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Building (Something More)

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Brom wiped his hands on his jeans, guilt bubbling deep in his chest. He never wanted to let things get this far. He had already seen a group of his buddies walk out of the principal's office, looking like their tails were tucked beneath their legs. Ms. Hudson-Flint stood at the door frame, an unamused look on her face as she glanced down at her clipboard. 

"Mr. Bones, you're up." He nodded, walking into the stuffy office. Brom had never been called into the principal's office before, not even in elementary school. The walls were lined with diplomas and photos, which seemed strangely imposing considering the consequences. Ms. Hudson-Flint herself was imposing as she shut the door behind Brom before crossing to stand on the other side of her desk. She motioned for him to sit down, which he did quickly.

"Abraham, I assume you know why you're here."

"The football team's prank on the science classroom." His voice sounded distant.

"That's correct, Mr. Bones. I'm not sure if you're aware, but the damages you and your team mates caused Mr. Karter's classroom will cost the school thousands of dollars to fix." She stopped to look at him, and Brom shifted under her strong gaze.

"We didn't know it would... do that."

"Well it did. Your other team mates have been suspended for a week, something I'm sure you cannot afford." She was right. Brom worked hard to keep his marks up and keep his school record squeaky-clean. He was sure it was written somewhere on his transcript that he often spoke to the guidance councilor about scholarships and opportunities to get himself noticed by a university. He nodded stiffly at Ms. Hudson-Flint, and she sighed, finally sitting in the black desk chair in front of her.

"Mr. Bones, you are a good student. And I know you're a good kid." She took her glasses off, pinching the bridge of her nose. "I had wanted to siphon the money away from the football team to pay for the damages, but the board denied my suggestion, and they're taking away from the school musical. I see on your papers that you have not only taken shop each year, but you were at the top of the class." He nodded at her once more, nervously pulling at the threads of his jacket. 

"I want you to assist in building the set for the show. Mr. Carls has agreed to work on the set as well, but it is simply too much work for one man. If you agree, I'll wave the suspension."

"It'll never show anything on my school records?"

"Spotless." Brom didn't even have to think about his answer.

"I'll do it."

-

Brom had never been in the school's theatre before. He didn't even know they had one, but lo and behold, at the end of a hallway Brom hadn't walked down, stood a full auditorium, bustling with students he had never noticed before. Brom walked in, feeling out of place for the first time in his life. Near the stage, Mr. Carls sat with Mrs. Lyon, the drama teacher, the two shifting papers around the plastic table that had been set up.

Ms. Hudson-Flint had told him that, although the set would not be built for a few more weeks, he had to attend every rehearsal. Something about reforming him as a person. All he had heard was that he would have to miss two football practices a week, a fact that almost ensured he would no longer be used as a starter. Brom stood beside Mr. Carls awkwardly, watching the girl on stage with a script in her hand seeming to wander around as she read her lines. 

"Katrina!" Mrs. Lyon's shrill voice rang out, and the brunette on stage's head snapped up. "Would you please show Abraham around the theatre? He'll be with us until tech week, and I'd hate to see him get lost." Brom could feel the eyes of students on him, his varsity jacket sticking out like a sore thumb among the red seats. The girl nodded, dropping the script on the teacher's table before approaching Brom.

"Hi! I'm Katrina! Are you joining the musical? It's Beauty and the Beast, isn't that great? Are you replacing Evan as Beast? You're taller than him, and having football guys would bring more people to the show!" She spoke with her hands wildly waving about, and Brom almost felt the need to lean back, lest he be smacked. 

"Uh, no. I'm helping with the set." She smiled at him, nodding her head. She had a warm looking face, one that Brom could get used to seeing.

"That's super cool! We always love having new people around here! I'll show you around back stage and the drama classroom!"

-

Katrina did not shut up. That was the first thing Brom realized as she brought him around the theatre, explaining what certain things were and how objects worked, introducing him to geeky freshman and gangly looking juniors, none of which would meet his eye. The drama room was much quieter than the theatre, only a few students hanging about. The walls were painted black and the floor seemed to be some sort of rubber except for a large spot of wood in the middle of the room. 

In one corner, a few kids flipped through their white books, muttering to each other. In another corner, a boy sat at a piano, squinting at a book with squiggles Brom couldn't imagine understanding, fingers elegantly dancing over the keys. Katrina squeaked, rushing over to him.

"Brom! Come over here and meet someone!" The boy turned around on his seat, a soft grin on his gentle face, dotted with the occasional mole or freckle. Moles trailed down his neck, hidden at the base by an over sized hoodie. The kid looked like anything would be big on him, his face slightly gaunt looking and his legs looked smaller than Brom's arms. The boy smiled up at him, seemingly unfazed by Katrina wrapping herself around his shoulders.

"This is Ichabod, the best person in this school!" She giggled as he waved her off. Brom cleared his throat.

"Oh, uh, you guys are a cute couple." Brom stood as the two looked at each other, erupting into laughs. Ichabod pulled the glasses off his face, wiping at them with the fabric of his sweater sleeves.

"I guess, um, we would be if we didn't play for the same team," Ichabod held his hand out, "I don't think I know your name." Brom blinked at him, slapping the boy's hand. By the expression on Ichabod's face, that wasn't when he was going for.

"You don't... I'm Brom." Katrina slid off of Ichabod, standing between them.

"Brom's on the football team, he'll be helping us with the set." She had a slightly off kilter smile, something Brom thought was really cute about her.

"Oh, cool." Brom cleared his throat.

"You don't know about the football team? We're really good this year." Most of the people at the school knew who every player was, especially their starters, like Brom was. For now. Ichabod shook his head. Katrina piped up.

"Ichabod's new! He moved here early September, and we haven't gone to see a game together yet!" She grabbed onto Ichabod's hand, and he gave Brom a look he didn't quite understand. 

"So, Ichabod, what do you do around the theatre?" 

"I'm just playing the piano for rehearsals and giving Kat some emotional support," he shrugged "I missed the cut off for marching band and I wanted to do something."

"I wanted him to play Lumiere, but he wouldn't even audition." Katrina pouted for a second before giving Brom a 'get a load of this guy' type of look. Despite his initial unease, Brom thought he might like the theatre.

-

It wasn't until the next rehearsal that Brom heard Katrina sing. He knew that she played Belle, something she had babbled on about during his tour of the theatre, but he felt like he walked into a wall when he walked into the drama room to find her standing over Ichabod's shoulder at the piano, her voice clear, resonating through the room. Brom's fingers felt numb when Ichabod joined her, his voice slightly stronger than Brom would have expected, but it washed over him. Brom stood just in the doorway as they worked through the duet, only moving towards the book he came in for once the pair was finished. Katrina bounced when she noticed Brom in the room.

"Hey, how's it going Brom?"

"It's going." He smiled at her, his eyes trailing to Ichabod, who was scratching down notes in the sheet music. Katrina followed Brom's gaze, turning back to him with a surprised look on her face, but it faded quickly. Brom didn't understand why she reacted like that.

"Y'know, Brom, Ichabod and I usually eat lunch in here, if you ever want to join us." Katrina nodded towards Ichabod, who looked up from his book, pushing his glasses up his nose.

"Feel free to drop by anytime, Brom. I like your company." A dimple appeared just under the mole on his cheek when he smiled, and Brom's chest felt warm.

"Uh, yeah, I'll do that. Do you guys know where Mrs. Lyon is keeping her sketches?" Katrina seemed to float as she walked towards the desk, pointing out the sheets. Brom thanked her, eyes darting back to Ichabod, who was playing a familiar tune on the piano. Katrina patted his arm gently.

"You really should come, Brom."

-

He didn't usually struggle to fall asleep. Brom worked himself harder than he would like to admit, between maintaining high grades in all of his classes, football practice, working at the Dairy Queen, and now, rehearsal. He ran his fingers over his sheets, feeling the pilling of the old fabric, but his mind just couldn't seem to settle. With a huff, Brom picked his phone up off of the side table. 

Katrina had given him her Snapchat, and they had been sending each other pictures all day. It was weird, having a friend who didn't rely on him or expect anything from him. Most of Brom's friends were on the football team, and while most of them weren't total meatheads, he could appreciate being able to have conversations that deviated from sports and help on homework. He sent her a quick picture of his forehead and the Star Wars pillow sham under his head. While he waited to see if she was still awake, he flicked over to Instagram.

While Ichabod didn't have a Snapchat, his Instagram page was surprisingly full.  His bio was empty other than the name of their high school and a pride flag, but he had stories of him playing different instruments in his highlights, and a ton of posts of him and Kat. If Brom scrolled further down, he could see the sparce posts from before Ichabod lived in Tarrytown, only about ten posts from Manhattan, and a few from a town in Ohio. 

It worried Brom to see how unhealthy Ichabod looked in some of the pictures, especially the later Manhattan pictures. There was one with a woman who must have been his mom where his eyes seemed to be stuck far back in his head, rimmed with red. His skin was pale, even paler than it was now, and he seemed impossibly skinny. Brom scrolled away from those pictures, instead choosing to focus on a picture from the previous weekend, a picture of him and Katrina. It had clearly been taken in Walmart late at night, the photo being a reflection from a line of mirrors, a blue basket in Ichabod's hand. He had captioned it "Walmart with my wife", which made Brom feel unsettled. 

