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21 March 2010 @ 09:16 pm
WIP Amnesty: Animal Instinct (Luke/Lyle)  
moorishflower , I can't hold this one back anymore. I don't think it's gonna get finished. But you can see more or less where I wanted it to go, and it's still 6000+ words of cute boys... This one's for you.

Animal Instinct

I: The Prince and the Frog

Seven months after Claire went off to college, the divorce became final. Noah was gone, from the house and from his son's life. The Bennet household had effectively split in two: the special people, and the normal ones they'd outgrown.

Lyle comforted his mother by telling her, over and over, "We haven't been left behind, Mom. We've stayed on solid ground while they've gone off a cliff. that's all." The words made Sandra smile through her tears and clasp his hand, but they didn't make Lyle himself feel any better. He felt like he'd been stepped on, battered into the earth.

Still, Mom needed him to stand up straight. She said to him, "Keep the faith." And he tried.

Part of standing up straight was going to school, though it was his third school in many years. He'd grown used to kids looking at him funny, whispering about why he kept to himself, why he'd had to leap from town to town like some sort of overgrown toad. He didn't pay much attention. None of it really mattered, as long as they were safe and together. Let them call him what they liked. And they did, everything from murderous gangbanger to Momma's boy and back again.

He was a sophomore this year, and taking biology. Today they were supposed to dissect a frog. Lyle's lip curled and his stomach turned at the thought of it. But the frog was already dead, so it wasn't as if he was slaughtering it, he reasoned. He allowed his lab partner, a chubby-faced kid with dark-set eyes, to pull the thing out of the jar and spread it out as Lyle carefully pinned it down to the plastic and tried not to be sick all over gloves, experiment and lab partner alike.

His fingers itched looking at the creature's webbed feet. He scratched at them through the latex of the gloves and glanced at the kid beside him, who was silently staring through surprisingly pale eyes. "What?" he said.

The kid-- did he even know this guy's name?-- shook his head. "Nothing." He paused, then ventured, "You OK?"

"Nothing." His feet felt sweaty and sticky in his shoes, too. Sympathy pains, he thought, from seeing the frog's webs folded in tight pleats. He wanted to stretch them out for it, as though the dead thing could be uncomfortable. Did frogs get sweaty feet? At least, live ones?

The discomfort persisted into the next period, when Lyle bumbled his way through a lackluster game of basketball. By the end of the class it wasn't just his feet that were sweating. He stripped off his soaked shirt and sat on a bench at the end of the locker room, one leg crossed over his other knee, to remove the first of two seriously gross sweat socks.

A gasp cut the air before he knew it was his. He rolled the sock back up and grabbed the bench with tight hands, shaking and breathing hard.

His toes had been webbed.

Dread and curiosity tangled at the base of his spine. His fingers moved automatically to remove the sock anew, and he fought his own urge to look again. He didn't need to look again. It was there. He could feel it now, the thin film between each toe, sleek as skin and flexible, sensitive. He'd made it happen. He'd wondered what it would feel like to have webbed feet, and now he knew.

Think, think, think. He'd made it happen by thinking about it. That meant he could undo it the same way, right? Still staring at the ceiling, ignoring the calls of his classmates that the bell had rung, he concentrated. Become human. Become human. Become human.

"Come on, Bennet!" said one of his classmates, dashing by and pulling the half-unrolled sweat sock off his foot. Lyle panicked, shouting and grabbing for it. The boy recoiled. "What the fuck's your problem?" he stammered, tossing Lyle back his sock and running off. Lyle looked down at his feet. The toes were blissfully separate.

He was tempted to believe he'd imagined the whole thing, but the son of the Company operative and brother of its star pupil was far beyond denial. Sweat prickled cold droplets against his forehead. He didn't want this. Hadn't asked for it. If this was some cosmic joke based on his perfunctory jealousy of his older sister's abilities, he didn't find it funny.

He couldn't leave it alone, either.

Lyle spread his fingers wide and looked down at his outstretched palm. "Webs," he said aloud to the now-abandoned locker room. "Grow webs. Like the frog's."

