The first thing Racetrack Higgins notices when he wakes up is the splatter of stars across the ceiling, glowing dimly against the darkness of the room. They're old and fading, and he can see spots where some have fallen, so it's obvious they've been there a while.
But they hadn't been there when Race went to bed last night.
He panics for a second, reaching to his left for his comfort toy, a stuffed elephant. His panic only rises when his hand hits air, and he shoots up straight.
This was wrong. His walls weren't supposed to be this color. His sheets were wrong too- all stars and planets instead of the neat polka-dots Albert had gotten him as a gag gift on his fifteenth birthday. And since when did he own a telescope?
He's shaken out of his thoughts by a knock at the door, another sign something is wrong. None of his family members knew how to knock. In fact, manners were pretty much non-existent with his family.
"Spot, hon, you up yet?" A warm voice calls from the other side of the door. Race freezes, because he certainly wasn't this Spot person, but he certainly was in their room. He leaps to his feet, getting tangled in the dark blue comforter. His knee throbs angrily as it connects with the wooden floor, and the door flies open.
"Spot?" The woman in the doorway asks, worry creasing her brow. She makes eye contact with Race and he stiffens, ready for the barrage of questions.
Instead she rushes over, gently helping Race to his feet. "Spot, honey, are you all right?" Her eyes dart up and down, taking in the way Race refuses to put weight on his left leg. She lowers her voice, leaning in. "Is it your knee?"
Race blinks in surprise. "Uh- yeah." His voice is lower than usual, and it shocks him. So many things were wrong. Who was this lady, and why did she think his name was Spot?
"You can stay home today, if you'd like." The woman offers, voice low and sympathetic. "I know Jack promised to take you on his hike today, but I'm sure you guys can raincheck." She ruffles Race's hair, gently guiding him back into the bed that isn't his. "I'll go make breakfast." She places a kiss on his cheeck and exits, leaving Race staring dumbfounded at the closed door.
This wasn't right. He stares at his hands, three shades darker and two sizes too large. This wasn't right. He runs a hand through his hair, only to be met with shorn sides. A bit falls into his face, and he notices the color. Black.
This wasn't right.
He quickly gets to his feet, wincing at the pain in his left knee. He makes it to the door with little difficulty, but pauses, afraid to open it.
What would be out there?
He takes a deep breath, turning the knob.
A normal hallway greets him. The floors are wood, just like in the room behind him. Across from him is a door, and by glancing down the hallway, he can tell there are more, probably five or six. The door directly across from him is labeled, a dry erase board pinned to the door.
Smalls It reads. She/her Blinking, Race turns around. The door behind him also has a plaque, a small wooden sign you could probably find at Target.
Spot It labels. Race rubs his eyes. This was ridiculous. Who was this Spot, and why was Race here, and how come no one thought anything was wrong?
"Ah! Spot!" A voice calls from the end of the hallway, and Race whirls around. There's a boy, probably a year or two older than Race. His skin is tan, and his blue eyes remind Race of Albert's when he has a good joke to tell. The boy jogs over, and Race realizes he's several inches taller than him.
"Heard you weren't feeling well." The boy grimaces. Race has to tilt his head up to look at him, something that irks him. "Sorry you can't join me and Kath on our hike. Next week, alright?"
He's looking at Race expectantly and Race doesn't know what to say. "Uh- yeah." God, was that the only thing he could say? He musters a small smile. "Thanks, Jack."
Jack- that was his name, right? The woman from before had mentioned it, so it must be him- blinks at Race, and for a second Race panics.
"Well, someone's in a good mood today!" Jack grins, clapping a hand onto Race's shoulder, before quickly removing it. "Sorry." He suddenly looks sheepish.
Race gives him a confused look, but Jack breezes past him, heading down the stairs he hadn't noticed before. "Anyways, don't work yourself too hard, okay Spottie? You're still healing, remember."
Race frowns, about to ask a few questions, but the boy is gone, and he feels even more lost than before. There's a growing dread in his stomach. He needs to find a mirror. Now.
Thankfully, the door at the end of the hallway is open, and Race can see a sink. He makes his way there, as quickly as his stupid knee lets him. He pushes open the door, gripping the smooth ceramic sink with both hands. Taking a deep breath, he lifts his head, meeting his own gaze in the glass.
Or really- someone else's gaze. Because it's not Race who stares back at him, but a boy who is definitely not him and who Race is starting to think is Spot.
"Fuck." He mumbles, unable to tear his eyes away. Spot is handsome, Race'll give him that. His arms are strong, and he has an intense face that's alltogether ruined by it's fearful expression, courtesy of Race.
Race squints at the mirror, watching as Spot's chocolate brown eyes narrow into slits. He opens his mouth, watching as Spot mirrors him, revealing rows of pearly white teeth that Race envies. He makes a face, drawing his cheeks apart with both hands.
"Whats gotten into you today?" Race jumps at the voice, turning to see a girl a few years younger than him standing in front of him. Comparing the girl and the person in the mirror, it would be no large leap to assume that this was his- Spot's sister.
