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Philip is good at being invisible. He stays quiet, keeps his head down, hides inside of his patchy, ratty leather jacket. It's Darwinism in realtime, the best way to survive his mother's four-day benders, avoid the string of men passing through their shitass house with their pockets full of pills, teeth so rotten it's like they've never seen a toothbrush. Those guys who have no bones about letting Philip know that his mouth looks like a hell of a fun ride.

So yeah. Head down. Feet on solid ground. Voice rarely above a whisper. Try not to puke because their breath smells so fucking bad when they get a little too close. Philip does okay, stays fed, slides by in school, locks his door when he goes to bed at night, then does it all over again the next day. Same story, morning glory.

After his mother's two hundred bucks a day hobby lands him in the empty, pastoral no-man's land surrounding the tiny town of Tivoli, Philip expects much of the same, only easier, quieter, more cows and less traffic. He expects family breakfasts with the rent-a-parents, visits from DSS like clockwork, maybe not having to lock his door.

What he doesn't expect is the hook in his chest the first time he walks up the steps of his brand new high school and sees a tall boy with hair courtesy of a clorox bottle, mouth full of skate-punk vocabulary. A boy with skinny arms and skinny legs, who smells like gasoline and exhaust, and has a jaw so sharp Philip might cut himself wide open on it if he's not careful.

"What's there to do around here, anyway?" Philip asks Lukas before class. He tries to sound bored, keep his expression in the shape of big-city-don't-give-a-fuck, while the lump in his throat and the liquid thing happening to his heart erase any lingering illusions he might have about his own heterosexuality.

"Are you into motocross?" Lukas leans in, grips the edge of his desk. His wrists are bony-delicate and there's motor crud under his fingernails, black half moons of the stuff. The helmet he's carrying around makes sense now. Lukas looks expectant, wears a crooked, sideways grin and Philip wants to lick his way into it. Something in the steady, pinned-down gaze Lukas gives him makes Philip think he might let him.

"Yeah. Sure," Philip lies, and spends his lunch period at the bank of computers in the library trying to figure out what motocross actually is.

For the first time in his life, Philip doesn't want to be careful, doesn't want to be invisible anymore. He has so much to say.




Lukas has a girlfriend but kisses Philip like he doesn't. He moans into Philip's mouth and can't keep his hands in one place, runs them up from Philip's hips to his neck then back down again, like he's trying to get used to the size of them together. Their almost-matched height, flat chests and wide shoulders, slim hips that must have been designed specifically to fit into the sprawl of Philip's legs.

He teaches Philip how to balance on the back of his bike, how to shift his weight so they don't eat dirt on the jumps and the whips. Philip learns that love and devotion aren't two things that need to be broadcasted or even talked about out loud. They're somehow better that way.




"I'll see you after." Lukas pulls his helmet off, offers up a whipcrack smile, tries to fingerbrush some of the einstein out of his hair. They're a few blocks away from the school and Philip's still feeling the vibration from the bike between his thighs, the ghost-press of Lukas's spine against his chest.

The littlest things snatch Philip's breath away nowadays, make him get lost for a while. He's thinking about twenty minutes ago, under the old wooden bridge, when he'd had his hands buried wrist deep in Lukas's hair and all of Lukas's weight had been holding him down. The tingle in his lips hasn't faded, and Philip keeps chewing on them, trying to extend the sweet ache a bit longer. Lukas always kisses him so hard, like it can tide them over in some way, hold them for the next ten hours until they're alone and allowed to touch again.

"Where?" Philip asks, then, "When?"

A one shouldered shrug is his answer. "I gotta do some stuff. I'll let you know."

Philip shrugs back, acts like he won't be staring non-stop at his phone after school, waiting for it to light up.

Lukas looks around to make sure they're alone, a fast flick of his tongue as he licks his lips, edges in for another kiss. A quick graze of teeth before he breaks it off and starts his bike up and now it's pins and needles all over again. Philip watches him go, counting to the prescribed one-twenty. He plugs his headphones into his ears, turns the music up loud and wonders when every song he listens to started to be about Lukas in some way.




The grass around the tree has been trampled down by Philip pacing in smaller and smaller circles. Lukas is late and Philip has gnawed his thumbnail down to the point of bleeding. Lukas is always late and Philip always worries. What Philip has taken to thinking of as their first date ended in a triple homicide. That sorta thing tends to leave an impression. It reverberates.

Relief hits him like a landslide when the wound up sound of a dirt bike rips through the quiet. Lukas barely has his helmet off and Philip is already crowding into his orbit, a litany of bitchass commentary stuck behind a thick throat and a heart that's gone shuddery. In a moment of bellring clarity, Philip knows this must be what addicts feel like when they wake up in the morning and reach over for their first hit of the day.

Lukas palms Philip's cheeks, slides his hands up to cover his ears until all Philip can hear is the rush of blood through his body. It sounds like the ocean. Like running water. It calms him.

"Sorry, I had to--" Lukas doesn't get to finish, mouth too full of Philip's tongue for any words to make it past. Philip pulls him down and hits the ground hard, but it's okay. How to take a fall is another thing Lukas has taught him. The breath shoves out of Lukas's lungs with a gentle whoosh, turns into a gasp as Philip rolls his hips down. Relief is melting into desperation, a soul-deep need to prove to Lukas how good he can be, how he doesn't need anyone else, that he never needs to be late again.

