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The 29th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Chapter Text

"Mr Coneybear. Please spell terrace."

"Terrace. Uh... T E R R A C E. Terrace."

"Correct. Ms Schwarzandgrubinierre. Precinct."

"Precinct. Definition, please?"

"A district marked out for government purposes or police protection."

"Precinct. P R E C I N C T. Precinct."

"Correct. Ms Chandaliar. Myriad."

"Myriad. Definition."

"Countless, innumerable."

"Sentence."

"The attack left Harriet with a myriad of scars."

"Myriad. M Y R I A D. Myriad."

"Correct. Mr Tolentino."

There was no response from Chip. He stared straight ahead, fixated on a spot of the gym wall opposite him.

"Mr Tolentino."

It had been four years since the unfortunate events of the 25th bee. Of course, Chip was distracted by a certain competitor's ass and wasn't thinking of the previous competition and his unfortunate erection. Instead, he was unintentionally reenacting those events.

"MISTER Tolentino!"

Barfeé punched Chip's leg.

"Please remain focused on the bee, Mr Tolentino."

"Sorry." He stood up and made his way down to the microphone.

"Your word is lubricant."

"What?!" He stuttered into the mic.

"Listen to the whole word, Mr Tolentino. Lubricant."

"Can I have a definition?"

"A substance used for reducing heat."

A nagging part of his brain reminded him that that wasn't all that lubricant was used for. He stole a glance at Leaf, who was grinning like an idiot, per usual, before focusing back on the microphone.

"L-lubricant. L U B E R I C A N T. Lubericant."

Ding! Someone in the bleachers snickered, and Chip, still slightly paranoid since the 25th, glanced down subtly at the obvious bulge in his pants. Before Panch could even read the correct spelling, he walked offstage. Once he was sure no one could see him, he booked it to the bathroom, hoping he could figure out what to do there.

----

"Ms Ostrovsky. Jaundice."

"Jaundice. J A U N D I C E. Jaundice."

"Mr Coneybear. Soubrette."

"S O U B R E T T E. Soubrette."

"Ms Ostrovsky. Eudaemonic."

"Eudaemonic. E U D A I M O N I C. Eudaimonic."

Ding!

"Mr Coneybear. Vivisepulture."

"V I V I S E P U L T U R E." He snapped out of his trance, anxiously awaiting what he felt was the inevitable ring of the bell.

Panch sounded amazed. "We have our winner!"

Immediately Olive wrapped Leaf up in a hug. "Good job!" She told him. Before they could stop hugging, Leaf's family had made their way onstage. Two parents and six children of varying ages swarmed around Leaf and Olive. Though it was crowded, both spellers managed to squeeze out to find the eliminated contestants.

---

"I just followed what that light was telling me! And it was right!!" Leaf exclaimed.

"Good job, Leaf. We're all proud of you," Logainne said. She was a little disappointed that she had lost, but, as her dads had told her (and as she had constantly reminded herself), she was only fourteen. She still had three years to win.

Leaf stopped, his head still spinning. "Hey, where's Chip?"

A couple of his friends snickered. "In the bathroom," Barfeé told him. Ignoring their laughter, Leaf hurriedly thanked them and ran off to find Chip.

Chapter Text

"Chiiiiip? Chip? Are you in here?"

Shit. Shit shit shit shit. Maybe if he stayed absolutely silent and still-

Fuck. He wouldn't do that to Leaf. Since the 25th, they had actually become good friends. Leaf was too nice to him, and he knew it. He couldn't just hide in here.

"Yeah..." He responded.

"I won! I won I won I won I won I won!!!"

The enthusiasm in Leaf's voice tugged at his heart strings. He almost thought Leaf was kidding, but he sounded excited, not silly. "That's great, Leaf!" With great reluctance, Chip left the stall and quickly washed his hands. He turned to his friend. "Wish I'd been there to see it."

Leaf hugged him. "I wanted to come say thanks cause you were the one that helped me study this year and I did so well! I know this is random, but do you wanna spend the night? I just realized you haven't been to my house in like, forever!!"

That caught him off guard. "Uh. If my parents are alright with it. If have to grab clothes from home though."

Leaf shrugged, still bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Sounds good! I'm sure I'll still be here for a while. My siblings are kinda riled up so they're not getting in the car anytime soon."

"Okay. I should, I'll go ask them right now." Chip waited for Leaf to acknowledge that before dashing off.