He turned his phone back off, staring up at the ceiling once more.

-

Brom hadn't told his friends where he was going for lunch, just that he wasn't eating with them. He wasn't ashamed of hanging out with Ichabod and Katrina, they were really interesting people, but being friends with a theatre geek and a gay kid wasn't going to do much for Brom's popularity. And so he grabbed his school lunch and headed down to the drama room, ignoring the looks of his team mates as he walked past.

The drama room was quiet, which was both a nice change, and surprisingly eerie. Katrina and Ichabod were both sitting on a table close to the door, packed lunches out in front of them. Brom felt a little embarrassed by the plastic wrapped sandwich and oven baked fries he held, but the two both smiled as he walked in. 

"Hey! We didn't know if you'd come!" Katrina's voice filled the room.

"I thought it would be nice, not having lunch with people who will never leave this town." Brom sat down in a chair close to the end of the table. Ichabod smiled down at him.

"Jesus, that's harsh."

"Oh, city boy's never heard of Tarrytown trash before, huh? They say one in four people will never leave Tarrytown, and will forever haunt the McDonald's on Green Street." Ichabod laughed, his body shaking the table.

"Then, please God, let us be the other three." He picked at a small container of food, and Brom tried to place what it was, but he had no clue.

"Ichabod, buddy, what are you eating?"

"You've never seen spinach before, Brom?" Katrina's voice came off taunting. Her own lunch consisted of animal crackers and a Tupperware of pizza.

"C'mon, Kat, that's green...bread?" Ichabod smiled, shaking his head. He picked up his lunch, showing it to Brom.

"It's a spinach based tortilla with veggies and fried tempeh. I don't eat animal products." Brom's eyes widened and he pulled his turkey sandwich off the table, hiding it in his lap.

"Is that like, a New Yorker thing, or a homo thing?" Brom watched as Katrina looked ready to say something, and Ichabod put his hand on her knee, which seemed to stop her.

"It's a me thing, but I guess it is popular with the gays," he nibbled the edge of it, "you can eat meat around me, I don't mind. Just don't be a caveman about it." Brom put his sandwich back up on the table, watching as Ichabod stole a fry. If it was anyone else, he would have complained, but he could stand to gain some weight.

"Why? I mean, humans have been eating meat for a really long time, why stop?"

"It's not necessary for survival and it's bad for the environment. I stopped eating animals when I needed a change in my life, so it's just a guess it's just a good habit now." Katrina waved her hand, drawing attention to her as she tried to swallow whatever she was eating before she spoke. When she finally got it down, she gasped for air before speaking.

"Brom! We're going to watch The Princess Bride after school today, you should come! It's so good!" Brom scratched the back of his neck, putting his sandwich down.

"I've never seen it, but I can't. Football practice ends at four and then I work at five until close." Ichabod's eyebrows furrowed together.

"You've never seen The Princess Bride?" Brom shook his head, and Katrina slammed her hands down on the table.

"That is a tragedy! When's your next day off, we need to plan a watching party!"

"I'm off after rehearsal tomorrow." Ichabod looked down at his phone.

"Tomorrow's Thursday." He said it like it was an excuse, and it must have been to Katrina, because she nodded, looking back at Brom expectantly. 

"Oh, um, I'm off after one on Saturday."

"Sounds like a date! I'll snap you my address!" 

-

Brom didn't really understood what went on at rehearsal. Football practice was structured in a way that made sense. They ran two laps, then it was on to throwing. After that, tackling practice, sprints, reaction testing, then a trip to the weight room. They always ended with a scrimmage before showering and heading home. Always, four days a week, like clockwork. But theatre rehearsal? Always something new.

Brom had watched the team go off to practice, the boys half in gear as they began running, feeling guilty he wasn't out there. He didn't really ever feel like a full part of the team anyway, most of the guys lacked the dreams he had, and the ambition, but it still felt wrong to not belong to anything.

He guessed, in a way, he now belonged to the theatre as much as any of the others. Other people who were working on the show backstage, the techies, also were like him, not fully invested in the thespian lifestyle. He would never understand Katrina's zest for being on the stage, nor Ichabod's mooning over the piano, but he understood the painters and the costumers and the prop masters. They were people like him, with drive to do something unique, but out of the spotlight.

Brom walked into the theatre to find the crowd of actors facing him, all on stage, shouting words as a herd. Ichabod was standing next to the door, arms wrapped around his body as he stared at them. Brom moved to stand beside him and Ichabod dropped his arms, leaning on the chair in front of him. They stood silently watching Katrina and the rest of the cast, all shouting 'maw' at them, a unionized force filling the theatre. After a minute, Brom felt the other boy's head drop onto his shoulder.

"You smell like weed, Ichy."

"I know." His voice was small, eyes far away and unfocused. The look reminded Brom of how some of Ichabod's New York photos looked. It scared him.

"Are you okay?"

"No." Ichabod patted Brom's arm before leaving the room.

-2

Brom had gone into the hallway after him, but somehow, Ichabod had slipped away. Brom checked the drama room, the bathroom, and the cafeteria before heading down to the music room. He knocked on the door, and after a beat of silence, he opened it. The room was odd, carpet muffling Brom's steps as he walked in, glancing around the lined walls of instruments and sheet music. Brom had never elected to take a music class, figuring it wouldn't do anything for his university applications, but he had always felt drawn to music. He stroked the top of a drum with his forefinger before noticing light notes seeming to sigh out from one of the closed doors that led off of the room. 

Tentatively, Brom walked over, his eyes barely at level with the small window that showed Ichabod inside. He had a flute raised to his lips, nimble fingers switching over keys as he played. Ichabod's eyes were red and watery behind his glasses, and he seemed to stare off into space, the black stand in front of him bare. Brom tapped the door twice before he walked in. 

"Hey." He leaned against the door frame as Ichabod rested his flute on his lap.

"You didn't have to find me."

"I'm not good with...feelings and stuff, but do you want to talk about it?" Ichabod shook his head, eyes trained down.

"Not really," Ichabod wiped at his nose, "I forgot how shitty being high makes me feel."

"Why'd you get high then?" Brom sat beside him on the bench, and Ichabod slid down to the other end, as though Brom had burned him.

"Brom, just drop it."

"No, come on man, tell me."

"Brom."

"I thought gays were good at talking about feelings."

"Leave it." Ichabod stood up, hissing the words out. He looked down at the instrument in his hands, fingers nervously pressing at the keys.

"If you don't want to talk, I'm still just gonna sit here." Brom watched as Ichabod slumped back down onto the bench.

"Sorry. It's just been a really shitty day." He shifted his glasses, turning his head to look at Brom. 

"I get it." Brom sat further back, settling his back against the brick wall as Ichabod began playing again, a practiced tune that Brom had felt he had heard before, but didn't know the name of. Each note was slow and drawn out, the song taking shape in the air. Ichabod seemed calmer when he was playing, his eyes dropping closed and his back straightening up to cure the deep curve the boy usually sat in. Brom could feel his phone vibrate in his pocket, probably Katrina asking where they had run off to, but he elected to ignore it. Ichabod switched songs eventually, and after the second song, he looked down at his watch.

He sprung up quickly, pulling the flute apart in a rush and sticking pieces in the black case that rested on a chair a few feet away.

"Woah, are you good?" 

"Yeah, I just have an appointment in ten minutes and I'm going to have to run the whole way there. I had no idea what time it was, oh God."  Ichabod stumbled over the bench, and Brom caught his arm, helping him regain balance.

"I'll drive you." Ichabod's face scrunched up.

"You will?"

"Yeah."

-

Brom had learned not to be ashamed of his car, but it still felt weird to see the realization cross Ichabod's face when the lights sprung to life as Brom unlocked it. His truck was old, made in the late 90's, and it was definitely well loved. Rust crept at the bottom of the doors, peeling away at the blue paint. A few dents scattered across the bed of the car, both from before Brom had bought it, and his mistakes when learning how to drive a truck that size. Despite all of it's flaws, Brom loved the piece of shit. He had saved up all summer for it, and even if it stuck out in the parking lot among the cars parents had bought for his peers, he was proud of it.

"I thought you would be more of a hatchback kinda guy." Ichabod smiled at him when he opened the door, struggling to pull himself up into the cab.

"That's because you seem like a hatchback guy. I'm trucks all the way." Brom smiled back, turning the key. Loud music filled the truck, and Ichabod laughed softly, hand reaching to turn it to a decent level.

"Billy Joel?"

"Don't talk shit about Billy Joel, man."

"I wasn't going to, I promise!" Ichabod's dimple appeared again, and Brom looked away.

"So, uh, where am I taking you?" Ichabod looked down at his lap, scratching at his arm.

"Do you know Doctor Sonya's office?" Brom had never heard of her. Tarrytown was small, he felt like he knew every nook and cranny, every side street and shop. Hell, he felt like he knew every person.

"No."

