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Sticky Note Syndrome

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It started with a funeral.

It was an unusually cold day in the middle of July, the day before had been blistering hot, though today, for some reason, rain fell in a torrential sheet over Peach Creek Cemetery, soaking the large crowd huddled in a semi circle around the grave; much to the dismay of the three boys shivering near the back, their grumpy whispers easily getting lost to the wind.

"This is stupid" Eddy snarled, pulling the black leather jacket a size too big tighter around himself, glaring at Edd next to him. "Theres no reason we should even been here. It's fucking July, and its fucking raining."

"Eddy will you cease your complaining?" Edd snapped back, trying and failing to keep his teeth from chattering, wringing his hands in an obvious show of discomfort. "We are here to pay our respects now will you kindly shut your mouth. Also watch your language." Edd glared forward again when Eddy offered no response other than to roll his eyes and grumble under his breath, Edd already too strung out to bother with Eddy. Edd personally didnt want to be here either if he were completely honest with himself. He didn't like cemeteries, they made him nervous, well, more nervous than usual, and crying people made him want to cry, and he usually avoided the affair all together, and again, if he were honest with himself, he didnt know why he had insisted to his friends that they'd be there that day either.

Albert Barr had passed. it had happened quietly, with the news traveling mostly through the other parents of the cul-de-sac until it had reached the group of children that grew up there. Edd himself had come down for breakfast and found the gist scribbled on a post it on the table. Kevin had been absent for about three days before the news broke, and as Edd stared at the blank expression of the redhead a few rows in front of him, he was struck with an odd sense of deja vu. Kevins' mother had passed away herself, a few days after Christmas when they were eleven. Edd remembered her funeral, they had all gathered in the same spot, under the same umbrellas, with the same people around him.

Only then, Edd remembered Kevin had been a mess, the young boy trying his hardest to hold in his sobs as he bit his lip raw, his red hair standing up on end as he ran his hands through it repeatedly. His father had stood impassive, his own red hair combed flat and his eyes unseeing and cold, completely disregarding the child next to him.

Kevin had lost it on Edd that day when Edd offered his condolences, actually hugging him tightly and sobbing into the shoulder of his sweater. He hadn't worn glasses yet then and Kevin's tears had left the side of Edds face wet. The memory of the funeral made Eddwards palms sweat.

Today though, Edd watched as Kevin simply stared at the pastor with a bored expression, sighing lightly when Nazz leaned up and whispered something in his ear. He supposed it was merely Kevin's maturity shining through. At seventeen, he cut an impressive figure, his height only rivaled by Ed and Rolf, the latter also standing with a flat expression next to Kevin.

Edd sighed as Eddys complaints reached annoying levels again and the white noise cut through the blood lightly rushing in his ears. He looked away from Kevin to glare at Eddy, only to see Ed hush their short friend loudly himself.

"Everyone's here Eddy, plus the whole team is supposed to be here so I have to be here so you'd be here anyways so shut the hell up." Ed snapped, flicking water from his wet hair at Eddy and straight up ignoring the indignant noise Eddy gave him, Edd offering a shrug himself when Eddy turned to him for help.

Edd reached up with two fingers and felt his fluttering pulse on his throat, counting the beats to assure himself it wasn't going to slowly or too quickly with how tight his chest felt and how nervous he was. His anxiety usually was bad, but this was steadily climbing into uncomfortable levels.

He felt a hand creep onto his own frail wrist and saw Ed, leaning behind Eddy to grasp at his hand and pull it away from his pulse, his eyes slightly narrowed. The action behind his head caught Eddys attention and he turned to see Ed pulling Edds hand away and his annoyance melted instantly.

"You alright Double D?" Eddy asked, Eds large eyes shining behind him. "Getting too nervous?"

Edd offered a shaky smile to his friends, his hand automatically coming up to cover the gap in his teeth even as gratitude flooded him at his friends concern. His compulsive pulse checking wasn't a problem in his mind, but it worried his friends, he had meant to stop doing it so much around them. "I'm quite alright friends, now please, enough talking, were garnering quite a lot of attention." Indeed a few of who he assumed were Kevins relatives had started glaring daggers at Eddy sometime back, Edd just hadn't wanted to say anything. Ed squinted at him for a second longer before turning away and facing forward again, Eddy following suit. His friends concern calmed him for the time being, the heavy and ever present knot of anxiety in his chest growing slowly looser.

After what seemed like an eternity later, the pastor was finally reciting the final prayer, relatives and friends alike moving forward to place roses they all carried into the hole in the ground. Edd, personally not wanting to go anywhere near a six foot hole in the floor containing a corpse, had opted out of a rose, as well as Ed and Eddy had and they slowly began to drift towards the gate where Ed had parked, Edd frowning as the rain continue to pour around them. Edd's eyes drifted from staring at the grey clouds above him to land on the crowd in front of him, a pair of vivid green eyes suddenly capturing his and forcing the air from his lungs.

The way Kevin stared at him through the throng of people was slightly unsettling and Edd felt a chill scurry through him that had nothing to do with the chill outside. He swallowed, unable to break the staring contest he had somehow found himself with the handsome redhead. Kevin wasnt carrying a rose himself, simply standing hand in hand with Nazz, his thick red hair standing out in a sea of black. Edd's pulse began to flutter and he could feel his breathing growing choppy, his finger tips beginning to tingle with the beginnings of an anxiety attack and he silently thanked whatever deity was watching over him that Sarah chose that moment to appear, Jimmy on her arm.

"I'm gonna go with Jimmy alright big brother?" Sarah smiled when Ed nodded, giving Jimmy a fist bump and Edd inhaled deeply as he watched them float towards Jimmys car, his airway now free without the weight of Kevins eyes pining him in place. Great full for the distraction and desperate for something to do with his hands, Edd took off his glasses and polished them on his sweater, turning so his friends didn't see him fidget.

"Fucking fuck that took a year and a goddamn half. Lets get the hell out of here." Eddy finally grumbled, shoving Edd in front of him in a subtle hint to Ed that they should leave, now.

"Language Eddy." Edd scolded, mostly out of habit at at that point, too glad to be leaving the graveyard to give his vulgar friend a full lecture. He turned back around as he climbed into the back seat, his eyes finding that bright shock of red hair immediately. Kevins face was now lowered, him and Nazz still in their vigil at the foot of the grave, Edd's heart went out to him.

Edd focused on keeping his breathing steady on the bumpy ride back to the cul-de-sac, noting how slowly Ed was driving. His hands were still trembling slightly, but he could still taste the metallic knot of barely contained panic scratching at his throat. His index and middle finger on his left hand slowly crept up and found his pulse, the rythmic pulsing calming him somewhat.

"You Okay back there dude?" Ed asked, his large eyes watching his frail friend from the drivers seat.

Edd didn't trust his shaking voice, so he sent what he hoped was a reassuring smile to his friend and continued to stare out the window, counting his heartbeats under his fingers and timing his breathing. He solidly ignored the glance his two friends shared.

The drive back didnt take too long and Edd breathed a sigh of relief as they pulled down the familiar street.

"Sure you're not down for a movie Double D?" Eddy asked as Edd climbed out of Ed's truck in front of his house. "Its still pretty early, plus i know your parents aren't home."

That stung a bit, but Edd kept his trained smile in place, shaking his head at Eddy's invitation. "I'm actually a bit tired Eddy, I'll text you after my nap, shall I?" He prayed Eddy would buy it.

The shorter boy seemed to, offering instead a shrug as Ed waved a farewell, the old truck puttering towards Ed's house further down the street.

Edd finally exhaled heavily as his friends left. He loved them for putting up with his delicate state of mind to the point of straight up babysitting him, he really did, but sometimes he just needed the silence.

He unlocked the door with shaking fingers, pausing for a second to look across the street at Kevins house, the same shiver ghosting up the back of his neck as he remembered the weight of Kevins green, green eyes as they held him in place. The lights were all off, and the car his father used to drive sat in the driveway, covered in a sheet. He wondered what would come of it.

Eddy was right. His parents weren't home. Then again they never were. Edd walked slowly up the stairs, ignoring the small stack of sticky notes on the kitchen counter. The notes had decreased in amount since he was younger, and content as well. Nowadays they just contained his list of chores, a number to contact them and the date of their return.

They could wait.

Instead he dragged himself to the shower, slowly peeling off his cardigan and dress shirt and dropping them with the rest of his clothes into his labeled hamper before removing his beloved hat, placing it gingerly on the counter next to his glasses before turning the water on as hot as it would go, lowering himself into the water, sitting down on the floor of his shower and letting it run over him, keeping his eyes closed and his head back, not looking at his arms, or his thighs, just letting the water soothe his frazzled nerves.

After a bit he finally opened his eyes, his hands coming up to smooth his long curls away from his face and choosing a spot on the wall to stare at until the pounding of his heart ceased. His eyes eventually wandered to his arms, torn and warbled with scars from battles lost over the years and fresh cuts from this morning when he stood in this exact shower, trying and failing to convince himself he could handle this funeral. His mind reached out, yearning for the small box he kept hidden beneath the sink that contained his beloved razor. But no. He made it. He deserved a day of peace.

Edd liked to think of himself as a relatively sane human being, and in these quiet moments, without Ed and Eddy watching him as though he would dissolve any second, without the painful knot of anxiety in his throat and weighing on his chest, and without the whispers in his head that he was most certainly not a sane human being, he could pretend that he was, and sane human beings didnt cut into their skin when they became too frustrated with the volume of their thoughts, or freeze with fear at the thought of going outside. Sane human beings sat in the shower and didnt do anything like that. So Edd would do just that. He wasn't going to lose it, he decided, praying the panic attack that had been threatening him all day would listen and cease its ascendance. Not today, he begged.

Not today.

He closed his eyes and tilted his head back again, his mind a calming shade of green as his breathing evened out.

*************************

The rain was finally starting to let up as everyone took their leave, pausing to shake his hand or offer their quiet condolences. Kevin accepted Rolf's fist bump and watched as he left, muttering something about the rain on the turnips or something like that. Only Nazz remained, her hand still firmly clasping his and her blue eyes fixed on her black pumps.

By the time everyone had cleared the cemetery, the rain had slowed to a gentle patter and Kevin and Naz were all that remained, the latter waiting for the last car to drive away before breaking the silence.

"How are you feeling?" She murmured quietly, releasing Kevin's hand and stepping forward to drop both of their roses into the grave in front of him.

Kevin felt his heartbeat quicken, thumping loudly and swelling his chest as his friend turned to look at him and he finally let the grin he had been holding in break across his face. "Better than I have in years." He really couldn't remember the last time he had felt so light. " like I just lost ten thousand pounds and I could fucking fly."

Nazz's own somber expression dropped and a pretty grin spread out over her face. "Good dude! I don't think I've seen you look this good in years." She turned up to the sky and scowled. "Though why it chose to rain today of all days is beyond me. It's the middle of summer for fucks sake."

Kevin wrinkled his nose, he wasn't too thrilled about the weather today either. It felt like a day to mourn, and for Kevin today was the best day of his life. His elation was cut short however, as his gaze drifted from the open grave to the slightly worn headstone directly next to the one now bearing his fathers name. "I'm not too happy about where they put him either."

"It's tradition Kev." Nazz chided dismissively as she leaned around to pat the slightly older headstone.

"It's annoying." Kevin rolled his eyes. He wouldn't have buried his father anywhere near his mother if he had any thing to fucking say about it. He didn't want his weekly visits with his mother to turn into visiting his father as well, the fat bastard didnt deserve the company.

But whatever.

Stepping around the grave and placing his own hand on his mothers stone, reading Jessica Barr and letting the familiar roll of grief pass over him before he smiled, taking Nazz's hand again and jerking his head in a sign for them to leave.

They walked side by side, taking the familiar route through the graves that they knew so well, his friend often accompanying Kevin to visit his mother on Sunday evenings. Nazz held the umbrella over them and Kevin reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his red hat, running a hand through his hair to dislodge the gel before shoving the cap on.

Their walk was quiet and peaceful, the rain adding a gentle soundtrack to Kevin's thoughts, the giddiness and nerves coursing through him and chasing each other around in his mind.

"It was really great that everyone showed up." Nazz started with an air that Kevin recognized. He narrowed his eyes in her direction before answering.

"Yeah, it's pretty rad."

"I mean, like, everyone showed up." She continued, her eyes firmly fixed somewhere up ahead.

Kevin bit his lip, suspicion creeping up his neck. "Again, it was pretty rad."

Nazz nodded, finally looking at him and giving him a sweet smile before going in for it. "Edd was there."

Even though he knew where she was headed with that, at the mention of his name, Kevin's heart flipped and the butterflies attacked his stomach, he could almost hear the blood rush to his face as he blushed from here to Spain. Those wide blue eyes, still so vivid even at the distance he was standing at, he couldn't help staring, the feeling of elation playing hell with his nerves as he admired the skinny boy knowing he was now free to do so. He turned away, a smile fighting it's way out as he dropped Nazz's hand so she wouldn't see how sweaty is was now. "I saw that."

"Did you talk to him?" She prompted, nudging him with the umbrella handle. "He looked really handsome in that cardigan."

Kevin rubbed a hand over the back of his neck, still flushed a bright scarlet. He did look really fucking great in that cardigan. "Nope. I was standing next to you the whole time."

"Why not?" She pouted.

Kevin shook his head, shoving his hands in his pockets and struggling to keep his face straight. "Give it time Nazz, I'm working on it. Up until two days ago, it wasnt even in the equation, plus I've waited way too long. I'm gonna do it." His heart stuttered at the thought of what he was saying, but he wanted it too much to offer the discomfort much thought.

"You better." Nazz grumbled. "I've waited too long to see you actually happy Kevin Barr, I'm not gonna let you chicken out of this."

Kevin smiled as they approached his beloved motorcycle, resting his hand on the handlebars and turning to stare down the path he had watched Ed's beat up pickup truck putter down not ten minutes ago.

"I won't."

Chapter Text

Kevin swaggered down the hallway to his locker, sending the occasional nod to one of the guys from the football team or a random girl who shyly waved. It was the third day of the new school year, and he was feeling pretty damn good. He had the house to himself so the stress he had been carrying for years had evaporated as soon as they buried his father, his senior year had started with the guarantee of him keeping his position as quarterback of the football team, and as far as he could tell none of his teachers were complete assholes.

He had also promised himself that this was the year he was gonna do it, bring himself to talk to the boy he had been obsessing over since he was eleven years old, his old childhood crush finally free for his taking without the oppressive shadow of his father breathing down his neck. Kevin's face had been set aflame and his stomach had exploded in nerves whenever he caught sight of Eddward Vincent, looking the picture of perfection in his little ties and cardigans. Though Kevin had no idea how he was gonna go about talking to him, given that he had done an admirable job, if he said so himself, of placing as much distance between himself and the skinny nerd all these years.

Regardless, knowing that he was now free to do so was enough to lift Kevin's spirits higher than he remembered them being since his mother was alive.

He had a free period before lunch, almost a study hall if you would, which wasn't too bad. He had Nazz for that class so he at least had someone to talk to while he did absolutely nothing.

He was actually almost late for his class when he finally made it to the library, spotting Nazz with a table all to herself tucked away towards the back of the classroom. He sent her a smirk right as the late bell rang and he began to make his way towards her table, stopping short as the teacher cleared his throat and held something out to Kevin.

"Kevin Barr, right?" He asked, still young and nervous looking for a teacher. "Here, your guidance counselor wanted to talk to you during this period."

Kevin raised an eyebrow and took the note the teacher, Mr. Ethel or some shit like that and shrugged at Nazz's questioning glace. He turned on his heel and strode out of the classroom, his confusion growing by the second as he had no idea what on earth his guidance counselor wanted with him.

By the time he had walked down to the counselors office he still had no idea, and he offered a half smile at the freshman girl who was playing secretary for the counselor for this period.

"Oh, h-hi Kevin." She stuttered, her face glowing scarlet as she suddenly busied her hands with whatever was in front of her. Kevin had no idea what her name was and settled for an indifferent smile, handing her his note and biting back a grin when her shaking hands almost dropped it.

"She b-be right with you." She pointed to a seat close to the door and Kevin made to sit down before the closed door behind freshman girl banged open and a middle aged blonde lady he had never seen before flounced out, looking frazzled and she looked up to see Kevin watching her and she clapped in an alarming manner.

""Kevin Barr?" She demanded, brandishing his note at him and he nodded, wondering how on earth everyone knew his name today.

"Yeah?" He raised an eyebrow, still not sure if he should sit down or not when she motioned jerkily for him to follow her into the broom closet sized office that she had just emerged from.

Once they had both squeezed into the tiny office, she instantly began to go through her millions of filing cabinets somehow also stuffed into the room. Kevin watched her in vague amusement until she pulled out a folder with his name and began to rifle through its contents, a wild blonde curl falling out of her bun and sticking straight up and she began to pull out papers at random and lay them on her desk.

Unable to deal with the odd woman's silence anymore, Kevin finally spoke. "Am I in trouble?"

"Kinda." She barked back without skipping a beat, making Kevin flinch.

"Why? What'd I do?" Kevin leaned back in the chair, tilting his chin up and lowering his eyes in defense as she pulled out more papers.

She seemed happy with the ones she had pulled out and released the rest of the papers to the folder, dropping it back in its drawer and pointing to the ones spread out on her desk. "Know what these are Mr. Barr?"

Kevin didn't break contact with her wild, hazel eyes and refused to look at where she pointed, figuring going full douche bag mode would make this a lot easier. "No."

She rolled her eyes pointedly and snapped her fingers against her temple. "They're your transcripts Sir." She drew out her last syllable pointedly. "Wanna know what they say?"

"I guess?" Kevin answered, the first hint of worry working its way into his stomach.

"They say that if you continue on your subpar high school performance this year, Mr. First String Quarterback-" Kevin was really getting tired of her sarcasm- "That you will graduate with an average of about a C minus." She looked down over the top of her glasses. "Know what that means?"

"No..." Kevin was really worried now, adults never asked this many times if you understood them unless it was super important. "Isn't a C minus passing?

She sighed, rearranging her papers and dropping one in front of him that he wasn't gonna read. "Yes, it's passing, high school. But no college, not even Peach Creek community is gonna look at you with these grades."

Kevin's stomach dropped. His entire life that he was now free to live crumbling around him. "What do I do then?" He asked, panic now setting in. "You don't understand, I need to get into college."

"Well you kinda should have thought of that three years ago." She sighed, her eyes misting over in pity. "Look, I know it must be hard for you, with your father passing and all-" Kevin fought not to roll his eyes-"But the only way I see you even remotely having a chance is if you keep every single grade at an A or above this year, you can graduate with maybe a B minus." She raised her eyebrows at him.

Kevin nodded, still a little dazed at how quickly his good mood fell apart and he found himself rising from his seat, blinking slowly. "Can I go back to class now?"

She sighed again, half rolling her eyes as she began to sweep all his transcripts back into his folder. She waved him off with one hand "yes yes, remember Mr. Captain Of The Football Team, A minus."

Kevin didn't bother to nod as he walked straight out of the office, ignoring freshman girls stutter and headed back to his classroom, his only though to talk to Nazz and do something about the fear bubbling in his gut.

This wasn't how this all was supposed to go.

Not paying attention to where he was walking and turning the corner a second too late, Kevin was knocked out of his thoughts by a bony mass of a person that suddenly collided with his chest and forced the air swiftly out of him.

"Ow! Fuck-hey! Watch it!" Kevin's first instinct after catching the person was to snarl, shoving whoever it was away from him. "That's rude as fuck du- oh shit-"

Kevin's retort died in his throat as he finally saw who had crashed into him. Edd looked just as confused about colliding into Kevin as Kevin himself was, but his wide blue eyes were unfocused, his small face red and blotchy and his thin limbs shaking. His glasses were wet and foggy, dangling dangerously on the tip of his upturned nose.

"Double D!" Kevin finally blurted out, too caught up to be annoyed at the fact that just the sight of the flustered boy was enough to make him nervous as hell. "You alright man?"

Edd didn't seem to hear him, he just raised his hands in what seemed like an apology and pushed past Kevin, his head shaking repeatedly and a few tears trickling down his face. Panic immediately flared in Kevin when he finally saw how wrecked Edd was.

"Edd, seriously! What's, up..." Kevin never got to finish, Edd managed to get around him, taking off down the hallway like his life depended on it, leaving Kevin staring after him in a whirlwind of emotions, confusion still playing on his mind.

---------------------------------

Don't fall asleep.

Don't fall asleep.

For the love of Einstein, Aristotle and Plato do not fall asleep.

Straightening his spine against the hard plastic of his chair, Edd forced his eyes as wide open as they would go. He knew that staying up so late freaking out about absolutely nothing would hinder his performance at school the next day but he couldn't sleep, especially with his hands shaking the way they had been and as constricted as his chest was. He didn't understand, he had done his homework, he had an alarm set, he didn't know the reason for his extreme anxiety.

And now he was paying for it.

It was only the third class of the day, he lamented, he still had to get through lunch and four more classes before he could take shelter in his empty home, given Ed or Eddy didn't insist he hang out with them. He hated that he was behaving in such a manner, he loved school, and never before had he let something as silly as his anxiety get in the way of it, he always pushed through it, as his grades were all he had.

Edward suddenly realized he had fallen behind on his notes, and he frantically scrambled to get them back in order, his heart beginning to beat faster. He could not afford to fall behind this year. It was his senior year, there was college next year and that was the gate way to his future, he needed to pay attention.

He really hadn't planned on this school year to be as stressful as it had been. Normally school was the one place he could channel his nervous energy into his studies, fueling himself to stay up and study a third or fourth time and writing essays earlier and earlier. But for some odd reason he hadn't pinpointed yet, he read somewhere that it was the beginning of a nervous breakdown but he absolutely refused to entertain that notion, school had been draining, the chatter of his classmates more intrusive and his bed a little harder to leave in the mornings.

But no. He couldn't afford to lose his head. He had always stayed focused. And he could do it again.

It was raining outside again, the gentle pitter-patter of the rain a calming backdrop as Edd furiously scribbled down whatever he could, not noticing his vision going darker, his pencil slowing down until everything went quiet and his mind was calm for a few blissful minutes.

Suddenly, from the back of the room, someone coughed, loudly, the sound startling Eddward up from where his head had fallen on his desk and he stared in horror as he realized the teacher was now five slides ahead of where his notes had left off.

He had fallen asleep in class.

He had broken the cardinal rule about passing classes. He had never done anything so stupid, so juvenile so, asinine as to fall asleep and slack on his studies, this was going to ruin everything, he was behind in a class, he was going to fail, he was never going to graduate, everything was for nothing-

Edd's throat suddenly felt like two long fingered hands were winding around his windpipe, crushing his throat and cutting off his air. His spiraling thoughts grew to piercing screams in his temples. It was suddenly way too hot in the classroom as goosebumps broke out over his trembling limbs and his head instantly felt four times its size.

He needed to get out. Now.

He didn't know what to do, settling instead for simply running from the classroom, his ears falling deaf to the startled call of his name from the teacher and a few students in the front row. None of that mattered now, right now, he just needed to get somewhere he could be alone when it hit.

The tears were beginning to fall and blur his vision as the floor tilted beneath his feet, as though the world had suddenly shifted on its axis. His legs were going numb, he didn't have much time, he couldn't breathe, he was going to faint in the middle of a hallway and his parents weren't even home to call-

His frantic thoughts were cut short as everything slammed to a halt and he realized he was falling forward, the floor rushing up to meet his face but was stopped as what felt like a strong pair of muscle corded arms caught his decent.

"Ow, Fuck-hey! Watch it!" A voice a million miles above his head snarled harshly at him, barely cutting through his blood rushing in his ears. Edd was vaguely aware that he was standing again, but was shoved backwards, not the direction he wanted to go.

Another sound through the haze of black slowly blanketing Edd's mind. "Double D! Youalright man?"

Edd shook his head, raising his hands in surrender at whoever was yelling at him, his vision blurred and his glasses fogged and he needed to stop, to get away and he pushed past the larger person in his way, not hearing them call after him as he ran.

Not trusting his legs any further he found what he was looking for, a single bathroom in the gym with a locking door.

He threw himself against the heavy wood of the door, locking it and letting his numb legs give out, collapsing on the floor and violently gagging as his lungs fought to fill with enough air, the panicked shrieks of his intrusive thoughts thundering in his head, sending sharp shards of pain through his eyes.

Fumbling in the back pocket of his jeans, Edd pulled out the paper clip he usually had tucked away there, for emergencies such as these.

With shaking fingers he ripped it open, yanking up the sleep of his right arm and focusing on a spot in front of him before dragging the sharp end down the skin of his arm, tearing open a gash inhaling sharply as the stab of pain sent a wave of awareness back into his mind and the yelling receded a bit. He did it again, drawing perfect, symmetrical lines that wouldn't bother him later for being crooked down his arm perpendicular to the ones from three days ago.

After there were six two inch long gashes decorating the skin of his upper forearm Edd finally managed to get his breathing back on track, realizing it was pointless to return to class and instead curled up on himself, sobbing lightly as he aftershocks of his violent panic attack shivered through him.

This was not good.

Chapter Text

"Dammit Eddy you dick, stop fucking spawn killing me that's cheating!" Ed exploded, chucking the controller in his hand at Eddy's solid head and reeling it back on its cord, ducking to avoid the empty can of soda that sailed toward him in retaliation.

"Get better Lumpy, no mercy in my fucking dojo." Eddy laughed back, killing Ed again and dissolving back into giggles at Ed's outraged cry.

"Will the both of you kindly cease throwing objects in my room please?" Edd piped up from his spot, curled up against the wall at the head of his bed with his homework spread in front of him. "If you break my ant farm again I'm making you both finance its replacement."

"Yeah yeah Sockhead we know about the ants." Eddy cackled again as Ed settled for a dirty glare instead of the shoe he had just removed from his foot. "Chill with the shoes Ed before Double D grounds us."

Satisfied that his two friends wouldn't destroy his possessions, Edd turned back to his homework, easily going through his physics equations and letting Ed and Eddys banter fade into a soothing background soundtrack. It was comforting for Edd, they did this nearly every day, granted one of them wasn't grounded or the rare occasions Edd's parents were home.

It was warm in Edd's room, too nearly too warm for him with the late afternoon August sun rays streaming down into his window. His back itched with sweat and he tugged at the sleeves of his cardigan, the cuts from earlier today stinging fresh and angry on his skin.

