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The Real Reason


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A/N: After writing this I tried to find some photos to represent my two leads. Spent waaaaaaaaaay too much time browsing male model photo sites. The results (for optional viewing) are these:

Peter (Matt Lanter)

Charlie (Ash Stymest)

The Real Reason

Peter and Charlie had been best friends since they became neighbors at the age of 8. They knew almost everything there was to know about the other, from secrets, to habits, to the random sorts of trivia one acquired through years and years of acquaintance.

Charlie knew, for example, that Peter had a stutter even though it had all but disappeared after the age of 10 (except in times of great stress) but that hard G sounds still made him stumble on occasion.

Peter knew every single one of Charlie’s allergies—a veritable feat considering the amount of them—and where the boy kept his inhaler (it used to be in the side pocket of his backpack but now it was in his trouser pocket as he’d grown out of the worst of his asthma).

‘The problem with childhood friends though is that they are acquired at a time when nearly anyone could become friends’, Peter thought irritably. Because although Charlie had been his partner in crime, the milk to his cereal, the cheese to his macaroni, for years and years and years, Peter had rather moved on. As a senior in high school he liked to think that he’d grown up some.

After middle school Peter had lost his stutter and gained a spot on the soccer team as well as a bit of popularity, and well, he and Charlie just weren’t really on the same page anymore. Peter still walked to school with him, and fended off the worst of the bullying from his fellow jocks, but he didn’t spend every weekend cooped up with his friend who had invariably fallen ill or wanted to stay in because of the pollen count. And Peter knew that sounded rather harsh but he was an athlete and needed to be outside for practice and games even if it were ragweed season or there was a chill in the air. And Charlie couldn’t keep up with that.

ItSShhoo!” A soft sneeze interrupted Peter from his musings and he guiltily looked over at Charlie who was rubbing a bit at his nose.

“Bless you man.” He said bumping Charlie’s shoulder. Charlie sniffled and gave Peter one of his strange little smiles. It made his nose scrunch a little, made the dusting of freckles across his nose and cheekbones crinkle just enough to be unsettlingly adorable. Peter knew it meant ‘thanks’.

A bit of pang went through Peter’s heart as he was reminded of the first time he’d seen that little smile. Peter had skipped his very first school dance to stay with Charlie as he suffered through one of his innumerable colds. This one had been particularly vicious though and Charlie hadn’t been much company, alternating between dozing and falling into fitful sleeps (though he’d tried valiantly to stay awake at the offset, Peter reminded himself). When Peter had woken him to give him a parting hug at the end of the night Charlie had tiredly flashed him that crooked smile and suddenly it didn’t matter that Peter had missed a party just to watch his friend sleep, because it was Charlie and it was always worth it.

They didn’t speak for the rest of the trek to school. They never did anymore.


There were many things Peter hated about the gap that had grown between he and Charlie. One of the things he hated most though was seeing Charlie sit alone during lunch hour. He had thought, well hoped really, that Charlie would find someone to sit with, now that Peter had to sit with the rest of the soccer team during lunch. Because there really was no choice in it. If Peter wanted to be accepted and welcomed by his teammates he’d have to spend time with them outside of practice and lunch was one of those times.

Still, the sight of Charlie slumped by himself, dark curls falling into his eyes as he quietly ate his lunch—it almost made him want to quit the team.

Today was worse. Peter could see that the sneeze he’d heard that morning had been a harbinger of a cold. Charlie clearly wasn’t feeling well. He looked pale and tired and was picking at his food. Not to mention he was sniffling wetly at an almost constant rate. The whole image made him look even more alone.

Even worse, the sound of his sniffling had attracted the attention of Peter’s soccer buddies.

“Geez what is up with that kid? He is so fucking disgusting. Did you see him getting his food? Yeah sneezed all over the jell-O and didn’t even apologize or nothing. I know. Fucking freak.”

Peter tensed. He wasn’t sure if Charlie could hear what they were saying—they were only a few meters away but the lunch room was loud. God Peter hoped Charlie couldn’t hear them.