---

"That sounds fine, Chip. I'm sure you could use a relaxing night after a day like this."

"And we can drop by home so I can get a change of clothes?

"Of course," his mother said. "Why don't we leave now?"

Chip gave a quick "Goodbye!" to the other spellers, who rolled their eyes and snickered as he ran out the door.

Chapter Text

"So! What do you think?"

He hadn't remembered Leaf's room as being so... cluttered. His bed was a tangle of sheets and several soft-looking blankets. The floor was coated in schoolwork (Leaf had started attending an actual high school last year) and what looked like possibly art projects. Books were stacked dangerously high against the wall. It was also pretty small, cramped by all the junk on the floor

"You get your own room?" Chip managed to ask.

He shrugged. "My parents moved my little brother out of here once I hit high school. I think it's cause they didn't want me waking him up by goin to bed a lot later than him."

"Thanks." He stood, unsure of what to do. "So... what do you wanna do?"

"Well, once my siblings go to bed we can watch a movie downstairs. That should be in," he checked the clock hanging on the wall, "about three hours."

Chip laughed. "I think we should probably do something until then."

"Probably," Leaf agreed. He threw himself onto the bed. When he patted the open space beside him, Chip laid down too.

After about a minute of silence, Leaf asked, "Wanna play a board game?"

"Anything but Scrabble."

Leaf giggled. "Are you sure?"

"Absolutely," Chip said with an over dramatic sigh.

"We've got Monopoly, Risk, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and a chessboard." He ticked each game off on his fingers.

Chip turned his head. "You play chess?" He asked, a little shocked.

"Yeah, I'm on the chess team. Didn't I tell you that? I coulda sworn I mentioned it...."

"Chess, then." He wanted to see how good Leaf was at chess. Chip himself wasn't really that good yet, as he'd only picked up the game a couple years ago. "How long have you been playing?"

Leaf made a sound that he interpreted as 'I don't know'. "Mom taught me and Marigold when she started homeschooling us. When I was six, maybe?"

"Wait, how old are your siblings? I can't keep them straight."

"Brooke is 18. Marigold and I are 16. Pinecone and Raisin are 13, I think? Landscape is 10, maybe? I have no clue how old Paul is. 8? 9?"

Chip laughed. "How do you deal with so many siblings? It sounds like kind of like a nightmare."

"Eh, you get used to them after they show up. That's the benefit of being the second oldest." He giggled.

"Hmm?" Chip asked. Did Leaf make a joke?

"Marigold doesn't like me saying I'm the second oldest, cause it's only by a couple of minutes. So I say it to make her mad sometimes! I'll go grab the chessboard." He was up and gone in a second, operating at the common Leaf speed.

Chip always forgot that Leaf was a twin. That would explain why he looked so much like Marigold. If Leaf was a girl, he would've thought them identical, minus the intensity of their eyes. That's probably why he was so easily able to project his, uh, affections onto Marigold previously.

He was quick to turn his thoughts from that. Spelling bee boners were bad. Boners at a friend's house seemed arguably worse.

Leaf returned soon enough with a worn wooden chessboard and a Tupperware container of plastic pieces. He placed the board on the ground and began setting it up. Chip rolled off the bed and joined him.

"Sorry," Leaf said. "It's kinda old."

"You don't need to apologize." The pieces were chipped and, upon closer examination, probably chewed on. He ignored that and set up his side.

"You can go first," Leaf told him. Chip pushed a pawn forward. Leaf mumbled something under his breath and stared at the pieces. After half a minute, he moved one of his pawns forward.

As the game continued, Chip saw a complete change in Leaf's behavior. The normally chatty boy was silent and thoughtful. Chip moved whatever he could to take one of Leaf's pieces, but Leaf still managed to maneuver around him, taking minimal damage as he wore down Chip's army. Within ten minutes, Chip was trapped in a checkmate.

"Holy shit," Chip said aloud, startling Leaf out of whatever trance he had been in. Leaf looked nervous.

"What?"

"I..." Chip swallowed. "That was impressive. You play like a pro."

"I-I'm not that good, I just really liked the game a lot when I was younger, so I read a lot about it so I'm pretty familiar with all the strategies." He shrugged. "It takes a lot of focus, but I really like the challenge."

"You looked like you were in some kind of a trance, like at the bee."

