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Beautiful

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They’re nervous - terrified even. 

Philip and Lukas have been dating for over six months. In fact, it’s about to be seven in two weeks. Philip has known for four months of those six - four. They’ve had countless opportunities to mention it, even in passing, but they don’t. Even just thinking about it brings them to the brink of tears, panic attacks even, especially in the first few weeks of knowing. In theory it’s simple - just four words and Philip has communicated the most basic form of their news - 

“I’m not a guy.” 

Because they aren’t. Philip isn’t really sure what they are - not a girl, that’s for sure. They also don’t not have a gender, if that makes sense, and they also aren’t entirely not a guy. It’s confusing, even to Philip, and the thought of explaining it makes their blood run cold. They wish that those four words could be enough; that they could just blurt it out, Lukas would accept it, and it would all be over in a couple of minutes. No discussion, no confusion, just acceptance. In this fantasy of Philip’s the conversation barely lasts five minutes. But they know that it won’t work that way in real life. Tivoli is a small town and Lukas had a hard enough time accepting the fact that both him and Philip are gay ; Philip can’t imagine what Lukas will do when he founds out his boyfriend is nonbinary (a word he’s no doubt never heard before) and wants to be called she and they , but also still boyfriend . Philip doesn’t even think they’ve ever seen another transgender person in Tivoli - not that Philip blames them, right now they want to be anywhere but Tivoli as well. For people like them Tivoli is like the deep dark ocean; overwhelming, with no place to escape it, slowly sucking you in until you drown. But leaving Tivoli also means leaving Lukas and Gabe (and deep down they know they’d even miss Helen) and Philip isn’t going to give up these people they’ve found; especially not so soon after losing their mom. 

There might not be any trans people in Tivoli, but Philip had met a few in New York City when they still lived there. Two were even their close friends - Davey, a trans man who was killer with a guitar in his hands and Violet, a trans woman who had the voice of an angel. The couple was only a few years older than Philip; they made a living off their music and Violet’s art. Philip hasn’t seen them since their sudden move to Tivoli - they’d been in foster homes before, but never outside of NYC and never for very long. But, as the days turned into weeks into months, Philip eventually realized that they were in Tivoli to stay and they haven’t managed to see the couple since. They wish Violet and Davey were here now to give them advice on anything and everything. Advice on how to dress and act so they can quench this darkness inside of them, advice on how to decide what to call themself. Advice on how to come out to Lukas, which is the predicament at hand. 

Lukas and Philip have a date planned for this evening, the time of which is quickly approaching as Philip sits in their room desperately trying to come up with a plan. They don’t want to do it at their or Lukas’ house, for fear of Bo or Gabe and Helen overhearing, but they also don’t want to do it anywhere too far away from the farmhouse. However irrational, Philip can’t shake the fear that Lukas won’t react well and they’ll end up one of the many horror stories they’ve read on the internet. They feel bad even thinking that of Lukas, but they can’t help it. Maybe the best plan is to ask Lukas to take a detour to the practice track on the way to their date; they’ll both inevitably end up riding on his bike anyways, so it won’t be that odd of a request. Right?

On the bed next to them Philip’s phone buzzes. 

 

LUKAS:

You ready?

 

Taking a deep breathe Philip types their response. 

 

PHILIP:

Yup come on come pick me up already

 

Despite the nerves gnawing at their stomach they still lift the phone and send Lukas a selfie with their tongue between their teeth and fingers in a peace sign, as sending pictures has become a customary part of their texting. They could just use snapchat, but, as Lukas had haltingly explained one night in the barn past a burning face, he likes having the pictures available to see all the time. Plus, it provides a nice little timeline to their relationship. Looking back through all the silly selfies Lukas has sent them Philip feels a little less nervous - the couple lived through a serial killer stalker and managed to some out the other side of it still taking stupid pictures. If their relationship could withstand that, it can withstand anything. 

 

-------

 

Of course, once Philip actually hears Lukas’ bike outside the house not even their rationalizations or deep breaths can calm the storm in their stomach. 

“Philip!” Helen calls up the stairs, “Lukas is here!” As if Philip can’t hear Lukas’ loud-ass bike from upstairs. 

“Coming!” they yell in reply, and take one more moment to grab the sweatshirt Lukas had left in their bed last time he had been here and sling it on. It still smells like him and it’s a reminder of the good times they’ve had together and how much Philip loves Lukas, even if things go badly tonight. They run down the stairs and swing around the banister at the end, almost running into Gabe in the process. 

Gabe laughs and catches them around the shoulders, “Woah, slow your roll, kiddo. I think Lukas can wait a few more seconds.” Philip laughs awkwardly and rubs the back of their head, taking a step back. 

“Sorry, Gabe.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Gabe says in that slow, drawling voice of his. He smiles warmly, “Don’t forget to wear a jacket, use protection,” Philip flounders while Gabe winks, “and most importantly, have fun.” He looks at Philip with this expression on his face, like he genuinely wants nothing more than for Philip to be happy and in that moment (as Philip is trying to work up the courage to come out to their boyfriend) it’s too much. Philip’s eyes well up with tears and they can’t help but lean forward, knowing that Gabe will meet them in a hug. It’s warm and comfortable, just like every other time they’ve hugged Gabe, but this time it almost feels like it means something more. Gabe doesn’t even ask what the hug is for, he just wraps his arms around Philip and squeezes tight.

The sound of Lukas revving his engine outside is what finally brings them apart, and as they seperate Philip can tell Gabe is worried. He smooths his hand over Philip’s hair (which Philip has learned is his go to comfort move) and says, “Remember, Philip, you can always call me if you need anything . Anything at all.” Philip nods and reluctantly moves away. 

“I’ll be back later,” they call, “text me if you need anything.” Gabe nods, and then Philip is off. 

“Hey!” Lukas calls as he sees Philip exit the house, “What took you so long?” Philip sees the appreciative look Lukas gives them as he takes in the way his hoodie hangs off their frame and smiles internally. 

Philip just shrugs in reply to his question and steps forward, grabbing the front of Lukas’ hoodie to pull him into a kiss. It’s one of Philip’s favourite things about Lukas - his kisses. 

Breaking away, Lukas says, “Come on, let’s go!” He tosses Philip the other bike helmet, which is quickly becoming exclusively Philip’s, and they both swing over his bike. Philip can’t help but clutch a little closer to Lukas’ back than is necessary, feeling like this will be the last time they’ll be able to. 

After a few moments of riding Philip calls to Lukas, “Hey! Can we stop by the practice track first? I have something I want to show you!” They can’t make out the monosyllabic reply Lukas calls back but they figure that he says yes because he turns onto the road heading back to his farm. As the familiar hills and paths come into view one more spike of panic hits Philip, making them feel like they’re trapped on a roller coaster they would really like to get off of. They’re breathing becomes a little more laboured but thankfully it isn’t noticeable over the roar of the bike and wind. 