He let his pencil pause, looking up as his two best friends sat with their game paused, locked in a heated argument about Eddy's playing strategies and sighed quietly. He hadn't mentioned his panic attack that had hit him during calculus before lunch that day, as after he had managed to still his breathing he had smiled through lunch and survived the rest of the day without worrying them. His stomach twisted with a pang of guilt at the thought of hiding it from them when he knew they only had his best interests at heart, but even Edd grew tired of himself on multiple occasion, he could only imagine how they felt. They both often checked on the state of his arms, and Eddy made it a habit to text him when the shorter boy going to sleep, around three in the morning, in case Edd was having trouble sleeping. They were the best friends he could ask for and worrying them wasn't something he enjoyed. He hadn't had a particularly bad episode since Kevin's fathers funeral about a month ago, and his friends had been quite angry about the state of his arms the day after, and he'd rather not repeat the experience so soon anyways. A bit of guilt wasn't anything he was a stranger to.

Turning his head away from his homework, he stared out at the cul-de-sac where he grew up, his gaze falling on the house across the street at the memory of the funeral. He hadn't seen much of Kevin in the last month, not altogether surprising given how different their social circles were, but he hadn't seen him around the neighborhood either. It wasn't an uncommon sight when he was younger to see the redhead posted outside of his house, tinkering with his bike, or more recently, the motorcycle he had received when he turned seventeen. He had meant to ask him how he had been feeling after the recent loss of his father. Edd felt bad that so long had gone by since he had the chance to do so.

As though on cue, the loud roar of what could only be a motorcycle engine was suddenly audible over Ed and Eddy's squabbling and a long shadow entered Edd's field of vision, the black bike pulling up in front of Kevin's house with two people astride it, their heads obscured by bulky helmets. He watched as Kevin and Naz pulled off their helmets and disappear into Kevin's house and he felt the same twinge of slight annoyance that had always plagued him at the sight. Edd kept to himself and never messed with politics at the top of the food chain, but he didn't they made a good couple, something was just off about them.

Edd frowned at himself, his gaze fixed on the black bike as his thoughts chased each other around his head, how Naz and Kevin had always been a thing, kinda, throughout the years. he wasn't sure when it started to annoy him at the thought of them together. But that wasn't any of his business.

He shook the intrusive thoughts out of his head and turned back to his homework, pleasantly surprised to see that he had already completed his homework without his own realizing it and he began to lovingly reorganize his school things back into his backpack, sharpening each of his pencils back to perfection before sliding them back into their case. He had nearly finished when he was startled by a shoe that sailed past his face and bounced off the wall behind him.

"Gentlemen?!" Edd exclaimed in alarm, turning to glare at his friends, Eddy who was dying of laughter and Ed who was looking livid. "Must I repeat the 'No Throwing Things In Edd's Room' rule EVERY time we are in here!"

"Lumpy was talking shit!-" "Eddy threw the shoe!" They both yelled their argument at the same time and Edd rolled his eyes and threw the shoe back Ed, who caught it and shoved it back on his foot.

"May I suggest a movie Gentlemen, since neither of you are mature enough to handle the xbox?" Edd asked witout leaving much room for argument and ignoring Ed and Eddy's groans as he switched off the game system.

*******************************

"Soooooo...now are you gonna tell me what was so important you didn't go back to study hall? Cause this whole ' I'll tell you later ' noise is getting kinda old Kev." Naz pouted as soon as they were inside his house. Kevin rolled his eyes, dropping his helmet next to her son the couch before falling onto it himself. Naz perched herself daintily on the table in front of him and raised an eyebrow expectantly.

Kevin sighed and ran his hand down his face, not sure where to start. "Long story short I might not go to college."

"What?" Naz blinked in confusion. "Everyone can go to college, it's ridiculously easy to get into at least the Community College, your dad left like, a shit ton of inheritance, there should be no issue! What's your GPA?"

"At the moment, C minus." Kevin ground out, his irritation climbing by the minute.

"A C minus?!" Jesus Christ Kevin what have you been doing, even I have a higher GPA than tha-" Naz trailed off at Kevin's glare, grinning guiltily. "Sorry, but that's insane Kev, what gives?"

Kevin dropped his eyes to the rug under Naz's feet, not wanting to meet her eyes. "We weren't planning on him dying Naz, remember? I was never even supposed to go to college, why even bother? A C minus keeps me on the team and kept him from getting calls from the school ya know? Like what did I care?" The knot in Kevin's stomach twisted further, a lump of molten lead sitting on his chest.

Naz sat down next to him, her hand resting on his knee. "Did they say there was anything but you could do? Like, I dunno, tutoring or something? You still have a year left to fix things, right?"

Running a hand through his sweaty hair and finally shoving his hat back onto his head, Kevin swallowed, refusing to let the panic set in. "The lady that told me said that if I keep my grades at an A, then I can graduate with a B minus."

"Hey that's good!" Naz bounced slightly on the couch and clapped in a childish way that hurt Kevin's head. "You can make it all better!"

"Yeah there's a problem with that." Kevin could have laughed at how quickly she deflated if he were in the mood for it. "I'm not smart, like, at all. I've slept through more class than I remember, like, I'm so royally fucked, Naz, that I could do porn." Kevin dropped his head into his hands, rolling his shoulders with tension.

Naz sat silently next to him, Kevin hearing her breathing and then flinching when she suddenly launched herself off the couch, jumping to her feet and bouncing up and down in front of him.

"KEVIN! Oh my god oh my god oh my god I have a BRILLIANT beyond brilliant idea!" She squeaked, running in place and stomping her feet. "Like in all seriousness, I'm a total freaking genius!"

"Can I remind you that the last time you described a plan as 'brilliant beyond brilliant' we got Rolf grounded for a month and we both ended up in the hospital?" Kevin spoke into his hands, not looking up to watch the face she pulled as she remembered the summer of freshman year.

"Yeah, but this isn't like the time we tried to sneak out by jumping from one house to the other." She leaned forward and pried his fingers off his eyes. "And this one takes care of two much overdue birds with one genius ass stone." Her face is stretched in a shit eating grin and nerves attack Kevin once again.

"What is it Blondie." He finally acquiesced, cringing as he watched her giggle before answering.

"You ask Double D for tutoring!" She said, looking extremely proud of herself as she beamed at him. "Edd's hella smart, your grades go up AND you can finally talk to the object of your obsession which I KNOW you haven't done yet and then Kevin graduates with good grades and lives happily ever after." She finished with a flourish, her arms wide and her face comically bright.

Kevin didn't let his face change, keeping it flat as he could despite the fact that his stomach just dropped sixteen feet at the mention of Edd's name and he could feel the tips of his ears burn with a blush. The petty side of him laughed silently as how Naz's grin faltered more the longer he stared at her without moving.

Naz however, knew his game. She dropped her arms and folded them across her chest, her smile falling into a glare. "Alright you dick that's my idea, now actually say something."

Kevin's actually chuckled that time, moving over on the couch and letting Naz plop next to him. "As fun as that sounds Naz, wouldn't it kinda seem like that's all I'm using him for? Plus physics doesn't exactly get my motor going." Kevin sighed. It wasn't like the thought of asking the skinny nerd for help hadn't crossed his mind, but he had axed the idea nearly as soon as it had formed. The last thing he wanted was Edd to think he had o let been using him, he knew other people had done the same thing, and he couldn't imagine it felt very good.

Plus, though he'd never admit it out loud if you paid him, the thought of approaching Edd to ask such a thing awakened every nervous bone in Kevin's body, and he wasn't a shy person, but fuck he couldn't even imagine what he would say in that given moment, let alone trying to flirt.

"For fucks sake Kevin, you choose now to be a gentleman?" Naz ground out in annoyance, running a hand through her hair and making her short bangs stand up on end. "Last year you told everyone Amanda Beckett had no nipples because she gave your number to May Kanker."

Kevin let out a bark of laughter at that. Yeah it was fucked up but it was still funny. "I'm not a monster Naz. Plus remember what May Kanker did with my number?"

"That's so not the point of the conversation Kevin." Naz tried to keep a straight face and huffed.

"The point is-" Kevin dropped his head into her shoulder. "I'm not a monster, and Double D's a twitchy kid as it is, the last thing I need is him thinking I'm using him."

Naz sighed heavily and dropped her head onto his. "It's been six years Kev." She spoke softly, Kevin could feel her words vibrating in his hair. "You've been in love with this kid for six fucking years. And the universe has finally lined up and you have a perfect excuse to talk to him and you're being a little bitch about it."

Kevin slumped further on the couch, his energy suddenly drained and he couldn't find the fight to say anything to her about calling him out. "I know."

"I mean plus, how else are you gonna get your grades up you know?" Naz sounded like her smile was back. "You kind of have to."

Kevin's insides suddenly felt like the inside of a blender as he realized she was right.

He was gonna have to do it.

Chapter Text

Edd smiled as he closed his locker, flattening himself against his locker as a group of large boys passed by, loudly yelling profanities to each other and Edd rolled his eyes as they passed.

Animals.

Today had been a good day, Edd thought, given yes his parents hadn't returned home the night before as they had promised, leaving a rather empty and lonely house after Ed and Eddy had left, but he had scored an A on the government test he had studied two weeks for, he had turned in his physics homework a day early and that cleared up tonight to finish his English essay, a quiet night that he felt was much deserved. Eddy was grounded for failing aforementioned government test and there was a horror movie marathon or something on tonight that Ed hadn't stopped talking about for awhile, and Edd had a pomegranate in the refrigerator he was saving for today as a reward for finishing his essay.

Also, he mused as he made his way out of the back end of the school, crossing the parking lot behind the football field, after yesterdays embarrassing display, he had kept himself together rather well. And any day without a meltdown is a good day in his eyes.

It was warm out, the late afternoon sun hanging low and Edd shrugged his shoulders, running a hand over his forehead. He hated summer. Heat, brightness, sweaters became impractical, none of it really sat well with Edd. He preferred the winter, snow was nice and quiet, and the sunlight only lasted a few short hours, it soothed him.

A sudden tap on his shoulder startled his heartbeat into over drive and he let out a sharp yelp, dropping his books to the ground as his hands immediately went up in defense and his eyes screwed shut.

"Woah! Double D! Relax, its just me." Edd heard Naz's voice cut through the sudden clutter in his head and he opened his eyes to see the blonde, still dressed in her practice clothes reaching down for his books, straightening up with them in her arms and she handed them back to him with a smile. "Didn't mean to scare you."

Edd pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose with a finger before taking back his books and holding them tightly against his chest. "Greetings, Naz," He offered her a closed lip smile, hands not free to cover his gap that showed when he grinned. "My apologies for the loud noise, you startled me."

"Don't sweat it." She poked him with a sharp nailed finger on the tip of his nose and Edd had to physically steel himself in place not to flinch away from the touch. "Where ya headed?"

Edd felt the tension leave his shoulders and his chest lighten up as his breathing returned to normal. He and Naz had remained somewhat close over the years, her popularity as head cheerleader never really encroaching upon their friendship, and he never let his irritation about her relationship with Kevin that bothered him for no particular reason alter how he saw her. She was one of the only people to still call him by his childhood nickname "Just to my home Naz, I have an English essay and a pomegranate with my name on it."

Naz giggled. "You're funny, no plans with Ed or Eddy later?" Her cheeks flared a light pink at the question, though Edd could see no reason for it.

"Unfortunately not, Ed has some movies to work through, and our dear Eddy has gotten himself grounded again." Edd answered, shifting on his feet as the sun bore down on the back of his neck, a bead of sweat working its way from under his hat down to the collar of his oxford.

Messy messy messy

Naz laughed nervously and fluffed her hair off her shoulders. "Sounds like Eddy. I just wanted to say hi Edd." She grinned and started walking backwards and back towards the school. "Enjoy your pomegranate!" She waved and ran back into the building, leaving Edd standing with his head cocked to the side in confusion at what in Einsteins name that was all about.

****************************

Kevin pulled his shirt over his head, tossing it onto the bench next to him as he pulled his jersey out of his backpack, pausing when he heard a vibration from his backpack. Reaching in and digging out his cell phone, he answered it with an eye roll and a flat voice at the name flashing across his screen.

"Hi Naz."

"So hes not doing anything tonight." Her chirpy voice sang out without preamble, Kevin could hear it echoing around the empty hallway she was in.

"Christ, Naz, you asked him?" Kevin nearly yelped, lowering his voice to a whisper as a few of his teammates turned to him in confusion. "What did you tell him?"

"Nothing you big baby." He could hear the annoyance drip off her voice. "I just asked him if he's doing anything tonight, and hes not. Apparently Eddy's grounded."

Kevin couldn't help the smirk on that one. "You just had to know what Eddy's up to huh" He teased.

"Leave me alone." Naz spat back, Kevin could hear her locker slam in the distance. "Long story short hes free tonight. If i dont get a snapchat later telling me you're at his house I'm going over there and telling him myself, got it?"

"Yes mom." Kevin answered sarcastically, laughing as she scoffed and hung up. He sighed heavily, nerves flaring up again and he knew his face must be scarlet by now. He actually had to do it.

Kevin's mind for some reason took him back to the day before, bumping into Edd in the hallway, how wrecked he looked, like he didn't even know he was there. Kevin hadn't mentioned it to Naz, not wanting to spread rumors of it was some thing Edd didn't want getting out. It still plagued his mind though.

Well, he thought, dropping his phone and heading out of the locker room. Maybe he won't be the only one wracked with nerves tonight.

Shaking his head to clear it, he shoved his helmet onto his head and headed out of the locker room, ignoring steadily how shaky his hands suddenly were.

***********************

Edd smiled and hit save, stretching his hands over his head before closing his laptop. He had finished his English essay an hour earlier than he had anticipated, though it was later than he wanted it to be, he was rather happy with his finished product and was looking forward to his pomegranate. Sugary fruits were a rare luxury he didn't indulge in often, but he felt he deserved it. After all, his essay was only three pages longer than the limit, he was improving.

Stifling a yawn, he stood and stretched lightly, leaving his room and walking down the stairs to the kitchen, not bothering to turn any lights on. He knew no one was home to complain about the noise if he crashed into anything and he knew his way around well enough.

He did flick the light on when he got to the kitchen, the bright florescent lights blinding his temporarily and he was took his glasses off and rubbed eyes before sighing, slipping them back on his face and staring around his empty kitchen. His parents hadn't returned for three weeks, it was one of the longest business retreats they had taken to date, and though Edd was admittedly used to the house being empty, it wasn't long before the cold tendrils of loneliness began to creep back and take hold of him. But, he supposed, it really didn't make a difference. He didn't really know his parents as people, he supposed he had merely began to miss the feeling of others presence in the house.

A distant sound broke through Edd's reverie and he realized he had been standing in his kitchen staring vacantly at nothing for god knows how long. Blinking, he looked around for the sound that broke the silence and he realized that it was still going on, a light knocking, and he realized someone was at his door.

Sparing a glance at the microwave to check the time, he frowned and headed for the door, already ready to give Eddy a stern talking to about bothering people late at night, given his short friend was the only probable answer to who was at the door.

"Eddy, for the last time I thought we talked about-"

Edds voice died in his throat as he opened the door to find not Eddy, but Kevin; the tall redhead towering over him with a motorcycle helmet in his hands and his vivid green eyes trained on his shoes, his practice jersey visible underneath the bright green hoodie he wore unzipped over it. Edd hadn't collected himself by the time Kevin looked up, his eyes pinning Edd into place again and Edds first response was panic, leftover fear of his childhood bully mixed with how tall and close he was.

Edd didn't know what his face looked like, but it must have amused Kevin because he grinned lightly before speaking. "Hey Dork." He said easily, no trace of malice or ill intent evident in his voice. The Edd, he seemed almost friendly and it immediately began to make his palms sweat.

It took a good second for Edd to remind his mouth that it needed to speak. "S-Salutations Kevin, what brings you around so late?" Edd instantly mentally kicked himself. It was eight forty five, this was probably nothing for Kevin in terms of lateness.

As though reading his min, Kevin chuckled, his painfully bright eyes closing and letting Edd breathe as he laughed. "It's not even nine yet you dork, whaddya mean it's late?"

Edd felt himself flush a bright red, his face heating up and he stuttered for an answer, but before he could give one Kevin sobered up, suddenly looking almost nervous as his large hands began to fiddle with the clasps of the visor on his helmet. "I kinda need a favor Double D."

Edd wasn't sure if was the vulnerability suddenly visible is the redhead, or the use of his old nickname from his former bully's mouth that sent his mind spinning into overdrive. What on earth could Kevin want from him? They hadn't spoken to each other in, oh maybe five or six years, aside from a random 'excuse me' in the hallways around school, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what he wanted, and it was probably the mix of the two sudden emotions that had him answering before he meant to.

"If I may assist you in any way Kevin, I'd be glad to."

The left side of Kevin's mouth quirked into a smile and Edd found himself oddly fascinated by the movement, though he could see no reason for Kevin's amusement. The wry smile was gone as soon as it appeared however and the nervous look was back, Kevin licking his lower lip and raising his eyes to pin Edd to the door again in a set of actions that suddenly set Edd on fire.

"So, I have this French test tomorrow." A hand leaves the helmet and moves to the back of his head, slipping under his hat and running through the short red hair it found and Edd has to tear his eyes away from the sight. "And as weird as this is gonna sound, I don't know how to study." Kevin finished softly, his gaze falling to focus on Edds slippered feet, lower lip going between his teeth.

Edd was momentarily distracted from the sight of Kevin's lip being worried by perfectly straight teeth without a gap by his confession. "You don't know how to study?" He blurted out in confusion, immediately regretting it when he saw a pink flush race across Kevin's chiseled face.

"No." Kevin answered shortly, the hand in his hair tightening so Edd could see the white of his knuckles. "I kinda need to pass this test." Edd met his eyes again and beyond the embarrassment he could see what looked like a hint of desperation. It made his nerves fray for a reason he couldn't identify.

"Do you have your French textbook with you?" He finally asked, nearly smiling at the look of relief that washed over Kevin's face. "If it's not too late, we could see what we could get done tonight."

"Really? I mean yeah, I have it with me, should I go grab it?" Kevin motioned vaguely to his motorcycle behind him, suddenly looking lost.

"Do so please, I'll turn the light on in the den shall I?" Edd fixed a closed lip smile on his face as Kevin turned and went to retrieve his bag, leaving the shorter boy to walk through his house and flick the lights on with trembling fingers, his nerves on edge and his heart pounding. He needed to get himself together, Kevin's presence was affecting him in ways so very detrimental to his focus.

Upon turning on the last lamp in the den he felt a gentle tug on the end of his hat and his instinct kicked in, his hands flying up to grab the edges of it and he ducked down and whirled around, backing up into the table and shrieking, "No! Don't take my hat!"

"Hey! Woah man chill!" Edd opened his eyes to see that Kevin had apparently followed him into his house and was now standing a good three feet in front of him, his hands raised in surrender as he backed up. "I forgot how touchy you are about that thing, I wasn't gonna take it."

Kevin's eyes are wide and worried and Edd almost thinks they look sincere, and it doesn't take long for the shame and humiliation to kick it. "M-my apologies Kevin, I didn't mean to shout." He could feel the beginnings of tears pinpricking his eyes.

Kevin either didn't notice how uncomfortable Edd suddenly was or he was being nice and didn't bring it up, and he simply smiled, dropping his bag onto the floor and lowering himself on the couch slowly, deliberately looking as non threatening as possible. "It's cool man, wanna stop huddling in the corner and teach me how to 'parlay voo francey' now though?"

Edd shuddered at how badly Kevin just butchered that sentence and it flew out before he could stop it. "My word you do need help."

He could see Kevin's eyes widen and he felt the panic flare up again, but before he could stammer an apology Kevin chuckled almost darkly, shrugging and admitting, "That's why I'm here."

Edd took in a shuddering breath, tugging down the sleeves of his sweater over his hands and nodding, shuffling over to the couch and sitting on the edge, leaving a cushion between himself and Kevin. "Am I correct in assuming you're on chapter one?" He asked, holding out a shaking hand for Kevin's French book, which he handed over with a nod.

"Grammar and vocabulary still, I don't get all that masculine-feminine bullshit with the nouns." Kevin glared at the book in Edds hands. "A chair is a fucking chair."

"Language, Kevin." Edd scolded out of habit, flushing and biting down on his tongue as he realized he was being way too mouthy. Kevin wanted help on his homework, not to be told off for speaking the way he always did.

Before Kevin could respond, Edd had located the section of the chapter Kevin needed and he handed it back to him, waiting as Kevin pulled out a notebook and a pen.

"Now as odd as this is going to sound," Edd began, nervous as Kevin watched him, hanging on to his every word. "All studying is is repetition. Read the chapter twice, write down important points, highlight the crucial. Edds eyes widen as Kevin scribbles down his words onto the top of the paper, stopping and pulling a bright blue highlighter out of his backpack and sticking it in his mouth, nodding once to Edd as he began to read.

Edds fingers found their way to the pulse point on his neck as he watched Kevin read, sprawled out on his couch as his mind struggled to comprehend the fact that this was reality; and there really was a handsome boy sucking on a highlighter in front of him.

Edd didn't care about labels. He realized when he kissed Marie Kanker in eighth grade that girls were most certainly not his division. Ed and Eddy had taken the news in stride when he told them, and to be honest he didn't think his parents heard or listened when he told them at the age of fourteen, but he supposed it was better that way. It had never complicated his life in any way.

Until now, that was. Edds pulse remained a steady speed of way too fast as he watched his childhood bully furrow his brow in concentration. He had never been too close to Kevin when they were young, and they had remained so into high school. He remembered Kevin as always taller than he, building muscle early when the rest of them were still thin with youth and a mean demeanor that made him untouchable.

Aside from his mothers funeral, Edd remembered, his nervous hands fluttering on Kevin's shoulders as the boy sobbed into his shoulder, before pulling back and wiping his nose on the sleep of his rented suit, Edd remembering how his glittery green eyes, drowning in tears had made Edds breath catch in his throat even then. Edd hadn't lingered on the thought, though he was forced to admit now that Kevin had grown into quite the attractive man.

Quite.

The memory of the two funerals of Kevin's parents brought Edd back to the couch however, and he finally looked away from the sight of Kevin felicitating his highlighter and bit his lip, looking down at his hands before speaking. "How are you Kevin?"

Kevin looked up from his book, his eyebrows raised and he took the marker out of his mouth. "Right now? Confused as hell. I hate French."

The blunt answer startled a giggle out of Edd and he covered his smile with his hand, clearing his throat before sobering his expression and trying again. "No, I mean, how are you, recently? I, um, with your fathers passing, and all that-" Edd trailed off, wondering if he had gone too far and holding his breath as Kevin searched for an answer.

"Uh, I'm alright I guess." A shrug from the redhead. "I'm still kinda pissed they put him next to mom, but uh, other than that I mean." Kevin blinked and tapped his pencil onto the book in front of him. "'Say la vee' right?"

Edd was stunned by how casual Kevin seemed as he answered, looking completely unaffected by it and brushing off Edds question as though it was nothing.

"Oh." Was all Edd could manage at first, his fingers burning into his throat. "Well I- I'm glad you're taking is so well Kevin. I was worried after," Edd trailed off, not sure if it was his place to bring up Kevin's emotional moment at his mothers funeral.

Kevin seemed to understand anyways, the tips of his ears flushing a bright red and he dropped his eyes back to his book. "I guess getting older helps." He answered softly, sticking the highlighter back in his mouth in a signal that he was done talking.

Edd was great full for the silence that followed. He pulled out his phone and busied himself with his science articles until about an hour later, after Kevin had begun to scribble things down the redhead cleared his throat almost nervously and Edd looked up from his phone.

"Yes Kevin?" He asked softly as Kevin looked over his hasty notes.

"You took French right?" Kevin asked, looking unsure.

"No," Edd admitted with a timid smile, his nerves flaring up again as he wondered if Kevin would still trust him. "But I am fluent in the language."

Kevin just nodded, handing him his notes and biting his lower lip again. "Are these any good?"

Edd read over the notes, a little clumsy and a touch over zealous with the highlighting, but they were decent and Edd felt a tiny surge of pride and he grinned at Kevin behind his hand. "These are quite good Kevin, just look over them tomorrow several times before your test, you should do just fine."

"Rad." Kevin grinned at Edd and he felt his stomach flip over entirely. Kevin didn't seem to notice the flare in Edds nerves as he began to pack his things up, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he stood. "I lmao you thought it was late earlier-" a flush from Edd once again- "so I should probably bounce and let you sleep." He tilted his head and his grin widened as he watched Edd stand up slowly, holding out his hands for Edd to hand him his helmet. "Walk me to the door?"

"Of course." Edd didn't stutter this time as he handed he helmet over and he walked behind Kevin to the front door, watching his powerful shoulders move beneath his sweater and trying to ignore what it was doing to his insides.

Once he opened the door and let Kevin out, the tall redhead turned and offered a fist to Edd, nodding his head once and Edd got the message, tapping his knuckles clumsily with his own and drawing another amused chuckle from Kevin. "Thanks Double D, I owe you one." Kevin winked at him and left, swaying down Edds driveway to his bike and kicking the kickstand up to walk the bike across the street, not looking back as he did so.

Once he was on the other side of the street, Edd closed the door, locking it twice and falling with his back against it, sliding down to the floor and dropping his head into his hands. He was suddenly exhausted as his nerves that had remained so highly strung for so long loosened and he began to tremble lightly, emotions hitting him repeatedly, one right after the other and he waited for the worst to pass before standing up, slowly turning off all the lights in the house before abandoning all thought so this pomegranate and heading upstairs.

He needed to go to bed.

*****************************

Let me know what you think so far

Chapter Text

On the first Friday of the school year, it had decided to rain again.

And not just "oh let's get wet" little sprinkles, oh no, loud, constant flash flood warning type of rain, rain that had made the entire school barricade itself inside the cafeteria during lunch that day. Not that that was a problem for the Eds, who usually set up at a corner table near the doors, but it meant that the football team and the cheerleaders, who usually made it a habit to lounge on the benches outside, had taken over two tables near the back of the room meaning Edd was having a more than difficult time paying attention to what Eddy was saying, much to Eddys dismay.

"Yo! Sockhead!" A french fry connected with Edd's forehead. "I'm freaking talking to you over here! Can you stop zoning out and like, not?" Eddy's scowl deepened with Edd turned away from staring at the direction of the football teams table and gaped at him with his mouth open in shock.

