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There isn't an easy way to ask a guy why he’s lit up like soft patio lights. No one else seems to care either, so for a moment Kevin worries he smoked a bad bag this morning. But, honestly, it looks like one of the guys on the student tour he’s guiding is glowing just beneath his skin. What a mindfuck.

Kevin blinks several times, trying to get his brain on the right page. It doesn't help. Halfway through the tour, Kevin determines that it’s in his veins rather than that this guy — Johnny, he says at one point — has eerily luminescent skin.

Johnny makes his way toward the front of the group as they walk through campus, and Kevin can’t stop noticing the colors. He thinks it might be a gradient, because near his wrists is teal, but they turn a bold blue as they travel higher, blending into purple. The light gets fainter at Johnny’s neck and then seems to dim completely, leaving his face perfectly normal.

“Do you ever get too crazy with school and playing, because I don't even like class that much — what?” Johnny finally asks, scrunching his nose.

Whoops. Kevin knows he’s been staring, but he’s trying to figure this out. “Sorry,” he says. He just needs to know. “What’s wrong with you?”

Johnny’s laughter is startled, like he chokes on a breath. “That's a fucked up question,” he says. “I don't know. What’s wrong with you that you think that's cool to ask?”

“I—” Kevin stutters. “You're right, sorry. That was really rude.”

“Whatever,” Johnny says. He pats Kevin’s shoulder, fingertips a soft green. “Buy me lunch, and I’ll forgive you. Where do you eat around here?”

Johnny came with his dad and brother, but they want to walk around more once the tour’s over. It’s a nice day out. Kevin doesn't blame them. He takes Johnny to the dining hall, describing what his typical game days are like. He tells him about the team.

“Everybody wants to be on a good team, but gelling is a whole different thing,” Johnny says. “You guys hang out a lot?”

Answering Johnny’s questions is easy. Trying to be more stealth about looking at his glowing skin is tougher. He must fail because Johnny eyes him again while they're getting food and says, “Seriously, what? Everybody thinks I'm kidding about being a player at first. I know I'm short.”

That's really not what’s grabbing Kevin’s attention. It’s so far from what he expects Johnny to assume that Kevin sputters, flummoxed.

“You're fine,” he says lamely and points at the food behind the glass. “You're lucky. It’s steak day.”

**

Kevin isn't waiting with bated breath for Johnny to come to BC, but when he shows up, Kevin does feel oddly happy to see him. It’s hard to forget a kid who glows. Johnny’s all oranges and reds and yellows when he starts college. Kevin suggests they get dinner together as a sort of welcome but also to try to determine if Johnny’s colors are related to his moods.

He introduces Johnny to some of the guys on the team. They ask him about where he’s played and his family, all while Johnny eats his pizza and then breaks off a piece of his plate and crunches on that, too.

Dumo asks, “You wanted to be a Terrier?”

“Well, no, I was pretty much always set on coming here, but my brother has a ton of Terrier gear,” Johnny says, smiling around his mouthful of glass when guys jeer. “Don’t boo my brother!”

“You’ll change his mind, right?” Tommy asks, as if he doesn’t see this bizarre snack choice happening. Johnny is multihued and chewing on a cafeteria plate, and — nothing.

Johnny breaks off another piece and pops it in his mouth. “That’s what I’m trying to say. We want to play together at some point, when he’s out of high school, so I let him decide where.” He shrugs. “He picked BC. Here I am.”

It kicks up a chorus of “aww” from the guys. Johnny flips them off as his whole body shifts toward a deeper red. So that answers the glowing question.

They chat until everybody’s finished. Kevin keeps waiting for Johnny’s mouth to start bleeding while he munches away. Surely eating glass is a bad idea for pretty much any part of the human body — unless it’s sugar glass, but the last time Kevin checked, the caf didn’t serve food on candy plates.

“You’re, uh, really into the stuff here, huh?” Kevin says, a little under his breath as the conversation splinters. He doesn’t want to offend Johnny again or whatever, either, but come on. What the hell.

Johnny tilts his head. “Yeah, I guess so. It’s cool so far.”

