by EleCivil


Chapter Thirteen:  Casabianca


I met up with Nick the next day.  I rang the bell on door of the church, and he let me inside.  The first thing he did was lead me to the kitchen, where he opened the fridge and handed me a can of root beer.


“Couldn’t do it.  Sorry.”  He looked away.


I reached into my coat pocket, which was packed with snow, and pulled out a second can, which I presented to him when he looked back.  “Me, neither.  I didn’t make it more than two hours.  I’ve got some pretty pessimistic dreams.”


“I did fine all night, because I was here, alone, but this morning…well, whatever.”  He cracked open his drink.  “To failure.”


We left the kitchen, then, and he lead me downstairs to his makeshift room.  The sign on the door said that it was a janitor’s closet.


“That’s just to keep people from snooping around,” He explained as he produced a key ring from his pocket and unlocked the door.  “But since I clean the place, I guess it fits.”


One side of Nick’s room was filled with cleaning supplies – vacuum cleaners, a mop, a broom, some jugs that were probably full of stuff that would kill you if you tried to take a sip of it – just like a standard janitor’s closet.  The other side, though, was his.  A small bed and a dresser were against one wall, and there was a school-sized desk in the corner.  On the desk was a pile of books, along with a few pens and pencils.


“It’s not much, but I love it.”  Nick said.


“It’s cool.”  I said.  “So, you never did tell me what you do for fun down here.”


“Oh, right.”  He shrugged.  “Read books, draw, paint, play pool.  Like I said, boring stuff.”


I shook my head.  “Nothing boring there.  You could probably be the main character in an independent film.  Those are always about guys reading books and painting pictures.”


“They’re always boring, too.”


“Not this one.  We can embellish a bit.  Personally, I’ve always pictured you hunting vampires by night.”


He smiled.  “Yeah?”


“Oh yeah.  You live in a church, dude.  Crosses, holy water, Eucharist…all that anti-vampire stuff.”


“Those last two are for Catholics, not Baptists.”


“Oh.  What do you guys have?”


“Um…well, sometimes I make Jell-o for the Sunday school kids.”


“Garlic Jell-o?”


“Nope.  Plain evan-gelatin.”


I laughed.  “Even if it’s not vampire canon, that’s going in the movie, if just for the sake of having someone say ‘evan-gelatin’.”  I glanced around at his walls, which were all bare.  “You don’t hang up any of your art?”


He shook his head.  “It’s not really the kind of stuff you’d hang in a church.  I leave most of it with the art teachers at school.”


“So, you don’t have any here?”


“Just a sketchbook full of ideas and stuff.  Nothing good.”  He said.  “Did you…want to see it?”


“Yeah.  If you don’t mind.”  I shrugged.  “I’m kind of curious, is all.”


“Okay.”  He gave me a nervous look.  “But remember, this stuff isn’t done yet.”  He knelt down next to his bed and slid out a large sketch pad, which he handed to me. 


He sat down on the corner of his bed and stared off to one side, trying to act like he wasn’t paying attention.  Even so, I saw him sneaking sideways glances at me as I flipped open the book.  It was exactly what I’d be doing if our roles were reversed, which made me smile.  


Surreal, highly stylized sketches were scratched out and shaded in finger-smeared graphite on every page.  One in particular, near the back of the book, caught my eye.  It was a highly detailed lion, strutting down the middle of a hallway that matched those in Curson Public.  It was staring straight out from the page, head tilted to one side with a playful expression, as if it was ready to pounce on you, but only for fun.


“Nick…these are great.”  I said, flipping backwards a few pages to look at some of the earlier drawings.  “The one with the lion…did you do that after we were talking about…”


“Yeah.”  It looked like he was starting to blush.  “You don’t think that’s too weird, do you?”


“What?  ‘Course not.”  I said.  “I once wrote a song called ‘Ten Miles of Death String’.”


Nick’s face went blank for a few seconds, then sprang to life.  “Oh!  Like when we were talking about…”




A few seconds of silence passed before Nick stood up.  “Hey, you drove here, right?  So you’re not too cold?”