"Eddy! Is that entirely necessary!"Edd vigorously rubbed at his forehead in panic. "Dont you know how easily I could break out if that grease is in contact with my skin for too long?!"

"Yeah yeah, well if you don't want zits don't leave me hanging when were making plans." Eddy smirked as Edd continued to spaz out over the fry grease.

"I was not zoning out Eddy." Edd pouted as his friend continued to glare at him. "I had a long night." Edd caught himself as he felt his eyes begin to drift from holding Eddy's petulant stare to just over Ed's head to where the football team was being noisy. "I finished my English essay and stayed up-"He paused, Eddy's eyes narrowing at Edd- "Studying for my History pop quiz this afternoon." Edd knew his face was turning pink the way it always did when he lied.

He wasn't sure why he lied to Eddy, Eddy and Kevin were by no means on hostile terms the way they were in their younger years, and he was sure that Eddy wouldn't throw too much of a fit about the time he spent with Kevin last night, but, he couldn't get over the way his stomach had flipped when Kevin looked at him, the way his green eyes had pinned Ed in place and the soft way Kevin spoke to him, it didn't feel like, like-

Edd let his eyes dart over to where the football team was. He could briefly see the flash of Kevin's red hat. Edd wanted to keep it to himself for a bit. He didn't even know why.

"Uh-huh." Eddy deadpanned, throwing another french fry at Ed, who had been buried in his comic book during Edd And Eddy's argument. "Well quit it."

"I'm listening." Ed picked up the fry off his book and ate it after dipping it in the small container of gravy on his tray. Some things never change.

"As was I, Eddy." Edd straightened his glasses and rubbed the imaginary salt off his forehead one more time. "And about your idea for a movie marathon on Saturday night I would most certainly not be opposed." Edd let a smile grace his face as Eddy turned his glare back on to him, his argument shaken by the fact that Edd really had been listening. "I am however, opposed to the list of movies you proposed."

"Same." Ed looked up from his comic book, finally giving Eddy his full attention. "Saw? Hostel? The Human Centipede?" Ed's thick eyebrows dropped in boredom. "That's not horror, that's torture porn. And torture porn is boring."

"Boring!" Eddy exploded, more french fries becoming casualties to Eddy's flailing hands and his tendency to talk with his entire body. "You're the biggest slut for blood and guts there is Lumpy!"

"Yeah, good blood and guts, not last minute attempts to save a career with a sad budget."

"There is nothing sad about any of the Saw movies!"

Edd giggled and shook his head, turning away as his two friends argued over Eddy's admittedly questionable movie taste and he allowed his gaze to drift back over Ed's head, keeping his head angled slightly towards Eddy so his forehead wouldn't become victim to another french fry.

His gaze fell on Kevin and Naz, both turned away from the noise of the rest of the cafeteria even as the rest of the teams made noise and cavorted around them. Naz sat in front of Kevin on the table, his green hoodie draped over her thin shoulders, her cheerleading uniform peeking through. Edd wrinkled his nose in irritation at the sight. The football captain and the head cheerleader. How nauseatingly perfect. He had nearly forgotten there was the first football game of the school year tonight. Naz held what looked like Kevins notes in her hand as Kevin himself sat leaning back on the seat in front of her, his arms crossed over the chest of his jersey and his strong jaw clenched in concentration.

If Edd didn't already know, he'd say it looked like they were studying.

He felt a tiny spark of pride for Kevin, he didn't think the redhead would take what he said to heart and actually look over the notes. Edd tilted his head as he watched Naz pat the top of Kevin's head as he presumably got an answer right, and a tiny smile crossed Kevin's face, sending a warm wave of something Edd couldn't identify through him.

Although, as lovely as the sight was, Edd was still mildly confused about something that had been plaguing him since he watched Kevin leave the night before. Why was French suddenly so important to him, or studying at all for that matter? He had never seen Kevin put forth any actual effort as far as his schoolwork went, and it seemed a touch odd that the urgency to do well would kick in on his last year of high school. Edd had only seen something like it once,when Eddy suddenly decided he needed to learn perfect Spanish back in sophomore year, but that was only to impress Eliza Velasques before she transfered. Kevin already had the head cheerleader as his girlfriend, what more could he need to gain now?

Edd was suddenly jolted out of his trance by realizing that as he watched, he was being watched in return. He could see that he had unknowingly made eye contact with those irritatingly bright green eyes for god knows how long, Kevins expression tilted up in a tiny smile and he felt his face turn nearly purple with his blush, spinning away from Kevin's teasing gaze and fixing his attention solidly on his two friends, still arguing movies.

Edd forced his breathing to steady, exhaling softly as he felt his blush fade, tapping his trembling fingers on the table and breaking up his friends conversation by saying that no, Jap horror was most certainly not a choice of genre for the night either, as it still gave him nightmares.

*************************

"What are you staring at? I'm trying to help you study here." Naz scowls are she twists around to look over her shoulder before snapping her fingers in front of Kevin's eyes. "Hey!"

"Chill you psychopath. Don't turn around again for a second." Kevin continued to stare over Naz's shoulder for a second before breaking into a short chuckle, finally turning his attention back to her. "He's so fucking cute it irritates me I swear." Kevin could feel his cheeks growing hotter as he broke off eye contact with the nerd across the cafeteria.

"Are you playing eye tag with Double D already?" Naz asked with a giggle. "You never sent me a snap chat last night you know. You're lucky I saw your bike outside his house on my way home or I would have dragged you over there myself." She poked him in the forehead. "You never did tell me how it went last night."

Kevin blinked, her words barely sinking in and he arrowhead his eyes at his friend. "I didn't get there till nine, how did you see it on the way home if cheer practice is over at seven?"

A scarlet flush suddenly appeared high on the blondes cheeks and she waved her hands, shaking her head in a dismissive manner. "Not the point. The point is you and why are you staring at Double D if you could be texting him?"

"Yeah, about that." Kevin bit his lip guiltily as the nerves began to take hold of him again. "I kinda forgot to get his number."

"What!" Naz exploded before smacking him on the head with the notes in her hand. "That was the whole idea? What did you do last night? Just actually study?"

Kevin tilted his head and fixed her with a patronizing expression. "Yeah? I really needed to pass French?"

"Okay, and whens your next study date?" Naz raised her eyebrows as Kevin shrunk back nervously.

"Um, we didn't schedule one?" Kevin finally realized how stupid he was. He had been so thrown by the younger boys presence that he had completely forgotten to both flirt and make sure it could happen again. He just hasn't been able to think straight, forcing himself to actually focus on his French book and not stare at the adorable boy on the other end of the couch.

At that moment, a loud clap of thunder was heard and the lights in the cafeteria flickered on and off for a bit before the room went dark, the howls and screams of the more immature students heard before they turned into groans when the lights came back on. Kevin could see Edd hiding in his hands across the room, his heart stuttering as he watched his small hands lower to reveal his wide blue eyes and soft skin and Kevin had to look away.

Naz threw her fork at a rather obnoxious cheerleader who was going on loudly about how shit the school was and rolled her eyes before turning back to Kevin. "So what are you gonna do?" Her eyes were sympathetic and she threw a glance over shoulder to the skinny nerd. "You can't let this one get away."

Kevin shrugged. "I'll see if I can catch him before the bus leaves to Riverside later." He sighed and readjusted his hat. "We have a few minutes, let's do the vocab again."

**********************

Kevin sighed heavily again as he stated out of the glass windows of the field house, the rain still pouring in torrential sheets against the track and field in front of him. He let his forehead rest on the glass and turned his head as he heard a resounding thunk next to him and he met Rolf's glare.

"This constant barrage of the storms angers and annoys Rolf." Rolf spat out and Kevin twisted his mouth sympathetically. "How can they cancel the righteous smackdown of the Riverside twits on this most first of Fridays, Kevin-boy?" Rolf's large brown eyes bore into the glass like tried to burn holes through it.

"Yeah I'm pretty bummed myself." Kevin sighed. The rain continued as though to taunt him and Rolf as the wind picked up. "They canceled the first game of the season just cause of a little rain. I actually passed my French test to be able to play today."

*****************

Edd pulled his blanket a little tighter around his shoulders as another loud clap of thunder shook his house. He readjusted his glasses and raised the volume on the documentary on deep sea creatures he was watching, trying to ignore how loud the rain was coming down. Not for the first time, he was great full that it didn't rain much in Peach Creek.

When it rained it poured it seemed.

When the television set flickered once again, Edds fingers unconsciously found their way back to his pulse point as he firmly kept his eyes glued to the screen. He didn't like to admit that loud storms made him nervous. He knew everything made him nervous, he didn't like coming off like such a hypochondriac.

His mind wandered back to the night before, how many times he had lost his cool in front of the cute boy he hadn't been able to keep off his mind all day. He didn't know what was going on with himself, even with all his nerves and ticks he at least managed some semblance of calm around Ed or Eddy or even mostly around school, not counting his rare episodes like three days ago.

But Kevin made him feel, unstable. It shook him despite the fact that he had known Kevin for most of his life.

He was startled from his thoughts as his door bell suddenly chimed through his empty house, echoing in the night and Edd forced himself to release the edges of the blanket that he had clutched in his death grip.

In almost a sense of deja-vu Edd glanced at the small clock that took residence beneath his television set and frowned, it was seven thirty, Eddy was still grounded and Eds movie wasn't over until nine. With a disbelieving jolt he entertained the idea that it was Kevin, but the football games never ended until eleven.

Still pondering over who it might be, Edd opened the door slightly, still keeping it locked on its chain and letting out a yelp and slamming the door again when he saw that it was indeed Kevin once again on his front porch. Realizing what he had just done and suddenly trying to breathe past the tumor that had taken up residence in his throat he opened the door again, the grin that had been on Kevin's face when Edd opened it the first time still in place, much to Edds relief.

"Hey Dork." Kevin's grin widened and Edd opened the door wider and saw that Kevin was drenched, his hat in his hands and his red hair plastered against his forehead. "Wanna let me in? It's still kinda raining."

Edd fumbled with the lock with a blush and opened the door, biting his tongue when Kevin stepped through and instantly dripped water onto the rubber mat directly in front of the door.

Messy messy messy

Kevin laughed at the expression on Edds face and stripped off his soaking hoodie, hanging the wet green fabric on the hook by Edds door. "Look see? No more water."

Edd thinks he managed a nod, too caught up in what the wet shirt Kevin had on underneath the hoodie was doing with his well muscled back to notice that Kevin had turned around, and the pair were now facing each other awkwardly.

Kevin looked around the dark hallway, one hand raising to scratch the back of his head under his cap. "Where are your parents? Are they ever home?"

The question hit the familiar itch of irritation the way it did whenever Ed or Eddy pestered him about the same thing and Edd finally landed back on earth, stuck somewhere between asking Kevin what he was doing here when he was supposed to be playing football at a school in Riverside and telling him that his shoes better come off next if he intended to get further into his house, and his tongue moved sharper than he intended. "Was there something you needed from me, Kevin?"

"Oh yeah, hold on-" Kevin twisted awkwardly and began digging through the backpack he had slung over his shoulder, stepping out of his worn out converse almost as an afterthought and Edd had to admit he was mildly impressed at Kevin's thoughtfulness when the redhead pulled out a slightly crumpled sheet of paper with a flourish. "Voilà." He mispronounced proudly, holding it up for Edd to see.

Edd could see that it was a French pop quiz, relatively simple, twenty questions and two open ended responses. His eyes were drawn up to the top of the page, where a large '89' had been penned circled in red ink.

"You passed your French quiz." Edd felt a burst of pride for Kevin and he smiled, his hand lost in the fabric of his oversized sweater coming up and covering his mouth as Kevin beamed at him. Edds eyebrows wrinkled as he shifted his gaze off the paper, his hand still in front of his face. "Kevin, aren't you supposed to be at the game?"

As if on cue with Edds words, another clap of thunder shook Edds screen door and it took every inch of willpower Edd liked to think he had not to cry out or flinch.

"I don't know if you can hear that Dee, but it's kinda raining asshole out there." Kevin chuckled at the red tinge that appeared on Edds ears.

Dee? What on earth? Edd was so badly thrown by what sounded like, dare he say it, a nickname that had fallen so easily form the taller boys mouth, were they already on such good terms?

"Language Kevin." Edd said more out of habit and a need to say something than anything, turning back to him and cocking his head. "I'm sorry you weren't able to play, I imagine you were eager to get back to it."

"Nah, but," Kevin suddenly looked shy again, one hand coming up and worming beneath that red hat to scratch his hair in what Edd was beginning to realize was a nervous tic. "I'm really happy you helped me pass that French test, but I have some math homework here that's a bitch and a half to understand."

Edd blinked for a solid minute before he realized Kevin was asking for his help again, dragging the question he had been pondering about exactly when Kevin remotely cared about his grades. But, then again, Kevin had fixed him with those giant green eyes and Edd found himself nodding before he realized it. Kevin flashed him that grin and Edds insides liquified as the taller boy bounced past him into his den.

He didn't even manage to tell him off for his language the second time.

Edd followed after Kevin, his cheeks flaring scarlet as he watched Kevin's eyebrows fly upward at the documentary he was watching.

"Deep sea life is fascinating." He whispered, throwing off guard once again when Kevin only smiled, his hands going up in surrender again.

"Fish are cool." Kevin offered flippantly before sitting down in his previous spot on Edds couch, rummaging through his back pack once again and pulling out a notebook and what looked like a pre-cal text book. Edd nearly giggled, he had taken pre-cal back in freshman year, helping Kevin would be easy, no doubt.

Kevin flipped open his notebook to where he had neatly, well, as nearly as one could expect, copied down the twenty problems he had been assigned. He glared at them for a second before handing them off to Edd, much like he had the night before.

And much like the night before, Edd found the same question dancing on the tip of his tongue. Now, he wasn't one for speaking out of turn, but, Kevin had called him Dee, surely that warranted one personal question.

"K-Kevin," he stuttered, managing somehow to keep his voice only minimally shaking. "May I ask you something?"

As soon as the words left Edds mouth, an ear splitting clap of thunder vibrated through the house and the lights went out, instantly blanketing the two boys in darkness. Edd heard himself yelp pathetically and he clutched at the arm of the couch, his hearing beginning to fade out as he began to feel his heartbeat thudding in his ears and oh god no please, not here, not now, not with Kevin-

"Oh fucking hell." Kevin spat out, Edd could hear what sounded like denim being rustled and suddenly a bright white light filled the room and Edd could see Kevin, grinning triumphantly as he held his phones flashlight aloft.

His heartbeat began to recede and his vision began to clear, Edd breathing heavily to calm himself down.

Kevin sighed, leaning forward and placing his phone in between them to share the light. "Yeah, I mean, it's not like we can get anything done now, anyways."

Edd blinked, he had completely forgotten that he had been about to ask Kevin a question in his panic over the sudden darkness. "Um, yes...I, um- well-"

"Spit it out Dee." Edd could hear a smirk curving around Kevin's words.

"I hope you won't take severe offense to this," Edd started tentatively, beginning to work on the first problem on the sheet in his hands without really paying attention to it. "But why the sudden interest in your studies?"

He didn't look up to see if Kevin had in fact taken any offense to his question as his heart beat sped up in his ears and his face flushed. He could hear Kevin breathing evenly but he focused on finishing the third problem he was working on.

"I, ugh, I just learned that in order to even hope to get to college of any kind, I need to keep my grades at an A or higher." Kevin's voice sounded flat, defeated and scripted, like he had told this story over and over and was sick of it.

Edd wasn't sure how to answer that, or what follow up question he should ask and was happy when Kevin kept talking.

"My average is kinda, really really bad, and, like, I never really thought about school after school, and, if I keep my grades up past an A, then I can graduate with a B minus, and get out of this fucking place." The last part of the sentence was spit out in anger and Edd flinched involuntarily.

He mentally slapped himself after he did the math quickly in his head and blurted out "Your overall average is a C minus?"

This was so much easier in the dark, Edd decided as he just shrugged and finished Kevin's homework for him, rather than look the redhead in the face. He was so confused when instead of exploding, Kevin laughed lowly and Edd felt the couch shift as Kevin turned to look at him.

"Jesus it sounds bad when you say it." Kevin chuckled again, Edd could see the outline of his head shaking. "Yeah, school wasn't really a priority you know? Just like, get high enough grades to play, and it didn't really matter."

Edd bit his lip, staring at Kevin's dark outline in confusion. "And now?" He didn't know why he was still talking, he had obviously way overstepped his boundaries with Kevin at all.

"My dads dead." Kevin's voice didn't shake at all anymore. "There's no one to push me to take over his stupid position at that stupid fucking jawbreaker factory. You know he said he straight up wouldn't let me go to college? Like,-" Kevin pitched his voice lower and puffed up his chest- "College won't pay bills son, jawbreakers, jawbreakers have always taken care of us. Ha." Edd watched Kevin sink back against the couch again. "I didn't really think I'd ever be able to, so it didn't matter what my grades were."

At that moment, a low whine of electricity hummed through the house and Edd blinked at the sudden onslaught of brightness as all the lights flickered back to life, his deep sea documentary only credits now. Edds breathing caught in his throat as he saw Kevin wiping his own eyes discretely, his deep green eyes sparkling with I shed moisture and Edd looked away.

"Well so much for understanding fucking algebra." Kevin muttered darkly, his low chuckle carrying little humor.

Edd looked down at Kevin's finished homework and held it out with a shrug. "Consolation prize?"

"You did my homework?" Kevin took it back with large eyes and a large grin broke out over his face. "Thanks Dee, holy shit!"

"You're quite welcome." Kevin's handsome grin was so bright that a smile tugged at Edds face against his own will and a storm of butterflies attacked Edds chest cavity. Oh dear.

An idea came to Edd as he watched Kevin's bright eyes scan over his completed homework and he felt it tumble out of his mouth before he could stop his, his fingers too busy checking his pulse to cover his mouth.

"Kevin?"

"Ya?"

"You said you needed to keep your grades high all year, correct?"

"Ya." Kevin popped the gum Edd hadn't noticed he'd been chewing and fixed Edd with his state again, warbling his next question.

"If you have no preservations about this, would you like to make this a regular scheduled thing?" Edds fingers twitched around his sleeves.

Another grin flashed across Kevin's face for some reason as he answered. "Like regular study sesh's? Hell yeah! That'd be rad!" Kevin holds something out to Edd and Edd was still too caught up in the redheads enthusiastic answer to do more than blink when he saw Kevin was handing him his cell phone.

"Give me your number dork." Kevin clarified with the lightest of pink blushes beginning to set across the bridge of his straight nose. "Just in case I'm caught up at practice, or the rest of the dork brigade is here."

Edd rolled his eyes and took Kevin's phone, trying to control his breathing as the elation that Kevin had just asked for his number swam through his head and it took three tries to perfect it before handing it back to Kevin, who stood up and stretched, his shirt lifting and causing just another mess of problems for Edd.

"Rad." Kevin said again, typing something else and pocketing his phone, bending to pick up his back and flashing Edd another handsome grin and asking, "Walk me to the door?"

Edd grinned back behind his hand, the movement earning his a wrinkled look from Kevin that he didn't know how to decipher and stood, following Kevin's tall frame to his door once again where Kevin turned and offered him his knuckles again, Edd tapping them less clumsily this time.

"You're a lifesaver Dee." Kevin opened his door and held his backpack over his head to protect it from the rain that was still pouring down. "I'll text you!" He called out before darting out into the rain, leaving Edd standing shock still by the open door, watching the strong muscles on his body move as he ran, wondering what on earth he was getting himself into.

*******************

Kevin banged the door open to his house and threw himself on the couch right by the door, not bothering to take off his soaking sweater and smiled so widely his cheeks began to hurt. He let himself geek out for a minute before fumbling for his phone, smiling all over again at the little *Double D* saved in his phone before dialing Naz.

"Yes Kevin?" Kevin could hear the sound of a treadmill over her huffed breathing.

"I got his number." Kevin sang out, throwing his arm over his eyes and giggling. Actually giggling. God he was such a girl.

"Hey! Proud of you!" Naz bleated out, her breath coming out in short puffs. "Look at you being all schoolgirly over a boy! Are you gonna text him?"

"No." Kevin grumbled at her. "I'm not desperate."

Naz actually laughed at that, full and throaty and for about a full minute. "Yes you are! You're like the definition of desperate!"

"I don't know why I call you." Kevin rolled his eyes. He wasn't that desperate.

"Because you love me."

"Bye Naz."

"Bye!"

Chapter Text

"But Ed-."

"Shut. Up."

"I just don't understand why-"

"Eddy I swear to god-"

"There was NOTHING wrong with my list of movies! These are all basically the same-"

"The Evil Dead is not even in the same genre as the fucking saw movies Eddy for fucks sake!"

"Eddy!" Edd finally snapped, looking up to glare at the arguing pair from where they were all seated on Eds bedroom floor, his extensive movie collection being sorted through by the three of them. "Even if you were correct about the various genres of Eds list, and you aren't, you've been outvoted." Edd rolled his eyes as Ed stuck his tongue out at Edd and Eddy opened his mouth in protest. "If we're going to watch people get mindlessly butchered, don't you think we could at least leave room for some type of cerebral plot?"

"I mean yeah, but you can't handle jap-horror." Eddy pulled an ugly face in Edds direction. "The Grudge gave you nightmares."

"Plus we watched all three hostels last time we had a movie marathon." Ed pouted, leaning close into Eddys personal space and making Eddy recoil. "Plus ALL of the Alien films before that, and those didn't even count as horror!"

"Fine!" Eddy finally conceded,shoving Edd away, crossing his arms and throwing a copy of The Exorcist down into the 'maybe' pile. "Fine. No torture porn. I vote for demonic then."

"See Eddy? Look how well things work when we behave like adults." Edd leaned forward and and smiled serenely as he straightened out the 'maybe' pile. He carefully placed a copy of The Ammityville Horror on top of it and felt his phone vibrate in his back pocket as he did so, startling him and he whined softly under his breath as the entire pile of DVDs he was straightening went crooked.

"Ooh I got it! I know what we'll start with!" Ed pulled out his phone and began to text quickly, hitting send faster than Edd thought possible and grinning in triumph as he began to scoop all the dvd's back into one pile. "Eddy go get the popcorn!"

"Yeah I'll get your damn popcorn." Eddy sighed heavily and took Eds outstretched hand to lift himself up, slouching towards the door while muttering where exactly Ed should stick the popcorn and earning an eye roll as Ed began to pull out the bean bags.

Edd watched Eddy leave before pulling out his phone, remaining seated on the floor and barely noticing when Ed dropped the red bean bag Edd favored directly behind him. He had a text message from an unknown number.

Hey Dork.

Edd nearly dropped his phone. The number was unsaved in his phone, but there was no doubt who was texting him, and what on earth could Kevin want? It was Saturday, and they had finished all of Kevin's homework for the weekend the night before, he was really at a loss.

Should he text back?

Edd was suddenly frozen with fear, stricken with the realization that there was a very attractive boy waiting for his answer to a text message that had been sent to him completely by the other boys choice. He was still seated on Ed's floor, clutching his phone to his chest from where he had almost dropped it and staring at a patch on Ed's carpet with his glasses dangling dangerously on the perch of is nose.

"You alright dude?" Ed threw the question over his shoulder as he fumbled with the dvd player. "You're kinda burning a hole in my carpet."

Edd blinked, bringing his phone down off his chest and pushing his glasses back up his face

"Yes Ed, I'm fine, just an email notification."

Eds eyes narrowed at him like he clearly didn't believe him, but before he could push the issue Eds bedroom door opened and Sarah wandered in, her bright pink pajamas clashing with her red hair and her attention completely on her cell phone. In her other hand dangled a dvd that she held up to Ed when she finally stopped texting. "Here you go big brother, you were right, it was better than that Emily Rose crap."

"Yeah this directors getting better at what he does." Ed agreed, grinning goofily and handing the copy of Sinister to Edd, who took it curiously and began to read the blurb on the back of the jacket, eager for the distraction.

"All right red, out." Eddy appeared in the door way with a bowl of popcorn nearly the size of him, three bottles of rootbeer precariously pitched under his arm. "This is a twenty one and over party."

Edds phone vibrated again.

This time, Edd had been so caught up in watching the commotion in the room with Sarah's entrance that he did drop his phone, watching in horror as the text notification lit up the screen and it bounced away, landing two feet in front of him and blinking away happily. Edds heart stopped in his chest, his mind going into overdrive as he imagined what Ed or Eddy would say if they saw.

"You're seventeen you asshole." Sarah sneered back at Eddy, absently bending down and to pick up Edds phone and handing it back to him without looking at the screen, completely unaware of how heavy Edds breathing was or how white his face had suddenly gotten. Edd clutched his phone with both hands, sputtering a thanks to Sarah, who waved it off as she bent and snatched Eds copy of IT off the floor. "Plus this partys lame as hell anyways. I'm gonna borrow this Ed." She threw the last bit over her shoulder as she left the room, already emerged in her texting.

Edd swallowed past his dry throat and rearranged himself on his bean bag as Ed and Eddy situated themselves to watch the movie, still clutching his phone and doing everything in his power to calm himself down after his mild freak out over Kevin texting him. It wasn't until Ed turned the lights off and Eddy began shoving handfuls of popcorn into his mouth the Edd remembered Kevin had texted him twice, and he had yet to answer the first one. Carefully turning down the brightness of his phone, Edd waited until the movie had started to carefully check his messages.

What up?

Edd wrinkled his brow at Kevin's cringeworthy language skills, but the sight of the two tests sent his heart ablaze either way and he was glad the room was dark as he felt his blush climb up his neck. He had no idea how to answer, what up? What on earth could Kevin need to know what he was doing? Why was he texting him if there was no more homework help needed?

With shaking fingers and a quick glance to make sure Ed and Eddy were engrossed in thier movie, Edd typed a response.

Greetings Kevin, I'm currently watching a subpar horror film at Eds house with him and Eddy.

Edd immediately bit his tongue as he dropped his phone into his lap, folded his hands and tried to focus on the family getting murdered on screen. He never realized how awfully wordy he was when he spoke and for the first time in his life he was feeling horribly self conscious about it and wished he could un-send the text. His limbs were going numb and he blinked his eyes open wider and focused carefully as Ed and Eddy began to dissect the movie. He didn't want to ruin movie night with his pointless anxiety over nothing.

After five minutes had passed without Kevin answering, however, his nerves reared their ugly head once again and Edd found his hands beginning to tremble and, to his horror, tiny pricks of tears were beginning to sting his eyes. He was being utterly ridiculous and he knew it, he just couldn't help the overwhelming feeling of dread that he had ruined whatever had been building for Kevin in his chest.