The prickling itch of his fingers gave way to tearing heat, and there it was. Sticky stuff, thin as tissue paper and translucent, extending, folding, forming seams between each finger and melding there into one. Lyle's jaw shuddered. He raised his other hand -- it was both or none, it seemed -- and poked one finger at the webbing, surprised to find that it could feel the pressure. Unlike dead hair or fingernails, the webbing was alive and part of him.

He swallowed the last ball of bile and panic that had lodged in his throat. No webs, he thought. Human hands. And they were. The filmy stuff dissolved easily as air.

He clutched his heart, brought his knees to his chest and rocked back and forth on the locker room bench. A wail escaped him. This was no good. He'd promised Mom he'd stay on solid ground. No fantasies of changing the world, no lies, no secrets, and definitely no powers. This was a betrayal of everything he'd tried to be to her.

Then again.

He could do something absolutely no one else could do. But did that mean he had to go off and leave his life behind? Was there some connection between being special and saving lives? How much life-saving could he do with webbed feet? It wasn't as if he could breathe underwater. The more he thought about it, the more he thought it wasn't even useful enough to bother with.

But did that make it OK to enjoy? Or was even that treason?

"Hey. Bennet."

The gym teacher, a squat mole of a man, was squinting at him. "What are you thinking? You've got somewhere else to go, I take it." The bell rang its dismal punctuation behind the teacher's words.

Lyle scrambled to his feet. "Um. Yeah. Yeah, sorry." He grabbed the rest of his stuff and jammed his shoes on. Mechanically he shuffled through the door and out into the empty hallway. But he wasn't going back to class. The teacher's words were burning through his brain.

You've got somewhere else to go.

Maybe he did. Maybe it wasn't just turning into a frog. There could be other possibilities. Other things he could do. He could at least go off and explore them. That had to be all right. He didn't have to tell anyone, didn't have to do anything. Not yet. But he did have to try.

II. High Definition

The rain was dashing down in loud, sharp icicles that sliced against Lyle's skin. But the field was empty, and nobody could see him there at the far edge, almost in the woods. He was shivering and his teeth were chattering. It was an ecstatic moment.

A moment ago he'd had bear paws, big, meaty and ugly. Now his hands were the soft mitts of a cat. It wasn't just hands and feet, either. He'd actually grown a kangaroo pouch a few minutes ago. And he thought he could probably sprout squid tentacles if he really, really concentrated on it.

He wasn't sure if he could change all the way. And he'd realized with part relief and part regret that clothing got in the way. Efforts to fuse his legs into a fish tail, like something out of The Little Mermaid, had just resulted in his legs itching so hard he thought they were going to dissolve into a horde of angry bees.

So it wasn't perfect. But it was certainly more than just turning halfway into a frog.

He allowed himself a chuckling laugh of triumph, followed by a violent sneeze. The freezing rain couldn't be very good for him. A lion's mane erupted near his shoulders, which dulled the cold a bit, but he retracted it when it got drenched. Where it had been, a rush of water fell in a soggy circle to the ground around him.

He should have thought of a better place to do this. But there was no place deserted enough, no room in school he could be sure would give him privacy. And he couldn't do it under his own roof. That was Mom's roof, and he wasn't letting this touch her. He'd pledged to stay on solid ground.

Still, more than anything, he wanted to strip off his shirt and try for wings!

The mist had risen now, and parts of the field were flooding. The school building had reduced to a vague dark shape. Lyle covered his eyes with one hand, a protective eave against the rain. He couldn't see well enough to find his way back. But he couldn't stay and freeze, either. If he could only see where the damn puddles were.

Sonar. Like a bat.

His vision brightened and sharpened. It was like a TV broadcast gone high-definition -- things were crisp and had angles and dimensions he couldn't perceive before. At once he knew where the dirt was solid and where it was running in deep rivulets of mud. He could see the pools and hills, clear as if stepping stones had emerged from a dark river. He touched his ears with tentative fingers -- they had changed shape and texture. And when he tilted his head, parts of the landscape faded and other parts came alive. He knew the depth of each of his own breaths.

And he knew someone was out there with him. Behind a tree, on the edge of the forest. Shivering but trying to stay still.

Lyle turned. "Who's there?" he said, and then stumbled. His voice sounded so loud in the bat's ears that it blurred his vision and turned his stomach. No more sonar, he thought, and normality returned to sight, though he still felt sick to think someone had seen him. He strode forward. "Who are you?"

