and joseph's brothers sold him down the river for a song
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Teen And Up Audiences
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Finn/Sheinkin/Reiss
Marigold Coneybear & Chip Tolentino, Leaf Coneybear/Chip Tolentino
Chip Tolentino, Marigold Coneybear, Original Characters
Additional Tags:
Hurt/Comfort, Coming Out, Internalized Homophobia, Catholic Character, Panic Attacks, Teen Crush, Bisexual Chip Tolentino, lesbian marigold coneybear, Angst, Feelings Realization, Denial of Feelings, chip has come a long way and hes not crushing on a 17 year old anymore, downside: hes crushing on her little brother, queer solidarity, Complicated Relationships, Crying, chip is going through the feelings realization grinder, this is just an excuse to write about marigold lmao
Part 5 of 100 ways to say i love you
Published: 2023-11-11 Words: 3,240 Chapters: 1/1

and joseph's brothers sold him down the river for a song


Leaf is like a tsunami, taking and giving, and Chip might drown himself in the being Leaf is. Crazy and stupid and so intelligent and simply amazing in all this mess.


39 — "DON'T CRY."


brief interruption to my hatchetfield hyperfixation! chip and marigold being soft with each other as they deserved to be. we need that mlm/wlw solidarity

shoutout to ember for metaphorically kicking me in the ass with this fic

title from love love love by the mountain goats <3

and joseph's brothers sold him down the river for a song

Chip Tolentino is many things. He’s a son — hopes he’s at least a good one — and a brother, a grandson, nephew, cousin, a Boy Scout and a sixth grader, and his English teacher told him he’s charismatic once, so he presumes he’s charismatic, and kind to animals and he really likes skateboarding. He’s all these things, and manages to have them in line.

He’s okay. As long as things continue to go his way, he will be okay.

He doesn’t want to sit next to the boy at the Bee. He’s weirdly nice, and all smiley, and keeps fidgeting. He has a stupid cape he keeps picking on, and chews gum the entire time, and stares at the lights over their heads when it’s not his turn to spell.

Chip doesn’t want to sit next to him, because his thoughts get all jumbled up, like a string of yarn a cat plays with or a trainwreck, and can’t spell properly, especially when the boy — Leaf, he says, his name is Leaf Spruce Coneybear but most people just call him Leaf, and he really likes cats, what do you like? — gives him thumbs up when he gets up. He knows it’s not right.

He knows the boy’s name is Leaf Coneybear, and they shook hands at the beginning, and he has a stupid–looking helmet and bright ginger hair, and he makes Chip’s hands shake uncontrollably. And his stomach hurts like he’s going through a particularly bad case of a stomach bug, and Chip decides he can’tthe Marigold Coneybear, four grades above Chip and so pretty she makes Chip’s breath escape. For a good half a year now, ever since he saw her at the volunteer Scouts garage sale where she was with one of their younger sisters. Ridiculously pretty, effortlessly talking to everyone. The exact opposite of Chip, who stutters through a simple “hello” when Marigold greets him.

He stares at her during the extremely uncomfortable break, when the lights are low and he hands out the shitty cheap candy and homebaked cake.

Only realizes that she’s eerily similar to Leaf, down to the clothes they’re wearing and the way their hands move when they speak, right before the rest of the contestants come back on stage.


Leaf doesn’t win.

(Not like Chip cares.)

But his heart weighs weirdly in his chest when the ring sounds out in the silent room, and quiet gasps are almost as loud as the ring itself. Leaf, obviously upset, walks from the stage, holding the juice box and sipping on it sadly. Even his cap seems to be hanging lower, like it’s ashamed.

And then when he runs up to Chip, and places one hand on his shoulder — right next to where his badges are —, Chip almost retches all over both of them.


Being next to Leaf feels like he was supposed to be there all his life and like he’s committing a cardinal sin at the same time. Leaf makes his blood pressure rise and sugar fall, Leaf gives the sweetest smiles and sourest grimaces. He makes Chip crumble to the floor and builds him back up at the same time, and he’s everything Chip ever wanted.

Leaf is like a tsunami, taking and giving, and Chip might drown himself in the being Leaf is. Crazy and stupid and so intelligent and simply amazing in all this mess.

