Pairing/Characters: Hilary Becker, Connor Temple, Abby Maitland, Danny Quinn, Nick Cutter, Helen Cutter, Stephen Hart, Sarah Page, James Lester, Oliver Leek, Connor's mum....in various couplings and singles
Rating: PG/PG-13, I suppose.
Word Count: 6,785 - according to Word
Disclaimer: Not mine...damnit!
Author's Notes: Oooh - I still have my Connor/Becker icon...clearly, this is a sign that I should write more Primeval fic. Either that, or I'm just fishing for excuses! ;)
So I saw a prompt – an AU prompt, and you all know how much I can't resist a good AU prompt – and I started out to write a comment-sized fic for said prompt found, aptly, on Comment Fic. Just a couple of hundred words, right? Because I figured that it would ease me back into writing Primeval fic (ah, my crazy, implausible, dino-hunting fandom, how I missed you without even knowing it!). Then it grew. And grew. And I was nearly all the way through typing it up, having written it out long-hand, when I decided to go through and check what I had so far. And, in the process, added nearly 600 more words – technically the length of your average comment fic in and of itself. WHAT IS THIS FANDOM AND WHY DOES IT PRACTICALLY WRITE ITSELF?!
At this point, it stood at about 11 pages on Word. And then I had to type up the rest!
FML. Comment fic, my arse.
Warning – before you lies some of the most self-indulgent crap ever written. Teenagers are, as I recall from, y'know, having been one, absolutely ridiculous and entirely preoccupied with their own FEEEEELINGS and sense of self-drama, and that is my only excuse. merihn, I hope you're happy.
Summary: Sometimes, it felt like the whole school knew...except for Hilary.
…Which Connor was absolutely fine with, because Hilary was straight and Connor was going to die a lonely death and be eaten by cats, and that was the way of the world.
Theirs was an eclectic group. Technically, Hilary and Tom and, possibly, potentially, Stephen, should have been hanging out with all the rugger-bugger types. All manly and big and sporty and, usually, from Connor's experience, dirty 'cos of all the rugby.
Except Stephen was sort-of also a science and archaeology dork like Nick 'the Professor' Cutter (seventeen going on fifty, sometimes, and an Oxford don-ish type in the making) and usually spent the time he wasn't on the pitch with Nick in the library. And Tom was a sweetheart and probably the smooshiest-centred rugby player to ever exist.
It made sense in Connor's head, anyway, all of his weird, bizarre thoughts. Besides, Tom was infatuated with Abby and kept saving small, defenceless creatures to get her attention – he wasn't exactly subtle about it.
The thing was, all of them did play rugby. And they were good at it, too; their school had rarely seen so many sport-y trophies. Connor was of the opinion that Hilary was the best player on their team and he was very aware that he might have been slightly biased, but that didn't make it not true.
Because Hilary Becker was absolutely marvellous, despite the rubbishy first name (just like Hilary from Tomb Raider, Connor comforted himself, and Hilary-the-butler was cool, even if it was a bit difficult to have a huge-as-anything crush on a boy called Hilary...)
Also, Connor had stopped being bullied since Hilary started hanging out with them, which was a strange but totally okay coincidence. It was like Hilary was his lucky rabbit's foot!
(He didn't stop to think that maybe the boys he lived in terror of after school for all those years stopped tormenting him and nicking his lunch for a reason.)
Connor was sixteen and gangly with it – not exactly anyone's idea of an ideal shag-partner. He'd had a crush on Abby, when they were younger, because Abby was the best person Connor had ever, ever met and liked to climb trees and play with the frogs they found in the pond at the bottom of Connor's mum's garden. Also, she cut all her long hair off with a paid of wicked-sharp kitchen scissors when they were seven and claimed that she was just as good a boy as Connor. Better, she had sniffed, because she didn't scream when she saw a spider. Which was totally not fair, because that spider had been the size of a dinner plate. It had been traumatising – it was so big, they'd been able to see its fangs, dripping with saliva and it had clearly wanted to eat Connor, okay? It had probably been big enough to actually do so as well.
Not that Abby took that into account when she told the story, of course. Sometimes, Connor honestly wondered why they were still friends because Abby was mean.
His crush on Abby had sort of tempered, over the years. He'd once told his mum that he was going to marry Abby when they grew up. (This was, of course, before he realised that he was gayer than Elton John and that if he was going to marry Abby then it would probably take more than a haircut with a pair of death-blades and a fondness for climbing Connor's mum's apple tree in the back garden.)
