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Damaged Like Us: Chapter 31

MAXIMOFF HALE

FARROW INSPECTS my childhood bedroom like it’s a relic in a museum. He wanders to the wooden dresser and picks up The Fourth Degree action figures. His brown eyes swing to the black-painted walls, X-Men chalk drawings, and all the Batman posters.

He’s the first person outside of my family that I’ve ever let into my world this deep. And it’s not a fucking fantasy. I’ve dreamed up Farrow Redford Keene in this bedroom a thousand damn times. And usually he’s only on the bed.

You know—I prefer my reality. Where he’s a hell of a lot more than a good fuck.

I grab a wet bone off my orange rug. Tossing the thing on Gotham’s dog bed. Farrow whistles at the racks and racks of comic books and graphic novels that tower to the ceiling.

He runs his fingers down the spines.

I lean on my desk, arms crossed. “What does your old bedroom look like?”

“Messier than yours.” Farrow flips through a hefty graphic novel called Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines. One of my favorites. “Nirvana, Blink 182 posters tacked up, school books only, an expensive surround system, and a boxing bag.” He rotates the novel vertical as the panels flip. “In short, I was cooler than you.”

I force an irritated smile. “It’s like you want to be kicked out of my bedroom or something.”

His mouth stretches. “Or something.” He returns the graphic novel to its original spot and continues to meander around.

I can’t stop watching him. It takes a great deal of effort to check my canvas watch. “We can’t stay up here long. My parents should be home with Luna’s cake any minute.”

November 30th marks Luna Hale’s eighteenth birthday. Time fucking flies—I remember when she was just a baby and we’d tap each other’s noses and say beep beep.

As requested by Luna: no big birthday parties, no surprise family guests. Just a small dinner with immediate family, and later her best friends Eliot and Tom Cobalt will come over for a sleepover.

Farrow is here because my little sister has bad taste and has invited him to her birthdays since she was nine. Despite how much he aggravated me, Luna always liked him. Here he was, a pierced and tattooed guy who contrasted his blue-blooded clean-cut family. When you’re different from the pack, it takes more guts to be yourself.

Luna is drawn to people who experience that.

“I have a watch too, wolf scout,” Farrow says. “I see the time.” He sinks down on my small twin-sized bed. Comforter is a Spider-Man print. His brows pinch together.

What?”

“This is one of the most uncomfortable beds I’ve ever sat on.” He rocks his ass on the mattress. “Fuck, it’s hard.” He leans back on his hands. “Is this why you’re so stiff all the time?”

The sexual innuendos stroke my cock. “My brother probably switched out his shitty mattress with mine when I moved out.” I flex my muscles and straighten up. Eyeing his lip piercing for a brief second—then his hair.

His hair is black.

He dyed the strands the other day, and I descend into this image of him—pretty much consumed. It’s not just that he appears older, or that his intimidation cranks to a higher newfound degree. He’s attractive with any hair color, any piercing, even minus all the tattoos or add them all together.

Honestly, it’s because the first time I ever saw this guy—he didn’t have white hair. Or blue. When I first met Farrow, his hair was jet-black. Like right now.

Today.

Farrow kicks a pillow aside and props his shoulders against my headboard. I imagine joining him, and he’ll pin me to the bed, then I roll him over, his stomach to the mattress.

Gripping his waist, tugging down his black pants enough to expose his perfect round ass, my mouth trails along his neck. And descends to the spot between his muscular shoulders

“Maximoff.” His deep voice pitches me from a fantasy.

I lift my eyes.

He smiles.

“What?” I combat.

Farrow bends a knee. “Are you thinking about the philosophical meaning of the world or are you thinking about fucking me in the ass?”

Christ. I lick my lips, wanting my mouth against his mouth. Badly. I near the bed. “I wasn’t inside you yet.”

“Yet,” he repeats, his gaze sweeping my body in a boiling wave. He gestures me closer, until he stretches over and catches my wrist. He wrenches me onto the bed with him.

I’m on top of Farrow, my hands on either side of his head, but he hooks his legs around my waist and swiftly reverses me like I’m an MMA opponent. My head hits the pillow. He’s on top.

Farrow brings his mouth near mine. “You may dominate in the pool, but when it comes to submission moves and grappling, I’ll always have you beat.”

I breathe heavily. Chest rising and falling beneath him. One night, I asked Farrow to show me a submission move. True to his nature, he didn’t go easy. Not even on his boyfriend. I had to tap out of the chokehold in less than twenty seconds.

Farrow straddles my waist and sits up to reach into his leather jacket pocket. I’m about to say we can’t fuck here, but I stop myself when no condom appears.

He holds a black box.

