On the edge between sleep and waking, Marshall Teller stirs. It’s August, and the cool breeze of the air conditioner contrasts nicely with the warmth of Dash’s body pressed against his back, Dash’s arm draped around his waist. He sighs in contentment as he feels the sunlight streaming through the window and smells the scent of coffee brewing somewhere in the house.
With a sudden realization, he pulls himself further into wakefulness and opens one eye just enough to get a good look at his watch.
“Fuck!” he says out loud. Then, “Dash, we slept in!”
Dash doesn’t respond in words, but instead tightens his hold and rolls over so that he’s practically on top of Marshall, pinning him to the mattress. Marshall struggles, then finally gives up on exiting the bed in anything resembling a graceful manner, and rolls out from under Dash, landing on the floor with a thud he’s pretty sure the entire house hears.
Sure enough, there’s the sound of his mother’s voice from downstairs. “Marshall, are you getting ready?!”
“Five minutes, Mom!” he calls back.
“Okay,” she responds. “But hurry up! You promised your dad we’d be on the road first thing in the morning.”
“I know,” he calls. “Just…five minutes!”
“Five minutes and either you’re down here, or I’m coming up,” Marilyn calls. Then, “Simon’s here!”
Of course, once again Simon would wind up being the only one of the two of them to show up on time to one of Marshall’s major life events. It’s been nearly three months now, and Marshall’s parents still haven't let him forget being over thirty minutes late to his own high school graduation with no explanation. He couldn’t even explain that one to Simon, as that particular time the lateness didn’t so much involve fighting the forces of weirdness as getting extremely intimate with a certain grey-haired one of them in the school parking lot. He’s pretty sure Simon’s drawn his own conclusions, though, from the way Marshall blushes every time somebody brings it up.
He pictures the three of them sitting around the kitchen table, his parents wondering aloud what could possibly be taking Marshall so long this time, and Simon very carefully not saying anything.
Focus, he tells himself. He finds the last set of clean clothes that aren’t already packed and in the car, folded on the dresser where he’d left them the night before. He pulls on boxers, pants, shirt and socks. Underneath these are his wallet and one other item he’d meant to deal with last night.
He shoves the wallet in his pocket, leaving the other on the dresser for the time being, and then makes a round of the room, picking up his own and Dash’s clothes. He makes sure he has everything. Left to his own devices, Dash X has a bad habit of leaving various bits of his nearly monochromatic wardrobe behind in Marshall’s room. It’s a built-in plausible excuse to return. More than once, Dash has stormed off swearing to never speak to Marshall again, only to show up at Marshall’s window the next night demanding, “Teller, give me my shirt back.”
Marshall throws his own dirty sleepwear in the hamper, then balls the rest up and throws it at Dash. Who is still in bed, covers pulled over his head.
“Dash, get dressed,” he whispers loudly. “You’ve got to go.”
“Fuck you, Teller,” is the muffled response.
“Nope, we did that, remember? All last night, right after you came over to tell me how much you hate me and how much easier your life is going to be once I’m gone?”
A single hand, bearing a + sign, emerges from the top of covers, middle finger extended.
“Again, did that,” Marshall says with a sigh.
He locates his shoes, pulls them on, then glances over at the dresser and remembers the one last thing he needs to deal with.
“Dash, I—" he gets out before he’s grabbed from behind.
Luckily, he’s been expecting this, so the whole thing doesn’t end in yet another discussion about the startle reflexes of semi-professional weirdness investigators and their inevitable consequences. Instead, Marshall tries very deliberately not to react at all as Dash’s arms encircle his waist, and Dash’s lips and teeth find that one particular sensitive spot on Marshall’s neck. Except for one small moan, he mostly succeeds. Marshall forces himself to stand completely still, and waits until Dash adjusts his grip to move a hand to the waistband of Marshall’s jeans, then uses the opportunity to twist away. He turns to regard his least trusted associate.
Nope, Dash isn’t dressed yet. Not even a little bit.
He starts to complain, except all of a sudden they’re in each other’s arms again, and Marshall can’t say who starts it this time. All he knows is that there’s grabbing and shoving and the meeting of lips and tongues, and suddenly they’re locked in something that is at least partially a kiss and partially an argument.
Dash has him pinned against the dresser, and Marshall—whose forebrain is screaming at him to least break it off long enough to emphasize the importance of being quiet when most of his entire family is awake downstairs—instead finds himself with his hands clenched in Dash’s hair, pressing himself against the hard length of Dash’s body, ready to give in and do whatever Dash X wants if he’ll only just—
No. There’s no time.