She was sixteen, too – they had known each other since playgroup, since Abby came over and gave Connor a chocolate Bourbon biscuit and then preceded to nick half of his blanket at nap-time, the two of them curled up together under the same blue fleecy cover every day until they were six and in proper 'big kid' school – but carried being sixteen and pasty-pale and British much better than he ever could. Then there was Stephen and Nick, who were in their last year of school – one year older than Connor and Abby were and always pretending to be so superior just to make Abby stomp her foot. Connor, unlike Abby, didn't want to grow up just yet – it seemed like an awful lot of responsibility and not a lot of fun, being grown up. Nick and Stephen, on the other hand, had been talking about university and UCAS forms and modules and courses and halls since forever.
Hilary was the same age as Nick and Stephen, and going off soon as well (to join the military, he always said, when anyone asked, because that was what Becker men did) and so were Tom and Danny, and soon it would just be him and Abby left and God only knew why they fell in with a crowd of older boys to begin with.
(It used to be 'and girls', but Sarah's parents transferred her out of the school when they had to move up North because of her dad's job so that friendship became unfortunately entirely Facebook and MSN-based, and Helen was a bitch and cheated on Nick with Stephen and then tried to get Hilary as well, which was probably the only thing that saved Nick and Stephen's friendship, the realisation that Helen was a manipulative, bitchy, slutty meanie who had been utterly unconcerned with who she was actually shagging and, consequently, who she was hurting in the process. Connor was prepared to admit that maybe, just maybe, his reaction was a little harsh, but he'd had to live through it, the sudden rocking of the foundation of everyone's friendships and he hadn't liked it one bit. Also, Helen had since disappeared. Someone said she was dead, someone else said she had joined Greenpeace and was off fighting to save the planet from 'the scourge of humans' and not taking her A-levels.)
Abby used to say that Connor should do something about his 'pining' (which, Abby could just shut up, because boys didn't pine). Stephen just smirked and Nick tried to give him awful 'buck up' lectures and Nick was only, technically, ten months older than Connor was. It was weird and sort of creepy, like Nick was some absent-minded University professor, old before his time and occasionally full of unsought-for avuncular-ism. (Other times, Nick was amazing, and Connor was well aware that he probably wouldn't have passed GCSE Math without Nick because Biology and History, Connor could do. Math, not so much.) Even Tom knew about Connor's admittedly-pathetic crush, and Tom was usually blind to anything and everything except Abby and rugby.
Sometimes, it felt like the whole school knew...except for Hilary.
…Which Connor was absolutely fine with, because Hilary was straight and Connor was going to die a lonely death and be eaten by cats, and that was the way of the world.
“You are not,” Abby said, half-distracted with homework, “going to end up old and lonely and eaten by cats.”
“You don't know that,” Connor sulked.
“Yes, I do. For one, you don't even like cats, so why would you fill your house with them?” she asked, still looking down at her German grammar.
“I could be a crazy old cat lady if I wanted to.”
“And, two,” she looked up from her work and straight at him. “Do you really think I'd let that happen?”
“Well...no?” Connor hazarded.
“Precisely,” Abby smiled sunnily at him. “...I'd feed you to Rex first,” she added, like thoughts of maiming and death and stuff were a mere afterthought, and referring to her pet lizard.
“Oh, great!” Connor wailed, catching the attention of half the people in the school library – including the ancient Velociraptor of a librarian that their school was cursed with, who made a grumpy face and flapped her hand at them from her high desk. The next step, Connor knew, would be her coming over and since the third and final step was a temporary enforced exile from the library, and it wasn't like the upper years had a decent common room, meaning that the library was the only sensible place to hang out on days when the rain and cold and wind kicked off outside...and so Connor lowered his voice a bit.
“You told me Rex was a vegetarian,” he whispered, hunching forward so that it looked like he was working diligently on his Archaeology essay.
“Oh, he is,” Abby muttered, and she smirked down at her work, “but I'm sure that he could be persuaded to make an exception.”
Connor narrowed his eyes at her. “Cow.”
She stuck her tongue out and Connor pouted and turned back to his work. No one ever gave him any respect.
All of this was besides the point, because Hilary was straight.
