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Bittersweet

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Larry and Sally were the ones who didn’t fit in.

Look at those two, people would whisper. The weirdo and the freak together, how bizarre is that?

Larry; the antisocial artist, the metalhead, the one with bags under his eyes and a mole on his cheek, the one who was quiet and dark and full of shadows, the one who fiercely protected his friends. Sally; the masked mystery, the oddity, the one with a glass eye and sky-coloured hair, the one who daydreamed in class but saw everything and everyone.

Look at those two.

How bizarre?

They’d sit together, listen to music together, walk home together. They were part of a group, sure; along with the computer whiz, and the creative soul. But no-one could deny that Larry and Sal came as a pair- like the threads binding a single cord of yarn, they were inseparable. Together always- you had Yin and Yang, you had Snufkin and Little My, you had Larry and Sally.

So of course, they’d defend each other. Of course they’d protect one another in the face of adversity; as surely as the sun rises.

In other words, of fucking course Larry had to punch Travis. For punching Sal, that was. For calling him something horrible behind his back. For telling Larry that he didn’t “have to hang out with that fuckin’ freak out of pity, or whatever”.

But the vice principal had trouble following this logic, and Larry was suspended. For an unfairly long time, too; yeah, he had a criminal record, but it wasn’t like he was a violent person. It wasn’t like he took out his aggression on people that didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t like he was Travis.

Sal scolded him for it, berating him for getting riled up over someone like Travis, for letting his words get to him. But underneath, Larry could tell Sal was grateful, if begrudgingly. He knew Sal needed to know people cared about him, even if he never vocalised it; with that kind of past, how can you not? So he always resolved to care about Sal, openly and shamelessly. People could talk all they wanted. It wouldn’t change a thing.

At the end of the day, when Larry was leaving the school, banned from returning to it for a month, Sal, his closest friend, his other half, at his side, Travis had to show up. He had an icepack to his split lip. It looked painful and angry and red; Larry felt a mixture of guilt and grim, grim satisfaction.

“I don’t get why you care about that freak so much. What is he, your boyfriend? You a fag too, Larry?”

Larry saw crimson and anger rose in his chest like a wave and he opened his mouth to respond, to shout, to defend, but Sal beat him to it.

“I sure hope so.” He said drily, staring Travis dead in his (jealous, green) eye. “Because if I wasn’t his boyfriend, I wouldn’t be able to do this,” And with that, he lifted off the lower part of his mask, pulled Larry closer to him by the collar, and kissed him; deeply, and softly, like they’d done it a thousand times before, like it was real and true and not a ruse to piss off a bully.

It felt real anyway.

Travis didn’t say anything- he just glared. Sal felt a twinge of guilt- Larry could see it, the way his posture unstiffened, the way he fiddled with his hands for a moment before speaking. “Don’t be afraid to open your heart a little, Travis.” He said slowly. “You don’t have to pick on other people to be happy. You just have to find someone who’ll accept you.”

Travis stayed silent, but his glare softened slightly. Larry almost expected him to explode, but instead, he just… nodded, and walked away, head hanging low.

When they were sure he’d left, the two started giggling, and burst out laughing- more out of shock than anything else. Sal began to process what he’d just done. He realised his hands were shaking. He pulled his mask back down- better Larry see the literal mask if he was going to put up a metaphorical one. “Sorry about that,” he said, trying to keep his voice even. Trying to play it off. He snuck a glance up at Larry, and—yeah, he was blushing, too.

“Uh, n-no problem, dude. It was pretty, um…”

He was going to say, ‘it was pretty funny’, or ‘it was pretty cool of you to be nice to him’.

“It was… nice.”

Silence. Sal felt his face flush, and was grateful for the mask. He didn’t know, but when he blushed, it reached the tips of his ears and his neck- and Larry saw. He thought, as Sal would find out later, that it was the ‘cutest shit ever’. Larry would say that it reminded him of cherries and roses and all things sweet. Sal always thought Larry was twice as saccharine.

“I… Yeah.” Sal said lamely. His heart was pounding. He opened his mouth, about to say something, anything to alleviate the awkward silence. Maybe he should apologise. Maybe--

“Hey, Sal?”

“Y-yeah?”

“Can you… do that again?

A pause. Floods of regret and paranoid thoughts, the urge to run away before Sal had a chance to reply.

“Do you… want me to? For real?”

Larry swallowed. “Uh, yeah. More than anything.”

“…Good.” Sal said, taking a deep breath. “Because I really, really want to kiss you again.”

Larry gave him an easy smile, his eyes shining. “You and me both.”

 

Sal and Larry. Larry and Sal.

The weirdo and the freak, together in love.

Would you look at those two? People would whisper.

How bizarre.

How bizarre, that they should fall for someone so much like themselves, and yet so, so different.