He nodded. "I don't really know what happens at the bee, cause all I remember is the light, but here I can like, see all the chess stuff I know and I can go through it and use it. I just get, well, super focused and kinda forget everything else."

"Huh." It was extremely impressive, and, to Chip at least, kind of hot. He had really underestimated Leaf. He wouldn't have guessed he could play such a strong chess game.

"Do you wanna play something else now?" Leaf asked. "I promise I suck at other board games." He paused. "Okay, I lied. I'm good at Risk. But everything else," he said, shaking his head, "is hard."

Chip grinned. "Monopoly?"

"Sure! I'll go grab it!"

Leaf ran off again. Chip swept the chess pieces into the Tupperware and closed the lid.

------

He was not kidding. Chip had driven Leaf into a deep, depressing level of debt, winning the game by a mile. After they had cleaned up the game, Leaf sighed. "There's still, like, an hour."

Chip considered their options. "Well, we could play another board game, a party game, or just chill."

Leaf brightened up. "Party game? Like what?"

"Uh.... Pretty much everything we played on camping trips was a group game." He hesitated. "Twenty questions? That's good for two people."

"How do you play it?"

"Well, uh, you ask each other twenty questions."

"Sure! Who starts?"

"You can, if you want," Chip said.

"Alright...." He said, fingers tapping on the floor as he thought. "One. What's your favorite color?"

"Yellow. I think. Um, favorite food?"

Leaf rocked back and forth. "Ooh, hard question. Probably KitKats. Two, why do you keep doing the spelling bee?"

"I... I'm good at spelling and I want to get back to nationals and do better than the last time I went. What's your favorite class at your school?"

"History. I like learning facts even though I have trouble sitting still and reading the textbook. Three. Um, have you ever kissed somebody?"

Chip laughed. "No. Have you?"

Leaf shook his head, looking thoughtful. "Four. What do you want to do when you graduate?"

"I'm not... sure. I don't know what I wanna do. What about you?"

"I dunno." He shrugged. "I dunno what I'm good at. Five. Do you like anyone?"

"Yeah." He paused, feeling a bit embarrassed. "Do you?"

Leaf nodded enthusiastically. "Six. Uh... Why'd you get out today? We went over that word when we were studying."

"I panicked." He swallowed.

"Is it okay if I ask why? For seven?"

"If I can ask one first."

Leaf nodded. "Your turn."

"Do...". Would he ask it? Leaf's nice and surprisingly smart, but he could be as dense as a brick when it came to social stuff. "Do you like guys?" He blurted out. He tried to breath evenly after he asked, playing it off casually.

This is a bad idea, he thought. I shouldn't have said that. Not here. Not now.

"Yeah," Leaf said, nonchalant.

"Wai- seriously?" Leaf nodded, a bit perplexed. Chip quietly let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and whispered, "Thank god."

"Is it my turn now?"

Chip nodded slowly.

"Okay. Uh. Why did you panic? You're so good at spelling, you shouldn't need to be nervous."

He bit his lip. "I. Well, I, I..." He didn't know how to phrase it without being crude or making it weird. Normally he wouldn't care, but everything felt weird now. A paranoid part of him thought if Leaf heard him say it, he'd figure out that Chip liked him.

Leaf snorted, then looked apologetic. "I shouldn't laugh at that, but seriously, again?" He giggled again, and Chip couldn't help laughing along with him. Leaf's laugh was infectious and cute. He watched Leaf, feeling his heart swell. God, this guy was so fucking hot and he didn't even realize it. His cute freckles, the way his face scrunched up as he talked and laughed, just... everything.

And godDAMNIT! His heart was not the only thing swelling. He felt the crotch space of his pants tighten considerably. Chip really couldn't help it. Just Leaf's name made him think a lot of inappropriate things.

"Are you okay?"

Chip must have pulled one hell of a face because Leaf stopped laughing immediately.

"I'm fine," he said, a little strained.

"You sound funny, are you sure-". Leaf saw it. Everything clicked. "Is that- what- uh, why?" He managed to stutter out.

"I..." Oh god, there's no backing out now. "I like you," he choked out.

Leaf flushed and his voice became squeaky. "Really?"

Chip nodded, a little ashamed. Leaf was absolutely stunned. He stared intensely at Chip for a second. The next thing he knew, Leaf was on top of him and kissing him, seemingly petrified. Once Chip's brain caught up, he pushed up, moving Leaf onto his lap. The pressure against his crotch made him moan a little. Leaf froze and pulled away. Chip winced.

