Chapter 1: Chapter 1
The chemical smell of chlorine filled the room, bitter but familiar. He leaned back and closed his eyes, just resting for a moment. Scott was about 3 hours into his shift and he was exhausted. It was his own fault though; he'd been out late into the night with friends, knowing that he had to be at the pool at 8 to open it up.
He forced himself to look up again, his tired eyes scanning over the area. The while walls of the spacious room were matched by similar toned floor tiling, the entire space appearing bright and inviting. A few dashes of colour added to the playful nature of the area, blues and red contrasting nicely. The pool itself was not up to Olympic standards and was used as a recreation centre rather than a professional setting.
A few of the people scattered about were recognizable. Some were from his school, a few graduates milling about as the summer started and they celebrated their last days as secondary school students. They were being pretty rowdy, splashing and dunking each other, so Scott noted to watch them closely. The other pool goers were much more reserved, a few young families and quieter teenagers standing about and chatting.
Scott sat up a little straighter when he heard the rowdy kids quiet down. He looked over to see one of them crowding a boy that was much smaller. He squinted and placed him as Mitch Grassi, one of the kids in his own grade. They had had math together last semester.
He watched as it played out, his stomach dropping. The senior, who Scott believed was named David, took another step forwards into Mitch's space, causing him to scramble back, but he wasn't fast enough. As he flailed at the edge of pool, trying to keep out of the water, David reached out and shoved him sideways, sending the kid flying into the pool. Scott could almost hear his head crack as it smashed into the lip of the wall.
He was on his feet instantly his whistle blown in his mouth, before diving straight off the elevated chair and into the rapidly reddening water. He was down next to him in another second and he grabbed Mitch, manipulating his almost weightless body so that he had both arms securely looped under his armpits before kicking off.
When he reached the surface he flipped onto his back and kicked towards the wall, hauling the motionless boy up onto the floor with the help of another person from above.
He jumped out as quickly as possible before kneeling down next to him and calling, "Mitch, can you hear me? Hey Mitch, if you're awake I need to hear a response. Hey!" He already knew his efforts wouldn't be answered, he was obviously out cold, his body shutting down to preserve energy.
He leaned down, his ear hovering over the boy's mouth to check for signs that he was breathing. His gaze landed on Mitch's bare chest, his stomach twisting as he registered no movement. He also didn't feel a puff of air hitting his cheek. The boy wasn't breathing.
Scott held back his panic, knowing he had to stay calm and do his job to save his life. He sat up, one hand searching for a pulse point under the boy's jaw while the other fell to his wrist. He heaved a sigh of relief, when he felt a steady pulse pounding back, although it was frighteningly slow.
"Everyone stand back, but I need someone, one person, to call 911 for me," he said loudly, getting into position to start compressions.
"I will, I have my phone," a middle aged woman called back.
Scott nodded and grimaced as he started the first compression, the sound of bones snapping and grinding hitting his ears as Mitch's ribs gave in. The feeling of the boy's chest moving wasn't great either; he felt like he was compressing one of those stress balls with liquid on the inside. "Tell the operator we have an unconscious victim who isn't breathing, with an open wound on his head and possibly other head or spinal injuries. Be very specific with location, tell them we're in the swimming area which is down the main hallway right at the end on the left, inside the pool room. Do you understand?"
The woman gave her confirmation as she pressed the phone to her ear. Scott was panting when he hit compression 30, already trying to get his breath back as talking had impaired it slightly. He tilted Mitch's head back, one hand under his jaw and the other pressed to his forehead. The boy's mouth fell open naturally, and Scott didn't even think as he pressed his lips to Mitch's and pinched his nose, blowing two deep breaths into his lungs.
The boy started to cough and Scott quickly rolled him onto his side, just in time for him to vomit. It was actually a good sign; his throat was fighting back and trying desperately to clear up so he could breathe again. It also meant he was awake. When he was sure it had stopped, he stuck his fingers into his mouth, clearing out whatever was left so it wouldn't block his windpipe. Maybe it was gross but if it meant saving his life Scott couldn't care less.
He leaned down again to check for breathing and nearly started crying when he felt a little puff of air hit his cheek. But it wasn't over yet. He could destabilize at any second and he still had to deal with the bleeding wound. To do that he'd need the first aid kit.
"Is there anyone trained in CPR here?" Scott practically yelled, keeping his head low so he could insure Mitch hadn't stopped breathing just yet. He wasn't planning on giving this person much to do in assisting but he did want them to be certified. If they weren't, they could be sued by Mitch's family for damages.
As his hand searched for a pulse point, he heard someone answer in a shaky voice, "Yes, I am."
He glanced up and nodded at the man who looked to be about 20, "In the employee room, it's unlocked and right next to the change rooms, we have an extensive first aid kit in there. Bring it back here."
He rushed off and Scott sat up again, basically yelling in Mitch's ear, "Hey? Can you hear me? If you're awake try and say something or move around. I need to know if you're awake."
All he received was silence, but after the coughing, he knew the boy was at least slightly cognizant. His thoughts were confirmed when his eyelids fluttered, the boy's face muscles tensing slightly as he started to register the pain.
Seconds later the man was back with the kit and Scott swiped it right out of his hands before instructing, "Make sure he keeps breathing and that his heart keeps beating. If something happens, tell me."
The man was as white as a sheet but he nodded and they swapped spots. Scott grimaced at the oozing gash on the left side of Mitch's head. It wasn't as deep as he had feared, but the blood hadn't congealed yet and he feared that he'd lost too much. He needed to get it to stop as soon as possible.
Scott went to work, pressing gauze pads down firmly and steadying Mitch's head, just in case he had a neck injury. It hadn't even crossed his mind; if there was any nerve damage in his spinal cord he might lose his mobility. It didn't seem like his neck was broken but he couldn't be sure.
The sirens were audible outside at this point, but he kept wrapping more and more gauze and pushing it down. The paramedics could just cut it all off later anyways.
Speak of the Devil, Scott thought as a few firefighters ran in, and he let himself be pulled up and sat down as they took over.
The next hour felt blurry for him. He had a thin blanket wrapped securely over his shoulders and some nice firemen sat down with him to try to keep him present. He had to wait around because the police wanted information, so he just sat there and stared at his hands that were covered in dry blood.
Eventually he was cleaned up by some paramedics that hadn't gone back to the hospital and were staying to treat victims for shock. He felt bad for not helping since he knew what to do, but when he offered, the nice lady with the deep voice who was scrubbing blood off of his arms told him to just take his time, that he was also in shock. He supposed he was.
The police were very thorough with him. He was exhausted and not happy to be there but he answered every question to the best of his ability. None of them were mean or anything, he just could feel his body giving out on him.
A few minutes later, Scott had found himself back in the employee room, searching for his phone. When he found it, he pressed it to his ear as it rang.
"Mom? Can you come pick me up? Something happened."
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Breaking news! Just this past hour there was an accident that occurred at the Barston Community Centre. I've got Chris on the scene, how are you Chris?
[cut to Chris in front of the community centre]
I'm alright, Linda, but the young boy who was injured today unfortunately is not. His name is Mitch Grassi, and he's a junior student at Martin High. It's being reported by witnesses that he was pushed into the pool, hitting his head on the ledge and sinking to the bottom. Remarkably, there was another junior from Martin who was on duty, Scott Hoying. This 17 year old kid single handedly got Mr. Grassi breathing again and was also able to stall his wounds from progressing. All of the witnesses I've spoken with have told me they were amazed by his professionalism and bravery.
[cut to video of the woman who called the hospital]
He was very quick, he dived right in and had the boy back out of the water in 5 seconds flat. It was a very upsetting ordeal but he didn't break down or need time to recover once, he just kept going. Guess it was adrenaline or something. He asked me to call the hospital and was very specific with everything he needed me to say to them, I'm very impressed. He deserves an award or something, honestly.
[cut back to Chris]
Mr. Hoying was seen leaving the building but declined to comment. The little we do know about him is legacy enough. Arlington is proud to call him a part of our community. Back to you Linda.
[cut to Linda]
Thank you Chris for that update and also thank you to that young man who saved his classmate's life. Our well wishes are with the Grassi family. Coming up, the dangers of walking your dog on these hot summer days. We'll be right back.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Scott's head whipped up, his eyes zeroing in on the chalkboard ahead before finding the teacher, Mr. Matheson. He cringed when he realized that he'd basically been sleeping through his calculus class.
