Call never woke up first. He got up at around nine with a mouthful of wolf fluff. He spat out the hairs in his mouth and looked to the empty cot next to his bed.
Call would swear Aaron never slept, if he wasn’t discredited by Aaron’s distinct lack of dark circles under his eyes. He always looked healthy and well rested and good. It grated on Call’s nerves a bit, how absolutely perfect he was. Aaron was way more than Call could ever hope for.
He rubbed at his eyes and blindly grabbed his phone from the floor next to his bed. He checked it, barely registering the barrage of text messages from the class group chat, mostly Celia asking everybody about their summer activities. Call shuffled blearily into the living room to find Wonder Boy himself waiting for him on the couch, petting Havoc leisurely.
Call forgot how to breathe for a second.
The morning sunlight flooded in from the glass back door, outlining Aaron’s head like a halo. Aaron’s artfully messy hair was golden at the tips like something straight out of an aesthetic blog, some curls resting on his forehead. His face was darkened in the lighting, but Call could still notice the tan and the freckles that had emboldened in the sun. His bright green eyes were the best and worst part, looking straight at Call with something he couldn’t really describe.
“Something on my face?” Aaron asked.
Havoc bounded over to Call, and he buried his fingers into Havoc’s scruff, wrenching his gaze decidedly from Aaron’s face. “Yeah, you’ve got drool on the side of your mouth,” he lied.
Aaron lifted the hem of his borrowed MCR shirt to clean the nonexistent drool. Call turned away, face burning a little, and walked with Havoc to the front door. He grabbed the leash from the hook.
“I’m gonna walk Havoc,” he said. “Coming?”
Aaron raised an eyebrow at him. “Don’t you need pants?”
Call turned and pointed at his friend. “That is correct.” He started towards his bedroom again.
“And maybe brush your teeth, too.”
“Breakfast wouldn’t be too bad either.”
“You really are a mother at heart, Stewart.”
He shrugged and got up to follow him. “I wouldn’t know about that.”
They let Havoc out into the backyard to relieve himself. The bathroom Aaron and Call shared in the summer was small, but the boys didn’t mind. Their shoulders pressed together as they shared the mirror, making ridiculous faces at each other and laughing with their mouths full of white foam.
“By the way,” Call said, after finally recovering from almost choking on toothpaste, “Where’s Dad?”
Aaron spit into the sink. “He said had some early business at the shop.”
“So we got the house to ourselves?”
Aaron nodded. They finished up in the sink and Aaron went to look for some pants for the both of them. Call went to make breakfast.
His heart sank when he opened the pantry to find it nearly depleted. They were out of bread. He did find a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, though. Call reached out to take it but stopped himself. Aaron wouldn’t want simple cereal. He spent a summer at the Rajavis’, for Pete’s sake. He probably wants something better. Something cooked.
Call opened the fridge, ready to make eggs the only way he knew how: scrambled. But the egg tray was empty as well. Call groaned out loud, and Havoc, sensing his frustration, whined as well.
Oh well, Call thought dejectedly. At least we got milk.
He grabbed the full carton and the cereal and turned to the small table, where Aaron was already waiting. He looked like he was barely suppressing a grin.
Call shook the Cheerios. “Sorry it’s not eggs Benedict or whatever you got at Tamara’s. We’re out of everything else.”
Aaron let a smile slip through, dazzling Call with his perfect teeth. “It’s perfect.”
Call turned away to get some cutlery. “Did you get the pants?” he said over his shoulder.
Aaron snorted, then recovered himself. “Y-yes.”
Call frowned and turned to him, bowls in hand. Aaron was shaking with barely contained laughter. “What’s so funny?”
“Well,” his voice cracked with effort, “when I was looking for your pants I—I stumbled upon—“ Aaron started laughing uncontrollably, clutching his sides. He couldn’t speak any more so he pointed at the pants he had laid out on the couch.
“I didn’t choose to have those.” Aaron didn’t hear him; he was too busy roaring with mirth.
On the couch lay three pairs of pants: Aaron’s shorts, Call’s jeans, and Call’s leather pants.
Alastair had bought them for him on one of his JL Dimes runs. The moment Call saw them, he wanted to call upon a fire elemental to swallow it whole and let it burn inside its lava stomach. But when he saw the price tag, he stopped himself. It was expensive, considering it was JL Dimes. And his dad was very proud of them. So Call kept them at the very bottom of his drawer, never to be seen again.