Which is nothing, he reminded himself forcibly. There was nothing between him and Kevin.

Edd swallowed, a heavy knot of anxiety churning in his stomach and he was about four seconds from excusing himself from the room when his phone vibrated again in his lap, causing his face to flush once again from how silly he was being. He was going to give himself a heart attack at this rate.

Shaking his head at himself and sending an offhand comment to Eddy when asked for his opinion, Edd blinked away the fogginess of tears away and checked his phone subtly.

Haha wow you're savage. Define subpar

Edd blinked in confusion at Kevin's response. It was almost as tho, dare he think it Kevin was attempting to have a conversation with him. The exhilaration was drumming up in Edds chest again and he felt the corners of his mouth fight against the smile that twitched them. He giggled lightly at his overreaction.

But his glee didn't last long as he realized with paralyzing despair that he had no idea how to carry on a conversation with someone he wasn't close to, much less a boy with the ability to blur his focus the way he did and whom he found achingly handsome. He bit his lip and began to text, keeping his heavy breathing as quiet as he could so his friends wouldn't worry.

It's called Sinister, I've already read the plot online and it's painfully predictable, and the jump scares aren't even bothering me.

Edd stared at his response for a minute, it was honestly how he'd answer someone in person, though he wasn't sure if Kevin would understand how bad jump scares had to be if even Edd hadn't flinched. Throwing caution to the wind, Edd hit send, flinching slightly at the change in music and deciding not to mention that to Kevin.

"I'm telling you, it's the boy." Eddy answered flatly, crossing his arms and doing his best to look bored.

"Nah, it'll be the dad." Ed shot back, stealing back the popcorn bowl and swiveling his head to ask Edd. "What do you think Double D?"

Edd watched on screen as the father of the movie drank heavily and watched increasingly violent images, but already knowing how it ended, Edd opted for the easy answer. His friends hated it when he spoiled the endings.

"I don't think he's gonna make it to the sequel Ed." He said with a close lipped smile, to which Edd immediately stuck his tongue out at Eddy and declared "I told you!"

Edd stifled a yawn. The movie wasn't in all honesty very good. As much as he hated to admit it, Japanese horror movies were the only things that actually scared him anymore. But it was movie night, so he settled back into his bean bag and watched the movie, placing his phone down next to him so he wouldn't freak himself out over Kevin for a bit and not even feigning surprise when Ed and Eddy lost their collective minds over the plot twist.

"Well see, that I didn't see coming." Eddy said offhandedly as he stretched back in his seat as Edd pouted in his chair.

"That was supposed to be so much better." He grumbled, scratching his head in frustration.

"Woah, hey Edd," Eddy rolled over on his bean bag and lifted himself up, peering out of Eds basement window and squinting. "I think your parents are home."

Instantly Edds stomach dropped through the floor and his heartbeat kicked into overdrive as he stumbled to his feet to join Eddy on his toes as he looked out the window. Sure enough, he caught the distinct fluorescent headlights of his parents Mercedes shining in the dark street, blinking off before he saw the car door open and he turned away from the window, his chest vibrating with nervous energy and his palms suddenly damp.

"It would appear Mother and Father have returned from their business trip." Edd agreed, turning away from his friends and picking up his phone and slipping it into his pocket and carefully pulling his messenger bag over his shoulder. "I imagine they would want me home." Edds throat feels like sandpaper as he tries to swallow around the lump residing in it.

"You don't have to you know."Eddy said instantly, his and Eds face already darkening as they both stood. "You can just text them and ill get my parents to tell them you're staying with me."

"Yeah man it's been like a month." Ed chimed in, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. "You don't have to go home, have they even texted you?"

Edd grimaced, unwilling to check his phone in case they hadn't, also remembering out of nowhere that he had left Kevin hanging. He clenched his fists, ignoring how they trembled and he took a deep breath, a rush of gratitude for his two friend's concern flooding him and he refused to make eye contact with either of them.

"Yes Ed, they in fact have." Edd lied through his gapped teeth, a twinge of guilt glinting through him as he watched Eddys eye brows go flat with disbelief. "Don't worry about me gentlemen, I shall text you in the morning." Edd gave them what he hoped was a reassuring smile and headed for the stairs, focusing as hard as he could on walking straight without tripping.

"Yeah...alright dude." Eddy finally conceded, sitting back down on his bean bag. "Come back if shit hits the fan. Ed and I will be here all night."

Edd nodded over his shoulder as he took the stairs two at a time, closing the door to Eds basement as he heard their voices strike up another conversation that he didn't want to be around for.

Edd left silently through Eds back kitchen door, opening his back gate and slipping out into the alley next to Eds house and began walking on foot, taking the long way down around the curve of the cul de sac, keeping his eyes glued to the lights that were now on in his living room, his breathing as slow and regular as he could manage.

Though he knew more than likely what was going to happen when he got home, the same thing that always happened, Edd hated the fact that he was excited to see his parents. It had been an entire month since they had left early in the morning on a business retreat, leaving a sticky note with a promise to return two weeks later and a list of chores. Edd couldn't even bring himself to be angry, he speculated as he passed Jimmy's dark house, though he also knew more than likely that he would end up back at Eds house when, as Eddy so eloquently put it, "shit hit the fan."

But, Edd stopped and pet Victors horned head as he stuck his head out of Rolf's gate, shit never really hit the fan, his parents weren't mean but any means, they never yelled at him or struck him, but-

Edd swallowed heavily as his hands shook on the strap of his messenger bag as he turned and began to walk up the path to his front door. As his hand closed around the door knob he felt his nerves and anxiety melt away from him, leaving him light headed and suddenly he was so, so very tired as the usual heavy acceptance fell over him. It is what it is.

Edd never liked to make noise, but he tried his hardest to open the door as noisily as possible, stepping into the brightly lit living room and gnawing a hole through his bottom lip. The living room was empty, the sticky notes he stacked neatly on the front table to indicate the chores written on them were complete remained untouched, his parents matching house keys placed next to each other next to it.

They must be upstairs already. That was quick.

Edd made his way through the oddly bright house, the strange sight of all the lights being on at once encroaching on his comfort zone and making his stomach twist again. Once he climbed the stairs and was faced with his parents closed bedroom door, however, his courage disappeared once again and he could feel the tips of his fingers going numb and his heartbeat was thrumming in the back of his head.

His phone vibrated in his back pocket, but he ignored it as he lifted his hand and knocked three times on the heavy wood, feeling terrified and completely childish all at once. He was seventeen years old, he should be no means be so afraid of speaking to Mother and Father.

And yet.

He still choked on his tongue when the door opened and his mother stared down at him impassively, her expression remaining flat and tired as her bright blue eyes surveyed him.

"Oh Eddward, I assumed you had already gone to bed." Cara Vincent wasn't a tall woman, standing maybe five five in her heels, but for some reason she still had the power to make Edd feel like he was two feet tall again. Behind her Edd could see his father on his phone, his slender frame turned away from his mother and the door, the hand not holding the phone in his ear so he could hear better.

"D-did you check my room?" Edd checked over his shoulder to see his bedroom door still open the way he had left it when he had left that afternoon.

"I said I assumed, Eddward." His mother answered waspishly, pursing her lip and turning away from him, her hands going back to her suitcase. "Did you start school yet? How are your grades? Did you remember to water the plants in the kitchen?"

The carelessness with which she asked her questions stung Edd, but he forced himself to maintain the closed lip smile he had fixed on his face. "Yes mother, I've followed all my chores and instructions, I started school on Monday, I can assume my grades are fine given-"

"Dammit Cara why are you talking when I'm on the phone? Really, oh shit." Dexter Vincent blinked behind his thick glasses and pushed his curly black hair off his forehead. "Hey champ, we thought you'd already gone to bed." His fathers transparent cheeriness made Edd cringe. He hated when his father tried to sound like father of the year, calling him champ and sport like he knew him. "We were just gonna say hi in the morning before we took off- yeah Hank no I'm still here." His father instantly turned back to the window, cheery smile disappearing and his hand going back up to cover his ear again. Edd clenched his hand into a fist as his father wandered into his parents bathroom, all thought of his son completely forgotten.

Edds heart was stuttering after hearing the last sentence out of his fathers mouth. His chest was too tight now, air wasn't getting to him fast enough and he felt the room shift. "T-took off?" He asked his mother, who was already facing away from him, swapping out the clothes neatly tucked into her suitcase.

"Hmmm." She hummed almost to herself, checking her watch. "Yes, we have a six o clock flight to catch in the morning."

"You didn't tell me you were leaving again." Edd could feel the anger bubbling through the numbness clouding his thought, the frustration with how loud his tongue wanted to scream at his mother as he bit it into submission.

"Yes I did Eddward." She gave him a flat smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Just now, did I not?"

Edd didn't know how to respond anymore, he could feel his mouth hanging open and his hands twitching as he watched his mother stand and place her suitcase on the floor, stepping out of her heels and looking over her shoulder, almost as though she had forgotten he was there. "Close the door on the way out would you? Your father and I need to sleep. And take off that hat you know I don't like you wearing it in the house." She tossed the last bit over her shoulder absently, lofting over to her vanity and taking out her earnings, not even making eye contact with him in her mirror.

At long last, the hot tears that had been burning Edds eyes since his mother opened the door broke free and slid down his face in twin trails. He turned and left their room, taking off his glasses as he shut their door and swayed down the hall, desperate for the sanctuary of the shower.

He threw himself into the bathroom, stumbling as he caught himself on the sink, clutching the sides of it and bowing his head, the sobs threatening to burst out of his throat. He gulps to fight the waves of nausea that are rolling in his throat, his mouth too full of saliva as a broken cry finally makes it past his lips and the hot tears shine weakly on his sunken face in the harsh light of the bathroom.

His head was filled with the high buzzing that always came first, the loud yelling, the jumbled and intrusive thoughts, the shaking need in his hands to destroy, to feel something, he wound his fingers into his disheveled hair and twisted them-

Hatethemhateeverythinghatemyselfwhyaretheylikethisaminotgoodenoughwhyarentigoodwnoughwhydonttheylovemeanymorewhatdididowrong

Edd left the sink and with fumbling fingers turned the shower on as hot as the water would go before frantically tearing out of his clothes, hearing his phone clatter away somewhere on the floor as he finally yanked off his hat and threw it at the wall where it landed with a soft thump. He ignored it and reached beneath the sink, his fingers closing around a small polished box that he clutched to his chest like a lifeline, holding it to him and he climbed into the scalding shower, the anger slowly draining out of him.

Now came the fear. Edd could feel his pulse in the lump of his throat as the tears fell freely now, warbled sobs lost to the noise of the shower as his limbs grew numb and his chest began to constrict, his breaths coming in fast and short and his vision going bright and blurry.

He dropped down to his knees, the boiling heat of the water not quite reaching him in his panicked haze as his fingers fumbled with the box, fighting to get it open and blinking wide as he grasped the razor inside wrong and bright red blood bloomed on his fingertips.

At the sight, his chest loosened a little, and the noise grew louder.

Taking his precious razor in his other, uninjured hand, Edd brought his right thigh up in front of him and began to draw deep, dark parallel lines across the white shock of skin, hyperventilating at the bite of sharp pain the finally broke through to him and he kept drawing, slowly to keep them all straight and counting out loud as he watched the water next to his legs turn a bright pink.

Seven, eight, nine-

Once he had drawn his tenth line, he could breathe again, and the buzzing and the noise left abruptly, leaving only his sore muscles and the heat of the shower and suddenly it all hits Edd as too much and he retches, vomiting out the hard ball of anxiety in his stomach and he watched his half digested popcorn float down the drain.

He suddenly exhausted, and he reached over turned the water to a more tolerable temperature, leaning his head against the side of the tub and closing his eyes, making sure his shredded thigh was in the stream of water so it could stop bleeding so heavily.

He closed his eyes, letting his body recover when he heard his phone vibrate, the sound making him confused, who on earth could be texting him this la-

Oh dear, Kevin!

Nearly slipping on the floor of the shower, Edd reached out for his phone, wiping off the water and opening it, his eyes widening when he saw he had three unread texts from Kevin.

What? I loved Sinister! It's the first decent horror movie in years!

So um, I'm guessing you really hated it? Or at least my opinion of it? Kinda left me hanging.

D?

A fresh wave of panic gripped Edd and he typed back as quickly as he could.

My apologies Kevin, my parents returned home and it had been awhile, we were catching up.

Edd hit send before he could stop himself, his typed lie leaving an ugly taste is his mouth.

Kevin, for his part, surprised him immensely by answering almost immediately.

Woah seriously that's crazy man I legit never see your parents home.

They work quite frequently, they are the best brain surgeons out there after all.

Edd hated how easily that line flowed from his self conscious after years of using it to explain his odd living situation to people. It flowed so freely now he never had to think about it.

They nice to u?

Edd was completely thrown by Kevin's question and his fingers faltered on his screen. How did one go about answering that?

Edd thought about his parents in the next room, wrapped up in themselves to the point where they barely remember they had a child, a child who spent most of his life in emotional turmoil and whom they had no warmth for whatsoever.

Tears threatened again. Edd shook them away.

They are civil, if a bit distant. Another lie, but what Kevin doesn't know won't hurt him.

That sounds rough

Edd smiled weakly, his heart stuttering at how strangle sweet Kevin was being when the redhead sent another message before Edd could answer.

im kinda glad mine are gone, as awful as that is dad was a tool and I don't remember mom much so I guess an empty house is better than a house with shit parents

Edd licked his dry lips as he read Kevin's response, a sad sort of calm coming over him as he realized his silly crush on Kevin was now completely doomed to bloom into a full infatuation. They were in the same boat, two loners drifting in a sea with no lighthouses to guide them.

He stopped himself, however from composing a sonnet to the other boy as he remembered with a slight bitterness that Kevin was not alone.

I understand the sentiment Kevin. Though I imagine having Naz around makes things easier.

Edd winced. He was being petty and he knew it, but he couldn't help the pain of longing that burned into his temples as he thought of Kevin, tall, strong Kevin that would never be his.

Eh I mean yeah but she doesn't really get it plus I can't have her around all the time she has her own life.

Her own life? Now Edd was confused.

Isn't she your girlfriend? Wouldn't you be a large part of her life?

A violent blush flared over Edds face the instant he sent the question, already dreading Kevin no longer wishing to speak to him. He didn't know what was wrong with him, Kevin's business was his and his alone, and it wasn't Edds place to pry.

Lmao hahahahaha oh god no! Haha wow no D Naz is not my gf lolol I'm a single pringle

Though oddly perplexed at the strange way Kevin chose to text, Edd couldn't help the warm blush and the tiny smile that he felt pulling on his sore and tired face as he realized what Kevin was telling him. Naz had no claim on him, Kevin was free and Edd could-

No.

Edd I held sharply and looked away from his phone, clenching his jaw and steeling himself against his own mess of thoughts. He was getting ahead of himself. Just because Kevin and Naz weren't an item didn't mean by any means that Kevin would ever be attracted to him of all people.

His phone vibrated again and Edd realized he never answered Kevin.

Can I call u?

Edd froze, staring down at the innocent words on his screen and his heart kicked back into overdrive. What did he do now? How on earth? Why would Kevin want to talk to him, what?

Before he worked himself up too much again, Edd bit down on his lip and typed out a shaking answer.

Yes.

Almost instantaneously, as Edd hit send his phone began to ring, vibrating in his hand as the unknown number he had yet to save flashed across his screen and he stared at it for a good five seconds before reaching over and turning the water off, and sliding open the answer button.

As though in a daze, Edd lifted the phone to the side of his head where his hair was still dry, and spoke as evenly as he could.

"Greetings Kevin."

"Hey D." Edd could hear the grin on the other boy with the way his name came out and he blushed. "Not trying to bug, just wanted to see if all was cool over there."

Edds breathing hitched. He nearly wanted to tell Kevin the truth, but he couldn't. He didn't want to lose the small amount of Kevin he had. "I am quite well."

Kevin chuckled lightly, "You sound like Spock when you talk. Do you watch Star Trek?"

"I am familiar with it, yes." It was so surreal, his eyes fixed on the open cuts on his thigh that glimmered weakly in the light while Kevin's lighthearted musings about Star Trek filled his head.

"Yeah, well I just wanted to make sure you're good and say goodnight, since you kinda stopped texting me out of nowhere."

For some unholy reason the deep baritone of Kevin's rasp made tears spring up in Edds eyes again and he choked, his chest constricting and his vision blurred. "Thank you for your concern." He heard himself answer.

Another throaty chuckle that sends a pang of want through Edd and he winces. "Goodnight Double D." Is all Kevin answers with. "I'll see you around yeah kid?"

Edd nearly faints at how strongly he reacts to Kevin's low voice and his fingers tighten around his phone. "Of course Kevin."

He hears Kevin give a short laugh through his nose before the line goes dead, leaving Edd holding his phone against his ear Ina death grip and it's about ten minutes before he realizes he's shaking with cold and he forces himself out of the tub, exhaustion aching in his every muscle.

Though, before he leaves the bathroom, Edd stops and watches his reflection in the mirror before opening the cabinet and pulling out gauze and some bandages. He never cleaned up after himself, usually preferring to just let them be.

But tonight, he patches himself up before bed and sleeps through the night, a deep sleep free of nightmares and stress dreams and he awakens long after his parents have departed.

Chapter Text

After he noticed that the walls around his window had began to lighten with the rising sun, Kevin decided enough was enough and rolled over despondently, groaning out in despair and exhaustion. He had barely slept, and it was way too early for him to even start getting dressed for school, so he dragged himself out of bed and slouched out of his room to the bathroom, leaving all the lights off as he turned on the shower. He left the bathroom door open as he undressed, watching the steam float over the carpet and into the hallway with a smirk.

Kevin absolutely adored the fact that his house was constantly empty now. After his father died he briefly considered getting a cat or something, but he scraped the idea almost instantly. He had never been surrounded by such blissful fucking silence in his life. Even after his mother had died and the arguing stopped, his dad always found a reason to yell. The house was quiet now. A cat would disrupt that.

He lowered himself into the hot water with a sigh, closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the wall, his sleepless night catching up with him. Kevin hadn't slept in nearly two days, on Saturday night he had tried to sleep after he called Edd-

Kevin stomach flipped at the memory of Edds soft rasp into his ear

But, something bothered him about the way Edd spoke, it was oddly mechanical and it worried the edges of Kevin's mind more than he'd be comfortable admitting, and he had spent the majority of that night leaning up to peek out his window at the dark house across the street and deleting half typed text messages to Edd that made him feel like a crazy person.

Kevin had laid there until he watched the obnoxiously bright headlights of the strange Mercedes Benz that had been parked outside of Edds house flipped on around four in the morning and he watched through his blinds as it pulled out of the driveway and left the cul de sac, the insides of Kevin's chest thumping painfully as he curled up around his phone, alternating between puzzling over when he became such a child about his crush and desperately searching for something else to think about.

He had given up doing that around seven on Sunday morning and found himself at Rolfs house, seated on his gate in the early morning sun with his back to Edds house and listened to his foreign friend proceed to gripe about life in general.

"What troubles Cassanova-Kevin?" Rolf had asked when he noticed Kevin wasn't actively bitching about how early it was. "Rolf has never seen him awake at such an hour without the litany of complaints about such the hour."

"Haha." Kevin answered flatly. "Not much, just crap. It's been a long night."

"Ah, then maybe a morning of whacking weeds shall alleviate Kevin's stress." His friend offered his handful of torn up weeds with a goofy grin.

"Yeah, I'm gonna have to say no." Kevin said, leaning back on the fence.

Rolf had shrugged lightly and turned back to his weeds, casually tossing foreign anecdotes over his shoulder at Kevin. Kevin watched the sky brighten over the side of Rolf's house, trying his hardest not to look over his shoulder at Edds house behind his back as he sat in the fence, zoning out Rolf's rambling until he heard his friend laugh.

"What?" Kevin spat with a touch more attitude than he intended as Rolf giggled into his hand.

""Is this the heartsick insomnia that has plagued Casanova for so many years? The skinny Edd boy in the hat?" Rolf laughed out as Kevin glared at him before sighing.

"Yeah, I called him yesterday-"

"Oh-ho!" Rolf grinned at Kevin's words. "After many moons Kevin has obtained the phone number of the nerdy Ed-boy! Well done!"

"Thank you Rolf." Kevin sighed. Rolf looked absolutely tickled and Kevin rolled his eyes before continuing.

"Anyways, when I talked to him he seemed off, like, I dunno. Maybe he was having a rough night."

"Not as rough as you'd like to give him though huh Kev?!" Naz's voice startled Kevin and he had to catch the fence he was sitting on to regain his balance as she laughed behind him before climbing up the fence and sitting next to him.

"Classy." Kevin snorted at her and she and Rolf fist bumped in greeting. "The hell are you doing here? Don't you have cheer practice in like an hour?"

"Yeah but I'm captain so if I say it's cancelled it's cancelled." Naz rolled her eyes at him. "What's all this about a rough night and you and Double D doing it?"

"Nothing ma'am." Kevin answered pointedly with a light shove to Naz's skinny shoulder. She wobbled and smacked the back of his head in response.

"Kevin is locked in the throes of woe due to his inability to hold the attentions of the nerdy Ed." Rolf giggled at Naz, still looking endlessly amused.

"Hey there's no proof of that." Kevin snapped at him, his cheeks flushing. "He texted me back at least."

"Ah, and speaking of the desire of the attention from various Ed boys," Rolf began slyly, making Kevin laugh as he watched Naz's grin slip and her face turn red. "How goes the chase of the pipsqueak Ed boy?"

"He's as tall as I am! Fuck you Rolf!" Naz spat at him, swatting at his head as he laughed. "And it goes like nothing! I don't even talk to Eddy!"

"A fact Naz mourns Rolf is sure!"

Kevin had laughed to himself, watching his friends hurl abuse at one another for awhile until Naz gave in and helped Rolf with his chores and they chided Kevin for his preference to stay on the fence and watch, not much in the mood for them and their noise. He had stayed at Rolf's house until about one in the afternoon, after Naz had gone home to eat something and Kevin's sleepless night had caught up to him, and he spent the remainder of Sunday afternoon napping on and of before waking up at close to midnight, repeating the cycle all over again, minus the texting Edd part.

Which brought Kevin back to where he was now, sitting in a lukewarm shower at six in the morning on Monday with the lights off and a hot bubble of guilt and nerves gurgling in his chest.

Of al the things he did on Sunday, he didn't visit his mother yesterday. He hadn't been to visit her since his father had died.

Kevin leaned his head against the shower wall and watched the sunlight climb up the tiles. He hated that the guilt had decided to finally come, Naz had thrown a fit the first Sunday after his fathers funeral that he refused to visit his mother, and she had relented slightly as the weeks went on, and he was able to convince himself that he wasn't doing anything wrong, just that life had gotten in the way, with school and his grades, and Edd-

Another flutter of nerves hit Kevin as his thoughts drifted back to Edd, his nervous blue eyes and his twitchy fingers that Kevin longed to hold in his own. He was beyond thrilled that he had at least crossed the bridge of friendship with him with minimal casualties, knocking out his minor terror that he would actually be stuck with a sad job the remainder of his life in the process.

But something seemed off about Edd to Kevin. What is was he wasn't sure. He was sweet and soft, shielded with a the vulnerability that made Kevin's palms itch, but there was an underlying current of something unsettlingly haunting that Kevin wasn't able to shake off.

Kevin ended up falling asleep in the shower, only waking up with a start when the alarm he preset on his phone went off at around eight and it was with extraordinarily bad grace that Kevin got out of the shower and into clothes, shoving his hat onto his wet hair and grabbing a granola bar from the boxes Naz keeps buying him before swinging out the front door.

It was cold and overcast again. Kevin hated cold weather, he thrived in the heat of summer, and fuck all this raining constantly bullshit.

He pulled his motorcycle out of the garage and around his fathers abandoned car and swung a leg over it, not bothering with a helmet when his eyes caught a glint of movement at the edge of the street, someone walking to school, adjusting the strap of a messenger bag over a posh little black sweater.

His heart gave an annoying little jump as Kevin kicked the bike to life, the burst of the engine roaring to life echoing down the empty street and Kevin pulled down his driveway, the wind and cool autumn air kissing his face and wringing out a tired smile as he pulled up next to Edd, setting his foot down on the street.

Edd hadn't heard him coming by the looks of it, and he jumped backwards against the fence behind him in surprise, a startled expression on him as he clutched his bag strap against his chest. It took a few seconds for his blue eyes to swim back into focus and Kevin watched two trembling hangs pull out the headphones he had been wearing.

"Good heavens Kevin, you can't just do that." Edd rasped at him. Kevin watched with a furrowed brow as two of Edds fingers on his right hand found their way up to his throat where they stayed, as though checkin this pulse. "You scared the daylight out of me."

Kevin chuckled at how flustered Edd looked, his hands wringing around the hem of his sweater. "My bad Dee. Let me make it up to ya, want a ride?" He waved with a flourish at the seat behind him, slapping on a lopsided grin that usually made his teachers tell him it was okay he didn't do his homework.

"On that thing?" Edds eyes widened impossibly and his lower lip disappeared into his teeth. Kevin watched the gap between the front ones wink into view before Edd licked his lips. "With you?"

"What's wrong?" Kevin was getting nervous now as he realized Edd was slowly back in away from Kevin, his eyes darting apprehensively between the sidewalk and somewhere above Kevin's left ear. "Don't trust me?"

"Would you be offended if I said no?" Edds hands shot up to cover his mouth as soon as the words were out, his expression panicked. Kevin forced a chucked even as his soul shriveled, a grin breaking through his clenched teeth. He was fucking this up so badly.

"Not all all, I'm just trying to be the gentlemen here." Kevin forced a laugh, "come on Dee, just let me give you a ride."

Edd looked into Kevin's face for a minute with a desperation that made Kevin feel like he was drowning for a second before he spoke, the sass Kevin had grown to expect finally peeking through. "You're not even wearing a helmet, how am I supposed to trust you on that thing if you don't even follow safely precautions?"

Kevin swallowed a laugh even as Edd watched him smugly, a timid smile gracing his face that quickly disappeared when Kevin produced his neglected helmet from its spot on the side of his bike. "Well duh, cause then you wouldn't have one."

Edd seemed to deflate under Kevin's quasi confidence and he finally moved forward tentatively, his eyes not quite meeting Kevin's.