Itshoo! Itchush! ISSCH!” Charlie suddenly snapped forward with a small fit of sneezes—uncovered as Charlie often did, much to the distaste of his classmates. Peter didn’t really mind…Didn’t mind at all actually, sometimes he even—

“Woah! Did you see that? He just snotted all over his own food—wait wait he’s going to again! Fuck it looks like he’s going to fucking jizz—look at him!” Cooper, the boy sitting next to him, shouted. The rest of Peter’s teammates turned to stare, disgust, incredulity and malicious amusement coloring their eager faces.

Peter dragged his eyes back to his poor friend. His upper lip was pulled back, revealing straight white teeth, and his eyebrows were drawn together in a frankly orgasmic expression. Peter bit his lip as Charlie’s slender chest rose and fell with a few quick pants before his whole body jerked forward with the release.

Itshiew!” The angle of the sun highlighted the spray as it burst from his lips, and Peter blushed for him, as Charlie wouldn’t be the type to realize why it was embarrassing.

“Cover your mouth, freak!” Someone shouted, loud enough for the whole room to hear. That, Peter knew, would be embarrassing for Charlie.

Charlie glanced back quickly to see who it was that had shouted and when he saw it had originated from Peter’s table his face flushed horribly. He quickly turned back to his own table looking mortified and Peter saw, to his horror, that he was already in the grip of another sneeze. This time Charlie hurriedly shoved a hand over his mouth.

hih-mbssht!” God, he’d even tried to stifle it which Charlie almost never did.

“That’s better! Learn some fucking manners yeah?” Cooper shouted next to Peter and Charlie’s thin shoulders hunched defensively as his flush deepened. Peter snapped.

“Lay off will you? It’s just spit. Don’t be such a fucking pansy all the time Cooper.” Peter snarled and stormed over to Charlie’s table. Cooper and the rest stared in stunned silence but Peter ignored them. He put a comforting arm around the Charlie’s shoulder and gave him a small squeeze. Charlie didn’t respond, looking, frozen-like, at the table, nose running a bit and still flushed with shame.

“Don’t you listen to a word those jerks say Charlie. They’re just looking for someone to pick on because they’re afraid that someone will do the same to them.” He whispered fiercely in his friend’s ear. Charlie sniffled wetly but didn’t otherwise respond. Peter frowned worriedly at him for a moment before speaking again.

“Hey why don’t we get out of here, huh? You done with your lunch?” Peter asked. Charlie shrugged under his arm and Peter took this for consent. He grabbed the uneaten apple off Charlie’s tray and shoved it in his pocket (he was sure Charlie would still be hungry and if not Peter would have it—his lunch had also been interrupted after all) then dumped everything else in the bin before quietly leading his silent friend out of the room.

They ended up sat in the stairwell, shoulder to shoulder.

“I’m really sorry about that Charlie.” Peter finally said. Charlie shrugged.

“It’s okay.” He said and his voice sounded a bit hoarse.

“No it’s not. I’m not going to sit with those assholes anymore, alright? I shouldn’t ever have…” Peter trailed off and Charlie patted his knee. They sat in silence for a minute until Peter heard Charlie’s breath hitch a bit. He turned to see Charlie’s freckled nose wrinkled in anticipation, nostrils flaring just so slightly. Peter secretly thought he looked rather cute like that, especially with his soft lips parted and his eyes fluttering. Cooper’s comment about what Charlie’s expression looked like briefly came to mind but Peter shoved it away.

Hutchush! Itchush! Itshhch!” With each expulsion the hand Charlie had put on Peter’s knee tensed a little, gripping the joint in tandem with the spraying outbursts. Charlie stayed frozen a moment longer, lips still parted and eyes still clenched shut but the sensation seemed to leave him and he gave a sniffle and opened his eyes. Almost immediately after a slight flush came across his face and he belated pulled his hand from Peter’s knee to cover his mouth.

“Sorry, sorry.” He murmured through his palm, looking stricken. Peter’s heart broke a little and he tugged at the unyielding hand that was shoved against Charlie’s mouth.

“Charlie you don’t have to—” he began but then Charlie’s eyes fell into a squint and he let out a muffled sneeze into the hand Peter was tugging on.

Mbtsssch!” Peter took advantage of the distraction the sneeze had created to finally yank Charlie’s hand away from his mouth. He gripped the damp appendage warmly in his own hand as Charlie began to protest.