Until today, of course.
Call groaned and covered his face with his hands. Aaron kept laughing at full volume, and he didn’t sound like he was going to stop soon. Call turned on him, a sharp remark ready on his tongue, but stopped short.
If Aaron looked good when he was back on the couch, he looked spectacular when he was laughing. Call has seen him laugh countless other times, but he never really noticed how he closed his eyes completely, his mouth almost too big for his face. He never noticed the small dimple on his left cheek. He never noticed how he’d curl his body, his knees bending towards him. His muscles tightened, defining his arms.
Call caught himself thinking Aaron looked amazing. He had to look away to hide an involuntary smile.
“Okay, Stewart.” Call set the bowls on the table and poured Cheerios into them. “I’ve been exposed. Go tell the world how one of their Makars is a fuckin’ emo.”
Aaron wiped at his eyes and recovered himself enough to say, “I’ll—I’ll keep your secret, Call. S'what a best friend would do.”
Call froze. “What did you say?”
Aaron stopped laughing abruptly. Call could swear he was blushing. “You’re my best friend, Call,” he said softly.
“Hold that thought.” Call raced to his phone on the coffee table and turned on the audiomessage recorder. He held the phone to Aaron’s face. “Repeat your exact words, please.”
Aaron rolled his eyes, catching on to what was happening, and smiled. “You’re my best friend, Call. And so are you, Tamara. Can’t you guys just share the position?”
“Of course not! Anyway,” Call held the phone to his own mouth now, “what he added at the end is fake and not real. Your move, Rajavi.” He hit send, grinning smugly.
“This best friend thing is getting a little out of hand,” Aaron said, reaching for the milk carton.
“No, it’s not. It’s perfectly valid.” His phone buzzed with a text from Tamara:
what is this..............
Call smiled and answered: it's the #receipts
He set it down by his bowl and sat next to Aaron. The blond was patiently waiting for Call to have his cereal ready so they could eat together. His excessive good manners were kind of ridiculous sometimes. Call had a spoonful of Cheerios in his mouth when he got another text from Tamara.
well i WAS going to tell you that mcr is back at it again but seeing as you and aaron have BETRAYED ME
Call damn near spat out his cereal.
“It’s pretty easy, actually. You remember that log exercise we did with Milagros way back in Iron Year? Where I fell into the stream?”
“I was with Rufus for Makar training, so no. I don’t remember.”
Call waved in dismissal. “Never mind that, then. It’s basically just balance. Lean wherever you want to go, but not too much unless you want a face full of asphalt.” He handed the skateboard to Aaron. “Also watch out for pebbles and bumps and other stuff, unless again, you want a face full of asphalt.”
Aaron nodded, his green eyes burning with determination. He gave Call his phone for safekeeping and put one foot on the skateboard. Call could see his muscles bunch up to take the step but he chickened out at the last minute.
“I need support,” Aaron croaked.
“I’m here for you.”
“No, I mean physical support. Like, help me up or something.”
Call pocketed Aaron’s phone and held out his free hand. Aaron stared at it for a heartbeat, glanced back up at Call’s face, and gently took it in his own.
Call could swear Aaron felt his pulse racing. His palm was warm, and his fingers tightened around Call’s as he stepped onto the skateboard. Aaron wobbled a bit, the skateboard rolling back and forth. He finally straightened, correctly balanced, and his face beamed so much Call thought it could rival the sun above them.
Call suddenly let go of Aaron’s hand, and Aaron swore loudly in surprise. His hands grasped Call’s shoulders to regain his balance.
“I didn’t know you had that word in your vocabulary,” Call remarked.
Aaron’s eyes were dark with betrayal. “You asshole.”
“Wow. We need to wash your mouth with soap.” Call waited until Aaron righted himself again. “You can’t hold on to me forever, you know.” Even if I kinda want you to.
Aaron took a deep breath and said, “I’m ready.”
He released Call from his death-grip and kicked off slowly down the road. Call scratched Havoc’s head absently while watching. Aaron zigzagged a little, barely leaning, testing his skill. He held his arms out for balance. Call felt the corners of his lips tilt up.
He was too busy watching Aaron wobble like a newborn foal, the sunlight glinting off his golden curls, to notice the pothole he was headed directly towards.