Kevin laughed, his sweaty palms sliding on the handles as Edd sighed and Kevin realized he won the argument. He tossed the helmet to Edd who clutched it with both hands, running ragged fingernails over the plastic of the helmet as he eyed the bike apprehensively.

Kevin let his grin grow predatory. "It's not gonna bite Dee."

Chapter Text

Oh god oh no this is so dangerous, they're going to fall they're going to crash this was so unsafe how could Kevin drive this thing this is it this is how it ends-

Edd was startled out of his panicking as he heard Kevin laugh. With a flush he realized he was speaking his mental ramblings out loud, still a touch shaky from when Kevin had magically appeared by his side out of nowhere. It wasn't exactly like he could complain on that behalf though, he thought with an embarrassed blush. Kevin's hair was still slightly damp and the way it was curling around the brim of his hat was a touch too endearing for Edds comfort.

And yet, this cute boy was trying to kill him, as further reiterated by wicked grin Kevin still sported and the teasing "Well?"

Realizing defeat, Edd took off his glasses and shoved the helmet on his head, doing his best not to dislodge his hat and gave Kevin as mean a glare as he could when the tall boy laughed at how clumsy the action was.

Oh dear- this wasn't going to get any easier on his nerves, he realized as he slid his thin body behind Kevin's stocky, sturdier one, his inner thighs meeting the outer part of Kevin's in a manner that was strangely intimate and made Edds face flame up.

He was going to pass out before they ever started moving.

Kevin seemed to retain his high spirits even as Edd delicately looped his arms around Kevin's bulky letterman jacket, trying to hold close yet remain distant enough to keep his pulse down. He shot a look over his shoulder at Edd, his laughing green eyes and crooked grin taunting and soothing all at once.

"All right hang on D, I'll do my best to get us to school alive." He sent Edd a cheeky wink and didn't give him any time to freak out, kicking off the ground and laughing when Edd let out a strangled yelp at the sudden motion.

It was, terrifying.

Edd released an embarrassingly loud squawk that he was instantly great full wasn't audible through the helmet and instantly tightened his grip around Kevin's midsection, ignoring the huff of air that he felt expel from him in a laugh. The bike was too fast, the helmet was too tight on his head and he was so very dizzy that he shut his eyes, trying his hardest to focus on the fact that he was holding onto the object of his distraction, rather than the fact that he could hear how quickly the pavement was moving inches away from where his toes were positioned on the bike.

He was eternally thankful that the cul-de-sac wasn't terribly far from the school, his ordeal on the back of Kevin's motorcycle lasting only about five hell ridden minutes before he felt the wind tugging at his sweater begin to ebb away and they slowed to a stop, Edd only opening his eyes when he felt Kevin lower his foot onto the ground and bringing the monstrosity to a complete and blissful stop.

Not wanting to remain on it any longer than absolutely necessary, and still reeling from the ridiculous amount of trust he just placed on Kevin in an uncharacteristic slew of hormones and nerves, Edd instantly wormed his way off the bike, doing his best not to rub against Kevin in anyway that would feel even slightly intimate so as not to overstep his boundaries.

He realized, with a tiny spark of annoyance towards what a child he was being, that his fingers and palms were numb, a telltale sign that he wasn't going to be okay for very long and he forced every ounce of self control he had into making sure he didn't freak out on the spot as he watched Kevin flip down the kick stand and pull his keys out, dismounting his bike and turning to Edd with a half smirk that made Edds already tight chest feel like it was going to burst out of his rib cage.

"See you're alive right?" Kevin laughed, his hand going back up to the back of his neck. "Toss me the helmet yeah?"

Realizing with a wave of embarrassment strong enough to make Edd cringe, he realized how stupid he must look with the helmet still on and his arms clamped around himself like a child. Casting his eyes down to avoid Kevin's soft, almost pitying smile, he reached up and took off the helmet, the fresh humid air hitting his face and calming him instantly. He inhaled heavily and held out the helmet to the other boy.

"I'm never doing that again." He said with as much conviction as he could manage. Out of habit bus eyes were still fixed somewhere on the ground, and it wasn't until he realized Kevin hadn't answered him that he allowed himself to look up, his pulse quickening again as the helmet began to slip in his suddenly slick palms. "Kevin?"

The question died Edds throat before he could finish it as a strange grin broke out on Kevin's face and he cocked his head to the side. "Your hair."

Edd blinked blankly for a brief second before looking down into the helmet in his hands and saw the distinct black and white of his hat nestled inside. He hadn't even realized it had come off.

"Oh no! Oh dear oh, my hat-" Edd could feel himself begin to babble and a heavy blush flooded his throat and ears. He couldn't let anyone see him without it! Much less Kevin of all people, and before he could navigate getting his hat back on without moving the helmet still in his hands he froze as Kevin took another step closer into his personal space.

"Kevin? What-"

A strong and heavy hand came up and pushed an errant curl away from his face, tangling it's fingers through Edds long hair and coming back down around the back of his head, the fingertips kissing Edds lower jaw as Kevin dropped his hand and his grin widened. "I like it."

Edd could feel his teeth digging through his lower lip as he struggled to understand what on gods green earth had just happened. After gaping a few times and realizing speaking wasn't going to happen and hating himself for shattering the moment (was it a moment?) and he thrust the helmet back at Kevin. He took it with no complaints and Edd snatched his hat back, shoving it back into his head and pushing all of his hair back into it.

"My apologies on my wardrobe malfunction." He finally muttered once he had put himself back in order.

"Not even man." Edd was still so confused when he slipped on his glasses and saw the giant grin Kevin was sporting and it obviously showed on his face because it only got wider. "Your hair looks rad! Why don't you ever go hatless?" Kevin began walking up towards the school, Edd nearly tripping over his feet in his haste to catch up.

"No! Never, it's so long, and so," Edd paused, the usual cringe of shame and embarrassment rising. "feminine, it's just, not really mainstream you know? I just feel like." He swallowed, still unsure how much he was willing to disclose to Kevin. "I don't feel like it would be well received."

Kevin shook his head, his green eyes twinkling and his grin unfaltering. "Fuck em man. Who gives a shit what they think? You obviously like it since you haven't cut it, and I like it, cause is all curly and soft. I think it's badass."

Edd blinked for a second as he watched Kevin walk next to him, completely nonplussed and free of worry or thought. He was right,of course. Edd loved his hair, he had kept it long for his entire life, is was Eddy however, who had had, a less then reasonable reaction to it when they were children that just made Edd feel safer with the hat on.

"Well, thank you." He managed to force out, the knot in his throat unwinding and slowing him to inhale slightly. He blinked, realizing that they were well past the front doors of the school now, his feet taking him to his usual spot at the library for his usual pre school study session. "Kevin?"

"Ya?" Kevin's eyes were still lazily focused ahead of him, his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. He shifted his gaze to Edd and smirked. Edd nearly snapped his neck as he straightened his eyes.

"Where are you going?"

He chanced a glance up at the taller boy as his question floated between them. To his surprise Kevin was his green eyes focused on him, his eyebrows furrowed slightly and the lightest pink tinge around his freckles. Edd felt his heart speed up again and he fought the urge to fidget with his hands. "You always go to the library before class right?" Kevin's voice has the tiniest hint of something Edd couldn't identify. "I'm just walking ya there."

Edd couldn't find his voice again to argue Kevin's point and merely settled for nodding shortly and focusing on getting there without tripping over his shoes. How on earth had Kevin known his study habits? Of course he had been taking refuge in the library before classes since he was in fifth grade, it had begun as more of an opportunity to hide from bullies who wouldn't be caught dead inside there, and as he had grown older it had morphed into a way to soothe his frazzled nerves when his obsessive thoughts began to whisper he hadn't studied enough.

But how on earth he Kevin known that? He had never exactly been one of the bullies Edd sought to hide from, but they were certainly in his crowd, and he had never once caught sight of anywhere near the library. Edds collar felt tight.

Once they had reached the library however his collar felt more like a vice, trapping the blood in his head and Edd felt like it would explode. He licked his trembling lips and turned to Kevin, instantly annoyed at how relaxed he looked, his green eyes lidded and a small smirk playing on his mouth.

Damn him.

"I g-guess this is me." Edds hands instantly clamped down into fists and he felt his chewed on nails dig into his palms. He hated when he stuttered, and it happened way too often for his liking, and the way it made the other corner of Kevin's mouth perk up made Edd nauseous.

"Looks like it." Kevin's easy smile remained and, without removing his hands from the pocket of his letterman jacket, he knocked Edds arm with his elbow in a friendly bump. "I'll see you around kid."

Edd forced himself to watch as Kevin sauntered down the hall, as usual not looking back at him and it was a few seconds before he could catch his breath, hoping his face wasn't flushed red enough to embarrass himself as he slipped into the library.

-----------------------

"Seriously Edd, you're being extra weird. Spill."

Edd cringed again, ducking his head further down into his yogurt and avoiding Eddy's eyes. He had been receiving the third degree from his shorter friend since he sat down, and he was running out of excuses. Usually, Eddy was more than sensitive with Edds anxiety and never pushed him too hard for him to speak, but apparently the mans patience was at its end.

"I'm fine Eddy, can't a child be tired at school? It's not like it's completely unheard of." Edd didn't like when his irritation got the better of him and made his voice waspy . It left an ugly taste in his mouth and Eddy didn't really deserve that.

Ed looked up, his quiet friend no doubt picking up on Edds agitation. "You do look off Double D." His large brown eyes were lined in concern and it made Edd uncomfortable. He didn't like when his friends ganged up on him like this, it usually ended in him blurting out whatever was bearing down on his mind and he didn't want to cry in the middle of lunch.

But even as he wrung his fingers as the anxiety crept up the back of his spine, he was saved answering his friends by a voice piping up behind Eddy.

"Hi guys!"

Eddy jumped in surprise at Nazz's cheery greeting and Edds hand automatically came up to cover his grin as the giggle was startled out of him. He froze, however as he looked behind the cheery blonde at Kevin, who was hovering behind her with his hands in his pockets. As their eyes met, Kevin's face softened into a warm smile that made Edds throat close up completely, the lack of oxygen making the floor tilt.

"Hey man." Ed reached over a fist for Kevin to bump, the pair sharing a grin as Ed scooted his chair over. "What up." Edd blinked, he forgot Ed and Kevin had played football together their junior year before Ed shattered his kneecap. It was strange to see them interacting.

"Princess wanted to eat inside today because she's afraid of a little rain." Kevin kept walking around the table until he came to the chair directly next to Edd, sending him a tiny wink as he slung himself down into it. Edd had yet to start breathing again.

"Oh yeah I'm the princess, Mr. You Don't Know What Rain Does To My Hair." Nazz stuck her tongue out at Kevin before scooting down between Ed and Eddy, turning to the latter and lowering her eyelashes in a manner that Edd would call shy of he didn't know any better. "Do you mind Eddy?" She asked, her voice softer than Edd had ever heard it and out of the corner of his eye he saw Kevin laugh under his breath.

Eddy, who had been looking mildly indignant since the two showed up, intently snapped his mouth shut and a bright blush sprang into his cheeks. "N-nah, like its cool."

Ed rolled his eyes and turned to Kevin. "How's life fam."

"Same old same old." Kevin drawled, turning his head slightly to catch his eye, a question twinkling in the green. Edd knew he was silently asking if discussing their study sessions was allowed, though why Kevin felt the need to ask, Edd couldn't imagine. But he was great full for his consideration, and without meeting his eyes he shook his head minutely, careful not to be seen by Eddy, who was looking anywhere but the blonde next to him. Kevin bit his lip, something Edd couldn't identify curling around the edges of his eyes, but he said nothing.

"Cassidy Summer broke her hip during practice yesterday." Nazz piped up with a pleased looking smile at Edd. "Looks like any remote competition for valedictorian is going to be homeschooled for the next six months."

"Nazz you gossip." Edd chided lightly, making her giggle and Eddys blush grew deeper. "I was never worried about Cassidy Summer of all people, her GPA is an entire .03 percent below mine."

"What's gonna happen to the squad then?" Eddy finally spoke, turning to Nazz in a show of bravery even Edd had to applaud. They fell into an easy conversation and Edd sat back quietly, marveling at how easily they all spoke with a quiet envy.

The heavy presence to his right, however didn't let him sit still and he slowly crept his hand to his throat, laying two fingers over his pulse point and counting the beats in an effort to ignore the monstrous amount of damage Kevin's close proximity was doing to his psyche. He knew for a fact he couldn't afford to like Kevin the way he was beginning to, and the knowledge that he was sliding off a cliff with a certain death at the bottom was enough to install a deep fear of the redhead in him. Kevin may not be with Nazz, but he's certainly not gay, and even if he were the chances of him going for Edd of all people were so slim they might as well not exist. Edd knew where he stood. He also knew that he was playing with fire and he was dangerously close to getting burned.

His pulse jumped. And the room was growing warmer as the oppressive thoughts began to crowd Edds head the claustrophobia set in. Oh no, not now, not here he couldn't have an anxiety attack right now, not now of all times-

He flinched violently as his name was thrown at him across the table, breaking the heavy fog that was slowly swallowing him and his eyes focused on Ed, staring at him with concern and his mouth was moving, what was he saying-

Another sensation that nearly felt like pain broke though the fog on his other side, he could see through his swimming vision Kevin's hand on the sleeve of his sweater, and he looked up to meet the green eyes he knew were waiting for him and he couldn't, the reason for his panic smacking him full in the face and he cannot like Kevin- he jerked his hand back from the burn and stood on shaking legs. He didn't have much time, his vision was beginning to blur with tears and his head was growing and growing, becoming too heavy to see or hear or speak and he couldn't give them a reason and they'll be upset if he can't and he couldn't handle what their faces must look like and Kevin's right there-

Edd ran.

As he spun and hurried out of the cafeteria, he could barely hear the concerned calls of his name, the scrape of chairs being pushed back as their occupants stood quickly, the thrum of footsteps as someone followed him.

Faster, can't let them, no no no- Edd couldn't keep his thoughts straight as he forced his feet to move, carrying him down random halls and up random stairs all the while the frustration pent up in him. He had been doing so well with all his anxiety nonsense, nothing had even happened to trigger this one, simply Kevin's presence next to him-

Kevin.

Edds heart sank further as he reached his destination, an empty classroom on the third floor that he liked to frequent when he needed silence, and slipped inside, his labored breathing echoing his heart beating in his ears. His throat was too narrow and too full of bile for him to breathe and he dropped his bag and lowered himself onto the floor, his head going to his hands and his knees curling up to his chest. Kevin had seen him in his weakness, he must have looked so stupid, and now anything that might have slowly built up between them-

Which is nothing-

-would certainly be shattered. He had lost his chance because he couldn't even keep himself in check. What was wrong with him.

Release. He needed a release.

With a trembling hand Edd reached for his bag, he needed his razor blade, he couldn't handle how loud everything was and he needed the quiet-

He was so focused on reaching his discarded bag that he hadn't realized he never reached it, but the noise was becoming quieter somehow, the fog growing less sharp and the metallic taste of panic was ebbing away from his tongue. Everything was slowing down again as though he had managed to cut himself but he knew he had never reached his razor. Curious.

Edd realized that his eyes were closed, and he was still hunched over himself, but there was a comforting weight on his shoulders, and almost like a ray of light, a tiny melody of some sort was finding Edd through the fog, a rhythmic constant sound that Edd grasped for and clung to, following it out of the noise.

When the noise in his head had subsided, Edd could focus more on the noise that had broken it's reverie and could identify it as a voice coming from above him.

"45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51-"

They were counting with him. Edd figured since he never reached his razor and therefore couldn't count aloud the cuts he gave himself, he had merely began counting aloud like a crazy person anyways. Whoever was with him was just nice enough to slow it down for him.

But who-

No.

Edd froze, every muscle locking as he realized it was the deep and steady timbre of Kevin's voice coming from above him, and that it was Kevin's hands that were holding his body in place from their perch on his shoulders. Edd wanted to melt into a puddle of self loathing and sink into the floor where he sat. He couldn't believe Kevin of all people had found him. It was bad enough he had witnessed his meltdown in the cafeteria and now this? Edd screwed his eyes shit against the fresh tears of rage and humiliation he could feel burning behind his eyes. Why couldn't he do anything right.

Kevin seemed to sense The change in him, the counting stopped and the hands loosened slightly, moving instead in small circles on his shoulders in a soft gesture that send daggers of ice through Edds chest.

"Hey D?" Kevin's low rasp reached his ears and the tears began to fall again, Edd not trusting his voice. "You okay kid?"

Don't you do it. Do not do it. Don't you dare Eddward I swear-

Edd couldn't help it, despite the voice screaming on his head not to, he blinked his wet eyes open and looked up.

And instantly lost his newfound ability to breathe again. Kevin was so close, his worried green eyes inches away from Edds own and his hands still massaging his shoulders and Edd felt like he was on fire, every nerve in his body was screaming. Kevin didn't speak, just stared at Edd with kind and unwavering eyes that just made Edd want to throw up. Why hadn't Kevin gotten up and left him? Couldn't he see how weak and pathetic he was.

After what seemed like an eternity, Kevin moved one hand off his shoulder and Edd flinched violently away from it as he saw it nearing his face. Kevin stopped his actions and his eyebrows contracted further as another wave of shame washed over Edd. Moving slowly, as though trying to look as harmless and un intimidating as possible, Kevin reached with halo sleeve and carefully wiped away the tears that had collected on Edds narrow cheeks, the soft fabric of his sweater and the tenderness behind the motion forcing a muffled sob and new tears out of Edds face and Kevin gave a low chuckle, the sound surprising Edd as he stared into him.

"Well of you keep crying you're gonna mess up my hard work here." Kevin muttered teasingly, keeping a tiny smile on his face as he cleaned Edds face again. Edd was so confused. This wasn't at all what he was expecting. He felt he should speak.

"Ah-"

He couldn't. As soon as he opened his mouth to Kevin his throat dried up along with his words and nothing but a warbled croak came out. Kevin chuckled lowly at the sound, shaking his head and lowering himself into the floor so he was sitting cross legged in front of Edd. "Eddy told me you get anxiety attacks. I didn't know that." The casual tone with which Kevin spoke made Edds head hurt. "He said we had to follow you and make sure you were okay."

Edd blinked. Of course his friends would follow him, though why Kevin had reached him first he was still confused about, Ed knew about this room, if anything he should have-

The magic of the moment and the softness of Kevin's sweater broke simultaneously as the classroom door banged open and Ed stormed in, startling a jump out of both he and Kevin. Ed moved swiftly towards then, his eyes roaming over Edd in a way that Edd was all to familiar with. Once Ed was convinced that he hadn't donE any damage to himself the relief was tangible on his face and, with a great full glance at Kevin, looked over his shoulder.

"Eddy! I found him!"

All at once more movement as Eddy and Nazz entered his safe haven, all concerned looks and indignant words from Eddy and in the midst of it all Kevin stood up, and a hand reached for Edds and he was pulled up too and he blinked at his friends as hey all spoke simultaneously, asking if he was all right. Edd nodded at the right moments, and spoke at the right prompts and even smiled here and there until the bell rang and he was ushered off to class, the glint of bright green eyes following him out of the classroom.

Oh dear.

Chapter Text

The sudden click and rush of sound as his air conditioner kicked back on startled a jump out of Edd, effectively cutting his yawn short and waking him up, much to his relief. He hadn't been sleeping well lately, but it wouldn't do to fall asleep randomly, especially now.

Looking up, he saw that Kevin had caught the movement and he grinned softly, a teasing lilt to his expression and Edd narrowed his eyes at him playfully, the familiar jolt of nerves playing at Edds fingertips at the fact that he was allowed to do so now. Kevin grinned wider but returned to his homework, releasing the pressure his eyes held on Edd.

Edd had never gotten around to asking Kevin exactly why, even long after the rain had stopped, he and Naz had permanently migrated from their usual spot outside to the Eds table at lunch; despite the dizzying near panic that enveloped Edd at Kevin's constant close proximity, the last thing he needed was Kevin to think he didn't want him there. And Kevin was a gentle presence at lunch, he wasn't sharp to Eddy and divided his attention between friendly talk with Ed and soft, nearly whispered words for Edd, something that still made his heart stutter.

It still amazed Edd that he and Kevin had passed the rocky start of acquaintance and had stepped into what Edd would dare call friendship. He and Kevin spent an hour or so nearly every night over the last month slowly raising the sunken ship that was Kevin's grades, though some days they didn't bother with pre cal or history, but sat and talked with each other, and slowly but surely the ice caps in Edds throat had began to melt around Kevin and he could speak freely, without anxiety or a stutter, when he didn't think about it too much.

Because when he thought about it too much, he realized yet again how well and truly lost and doomed he was. Over a particularly bad panic attack after Kevin had smiled at him and quietly shut his front door after Tuesday night biology session Edd had realized he had gone and developed the most intense and painful romantic feelings for Kevin, the fire the redhead awakened in his heart only made more painful by the fact that, not only was Kevin the paradigm of heterosexual, they were friends, and Edd confessing his feelings would surely terminate that.

He was truly trapped between a rock and a hard place, and Edd was drowning.

Which was how he found himself on his couch yet again, in a tightly buttoned cardigan and an empty house, watching the beautiful curve of Kevin's jawline work in frustration as Kevin glared down at his textbook. The itchy Colton of Edds cardigan ticketed along the back of his neck as remainder of the dying summer heat was warming up Edds den. He pulled at his sleeves. He longed to remove the damned sweater, but as far as Kevin knew, he was only partially crazy, and if he were to ever seen the state of Edds arms, or thighs-

No

-Edd winced. Never would Kevin see his cuts or scars if it killed him.

"Hey."

Edd looked up at the soft rasp rained hell onto his senses, his throat dry and his stomach plunging at the onslaught of nerves that threatened to undo him at the sound of the redheads voice.

Get it to together.

Edd forced a timid, close lipped smile, his hand absently drifting to his throat to monitor his suddenly too quick pulse.

"Yes Kevin?" Edd closed his eyes in horror, his voice sounded so small, so timid and scared he hated it. He opened his eyes to see that Kevin hadn't seemed to notice his strained voice, his bright green eyes were trained on Edds fingers on his throat.

"You alright kid?" Kevin sat up slightly, his eyes darting back up to meet Edds. Another strange occurrence over the last month, Edd had slowly grown to realize, was how gentle Kevin was with him now, how tender he was with his words and facial expressions and how vicious he was to stand up for him if Eddy was getting too mouthy or pushy with his questions. It touched Edd, it made him blush and feel unfairly cherished all at once, but it also tasted faulty like humiliation and failure and weighed heavily on his shoulders.

Not that he could blame Kevin in the slightest for his sudden vigilance with his moods. He still felt the hot tears of shame prickle at his eyes when he thought of that first day when Kevin and Nazz came to them, still felt the fire of embarrassment and self loathing lick at his mind when he remembers how badly he had lost it, and Kevin's concern wrinkled eyes when he had found him in the classroom, curled up on himself and all around pathetic.

He was only so great full that he had never managed to reach his razor blade, he couldn't imagine nor did he think he could handle the disgust that would no doubt mar Kevin's chiseled face if he were too find out Edds deepest secret.

He would take an overly concerned Kevin over one that saw him for the sniveling insect he was any day.

So he put on the prettiest smile he could, even allowing the tiniest hint of teeth to flash the way Kevin sometimes told him he liked-

You look happier when you smile with your teeth, what gap?

-and nodded empathetically. "I'm quite well Kevin, are you nearly completed?"

Kevin dropped his eyes back to his homework and scowled. His hand reached back and scratched under his hat in that nervous tick Edd had grown to cherish and shook his head. "No, I mean, yeah, but I'm garbage at conclusions, the outline for essays you wrote me helped like, a shit ton with the rest of it but closing isn't my forte." He finished with a cheeky grin and stuck his tongue out at Edd. "But see my French pronunciation is getting better."

Edd bit back a giggle, one hand coming up to cover his mouth as he laughed and the other holding out for Kevin's essay. "That word is Italian Kevin, allow me to proofread will you?"

"Well duh." Kevin handed the pages over to Edd with a confident lift to his eyebrows and settled back on his phone. Edd watched his face light up in his tiny screen for a second before closing his eyes and taking a deep breath; looking back down at the work he was supposed to be proofreading.

Messy messy messy

He forced himself instead to focus on Kevin's admittedly good, if a touch clumsy essay. The last thing he needed was to get distracted in such a vulnerable place.

No matter how he yearned.

And yearned he did.

Edd had never known something could spark a fire as bold as the one Kevin coaxed out of his heart. It made the entire thing all the more bittersweet. Edd had watched Kevin grow up from a distance, on the other side of the wall deciding their social hierarchy, and now, though they had bridged the gap, he was still untouchable.

Edd rolled his eyes at himself as he flipped the essay to the next page. Look at him, waxing poetic about an unrequited crush. Surely he didn't need something else wrong with him. Like he didn't have enough issues that liked to rear their heads at the most in opportune moments.

But, speak of the devil and he shall appear as they say, and as Edd managed to chase away his chiding thoughts about his own skittish behavior a loud ringing filled the air suddenly, startling an undignified Yelp out of Edd as Kevin's essay went sailing to the floor.

Kevin at least for his part had the grace not to laugh, letting only the barest of smile slip through at Edds outburst as he pulled out his phone.

"Yo." He spoke shortly in answer to his phone call, his green eyes still darting to over to Edd in furtive movements he pretended not to notice. He instead busied himself with picking up the scattered pieces of Kevin's homework.

"Chill will you you crazy person? We're going just chill. Lie to Eddy some more and we'll be right fucking there." Edd assumed Kevin was speaking to Nazz as he watched Kevin hang up his phone with a long suffering eye roll. Nazz had invited herself and Kevin along to their movie night, nearly insisted on it the persistent girl. Though the thought of an extra activity outside of school lunches and study sessions with Kevin made Edd nauseous to the point of fatigue, it also made his pulse race beneath his fingertips with something like fire, set his shallow breaths ablaze with anticipation and he could barely admit to himself how excited he was and how much he was looking forward to this since Nazz had suggested it.

At last Kevin stood, rolling his shoulders free of tension and causing another slew of messes for Edds thinking process, holding out one large hand down to Edd. "Can I have that so I can put it somewhere I'll remember to turn it in?" The question was delivered with a smirk, though Edd handed it back with a stern expression.