“As straight as Stephen is,” Abby said, nodding over to where Nick and Stephen were studying with their heads bent together and ogling over girls. Which fact Connor already knew because Danny had told him already, months ago, while he grinned and ruffled Connor's hair.
Hilary wouldn't fancy Connor anyway, Connor thought, because Connor was renowned through the school as 'that weird one...you know, with the gloves and the hats' and he was scrawny and a bit of a geek and unfortunately addicted to the Jurassic Park films, whereas Hilary was gorgeous and sported a golden natural tan year-through and played sport and probably had never seen Jurassic Park, let alone knew what a Pachycephalosaurus was. As well, he wasn't cursed with weird stick-legs like Connor was. (Hilary's legs and bum in those short, tight rugby shorts being two of the very few reasons that Abby had any kind of success at dragging Connor to the school rugby matches.
Connor's mum liked Hilary and called him 'that nice young man' and said he had better manners than any three of Connor's other friends put together. (He doesn't – out of range of parent-type people, Hilary was as foul-mouthed as a sailor, but he had that sort of face and poshed-up acccent that made 'fucking son of a pox-ridden twatmunch' sound almost poetic.)
Apparently, Hilary's dad had wanted to send him to Eton – his name had probably been on the list since before he was a small, crawling thing in nappies – but Mrs General Becker had over-ruled her husband and Hilary had been sent to the local Grammar under the proviso that he'd go to Sandhurst after university and then make a career for himself as an officer in the army, like generations of Beckers before him.
Connor often wondered if anyone had ever asked Hilary what he wanted to do.
Before Sarah had left the school and the area and, nearly, their lives, all fifteen and sullen with rage at being dragged from her friends, Connor had been fairly certain that she and Hilary had been together. He was still convinced that they had been, at one point, because Hilary had gone even quieter than he usually was for a month after Sarah left. There had never been anything on Facebook, though, not even an 'It's complicated' relationship status, and everyone knew it wasn't real if it wasn't on Facebook – which had, and still continued to, confuse the fuck out of Connor.
Connor had asked Sarah, once, over the phone, and she had just laughed at his stuttered question and said that she thought that she probably wasn't what Hilary was looking for, you know?
(He had just been glad, at the time, that they had been talking over the phone and she hadn't been able to see him blush at his own daring at even pondering Hilary Becker's love-life.)
Abby frequently called him an idiot – although he was never sure whether this was because it was him, or that Abby was just surrounded by too many teenage boys 'and probably feels like a bit of a den mother', Connor's mum had explained. Abby huffed and said 'boys in the most exasperated tone ever when Nick and Stephen were going through one of their not-talking phases, so.
Girls, Connor had decided long ago, were weird and confusing, especially teenage girls and especially Abby Maitland, who was the worst of the whole lot.
And, as if AS-levels and studying and just generally being alive and sixteen and Connor Temple and gay weren't enough, Hilary had started acting weird and ignoring Connor.
Fuck Connor's life.
Abby told him that Hilary was just being a boy, but Abby said that about all of them, and always in an all-knowing, superior tone, so that was absolutely no bloody help at all.
Nick said that it was hormones and puberty. (Nick was really weird and always tried to blame things on evolution and hormones. Totally brilliant and amazing, of course, but weird as well.)
Stephen just laughed when Connor pestered him about Hilary and then stared at him when Connor persisted.
“You should probably ask yourself why Hilary's being weird,” he said, slowly, like he was willing Connor to get it which didn't help in the slightest.
“...Because he's still upset about Sarah moving away?” Connor tried, “or his coursework?” and wondered why Stephen rolled his eyes and muttered 'oblivious' as he stalked off to find Nick.
Danny was no help, either, because he was always around Hilary and Connor couldn't really ask Danny why Hilary was being weird when Hilary was standing right there.
So Tom was the only one who was any use at all. Tom understood the utter and complete agony of being in love with someone who didn't care (well, not that way, anyway) and, also, the trauma of being a teenager, which Connor thought the others must have forgotten in the process of turning into smug almost-adults.
(Or Tom was very good at being sympathetic and understanding, anyway, which was just as good.)
Also, Tom gave fantastic hugs-that-might-as-well-be-cuddles. If Tom hadn't been so invested in winning Abby around with small and usually scaly things, Connor would have been quite happy to be in a platonic relationship with Tom Ryan for the rest of his life.