“Peter what are you do-hih-do—Istsshoo!”

“Bless you.” Peter said gently and Charlie deflated a bit. His posture slumped and the fight fell out of him as he let his head drop to Peter’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered brokenly. Peter let his head rest on Charlie’s and resisted the sudden inexplicable urge to drop a kiss on his dark curls.

“Don’t be.”

“But…I mean, don’t you think I’m gross?” Charlie murmured, voice cracking with stress and cold.

“No.” Peter said firmly and dropped Charlie’s hand to wrap his arms around him in a lopsided hug. They stayed like that for a while, Charlie occasionally shaking with a chesty cough, but they didn’t move until Peter felt shivers start to wrack his poor friend’s frame. A fever then.

“Alright time to head home.”

“Home? The school day’s not over though. And I don’t want to go to the nurse Peter. I don’t think I could bear it.” Charlie said into Peter’s shoulder.

“I know that short stuff. That’s why we’re not going to the nurse.” Peter said with a soft smile. He couldn’t begin to count the times he’d ushered his friend to the nurse in the middle of the school day, knowing he wouldn’t hold up for the rest of the day. This time though Peter wouldn’t just dump him at the infirmary though. They were heading home. Together.

A/N: I might continue you this. These two are still inspiring a few ideas for me...

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That was really cute! I love this! poor Charlie! :lol: You should so continue this! I'm looking forward to more :hug: thanks so much for writing this! :laugh:

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Awww, poor baby! I will beat up anyone who is mean to him! Me likey your writing. *hugs*

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I don't even know how to begin this review.

Okay, first, to answer your last thing, YES. Continue with these two. I am so freaking IN LOVE with this. I would love you forever and a day if you produced more with these boys. That was just so...and...YEAH.

Ohhh, Charlie! Charlie, Charlie, Charlie! I LOVE him SO FREAKING MUCH. I have so many feelings about this! One moment I want to cry and the next I want to cuddle him and the next I want to do both. He is MARVELOUS. I don't care what those damn soccer players say! He is possibly one of the most endearing characters I've ever read about. EVER. EXCLAMATION POINT. And that picture of him? Hot as hell. Seriously. That made the whole experience even more marvelous.

And Peter! I was mentally yelling at him for most of it because he wasn't sitting with his best fwend. But then when he went and hugged Charlie, and...and...I'm melting here. Insanely so. I was about to go to bed, too, but I'm SO happy I stayed up to read this. I think I'm going to print this out and carry it around in my binder like I do with my favorite oneshots...

PLEASE don't let this be a oneshot. I'm not trying to pressure you, but seriously. This is so bloody marvelous, and I'm starving for more. Don't let me starve. Please!

Haha, but yes, all in all, that's going in the top ten of Awesome Things I've Read. I really do hope to read more from you. I really, really...REALLY hope! <3 And now I'm off to search the Stories board to see if there is, in fact, more from you that I've yet to read...

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RSB - Wonderful. Seriously. I love how you wrote about friendships.. how you can be friends with anyone at a young age, and then...things change.. I'm glad Peter walked away from his soccer "buddies" to comfort Charlie.

Awesome. I wish you'd write more. :D

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OMG CONTINUE. Charlie's so cute and helpless, and I love Peter's protectiveness and those guys are jerks, like they've never sneezed without covering their mouths, ahhh anyways I like, :) Even if you decided not to continue, (fingers crossed you do) thank you for writing it :)

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A/N: Awww thank you for all the sweet responses! I love you guys! And so here's a little transition-y chapter-y thing. A bit of necessary plot-development fluff (plot might be a bit of a glorified term for what this little fic-y has but it'll do).

The Real Reason

Part 2a

Peter was briefly bewildered by his surroundings when he woke. He knew he was in Charlie’s bedroom—there had been enough sleepovers over the years that it felt almost as comfortable to him as his own room but he wasn’t sure how he’d gotten there, or how Charlie had ended up snuggled against him like a giant, sleepy cat. He tried to stay as still as possible while he collected himself—Charlie’s head was tucked just under his chin although he was snuffling away in a manner that would indicate deep-sleep.