A short figure stepped into the mist. Lyle approached. His eyes bulged slightly. "You.. you were my lab partner today," he said.

"Yeah," the kid said. His face, though round, seemed almost gaunt in the grayness.

"What are you doing out here?" he said, praying the answer was benign.

No such luck. Eyes darted over his body. "Watching you."

Lyle ran to him. "Did you see..." His voice dropped off at the tense nod. "Oh, no."

"It's OK," the kid said. "I won't tell."

"You better not," Lyle blustered, then thought better of it. "Please don't."

"I wo--" A shiver wracked his body. The boy seemed on the edge of falling over.

Concern trumped fear, and Lyle rushed forward to catch his arms in a sure grip. He looked toward the school building. "We should go inside."

"It's OK," said the boy again. And he raised his palms. Something changed in the air, and all at once Lyle could feel his bones warming inside him. Color returned to the boy's face. It was as though the cold had ceased to touch them. "I won't tell anyone," he repeated emphatically, rubbing one skinny arm with a pale hand.

Lyle looked at those hands and murmured, "I believe you."

"Your name was Lyle, right?" the boy said.

"That's right. What was yours?"


III. A Good Thing

As hard as it was raining, they bypassed the school building directly and ran for the corner. There were cafes on the next block, and a bookstore, which was a safer bet -- cafe owners were on the lookout for truant students, but in back aisles they could hide and huddle. Lyle drew a thick coat of fur across his head, and at the store's entrance he shook it out like a dog after a bath and disappeared it. Luke gasped a little at the overt change, but he kept his reaction well in check and walked, dripping, into the store.

Pastels and soft music soothed the jittery jumping of Lyle's heart. He sighed as they walked down rows of gaudy romance covers and wasn't even distracted by the gleam of comic books. All he wanted was to talk.

"You're one of them," he said to Luke.

"So are you."

"I am. Oh, my God, I am." He laughed, a brief, bright flicker of sound. "What did you do? Back there?"

"I think... it's like a microwave," Luke said, looking down at his hands. "Some things melt. Some explode. Air just... gets hot."

"So you nuked me?" Lyle had to laugh. "That's pretty cool."

"I know. Isn't it?"

"They grinned a second at each other, the wicked smiles of little boys.

"When did you find out that..." Lyle didn't have to finish.

"I was ten." Luke closed his eyes, and in that blinking instant Lyle thought maybe he saw it was not a happy memory.

He tried to interrupt. "I'm sorry--"

"For what?" The look he got was sort of unsettling. Lyle shivered.


"There's nothing to be sorry about," Luke went on. His jaw had set. "It's a good thing. It's an awesome thing." He was pressing forward in a way that made Lyle fight to breathe. How had he not noticed this guy before? He'd been practically invisible in school, and now his presence was suffocating. It didn't make any sense.

"You don't come to class all the time," he said. "You cut a lot."

"Yeah, I guess."

"You guess?"

"I switch around a lot."

"Switch what?"

"Schools." Lyle's eyes widened. "I go to a different school every day."

"How-- Can you do that?"

Luke just shrugged. "Nobody stops me."

"Do you learn anything?"

An eyebrow arched. "Do you?"

A moment of quiet, and then Lyle laughed. Luke's voice, lower and throatier, joined his.

He wondered if Luke smoked. He had that broken quality to his voice, like he was just getting over a cold. Or catching one, maybe, because he was still dripping from the rain. "You should get coffee," Lyle said, concerned. "You're going to catch a cold."

"You sound like my mother," Luke said. "Besides, I can dry myself." He held his hands flat again, and Lyle felt that wave of heat coming off them. He watched as Luke's skin rippled behind the warping air.

"Aren't you afraid?" Lyle asked.

"Of what?"

"Afraid it'll hurt you. That you'll nuke yourself or something."

Luke looked at him blankly, as though he had never, in fact, considered the possibility. Then he shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe I'm immune to my own powers. Maybe that's part of having them."

Lyle bit his lip. He kept thinking about Mom, not knowing who he was, confused, blacking out. He didn't know the whole story, but it had something to do with the man Dad brought home every so often, the man who barely spoke and glared at him with eyes that Lyle felt, but couldn't quite remember, seeing before. "I guess I'd just... be really nervous. That there are no side effects, things you don't notice till later."