…If, that was, Connor hadn't been in head-over-heels, tragically doomed, eternal love with Hilary sodding Becker – he of the gorgeous eyes, arms and clever with it on top of that arse.
It is worth noting, at this point, that there might have been a little bit of pining going on.
Sometimes, Connor thought that the whole being a teenager and hopelessly in love with one of your best friends thing could go jump off a bridge. It sucked.
It was the not-cuddles that caused the trouble. Tom was, as Connor knew, really quite good at making Connor feel like the whole world wasn't designed to ruin the psyche of one Mr Connor Temple before he turned eighteen. As well, Tom was one of the most unselfish people Connor had ever met and it would have been irritating, how perfect he was, if he wasn't so...Tom.
Everyone knew that Connor was a clingy little limpet (and he'd be the first to admit that) and a bit of a cuddle-slut (and that) and it was totally not his fault that Hilary may have taken things the wrong way because everyone knew that Tom was straight and in love with Abby – which meant that Hilary was never going to get anywhere with Tom. Even if they would have been really hot together like all the best kinds of porn.
So, really, Hilary had no reason to get in a strop about Tom hugging Connor, Connor moped unhappily, because it wasn't fair that Hilary was suddenly going to decide to be gay, only to get a crush on Tom.
(Not that Tom wasn't perfectly lovely and crush-worthy, and Abby really was blind, sometimes. Girls!)
And then Hilary stopped talking to Connor or Tom...or Abby, even, by default, and Connor wasn't talking to Hilary (because life wasn't bloody fair and he was sixteen and needed a while to get over the new devastating twist in the soap-opera of his life and, anyway, Hilary started it when he wouldn't even answer the phone when Connor rang or text him. Or Facebook messaged him, even when he was clearly online) and Connor wasn't talking to Danny any more, because Danny was a smug git (in addition to being Hilary's best mate and partner-in-crime when it came to racing each other through the ceiling crawl spaces and air vents from one side of the school to the other.)
...Which, really, so were Nick and Stephen, actually, so Connor had stopped talking to them as well. Just because they had their lives all sorted out and weren't irrevocably in love with someone (any more, his mind muttered, remembering She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named).
In the end, Connor was only actually still talking to Abby and Tom – or, he would have been, but Abby had stopped talking to him, for some unknown female reason, and she had stopped talking to Tom, as well, and Sarah was freaking out long-distance about the cataclysmic destruction of everyone's friendships (and, therefore, the entire world as they knew it) via Facebook and MSN and Connor's entire world was falling apart, okay?!
When it came down to it, being Connor Temple was difficult, and so it wasn't totally unbelievable that he might have been lying on the bed and sulking all Sunday despite his mum's best attempts to get him to go outside 'because it's such a nice day, and nearly winter, soon', and they were manly tears of manly angst and rage, okay, because Connor wasn't a teenage girl brooding over the fact that Edward Cullen would never love her and heart-broken with it, and, also, because Connor had tried to do what he thought Hilary or Danny or Stephen (being manly, manly men) would do if the entire bloody world had turned against them and so he'd punched his bedroom wall.
In his defence, Connor had seen someone do it in a film once but, unfortunately, the wall that Connor had punched had been one of the shell walls of the house, made of brick and mortar and clearly, like, Wolverine's adamantium and not plasterboard like the wall between his bedroom and the bathroom. It had really, really hurt. For the first ten minutes, Connor had genuinely thought that he had broken his hand.
(The wall, naturally, had been fine, and hadn't even have the decency to look a bit bruised.)
They certainly weren't tears of heartache, though, is the point, whatever Abby might have said, but Abby wasn't there because she was a betraying betrayer that had betrayed him, and she was no long his best friend.
“Connor! One of your friends is here. Shall I send him up?” his mum called from downstairs.
She would anyway, Connor knew, so he didn't move or summon the energy to yell anything back. It would be Tom, anyway, because Tom was the only one bar Sarah who was still talking to Connor (or who he was still talking to) and Sarah was on the other side of the bloody country.
Connor missed Sarah. Sarah hadn't told him that he was being an idiot. Sarah was clearly the only sane one among Connor's friends.
Footsteps thundered up the stairs and Connor's door banged open and Danny bloody Quinn stepped in like he owned the place, gingery-brown hair sticking up all over the place and a manic grin plastered all over his stupid face.