"Kevin I swear if I find out I've been slaving away for you to forget to turn in your homework at all, so help me." Edd began as threateningly as he could, glaring when Kevin snatched his papers away and shoved them into his backpack with a mischievous laugh.

"Of course I turn in the damn homework Edd." Kevin was still giggling as Edd flared up at him. "That would kinda hurt what we're doing here if I didn't, right?" Kevin looked over his shoulder, his green eyes catching Edds and his smile softening.

Edds breath caught in his throat, the way it always did when Kevin looked at him like this, or spoke in disarmingly sweet tones the way he was. He barely managed a nod and a shaky "without a doubt." When Kevin fully turned towards him, his eyes locked onto Edds and his face unreadable as one of his large hands came up towards Edds face. Edd felt the world narrow to the size of a pinpoint before his eyes as Kevin's index finger found the bridge of his glasses and pushed them back up his nose from where Edd hadn't noticed they slipped. The motion was so sudden and unsettling that Edd instantly jerked back, his hands coming up to wring themselves in front of his face and Kevin rewarded him with another chuckle, his soft eyes back on his backpack as he stood and slung it over his shoulder.

"Nazz wants us at Eds already." Kevin offered a hand to help Edd up, looking unaffected when Edd didn't take it, pulling himself up instead. "She said if we're not there soon Eddys gonna start calling you." At this, Kevin did look slightly crestfallen, his eyes focusing on Edds sneakers as he rearranged his cardigan with anxious fingers, a twinge of guilt forcing its way between each of Edds breaths.

Edd still hadn't told his friends of his study sessions with Kevin.

He didn't really know why, he knew that his friends liked Kevin, and surely wouldn't raise any off questions about their extracurricular activities, there was just something stopping Edd. And he knew what it was, now that he was faced with it. He just didn't wanna deal with it.

"Oh, um, Kevin?"

"Yeah kid?"

"Um, if you could refrain from mentioning our study sessions tomorrow at lunch, I'd appreciate it."

"Um, I mean yeah, why though?"

"No particular reason Kevin, I'd just rather not deal with their responses."

"Sure Edd. Anything you say."

But no, of course he knew why. Ed and Eddy knew of his sexual orientation, they had known for years; and Eddy, though loud and obtuse as he was, was often more perceptive than made Edd comfortable. Eddy was always the one who picked up on it first if Edd was about to panic. He had no doubt in his mind that the instant Eddy knew he was spending time with Kevin outside of school, he'd put two and two together so fast and then spend the rest of his time side eyeing Edd and dropping annoying hints that he knew.

And no one could know.

And so Edd did what he always did when Kevin was visibly upset by this. Smiled and swallowed his nerves enough to tug on the sleeve of Kevin's hoodie, raising those green eyes back up from his shoes to meet his eyes and spoke. "Well we best not keep them waiting then."

The walk to Nazz's was a quiet one. Kevin pensively staring straight ahead with his chin aloft and his hands in his pockets as the early September wind softly tousled the hair sticking out of his hat. Edd did his best to mimic him and keep his eyes straight, instead of fixed on Kevin's profile. They spoke sparingly, discussing why movie night had somehow morphed into specifically horror movie night(Eds fault) and how warped Eddys sense of personal space was as Edds phone; good on Nazz's promise, began vibrating with texts Edd refused to open halfway to Eds house.

When they reached it, Edd let them in through Eds side door, Kevin's eyebrows lifting in question and dropping at Edds shrug of an answer. As they crossed through the living room they found Sarah and Jimmy on the couch, their eyes glued to the tv and both of them sending back a half hearted "Hey" when they were greeted.

Edd fought down a blush as they reached the basement door and Kevin hustled in front of him, turned and opening the door for him with an over exaggerated sweeping flourish, his eyes gleaming mischievously. Edd smiled softly and nodded his head once, slinking under Kevin's arm, taking care to not brush against Kevin's torso as he passed.

"Hey!" Naz sang as she sailed over to Edd as he descended the steps, carefully pulling him into a hug by his hands. Edd didn't flinch, and thanked Neptune for small miracles as she hugged him. "You boys ready for bloody alien movies?"

"Alien? Who authorized a vote before I arrived?" Edd sputtered, pulling away from Naz and turning to glare at Eddy. Before he could speak, however, he saw that Eddys eyes were currently fixed on Kevin in narrowed suspicion as he continued down the stairs.

"Why did you guys get here together?" Eddy asked slowly, turning back to look at Edd now and pinning him with his stare. Edds stomach plummeted, this was it, surely Eddy would eviscerate him verbally for the secret he had been hiding. He swore his heart stopped.

"Uh, we live across the street from each other Pipsqueak." Kevin cut in nonchalantly, ducking Nazz's attempt at a hug and returning a smirk to Eddys still narrowed eyes. "We ran into each other. Problem?" Kevin had a good foot of height on Eddy, and though they were somewhat friends now Kevin had no problem holding it, physically and metaphorically, over Eddys head as he stood in his personal space and pointedly looked down at him.

Eddy looked like he wanted to fight it, ignoring Kevin's attempt to intimidate him and staring straight at Edd. Edd had gotten better at not crumbling completely whenever Eddy put any pressure on him whatsoever, and he shrugged in response, watching the irritation visibly affect Eddy deeper before he rolled his eyes, knocking Kevin out of the way with his shoulder and muttering, "Whatever Shovelchin."

Edd breathed a sigh of relief as Kevin let out a bark of laughter, tousling Eddys hair as he passed and earning another scowl. As soon as Eddy and Kevin reverted to their childhood nicknames then they usually cooled off whatever tension has grown between them.

"But yass! Alien movies!" Naz seemed beside herself with excitement as she plopped herself back down on the floor, looking beyond thrilled surrounded by Ed's extensive horror film collection.

"I'm assuming there was no vote then?" Edd smiled as he watched Eddys face brighten up as he joined Naz on the floor. She shoved his shoulder and he flushed a bright pink, his hand shoving his bangs out of his face as Nazz giggled. Edd placed himself carefully on the couch, placing his phone on the small table that held two giant bowls of chips and pulling his legs to his chest before curling up on himself. Ed was stretched out on the floor below him, his eyes buried in his phone. One of Eds large hands came up gently on Edds shoe and patted him twice, Edd smiling at the gesture.

"No, there wasn't. Princess here insisted on outer space for some reason." Edd was actually shocked at how soft the teasing tone in Eddys voice was as Nazz laughed and all but threw a dvd at Ed, Edd squeaking softly as it flew in his direction and Ed caught it easily.

"I love aliens! Nothing scarier than something that might actually exist!" Nazz stood and grabbed Eddys arm and tugged him up, moving around Ed to the floor Ed vacated in front of the couch and tugging them down as Ed set up the television. "Kevin? Sit the hell down, you're making everyone nervous just standing there." Nazz pouted at Kevin and Edd realized he was still hovering by the end of the staircase, eyes lowered and jaw stiff as he surveyed the room. He met Edds gaze, sending his pulse fluttering all over again before pushing himself off the wall and slouching forward. He slowly lowered himself to the couch a foot from Edd, crossing his legs to not hit Nazz and Eddy and keeping his eyes straight ahead; Edd felt a cold sweat break out around the back of his ears. Kevin kept his head straight, but his eyes slid slowly to Edd, keeping his gaze locked in this peripheral and he cracked a tiny smile. Edd swore his heart stopped as his tongue suddenly felt too thick in his mouth. His throat is coated in spun glass and sandpaper.

"And this one is apparently based off a true story." Ed answered her as he sat back down on the other side of the couch on Kevin's right side, kicking him lightly and earning a middle finger from Kevin. "The Fourth Kind, very Blair Witch apparently." Edd heard the lamp click off as Ed turned out the lights and the movie started.

Edd couldn't focus as the movie started, the collective sound of everyone chewing on their popcorn and Ed and Nazz carrying on a whispered argument about his movie comparison rustling around him. He was far too aware of Kevin next to him, his legs crossed and his elbows resting on them in the corner of Edds vision and it took everything Edd had to not turn and stare at Kevin's jawline. He felt his throat begin to tighten and closed his eyes, he needed to control himself, he couldn't afford to keep losing his mind around Kevin the way he was, he had been so cool earlier, why was he nearly hyperventilating now?

A shift of movement in the corner of Edds vision snapped him out of his internal panic. Kevin had moved positions now, straightening his legs and worming them between Eddy and Nazz on the floor and smirking at the glare Nazz shot over her shoulder at him.

Was he closer?

He was definitely closer.

Edd felt himself physically begin to tremble as he realized that Kevin was a good six inches closer to him now. The sounds of the film and his friends breathing grated on Edds ears, like mechanical clicking as his bran struggled to keep up and stay present. He was far too aware of everything. He could smell Kevin's fruity gum and Eddys over abundance of cologne. The air is a thick viscous liquid that is too loud as it fights past the glaciers inside of Edd.

Kevin stretches absently, one arm made of steel and bone stretches above Edd and he watches it as best he could without turning his head. His sweater rustles as he continues to unwaveringly destroy the mountains that surround Edd. Pebbles and dust cloud Edds vision. He hears the earthquake as Kevin's arm lands on the couch behind him.

He's going to pass out.

Kevin inches closer.

Before the world can narrow to a keyhole in front of him and Edd sleeps in the destruction of the stones around him, Kevin's arm snakes around his shoulder, resting with the cruelest imitation of being casual as Edds world slams back to focus and all he can feel is Kevin's arm that weighs as much as a planet resting on his shoulders that he's well too aware of being far too bony.

He can't move, if he moves Kevin's arm will crush him into dust and he'll be swept away on the wind of Eddy and Nazz's breathing.

Kevin's fingers tap out a lullaby on his shoulder, a soft and steady rhythm that echoes in Edds vacant chest and he begins to count along to the gentle beat.

Onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnineteneleven

His pulse slowly matches his counts and the feeling rushed back to his fingers as the hands he didn't realize had clamped down into fists began to unfurl, dust and dirt swirling from their grip as they tiptoe up to dance along his throat with his pulse and Kevin's lullaby begins to work in between Edds bones, soothing him and putting all the nervousness and numbers to sleep until he can feel his back relax, his shoulders finally admitting defeat and succumbing to the weight of the mountain above them.

As soon as Kevin feels Edd droop against him, he winds his arm more firmly around him, pulling him tighter to him and turning his body so Edds bones are cushioned in the soft mass that is Kevin.

Kevin's arm is around him.

 

Edd can't focus, his eyes are droopy and his heart is still stuttering through the lullaby as the scent of rain and boy swirl around him. Kevin's heartbeat is slow on his back, and his heat holds Edd in something softer then Edd can remember feeling. He feels torn, his head is floating in a blissful fog while his feet are dragging in their chains. He knows he should be happy about this, he's been dying for something like this.

Why is he so terrified? Like he is dangling over a deep chasm only being held up by sweet ropes of honey and nectar that threaten to snap the longer they hold him.

Messy messy messy honey is sticky and you are messy and crazy-

He stops himself there, slams the doors shut on his angry head and counts.

He keeps himself perfectly still in Kevin's loose, one armed embrace, and when the credits roll and eternity later, the mountain retreats and the dust settles once again. Swirling in the air as Ed turns the lamp back on and he and Naz immediately launch into an argument about what movie to watch next.

Edd excuses himself five minutes later and throws up his popcorn into the toilet.

Chapter Text

This is dumb. This is really dumb. Like really fucking stupid. I'm not doing this.

"I'm not doing this." Kevin called through the changing room door, his eyebrows scrunched in disgust and his breathing constricted in the tight costume. "Like not happening at all."

"Why the hell not?" Nazz opened the door and glared at him as she leaned on it. "This was your idea, why you bitching out?"

"I mean I tried to before I saw the costume and now it's even more of a no." He frowned harder as he glared at his reflection. "Like no. Edds gonna laugh at me. Also it's a boys only dressing room so fuck off."

"It's cute tho!" Nazz fought for her straight face. "I think he'll love it. And it's nothing new, I've seen you in dumb costumes before." Nazz winked as she fluffed out his cape.

Kevin was currently squeezed into the tightest superman costume imaginable, the collar pushing his Adam's apple somewhere near his gallbladder and making his crotch area a little more than uncomfortable. "Yeah I'm not down Nazz."

"Ugh you're such a child. If you don't do it we won't match" she pouted as she shoved him aside with her hip to admire her wonder woman costume in the mirror. "We always match."

"Go find out what Eddys gonna be and then match with him then." Kevin laughed as Nazz face instantly turned scarlet and he dodged the slap she aimed at his shoulder.

"Just for that, you're wearing it."she said vindictively as she snatched the tag off his costume. "Im gonna go buy these while you change."

She had danced out of the changing room before he could stop her and he sighed, convicted to his fate as he struggled to peel himself out of the damned costume.

He had always wanted to throw a crazy Halloween party, invite all the kids he grew up with, give Johnny a reason to leave his house here and there, but his dad had never let him. This year, Nazz had managed to coax the thought out of him and ran with it, deciding against Kevin's better judgment to actually throw it and was currently in the process of humiliating him in every dumb costume she could find.

But, all in all dumb costume aside, it really wasn't what was making Kevin so reluctant about the entire thing.

No, reluctant wasn't the right word, nervous, apprehensive? Kevin didn't even know the meaning of that word before Edd. Maybe protective.

Kevin knew he was in love with Edd, knew he had been for years, it had just become something he had accepted about himself, just a fact. He had red hair, hated khaki pants and was in love with Eddward Vincent. It was always strange though, growing up with such a metaphorical distance between himself and the younger boy, watching his wide blue eyes and soft white skin from across the lane or on the other side of the park, separated by social circles, he always burned with such a deep heat that never was really soothed by his brief interactions with him, and he had always wondered if they had been close if the burn would have been soothed, like a calming balm.

But, as Kevin had learned in an irritatingly painful lesson, his new blossoming friendship with Edd had done nothing to calm the fluttering of his heart at the sweet boys proximity, had merely fanned the flames that engulfed him when he was graced with a gapped tooth smile. He wasn't a balm, he was gasoline, feeding into Kevin's sleepless nights and constant yearning.

Kevin sighed as he finally got the costume off and pulled on his hoodie, laziness prompting him to wear it in lieu of an actual shirt. No, spending all his time with him had done nothing to help him.

Kevin knew Edd was fragile. Anyone with eyes could tell the kid was made of glass, the way he shivered in his giant sweaters and the way he twitched whenever anyone so much as looked his way. Kevin found it more endearing than anything, an excuse to place a hand on his thin shoulder and feel the heat radiating through his thick sweater whenever he was lost in his thoughts. He still found his throat constricted when he thought about how he managed to gather enough balls to rest his arm across Edds shoulders. But when he found Edd alone, nearly coming to pieces on himself in the midst of what Eddy called an "anxiety attack", it tugged on something deep inside Kevin he had never really felt for anyone. An insane need to hold something close and protect it, and tear off the arm of anyone who threatened to come near it. Kevin was beyond fucked and he knew it at this point.

He knew he was being irrational around Edd now, constantly checking on him though he hadn't moved off his couch for an hour, texting him nearly constantly through the day to make sure he was alright, almost sitting in the poor kids lap during lunch. He didn't know how Edd was handling his sudden shadowing but he couldn't help himself. Edd drove him fucking crazy and he would almost hate it if Edd didn't smile at him the way he did.

Which made Nazz's insistence about this stupid party all the worse in Kevin's mind. Sure it was just kids from school and around the cul-de-sac, but there would be loud noises and people in masks and alcohol and as much as Kevin hated being a mother hen the idea of Edd anywhere that could emotionally upset him made Kevin's stomach churn.

Swallowing his doubt, he instead left the dressing room, the dumb costume back in its bag and Nazz leaning against the door of the cheap costume shop, about twelve bags of junk surrounding her and she looked up with a too bright grin when she saw him.

"The hell did you buy?" Kevin toed one of the bags open to reveal an unhealthy amount of candy to drop the costume on top.

"Decorations, candy, like thirty bucks of plastic spiders, essentials." Nazzy's smile began to drop as she looked up at him. Kevin tried to cover it by bending and picking up as many of her bags as he could, only to have her tiny foot step on them to stop him.

"What's wrong?" Her face actually looked serious for once in her life. "Are you seriously that bummed about the costume?"

"No, I don't care about the costume." Kevin nudged her foot off and stood taking all of Nazz's nonsense to her mothers car parked outside the store. "I'm kinda still nervous about Edd even being there."

"Why? He'll have you there all night. Plus Eddy and Ed will be there, so it's not like he's gonna be alone or anything." Her lower lip disappeared into her teeth as Kevin avoided her gaze as best as he could, shoving bags into the car. "Are you still freaked out over that one time he panicked at school? Eddy said that happens, plus you'll be there, and he usually does so well around you, you know?"

"I mean I guess." Kevin slammed the door and walked over to the passenger side. "I don't know why I'm so twisted up about it tho. I'm willing to bet money he's never been to a party before too."

"Nah, Eddy throws them all the time. I'm sure he'll be fine Kev." Nazz flung herself into the drivers seat and looked back at him. "We must have faith young grasshopper."

"You're annoying." Kevin answered her, smiling as she let out a bark of laughter and pulled out of the parking lot. "And you would know about Eddy's partying habits wouldn't you? You're obsessed." Kevin laughed as Naz's face flushed scarlet and her eyes narrowed in his direction.

"Oh I'm obsessed? That's rich coming from someone who's panicking about his crush being at a party." Naz took a turn too sharp and laughed vindictively as Kevin's arm slipped off the door and the side of his head hit the window.

"That's what you get." She giggled again as Kevin scowled at her, the anxiety gnawing it's way back up his throat.

"Whatever."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh lord. It's ridiculous, it's ludicrous it's absurd!!

" I'm not entirely comfortable!" Edd called through his bedroom door, staring at his full length reflection at the horrific costume Eddy was trying to coerce him into.

"It's not even that bad Sockhead!" Eddy barreled into the room and stood next to Edd in the mirror in a matching costume. "Were skeletons! Plus it's funny because you're actually a skeleton."

"It's hard for me to put on weight Eddy, and I don't appreciate your insensitive commentary on the fact." Edd narrowed his eyes at his short friend as Eddy turned and admired his reflection in his mirror. "Must it be so form fitting? I never thought I'd feel so exposed with so much fabric on."

"Don't be a baby Double Dee." Eddy was practically vibrating with energy beside him and Edd felt a momentary flash of envy the way he usually did when his friends were excited about something that filled Edd with dread to his very core. He of course was thrilled to be invited to Kevin's Halloween party, more thrilled on a personal level at how Kevin had smoothly slid the flyer into his hands as he left their study session the week before, all green eyes and low gravelly voice telling him he better be there or else, dork.

"I'm trying Eddy." Edd finally answered him, sighing with resignation, choosing to ignore the apology forming on Eddys face and turning away to carefully collect his phone and house keys, refusing to ruin his friends night by being over sensitive. He was saved the talking to from Eddy by Ed bounding into the room, his matching costume slightly rumpled and his red hair wild on his head. Edd could tell he had already consumed a ridiculous amount of candy and a touch of the alcohol Eddy had smuggled from his parents house and he laughed as Eddy let out a growl of frustration when Ed collided with him, messing up his hair in the process.

"God Lumpy, take up some space why don't you." Eddy shoved Ed with a bony hip that barely came up to Ed's mid thigh and didn't seem to faze the taller boy at all.

"You can't stop the pre-game Eddy!" Edd bellowed in return, returning the hip check that slammed into Eddy's upper arm and sent him flying through Edds room and into his desk. Edds anxiety instantly flared up at he remembered the ant farm incident and all but shoved his essentials into the pockets on his ridiculously tight costume.

"Alright lads, out. We need to get going anyways." He ducked under Ed's arm and all but frog marched Eddy from the room, closing it carefully as Ed bounded out behind him.

"Damn Double Dee, is someone a little eager to go be a degenerate with the rest of us?" Eddy's grin was nearly maniacal as he danced down the stairs ahead of Edd. "You know we're all gonna make you drink right?"

"I firmly refuse Eddy" Edd threw back with a dirty look. "You know I am the last person who needs to have a lowered control of my mental facilities-"

"Alcohol is fun Double Dee!" Ed interrupted him him as he slid down the banister and landed on the ground floor. Edd could practically hear his parents having an aneurysm over how his friends behaved in their absence. "Plus you need to loosen up! It's Halloween!"

"Come on man, you need to at least take a shot with us." Eddy pulled out his phone as his ringer began to screech an annoying top 40's song and he all but shoved Edd out his front door into the night as he answered his phone. "Yo."

"One shot." Edd answered with eyes narrowed even as Ed nearly exploded with joy. "Im not going to lose track of myself. I still need to escort you and Eddy home, and lord knows you two don't have an iota of self control at these things."

"Self control is for chumps!" Ed agreed loudly, looking so happy Edd even cracked a smile.

"We're going, we're going, literally across the street." Eddy hung up and moved his short legs quicker, Edd hurrying to keep up. "C'mon, Naz is already buggin, we gotta go."

A pale knot of anxiety suddenly attacked Edds windpipe and his vision went fuzzy along the edges as his feet carried him closer to Kevin's front door. His costume was much too tight, he would never be able to breathe-

Though before he could finish his worrying thought, the door swung open and the loud music and blinking lights assaulted Edds senses, momentarily wiping away his panic. Naz stood is he doorway, her bright costume catching the flickering strobe light and her smile just as blinding as she grinned at them. "Eddy! You're finally here! I'm so glad you guys could come! Come on in!" Mega watt smile still in place, she snatched Eddys arm and all but dragged him into the house. Edd looked up at Ed and watched his taller friend roll his eyes at them before he shot a grin down at Edd, leading the way into the party.

Edd followed behind Ed as closely as he can, navigating as best he could through Kevin's dark house. He recognized most of everyone here, and he gave careful, close lipped smiles to everyone as they fawned over their matching outfits. Eddy had long disappeared, Naz dragging him somewhere else into the house. Edd quickly found a wall in the living room, sliding up against it the way he normally did and silently counted his pulse, nodding as Ed yelled something incoherent about the kitchen and bounded into the crowd.

Edd clenched his hands together and swallowed the deep breath he took between his teeth. Alone at a party. It was much too stimulating in the living room, the dark room with the bright lights and the music was too loud to hear Edd counting his pulse and if one more person brushed up against him he would scream.

Oh dear.

Shrinking his shoulders into himself as best as he could, he pushed off the wall and inched his way through the throngs of people to the kitchen, the bright light down the hallway acting as Edds beacon as he avoided the calls and smiles of people as he passed. As much as he would love to say hello to Johnny and compliment his Wolverine costume for the third year in a row he just didn't have it in him.

His teeth were beginning to chatter and his vision was misting over as he ducked beneath someone's arm and sidestepped Sarah as she stumbled out of the kitchen, clutching a bottle of clear liquor to her chest as Eds bellowing voice followed her out.

"You can't handle your booze, don't take the Everclear, dumbass!"

Edd made it into the kitchen to see Ed seated on the counter, frown from yelling at Sarah still in place and a bottle of something in his hand.

"Ed, I'm not sure this was such a good idea," Edd tried past his chattering teeth. "It's so crowded, and it's so noisy, I don't even know where Eddy went-"

Ed laughed loudly, taking a giant swill of his beer and jumping off the counter, opening the fridge with his foot and pulling out a bottle of malt liquor. "You just aren't drunk yet! Plus we just got here Double D, loosen up! Here," Ed leaned back into the fridge and pulled out a tray of Jell-O shots. "Have one of these too, while you're here."

Edds hands flew up in a panic as he stared at the proffered alcohol. "Ed, no, are you crazy? I had previously stated I wasn't going to partake in drinking!-"

"Yeah Edd, you always say that, and you know you relax with alcohol." Ed shoved two shots in his hand and smiled reassuringly. "Trust me man, you'll feel better once you're on everyone else's level."

Edds heart leaped into his chest as Ed took off the lid on the shot and all but shoved it into his mouth. His closed up throat fought against the jiggly goo that slithered down his throat, but he swallowed it obediently, the taste making his eyes water.

Messy messy messy.

He barely had enough time to cringe at the onslaught of alcohol before he rolled his eyes at Eds eager grin and throwing back the second shot. Edd hated the taste of liquor and chased it with his sweet malt liquor, not effectively helping the taste but making his shudder stop.

"There ya go champ!" Ed laughed and slapped Edd on the shoulder, sending Edd teetering about as his hand came up to catch his glasses as they slipped off his nose. "You'll feel better as soon as you drink a little." Ed snatched three more bottles of something out of the fridge and bounced out of the kitchen, leaving Edd staring off after his holding his bottle and two empty shot cups.

"Oh wonderful." Edd sighed as he tossed the cups in the trash can. Back to being alone at a party, and with alcohol in his system no less. Edd hated losing control of his motor functions, it made his anxiety so much worse, he watched his hands begin to shake as he clutched the bottle closer to him, taking a hesitant sip and sighing. He needed to find somewhere quiet. Or drink more. But quiet would be best. Ed was right, Edd was more relaxed when he drank, but to avoid habit and ruining his teeth he rarely did.

And as a result, was a bit of a lightweight, as Eddy affectionately called him. Two Jell-O shots and half a bottle of Smirnoff ice and his head was already swimming. Edd shuddered, remembering the one and only time he had let Eddy convince him to actually get drunk and after two beers and three shots he had spent the night violently vomiting out of Eds basement.

He was so focused as he wandered out of the kitchen to find somewhere else to sit that he wasn't watching where he was going, as a result his retreat from the kitchen was stopped short as he collided with a gigantic mass of someone's back.

He stumbled back a few steps and fumbled with his bottle, trying not to drop it and push his glasses back up all at the same time. The mountain he had crashed into was clad in a too tight letterman jacket with blonde curls curling around the neck. He turned around with red and hazy blue eyes and smeared zombie makeup and focused on Edd, his eyes narrowing as Edds throats closed up almost entirely.

"P-p-pardon me gent." Edds lips felt too dry suddenly to form sentences, his tongue too thick to force his vocal cords to offer much sound. He was backing up slowly as the giant blonde football player turned fully, his grease paint smeared face squinting to focus on him. Edds brain was beginning to fill with the thick ugly fog as his vision tunneled to focus on the bloodshot blue eyes looking at him like he was food.

"Hey Jack!" A deep voice from Edds left cut through the haze as Edd was gently pushed aside, the hand feather soft on his shoulder as he was guided out of the way. Edds feet obeyed the silent command immediately, falling behind the shadow that draped over him as it stepped between him and the mountain.

"What?" The blonde giant, Jack apparently, slurred, turning his attention to the shadow that now had his hand resting on one of Edds shoulders.

