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Love, Keith (Love, Simon AU)

Chapter Text

Have you ever experienced being blackmailed? Neither had I, until today. During my afterschool theatre rehearsal, I was pulled aside by Lotor, an oddball with a very small group of friends along with white hair. We stood outside the back door of the theatre and I looked at him, very puzzled as to why he wanted to talk to me since we’re barely even acquaintances. Lotor took a deep breath before speaking “I read your emails.” He said simply.

You what?” I asked, bewildered as to how on Earth he got access to my emails, until it hit me.

Oh my fucking God.

I left my account logged into the school computer like an IDIOT! The bell for 5th period rang and I just forgot about it. “So what’s with the fake name?” Lotor asked, digging for more information as if I was going to tell him all the details about Blue.

Blue.

Blue is my pen pal, I met him through our school Tumblr blog, where gossip seeps through every corner. He posted an image of a Ferris wheel with a poem, saying “Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck on a Ferris wheel. One minute I'm on top of the world, then the next I'm at rock-bottom. Maybe it’s the fact I haven’t told anyone I’m gay.”

Basically, I instantly created a new email and contacted him. There’s no way I’m losing him because of this asshole.

“Take a guess,” I answered coldly.

Lotor backs up with his hands up in defense “Whoa calm down man, I’m just curious.”

“Well you’re not getting shit out of me, now what do you want?”

“I just need a bit of help… with Allura…” Lotor twiddled with his thumbs nervously.

Allura is a newcomer to my friend group, she’s been at our school for about 3 months now and Shiro, my friend since kindergarten, has an obvious crush on her. Pidge, my best friend of 6 years has a thing for Shiro, so maybe playing matchmaker will work things out? I don’t know…

“And if I don’t?” I crossed my arms, annoyed and ready to walk away from all this bullshit.

“Well, I have screenshots…” Lotor mumbled and I almost punched him right there. After taking a breath and remembering what Shiro taught me about controlling my anger, I responded “Fine, I’ll help.” Before he could thank me, I interrupted “Just give me your phone number and we’ll talk about this later.” We exchanged numbers and I was on my way back into the theatre, already planning his name in my phone to Monkey’s Asshole.

-

After theatre practice, I drove home in my red Volvo V70 and instantly wrote back to Blue.

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com
TO: bluelion118@gmail.com
DATE: Oct 17 at 5:07 PM
SUBJECT: Re: when you knew

That’s a pretty sexy story, Blue. I mean, middle school is like this endless horror show. Well, maybe not endless, because it ended, but it really burns into your psyche. I don’t care who you are, puberty is merciless.

I’m curious- have you seen him since your dad’s wedding?

I don’t even know when I figured it out. It was a bunch of little things. Like this weird dream I had once about Daniel Radcliffe. Or how I was obsessed with Panic! At The Disco in middle school, and then I realized it wasn’t about the music.

Did you know you’re literally the only person I email? I’m not even kidding, my friends are lucky to get more than 140 characters from me. Anyway, I think I’ll sign off here. Not going to lie, it’s been kind of a weird day.

- Red

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com
TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com
DATE: Oct 17 at 8:46 PM
SUBJECT: Re: when you knew

I’m the only one? I’m really honored, Red. It’s funny, because I don’t really email, either. And I never talk about this stuff with anyone. Only you.

You can’t imagine how much I hated middle school. Remember the way people would look at you blankly and say, “Um, okaaay,” after you finished talking? Everyone just had to make it so clear that whatever you were thinking or feeling, you were totally alone. The worst part, of course, was that I did the same thing to other people. It makes me a little nauseated just remembering that.

To answer your question, I’ve seen him a couple of times since the wedding- probably twice a year or so. My stepmother seems to have a lot of family reunions and things. He’s married, and I think his wife is pregnant now. It’s not awkward, exactly, because the whole thing was in my head. It’s really amazing, isn’t it? Someone can trigger your sexual identity crisis and not have a clue they’re doing it. Honestly, he probably still thinks of me as his cousin’s weird twelve-year-old stepson.

Sorry about your weird day.

- Blue

Chapter Text

The worst part about the Lotor situation is that I can't even talk about it with anyone, especially Blue. I'm not used to keeping secrets from him. 

I mean there are a lot of things we don't tell each other, like our friends' names or things that could help the other identify us. But all the big things like our darkest secrets, fears, and insecurities... that all comes out in our emails. If I knew exactly who Blue was at Creekwood High, I don't think I'd be telling him all this. As of now, I feel like he's just living in my laptop, like he's intangible and unreal. Basically, if Blue found out about Lotor having the screenshots of our emails, I’m sure he’d freak out and stop talking to me.

I’ve never really thought of myself as interesting until I was interesting to Blue. Maybe that’s why the thought of losing him is so hard for me.

-

Ever since the end of middle school, I've felt more and more distant from my family, like I don't belong. And technically I don't.

Here's the big picture, my parents adopted me from South Korea when I was 3, and I don't remember anything. After they had two daughters and found out they couldn't physically have more kids, they adopted me. They wanted a son and everything just seemed to fall into place I guess. I never knew my birth parents, and I don't remember them at all so it's not a very big issue I have to deal with. Anyways, I love my sisters. Allison is my eldest sister who just started college, and Elizabeth aka Eliza who is a freshman in high school. 

I'm sitting at the dinner table, absolutely lost in thoughts when Dad speaks "So, how are Shiro and Pidge doing?" he asked. I just shrugged and mumbled a quick "They're good," and the room became silent for a bit until Eliza spoke up "Have you seen Shiro practicing the guitar again?" she smiled and Mom laughs "Sounds like Shiro's trying to get a girlfriend."

That's funny, Mom, because get this, I'm actually trying to prevent Shiro from getting the girl he likes so Lotor doesn't tell the whole school I'm gay. Did I mention I'm gay? 

Maybe this would all be different if I lived in California, I have no clue how to be gay in Georgia. We're right outside Atlanta so it could be worse, but Shady Creek isn't exactly known for being progressive. At school, there are like, two guys who are out, and people definitely give them shit for it. Nothing violent, but the word "fag" is thrown around like a hot potato. I guess there are quite a few bisexual and lesbian girls, but I feel like it's a lot different for girls. The internet has taught me that guys think its hot when a girl is lesbian.

You could say it's the other way around for guys, to some respect, I know Pidge does these yaoi drawings and posts them to websites. Which is cool with me, I mean Pidge's drawings are amazing.

After Pidge showed me the world of slash fanfiction last summer, I found the ones with decent grammar and spent all night reading them. It was a weird couple of weeks that transitioned to me doing my own laundry. There are some socks that shouldn't be washed by your mom. 

After dinner, Eliza sets up the Skype call with Allison, tonight is Bachelorette night, and I usually am able to keep up with the conversation and use my Chris Harrison impression to make everything more "life-like" but tonight my mind is everywhere else but the present. I engage in a bit of the conversation, but I feel my body tense when Eliza and Dad argue over whether one of the men are gay or not. The conversation begins like this:

"How about Daniel F.?" Eliza asks, pushing her hair behind her ear to reveal five piercings all the way up and around her ear. When did she even get that done?

"Okay, Daniel F.'s the hottest one," says Allison. For some reason, my Mom and Allison use the term "eye-candy" for these people.

"Are you kidding me?" my dad says. "The gay one?"

Eliza quickly objects "Daniel's not gay."

"Kid, he's a one-man Pride Parade."

