drinking on their camping trip. Right now, though, Larry can't bring himself to care.

"Mmmm," says Sal as he nuzzles against Larry's neck. The edge of his prosthetic scrapes it a little bit, but Larry kind of likes it; it's making him tingle in a strange way, there. "I kinda like when you pick me up," Sal is saying. "I like when you hold me; makes me feel, like...safe, or whatever. 'M' not really used to that, you know?"

"Guess that just means I gotta hold you more, huh?" says Larry. He'll hold Sal as much as he wants. Even more.

Sal's only response is a contented sigh.

Chapter Text

Larry had been laying on the floor of Sal's room, eyes closed and relaxing, when he heard fabric rustling from above him. 

Sal was getting up. Probably for a drink of water or something like that.

Larry left it alone and curled up even more in his sleeping bag. 

He heard noises outside of Sal's door. "Sal?"

Mr. Fisher. Larry had never made quite the same connection with him that Sal had made with his mother. Sal was free to call her 'Lisa,' but Larry suspected that he'd never see Sal's dad as anything other than Mr. Fisher. 

"Hey, Dad."

"Hey."

Fuck, Larry could feel the awkwardness from here. The thick tension around those two had just now crept into Sal's room; Larry pulled the sleeping bag cover over his head. It didn't do much to help. 

"You having a good time with your sleepover?" Mr. Fisher was still talking. 

"Yeah. I think Larry's asleep right now."

"All right." Larry heard sounds from the kitchen. One of them seemed to be making something. 

"You two have been spending a lot of time together lately. You seem...close."

"Yeah, Dad; he's my best friend. The best one I've ever had."

Larry couldn't stop himself from smiling. 

"Your best friend is a young man with a criminal record?"

Ouch. Mr. Fisher was technically right, but still. Ouch. 

"He's made mistakes in the past, Dad; ones he's more than made up for. He's a good guy; the best I've ever known."

Larry's heart swelled at that. 

"If you're sure, Sal. You've always been a pretty good judge of character; something you got from your mother. If you trust him, then I trust you."

It wasn't that Larry had ever thought Sal's dad was a bad guy, but with those words, he gained new respect for him. 

"Okay. Good." 

Another silence passed through the air. Larry figured that Mr. Fisher had left for bed, leaving Sal to whatever it was he'd gotten up for.

Then Sal's dad spoke again. "You know that I love you, right Sal?"

"Yeah, I know. I love you too, Dad."

Maybe Larry's heart ached a bit. He had no right to feel jealous; Sal flat-out didn't have a mom anymore. He was allowed to be close to his dad. Even so, it was hard not to think of the last time Larry's dad had told him he loved him. 

"And you know that I'll always love you, no matter what, right?"

"Of course."

"You can always talk to me about anything."

Larry frowned. The way Mr. Fisher was going on, it sounded like he was trying to get at something. There was no way that he knew.

Was there?

"Okay. Thanks, Dad."

Sal wound up falling asleep faster than Larry did that night. 

Chapter Text

Sal is already awake when Larry plods into the kitchen. The sound makes him look up; since losing his right eye, he's told him that he pays much better attention to his other senses. 

"Morning," he says, soft in the pale morning light. 

Larry means to say something, but the words catch in his throat, because Sal is sitting there, still and calm, despite everything that's gone wrong in his twenty-two years. His hair's grown even longer, and rests, unbrushed, around his shoulders and in his eyes. The white bathrobe loosely tied around his form, the surgical mask covering his mouth, and the pink eye patch covering his right eye socket all look too soft to be real. 

It's a word that comes to mind every time Larry thinks of Sal. 'Soft;' the only rough parts of him are the scar tissue mostly on the right side of his face, and the only hard parts of him are his nails. The prosthetics add some hardness, but not much. Not enough to protect him from the cruelties that the universe seem fond of throwing at him. 

And yet, he's still here, in blue and pink and white, over a steaming mug. He must have brewed a fresh pot; the warm, rich smell had been what woke Larry up. 

Larry’s never been talkative in the mornings; it’s something he hasn't gotten from either of his parents. Maybe, he thinks, that's for the best, because what he's feeling is beyond words. 

Years ago, he might have felt like he was intruding, barging his way into something that he had no right to be a part of. Not now; now, he sidles up behind Sal and wraps his arms around his shoulders, burying his face in his hair. 

Sal lifts one of his hands and presses a kiss to his knuckles through the mask. "Made coffee. I added nutmeg and cinnamon."

Larry is home. This is where he belongs. 

Chapter Text

It took a full minute before Sal processed what had just happened. 

"Um, Larry?"

His best friend gave his shoulders a squeeze. "Mm-hmm?" 