"Do I need to send you to the office?" his teacher asked, and Scott blushed under the gazes of his fellow classmates.
"No, I'm sorry sir."
"Good. Pay attention. Now, the limits of equation A are..."
When the bell finally rang, signalling the end of class, he lingered behind, taking his time packing up. He didn't want to be on Mr. Matheson's bad side only a few days into the school year.
When he was the only one left, he awkwardly walked up to the front, where his teacher was erasing the board, "Um, sir?"
The man turned and smiled at him, "Hi Scott. What can I do for you."
"I just wanted to apologize again for falling asleep in class, I know it probably looks like I don't care about the material but I actually want to do good in this course. It won't happen again, I promise."
The teacher looked a little sympathetic, still smiling at him, "I appreciate that, Scott. Is there any reason for it happening?"
There was a reason, but he didn't want to admit it to a man he barely knew. He wasn't proud that his nightmares were so bad that he could rarely get back to sleep after experiencing one. Last night had been particularly frightening, and Scott had had to get out of bed at 2 in the morning and distract himself so that his thoughts wouldn't stray further than they already had.
"I've just had some trouble sleeping recently."
He inwardly groaned at Mr. Matheson's expression. Maybe he shouldn't have said anything at all. It looked like his teacher had clued in enough to give him a sad look of understanding. "Well, take care of yourself, I'm always here if you want to talk. Now, go eat some lunch and have a good rest of the day."
"You too," he mumbled as he hurried from the classroom, headed towards the cafeteria.
His friends were easy to locate, they usually sat around the same spot. He smiled as Kevin waved him over, sliding in to sit next to Matt. "Hey guys," he said, wincing as he was slapped on the shoulder roughly, a usual occurrence.
"Hey man, how's it going?" Avi asked, grinning at him.
Scott shrugged, but was cut off by Matt before he could reply, "Matheson chewed him out for falling asleep in class. Don't know how you pulled that off, honestly, he's so aggressive when he teaches. I flinch just when he's talking normally."
"Maybe I should get my ears checked," Scott joked, trying to keep the conversation light hearted to steer away from dangerous territory.
Of course, all of his friends knew about what had happened. The whole school, no, the whole neighbourhood did. He hated when they brought it up, and luckily they had figured that out pretty quickly, so for the most part they left it alone.
The 4 of them had been friends since the beginning of middle school. They'd all been on the swim team, doing the freestyle 400m relay, a race that wasn't taken very seriously for middle school meets. Scott was also doing competitive swimming outside of school, but he dropped it during his first year of high school because he wanted to get involved in other things and didn't have any time. Avi and Matt weren't even a part of the swim team anymore but they all had stuck together like glue since that first race. It was nice to carry friends from your younger years into the beginning of adulthood.
The rest of the day slipped by quickly and before Scott knew it, the final bell had rung and he was headed towards the front doors. He'd been saving up to buy a used car for forever and finally got his hands on a used Ford '05 Mustang, making it super easy heading in and out of school. He wasn't that far away but he preferred the 5 minute drive over the 25 minute walk.
Ahead, a few people were stopped, even more following suit, craning their necks to see what was going on. In that moment, Scott was thankful for his height, and he sidled up, his eyes focussing in on the commotion.
Mitch was sitting on the ground, grimacing and trying to support himself against the lockers so he could get up. Another kid was standing in front of him, laughing his ass off, holding the boy's cane out of reach as some sort of sick joke.
He'd seen Mitch around school a few times this year and had heard about his disability from other people, but they hadn't interacted at all since his injury occurred. Scott had wanted to reach out but he was also a little afraid that the boy wouldn't want to associate with him. He'd probably take one look at him and only be able to think about what caused him to need the cane in the first place.
Scott felt his chest bubble with anger and he pushed through to the front, "Hey, asshat!" The kid, who Scott now knew to be James Landenberg, one of the popular baseball players on the varsity team, turned to glare at him, "What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm just having some fun, relax," James shot back, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, it sure is fun picking on kids with physical disabilities, you're a comedic legend. Surprised you haven't had a comedy special where you just go around hitting people. It would be hilarious," Scott snapped back, and the crowd of teenagers surrounding them all oohed at the challenging nature of his words.
"Jesus, calm down. It was just a joke."
Scott scoffed, walking forwards and ripping the cane out of James' hand, "I didn't know that tripping people was a joke, I should write that one down for next time. Now get the hell out of here and leave him alone."
"What, are you going to fight me, Hoying?"
Stepping up a little and squaring his shoulders off, Scott growled, "You really don't want to ask me that question."
The senior looked like he was about to argue, but Scott had the height advantage and he wasn't scrawny or skinny himself. Being a lifeguard and on the swim team was enough to give him some build. He watched like a hawk as James walked away, muttering angrily to himself.
Looking down, he suddenly felt very nervous. He hadn't even tried to get in contact with Mitch because he was convinced that it would be awkward and uncomfortable. The boy's gaze was fixed on his feet, avoiding eye contact. "Here," Scott said quietly, offering out a hand. The brunet glanced at it skeptically, slowly taking it and allowing himself to be helped up.
"Thank you," was the murmured response, the boy still refusing to make eye contact. Scott felt his stomach jump a little as he looked at him. He'd had to shave his head since the doctors had taken off a chunk of his hair to get to his scalp, but it was starting to grow back in, only half an inch long. He was still gorgeous, in Scott's opinion, with his soft features and strong jaw, all complimented by his skinny frame.
"You leaving?" he asked, equally as quiet as if it would make Mitch more comfortable. He got a nod in return, so he offered, "I'll walk you out."
For the first time, their eyes met. Mitch's cheeks were tinged pink and he looked away shyly, "Okay."
They walked down the hallway together, Mitch holding his bag and leaning on his cane whenever necessary. His right leg was still partially immobile and probably would be for the rest of his life. It wasn't going to stop him from doing what he wanted to do with his life, and currently it seemed like graduating no matter what was a part of that agenda
When they reached the front doors, Scott held them open and Mitch murmured a quiet "Thanks," as he passed through. When they got to the steps, the boy spoke up again, "Can I... Um, could you help-"
"Want my arm?" Scott asked, leaning over and offering out his forearm, elbow bent.
Mitch nodded gratefully, looping his own arm through Scott's so he would have better support walking down the stairs. "Can I ask why you don't take the ramp?" Scott said, not wanting to overstep.
"It's harder for me. The slope is worse than flat stairs."
He hummed in understanding as they reached the bottom. Mitch dropped his arm instantly when they were on flat ground again, his cheeks still red along with the tips of his ears. "You've got a ride, right?" Scott asked.
Mitch pointed down the line of cars, "Yeah my mom's there."
"Okay well... I'll see you around. Bye, Mitch."
The blond paused to watch the shorter boy start to move away, just to be sure he'd be fine, before turning and locating his own car for the drive home. When he got in he just sat in the driver's seat, staring out the window. He'd never understand why some people were just so cruel. It didn't make any sense. Mitch had done nothing, to his knowledge, to deserve to be bullied like that.
If he was being honest, he really liked Mitch. Like a lot. He remembered seeing him for the first time in 9th grade and thinking "yup, I'm gay". They had both been pimple covered, voice cracking tweens at that point but he still thought the boy with the big brown eyes and petit frame was gorgeous.
He'd lost track of him for the past two years, still admiring his beauty but now from afar. They didn't appear to have any classes together this semester either, which was unfortunate. Scott wanted to get to know him better. He was sure they'd get along.
With a sigh, he popped his keys in the ignition and got his car running, turning out of the parking lot and heading home.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
"So he just ripped it out of his hands?"
Mitch nodded, flipping onto his stomach and propping his head up on one hand, his fuzzy carpet rubbing against his bare arms, "Yeah. I didn't even have to say anything, he just walked over and made a fool of James."
His best friend, Kirstin, grinned at him, her hands clasping together in front of her as she swooned, "My Mitchy has a crush!"
"Oh, come on," he whined, rolling his eyes, "he was nice to me, yeah, but I don't know him at all."
"Yeah, but he's super hot."
"Can't argue with that."