Memories of the day before began to trickle in; Cooper being an unmitigated bastard at lunch, shuffling a sniffling Charlie home, plying him with Tylenol and Dayquil before falling asleep with him on the couch as they watched mindless television…Waking and gently carrying the still sleeping Charlie to bed, sitting with him, watching him and thinking.

He’d had a lot of thinking to do. The drama of the day before had warranted lots of grand proclamations and while he had no intentions of going back on his promise not to sit with Cooper and his lot, it wasn’t as if he wanted to quit the team or anything like that.

And a big part of that was because he knew if he started to spend all his time with Charlie again—Charlie who had no sense of personal space or boundaries or untoward intentions—those stupid feelings he’d been trying to quash for the past four years would rise to the surface strong as ever and he’d do something unforgivable. And he couldn’t risk that. Because it wasn’t—Charlie wouldn’t understand or know how to react, and it would ruin the only friendship the poor boy had ever known.

'If I haven't done that already,' Peter thought guiltily before sighing gustily. His breath ruffled Charlie’s hair so that it softly tickled Peter’s chin.

He could’ve stayed there with him for hours. Charlie’s fever had broken but he was still warm as a furnace, curled up at Peter’s side and he could feel he was on the brink of dozing off again but he forced himself awake. He had a game that afternoon and he needed to sort himself out, think about how he would interact with his teammates now—how he would interact with Charlie, and cuddling with said boy-wonder would not be conducive to that end. Especially when he was warm and sleepy and smelled like cotton and menthol and sunlight.

Peter determinedly started to gently disentangle himself from Charlie but the boy immediately stirred and gave a murmur of protest and Peter stilled. Charlie tensed a bit and Peter thought he was going to wake but he just burrowed his face into Peter’s side and muffled two soft sneezes there.

Mtschh! Tssch! Mm...” He then proceeded to rub his nose into Peter’s shirt before seemingly falling back to sleep.

Peter muttered a quiet, “Bless you” before trying once again to roll out of Charlie’s sleepy embrace. He managed to get out of the bed but Charlie was definitely waking up now, hand blindly grasping at the spot where Peter had just laid.

“P-heh-Peter? Itshhh! Ihkschh!” Charlie called out sleepily, eyes opening briefly before clamping them shut as he sprayed another set of damp sneezes across his pillow. “Wh-where are you going?”

The hint of hoarseness that had edged his voice yesterday had blossomed overnight and when he spoke it was one long, quiet, croak. The sound was so pathetic it was all Peter could do not to pull the boy back into his arms and hug him till he was blue.

“I have to get ready for my game. And bless you. And I um…I’ll see you later.” Peter said a bit disjointedly before—against his better judgment—ruffling Charlie’s soft hair and pushing it back from his sleep-flushed face. He couldn’t help himself around Charlie. And that was the problem, he thought before fleeing the room, leaving a bewildered and lonely looking Charlie in his wake.

A/N: So yes, a fairly skimpy chapter that didn't get very much proofreading, but I thought I owed it to you all to put something up as you've all been so sweet with your replies! :lol: I will post something more substantial (and sneezy too--only four in this one! sacrebleu! :) ) very soon! Thanks again guys!

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Charlie is such a lovebug. I just want to hug him. And poor Peter, trying to figure things out. So cute.

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Once again, Charlie is just about the SWEETEST thing! I want to hug him soooo bad. >< And Peter...Ohoho, Peter, and his confused and sweet feelings. He seems quite huggable too. Though not as much as adorably sneezy Charlie. <3

Awesome work! I'm LOVING how this is coming along!

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Yay!!! you updated! it was really cute how they were cuddling! :lol: I loved it! thank you so much for writing this and I am so looking forward to more! :)

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A/N: This one is much more substantial. Start's off quite unsneezy and rather plot-y but not for too long. But yes, thought you all deserved something meatier than the last installment.

The Real Reason

Part 2b

Peter slammed his locker shut and hissed when it rebounded and hit his elbow. Thankfully no one else was in the changing room to see that embarrassment. Or so he thought.

“Nice temper ass-wipe. Are you going to make trouble on the field today? Because that's just un-fucking-accaptable.” Cooper grunted at him.