It happened in slow motion. The front of the skateboard dipped into the crater, and Aaron’s head whipped towards Call with an expression of pure terror. Aaron tipped forward and landed hard, facedown on the pavement, and the skateboard flew way over to the right.
Call flinched at the impact before hurrying to Aaron, Havoc following close behind. He knew firsthand what falling like that felt like. He could almost feel the breath knocked out of him. Teaching himself how to skateboard had not been easy.
“Shit, Aaron.” Call knelt beside his friend and put a hand on his back. “You okay?”
“Ow,” Aaron said weakly.
That was not the response Call was hoping for. “Yeah, ow. That was a hell of a fall. Can you move?”
“I’m fine.” Aaron winced as he pushed himself up. Call grabbed his hand and turned it over. It was scratched and bleeding.
“This doesn’t look fine to me.”
“I’m fine,” he repeated, and tried to hide his pained reaction from Call as he stood up. Call frowned at his scraped knees. A trickle of blood was running down Aaron’s leg. “I swear.”
“Come on.” Call grabbed Aaron’s wrist and tugged him in the direction of the house. “You need a Band-Aid.”
Aaron didn’t contradict him. Call didn’t let go of him until they were in the house. He took a small detour to the garage, where Alastair was working on the engine of the Rolls-Royce.
“Dad,” he called out, “where’s the first-aid kit?”
Alastair scooted out from under the car to look at his son, his face grimy with oil. “It’s in your bathroom under the sink. Did something happen?”
“Aaron fell off the skateboard.”
His dad’s brows furrowed with concern. “Is he alright?”
“Yeah, just scraped. We’ll be back out in a moment, maybe go to the park around the block.”
Alastair just sighed. “Be careful,” he said, then slid back under the car.
Call went back into the house and led Aaron to the bathroom. He motioned for him to sit on the toilet lid while he got the Band-Aids. Call wet a small washcloth he found along with the first-aid kit and knelt in front of Aaron. He began to gently clean off the blood.
They were both quiet. Aaron was still as a statue, scarcely breathing with Call’s hands on him. Call could feel his eyes on the top of his head. Aaron hissed in pain when Call applied some pressure on the wound.
“Sorry,” he murmured. He picked up the hydrogen peroxide spray from the kit. “And sorry in advance.”
A sharp intake of breath cut through the air when he sprayed it on. Call looked up at Aaron, raising an eyebrow. Aaron smiled reassuringly, but Call noticed his white knuckles on the side of the toilet.
He placed a bandage on that knee, and made quick work of the other one. Call stood and motioned for Aaron to scoot so he could sit on the toilet seat with him. Their thighs pressed against each other. Call took Aaron’s wrist and carefully wiped away the blood from his palm. Their fingers brushed, and brushed again. Aaron didn’t react. Call hoped his breath wasn’t as shaky as he thought it was.
He sprayed on the hydrogen peroxide and smoothly put on another bandage. His fingers lingered on Aaron’s palm, and Call thought he saw Aaron’s fingers twitch towards his own.
What am I doing?
Call pulled his hand back before he did something stupid and looked up at Aaron’s face. He noticed a scrape by his chin. Dangerously close to his mouth. Call braced himself for what he had to do.
“You’ve got some on your…” Call said, barely a whisper. Aaron just nodded, his eyes never leaving Call’s face.
Call leaned in to dab at the small scratches on Aaron’s strong jaw. They were both barely breathing at this point, and the bathroom seemed to have gotten ten degrees hotter. Call willed his hand not to sweat, because it was resting on Aaron’s shoulder.
He finished with the wound, but he didn’t back away immediately. Call tilted his head to look at Aaron directly. Their faces were close, too close. Aaron shut his eyes and took a deep breath. Call felt it on his face.
It would have been so easy to just lean forward. To take a shot in the dark and press his lips to Aaron’s and hope that he wasn’t too terrible at it, as it happened with his first kiss. Call really, really wanted to.
But Call knew he couldn’t. Aaron didn’t like him that way, if he even liked boys at all. Plus, they were best friends. Call couldn’t throw that away on a whim. What if it messed up their counterweight bond? No, Aaron was better off with someone nice and perfect and beautiful like him. Someone like Tamara.
Call stood up and took out one last Band-Aid, placing it roughly on Aaron’s jaw, avoiding his burning green gaze. “Wanna go catch Pokémon in the park?” he said, too lightly.
Aaron was quiet for a moment, then said, “Yeah.”