Kirstin grinned, "And he's a superhero. He's like, super squared."
Mitch snorted, looking back down at the functions homework he was supposed to be focussed on. He didn't want to think about Scott being a hero right now. "And you're super ridiculous, but what else is new."
"Ugh, I'm hurt," she whined sarcastically, pretending to be shot in the stomach before collapsing to the ground next to him, "look what you've done! You've killed your best friend."
"Best friend?" Mitch teased, making a face and giggling when she shoved him, "Okay, okay, yes. It was self defense, you were attacking me."
"Yeah, with the power of looooooove ," she shot back, drawing the word out dramatically.
"How many times do I have to say that you're ridiculous before you know it?"
She bumped his shoulder with her own, looking down at his math work as well, "Who said I didn't know it? But I'm serious, do you like him?"
Mitch pondered her question for a second, actually taking time to think about it. Did he find Scott super attractive? Yes. Was it kinda hot when he stepped in and totally humiliated the guy who was antagonizing him? Oh hell yes. But they'd only talked a handful on times, and they rarely saw each other. From what he knew, they had zero mutual friends or interests. He knew nothing about Scott and Scott knew nothing about him.
"I find him attractive but I think I'd need to really see what he's like to even consider dating him."
"How about hooking up?" Kirstin said, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.
Mitch let out a laugh that sort of sounded like a sigh, "You know I'm not into that."
"Yeah, well, it's just because you're a virgin," she explained flipping onto her back to stare up at his white ceiling, "Once you lose it you'll be more interested, trust me." When she received a skeptical look, she shrugged her shoulders, "I'm serious! It stops being so important and turns into something that's just fun and feels good."
"Okay, TMI, thank you."
"You're such a prude!" Kirstin laughed, but her words weren't mean, only jesting, "Okay, but seriously, people make your first time out to be something huge and monumental and it can be but it's also okay for it to kind of be a let down. Mine was, that's for sure. He didn't even make me-"
"OKAY! Enough," Mitch practically screamed, causing Kirstin to break down into giggles again, "and maybe it will be a let down, but I'd rather be let down with someone I care about rather than someone I barely know. Does that make sense?"
"To me? Not really. But logically? Yeah, of course it does. I just think a little different, I guess."
"Damn, maybe you are a psychopath."
"I did that quiz with you watching me and it said I wasn't!"
"I'm kidding, you know," he says as he leans his head over to look down at her, "Love you."
"I love you too and my only goal in life right now is to find you a cute ass boyfriend. Oh wait, maybe a cute dick boyfriend is a better term, since you're the one with the cute ass."
"You think my ass is cute? Are you crushing on the gay kid? Sounds gay, bro."
Kirstin faked a puking noise and they both hiccuped with laughter, "Yeah, I mean, I did have a crush on you when I was about 9 years old. But she was oblivious and only cared about how nice you were to me because all other boys were gross and snotty and covered in dirt."
"Oh so now you're calling 9 year old me ugly," Mitch said indignantly, glaring at her.
"Yeah I am, and not much has changed honestly."
"Hey!" Mitch said, smacking her arm and rolling over to grab the pillow he'd been lying on before whipping it down to hit her face.
Just then, the door opened, and Mitch dropped the pillow, looking up at his mom guiltily. "Mitchell, what are you doing?"
"He's attacking me, Nel, you've got to stop him!"
Mitch gasped and shook his head, "She called me ugly!"
"I didn't say you were ugly!"
"Well, you implied it!"
"Okay, enough you two hooligans," Mitch's mother said, a glint of amusement in her eye, "I'm just coming up to let you both know that I'm just about done dinner."
Kirstin grinned and she sniffed the air, "Ooh, it smells good. Bet it'll taste even better."
"You're not getting out of doing dishes by complimenting me, Kirstie."
"I never get a break in this house! Never."
Nel rolled her eyes, "Come down in a minute, and no more hitting people with pillows or calling each other ugly."
"It was just her who called me ugly! I would never!" Mitch yelled after his mom as she walked away back down the stairs. He sighed as Kirstin got to her feet, "Help me?"
His friend reached down with both hands and pulled him up to his feet, reaching over and grabbing his cane to hand over to him. He smiled his thanks as they started over towards the door, and Kirstin said, "You know I'm going to be doing everything in my power to get you and Scott together, right?"
"He's not even gay, Kirst."
"You don't know that! Don't be so quick to judge!"
Mitch shot her a look, "He's friends with Kevin Olusola, who I'm pretty sure might have won the 'straightest person on the planet' award 16 years in a row."
She scoffed in return, "Yeah, well I'm friends with the gayest person in the world but I still don't want to fuck pussy."
"Hey, that's trans exclusive."
"Stop calling me out!"
"Not until you stop being problematic! Now shut up before my mom hears you talking about pussy."
His mother's confused voice came from downstairs, "Mitchell? What did you just say?"
"Oh for fucks sake," he muttered under his breath, shoving Kirstin with his shoulder when she began cackling, "keep your mouth shut. Let's go eat, I'm starving."
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
As the days shortened in length, cooler winds brought through weather that was more tolerable, the sweltering heat fading to mild temperatures. This cooling was always a reminder of the panic of midterms and college essays and Scott felt swamped in work. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to do with his life, electing to take a gap year to sort himself out, but even without the looming cloud of college over his head, he needed to get good enough grades to succeed the next year when he did apply.
His studying habits had always been healthy enough, so he had stuck himself into the local library, his calculus textbook out while he puzzled through equations and limits. He was getting tired though; he’d been working for 3 hours straight and was planning on heading home soon to get some dinner and sleep.
A shadow passed over the light coming down from the ceiling, and he glanced up casually to see the source. He did a double take when he noticed someone standing in front of him, smiling sweetly, that someone being Kirstin Maldonado.
Kirstie was well known around school; she was on every council and rep team possible. She was the school’s student president as well, her popularity getting her elected easily. Why she was standing in front of him now, Scott had no clue.
“Hi, Scott right?” she asked, waiting for him to nod awkwardly before continuing, “Sorry for bothering you but I noticed that you’ve been here for a while and you look like you could use a break. Wanna go grab a coffee or something?”
He squinted up at her, trying to figure the situation out. Was she hitting in him? He always sucked at receiving signals and not being out at school had its fair share of issues. Plus, they’d never really talked before.
She seemed to sense his hesitation, cutting through his thoughts by saying, “Not just me, Mitch would come too.”
This for sure got his attention and he cringed internally when he visibly perked up at the news. His eyes swept around the room and landed on the boy, who was sitting at a table only a few metres away. He was staring and blushed deeply when he noticed he’d been caught, ducking his head back down to hide.
How Scott had not noticed them was unbeknownst to him. He’d been too encompassed in his boring school work, determined to get it done so he could have a break over the weekend, to even look up for a minute and realize he wasn’t alone.
“Um… sure,” he said slowly, looking back at Kirstin, who was grinning widely, a little twinkle in her eye. He didn’t particularly like that look but she wasn’t known to be an asshole so he kept his mouth shut and didn’t question it.
“Cool! We’ll pack up then, Mitchy and I usually just walk down the street to the Starbucks, I hope that works for you.”
“Actually, I drove, we can go pretty much anywhere,” Scott said in response, letting out a little huff of a laugh when Kirstin squealed.
“Oh my God you’re an angel, thank you so much,” she said, watching as he began to pack up his things, “I’m starving! Come on, screw coffee, we’re getting dinner.”
Once he was packed, he followed her back to the other table, noticing that Mitch was still red in the cheeks and obviously avoiding his eyes. It was then that Scott realized that the boy might be totally uncomfortable with him tagging on.
Kirstin was the first to say something, “Okay, Scott has a car so change of plans. I really want a burger so can we go to a sit in diner or something?”
Mitch nodded silently, and Scott decided that he needed to speak up, “Hey.” Mitch glanced at him timidly and gave him a small smile. “Are you okay with me coming too?”
That seemed to surprise him a bit, big brown eyes flickering over to hold his stare. After a few seconds of quiet, Mitch’s clear voice rang out quietly, “Yes.”
“Okay,” Scott said, although he wasn’t totally convinced. He waited until they were ready before leading the way out, matching his pace to Kirstin’s. He’d completely forgotten that the two of them were best friends. In fact, Kirstin had been at the pool when Mitch had gone under. He’d sat next to her while they were treated for shock. They hadn’t spoken at all, too shaken up to really make conversation then.