"Uh- nothin'." Race covers, wincing at the sound of his voice. How would Spot say that? Based on what he had gathered, Spot was serious. Quiet. Probably someone who wouldn't be making faces at himself in the mirror.
"Miss Medda wanted me to tell you breakfast's ready. She was gonna bring it up here but you seem well enough to walk so she wants you downstairs." The girl relays, straightening her skirt.
"Right." Race manages, clearing his throat. Talk like Spot. Talk like Spot. "I'll be right down."
The girl nods, before skipping away, probably downstairs. Race takes a relieved breath, rubbing his face with his hands. Thank God that was over. He mutters a quick prayer, before realizing that he'd probably have to change before going downstairs. Unless Spot usually went around in sweatpants and a tank top.
Shit. Changing. In someone else's body. He hesitates, fiddling with the edge of the tank top he was wearing. Better to do this in Spot's room, he decides, hurrying back.
A quick survey of Spot's closet determines three things.
One- Spot really, really likes the color red. Nearly all his clothes are some shade of it, and it makes Race nauseous.
Two- Spot really, really likes sleeveless tops, something Race would never dare to put on, not with his skinny spaghetti arms.
Three- Spot is an absolute fashion disaster. None of his clothes are nice looking. They all look like something a street urchin from the 1900's would wear.
Race lets out an exasperated sigh, grabbing the only two matching clothes. A nicer looking shirt (red, of course, and sleeveless), and a nice pair of black jeans.
Now for the hard part. Race fiddles with the tank top again, swallowing hard. It wasn't that he hadn't seen guys naked- he'd seen plenty of guys naked- but it just seemed like a violation of Spot's privacy. Race exhales, making certain the door is locked, before pulling the tank top off in one swoop. Like pulling off a bandaid.
He quickly pulls the red shirt over his head, mussing up his hair once its on. That was the easy part. He quickly repeats the process with his pants, only reaching a snag when the sweatpants get caught on his foot, sending him stumbling into his bed. His knee throbs angrily at him. Stupid knee. At least Spot was fully clothed now, and Race didn't have to worry about that.
He makes his way downstairs, using the handrail as a crutch. The house is bigger than he expected, probably bigger than his own. He follows the sound of talking, making his way to the dining room.
He freezes when he enters, a wave of sound hitting him. It was like this in his house, too, but it was rare that everyone sat together to eat. Here, with Spot's family, the table was full, except for a seat which Spot assumed was his, nestled between two other boys.
"Hey! Spot's up!" One shouts, waving a spoon at Spot. The other, eerily identical to the first, stands up on his chair, waving furiously at Spot.
"Mike, sit down!" The woman from before- Miss Medda, hadn't the girl called her?- chides. "And Ike, put that spoon down before you hit someone in the eye!"
The boys frown, but settle down. "Yes, Miss Medda." They chorus.
Race takes his seat between them, quietly taking in the room.
Jack is on the other side of Mike, shoveling eggs into his mouth at an alarming speed. His eyes are glued to his phone, and he types frantically with one hand. Next to him is the girl, who must be Smalls, because she's the only girl here (aside from Miss Medda). She eats at a much slower rate, eyes focused on Race. He flinches away when he meets her gaze, eyes darting to the next seat. It's a booster seat, and Miss Medda is spoonfeeding the occupant, a young boy with dark curls. A baby, who Race wouldn't have to worry about.
"Hey Spot, why aren't you eatin'?" Mike asks around a spoonful of applesauce.
"Yeah Spot, ain't you hungry?" Ike comments, before gulping down his orange juice in one go. He slams his cup down on the table, turning to Miss Medda. "I'm done eatin', can me 'n Mike go play now?"
Mike quickly finishes his applesauce, giving Miss Medda puppy dog eyes. Their attention off Race, he turns his gaze to the food.
There was quite a lot of food, and Race couldn't pick. It had been so long since he'd had anything other than plain cheerios, or even since he'd eaten anything for breakfast. He finally settles for some scrambled eggs and a single slice of bacon, his mouth watering in anticipation.
He eats slowly, savoring each bite as if it were his last. He almost doesn't notice Jack leaving, muttering something about Katherine and the hike. Mike and Ike leave soon after too, promising to be safe. Smalls finishes after a while, and she takes the twins' plates with her when she goes.
And then it's just him and Miss Medda. "I didn't know you liked eggs." She says after a few moments of silence. Race freezes. Did Spot not like eggs?
"Uhm- yeah." He shoves another forkful into his mouth, hoping to avoid a conversation.
"I'm just-" He pauses at the sound of Miss Medda's voice, way too solemn for his liking. "I feel like I don't know anything about you at all." She folds her hands on the table, and Race doesn't know what to say.
She continues. "I know you said you needed some time before opening up, and I get that. I just want you to know that I'm here for you, and I'm here for Smalls too." She offers him a small smile, which Race returns, although he feels fake just making the motions.
"Uh- thanks." He says quickly, pushing himself to his feet. "I'm sorry- I just need some time-"
Miss Medda also rises to her feet, nodding. "Of course, but if you ever need anything..."