Pidge once said that she'd rather have people call her fat directly than have to sit there and hear other people talk about another girl's weight. I think at this moment I agree with that. Nothing is worse than the secret humiliation of being insulted by proxy. I never know if my dad says that kind of stuff because he means it, or if he's just trying to push Allison's buttons. If that's the way he feels, I guess it's good to know. Even if I can't un-know it.

 -

It's been less than a week since I agreed to help Lotor and I've been avoiding him ever since. In class, I avoid eye contact and act like he isn't even alive... and at this point, I wish he wasn't. Another issue about the Lotor situation is the lunch table. On the way to the lunch table, Lotor instantly joins me.

"What do you want, Lotor?"

He searches around the table eagerly "Room for one more?" he asks.

"Um, not really." I look around and see we've got eight people already.

After telling him this, he spoke in a very cocky tone, like he knew the way to win this, "Didn't realize the seats were assigned."

Honestly, I have no clue what to even say to that, people just sit where they always sit and I just thought that was a law of the universe. You can't just switch around lunch tables in October. 

My group is weird, but it works. Shiro, Pidge, and me. Pidge's two friends, Melissa and Ana, who read manga and wear black eyeliner. Then you have the holy randomness of Shiro's soccer buddies: awkward silence Lance, and semi-douche Hunk. And Allura. 

Anyway, that's the eight of us, it's locked down at this point and we're already squeezing two extra chairs into a six-person table. 

"Yeah, well." Lotor looks down to me "I just figured we were on the same page here with the Allura thing, but..." Then raises his fucking eyebrows at me.

So, we haven't laid out the terms yet but I'm sure it goes something like this: Lotor asks for whatever the hell he wants, then I'm supposed to do it. If I don't, well, you know the rest already.

It's just so fucking awesome.

"Look, I want to help you."

"Whatever you say, Kogane." 

"Listen." I lower my voice, almost to a whisper. Okay? But you've got to let me handle it."

He shrugs and lets me continue to my table on my own. Now I have to talk to Allura, and everything I'm required t say is the opposite of what I want to say. I have no idea how I'm gonna get Allura to like this kid, because at this point I can't stand him. 

The days kept passing by, and I still haven't talked to Allura, or invited Lotor along to crap, or locked them in a closet together. I have no idea what he wants, honestly.

 I pull into the parking lot on Tuesday, and Eliza hops out of the car- but when I don't follow, she pokes her head back inside. 

"Are you coming?"

"Eventually," I say

"All right," she's about to leave but pokes her head back in to ask "Are you okay?"

"What? Yeah."

She stares at me with concerned eyes 

"Eliza. I'm fine."

And she's off into the school entrance. I end up just playing stupid games on my phone, refreshing my email a few times before hearing a knock on the passenger side window. I jump, looking over to only see Shiro smiling at me as he enters the car "What are you doing?"

Avoiding Lotor.

"Playing games..." 

"Great, I got this song stuck in my head.."

We end up watching part of an episode of Adventure Time and its the perfect distraction. I remember to keep my eye on the clock so I don't miss English class, and also keeping the perfect amount of time so Lotor won't try to talk before the period begins. Shiro takes my phone and starts scrolling through the videos. "If we find Christ imagery, we can totally justify skipping English."

"Um, if we find Christ imagery, I'm using Adventure Time for my free-response essay."

We look at each other and laugh. It’s never lonely with Shiro. It's so easy to just, exist, and maybe that's a good thing.

Chapter Text

I was able to avoid Lotor rather successfully until Thursday.

I came a little early to rehearsal and decided to take a walk around the back of the school until it was time to begin. It's pretty chilly today, the small rips in my jeans not helping keep my temperature up. Honestly, the weather here is hoddie weather or where you wear a hoodie anyway. I take a deep breath as I realize I left my earbuds in my backpack when I decided to leave the auditorium. Great. Just fucking peachy. I hate having to broadcast my music to the world, but its better than nothing. I lean against a brick wall behind the school when I hear Lotor speak.

"Okay, Kogane. What's your deal?" he asked as he crossed his arms and stared into my soul as if I had done him wrong when in reality, he's the one blackmailing me.

We're both wearing Converse, and I can't decide if my feet look small or if his look huge. Lotor probably has six inches on me, and our shadows look ridiculous next to each other.

"My deal?" I ask, trying to play dumb for the sake of my privacy.

"You're avoiding me." 

I push myself off the wall and begin walking back to the auditorium "I'm not." 

Lotor quickly follows behind me "Seriously, I'm not going to show anyone the emails okay? Stop freaking out about it."

I think I'll take that with a million fucking grains of salt since he never said he was deleting them. 

I look at him and realize just how much I underestimated him. All the years of having classes with him, laughing along with his jokes and seeing him around campus and in school plays, I barely even knew the guy and I would have never expected him to be this desperate of a person.

"I said I was going to talk to her," I state harshly "Okay?"

It was before he could speak again that I entered the auditorium and joined the rest of the theatre kids to rehearsal.

-

Rehearsal ends, and I still have no idea what to say to Allura about Lotor, and neither do I know what he expects me to say. Allura and I wait in the auditorium and watch Coran, the theatre teacher, writing notes in his big blue binder with the script for the play along with the musical numbers between scenes. Allura's bus doesn't leave for another fifteen minutes and its another hour till she gets home, she and most of the other Altean kids spend more time commuting to school each day than I do in a week. Atlanta is oddly segregated, and it's upsetting how no one ever talks about it. 

Allura lays back on the stage, and Lotor sits across from us, making an obvious point not to look at us. I do understand the Allura thing, if I were straight I'd probably be chasing after her too. She always smells like French toast and always seems to be smiling. She seems like the type of girl to become very aggressive quickly if needed.

"Hey, Lotor," I say, more high pitched than intended. I clear my throat before continuing, "Are you going to Hunk's tomorrow?"  

"I, uh," he stumbles on his words "Like a party?"

"It's a Halloween party. You should come, I'll text you the address."

Just a quick text to Monkey's Asshole.

"Yeah, maybe," he says. As he stands, he trips on his shoelace and tries to play it off like some type of dance move. Allura laughs, and he grins, taking a bow. After Lotor leaves, Allura smiles at me "Didn't know you were friends with Lotor." she says.

Which is just about the most hilarious fucking statement ever.

-

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Oct 30, at 9:56 PM

SUBJECT: Re: hollow weiners 

 

Blue, 

I guess I never really tried to pull off something truly scary. My family is really all about the funny costumes. We used to get competitive about whose costume would make my dad laugh the hardest. My sister was a trash can one year, not Oscar the Grouch, just a can full of trash. And I was pretty much a one-trick pony. The boy-in-a-dress concept never got old (until it did, I guess- I was in fourth grade and had this amazing flapper costume, but then I looked in the mirror and felt this electric shock of mortification).

Now, I'll say I aim for the sweet spot of simplicity and badassery. I can't believe you're not dressing up. Don't you realize you're throwing away the perfect opportunity to be someone else for an evening? 

Disappointedly yours, 

-Red

 

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

DATE: Oct 31 at 8:11 AM

SUBJECT: Re: hollow weiners 

 

Red, 

Sorry to disappoint. I'm not opposed to dressing up, and you made a compelling case for it. I completely see the appeal of being someone else for an evening (or in general). Actually, I was a bit of a one-trick pony myself when I was little. I was always a superhero. I guess I liked to imagine myself having this complicated secret identity. Maybe I still do. Maybe that's the whole point of these emails.

Anyway, I'm not dressing up this year, because I'm not going out. My mom has some kind of work party, so I'm stuck at home on chocolate duty. I'm sure you understand that there's nothing sadder than a sixteen-year-old boy home alone on Halloween answering the door in full costume. 

