Characters: Michael, hints of Michael/Lincoln (Slash)
Rating: PG-13 (subject matter)
Summary: Michael and girls moved in slightly different orbits.
Author's Notes: Written for 60_minute_fics (for "Adolescence"), and also for pbhiatus_fic ("Remember When") and my fanfic100 table ("She").
It wasn't that Michael didn't understand girls.
Actually he didn't, but girls were only slightly more mysterious than other people in general. The truth was that in many ways, Michael was a species of his own.
"Want to play house?" Jenny Beakman was always asking.
House? When there was a PBS show on volcanoes starting in a few minutes? Or new library books for Lincoln to read to him? "No," he'd answer, already swinging the door shut. He'd never understood games like "House" or "Store" to begin with—they were boring. Why pretend stuff that already happened by itself?
In third grade, Lisa Addleston told him she liked fractions. "And percents!" No-one else had ever liked math the way Michael did, and he thought he might marry her someday for that alone. When she moved away the next year, he was left with nothing but whiny classmates who thought that decimals were hard.
By the time he was in middle school nothing had changed. "Why're you always reading?" Tracy Hamilton wanted to know. Michael was sure her snotty friends had put her up to it, a bunch of gum-chewing thirteen-year-olds who already wore makeup to school.
"I like books."
"But isn't there anything else you like? How about girls?"
Which ones? Michael thought, but all he said was, "Sure."
She flounced off to join the other girls, all of them whispering and looking at him and giggling after that, and he just rolled his eyes and went back to reading. He was pretty sure that "No" would have been a worse answer, which meant that the question was a trap to begin with, and he hated things like that.
He couldn't help wondering if the girls had picked him because he was just some random boy, or because he was the eighth-grade smart kid, or the foster-home kid, or all of those things at once…
In high school, Sandy Travers wouldn't leave him alone. She was in National Honor Society and English Lit with him, always pushy about sitting next to him or asking him questions about the homework—like she hadn't written it all down for herself already. Michael suspected her obsession with him was part of some bet she had going with the other cheerleaders. There was no prize in any of that for him.
"We could study at my house," she'd say. "My parents won't be home until after six."
Michael knew what she was really offering from things he'd read in books or seen on television, from conversations he'd overheard… and from the muffled sounds that escaped Lincoln's bedroom on the days Veronica visited.
"I need to get home," Michael would respond, unsure of what he was running from. There were so many ways for other people to use you—humiliate you—and something about Sandy's setup always felt like it was destined to go wrong.
"Don't you like girls?" she finally asked one day, backing him into the wall and glaring at him with eyes the same color of blue as Lincoln's.
But that was the problem. She wasn't Lincoln.
There was none of the happiness Michael usually felt when Lincoln was this close to him. Everything was missing—the way Michael's skin tingled in the presence of Lincoln's warmth, the way his ears hummed when Lincoln spoke, the sudden shift in gravity whenever Lincoln touched him or even smiled at him.
With Sandy, there was nothing at all.
Maybe she's right, Michael realized in a sudden dizzying rush. It wasn't that all those thoughts and feelings he'd heard about hadn't happened, because they had—but only with Lincoln. How was he supposed to recognize them when the context was so unexpected, so impossibly wrong?
Sandy was looking at him suspiciously, her eyes narrowed as if she'd seen the truth that was coursing through his veins. Michael knew his reputation would be dragged through the gutter in a matter of hours if he didn't do something fast.
Pulling himself together, he put his hand on her shoulder and smiled like Casanova. "Maybe I just don't like you," he purred, his voice offering everything his words denied.
He brushed up against her slowly as he moved past, his thoughts focused on imagining Lincoln there in her place. She trembled at the touch, her eyes fluttering with longing.
But Michael kept on going, acting some image of cool he'd never actually felt. Somehow he managed to walk away steadily, despite the burning inside his heart.
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