Lukas is the one who jumps off the bike first, walking a few feet away and stretching his limbs. “So,” he says, when Philip makes no move to even take off their helmet, “what did you bring me out here for?”

Philip slowly moves off the bike, holding their helmet at their waist. They stare at it, at the ground, anywhere but Lukas. 

“I, uh…” Philip tries to start, but, to their horror, their voice comes out congested and sniffly; a tear leaks out of their eye despite their best efforts to prevent it. Then, it’s a flood - the tears keep coming and coming, and before they know it a small sob slips out. Lukas is by their side in an instant, shakily reaching to cup their face with one hand, the other stopping at Philip’s waist. They drop their helmet without thinking about it, lifting their hands to Lukas’ shoulders. Head bowing with the sobs and tears wracking their body, Philip can’t lift their face to meet Lukas’ eyes. 

“Ph-Philip,” Lukas stammers, and Philip can hear the panic in his voice, “what's wrong?! Babe, please, what’s wrong?” 

The pet name does something to Philip - they don’t calm down, but something in their chest eases. The name is relatively recent in their relationship - Lukas had used it once without thinking and Philip liked how embarrassed it made their boyfriend, so it stuck. Plus, the name to them is feminine; it reminds them of Gabe calling Helen baby, warmth in his voice. Sometimes, when the dysphoria is too much, hearing Lukas calling them babe and seeing the blush on his cheeks just helps . Like it does now - Philip manages to draw in a shaky breath. 

“I’m not a guy!” They exclaim, and immediately freeze. The words aren’t super clear - they’re distorted by sobs and an inability to breathe, but some part of Philip knows that Lukas understood them. Philip hadn’t meant to do that - they were supposed to be logical about it, approach Lukas in a way that won’t make him panic because they know he won’t get it at all, not right away. 

Where before Philip couldn’t look Lukas in the face, now they can do nothing but. Confusion is evident - his eyebrows are furrowed, mouth curled in a frown, and though he doesn’t move away, the grip he has on Philip’s shoulders becomes a little less focused. 

“I- What does that mean?” He asks shakily, peering into Philip’s eyes as if he can find an answer there. “I don’t - I don’t know what that means.” 

Philip can tell from the stuttering that Lukas is still panicked - he really doesn’t know, and not knowing is freaking him out. He repeats himself over and over under his breath, slowly becoming a little more panicked everytime. Philip can’t take it anymore - they never could handle having Lukas in distress, not if they could do something about it. Wiping the tears from their eyes is a futile effort - they still slowly leak from their eyes and down their face but Philip still makes an effort, because they can’t assure Lukas that everything is alright if they’re still crying. 

“Lukas- hey, Lukas!” They shake Lukas where they’re still holding on to his shoulders. “Lukas! It’s fine! I-I didn’t mean anything by it, it’s dumb anyways.” Philip’s breath is still shaking and every so often they wheeze out a word or two but they sound much calmer than before. Lukas looks at them, puppy dog eyes at full force. 

Philip manages a laugh, “C’mon, let’s go eat, I’m starving.” Surprisingly, they find those words to be true. Lukas, however, doesn’t look totally convinced. “Please?” Philip pleads, desperation in their voice. 

Lukas slowly nods his head. “Yeah, okay.” He says, picking up Phlilip’s helmet from the ground and handing it to them. There’s a look in his eye that says he’s not fully convinced, but he’s willing to play along for now and, with any luck, he’ll soon forget the whole incident happened. Philip doesn’t plan to bring it up again for another month at least - maybe they’ll never bring it up again. The two hop back on Lukas’ bike and Philip revels in the warmth radiating from their boyfriends back, trying to forget that they ever suggested to go to the practice track at all. 

 

-------

 

They head to the city, where they can hold hands and eat together in peace without having to worry about anyone from Tivoli seeing them. Lukas is still anxious about anyone seeing him be gay in public but he’s working on it, Philip can tell. He no longer pulls his hand away as soon as someone’s eyes flick to where his and Philip’s are joined, and he even kisses Philip, sometimes. Today the couple is at a small restaurant they’ve been to a couple times before. It’s not one that Philip knew before - the couple discovered it on their own because Philip couldn’t stand to be anywhere they’d gone with their mom. It feels like her ghost is hovering over them in places like that, which isn’t exactly a great date environment. So, Philip and Lukas have scouted a few places out for themselves. This restaurant isn’t fancy or expensive, and it’s not fast food either but only barely - it’s maybe one step above. 

The air between Lukas and Philip has been tense since they left the practice track - they manage the usual small talk and joking but there’s something else there, holding them back. After they both order their drinks a silence falls as they both look down at the table. Philip has just idly started scratching into the surface with a fingernail when Lukas stands up abruptly, his chair clattering. 

“I gotta go to the bathroom, be right back.” He says and before Philip can respond, their boyfriend is gone. 

Lukas is gone for a while - the waitress comes back with their drinks before he’s back, and Philip has to send her away without an order because they don’t know what Lukas would want and their own nerves have come back full force, taking away any appetite they might have had. As the minutes drag on Philip pulls out their phone,  desperate to distract themself. Lukas returns after spending fifteen minutes in the bathroom - in that time Philip has sent the waitress away twice, drained their entire diet coke, and played every single game on their phone at least once. When Lukas finally returns he’s a whirlwind of motion, grabbing his wallet off the table and Philip’s arm in one fluid move. He’s pulling them up and out the door before they can even react, throwing a twenty on the table as he passes.

“H-hey, Lukas, what the fuck?” Philip asks, weakly trying to pull their arm out of Lukas’ grasp. 

“Just trust me!” Lukas says, a determined look on his face that Philip takes one glance at before giving up, letting Lukas drag them wherever it is he needs to go. The bike turns out to be their destination; Lukas throws Philip’s helmet at them hard enough to knock some of the air out of their lungs, but they know it wasn’t intentional. Something’s got Lukas riled up, and for the life of them Philip can’t figure out what. He isn’t angry, that much they know. They’ve seen Lukas angry, and right now there are no lines around his mouth and there is no blank quality to his eyes. Instead there’s determination and a little bit of worry, but nothing like what had been there only thirty minutes ago. 

The bike ride seems to take forever, and halfway through Philip realizes why - Lukas is taking them back to the practice track. Without realizing it their breathing starts to pick up and panic trickles into their brain - Philip doesn’t start crying again, but it’s a close thing. Why are they going back there? Philip is ready to forget the whole day happened - they’re ready to get up tomorrow and act like nothing happened but here they are, back at the practice track with Lukas. 