"Um, she's the therapist on Woodhaven, close to the corner by the graveyard." Brom nodded, pulling out of his spot. He could feel Ichabod looking over at him, still scratching at his arm.

"I'm not going to say anything about you seeing a therapist, if that's what you're wondering. Everybody has their shit, man," Brom reached over, pulling Ichabod's hand away from his wrist.

"Thanks. Y'know, you're really nice."

"No sweat."

-

Dairy Queen was just about the worst place Brom could have chosen to work. The hours were terrible, with him usually working the opening shifts on weekends and the closing shifts during the week, they were constantly understaffed, customers were overly rude, and a four hour shift could seem like a six hour shift, especially when he had something to do after. Brom bounced on his heels, checking the punch out clock once again. 12:54. The last half an hour of a shift was unbearable, and he knew that Katrina and Ichabod were already hanging out, getting ready for Brom to come to watch whatever Princess movie they had wanted to see. Brom looked over the counter to see one of the guys from the football team, Todd, glancing up at the menu. He walked over, figuring time might pass if he did his job.

"Hey dude, what're ya thinking?"

"Hey, uh, Claire wants a caramel sundae and uh, I guess I'll take a cookie dough Blizzard. Uh, medium. Yeah." Brom punched the order into the till as Todd rested his card over the debit machine to pay.

"Hey, us and a few of the other guys are going to head to the city tonight to see Columbia play, are you in?" While Brom would usually jump at the chance to get out of Tarrytown for a day, or see college football, he shook his head.

"Nah, I got plans with one of the chicks from the theatre bullshit I'm doing."

"Plans or like plans plans?"

"Just a movie." Brom shrugged as his team mate wiggled his eyebrows.

"Netflix and chill, very cool, Boner."

"Nah we're actually just watching, another guy is coming." Brom turned to start on the food, quickly going through the motions of the products. When he turned back around to flip the Blizzard, we was met with Todd's unhappy face.

"What're you looking at me like that for, bro?"

"You hang out with Katrina and the little fairy?"

"Don't call him that, he's a cool dude." Todd snorted.

"Barely a dude if you ask me. Weird too, who the fuck is named Ichabod?" 

"I don't know, your sexy ass mom named you Todd."

"Stop talking about my mom, man."

"Can't help she's a fox. And a cougar. Stop talking to me and go entertain your lady, loser."

"Yeah, yeah. See ya, Boner." Brom sighed. Fuck that guy. Without bothering to check the time, Brom punched out, pulling his visor off with a rush of freedom.

-3

Katrina's house was on the other side of town from Brom's. The houses weren't that new, but they all were grand with neat lawns. Brom passed through the neighborhood slowly, looking for the number Katrina had given him. He noticed that a lot of the homeowners were outside, working on keeping the gardens looking nice, even in the October chill. Katrina's house was smack dab in the middle of the street, identical to the house next to it except the colours of paint and roof. Brom pulled into the driveway behind Katrina's car and walked towards the door, noticing the bike leaning against the garage door. 

Katrina swung the door open before he even got to the porch, a big grin on her face. She usually dressed in dresses and neat outfits for school, and it almost surprised Brom to see her sweatpants and tucked in Hamilton tee shirt, her hair pulled back in two braids, pink yarn woven into them. She looked much softer like this, her hips filling out the curve of the pants in a nice way.

"Brom! I'm glad you could make it! I hope you didn't have too much trouble finding the house, sometimes people get lost in this subdivision." She opened the door further and he walked in. Noting the tray of shoes on the floor, he slid his runners off. "You can just put your jacket on the staircase!" 

"It wasn't too bad. I like your hair. 'S cute." He dropped the varsity jacket between two slots on the staircase, and she reached up to one of the braids falling over her shoulders.

"Oh yeah! I wanted to streak my hair but the director said no, so Ichabod figured out how to do this!" Brom picked at the letters of his sweater, wishing now that he hadn't come right from work, he was warm, but his work shirt had been sprayed while cleaning a machine. 

Light music played in the living room, an indie sounding band playing over a Bluetooth speaker on the middle of the table, a couple bowls of snacks scattered around it. Ichabod's voice floated out of the kitchen, flubbing the words of the song. He rounded the corner, a plate of cookies held out in front of him. Brom felt strange as he looked Ichabod over, the loose plaid pyjama pants and the Mayday Parade tee shirt that hugged his skinny form. The quiff of hair that usually hung over his forehead was pulled back by a clip and he wasn't wearing his glasses, which made him look a bit older. Brom had never noticed that his moles went up almost into his hairline.

"Hey, how was work? Dairy Queen, right?"

"It seemed like I was there for a month." Ichabod snorted, bending over to place the cookies on the table. 

"I worked at a Starbucks in Manhattan, I can't imagine how much worse it would be to work in fast food, though." Ichabod straighened up, making Brom realize he had been staring at his ass. 

"People suck anywhere you go." 

"I guess that's true." Ichabod looked him over, eyebrows furrowing. "Do you still have your uniform on?"

"Yeah. I was going to bring a change of clothes but forgot this morning." Ichabod shook his head, tsking at him. Katrina's hand found it's way to Brom's forearm, making him look down at her.

"Sir, I'll have you know we absolutely do not watch movies in anything but comfortable clothes. I probably have something that'll fit you." Brom looked back at Ichabod, an amused look on the musician's face. 

"Good luck."

-

Brom had been in girl's bedrooms before, but never for a makeover. It felt weird to sit on her bed as she rustled about her dresser, his fingers running over the fake fur blanket on the end of her bed. Her room was nice, with gray walls dotted with Polaroids and Playbills hanging on string lights, a large poster of Shawn Mendes on one wall. Ichabod's school bag was on the floor, which made Brom wonder if he had spent the night. 

"Ah-ha! These look like they might fit you!" Katrina threw a pair of black sweatpants at him, and he turned them over in his hands.

"Kat, why do these say 'juicy' on the butt?"

"Because mine is." She giggled, shifting through her shirts. Brom cleared his throat, looking anywhere but her ass.

"Uh, don't turn around if this isn't something you want to see."

"Then turned this way I will stay." Brom quickly switched into the pants, the legs a bit too short for him but otherwise fitting decently. He was folding his pants when Katrina spoke again.

"Ichabod told me what happened on Thursday, when you went after him."

"Yeah?" She turned back towards him, tossing him a Rugrats tee shirt.

"That was really good of you to do, Brom." He shrugged before pulling his hoodie off.

"He's my buddy, I wanted to make sure he was okay."

"Would you do that for any of your football friends?" She sat down on the fluffy stool by her desk, looking at him with a raised brow. Brom quickly slid his work shirt off, exchanging it for the tee shirt as quickly as he could.

"That's different, Kat."

"Why? Because he's gay?" Brom sighed, standing up from his spot. He felt anxious, like he had to move.

"No? Yes? I don't know, he's sensitive. And sweet. And you can tell that he needs someone to be there." Katrina sighed and stood up. She walked into the path he had been pacing and gently held his forearms.

"There's nothing wrong with liking him."

"Of course I like him, Ichabod is a good person."

"No, Brom, I mean... liking him." 

"Oh." He sat back down on the bed, his head feeling like it had been stuffed with cotton. "But I'm not a homo."

"There isn't just gay and straight, Brom. There's stuff between." Her voice was soft, like she was trying to comfort a scared animal. In a way, she was. Brom shook his head.

"Not for me. I'm not gay and I don't like Ichabod. Not like that. Can we just go downstairs?"

-

Brom had been worried it would be tense when they got to the living room after their conversation, but it was as though it never happened. Ichabod was scrolling through his Instagram, chewing through a cookie when they came back down. He looked up and blinked a few times.

"Woah, I forgot how nearsighted I am." He rubbed at his eyes for a moment, and Katrina grabbed his glasses off of the fireplace, moving to hand them to him. He slid them on his face and looked over Brom. "Aw, I was kinda hoping you'd be dressed up crazy." Brom chuckled and turned around, his heart jumping when he heard a gasp from behind him.

"Brom, there's a lie on your pants." Brom swung around.

"Hey!"

"Kat, you should call 911, someone stole Brom's ass." Ichabod tried to keep his voice flat, but Brom could hear the smile in it.

"Alright, string bean, you aren't one to talk either." Brom sat down on the couch next to Ichabod, who shifted slightly.

"That's fair." Katrina chose to sit on the recliner instead, pulling a blanket over her lap. Ichabod reached forward and grabbed the plate of cookies, gesturing to Brom.

"What's in them if they're vegan? You don't eat eggs or milk or anything, right? Is that like, spinach instead of chocolate?"

"Almond milk and vegan chocolate chips, these don't have any of the replacer shit in it. Some days I just want to feel like a fatty and eat like garbage, this is one of them." As Brom reached forward to take a cookie, Ichabod was hit by a pretzel from across the room. 

"We say thickies, not fatties. Jesus, Ichabod, have some class."

"Says the girl who introduced me as her gay best friend to everyone for a month."