That isn’t what Kevin meant, but he’s not sure how to rephrase the question. All the guys start shuffling in their seats like it’s time to go soon after, too, so he lets the thought lapse. Johnny dusts his hands off on his pants, full of his pizza and plate, and follows them out pain free. Kevin keeps looking around, expecting others to share his confusion, but no one’s eying Johnny sideways.

He bumps into Paul after Johnny parts ways with them outside and says, “He’s a trip, right? Weird kid.”

Paul shakes his head, smiling. “Kev, you can’t go around calling people weird just because they’re from Jersey.”

“Shut up,” Kevin says, laughing. “I didn’t mean — you know what I meant. You’ve seen him.”

Paul shrugs. “I don’t know. He seems alright to me. I just keep thinking about how fast he is. You saw him out there.”

True. They haven’t even had a hard practice yet, but Johnny’s so good on his edges. “If you’re smaller, you have to be quick and tricky, I guess,” he says.

**

Johnny gets bored easily. Sometimes he’ll have a new game on his phone to get wrapped up in, pass the time, but in general he’s not great at sitting still. Kevin gets used to him appearing at his room at random times, looking to talk while Kevin does homework or something. He babbles and tosses around on Kevin’s bed, unable to stay in one place for long.

When he perches on Kevin’s desk, right next to his books, he asks, “What are you even working on?”

“One of my professors has us preparing for this research paper already,” Kevin says.

Johnny sits and watches, but Kevin can see him gradually get more restless. His leg bounces more as minutes tick. Kevin reaches over and stops his thigh, laying his palm over Johnny’s pant leg.

“Sorry,” Johnny says, but he starts again way too soon. Kevin squeezes, and Johnny huffs. “You’ve been doing this for hours.”

It’s been maybe one hour. One and a half, tops. Kevin says, “Why don’t you go find Bill? Make him entertain you.”

“I don’t want to swim back alone,” Johnny says.

“What?”

“You let us drift out too far.” Johnny gestures at the rest of the room. “Why do you think I came over here from your bed? You were floating away. I didn’t want to yell.”

Kevin hears the words as he glances past his desk, back toward his bed. His dorm is endless, somehow, stretched across hundreds of feet, each piece of furniture floating on a tiny island and gently sliding further apart. Now that Johnny’s pointed it out, he can hear the lapping of the water on his floor — what used to be his floor. Kevin’s rooming in a lake now. He dips his foot in and finds that it’s deeper than he expected. It’s also cold.

“What the fuck!” he shouts. His room is a fucking lake or ocean or some fucking thing it shouldn’t be. Is he supposed to breastroke to his bed? This is awful.

“Can you swim?” Johnny asks.

“What did you do?” Kevin asks frantically.

Johnny scrunches his face. “Nothing! It’s not my room, man. Tie your shit together or something.”

He slips down into the water, disappearing in the endless dark like that’s the logical move. Kevin can track him a little by the faint light, his adrenaline pumping. He starts worrying about monsters and wondering if anyone could even hear them if they called for help. His room is so huge. They should be spilling into the courtyard. There should be no way the building can contain this.

Johnny’s head pops out of the water. “Found the tether,” he says and holds a thick rope with a loop at the end high. “Are you coming?”

“My laptop's gonna get wet,” Kevin says. He feels like an idiot. “I need this for class.”

“Just pull everything back together.” Johnny shakes the rope. “Come on.”

Kevin can’t believe he’s going to jump in the water. He does and sinks as if his body’s suddenly made of rock. Johnny grabs his wrists and guides him back to the surface. He’s laughing.

“Keep up, Hayes,” he says and starts swimming.

So spread out, the lamps in his room can’t really illuminate enough of the space in between islands. Johnny is like a beacon, leading Kevin through the dim of Kevin’s creepy lake toward the next bit of salvation.

When they make it back to his bed, Johnny latches the rope around a leg. He says, “Help me tighten it.”

Kevin does. Once it’s secure, a rumble sends ripples through the water and the rope seems to harden and expand, making a bridge between his desk and his bed.

“Whoa,” Kevin breathes, but when he looks at Johnny, he’s just smiling.

“One down.” Johnny turns his smile to Kevin. He has a really toothy grin, naturally mischievous, but somehow Johnny never really seems sinister. Kevin likes it. It works on him. “Let’s go corral the rest of your kingdom.”

