Bert felt the wall pressing against his back and he pushed his back it futilely, hot tears prickling his eyes.
"Daddy..." He whispered timidly, trying to knock on the cupboard door. "Let me out please Daddy." He croaked, tears of humiliation overflowing from his big eyes.
"Mom?" His unbroken voice was high and fearful. "Mommy, I'm sorry. Please. I'm sorry. Please let me out."
There was a loud bang on the other side of the door and Bert jumped back from it and banged his head against the other wall in the tiny closet.
"Stop calling, we can hear you."
Bert recognised his father's voice and kept his back to the wall. "Are you going to let me out soon?" Bert panicked when he heard no reply, just the sound of his father's work boots walking away from the closet. "Daddy I'm sorry!" Bert whimpered and scrubbed angrily at the tears building in his eyes. Something crawled over his neck and Bert threw himself forward, crying and trying to brush off the spider on his skin. "Daddy please let me out!" He cried, his voice high and loud with terror. "There's spiders in here..." He sobbed, hitting his tiny fists against the thick door. "Mommy..."
Bert sat down on the floor after brushing it tentatively with his small hands. He curled up and waited in the darkness with his back to the wall, staring at the tiny strip of light inches in front of his sneaker-clad feet.
The sun was hot on his pale skin and Bert bent his head against it, letting the frayed rope of his best friend's swing burn through his fingers as he slid his hands down. Pushing his small feet against the dry dirt, he flew forward and beamed up in the vague direction of a dark silhouette against the sunlight. The shape of the boy he knew had big brown eyes and brown hair that his mom had put stripes of blonde through. Quinn had his face creased up against the harsh sun and he waved happily at Bert as he swung back then slapped at his knee when he shot forward. Bert laughed and the sound was loud in the backyard. Quinn's dachshund, imaginatively named 'Doggy', raised his head and blinked sleepily at the two boys sharing the swing and then fell back onto the ground, his ear flopping in his water bowl.
Bert yelled to Quinn, kicking his legs to get his attention and feeling the tremors of the wooden swing underneath him. "I'm gonna jump!"
Quinn clapped excitedly and yelped, diving over to the side as the swing reached its peak and Bert flew off off it. He raised his hands and felt the warm wind comb through his hair and under his shirt as he fell, half on Quinn and half on the dirt. He snorted and flipped around to check Quinn who looked shocked with his eyes wide and bright. "Are you 'kay?" Bert asked, snorting into Quinn's face. Quinn pouted and nodded, relaxing and giggling too. "I'm thirsty."
"Me too," Bert agreed, pushing his hands against the ground either side of Quinn and standing up. He held a little hand up to Quinn and he took it, pulling himself to his feet and wrapping his chubby arms around Bert's bony body.
"Bert!" A fist pounded on his bedroom door and Bert's hand thrust out from under his duvet, knocking over a glass of Sprite as he slapped at the bedside locker and tried to shut off whatever was making that god-awful racket. A mass of messy dyed hair broke the surface and he tugged back the blanket.
"M'up!" He roared at the door. "Who'si?!"
"It's me, dumbass! Lemme in." A familiar voice hollered and the door was shoved fruitlessly again. Bert stumbled out of bed and to the door, one cramped hand rubbing at his eyes, the other groping the door to let the bolt stutter across the scratched wood.
Without opening the door, he tripped back over to the bed and curled himself around the blankets, trying to get back to sleep. The door opened and Quinn wrinkled up his nose and closed the door behind him. "Dude... it stinks in here." He said, putting emphasis on the 'dude'.
He clambered over Bert's bed, accidently stepping on the snoozing body that gave a grunt of "Ow" and fruitlessly tried to punch the air where he thought Quinn was. Quinn kicked at him absentmindedly and opened the window, letting the cold air of the winter afternoon flood the small bedroom. "Now," he mumbled, apparently satisfied and he sat beside the curled up bump of Bert under the covers. He poked him. "Bert." Another jab. "Bert." He dug his fingers into the duvet a little more insistently. "Robert. Edward. McCracken. Get up. We have to go soon, man, we're already late."
A mumble came from under the bare duvet and Quinn identified it as "Fut?"
Quinn jumped onto his knees and bounced. "For the fucking club!"
Bert's head finally raises up the duvet and he peered from under it, his look of contempt barely affected by the curls of dirty black hair falling into his blue eyes. "The club? As in the basement with lights you told me about?"
"Hey, " Quinn protested. "That place is awesome. You're just jealous 'cause you've never been invited before."
Bert yawned and scratched the back of his neck. "It sounds bad, man. Not good bad, just...bad. A tiny dingy basement with a stereo and some warm beer. No, not cool, man."
Quinn stared at Bert in apparent disgust. "Have you listened to a word I've said? It's fucking huge! With a stage for bands and a bar and strobe lights and shiny things! It's awesome! Just come, 'kay?" Quinn tugged at Bert's duvet, "For me?" He said, slightly pleadingly and kissed Bert's mouth. "Eurgh, gross, go brush your teeth."
"Lemme alone, it's your own fault for tryin'a make out with me so early."
"It's five o'clock in the fucking day."
