Spot had—of course—figured out he was in love with fucking Race Higgins while screaming at him.
“I wasn’t just gonna let him get away with it, Race! What did you want me to do?”
“Not punch him across the face, Conlon, Jesus how stupid can you be?!” Race snarled.
Elmer and Albert were sitting quietly between them, looking back and forth between their warring friends. Elmer looked close to tears, even though their fight didn’t even involve him, and Albert had his hands in fists on the table.
“I ain’t stupid, Higgins, you shut your damn mouth!” Spot growled.
“What if he presses charges, whatcha gonna do then, huh?! He called me a name, Sean, so what?”
They all seemed surprised at the use of Spot’s full name, even Race. “He called you a fag! You really think I was gonna let him do that? I stand up for my friends, it’s what I do!”
“You know how many people have shouted slurs at me, Conlon?” Race’s voice was dangerously low.
Spot felt his heart drop into his stomach and his blood boil in his veins. “Yeah, and if I could, I’d punch all of them, too.” He snapped.
“And why’s that?”
Because I love you .
Spot didn’t have time to be surprised. He’d known, anyway.
“Because we’s friends, Race! And when someone says that shit to you, it feels like they’re saying it to me too! No one deserves that shit, even someone as fucking annoying at you!” Spot snarled.
“Quit it.” Elmer’s voice was quiet, practically a whisper compared to Spot’s screaming, but the authority in it had both boys going utterly silent and turning to their youngest friend. “Race, he’s protecting you. Everyone needs a little protecting. I know you understand that.” Elmer said, voice still perfectly calm even though they could all hear the emotion brewing behind it. “Spot, we all love when you protect us, but everyone gets called names, even you. You don’t see us beating those people to a pulp. It’s someone else’s job, not yours.” He said firmly.
Race and Spot met eyes across the table. “I’m sorry.” Race breathed.
Spot nodded, but with a pointed look from Elmer, he caved. “Me too.”
A victorious little smirk came to Elmer’s mouth. “Good, now hug, because I’m sick of both of you.”
Albert snickered, and Spot didn’t move, but Race came around the table and hugged him tightly, tall frame practically dwarfing Spot’s.
“You’re stupid, you know that?” Race whispered to him, but there was no malice in his words.
Spot let his arms come loosely around Race’s waist. “Screw off, Higgins.”
Yup, it was love.