"Sorry, I-"

Leaf shook his head. "No, I just..." He trailed off, the rest of the sentence muttered quickly.

"What?" Chip prodded gently. He was getting mixed signals here.

With a short sigh, Leaf rested his chin on Chip's shoulder and said softly, "I promised myself that I wouldn't start something without you, or, well, anyone, knowing I'm...." He seemed to be considering it. It was a hard moment for both of them, albeit for different reasons.

"You're..."

Leaf took a deep, shaky breath. He shook and Chip felt tears soaking through his shirt onto his shoulder.

"Hey, dude, you can tell me anything. I swear." His voice was gentle. He flicked through different scenarios in his head, trying to think of something plausible.

Leaf looked up at him, eyes red and puffy. Chip felt his chest ache.

"You promise?"

"Anything. I promise." Trying to reassure him, he smiled softly and added, "Scout's honor."

Leaf snorted and wiped his face. He took a few more breaths to even out his breathing, but his chest was still expanding and contracting unevenly. Cautiously, he took Chip's hand and squeezed it. Chip ran a hand through Leaf's hair.

"I... I'm a guy. You know that, and it's true, and I'm never not going to be a guy, alright?"

Chip didn't realize that Leaf was pausing for reassurance. It was strange, him being so serious. It took a lot to make Leaf even sad, let alone move him to tears. It was sobering. When Leaf looked up at him, he snapped out of his thoughts and nodded. What was going on?

"I'm transgender."

He was genuinely confused. "You're what? I don't...."

Leaf gave a brief, quivering sigh. "Marigold and I... we're identical twins."

"But identical twins are... How?"

"Who I am, my body doesn't," he sniffled, "it doesn't line up." Leaf said.

Chip felt really guilty. Nothing Leaf was saying was making any sense. Identical twins are the same, right? So that means that Leaf was the same as Marigold. Marigold was a girl. He said his body didn't line up with who he was, which was starting to actually make sense. But a boy no matter what.

Chip decided to make a bold hypothesis. "You were born a girl?"

Leaf nodded, hesitantly. "I started taking testosterone one year ago, before the 28th bee."

"Testosterone." Chip had vague knowledge of health class. "That's the hormone for guys."

"Typically," Leaf said, nodding. "And I've been, uh, binding for almost five. Binding is compressing the chest area, so I have a flat chest."

This was a lot of information for Chip to absorb. To make sure he understood, he tried to summarize as much as he could.

"So you were born a girl."

Leaf winced but nodded. "It's crude and not a hundred percent accurate, but the best explanation I can give for now."

"And you just have to get your hormones from an outside source. Like... like insulin for diabetic people?" He asked, trying to think of a comparison that made sense.

Once it hit Leaf that Chip was actually trying to understand, he perked back up a bit. "I guess that's a way to think of it! I took puberty blockers when I was like, elevenish, which helped minimize the effect estrogen has."

"Oh! So this just means you're transitioning genders? I think I kinda understand." He paused. "And I still really like you."

Leaf grinned. His face was still wet from crying, Chip noticed. "I really like you too."

Chip gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You're the handsomest guy I know and I think I'm in love with you."

He buried his face in the crook of Chip's neck. "How are you so great?" He said, muffled by Chip.

Chip ran another hand through Leaf's hair. "I've known you for four years. I'm pretty sure I knew everything except this, and it's not gonna make me reevaluate everything. I like you for who you are, and that's that."

Chip felt Leaf press a kiss to his neck. Leaf shifted forward again, dragging yet another moan out of Chip. At this point, he had given up on guessing how and why he was still hard, but it was starting to hurt a bit.

Leaf left a trail of kisses up to his jaw before focusing on the front of his throat. He grazed his teeth against Chip's throat and heard him give a pained moan. Leaf bit down more and Chip squirmed. Grabbing Chip's other hand, he cautiously pushed him flat against the ground. He sat up to get a good look at the boy lying underneath him.

Chip groaned. "Either you do something about this or I'm finding some place to jack off, Leaf."

"I-I, hey, what?" Leaf sputtered, a little flustered.

He laughed, feeling a bit guilty. "That was a joke. I'm not actually going to. It's just-" Leaf fidgeted, the movement drawing a small moan out of Chip, "You're hot, warm, and sitting, like, right on my dick, dude. I'm gonna need some cool down time before this goes away."