"You're so weird," Luke informed him flatly.

"Weird? How?"

"You're so worried about everything that could go wrong. Is that all you can think about, is the bad stuff?" Luke grabbed his arm and glowered darkly into his face. "It's a good thing. You should be happy. You should be trying stuff out."

But Lyle only knew what could go wrong. He'd only seen what could go wrong. That didn't seem very good at all. And now he was thinking of his mother's eyes as they'd yet to turn, round with horror, betrayal etched in the lines of her face. You. Lyle. You. The one I always thought was safe.

The rain had let up, but the sky still hung heavy and ash-gray as Lyle trudged home. The hill felt steeper than usual, and his calves ached. It was like lifting a heavy crate to get his own body across the threshold.

Mom was there, all light and fire. One look and she knew just what to do: fuss, fret, and most importantly, not ask. "Well, don't you look like something Mr. Muggles chewed up and spit out," she declared. "Let's get you a towel. Did you forget an umbrella? But who expects it to rain here? I still can't get over it. And here I thought Odessa was dry. I tell you, my hair is just snapping like twigs these days. And poor Mr. Muggles, I've got to do something about his coat--"

All the while, she spun around the house like a whirling top, finding a dishrag fresh out of the dryer and plopping it on Lyle's dripping head, taking his backpack from him and setting it aside, leading him with a firm hand on his wrist into the kitchen, where she sat him down and put a plate of cookies in front of him. Then she sat and, for the first time, was silent.

Lyle reached up to touch the towel on his head. It was warm, and he thought about the heat of Luke's hands, angled up toward his face. So warm they were dangerous.

"Now," his mother said softly, "whatever it is, when it's time, you know you can tell me anything." His gasp was met by a pointed index finger. "And don't deny it. You're a teenage boy. It happens. Just remember, we need each other. So don't leave me behind."

Lyle nodded, and while he wasn't exactly on the brink of tears, he did feel a sort of liquid lump swell up into his throat. "Yeah," he said, taking a cookie. "It's you and me, Mom."

"That's right," she echoed, crunching on another one of the treats. "You and me, kid."

IV. Losing Balance

Lyle sat on his bed, knees pulled up to his chest. In front of him he extended one hand, opening and closing it, methodically. Rather, he closed a human hand, opened a rabbit's paw, closed it human again, opened the claws of a falcon. With each opening and closing he saw his mother's eyes darken.

Don't leave me behind. Was she so afraid he'd do that?

The patter on his window had to be rain, he thought at first. Then it came again, in the same rhythm, just a little louder. Lyle looked up, then lowered his head again. A third time, and this time his head jerked to the left to see.

Luke's face was pushed against the window, his cheeks puffed out. Lyle scrambled to the sill. "What the--" he began before remembering he probably should open the window first.

"Come on," Luke hissed as soon as the glass between them was slid away.

"Come on... where?"

"Come practice. You've got to want to. It's not raining anymore. Come on."

His grin was infectious, and it drew a smile out of Lyle despite himself. "I can't," he said. "My mom--"

"What she doesn't know, right?"

"You don't understand. I can't. It wouldn't be fair."

"What?" Luke's face contorted in disbelief. "Just learning how to use it? How is that not fair? Don't you want to try?"

"Of-- of course I do!" Lyle jutted his chin forward rebelliously. "But I--"

"Then come on!" Luke grabbed his arm and pulled hard. Lyle cried out, but Luke's hand was quick on his mouth, and together they tumbled backward against the slope of the roof.

"Shh!" Luke cautioned as he jumped to the grass below. He beckoned Lyle to follow him. Lyle held his breath, and then he plunged.

They ran through the streets toward the park, stifling their laughter. When Luke stumbled, Lyle grabbed his hand and helped him maintain his balance as their feet carried them at double speed down the hill.

When they burst through the gate into the dark green expanse of the field, their voices lifted into full-bodied mirth. Lyle took off his shoes and leg his feet elongate into kangaroo paws, bounding five feet into the air and clearing Luke's height easily. Luke clapped and cheered, ten tried to tickled those big brown feet in midair. Lyle came crashing to earth and promptly burst into peals of laughter. Luke's dark eyes and toothy grin glittered against the pale moon of his face.