"Was I wrong?" Ichabod sat up straight, and Katrina stood up from her chair and started on with a different voice, nearly yelling. "Hold on, hold on, hold on.  Her sister was a witch, right? And what was her sister? A princess. The wicked witch of the East, bro." Brom looked between Katrina and Ichabod, having no clue what was happening. Kat continued.  "You're gonna look at me and you're gonna tell me that I'm wrong? Am I wrong? She wore a crown and she came down in a bubble, Doug. Grow up bro, grow up." Once she was done, they both broke off into peels of laughter, Ichabod shaking his head and Katrina holding her stomach. 

"What the fuck was that?" Ichabod shook his head, silently laughing. He reached out to Brom, gasping for air. Despite not knowing what was happening, Brom chuckled and let Ichabod put his hand on his shoulder, leaning forward to laugh.

"You-you haven't seen that?"

"Seen what? That wasn't just a theatre kid meltdown?" From her chair, Katrina howled with laughter, grabbing a remote off of the table. The TV in front of them was one of the 'smart' TVs that Brom had heard about, and after a minute or so, she was able to find the video they had been quoting. Twenty seven seconds later, Brom was laughing just as hard, holding onto Ichabod.

-

They hadn't even watched The Princess Bride. After they watched that video, Ichabod found a playlist of short, strange videos that had them losing it every couple minutes, and after that, they switched over to watching Buzzfeed Unsolved. Around six, Ichabod had gotten up, saying that he needed to leave before it got dark, and Brom made that his excuse for leaving as well. He had changed out of Kat's pyjamas and back into his uniform, promising to bring a pair of comfortable clothes next time he came over. He was glad to think there would be a next time. 

The house was empty when Brom got home. It wasn't that unusual for that to be the case, and Brom went into the kitchen, finding a pad of paper with messy writing across it. 'Brommer - I picked up an extra shift, I'll be home around 5am. Dad." Brom never understood why his dad felt the need to sign his name on the end of his notes, it wasn't like anyone else was writing them. 

Rather than work out, or do his homework, or even just relax, Brom spent the rest of his night not-quite-not thinking about his conversation with Katrina. Brom liked girls, Brom liked looking at girls and kissing girls and having sex with girls. But there was something about Ichabod. Ichabod, and his moles and music and his almost snarky attitude. Ichabod, and his glasses and his laugh and his problems. Ichabod. 

Ichabod.

Ichabod.

-4

They started building the set on the following Monday. It was nice to get his hands dirty, Brom had felt almost like he was intruding on rehearsals at times, but he was comfortable with cutting shapes out of wood. It was familiar and easy, something his life had seemed to be deviating from ever since he was told to join the crew.

Ichabod had perched himself on a table nearby, tapping away on a Chromebook. The show had moved on to regularly using rehearsal tracks rather than just the piano, so he had elected to keep Brom company as he worked. 

"I have no idea what I'm writing anymore. It makes sense to me but I think if I read it back it would be a mess." Ichabod put the laptop down beside him.

"That means you're onto something, trust me."

"God, I hate world history. It's boring." 

"That's a wrong opinion. History has interesting stories and lessons and mythology." Ichabod shrugged, pulling himself off the table to stand next to Brom as he sanded the wood for the Be Our Guest table down. 

"Mr. Long only teaches about events, not the people. I don't give a shit about the revolutionary war, I want to learn about the people who did things. That's why Hamilton is famous, instead of that old bastard." 

"Oh, yeah. He's terrible." Brom adjusted his safety goggles. "You should be wearing shit if you want to be this close to the work."

"The glasses count." Ichabod shrugged, looking around the room. "Is there a thermostat in here? I'm freezing." 

"We don't put the heat up in here because auto is next door." Brom stepped away from the piece, dropping his sandpaper on it. He had rested his jacket over a chair the next table over, and tossed it to Ichabod. The shorter boy fumbled to catch it before holding it close to him.

"Uh, thanks."

"Can't have you getting sick on us." Brom smiled, watching as Ichabod pulled the jacket on, the sleeves hanging long on his arms, the bottom covering his ass. Ichabod looked down at the Tarrytown High crest on the chest.

"Now I know what it's like to be in a stereotypical nineties movie."

"Those movies were a lot straighter than you are, bud." Ichabod laughed, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, but you'd be the stereotypical star in any of them. The Zac Efron type, even though you don't have the swoopy hair." His phone made a sound and he jumped slightly, reaching into his pocket to grab it. "Kat needs my help in the theatre." Ichabod gestured to the coat, "this is mine now."

"Okay." Brom's head felt fuzzy when he watched Ichabod walk out of the classroom, swallowed by his jacket. The door closed with a soft sound and Brom got back to work.

-

When Brom walked out of AP English the text day, Andy was waiting for him. Andy was one of the guys on the football team that Brom didn't necessarily like, he perpetuated every stereotype of 'football jock' Brom could think of.

"Boner." Andy jerked his head towards the lockers beside him, and Brom huffed, leaning against one of them.

"Whatdya want, man? I have chemistry in five minutes."

"I heard a little rumor about you." Brom felt his heart squeeze as Andy drawled. He attempted a casual smile.

"How'd you find out that I fucked your mom?" Andy ignored the slight entirely.

"I heard that you'd be more likely to fuck dads, the way you're hanging around the theatre fags and the skeleton boy." Brom felt sick. He loved his friends. He loved Katrina and Ichabod in ways he had never felt before. 

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Andy laughed, leaning back on his heels.

"Y'know, the polka dot stick figure walking around with your jacket. You switching teams on us? Or did you only play football for the locker room?" 

"Don't fucking talk about him like that."

"Defending your little boyfriend? Cute." Andy wiggled his eyebrows at Brom before turning to walk away. "Nice talk, Bones."

He watched as Andy walked down the hallway, joining up with more of the team. Deep in his chest, Brom knew something was wrong.

-

He had spent the rest of the morning in a nervous state. Kat had asked him about it in their shared World Issues course, and he had tacked it off on having a football game on Friday and being out of practice. At least part of that was true. 

Brom had left at lunch, not wanting to deal with the football team, but also not wanting the sympathy of Kat and Ichabod. Katrina was the sweetest person and would make him feel good about anything, and Ichabod was both sympathetic and analytical, he would give Brom something to do or say that just made too much sense. He didn't want hugs or ideas, even if it was from people who had wormed their ways into his heart. Instead, he drove to the one person who could make him think about what to do.

His mom.

-

For such a small town, Tarrytown's graveyard is a rather impressive size. He guessed from the past wars, what with the tall tales of sleepy hollow, they had a lot of people to bury. He parked outside the entrance, not trusting himself to follow the trails well in his truck and walked in. He followed the familiar path, letting his brain shut off as he breathed in the crisp autumn air. Soon it would be Halloween, and people would flock to Tarrytown, telling tales of the headless horseman and spending time in the graveyard, but it was empty except for Brom and the spirits.

Her grave wasn't far back, leaves scattered across the top from an overhanging tree and he wiped them off the stone. Brenda Bones 1978-2015. Thirty-seven years contained between the little dash between the numbers. Thirty seven years of life, twelve of which spent with Brom. He felt like he should have brought flowers, but his mom had always considered them a waste of money, anyway.

"Hey, Mom. It's been too long, I know. If you were here, you'd have pulled me here by the ears by now." He let himself crouch down beside the grave, his fingers stroking over the engraved stone. "I've been busy. Senior year, football, all that stuff. I have to apply for college soon. You always wanted me to go to college, remember? Saying that I could be the one to get out, the first Bones since the civil war to be able to pack up and leave this shit hole town. Sorry, I know you wouldn't want me to swear."

He sighed, leaning back. "I don't know what I'm here for. I guess I just needed someone to talk to. Sometimes I think I've done everything wrong, the whole high school thing. Y'know, I have good grades and I play football and I'm popular but... I guess I haven't really been happy in a long time. Not since you've been gone. I did something stupid and had to work on the play for, like, a punishment but... I've met some really cool people. There's this girl, Katrina. I don't know how I never met her before now, she's in a bunch of my classes. And she's just such a kind person, like you wouldn't believe. She kinda reminds me of you sometimes, the way she pushes us around."

"And then there's Ichabod. He's this new kid, which is crazy because no one ever chooses to move here. But he's... I don't know what he is. He makes me feel different. So many people take one look at me and act like they know me, but he's just a good person. I think he's been through some stuff, maybe that's why he cares. But he's snarky and can be rude sometimes and he's bossy and he's perfect. He's perfect, Mom. And I don't know what to do about it."

"I remember you telling me it was okay if I liked boys when I was a kid. I wish I knew if you knew back then or just wanted to be accepting. I like him, I think. Katrina told me it was okay, too, same tone of voice and everything. I'm not sure if that's how most people's friends are, or if they're just the best people I could ask to be around, but they make me feel like more than I am." Brom wiped his hands on his jeans, trying to ignore how gummy his voice sounded.

"I, uh. I should go. I still have three classes and practice today. Thanks for listening, Mom. I love you."

-

"Bones, I need to talk to you. My office." Coach Meyer's voice called out from a couple yards away before the man moved towards the room. With a huff, Brom followed. Meyer wouldn't kick him off the team because some of the guys had a suspicion he liked guys, he wasn't that type of person. Brom figured that it was probably something to do with a new play he wanted him to run, or talking about a scout that would be out to a game. He sat down on the blue vinyl chair facing the desk. Almost everything in the school fit the clean colours of blue and yellow, and the whole room was decked out as well. It made Brom nauseous. 