When the bike stops there’s a pause before Lukas gets off. He takes off his own helmet and then Philip’s before they can reach up to do it themself. Taking their hand, he leads them to the closest tree where he sits them both in the grass. Philip is barely aware of it, too busy keeping the tears in to notice. They only really come to when Lukas clears his throat, and when they look over they see him looking at them awkwardly, picking at the fraying hole in the knee of his jeans.

“Is- Are you… What-” Lukas begins, but he cuts himself off in frustrations, aggressively tearing off a large chunk of string from his jeans. Philip has no idea what is about to come out of Lukas’ mouth. 

“...Pronouns?” Lukas finally offers weakly, cheeks turning red and mouth frowning the way it always does when he thinks he’s said something stupid. Philip barely notices that though - they’re too busy panicking about what just came out of their boyfriend’s mouth. How did Lukas know ? Philip had assumed he didn’t know what Philip meant when they tried to come out; they’d assumed they would safely be able to forget about it. But that’s no longer the case if Lukas is asking about pronouns

“W-what?” They finally manage to croak out, and Lukas’ cheeks turn an even brighter shade of red. 

“I-I read that’s what you’re supposed to ask, right? What are your pronouns?” He repeats, the words sounding awkward in his mouth. 

“Do you- do you even know what that means?” Philip manages to ask past the black hole that feels like it’s formed in their chest. Lukas’ embarrassed frown deepens. 

“Not, not really, no.” He admits, and Philip feels a little bit better knowing that at least Lukas isn’t some kind of secret transgender expert. 

“Then why do you ask?” Philip asks, and they’re pleased with how stable their voice comes out. 

Lukas clears his throat, clearly embarrassed by this whole thread of conversation for some reason. The lack of anger calms Philip down - Lukas obviously knows something , but so far he’s been nothing but weirdly earnest about it, so Philip allows their guard to go down a little. 

“I, um, Googled what you said earlier.” He finally replies, pulling his phone out from his back pocket. When he tilts the screen to Philip they can see a page of Google search results - the top reads “my boyfriend says his gender is not male”, and one of the results titled “9 Ways to Support Your Transitioning Partner” is purple, showing it’s been clicked. The clunky wording tells Philip that Lukas must have had trouble finding the right wording to get results that make sense. When they reach out to press the purple link Lukas flinches, as if he’s about to pull his phone away, but he allows Philip to follow through with their action. 

The first point in the article is “Get Educated” and the second is “Ask About Pronouns”, so Philip knows where Lukas got his question from. When they look away from the phone to their boyfriend he looks hesitant, like he wants to say something but isn’t sure how. 

“So…” Lukas finally says, “Are you… you know…” He looks at Philip as if expecting them to finish his sentence, but Philip will do no such thing. “...Transgendered?” He finally asks, and surprisingly the offensive wording amuses Philip instead of making them uncomfortable. 

“You really don’t get any of it, do you?” They ask in a slightly lighter tone of voice. Lukas gives a breathe that is an imitation of a laugh with none of the emotion behind it. 

“No, not - not really.” He says, rubbing the back of his neck and bringing his phone back in close to himself. “But… you didn’t answer my question.”

Philip sucks in a deep breath. There’s no real going back from this - either they come out and tell Lukas, or they lie and say that they’re cisgender. And Philip knows that that specific lie would be the end of them. 

“I- I am. But, it’s, uh, transgender, not transgendered.” They finally say, letting out a quiet laugh in hopes of lightening the tone and distracting themself from the way their chest constricts and tears prick their eyes just from saying it. 

Lukas’ face goes through a confusing journey of emotions - first he’s relieved, then shocked, then something unidentifiable, before settling on confusion mixed with panic (a familiar expression today, Philip notes).

“So you were….” He asks haltingly, and Philip can tell that the words ‘a girl’ are on the tip of his tongue (despite the fact that that doesn’t quite make sense) so they cut him off before he can finish. 

“I was assigned male at birth.” Philip sees the confusion on Lukas’ face and takes pity on him, amending their statement to, “I was born a dude.” Lukas nods - okay, so he understands that at least. “I- um, thought I was one - a dude, that is - until recently… like, four months ago…?” 

“Wait,” Lukas interrupts, “so this is a new thing?” 

“Y-yeah. I’ve always felt… different? I guess. But four months ago it just got… worse.” Phillip curls into themself at the end, voice dropping to a whisper. 

Lukas’ eyes are wide. “What’s that mean?” He asks, pleading to understand, “Did -did I do something wrong?” 

“No! Shit, Lukas,” Philip hurries to assure him, “this isn’t because of you, I promise. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Tears well up in their eyes. “You did everything right.”

The foot of space Philip had put between them rapidly decreases as Lukas lunges forwards to cup Philip’s face in his hands. 

“Oh fuck, don’t cry! Please don’t cry, Philip, it’s fine! It’s fine!” It sounds like Lukas is partially trying to convince himself, but Philip appreciates the comfort nonetheless. 

“I don’t-” Philip tries to say but their throat clogs with tears and they have to start again. “I don’t know what to do.” The end turns into a sob before they can stop it. 

“Well, I-I don’t know… Explain it to me? Because I’m, um, kinda lost…” 

Philip nods reluctantly and sniffs, gathering their courage - the only way through now is forward. 

“I, um, I’m not a g - a girl.” They begin with this, because they know that Lukas must have been worried about that. He’s only just come to grips with not being attracted to girls, so even thinking that Philip might be a girl must have been hard. The way Lukas lets out a great sigh at that shows Philip that they were right - it was weighing on his mind. “And I’m not a guy either, but I’m also not, not a guy? I know it’s confusing, it.. It doesn’t make sense to me either, not completely-” 

“So you’re like, non...gendered?” Lukas interupts, looking to the sky as he tries to remember the word he’d gotten from the article, “what was it, non… nonbinary?” 

Philip smiles - it’s watery, but a smile nonetheless. “Where’d you learn that word, huh?” They ask, jostling Lukas’ knee with their own. He smiles back hesitantly. 

“I did some, um, research while I was in the bathroom?” He poses it like a question. “That word came up a few times. It means you’re not 100% either, right?” Lukas looks to Philip for confirmation. “But it’s not talking about sex,” he squints his eyes in concentration, “because sex is your, like, dick and shit, which has nothing to do with gender… right?” 

Philip can tell that Lukas doesn’t fully understand what he’s saying, but they feel proud nonetheless, and they nod. 

“Yeah,” they manage, “that’s right.” 

Lukas nods to himself, muttering something Philip can’t hear under his breath. Finally he turns back to Philip. “So,” he begins, “what does that mean for you?” He pauses, taking a deep breath before pushing onwards, “what does that mean for us ?” 

Philip takes a moment to appreciate how helpful and mature Lukas is being through all of this - just under a year ago he would have died before engaging in any emotional confrontation like this.