"Now take off your clothes," he said.

Lyle was a little too excited to be as shocked as he should have been, but nonetheless he gasped. "What?"

"Don't you want to see if you can grow a tail? Come on!" Luke jerked down hard on Lyle's pajama pants. Lyle shrieked like a girl and slapped him half-heartedly. Luke returned fire with facetious slaps of his own, and they grappled, laughing, sinewy arms grabbing skinny hips and forcing over and over and down. In the dirt, grass in his hair, Lyle finally brought his hysterics under control and looked up, smiling broadly, at Luke.

"Take off your damn clothes," Luke insisted. His hands were at Lyle's waist, tugging playfully at his pants. Lyle wriggled. Luke's hand slipped over him. An "Oh" fell from his mouth.

Luke's smile faded and he sat back on his haunches. "Sorry," he mumbled.

"It's OK."

"Sorry," Luke repeated. Then he frowned at him. "But you should still take them off."

Lyle stared at him. For a moment he thought-- but never mind that. Never mind that. He'd just had a wonderful idea. He got to his feet.

"I'll take my shirt off," he said.

"You can't grow a tail with your shirt off--"

But Lyle had already stripped it off. And as Luke's voice trailed away, he closed his eyes and something-- two somethings-- erupted like a snowy avalanche from his chest.

"Wings," Luke whispered, covering his open mouth. "Oh, my God, wings."

Lyle smiled at the sound of his voice. "How do they look?"

"They look-- oh, my God, they're--"

And then Lyle toppled backward.

For an endless series of seconds, he struggled to regain his balance, but the muddy grass started to slip under his feet and the wings were dragging him back and with a cry and flap of anxious hands, Lyle was resting on a muddy cushion of brown-gray feathers, his legs stuck in the air as he tried to kick his way back onto his feet.

Luke started laughing. "You've fallen and you can't get up!" he quipped after a few seconds of hysterics.

Lyle could only say, "Help!" The wings shifted beneath him, and he tipped back another forty-five degrees. Lying with his head angled toward the ground and his feet up like a pair of chopsticks in a rice bowl, he groaned in misery.

"Get rid of them," Luke coached. "Put them away."

"I can't!" Lyle protested. "I'll get all muddy and I have to sneak back in and--"

"Fine, fine." Luke held out his hands, Lyle grabbed, and after a moment of pushing and pulling, Lyle was finally able to stand on his two feet. The mud dropped from the wings as they melted away, leaving him dizzy but none the worse for wear.

"What kind of bird were you thinking of?" Luke asked.

"Um..." Lyle looked sheepish. "An eagle?"

"Well, of course you can't balance with eagle wings!" Luke threw up his hands like it was the stupidest thing he'd ever heard. "Have you seen the way eagles puff up their chest? You're so skinny. You should try, I don't know, a woodcock or something."

"A what?"

Luke tossed him his shirt. "It's a bird. What kind of sick thing were you thinking?"

"I-- I wasn't, I--"

And somewhere between puffs of frustrated breath, Lyle figured out just how funny the whole thing was. He gave up protesting and just laughed instead.

V. Something Warm

The next day at school, Luke shoved a pile of printouts in his direction.

"Birds," he said. "That kind of look like you might be able to handle them."

"You Googled birds?" Lyle echoed, kind of tickled at the same time as he scowled at Luke. "Um, thanks, I guess."

"You're going to practice, right?" Luke said. "You gotta find a bird that'll work for you."

"You just want me to say 'woodcock,' Lyle said, laughing.

Luke watched him laugh, and his face went red. "No," he muttered. "I want to fly with you."

Lyle stared. Luke retreated.

The printouts were shuffled, and greasy thumbprints slid off the side of some of them. Still, Lyle looked through them, gazing at the strange postures. He was pretty sure having the wings of a puffin weren't going to help. But the cormorants were skinny and ugly, like him, and the printout said they 'soared on thermals,' whatever that meant. Something warm. Lyle wouldn't mind soaring on something warm. He imagined it must feel something like a magic carpet beneath your arms, as you watched the world shrink beneath you.

He'd never before yesterday even considered the possibility. Today it was all he could think about.