Your family sounds interesting. How did you talk your parents into buying you dresses? I bet you were an awesome flapper. Did your parents try to ruin all your costumes by trying to make them weather appropriate? I remember throwing this ridiculous tantrum one year because THE GREEN LANTERN DOES NOT WEAR A TURTLENECK. Though, in retrospect, he actually kind of does. Sorry, Mom!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your day off from being Red. And I hope everyone likes your ninja costume (that has to be it, right? The perfect mix of simple and badass?).

-Blue 

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Oct 31, at 8:25 AM

SUBJECT: Re: hollow weiners 

 

A ninja? Suck a good guess, but no dice.

-Red

 

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Oct 31, at 8:26 AM

SUBJECT: Re: hollow weiners 

 

Aaaah- autocorrect fail. DICK a good guess.

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Oct 31, at 8:28 PM

SUBJECT: Re: hollow weiners 

 

GAHHHHH!!!!!

SUCH a good guess. SUCH. Jesus Christ. This is why I never write you from my phone.

Anyway, I'm going to go die of embarrassment now.

-Red 

                                                    

Chapter Text

I think the best holiday of all is Halloween, and multiply that by ten if Halloween falls on a Friday. The halls just feel more alive and everyone seems to be actually happy to be at school. Halloween at school just makes the day go by faster, the work seems less boring, and everything is just funnier. I have a headband with cat ears that I borrowed from Eliza and one of those furry tail things clipped to the back belt loop of my jeans. Many people in the halls give me smiles and a thumbs up for my apparently great costume.

So here's the plan for the night, Allura and I get ready for Hunk's Halloween party at my place, then meet Shiro over at his and wait for Pidge to pick us up. At this point, I can drive one other person in my car including Eliza and that's it. My parents are very dictatorial when it comes to driving.

As soon as we walk through the door, Allura instantly starts her search around my house for my cat Luna, coming back into the living room just a short few minutes later with Luna in her arms. Luna is a very fluffy and chubby female calico cat that we adopted when I was ten.

"So where's the party at again?" Allura asks as she pets Luna.

"Hunk's place, it's somewhere off Powell Road I think?"

"So it's going to be mostly soccer people?"

"I have no idea honestly."

The only people I really know that will be there are Allura and I, Shiro, Pidge, Lance, obviously Hunk, and to my dismay... Lotor. He confirmed earlier this week that he'll be showing up and I'm not too happy about it. 

"Whatever, it'll be fun either way." she smiles and adjusts her sitting position to let Luna curl up into her lap, her Cleopatra costume riding almost all the way up her thigh. As far as I know, everyone sees me as straight, but Allura seems to know that she doesn't have to be self-conscious around me, or maybe she's the type of person that doesn't really care.

"You hungry?" she asks me and I realize I was supposed to ask her that a few minutes ago. Dammit. 

We end up popping some pizza rolls in the oven and sit on the couch watching some random episodes of American Ninja Warrior. Eliza has tucked herself away on a bean bag in the corner of the living room reading Macbeth, I guess that's somewhat Halloween-ish. Eliza almost never goes out, I catch her eyeing our batch of pizza rolls and she gets up a few minutes later to make her own. Maybe I should have asked her if she wanted some.

After a few episodes, Allura speaks up "We should probably get dressed, I don't want Pidge yelling her head off at us not being ready." She laughs softly and I laugh along, Pidge hates to be late for anything. Sometimes I see her as the rabbit in Alice In Wonderland

Allura has two costumes, and since everyone has seen the Cleopatra outfit already, it was time for an outfit change. She gets up and leaves to the bathroom with her backpack, where she stuffed costume #2. I grab my own costume, which I had kept in the closet near the front door and begin to put on my cloak over me. Eliza looks up and groans "Keith, can't you just change in your room?" she whines.

"It's just a dementor robe and I'm not taking any clothes off, I think you'll live."

"What's a dementor?"

I can't with her sometimes. "You are no longer my sister."

"So it's some Harry Potter thing,"

-

Hunk and Shiro bump fists when we walk into the party, "What's up Takashi?" 

There's this thumping from the bass of the music and bursts of laughter and the noise is almost unbearable for me. I'm used to the kind of parties where you just sit in someone's basement, play Monopoly and eat way too much junk food. This is completely out of my comfort zone, people drinking and grinding and it all just feels like I'm an alien that just landed on Earth.

"So what can I get you guys to drink?" Hunk asks "We have beer, and, um, vodka and rum."

"No thanks," Pidge smiles "I drove,"

"We have soda and juice if you want."

"I'll have vodka with orange juice," says Allura and Pidge just shakes her head.

"A screwdriver for Wonder Woman, coming right up. Takashi, Kogane? Can I get you a beer?"

"Sure," I say, and I notice my adrenaline levels spike as I realize this is my first time drinking.

Hunk disappears to get us drinks, and I pull my dementor hood over my head before leaning against the wall. Shiro has ventured upstairs to get Hunk's dad's guitar, so I have to deal with that weird tension whenever I'm alone with Pidge and Allura. Allura softly sings along to the music under her breath and sways around a bit as we wait for Shiro or Hunk's return. I feel myself kind of shrinking away towards Pidge, I can tell she's feeling just as out-of-place as I am. 

After a bit of waiting, Allura starts to look around the room a bit curiously, trying to see over the crowd. 

"Where the heck is Shiro?" she asks and just hearing Allura say Shiro's name makes Pidge suck in her lips. 

I try to lighten up the tension by saying "Feeling up a guitar somewhere?"

"Yeah," Pidge smiles "Most awkward way to get a splinter," Which sets Allura off in a fit of giggles. 

It's the weirdest thing. There are some moments with Pidge and Allura where it just seems like they're showing off to each other. Maybe it's a girl thing? I don't know but Hunk arrives with our drinks and it pulls me out of my thoughts for a bit. 

"Screwdrivers for the ladies," he says, handing one to each of them and Pidge leaves hers on a table nearby. "And a beer for-- whatever the hell you're supposed to be." 

"A dementor," I say

"What in God's name even is that?"

"Harry Potter?" 

He just shrugs and looks at Pidge "And who are you supposed to be?"

Pidge just deadpans "Kim Kardashian." but lets out a big grin as Hunk gives her a confused look. "Tohru from Fruits Basket." she says "It's a manga."

Hunk nods, but he's obviously just as confused as he was about mine. A crash of piano keys beckons him across the house and soon enough he's gone from our field-of-view.

I almost wish I was back at home with Eliza, watching American Ninja Warrior and shoving fun-size Kit Kats into my mouth (and for the record, "fun-size" is the most bullshit marketing I've ever heard of). I'm having fun here, don't get me wrong, but being here just feels strange and surreal.

I take a sip of my beer and it's--I mean, it's just astonishingly disgusting. I mean, I wasn't expecting it to taste like ice cream but holy fucking hell. People lie and get fake IDs and sneak into bars, for this? I honestly think I'd rather make out with Bill Cosby. It really makes you worry about all the hype surrounding sex.

"There you are," says Allura. Shiro is back, holding on to this acoustic guitar like a lifeline. He settles onto the floor to tune it, his back against the side of the couch. The crowd is just full of soccer people and other jocks, which is fine but I just don't really know them. Also, where the hell is Lotor?

I sit, and so do Allura and Pidge, and honestly, it's nice, it feels like the four of us have our own little corner in the room. I feel kind of happy and hazy now, and beer doesn't taste so bad after the first few sips. Hunk or someone must have turned the stereo off, and I notice more people have come over to listen to Shiro. Shiro has the most raspy-perfect singing voice in the world. He has this weird, dad-like obsession with classic rock, but I guess that's not always a bad thing. Right now he's singing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," and I'm thinking about Blue.