I nodded.


“Cool.  I want to get out of here for a while, if that’s okay with you.”


“Sure.  Where do you want to go?”


“Just walk for a while.  I’ve been inside too long.”




After we grabbed our coats, I followed him outside.  We cut through the snow-covered grass behind the church until we came to the top of a large hill.  There was a tunnel running under it, railroad tracks and gravel spreading out in both directions.


“Do trains still come through here?”  I asked, leaning out over the guardrail to look at the tracks.


“Yeah.  Just one, though.  It was through earlier today.  Won’t be back for a while.”  He said.


“You know its schedule?”


He nodded.  I heard the rustle of our thick winter coats rubbing together slightly.  “I know where it goes, too.”




He looked over at me.  “You really want to know?”




“Well, back behind us is Detroit, where it starts.  That way,” He pointed out in the direction we were looking, “Is Ohio.  It goes down through Toledo, for glass, and cuts above Columbus to this place called Gordon, for paper products.  Then it turns toward Pennsylvania, goes through Pittsburgh and Central City and a bunch of little mining towns, picking up coal and steel.  Track ends in a town called Overlight, which, as far as I can tell, is only there so that the train has a place to turn around.”


“Where did you find out about all that?”


“Post office has all the old railroad maps tacked up on the walls.  I just looked at where this one went, then looked up the cities to see what their big industries were.  From there, it was pretty easy to figure it out.”


“Wow.”  I looked down at the bold lines the rails made in the snow and tried to trace them as far as I could until they disappeared.  “You really researched it, huh?”


“Wish I hadn’t.  It used to be so mysterious, you know?  Like…all I had to do was jump on, and maybe I’d get swept up into some kind of adventure far away from here.  End up saving the world, or starting a ring of jewel thieves or something.”  He said.  “But, now I know I’d probably just end up at some glass factory.  Which still might be better than here.”


“You think Curson’s that bad?”


He climbed onto the railing and stood with his arms crossed, looking out to the South. “I don’t know.  Sometimes.  But then, I think, where else would I go?  I can’t see living in a small town, and big cities are depressing, so…”


“I don’t think it’s that bad.  I mean, yeah, the weather always sucks, and nothing exciting ever happens, and we’re at just the size where nobody talks to anybody else, but everybody talks about everybody else, and…”  I climbed up on the railing with him.  “Screw it.  I can’t finish that thought.”  I spat over the edge, onto the town.


Nick spat off the edge, too, and laughed.  “Even when you’re trying to be bitter about stuff, I can’t tell if you’re serious or not.”  He twisted slightly to look at me.  “Say something serious.  I want to see what that looks like.”


“Um…”  I looked down at my feet as I was thinking.  “It’s probably dangerous for both of us to be standing on these wet, icy rails, since there’s a pretty big drop in front of us.”


Nick’s expression slowly changed from curious to amused before he started chuckling, lightly.


 “Hey, I’m being serious!  Don’t laugh up here, that makes it even more dangerous!”  He laughed even harder, now, grabbing the rail for support.  I started laughing, too – there was something about the way he found my seriousness so funny that made me crack up.  Now it really was getting dangerous.  With that in mind, I threw one arm around his midsection, gripped tight, and threw myself backwards, pulling him with me away from the railing and into the snow.  It was two feet from the railing to the ground, and our coats absorbed the blow.


Nick was still in hysterics, and was lying on top of my arm, pinning me to the ground next to him.  “I can’t believe you did that…”  He said as he started to calm down.


“I was just trying to be serious.”


There was snow slipping under my collar and into my sleeves.  It was really uncomfortable.  After a few seconds, I felt Nick squirm around slightly.


“That’s your arm, isn’t it?”  He asked.




“I’m cutting off the circulation, aren’t I?”


I wiggled my fingers.  “Oh yeah.”


“Sorry about that.”


“Are you going to get up?”