The whole effort feels like it takes hours. Kevin’s limbs are exhausted from all the swimming and hauling. Johnny doesn’t look any better when the last pieces connect. They’re soaked when they collapse onto Kevin’s bed, but he can’t even care right now. He’s mostly glad they got everything together before his roommate’s return.

Johnny’s small enough that fitting them both isn’t the worst option. Kevin’s already dozing as he says, “Crash here if you want.” Fatigue is also really the only reason he adds, “Thanks for the help,” and doesn’t feel like a complete doofus.

“Any time,” Johnny says, voice fuzzy, warm next to Kevin all night.

**

Johnny sleeps on a cloud. Kevin doesn't realize until he finds himself rotating through sleeping on the floor in friends’ spaces. The water hasn’t come back, he doesn’t think. Nothing out of the ordinary has happened any time he checks in to get clothes or a book for class, but he’s still weirded out by it. Kevin can't really explain to anyone why he’s avoiding his dorm room either, so he very nonchalantly offers to smoke his friends out and dozes off on their floors or bean bag chairs.

It's not a huge deal. None of his buddies or teammates care much. That's how he ends up using a pallet on Johnny’s floor and trying hard not roll over each time he dozes off, because Johnny’s bed — cloud — would be floating right over his head.

He can't resist reaching up to touch the bottom. It seems like Johnny should fall through a bunch of water particles. His fingertips disappear in the mist and, when Kevin swipes his hand up, he touches Johnny and jerks away immediately.

“What the fuck. Shit,” he murmurs, watching the way faint light shifts in the cloud as Johnny tosses in bed. He braces, expecting he’ll need to apologize, but Johnny yawns and settles again.

It’s peaceful in its own way. The longer he stares at the colors in the cloud, he — well, he starts craving cotton candy, but it’s also cool.

Johnny and Quinn let him stay over a couple more times. On Thursday, Kevin’s woken up in the wee hours to the cloud thundering, a faint rumbling and flashing. He jerks sideways when it dawns on him, afraid water’s going to drench the floor. It never comes, the lightning storm persistent but contained. He gets on his knees and scoots closer, watching Johnny frown and squirm in his sleep.

“Hey,” Kevin says. He touches Johnny’s shoulder. Johnny doesn’t wake up, restless but still definitely out.

Kevin strokes his arm and moves up to his neck, over his face and hair. He pets gently until Johnny starts to calm, the storm gradually ebbing. The dark purple of Johnny’s veins gives way to something brighter and soft, like lavender. Kevin sits with him for several minutes after he’s sleeping peacefully, just making sure he’s okay.

**

In the morning, Johnny’s well-rested and energetic. Kevin’s glad, because he’s exhausted. At least one of them got enough sleep.

Or maybe it’s two. Quinn seems fine as he starts getting ready for his day, too.

Kevin takes his sweet time folding up his blankets. He waits until Johnny leaves to go shower to ask, “Doesn't the noise bother you at night?”

Quinn twists his mouth, like he’s not sure why Kevin’s asking. He considers it and shrugs. “I don’t know — no. I don’t even notice him making any noise, really.”

**

The first time Johnny finally smokes weed with him, he starts floating away. Kevin doesn’t even notice at first. They’re sitting in a park with some friends, near a tree in an attempt to be relatively out of sight. It must happen in stages, because they’re all gathered in a small circle for an hour before Kevin realizes Johnny’s head is above his while he’s sitting upright.

“Where are you going?” Kevin asks and shakes his head, because that’s a stupid question. “How are you doing that?”

“I’m not!” Johnny says, giggling. His eyes are red. He’s so gone. “I’m not doing anything.”

He gets higher and higher. Kevin has to nearly stand at one point to get a joint from him. He passes it off, and then grabs Johnny’s leg.

“Wait. Dude. John.”

“Come with me,” Johnny says.

“Where?” Kevin asks. He’s just drifting up from — something. The weed? It’s not like there’s a destination attached to this.

Johnny shrugs. “I don’t know. Come on.”

Kevin tries to keep Johnny anchored to the earth, but it’s hopeless. He floats higher and higher. Kevin presses up on his toes, but eventually that isn’t enough either. He holds on tight when his feet clear the ground completely. Their friends are too busy laughing at each other, at squirrels, too fucking stoned.