"Keith, how much did you drink?" Pidge asks. I'm twisting the ends of her hair. Pidge's hair is so pretty and it smells exactly like French toast. Except that's Allura. Pidge smells like almonds.

"One beer." One most excellent, most delicious beer.

"One beer. I can't even begin to express how ridiculous you are." But she's almost smiling.

"Pidge, did you know you have a really Irish face?"

"What?" 

"You guys know what I mean. Like an Irish face. Are you Irish?"

"Um, not as far as I know."

Allura laughs.

"My ancestors are Altean," someone says. I look up, and it's Lotor wearing bunny ears. 

"Yeah, exactly," I say as Lotor sits beside Allura, close but not too close. "Okay, and it's so weird, right, because we have all these ancestors from all over the world, and here we are in Hunk's living room, and Lotor's ancestors are from Altea, and I'm sorry, but Leah's are totally from Ireland."

"If you say so."

"And Shiro's are from Indonesia."

"Indonesia?" says Shiro, fingers still sliding all over the frets of the guitar. "They're from Japan."

So I guess you learn something new every day because I really thought the Takashi name cam from Indonesia.

"Okay, well, I'm South Korean and Galra, and Allura's, you know..." Oh God, I don't know anything about Altea, and I don't know if that makes me racist.

"Yup." Allura smiles, popping the "p" in yup

"Exactly. I mean, it's just the randomness of it."

The stereo kicks back in again.

 "Hey, I think I'm going to grab a drink," Lotor says, jumping up again "Can I get you all anything?"

"Thanks, but I'm driving," says Pidge But she wouldn't be drinking even if she wasn't driving. I know that. There's this invisible line, and on one side are people like Hunk, Allura, and Shiro and every musician ever. People who go to parties and drink and don't get wasted off of one beer. People who have had sex and don't think it's a huge deal.

On the other side of the line are people like Pidge and me, and the one thing that makes it weirdly better is knowing that Blue is one of us. I'm reading a little between the lines here, but I actually don't think Blue has ever kissed anyone. 

I've never kissed a guy. That's something I think about all the time.

"Kogane?" asks Lotor.

"Sorry, what?"

"Anything to drink?" 

"Oh, thanks. I'm good."

"I'm done too, thanks though." Allura kicks her foot against mine. "At home, I'd just take the Metro and sneak in through our back door, so it didn't matter." When Allura says "home," she's still talking about Altea. "But I figure Keith's parents don't need to see me drunk."

"I don't think they would care."

Allura pushes her hair behind her ear "You'd be surprised."

"They let my sister pierce her ear a million times."

"Wow. Eliza's such a badass," says Pidge.

"Okay, Eliza is the opposite of a badass." I shake my head. "I am such a badder ass than Eliza."

"And don't let anyone tell you otherwise," says Lotor, settling back beside Allura with a beer in hand. 

Abby gets up and stretches, "Come on. People are dancing."

"Good for people," says Shiro.

"We are dancing." Allura extends both arms towards him and begins to pull him up.

"Noooooo." Shiro whines, but puts down the guitar and begins to follow her.

"But have you even seen my sweet moves?" asks Lotor

"Let's see them."

He does this weird, rhythmic imitation of swimming followed by this side-to-side shoulder lurch/butt scoot combo. 

"Yeah, you're awesome," Allura says. "Come on." she tugs at Lotor's hands and he springs up, beaming like the sun. She guides her harem to this carpeted area near the stereo, where people are drinking and grinding to Kanye. Except Allura kind of goes into her own world when she dances, so Shiro and Lotor end up bobbing their heads self-consciously and make a point to not look at each other.

"Oh my God," says Pidge. "It's happening. We're finally witnessing something more painful than Shiro's thirteenth birthday party."

"Awkwardness achievement unlocked."

"Should we be filming this?"

"Just savor it." I hook my arm around her shoulders, pulling her in closer. 

-

Pidge drops us all off at Shiro's at midnight, and from there it's a seven-minute walk to my house. The lights inside the houses are off, but the street lights help guide us around the neighborhood. There's a lot of smashed up pumpkins and toilet paper rolls on the floor, along with toilet paper tangled into tree branches. Shady Creek may be a magical fairyland of a suburb, but when the candy runs out on Halloween, the criminal underbelly emerges. At least, in my neighborhood it does.

It's chilly and oddly quiet, if Allura wasn't with me I would have to drown the silence out with music. It feels like we're the last survivors of a zombie apocalypse. Wonder Woman and a gay dementor. It doesn't look well for the survival of the species. 

"All right, I have something to ask you," Allura says.

"Oh yeah?"

"So, Lotor was talking to me when you were in the bathroom."

I feel something freeze up inside me.

"Okay," I say.

"Yeah, and this is-- maybe I'm reading this wrong, but he was talking about homecoming and he brought it up like three times."

"Did he ask you to the dance?"

"No. It was like-- I guess it seemed like he was maybe trying to?"

Lotor, he's like the opposite of suave but holy fuck, I'm so relieved he didn't tell her.

"I'm guessing he didn't get anywhere with that."

Allura bites her lip and smiles "He's a really nice guy."

"Yup."

"But I'm already going with Tyler Allen. He asked me two weeks ago."

"Really? How did I not know that?"

"Sorry-- was I supposed to announce it on the Tumblr?"

She grins "Anyway, I don't know if you might be able to mention that to Lotor. You're friends with him, right? I'd just rather not deal with him asking me if I can avoid it."

"Um, I'll see what I can do." 

"What about you? Are you still boycotting?" Allura smiles.

"Of course," Pidge, Shiro, and I are of the mind that homecoming is just achingly lame, and we skip it every year.

"You could ask Pidge," Allura says, looking at me with this weird, probing expression.

I feel a storm of laughter brewing, "You think I like Pidge?"

"I don't know," she says, grinning "You looked so sweet together tonight."

"Me and Pidge?" I ask. But I'm gay. GAY. Gaaaaaaaaayyyyy.

God, I should really just tell her. I can kind of picture her reaction. Eyes widening. Mouth falling open.

Yeah. Maybe not tonight.

"Hey," I say, not quite looking at her. "Do you think you would ever be into Lotor?"

"Lotor? Um. Why do you ask?" 

"Nothing. I don't know. He's a decent guy. I guess." My voice sounds so high, I can't believe I'm doing this.

"Aww. It's cute that you guys are friends."

I don't even know what to say to that.

-

My mom is waiting for us in the kitchen when we walk in, and it's time to brace myself. The thing about my mom is she's a child psychologist. And it shows.

"So, tell me about the party guys!"

Here we go. It was awesome, Mom. Good thing Hunk had so much booze. I mean, really.

Allura is way better at this than I am-- she launches into a really detailed description of everyone's costumes, while my mom brings over this epic plate of snacks from the counter. My parents are usually in bed by ten, and I can tell my mom is exhausted, but I knew she'd be awake when I get home. She seriously lives for opportunities to be a hey guys I'm cool kind of mom.

"And Shiro played guitar," Allura says. 

"Shiro's very talented," says my mom.

"Oh, I know," Allura replies. "Girls were like swooning over him."

"That's why I keep telling Keith to learn guitar, his sister used to play."

"I'm going to bed," I say. "Allura, you good?" My mom has Allura staying in Allison's room, which is hilarious, considering Shiro has been spending the night on my bedroom floor for about ten years.

It isn't until I'm in my room that I can finally relax. Luna is already passed out at the foot of my bed in a nest of my jeans and hoodies. My dementor robes end up in a heap on the floor, I did aim for the hamper but hey, shit happens.