Over the next three months — three months, for God’s sake, it’s a very long time! — they become what Chip would even dare to call friends. (He’s never had friends in the traditional sense, like his older siblings did, so he doesn’t really know how friends are supposed to act. He presumes it’s kind of what he has with Leaf.) The other Bee kids are there too, for some reason, annoyingly loud and bothering, but as long as Leaf wants to keep them around, Chip is okay with it.

He’s okay with anything Leaf does.

Maybe that is what is scary.


Chip’s mom keeps looking over to him as they eat their dinner. It’s dark out already, late autumn setting in Putnam with muddy leaves and cold mornings, and he’s just got back from soccer practice, so he’s still worked up when they sit down to mac and cheese. (Leaf likes mac and cheese.)

“What are you thinking about, Chippy?” His mom’s voice suddenly drags him out of his thoughts. She’s looking at him with the sad smile she always does when she asks him or his brother about something important. His brother looks up from his own plate, the fork scraping against the bottom as he chews obnoxiously.

“Leaf.” He confesses, almost immediately. (All of his thoughts recently are Leaf, Leaf, would Leaf like this, Leaf would like this, he’d go there with Leaf, Leaf would like this game. Chip’s mom drives by a horse ranch every morning she drops him off at school, and Leaf likes horses. He’s inescapable in every corner of Chip’s brain.)

“You’re always all about Leaf.” His brother says, with a twinge of humor in his voice and one corner of mouth pulled up, but all of Chip’s insides suddenly twist, like someone is pulling them. Like they’re vacuumed out, all at once, with incredible power. He is all about Leaf, because—

Because. There’s no good reason for him, Chip, Chip Tolentino of Putnam Valley, a son and a brother and a grandson, nephew and uncle, to think about someone like Leaf like this. His entire body feels warm and good when he thinks about him, and he kicks his legs sometimes when he’s laying on his bed and thinking about talking to Leaf tomorrow, and he never felt happier than when he’s next to Leaf.

And— oh.

Oh no.

No, this is not good. Very bad, actually.

He tears through the rest of his bowl, leaving a sad little puddle at the bottom, not looking at either of them the entire time and excuses himself to the shower, under the guise of washing himself after the practice. His face is numb the entire time. Like when he had to have a surgery at the dentist and he got local anesthesia.

He kind of can’t breathe. Even as he splashes his face with cold water and watches himself breathe in and out, in and out in the bathroom mirror. Watching the Cars stickers at the bottom, Lightning McQueen looking back at him.

But he often can’t breathe, he’s used to it too much to take an issue. He’s going to wake up in the morning and it will be all fine again.


It’s not. It’s even worse when he sees Leaf’s usual good morning message, alongside a photo of a cool bug he found outside while waiting for the bus to his aunt's house. Chip uses the last semblance of control he has over his fingers to type back a “cool bug!” message before turning his cellphone off and hoping his mom won’t call him in the middle of school day.


Leaf invites him to go to his house on Friday, and Chip goes through the full array of human emotions before nodding stiffly and smiling as real as he can.

He can’t show what he really feels. (He has to do it soon so Leaf doesn’t feel more betrayed.)

They sit next to each other on the bus, and Leaf’s shoulder brushes against Chip’s the entire time — he feels it like knife being stabbed over and over again, even through their thick coats — and Chip is inclined to use the emergency hammer to break the window and escape this absolute torture.

Leaf shares a room with one of his brothers, whatever stupidass name he has — Pinecone, or something along the lines —, but he’s a bit younger than them so Chip can easily get him out by giving him his phone to watch stupid videos on. He runs off in an inexplicable happiness and awful green overalls, leaving Chip to vibrate with nervousness while Leaf lays on the bed.

Like nothing is wrong.

They end up putting an old VHS of some kids’ show in the player at some point, and Chip joins Leaf on the bed. He’s sitting with his legs outstretched while Leaf lays like a cat in the sun, belly up, taking almost the entire thing, head dangerously closer to Chip’s leg.

(Touch his hair, Chip’s mind prompts. Fuck off, Chip responds.)

And then it happens. Later, Chip will admit that it was the first spring of water that flew through the crack in his internal dam holding back the feelings.

Leaf puts his hand on Chip’s, warm and solid and there, and Chip’s balance is suddenly thrown off so bad he chokes on his homemade soda. Leaf doesn’t seem phased, not even like he noticed their hands are touching, and just keeps on watching the show like he isn’t throwing Chip’s entire worldview around.