They shuffled into his car, Mitch in the passenger’s and Kirstin in the back. “So Scott, what are your plans for next year?” Kirstin asked when he turned out onto the road, music trickling out from the speakers.
He shrugged, “Not sure, honestly. I was gonna take a gap year. What about you guys?”
“I’m hopefully going to college, I want to do musical theatre,” Kirstin said, and when it was obvious that Mitch wasn’t going to say something, she spoke for him, “Mitch wants to be a musical therapist.”
Scott glanced over at him before looking back to the road, “I didn’t even know that was a thing! Sounds cool. I’m probably going to end up doing some kind of math degree.” He chuckled at Kirstin’s groan, “I know it’s boring but I’m good at it.”
“I thought you’d do lifeguarding or something,” she replied.
Scott tensed at that, grimacing. He hated talking about lifeguarding now. “Yeah, I… I don’t know… it’s not for me anymore.”
They were quiet before Kirstin spoke up again, “Sorry. I wasn’t really thinking, that was a shitty thing for me to say.”
A quiet “Yeah,” could be heard, barely audible over the music, and Scott couldn’t help but glance sideways again. Mitch looked suddenly exhausted, like the reminder had just burdened him with so much baggage again. He was avoiding eye contact again, looking out the window with a stone cold expression.
“Sorry, Mitchy,” Kirstin said softly, looping her arms around the seat in front of her to clasp around his chest.
“You’re good,” he said, one hand coming up to hold both of her own.
Scott just let them have their moment, zoning out a little as they talked to one another. Their words obviously weren’t meant for his ears.
They arrived shortly after at the diner Kirstin had requested, and she bounced over at record speed, leaving Scott to wait for Mitch to extract himself from the car. The boy looked mildly annoyed and was glaring at Kirstin, who was already all the way across the parking lot. Scott shut his own door and rounded the front of the car, holding a hand out with a small smile. Mitch hesitated before accepting.
They walked over side by side, Scott with his hands awkwardly in his pockets, Mitch gripping his cane especially tight. There was a lot of tension between them and Scott was quickly regretting agreeing to this trip. He knew his presence would likely be distressing and he still said yes just because he selfishly wanted to get to know Mitch better.
The bell tinkled when they entered, instantly greeted by a waitress who was sweeping by with a few full plates in her hands, on her way to drop off the food. He spotted Kirstin already sitting at a booth, as close to the door as possible, and let Mitch lead the way over.
The brunet slid into the booth next to Kirstin so Scott took the other side, giving them both a small smile before averting his gaze to the table.
A moment later they had menus and he had a better reason to be avoiding their eyes. He was still thinking about how he shouldn’t have come, how he was probably on causing Mitch discomfort. He didn’t have long to think before he had to pay attention again while Kirstin rattled off her favourites on the menu, explaining why they were the best and helping the other two pick out their meals. They ordered and sat around for another awkward 10 seconds before Scott took the initiative to speak, “What are you guys studying for?”
“Ugh, functions, it’s horrible,” Kirstin said dramatically. Scott could see the briefest smile grace Mitch’s face. “I’m just soooooo busy right now, with the Snowflake Dance and there was something that happened in council that I’m not supposed to talk about but let me tell you… It’s messy.”
“You’re not going to tell me?” Mitch said, joking tone throwing Scott off a bit.
Kirstin rolled her eyes, “We have a guest, if you didn’t notice.” She looked at Scott, “You’re lucky, you know, we don’t usually bring people along. Consider this a treat.”
“You have an incredible god complex, Kirstie,” Mitch said, still softly, but the teasing aspect was there in his tone.
“He should be feeling honoured!” she said indignantly, “He’s been invited to hang out with two of the hottest ladies in the whole school.”
Scott had taken a big gulp of water and almost spit it out in a fit of laughter. He managed to hold it in before he was safe and then couldn’t help the bursts of laughter from slipping out. Mitch was beet red again with his face in his hands and Kirstin was grinning like a cheshire cat. “Kirst,” Mitch whined, still hiding his face.
“Oh come on, he knows I’m joking,” she said, winking at him, “... kinda.”
“Honestly, I think my friends are going to be jealous,” Scott remarked once he’d calmed down enough, “Actually, one of them has a huge crush on you, Kirstie.”
Kirstin shrugged, her grin subsiding a little, “That’s not surprising. I mean look at me, I’m gorgeous.” There was a pause before she slapped Mitch’s arm, “This is the part where you’re supposed to validate me.”
The groan she got in response made Scott chuckle again. He noticed that Mitch couldn’t even look at him and instantly his brain filled with possible scenarios of how he’d messed up or made him uncomfortable. He got a glance his way but instantly the boy was staring at the table again, his cheeks and ears red.
Kirstin just kept on talking, “What about you Scott? Got eyes on any girls? You gonna ask someone to the dance?”
He grimaced, looking to the side and out the window, his chipper mood instantly dropping, He knew that if anyone from the school could read him, it was Kirstin. He had a firm grasp on the fact that she knew all the gossip going around the school and surely there had to have been rumours. He wasn’t really comfortable diving into this territory with someone he didn’t know and even his close friends rarely talked to him about his romantic life. It was mostly because he didn’t have one. Scott knew that if he did start dating someone, he’d have to officially come out. No more hiding behind that giant, scary closet door.
He also knew that this environment would probably be the safest for him to say something, so he was torn. He didn’t like stereotyping but after Kirstin’s comment about her and Mitch being ladies, he was pretty sure the slim, well groomed boy was gay, or at least somewhere on the spectrum. Mitch had always been a little more feminine than the other guys, and in middle school he was called gay as an insult quite often. It made Scott’s blood boil but it also made him cautious to reveal anything. He didn’t want to be caught up in a mess like that in his last year.
“Uh… not really,” he responded, trying to think of a valid excuse for why he might not be interested in girls had he been straight.
He had obviously taken too long before giving a better explanation as she cut in, “And? Why? What’s the reason?”
He fish mouthed for a second. He wanted to just say it. He’d only ever said it once to his family. He knew these two would be accepting.
But he couldn’t do it, It was all going far too fast and he wasn’t ready to reveal such a personal part of himself to almost complete strangers. “I don’t know, honestly, I’ve just never really been interested,” he said. It wasn’t really a lie, it was a truth that wasn’t the whole truth. He hated lying but this felt a little better. “I think part of me knows that I plan on moving away so dating just isn’t… on the table. It would cause too many issues.”
“So you wouldn’t date anyone ?” Kirstin asked. Scott could tell that she was trying to prompt him but he couldn’t figure out what she was waiting for him to say.
“Um,” he said, laughing nervously, “I can’t tell if you’re trying to get dirt on me or awkwardly hitting on me.”
She chuckled, shaking her head, “Neither, honestly, I’m just super forward. Sorry if that bothers you, Mitch says that I can be overbearing and invasive. Just tell me to shut and I will.”
“Okay…” Scott agreed, happy that they were interrupted by their food arriving.
He dug in, glad to have a distraction and a reason to end that conversation there. Kirstin was yet again as unphased as ever, but Mitch was just as uncomfortable as Scott appeared to be. His friend didn’t seem to mind much, as if this was a pretty common occurrence, and rocketed on, “You should come, at least, I’ve spent way too much time planning this stupid dance to have you ditch. I know it’s not like prom or anything but it’s going to be fun and we’re going to have a crazy after party at Zach Keeton’s house. You like to drink?”
“A bit, yeah,” Scott said, “and I was probably going to get dragged along anyways, so don’t worry. I’ll be there.”
“Dragged along?” Kirstin said indignantly, although he could tell she as joking, “Okay well, I’m technically dragging Mitchy along but it’s his duty to support me in all of my endeavours so-”
“I don’t remember signing that contract,” he commented, giving her a look out of the side of his eye.
“Oh my god, would you stop,” she laughed, elbowing him, “I don’t remember signing up for you to become a sassy bitch!”
“I learned from the best,” Mitch said, his tone sweet but in an ironic way. Scott was just left smiling as they bantered back and forth, amused by how easily they played off of each other. It was almost like a well rehearsed dance.