I lie on top of my bed without getting in it. I hate messing up the sheets before I absolutely have to. I know this is weird, but I make my bed every single day, even though the rest of my room is a hellscape of paper and laundry and books and clutter. Sometimes I feel like my bed is a lifeboat. 

I put in my earbuds, Eliza and I share a wall so I'm not allowed to listen to anything through the speakers after she goes to bed.

I need something familiar. Elliott Smith.

I'm wide awake and still kind of electrified from the party. I think it was good. I don't have a lot to compare it to and it's a little bit crazy to think I had a beer. I know its astonishingly lame to even think that about a single beer. Hunk and all the soccer guys probably think it's crazy to stop at one, but that's not me. 

I don't think I'll tell my parents about it. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get in trouble if I did. I don't know. I need to spend some time in my head with this new Keith. My parents have a way of ruining things like this. They get so curious. It's like they have this idea of me, and whenever I step outside of that, it blows their minds. There's something so embarrassing about that in a way I can't even describe. 

The thing about coming out isn't even about me being gay. I know deep down that my family would be fine with it. We're not religious. My parents are Democrats. My dad likes to joke around, and it would definitely be awkward, but I guess I'm lucky. I know they're not going to disown me. And I'm sure some people in school would give me hell, but my friends would be fine. Pidge loves gay guys, so she's be freaking thrilled. But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I started shaving. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again. 

-

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 1 at 11:12 AM 

SUBJECT: hollow weiners

 

Red,

I hope your Halloween was excellent, and that your simplicity and badassery hit the mark. Things were really quiet around here. We only had about six trick-or-treaters. Of course, that means I am contractually obligated to eat the leftover Reese's cups. 

I can't believe it's already almost homecoming. I'm excited about it. Make no mistake, football is still my least favorite sport, but I actually really like going to the homecoming game. I guess it's something about the lights and the drumbeats and the scent of the air. Fall air always smells like possibility. Or maybe I just like ogling at the cheerleaders. You know me. 

Are you doing anything interesting this weekend? We're supposed to have suck nice weather. Excuse me, dick nice weather. (:

-Blue

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 1 at 5:30 PM 

SUBJECT: Reese's are better than sex.

 

Very funny, Blue. VERY FUNNY.

Anyway, I'm sorry you got stuck at home last night for only six trick-or-treaters. What a waste. Next year, couldn't you just stick the bowl on the porch with a note telling the kids to take two? Granted, the kids in my neighborhood would have taken candy by the fistful while cackling with villainous laughter, and they probably would have peed on the note for good measure. But maybe the kids in your neighborhood are more civilized.

But seriously, leftover Reese's? Is it possible to send chocolate over email these days? PLEASE SAY IT IS.

My Halloween wasn't bad. I won't say too much about it, but I ended up going to this guy's party. I don't think it was really my scene, but it was definitely interesting. I guess it was nice to step out of my comfort zone (wait-- I didn't just ruin my chance of convincing you I'm a hardcore party ninja, right?).

So, I keep thinking about the idea of secret identities. Do you ever feel locked into yourself? I'm not sure if I'm making sense here. I guess what I mean is that sometimes it seems like everyone knows who I am except me.

Okay, I'm glad you mentioned homecoming because I totally forgot that Spirit Week is this week. Monday is Decades Day, right? I guess I should check online so I can avoid making an ass of myself. Honestly, I can't believe they schedule Spirit Week right after Halloween. Creekwood really blows its load on costume days all at once. How do you think you'll dress up for Monday? I know you're not going to answer that.

And I totally figured you'd be ogling the cheerleaders on Friday, because you're all about the ladies. Me too, Blue. Me too.

-Red

 

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 2 at 1:43 PM 

SUBJECT: Re: Reese's are better than sex.

 

Reese's are better than sex? Admittedly, I wouldn't know, but I hope you're wrong about that one. Maybe you should stop having heterosexual sex, Red. I'm just saying.

The kids in your neighborhood sound really charming. Urine isn't a huge issue here, so maybe next year I'll take your advice. It will probably be moot, anyway, because my mom almost never goes out. She just can't keep up with you party ninja ways, Red. (: 

I completely understand what you mean about feeling locked into yourself. For me, I don't even think it has anything to do with other people thinking they know me. It's more that I want to leap in and say certain things and do certain things, but I always seem to hold myself back. I think a big part of me is afraid. Even thinking about it makes me nauseated. Did I mention I get nauseated easily?

Of course, that's the exact reason I don't want to say anything about Spirit Week and costumes. I don't want you to put two and two together and figure out who I am. Whatever it is we're doing here, I don't think it works if we know each other's real identities. I have to admit that it makes me nervous to think of you as someone actually connected with my life, rather than a mostly anonymous person on the internet. Obviously, some of the things I've told you about myself are things I've never told anyone. I don't know, Red-- there's something about you that makes me want to open up, and that's slightly terrifying for me.

I hope this isn't too awkward. I know you were kidding when you asked what costume I was going to wear, but I wanted to put this out there--just in case it wasn't entirely a joke? I have to admit I'm curious about you sometimes, too.

-Blue 

P.S. I'm attaching a Reese's cup to this email. I hope this is what you had in mind.

  

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 3 at 6:37 PM 

SUBJECT: Re: Reese's are better than sex.

 

Blue, 

I think I made you uncomfortable, and I'm really, really sorry. I'm kind of a nosy person. It's always been a problem. I'm so sorry, Blue. I know I sound like a broken record. I don't know if I've mentioned this outright, but our emails are really important to me. I would never forgive myself if I fucked this up. Effed this up. Sorry, I don't even know if you cuss. 

So, I might have given you the wrong idea with this subject line. I have to admit that I don't TECHNICALLY know whether Reese's are better than sex. Reese's are really freaking incredible, don't get me wrong. And I'm guessing they're better than hetero sex, a.k.a. "intercourse" (per my mom).

Non-hetero sex, though? I imagine it may be a little better than Reese's. Is it weird that I can't talk about this without blushing?

Anyway, speaking of Reese's, thank you so much for the photo. That was exactly what I had in mind. Instead of actually eating one, I just wanted to IMAGINE how salty and chocolatey and awesome it would be to eat one. It's great because I really wanted to torture myself, but I didn't feel like making the effort to Google Reese's cups myself.

I would raid our own supply of leftover chocolate, but it didn't even come close to surviving the weekend.

-Red

Partying harder than Blue's mom since 2014.                                                                                                                                             

Chapter Text

The classic Gender Bender day, my least favorite idea for spirit week. It's basically southern straight people cross-dressing, but God forbid someone is transgender. 

We're watching Twelfth Night in first period, because every English teacher is a comedian. Mr. Wise has this warped, ratty couch in his classroom that smells a little like beer, and I'm pretty sure people sneak in here to have sex and rub their fluids all over it after school. It's that kind of couch. But we all fight to the death to sit on it during class, almost like a pack of wolves fighting over meat. It makes class way more bearable when you're not in the hard and uncomfortable desks we are forced to sit in the majority of the day. 

Today it's been conquered by soccer boys in cheerleading uniforms--specifically Shiro, Hunk, and Lance. There are only about twenty cheerleaders in all, so I have no fucking idea how they get the uniform in the first place. But honestly, who the hell even knows what this school spends its money on.

Though I have to admit, there's something kind of awesome about soccer calves and scuffed tennis shoes coming out of pleated cheerleading skirts. I can't believe Lance McClain dressed up. Lance from my lunch table. He's this quiet Hispanic kid who's supposed to be really smart, but I've never heard him speak unless he's forced to. He leans way back into the corner of the couch, shuffling the toe of one foot against the other, and I never noticed it before, but he's actually kind of adorable. 