They take a moment to gather their thoughts before they answer Lukas’ question, because now is no time to rush into things like they’d been doing so far. 

“For me,” they begin, “I, um, like different pronouns.” At Lukas’ look of confusion they elaborate. “Pronouns are what you refer to me with - like he, him, and his. Get it?” Lukas nods. “Well,” Philip continues, “I think I like they and… she… pronouns. Not he.” Great, the look of panic is back on Lukas’ face. 

“I thought you said you weren’t a girl!” He squawks. Philip rushes to explain -

“I’m not!” they exclaim, “those pronouns just feel right , I told you I don’t know how to explain it! Please,” they add in a quiet, more desperate tone of voice, “just trust me.” 

Lukas’ breath is still coming a little fast and the panic isn’t completely gone from his eyes, but he nods when Philip is done speaking. 

“Well,” he says shakily, “they’re just words... right?” Philip nods, a few tears of relief running down their cheek. Lukas idly wipes them away with his thumb - his hands are still cupping Philip’s face. “So… you like… two pronouns?” 

“You - you can pick.” Lukas looks confused, so Philip explains more. This seems to be the theme of the night. “Like, sometimes you use they, sometimes you use she. Or, I guess if it’s easier you can just pick one?” Lukas nods, looking contemplative. 

“I-I don’t know how to use… they pronouns.” He finally says, looking so guilty Philip can’t help but laugh and impulsively press a kiss to his lips. 

“Lukas,” they breathe the words against their boyfriends lips, “Lukas, it’s fine. We can figure it out together.” They laugh, but it’s so wracked with pain it sounds more like a sob. “ God ,” they whisper, still pressed against Lukas, “I thought you were going to break up with me.” Lukas kisses them again before answering -

“I-I won’t. You’re not a girl but if you were I could… try , and you’re still… you, so…” Philip smiles against Lukas’ mouth - somehow, that is exactly what they needed to hear. 

“Yeah, I am.” They say. “I’m still your boyfriend, and I still love you.”

They both come to a silent agreement to lay down on the grass - the sun is setting now and casts a warm glow on the pair of them. They part lips and just lay together, Philip’s head pillowed on Lukas’ shoulder. It’s silent except for the couple’s breathing and the sound of Lukas’ heartbeat under Philip’s ear.

The sun has just barely made it under the horizon when Lukas breaks the silence. 

She’s my boyfriend.” He mutters. There’s no condescension in his voice - he’s just testing things out. Philip smiles and buries their face in Lukas’ neck. “This is my boyfriend, and she’s …” He turns his head to look at Philip, jostling them so they’re looking at him. “So, do you want to be called, like, beautiful or handsome or…” His question trails off and it’s so mundane, so calm that Philip can’t help but laugh and beam. 

“Whatever’s fine.” 

Lukas looks at his boyfriend, taking in the way their smile is like sunlight and the unintentional messiness of their hair that comes from being pressed into his shoulder. He takes in how happy Philip is, how much lighter they look. 

“This is Philip, and she’s beautiful ” 

Chapter Text

Things aren’t magically perfect after that - Lukas still doesn’t totally understand and he messes up sometimes but Philip can tell he’s trying, and that’s what matters. The weight that lifted off her shoulders when she told Lukas is gone, and it hasn’t come back. But it’s not the only thing that was weighing her down. 

Philip still hasn’t come out to Gabe, and the secret’s been killing her since she came out to Lukas one month ago. She hasn’t told Helen, either, but that doesn’t bug her as much. Things have been better with Helen for sure, but the two still aren’t close. Gabe, however, is closer to Philip than almost anyone else has been with the exception of her mom and Lukas. He trusts her, even when not one single other person does. He runs his hand across the top of her hair when she’s sad, and he gets her takeout whenever she wants, no questions asked. When she came out as gay he didn’t bat an eye; instead he smiled, and nothing changed. So, the problem isn’t that he wouldn’t accept her - Philip is quite sure he will. But there’s always a what if

What if something changes? Philip’s not even talking about anything specific - even the smallest change would kill her. Life is almost perfect here in Tivoli, and for the first time Philip is somewhere that she doesn’t really want to leave. Any slight deviation from the current norm feels like it will be a colossal change like a tidal wave, bringing with it the end of everything

So, it’s safe to say that Philip is scared shitless.

For a reason she can’t quite identify it feels like time is speeding up - like she’s running out of time to come out to Gabe. Like coming out to Lukas was some sort of catalyst, and now she’s racing against some invisible clock. Except Philip is tired of running - tired of running from crazy serial killers, running from her sexuality, and now running from her gender identity. So, one night while her and Lukas are hanging out in the barn like they often do, she asks for his advice. 

“Wait - you’re asking me for advice on how to come out?” Lukas asks incredulously.

“Well, yeah. No one but you knows, who else am I supposed to ask?” 

“I don’t know, maybe someone who’s actually come out before? I sure haven’t.” He scoffs, and Philip rolls her eyes, aiming a kick at his ankle (it misses). The two of them are sitting on the loft with their legs dangling over the edge; Lukas is sitting up and fiddling with his phone while Philip lays on her back next to him. 

“I’m serious,” she says, “I need advice. How was it when I came out to you?” Lukas freezes like a deer in headlights. 

“Uh - can we, like, not use me as an example?”

“Why?” Philip asks, giving him a concerned look. 

“I just feel like - like my reaction wasn’t good enough.” 

“What? Lukas, what do you mean, you were fine!” Philip sits up to run a comforting hand down Lukas arm - she can feel how stiff he is. Lukas turns to give her a doubtful look. 

“I didn’t get any of it. I did research in the bathroom while on a date with you .” 

Philip laughs and rests her chin on her boyfriend’s shoulder. “Lukas, I liked that. I appreciated it so much. You cared enough to make an effort, I love that.” Lukas still looks doubtful, so Philip kisses him on the cheek. “Lukas, I promise you were fine. Plus, you started using my pronouns, like, right away.” 

“Okay, yeah, but what kind of boyfriend would I be if I didn’t?” 

Philip rolls her eyes playfully. “That’s kind of the point, Lukas. You’re a good boyfriend!” Lukas turns his head and their lips meet in a kiss. Philip wants it to go on forever and any other evening she would have let it but tonight she needs to get shit done

“Okay, we need to get back on track. How do I come out to Gabe?” 

Lukas huffs in mock annoyance, flopping backwards so he’s laying on his back, reversing his and Philip’s positions from earlier. 

“Lukas!” Philip prods, a smile on her face. “I’m serious!” 

“Okay, here’s an idea.” Lukas says this in such a serious tone of voice that Philip leans in, eager to hear what he has to say. “You walk into your house and right up to Gabe, because Helen isn’t home tonight, right?” Philip nods. “So, you walk right up to Gabe and you say, ‘I’m she!’” 