The same black box I once gave him. The asshole merit badge is stitched to the back of his leather jacket. So I know he’s not returning my gift.

Farrow discards the box behind his back and clutches the object in a closed fist. He leans closer to me. In an affectionate, deep breath, he whispers, “Hold out your left wrist.”

He’s put a fucking spell on me. I never hesitate. I raise my wrist, our eyes melting against each other. Farrow opens his tattooed hand. Revealing a gray paracord bracelet, which can be unwound into rope for survival.

We watched Mad Max: Fury Road the other night, and I mentioned how the paracord bracelet on Tom Hardy’s wrist was cool.

That feeling, one that I’ve only felt with him returns like a tidal wave. Welling powerfully inside my chest, and also weightless—light enough that I could fly.

His fingers buckle the bracelet around me. “Just so you understand, you’re much hotter than Tom Hardy.”

I laugh, my eyes burning with emotion.

Farrow drinks in my reaction, his chest collapsing in a strong breath. “Didn’t I tell you?” he whispers, his gaze nearly glassing. “It’s the little things.”

This is what I missed in my life, and I can’t imagine never discovering this feeling. Never having him. I clutch the back of his head, my mouth nudging his open. We kiss deeply, intensely—enough to raise my back off the mattress and my chest to meet his.

We part so I can whisper, “Pretty sure you called it stupid, ordinary shit. Not the little things.”

He laughs against my mouth. “It’s all the fucking same.”

“MOFFY!” my brother screams from down the hall.

Fuck.

Farrow quickly climbs off me, and we’re both on our feet. The second time Xander screams my name, his voice sounds less panicked. More demanding, like get your ass over here.

“I’m being summoned,” I tell Farrow on the way out into the long hallway. His stride matches mine. I stop in front of my brother’s room. A sign hangs on the ajar door and says in Elfish: turn back you fools.

I hear more than just my brother’s voice. All three of my siblings are inside.

Before we enter, Farrow asks, “Do you want me to wait downstairs

“No,” I cut him off. “I want you to be here.” I pause. “Unless you don’t want to

Farrow kicks the door open wider in response. We go in together, the room a mess of fantasy trade paperbacks, video games, oversized beanbags, and a six-foot-four armored knight stands next to his four-poster bed.

I zero in on Luna waving a piercing gun at our brother. She wears a crop top that says Space Babe and black joggers.

Xander towers above her, already six-feet at fourteen. “I said I would do it, I didn’t say you could do it for me.”

“Come on, Xander, I’m an expert now.”

What? You got a fucking infection in your tongue.” Disbelief coats his words. He swings his head and sees me and Farrow watching. “Good. You two—tell her to back away with the weapon.”

“Give it.” Farrow approaches, and Luna willingly hands him the piercing gun. “Happy Birthday,” he tells Luna and then inspects the actual device.

“What are you doing?” I ask Luna and motion with two hands to the piercing gun. “And Happy Birthday too.”

“Thankyouthankyou.” She nods to us both and then picks a star sticker off her round cheek. “And I’m celebrating my eighteenth year on this planet.” She places the sticker on her eyelid. “Xander and Kinney said they’d get piercings as a birthday present to me.”

Kinney lies on Xander’s bed, flipping through the television channels. She shrugs. “Seemed easier than going to the mall to buy a present.”

You know Kinney Hale as the Princess of Goth and all things supernatural. A lot of you worship the fuck out of her, and you hope to one day be the recipient of her insults and death glares. You’ve even made video compilations of her epic eye rolls and “no bitch” face. And you wish you were part of her girl squad that includes Winona Meadows, Audrey Cobalt, and Vada Abbey.

I know her as my thirteen-year-old, tough-as-nails little sister who has a soft side that she only allows family to see. And I love the hell out of her.

Fair warning: I used to change this one’s diapers and feed her peas that she’d throw at me. You fuck with Kinney, I’ll slit your throat and then she’ll shove you to the bottom of a volcano.

Luna eyes the piercing gun in Farrow’s hands, then turns to Xander. “You’re still going to get your ear pierced, right?”

“Yeah.” Xander sits on the edge of his bed. “But Moffy’s going to do it. Not you.”

Farrow tilts his head at my brother. “How is he any better than Luna?”

“Five years older than her,” I defend myself.

“Tell me one body part you’ve ever pierced, wolf scout.”

“Burn,” Kinney says, still flipping TV channels.

None.”

Xander rakes a hand through his bed-head hair. “Moffy is the best at everything.”

Farrow laughs hard.

“Shut the fuck up,” I tell Farrow, trying not to smile as I near him and Luna.

“I’m serious,” Xander says to Farrow, causing his laughter to fade. “Moffy’s never been below average at anything. Every time he tries something new, he’s practically a pro on the first try.”