Mr. Wise has already started the movie when Allura charges into the room. Between cheerleading, the play, and all of her committees, there's always a reason for Allura to be late to first period, but she never gets called out. It really pisses Pidge off, especially because people on the couch always seem to be willing to scoot over to make room for Allura. 

She takes one look at the lineup on the couch and bursts out laughing, and Shiro looks ridiculously pleased with himself. The expression on his face is exactly the same as the day he found a dinosaur bone buried beneath the elementary school playground. 

I mean, it turned out to be a chicken bone, but still

"What the heck?" Allura says, sliding into the desk behind me. She's wearing a full suit and tie and this long, Dumbledorian fake beard. "You guys didn't dress up!"

"I'm wearing hair clips," I point out.

"Okay, well, they're invisible." She turns to Pidge. "And you're in a dress?" 

Pidge looks at her and shrugs without explaining. Dressing extra feminine for Gender Bender is just something Pidge does. It's her way of being subversive. 

So, here's the thing. I would have left the godforsaken industrial-strength hair clips in Allison's drawer where I found them if I thought I could get away with it. But everyone knows I participate in this kind of crap. Ironically, of course, but still. It would be weirdly conspicuous if I didn't cross-dress at least a little bit today. It's funny how it ends up being the straightest, preppiest, most athletic guys who go all out for Gender Bender. I guess they feel secure enough in their masculinity that they don't care. 

I actually hate when people say that. I mean, I feel secure in my masculinity, too. Being secure in your masculinity isn't the same as being straight. 

I guess the one thing that's weird for me is dressing like a girl. What no one knows, even Blue, is that dressing up used to mean something to me. I don't know how to explain it or reconcile it, but I haven't forgotten the feeling of silk and air against my legs. I always knew I was a boy, and I've never wanted to be anything but a boy, but when I was younger I used to wake up at night in April dreaming of Halloween. I would try on my costume a dozen times each October, and all through November, I obsessively fantasized about pulling it out of my closet one more time. Luckily, I never crossed that line. 

I don't know, there's just something kind of mortifying to me about the intensity of those feelings. I remember them so clearly. I can't even stomach the idea of cross-dressing now. I don't even like to think about it too much. A lot of the time, I can't believe that was me. 

The classroom door opens, and there stands Lotor, framed by the bright light of the hallway. He managed to find a cheerleading uniform, and he even went to the trouble of stuffing his chest with weirdly realistic boobs. Martin's really tall, so the amount of skin on display is actually pretty obscene.

Someone in the back whistles "Looking hot, Adderall." 

"Late pass, Lotor," says Mr. Wise. And maybe it's just Pidge getting into my head, but I can't help but think it's unfair that Allura didn't have to get one.

Lotor stretches his arms up against the frame of the doorway like he's hanging from monkey bars, and the top of his uniform rides up even higher. Some of the girls giggle a little bit, and Lotor grins and blushes. I swear to God, that kid will whore himself out completely for a cheap laugh. I guess he's kind of a genius for that, because I've never met a nerd so beloved by the popular kids. I mean, I'm not going to lie. They kind of live to tease him. But there's no bite to it. It's like he's their mascot. 

"Any day, Lotor," say's Mr. Wise. 

He tugs his top down, pushes his boobs back into position, and walks out of the room. 

-

On Friday, the math and science hallway is covered in hay. It's probably three inches thick under my feet, and a few strands of it jut out stiffly from the slats of my locker. Dust seems to rise off the ground, and even the light looks different.

The theme this year is music, and out of every genre in the world, the junior class picked country. Only in Georgia. Which is why I'm wearing a bandana and a cowboy hat. School freaking spirit. 

Okay. So, homecoming sucks and country music is just embarrassing, but I'm in love with the hay. Even though it means Anna and Taylor and all the other asthmatics will have to skip science and math today. It just transforms everything. The hallway looks like another universe. 

When I get to lunch, I seriously almost lose my shit. It's the freshmen. They're adorable and ridiculous, and oh my God. I can't stop laughing at them. Their genre is emo, and it's basically a sea of bangs and wristbands and tears. I begged Eliza last night to show up in a black wig, eyeliner, and for the love of God, at least a My Chemical Romance shirt. She basically looked at me like I had suggested she show up naked.

I catch a glimpse of her now across the cafeteria, and her curly blond hair is really the opposite of emo. But it looks like she talked herself into the raccoon eyeliner, probably once she saw everyone else doing it. She's a perfect chameleon. 

It's hard to believe this is the same person who once insisted on dressing up as a trash can.

Lotor's at the table right next to ours, and he's wearing overalls. Seriously, he owns overalls. He tries to catch my eye but I look away abruptly. Avoiding Lotor is like a reflex for me at this point.

I take a seat between Pidge and Hunk, who carry on arguing right over me.

"Who the hell is that?" asks Pidge. 

"You seriously haven't heard of Jason Aldean?" says Hunk.

"I seriously haven't."

Hunk slaps his hands down on the table, so I slap my hands down to imitate him, and he shoots me a self-conscious smile. 

"Hey," says Shiro, settling into the seat across from me and opening his lunch bag. "So I have a thought," he says. "I think we should go to the game tonight." 

"You're kidding me," says Pidge. 

Shiro looks at her.

"What about WaHo?" she asks. We always hang out at Waffle House during football games. 

"What about it?" asks Shiro.

Pidge's head is tilted down, so her eyes look kind of scary, and her lips are sucked into a straight line. Everyone is quiet for a moment. 

And maybe my timing sucks here, but I guess I'm not really thinking about Pidge.

"I'll go to the game," I say, mostly because I'm pretty sure Blue will be at the game. I like the idea of sitting in the same bleachers of Blue.

"Seriously?" Pidge says. I feel her eyes on me, though I make a point to look straight ahead. "Et tu, Brute?" 

"Holy overreaction, Batman--" Shiro starts to say.

"You shut up." Pidge cuts him off.

Hunk laughs nervously. 

"Did I miss something?" Allura arrives to find us caught in this thick, weird silence. She sits down next to Shiro. "Is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine." Shiro glares at her, and his cheeks look sort of pink.

"Okay," she says, and grins. Allura isn't wearing a cowboy hat. She's wearing a full-on stack of cowboy hats. "So, are you guys psyched for the game tonight?"

Pidge stands abruptly, pushes her chair in, and leaves without a word.

-

The game starts at seven, but there's a parade at six. I walk over to Shiro's house after school, and we drive back to school together.

"So, we're on Pidge's shit list," I say as we turn onto the road leading to Creekwood. Already, cars are parallel parked on the street, which has to mean the parking lot is full. I guess a lot of people like football. 

"She'll get over it," he says. "Is that a space?" 

"No, it's a hydrant."

"Crap, okay. Geez, it's crowded."

I think it's the first time Shiro has been here for a football game. It's definitely the first time for me. It takes us another ten minutes to find a spot that Shiro can pull up into from behind. He hates parallel parking. In the end, we have to walk about a million miles through the rain to get to the school, but I guess those cowboy hats are good for something after all. 

It's really the first time I've ever noticed the stadium lights. I mean, they've always been there, and I've probably seen them turned on before. I never realized how incredibly bright they are. Blue loves them. I wonder if he's already a part of the mass of people milling around the field. We pay a couple of dollars and they give us tickets, and then we're in. The marching band plays a weirdly awesome medley of Beyonce songs and does this stiff little dance in the stands. And really, despite the rain and the fact that its homecoming, I think I understand why Blue loves this. It feels like anything could happen. 