Plummeting to his death in a park is not how Kevin expected to go. He just wanted to get baked for a while.

“You’re heavy. Come up,” Johnny says and bends to try to haul Kevin higher. They work out that he can gradually lie back in the air, and Kevin crawls his way over Johnny’s body. “Hi.”

“Am I crushing you?” Kevin asks.

Johnny laughs. Right. Mid-air. He holds on, looking down into Johnny’s smiling face. Kevin didn’t think this would be how he got his arms around Johnny. He’s thought about it sometimes. He’s wondered if Johnny would let him hold on for longer than a friendly side-hug, longer than messing around in practice or warm-ups, where Johnny lets Kevin pretend to check him and inevitably slips away, too quick to pin down.

They drift so high that Johnny says, “Let’s catch a flight.”

Snorting, Kevin says, “Sure, I don’t have anything to do today.”

The airplanes that come near are all zooming too fast to grab, though. Johnny suggests they wait for a submarine instead, maybe it’ll be slower. “Exploring or something,” he says, which sounds ridiculous until a huge sub comes lumbering through the sky, gray and ominous.

It’s easier plop down on the surface of that. The sky is blue, and the sun is shining. Kevin wishes he’d thought to grab some of his snack from the grass before they started floating away. They could still picnic.

“Maybe they have something inside,” Johnny says.

He has a pen in his pocket. He taps the button on the end and jams the tip into steel. It cuts through the metal like a saw, and Johnny drags a line through, cuts a corner and keeps going until he’s carved a square.

The metal falls inward when he steps on it. Kevin peers over the edge, expecting to see people, but there are just aisles of cases.

Johnny’s already sliding in legs first. “Let’s go.”

The light is dim inside. The windows are too small to let in much sun, but Johnny’s glow helps with the area immediately around him. Kevin stays close as they make their way through.

It’s all candy. Every case they pass has shelves of candy.

“Your perfect world,” Kevin says.

“The jackpot!” Johnny grabs a chocolate bar and some sour apple rings. “Do you see any watermelon candy?”

They have to search several rows before Kevin thinks he spots bags of what Johnny’s hoping for on a higher shelf. When Kevin reaches up, it’s just out of his grasp.

“Help me up,” Johnny says.

At first Kevin considers getting on a knee and clasping his hands, but he remembers Johnny weighs essentially nothing even when he’s in full gear. He fits his hands on Johnny’s waist, earning a chuckle.

“What?” Kevin asks.

“Just tickled.”

Johnny shifts in his hands, and Kevin realizes his shirt’s riding slightly higher on one side. The pads of Kevin’s fingers graze along soft skin. Nerves buzz in him suddenly. He pushes them down and takes a breath, lifting. Johnny gropes for the top shelf and manages to bat a few bags onto the floor.

Planting him again, Kevin exhales. “Happy now?”

“Yeah,” Johnny says, grinning with his head tilted to make eye contact.

It’s strangely eerie in this too-dark room, most of the light emanating from below Johnny’s chin. The shadows it creates on his face make him look dangerous. Kevin flexes his fingers and thinks about leaning into his shadows.

A rumbling from the far end of the sub stops him. “What was that?”

“No idea.” Johnny turns, stepping back so they can look in the same direction.

When it comes again, the rumble sounds a lot closer to a growl. A clacking against the floor makes Kevin edge backward slowly. He moves faster after another growl, tugging at Johnny. “Okay, let’s go. We have to get the fuck out of here.”

They run for it, and the clack-scratch of feet or paws — something Kevin doesn’t want to catch them — speeds up. Their hole into the submarine seems way too far above their heads to climb out. It’s like the walls of the vessel elongated while they weren’t looking.

“I saw a door. This way,” Johnny says, clutching all his candy and sprinting ahead.

There’s no way to tell if the door’s unlocked. Kevin closes his eyes for a second and hopes to hell, barreling toward it. Luckily it springs open, and he and Johnny dash across grass.

He recognizes his surroundings in increments: grass, trees, a park, the outdoors near the school, the same tree where they left their buddies. Johnny topples onto Bill as he skids to a stop, racked with terrified laughter.

“Where the hell did you guys go?” Bill asks. Kevin flops down next to him, relieving him of the lapful of Johnny.