“Not if you don’t make any.” Peter said, rather diplomatically in his opinion. Cooper frowned though and halted his steps toward the field. Without meaning to Peter followed suit, fists clenching in anticipation of a fight. If that was how Cooper wanted to play it he was more than willing to go along.

Cooper glanced in either direction before glaring fiercely at Peter.

“I’m not the one who’s been making problems ass-face. You’re the one trying to frame me as some like, bully or whatever. You never said you were friend's with that freak. If you talked to the team like a normal person maybe none of this would've happened. I mean I don’t fucking backstab people like you.” Cooper said pointedly.

Peter stared at him in shock, thinking, irrationally for a moment that Cooper was talking about his near abandonment of Charlie, before realizing that was impossible and scowling again.

“But why make fun of him at all? What’d he ever do to you?”

Cooper shifted and blushed a little.

“It’s not me he did something to...It’s because of what he did to Emma at her party in August.” He huffed. “What I was doing, that's called fucking chivalry.”

“What?” Peter cried, absolutely bewildered. Cooper rolled his eyes.

“Listen I get that you’re like, in love with this guy or whatever but get your head out of your ass. He completely dissed Emma--like right in front of you.”

“I—love—what? I don’t—I didn’t—” Peter sputtered turning brick red and Cooper huffed and looked moodily at his feet.

“Listen I don’t care that you’re like a homo or whatever. Not that I’m bent or anything. I’m just not a fucking homophobe and I’m not a fucking bully alright.” Cooper muttered still refusing to meet Peter’s eyes—which was just fine with him because he was pretty sure his expression would be rather embarrassing at the moment.

“I—fine okay. I’m not, I’m not in love with Charlie,” he gulped and soldiered on, “But what supposed insult did Charlie give Emma?”

“He called her a slut!” Cooper practically shouted.

Peter stared at Cooper disbelievingly but before he could give a rebuttal Coach Saunders’ called them out to the field. The game was about to begin.


Amazingly they won the game—Peter had even scored a few goals—which put him in a rather buyount mood. Peter didn't really care all too much about soccer but winning felt good and the physical exertion was a good outlet for all the stupid, irrepressible frustration he got from repressing his stupid irrepressible feelings for Charlie. All the joy of victory and the rush of endorphins the game had afforded him were not to last though. Because, moments after the game ended, just as Peter was about to follow his teammates back to the locker rooms he saw something that made all thoughts of soccer and victory vanish.

Charlie was there. Bundled up, face barely showing between his wooly scarf and hat but unmissable with his freckled nose a cherry red and dark curls spilling across his forehead. Peter simply stopped and stared before his legs, seemingly with a mind of their own, walked him over to the other boy, noting absently that Charlie's eyes lit up like Christmas lights at the sight of his approach.

“Charlie?” Peter croaked once he was in front of him, his voice so hoarse with shock he sounded like he’d caught Charlie’s cold.

The other boy nodded eagerly at him, looking surprised but happy. Before Peter could react Charlie threw his arms around Peter and squeezed him excitedly.

“Peter you never say hi to me at your games!” he whispered raspingly into Peter’s neck. Charlie gave him another quick squeeze before pulling back and smiling happily at Peter, even though his nose had started to run rather badly.

“What are you talking about?” Peter asked, feeling frustrated as yet another confusing turn descended on him that day. Charlie looked equally confused now but continued on, good mood undeterred.

“You know, you always go off with your tea-hih-teammm-huuuh…” Charlie trailed off, eyes drooping shut and nose twitching wetly. “S-hhh-sorry. Ne-hheeed to sn…IIHTShhh! itSHHHuh!

He finally snapped forward with two wet, itchy sneezes, bending so far forward that his forehead hit Peter’s shoulder. His nose twitched out another spraying sneeze as he leant against Peter “Itchhshhh!” before he straightened, rubbing at his nose with his mittened hand.

“Bless you. You shouldn’t be out in this weather Charlie, you’re not over your cold.” Peter fretted, all thoughts about Charlie’s mysterious words evaporating.