Connor, overcome by anger that had loads to do with the manly shooting pain spreading up his arm from his poor, abused hand and nothing whatsoever to do with any non-existent heartache, leapt up and over to the door. Betrayed, even by his own mum!
“He is not my friend!” he yelled down the stairs, ignoring Danny's quiet snickering behind him. Twat.
“Play nicely, dear,” his mum shouted back, and she was mocking him, Connor could just tell, “or your friend will have to go home.”
“Good!” Connor screamed, turning to find Danny standing on his bed – in his dirty Converse! On Connor's duvet! Where he slept! – and examining the old models of Pteranodons that Connor had painstakingly put together when he was eight and badgered his mum to put up and had never quite got around to taking down again now that he was older.
“Yeah, Connor, play nice,” Danny said, smirking at him.
“Off!” Connor hissed, batting at Danny's legs with both hands and then whimpering when he used the wrong hand in the wrong way, and the pain suddenly got much, much worse. He bent over his hand, pulling his arm in close against his body and trying not to move his fingers too much...and, also, trying not to cry because it really hurt quite a lot. He hadn't notice that Danny had stopped bouncing and had stepped down from Connor's bed until he was right there and tugging gently at Connor's arm.
“Come on, let me see,” he said quietly when Connor resisted, and, well, it's not like Danny could make things worse, so Connor unfolded enough to let Danny see the swelling and the rapidly darkening bruises and it really hadn't looked like that ten minutes ago, honest, Connor thought, staring in alarmed fascination. “Bathroom,” Danny decided. He dragged Connor by his good arm out of the bedroom and down the hall to the bathroom where he turned the cold tap on full and waited a couple of seconds before grabbing for Connor's severely injured hand and thrusting it under the water, pinning Connor there against the sink when he yowled and tried to pull his hand away from the Arctic run-off like any sensible person would have tried to do.
“Moron,” Danny said, tutting. “Punching walls is never the answer. Although I am impressed that you're apparently not such a weakling after all. Don't suppose you thought to ice it afterwards?”
“Doesn't hurt that much,” Connor said through gritted teeth.
Danny popped down to the kitchen to raid the freezer, leaving Connor with strict instructions to keep freezing his hand off in the name of first-aid, and came bounding back up with a bag of frozen peas, a tea-towel and Connor's mum, who tutted over Connor's poor, maimed hand, cuffed him lightly around the back of the head and told Danny that he was a lovely boy before she left them to it.
Connor knew Danny Quinn. Danny Quinn was most decidedly not lovely. Connor was too stunned to say anything.
“Mums like me,” Danny said, when he noticed Connor's stare. He shrugged a little, looking a trifle embarrassed. “I'm lovely.”
“You're wrong in the head,” Connor muttered as he led the way back to his bedroom, seeing as it didn't look like he was going to get Danny to sod off and die any time soon and it was easier to give in to the inevitable than to struggle masochistically against the flow.
Danny had also scrounged up two Ibuprofen tabs, which he handed to Connor.
“I'm fine,” Connor emphasised, possibly a little petulantly.
“Shut the fuck up, Temple, and take your pills,” Danny said, but he didn't sound mean, just exasperated. “Now, what the everlasting bloody hell has got your knickers in a twist?”
Connor opened his mouth, glared at Danny, and shut it again.
“Nothing,” he mumbled eventually.
“Yeah, right, and I'm the Queen. Look, I've heard Hil's story of why you're no longer following him about like a precocious puppy, but I thought I'd better listen to whatever you're going to come up with before I decide whether or not to punch you.” He grinned broadly and flopped down on Connor's beanbag, long legs spread across the floor in front of him like he owned the place. “Your mum probably wouldn't like that.”
“It's not my fault that Hilary's a twat,” Connor grumbled as he stared down at the towel-wrapped peas, because even though it was Danny, it was someone to talk to about everything. He crawled onto his bed and say cross-legged against the wall, cradling his bad hand and the peas. “Just 'cos he's got a crush on Tom...”
Danny stopped him by catching Connor's attention as he leant forward on the beanbag. “Temple, two things. One, speak up and don't mumble, Christ, now you're making me sound like my mum, fuck you, and, two, what the merry hell are you on about?”
Connor shrugged, suddenly feeling very small and very young and very miserable, and very much in need of a hug, which was probably what got them all into this mess in the first place.
