James met Peter in little league when he was seven and Peter was eight. Turned out they both hated baseball, preferring instead to run around with underwear outside their pants pretending to be Superman. And after their parents gave up forcing them to practice with the tees their fathers had so lovingly set up, they did just that—ran around with their underwear outside their pants that is.
Since that summer, they'd been inseparable.
The summer James turned twelve, Peter snuck him into a PG-13 movie about aliens attacking the earth and drinking human brains through a straw. Later that night, in the tent they always slept in on birthdays, James wouldn't admit he was scared but Peter knew. Peter knew and Peter ran behind a tree and jumped out a minute later with a sleeping bag cape and his new boxers outside his shorts. And James wasn't scared anymore.
The fall that Peter's granddad died, Peter didn't cry at the funeral. He didn't cry because he was fifteen and when you're that age, you don't cry. When you're fifteen, you don't cry just because you'll never be able to sit on the front porch with your granddad and make model airplanes. Peter wouldn't cry even though he wanted to. But James knew. James knew and he climbed the ladder to Peter's room and helped him throw the model airplanes out the window. And Peter sat down and cried over the broken pieces.
The winter of James's broken leg, Peter left his brand new snowboard in the garage and spent all break watching movies in James's basement. James was still embarrassed because he'd broken his leg on a date with a girl who'd insisted on ice skating. But he didn't want Peter to know he cared, because sixteen year old boys weren't supposed to be this upset when their first girlfriend dumps them. But Peter knew. Peter knew and Peter didn't tell James about his ex-girlfriend dating the quarterback of the football team. And when they went back to school, Peter punched the jerk in the face and got his nose broken in retaliation. James bought him a pair of Superman boxers.
The spring Peter graduated high school James threw him the best damn graduation party anyone had ever seen. Armed with old Saturday morning cartoons, a mile-high stack of comic books, and a tent that wasn't quite too small, the boys spent the night pretending it was just any other night, and not the beginning of the end. But Peter knew. And James knew. They knew this was the last summer of their lives. And they knew that no generic superhero could save them from the villain. Because you can't stop time by wearing your underwear outside your pants, or by throwing model airplanes out the window, or by punching fat heads in the face. You just have to let it come.
It was the hottest day of the year and James's military father had decided that air conditioning was no longer exempt from budget cuts. So the boys were stuck outside, in the unforgiving heat. On the hottest. Fucking. Day. Ever.
"Jesus," James mumbled, flopping his arm over his eyes to shield it from the sun. "It is too damn hot."
"Mmm," Peter agreed, too dizzy with heat to respond properly.
"Tell me again why we're not somewhere else?"
"Because the pool is packed, we're banned from the cinema after that mooning stunt you pulled last time, and my house is full of pre-teen girls practicing breast enhancing exercises." Peter said, rolling on his stomach and pressing his cheek against the grass.
"Ah," James said, nodding and heaving himself into a sitting position. He wrapped his arms around his knees and winced as slick skin slid together. "Gross."
Peter groaned and rolled onto his back again. "Tell me again why your dad cut the AC?"
"Because he's a friggin' Nazi, what do you think?" James said, cracking the first smile of the afternoon. Peter offered a weak chuckle that died quickly in the withering heat.
The tree they were sitting under wasn't providing as much shade as Peter had hoped and he wondered when it had gotten so small—when they had gotten so big.
"I'm bored." James said, plucking the grass by Peter's hand. It was too hot to be so close. Peter shifted away. "Let's do something."
"Like what?" Peter asked, closing his eyes and attempting to convince himself that it was the middle of December.
"I don't know, you choose."
"Want to play a game?" Peter asked, cracking open an eye to find James's face tipped towards the sun. He liked the way it made a halo around James's head. He looked away.
"As long as I don't have to move." James said, sliding down to lay beside Peter. Too close. Peter sat up.
"Ok, let's play the like game."
"The like game—my sister taught it to me. You just have conversation like normal but the first person to use the word 'like' five times loses."
"Easy. You're on." James said, sitting up and looking Peter square in the eye.
Peter smiled and closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the tree to wait.
"How are we supposed to play the like game if no one talks?"
"Zero-one, my lead." Peter said with a smirk, peeking out of squinted eyes to see James's confused expression.
"What—oh! Damn. That's not fair you cheater."
"Fine, I'll play—what do you want to talk about?"
"I dunno. Um, what are you doing this summer?"
"What does it look like? I'm hanging out with you as always."
"Ah ha!! One-one, tie game." James cried happily, throwing his arms in the air. The action caused a slight breeze to caress his burning skin so he repeated it.