It seemed like it hadn't quite dawned on him yet. 

"Did...you just...?" 

The weird thing was that it hadn't felt weird at all. Sal had always been shorter than his friend; he barely came up to his chin when his hair was up. So when Larry would wrap an arm around him, of course his face was at the right level. 

The realization seemed to hit Larry a full ten seconds after Sal trailed off. "Oh. Oh, shit, I guess I did." His tone of voice contained the same amount of surprised lack of surprise that Sal was feeling. 

"Okay. Okay, then," said Sal. "Cool."

Should he even have mentioned it? Maybe he should have left it alone. 

It wasn't like either of them had really noticed at first; it had felt natural. One would have thought that it was something they did all the time.

"Yeah, definitely."

Another minute passed before Sal spoke again. "So...what does this mean?"

Larry hadn't let go of him once. "Does it have to mean anything? I mean...do you want it to mean something?"

Sal shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe?" 

"Cool. Awesome. Me, too."

Chapter Text

"Hey, Dude."

Sal is still amazed by how little Larry has changed. He's still tall, still wearing his hair long, still wearing jeans and that wallet chain and that Sanity's Fall t-shirt. He's gained muscle, though; grown facial hair, something Sal tries not to be jealous of. 

Of course, there's the ghostly pallor of his skin, the dark veins he hadn't had before, and the fact that his once warm brown eyes are now striking white.

Becoming a ghost does that to a person; Sal isn't going to hold it against him. 

"Hey, Larry." They hadn't seen each other in years after Sal had left for college, hadn't talked to each other once. And yet, once he'd come back to help deal with Gizmo's ailing health, running into his old friend had been surprisingly easy. 

They way they talked to each other, it was almost like Sal had never left. 

"Got good news and bad news for ya, Sal."

The dream version of Sal nods; this version of him has his hair up in pigtails. He misses wearing his hair up; there aren't words for how much he misses it. But he's surrounded by criminals, and he can't risk getting grabbed again. 

He has to get out of here alive. He has to fix this. 

"Somehow that doesn't surprise me."

Larry's spectral form laughs. Despite everything, Sal smiles behind his mask. Even in death, his old friend has a sense of humor. "Your therapist came to the tree house."

Sal blinks. "Oh!" That is good news; Sal hadn't actually thought Dr. Enon would listen to his last plea.

"Don't know how much good it's gonna do, though; I showed up to him, he pissed himself, fainted, and broke his neck."

There it is. Dream!Sal winces. "Jesus...Is he okay?"

Larry scratches the back of his neck, looking uncomfortable. "He died as soon as he hit the ground."

Sal's heart sinks. "Shit."

"Yeah. That's what I said, too." 

Sal sighs. He supposes he should feel sadder than he does; Dr. Enon had been the closest thing to a friend Sal has had for the last few years. Not one living person has believed in his innocence; his lawfully mandated therapist had been the only one. 

His last hope is gone, and he's now painfully aware of it. 

Maybe it's because he's numb; maybe he's just gotten used to life throwing curve ball after curve ball at him. This is just one more horrible thing on top of a whole mess of horrible things that have happened to him in his life. But he doesn't find himself getting stressed right now; he just feels numb.

"So, he died on Addison Apartments property?" is what he says. 

Larry nods. "Yep." 

"So he's...there with you? Right now?" There had been times in his adolescence when those suicidal thoughts and feelings had started to come back. Despite how bleak things are right now, he finds himself glad that he never acted on them.

Being stuck there in a state of un-life almost seems worse than death. 

"Yeah. I asked him if he wanted to manifest for you, but he's new to the whole 'ghost' thing. He didn't quite manage it." Larry shoves his hands into his pockets; something that's so Larry-ish, it makes Sal's heart ache. "He did have some words for you, though; he wants you to know he's sorry he didn't believe you." 

Sal nods. "Well, tell him I said 'thank you.'" It's a bit too little, a bit too late, but he finds that he means the words. 

"So hey, I know things look bad right now, but I've got an idea. Here's what I'm thinking..."

Sal listens aptly, but the ghostly vision of Larry is turning more and more transparent. The dead grass outside of Addison Apartments gives way to black; Sal's eyes are drawn to a red ball flickering before his eyes before everything turns white.

He's fifteen years old again as he finds himself asking "Is this real...?"

Chapter Text

"You okay?"

Larry was going to kill Todd. Why, oh, why had he come up with the idea to play Seven Minutes in Heaven? Why had they all agreed to play such a stupid, average teen game? Couldn't they have just gone on another ghost-hunting mission? They'd dressed up as the Ghosthunters for Halloween for a reason, damn it!