It was Lyle who went to Luke and said, "Come on," after school was out. Not that Luke showed any hesitation whatsoever. His face lit up, and he grabbed his bag with such force that his chair toppled over with a great clatter. Luke blushed. A gaggle of girls in the back of the room tittered.

"You came back," Lyle said as they walked from school. Today it was cloudy, but not raining. Wet leaves from the previous day's downpour stuck to Lyle's sneakers, and he paused to scrape them off, drawing his heel across the curb.

"Came back?"

"To school." Lyle looked up at him briefly and returned his attention to his shoes. "You said you go to a different school every day."

"Yeah, well..." Luke trailed off and walked ahead a few paces, looking up at the sky.

"I mean, it's OK," Lyle added quickly. "I'm glad you came back, but I just thought you--"

"You're right." Luke paused. "I shouldn't have."

Lyle felt an unexpected stab of disappointment, and heart in his knees, He hurried to catch up.

The cormorant wings had much the same problem, but Lyle had the good sense to lurch forward and retract the damn things before he could end up in mud for the second night in a row.

"Maybe something a little smaller," Luke said.

"I wish I could just make them smaller," Lyle complained. "But they just come out whatever size they want to."

"Then you'll have to find a smaller bird." Luke paced for a minute. "They have toy dogs, maybe there's. like, a midget crane or something."


"Whatever. All those birds look alike."

Lyle looked at him critically. "I thought you were the expert birdwatcher."

"I am! Kind of. OK, maybe not expert." His face fell. "You disappointed?"

"Naw." Lyle grinned wickedly. "I knew you were full of it."

"Oh, that's mean." Luke pouted, but there was something warm in his upturned eyes.

The next day, Luke didn't show up. Lyle looked despondently out the window, feeling like the world was full of nothing but rain.

He started doing his own bird-Googling, and when Luke returned to school the following Tuesday he was full of ideas. Ideas, it turned out, but not time, because his ever-inconsiderate biology teacher scheduled a test for the next day.

"I could come over and help you study," Luke said.

"You're not going to take the test!"

"No, but--"

"I really do have to study."

"I know. I could help. Come on. I could stay for dinner."

The eager way he said it, and the sudden shine in his eyes, made Lyle pause. What was that gleam about?

"S...sure," he said, not feeling sure at all.

"Great!" Luke smiled, and Lyle felt like a swarm of ants were buzzing around in the bottom of his stomach. Something was off about Luke's response, and he couldn't pinpoint it for another several blocks.

It was only when they'd climbed the hill and were a block from his house that Luke burst out with, "Does your mom make dinner? Or your dad? Or are you one of those families that has pizza all the time?" — and Lyle realized he was hungry.

The hunch bore out into reality the moment Luke sat at the table and wolfed down the lasagna that Sandra had made, sloppy and voracious as a wild animal. "So good," he said through a stuffed mouth. "Thank you, Mrs. Bennet."

Sandra watched him, looking mildly surprised. Her eyes slid to Lyle, and for an instant they were sharper, darker. Then, again innocuously, "I'm sorry, honey, what did you say your name was? Luke... what was it?"

"Campbell," he managed through another mouthful. "This is really good."

Turning to Lyle, Sandra mouthed, What's with him?

Lyle shrugged. He was kind of enjoying watching Luke eat like he hadn't done so in months. It made him feel accomplished somehow, like he'd done a good deed. When he thought about it, though, Luke really looked like he hadn't had a lot to eat lately. There were echoes of what used to be round cheeks in his face, and skin hung off his spindly arms like they'd once been full of baby fat. But he'd gone gaunt, far removed from whatever well-fed satisfaction had once been part of his life. And Lyle wondered again about how Luke went to a different school every day.

Afterward, Sandra suggested they study at the kitchen table. "Enough room for you both to spread out your books," she said pointedly. But Luke shook his head at Lyle, and Lyle insisted they be allowed to study in his bedroom. "Mr. Muggles barks all the time down here," he said, but the excuse felt weak.

Luckily enough, Sandra didn't push the issue. "I'll call you down when the cookies are ready," she said blandly. "You can bring a plate up."

Lyle thought he was home free, but he knew he was wrong the minute he came back downstairs and faced an unsmiling mother with a plate of cookies held tight in her two hands.

"I'm going to give you these," she said, "and you're going to go right back upstairs and study with your friend, but don't think I don't know you're keeping something from me."