"Edd here didn't mean anything!" Edd recognized the jovial voice as Kevin, the rich tenor of his voice soothing Edds frazzled nerves as the hand that guided him away rested across his shoulders, the large hand coming down on his arm and Edds forehead began to sweat as his breathing sped up. Kevin's proximity was already beginning to play hell with his nerves and he had just showed up.

"He pushed me." Jack growled, swaying near Kevin and draining the rest of the drink in his hand.

"My boys just a bit clumsy man, lighten up." Kevin laughed, tugging Edd closer to his side and Edd nearly fainted as the warmth of Kevin's chest came into contact with his cheek. Clumsy?!? How on earth could Kevin say things so casually? If Edd ever admitted to being clumsy or even implied it around people he'd burst into flames on the spot.

"Here." The nearly full drink was plucked from Edds limp fingers and Edds eyes managed to focus again as he watched Kevin hand Jack the drink, his shoulders relaxing against Edd as Jack began to drink, turning around slowly and apparently forgetting about them altogether. Edd forced himself to inhale as the taste of blood filled his mouth from where he had nearly bitten through his lip.

Edds equilibrium returned as the world righted itself on its axis as Kevin sighed and released him, taking his wrist and pulling him further into the kitchen. Edd finally managed to look at him, wrapped in a snug super hero costume and a pair of thick plastic glasses framing his brilliant green eyes. Edds throat itched with longing as Kevin leaned over to pull something out of the fridge, the long lines of his shoulders stretching under the fabric.

"Here Dee, sorry I snagged your drink, Jack's kind of a violent drunk, just wanted to avoid that." Kevin handed Edd another bottle of something, a soft smile gracing his features as his eyes roamed over Edd in a way that made Edds feet go numb. "I like your costume, it looks way better on you than it does on Eddy."

Edds cheeks flared with a heated blush as the compliment threatened to shut his brain off completely. He needed to get himself under control, he couldn't just stand here shaking in front of Kevin, gorgeous, sweet Kevin who had saved him from whatever the blonde mountain was planning on.

"You do know superman and Clark Kent are two separate costumes right?"

Edd wanted to slap himself as he nearly bit his tongue in half. That's what he came up with to say to Kevin? What was wrong with him-

Kevin laughed loudly, throwing his head back and taking a shot of something he had poured when Edd wasn't looking. "There he is, the sass has returned." Kevin grinned and Edds panic began to ebb as Kevin continued to shake his head with chuckles. "Yeah I do, but I had these lying around and figured no one would get it." Kevin's eyes lowered and he took two steps into Edds personal space, the smell of cologne and whisky flooding Edds nose as his muscles locked and his lips parted unconsciously as Kevin looked down at him. "Guess I underestimated you again huh?"

Edd floundered for an answer, still trying to form a sentence past his crooked teeth when Kevin raised a finger and pushed up his glasses with his pointer finger, startling a flinch out of Edd.

"I'm glad you're here though." Kevin's face was still in a warm smile, green eyes boring into Edds forehead as Edds fingers turned white with the force with which he clutched the bottle to him. "You having fun?"

It's just Kevin, it's just Kevin, kind, quiet, beautiful Kevin who you speak to every day, it's just kevin, he's safe, he's not going to be cruel-

"I am indeed Kevin," Edd finally managed, knowing he made the right choice as Kevin's eyes softened and his head tilted, his feet not carrying him any further away from Edd. "Just a touch crowded." Edd hadn't realized his arms had wound around himself until he couldn't lock them whilst still holding the bottle. In a fit of nerves he lifted the bottle and swallowed half of it, blinking between counts of his heartbeat.

"It kinda is huh?" Kevin tossed a look back towards the living room and ran his tongue over his teeth, the motion capturing Edds attention and making his focus zero in on the sight. "More people showed up than I expected. Let's go somewhere quiet yeah?" The green eyes, framed by his stupid thick glasses were back on him now, soft and slightly fuzzy with the alcohol Kevin had consumed.

Edd felt like his skin would nearly burst into flames as his vodka scented breath ghosted over his face. The kitchen was suddenly much too bright.

"Quiet, Kevin?" Edd forced the question out between stilted breaths, blushing when he nearly spilled his drink down the front of his costume in his haste to take another swallow. The room was beginning to slightly tilt.

"Yeah, lets go outside, it's kinda hot in here too huh? I told Naz this costume wasn't a good idea."

"I think it looks quite good on you actually." Edd wasn't sure when he had given his tongue authority to say that. Damn his lowered mental facilities.

Kevin didn't offer an answer to that, just a slow, crooked smile that spread like syrup as he took Edds wrist again and lead him out of the kitchen and into the living room, headed for the front door.

With Kevin's burning touch in his wrist through his costume, the living room was a completely different universe for Edd. The alcohol clouding his head slowing down the flashing lights into a manageable rhythm and warping the music to a dull and throbbing lullaby. People bouncing off his shoulders held no irritation to him, and his world was narrowed to the burn of Kevin's hand and the piercing sting of his lower finger pressing through his thin sleeve into a tiny cut that resided near the top of his wrist.

When they finally pushed past Sarah and Jimmy posted outside the door while Jimmy smoked, Sarah trying and failing to keep herself upright. The cold air and the scent of Jimmy's cigarette hit Edd in the face with a force he wasn't expecting and his equilibrium took another hit, his feet tripping over themselves as Kevin led him past the front gate and towards the gate of Eddys house, leaning on it casually and taking a swig of his alcohol.

Edd watched the breeze life the red strands in a dance across Kevin's forehead, the sure and steady fingers coming up once to shove them out of the way before those eyes focused on him again and he tilted his head to the left, offering Edd the spot on the fence.

Oh dear.

Edd shakily leaned on the fence, clenching his hands into his arms as he kept them crossed across his chest, clutching his bottle as closed to him as he could. He had no idea what do with himself now, he chanced a look at Kevin, who's eyes were trained across the street at his house, an inquisitive lift in his eyebrows.

Edd swallowed. He had to say something, the electricity humming between him and Kevin's warm shoulder was too much.

"So um, Kevin, how has your night been so far? I know we arrived a touch late."

Full sentences. Good for you.

Kevin didn't answer him right away, still staring across the street. "Where are your parents?"

Edds heart nearly fell out of his chest. What on earth? Kevin always politely avoided questions about his parents and listened to Edds stuttered excuses when he commented that the house was empty yet again. Perhaps he could blame the alcohol in his system, or the alcohol in his own as he swallowed another mouthful and floundered for an answer.

"They work quite extensively Kevin, they're both neurosurgeons, and their presence is high sought after throughout the country." Good, a solid well rehearsed answer that he'd given numerous times.

Though it didn't seem to sit well with Kevin as he continued to survey Edds dark house warily. Though if he found any fault with Edds answer, he didn't respond, instead he inhaled deeply and glanced at Edd, meeting his eyes for a beat before looking back ahead. "You know, dad never let me throw parties."

Edd blinked, his runaway thoughts coming to a screeching halt. As he thought back he realized Kevin was right, he never had seen a single party take place across the street from him, something quite odd for a member of the higher tier of social hierarchy. Usually the only ones in the cul-de-sac who hosted soirees at their own houses were Naz, Eddy and Jimmy on rare occasion. Though why Kevin chose to open with such a statement Edd hadn't the foggiest.

Kevin continued before he could answer though, "He never really let me do anything, I could barely hang out at Naz's place when he was sober, I had to wait till he was working or passed out somewhere to even leave, ya know?"

Edd bit his lip, unsure of where to step next. "I hate to imply that you're happier now, Kevin, but would I be correct in the assumption?" Edd watched Kevin's impassive face remain stony, and prayed he hadn't overstepped his boundaries.

He hadn't, as it seemed when Kevin turned to face him fully, one arm still on the fence as a slight breeze whispered by and rustled his hair across his forehead again. Edd shivered, unsure if from the wind or Kevin's heavy gaze.

"You could say that Dee. It's just, it's kinda weird." Kevin seemed too focused on something on Edds left shoulder at this point. "Death is weird."

Edds heart was nearly in his throat, surely Kevin could see it beating in his mouth. He forced a swallow and licked his mouth, one of his treacherous hands coming up to his pulse point to make sure his heart stayed exactly where it was supposed to be. "I would imagine so, I could let even begin to fathom what the death of a parent must feel like, much less both of them. My condolences Kevin."

Kevin shook off Edds words with his head, his eyes coming back to earth as he ran a hand through his hair and scratched at the back of his neck. Edd blinked, watching Kevin's nervous tick with a thick tongue before feeling sick and silly, of course Kevin was nervous, he's finally talking about his father for gods sake!

Messy messy messy.

"It's not that, it's just-" Edds breath caught in his throat as Kevin spoke again. "It's just, it's a shitty thought, but I mean the guy raised me, What's stopping me from turning out just like him ya know? Everything he touched turned to shit, what if I turn out the same way?" Kevin seemed stunned by his own response, a faint blush coloring his nose and spreading to his ears as he looked away again, draining the rest of his drink in one hurried gulp.

Edds heart nearly broke as he watched Kevin's expression fight for passiveness as clear emotional pain tore through him. Edd had never personally known Albert Barr, but he had known enough about him to know he was a callous and thoughtless man, more immersed in his own life than his sons, a son who had clearly needed more guidance than he had bothered to provide. Tears were threatening in Eddwards eyes as the lump in his throats solidified into concrete. Kevin would never be like his father, Kevin was sweet and gentle and beautiful and intelligent and fiery loyal and funny and Edd would do anything, anything at on all earth he could to make his eyes stop looking so pained-

Filled with a fierce wave of affection for the boy in front of him, and deciding for once in his life to have courage, Edd swallowed the last of his own bottle and let his gaze brain guide him nearer to Kevin's tall frame, those green eyes following the movement carefully, though Edd couldn't meet them if he tried.

"Personality traits are rarely hereditary Kevin." He chose his words carefully, keeping his eyes firmly trained on his shoes. He heard Kevin's steady breathing beside him and counted the beats in his head, unable to match his own. "Neither of my parents have the level of anxiety that I am cursed with, and though they are both intelligent, I don't know where their compassion has gone."

Edd nearly felt like he was going to pass out. He had never told anyone except Ed and Eddy, and even them he had made swear that they would never mention it out loud.m, regardless of the situation. He didn't look up at Kevin, too afraid he'd lose his nerve and stop talking.

"When I was younger, I was searching their medical histories to see just how my particular mental strains had come to be, and I discovered that my mother had two failed abortion attempts predating my birth."

He couldn't look, he just couldn't. As soon as the words had left his mouth the tears escaped as well, his chin wobbling dangerously as the familiar hate and anger began to fill his head as and numb his hands. He heard Kevin's sharp inhale and muttered curse, but couldn't open his eyes. He didn't want Kevin to look at him and see all of the cracks, the tears and the blinding white hot need to destroy spilling out of him. His thighs burned with yesterday's cuts and he dug his fingers into the fabric of his costume, tearing the scanned over lines and letting the pain engulf him.

Kevin seemed to sense that he was on the edge, and one large hand encircled his wrist, pulling it up off his thighs and pulling Edds head above the water with it. He opened his eyes in shock, seeing Kevin looking immeasurably sad as he took the wrist in both hands around his sleeve and stared at Edds cruelly bitten fingernails. Edds breathing slowed down, and he forced himself not to move, praying Kevin didn't jostle his sleeve enough to reveal the mess of skin below.

He seemed content, however, with the state of his nails as he dropped Kevin's wrist and pushed off the gate, stepping into Edds personal space once again, barely a breath between them as he stared down at him. Edd couldn't breathe, his chest fit to burst as Kevin's body heat rolled onto him in waves and his heady scent nearly sent him into cardiac arrest. Edd couldnt look up, still completely stuck on the the steady rise and fall of Kevin's Adam's apple that completely wiped Edds memory that he human body needed oxygen.

The distant music of Kevin's living room thudded on behind kevin, the lights casting multicolored shadows of the carved jawline. None of it seemed to reach Kevin's he brought a hand up beneath Edds chin, the gentle touch feeling like it burned at a thousand degrees as his head was softly forced up, sweat beginning to creep along his collar as his teeth sank into his lower lip. Kevin held him here for what seemed like eons before he moved, running his fingers along a burning path to his ears before curling around the back of his head, the long digits caressing the long curls they found once before it dropped.

"For what it's worth Dee, we can at least be glad they didn't get us right?"

The low rasp seemed to send an electric shock through him as he forced himself to nod, earning a slow lift of the left side of Kevin's mouth in a sardonic smirk before he blinked and looked down, nerves seeming to finally hit the redhead as he turned around, back towards his house.

"Come one Dee, let's go before someone thinks we're dead or something." He sent a wink over his shoulder before he began walking, never looking back, like he always did.

Edds pounding heart nearly pulled to a complete stop as he felt the earth open into a chasm and swallow him whole. What on earth was that?? How could he have been so reckless to hand Kevin such a large piece of himself and making himself that much more vulnerable. He closed his hands into fists, the blood from his newly disturbed cuts on his thighs cooling beneath his costume. Somehow, he had managed to allow himself to fall completely and irrevocably in love with Kevin.

Oh dear god no.

Chapter Text

TW:this chapter contains graphic scene of self harm

*****************

"Yeah and I get why, but I mean, it's all still complete garbage." Ed finally finished his rant and sighed, throwing his hands up with a groan of frustration.

Edd had only been half listening, tugging down the sleeves of his cardigan and carefully making sure his steps aligned with the cracks on the sidewalk. They were walking home alone, Eddy had been stricken with the flu for the last two days and Edds palms were slick with the weight of carrying home Eddys homework that he most likely wouldn't complete anyways. "Well I'm sure it wasn't anything personal Ed." A short, calculated answer, Ed had been going on about something or other to do with one of his classes, and while academics were never going to be his strong point, Edd could see he gave it a valiant effort, though he could watch less movies, it wasn't worth getting into it over.

"Whatever man, I'm just glad I don't have to deal with this shit for two weeks." Ed stretched his arms over his head and turned around to walk backwards next to Edd, letting the cool November breeze ruffle his wild red hair. "I'm so ready to not deal with anything."

Edd smiled indulgently at his friend, tilting his head up and feeling the cold bite at his ears. He couldn't agree with Ed more. The school year had been more stressful than he remembered school ever being, and the promise of two weeks off combined with the heat of summer finally dissipated and given way to the cold, Edd hadn't felt so relaxed in weeks.

Also, with their school work load coming to a halt, perhaps he could see a touch more of Kevin outside of the pretext of studying French.

Kevin.

Edd could feel the tips of his ears warm up in a blush as his thoughts drifted to Kevin. He was immeasurably proud of the drastic turn his grades had taken, and he was also proud of how different he was, so much less angry and so much softer, speaking to Edd in low and gentle tones that made him feel, visible, and important.

The incident on Halloween had done its share of causing Edd endless insomnia, the gentle but firm, almost possessive way Kevin's large hand had fingered Edds curls and silently commanded his face in the direction he wanted. Edd shuddered, one hand coming up beneath his hat and winding a curl around one finger. If he didn't know any better, he could have sworn Kevin meant to kiss him.

Kevin hadn't mentioned it, not that Edd truly expected him to, he himself had gone to every single great length he could fathom to not bring it up to Kevin himself. Just the memory of the was enough to reduce Edd to a stuttering and blushing mess, surely speaking the words out loud to the perpetrator would cause him to combust.

Though, it had become somewhat easier to control himself, he hadn't had a particularly bad episode since, and yes it was true his parents were as absent as ever, the now much longer study sessions with Kevin were doing wonders at filling the empty noise of his home.

Though, as Edd remembered, it was nearly thanksgiving, usually the only holiday a year his parents remained in town, and they would be here in a few days, and though his nerves pricked with the memory of how cold and distant they had been the last time they were home around a month ago

Good lord a month? Had it really been? What kind of parents-

Edd shook the errant thought out of his head as Ed tripped over his own foot and barreled into Edd in an effort to steady himself. He had been down that path of thought before and it never ended well for his sense of peace. It was best to take things as they came.

"Okay so-" Ed began as he steadied himself and kept walking forward this time, scrolling through his phone and pointing an obnoxious finger dangerously close to Edds personal space. "We're gonna go to your house, get the Xbox and your clothes and shit-"

"Language Ed-"

"AND THEN-" Ed ignored him and plowed on, "Go drag Eddys ass out of bed and wait for Kev and Naz to get out of practice-"

"Language!"

"Dammit Double Dee I'm sorry!" Edd threw his hands up as they turned into the cul-de-sac, an exaggerated expression of pain on his face. "I like cursing!"

"It's uncivilized!" Edd giggled behind his hand as Ed continued to bemoan. He was in a strangely good mood, laughing easier despite the anxiety creeping up as his house came into view, his parents black car glittering in the driveway sending spikes of fear through him instantly.

"Oh dear-" the words left his throats completely out of his control as he stopped on the sidewalk, Eddys assignments nearly tumbling out of his arms.

"Oh fuck me your parents are actually home." Eds hands came up to catch Eddys assignments before they could fall expertly and stopping next to him on the sidewalk. "I thought they were supposed to be here on Wednesday."

"They were indeed Ed." Edd heard himself answer mechanically as his throats closed up. "I wonder why they've arrived nearly a week early." Edd knew why, he could almost recite word per word what would come from his parents mouths as soon as he arrived in his home. His feet couldn't move, however, his knees beginning to shake as his head began to throb with a gentle migraine.

"Fuck it, we won't go in, we'll just go straight to my house." Ed pulled Eddys books swiftly from Edds limp hands without him feeling it and began to turn back, his eyes furrowed in concern. "Let's just not do this today man-"

"No Ed," Edd heard his voice from a million miles away, water filling his ears as the same passive fear creeped into his head. "Perhaps they've simply returned early. There's no need to think the worst."

Nonononononononononononononono-

His feet were moving out of his own violation now, creeping forward in shaky steps up his sidewalk, doing his best do ignore Eds nervous and indignant sputtering as he reluctantly followed behind him.

His front door was unlocked, never a good sign, but Edd furtively ignored this as he pushed it open, his hand against the wood disconnected from him as he watched the pale and slender appendage drop heavily to his side as he stepped forward into his brightly lit living room.

To find his parents still puttering around in the living room, their suitcases still around them, not even open. His father was pacing in front of the tv, his cellphone staple gunned to his head and his other hand waved about in pointless gestures as he spoke vehemently.

"And I told you I need those fucking tickets Hank like that the hell how do you expect us to be there if you don't set up the damn connecting flights-"

Edd was frozen, his inner organs slowly melting and seeping out of him onto the floor as he watched the scene before him, the white noise burrowing into his ears and his pulse withered and died in his throat.

Cara seemed to notice the change of light as she looked up from her laptop that she had been typing away on, her expression flat and aloof. "Eddward. And Ed. How were your studies today." Her bright blue eyes had already drifted back to her screen, her fingers never ceasing their endless typing.

"Mother." The word crawled out of Edds throat without his consent, dragging itself past his voice box like sandpaper. "What-what on earth-"

"Hank hold on-God dammit Cara do you not know what the phrase I'm on the phone means? Edward shut the door, you know I don't like the light fading the furniture." The phrase came out of his fathers mouth in one breath, casually tossed over his shoulder after he berated his mother before he turned his back to them, his phone once again his priority.

Edd felt his feet move forward as Ed shoved him forward into the house completely, his hipbone connecting with the table as he stumbled in, his extremities already numb and his vision fading around the edges.

"Hi Mrs. Vincent, what's going on?" Eds voice fell hard like brittle nails against the pristinely polished floor, heavy disdain clear in his biting tone.

If he sounded hostile, Cara never mentioned. Simply waved her hand in his fathers general direction before speaking airily. "Oh just some nonsense with Hank-"

"Finally Hank! You're fucking useless. We'll be there in twenty." His fathers abrupt entrance into the living room cut her off as he hung up his phone and threw his discarded scarf back over his shoulders. "Cara let's go."

His fathers words and his mothers quick spring to her feet as she briskly shut her laptop and slipped it into her bag brought Edd back from the edge of where he had nearly tumbled off, his eyes blinking wide as his mouth opened, the only word he could think of spilling out of it before he could process it. "Th-thanksgiving-"

"Yes Eddward it's on Thursday. We'll be in Chicago on Thursday." His mother commented offhandedly as his father jostled past him before pulling open the front door and leaving without so much as a glance back at his son. She followed after him, tugging her suitcase after her and nodding vaguely in the direction of the kitchen. "I left your chores on the sticky notes in the kitchen. Goodby Ed, it was nice seeing you, also Eddward take off that hat in the house, you know I don't like it." And with that, she left, pulling the door shut, leaving Edd swaying where he stood and Ed huffing indignantly.

All at once, as he stared at the pristine White of the front door the anger began to rush into Edd, the blood flowing from his limbs to his head as his knees nearly gave way and his temples began to throb. The rage and hatred flooding his mind were the only thing he could focus on before they were engulfed in such a heavy sadness he nearly blacked out, leaving just the rush of blood in his ears and the need to destroy in his fingertips.

He needed to get out.

Completely ignoring Eds sputtered cry as he shoved past him, Edd forced his feet to move, nearly tripling as he ran through his deserted living room and up the stairs, his mind only on the small box beneath the sink, and the deafening fog consuming him.

********************************************

 

Kevin's shoulders were cold. His face and arms were okay, the biting November wind bouncing off his jacket as he sped down the block towards the cul de sac. His hands stung slightly too. He missed summer already. Who cares if it made playing football hell on earth, cold was literally the worst.

But still, he wasn't about to let the annoying weather ruin his good mood. School was finally done, he had some fucking freedom for two entire weeks, and tonight was movie night, and they had decided that they would all just spend the night in Eds basement. And Kevin was nearly bursting with excitement with the prospect of spending so much free time with Edd.

A smile broke Kevin's stoic face as he thought of Edd. He had been doing fantastically with Edd, if he said so himself. He had never been so happy in his life, knowing that he could talk to him freely every single day at lunch, and then see him for a few hours after school without the shadow of his father breathing down his neck. Even though he spent most of his time after school nearly in tears over his oppressive homework, it was almost worth it to look over the edge of his textbook to see those shiny and wide blue eyes peering inquisitively at him, his white and even teeth worrying the lower lip that had been haunting Kevin for months.

And though Naz had spent the last three months hovering over his shoulder asking "Have you told him yet? Kissed him yet? Held his hand? Anything?!" He was still doing fantastically for how bad he usually is with this sort of thing.

He took the turn into the neighborhood too sharp, nearly tumbling over and pulling to a stop as a shiny black Mercedes sped around the curve past him, not even stopping as they peeled out. Kevin instantly recognized it as Edds parents car and his eye brows wrinkled in confusion, a pang of fear echoing through him as he remembered that they weren't supposed to be there for almost another week.

Thinking that this couldn't mean anything good, Kevin quickly kicked off the ground, speeding towards Edds house and completely forgoing stopping by his own. He slowed down as he carefully pulled up to the empty driveway, forcing himself to regain some semblance of calm and easing the kickstand down before shakily climbing off the bike and putting real effort into not running to the door.

Kevin never really panicked, he liked to think of himself as pretty rational most times, but he couldn't manage to swallow the lump in his throat as he walked up the perfectly manicured lawn to find the front door slightly ajar, and could see Edds little backpack on the floor as though dropped, Ed's torn up bag next to it.

"Double D unlock the fucking door! Seriously man don't do this!"

Eds strained shout hit Kevin's ears like a freight train and, manners be damned he shoved the door open and burst into the house, nearly tripping over the discarded backpacks as he followed Eds voice up the stairs, his feet pounding on the polished wood floors. A loud banging of a fist on wood echoed down the staircase and hit Kevin's ears like drums on time with his feet as he ran as fast as he could manage.

He tore around the corner at the top of the stairs to see Ed fighting with the door of Edds upstairs bathroom, banging and pulling the knob in vain as the locked door refused to budge.

"Edd please! Open the door! You've been doing
so good don't do this it isn't worth it!" Ed was nearly in tears as his movements grew frantic.

"Ed what the fuck is going on!" Kevin's throats was nearly swollen shut with panic at the distress in Eds voice.

"Edds parents were here man fuck!" Ed abandoned the door for a second to pull out his phone, sending a text at lightning speed before nearly throwing it down the hallway as he began his assault again.

"And?! What the hell does that mean?" Dread was building in Kevin by the second, heavy and thick as he realized that Edd hadn't told him everything about his parents, if this was the aftermath of them being here.

"His parents are fucks man, like they don't care about him but he takes it really bad and son of a bitch why didn't I make him go to my place!" Eds eyes were overly shiny as his hands ran through his hair in frustration. "Double D please! Unlock the door!"

A heady rush of hatred and anger flowed through Kevin as he processed the information, the lack of parental presence around the house and Edds nearly crippling social skills finally sliding into place and he nearly screamed. How the fuck could someone know Edd and treat him so callously, how could anyone take one look at him and not adore him? A need to see the boy pushed Kevin forward and took up vigil next to Ed, banging his own fist on the door. "Dee! Hey kid come on! You're freaking me out-ugh!"

Air left Kevin in a hard rush as Ed bodily shoved him out of the way, trying and failing again to force the knob out of its socket.

"What the fuck man! I'm trying to help!" Kevin growled reproachfully before the air was shoved out of him once again as something collided with his side and sent him back into the wall.

"What the hell!" The curse flew out of him as he saw that it was Eddy that had nearly upended him, the shorter boy instantly pushing Ed out of the way and kneeling by the knob as the older boy whimpered, his eyes overly shiny and wet.

"What is going on?" Kevin asked agin, panic and dread still swirling around him as the confusion as Ed and Eddys panicked reaction scaring him more by the second.

"How long has he been in there?" Eddy asked, flatly and all business, a Bobby pin and a credit card in his hands as he went to work on the lock, completely ignoring Kevin's frantic question.

"Like five minutes, he hasn't answered me or anything like that, the shower went on as soon as the door locked." Eds chin wobbled and his fingers twisted as Eddy bit his lip and doubled his efforts on the knob.

"Seriously! What is going on! Why is Edd locked in the shower and why are you two so freaked seriously guys this is scaring the crap out of me!" Kevin heard his own voice crack as his composure slipped, he needed to see Edd, and figure out what on earth was scaring his friends so badly.