“What if I don’t?”


“I’d be forced to take action.”  With my free hand, I dug into the snow, readying a snowball.  He saw that out of the corner of his eye.


He rolled on top of me and pinned my wrists to the ground.  “Thought you could pull a fast one?”


“I was…optimistic about it.  But now you’re stuck.  You know that the second you let me up, you’re dead.”


“That’s no fair.  You’ve got gloves on.  That’s such a huge advantage in a snowball fight.”


“And whose fault is it that you didn’t wear gloves?”


“I didn’t think I’d need them, because of my sleeves.”  Nick nodded to his sleeves, which were still covering his hands, even as he used them to pin mine.


“And yet you still decided to start this.”


“You started it when you pulled me off of the rails.”


“You started it when you kept laughing at my seriousness.”


“You started it by making your seriousness so funny.”


“Are you going to get off of me?”


“And let you nail me with that snowball?  Of course not.”  He said.


“Fine.  I can wait just as long as you.”  But even as I said it, I was starting my struggle to get out.  Little by little, I was starting to realize that Nick was, in fact, on top of me, and I wanted to be out from under him when that knowledge reached a certain part of my body.  Staring up at Nick’s smiling face wasn’t helping matters.  Every time I looked into his eyes, I felt all the strength leave my body, but when I tried to look anywhere else, I’d notice something else about him that I’d never noticed, like the small dimples at the sides of his mouth.  I could swear I’d never seen those before.  I turned my head and looked at the way his hands were balled up inside his sleeves, making them bulge out.  That’s when I realized that, because he still had his hands in his sleeves that way, there was no way he could have a very good grip on my wrists.  He was pinning them down, but only by pressing tightly.  I looked back at his face, not wanting him to know what I had just figured out.


In the beginning, I had hoped that he’d get distracted and let down his guard for a second, but he kept his eyes trained on mine.  Now I knew that meant he wasn’t paying attention to his hands.  Rather than pressing upward, like I had been, I shifted my weight and slid each hand parallel to the ground, while and the same time twisting the rest of my body.  This had a corkscrew effect, and momentum carried me up and into Nick, knocking him to the ground and putting me on top of him.  He looked shocked by his new position.  To be honest, so was I, but I’ve never been one to give up an unfair advantage.  I pressed my palms to his shoulders, pinning him.


“Hey-”  He started to protest, but then I released one of his shoulders, grabbed a handful of snow, and cocked my elbow back.


“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t clobber ya.”


“Um…”  His eyes rolled to one side as he thought.  “I…I can’t think of anything, but that’s mostly because you just said ‘clobber’.  I mean…you did say ‘clobber’, right?”


“What’s wrong with ‘clobber’?”


“Nothing, if you’re in a superhero comic.”


“Now you’re just asking for it.”


I pulled back my arm, but when he closed his eyes, I didn’t throw it.  Instead, I gripped the snowball hard and squeezed, causing it to drip onto his face.  He yelped and opened his eyes.  “What are you doing?”


“I think I’ll call it Michigan Water Torture.”  I said, as another drop fell to his face, rolled across his cheek and hit the ground.


He raised one hand and batted the snowball out of mine, and I remembered that I never took the time to really secure his arms.  He could have easily pushed me off of him at any time.


“Why didn’t you do that before?”


“I don’t know.”  He said.  “I guess I was curious.  Didn’t think you’d actually, uh, ‘clobber’ me, but I wanted to see.”


“You underestimating my clobber-tude?”


“I’m still un-clobbered, aren’t I?”


“For now.” I said.  I’d stopped trying to pin him down, but he still hadn’t pushed me off.


“You won’t, now.”


“Oh?  Why not?”


“Because…now you know that I trust you not to do it.”


“You’re not supposed to know what I’m going to do before I decide what I’m going to do.” 


“Right, like you don’t do the same to me.”


“You kidding?  I have no idea how your brain works.  One minute you’re all melancholy, talking about where the train leads, and the next you’ve got me pinned on the ground.”