Why? Why is he so nice? Why is he acting so normal? Why can't Chip act normal?

Is this something he’s missed out on? On one of the days he was sick in kindergarten, primary school, did they have an assembly about how to be normal? Does everyone see how much of a freak he really is?

There’s a constant question of “Can Leaf see it?”, but the other boy doesn’t seem to notice. Ever. He treats Chip like they’re simply friends — best friends, even, a quiet voice whispers into his ear, deliver us from evil, — and shimmies over all the weird things Chip’s body makes him do. Jumping away from Leaf suddenly as he realizes they got too close while sitting on the couch, his hands jerking away when they accidentally touch, never getting too close on sleepovers.

And then, a horrible thought — he doesn’t know. And Chip has been leading him on the entire time as a best friend.

Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting.

Liar. Something akin to his brother’s voice says, deep in his brain — his older brother is so similar to their dad in many ways. He hates liars and hates people who cheat.

He’d hate Chip if he knew.

The butterflies in his stomach keep spinning, like they’re building a whole amusement park in there, his head is burning cold from the back, and suddenly it’s all too much — the TV blaring too brightly, Leaf’s hand is too warm, burning like hellfire, and everything is too loud, his heart and their breaths and one of Leaf’s siblings screaming downstairs. A dog barking outside, and Leaf, Leaf, Leaf—

“I need— need to go to the toilet.” He says, loud but mumbled and slams the door to Leaf’s room as he leaves. He vaguely hears it opening again, and Leaf calling out to him but he doesn’t turn back.

He can’t. Leaf can’t know. It’s going to hurt less if Chip rips the bandaid off all at once.

Chip turns the first corner he can, barreling into a room that seems to be a bathroom, and slides down a dark wall. The tiles are cold against his back, but it doesn’t do much to how big of a hellfire thrashes inside of him.

He’s wrong. He’s been born wrong, something in his brain chemistry flipping when he wasn’t even born, and it’s no one’s fault but his — if he could only be normal, if he could switch it back, the he would be a son his parents wanted, a brother his brother wouldn’t be ashamed of having. Still have a chance of being how they wanted Charlito Tolentino to be.

Hell burns inside of him, and he feels ripped open.

The door creaks.

“Hello? Chip?”


The fire burns brighter, reaching up to his trachea.

She comes to the faint light of the corridor, almost stumbling over his splayed legs. “Chip? What the—” She shuffles backwards, trying to regain stability, one hand landing on the tiled wall with a soft splat. “What are you doing here?”

“Just— Nothing.” He takes in a sharp breath, shaky and definitely not reassuring her in the slightest. “Marigold, go away—” his voice breaks on the last word, and all of his barely–together appearance shatters. Into little pieces, like a building crumbling, he falls apart with tears escaping.

Hellfire keeps engulfing him. Especially as Marigold’s hand unlatches from the wall, and not being able to predict what will happen next eats at him like a wild animal eating its prey.

“Hey, what’s the deal?” He hears Marigold say and shuffle closer to him, all noises cranked up to a hundred in the cramped bathroom, putting one cautious hand on his shoulder. When he doesn’t shrug it off, she moves closer, until their legs touch, Marigold criss–crossed on the cold bathroom floor. She starts rubbing — little circles, small and soft, and Chip chokes on his own tears because he doesn’t deserve it. The softness.

He’s not okay. Marigold doesn’t deserve to be lied to like that.

No one will forgive him.

“I’m not okay.” He says, mostly into his hands, but Marigold hears it nonetheless. The admission feels like he’s standing before court, confessing his guilt. Shamefully, he presses his hands closer to his face, feeling the hot tears fall between his fingers.

Marigold’s hand stills on his shoulder, and his breath stutters once again. She knows. She’s going to tell everyone. He can’t even say it to himself, and the thought of telling it to Marigold of all people makes him want to bash his head against a wall.

“How are you not okay?” Her voice is slow and soft, and everything Chip doesn’t deserve. He wails shrilly. "Don't cry! There's nothing so bad you should be crying about it."

He can’t just use her for comfort when she doesn’t know what he’s all upset and panicked about. But on the other hand, if she knows—

“I’m just— not.” He sounds like a little kid now. He’s walking in circles around it, and he doesn’t know what’s worse — because his dad hates people who aren’t direct to the point, and he always told Chip being honest is the most important value — or Marigold knowing.