Leaf nodded and began to move off of Chip's lap, but paused. "If you're sure, I mean, I could..." His hand ghosted over the bulge in Chip's jeans. Chip swore under his breath.

"I don't want it to- I don't want it to feel like I'm forcing you, just because it's like this. I'm fine, I'll be fine, you don't need to feel obligated to-"

His voice cut off promptly as he felt a hand press against his crotch. Chip's eyes fluttered and he swore again.

"It's not, it's just like, well, I've kinda thought about this sometimes, and now you're like, right here, and well, I want to if-if you want to-"

"If you want to then you better move quick," Chip said, inhaling sharply, "because I won't last much longer."

As soon as that was said, he felt Leaf's hand unzip his shorts. He swore a third time and prayed he had packed clean underwear.

Chapter Text

Leaf lay next to Chip. "Holy fuck," Chip murmured absently. Leaf giggled and looked over at him, moving his hands to Chip's shoulders. He rolled onto his side and gave Chip a kiss on the cheek. Chip's fingers played with the hem of Leaf's shirt. "Ah, uh... Do you want me to, uh..." His face flushed. "I can return the favor, I-if you want..." He twisted his fingers in the fabric.

Leaf hummed and gave him a hesitant peck on the lips. "I... Geez, I don't think I'm ready for anything like that."

Chip trailed his hands up Leaf's back and rested them on the back of his head. "That's fine, I just thought I should, well, make sure."

"Are we dating now?" Leaf asked, a little absently.

"If you want," Chip replied, trying not to sound eager but failing miserably.

"I guess I should formally ask it... Do you wanna go out with me?"

Chip laughed. "Leaf, we've been friends for four years and you just jacked me off like, five minutes ago. We're past formality."

Pressing another kiss to Chip's cheek, he said, "So... That's a yes?"

"Uh, yes." His hands moved again to hold Leaf's face. "Have I ever told you how cute and handsome and fucking perfect you are?"

Leaf squirmed and giggled. "Stooooop." Chip pulled him closer and kissed him. Leaf laughed again.

"I've been in love with you since the day we met," Chip said. "This... being this close to you is what I've wanted for years."

"The day we met..." Leaf mused. "Even in the losers room?"

"That's when I realized I liked you." He ran his finger through Leaf's hair. "Even as you tried to use a juice box as a musical instrument."

Leaf giggled.

"When I said I liked Marigold, I... I was wrong. I liked you, all along."

"So every time it was for me?"

"All four times you've been around." He paused. "And several other times that you haven't."

Leaf snorted, and Chip couldn't help but pull him even closer, their noses brushing. "How do you handle it? Getting turned on all the time?" Leaf asked.

He blushed and bit his lip. "They go, uh, go away sometimes if I leave'm be but sometimes, they don't, they don't go so I just, uh..." He trailed off. It's hard telling your best friend (boyfriend?) that you masterbate. A lot. Especially when it's because of him.

Leaf snuggled closer and giggled. "Causa me? I'm really all that?"

"I think I got a shitty deal with puberty," Chip admitted. "But not! Not with you! Just the whole bad-timing thing I got going." He felt hands moving up the back of his shirt, fingers running over his spine.

In a surprisingly seductive tone, Leaf murmured, "And what happened after the bee?" Chip felt blood flowing down to his dick again.

"Fucking hell, since when were you a seducer?"

Leaf's fingertips traced his hipbone. "Since there's been someone worth seducing." He laughed and ran his hands up Chip's sides.

"You're a jerk," Chip said, fingers combing through Leaf's very soft hair. "A hot jerk."

"Geez, how did you like me when I was twelve? I'm pretty sure I was chewing on my helmet straps."

"You were," Chip recalled. "Didn't you have your pockets full of those little toys too? It was pretty funny watching Barf get hit with a flying lizard."

Leaf giggled. "Yep."

They fell silent and were content to just lay there for awhile.

Chip sighed. "I should probably change my underwear, just a sec." He rolled over and sat up. Once he found his bag, he dug out the fresh pair and stood up. "Is it alright if I change in here?" Chip asked, glancing at Leaf, who was now laying on his back.

Chip heard him say, "Yeah." Making sure he wouldn't immediately be seen if someone opened the door, he unzipped his jeans and quickly pulled both pants and boxers off. He pulled on clean boxers and lay back down next to Leaf.