There’s a moment of silence as Philip just stares at Lukas in shock before bursting out into laughter. 

“Lukas,” she manages between wheezes, “that’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard!” Lukas looks up at her with a mischievous gleam in his eye, and before she can react he’s got her in a headlock, furiously giving her a noogie. 

“Oh yeah? It’s dumb?” 

“Yes! Yes it is, Lukas!” Philip exclaims, futilely trying to scramble away. The couple tousles for a moment before coming to a rest, still pressed against each other as they both pant for air. The silence is calm and warm - Philip is happy. 

“...Okay, so maybe my idea’s a little dumb.” Lukas says, breaking the silence. Philip huffs a laugh. 

“Yeah, more than a little.” 

“I think you need to just stop overthinking this - and yes, I-I know what that sounds like coming from me.” Lukas turns so his forehead is pressed against Philip’s cheek. “He’s going to accept you no matter what, so just tell him like you told me. Just go for it.” 

Philip considers his words, ignoring the bitterness in Lukas’ tone. She knows he’s sometimes jealous that she gets a chance at an accepting family and he doesn’t, and she doesn’t hold it against him. 

“Yeah,” she finally says in a whisper, “okay.” 

Lukas presses his lips to her cheek for a long moment before pulling away and standing up. He reaches a hand down to help Philip up, which she takes gratefully. 

“Okay.” He repeats. “So, go do it.”

“Right now?” Philip asks breathlessly.

“Right now.” Lukas confirms.

The two head down the ladder and out to the front where Lukas’ bike rests. A quick and silent goodbye is had - Philip clings to Lukas but eventually she has to let go. Neither of them speak, and it’s probably because they both understand that if she doesn’t do it now, Philip might never do it. 

It’s not hard to find Gabe after Lukas leaves - he’s where he usually is on a Sunday night when Helen isn’t home. He’s in his bedroom, reading a book by the light of his reading lamp because the sun has just started to go down. When Philip enters the room he immediately looks up and gives her a warm smile, putting his book down as he does it. 

“Ah, Philip!” He says, because he’s always happy to see her. “Where’s Lukas?”

It feels like there’s a lump the size of a bowling ball stuck in her throat but somehow Philip speaks past it. “He went home. Had homework to do or something…” 

“Okay.”

The awkward seconds turn into awkward minutes as Philip fails to speak up. Very quickly Gabe realizes that something is wrong. 

“Hey, is everything okay?” He asks, swinging his legs onto the floor and patting the space on the bed beside him. Philip sits before replying. 

“Yeah, I-I just have, um, something to tell you…” She curses internally at the shakiness in her voice, because it only increases the worry present in Gabe’s face. 

“You know you can tell me anything .” 

It’s the way he says ‘anything’ that prompts her to speak - logically she understands that he has no way of knowing that she’s nonbinary, but he just sounds so wise and understanding that it feels like he already knows and is just waiting for her to say it so he can give her a great big hug. 

“I’m - I’m not a guy.” She finally manages to stutter, and yeah, maybe she needs to come up with a better starting line than that. Gabe looks confused but there’s no trace of anger in his face and his hand immediately goes to rest reassuringly on her back, so she figures it’s going well so far. 

Silence fills the room but only for a moment, and it’s not oppressive or tense. 

“Okay,” Gabe says, and his voice is still just as warm as before, “can you explain that?” He’s asking her to explain but Philip can still hear the acceptance in his voice - his love isn’t dependant on whatever dumb explanation she comes up with. The relief is overwhelming, even more so than it was with Lukas. Philip can’t help it - she throws her arms around Gabe’s middle as best she can from where she’s sitting and buries her head into his shoulder. His arms wrap around her with no hesitation. 

“Hey, son-” Gabe cuts himself off immediately, realizing what he’s saying. It isn’t necessary, but Philip appreciates it nonetheless. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, it’s fine.” And Philip knows that - she knows that she could drop this right now and Gabe would only pick it up again when she’s ready, but, surprisingly, it’s fine. Philip feels safe. 

“No - no, it’s fine. I can explain.” Philip says without withdrawing from Gabe’s embrace. As a result, her words are slightly muffled. “I’m, um, not a guy… But, I’m not a girl, either.” She can feel Gabe nod, and his hand brushes the hair at the nape of her neck soothingly. “I don’t know what I am, but… I do know that I - I like she and they pronouns, not he…” Her voice is stronger than when she told Lukas but that’s really only because she (somehow) isn’t crying this time. 

Gabe takes a moment before he replies, but Philip somehow just knows that it’s only because he’s figuring out the best way to reply, not because he doesn’t believe her. Still, she can’t help but interrupt, surprised at how he’s taking everything. 

“Do you, um, know what all that means?” 

Gabe laughs; Philip can hear the smile in his voice. “Yup, I know what all that means.” When Philip finally pulls back to give him a raised eyebrow, Gabe chuckles again. “Really,” he repeats, “I do! One of the kids my family used to foster came out as transgender a few years ago. They mean a lot to me, so I made sure to do as much research as I could.” This gives Philip courage - 

“So, you know what I mean when I say that I’m - I’m nonbinary?” She stumbles over her words but still gets them out, and she’s proud, because she hasn’t been able to say those words aloud to anyone before. Even when she came out to Lukas, he was the one who said it, not her. Gabe must be able to tell, because his smile becomes proud. 

“Yes, Philip, I know what you mean. Thanking you for telling me, I know how hard it can be.” The hand still resting at the nape of her neck squeezes comfortingly. “I’m so, so proud of you.” As Philip processes these words, looking into Gabe’s loving eyes she feels her own start to well up with tears. 

“Lukas didn’t know what it meant.” She mutters, trying to lighten the mood. Gabe laughs. 

“Yeah, well, I’m a lot older and wiser than Lukas is, aren’t I?” He jostles her shoulder a little with the joke and it’s so like it’s always been that Philip’s tears come back full force. 

“Fuck,” she mutters, then laughs wetly, “I told myself I wasn’t gonna cry this time.”  Gabe chuckles quietly but doesn’t say anything, instead pulling her into an even tighter hug and kissing the top of her head. They sit like that for a while. 

The sun has just finished going down when Philip feels Gabe move. 

“I love you.” She feels it more than hears it, but she knows what Gabe just said. She doesn’t reply, and she knows Gabe isn’t expecting her to. 

“So,” he says, pulling away from their hug, “she and they, got it. Any other name you’d like me to call you, or…?” Philip takes a moment to rub any traces of tears from her face. 

“No,” she says, clearing her throat, “I’m still going by Philip. I like it.” She shrugs, because there’s nothing more to it. She doesn’t quite know why her pronouns needed changing but not her name, but she’s not complaining. Philip likes her name - it feels like a gift from her mom, more important than ever now that she’s gone. 