"What?" He played dumb.

"You're studying for the test with your friend who didn't bring over any books. That's a good start. You think I didn't notice that?"

"He... he forgot them."

"You came straight from school. To study."


"I'm just saying, something's not entirely right about that boy. And you and I have been through too much for you to keep secrets from me now."

Lyle frowned. "That is so not fair."

"Tell me one reason why not."

"How about, it's none of your business?" He grabbed the plate of cookies away from her in one forceful yank. "Or how about, I don't have to tell you every little detail of what's going on in my life? I'm allowed to have some privacy, too, you know."

Sandra looked at her empty hands, then scowled at her son. "What is with you?"

Lyle's spine went rigid. Truth was, he was petrified. Luke did have a secret, and it was the one secret that Lyle knew would wreck the fragile peace he and his mom lived on. "You just don't like him because he's my friend," he said stiffly. "You'd rather I'd be all alone. Just like you are."

Sandra pulled back as though she'd touched fire.

Lyle relented. "Sorry," he mumbled. "Sorry, Mom."

Her eyes were still hurt and quivering, but Sandra curled a fist and sighed heavily. "Baby, you know I want you to have friends." She ruffled his hair, and Lyle rolled his eyes. "I'm just saying, watch yourself, that's all."

Lyle had been watching himself. That was the whole point. He didn't feel very good about stomping off with the plate of cookies without another word. But that's what he did.

VI. One of Them

Lyle didn't flunk the test, which was good.

He also didn't see Luke in the next several days, which was not so good.

And his mother had flipped from neutral entity to looming presence, which was really, really bad.

Because Lyle had finally found a bird that worked. It was a pygmy cormorant, and when Lyle wore its wings he felt balanced and strong. But Sandra wanted to know where he was after school, who he was with. Was it that Campbell boy again? Had Lyle ever been to his house? Met his parents?

It was hard to find time to learn to fly under such an assault.

Still, for a few minutes after school got out, if Lyle ran half the way, he had enough time to dip into the park and strip off his shirt. He'd flap his wings, goosebumps prickling his skin with the breeze they stirred. And one day, one flap, he lifted on the wind. Sneakers touched off from the ground. And Lyle was so surprised he immediately forgot what he was doing and ended up face-down in the grass.

He had never tasted anything as glorious as the dirt that caked the inside of his mouth for hours afterward.

He could fly!

It was a little bit like sailing, actually. He had to wait for it, but when he felt the stirring of a breeze beneath the curve of one wing, he had to run forward to catch it, let it billow the feathers to form an arch, and then ride it as long as he could. A few flaps would carry his momentum to the next updraft, or, if none was to be found, lower him gently to the ground.

He was pretty sure nobody saw him, but just to be sure, he told Sandra he was joining the literary magazine, which had its meetings at night. And when he headed out, above the glare of the streetlights, Lyle flew and flew.

But where was the one person who had helped him? The one who'd set it all in motion? No matter how high and far Lyle's wings took him, he never saw Luke. He wanted nothing more than to cut school one day and just spend forever soaring over the area, looking for a familiar skinny figure slinking around behind the football field at the high school on South Street, or silhouetted lonely on the rooftop at Bates Academy. Without a friend, lonely, needing him.

But how much did he really know about Luke, anyway? For all he knew, Mom was right. It could all be a big facade. Luke could have a million friends, be the most popular guy at whatever school he really went to when he wasn't playing Lyle for a fool. Maybe he was telling stories about Lyle all the time. Maybe it was all going to end in heartbreak, like Mom said.

It was just that Luke was one of them. That them that Lyle had never before placed himself inside until all this happened. He thought he understood, now, why Dad and Claire had faded away. There was a sort of inherent trust, being among people who shared a common secret, and all you wanted to do was be with someone who understood you, who'd been there. Before, he'd understood why Mom had felt so left behind. But now he felt left behind not being connected to Luke, not having that confidant who understood what it was to hold their secret.

And now he was starting to leave his mom behind just like Dad and Claire had. And God help him, but Lyle couldn't think of it that way. He couldn't think of anything else but finding Luke again.


Luke still didn't look at him. "I was traveling with a guy for a while," he said. "He dropped me off one day and left me there. At a boarded-up restaurant in the middle of nowhere."