“We got chased by a dog or something, man,” Johnny says.

Kevin’s shaking his head. That isn’t even the half of it. “It was unreal.”

“I just wanted more snacks,” Johnny says. He marvels at their spoils, and then rips into the bag of watermelon candy. “Pat, pass me a Dew.”

Kevin tilts Johnny’s baggy his way. “Share. I almost died for this.”

Johnny lets him steal some pieces, his smile still crooked on his mouth. His eyes are still pink in the light. So stoned.

“Whatever, you lived,” he says and doesn’t seem to mind Kevin curling fingers over his ankle, just in case he drifts toward the sky again.

**

“I thought you were going to have pixie dust coming off you or something,” Jimmy says over Skype. Johnny’s leaning over Kevin’s shoulder to peer at his laptop.

“Me?” he asks, pressing fingers to his chest. Genuine surprise.

Jimmy’s voice is sort of tinny over the line. Their hotel WiFi is shoddy. “Yeah, Kev’s always saying you get him into trouble. Wild adventures. He makes you sound like — what is it with the pixie dust? Tinkerbell. The lost boys.”

“I don’t get him into trouble.” Johnny has the nerve to sound affronted.

“Ha!” Rich. Kevin says, “Yes, you do.”

Just yesterday, they’d walked into a McDonald’s that turned out to be a live game show, and they couldn’t escape until they won the big prize. Kevin wouldn’t have ever been in that situation had Johnny not gotten a craving for french fries. On the bright side, Kevin won a new bike. They’re getting pegs later so Johnny can ride on the back.

“I guess you’re small enough to be Peter Pan-like anyway,” Jimmy says.

“Hey!” Johnny points at the computer, an attempt at scolding. Kevin thinks he looks adorable when he’s annoyed. The color in his veins pulses brighter for a moment. “Wasn’t that story really about a kid who died?”

Jimmy scoffs. “What? Fuck that, no, it isn’t.”

“Man, I swear.”

Googling Peter Pan and the inspiration behind it isn’t how Kevin envisioned this call going, but they all turn into a dog with a bone. Kevin likes that Jimmy laughs at Johnny’s jokes. It feels important.

Johnny has to bail after a while. His one early class is the next morning. Once he’s gone, Jimmy says, “You made him sound so weird.”

“Not really.” Kevin edits what he tells people about Johnny. He knows how a lot of it would sound if he told the whole truth. He could be telling Jimmy way crazier stories that he has been so far.

“Whatever, he doesn’t seem that bad.”

“Even with—” Kevin gestures in a way he hopes conveys the light constantly pulsing through Johnny. “The whole aura thing.”

“The spritely feel you seem to think he has?” Jimmy asks, expression clearly mocking. “He’s short, so what? I also don’t care that you’re dating a guy, by the way.”

Kevin startles and sputters. “We’re not. Johnny and I aren’t — bro.”

“Then man the fuck up, Kevin.” Jimmy says it so seriously that Kevin’s tempted to defend his game. It’s not that they couldn’t be, he thinks, and then has to shut that down. It’s a trap.

He says, “Yeah, whatever. I have to go.”

“I’m sure you do,” Jimmy says, very openly laughing at him.

**

A few months into the school year, Kevin thinks he’s getting used to Johnny’s chaos. He’s really trying to, anyway. He tries to accept that when they’re studying, sometimes Johnny reads portions of his history text out loud and the school library morphs into a coliseum. He rolls with it with when Johnny gets sick and an effort to keep him company means wading through molasses to reach his cloud bed. The goop tingles Kevin’s skin strangely, like the light from Johnny has gone electric, sending cords buzzing out through everything and zapping Kevin over and over.

“You didn’t have to come,” Johnny says. He sounds so sad and stuffy.

Kevin passes over the soup he bought and touches Johnny’s messy hair. “You need more fluids. I got you Gatorade, too.”

“Thanks.” He smiles a little and coughs, groaning.

“You poor bastard,” Kevin says. Sliding too far toward the edge of Johnny’s cloud makes Kevin vulnerable to the molasses again, so he stays close. He shouldn’t hang around too long and risk contagion, but he knows Johnny’s been alone all day. Human contact is probably useful.