"Seriously? Oh, shit, my dad'll be home from work soon," Bert mumbled, pushing himself up out of the bed. "Where's my mom?"
"I dunno. She wasn't here when I got in," Quinn said, frowning a little and wandering over to Bert's wardrobe, pulling out clothes for him.
"You better go." Bert mumbled, pressing his hand to Quinn's side.
"It takes your dad twenty minutes to drive home, I still have fifteen minutes to leave." Quinn pointed out, pulling out a pair of baggy jeans that Bert hadn't known he'd owned. Quinn must've bought them. "I'll leave in ten minutes if it worries you," Quinn mumbled into the wardrobe, handing Bert the pants. "You go shower, I'll leave clothes out for you and then go, ok?"
"Ok," Bert said quietly, moving closer to Quinn. "Thanks for that."
Quinn wasn't sure if Bert was thanking him for laying out his clothes or leaving early and he didn't much want to know, so he just nodded and handed Bert a blue tee-shirt.
"It's too tight, I won't be allo-" Bert started when he held up the top. Quinn interrupted him by pushing a zip up black hoodie into his hand. "I know man, wear this over it. Go shower, I got it."
Bert pressed the side of his head to Quinn's shoulder and kissed his mouth briefly. "Thank you."
"It's run by this guy, he's called Gabe, apparently he's like some twenty-year old dude who's in college and stuff and he started the basement as a party for just his friends," Quinn was rambling as Bert leaned against the window sill in Quinn's bedroom, looking outside at the dark night.
"-and friends started bringing their friends, and their friends, and their friends and-"
"I get it," Bert cut across him before he could get repetitive. Quinn ran his straighteners across his bleached fringe.
"So, then he started buying things for it, he's like a millionaire-"
"If he's a millionaire, then why is he living in Orem?" Bert questioned, reaching to play with Quinn's discarded straighteners.
He turned them up as high as it would go and closed them over a chunk of wavy hair.
"Alright, so not as rich as a millionaire, but he's pretty well off, his parents have this big business or something and they're apparently very generous, you're doing that wrong."
"What?" Bert questioned. Quinn took the irons from him and turned them down, as he picked up a comb. "You want it all straight?"
Bert wrapped his fingers around a lock of clean, still-warm hair. "I just want the curls gone."
"Ok," Quinn said, combing his fringe and picking up a much smaller section with the end of the comb . He ran the iron over the locks, quickly. Bert watched as the curls turned to frizz and then waves as Quinn flattened it through the straighteners again.
"So Gabe runs it and there are these guys, they dance...It's hard to explain. See the whole club runs on this system. The dancers, they get free drinks, and the bartenders get like free entrance for two of their friends and the guys Gabe has working kinda like security get...I actually don't know what they get, they never told me." Quinn said, his brow furrowed as he thought of why. He moves to Bert's side and combed through the hair. Bert closed his eyes as he felt the heat from the irons near his skin. Quinn let the hair cool before he dropped the strands back onto Bert's shoulder.
"So, it all works on a system, not necessarily money. It's really cool. I know a guy who's a bartender, he told me about it. His boyfriend is a dancer. So they know who it works."
"Boyfriend?" Bert asked in curiosity and confusion. Quinn paused for a second, and then resumed combing through Bert's hair slowly.
"Yeah. They've been a couple for a while," Quinn said and Bert was confused by the note of warning in Quinn's voice.
"That's weird," He noted and winced when the comb tugged a little on the ends of his hair.
"Why?" Quinn's voice was strangely controlled. Bert shrugged, not really knowing.
"You think it's weird that they ...work together or that they're a couple?"
Bert shrugged again. "I dunno. Both."
Quinn swallowed and moved the straighteners to the back of Bert's head. "But I thought. Aren't..." He swallowed and forced it out. "I thought we were a...whatever. Couple. I dunno."
Bert inhaled sharply. "I never thought of it like that."
Quinn drew the irons away from Bert's hair, afraid he would burn him with the furious shaking of his hand. He combed through the tangled, soft locks instead. "But you told me that you loved me. I told you I love you."
"I know," Bert said, watching the thick carpet on Quinn's floor. "I do. I just never thought of us as like...I dunno. Like a couple." Bert realized and frowned at himself. No, he didn't think of boyfriend when he thought about Quinn, he usually thought no words, just a vague, warm, thick image that could only be squashed into words like yes and mine. Bert's lip thinned as he thought about that. "I do love you."
"Oh," Quinn exhaled and brought the irons to the root of Bert's hair, feeding the strands through the burning irons, carefully removing the tangles and the curls that Bert hated. "So do you wanna be?"
"A couple, you mean?"
"Ye-ah," Quinn mumbled, moving to the other side of Bert's head, brushing the messy hair. "Yeah, a couple."
Bert frowned at the floor and thought about it carefully. He didn't want to lie to Quinn. He wanted to be able to really answer it, without worrying about anyone else.
"Yeah, let's," Bert said and nodded, knocking his head against the straighteners. "Ow."
"Sorry," Quinn mumbled, rubbing his fingertips over Bert's head.
"Yeah, me too."
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