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“remember how you owe me that favor?” teddy asked one day, out of the blue. he and billy were in billy’s bedroom, pouring over exam reviews- billy sitting at his desk, teddy on the floor. teddy had left his work unattended for a moment, and was sprawled out on his back, staring at the ceiling fan.

 

it was june, and it was unbelievably hot. teddy could feel the sweat glistening under his eyes, pooling on his chest.

 

“hm?” billy hummed back, not looking up from his notebook.

 

“remember, last week? you told your mom you'd take the boys to the pool? and you couldn't, so i took them? and you said,” teddy propped himself up on his elbows, “and i quote ‘i owe you big time, ted.’ remember?”

 

“yeah,” billy swiveled his chair around to look at his boyfriend, “what about it?” billy's hair was plastered to his forehead, and teddy was relieved he wasn’t the only one sweating his ass off.

 

“i wanna cash in that favor. right now.” teddy let a grin spread wide across his face.

 

billy let out a short laugh and turned back to face his desk. “keep on dreaming, ted. my mom’s home, you idiot, so you aren't getting anything from me right now.”

 

“dude, get your mind out of the gutter, that's not even what i was aiming at. it's too hot to mess around.” teddy laughed, ears turning red, because now he was thinking about it.

 

“oh. then, what did you have in mind?” billy's cheeks flushed.

 

“i want you to get your ears pierced.” teddy’s cheshire cat grin was back.

 

“absolutely not.” billy scoffed.

 

“what! why?” teddy was sitting up straight now.

 

“because i don't want to, and besides my mom will never agree to it.” billy turned his chair to face teddy, but didn't meet his eyes.

 

“you're just scared.” teddy spoke in a teasing tone.

 

“am not.” billy put on a defensive face, one he used constantly when speaking with tommy.

 

“your mom doesn't have to know until it's done. ask for forgiveness, not permission.” teddy explained, pointing at billy.

 

“and where do you suppose i get the cash to get my ears pierced without permission?” billy asked teddy skeptically.

 

“you don't need any cash. i'll do it.” he spoke, voice full of confidence.

 

billy let out a nervous laugh. “you'll what?”

 

“shut up,” teddy threw a pencil in his direction, “i did some of my own, and they turned out good.”

 

“okay, but how would you even do it? i don't even know how it works.” billy deflected the pencil and tossed it back. “give me a step by step of what you'd be doing.”

 

“well, i would numb your ear. and shove a needle through it.” teddy explained, twirling one of his piercings between his fingers.

 

billy's smile dropped and a wave of horror washed over his face.

 

teddy only laughed more.

 

“again, absolutely not.” billy shook the scared look off his face and turned back to his desk again.

 

“but you owe meeeee,” teddy trailed off the vowel, standing and making his way over to billy’s desk. he draped his arms over billy's shoulders and they instantly began to stick to his skin with sweat. “unless you'd rather repay me another way.” he whispered, right up against billy's ear.

 

billy attempted to shrug teddy’s arms off him. “it's too damn hot for this, and you know it.”

 

teddy crouched and turned billy's chair around so they were facing each other. “so, what'll it be?”

 

billy rolled his eyes and stood, “i guess it's high time i get impaled to death.” he began to head to the door and when teddy didn't follow he stopped. “come on.”

 

“but i still don't know what you've chosen.” teddy grinned.

 

billy flipped him off and left the room.

 

-

 

“stop it. that's not for you to eat, you monster .” teddy pulled the cup of ice to the other side of the bathroom counter, away from billy.

 

“it's hot out.” billy whined.

 

“that doesn't make you valid.” teddy picked up an ice cube and pressed it to billy’s right earlobe, making him jump.

 

teddy laughed. “i haven't done it yet . you scared?”

 

“no.” billy crossed his arms, a frown set in on his face.

 

“shit. hold this.” teddy passed off the ice cube to billy, who's eyes widened with concern.

 

“what.” he spoke, sharp and flat, still pressing the ice against his earlobe, where it was melting against his overheated skin.

 

“i'll be right back. stay here.” teddy slid out of the doorway and down the hall. moments later, billy heard him gently bounding down the stairs.

 

“teddy! what are you doing?” he shouted.

 

“hold on a second!” teddy yelled back, tone exasperated.

 

minutes later he bounded back up the stairs, tossing an apple in his hand. this time he had an audience; jacob and david had gathered outside the bathroom door, watching with grins on their little faces, giggling to each other.

 

“why. wha-” billy floundered for an explanation as to why teddy would need an apple right now .

