“A chemistry class,” Jesper declared, leaning back on the lab station as they waited for Mr. Haskell, their aging teacher, to check their completed lab, “has no business being this boring.”
Haskell was still several stations away from reaching Jesper and Wylan’s—a reality that Jesper looked thoroughly irritated by. That was one thing Wylan had learned in the two months since he’d been assigned Jesper Fahey as a lab partner: the guy did not like waiting. (He’d also learned that said guy was decidedly gorgeous, but Wylan was decidedly not going to think about that.)
“I mean seriously,” he continued. “Two months, and we haven’t even blown anything up. What kind of chemistry class doesn’t blow anything up?”
“A very boring one,” Wylan agreed. He didn’t hate chemistry, but he’d rather be working through an equation or rehearsing his latest piece in the band room than mindlessly completing labs that, as Jesper had pointed out, didn’t even involve explosions.
“Think you could make it a little less boring?” Jesper waggled an eyebrow suggestively.
Wylan rolled his eyes. This was part of the routine they’d fallen into—Jesper flirting with him meaninglessly, Wylan snapping back with something sarcastic while the heat colors his cheeks, Jesper making a joke about how easily Wylan blushes—and Wylan relished the look of surprise on Jesper’s face when he broke form by responding: “You know, maybe I could.”
“Your friend Kaz,” Wylan said slowly, the beginnings of a grin playing at the edges of his lips. “Could he get his hands on some sodium?”
“Like, salt? I’m pretty sure you can just pick that up at the grocery store, Wy.”
“Shut up, you know that’s sodium chloride.“ The mocking smile on Jesper’s face made it clear that he was very much aware of that fact, but choosing to ignore it for the sake of being irritating. “Anyways, pure sodium is too reactive for Haskell to store in large quantities here, but if you could get me a softball-sized chunk of it, I can definitely remedy our curriculum’s lack of explosions for you.”
Jesper grinned. “Now that,” he said grandly, “sounds more like it.”
It was a few days later when Wylan met up with Jesper in front of an empty construction site just outside of his own neighborhood. The plot of land would eventually be built up with a luxury apartment complex, but for now, it contained only large piles of dirt and rock, and more importantly, a temporary drainage pond.
“No trespassing,” Jesper read aloud from the large sign with boldly printed letters that stood in front of them. He turned to Wylan. “Trying to up your bad boy cred, Van Eck? Because—”
Wylan didn’t let him finish before walking to the other side of the sign and leveling a pointed glare at the taller boy. “You have the sodium?” he asked as they made their way towards the drainage pond.
“No,” Jesper replied, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I just walked all the way across town to your fancy-ass neighborhood for some afternoon tea and an impromptu piano recital.”
Wylan rolled his eyes. “Flute,” he muttered.
“That’s even worse.”
When Jesper lobbed the sodium into the pond at Wylan’s instruction, it arced gracefully through the air before landing with a small splash as it hit the water. For a moment, nothing happened. Another moment, and a cloudy gas began to form. Another moment, and a small fire burned on the surface of the water. Jesper didn’t seem particularly impressed by the flames.
“This is cute and all, but you promised me an—"
The sound was like an entire pack of firecrackers ripping through the air at once, loud and sudden and all-consuming. The flames shot skyward, sending up both a fiery orange mushroom cloud and an enormous spout of water that evaporated into a curtain of billowing white vapor stretching high into the air.
“—explosion,” Jesper finished softly. “Holy shit, Van Eck. You’ve got some hidden depths.”
Wylan knew that he was grinning like an idiot, but he didn’t particularly care at that moment. He felt the familiar flush of adrenaline that came from a particularly satisfying explosion, and the less-familiar but no less exhilarating warmth building in his chest that amplified by a thousand when Jesper swung a long arm around his shoulder and let out a bark of laughter that, up close, seemed to rival the force of the explosion. He wanted to stay in that moment for a little while longer—just himself, the fading adrenaline, and his forcibly-assigned lab partner turned co-conspirator turned friend (and maybe something else, too)—but he could just make out the steady alternating whine of sirens in the distance.
“Fuck,” he swore, which sent Jesper into fresh peals of laughter—until he heard the sirens too.
“Fuck,” Jesper agreed. And they ran.