“I think you’re pretty okay, kid.”

“That’s the thing!” He yells, startling both of them. Marigold flinches back in the darkness. “I’m not—” The air around him, them, feels like it burns his lungs as he breathes in. “I’m horrible.”

Marigold swallows thickly.

“You’re alright, Chip.” Her hand is still on his shoulder, and it hasn’t relented from the little circles, and it’s all going to drive Chip crazy, because if he doesn’t force the confession past his throat, he’s as bad as all the horrible people he hears about in church on Sundays.

“You’ll hate me.” His voice breaks again, into a rough whisper that scratches at his throat.

“It would be pretty morally wrong of me to hate a twelve–year–old, wouldn’t it?” Her voice takes a bit of a humorous tone, and Chip’s hands begin to shake. She can’t joke about this, this is not a joking matter, she shouldn’t because she doesn’t know how bad it is.

It is morally wrong to keep you in the dark about something like this.

“I’m—” the word won’t squeeze past his throat, like it’s physically trying to keep it down. “What if— What if someone liked boys— too?”

There’s a certain kind of silence for a moment, hanging heavy and oppressive like sauna air between them, and then, “Oh.

It’s over. The words have been said, and he won’t go back, and she’ll never look at him the same again.

He can’t bear looking up when Marigold inhales.

“What then?”

World stops spinning.


It’s just them in the vast space, in the bathroom but also everywhere else, floating, like two rocks that sunk to the bottom of a lake during stone skipping. Her and him, like two puzzle pieces that fit together but he knows aren’t supposed to be next to each other.

“What— What would happen if they liked boys too? Would it be wrong?"

What would happen, Chip?

It wouldn’t be the same, for the start. He’d— He would have to confess it to get his confirmation, and then someone else than he would know. The thought that someone might learn who he is, who he likes makes his throat close up again and head go cold at the mass of anxiety coming up.

“I’m gay too, you know.”

The world starts spinning violently again.

The tears on his cheeks start stinging. Like little icepicks, and the air isn’t molten ash anymore, turning into ice blocks in a split second.


He looks up at Marigold, who’s looking at him awkwardly, pursing her lips in the same way Leaf does when he’s not sure what to say. She nervously fixes a lock that fell out of her ponytail.

“I’m a lesbian, Chip. I have a girlfriend and,” she makes a weird shrug–like move with her hand, “all.”

There’s a rock in the pit of Chip’s stomach, but Marigold’s admission feels like she’s tied ropes around and started lifting it.

“You do?”

“Yeah.” She looks off to the side, the corner where light from the corridor is slightly lightening it. Chip might be imagining things, his brain too tired to actually process, but Marigold has a small smile on her lips. “Her name is Kaitlyn. She’s really nice and funny, lives just out of Putnam. We go to the same high school. Maybe you could meet her sometime?”

Chip’s mind crashes. Like an oil truck crash, with multiple vehicles involved, that ends up being on fire and crashing all traffic in the area. He can’t comprehend all of this, can’t seem to get all of the pieces that fell apart back into the dam that once stood proudly in his mind.

Marigold is good with being gay — having a girlfriend, even! — and doesn’t seem to make a big deal out of this. At all.

That’s the weirdest part of all of this. Why isn’t it something major for her? Why does she talk about it like it’s getting a B in school, or— or whatever, picking up groceries, talking about which ice cream flavor is the best—

Chip’s breath catches in his lungs, and he still feels the air bubbles making rounds when he speaks.

“There are gay people in Putnam?”

Marigold looks at him and bursts out laughing.

The heaviness of Chip's saliva begins to alleviate.

“Plenty, actually. If you know where to look.” When she spots Chip’s utterly lost expression, continues, “I found my first not–straight friends in middle school. Around your age. We all kind of flock together.”

Chip furrows his brows. Shouldn't he already have a group of friends like that if he really wasn't... that? “Hm.”

Marigold gives him another look, like she wants to say something, but decides against it. Just leans against Chip. Her head rests on the side of his.

“You’re a great kid, Chip.”

A smile sneaks onto his lips, tugging them upwards, his cheeks feeling like their heating has been turned on. “I am?”

“Very much.” She nods, her curls scraping against the side of Chip’s face. They’re not rough, but not as soft as Leaf’s are.

He’s not ready for the world to know yet. But one person, in the entire universe knows, and somehow their little shared secret holds him up.


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