Race nods, swallowing the tight feeling in his throat. He quickly makes his way back upstairs, shutting Spot's door loudly behind him.
What the fuck was that? He heaves a shaky breath, sliding to the ground. Now was not the right time for a panic attack, he reminded himself.
Who was Spot, and why was Race in his body? Did he even exist? Did Race even exist in the first place? Or was it all just one big dream? Maybe he was dreaming now. He gives himself an experimental slap across his face. Nope, not a dream. What if he was stuck like this?
No. He shakes all those thoughts from his head, focus in on steadying his breathing. He pushes himself off the floor, making his way to Spot's desk. He opens the first journal he finds, apparently a science journal, if the looping notes inside are any proof. Spot has nice handwriting, he notes in the back of his head.
Hi! My name is Racetrack Higgins, and I'm currently in your body! He scribbles, his own handwriting looking like chicken scratch next to Spot's neat loops. I'm going to assume you're in my body too! Lucky you. I happen to have a wonderful body, as I'm certain you've noticed by now! I don't know why this is happening, before you ask. I also don't know if this'll happen again, or even if I'll return to my body ever. Sorry for using your science notebook, btw! :) He finishes his note with a few hearts and smiley faces, releasing a shaky breath. This was hell, but he couldn't let it show.
He leaves the notebook open on Spot's desk, for the owner to read when they switched back. If they switched back. If Spot even existed in the first place. He curls up under Spot's blanket, sorely missing his elephant.
A knock on the door jerks him from his thoughts, and the light streaming in from his window tells him some time has past. He remembers the person at the door and clears his throat. "Come in." He calls, still quite unused to Spot's deeper voice.
The door opens to an unfamiliar boy, dark hair streaked with green.
"Hey Spot!" He greets, quietly closing the door behind him. "Miss Medda told me you weren't feeling well. Is it your knee?"
Race shifts on his bed, mind in panic mode. "Uh- yeah." Who the hell was this kid? A friend? Another family member he hadn't met yet? A boyfriend?
The boy seems to take Race's movement as a sign to sit down next to him, seemingly not noticing how Race tenses. "Here. Gimme." He makes a grabbing gesture with his hands.
The boy tilts his head, raising his eyebrows. "What, you don't want a famous Kasprzak massage? My family's famous, y'know. Gimme your leg."
Race hesitantly puts his leg onto the boy's lap, shivering slightly when his cold hands touch his knee. For the first time, Race notices the scar there. He doesn't get much of a chance to study it before the boy's hands are covering it, gently massaging the spot, sending a shiver down Race's spine.
"Hey Spottie, have you started the Bunsen essay yet?" The boy asks, gently working his way down Race's leg. Race tenses, but the boy continues, as if used to silence. "I'm kinda stumped, and of course Davey isn't any help. He just tells me to stop falling asleep in class, but you know how hard it is for me!" He whines, lower lip jutting out in a pout. Race nods his head, if only to pretend to be listening.
"I'm actually failing his class right now, which is no big surprise. Yesterday he actually stopped me after class! He was all like 'Elmer, I know my class is hard for you, but if you need help, just see me after school.'" The boy- Elmer- lowers his voice in an impression of his teacher. "And I was like- dude! Okay! I'm sorry I keep falling asleep!" Elmer continues his story, occasionally waving his hand around. For the most part though, it stays on Race's knee, relieving the pain he'd been feeling all morning.
Race takes the moment to study Elmer, the boy's attention on his knee. There are three freckles bridging his nose he hadn't noticed before, and his brown eyes remind Race of the caramel treats Albert loves to eat. He's certainly cute, which brings up the thought he'd had earlier.
Did Spot have a boyfriend? And was it Elmer? Elmer certainly seemed comfortable around him, more so than Spot's family did. It didn't help that Elmer's hand was slowly making it's way up his thigh.
"Spot?" Elmer's voice drags him from his thoughts, and he looks up, blinking. "You feeling better?" He asks. Race cant help comparing him to a puppy, with the way his eyes seemed to get impossibly bigger.
Answer like a boyfriend. He reminds himself. "Always with you around." He replies, flashing Elmer a (hopefully) charismatic grin.
Elmer's cheeks flush, and he breaks eye contact. "Oh." He squeaks, hands stilling on Race's knee. "Are you sure you're feeling okay? You're not acting like yourself..."
Race mentally curses himself. Not a boyfriend, then. "Sorry, I didn't sleep well." He excuses. Would Spot laugh here? He laughs, a low chuckle that surprised him, and apparently also Elmer.
"I- should go." Elmer stands quickly, worry visible in his brown eyes. "Sleep well, Spot."
As soon as he disappears, Race buries his face in his hands. "Shit." He mumbles. How was it possible to mess something up so badly? Spot was pretty much the exact opposite of him, and he hated it. He hated every bit of it, all the pretending to be someone he obviously wasn't.
He flops down onto the bed, staring up at the glowing stars. "Hey stars." He challenges. "What did I do to deserve this?" The stars, of course, don't answer. "Fuck." He groans, rolling over.
Today was the worst.