"Bones, you're a good player." The coach didn't sit across from him, instead leaning against the wall, looking down at him.

"Thank you, coach."

"Which is why it pains me to do this-"

"Do what?"

"Abraham, if you can't be fully committed to this team, I can't have you on it. We've got state in the bag and I can't have one of my linebackers skipping practice twice a week to sing and dance."

"That's not what I'm doing! I have to do it, it's like community service hours." The coach put his hands down on his desk leaning over the table at him.

"I have four boys lined up for your spot. Couple of the boys came by to talk about you missing drills and plays, and how some of the juniors are more prepared than you. Don't come to practice tonight. You're done."

-5

Brom's heart beat out of his chest. Fingers numb. Sweaty. Everything sweaty. He had stumbled to the bathrooms by the drama and music hall, words ringing in his ears as the threat of bile bubbled in the back of his throat. He felt weak and angry. He was scared. The bathroom was empty when he arrived, classes having let out almost twenty minutes ago, and distantly, he could hear the jazz band warming up, adding to the fuzziness of his brain. 

He needed football. Football was supposed to get him to college, help him pay for college. Football was supposed to be the thing he could be proud of, the thing his father could be proud of. Oh, God.

His father.

How could he tell his father he was cut from the team, after years of working to get him there. His father worked too damn hard to pay for their bills already, he couldn't send a kid to college. He couldn't tell him.

Brom slid down the wall, the cold concrete a relief for his burning body. His hands trembled as he pulled his knees to his chest, trying to subdue his heavy breathing. He didn't know how long he had been there when the door opened, the pimple ridden face of a nervous freshman appearing. The boy quickly slammed the door, and a heavy shame filled the room, forcing Brom's head down. He started counting down from thirty in his head, but kept losing count, repeating the motions. Thirty. Twenty nine. Twenty eight. Twenty six. Wait. Thirty. Twenty Nine. 

Ichabod had a familiar scent, one Brom could never quite place, but he felt calm as it washed over him suddenly. Somehow, the shorter boy had slipped into the room without him noticing, and he was crouching right beside Brom, looking at him with his stupid big eyes. Brom couldn't imagine what kind of mess he looked like right now, shirt damp from sweat, face red, his hair mussed from running his hands through it. Ichabod didn't seem to mind, reaching out to touch Brom's hands, still holding his knees. Ichabod's fingers were cold despite him wearing both a hoodie and Brom's jacket. 

"Brom? I need to know you're okay." He wasn't quite whispering, and his words reverberated throughout the room, wrapping themselves around Brom like a scarf.

"Yeah." He leaned forward, into Ichabod's touch ever so slightly. Ichabod seemed to notice, gently stroking up Brom's wrists, breathing light and quiet, as if to soothe Brom. He didn't usually like being taken care of, but this was Ichabod. Sweet, snarky, damaged Ichabod, who would probably understand. Or try to. At the very least, he would pretend to.

"It's stupid."

"No, it's not. Nothing that hurts you this much is stupid." Ichabod kept running his lazy circles into Brom's wrists, relaxing him more. It made him feel stable.

"I got turfed from the team."

"Turfed?"

"Kicked off, Ichabod. I got fucking kicked off the team." Brom could feel his eyes welling once again, his throat gumming up. Ichabod moved to sit next to him, still rubbing circles on Brom's left wrist.

"Fuck."

"I don't..." His throat felt swelled, as though it wasn't going to let any more words through to betray him. Ichabod took his glasses off, resting them on the floor beside him. With his free hand, he pulled Brom's head towards him, resting on his shoulder, cushioned by the fabric underneath.

"You're allowed to cry if you want to. Or we can sit here quietly, or we can talk about something else." Brom felt himself shrugging into Ichabod, and the smaller boy pressing back against him fiercely. "You always smell like fruit. Did you know that? When I stole this jacket from you, all I could smell was grapefruit. Or oranges, I can't really tell the difference in smell. Most guys like you, big strong straight guys, try to have that whole Old Spice smell, but yours is nice. It's different. Like you." 

It felt different to listen to Ichabod talking when Brom could feel his chest thrumming beneath him, he could almost feel the vocal chords working. Ichabod continued on.

"Manhattan smells like shit. Everywhere you go, all you can smell is piss and car fumes. If you're lucky, you'll smell some middle schooler's cotton candy vape. A lot of things are different here. You guys have, like, four fucking restaurants in this town, and not one of them has shit I can eat. There's a little Mexican place down the street from us and the lady who owns it likes me because I speak some Spanish, so she'll make me my own burritos if I go in, as long as it isn't busy. No one cares that much in the city."

"I think everyone here assumes I was born and raised in the city. I'm from Ohio. We've only been in New York since freshman year, my mom thought that me studying music in one of the world's epicenters would give me the incentive to keep going."

"Ichy." He turned his head to look at Brom, but instead got a face full of Brom's hair. He smiled as he felt Ichabod shift his head to be on top of his.

"Yeah?"

"I don't think I'm as much of a big strong straight guy as you think."

"You're plenty strong, big guy."

"I know."

"You're, what, five nine? That's pretty big." Brom didn't feel like correcting Ichabod to say that he was, in fact, five ten.

"No, I mean... the other thing." Ichabod shifted slightly, and Brom felt bile rise in his throat. Ichabod was gay, he was proud of being gay, he showed it off and talked about it. He'd be fine.

"Oh."

"I don't know... what I am. But... Yeah." Ichabod started running his fingers down Brom's own, the small circle of skin on Brom's wrist slightly pink from the repeated motions.

"Okay. Thanks for telling me." They sat in silence once more. Brom liked the silence he was able to share with Ichabod. His house was usually quiet, with his dad at work, and he never got silence around his team mates or Kat. It was a comfortable sort of silence, where he felt like they could communicate without words. Eventually, Brom broke it.

"How'd you find me anyway?"

"Oh, that kid that came in to the bathroom, he found me. I was in one of the practice rooms."

"You're good at music stuff, huh?"

"I guess. It's always come to me. My tongue gets tied really easily and sometimes I don't know what to say, but music is always there."

"You're good at talking to me."

"You're easy to talk to."

"I don't know what I'm good at." Ichabod sunk closer to Brom on that.

"You don't have to be good at things if you're a good person."

-

Ichabod lived in the apartment building two streets over from Brom's house. Brom hadn't wanted to go home to an empty house to cry alone in, or worse, have to face his dad and whatever he might say, so Ichabod invited him over. The building was one of the newer ones, but not the newest, so the bricks were faded but still intact. Brom parked in one of the visitor parking spots and Ichabod all but had to pull him out of the truck, anxiety seeping in at having to meet Ichabod's parents.

Ichabod never talked about his family. He didn't talk a lot about his past at all. Brom knew that he had worked at a Starbucks, and that he moved from Ohio to Manhattan to Tarrytown. And that was about it. Kat obviously knew more than Brom did about certain things, giving Ichabod side-eyes when Brom said things sometimes, but he didn't mind. If Ichabod wanted to share anything with him, he would. 

The apartment was small, but decorated well. They walked out into a kitchen and dining room type situation, and Ichabod left his schoolbag on the table, moving towards the fridge. He pulled a glass off of the counter beside it and poured water from the spout on the fridge, handing it to Brom afterwards.

"My mom won't be home until later, but she'll be good with you staying over." Ichabod sipped from his own glass. Brom looked around the room. Ichabod fit in here.

"And your dad?"

"If you find him, let me know." Ichabod had a grin on his face, his tone slightly amused. Brom blinked a few times, re-evaluating his decision to open his mouth.

"Oh, fuck, man, I-"

"I wouldn't have made the joke if I don't find it funny." He stretched out, putting his glass down on the table top before taking his- Brom's- jacket off, hugging it to his chest. "Uh, I'll show you to my room so you can put your stuff down." Brom examined the living room as they walked past it, following behind the shorter boy like he was a dog. He never really thought about it, but Ichabod wasn't that much shorter than him. Maybe two inches, but his permanent slouch had dissipated when they walked into his apartment, his posture strong and proper. 

Ichabod's room looked like an organized disaster. The bed was made, but the pillows had been thrown on at odd angles, a pair of headphones hanging off the edge. He had a small desk in the corner covered with sheet music so you couldn't see an inch of the wood below. A keyboard laid on its side below the window, and a violin was on Ichabod's side table, the neck touching a couple of empty water bottles, a tin of putty just beside it. A few photos had been tacked on the wall, as well as a few keychains hanging from their pegs, a couple more pins had been stuck in the wall beside them, as though Ichabod expected more. Brom walked over to them.

The first one, white with gold lettering, said 'just for today'. The orange one beside it read 'clean and serene for thirty days'. Ichabod had two others hanging beside it, the maroon one at the end declaring he had been clean for ninety days.

"I guess I should take a few of those down, huh? After the pot incident you saw." Brom turned to see Ichabod sitting on his bed, shoulders slumped, looking impossibly small.