“It’s magic,” Luna says certainly.

“He’s a demon,” Kinney says. “One of the ugly ones that live in toad holes.”

Farrow’s smile has split his face in half. Because my sister called me a toad hole demon. He finds a way to focus, and he tells them, “I can guarantee all three of you that I’m better than your brother at everything.”

They perk up.

Very few things,” I correct.

Some things,” Farrow amends.

Maybe.”

His brows jump when I concede. I’d much rather Farrow, who’s experienced, pierce my siblings than me fuck it up. Still, I don’t get why we’re doing this at all.

“You seriously want to do this, Luna?” I ask. “After all the shit that your tongue piercing got you in?”

“It healed though, and I love it.” She sticks her tongue out, a lime-green ball in the center. “And if all of you get piercings, we’ll be linked in sibling solidarity. It’s something the Cobalts would do. Don’t we have that too?”

Luna stares at each of us, even Farrow, like she’s mentally grouping us together as the Hale family. A band of fucking weirdos.

We’re all smiling.

“Yeah, sis,” Xander says and then points at Farrow and the piercing gun. “I’m trusting you, man.”

“I’m not piercing you with a twelve-dollar Claire’s gun.” He turns to Luna. “You need piercing needles

“I bought some of those too…or really, Eliot did. His birthday gift to me.”

“Get those, rubbing alcohol, cotton balls, and an apple.” Farrow listing out random items shouldn’t be hot. My cock is obsessed with the weirdest shit.

“Got it. Be right back.” Luna darts out of the room.

“Is this gonna hurt?” Xander asks.

My brows knit. “It’s a needle. In your ear.” Of course it’s going to hurt.

“Moffy, I’m asking the guy with real piercings.”

Farrow leans on the bedpost. “Getting smarter.”

I shoot my bodyguard a middle finger.

To aggravate me, he makes a point to only acknowledge Xander. “It barely hurts.”

“Okay, good.” Xander bites his nails, a bad habit. Any physical changes to our bodies, the media hones in on—hair color, piercings, tattoos, even bruises and cat scratches. So knowing the extra attention will come, I’m kind of surprised Xander would want a piercing. It’s either out of his love for Luna or he’s hoping it’ll distract tabloids from his sudden growth spurt.

I check my watch. Mom and Dad should be home any minute.

Xander spits out his nail. “What are you getting pierced, Moffy?”

My jaw tenses. “Probably nothing.”

“I told you,” Kinney pipes up from the bed. “He’s a prude.”

Farrow pops a piece of gum, his James Franco smile at full-force right now.

“I’m not a prude,” I tell my sister who looks very similar to a gangly, round-faced Luna except for the dark hair, jet-black eyeliner, mascara and lips. “And even if I were, there’s nothing wrong with being a prude.”

Kinney clicks the remote absentmindedly. “That’s exactly what a prude would say.” Then the TV lands on a tween channel, and a familiar, catchy pop song blares.

Shit, no!” Xander rotates on the bed to restrain Kinney who lunges towards the television.

I already sprint over and catch Kinney around the waist. Her bony limbs flail and fight to reach the TV. She’s eighty-pounds. I could easily toss her over my shoulder. But I don’t.

Because she’d try to bite my ear off.

“Let. Me. Go!!” Kinney yells.

Farrow finds the remote and shuts off the commercial. She’s still squirming in my arms and trying to launch herself at the TV.

Xander blocks his flat-screen. “This is brand new. You’re not breaking it.”

Kinney kicks out, and I tighten my hold.

Luna returns with all the piercing supplies, and our old floppy-eared basset hound follows. Gotham runs slowly to each of us and licks our legs.

Luna gapes at our sister. “Uhh…”

“Viv,” I explain but also unleash the name that causes Kinney to accidentally elbow my windpipe—fuck. I cough hoarsely, arms slackening on Kinney. I let her go.

And she immediately spins to me, wide-eyed. “Oh hell. Moffy?”

I hold out a hand like I’m fine, but Farrow reaches my side, a hand on my back. I’m bent forward, palms on my thighs. Stop coughing. I try to straighten up and massage my neck.

“Say something,” Kinney demands. “Right now.”

At ease, Farrow says, “How about let him breathe first?”

Kinney sends a death glare his way.

“I’m alright.” I cough one last time into my fist, my eyes watering. I pinch them, and then say to my sister. “I thought you were over Viv. It’s been three months since she left for LA.”

Her girlfriend moved to star in a tween show with a lot of dancing and a lot of singing, and they only split to forgo the long-distance thing.

It didn’t break Kinney’s heart as much as toughen it. Every time the show or song airs, she’s smashed her phone. The television. She’s already eaten through her entire allowance for the year.