Gabe nods his understanding. “Well, I think I need to go to bed. I’m not as young as I used to be, you know.” He yawns as if to prove his point. Philip nods and heads for the door, also tired - coming out takes a lot out of you. Just before she’s reached the doorway Gabe speaks up again.

“Philip?” She turns to face him. “Thank you, I mean it.” 

Philip searches his face for any trace of a lie, but it really looks like Gabe is telling the truth. Philip smiles and leaves without a word - everything important has already been said. 

-----------

 

The next morning Philip wakes up feeling refreshed - her sleep hadn’t been anything special but it feels like a weight has been lifted off her chest, just like when she’d told Lukas. After she’s showered and while she’s putting her clothes on she remembers that Helen is going to be downstairs this morning and her mood drops a little bit, but only a little. She’s not worried - she hadn’t discussed Helen with Gabe last night, but she trusts him not to out her. 

Luckily, when she goes downstairs Helen isn’t there. It’s just Gabe, sitting at the table with two breakfasts of bacon and eggs. The stairs creak with Philip’s weight and Gabe turns to greet her, smiling brightly. 

“Good morning, sweetheart!” Gabe says cheerfully and Philip stills for a moment at the new nickname. Gabe notices and is quick to correct himself. “Sorry, is that weird? I just need something to replace ‘son’ so-”

“It’s perfect.” Philip feels like her face is about to break with how wide her smile is. “Is that for me?” She asks, gesturing to the breakfast sitting across from Gabe’s plate. He nods. 

“Yup! Helen had to leave early this morning - something about a road block. She didn’t elaborate.” The two laugh, because that’s so like Helen - when has she ever elaborated? 

They eat in silence for a bit, Philip savouring the delicious food. There was never anything like this in the city. Once she’s done and has pushed her plate away, Gabe clears his throat. 

“So, have you thought about coming out to Helen?” Philip hesitates to answer - she’s worried that whatever she says will come across wrong - Gabe notices her hesitation and continues, “I totally get why you’d hesitate - we both know she hasn’t made the best impression. But, Philip, I promise she would accept you. She wouldn’t think anything different of you, I know it.” 

Philip thinks about it for a moment, still feeling all of her earlier reluctance. “I- I’ll think about it?” She asks, hoping for a compromise. Gabe’s eyes soften, and he nods. He opens his mouth to say something, but a pounding at the door interrupts him. 

Whoever’s at the door doesn’t wait for an answer before barging in and, unsurprisingly, it’s Lukas. He’s taken to coming and going in their house of his own volition - Philip should be annoyed, but she’s just glad he feels comfortable here. What is surprising is that neither Gabe nor Philip heard his bike pull up - they must have been deep in conversation. Lukas looks almost surprised to see them sitting so close at the dinner table - Philip wonders how he expected Philip’s coming out to go. Probably awfully - it’s not like he has any positive experiences of his own parental coming out stories to work off of. 

Lukas pauses for a second before clearing his throat. “Uh, good morning, Mr. Caldwell, Philip.” Gabe laughs. 

“Please, Lukas, call me Gabe.” 

Lukas doesn’t reply, just nodding vaguely with the look of someone who is most definitely not going to do that before looking at Philip. “You ready to go? I thought I could give you a ride to school.” Philip looks at him in surprise for a moment (they hadn’t discussed any rides last night) before grabbing her backpack from the floor and nodding. She makes her way to the door and shoves on her shoes, but when she turns back to Lukas he makes no move to head out. Instead, he’s still looking at Gabe, who hasn’t moved from the dining table. 

“So, uh, she told you then?” Lukas finally says, breaking the staring contest. Philip notices the careful use of pronoun as well as the protectiveness in her boyfriend’s stance and smiles - Lukas must have come around to check up on her. 

Gabe’s expression, which had been stern but neutral before, softens. 

“Yes,” he says, “ she did.” He places just as much emphasis on the pronoun and looks at Philip while he does, filling her up with warmth. Lukas’ stance relaxes immediately, and Philip can see a small smile on his face. 

“Okay, well, we’ll be off, Mr. Caldwell.” With that the two of them are out the door and down the stairs, Gabe calling out “It’s Gabe!” playfully behind them. 

Once they’re both situated on Lukas’ bike Philip hugs her boyfriend a little tighter than is necessary to just hold on.

“Thanks, Lukas.” She says. Lukas doesn’t reply but he does squeeze her arm before revving his bike and hitting the gas, and that’s just as good. 

Today feels like it’s going to be a good day. 

Chapter Text

One topic of conversation Lukas has yet to bring up with Philip is transitioning. They know he knows what that word means - Philip sends their boyfriend articles and information on being trans on a regular basis, so he must have thought about it before. Honestly, Philip is surprised he’s managed to be so quiet about it. Being subtle and having tact are not among Lukas’ strong suits. 

It’s a hard topic to talk about, which is exactly why Philip has also never broached the topic. Describing what you want to others is hard when you don’t even know yourself. So, Philip avoids it. Aside from pronouns they haven’t asked Lukas to change or accept anything else, despite sometimes wanting to. Instead they put it off for another day, far in the future, and try to be happy with what they currently have (which isn’t hard given how much they love Lukas). They think they’re doing a pretty good job of hiding it - it being the way they sometimes look with envy at Rose’s beautiful skirts and the multitude of piercings she has in her ears, all filled with light and feminine jewelry. Rose, at least, certainly never notices. Philip thinks Lukas doesn’t either, until one day after school their boyfriend stands across from them, his body filled with nervous energy that makes its way out through constant fidgeting. 

“Uh-” Lukas begins, “my dad’s out of town tonight so I was wondering if - if….” He pauses just long enough that Philip is about to ask what’s wrong before Lukas spits it all out in a slew of words. “Ifyouwantedtogointothecityandshop.” It’s only because Philip has spent so much time with Lukas that they’re able to put the incoherent mumble into individual words, but just because they know what he said doesn’t mean that it makes sense. 

“Shopping?” They ask. “Do you need to buy something?” At their question Lukas’ eyes take on a mildly panicked look, which confuses Philip even more. 

“Uh, yeah. I-I do.” Lukas stammers, and now Philip is a little freaked out. Why is Lukas so nervous? Their mind rushes to all the possibilities of what he needs to buy in the city - none of the options are reassuring, even the lewd ones Philip can’t help but think of. Lukas must see the anxiety on their face because he reaches out to sling his arm around their shoulders, steering them away from the school and to a suitably abandoned area where he can press his forehead to their cheek comfortingly. 