"Hi," he said, fully aware that he was grinning like an idiot.

Leaf rolled onto his side and smiled back at him. "Is this an underwear-only event? Cause I was never told and I want in."

Chip pressed a kiss to his nose. "I'm not gonna stop you from joining in, that's for sure."

Leaf shimmied out of his shorts and snuggled closer to Chip. They kissed gently. Chip wrapped his arms around Leaf's back, with Leaf's arms draped over his shoulders. They kissed again, and Leaf rested a hand on the back of Chip's head, holding him in place. He tangled his legs in Chip's.

After another minute or so, Leaf's hands moved up to grip Chip's shoulders. He rolled sideways, pushing Chip onto his back with Leaf on top of him.

As they kissed, Chip felt himself getting hard again. When they broke apart to breathe, he whispered, "Are you doing this on purpose?"

Leaf's response was a small chuckle and a kiss on the cheek. While he pressed kisses to Chip's neck, Chip wriggled and laughed. Leaf's fingers snuck under the hem of his shirt. "Can I?" He asked breathlessly. Chip nodded and Leaf slid Chip's shirt off, leaving the boy underneath him bare-chested.

"You know," Chip said, as bashful as he had been every time he said something remotely sexual to and about Leaf, "every time I dreamt about this, I always thought I'd be on top, but honestly? This is so much better." Leaf's hips shifted against his and he moaned.

"How often do you think about this?" Leaf asked, kissing his cheek.

"A lot," Chip admitted. "Kinda whenever I hear your name." Leaf kissed along the line of his jaw and ground against Chip again. Chip moaned. "I only brought one extra pair, Leaf. Either it goes or we stop."

Leaf paused. "What?"

"I, uh, either I take my underwear off or we stop, cause I kinda need a clean pair to wear home."

"Okay," Leaf said, unperturbed. His fingers snuck under Chip's waistband and tugged down. As soon as Chip could wrap his brain around the change, he moved to help slide his underwear off of his legs.

After another kiss, Chip asked, "So what's the uh, plan? What are we doing?"

Leaf made his 'I dunno' noise again. His fingers drifted down to the soft skin of Chip's inner thigh and Chip could feel himself grow harder. Then, Leaf's mouth started moving, kissing down Chip's chest.

"If you're going to..." Chip stopped, trying to think of what he wanted to say. Think twice, say once. "If this is what you're going to do, can I, uh," the strangeness of the whole situation hit him and he stopped again. He was unbelievably nervous, but honestly? What was happening right now was what he had dreamed about for years. He got here through awkward questions, and by God, that's the hill he's gonna die on.

"Hmm?" Leaf asked after a considerable period of silence, looking up.

Chip inhaled sharply and blurted out, "If you're giving me a blowjob I want to be sitting up. Um, like on the bed."

Man, Leaf seemed to have a very low sense of embarrassment, because rather than getting all flustered about the situation like Chip, he just nodded and sat up. Chip scrambled up onto his elbows, then sat up as well. His hand shook as he placed his hand on Leaf's cheek and pulled him in for a kiss.

"And you- you want to do this, right? Cause if you feel like I'm forcing you, you can say no. I swear."

Leaf kissed him again. "Promise. It's a yes."

Chip made his way to his feet and sat on the edge of Leaf's bed. He watched Leaf kneel in front of him, one hand resting on Chip's thigh, the other on the bed next to Chip, presumably for balance. Gently, Chip combed his fingers through Leaf's hair. Damn, everything about this was equal parts unbelievable and perfect.

Chapter Text

Leaf made another hacking noise. Chip felt guilty. Thankfully, his bag was within reach, and he could snag it with his foot and drag it over. He grabbed his other pair of underwear out and offered it to Leaf to spit into. Leaf accepted it and spat and coughed into it.

With his face turning red, Chip stammered out an apology. "I'm sorry, I- I've never really, I didn't know-"

Leaf spat again and giggled. His head rested against Chip's leg.

Chip took another breath in. "You alright?" He asked, still concerned.

Leaf looked up and nodded. "Do you wanna watch a movie?" He asked, catching Chip off guard.

"What?"

"A movie," Leaf repeated earnestly. "It should be late enough, we can watch whatever we want."

Chip let out a short laugh. "Yeah, that sounds great. Let me get some clothes on first."