Johnny complains about how his chicken noodle soup has more vegetables than chicken pieces, but he eats all of it. He slumps against Kevin after, and they watch random TBS reruns on TV until Johnny dozes off against him.

Kevin eases him down until he’s mostly resting on pillows. He touches Johnny’s forehead, just to make sure he’s not feverish, and says, “I’m gonna go and let you sleep, okay?”

Johnny doesn’t really answer. He sort of moans, tired and almost gone already. Kevin brushes through his hair again and slides back into the sticky fray to wade his way out into the hall.

He’s had to wash his clothes so much more often thanks to Johnny. They always manage to get into a mess of some kind, but it’s worth the molasses on his clothes. It’s worth the paint once Johnny’s well and they take Kevin’s bike to ride over a rainbow after a rainy day. The yellow band splatters all over the wheels, them, everywhere, kicked up by their rolling.

It’s freezing, so they turn back before they reach the peak. The bike gets stuck in the paint after too long, but Johnny says, “Let’s just slide down from here.”

It’s still a good day.

The only place Johnny makes any sense is on the ice. Whether they’re at BC or visiting other schools for away games, the ice brings order to Kevin’s life.

Johnny’s a wonder in a different way there, weaving through guys and to the net, rinse and repeat. He gets shots off like it’s easy, seeing threads that take everyone else a few seconds longer to realize. On the ice, he’s a real-world marvel, contained by the grooves their skates make in the ice and the building and the noise of the crowds boxing them in.

Kevin worried early on that Johnny might slide into the net accidentally and right into some new dimension. He had imagined Johnny sliding into the goal and into outer space, but it’s never happened. When Johnny topples, Kevin helps him up, and he just smiles back like the ride was still wild enough without unlocking a whole new landscape. The uncertainty everywhere else is worth it for Johnny streaking around in arenas.

“Watch your edges, clumsy,” Kevin teases.

“There’s clearly a rut there,” Johnny says, already gliding away. “Keep up, big guy!”

On the next shift, Johnny’s sprung for a breakaway, and he falls over again right as the puck goes into the net. He cheers from his back, and then looks around for Kevin to grin at him.

**

He feels nervous about inviting Johnny to his family’s house one weekend night. It’s after the holidays, as low pressure as possible, and yet Kevin’s still not sure what to expect. Everybody’s been asking about Johnny, though. A lot of his family in the area have met him briefly, but a sit-down evening seems somehow bigger.

It doesn’t help that Johnny literally grows a foot as soon as they walk through the front door. The change isn’t limited to height. Johnny seems larger all around, gradually looming bigger and bigger in their home.

“Did you happen to see any cookies that said ‘eat me’?” Kevin asks when Johnny doubles in size.

“No,” Johnny says and then furrows his brow, thinking. “...No.”

Kevin laughs, more anxiousness than humor. His folks don’t seem to mind the way Johnny’s slowly commandeering the space. He has to duck to get into each room, apologizing for knocking over a couple things — a vase, bumping pictures on the wall.

“You sure you’re from Jersey, kid? You’re so polite,” Kevin’s dad jokes, badly. Johnny chuckles and shrugs.

The color beneath his skin is shifting more frequently than usual, faster. It turns their living room into a strange kind of rave. Kevin says, “Relax,” but he’s already turning on music, too. He tries to find a jam that matches the rhythm of Johnny’s body. Hot Chip sort of works.

“I’m fine,” Johnny says, as if everything about him isn’t always on display. Kevin’s gotten pretty good at reading the different hues.

They eat in the living room because it’s more casual than everyone gathering around a table. Pretty lucky, too, since Johnny gets so big he can’t really walk around, folding in on himself and letting Kevin’s family fit in the areas around him.

Kevin pats his knee and says, “Don’t worry. We’ve seen crazier things happen in this house.”

“I’m not worried,” Johnny says, but he’s humongous now. Kevin half-expects his arms and legs to push through the windows and doors like Alice in Wonderland for real. That might be a problem.

Fortunately, Johnny seems to settle the more Kevin’s parents talk, bringing him into the conversation. Johnny has a similar sense of humor to Kevin, which means it extends to the family. He makes a joke about the Devils that goes over well with the room and shrinks down about a third during the chorus of laughter.

“Are you a Philly guy? You’re from closer to there, right?” Kevin’s mom asks.