Charlie snorted amusedly at him then frowned when it made his nose tickle again. He pulled off a mitten and rubbed at his nose and pinched it but the sneeze came anyway, squelched between his fingers.

hih-cksxxt! Ugh…Thad hurt.” He muttered and turned back to Peter who blessed him sympathetically.

“Sorry whad were you sayig?” he asked, voice filled with congestion. Peter shook his head worriedly.

“We need to get you home. You shouldn’t be outside when it’s this cold, not when you’re sick.” Peter said, moving to wrap a comforting arm around him. Charlie accepted the arm and leaned his head against Peter’s shoulder tiredly.

“Don’t be silly Peder. I wouldn’d be able to go to ady of your gabes if I odly wedt whed I was healthy. I’b always sig.” he said sounding exasperated. Peter meanwhile was staring down at his friend in complete shock.

“Charlie are you telling me that all this time you’ve been going to my games?!” he shouted a bit incredulously. Charlie pulled away from him frowning—an odd expression on his usually serene face.

“Whad are you sayig? Itshhh! I always go to you gabes Peder. I know we dod't, snf!, hang out as buch anymore but you're still by...I bean we’re still best friends...” Charlie said, suddenly looking a bit uncertain. “A-aren’t we?”

Without a moment of hesitation Peter cried “Of course!” and pulled Charlie back into his arms. Charlie immediately reciprocated the embrace and Peter stroked his hair soothingly.

“I just…I didn’t know you’d been coming to the games. Your health…” Peter floundered and Charlie pulled his head back enough to look Peter in the eyes.

“Peder…” he began before trailing off wordlessly. He sniffled thickly and began again. “You’re my best friend. Of course I’m going to go to your games. I wouldn’t miss them for the world. And catching a god damn cold doesn’t change that. I…I know my health can be…burdensome,” he said and gulped a little, looking more raw and insecure than Peter could ever recall.

“It’s not—you’re not. I love you the way you are. Just the way you are.” Peter interrupted him, unable to take another moment of seeing that anxiety in Charlie’s face. “And if I’d known you were at the games I would never’ve just ignored you Charlie!”

Charlie sniffled for a moment and turned to sneeze congestedly at Peter’s shoulder. “tsccch!

“Bless you.” Peter said leaning his forehead against Charlie’s, relishing the feel of his soft hair against his skin. Charlie’s next words turned him cold though.

“You—you do sometimes though. Ignore me I mean,” he said in a small voice before he stopped for a moment to cough slushily down at his chest. He took a wheezy sounding breath before speaking again, even more hesitantly than before. “At—at lunch sometimes. Hih-itSCHHoo! Snf! Itssch! Sorry, um, I thought maybe that games were supposed to be like lunch—when you’re with your...other friends. Unless…Unless you’d rather I didn’t come to your games anymore?”

Peter couldn’t speak. He knew right then and there that he had to make some big decisions about how things would be from now on and he couldn't make a wrong move now, not when it could mean hurting Charlie irrevocably. And as the silence lengthened Charlie’s eyes grew glassy and Peter was deathly afraid he would start crying. Peter hadn’t seen Charlie cry since middle school. He turned away, biting his lip, and trying to pull his wildly spinning thoughts into some order.

But before he could say anything a sound pulled him from his tumultuous thoughts and dragged his heart to his feet.

“P-Peh-ter…” Charlie’s voice, puffing and gasping, before he descended into harsh, barking coughs.

Even more worrisome was that he was wheezing, and his face was turning a strangled red. Peter grabbed Charlie's shoulders and gazed fiercely into the other boy’s reddening face—heart pounding with a well-remembered fear.

“Charlie do you have your inhaler?” he asked, voice sharp with worry. To his utter horror Charlie shook his head.

A/N: Dun dun dun! Bit of a clifffie I know but never-fear! I'm almost done with the next bit. :rolleyes:

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Aww....the boys. I really hope Charlie's okay! Nnngg...SO MUCH CUTE!