"This is for...?"

"Narcotics Anonymous. I guess I never told you, though." Brom sat beside Ichabod on the bed, the mattress dipping under his weight, pulling Ichabod towards him. "I got into this really prestigious arts high school in New York. That's why we moved from Ohio, I was on a scholarship and my mom was able to find a job at the hospital there she could get more hours, so it worked out."

"I couldn't make friends. Everyone else were these, like, really competitive, talented musicians, even in freshman year. They saw me, some kid from the middle of fuck-all nowhere with a scholarship as nothing more but a bump in the road at worst and a threat at best. So, I was lonely. I started going out by myself to parties, there was a public school nearby and I had the Snapchat of one of the popular girls, so she would tell me when they were."

"And then I met this guy. He was a senior, and he was tall and handsome and so nice to me. He told me he wanted to talk and I didn't care where I was going, I wanted to be with him. We did coke in the bathroom, and for the first time in my life, I felt good. So I started doing more and more, most of my money from work would go to him or one of his friends, buying coke or molly or whatever I could get my hands on." He was looking down at his hands as he talked.

"I got really bad. I stopped going to school as much, my mom always thought I was sick because I was hot or shaking from withdraw. I don't remember most of the eleventh grade, I was so out of it. But I felt good when I was using, so I didn't care. I flunked out of school really late junior year, and instead of going home, I went to a dealer I knew, and bought almost a hundred dollars of ecstasy. I took it all and walked around Central Park. I remember waking up in the hospital with my mom standing over me, she was an emergency room nurse at the hospital, and she just had this look in her eyes."

"She tried to keep me clean but I couldn't really. The longest I could get was a week. We stayed with my aunt for a month in Indiana over the summer and I went a month clean, and then we moved here. I just got my ninety days clean a week before I smoked weed." Ichabod's voice had been very flat through his whole explanation, emotionless, and Brom wanted to wrap him up.

"Are you doing better?" Ichabod looked at him like he had never been asked that before.

"Yeah. Every day it gets a little easier."

"Ichabod?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I kiss you?"

-6

Kissing Ichabod was like listening to your favourite song. Kissing Ichabod was like the sun on your face. He had his hand on the back of Brom's neck, his little body tucked against Brom's, glasses smushed between them. He laughed when he pulled away, lips red and the dimple near his mole deep, a grin on his face.

"Sorry, glasses." He pulled them off, throwing them onto the bed, near the pillows. "Continue." Brom didn't need to be told twice, leaning up to kiss Ichabod once again. His heart beat wildly in his chest.

He had never kissed a boy before. Brom had expirence with ladies of all kinds, but no one was like Ichabod. For one, Ichabod was definitely in control of the situation, his knobby knees locked on either side of Brom's hips, holding him in place. Brom could feel the slightest hint of facial hair on Ichabod's jawline, where his left hand had found it's way. He was probably trembling under Ichabod's touch, so gentle yet demanding Brom couldn't stand it.

"Ichabod, honey, I - Hello." Ichabod shot off of Brom, landing ass over teakettle on the floor, staring at the door frame. A woman who bore a striking resemblance to the boy on the floor stood there, arms crossed over bright pink scrubs. Her hair was tucked back into a neat ponytail and she had a very similar pair of glasses to Ichabod's, though she didn't seem to have any of the moles Ichabod had on his face, and as Brom recently discovered, the rest of his body. Brom sat up, straightening out his shirt from where Ichabod's hand had been up it. 

"Hey, mom. This is Brom. Leave, please." The woman shook her head, though she was smiling. She seemed to have the same slightly awkward way of being as Ichabod did.

"Hi, Brom. Keep the door open. I'm making pasta." She disappeared, muttering under her breath. Brom held out a hand to Ichabod, helping the other teenager off of the floor. Ichabod sat down beside him, his whole side pressing against Brom's.

"So, your mom seems nice." Ichabod laughed, pressing his forehead into Brom's shoulder. Brom's chest ached and he wrapped an arm around Ichabod.

"She is. I'm sure dinner will be a nice conversation." He laced his fingers with Brom's, swinging their hands back in front of them, away from where Brom had just put it.

"So..."

"Can I talk for a minute?"

"You have the floor." Ichabod stood up, dropping Brom's hand. He stepped back a few paces before huffing,

"When you're near it's like... everything makes sense. Or nothing makes sense. Except for you. It's like I can't focus on anything but you, what you're wearing, how you stand, how you smell. You make me feel like I'm in Tarrytown for a reason, like all that shit I went through was to bring me to you." Ichabod had been pacing, but stopped to wait for Brom's responce.

"I'm not great with people, usually. But you make me feel like I am. You make me feel like I'm good at a lot of things." Brom took a breath. "I want whatever is going on here. I don't know if I'm gay, but I'm definitely... in to this. In to you." Brom stood up, and Ichabod took a half step towards him "So what happens next?"

Ichabod chuckled, "I think you know. Abraham Bones, will you be my boyfriend?"

"Only if you never call me Abraham again."

Ichabod answered him with a kiss.

-

"Mom, this is Brom. My boyfriend." Ichabod's mom's eyebrows furrowed, and she looked between the two boys. She had set out three plates of pasta when Ichabod had gone into the kitchen and told her that Brom was going to be staying for both dinner, and the night.

"Boyfriend? Since when?" Ichabod looked to a silver clock on the wall.

"About half an hour ago." He slid into one of the wooden chairs. Brom walked over closer to Ichabod's mom and held out his hand.

"Hi, Ms Crane. Sorry we had to meet... like that." She took his hand with a smile.

"Worse things could have happened. You can just call me Idina, honey." 

"Sure, Idina." Brom moved back to sit down next to Ichabod, who gave him a soft look, making his heart flutter. 

"Boddy has told me quite a bit about you, hard to get that kid talking about anything else when he starts. His crush has been obvious since you started with the play."

"Mom!" Ichabod looked away, and Brom gently tapped their shoulders together.

"Awe, you have a crush on me?"

"We're dating." Ichabod laughed and took a bite out of the pasta in front of him. 

"So, Brom, tell me a bit about yourself." Oh, the dreaded question. Brom never knew what to say when that question was proposed, if he was supposed to talk about school or football or work or what.

"Uh, I'm seventeen, I work at Dairy Queen, uh... I'm hoping to get into NYU or Columbia, and I know nothing about any of the music stuff that Ichabod does." Ichabod grinned at him and Brom tried the pasta. He had expected vegan pasta to taste different, but it tasted just like the stuff he made at home.

"What do you want to study in college?"

"History. I think I want to be a history professor or be a historical research analyst, I'm not sure. The past has always intrigued me." Idina nodded her head at Ichabod.

"That nerd has always known he wanted to do music. His aunt got him a little ukulele when he was four and he's been going since."

"I'm sitting here to get bullied." Ichabod whined, looking at Brom with a disdainful look.

"Not my fault you're easy to bully, Ichy."

"So, Brom, what are your intentions with my son?" Idina put her glass down on the table, and Brom's eyes widened.

"Uh..."

"I'm just kidding, kid! From what I saw in there, it looks like your mom should be asking Ichabod that." She winked, and Brom could feel his ears getting red, his eyes going down to the meal in front of him.

"Mom!" 

"What?" There was a moment of silence where Brom knew Ichabod and his mom would be having a silent conversation, where he tried to let her know not to talk about Brom's mom. They had spoken about it one of the days Ichabod had spent time in the carpentry room with him when Ichabod needed help on his biology homework, the class talking about cancer.

It was pretty common knowledge in Tarrytown that Brom's mom had died from cancer, but there was no way for Ichabod's mom to know, given that they moved there five years after it happened. Brom avoided looking up as he ate until Idina cleared her throat.

"Ichabod told me you need to stay the night, if you want, you can take the couch in the living room, but I also don't mind if you sleep in Ichabod's room. With the door open, of course."

"Mom, we wouldn't-"

"Thank you, Idina."

Dinner carried on for a long time, much to the amusement of Brom, and the chagrin of Ichabod, whose mom pulled up just about every embarrassing photo she could of him to show to Brom. Ichabod had tucked himself into the couch, right between Brom and the armrest, hiding his face in his shoulder as Idina brought over a photo of Ichabod at his first grade dance recital, which was apparently just before he quit. Little Ichabod had a Winnie the Pooh costume on, his face painted yellow, and he was standing next to a shorter girl in a Piglet costume.

"You were so cute back then! What happened?" Ichabod groaned.

"I thought you think I'm cute now." He pouted, and Brom dropped his voice, making sure Idina wouldn't hear him.

"I think you're sexy now." 

"R-right. Me too. I mean, I think you're-" Brom cut him off with a quick peck on the lips, saving him from floundering for a minute. Brom pulled away, watching Ichabod's face glow a soft pink. 

"Are we moving quickly? I mean, we haven't gone on a date and you called me your boyfriend."

"You also drove me to therapy and cried all over me and... I like you, a lot. If you want, we can slow down." Ichabod shifted away, and Brom slid over to him.

"I just wanted to make sure you were good with-" Brom waved his hand between the two of them "-this." Ichabod nodded and leaned forward, kissing the corner of Brom's lips.