“Yeah, but only after you cheered me up with your fake seriousness and by knocking me off the railing.  And, honestly, I think you know me better than anyone else in the world right now.”


I felt an enormous wave surge against whatever walls I had put up around the part of my brain that held what I felt for Nick.  It was scary, the way it came on so fast.  I felt like my eyes were one step away from watering and my chest felt tight. 


I rolled off of him and onto the snow.  He pushed himself up on one arm and twisted to look down at me, grinning.  “See?  Told you that you wouldn’t do it.”  When I didn’t say anything, his expression turned concerned.  “Are you okay?”


“Y-yeah.”  I noticed how shaky my voice sounded.   “That was just…”




“What you said.  Me knowing you better than anyone else.  It’s kind of overwhelming, hearing something like that.”


“Oh.  I talk about my feelings and stuff too much, huh?  I know that makes people uncomfortable sometimes.”  He shrugged – as best as you can when you’re leaning on one arm, anyway.  “I don’t have that much experience with…you know, just tell me when to knock it off, and I will.”


“No, it’s not that.  It’s cool, the way you can just say what you’re feeling.”  I rolled into a kneeling position.  “I love…that.  About you.”


My heart jumped to my throat when I realized what I’d just said.  Nick turned to face me, but didn’t say anything.  His expression was hard to read, because it was one that I’d never seen before.  At least, not directed at me.


I stood up and looked back toward the church.  I couldn’t face him, then.  I was going crazy, wondering whether I’d just said too much, crossed some kind of line.  That was when I felt a cold explosion against the back of my skull.  I spun around, brushing the snow off of my hat.  Nick was standing there, rubbing his hands against his coat and  struggling to hold back his laughter.


I was at once relieved and amused.  Without saying anything, I knelt down and packed together a snowball.


“Hey!”  Nick said.  “I thought you said you weren’t going to-”


“No, I’m pretty sure it’s clobberin’ time.”  I spoke with a cold determination as I whipped the snowball at him.  He jumped out of the way and took off, running past me.  I paused to scoop up some more snow, then chased after him.  We ran as best as a person can run in six inches of snow while wearing boots, and by the time I caught up with him, we were under the shadow of the church.  This time, since he had his back toward me, the snowball I tossed hit him square in the back.  He stopped and turned to look at me.


“Remember last night, when we talked for like…an hour about how epic it would be if we got into a snowball fight?”




“Kind of disappointing in real life, huh?”


I laughed.  “Yeah.  No zeppelins or anything.”


“Um…”  He was looking serious all of a sudden.  His quick mood swings were something I still hadn’t gotten used to.  “Bran?  I…”




“I love…things…about you, too.”


That cynical part of my brain – the part that would have told me not to read into that remark – seemed to be on break.  Unfortunately, it must have taken the speech centers with it.  All that was left in my head was the dumb, drooling, love-struck part, which wasn’t good for very much except for…well, drooling.  Somehow, the remaining brain cells managed to form up and collectively pull me out of my starry-eyed stupor long enough to notice how nervous and uncertain Nick was looking.


Without another thought, I closed the distance between us and slid my arms around his middle, squeezing tightly so he could still feel it through his oversized coat.  And, much to my relief, he hugged me back.  What I felt was the most unusual mixture of peacefulness and excitement.  I wanted to keep completely still and jump out of my skin at the same time.  I couldn’t bring myself to do either, so I just kept holding onto Nick.


“I never…thought…”  Nick was trying to say something, but it sounded like he was having the same trouble I was, and he gave up.  That was fine with me.  We could talk later.  We could talk about all kind of things later.


I shifted slightly and brought my lips against his.  He pressed back, kissing me softy.  I felt his hands slide up my back.  For a few seconds, I stopped thinking.  My mind went blank and all I could focus on was the cool, fluttery feeling in my stomach.  A funny noise, kind of like a whimper, escaped from Nick’s throat when we separated.


“Oh, god.”  He whispered.


“I know.”  I said.