Philip has thought about this more than he cares to admit. Dreamed up candlelight dinners, soft, cool sheets and something emo on the radio, or haylofts with bats fluttering in the rafters, hours spent inside the curve of Lukas's arm. All these scenarios looping through his head at night, one hand on his dick and three fingers shoved into his mouth, careful not to utter a sound or make the bedsprings groan, shuttered behind his unlocked door. None of them have looked like this, with Lukas laid out on thin grass made thinner by Philip's knock-off converse, the breeze blowing through the tree branches above their heads, clattering them together with a rattle like old, dry bones.

He kisses down Lukas's throat, shoves at his shirt and finds warm, slightly sweaty skin to press his mouth against next, lets Lukas feel the slickness of his teeth against his nipple and it makes Lukas arch up, hiss pretty through his clenched jaw so Philip does it again. There's an encyclopedia of things Philip needs to figure out about him. The three question game isn't gonna cut it.

The hand Lukas has buried in Philip's hair is as restless as always as he tries to pull him back up but Philip isn't gonna let him. His tongue has found a home in the hollow of Lukas's stomach, his hand fumbling past Lukas's belt and buttons.

He's had Lukas on top of him so many times, is intimately acquainted with the feel of his hips bearing down on him, the shape of his dick through layers of criminally baggy denim. The sight of it is new, long like the rest of him and blood-thick. Finally, finally, bare skin on bare skin and the heat is something new as well, the strain of it against Philip's palm as he runs his hand up and down the length of it, watching the tip go damp, flush dark.

"Philip, are you...fuck. Fuck." Lukas is staring down at him like he's some impossible miracle, like walking on water might be his next trick. Philip holds his gaze as he flicks his tongue against the head of Lukas's dick, trembles at the first little taste. He tries not to let it show, doesn't want Lukas to think that he's shaking from fear. It's been ages since he was this unafraid.

There's nothing practiced about it when Philip takes Lukas down the first time. Too much all at once and spit floods into his mouth, his stomach ties itself into a knot. Tears are filling up his eyes and looking at Lukas is like looking through water. Lukas's dick is huge in his mouth, and Philip can't breathe right, his own dick pounding and pushing against the front of his jeans. It's painful and heaven-adjacent, and Philip wouldn't change a thing. Fuck cool sheets and haylofts. Maybe later.

The grip Lukas has on the back of his head turns into a vice and he's never felt anything so real in his life. Nothing as heart-shatteringly good as the pulse of Lukas's dick on his tongue, the mumbled apologies when Lukas lets his body take over and bucks up into his mouth, his dick somehow harder than before and Philip only manages to get a hand down his own pants before he's coming like the strung out teenager he pretends not to be.

"Did you just?" Lukas asks, but Philip has his mouth full, can only hum and try to open his throat up more, take whatever Lukas has to give him. Everything. All of it. He fucks his mouth down again, skates his hands along Lukas's sides, down to cover the knobby architecture of his hips. Lukas makes a sound, a loud exhale, his body locked down tight as electrocution when he comes. He throws his head back and covers his face with his arm, doesn't see it as Philip sputters around his dick, desperate to not waste a drop of his spunk, to keep it all inside of him.

"I lied." Lukas still has his arm crooked over his face, speech slurred in muffled affection, accordion ribs expanding and contracting in his skinnyboy chest.

Philip stares at him. Doesn't say anything. Silence used to be one of his superpowers and anyway, he's busy sucking on his lips, trying to memorize the taste Lukas's spunk. He's constructing a museum in his head. The salt-bitter on his tongue, the shift of wiry thigh muscles under his palms, the fucked-out sigh Lukas had breathed right before he came. All of it locked behind plexiglass and perfectly lit. It's an old habit. When everything is impermanent, it's important to curate.

"Every time I've pushed you back, or...or fucked you up." He reaches down, smudges his thumb along Philip's mouth, curls his hand around his ear. Lukas tells lies all the time and Philip has learned to find the truth in between them, in the fixed flat tires, Star Wars polaroid cameras and the grasp of long, shaky fingers.

"I know. I've been fucked up for a while. It's better when you do it." Philip croaks around the new ache in his jaw, and there's gotta be something about the tone of his voice, the scoured sound of it that makes Lukas drag him up, pretzel them together, his bare, pale legs tangled around Philip's come-stained denim.

The kiss is almost innocent, sweet for all of of the filth still coating Philip's tongue, the come, sweat and sloppy spit, and if Lukas is squeamish over sucking the taste of himself out of Philip's mouth, he doesn't let on about it. This coming from the kid who used to wipe off the bottle after Philip drank from it.

"I miss you," Lukas says, a fragile little whisper into Philip's mouth. It's raw, Lukas at his most basic, stripped of his armor and teenaged bravado. Scrubbed clean in a way that only Philip gets to see.

Philip could point out that he's right here. He could say a lot of stuff, but he gets it. Instead he says, "Yeah, me too."

Lukas nuzzles into Philip's hair, hums happy against his throat and kisses below his ear. The spot that always hits him like a surprise, makes Philip shiver and sigh. It's another thing that Philip memorizes, plans to keep safe under lock and key. Rewind. Pause. Replay.