Kid Blink had a secret.
He liked Mush. And not just as a friend, either, although they were best friends. He wasn't sure why he thought Mush was prettier than any girl (other than the fact that he was. He just... was), and he wasn't sure why his heart pounded the way it did when Mush walked around shirtless in the mornings (other than the fact that the sight of suspenders pulled against taut skin was the single most breathtaking view in the entire world), and he wasn't sure why he couldn't stop smiling when Mush's hair was messed up (oh, the torture of those curls) or when he smiled so wide that his laugh lines showed at the corners of his eyes (not to mention those teeth; they were far too straight to belong to a street boy) or when he bounced on the balls of his feet (showing off those calf muscles). Sure, Kid Blink had spent all of his life that he could remember with Mush; they had sold newspapers together since they were five, and by now Kid Blink couldn't remember the face of his own mother. But he didn't think that explained or excused his secret desire to be more than a friend to Mush. He didn't even know what it was that he wanted them to be. Just... closer.
Mush worked two jobs from spring through fall. So once the first of March hit and Mush went to work at the docks in the evenings until late at night, Kid Blink began getting back into the habit of looking forward to Sundays. On Sundays, there were no shipments to the docks, and newspapers sold the fastest. It was the only day of the week where Mush and Kid Blink bought twice as many morning editions, and sold out of them, too; then they had the entire afternoon and evening just to mess around the city, the two of them, very best friends who were closer than brothers. And yet Kid Blink still wanted to be closer.
It was now only the third Sunday after March started his second job, and Kid Blink was already ecstatic to be spending more time together again. Headlines had been surprisingly good that morning, and the pair had sold out by ten o'clock. As usual, they had started at the harbor, and made their way slowly toward Central Park, letting themselves become distracted as many times as they wanted. It was half past eleven when they finally got to the park. They meandered along paths, joking and pushing each other. The behavior that they indulged in would cause Blink much grief late at night, as he knew from past experience: had he touched Mush just a few times too many? Had his smile been a little too easy? Did he take offense to teasing a little too quickly?
But while it was happening, the thoughts didn't cross his mind, because all occurrences were natural and comfortable and, if he did any of the things that would concern him later, Mush did them as well.
"Look," Mush breathed, his eyes wide as Sheep Meadow came into sight. "Dandelions."
"Yeah? Maybe you should go get a girl to pick you a bouquet," Blink said, scoffing a little. "Heaven knows you ain't got enough gifts from girls, Mush."
Mush's brown eyes darted to his, and he appeared to be evaluating his words. "I'd rather you picked me the bouquet, Kid," he answered in a tone that was maddeningly either joking or completely serious. Blink's brow furrowed, and, suddenly uncertain, he just headed straight down the path, without looking at the dandelions again.
"Look! Kid, look!" A few minutes had passed in silence, but Mush's thoughtful maybe-joking-maybe-serious tone was gone, replaced by pure exuberance. "Green! In the trees! It really is spring!"
Kid Blink grinned, looking up to see the first leaves, too. "Yeah, it sure is, Mush," he answered.
"I'm gonna climb up there," Mush decided.
Blink stared at him. "Mush, we haven't climbed trees since we were ...eight at the oldest."
Mush wasn't listening, instead shimmying up the thick trunk. Sliding up as easily as a snake, he sat on one of the lowest branches and grinned down at his blond friend. "Come on up!"
"I don't think so," Blink answered. "Come down, Mush. Let's go see if there's some ducks at that one pond, or if it's just pigeons in the park still."
Mush just beamed. "Nothing doing," he crowed back. "I'm not coming down till you either get up here or go pick me my bouquet."
"Are you joking?" Blink asked. A raised eyebrow was the only response he got, so he slowly turned and then walked back down the path.
Thunder suddenly started rumbling, and he looked up to see that the perfect early spring day had melted from dazzling blue skies into gray clouds. The first spring thunderstorm. Just his luck. Startled into hurrying, he jogged back to Sheep Meadow and hurriedly grabbed every dandelion he could see. Running back to the tree, he was surprised to see Mush still sitting in its branches.
"Lightning's gonna cook you if it hits that tree," Blink said loudly, as a fat raindrop hit his forehead.
"...Did you really go pick me a bouquet?" Mush squealed from his perch. "Kid Blink! I didn't know you cared." He batted his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah, how else was I supposed to get you out of that damn tree?" The rain was now starting to fall faster. "C'mon, Mush, get down."
Mush raised an eyebrow again. Kid Blink decided he didn't really care for this new habit. "I don't wanna," Mush answered. "Come join me up here."
Kid Blink glared. "Mush, I am not..." Mush changed tactics and pouted. "Mush. No. No way in hell am I..." Mush had been able to make himself cry since he was six years old, and even though his face was already wet from the sprinkles dripping through the holes made by inconsistent leaves, Blink could tell by the way that he was scrunching his forehead that he was about to burst into fake tears. "God damn you, Mush." Putting the dandelions in his mouth, Blink began the laborious job of climbing upward.
Mush giggled as, two minutes later, Blink finally made it to the branch and sat next to him, breathing heavily. He grabbed the weeds from Blink's mouth. "I can't believe you really got them for me," he laughed. "You wanna be my girl or something, Kid?"
Kid Blink only glared at him. "Can we get down now?" Thunder cracked again, and Kid Blink was sure that it sounded a lot closer now that he was up in the tree.
Mush shook his head. "I hate getting down. Remember? That's why we stopped climbing trees when we were eight, because I hated getting down and it hurt your back to have to carry me down."
"Jesus Christ, Mush," Kid Blink sighed. "I got you a bouquet and followed your other stupid whim of climbing in a tree." Looking over at Mush, he felt his breath catch in his throat by how beautiful he looked so close up, with water droplets dripping off his face and his shirt sticking to his body. Blink allowed a small smile. "If I'm your girl now, don't you gotta follow my instructions and do what I say? Aren't you supposed to live to make me happy or something?"
Mush looked amused. "If you're my girl, you better wear a skirt tomorrow," he laughed. "And I won't have none of you cutting your hair this short again. You look like a boy." He leaned closer, and Kid Blink saw himself reflected in Mush's dark eyes.
"I do?" Blink responded, realizing what a stupid comment it was even as he said it.
Mush nodded, without moving away. "Yeah. A boy."
The thunderstorm wasn't waning. The cold drops of water were getting heavier, in fact. Kid Blink was sure that if he could tear his eyes away from Mush's, he would be able to see flashes of lightning getting closer and closer. As it was, however, he couldn't have forced his eyes away even if he wanted to. And if there was one thing he knew, it was that he did not want to.
Mush moved a little closer. "I like your bouquet better than any gift I ever got from a girl," he said. Kid Blink's pulse sped up, and then Mush moved even closer, and suddenly his lips were kissing Blink's. He pulled away for a second. "And I'm glad you look like a boy, Kid."
"You are?" Again, full awareness of the stupidity of his comment hit him full force.
"Yes." Another kiss, and this time, Blink's heart actually kept beating, and he found he wasn't necessarily incapacitated and immobile when his dreams started coming true. Mush moved his face away for a moment. "You still wanna get out of the tree?"
Blink didn't even check for lightning. He didn't answer with words, either. He did lean over, grab Mush roughly by the neck, and pull his face back to his own. And Mush nodded to himself, as if to say 'That's what I thought,' and Blink had to agree with that sentiment.