“I’m so happy that my superior intellect could be of service,” Kirstin shot back, rolling her eyes, “Sorry, don’t listen to him, sometimes he gets a bit out of control and I have to reign him back in. He’s like a… a dog! Yeah. A dog.”
“I’m telling Nel you said that,” Mitch said.
“You wouldn’t dare. Also, you have no proof.”
“Scott would be my witness, right?”
It was the first time he’d been directly addressed by Mitch and he was slightly surprised but he decided to play along, even though he had no clue who Nel was. He nodded and stifled a laugh at Kirstin’s horrified expression, “Oh so now you’re going to betray me too?”
“Okay, I do not want to get involved in this,” Scott said.
“Hey, you said you would!” Mitch said before his cheeks turned pink and he stared back down at his lap.
“You’re not a dog, Mitch, I was lying. You’re more like a… sphynx cat-”
“Oh, I love them.”
“-Entitled, needy for attention and loud as fuck.”
Mitch just about slapped her as he laughed, “I really do hate you, you know.”
“Hate you too,” she said with a huff, leaning against him, her head falling onto his shoulder. Scott just smiled at them, watching Kirstin’s eyes meet his, “I’m surprised you haven’t called us a ‘cute couple’ yet.”
“Ew,” Mitch mumbled, his nose scrunching in mock disgust.
“I don’t know, I got the vibe that you were just friends,” Scott admitted, causing Mitch to tense a little. “You’re safe, it’s okay,” he said quickly, giving him a reassuring look, “I’m not an asshole.”
“Oh my god and you’re not homophobic, you’re literally such a catch,” Kirstin exclaimed, gawking at him, “Date me right fucking now.” Scott turned red and laughed anxiously. “I’m lowkey serious,” Kirstin said with a shrug.
Now it was his turn to look down at his lap. He tried his best to deflect, “I have a friend who has a crush on you, remember? I couldn’t do that to him.”
“Okay, fine, is he homophobic?” Kirstin said, looking a little bored, but Scott could tell that she was only joking, “because I’m not dating anyone who’s going to be terrible to Mitch.”
“No, he’s cool.”
“How do you know?” she pressed, “Do y’all just chat about this stuff like a bunch of bros or something? Is that normal bro talk?”
“Trust me, I know,” Scott said, feeling as if he might be being cornered again.
“You can’t just say that and not give me a reason!”
“Kirst,” Mitch said lowly, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.
“Listen, I just know. I can’t give you a good reason, but everyone I’m close too is accepting. That’s all I can tell you,” Scott replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“Okay, but which one is it that likes me,” Kirstin said, changing the subject slightly, “Is it Kevin?”
“No, it’s Avi,” Scott said, grimacing after the fact, “I shouldn’t have said anything, don’t tell him I told you.”
“Is he the one with the crazy facial hair?”
“He’s cute,” Scott could hear Mitch say softly, watching as the smaller boy nudged his friend subtly.
Kirstin rolled her eyes a little and looked at Mitch, “Oh now you’re going to steal my man, huh? Again?”
“What do you mean again!” her friend replied shrilly, looking at her with wide eyes, “Don’t say that!”
“I’m kidding, shhhh,” she laughed, wrapping her arms around his thin body and pulling him close, “He’s never done that to me. Don’t run off spreading rumours.”
They chatted some more, and Scott was happy to observe that Mitch was obviously becoming more and more comfortable with him around. Kirstin acted as a good buffer and made the boy’s more bold side show every now and then.
An hour or so later they were headed back to Scott’s car so that he could drive them home. “We should do this again!” Kirstin said as she hopped into the back seat, Mitch letting himself be helped into his own, “You’re fun. And really nice. Most guys are not that.”
“Thanks,” Scott said, not really sure what to say, as he slid into his own seat and started up the car, “I can give you both my number if you want.”
“Yes!” Kirstin said, “But before that, I wanna take a snap for my story. Here, take it and then add yourself.” The phone appeared and Scott grabbed it, making sure everyone was visible before snapping the picture, adding himself and then passing it back to Kirstin. “Ugh, we’re so cute, but we should for sure do this again, I had fun.”
“Me too,” Mitch said softly, a shy smile on his face.
“Good, maybe you guys should meet my close friends,” Scott recommended, “We usually do Saturdays at my place if you wanna come. We just watch movies and talk and… honestly that’s about it. We’re pretty boring.”
“Sounds like exactly what Mitch and I do,” Kirstin said with a laugh, reaching forwards to pat his shoulder as he pulled them out of the parking lot, “Just let me know and we’ll be there.”
“Cool,” Scott replied, smiling too, “Sounds good.”
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
“I told you!” Kirstin said when they were finally back in Mitch’s room, “He’s totally gay.”
“Stop!” Mitch said with a whine, glaring at her, “He’s not. Stop assuming things!”
“He would not stop deflecting whenever I brought up girls and he said all of his friends are accepting but he couldn't give me a solid reason for why that would be the case. Why else would he say stuff like that?”
“First of all, you need to stop digging,” the brunet said, sitting down on his bed and letting his cane drop to the ground, “I would be so uncomfortable if I was him. I’d feel like I was being picked apart. You can’t just force someone to out themself, okay?”
“Sorry,” Kirstin said, although she didn’t sound all that genuine.
“I’m serious, Kirst, it’s not okay!” he said with a sigh, rubbing both hands over his face and closing his eyes, “If he is gay then he probably doesn’t want to be outed to a school full of homophobes. So stop pushing him.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” she conceded, actually looking a little guilty, “I just got excited.”
“And secondly, even if he is gay, I’m not dating someone in the closet,” Mitch said, glancing at her, “I’m just not interested. I wouldn’t be able to do that.”
“Because I don’t want to have to hide something like that, or have to pretend at school, I’m so tired of pretending. Do you know how exhausting that would be? Hiding our relationship? It’s not worth it.”
“Okay, well, if he is gay and he comes out, would you date him?”
“I don’t know!” Mitch said, “He’s very sweet and easy to talk to but I just don’t want to risk something like that when I’m so close to being out of here.”
“You can still date him while moving, you know,” Kirstin said as she sat down next to him, draping an arm over his shoulders, “He even said himself he wanted to move as well! Maybe you’ll end up moving together because you’ll be so in loooooove. ”
“You’re so ridiculous,” he said, although he couldn’t stop the smile that wiggled its way onto his face, “I love you.”
“I know you do, I love you too,” she said, kissing his cheek, “Now, let’s get you this man. We’re gonna go to his place saturday and I’m going to make you look good as hell.”
“I thought I always looked good as hell!”
“You do, you do, I’m just gonna jazz it all up a bit, really go all out,” she clarified, “He won’t be able to stop drooling when he sees you.”
“Who won’t be able to stop drooling?”
“Noooooo, Kirstin don’t you dare,” Mitch warned when he saw his mother in the doorway, covering his quickly reddening face.
“Oh, Mitchy has a crush, Nel, and he’s a sweetheart.”
“Oh come on, it’s not that serious,” she said, rolling her eyes, “We don’t even know if he’s gay, honestly, but he’s very nice and I approve.”
“Well, if you approve then I approve,” Nel said, grinning as well, “I have leftovers if you want some.”
“Oh we ate out, Mitch’s boyfriend has a car and he drove us to get food.”
“He’s not my boyfriend!”
“I’m just teasing,” she said, patting his thigh and pecking his cheek again, “What I meant to say is that we’re full but maybe I’ll steal some and bring them home.”
Nel nodded and began to back out, “Alright, you two have fun, and Mitch?” The boy looked up, still red in the face, “I better meet this boy before you two start going out.”
“We’re not going out!” he protested when the other two laughed.
“Okay honey, whatever you say,” his mom said, shrugging her shoulders before slipping back out the door and down the stairs.
“I’m really about to kill you right now,” Mitch muttered, although he was smiling a little, cuddling into Kirstin’s arms.
“You love me, don’t even try.”
“I do. I really do.”
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Mitch was scared. He didn’t like meeting and getting to know new people very much, in fact he’d rather do just about anything else. But he really wanted to get to know Scott better and Kirstin was excited to he kept his mouth shut.
Scott’s house looked huge, too, at least from the outside. He had a two car garage and was living in the super rich area of town, so Mitch was honestly surprised that the boy had had a summer job at all. He was obviously well-off and wouldn’t have needed it to have enough cash to spend on any college or university of his choosing.