“Wh-what…”  He was shaking, and his expression was unreadable.




He looked like he was about to cry.  Then, without another word, he ran.  Not the light, playful running that he was doing during our snowball fight, but a heavy, graceless gallop, like a wounded man running from an attacker.  And what’d that make me?


That fluttery feeling I’d mentioned before?  It died.  Now I just felt sick.  I’d blown it.  I debated whether to chase after him, or just get in my car and drive home.  Driving home probably would have been a little less cruel, but I couldn’t.  Not before I knew that Nick was okay.


I walked slowly as I followed his footprints back to the door of the church.  They went inside, too – little pools of water on the tiles leading to the stairs, and eventually to his room.  The door was closed.  I knocked lightly.


There was some rustling from inside before the door opened.  Nick’s eyes were red and puffy.  He stood up straight, now, trying to hide it, but it was obvious that he’d been crying.  As soon as he saw me, though, he seemed to fall apart.  His mouth moved, like he wanted to say something, but he just turned and sat on the edge of his bed, dropping his face into his hands.  He hadn’t said that I could come in, but he hadn’t slammed the door on me, either.  I inched inside.


“I’m sorry.”  I said.  It was all I had.  “I…shouldn’t have done that.”


“What?”  He looked up at me.  “No, not your fault.  It’s me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”


I inched closer and sat down on the edge of his bed with him, but a few feet away.


“God, I’m a fucking psycho.”  He mumbled.


“What?”  I turned to face him, but he kept his eyes forward.


“I really liked that.  When you kissed me.  I just felt so…happy, you know?  Like I could just forget everything else and just be with you.  But then…as soon as we stopped, it was like I remembered everything I’d been taught about homosexuals, all at once.  It just all came back.  I know it’s stupid, but I felt awful.  Sick.  And completely disappointed in myself.  Just…god, I hated myself.”  He looked over at me.  “It scares the hell out of me.  Like…is that going to happen every time?  Am I just never going to be able to love anybody without hating myself?”


This was so far out of my league.  This was the kind of thing people brought to psychologists, not to sophomores with part-time dishwashing jobs.  But this was Nick.  Seeing him like this tore me apart.  I wanted to do something to make him feel better.  I wanted to kill his parents for making him feel this way.  I wanted to run away before I made things worse.  All in all, I didn’t know what to do.


“I have no idea what I’m doing.”  I said.  “But if there’s anything I can do, just tell me.  Even if you want to tell me to get lost, so that doesn’t happen again.”


“Um…”  He looked over with a shy expression.  “Maybe…maybe we should try it again.  But this time, I’ll know it’s coming.  And, maybe, afterwards…don’t let go of me for a while.  So I can’t run away.”


“You want me to kiss you again?”


He nodded, then glanced around.  “But not here.  I don’t like it here.”


I could understand that.


“Maybe we could go somewhere else, though?”  He asked, a nervous edge to his voice, as if he still wasn’t sure that I’d agree.


“Yeah.  Where do you want to go?”


“Anywhere.  Um…your place?”


“Okay.”  We stood up, and started for the stairs.  “For the record, I’m really glad you suggested my place.”


“Why’s that?”  He fell into step next to me.


“Because if you had said Paris, I probably would have started driving toward it.  And since my car doesn’t work on water, we probably would have drowned in the Atlantic.”


He smiled.  I was so glad to see him smile.  “No way.  We would’ve run out of gas before we hit Pennsylvania.”


“I could always find a hose and siphon some gas for us.”


“But I might not want to kiss you if your mouth tastes like gasoline.”


“High-maintenance, eh?”  I paused, and let an expression of deep concentration cover my face.  “Huh.  Guess I’d just have to hijack something, then.”


“A zeppelin?”  He asked, just as we stepped outside.


I stopped walking and looked Nick in the eye.  Then I threw one arm around his shoulder and motioned to the horizon with the other.  In the cheesiest voice I could manage, and keeping my eyes locked on the sky, I said, “With me, baby, it’s always gonna be a zeppelin!”