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RSB - This is a great installment. I love the meatier aspect of this part of the story. (that sounds funny, but whatever!). :)

Really curious about Emma.. should be interesting to see where this story goes. :drool:

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Gwaaaa, that last line is making me completely panic! Charliiiiiiie, the poor baby! I just wanna squish him. Ohhh, the part where he was saying that Peter ignores him sometimes...my heart totally melted. I'm addicted to this now, and I can't wait until the next update. :) No pressure, though! :drool:

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A/N: Alas, nearing the end of the story for these two. I'm predicting two more installments after this one (& mebe a short epilogue? we will see). Anyhoo much drama and decent amount of sneeziness in this one (imo). Onwards with the fic!

The Real Reason

Part 3a

For a moment pure, unadulterated fear almost leveled him completely. The sight of Charlie’s scared eyes looking at him desperately dragged him back to sanity though. He couldn’t lose it. Charlie couldn’t afford for him to.

“Alright. Alright. It’s going to be okay.” Peter said, both to himself and Charlie. “You’re not having a full-blown attack yet okay? You’re going to be fine. Your chest is probably feeling a bit tight though, am I right? Okay. Okay. Let’s get inside and sit down alright? I’m going to help you inside—we’re just a few meters away—no problem.”

Charlie nodded, breath wheezing out of him unsteadily, eyes still scared. He couldn’t seem to speak. That wasn’t good. That wasn’t good at all. Peter forced himself to swallow his fear and half carried Charlie into the gym building. This wasn’t the first time Peter had had to talk Charlie down from an attack. Often he felt on a brink of one but if Peter could calm him down enough they could prevent it.

Peter took a deep breath. He could do this. The second they were in the warmth of the building Peter swore he could hear Charlie’s breathing begin to ease a bit. The uncontrolled coughing began to slow but he was still wheezing and Peter remained on high alert.

“Here there’s a bench right here. Let’s just sit you down here—that’s it. Now breathe in through your nose—no? Of course you’re probably too stuffy—that’s fine just breathe in gently through your lips, try not to open your mouth too much—good, good.” Peter soothed and rubbed comforting circles on Charlie’s back until the wheezing finally stopped.

“You okay son?” A deep voice called out and Peter started. Coach Saunders, Cooper, and two other boys from the team were hovering worriedly in the doorway, looking fearfully at Charlie.

Peter turned to Charlie, whose head had come to rest on his shoulder wearily on Peter’s shoulder. He repeated the question gently and Charlie nodded.

“He’ll be fine. He didn’t have a full-blown attack thank god. I think the chill was just getting to him and he’s got a pretty bad cold.” Peter said, not mentioning that the stress of their discussion had probably played a big role in the sudden asthmatic symptoms.

“You sure he doesn’t need an ambulance?” Coach Saunders’ said. Charlie shook his head vehemently at hearing this and Peter looked to his coach and shrugged.

“I’ll…be…fine. In a…moment.” Charlie rasped, coughing weakly afterwards. He closed his eyes and took a few gentle sips of air before nodding. “Really.”

Coach Saunders nodded hesitantly before turning to Cooper and the others. “Alright boys scram. Show’s over.”

Cooper and the others—Shaun and James, Peter noted absently—left immediately, though not without a few sympathetic glances at Charlie.

Peter was about to turn his gaze to Coach Saunders when he heard Charlie’s breath hitch. He turned sharply to examine his friend but saw it was just a brewing sneeze.

ihtshhh! Hitschhhoo!” The congested sounding sneezes sprayed Peter’s check a bit but it was hardly the first time Charlie had sneezed on him and Peter’d never minded in the least. He wrapped an arm around Charlie's slight waist and murmured a quiet bless you into his hair before turning to his coach.

“Really we’ll be fine. I’ll have my mother come pick us up and he lives right next door.” Peter said quietly.

“If you’re sure. I’ll be in my office if anything changes, okay?” Coach Saunders said grimly and after Peter nodded his expression softened. “Good game today Peter.”

Peter smiled tightly and nodded again, relaxing a bit once he’d left. Charlie however seemed just as tense. He pressed his face into Peter’s shoulder and Peter could feel him trembling a bit.

“I’m really sorry about all this Peter. I’ve caused such a scene.” Charlie said and Peter could hear tears in his voice, as if were on the verge of a sob.

“No, no, Charlie it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault at all. And it wasn’t a scene!” He was quick to soothe. But Charlie just shook his head, face still hidden in Peter’s jersey.