They hobbled up the flat-paved steps and Kirstin rang the doorbell a few times, just to be obnoxious. When it finally opened, Mitch forced himself to breathe because hot damn , did Scott look so handsome. He was dressed down (not that he dressed up much), his usual jeans replaced with jogger-style track pants and a tight t-shirt. Mitch felt like he could be drooling and quickly fixed his now blushing face, hoping his gawking had been ignored entirely.
“Hey! Okay, sweet, everyone’s here, come in!” the blond said, grinning at them and running a hand through his messy hair. Mitch let Kirstin do her usual part in making sure he didn’t trip over the mantle before she helped him slide off his shoes, gripping her hand and flashing her a quick, grateful smile as Scott spoke, “So, it’s me, Avi, Kevin and Matt, and Avi’s older sister might come over later but I’m not sure. She’s chill too, obviously. Oh, and if any of them say anything dumb that you don’t like, just yell at them, I’m serious. They’re all so cool about that stuff. It doesn’t happen, really, but just in case. Here, we’re over in the living room.”
They followed him over, Mitch looking around at the nicely decorated space that was also quite large, as suspected. Rounding a corner, Mitch found himself shying back and situating himself half behind his best friend as they were greeted by the three boys, all of which weren’t paying attention and were more focussed on the game on the TV screen. He didn’t mind, it made it easier to get through this.
“Okay, sit wherever, we have snacks too,” Scott said, almost looking apologetic, “and they’ll probably be like this for the most part. The new COD game came out a few weeks ago and Kev and I are the only ones with XBox’s so…”
“I’m going to be honest and say that I have no idea what language you just spoke right now, but we come in peace, young gamers,” Kirstin said, earner a snort from Mitch, “I’m happy to eat Cheetos all night, honestly, looks fun. I’m always down for free food.”
“Es might come too, so you’ll have another person to talk to,” Avi said, his deep voice giving Mitch shivers.
“She’s only showing up to flirt with Scott,” Matt said with a laugh, bumping his friend’s shoulder with his own before scowling at the screen and swearing under his breath, “Even though she knows it’s futile.”
Scott interrupted by clearing his throat and Mitch caught him glaring at them all. Kirstin must’ve seen as well but she had not shame and was persistent, “Ooh, you lucky, lucky man.”
“Yeah, sure,” the blond said, rolling his eyes.
“Don’t you dare diss my sister, and all of you stop talking about her like that,” Avi said, frowning, “I’ll beat you up.”
“You know I love her,” Scott said with a sigh, leaning back on the couch and shrugging.
“Oh, spill this tea, what’s going on?” Kirstin said.
Scott huffed a little, but the other three boys remained silent. Hesitantly, Kevin asked, “What? What does that mean?” When Kirstin just glanced at him, also confused, he repeated himself, “‘Spill this tea’, what does that mean?”
“Oh my god, sometimes I forget that straight boys are so uncultured,” Kirstin laughed. Mitch couldn’t help but chuckle, but he kept his mouth shut.
“What? Literally what did I do?” Kevin said, now looking ever more confused, “Is it… commonly said? I’ve never heard it before.”
“It means something like ‘give me the details’,” Scott said with a laugh.
“Oh, good, one of you knows at least.”
“Okay, well Esther is a bit pushy is all,” Scott said with another shrug, letting his friends refocus on their game, “She’s sweet and I love her but I’m just not interested.”
Kirstin’s eyebrows furrowed, “Come on, she’s soooo gorgeous, like perfect, and you don’t have any interest at all? You’re missing out. I wish I looked like her.”
“Stop that, you’re perfect,” Mitch said automatically, his cheeks turning pink as she squealed and grabbed his arm.
“See this is why I keep him around, you’re an angel,” Kirstin said pulling him close and forcing him to sit between her legs, leaning back against her, “Take notes, boys. If any man who actually had interest in me treated me like Mitchy does I’d be all over him.”
“Yeah, take notes, Kaplan,” Matt said, loud enough for everyone to hear and laugh along.
Avi was muttering under his breath when Scott randomly asked, “I never found out how you two became so close.”
“Oh, I was lonely and needed a friend,” Kirstin explained, “And Mitch was the only one quiet enough to put up with 8-year-old-me’s bullshit.”
“That’s not true, you were the only one who talked to me,” he said softly, glaring over his shoulder at her, “I still don’t know why you decided to rope me into your mess of a life but…”
“I think I just got dragged,” she said, squeezing him tightly, “You love it, though.”
He just nodded, agreeing being the easiest way out of continuing participating in the conversation. He was already red in the face and uncomfortable with his voice and the way he sounded so he really needed to extract himself from the situation. Scott, ever the gentleman, saved him again, “That’s cute. Y’all would have been cute together, honestly.”
“Ew, okay, we’re not going there,” Kirstin said quickly, sticking her tongue out as Mitch coughed out a laugh.
“So you’re not dating each other,” Matt said, trying to sound casual, “but are you dating anyone else?” There was a beat of silence before his tone turned playful, “Asking for a friend.”
Mitch couldn’t help but laugh at Avi’s exhausted expression, letting his friend keep talking as she said, “Yeah, I’m single. I have my fun though.”
It was quiet again before Kevin asked, “What about Mitch?”
He looked up, surprised, “Huh?”
“What about you, man? You got a boyfriend?”
Mitch couldn’t believe it. Kevin “I’m straighter than an arrow” Olusola was asking him about his love life. He never thought that a group of teenage boys would hold any interest in really getting to know him, but he was already being proved wrong.
He took so long to answer that Matt chimed in, “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”
“No, I… no,” was the best response he could come up with.
“Is that no to the question or no to answering the question?”
“Yes, it’s… um…”
“He’s single, like me,” Kirstin said, rolling her eyes a little bit pulling him closer, “I mean it’s not surprising, all the boys here are dickheads.”
“Not you, idiot, you know the group that I’m talking about,” Kirstin said exasperatedly, punching Scott’s shoulder playfully, “They’re all terrible.”
“You’re not wrong,” Avi said, pursing his lips a little, “I’ve had to deal with them on the football team for all these years now and they continue to amaze me with their stupidity.”
Mitch sat back and listened to them gossip for the next few hours. He was surprised by how much he was enjoying himself. He could get used to this, he could see himself integrating into Scott’s friend group, and Kirstin appeared to be eager as well.
Maybe senior year wouldn’t be as garbage as he first thought.
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
It was two weeks before the winter break started and Kirstin was stressing out. She had been planning the Snowflake Dance for over a month, and now that it was finally creeping up on them at the end of the week, she was even more stressed.
Mitch had done everything he could to make it easier for her, helping her with homework and taking over smaller, easier tasks that she had to do in counsel to make sure she didn’t forget anything. She was beyond grateful, obviously, but their relationship was a bit strained with all the stress piled on top of her already heavy workload.
What was helping was their new found friendship with Scott and his friends. They had been quickly integrated into their everyday routine, joining them at lunch, and going out after school on certain days. It helped that both Avi and Scott had cars, so they could all fit in and travel about without any complications.
Today, they were at Avi’s house, as both his parents were out. His sister had joined in as well, and Mitch could not stop laughing to himself every time she tried to get Scott’s attention. It was pitiful, as he was very visibly not interested, but too polite to ask her to stop.
“Oh my god I’m going to kill Stacy,” Kirstin said suddenly, interrupting the conversation and getting all of their attention.
“What happened,” Mitch said quickly, turning to the girl next to him and putting his hand on her arm, hoping to ground her and calm her a little.
It was rare to see her this stressed out, to the point where her eyes were getting misty. She tried to explain, her voice breaking a little, “She said she had handled the table cloths but she lied and just now told me she forgot to. And I don’t have any spare budget to alot to it.”
Mitch nodded, trying to brainstorm a bit, “I know it’s not ideal, but you can just use those disposable plastic ones from the dollar store, right? We can figure out a way to decorate them a bit, dress the tables up more. Maybe get some shiny snowflake cutouts and sprinkle those around on top of them.”
“Yeah, yeah, I can do that, yeah,” she said, taking a deep breath, grabbing his hand and squeezing it, “Sorry. I’m a mess. This is a mess.”