He groans in frustration, contemplates a very bad idea, then sets it aside. Technically, in certain parts of the multiverse, Marshall is still under a death sentence for interfering with the nature of causality following the temporal anomaly incident at the Eerie Mall. If he’s going to risk messing with time again, it’ll be when he finally figures out how to go back five years, to the exact date a certain someone first woke up in Eerie. He’s not going to do it just to postpone the inevitable.
Instead, he forces himself to stop, release his grip on Dash’s hair, and gently push Dash away.
“No,” he says, with what he hopes is an appropriate degree of finality. “Not now. You have to go.”
“I do? Are you sure?” Dash asks. It’s probably meant to sound brash and not in any way sad or even a little bit wounded.
Marshall takes Dash’s hands in his own. He lets his thumbs brush over the + and - symbols until he feels Dash shudder and hears his sharp intake of breath.
Oh. Right. Probably not the best idea if the goal is to get Dash to put clothes on. He stops.
“I have to leave,” he says instead.
“No you don’t,” Dash replies.
“Yes, I—“ Marshall begins automatically, and then sighs. “Dash, my mom is going to be coming through that door at any second, so if you want to have this argument again right now, it needs to involve you wearing pants.”
Dash smirks and Marshall can tell he’s about to press the issue. Marshall realizes it’s time to change tactics. He shrugs. “Okay, fine. I’m leaving town today. You want to get caught, you’re the one who gets to stay and deal with consequences.”
Marshall watches Dash’s face as he considers this for half a second before turning toward the bed and locating his boxers in the pile of black fabric. “I’m not afraid of your mother, Teller,” he mutters as he pulls them on.
Which is one of Dash’s bigger lies. Marshall found out too late that the elder Tellers’ famed obliviousness when it comes to most things weird or otherwise important does not seem to fully extend to people involved in their children’s love lives. And when those people are also neighborhood kids who seem very much in need of mothering…well, at this point Dash X is rather permanently on Marilyn Teller’s radar, and worse yet, she actually seems to like him. This is something that continues to make Dash very, very nervous.
Marshall forces himself to calm down and focus. In five minutes—or was five minutes up five minutes ago? He’s lost track of time and needs to get Dash out of here or they are going to be so very busted—he’s going to be on the road to college for the very first time. Headed away from Eerie, a place he’d never thought he’d miss, let alone plan to come back to.
But Dash is here in Eerie, and Marshall’s made certain promises that he intends to keep, whether they’ve broken up for good this time or not.
He turns and Dash is standing there. He's mostly dressed now, pants and shirt on, boots in one hand, long black coat—and yes, Dash knows it’s August, and no, Dash doesn’t care—thrown over one shoulder. “So I guess this is goodbye, Teller,” Dash says.
“I guess so,” Marshall replies. He leans in for a last kiss.
As if on cue, he hears the sound of his mother’s voice. “Marshall, you are well into overtime now! When I get up there, you’d better be awake, dressed, and ready to get in the car!”
Dash turns toward the window.
“Wait!” Marshall says. He runs over to the dresser and grabs the one thing he meant to give Dash the night before. There was a whole speech to go with this, but even if there was time, Marshall can’t remember it now, so instead he just holds it out and says, “Here.”
It’s a single key on a silver chain. It matches the one Marshall’s worn around his own neck for the past five years.
Dash seems to freeze in place, and makes no move to take it.
“It’s a copy of the key to the evidence locker,” Marshall over-explains. “You know, in case you need to get anything in it while I’m gone. My journals are in there, too. The whole record of Eerie weirdness. I’m trusting you with this, so be careful with it.”
Dash still isn’t moving, and Marshall can hear his mother stomping up the stairs, so he reaches up and slips the chain over Dash’s neck.
This seems to snap Dash out of his temporary paralysis. He tucks the key under his shirt with a muttered, “Fuck, whatever!” and bolts toward the window. As he lowers himself out, Marshall leans down and kisses him one final time.
“I still hate you,” Dash says.
“I know,” Marshall replies.
And then Dash climbs down, drops to the ground, and runs away across the lawn. Marshall straightens, shuts the window, and turns toward the door just as his mother opens it.
“Marshall—“ she begins. Then, “Oh, you actually are ready.”
“I told you I would be,” he says. “We should probably get going. We’re burning daylight, and Dad wants to be on the road.”
As Marilyn shakes her head at this, he sneaks what he hopes is a surreptitious glance toward his bedroom floor, and suppresses a sigh at the object he pretends not to see there.
Dash has left a sock.