Lyle peered at him, wishing he could see around corners so he could get a glimpse of Luke's face. "How did you get home?"

"I didn't."

"What do you mean?"

"I didn't go home. I came here instead. The weather's nicer than in New Jersey."

"New Jersey?" Lyle's breaths felt like scraping sheets of steel in his lungs. "You came here... from... that's across the country."

"Yeah. We were gone for a long time." Luke's voice held something not unlike nostalgia.

"So are you staying with family here?" He could see Luke shake his head. "Then you're alone?" A silhouetted nod. "Where are you living?"

Now Luke turned to him. A smile sat small and halfhearted on his mouth. "I'll show you," he said.


(figured it out - become a bug


"I'm not-- I'm not a good guy"

first kiss)


back to where luke lives, he tells lyle everything

"yeah, but... you should have seen him."


Sandra put down the phone. Her hands were shaking. Ashen shock had erased every hint of color from her features. She crossed the room to the couch and sat stiffly, waiting. Waiting for Lyle to come home.


"Stop it. I have to go."

Luke kissed him again. "You don't have to do anything."

"I mean it!" Lyle struggled out of the other boy's arms, but not without submitting to another half-dozen sweet, raspberry-scented kisses. "You smell like donuts. And you have jam on your nose." Luke wrinkled his nose and crossed his eyes trying to see the offending stain, and Lyle had to laugh. He cupped Luke's face in his palms and licked off the donut filling. Luke's lips surged up to meet his, and for an instant they stood together, all sugar and kisses.

"A half-dozen was a terrible idea," Lyle muttered afterward, belching and rubbing his stomach.

"A half-dozen," Luke said, "was a great idea." He slid from their perch and swung to the ground. "And you know it. Put those wings away before someone sees."

"Oh, right." Lyle retracted them ad followed Luke to the spongy earth. Looking up, he squinted at the branch where they'd sat. It seemed impossibly far up, and he grinned, knowing he'd touched the untouchable.

"I'll walk home with you," Luke offered.

"Naw, that's OK. You've gotta go, right?" Luke shrugged. "You go. You promised me you'd get some sleep."

"I know." Luke tangled his fingers with Lyle's and looked down at their joined hands. "I love you, you know."


"This boy was troubled. This boy killed people."

"He was with Sylar!"

"He went with him on purpose! What kind of boy..."

"I don't know, Mom! I don't know, OK? But I don't care."


"You fell in love with a killer, too."

"That's not fair."

"Did you know, Mom? That Dad killed people. How long did you still love him after you knew?"

"Stop it! It's over."

"But it's not. And even if it was. Would you have done it differently?"

"I will not be spoken to by my child this way. I will not!"

"You can't escape reality, Mom! We can't. We can only go through it together. I still want us to go through it together! Dont' you want me to still be your son? Don't you love me, anyway?

"Yes, of course. Of course I do."

"And I love you, too. But you can't tell me not to love Luke, OK? You don't get to make that choice for me. Maybe I 'm gonna end up just as hurt as you. But I have to try. I remember how happy you and Dad were, a long time ago. I want that. I don't care how it ends. You have to know that feeling."


"Tomorrow I'll go to school just like every other day. And I'll come home, just like every other day. I'll just have a boyfriend. And a power. I'm not gonna try and be a hero, or a villain. Or anything but your son."

takhallus: Luke/Lyletakhallus on March 22nd, 2010 10:18 pm (UTC)
Oh yay! I would love it if it got finished
Tiptoe39: syluke - him and nothing moretiptoe39 on March 22nd, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
oh! thank you so much! Don't know if it will, but I'm so glad you liked what's there!!
Moorishmoorishflower on March 23rd, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
The fact that you wrote this for me at all trumps the fact that it might not be finished. <333 What you do have is WONDERFUL. You know me (and my kinks, lolol) so well, and this is actually kinda of a neat insight into the way you write! I always write in a linear way - beginning straight to the end. Scenes don't come to me any other way. It's cool to see that you write differently! :)

Love you bb. <333 Thank you so much for this!
Tiptoe39: lonelytiptoe39 on March 23rd, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you honey for saying so. I really wanted to finish this for you but I just... it wouldn't happen. Just know I love you tons. <3