“Tom gives good hugs,” he said, feeling tears pricking at his eyes because life really wasn't fair and Connor didn't really know why he seemed to have lost all of his friends in one week, but it was really too much, especially on top of that bloody history essay he had to hand in on Tuesday for Dr Lester on the causes of the Second Crusade.
“Uh, yeah,” Danny said, rolling his eyes. “The entire world and its mum know that. Even I've been known to partake in a Tom Ryan special, and if you tell anyone, Temple, I really will punch you.”
“And, anyway, Hilary's straight,” Connor continued, warming to his subject. “And it's just not fair that he's got a crush on Tom because Tom's straight and Hilary's just going to get hurt if he keeps on liking someone who doesn't like him back that way and it's not fair because I...” he trailed off and dashed at the tears that were creeping down his cheeks. “And Abby won't talk to me and Nick keeps on saying I'll understand when I'm older and Hilary won't even look at me and it's not like it's my fault that he's got a big, gay crush on the straightest boy ever.”
“Oi!” Danny objected, but Connor was on a roll and had the tears to match it.
“And if he was going to be gay, why – then why couldn't it have been...”
“You?” Danny asked, his voice quiet, and Connor sniffed miserably. He wanted his mum and a cup of hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows and a hug. He hated being sixteen, hated being so head-over-heels in love with one of his best friends that it hurt, hated that Hilary wouldn't even look at him and that Hilary was in love with Tom and he hated the fact that he'd just broken down so completely in front of Danny bloody Quinn in his bedroom with a hand that hurt so badly that it was probably broken in a million, billion pieces.
Across from him, Danny struggled up from the beanbag, swearing at it a little like everyone who had ever clambered up from a beanbag in the history of the world had. He crossed over to Connor and crawled onto the bed beside him, wrapping an arm around the younger teenager and pulling him in close.
“Christ, Temple, but you're a mess,” he sighed.
“Not my fault,” Connor mumbled, not even feeling guilty that he was probably getting tears and snot over Danny's plaid shirt. Danny was, after all, a twat.
So there, and nyah-nyah-nyah.
Danny tightened his hold, a little, hauling Connor in closer and he didn't even seem to care that Connor was a ball of over-tired, over-emotional grossness.
(Okay, so maybe Connor felt a little guilty about snotting all over Danny's shirt.)
“Tom's straight,” Danny said, then poked at Connor's side when he drew in a breath to speak. “No, shut up. My turn. Tom's straight and in love with Abby. Abby is also in love with Tom and is currently being escorted home by Tom from some soppy date down at the zoo that probably involved Abby's weird thing for reptiles and there was probably hand-holding and other mushy stuff that I do not ever want to think about. Because I'm far too manly. And stuff. And you would know all of this if you'd spoken to, oh, any of us in the last week, you absolute tit.”
Connor opened his mouth and then closed it again. She hadn't even told him! Some best friend she was...although he was of course pleased and not a little relieved that they'd finally got their act together, because the two of them had been pining for years for each other, worse than he ever had over Hilary.
“Hilary,” Danny said. Connor groaned a little and, okay, yes, buried his face against Danny's shoulder. Danny's voice sounded a little like he was probably rolling his eyes as he spoke, but Connor was too embarrassed (and enjoying his hug too much) to poke his head up and check. “Hilary thought you and Tom were, you know, so he'd got his head up his arse about that and has been sulking for the last week, ta ever so for that.”
“But Tom's straight,” Connor said. It was one of the defining facts of the Universe – Tom Ryan was straight and in love with Abby Maitland and the Earth revolved around the Sun.
“Yes, thank you, genius. Everyone knows that. Except Hilary walked in on you two cuddling last week and promptly lost what little brain he's got left after being knocked silly one too many times in all those rugby matches.”
Connor sighed. He knew how Hilary felt. It absolutely sucked, being in love with someone who didn't – and would never – love you back the way you loved them.
“He'll get over it,” Connor said as he stared down at his jeans. People got over being in love. They had to, Connor reasoned, because otherwise he was doomed to an eternity of suffering. “Besides, Hilary's straight, anyway. It's just a crush, what he's got for Tom.”
Danny stilled, then moved slightly so that they were looking at each other directly instead of Danny addressing Connor's hair.
“Connor,” Danny said, slowly, “Hilary is about as straight at Nick and Stephen are.”