“Hey,” he says, “don’t worry about it. It’s just shopping. We can even stop at that camera store you love.” Philip can tell that the grin on his face is mostly fake confidence, but it helps to soothe their nerves nonetheless. Plus, they can never turn down an opportunity to get more film. 

“Okay.” They say softly. “Let’s go then, what are we waiting for?” 

 

------

 

The ride over is just like all their other rides, and that helps to further squash almost all of Philip’s remaining anxiety. This no longer reminds them of any of the more serious talks they’ve had - instead, it feels like a regular date. Maybe Philip was just overthinking before. 

The camera store is the couple’s first stop, and Philip uses some of the allowance they get from Gabe and Helen to buy some more film. They aren’t out quite yet, but buying in advance is never a bad thing. Then, the two window shop for a while, walking in and out of stores at a leisurely pace, standing just close enough together that sometimes their arms brush together. Lukas still has yet to tell Philip what he came to shop for, and after an hour of shopping Philip insists they move on to whatever task Lukas needed to get on. 

“Come on, Lukas!” They plead, kicking his foot under the table they’re both eating ice cream at (Lukas’ treat). “Just tell me what you need to do and we’ll get it done! I don’t want to get home at, like, midnight again. Last time Helen was on my ass about it all week .” Philip grins to show that they’re kidding. For the first time since they arrived at the city Lukas’ confidence falters.

“I, uh…” he begins, and Philip’s heart drops. Is he looking for an excuse? “...don’t actually have anything I need to do.” He admits, and that doesn’t help explain anything. 

“So…” Philip asks, “why are we here, then?” Lukas flushes, and Philip’s mind goes back to the dirty places it’d traveled this afternoon. 

“...I’ve seen the way you look at Rose.” Lukas finally says, and it’s so out of the realm of what Philip thought he was going to say that they almost choke on their ice cream. 

“You what ?!” They exclaim after a moment of getting their breath back. “Lukas, I promise you, I am not interested in Rose-” Lukas interrupts him, a comical look of disgust on his face. 

“What? No!” Lukas says, “That’s not what I meant! I mean - I just -” He huffs in frustration and Philip can tell it’s because he can’t get his words out. Hesitantly placing a hand on his shoulder, Philip tries to get Lukas to calm down for a moment.

“I mean,” Lukas begins again, “that I’ve seen the way you look at her skirts and how you just… listen to her talk about her earrings and jewelry like she’s talking about something interesting .” Lukas turns to look at Philip, who has frozen. “I- I know you’ve never said anything to me about it so I might be wrong, but I just thought… that maybe, you know, you’d like to buy one, or something…” Philip manages a questioning look, so Lukas elaborates. “A-a skirt, that is.” 

Philip’s mind is running a mile a minute. Lukas noticed ? Philip thought they’d been so careful, so discreet

“You’d do that?” They ask tentatively. Lukas looks like a deer in the headlights. 

“Yeah, why - why wouldn’t I?” 

Philip huffs a laugh. They can’t believe they’re having this conversation. 

“Because,” Philip answers, “I thought I’d be… pushing my luck if I asked for more. Like a skirt or jewelry.” They hope Lukas doesn’t make them say it plainer than that. Thankfully, he seems to understand. It hurts Philip’s heart to see Lukas look so guilty, but this is a conversation they’re apparently having, so Philip’s going to see it through. 

“I like you , Philip.” Lukas says after a moment of silence. “I know I’m - I’m not perfect, but I want to try. I am trying. If you want to wear a skirt then - then that’s fine. Because I like you no matter what you wear. A-And you don’t have to ask me anyways. You’re in charge you get to pick what you do, and-” 

Philip is tempted to let Lukas ramble on forever, because the sight is really endearing, but instead they interrupt him with a hand over his mouth. They want to kiss him, but they know he wouldn’t appreciate that, not in public. 

“Lukas.” They say warmly, maintaining eye contact with their boyfriend. “I would love to buy a skirt. What was your plan?” 

At that, all of Lukas’ panic disappears, leaving behind an almost proud happiness. It’s cute. 

“I thought we could go to the thrift store? Because, you know, less people staring and asking questions, plus they’ll be cheaper, so…” Lukas trails off, and Philip nods with a smile.

“Sounds good to me!” They say, grabbing their napkin (the only trace left of their finished ice cream) and throwing it in the trash, waiting for Lukas to do the same before grabbing his hand. It’s a lot, and Philip can see the way Lukas pales a little at the contact, but he squeezes their hand tight and doesn’t let go. “Lead the way!” 

 

-------

 

The thrift store is big enough that, even though there’s at least twenty other people there, it feels like it’s just Philip and Lukas. None of the employees approach them, which makes Philip feel significantly better about the whole endeavor. At first they split off, Lukas heading to the men’s t-shirts and Philip heading to the skirts. However, soon after Philip has started looking Lukas comes slinking back, hesitantly coming up behind Philip and wrapping his arms around them from behind, breath ghosting on the back of their neck. Philip smiles at the contact. 

“What’s up?” They ask, and they feel Lukas shrug. 

“I just realized it wasn’t cool to leave you to look alone.” He says, as if that’s explanation enough. And for Philip, it is. 

The two stay entangled until Philip realizes that they don’t know what size skirt they are and Lukas’ arms are in the way of them holding up the hangers to their waist. Lukas huffs as he’s distangled, but he doesn’t pout for long before standing beside Philip and helping them look. Most of the suggestions he makes are either ugly or too small, but Philip still appreciates the help. After looking through the entire rack Philip has six skirts on their arm; all of them are black or denim, but they’d thrown one corduroy overall skirt for the fun of it. None of Lukas’ picks made the cut, but he doesn’t seem too put out about it. For a moment as they  approach the changing rooms Philip panics, because what if there’s an attendant working, or the booths are in the middle of the store? Both scenarios would mean they couldn’t show Lukas the skirts (which they really want to do), but luckily the changing rooms are tucked into a back corner of the store with no employees in sight. It’s probably a huge oversight, but Philip is happy for it nonetheless. 

Two of the skirts don’t fit, but Philip isn’t too concerned about it. That still leaves four skirts that do , and even that’s almost too many options. They only want to buy one skirt today, because they know they’ll never be able to wear them in public (a fact Lukas had mercifully never mentioned). After agonizing over the choice in the changing room (and showing Lukas, who didn’t have an opinion one way or the other), Philip finally decides on the black one, in what they had once heard Rose call ‘skater style’. They’re about to leave the fitting room when they notice the corduroy overall skirt still hanging on the hook on the back of the door. There’s no way they’ll buy it, but there’s no harm in trying it on, right? 

The skirt is, admittedly, super cute. It fits perfectly, hugging just the right spot on their hips, and it’s shorter than all the other denim skirts and tighter than all the skater style ones. The plain white t-shirt Philip had picked this morning works well with it, and already Philip can picture it matched with some of the other t-shirts they have at home. 

