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in this town of ones and zeros

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At seventeen Scout stops chasing Bella. She’s still his favorite girl (though Jake would punch him twice for saying it) and he loves her more now than he ever did when he was fighting petty battles with Sean, using her as an excuse to pretend it wasn’t really Will they were laying claim to. She’s everything he’s always thought he wanted, and then he wakes up and realizes what she realized a long time ago: that none of it was really about her in the first place.

He goes to Hamilton first – or rather, he goes to Jake, but there hasn’t been much of a difference since the day they met – because he can’t go to Will and he can’t go to Bella, and maybe he could go to Sean but then wouldn’t that just be history repeating itself?

“Remember when you thought you were gay?” he says, which isn’t what he’d meant to say at all, and Hamilton shrugs and nods and looks at Jake like she’s everything.

“Sure,” Hamilton says, and Scout wonders if he’s ever going to get enough of the story out of them to understand why Hamilton’s always been so matter-of-fact about it all.

Jake tilts her head and looks at him speculatively, and Scout wonders if she’s just figuring it out or if she’s letting him believe that to make him feel better. “Oh, Calhoun,” she says, and Scout falls back on her bed with a sigh. “Way to keep the drama quota intact.”

Hamilton picks up his guitar from where it’s migrated to Jake’s floor and strums a few chords. “You’ll get over it,” he says, and Scout’s about to protest when Hamilton continues. “The gender thing. You’ll get over it. Or-- I did. I was always meant to be with Jake; a lettered chromosome wasn’t going to change that.”

“I really need to stop underestimating you, man,” Scout says, and Hamilton scoffs and gives him a dead arm and that’s that, really.


“Are you okay?” Will says, and he’s wearing his concerned face, the one somewhere between you really should have done that essay earlier and crap, what did your dad say now?

Scout focuses on the slight lines that form when he furrows his brow and doesn’t wonder how long he’s been able to decipher Will’s expressions.

“I’m fine,” he says. “I’m hanging out with Jake in a bit, I should get going.”

“Scout--” Will says, hesitating, and Scout’s breath catches, just a little. “You don’t have a thing for Jake, right? Because I’m fairly sure Hamilton would actually kill you.”

Will looks startled when Scout starts laughing, then relieved, and Scout slings an arm around his shoulders, promises him he’s not that stupid, and doesn’t say why would I have a thing for anyone but you?


Finn has them reciting the Romantics on the grounds, attempting to live out his own version of Dead Poets Society, and like everyone else Scout’s immune enough to go along with it, spreading his arms and proclaiming his undying love in verse to a flurry of sophomores from the girls school who giggle and speed up, looking back over their shoulders as Hamilton and Will laugh and drag him down to the grass.

Scout grins and plays it out and focuses on the way Will’s fingers feel around his wrist, wondering if he can make out the speed of his pulse, and hoping he never does something so stupid as to write Will a sonnet just because Will’s a hopelessly starry-eyed idealist and Scout’s just plain hopeless.

(Calhoun’s always know a lost cause, though, so he’s not hedging his bets.)


“It’s kind of creepy how invested in our lives you are,” Scout says when Ryder corners him by the boat shed, smirk firmly in place and a knowing glint in his eye that would usually have Scout running.

He’s tired, though; Will’s off on some townie-tradition camping trip with Sean, and something involving the Dean has turned Finn into enough of a tyrant to schedule drills from six a.m. instead of facing his problems, so Scout really doesn’t have the energy to be dealing with Ryder’s crap today.

“You know, Hamilton and Jake were obvious,” Ryder says, lighting a cigarette and leaning close. “I’ve got to hand it to you, Calhoun, at least you’ve learnt the art of subtlety.”

“Are you hitting on me?” Scout asks, after a moment, and he’s as surprised by the words as Ryder is, reeling back with wide eyes before they narrow. It’s only fleeting but Scout’s suddenly aware that he’s right, and he has absolutely no idea how to handle it.

“Say anything like that to anyone--” Ryder starts, and Scout cuts him off with a wave of his hand, because that, at least, he doesn’t need to worry about.

“No way, man. That’s your story.”

Ryder hesitates, just briefly, and Scout’s disturbed to realize this probably counts as bonding or something.

As he turns to leave, he can’t help asking, “So, is it Hamilton or Jake?” and the look Ryder shoots him is poisonous enough to cancel everything else out.

He doesn’t answer but the balance has been restored, and it’s not like Scout can’t figure it out anyway.


“So,” Bella says as he slips into the stool next to her, “is this us talking about it?”

Scout orders a Coke and avoids her eye. “I’d rather we skipped over that part, actually. I know you know, you know I know you know, can’t we leave it at that?”

“If you’re joking then your freak out must be nearly over,” she says instead, and Scout has to give her that. “I always thought it’d be Sean.”

“What, that you’d end up with?”

“No,” she says, innocently. “That you’d end up crushing on.”

Scout splutters, almost spitting his drink across the counter, and Bella laughs, delighted with herself.