 

“shhh, you'll see.” at teddy's answer, david let out a loud laugh, only to be shushed by his brother. billy gave them a dirty look from his seat on the toilet.

 

“is your ear numb yet?” teddy inquired, wiping off a sewing needle they'd found in mr. and mrs. kaplan's bedroom closet with rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet.

 

“i think?”

 

“okay, good.” teddy held the apple in his left hand behind billy's ear and held the needle in front of his earlobe with the right hand.

 

“wait, wait, wait, wait, teddy, stop.” billy put his hands up and curled them around teddy’s wrists, attempting to push his hands away from billy's head.

 

“you're going to be fine , babe. don't you trust me?” teddy reassured.

 

“no, no, no, i can't do this, teddy, no,” billy's voice rose in pitch by the second.

 

“here, i'll count to three. okay?” teddy murmured, concentrating on keeping his hands still.

 

“no, teddy, really, i can't do this, i-” billy stammered at the same time teddy began to count.

 

“one,” he re-positioned his hands close to billy's head.

 

“teddy, no,”

 

“two,”

 

“teddy, stop,” billy protested. he was cut off by his own shriek of pain, as teddy hadn't waited until ‘three,’ and had shoved the sewing needle straight through billy's earlobe.

 

“OW.” billy shouted, moving to reach a hand to his ear.

 

jacob laughed loudly, and when billy looked to the door, both boys were doubled over in laughter.

 

“get lost, brats!” billy spat in their direction.

 

david giggled and tore down the stairs, jacob right behind him yelling, “mom! billy called us brats!”

 

teddy laughed quietly. “okay stay still, let me do the other ear.”

 

“oh hell no.” billy stood and slipped out from under teddy’s hands. “your hands are not coming near my pierceable body parts ever again!”

 

“okay, well, let me take the needle out of your ear, and put an earring in it instead.” teddy placed his hands on billy’s arms comfortingly.

 

“i'll do it myself.” billy wrenched his arms out of teddy’s and moved to the mirror; he'd been holding the small, black earrings in his hand the whole time.

 

billy pulled the needle from his earlobe, wincing when he saw the hole it left.

 

he began to attempt to push the earring stud through his ear, and grimaced as he struggled.

 

“let me help you,” teddy murmured from behind him, reaching for the earring in billy's fingers.

 

billy gave it up to teddy’s hands and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

 

teddy slid the metal pin through billy's earlobe with ease and clicked the backing into place. “there.” he whispered, backing away from billy.

 

billy stood in the mirror, rubbing the black metal through his fingers for a moment. “thanks,” he muttered while stalking out of the room, towards his own.

 

“billy,” teddy drew out his name as he followed billy down the hall.

 

once billy had crossed the threshold into his bedroom he stopped and turned to look at teddy, face blank. then he shut the door in teddy’s face.

 

the lock clicked and teddy groaned. he let his head fall forwards until his forehead rested on the door. “let me in,” he murmured.

 

no answer from billy.

 

“billy,” teddy whined, shaking at the doorknob to no avail. “i'm sorry.”

 

teddy pressed his whole face against the door and let out a muffled groan.

 

he almost fell forwards into the room when the door swung open.

 

billy's face was red, like he'd been crying.

 

teddy smiled at him and let out a quiet laugh, pulling billy into his chest in a hug. “i'm sorry,” he spoke into billy's hair, “i shouldn't have pressured you to do that.” teddy kissed the top of his head.

 

“it's okay,” billy mumbled, voice muffled by teddy’s shirt.

 

“i love you. you can take the earring out if you want, the hole will close eventually.” he spoke, twisting his fingers through billy's hair.

 

billy shrugged. “it hurts, but it looks kinda cool, i guess.”

 

“god, just wait until your mom sees it.” teddy grinned, and billy's expression morphed into horror.

 

“someone kill me, oh god.” billy pulled away from teddy and ran to the mirror in his bedroom, desperately trying, and failing, to cover the stud with his hair.

 

“oy vey,” billy muttered pulling at his hair in frustration.

 

teddy laughed.

 

“this isn't funny,” billy turned on him, jabbing a finger into teddy's chest.

 

“yes, it is,” teddy japed. at billy’s glare he cleared his throat. “sorry.” he muttered.

 

“william!” billy froze when he heard his mother call for him from the first floor.

 

he pushed teddy out of his bedroom door ahead of him. “you are now my human shield. save me from sudden death, please.” he wrapped his arms around teddys waist and pressed his face into his boyfriend's back.

 

“i'll try,” teddy spoke, grin not leaving his face, “no promises though.”

 

“i hate you.” billy grinned, his voice muffled by teddy’s shirt.