“Yeah,” Connor drawled, mockingly. Danny was an idiot if he thought Connor didn't know. “People have mentioned that before. You've told me that before. So Hilary's straight.”
Danny blinked, looking not unlike a confused guinea pig. “Temple, you might be smart, but you're an utter moron, and as soon as this little heart-to-heart's over, I'm having words with your mum about letting you wander the streets alone. You are clearly too dense to survive outside of the wonderful and varied world of academia. Nick and Stephen are gay. Together. As in boyfriends. As in John Barrowman and Elton John and Sir-bloody-Ian. As in probably going to be the first of our fucked up little group who get married and, when they do, it'll be to each other.”
“But. Helen...” Connor said, weakly. Danny really was a force of nature at times.
“Apparently an 'anomaly', according to Nick, and 'the worst mistake of my life', if you ask Stephen. I officially know entirely too much about all of you. Your lives are better than Eastenders.”
“So...when you said that Hilary's as straight as Nick...”
“Oh, thank fuck, the boy's got it!” Danny cried, letting go of Connor to throw his arms up in the air in mocking jubilation.
Connor punched out half-heartedly at Danny. His brain was so confused. History and physics and archaeology were all so much easier. “So...Hilary really does love Tom?” he said, biting at his bottom lip He felt like his future existence entirely hung on Danny's answer.
“When Hilary saw you two cuddling and preceded to come 'round mine and lose his shit and get completely drunk on my mum's cooking sherry and then throw up in my mum's roses...that was not because of Tom,” Danny said. “Well, it was, but mainly because Hilary wanted to be Tom in that particular situation and, so help me, Connor James Temple, there will not be enough Ibuprofen in the world after I'm finished with you if you don't start getting this.”
He looked at Connor expectantly and if Hilary wasn't in love with Tom and he wanted to be Tom when Tom was cuddling with Connor...
“Oh,” Connor said, sitting back and a little stunned. “Oh!”
“Oh, thank fuck,” Danny said, collapsing backward onto Connor's pillows. His dirty Converse were on Connor's bed again. Somehow, Connor didn't seem to care any more.
Connor flailed a little, dislodged the make-shift icepack and let out a manly squawk at the sudden flare-up of pain.
“Me?!” he hissed through clenched teeth, trying not to move his hand again. “Hilary likes me?”
“Yes, for the love of fucking God, Temple, yes! Hilary Becker wants to have so-good-it-hurts sex with you in a delicate, romantic way on a bed of rose petals. He wants to bring you flowers and feed you chocolate and kiss you and be boyfriends and probably, one day, adopt tiny spaniel puppies with you!” Danny said, pulling a pillow over his face and proceeding to yell wordlessly into it in frustration.
“But I like him!” Connor said, leaping up. “I need, I need to talk to him.” He cast about frantically for his jacket, his phone...
“Connor, it's nine-fifty on a Sunday night. You've got double Biology with Leek at eight-thirty tomorrow morning, and your mum's not going to let you go anywhere,” Danny said, relieving Connor of his phone as he stared blankly down at the screen. “Besides, you look like shit.”
He pushed Connor in front of the mirror on the wardrobe door and, okay, maybe Danny had a point. Connor wasn't a pretty crier – had never been – and the aftermath was always even worse. He was all blotchy, his eyes were blood-shot and his hair looked like a family of mice had tried to nest in it.
“Right, yeah. Good point.”
“And,” Danny continued, “Hilary's still labouring under the misapprehension that you're head-over-tit for our Tommy-boy.” He looked at Connor as he shrugged his jacket back on. “I'm going to go back to mine, where Hil's is waiting, and I'm going to set him straight...” he snickered at his own, awful pun, “and you two will talk tomorrow morning before lessons because I am not letting you woo my best friend looking like that. You're an embarrassment to lovelorn blokes the world over.”
He flashed a grin and headed off out of the bedroom, thundering down the stairs before Connor snap out of it and could find something to throw at him, the twat.
“Night, Connor's mum!” he heard Danny yell, just before the front door slammed shut behind him and Connor was left alone in his room with a throbbing and bruised hand, a headache, his whole world turned upside down...and his mum coming upstairs to interrogate him about it.
Abby was waiting at the front gate for him the next day. She hadn't done that for a week and, for a week, Connor had had to walk to school by himself. She had Tom with her...and they were holding hands.