"I am."

"Okay."

-

Ichabod's clothes were usually big on him, so they fit Brom comfortably. He had given Brom a pair of Cookie Monster pyjama pants, the only pair where he hadn't cut the legs shorter, and a well worn tee shirt that was so faded he couldn't tell what it had originally said. They had a very short argument about where Brom was going to sleep, which Ichabod won, and so Brom curled into the bed, Ichabod's face inches away. 

He had brushed his hair before bed, making the front of it wild and fluffy, and Brom couldn't resist reaching forward and running his fingers through it, making Ichabod nearly purr.

"You like the view, Ichy?"

"I do." The room was dark, the only light streaming in from a lamp in the living room, the door half open. Ichabod had put his retainer in a few minutes ago, which made his words sound bulky, like he had a lisp. He hummed and pushed at Brom's side.

"What?"

"Turn over." With a huff, Brom turned onto his side, facing Ichabod's closed closet doors. A second later, a skinny arm wrapped around his stomach, pulling Brom against Ichabod's chest. Brom nuzzled back into him.

"Am I the little spoon? Is that what's going on?" Ichabod responded with an affirmative hum. "I'm good with that." Brom closed his eyes, feeling Ichabod's steady breathing behind him, perfectly timed and calm. It only took a few minutes for him to fall asleep, lulled by Ichabod's gentle snores.

-

Brom had forgotten that they had school the next day. He had been awoken by Ichabod's alarm, which was a pretty violin song, rather than the default one Brom's phone had. They had become more tangled together during the night, Brom's face buried in Ichabod's chest, legs intertwined. Ichabod, it turned out, was a lovely morning person, and made Brom coffee while he grumbled, trying to force himself to stay awake. Brom sipped at it while he plugged in his phone, having forgotten to do so the night before. He had a text from his dad asking how his day was and a handful of them from Kat, a healthy mix of memes and her actually being funny. 

Ichabod had asked him not to peek while he got dressed, and Brom obeyed, answering a few Snaps from guys on his team and a couple of his co workers. Ichabod ruffled his hand through Brom's hair once he was dressed, and Brom looked up. Ichabod had on a plain white tee shirt tucked into a pair of hideous yellow plaid pants, but somehow, he pulled them off. 

"You look so fucking gay." Brom chuckled, handing Ichabod his glasses from the side table.

"You slept in my arms last night." Brom pulled him down by the belt hoops for a kiss. 

"And what an amazing sleep it was." He stretched out, standing up from the bed. He had already gone to the washroom and rubbed toothpaste on his teeth, as Ichabod didn't have a spare toothbrush for him. "I guess I'll need to stop by my place to grab something to wear."

Ichabod gestured to the closet. "You can just wear my stuff, that's fine."

"Your stuff?" Ichabod frowned, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, what's wrong with that?"

"I mean, shouldn't it be the other way around?" Ichabod sighed, fiddling with his glasses.

"Why? Because I'm the more feminine one?"

"I mean... Yeah."

"Brom, we're both guys. That's why we're in a gay relationship. I'm not the girl in this situation, and I know that you're used to that dynamic but..." Ichabod trailed off, and Brom walked over to him, gently taking his hands. He raised them to his lips to kiss the knuckles.

"You're right. Sorry." Ichabod shook his head slightly.

"It's fine. Just..."

"I know." Brom opened the door to the closet and settled on a red Ohio State tee shirt, pulling it off a hanger. He slid his shirt off and watched as Ichabod looked away, blushing. He slipped it over his head and pulled out a black and white flannel, pulling it on as well. Ichabod turned around so he could change back into his jeans from the day before.

"Uh, we might want to leave now before the soccer moms flood the streets, all trying to get little Jimmy to school." Ichabod tugged on Brom's jacket just before they left.

-7

Brom didn't know if he was allowed to hold Ichabod's hand. It hung beside him, resting just above Ichabod's school bag, fingers tapping on the pleather as they walked away from the truck, each with a coffee in hand. Brom was sure Ichabod had seen him trying to reach out for it and pulling his hand back a few times before the shorter boy slid his bag to the other side and grabbed Brom's hand. 

"Isn't Tarrytown homophobic?" Brom shrugged, looking straight forward as they walked closer to the school. He could feel people looking already, and he assumed that cameras would soon be out, ready to post their hands on Snapchat or Instagram stories. He knew that something would happen, he just didn't know what.

"I don't know. We have a GSA at the school but I don't know who's in it. It's a small town, it'll always feel anti-outsider."

"I've only been here for, like, less than two months."

"And you already turned the hottest football star gay." Ichabod snorted, which made Brom's heart soar.

"Like you didn't point out how tight the uniforms are when you made me watch football with you."

"I thought you'd appreciate it!" They both laughed, and Ichabod pulled open the door to the school.

-

His first half of the day went fine. Sure, he heard a few kids whispering, saw a few people sharing pictures on their phones. Brom had decided to skip going to get lunch from the cafeteria, just to avoid any conflict, making a bee line for the theatre room instead. When he arrived, Ichabod was sitting on a table, looking guilty while Katrina stood in front of him, a harsh look on her face. Her head snapped to the door when the light from the hallway streamed in.

"You! Why didn't you tell me?" Brom walked in, closing the door with a soft thud.

"Tell you what?" She scoffed, putting her hands on her hips, her skirt swishing as she did so.

"That you two are together! We do everything as the three of us and now I'm going to be the third wheel!" She pouted, and Ichabod handed her a Ziploc bag of Froot Loops. Brom moved to sit next to Ichabod on the table, dropping his head on the other's shoulder. Ichabod wrapped his arm around Brom's side.

"Trina, did you expect us to call you the second it happened?" Ichabod sounded tired, and Brom had a feeling she had been berating him since they got into the room.

"Yes!" She sat down on a chair nearby. "I may be a strong, independent woman, but I didn't want to be a strong, independent woman with romantic best friends." Brom chuckled.

"Sorry. But not really." Brom felt Ichabod shake with silent laughs. "How'd you find out, anyway?"

"A football player gets kicked off the team and the next day is seen holding hands with one of the only out kids, it's all people are talking about!" Ichabod sighed, shifting his legs.

"Small town life is so fucking weird, no one would have given a shit in Manhattan." Brom reached over to steal a cucumber from Ichabod's lunch.

"Yeah, but there are only four hundred kids at this school, news travels fast." Kat nodded, and Ichabod sighed, looking away. Brom followed his eyeline to the mostly-built set pieces in the corner of the classroom. There was only two weeks left before the show went on, and Brom and Ichabod had been spending a lot of time in the shop classroom. Brom was worried about what would happen when the show ended, if Katrina would want to stick around as his friend. He had never been all that kind to her. Ichabod nudged him, and Brom realized that both his boyfriend and Katrina were looking at him.

"Huh?" Kat looked worried.

"I asked you why you're wearing Ichabod's stuff. Did you guys... already?" She made a sign with her hands that made Brom feel dirty, and he pushed away from Ichabod slightly.

"No! No, I just... I needed somewhere to go, yesterday. I don't really wanna talk about it." Ichabod rubbed his thumb over Brom's lower back. Kat sighed, standing up.

"Brom, you never want to talk about things that are bothering you. Y'know why Ichabod and I get along so well? We talk about our problems to each other. You can always talk to us, we're your friends. Your best friends." 

"I'm scared, y'know? I'm scared of change. I'm scared of not playing football and not being straight and not being in Tarrytown. Which is stupid, because I lo-really like Ichabod, and I've worked my whole life to leave this town. Like, it's not like I want to stay. It's just scary to think about leaving and being in a new place, and I think that I thought I could hide in normalcy for a little while longer, but now I have to go home and tell my dad that I'm not going to get a scholarship and that I'm into dudes and everything is going to change."

He felt Kat's hands on his arms before he had noticed she had moved. Ichabod's arm was gripping his side tightly, fingers digging into his stomach slightly, while Kat had her warm hands resting gently on his biceps. She looked him in the eye.

"Change is good. Everything changes eventually, Brom. If you hadn't changed and come to the theatre, you never would have met me or Ichabod or learned that you're really good at building props. Change made this happen-" She gestured to him and Ichabod, and the other boy nodded "-and you're happy about that. You have to embrace change, it's the only thing that's certain in life."

-

Ichabod liked to lock pinkies more than hold hands. Brom had never realized that was a thing people did, but the shorter boy instigated it as they walked towards Brom's house, his father's car parked in the driveway in front of them. Ichabod squeezed gently, and Brom looked down at him.

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"I-yeah. Yeah, I really, really do." Brom leant down slightly, giving Ichabod a kiss on the forehead. It had taken Brom a few days to come to this decision, skirting around his father as much as he could before he was ready to talk to him about Ichabod. About being... whatever Brom was.

He had told him about the football team two days after it happened. He had taken it well, saying that he had been saving for Brom's school, and that he would probably be able to get a partial scholarship on grades alone. He had told Brom he was proud of him, and that's all he had ever wanted to hear his father say.