When they walk out of the fitting room to show Lukas he reacts for the first time. Every other skirt had garnered a simple nod of appreciation or a “looks good.'' Now Lukas’ eyes widen as he takes in the sight of his boyfriend. 

“Wow.” He manages after a moment of running his eyes up and down Philip’s body. “You look…. Cute.” Lukas blushes, as if embarrassed with his word choice. Philip, on the other hand, is ecstatic - they’d never imagined in their wildest dreams that Lukas would react like this to them in a skirt, or call them cute .

Suddenly overcome with a wave of confidence, Philip stalks over to Lukas and throws their arms around their neck. Lukas gulps but still puts his hands on Philip’s waist. 

“Thanks.” Philip murmurs in Lukas’ ear, and they can practically feel the goosebumps that break out on their boyfriends neck. They pull away with a mischievous smile on their lips and a small challenge in their eyes. Lukas has the look he always does when Philip initiates anything in public - it’s a mix of fear and yearning that makes Philip’s heart ache every time they see it. This time, however, Lukas doesn’t pull away. Instead, he presses his lips to their’s and pulls them into a tight embrace. The rush that Philip gets is intoxicating - this isn’t normal Lukas behaviour. 

It’s only when the store intercom crackles that they pull apart, and Philip loves the flush on Lukas’ cheeks as he realizes how distracted he’d gotten. They can’t linger long on it, however, because they’re still wearing one of the store’s skirts and they have yet to check out. 

It takes a moment for them to leave the changing room as they look at the skirts hanging on the wall. The black skirt Philip had already chosen is the logical choice, but they really do like how the corduroy one looks. Eventually, though, they come to a decision, sighing as they hang everything but the black skirt on the rack outside. Lukas perks up as they exit. 

“Just that one?” He asks, almost sounding disappointed. Philip nods. 

“Yeah, I can really only afford one. Plus, this goes with most of my clothes.” They hold it to their waist and give a little twirl, as though that will help Lukas picture the outfits they’ve planned. He just looks back at them blankly.

“Come on.” Philip laughs, hip checking him before heading to the cash register. “We need to buy this before they close.” 

Lukas looks torn for a moment before jerking his head to the back of the store. 

“You go ahead, I think I’m gonna go grab the shirt I was looking at.” 

Philip shrugs, and then the two seperate. 

Luckily the girl at the till doesn’t seem to judge Philip - she just scans the skirt and nods appreciatively. “Nice pick.” She says in a bored tone of voice, and Philip can only nod shakily in response. 

They wait for Lukas for a moment, but when he fails to appear immediately they head out to wait at the bike instead, feeling awkward for just standing behind the girl at the till. Soon afterwards Lukas appears, a paper bag in hand and a grin on his face. 

“Ready to head back?” He asks, already tossing Philip his bag. The two head back home without much fanfare. Philip doesn’t think anything of it when Lukas pulls off at the practice track rather than either of their houses - it’s typical for them to hang there after a day in the city, especially when they’ve made such good time heading back. 

Philip is just getting comfortable in the shade of their usual tree when Lukas chucks his paper bag at them, hitting them in the gut and winding them. 

“Hey!” They call, and Lukas rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. 

“Sorry. Heads up?” Lukas grins, and Philip rolls their eyes. 

“Why did you throw this at me, anyways?” Philip asks. “You can carry your own shit.” 

Lukas’ face turns bright red. “Um, it’s actually for you. I lied.” He says. Philip’s stomach turns and they’re immediately overcome with anxiety. Why would Lukas need to lie? “Go on, open it.” 

At Lukas’ prodding they fumble with the bag, opening it hesitantly. When the corduroy skirt comes tumbling out it’s both a relief and just the opposite. Why would Lukas be so embarrassed about a skirt? Unless…. Looking into Lukas’ bashful face they look for any ulterior motives, as if they’d be written on his face. As Philip’s silence grows, Lukas’ smile dims.  

“Say something.” He demands, eyes darting worriedly. 

“...Is this a kink thing?” Philip finally manages to ask, and Lukas chokes on his saliva. 

“What?!” He exclaims. 

“A kink thing.” Philip repeats, then elaborates at Lukas’ vacant expression. “Like a crossdressing, ‘it’s hot to see my boyfriend in girls clothes’, thing. Because that’s… really not cool.” They laugh bitterly, trying to sound like they’re not on the verge of tears. Lukas’ face somehow darkens and flushes at the same time. 

“No, Philip, that’s not what it is at all! I-I swear!” He says, nervously making his way to sit beside them. His hands hover over their shoulders and hands, unsure of whether or not his touch would be welcome. “That would be a shitty thing to do, and-and I know that’s not what you are.” 

Philip sniffs. 

“Then why did you buy me this? Are you mocking me?” 

“No!” Lukas cries loudly, and they both wince at the volume. “No, not at all! I just… I thought you looked hot in it, alright? A-and I could tell you liked it but would never buy it, and I-I just want you to be happy! This is a ‘I want to buy my boyfriend clothes he looks hot in’ thing, not whatever it is you said…” Lukas’ head flops down, his bangs hiding his eyes from Philip’s gaze. “SHE! She looks hot in… Fuck, I’m fucking this all up.” 

Philip doesn’t pay much attention to pronoun slip up - this isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last, all that matters it that Lukas is trying his best, and they know he is. They can hear the pain in his voice when he messes up, and they appreciate the way he never gets mad at them when he messes up. That’s enough. 

Instead they ponder the rest of his words - it all seems to make sense. And, when Philip reflects on it, they’d never truly believed that Lukas would do such a thing. This suspicion is just a survival tactic they’ve developed - don’t assume someone means well, because they probably don’t. But Lukas has proven otherwise, time and time again. Maybe it’s time they start to let him in their innermost walls, even though the thought terrifies them.  

Philip doesn’t know how to start that conversation, not now, so instead they focus on something else Lukas had said. 

“So,” they start, placing the skirt in their lap and reaching up to tilt Lukas’ face towards them. “You think I’m hot, huh?” 

“Of fucking course I do!” Lukas exclaims. Philip just grins as their boyfriend slowly realizes what he just said, blushing as he averts his eyes again. 

“Well, that’s good to know.” They drawl, and it is good to know. Sometimes it’s hard to feel attractive, or god forbid hot when you’re trans - tonight has been a good exercise in remembering that they have a boyfriend who buys them clothes because he thinks they look hot. 

“Oh, yeah, rub it in!” Lukas retorts playfully, slowly catching onto Philip’s quick mood change. Quickly the play argument turns into a tickle fight, which then turns into a makeout session, and then turns into cuddling in the grass and looking up at the stars from each other’s arms. 

Philip thinks they can miss curfew, just this once.