And in her words, “Worth it.”

Kinney huffs. “I am over it.” She points at the TV. “That show is just crap. Not the star of the show, obviously. Viv deserves better. She’s much more talented than that.”

“Uh-huh,” Luna nods and hands Farrow the supplies. He pulls out a Zippo lighter from his pocket.

“Maybe you should try seeing someone else?” I suggest. “Is there another girl you’re interested in?”

“No,” she snaps at me. “And you have no experience in dating, so you just need to chill.”

Farrow grins and pops a bubble.

Being burned by my thirteen-year-old sister is nothing new. Having her bring up my lack of experience in dating in front of Farrow, yeah, that’s priceless.

Luna tells our sister, “Tom said he’d take you to a bar to get over Viv.”

No,” Farrow and I say in unison.

“I meant a lesbian bar,” Luna clarifies.

“Still no,” say.

Kinney gawks at Farrow and me. “I should revoke both of your memberships to the Rainbow Brigade for being so unfair.” She coined the Rainbow Brigade when she was nine, and she dubbed herself the president since she’s the only lesbian. It consists of me, Tom, Farrow, Oscar, and Kinney. It’s all in spirit since we haven’t done anything as a group together yet. “I know you’ve both been to gay bars and clubs

“We’re adults,” Farrow says, chewing his gum slowly.

I add, “And you were twelve barely a month ago.”

“I have the heart of forty-year-old,” she says with complete seriousness.

Farrow rebuts, “You still have the body of a nine-year-old.”

Kinney glares. “I’m thirteenyou turd.”

“Don’t call him a turd,” snap.

“And you’re a turd, too.”

Farrow smiles and produces a flame from the lighter, sterilizing the needle, but he doesn’t get far. Gotham starts barking like the front door just opened.


MY SIBLINGS, Farrow, and I pile onto the staircase. One part of the house creates a tunnel of sound, and everything my parents say in the foyer is a megaphone to these steps.

We can’t see my mom and dad yet, and Kinney extends her arm. Blocking all of us from descending to the living room.

“Let’s not eavesdrop,” I whisper to her.

“Shh,” she hisses. “They’re probably talking about something nauseatingly cute. Just wait.”

Xander rests on the banister, Luna plops on a stair, and I turn to Farrow beside me. He smiles like your family, man. Then he passes Luna a piece of foiled gum.

I hear my dad first. “This isn’t a debate.” He speaks to my mom. “He’s legitimately the worst character in X-Men lore. Period. Done. End of story.”

“He’s funny. liked him.”

“You can’t say that out loud,” he tells her. “One. It’s ridiculous. Two. His name was Goldballs.”

“The balls part is not why I liked him,” she combats fiercely.

“I know that, Lil. Other people don’t,” he says. “And you’re a lying liar because I know he’s not even in your top ten. You’re just going stand there and tell me he ranks above Sunspot, Magik, Emma Frost, Cyclops, X-23, or Hellion. Christ, we named three of our children after X-Men.”

Kinney, Xander, and I all exchange look.

Luna blows a bubble with her gum. She was named after Luna Lovegood, a Harry Potter character.

My dad continues, “Can you imagine if Maximoff was actually named Goldballs?”

I glower at Farrow like do not speak of this, ever. He’s dying in amusement. It’s palpable and all over his face.

Dear World, stop making my boyfriend who loves to fuck with me enjoy today more than he already has. Sincerely, a peeved human.

My mom groans. “Please, stop.”

“Admit he’s not in your top ten.”

“Top twenty.”

“I can live with that,” my dad says.

“Good because I wasn’t going to change it for you,” she replies. I imagine she’s grinning, lifting her chin and playfully crossing her arms. I’ve seen her do it a thousand times before.

“Ouch,” my dad says in mock hurt. “Right in the heart, Lil.”

“It’s the only place I can reach,” she refutes.

“I’m not sure about that…” Their voices soften. Too quiet. Which means they’re lip-locked.

“Mom! Dad!” I shout, and Farrow and I reach the base of the stairs first.

A huge realization crashes into my chest right now—just as my mom swoops into view with a hearty wave and flushed cheeks.

For the first time, I’m about to have a family dinner with Farrow as my boyfriend. I get that he’s technically here as Luna’s guest. He’s even off-duty as my bodyguard. But the clandestine fact grips onto me.

I thought it’d be bittersweet, not being able to share the truth with my family. Keeping my relationship a secret. Private.

It’s not bitter at all.

I share so damn much of my life with them. With everyone. To have this space meant for only Farrow and me for a while feels less confining and just free. No pressure, no expectations. Just me and him.

Just us.


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