“It was, it was. Snf! Coach Sauders, Coober, and Josh, and Sh-hhh…hiih..hihschhoo! ITSSCHoo! Tschhhuh! Damb it!” Charlie jerked forward with each sneeze, turning his head out of Peter’s shoulder and instead spraying his lap. He gave a gurgling sniffle and burrowed right back into Peter’s shoulder, ignoring his blessing and continuing on in that defeated and humiliated voice.

“I was so happy that you wadted to see be this tibe…Snfff!I mean I know you didn’t know I’d been at all the other games but it felt like I’d done something right for once and I wanted so badly to prove to you that I’m n-not s-some w-weak…some weak little…” and then he finally starting to cry in earnest, whimpering and gasping and sniffling in way Peter hadn’t heard since they were twelve.

Peter immediately threw his arms around the other boy. This was it. The second time he’d driven Charlie to such emotional distress in two days. It had to end now. As Charlie began to calm, hiccoughing and sniffling more, but crying a bit less, Peter’s resolve hardened. If anything he owed Charlie the truth. He’d proven that he was a good enough friend, that they were good enough friends that they could survive a bit of unrequited love.

Even if there was more than a bit of it, Peter thought ruefully. As Peter waited for Charlie to calm enough to be able to listen coherently, the other boy fell into a bit of sneezing fit which at first he muffled into Peter’s chest, but eventually he pulled back and aimed vaguely at Peter’s shoulder, if just to avoid his face.

Mmtschchh!....Ktttschh!Iktscch!...Itshooo! ishHHSChoo!Ohhh G-hhh-God...hih—hhh—Heptcchhsuh!...ITSHH! ISSHH! TSCHHH! Unng…hih…hih-tsschiew!” Charlie’s slender shoulders jerked forward with each damp sneeze and his eyes were clamped shut but a few tears leaked out, which Peter tenderly wiped away, determinedly ignoring the spray that drenched his knuckles and wrist in the process.

The poor thing just looked so miserable; nose a bright irritated red, nostrils twitching and flaring, eyebrows drawn together in response to the unquenchable tickle plaguing his freckled nose—Peter wished he could snap his fingers and make him well again and seeing him so overcome filled him with an undeniable tenderness and affection.

Eventually the tickle died down and Charlie shoved his face back into Peter’s neck, snuffling a bit until even that died down to hot shaky breaths puffing against Peter’s throat. It was time.

“Charlie I’ve got to tell you something,” Peter began, stroking Charlie’s hair in what he hoped was a soothing manner. The other boy nodded into his chest but didn’t move. Considering what Peter was about to tell him, Peter decided to disentangle himself.

Charlie looked a little bereft at the loss of the embrace and shot Peter a questioning glance. Fair enough, considering they’d always been physically affectionate with each other. But Peter couldn’t take advantage of that anymore. He had to be honest with Charlie.

Peter sighed but didn’t say anything just yet, instead pulling the long sleeve of his jersey over his hand and swiping under Charlie nose, which was naturally drippy from his cold but a veritable faucet after his crying jag. Charlie smiled a bit at the attention, in a weak sort of bewildered way and he rubbed his nose into Peter’s shirtsleeve before giving a great gurgling sniffle.

Peter chuckled and tried to savor what was potentially the last moment of camaraderie between him and Charlie, if his worst fears were to come true. God he hoped they didn’t. Then he lifted his eyes to Charlie’s and spoke.

A/N: So I hope you guys enjoyed this one! I'm trying to churn these out fairly quickly but the proof-reading may be suffering a bit for it... :)

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*gaaaasp* So many emotions, coursing through my veins! Relief that Charlie's alright...and confusion about the Emma thing...and suspense that Peter's finally going to tell Charlie how he feels....

I love how Peter doesn't care about Charlie sneezing on him or anything. That's such a marvelous aspect in people without the fetish. ^^

And...I nearly burst into tears when Charlie started crying. The poor baby, that completely broke my heart! That boy needs some TLC, and I'm super glad that it's Peter who's giving it to him. <3

And...it's drawing to an end!? ;___; Oh, well, I suppose all fantastic things must come to an end at some point or another, right? It bums me out, nonetheless. :)

Fabulous update, as always!

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