"You look like a fucking bird." Peter said before groaning. "Damn."
"Who's winning now, hot stuff? Looks like James is in the lead!"
"Nope, tie game." Peter said with a smirk.
"Shit! This is harder than I thought." James said. His arms flopped weakly at his sides. "It's hot."
"Hey, did you get your schedule for next year yet?" Peter asked, picking at the bark of the tree. He heard James sigh.
"I don't want to talk about next year." He mumbled, tipping his face back towards the sky. "I feel like I'm going to melt—shoot." He said, pounding a fist in the grass. "I hate this game."
"Two-three," Peter commented, "Why don't you want to talk about next year? I thought you signed up for all the classes you liked." He sat on his hands so he wouldn't reach out to unclench James's fist. It was too hot for touching. They were too big for touching.
"Threes. And I did," James muttered, peering out from under dark lashes to look up at Peter. "But that doesn't mean I'm looking forward to a whole year without you."
"Awe!" Peter cried, adopting a tone that reminded him of his great aunt, Tilda. "Looks like wittle Jaimsie Waimse is going to miss ole Peter!"
"Shut up, fucker. Four-three, I'm winning." James grumbled, hoping Peter would mistake his blush for heat stroke. "And of course I'll miss you."
"Good." James thought he heard Peter say. But he couldn't be sure and he didn't want to ask. It was all frustrating in a way, because James had always told Peter everything without a second thought. But this was different. This—whatever it was that made him want to peel off Peter's sweat-soaked shirt and lick at the salt that pooled between his collar bones—was not something to be discussed. It was too damn hot.
Instead, "Have you decided what you're majoring in?" James asked, ignoring the pang of ache in his chest at the thought of Peter leaving for school in a month and a half. Without him. In a month and a half. Without him. Without him. The sun burned brighter.
"No," Peter sighed, "Any suggestions?"
"Well what would you like to do?" James asked, picking a spot on the horizon to focus on so he wouldn't have to look at Peter.
"Fours," Peter said with a smirk that James missed. "I guess I'm interested in a lot of things. I don't know, nothing really stands out."
"Well," James started logically, eye's settling on a phone poll a few blocks off, "what would you be happy doing for the rest of your life?"
Peter scoffed, "Hard question." James shrugged and followed the telephone wires with his eyes until he couldn't see them anymore.
What would you be happy doing for the rest of your life? The question sounded in Peter's ears, pulsing with the beat of his heart. He supposed it was a little late to be asking himself this question. And it was too hot for answers. And he was too big to accept that he had none.
He had no answers except for one. Because Peter had never been passionate about anything in life. Except for superheroes.
Except for model airplanes.
Except for James.
Truthfully, if Peter thought about it, this is what he'd be happy doing for the rest of his life. This—lying here and playing the like game with James. He didn't really care that his skin was melting off, or that the sun was buzzing in his ears, or that the burned grass was itchy under his body.
"Actually," Peter said, swallowing a lump of something that tasted like fear, "I kind of like you."
A car rushed by. The sun seemed to glare in a particularly piercing way. Shrieking laughter floated down the street. Peter's heart thudded in his chest.
"James?" He prodded.
In his head he started to count to five. Count to five and run. Run and pack his bags. Pack his bags and leave. Leave in a month and a half and forget about James.
Instead, a heavy body tackled his. It was too hot for this. They were too big for this. It was—"You lose."
Slick hands pressed bruises into his burning shoulders and chapped lips came crashing down on his. A rough tongue lapped at the sweat on his neck and Peter nearly died because it was the hottest day of the year and they were too. Fucking. Big. For this.
"James," Peter mumbled, teeth scraped across his throat. Louder, "James." Calloused fingers brushed his stomach. "James!"
The dark haired boy bolted off and scrambled to his feet. "What?" He asked, dazed and panting.
"What was that?" Peter asked, too fucked up to stand.
James flopped his hands in a defeated gesture. "The heat?"
Peter dropped his head in his hands.
The summer James kissed him, Peter was eighteen. It was the hottest day of the year and James had kissed him and Peter was scared. But he didn't want James to know. James knew, though. James knew and James gave Peter a way out. And Peter took it. Because he was eighteen, and he didn't wear his underwear outside of his pants anymore. James understood and didn't pester Peter because he was seventeen, and he was too big to believe in Superman.
"Yeah," Peter said, "I guess we're both a little delirious."
"Wanna sneak into the cinema?" James asked.
"Sure." Peter said.
And when James offered him a hand up—he didn't take it. Because it was too hot to be touching.