Leaf giggled again and nodded before standing up. He tossed Chip his discarded clothes. As Chip got dressed, Leaf found his own pants and slipped them on. Once they were both ready, Leaf opened the door and they walked down the hall to the living room where the TV was. Marigold sat on the couch, a book in her lap. She looked up as they entered.

"Where have you been? You missed all of Finding Nemo."

Leaf jumped onto the couch and settled down next to her. "You didn't tell me!! That's like, my favorite!" He patted the space next to him, gesturing for Chip to sit down. "What do you wanna watch?"

"I'd enjoy a good classic," Marigold said. "Either of you up for The Great Dictator? Or perhaps San Soleil, if comedy isn't your thing."

Chip laughed nervously. "What?"

"Marigold is our resident film critic, which means she likes boring stuff and hates everything fun," Leaf explained.

"Disney consistently reuses plots and their character design is lacking."

"You have no soul, Mari."

She shut her book. "I traded it for some taste. Since my offer goes unappreciated, I'll be up in my room." As she stood up, she bumped Leaf, shoving him into Chip's lap. "Sorry," she said unapologetically before leaving.

"What was that about?" Chip whispered to Leaf.

He looked up at Chip. "She miiight know that I like you, maybe."

"So she was nudging you on?"

Leaf giggled. "I think."

Chip laughed with him. "She's a little late." He moved his hand and ran it through Leaf's hair, who practically melted into his touch. "What do you want to watch."

He hummed. "Dunno. Have you seen Dead Poet's Society?"

Chip shook his head. "No." Leaf hopped up and changed the DVDs. When he sat back down, he grabbed a pillow and placed it in Chip's lap. He curled up on the couch where he had been previously sitting and laid his head down on the pillow. Chip ran his fingers through Leaf's hair as the TV turned on.

He didn't remember falling asleep, but when he woke up, a shirtless boy was playing the saxophone in a cave onscreen. As his brain desperately attempted to rationalize what he was seeing, he ran his hand through Leaf's hair. His fingers caught a knot, causing him to pull his hair. He wasn't sure if Leaf was even awake, but he swore he had heard a faint moan from him when he had accidentally pulled his hair.

Curious, he gently (gently!) tugged on Leaf's hair again, and yes, that had been a moan. He was suddenly more aware of the weight of Leaf's head on his lap. Chip ran his hand down Leaf's neck to his shoulder and squeezed gently to check if he was awake.

Leaf hummed and rolled towards Chip, looking into his eyes. "Good morning," he said, blinking and yawning.

"It's only been like, an hour. Still night." He ran his fingers through Leaf's hair again. Leaf leaned into his touch. "Do you like it when I play with your hair?" He asked.

"Mhm," he hummed, stretching like a cat. "Feels nice." Chip traced his fingertips against his scalp. Leaf nuzzled his head against Chip's stomach and sighed contentedly. As a final test, Chip gently pulled his hair once again. An arm snuck around his neck and pulled his head down, meeting him in the middle. They kissed awkwardly.

"For the love of Christ," Chip heard Marigold say, "I just wanted my bookmark."

He tried to look up, but Leaf's arm restrained him. Instead, his face hovered inches above Leaf's.

"Hi Mari," Leaf said.

She sighed. "I didn't think you'd act on my hint, dummy. Be glad it was me and not mom or dad walking in." Passing by the couch, she grabbed a slip of paper off of the table and left.

"That's a sign we should probably go back to my room," Leaf said. "Unless you're invested in the movie."

"I have no clue what's going on. I think we fell asleep."

Leaf sat up and grabbed Chip's hand. "My room?"

"I, yeah, since there's literally nowhere else to go for privacy."

Leaf grabbed a remote and turned off the TV before standing and cautiously walking back to his room with Chip. Once they were in and the door was shut, he pushed Chip onto the bed and lay next to him. That only lasted a few seconds. Soon enough, Leaf was in Chip's lap.

"Did you know," Chip said, looking into Leaf's eyes, "that I really, really like you?" He pulled him in for a kiss, fingers tangled in his hair. Leaf hummed against his lips and kissed him again. Quickly, as though the idea had hit him and made him believe there wasn't enough time to act, he scrambled to his knees and pushed Chip back against the bed. He kissed down Chip's neck and ran a hand up his shirt. "Can I?" He asked, fingers tracing up and down Chip's chest. Chip nodded, a little disoriented, and let Leaf slide his shirt off of him. Leaf slid off of his lap and moved him fully onto the bed. Only then did he return to Chip's lap.