Nick burst out laughing.  “What’s that even mean?”


“I don’t know, but I thought it was a pretty good line.”


I thought that after some normal conversation like that, my nerves would ease up a bit, but as we got into the station wagon, I was still on edge.  There was so much to talk about, but it seemed like whenever one of us tried, we fell back into our typical banter.  Don’t get me wrong, I love our banter, but at the moment, it felt…off.  It was like we were right on the verge of something, but kept turning back, kept surrendering the possible for the sake of the familiar.  Maybe that’s just what happens when a powerful moment is interrupted – you’re trying to hold off the intensity for just a little longer, but you’re still feeling it, so you end up in some awkward middle-ground.  That kept up for most of the ride home.  Finally, at a red light, I turned to Nick.


This time, I didn’t try to say anything.  Neither did he.  We started out just looking at each other, but, little by little, I noticed that he was starting to smile.  I felt that I was doing the same.  The nervousness started to fade.  I was alone with Nick.  That was all there was, and that was all I wanted.


A car behind us honked their horn.  I jumped, and my foot slid off the clutch, causing the station wagon to stall out.  I groaned and re-started the engine.  Nick snickered.


“Hey, it’s your fault.”  I said, once we were moving again.


“I know.”  He grinned.  “I made your car shut off just by looking at you.  Never thought I’d be able to do that.”


I laughed.  “I never thought you’d actually look at me like that.”


“How long have you…wanted me to?”  He asked.  It looked like he was ready to talk about us.  I thought it was a good sign, even though I knew that I didn’t know anything.


“Remember when we dropped you off at the church, the day we build that snowman?”


“When you gave me your number?”


“Yeah.  Since then.”  I said.  “At least.”


“Wow.  That was like…the second day we knew each other.”




“Seems kind of soon.”


“Well…right then I just knew I had a huge crush on you, is all.  But I didn’t completely own up to it because I figured there was no way you would ever be interested in me.”


“Why not?”


“Because…well, you know.”  I shrugged.




“Because of your dad.”


“Oh.”  He sounded so down in just that one syllable.


“I mean, it wasn’t like…’I don’t believe what your dad does, so I didn’t like you,’ or anything like that.  It was just hard to picture the son of the most conservative guy in town being…”




I was about to disagree with that comment, but he was right.  “Yeah.  Exactly.  In the beginning, I guess I saw you as…something else.”




“I don’t know.  You were always smiling and laughing, but always kind of shy, too.  Like…a kitten, or something.  I guess I thought that, since you seemed so timid, you must be doing what your parents wanted, otherwise…well, you wouldn’t be so happy.”


“But…”  He shrugged.


“I know.”  I said.  “The more I got to know you, the more I understood that you were…human, like you said.  And when I realized that, that’s when I fell completely in love with you.”


“I think I get what you’re saying.  Still sounds weird, but I get it.”  He paused.  “It was the Spring Assembly, for me.”




“When I, uh…fell in love with you.”  He said.  I didn’t have to look over to know that he was probably blushing.  “You’d already seen me out picketing that video store, but you still didn’t mind being seen with me in school, and introducing me to your friends.  And, for some reason, you were really interested in my bookmark.”


“I only said that because you caught me staring at you.  It was the first thing I could think of.”


“You were staring at me?”  He asked.  Now I could tell that I was blushing.  He laughed.  “Anyway, that did it.  I probably liked you before that, too, but I guess I just figured that you’re supposed to feel that way about friends.  Never thought I might be gay.”


“So you didn’t know, before…”


We pulled into my driveway, and I shut off the car, but we didn’t get out just yet.


“Probably did, but didn’t admit it.”  He said.  I looked over, and saw that he was blushing severely.  “I kind of had this weird view of things.  Can’t believe I’m telling you this, by the way.  I used to…you know,”  He made the international jerking-off pantomime with one hand.  “…thinking about guys, but I’d justify it, like…if I just fantasized about them for sex, and nothing else, I could still be straight.  Just so long as I never thought about kissing a guy.  And it was just in my head – I’d never actually do anything with a guy in real life – so it was okay.  I wasn’t gay, I was just a straight guy who thought about sex with other guys all the time.”  He snickered at himself in a humorless way.  “Which I guess made sense, considering.”