Peter's sister was twelve years old and she was constantly having slumber parties at the house. So most nights, Peter camped out at James's house and they played video games or watched made for television movies. This night wasn't any different.
"Die mother fucker, die!" James yelled, tipping his chair back on two legs while viciously attacking his controller.
Peter laughed and annihilated James last standing man. James sighed and tossed the controller to the floor. "It's rigged." He mumbled shutting the television off before the leering 'Game Over' could flash across the screen.
"What do you want to do now?" James asked, crawling back towards his chair and heaving himself up onto it.
Peter shrugged. Awkwardly—which seemed to be the theme with them lately. Ever since—anyway, Peter shrugged.
"Well, it's only eleven and we've gone through every game I own. We can't be this boring Peter." James sighed. Awkwardly.
"D'you want to play the like game?" Peter asked out of habit.
"No." James said quickly, scrambling out of his chair and towards the remote. "There's got to be something on."
"Yeah," Peter agreed sadly, clasping his hands behind his head. He didn't really feel like watching T.V. truthfully. But he didn't really feel like doing much of anything these days. Except for one thing. But that was a secret.
"This ok?" James asked, stopping at an old Superman cartoon. Peter nodded even though it wasn't ok. It was far from ok. He didn't want to watch this shit. Not with James.
"Hey Peter," James started fifteen minutes later, "D'you remember when we used to camp out in the tent like, every night?"
"Yeah," Peter mumbled, pulling his knees up to his chest.
"D'you think we could do that tonight? It's supposed to be nice out." James asked. Peter ignored the hopeful tone in his voice.
"That tent is too small," he said.
"We just used it a few weeks ago."
"Yeah? Well I grew." Peter threw back—frustrated.
James sighed. Awkwardly. "Fine."
Peter closed his eyes. "James?"
"Get the damn tent."
Peter knew he'd regret this. He knew but he didn't care. Because he wanted to sleep in the fucking tent. The too small tent. Because he knew their knees would have to knock together and their foreheads would have to touch. And he felt like he needed one last night as Superman.
Twenty minutes later they were bunched together in the one-person tent they'd bought with money they'd earned from mowing lawns the summer Peter was eleven and James was ten. They were bunched together in a one-person tent. Awkwardly.
"You got enough room?" James asked, elbow prodding into Peter's chest.
James closed his eyes anyway, because the scent of Peter was making him dizzy. This had been a bad idea. Fantastic idea. Brilliant idea.
"Do you think we'll keep in touch after you leave?"
Peter squirmed at the use of 'we'll' and 'touch' in the same sentence. "'Course we will." He said, pressing back against the thin fabric walls of the tent. He wondered when it had gotten so small. When they'd gotten so big.
"I hope so." James said, sincerely, not awkwardly. Peter shut his eyes. "Look," James whispered softly a few moments later. Peter wondered if they'd been this close the whole time. "I just wanted to apologize for that day. When I—you know. And I just wanted to make sure things were ok, and not so—tense."
Peter's eyes flew open. He found James's eyes staring him dead on. Challenging him. "Are you sorry you kissed me?" He asked, rising to the occasion.
James looked startled for a moment and he looked away. Up through the tent and out to the sky. He was searching for something to focus on instead of Peter. It was easier to lie when he wasn't looking at Peter. "Yes."
Bodies pressed flush against each other and James lost track of the star he'd been staring at. "No you're not." Peter breathed against James's lips. "Tell me you're not."
James shut his eyes and licked his lips—tongue accidentally swiping at Peter's mouth. "I'm not."
Lips were firm against his and it was different than before. Because last time it had been a James kiss—fiery, clumsy, needy. This time is was a Peter kiss—slow, precise, and careful. This is the way they'd always gone about life and it didn't surprise James that Peter would kiss patiently just like he did everything else.
Peter pulled back and ran his thumb along James's bottom lip. "What was that?" He murmured and James's heart sunk into his stomach.
"The heat?" He offered.
Peter shook his head, and kissed James lightly on the mouth. "Nah, it felt like being fucking Superman to me."
"Me, too." James said, afraid to say too much. He didn't want Peter to run away.
"Yeah." Peter mumbled. "Superman."
A/N: Gee Whiz, kid. I certainly didn't expect to be writing this but here I am. Anyway, there's more to come—I realize the ending sort of seemed final but this was just the beginning. Anyway, reviews are appreciated—and I'll give you a review back. I'm absolutely story-starved so if you have one, two, more—let me know so I can mosey on over and drop you a line on how fabulous it is!!