"Yeah, sure. you?"

For that matter, he was going to kill Ash, too. She'd been the one to make that bottle spin; she was the one who'd smiled and laughed in an irritatingly knowing way when she announced that he and Sal would be the ones going into the closet next. 

"You know me...I don't really like enclosed spaces." Sal moved, pressing up closer to Larry in the process, and Larry would have been completely all right with one of those fucking cultists breaking in and killing him, right then and there. "Or the dark. But it's only for seven minutes; I'll live."

Maple, Chug, and Neil hadn't done anything to directly contribute to this, but they hadn't done anything to prevent it, either. As far as Larry was concerned, they were on his shit list, too.

"God, this is humiliating," grumbled Larry, trying unsuccessfully to get away from Sal. This just succeeded in one of his long legs getting stuck...somewhere that made Sal gasp.

Their friends sucked. They were the worst. And they were going to know it, as soon as the seven minutes were up. 

"Do you still have your dad's lighter?" Sal's voice was a bit shaky. Larry ignored it in favor of trying to back up. His back hit the closet door rather uncomfortably, but at least he was no longer making contact with Sal. 

"Yeah, Dude; always."

"Do you think you could light it? You know, without setting anything on fire?"

"Yeah, I think so." Not that he would mind; he was almost positive that a fire would be a great distraction right now. Not to mention that he was convinced that Addison Apartments needed to burn to the ground. The only reason he hadn't doused the place in gasoline and struck a match was because he didn't want to go back to Juvie for arson. Or murder. 

He found the lighter and felt around him; when he didn't find anything but air, he lit it. The eerie vision of Sal's prosthetic was what he saw in the soft orange light. His friend's ears looked a bit red, but that might have just been a trick of the light. 

"That's better. Thanks." Sal fidgeted a bit, and despite how flustered he was, Larry smiled. It was cute; really, a lot of things about his best friend were. 

He stopped that train of thought. "So, now what?" he asked.

Sal shrugged. "Just...wait, I guess?"

Larry sighed. "Yeah. Guess so."

It was the longest seven minutes of Larry's life.

 

It was Sal's idea to muss up their hair and wrinkle their clothes before they left the closet. The immature chorus of 'Oooooooh!' and laughter told them that his handiwork was adequate. It also earned the crowd two middle fingers from Larry. 

He made them all promise not to talk about this incident for the rest of their lives. 

When no one was looking, though, he winked at Sal. It was enough to make his friend's shoulders shake in silent laughter.

They'd talk about it when everyone else had gone home.

Chapter Text

"If we don't get out of this alive, then you should know..." Larry took a deep breath. It was now or never. "I...I love you, Dude."

"I love you, too," Sal whispered. Larry's heart filled with something light and airy and warm, but the next words out of Sal's mouth pricked it, making it deflate almost as fast. "You're the best friend I've ever had, you know?"

Larry thought about making it more obvious what he really meant, really make it obvious what he truly felt.

He didn't. Sal was his best friend, too; the best friend he'd ever had. 

That was enough. It was more than enough; it was better than Larry had ever thought he would have.

So, instead, he said "Same to you, Lil' Bud." It was the truth. Even if he wanted to be something else with Sal, he did truly mean it.

The door opened, and Larry's arm instinctively went in front of his best friend. 

 

He thought of telling him later that night, when they were safe. 

Then Mrs. Packerton died before they could act on their plan, and so he waited for a better time. 

Better times came and went, and still he couldn't bring himself to say anything. 

By the time he finally did, it was too late. 

Chapter Text

They watched, interested, as the police officers gazed down at the sickly corpse in bed.

The corpse gasped wetly and began to cough.

"Jesus fuck!" cried Larry, completely taken off guard. "The fucker's still alive?"

While he said the words, Sal squeaked "Eep!" and jumped. 

It took a few seconds for them to realize what position they were in, that the startling moment on Larry's TV had passed, and that all was quiet in the basement. They looked at each other, wide-eyed in each other's arms. 

They burst out laughing. 

They didn't let go for the rest of the movie; Sal's head found its way to Larry's shoulder, and Larry's arm found a comfortable spot around Sal's back. 

Living in a haunted apartment building that had once been the meeting and living place for several cultists had its share of excitement, to put it lightly. Every once in a while, they needed to have a night of movies and video games and greasy, calorie-ridden, carb-ridden junk food. 

For that one night, it was just the two of them being dumb, horny teenagers in love. 

Maybe it was cheesy as the pizzas they'd ordered to call it 'Heaven,' but really; what else could they call it?

Chapter Text

Larry was pretty sure he was dreaming. Like, ninety-nine percent sure.