"There you are!" says Allura as she jogs towards us. She gives us both a giant hug. "I just texted both of you. Do you guys want to walk in the parade?" 

Shiro and I look at each other.

"Okay," I say. Shiro shrugs. 

We end up following Allura to the teacher parking lot, where a bunch of student council people have assembled around the junior class float. It's built onto a flatbed trailer with a frame constructed up the back, and it definitely looks like country music. There are bales of hay lining the entire surface of the trailer, stacked up higher along the back, and red bandanas knotted together like streamers all around the border of the frame. Everything is lined with Christmas lights. Twangy pop-country music blasts through someone's iPod speakers.

Allura's in the thick of it, of course. She'll be riding the float with some of the other cheerleaders, wearing short denim skirts and flannel shirts knotted up to show their midriff. There are a couple of guys in overalls, including one dude sitting against the hay bales pretending to play an acoustic guitar. I have to grin at Shiro, because nothing pisses him off more than someone faking on the guitar. Especially someone who can't even be bothered to move his fingers along the frets.

This girl Maria from student council lines us up behind the float in rows, and then someone passes down pieces of straw for us to hold in our teeth. 

"And y'all have to chant," Maria says, looking deadly serious. "They're judging us on spirit."

"Gah jernyrs," I mutter to Shiro, who snorts. There's only so much you can do with a piece of straw clamped between your teeth.

Maria looks panicked. "Oh my God, everyone, okay. Change of plans, no straw. Everyone take out the straw. Okay, good. Be loud, y'all. Remember to smile."

The float starts moving around the parking lot, where it falls into place behind some kind of rock 'n' roll monstrosity the sophomores have put together. We follow behind it, taking our cue from Maria, who calls out cheers and randomly yells "Woo hoo," when things get too quiet. The parade actually leaves the school grounds, where it loops around for a block before coming onto the track circling the football field. The lights shine down on us, and people cheer, and I can't believe Shiro and I ended up in the middle of this. I feel like I'm supposed to make some comment to underscore the ridiculousness of it all, but honestly? It's sort of nice not to have to be cynical for a change. 

I guess it feels like I'm a part of something.

As soon as the parade ends, Allura and the other cheerleaders rush off to the bathroom to get into their uniforms. Shiro and I look up at the bleachers, and the faces blur together and it's hard to find anyone we recognize. It's a little overwhelming. 

"Soccer team's up there," Shiro says finally, pointing up to the left and a few rows down from the top. I follow him up the concrete stairs, and then we end up having to squeeze past people to get over to them. God. Just when you think you've discovered every kind of awkwardness there is. Then comes the issue of finding a place to actually sit. Hunk pushes in closer to Lance to make room, but I'm still basically sitting on Shiro's lap, and that sure as hell isn't going to work. I stand up again immediately, feeling twitchy and self-conscious.

"Okay," I say, "I'm going to go sit with the drama club people."

I find my way a couple rows down to the drama club people, and luckily they let me join and I don't have to sit on anyone's lap for the game. 

"Hey." Suddenly, someone slides in next to me on the bleacher. It's Lotor. I scoot down automatically to make room.

"Adderall," some guy behind us grunts, messing up Lotor's hair, and Lotor just grins up at him before smoothing his hair back down.

"What's up, Kogane?" 

"Nothing," I say, and my heart sinks. He turns his body towards mine, and he's clearly in the mood for a conversation. So much for the air smelling like possibility. 

"Hey, so, this Allura thing."

"Yeah?"

"I asked her to the dance," he says, super quietly, "and she shot me down."

"Okay, um. Sorry. That sucks." 

"Did you know she already had a date?"

"Um, yeah, I think I did know that. Sorry," I say again. I probably should have gotten around to speaking to Lotor about that.

"Could you give me a heads-up next time," he asks, "so I don't embarrass myself?" He looks so miserable. I feel weirdly guilty, even though he's blackmailing me. 

"I don't think they're like boyfriend-girlfriend," I say. 

"Whatever," he says. I look at him, and I don't know if he's giving up on Allura or what. And if he does give up on her--what happens to the emails? Maybe he gets to hold them over my head forever.

I actually can't think of anything worse than that. 

Chapter Text

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 11 at 11:45 PM

SUBJECT: Re: all of the above

 

Blue,

Okay, first of all, Oreos absolutely qualify as a food group. Second of all, they're the ONLY food group that matters. My sisters and I actually made up this place called the Shoreo a few years ago one night when we were staying at our aunt's house. It's like this place where everything is made of some kind of Oreo, and the river is an Oreo milkshake, and you sit on top of this massive Oreo and float down it. You get to scoop up cups of milkshake whenever you want. It's kind of like that scene in Willy Wonka, I guess. Who the hell knows what we were thinking, honestly we were probably just hungry last night. My aunt is a really shitty cook.

Anyway, I forgive you for your ignorance. I know you didn't realize you were talking to an expert.

-Red

 

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 12 at 5:37 PM

SUBJECT: Re: all of the above

 

Red, 

It's true, I had no idea I was talking to such an Oreo connoisseur. The Shoreo sounds like a magical place. So, Doctor, how many servings of Oreo products are necessary for a balanced diet?

I'm getting the impression that you have a bit of a sweet tooth.

-Blue

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 13 at 7:55 PM

SUBJECT: Sweet tooth?

 

I can't imagine why you'd think that.

All right--I have a sneaking suspicion that you're not 100% committed to your Oreo diet. The guidelines are simple. No excuses. Breakfast is obviously an Oreo granola bar or Oreo Pop-Tart. No, they're not gross. Shut up. They're amazing. Lunch should be Oreo pizza with an Oreo milkshake and a couple of those Oreo truffles my mom makes (a.k.a. the most delicious freaking things in the universe). Dinner is deep-fried Oreo's served on top of Oreo ice cream, and for a drink, it's Oreos dissolved in milk. No water. Only Oreo milk. Dessert can be Oreos straight up. Sound reasonable? It's for your health, Blue. 

I swear to God, typing this is actually making me hungry. This totally used to happen to me when I was younger. Isn't it funny the way you fantasize about junk food when you were a kid? It's really all-consuming. I guess you have to obsess about something before you know about sex.

-Dr. Red

 

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 14 at 10:57 PM

SUBJECT: Re: Sweet tooth?

 

Red, 

I really appreciate you looking out for my health. It will be hard, but I know my body will thank me. Seriously, I can't argue with the fact that Oreos are extremely delicious, and the menu you described actually sounds amazing. Although, for me, I'll have to leave out the deep-fried Oreo dinner. I made the mistake of eating one once at a carnival right before going on the Tilt-A-Whirl. I'll spare you the details, but let it be said that people who get nauseated easily have no business riding the Tilt-A-Whirl. I haven't been able to look at deep-fried Oreos the same way since. Sorry to even have to tell you that. I know Oreos are really important to you. 

I have to admit I like to imagine you as a kid fantasizing about junk food. I also like to imagine you now fantasizing about sex. I can't believe I just wrote that. I can't believe I'm hitting send. 

-Blue

 

He likes to imagine me fantasizing about sex.

That's something I probably shouldn't have read right before bed. I lie here in the pitch-darkness, reading that particular line on my phone again and again. I'm jittery and awake and completely in knots, all from an email. And I'm hard. So, that's kind of strange. 

It's really confusing. A good kind of confusing. Blue is normally so careful about what he writes. 

He likes to imagine me fantasizing about sex!

I thought I was the only one who had those kinds of thoughts about us.