“It’s okay, I don’t know how you do it,” Mitch confessed, glancing around at the boys and Esther, who were all watching them intently, “I’d go insane if so many flaky people were helping me.”
He flinched when his leg tensed suddenly, going rigid before relaxing at its own accord. He stayed still, hoping it wouldn’t happen again, but swearing under her breath when it did. “Mitch?” Kirstin said, grabbing his arm as he leg began to twitch.
“I’m having a seizure,” he said. He was sitting on the couch, his back pressed up against the cushions as his leg spasmed, grimacing at the shots of pain spiking in the muscles there. His hands went down to grip his thigh, and that was when his right arm twitched as well, “Fuck.”
There was a burst of motion and talking and he was being helped down onto his back, still on the couch. Scott’s face was in his vision but he was having a hard time understanding him as he spoke. He did make out, “You’re safe,” but that was about it.
When he next woke, he was in the same spot, disoriented and very confused. He was on his side, one leg hitched up with his hands in front of his face. He blinked, clearing his foggy vision, Scott’s face the first thing he noticed. “Hey Mitch, are you awake?” Scott said softly. The whole room was quiet in stark contrast to the bustling noise it had been in when he’d gone under. He made a noise in his throat, still feeling a little out of control and utterly exhausted from what was obviously a pretty long seizure. “Do you need to go to the hospital?” Scott asked, his sweet tone bringing tears to Mitch’s eyes. He shut them to hide them.
“No,” he managed to say after a few mumbled attempts. He could feel himself breathing and he hadn’t hit his head from what he could tell. This was a standard but pretty infrequent issue he had had to face. It was only his fifth seizure ever within the span of 8 months.
“Your mom’s on the way, Kirstin’s on the phone with her right now to check in,” Scott said, and Mitch felt a hand pushing through his sweaty hair, moving it out of his eyes. He relaxed into it.
The thoughts that made their way into his brain next were not the best; he was beyond embarrassed. He’d never had a seizure in front of anyone other than his parents. For some reason, having medical issues in front of people always made him feel this way. The one time he had passed out in front of his fifth grade class, he had cried that whole night just thinking about how embarrassing it had been, so this was no exception.
He could feel the tears on his face being wiped away, and he sucked in a breath, forcing himself to calm down. He couldn’t have a panic attack, he might hurt himself by accident. He needed to stay aware.
He opened his eyes again to see Scott close by, down on his knees in front of him to keep their face almost level. He got a cautious smile when he croaked out, “Sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry for, it’s okay,” Scott said, still pushing his tears away.
“You scared me so much, Mitchy,” Kirstin said, and he looked up to see her standing there, her phone still pressed to her ear. Her makeup was smudged and messy, eyeliner and mascara running down her face, “I had no idea what to do, I thought you were dying.”
“Shh, shh, alright, let’s let him rest, he’s probably exhausted,” Scott explained quietly, Mitch nodding a little to confirm.
He was roused next when Kirstin announced his mother arrived, allowing himself to be picked up by Kevin and walked out to her van. The others stayed behind, and he could hear Scott explaining how it would be better and less overwhelming if they stopped crowding him. They strapped him in securely, making sure he was sitting in a reclined position, before the door was shut and he closed his eyes.
His mom chatted idly as they drove home, just trying to keep him present, so he listened and made sounds so that she knew he was still awake. But when he was finally in bed, he passed out faster than he ever had before, his mind going blank the second he’d hit the pillow.
When he next woke, it was to eight separate texts from Kirstin, all asking him how he was, making sure he was okay, apologizing for being such a mess when he needed her and a whole other slew of self deprecating stuff that Mitch didn’t like seeing her say. He quickly typed a message back, trying to clear her worries and explaining that he’d call later so she could check up on him.
He also had a text from Scott that read, “hey, just wanted to check in, how are you?”. It was the first text that he’d ever received from the boy, and he was sort of sad in an odd way that it had to be so dark. He read it over and over again, trying to decide whether he should be real or just brush it off. Before he could regret it, he responded with,
Bad. Embarrassed. Sorry for scaring you.
The response he got was immediate:
don’t think any of that! i’m just happy you’re
i think that came out the wrong way
i meant that you didn’t embarrass
yourself, we all were worried about
you. none of us would ever make fun
of you for something like that.
I know. It’s my anxiety lol I just can’t
convince my mind that what you’re
saying is true. I know it’s true but I also
can’t stop myself from feeling this way.
can i do anything to help?
Mitch bit his lip.
Come over? I don’t want to be alone
There was a pause and then:
omw send me your address
He did, and then realized he hadn’t even let his parents know he was awake. He grabbed his cane and made his way down to the kitchen, happy to see that they were there, eating dinner. It was around 8 at night, but they’d only just sat down a few minutes ago since the chaos of Mitch’s seizure had interfered with their usual meal time.
“Mitch, honey, you’re up!” his mom said, standing from her spot and ushering him over, “Let me get you a plate.”
A few moments later and he had a plate stuffed full of food in front of him, picking nervously at the contents as he tried to figure out how to breach the subject of Scott before he showed up. Nervously, he said, “I invited a friend over, if that’s okay? I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Of course it is, whatever you need right now,” his dad said, pausing and asking, “Who is it? I’ve only ever met Kirstin, of course.”
“We met a little while ago,” Mitch said, a blush spreading across his cheeks, “He’s a new friend.”
“Is this the boy you have a crush on?” his mom asked carefully.
Mitch was a little scared by the look that crossed his father’s face, so before he could say anything he cut in, “I don’t have a crush on him. He is the boy Kirstie was referring to, yes, but he’s just a friend.”
“Keep your door open anyways, if you’re up in your room,” Mike said, giving his son a look that made him blush even more deeply, “I don’t want any funny business going on in my house.”
“I’m serious, Mitchell, don’t go trying to pull the wool over my eyes,” he said sternly, “I trust you, I’m just reminding you.”
“What’s his name?” his mom said, the faintest smile on her face, although she tried to hide it.
This was the awkward part. How do you explain that your new friend is also the man who saved your life a few months back? He didn’t know what to say. His parents were people who liked to forget. He didn’t think they’d take that kindly to Scott being around him.
Before he could figure it out, the doorbell sounded, so he blurted out, “Don’t freak out, okay?”
“Mitch? Baby, what’s wrong?” his mom asked as she stood, getting ready to go let Scott in.
“Just… go get it. Please don’t freak out or make it weird.”
His mom nodded tentatively, heading into the foyer to open the door.
Mitch hung his head as he heard quiet talking and hushed voices, Scott’s distinct tone very obvious in contrast to his mother’s. “Who is it?” his dad said, equally as soft, but Mitch just shook his head, unable to speak. He felt like his throat was clogged off.
It was then that Scott appeared, popping his head into the room first before his body followed. He too looked nervous, and he looked at Mike, smiling anxiously. Mitch heard his dad let out a heavy breath.
“Hi, um, I’m Scott, it’s nice to meet you Mr. Grassi,” he said, his voice a little higher than usual, extending his hand out when he got close enough. Mike took it and shook it, his expression hard to read, but it definitely wasn’t completely positive.
“We’re going upstairs,” Mitch said, his mouth dry, deciding in that moment that he’d rather extricate himself from the situation and suffer the consequences when Scott was gone, than sit there awkwardly and endure whatever his father was planning on saying.
His mother interjected, “Mitch, just-”
“Please, please just let me talk about it later, please,” he begged, shutting his eyes. He knew he was abusing his power in a sick sort of way, since they would do pretty much anything for him after he went through something physically and emotionally taxing, but he seriously couldn’t deal with invasive questioning at that moment.
“Remember what I said, and we are talking later,” his dad said sternly, a sour look on his face, “even if later is tomorrow. I’m okay with you taking time but we are not going to let this go. Do you understand?” He sighed when Mitch looked up enough to show that there were tears in his eyes, “I didn’t mean to upset you so much, Mitch, I just want to make sure I’m clear. Come here.”
He was pulled into a hug as he forced himself to breathe and calm down. He nodded against his dad’s chest before grabbing his cane and motioning for Scott to follow him. The poor boy looked extremely confused and a little guilty, so he grabbed his arm and pulled him along, just wanting to be back in his room so he could relax again.