“Yeah,” Johnny says.

“Obnoxious Eagles fan over here,” Kevin says. Johnny’s able to squeeze in next to him now, jabbing Kevin with his elbow. He likes it. Not that that’s new. He always likes having Johnny nearby, trying to chirp him or tell him something funny.

They stay until late. Johnny yawns, and Kevin can tell when he gets too tired to care about anything, because he blatantly climbs into the front pocket on Kevin’s flannel shirt and burrows. From a giant to a tiny, travel-size buddy. Cute.

“I guess I’m gonna take him back,” Kevin says stretching the pocket out to peer inside. Johnny’s curled up.

His mom says, “Sure. Do you have practice tomorrow?”

“Yep.” Another reason to get Johnny back to his bed.

They say goodbyes. Johnny pokes his head up and waves at least. “Thanks for having me,” he says in an absurdly small voice. He sounds a little like a chipmunk. Kevin’s never going to let him live it down.

“We can’t get on the T like this,” Kevin says as they head outside. He makes Johnny climb out, going back to normal.

Johnny still uses him as a makeshift pillow on the train, sleeping lightly as they ride back to school. Kevin doesn’t mind that, though. He likes that he’s comfortable.

Snow starts coming down as they get off the train. The dusting is barely starting to stick when they reach Johnny’s dorm. Kevin walks him right to the front and watches Johnny rub his eye a lot, groaning.

“I’m not carrying you upstairs,” Kevin says, even though that’s sort of a lie. He’d probably cave if Johnny insisted. He’s let himself be goaded into a piggyback ride or two before.

“That was nice,” Johnny says, instead of asking. “Your family’s hilarious. Good food.”

“And they gave you dessert. Your favorite.” Kevin knows what Johnny’s real priorities are. He smiles back at Johnny’s sleepy, lopsided grin. “You’re welcome any ti—”

He’s interrupted by Johnny pressing closer and onto his toes, kissing the corner of his mouth. Kevin’s stunned. He feels frozen for half a second even as his heart double-times. Instinct or insanity cranes his head in again as Johnny starts to fall back, finding his mouth.

Johnny makes a small huffing sound. Maybe they’ve caught each other by surprise, standing out in the cold. Kevin reaches for him, finding Johnny’s coat pockets and tucking his hands inside to haul him closer still, keep him near.

Breaking for breath reveals that Johnny’s all lit up from head to toe. Kevin’s never seen him like that before, his face glowing. His eyes are bizarrely neon bright. Arresting. Johnny blinks a few times and the colors start to mute. Kevin kisses him again anyway, like he can help him find his way back to normal, the way he always tries to help Johnny come back.

“You know,” Johnny whispers against his mouth, panting. “Most people would’ve just done that before having me meet the parents. You could’ve asked me out.”

Kevin laughs. His stomach feels like it’s in knots. He wants this single, amazing, terrifying moment to spiral out forever. He wants to ask Johnny to do something, send them through a wormhole and take them through different fantastic realities until they’ve exhausted the journey and themselves, yo-yoing back to right now years later.

“Sorry,” he says, laughing breathlessly.

“It’s okay,” Johnny says and kisses him again, quicker. “Are you gonna do it now?”

Kevin inhales and says, “Oh, yeah. Um. Do you want to, uh—” He has no idea. Johnny’s the leader here. “I don’t know. Whatever you want. You always have something wild going on.”

“Um,” Johnny says, and then breaks into his own airy laughter. “I don’t know either. I don’t do anything. I just hang out with you.”

“You literally — you took up all the space in my house earlier,” Kevin says. “I never know what’s going to happen with you.”

“You’re so weird,” Johnny says, but he’s giggling. “Are you stoned? Have you been stoned all night? You didn’t even share.”

Kevin says, “No. I’m not,” but he holds on tighter, like Johnny might slowly lift off and away despite them both being sober. He makes Kevin’s heart race. He’s impossible.

Johnny kisses him a third time, smiling into it. “Do you want to come to my room?”

That’s — simple. It’s easy, ordinary. Kevin isn’t really expecting it, but the invitation feels right. Johnny’s never asked like this before, like there’s something to anticipate.

“Yeah,” he says. He’s always game to follow.