Will knew something was up when he saw Mrs. Delwin speaking to a girl and gesturing to him at the same time. They were a safe distance away from his position on the stool, muttering away whilst he bit into his toast. He stopped chewing when Mrs. Delwin and the girl seemed to come to some agreement, and were walking towards him, both smiling.
He decided he was scared.
He eyed the girl cautiously, as if afraid she'd come to take away his toast. He did not trust older girls with pigtails and shy smiles. There had been groups of them who had visited the orphanage the other day, all of whom appeared to be well behaved till Mrs. Delwin left them to care for him and the other children – they had surrounded him and this other boy, Derek, and started touching his face and hair. The noise level rose steadily and he couldn't see Mrs. Delwin anywhere. One of them even pinched his cheek before squealing fondly, before enveloping him in the most painful hug he'd ever received.
It was a nightmare.
"Will, this is Leslie." Said the mother figure kindly as Will stood, "he's here to be your friend for two weeks. He'll be around to play..."
He'd stopped listening; the girl seemed to be looking at his toast. She wanted it, definitely.
His eyes narrowed suspiciously as he bit into the bread purposefully and chewed, hoping she knew he wasn't about to share. All she did was widen her dark eyes curiously, and he found himself shoved a foot closer to her a split second later by the elderly caretaker. He found himself staring at her unblinking eyes again. There was a funny feeling down in his tummy and he felt like he couldn't take another intimidating bite.
"Now, now, Will, be polite. Say hello."
He bit his bottom lip in refusal. How could she make him say hello to a person who was going to steal his toast away if he wasn't careful? Besides, she even stared at his mouth as he swallowed. It was scarier than the assault from the other girls; her eyes were much larger and darker up close. He couldn't seem to look away.
The girl was clearly unaware of his dislike as she crouched down to his height, her brown pigtails now dangling. She smiled a modest smile.
Will just stared.
"I think I can take it from here, Mrs. Delwin. Is it alright if I take him out for a walk?"
"Not too long though, I need him back here by dinner."
And she left him alone.
Alone... with Leslie.
He gathered his coat, scarf and hat reluctantly from the rack on his way out, doing everything as quickly as he could as Leslie was making him feel weird again. The leftover toast was abandoned at the table along with any strong objection. It was unnerving and he felt like she was doing this to plan an attack on him later, somehow.
But he'd be careful.
The cold air from outside hit his face so painfully his lips felt like they were about to crack. Leslie, on the other hand, simply licked her lips and reached for his gloved hand.
She gave it a tight squeeze. "Let's go."
Leslie's gloved hand felt warm in the breezy cold, and Will really liked holding it, if not to look at the fuzzy orange of the glove. They were not as big as Mrs. Delwin's and were nice in his grip. He could see Leslie smiling when he tilted his head upward to see if she noticed.
They rounded a corner and he spotted two of the older boys from the orphanage, looking smug in their thin winter wear and boots, just a distance away. They sported identical mischievous smirks as if they've done something naughty earlier, and paused in their strides when they spotted him and Leslie. Their eyes travelled from Leslie's to Will's before the taller of the two, Johan, smiled wider than before, and Will knew it was because he was the boy who told all the other boys one afternoon that all girls had cooties. He believed him because he was already in primary school; he was smarter.
Horrified, he seized all movement and tore his hand away from Leslie's.
"Is something wrong, Will?" Leslie frowned slightly in worry as the pair walked past them, Johan's smile permanently plastered on his face before he whispered something eagerly to Thomas.
"I... I don't like girls." He said quietly. Forcefully. He had wanted it to come out different, more loudly perhaps, because right now it sounded very silly. He didn't want Leslie to think he was scared of a girl. Nevertheless, he looked up to see Leslie's response, and was met with a small smile that made him feel horrible instantly. Was she going to go away?
"I don't like girls, too."