“Please don’t say that again,” Scout says, reaching for a pile of napkins. “Ever.”

Bella shrugs, pushing her hair out of her face. “Fine,” she says, still smiling. “So, what’s the plan?”

So far Scout’s “plan” has been to stick his head in the sand and pretend everything’s exactly the same as it’s been since that day he overheard someone else’s daddy issues and watched Will’s eyes light up when he told him they were roommates. Except then he has to think about how making Will smile has been his priority since day one, and that’s a whole lot of history he’d have to reassess.

“I have no idea,” he says, eventually, and Bella sighs, patting him on the shoulder.

“You’re kind of an idiot,” she says, eyes fond, and Scout can’t disagree with her there.


“You’re avoiding me,” Will says, and it’s not a question. He looks mad but Scout knows him, knows there’s a barrage of abandonment issues and insecurities right under the surface that are his fault this time, and crap, he didn’t mean to do that, he didn’t.

“I was,” Scout says, because he’s never been able to lie to Will and because he needs to make this right. “I’m sorry. I’ll stop.”

He watches anger drain away to confusion and wants to reach out, to put his hand on Will’s arm, his neck, but if he does he’ll never be able to get the words out.

“I was working through some stuff,” he says instead, his heart beating too hard in his chest.

“What sort of stuff?” Will asks, voice laced with concern, and it’s ridiculous that this one boy can leave Scout so terrified and happy and lost.

“Feelings,” Scout says, and tries not to flinch at the way the word catches on his tongue.

“For Bella,” Will says, and Scout’s close enough that he can finally see it, see the way Will’s eyes freeze over and his mouth tightens just a little, and Bella was right, he is such an idiot.

“No,” he says, surprising himself when it comes across loud and sure. “No, for you.”

Will frowns, and Scout knows he’s replaying the words over and over, but there’s already a glint of something else, of something that means Scout’s right.

“For me?” Will asks, eventually, and Scout nods and waits and wants to laugh in relief when Will smiles. “Oh,” Will says, “right, okay.”

“Okay,” Scout repeats, and it is, it really is.


They talk about it, sprawled out on the bed by the window that belongs to both and neither of them, because words are Will’s weapon and his armor and because Scout’s head is still fuzzy with it all, and Scout’s never really understood the phrase “clear the air” but the more they say, the easier it is to breathe.

“How long?” he asks, later, when almost everything else is out there, and Will shrugs and blushes and looks fifteen again.

“I don’t know,” Will says, avoiding Scout’s eye. “Ages. Since the beginning, I guess.”

“Since the beginning,” Scout echoes, and it’s too much but it explains everything, and he wants to say sorry, sorry, I’m so sorry until Will believes it, but it wouldn’t change anything and it doesn’t matter, not anymore.

“I wasn’t pining,” Will says, rolling his eyes, and Scout laughs into his shoulder. “Don’t be a dick.”

“Right, no,” Scout says, “sorry. I mean it’s only been two years, whatever.”

Will glares, shoving his head away, and Scout has never been more into him.

“You should be nicer to me if you’re going to be my--” Will says, cutting himself off, and Scout scrambles to his hands and knees and leans over him, not even bothering to try and fight back his smug grin.

“If I’m going to be your what, Krudski?” he says, and later he’s going to need Jake and Hamilton to both punch him for being so sappy, but right now it’s just him and Will, the guy who writes sonnets in his spare time, so everything’s fair game.

“Shut up,” Will says, because apparently under all that literary romanticism he’s still just a seventeen year old boy, and Scout has a million witty replies dancing on his tongue, hours worth of easy banter, and kisses him instead.


“I’m really happy for you,” Bella says, when Scout finds her later, working the till at the garage, and he thinks that maybe he’s had his best friend and his crush mixed up all this time, or maybe he’s like Jake and Hamilton and they’re one and the same and Bella’s something else entirely.

“You know you’re family, right?” he says, because she is; she’s his and Will’s and Jake’s and Sean’s and they’re all hers, too, and none of them are going to be in Rawley forever.

“Of course I do,” Bella says, rolling her eyes, and Scout gets the feeling he’s the last to figure stuff out yet again. She nods at the window. “Your boyfriend’s here,” she says, and the words are unfamiliar and anything but.

“We’re going to get pizza and then heckle Sean’s baseball game,” Scout says, smiling so hard it hurts, and Bella laughs.

“Don’t come crying to me when Sean knocks you both out,” she warns him.

“Hey,” Will says, and Bella reaches out to ruffle his hair, eyes warm and amused.

“Hey yourself,” she says. “Have fun on your date.”

Will flushes, but he reaches out to tangle his fingers with Scout’s, and everything feels right in that way Scout’s been waiting for it to since he was old enough to understand that the world wasn’t made up of his dad’s choices.

“We will,” Will says, looking at Scout, and Scout’s seventeen and figuring stuff out and that’s okay as long as everything Will says always sounds like I love you in the best possible way.

“Yeah,” he says, and thinks about staring up at boy with sad eyes and introducing himself because he couldn’t walk away. “We really will.”