"He cuts himself!" Ed wailed finally, tears finally breaking free as he clutched at his red hair. "And he last time his parents did something like this he cut too deep and he needed stitches and he's been doing really good lately but now he's done this again and he can't-"

"I got it!" Eddy stood quickly, cutting Ed off and letting the pin and card fall to his feet. He shoved the door open and rushed in, Ed hot on his heels.

Kevin's heart was still slowly sinking as he watched with almost delayed sounds and distorted vision as they rushed in, leaving him standing stock still, feeling like the world had stopped spinning completely, and everything was rushing past his head at a million miles an hour. What the fuck.

A distressed cry that he was sure came from Ed reached Kevin at the same time as the copious steam hit his flushed face. It seemed to wake him up and he felt his feet carry him to the door and seemed to lose their heart there, leaving him watching the scene in the bathroom.

Eddy was turning off the water, flinching back at the temperature which seemed to be about a thousand degrees as Ed was kneeling by the tub, shoulders shaking and calling out Edds name as he held his face in his hands. Kevin took a tentative step forward as Eddy finally got the water off and dove for the medicine cabinet, letting Kevin finally see into the shower.

Kevin couldn't help it then, his composure shattered and something inside him broke, he thinks it might be his heart, and he's never felt as lost or helpless or desperate in his life and he could feel his fucking soul tearing out of his throat before he was even aware he opened his mouth.

"Edd-"

His voice choked off before he could get anything else out. Edd, his beautiful, sweet gentle Edd was sitting completely still in the middle of the tub, clad in old a pair of soaking black boxers as his hair dripped in soaking curls around his shoulders and his skin an angry pink from the heat of the water. His blue eyes were wide open, glassy and empty, staring straight through Ed as he held his place and tear streaked face. Kevin couldn't even hear what Ed was saying.

Thick, raised and angry red scars ran in perfect parallel lines up and down Edds skeletal body, thin, white lines decorated the skin up his forearms and across his chest and zig zagging away across his flat stomach. With the water no longer on them, Kevin watched in abject horror as he realized that the bright red ones weren't scars, but fresh lacerations that began to bleed anew, blood running down the angry red skin of his thighs. He had to grasp onto the door way as Ed released Edds unmoving face, wrestling with his left hand and forcibly removing a razor blade that had been clutched in Edds beautiful fingers that were now sliced to ribbons. Both his lips wrists were shredded, blood falling and staining the knees of Eds jeans as he grasped the smaller boys face again.

Kevin didn't feel so much as heard Eddy shoving past him, spreading a towel across the floor and dropping an armload of gauze and tape by Kevin's feet.

"Help me out Lumpy." Eddys voice is still flat and mechanical as opposed to Eds barely contained sobs, the tremor of fear barely lacing the shorter boys words and Kevin errantly marveled at Eddys unnatural ability to keep calm. He didn't move to help them as Ed reached bodily into the tub, lifting the smaller boy clean out of the shower and onto the towel. Kevin dropped to his knees besides the silent boy, watching as Eddy instantly seized his left wrist and began to shove gauze into the leaking cuts, his face finally wavering as Ed tried unsuccessfully to get a word out of him.

"Edd man, are you okay? Holy shit what the hell did you to yourself-" Ed was babbling now, his hands wringing useless as Eddy continued his silent work and the lump in Kevin's throat finally broke as he realized with an ugly shock that this was something they'd done before.

Kevin's hands moved of his own accord, reaching up and tangling into the wet curls that he adored and turning Edds head slightly to stare into his eyes. "Dee, please, say something."

Something about the desperate way Kevin's tongue tripped over the words seemed to do it, and Edds eyes seemed to swim into focus. Finally they met Kevin's own, and he could hear Eds babbling come to a halt.

"Double D?" Kevin tried again, letting his thumbs caress the body cheekbones beneath his hands.

Edds eyes stared into his own for a split second before widening almost comically, his breathing speeding up and the wrist trapped in Eddys hands trembling violently.

"K-kev-Kevin." Gapped teeth sank down into a plush lower lip so hard it hurt Kevin to watch. He tightened his hands as Edd began to shake his head, closing his eyes and nearly hyperventilating. "No no no no Kevin no please no-"

Each no sent another spike of pain through Kevin as they rose in volume and intensity, his fingers losing grip on the angular face as Edd continued to cry out, nearly dislodging Eddys hands before he stilled, blue eyes meeting Kevin's one more time before they rolled back in their sockets and he grew limp in Kevin's hands, unconscious.

Kevin's hands and arms cradled his body on the way down, completely oblivious as it left red smears on his jeans and sweater.

He couldn't breathe properly, and he watched his own tears splash down onto the black hair spread out over his lap. He watched mechanically as Eddy and Ed finished bandaging every last laceration before Ed disappeared into what Kevin assumed was Edds room with a fresh pair of pajamas and dressed him.

"Let's get him out of the bathroom, it's not like we have to worry about his parents or anything." Eddy sighed, standing and washing his hands. "What was it this time Ed?"

Ed looked exhausted, and he swiped his sleeve across his nose before speaking. "We got here when his parents were about to leave, you know his moms a real bitch and his dad was on the phone again, they didn't even apologize for skipping Thanksgiving." Eds eyes darkened again as he stood as well, absently wiping his hands on his jeans. "Like, they acknowledged they weren't gonna be here but they were such dicks about it."

"Are his parents always like that?" The question surprised Kevin as he heard his own voice speak it, the feeling slowly returning to his legs.

"Yup." Eddy answered with distaste. "They don't give a shit about him, and they make sure he knows it. All they do is leave those fucking sticky notes everywhere telling him to clean the house there never in so they can keep him busy. " Eddys eyes grew soft as he looked down at his unconscious friend. "I wish he'd just let it be, he always takes it so hard. We always try to keep him away whenever they get home but he always insists. He just keeps running back."

Kevin swallowed, his hands tightening on the boy in his lap as the anger threatened to resurface. He wanted to scream. He couldn't imagine Edd, so lost and so lonely and so desperate for someone to live him that he willingly returned over and over to parents who could care less if he lived or died. A wave of nausea and fierce protectiveness settled over Kevin as he rearranged Edd in his arms, gathering the small boy before standing easily and carrying him out of the bathroom. "Let's get him to the couch so he's somewhere soft when he wakes up."

Kevin led the way to the den, Ed and Eddy on his trail and ever watchful as he lowered himself on the couch, sitting and and gently as possible cradling Edd in his arms, letting the wet curls lean on his chest.

"How do you know where his den is." There was no heat behind Eddys question, just a tired curiosity and kevin couldn't see the harm in answering at this point.

"I've been coming here everyday for months. He's been tutoring me." Kevin left it at that, keeping the soft smiles and inside jokes and gentle touches to himself and reflexively tightening his hold on the boy in his arms.

Eddy didn't answer, simply curling up on the other couch and turning on the tv. Ed lowers himself to the floor by Kevin's feet.

"What now?" Kevin asked, slightly jarred by the calm demeanor that had settled over the other two.

"We wait for him to wake up." Ed said simply. "He won't go to the hospital, and if we're too worked up when he wakes up he'll lose it again."

"It's best to just act normal." Eddy added, his eyes slightly narrowing at the close proximity of which Kevin was holding his friend. If he had anything to say tho, he didn't.

An old movie played on a low volume as Kevin watched Edds sleeping face, tear streaked and calm in sleep, his mouth slightly open and his gapped teeth that Kevin loved so much showing with each gentle breath. He watched the rise and fall of the thin chest and felt his heart ache with each one. His world seemed to narrow to a pinpoint, the only thing that mattered was Edds rhythmic breathing.

Kevin held him tighter, settling a palm in the bony sternum and letting the slow heartbeat relax his frazzled nerves, the love he had for the boy growing with each beat.

Chapter Text

Soft, and warm, something cushioning his head, a gentle thrumming near his left ear. Distant voices, low murmuring.

It was a slow and soft return to consciousness for Edd as he blearily opened his eyes, vaguely aware that he wasn't wearing his glasses, the blurry shape of the overhead light in his den swimming above his head.

What on earth had happened??

Closing his eyes again to shy away from the aching pain in his jaw from his teeth clenched so tightly he wracked his brain, trying his hardest to remember what happened when whatever was shielding him from the world coughed and shifted him slightly, the strong arms around him jostling minutely and a wave of heady and masculine scent assaulted Edd and his entire body went stiff, freezing completely.

Kevin.

With an wave of agonizing shame and guilt that threatened to swallow Edd as his blood pressure and pulse shot through the ceiling; it all came rushing back to him. His parents and their rushed and hasty departure, the pulsing pain and anger that had wrecked havoc on his mind as the uncontrollable need to destroy had gripped his hands, locking himself in the bathroom and turning the water as hot as it would go, trying his hardest to boil off his skin, and then slicing and shredding every available inch of himself that he could reach, willing the hatred to seep out along with the bright red of his insides.

Ed and Eddys panicked shouts and rough hands as they pulled him out, that part is patchy, he doesn't remember it all fully as black blank splotches mar the memory.

Kevins arms as they cradled him to the floor, the heartbreaking pain and fear staring back at him from the depths of those forest green eyes that he loved so much, and then nothing. And now the same arms that cushioned his decent to the floor holding him like he was made of porcelain, fragile and breakable.

Swallowing down the nausea that had steadily risen in his throat he peeked his eyes open again after tilting his head slightly in a way that he hoped would pass off as a restless move in sleep. The lights in his den were low, and the brightness of the television provided most of the light that flickered around the room. He was suddenly aware of the gentle murmurs that floated through to his fuzzy ears. Ed was sprawled out on the rug, completely absorbed in whatever was playing on the television and Naz and Eddy were facing each other on the other couch, caught in an animated conversation with Eddys flailing hands that occasionally drew a short look from Ed as they impeded his hearing. It seemed like they were all doing everything they could to keep as quiet as possible, and Edd was flushed with gratitude for his friends and how thoughtful towards him they were being despite his foolish and selfish behavior.

He distantly heard a question thrown in his direction, and he kept his head still, hoping with all his might that it wasn't aimed at him until he felt the sturdy expanse of warmth surrounding him vibrate with the deep low tenor of Kevin responding and he allowed his body to relax while his mind continued to race in a panic.

How could he ever face Kevin now? Surely he would be disgusted with him and his childish outbursts and never want to speak to him again. Why he had been holding him for as long as he had been Edd was still unsure of, perhaps Kevin felt the responsibility after all the help Edd had been giving him, and if he woke up, he'd surely be berated and abandoned. Kevin would leave, disappear and take with him the gentle calm that he had brought to Edds life.

A lump was forming in Edds throat as he let his head tilt forward again, his eyes barely opening as tears began to obscure his view of a solid and sharp jawline above him.

"Hey Edd, you're up!"

Naz's high pitched squeak felt like a stake being driven into Edds temple. He debated feigning sleep a while longer before blearily blinking his eyes and opening them, admitting defeat and facing the room head on.

Blurry fuzz. An unseen hand appeared in his field of vision and handed his his glasses which he slipped on with shaky fingers, nearly biting his tongue in half.

What he was expecting however, couldn't have been a further cry from what he now faced.

Eddy was sprawled out on the other couch beside Naz, and single blanket shared between them that Edd recognized from his bedroom and Ed stretched out on the floor opposite him, all of their faces open and happy to see him.

What on earth-

"How you feeling man?" Ed asked from his spot on the floor, his head upside down and his forehead slowly turning red.

Edd didnt trust himself to sit up completely, still curled as still as he could for fear that the warmth of Kevins arms would disappear the moment he did, and settled for merely turning his head to face them, his eyes lingering on Nazz's slightly nervous smile and Eddy's questioning eyes before attempting to speak.

"Wha-" His throat burned with the effort and he realized with a fresh wave of shame that he had more than likely screamed himself hoarse at some point of his graceless meltdown. Lovely. "What happened?"

"Just a rough start to the night is all." The answer came from Kevin this time, Edd flinching slightly as he is swiftly rearranged on the couch, slipping off Kevin's lap and onto the cushions, one arm remaining possessively over his shoulders and nearly short circuiting Edds brain in the process.

"But I mean now that you're feeling better we can get movie night started huh?" Nazz is still all smiles, standing up and tugging a few times on Eddy's shoe and then slapping it when he made an over exaggerated gesture of not wanting to move.

"What time is it?" Edd licked his dry lips as the question crawled out of his abused throat, still firmly refusing to turn his head and meet the gaze that he could feel boring into the side of his head.

"Its barely eight man, we still have all night." Eddy answered him this time, his face still guarded and slightly worn from the flu he was still fighting but looking more than relieved. His eyes are soft as he smiles lopsidedly and another fresh wave of guilt washes over him. What on earth had he done to have such wonderful and selfless people in his life, heaven knew he didnt deserve them in the slightest. He could still see the thinly veiled anger behind Eddys overly shiny eyes and knew he wasnt going to have a fun conversation whenever they got around to it, but for now he was so grateful for the fact that he was behaving as though Edd wasnt the child he was.

"Yeah and no offence man but my TV is waaaayyy better so were gonna blow this joint and head to my place." Ed did a rather impressive roll off the floor and jumped to his feet, colliding with Eddy as he was barely standing up and laughing as the undignified yelp that followed as he was thrown back into the couch.

A grin tugged at Edds mouth as he watched Nazz laugh and attempt to extract Eddy from the couch a second time when Kevin shifted next to him. Edd finally gathered enough courage to look up at the redhead beneath his lashes, his throat closing in fear at what he would see only to watch Kevin reach up and scratch at the back of his head beneath his cap, the nervous tic making Edd even more nervous than if Kevin had been unaffected.

Guilt plagued Edd once again at the distressing sight of Kevin’s nerves and his stomach twisted, sending a wave of nausea through him that forced him to his feet, the floor swaying dangerously beneath him. He grit his teeth against the migraine flirting with his temples and looked back at his friends, preparing to announce his brief departure upstairs when he caught sight of their faces and felt the floor disappear completely.

The anger that had briefly shone in Eddy’s eyes a few minutes prior had evolved into a full blown glare, his upper lip twisting with a lecture he no doubt wanted to loudly express but was restraining with what looked like a monumental amount of effort. Eds eyes were wide and overly shiny, his lower lip slightly trembling and for the first time in Edds recent memory the weight of the stress he no doubt put him through was etched into his youthful face. Naz’s jaw was nearly on the floor, eyes wide and hands frozen above Eddy’s arm that she had been reaching for.

It was then that Edd realized he wasn’t wearing a sweater, or anything to protect the ugly secrets that were etched along every inch of his skin. His scars and freshly bandaged cuts were all on display.

Messy messy messy.

It’s over in an instant, before Edd can release the whine building in his larynx or the tears forming in his overly wide eyes salvation came in the form of Kevin, of course it did, with a low tongue click and a glare sent at the other three.

“Let’s go get your stuff so we can get out of here.” His low voice quieted the hum of white noise clouding Edds mind and then there was a scorching hot hand on his shoulder, searing him through his t shirt and steering him away from his friends as they seemed to compose themselves, letting him and Kevin walk away.

Edd was halfway up the stairs before he turned at chanced a glance at Kevin, his eyes still lowered and his jaw set tightly.

“I, I am quite capable of getting my things Kevin.” Edd tried past his sore throat as they reached the landing, the curve of the staircase shielding them from the watchful eyes of their three friends downstairs.

Kevin freezes at that, his eyes closing and a muscle in his jaw working as he ground his teeth. Edd swallowed, he hadn’t meant to upset Kevin further, he should have known not to object, he could only imagine how angry Kevin must be at him, provoking him with complaints was the last thing he should have been doing.

“I-I apologize Kevin, I didn’t mean to say-“ Kevin moves too quickly for Edd to process, his large hands reaching out to grasp his shoulders with enough force to startle him and pulling him tightly against him, the movement possessive and desperate in the way Kevin's long fingers dig into Edd's arms. Kevin's strong heartbeat thrums against Edd's cheek and he nearly faints at the solid warm wall of muscle that his face is pressed against. His hands awkwardly flutter around Kevin’s hips in a failing to find purchase as his mind is rendered completely blank.

Until Kevin moves, his arms shifting to something breathtakingly gentle around him and his head drops, nose grazing Edds shoulder and that jawline that haunts Edds dreams grazing his own. His mind fires up all at once with too much stimulation for him to focus, his hands coming up on their own and traitorously curling into the fabric of Kevin’s t shirt.

Kevin’s jaw works as he opens his mouth against Edds face, floundering for words as he closes it again before shaking his head, arms tightening around him and for a second Edd thinks he might be able to pull him back together.

Words seemingly failing him, Kevin releases a shaky breath in lieu of an answer, his face turned to the rug beneath his trainers and Edd nearly drowns as the guilt makes an ugly reappearance in his gut, his fingers nearly grasping tighter as he’s released. Kevin visibly steels himself, finally looking up and meeting Edds eyes and he nearly loses it where he stands.

He caused that, he caused the pain and fear and stress that were so heavy in those beloved green eyes. Not for the first time Edd was filled with a sick regret that he hadn’t finished the job this time-

Before the ugly thought could finish Kevin finally spoke, cutting through the heavy air. “I know you can get your stuff Dee-“ neither he nor Edd commented on how his low voice nearly broke on the last word- “I’m just here to help. For anything you need.”

Edd suddenly found that he couldn’t breath beneath the heavy gaze he found himself pinned beneath and he nodded shakily and did what he always did. He broke the stare and turned, continuing down the empty hallway to his dark bedroom.

With his X box and clothes packed, his shirt exchanged for an overly large navy knit sweater and his hat back in place over his still damp hair, they all finally left his house. Edd couldn’t bring himself to look into the bathroom, shame and guilt preventing him from facing the horror show it no doubt was. He would deal with it later.

It was a short walk down the cul-de-sac to Eds house, though it didn’t help that the wind had picked up, kissing Edds face with icy blasts that make him shiver. Kevin drapes an arm around him somewhere between Johnny and Naz’s house, pulling him closer to him and Edd allows a moment of weakness; letting his face linger in the warm heat of Kevin’s chest as they walk.

He stops for a moment to wonder why none of their friends are commenting on how touchy Kevin was suddenly. He had woken up in his lap for heavens sake! His friends were all currently up ahead, talking among themselves, Ed occasionally commenting on a playful argument going back and forth between Eddy and Naz. But he found that he couldn’t bring himself to care, as they came up on Ed’s back door and the arm around his shoulders becomes a soft hand on his wrist as they file into the house.

“The basements unlocked guys just go ahead, I’m gonna go get the space heater back from Sarah.” Ed called over his shoulder casually, bounding down the hall as the rest of them continued down the stairs, Naz flipping all the light switches as she descended, playfully slapping Eddy’s hands away as he reached up to help.

The normalcy of it all was doing wonders for Edd as he sank great fully into the couch, toeing off his shoes and curling his legs to his chest. He tugged at one of the many blankets strewn around and wrapped it around himself, the cold of the basement creeping around him.

“Dibs on this particular section of floor!” Naz announced loudly as she unceremoniously dropped her pillow and bag onto the floor directly in front of the tv.

“Yeah fat chance of that Blondie, that’s the best spot and it’s mine!” Eddy all but threw his own bed things onto her pile and proceeded to sit on it, sticking his tongue out at her childishly.

“Move you animal!” Edd watched Naz and Eddie pretend to wrestle for the spot until Ed returns with his massive space heater, dropping it with a thunk that startles them into silence.

"Alright fuckers listen up." Ed begins as he plugs in the heater and proceeds to browse his movie collection, ignoring the automatic "Language!" that crawled up Edds throat on its own accord. "I don't know why y'all have been in a monster movie mood lately but ya boy is bored as hell so there is no vote this week and I'm picking the movie and you all can cry about it."

"Diplomatic Ed, I like that." Kevin's voice materialized out of nowhere behind Edd and he had to put real effort into not flinching like a child. He had nearly forgotten the boy was in the room once he had moved to stand behind the couch. Now he moves around it, sitting down heavily next to Edd and enveloping the smaller boy with a cloud of his cologne. Edd nearly chokes on his tongue as Kevin turns with raised eyebrows and grins crookedly at him. "Diplomatic, its my vocab word for the day, ya like that Dee?"

Edd blinks dumbly for a split second, the mental whiplash of Kevin settling into their normal way of speaking unsettling after the stressful past few hours completely throwing him until he realized he was far too exhausted to be anything but outlandishly great full that Kevin was choosing the route of normalcy. He always knew what Edd needed and Edd felt the maddest urge to kiss him.

Nonononononononononono.

Instead he tries on a smile, automatically raising a hand to cover his gap but moving it to his throat after Kevin's eyes track the movement, letting his fingers settle on his pulse. "You even used it correctly Kevin, color me impressed."

Kevin laughs loudly at that, and Edd can see both Eddy and Edd visibly relax in his peripheral vision. Naz takes advantage of the momentary pause in conversation and bodily shoved Eddy off her pillow with a giggle. "Damn Edd you're a savage! You gonna let him talk shit like that Kev?"

"Course I am." Kevin responds with another chuckle as Eddy recovers and body slams into Naz in retaliation. Kevin raises an arm and oh so casually drapes it over Edd's shoulders and pulls him closer, tucking Edd into the side of his body in a way that makes Eddy's eyes narrow from his predicament on the floor and makes Edd's head spin enough that he stops caring about Eddy. The pulse beneath Edd's fingers skyrockets, becoming a fluttering trapped bird in his throat and his lips seal together as his treacherous head leans against Kevin's chest, afraid of what might fly out of his mouth if it opens.

Ed finally decides on a movie, something about a cabin in the woods and a secret government lot that quickly lulls Edd into something he dared call relaxation. He shifts against Kevin, flat out refusing to let the bubbling panic rising in his gut to ruin something gorgeous yet again.

Halfway into the movie Edd's head slips forward off Kevin shoulder and he realizes that at some point he must have dozed off. He blinks blearily at the room and sees that Ed is out cold, his face smashed into his arm that is curved around his pillow and his entire comforter from his bed in a pool at his feet. Eddy and Naz are asleep as well, curled up beneath the same blanket about six inches away from each other, their hands curved nearly touching by their faces, as though they had been holding hands before they had succumbed to sleep. The thought made Edd feel a strange mix of elation and loneliness until he feels Kevin shift beneath him and he realizes hes still curled up into him. He tilts his head up to look at him and finds him smirking down at Eddy and Naz, shaking his head slightly.

"She's liked him for ages. Its about time they get their heads our of their asses and do something about it." The deep tenor of Kevins lowered voice does things to Edds insides that make him blush on principle.

"I suppose it takes time for some people." Edd could melt into the floor with mortification when he hears how breathless it comes out. Kevin still hasn't looked at him, his jaw working as he continues to stare at Naz and Eddy on the floor. After what feels like a year passes Kevin finally moves, shifting so he can turn and face Edd on the couch. He takes his time before finally turning those startling green eyes on Edd though, and when he does Edd really does feel like he could die.

Another year crawls by when Kevin moves, releasing Edd from the burning stare to take one of his hands gently in his own. Edd makes no move to help or hinder, just lets Kevin move him like a china doll as he runs a thumb over his wrists over the sweater before visibly steeling himself and pushing up the sleeves. Edds breath stops altogether as all of his shame and secrets are exposed again. Kevin's loud swallow echoes through the room as he takes in the shredded mess of Edds forearm. He inhales sharply and seems to take all the oxygen in the room with him.

"I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner." Whatever Edd was expecting Kevin to say, an apology for an imagined offense certainly wasn't high on the list.

"I'm an accomplished actor Kevin." His own answer startles him and he bites down on his tongue.

This wrings a dark chuckle from Kevin as his hand tightens on his wrist momentarily, as though afraid to let go, maybe he is. "You're telling me kid. I nearly strangled Eddy when he said we weren't instantly going to the hospital." Kevins lower lip disappears into his teeth and his head tilts and Edd wants to die all over again.

He could just not answer. He knows this. He knows that Kevin would never force an answer out of him. He could simply shake his head and lean back into Kevins warmth, because hes allowed to do that now apparently, and never say another word about it, and Kevin could simply accumulate to the lifestyle like he had so selfishly forced his friends to. But then he foolishly meets Kevins eyes again and a wave of guilt washes over him, black and sticky.

"Its not for my friends being uncaring Kevin," The words crawl sluggishly out of his mouth. "Its my own doing, of course when they discovered my destructive tendencies a hospital was the first place they attempted to take me, and i threw the most childish fit, lashing out and threatening worse out of fear. Im afraid I've simply conditioned them into a routine they should by no means be accustomed to." Tears that Edd gave no permission to fall somehow dripped off his jawline, chased away by the shadow of Kevins fingers. "Im afraid I am quite the burden."

Tiny sobs begin to shake Edds shoulders but it seems Kevin inst having it. Edd finds himself being pulled forward into Kevins chest as he himself leans back to lay back on the couch, his red hair catching the flickering light of the television still playing as he manhandles Edd to his side. Edd continues to cry softly as he settles with his back against the couch and his face pressed into the solid wall of concrete that is Kevin's chest, feeling the strong arms wrap around him and never remembering ever feeling so low in his life.

Kevins hand moves to his head, the large palm cupping his skull beneath the hat he still magically has on and ling fingers winding into his hair. He knows he wants to say more, but he steadfastly holds onto Edd as he cries himself out, waiting for the gasps to subside and his whimpers to stop before Edd feels the barest brush of what feels like Kevins lips against his forehead. His eyes close on their own accord as flames lick up his body. He uncurls a hand from where its become fisted in Kevin's sweater to bring to his throat when a large hand catches it and stares at it quizzically, engrossed in watching a thumb trace over bony knuckles.

"You're really not alone anymore ya know?" Edd feels the words more than he hears them as they rumble through him and he just about passes out as Kevin winds their fingers together tightly. "Whats with the pulse thing?"

"Heartbeats tend to slow dramatically before a heart attack occurs, as long as i can count mine, i know that though it may seem like it, I am not actually about to suddenly drop dead." Edd has never voiced this out loud to another living soul, not even to Ed or Eddy, they had simply taken it as another one of his many fidgety habits and moved on. Its strange, Edd thinks, as Kevin neither shrinks in disgust or makes any move to distance himself but instead unwinds their fingers and guides Edds hand across his chest to his own throat, an eyebrow raising expectantly. Edd catches on a beat later and settles his fingers over Kevins pulse point and feels the strong heartbeat beneath his fingers and doesn't ever remember hearing a more beautiful sound.

Nothing else is said that night, and though Edd knows hes in for a less than pleasant conversation in the morning, he lets sleep and the exhaustion hes been fighting all day drape over him like a blanket, staring deep into Kevins green, green eyes until he can no longer hold his own open any longer.