Will's eyes widened. He had never heard anyone say that, besides the other boys back home. The girls always hung out by themselves, playing with their toys or speaking with each other excitedly. Only the older boys and girls back home spoke to each other.
"Why? I thought you girls liked hanging out in your own clans."
Leslie opened her mouth and paused, and Will didn't care if he looked weird looking at her lips. It was way better than her eyes.
She blinked a few times before chuckling, making him feel dumb all over again. He'd only said the same thing Johan had told the others, and judging by the many nods then, it made sense. Maybe girls outside the orphanage did differently.
"Girls do not hang out in clans, Will. I don't think they do, not the ones I know."
"Why do you keep saying 'they'? You talk like you ain't one of 'em," the younger boy mumbled, stuffing his other hand into his pocket now that he was no longer holding Leslie's. A chilly breeze returned, causing him to stiffen as he adjusted with the cold. His cheeks felt tingly all over, and he was sure his nose was frozen already.
"Will," Leslie said, a little breathless, as the older of the two started leading the way back. Mrs. Delwin wouldn't have liked them returning back ill. The park was going to have to wait till tomorrow. "I'm not a girl, you know."
His nose was not important anymore; Leslie had just said she wasn't a girl. The surprise caused him to jerk a little backward in his steps, and he stared up at Leslie once again to see if he'd judged wrongly.
Yes, he told himself, rather surely. The brown pigtails were still there, now blowing against the wind like everything else around them. The friendly smile Leslie gave earlier was tinier now, as if it was a little grim but understanding. Leslie still had those dark eyes, the same red jacket, same jeans, and the same orange sneakers.
The same fuzzy orange gloves.
Leslie still looked very much like the older girls from the orphanage, and those who had been touching him and Derek.
There was no way. Why would a boy be having pigtails anyway?
"You're... a boy?" Will tried again, licking his lips unconsciously and swallowing, for his throat felt horribly dry. Johan and Thomas didn't look like that when they were twelve. They didn't have pigtails; they didn't hold hands with other boys. "If you're a boy, why do you have pigtails? Boys don't have pigtails. Their hair is short, like mine. Like Johan's."
"My mom likes them, she thinks they're nice," explained Leslie, looking a little uncomfortable as Will seemed to have forgotten what Mrs. Delwin had reprimanded before and was staring more than ever. He was staring at him from top to toe, and stopping to focus on his hair. "You don't like them, Will? I'm getting them cut soon, though."
Will shook his head quickly and shivered slightly on the concrete.
"No, don't cut them. I just wanted to know," he said softly, partly because he was trembling where he stood, and because he felt horrible for making Leslie look so sad. He should apologise. "I didn't know you were a boy."
"It's okay. It happens a lot at school," Leslie merely nodded a little as if he were agreeing with himself, "Will you be my friend now, though? Boys can be friends, right?"
"But boys don't hold hands." It was true, Johan said so himself.
Leslie giggled a little at that, and the younger child found it a little difficult convincing himself that the pigtailed person in front of him was a boy. Leslie wouldn't lie about being a boy, would he? And it didn't matter; he liked hearing Leslie's giggle. Pigtails weren't a big deal.
"Some boys do, you know. I just wanted to, because it's rather cold out here. Holding hands can help spread warmth. And it feels nice."
Well... it did feel sort of nice. Leslie can't be lying about that.
"You want to go back, Will? It's getting cold. We can play other things inside."
And he proffered his fuzzy gloved hand once more as he gestured to the short walk home. The orphanage was quite visible; they hadn't gone far. No one was looking, anyway.
Yeah, pigtails weren't a big deal.
A/N: Yeah, erm, I'm using this story to cure my many months' worth of writer's block. Don't take it too seriously and all but it's my first slash fic so I'm working on it. It's gonna be about 10 chapters long, because they're gonna keep ageing at every chapter till they reach 16 and 22. Then maybe I can change the rating. Lol.
All mistakes are mine.
Boys do have pigtails, you know.
... Did I mention this was slash?