“Considering what?”


“In the church…they see being gay as an act, not a condition.  You know, with anyone else, it’s like ‘You want to have sex with a dude?  Oh, you must be gay.’  But with them, it’s more along the lines of ‘You want to have sex with a dude?  Well, that’s fine, just don’t do it, or you’ll be gay.’  So I went along thinking that even though I fantasized about guys, and I wasn’t attracted to girls, I could still be straight.  And then you came along.”


“What’d I do?”


“Well, you were really nice to me all the time, and then I had this dream about you…”  He shook his head.  “Forget it, I’m embarrassed enough.”


“Aw, come on!  You can’t just tell me you had a dream about me and leave it hanging like that!”  I said.  “I promise I won’t laugh.”


He sighed and turned to look out the window as he spoke.  “Okay, but it’s really lame.  I had this dream some time after the Spring Assembly, but before your birthday.  We were…”  He was turned away, but I knew he was blushing again.  “We were in bed together, but there was nothing sexual about it.  We were just talking.  Just about normal things, like movies and school and stuff like that.  And then you kissed me, and we went to sleep.  Then I woke up, and the first thing I thought – before I was completely awake, you know –was that that was the best dream I’d ever had.  And then I got my head together and had my first ‘oh-my-god-I’m-gay’ moment.”  He turned back to me.  “Like I said…pretty lame.”


“We’ve got to get out of this car.”


“Uh, okay.  Why?”


“Because after hearing that, I’ve got to hug you again, and I can’t do it in here because the gearshift is in the way.”


Nick grinned and pulled off his seatbelt.  We got outside and he followed me to the door, which I unlocked.  As soon as we were inside, we threw off our wet coats and our arms were around each other, not bothering to step away from the door.  Without all the padding between us – the coats, hats, and gloves – it was a whole new experience, holding Nick.  He felt so much smaller and warmer, now.  I liked the way I could touch a cool spot on his shirt, and within seconds, his body heat would start bleeding through to my hand.  I could do that all day, just finding new spots on his shirt to warm up.


“Um…”  He vibrated when he talked.  “Do you want to…try kissing me again?”


I looked into his eyes.  “If you want me to.”


“Please?”  He looked scared, but there was something else beyond that.  Something that looked a lot stronger than the fear.  “Just…don’t let me go, afterwards.”


I slowly, gently, leaned in and touched our lips together.  Nothing more than that.  But as softly as I was kissing him, I never let my arms loosen.  When our faces separated, I felt him tremble, and gave him a slight squeeze.  He tensed up and squirmed, like he was trying to get out of my grip.  I didn’t let go.  His breathing grew ragged, and I heard him sniffling.  I still didn’t let go.  Instead, I held tighter, straightened up to position my lips near his ear, and whispered that I loved him.  I heard him gasp for breath and realized that now he was crying.  Then, his weight was against me, and I felt myself supporting him.  Then, sooner than I had expected, he started to straighten out.  Finally, he took a step back, but held onto one of my hands.


“I’m…sorry about that.  I’m going to try to get it under control.  I’m going to try really hard, I swear.”


“Even if you didn’t need me to hold you, I’d probably want to do it anyway.”  I reached up with my free hand to brush my bangs out of my eyes when I noticed that my hair was slightly wet.  But, for the first time I could remember, I didn’t really mind.


“I know that, but…I also know how weird that must be for you.  I don’t want to put you in that kind of position, you know?”


“I know.”  I said.  “Hey, I just realized something.”




“You’ve never seen my room, have you?”


He shook his head.


“Come on.”  I pulled him by his hand.  “If you want, we can lie down and talk about stuff.”


Nick grinned.