I wonder what it would be like to meet him in person, after all this time. Would we even have to speak? Would we go straight into making out? I think I can picture it. He's in my bedroom, and we're totally alone. He sits beside me on the bed and turns to look at me. Then his hands cup my face, and all of a sudden, he's kissing me. 

My hands cup my face. Well, my left-hand cups my face. My right hand is occupied. 

I picture it. He kisses me and I can't even. There's this electric tingly feeling radiating through my whole body and my brain has gone fuzzy and I actually think I can hear my heartbeat.

I have to be so, so quiet. Eliza's on the other side of the wall. 

His tongue is in my mouth. His hands slide up under my shirt, and he trails his fingers across my chest. I'm so close. It's almost unbearable. God. Blue. 

My whole body turns to jelly.

 

Chapter Text

On Monday, Pidge intercepts me as I walk into school.

"Hey," she says. "Eliza, I'm stealing him."

"What's up?" I ask. The ground slopes, and there's this concrete ledge that curves around the courtyard. Parts of it are just low enough to the ground that it makes a kind of shelf for your butt.

Pidge avoids my eyes. "I made you a mix," she says, handing me a CD in a clear plastic case. "You can load it onto your iPod when you get home. Whatever." 

I turn the case over in my hands. Instead of a tracklist, Pidge has composed what appears to be a haiku:

 

Wrinkled neck, gray hair

Sorry to say this, Keith

But you're fucking old.

 

"Pidge. It's so beautiful."

"Yeah, okay." She scoots backward on the ledge and leans back on her hands, looking at me. "All right. Are we cool?" 

I nod. "You mean about..."

"About you guys ditching me on homecoming."

"I'm really sorry, Pidge." 

The edges of her mouth tug up. "You're so freaking lucky it's your birthday."

And then she pulls a cone-shaped party hat out of her bag and straps it onto my head. 

"Sorry if I overreacted," she adds. 

-

There's a massive sheet cake at lunch, and when I get to the table, everyone is wearing party hats. That's the tradition. No one gets a cake without the hat. Hunk seems to be gunning for two pieces, actually. He's got a pair of cones strapped onto his head like horns.

"Keiiith," Allura says, except she usually sings it in this low, husky opera voice. "Hands out, eyes closed." I feel something nearly weightless drop onto my palm. I open my eyes, and it's a piece of paper folded into a bow tie and colored in with a gold crayon. 

A couple of people from other tables look at us, and I feel myself grinning and blushing. "Should I wear it?"

"Uh, yeah," she says. "You have to. Golden bow tie for your golden birthday."

"My what?" 

"Your golden birthday. Seventeen on the seventeenth," Allura says. Then she tilts her chin up dramatically and extends her hand. "Shirogane, the tape." 

Shiro has been holding three pieces of Scotch tape on the ends of his fingertips for who knows how long. Honest to God. He's like her little pet monkey.

Allura tapes on my bow tie and pokes my cheeks, which is something she does weirdly often because apparently, my cheeks are adorable. Whatever the heck that means.

"So, whenever you're ready," Pidge says. She's holding a plastic knife and a stack of plates, and she seems to be making a point of not looking at Shiro or Allura. 

"So ready."

Pidge slices it into perfect little squares, and seriously, it's like waves of magical deliciousness have shot into the atmosphere. Guess which table of A.P. nerds have somehow become the most popular kids in school. 

"No hat, no cake." Melissa and Ana lay down the law from the other end of the table. A couple of kids tape pieces of loose-leaf paper into cone hats and one dude manages to wedge a brown paper lunch bag on his head like a chef's hat. People are shameless when it comes to cake. It's a beautiful thing to see.

The cake itself is so perfect that I know Pidge picked it out: half chocolate and half vanilla because I can never commit to a favorite, and covered in that weirdly delicious Publix icing. And no blue icing, Pidge knows I think it tastes too blue.

Pidge is really amazing at birthdays.

I bring the leftovers to rehearsal, and Coran lets us have a cake picnic on the stage. and by cake picnic, I mean drama kids hunched over the box like vultures shoveling cake by the fistful. 

"Ohmigod, I think I just gained five pounds," says Amelia Evergreen.

"Aww," says Terra, "I guess I'm lucky I have a really fast metabolism."

Seriously, that's Terra. I mean, even I know people can justifiably kill you for saying shit like that. 

And speaking of cake-related casualties: Lotor is sprawled out on the stage with his face in the empty cake box. 

Coran steps over him, "All right, guys. Hop to it. Pencils out. I want you writing this stuff down in your scripts."

I don't mind the writing. The scene we're blocking takes place in a tavern, and I'm basically just making notes reminding myself to act drunk. It's kind of too bad these aren't the notes we'll be tested on for finals. That would really improve some people's grades.

We push through without a break today, but I'm not in every scene, so I actually have quite a bit of downtime. There are risers pushed to the side of the stage left over from a choir concert. I sit near the bottom and rest my elbows on top of my knees. Sometimes I forget how nice it is to just sit back and watch things. 

Lotor is standing downstage left, telling a story to Allura and using lots of twitchy gestures. She's shaking her head and laughing. So maybe Lotor hasn't given up after all.

-

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com 

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 18 at 4:15 AM

SUBJECT: Why why why?

 

Oh my God, Blue, I'm so tired my face hurts. Do you ever have those random nights where your brain won't shut off, even though your body feels like five hundred pounds of exhausted? I'm just going to email you and I hope that's okay and I know this is probably going to be totally incoherent so you can't judge me, okay? Even if I fuck up my grammar. You're like the best writer, Blue, and normally I try to check everything like three times because I don't want to disappoint you. So sorry in advance for all the wreckage with your you're there their they're and everything else.

Today has been pretty freaking great actually. I'm trying not to think about what a zombie I'll be tomorrow. Of course I have five quizzes in the next two days including one in une autre langue that I suck at completement. LE FUCK.

So didn't there used to be a reality show where people had to date each other in the pitch-darkness? We should do that. We should find a room somewhere that's totally dark and then we could hang out and it would be totally anonymous. That way we wouldn't ruin anything. What do you think? 

-Red

 

FROM: bluelion118@gmail.com

TO: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com 

DATE: Nov 18 at 7:15 AM

SUBJECT: Re: Why why why? 

 

Zombie Red,

I don't know what to say. On one hand, I'm sorry you're pretty much guaranteed a shitty day today, and I really hope you were able to squeeze in at least an hour or two of sleep. On the other hand, you're pretty cute when you're exhausted. And, by the way, you were very coherent and grammatical for four in the morning. 

Hang in there today with the quizzes, though, and just power through. Bonne chance, Red. I'm rooting for you. 

I have absolutely never heard of that show. I guess I don't know all that much about reality TV. It's an interesting concept, but how would we keep from recognizing each other's voices?

-Blue

 

FROM: hourtohour.notetonote@gmail.com

TO: bluelion118@gmail.com

DATE: Nov 18 at 7:32 PM 

SUBJECT: Re: Why why why?

 

So, I'm a little scared to read what I wrote to you last night. I'm glad I was cute and grammatical. I think you're cute and grammatical, too. Anyway, I don't know what the hell that was all about. Too much sugar yesterday, I guess. Sorry sorry sorry. 

Yeah. I'm still so totally brain-dead. I don't even want to think about how I did on my quizzes.

Don't know much about reality TV? You mean your parents don't make you watch it? Because mine do. And I bet you think I'm kidding.

You bring up a good point about our voices. I guess we would have to use some kind of robotic megaphone to warp them so they sound like Darth Vader. Or we could just do other things instead of talking. I mean, I'm just saying.

-Your Zombie Red