They climbed the stairs in silence, Mitch dropping face first down onto his bed with a groan. He heard Scott shuffle uncomfortably before he broke the silence, “Uh… what was-”
“Please just… come sit for a bit, I can’t handle it all right now, I’m going to have a fucking panic attack,” Mitch said hoarsely.
He felt a weight settle next to him, still refusing to look up, but Scott quietly said, “Can I touch you?”
He nodded his head and felt a large hand settle on his arm. It sent a chill down his spine, but it also grounded him a bit.
They sat in silence for a few minutes before Mitch finally was able to look up, still refusing to make eye contact. “Sorry,” he said out of habit.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” Scott pointed out. He was propped up against the backboard of Mitch’s bed, leaning over his knees, his hand still extended out to grab Mitch’s arm passively. “Can I ask about what happened down there? You don’t have to tell me, I’m just worried I did something wrong by accident. They seemed unhappy that I was here.”
“They’re not unhappy but… I don’t really want to talk about it, please.”
“Of course, that’s okay,” Scott said quickly, giving him a sweet smile, “I’m here for whatever you need, okay? We don’t have to talk about anything. How are you feeling, though? You don’t have to answer if it’s too much, but I’m worried about you.”
Mitch shrugged, grimacing a little, “Not good. I keep having these horrible thoughts. Like self-destructive stuff.”
“What kind of thoughts?” Scott’s voice was strained and he was stiff, sitting up straight in alarm, “Do you need to go to emergency?”
“What?” Mitch said, finally looking at him, “No! Why would I go there?”
“I just… you’re scaring me right now. You made it sound like you were thinking about harming yourself.”
Realization flooded the boy’s face and he winced a little, a guilty look clouding his features, “No, no no no, I didn’t mean it like that I’m so sorry. Fuck. No, I would say something. I have a deal with my parents about that stuff.” He cringed, realizing too late that he’d said something he didn’t really want Scott to know about, at least not yet. Kirstin knew that he’d become extremely depressed right after he was injured, his disability being the main source of his low mood. He’d made a deal with his mom and dad that if it ever got to a dire point, he’d talk to them first, and Mitch prided himself in his ability to keep his word.
“Okay, fuck, sorry,” Scott said, relaxing a little and squeezing his arm before taking his hand away, “You scared the shit out of me. Can you explain what you mean?”
“I meant stuff like ‘I deserve this’ and all that crap, not-” Mitch shuddered, closing his eyes and rubbing his hands up and down his arms, “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions like that,” Scott said softly.
They sat in silence for a bit, when Scott finally asked, “Can you tell me more?”
Mitch nodded slowly, shrugging his shoulders, “I just feel like I did something to deserve all of the shit I have to go through. And I can’t get my brain to shut up. I know it’s not true and yet that irrational part of me keeps whispering it over and over. I don’t want to be this way anymore.”
His friend was nodding, his brow furrowed, “I think I understand that. Everyone has those thoughts sometimes but you’re saying they’re right at the front of your mind, right?”
“Exactly,” he breathed out, relieved that Scott was getting what he was saying. His mind was such a mess and he wasn’t sure if his thoughts were translating well through his words. “And they’re bad. I don’t want to feel this way.”
“I don’t know if me telling you that those thoughts aren’t true will really help, but just remind yourself every time you have them that you’re dead wrong,” Scott suggested, “Because you are. And that’s not meant to be an insult or anything, I know irrational thoughts can creep into our heads but they’re anxieties that have no ground to stand on. You don’t deserve what’s happened to you, Mitch. You’re funny and kind and an incredible person and what that boy did to you was horrible and had consequences no one should endure.”
Mitch stared at him, his mouth slightly agape, his eyes watery again. He didn’t even know how to respond to that. He wasn’t expecting Scott to say something so meaningful.
“That was probably a bit too deep, huh?” Scott chuckled, looking a little anxious himself.
“Fuck, I-” the brunette choked out, rubbing his hands over his face and clearing his throat, “No, it was so nice. Why are you so nice to me?”
“Are you really asking me that?”
“Yes. I don’t get it.”
Scott looked almost a little angry at that, but he kept his cool, “Because I care about you, Mitch. I know it’s only been a few weeks but I can already tell that you and Kirstie will be lifelong friends of mine, and I don’t like seeing you hurting. You don’t deserve that. And you don’t deserve what’s happened to you in the past.” There was a pause, and then, “Can I ask a question?”
“I mean, it might be a little intrusive, I don’t want to-”
“Just try me, Scott.”
He inhaled deeply, setting his twitching hands in his lap, “I just wanted to know why David was bothering you that day. That was stupid of me to ask, nevermind.”
“He was calling me a faggot.”
Scott’s head whipped up at that, his blue eyes piercing into Mitch’s as they made eye contact.
“He was making fun of my swimsuit. He said that ‘only faggots wear pink’, as if I didn’t already know I was gay,” Mitch relayed, his tone bitter, but there was an ounce of humour buried within. “I never really got that. Like, it’s not an insult to me. It’s true, I am a faggot. Why do they think calling me that is going to surprise me?”
Mitch glanced at the blond, who’s more easy going persona had been dropped for one that he could only describe as pure rage. Scott looked like he was about to blow up, his face red and his muscles tensed. “I want to fucking kill him,” he said, his words coming out on a snarl, “God, if only he was here right now, I’d beat the shit out of him.”
“There’s no reason to be angry about it,” Mitch reasoned, scooting a little closer to try and pop the bubble of rage surrounding his friend, “It’s in the past. I was angry for far too long but I’ve just let go now. It happened and I can’t change that. I still struggle with the emotions of it, obviously since I’m struggling right now, but being mad about something I can’t change is pointless.”
“You’re right, but it makes my blood fucking boil,” Scott said, taking a deep breath and trying to calm himself, “If any of them had the decency to actually have a conversation with you they’d realize that you’re not that much different from anyone else, and maybe they wouldn’t be so grossly homophobic. I can’t believe he pushed you into the pool because of the colour of your swimsuit. That’s insane. Why are people so hateful?”
“I don’t know, Scott,” Mitch replied with a sigh, looking over at his open doorway and frowning when he saw the flicker of a shadow on the wall of the hallway.
“What is it?” Scott asked, noticing the change in his face.
“I think someone was listening, I don’t know for how long, but I saw movement,” Mitch whispered, burying his face in his hands, “I don’t know what I did to make them so suspicious of me right now. I don’t understand.”
“Suspicious of what?”
Mitch snorted at Scott’s cluelessness, shaking his head, “They think we’re dating, Scott.”
He looked up just in time to see the boy’s face register recognition, his lips forming an ‘o’. A laugh escaped Mitch’s mouth at that, his face warm from blushing. Scott’s was similarly rosy. “I didn’t even think of that.”
“Is that why your dad was so off?”
“No, it’s more complicated, I don’t want to explain it right now,” Mitch said. Having to talk about the day he’d been injured any more than they already had would be too difficult for him. He slumped a little, glancing at Scott, “You should probably go. I’m sorry for dragging you out here just to talk for a few minutes.”
“No, this was good, you needed this and I’m always willing to listen,” Scott said, standing and helping Mitch to his feet as well, “You’ll text or call if you need, right? I don’t want you sitting in your thoughts when you can talk to me. Or we can just talk about other stuff, whatever you need.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.”
When they were back in the foyer, Scott slipped on his shoes and grabbed his jacket, sliding it over his shoulders. Mitch hadn’t even had time to admire how good he looked at that moment, with his hair messy and dressed down a little from school. “Here, let’s just step out for a minute, they’re probably listening to us right now,” Mitch said, loud enough that he was sure his parents would hear if they were nearby.
Once outside with the door shut, Scott turned and looked at him, smiling almost bashfully, “Okay. Um- goodnight I guess.” He started to turn before stopping and saying, “Would it be weird to hug you? Like would that make them think we’re dating even more?”
“It would, but I need it,” Mitch replied, leaning on his cane before allowing himself to be engulfed into sturdy arms. It felt right, being held like this by Scott, their bodies close. They fit together perfectly, at just the right heights to hug without bending over or getting up on the tips of their toes.
“Take care of yourself, don’t hesitate to call me,” Scott murmured while they were still close, finally pulling away after a few more seconds of silence.
“I will. Goodnight.”