But now he was here, holding pinkies with another boy, hand frozen over the door knob, worried about what would come next. His dad had never said anything homophobic, had never acted like there was something wrong with it. But saying that you support queer people is different than actually supporting them, it's easier to say you're okay with people being gay than see your son kissing another man. 

"Bee?" Ichabod squeezed his pinkie again.

"Okay. Okay, let's do this."

Their house was pretty small, and most of the furniture was old. They hadn't replaced anything since his mother's death, both Brom and his father wanting to hold on to any part of her they were offered. His father was sitting on one of the two couches in the living room, feet up on the table. He had been watching soccer when the door opened, but he switched it over to the Discovery Channel. 

"Hey, Brommer, how was school, bud?" His dad peered over the soft cushions on the couch, and sat up properly when he noticed Ichabod standing a foot behind his son. 

"It was good, long day. Uhm, dad, I want you to meet Ichabod. He's, uh..." Brom trailed off as Ichabod stood beside him, a nervous expression on his face. Brom's father waited quietly, glancing at the teens. "Ichabod is my boyfriend."His dad raised an eyebrow, standing up from his spot. With long strides, he made his way over to the teens, towering high above them. Ichabod flinched when Brom's father stopped about two feet away from him. They looked at each other for a long second before Ichabod put his hand out, and Brom's father shook it.

"Ichabod Crane, sir."

"Call me Luis, Ichabod." He turned to Brom, clamping a hand on his shoulder. "I always expected you to bring someone shorter than you home, but I'm surprised you could find a shorter man, son." Ichabod laughed as Brom's jaw dropped, and he stuttered. Luis chuckled and shook Brom by the shoulder. 

"So you're good with...this?" Luis snorted, walking to the kitchen section of the room.

"Your mother told me she thought you liked boys when you were nine and obsessed with Fernando Torres." He gestured to the stools on the other side of the counter from where he stood. "Come, sit and tell me about it. I'll cook us something." Ichabod began walking, dragging Brom behind him, who was still processing how calm his father had been about the whole ordeal. Brom pulled out a stool for Ichabod to sit on first before he sat on the next one over, taking Ichabod's hand in his.

"Uh, dad, Ichabod's a vegan." Luis swung around, scrutinizing eyes on the shorter boy.

"I can get behind you dating my son... but being vegan? Blasphemy." He shook his head with a smile as Ichabod shrugged. "How does fajitas sound?"

"Fantastic, sir."

-

Two days before the musical went on they faced their first bit of homophobic backlash. Things had been going too smoothy, Brom guessed, and he wasn't that surprised when he found 'fag' keyed into the front of his locker. Kat sighed, running her fingers against the jagged letters.

"I can't believe people still do this. I mean, it's 2020. Grow the hell up." She leaned against the lockers next to Brom's. Ichabod ran his hand over Brom's back, looking up at him with worried eyes.

"Are you okay?"

"They really could have been more creative, huh." Brom opened his locker, shoving his scarf and coat into it. "I mean, if you're going to be homophobic, at least have some spice in it." He dug through his bag as Ichabod used the mirror in Brom's locker to fiddle with his hair. 

"I guess."

"Hey, Ichy, do you have a Sharpie?" Ichabod shook his head, and Katrina pulled one out of her pink pencil case, handing it over. Brom shut his locker with a soft clang, and raised the marker to the front of it. When he was done, the text wrote 'fag, and damn proud of it'.

-8

Katrina had broken one of the chairs for the Gaston scene the day before they went on. The dress rehearsal went great without it, the ensemble member using a plastic chair instead, but Brom was worried about all the chairs after the incident, and had decided to stay late after school to reinforce them all. He sat on the stage, a box of screws beside him, drilling each one into the leg of a chair. Ichabod had rigged up the speakers to his Spotify, and Ben Platt's album filled the auditorium. Ichabod himself was lounging comfortably in Gaston's plush chair.

"I think we should go see the Rockefeller tree lighting together. As much as I find small town life charming, I'm missing parts of New York. I heard that the ball drop for New Year's here is that someone drops a volleyball off of the bell tower."

"Actually, it's a soccer ball." Brom looked up from his spot, watching as Ichabod's face scrunched up.

"That's worse."

"Apparently, it's because someone hit the mayor on the head with a soccer ball on Christmas in 1822 and he woke up on New Year's day." Ichabod laughed, putting his phone down.

"How do you know that?"

"I like history. I also went last year." Brom stretched his legs out, switching between chairs.

"You're cute." Ichabod shifted so he could get a better view of Brom, his legs thrown over the arm rest. "You're really good at set design. I think that Mr.Carls would have just used the back drops from Guys 'n' Dolls if you hadn't offered to paint them."

"I like doing it. I mean, it's like creating a whole world and then the actors make it come to life." Brom stood up, his spine sore from holding his tucked position for too long. Ichabod rose from the chair, crossing over to lean up against him, forehead dropped on Brom's shoulder.

"You should do this more often. At the theatre in town, or like... in New York." Brom made a soft noise at that, and Ichabod shushed him. "No, I know your whole thing is that you want to leave a mark. But imagine how many lives you could affect by building something that gets them into theatre, how many stages you could work on that could help someone get noticed as an actor or inspire a show or... This makes you happy. You just sit on the ground and have that big smile that makes that little mole by your eye scrunch up the whole time you do this." 

Brom hadn't thought of it that way. He saw building the set as a one time thing, just for Beauty and the Beast, but then he'd go back to nothing, not until soccer season started, and that was if the guys would want a queer guy on the team. But building was good, he could use his hands and his brain and Ichabod was right, it made him happy and could change a show. He had seen how theatre inspired Kat, and how music moved Ichabod. Maybe this was that for him. His calling. His use in life. He'd never know unless he tried.

-

They had agreed to make the musical their proper first date. Making out in their rooms or just watching movies on the couch didn't count, at least it didn't to Ichabod. Brom pulled at the collar of his shirt, trying to make it look nice without it strangling him by doing the top button up. He had run to the grocery store to buy flowers, the small bouquet of whites and pinks resting on his dresser as he looked in the mirror. He grabbed them on his way out, pulling on a bomber jacket that had been in the back of his closet since he got his varsity one. That jacket really did belong to Ichabod now.

The shorter boy was waiting outside of the building when Brom arrived, and nearly ran to the car, a grin on his face. He opened the truck door before clambering into the cab, one hand tucked behind his arm. Brom held out the flowers, and Ichabod chuckled. 

"Really? I thought I was getting the, uh, leg up on this one." He held out the arm that had been behind him, a lovely blue bouquet offered to Brom. Ichabod took the one he was holding out as Brom reached towards the blue one.

"For me?"

"For you." Brom took the flowers in both hands, giving them a sniff. They just smelled like how he expected flowers to smell like, which was nice. "Nobody has ever got me flowers before." Ichabod smiled and leant forward, giving Brom a short kiss.

"I thought they matched your eyes." He looked down at the white and pink one, delicate fingers brushing over a petal. "Oh, shit, should we have gotten one for Kat?"

They looked at each other for a moment, each of them clutching their gifts close. 

"Nah."

-

The theatre was already bustling when they arrived at the school. Most of the crowd seemed to be parents, but there were small groups of students like them, and some families with younger kids excited to see the play. There was a big list up with poorly taken head shots of the cast, and Brom and Ichabod took a selfie under Kat's picture, Ichabod's finger in the air like he was picking her nose. They laughed, and Brom put the picture on his Snapchat story. 

Brom had a hard time looking away from Ichabod. He had dressed sharply, with a newsprint button up tucked into dark blue pants that hugged him in ungodly ways, and his glasses were nowhere to be found. Ichabod had complained about the contacts, but blushed when Brom complimented him on how he looked. 

The musical had gone off without a hitch. The crowd laughed and applauded and gasped at all the right times, and Brom could feel excitement building in his chest during the intermission, when he overheard people talking about the set. Ichabod held his hand the whole show, though he anxiously moved his fingers pretty often.

They were on their feet the moment the moment the bow music started, cheering and clapping for their peers. Their friends. Brom looked down at Ichabod, who had his hands cupped to make his cheering louder when Gaston crossed the stage.

"I'm really glad I met you!"

"What?"

"I said I'm really glad I met you!" Brom leant down to catch Ichabod in a kiss. Ichabod pulled away slowly, grinning at him.

"I'm glad I met you too!"

-

They stayed after just long enough to compliment Katrina and a few of Ichabod's closest friends. The cast was headed to a Wafflehouse, and while they had been invited, they declined, wanting to end their date off right.

They had put the windows down in Brom's car and drove out of Tarrytown, out of view of prying eyes and streetlights, out of judgement and expectations. Wind in their hair, Troye Sivan blasting so loud Brom could feel the vibrations of the drums in his teeth. Eventually, they pulled over near where the trees parted enough for them to see the clear sky, and they got out of the truck, leaving the music playing. They sat in the bed, Brom's head on Ichabod's shoulder, a jacket thrown over their legs for warmth.

The bugs nipped at them, and the wind rustled them about. The music stopped playing and the lights were so dim Brom could barely see Ichabod's face. And for the first time in such a long, long time, Brom remembered what it was like to truly be happy.