Because Sal was dressed in his finest slacks--smooth fabric that hugged Sal's hips in the most visually pleasing way possible--and sweater--made from the softest yarn Larry swore he'd ever touched in his life--on one knee, holding open a tiny red velvet box. 

How many minutes had passed? One? Two? Five? Half an hour? Because Sal was starting to fidget and look sort of stiff. "Are you...going to say anything? My knees are starting to hurt."

Larry finally managed to pick his jaw up off the ground and say "Yeah...Yeah! Fuck yes, Dude!"

"Oh." Sal blinked, pale blue eyes widening. "Oh! Y-you said--"

Larry laughed, reaching down to help his boyfriend--his fiancée--up. "I did." He held a hand up, watching eagerly as Sal placed the thing--a simple gold band--on his ring finger with trembling hands. "Of course I'll marry you." He pulled him close, letting his hands rest on his hips, and pressed his forehead against Sal's. The edge of his prosthetic cut into his skin a bit; the discomfort helped ground him, reminding him to blink the tears from his eyes. "I mean...I'm sure we were gonna spend the rest of our lives together, anyway. But I'm glad it's official now."

Sal laughed, closing his eyes. He set his hands on Larry's shoulders and stepped even closer to him. "Right. That's what I was thinking."

"So it's settled, then? We'll head to Hawaii, invite everyone, and just...make it official?"

"Mm-hmm. Might have to get, like...sleeveless suits, though. Do those even exist?"

"Does it matter? We'll cut the sleeves off, if we have to." Sal gasped as Larry's arms shifted beneath his backside and lifted, twirling him around. 

Chapter Text

‘We’ve been over this. I lost touch with Larry after high school. I don’t know where he is now.’

In his dream, Sal was just remembering those words when he heard a familiar voice.

"You know, you really shouldn't lie to your therapist."

Sal didn't even blink or flinch at the sudden bloody, gorey appearance of the apparition. "Hey, Larry. Nice to see you, too."

Larry's ghost shook his head. "Don't 'Hey, Larry,' me. You're gonna spend the rest of your life in prison if you don't tell people the truth."

Sal glanced around his current dreamscape. He was sixteen years old and sitting in what looked like a mix of bedrooms he'd had all throughout his childhood. The electric guitar his father had gotten him when he was fourteen was in front of a stuffed sheep toy he'd had when he was six. 

Dreams were weird, he'd decided; he'd long given up on trying to decipher what many of them meant. 

"I mean...I wasn't technically lying, was I?" He didn't look up at Larry's pale, judgmental eyes. "We did lose contact after high school, and I don't know what happened to you." He didn't know the details of Larry's death; not even Larry, himself, fully remembered. Many of the ghosts Sal had met seemed to have that in common; they wouldn't remember, if their deaths were particularly gruesome and traumatic. 

Maybe that was for the best. Larry wasn't a forgetful guy; if he didn't remember all the details, something really awful must have killed him. 

Neither of them knew where Larry's remains were, either; his body hadn't been found with the murder victims of Addison Apartments. The ones that Sal had been framed for.

At least no one was blaming Sal for his high school best friend's murder. If anyone had tried that, he was pretty sure he would have broken down crying in front of one of the many cameramen who'd been following this case. 

Larry folded his arms across his chest, giving him a hard look.

Sal, now in his early twenties and going through his embarrassing goth phase, sighed. "What did you want me to say? If I'd told him anymore, he would've thought I was crazy." He looked down at his boots. "He wouldn't have believed me."

"No offense, Dude, but people already think you're crazy."

Sal rolled his eyes. "Thanks, 'Dude.'" 

Larry's ghost was now right in front of him. Though Sal had grown during his final years of high school, he still had to look up to meet his eyes. "Tell them, anyway. Make them believe you. We need you here. All of us."

Sal stared into his eyes, hoping to convey the hopelessness he currently felt. "It all looks so horrible...I'll probably go to prison for three life sentences, and I..." He wrapped his arms around himself. He was fifteen years old again, with worn clothes and painted nails. He missed painting his nails; he missed his worn clothes. "I won't be able to help any of you. I'm sorry...I'm s--"

Long, firm arms wrapped around him, and Sal almost forgot that this was a dream. He huddled up to the strong chest and closed his eyes.

"I know it's tough. But I know you; you've never given up on anything. Why're you starting now?"

Sal manages to laugh. "You're right, of course. I'm going to keep trying."

Larry gave him a squeeze. "There's the Sally Face I know and love. I believe in ya, Dude."

That was when Sal woke up. 

Even though it was the day before his trial and his last session with Dr. Enon, Sal went through his day with a newfound sense of hope. 

Just so long as nothing else went wrong, he could do this.