“You all right?” he asked after an awkward moment, and she nodded and then suddenly beamed, bright and as wide as the Sun.
“All right,” he said, laughing a little at their mutual ridiculousness. It didn't quite quell the butterflies in Connor's stomach, talking to Abby again, but it helped. He glanced at Tom, who winked back.
“All's well, huh?” he said, blushing a little, and both Connor and Abby rolled their eyes.
“English students!” Abby said, looping her right arm through Connor's and pulling so that they were walking side-by-side, the three of them forming a slightly lopsided 'W' with Abby in the middle. “What on Earth did I do to deserve this?”
She was smiling at Tom, though, and there wasn't even a trace of real annoyance to her words.
Five minutes away from the school gates, and Connor's nerve finally failed him. He pulled Abby and Tom out of the in-flow of the other students.
“Danny says,” he started, then stopped. They were outside. It shouldn't have been so difficult to breathe.
Abby stretched up on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to Connor's cheek. She was still holding Tom's hand and Connor wondered, absently, what they would do when it came time for lessons.
“We know,” she said.
“Danny mass-texted us last night,” Tom added.
“Everyone knows?!” Connor shrieked, and two girls from year nine giggled as they hurried past.
“Just us,” Abby soothed. “And, well, and Nick and Stephen. And Sarah,” she added. “Sarah said to tell you that it's about time – Hilary's been making eyes at you for years.”
“Right,” Connor was somewhat lost for words. “Okay then.”
“It'll be fine,” Abby said, grabbing Connor's wrist and tugging so that he began to move forward again towards school.
Just outside the gates, Nick and Stephen were waiting for them. With Danny.
Facing Danny, with his back to Connor, Abby and Tom, Hilary stood at what Connor presumed was parade-rest. Possibly. It's not like he knew much about military stuff, after all. He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. Right. Time to show your stuff, Connor Temple, his mind whispered. Man up and...and other things.
Danny nudged Hilary and the other boy turned around, his gaze flicking from Abby to Tom to Abby and Tom's joined hands and, finally, to Connor, standing there like a lemon.
“Uh, hi,” Connor said as the three of them stopped.
“Hi,” Hilary said, his eyes wide as he stared at Connor.
“That's, um. It wasn't,” Connor started at the same time as Hilary said; “You look...”
They lapsed into silence, barely arms-length away from each other. Connor was pretty certain that he had flushed bright red.
“Boys,” Abby huffed, and she pressed a hand flat to the small of Connor's back and pushed him forward until he stumbled and Hilary was forced to catch him or have the both of them topple over.
Hilary was warm – and not blushing, unlike Connor, but Connor had never seen Hilary blush even once in all the time they had known each other, or even have a hair out of place. Hilary even managed to good in their travesty of a school uniform.
“Hi,” Hilary repeated, the two of them almost pressed bodily against each other.
“Hi,” Connor mumbled and they were so very nearly kissing when he pulled back. “I don't fancy Tom,” he blurted out, because his mouth and lack of brain-to-speech co-ordination was doomed to keep him a virgin forever. “Not that Tom's not completely shaggable, but...”
Hilary grinned at him – properly and for the first time in what seemed like ages, although probably only since the week before – and leaned in to press a quick kiss to Connor's still-moving mouth.
Well, it was probably supposed to be a quick kiss – Connor's hind-brain apparently had other ideas.
“Uh, don't mean to disturb and all,” Danny said, after what could possibly be hours and hours of kissing. Connor likes kissing, he had decided. Especially when Hilary was involved.
“School now, children,” Nick said, laughing as both of them separated a little sheepishly.
“Fun time is later,” Stephen added, pulling his boyfriend (and, wow, Connor really missed that happening) toward the school and the rest of them fell in behind, Connor daring to reach out and knock his hand lightly, almost accidentally against Hilary's until Hilary slid into Connor's and laced their fingers together tightly.
Hilary was going off to the military – or, at least, university first – and it was already October, and Connor was sixteen and in utterly and completely requited love with one of his best friends and his life was perfect.
No complaints, he thought as he let Abby drag him to double Bio with Leek – but not without one last kiss from Hilary while she giggled and kissed her own boyfriend.
“See you at break?” Hilary asked, and Connor grinned helplessly and nodded and let Abby pull him into a run as the final bell resounded through the halls.
My fic masterlist is here.