Chip had learned years ago to just let Leaf do whatever because it'll probably work a helluva lot better than what anyone else would suggest. This was proving true especially now.

A warm mouth moved down his neck, kissing and nibbling gently. Fingers traced up and down his sides. Leaf began kissing down his chest, movements uncharacteristically calm and controlled. Chip couldn't help shivering as Leaf's lips brushed his nipples. Until today, he hasn't realized how utterly touch starved he was. All the kissing and cuddling and touching felt so damn good. Leaf seemed to be exploring him, running his hands all over as he pressed kisses to his chest. Chip's hands found their place on Leaf's waist, pushing his shirt up ever so slightly.

Leaf's mouth moved down, getting teasingly close to the "V" of his crotch. Chip's hands moved to his hair, fingers curling into short red locks. Just before he reached the waist of his pants, Leaf lifted his head up. "What time is it?"

It took Chip some time to understand the question. He looked at the clock hanging on the wall. "9:48. Why?"

Leaf's eyes went wide and he muttered, "Shit," as he sat up.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

"I, it's my binder. I was supposed to take it off awhile ago."

Chip sat up, a little concerned. Leaf didn't get anxious about many things. "How long ago?"

He frowned. "I was pushing it by waiting til eight." Chip must've looked lost, because Leaf sighed and put on his explaining face. "My binder is the thing I wear to, uh, flatten my chest. Since it compresses my chest, I shouldn't wear it for really long periods of time cause it could hurt my ribs."

"How long is too long?"

He bit his lip. "Eight hours is the recommended. I'm usually good about following it, so I thought I could get away with longer this one time, but it's been a really, really long day and I forgot it-"

Leaf was withdrawing and babbling, his normal reaction when he was overly anxious. Chip reached for his hand and squeezed it reassuringly. "I'm not gonna yell at you, dude. It's okay, we all do dumb shit sometimes. If you've been wearing it for too long, take it off now. No reason to wait longer."

Leaf nodded hesitantly. He stepped off of the bed and walked toward the closet. Chip laid back on the bed to wait, only half paying attention to Leaf's movements. Leaf stopped and looked as though he wanted to say something, but turned back to the closet and searched for something instead.

He could feel the tension within the silence. "... Is there something you wanted to say?" Chip asked, trying to gauge how Leaf was feeling.

"........ if........."

He had no clue what Leaf had just said. "Uh..."

"I wanted to ask if you could look away, please!" He focused on the contents of the closet, not wanting to look at Chip. His voice was tight and strained, and he felt much like he wanted to cry all over again. He felt comfortable in his skin, honestly, but something inside gnawed at him whenever it interfered with Chip. Chip, who was being so nice and sweet, and whom he had no reason to be afraid of. It was a simple request, but it hung in the air awkwardly.

"Uh, yeah! No problem. Looking away now."

He trusted Chip enough to not bother checking. A big, bulky sweatshirt hung in the back of his closet. A smaller, looser piece of fabric laid crumpled on the floor. A sports bra. Quickly, he slipped his shirt off and struggled out of the binder. He slipped on the sports bra and the sweatshirt, taking a minute to try and calm down before turning back around. "I'm good," he said, voice still quavering. Chip turned his head and, seeing that Leaf was indeed decent, turned back around. Uncertain of what to say, Leaf sat down next to him.

"Can I.." Chip paused. Should he bother asking? "Is it alright if I hold you?"

Leaf looked at him, seemingly a little shocked he was asking. "Yeah, it's chill."

"Uh, cool." Carefully, he wrapped himself around Leaf, his head resting on Leaf's shoulder. Leaf placed his hands over Chip's. Absently, he traced his fingertips over Chip's skin. They sat in silence for a while, simply being. Slowly but surely, Leaf relaxed against Chip, fully accepting the affection being given to him. Chip kissed his neck softly. His lips barely brushed Leaf's skin. Leaf let out a deep breath that he had unknowingly been holding and leaned against Chip. They laid down, Chip tenderly spooning him. "It's been a wild day," he murmured. Leaf gave a quick "mhm" before shifting around. He snuggled against Chip's bare chest, his lips brushing his collarbone. It was soothing for both of them, and they soon found themselves drifting off to sleep, contentedly cuddling.