No matter what freakish amount of training I put myself through, I would never run faster than Cayn. He fairly flew, and I could only sail. That might have been a clue to what our problem was. How could a bird love a boat? I'd been stupid from the start, but I'd begun to think it was okay to be stupid. I could hear Cayn's big feet thumping behind me, catching me up. He hadn't called out yet, but I knew he would. He was all about apologies, the ultimate bandaid of expression. He'd never seemed to understand the concept of prevention or just plain not screwing up.
Ah, there we go. I made a sharp turn and really truly ran, nearly a blur. Cayn could actually be a blur, but I had one thing on himhe was lost in this kind of setting. When he was upset, everything fell down to instinct, and his instincts didn't know what to do with so many buildings everywhere. I did everything but duck into alley, and yet he stayed fairly close behind. Out of sight, but still close. The really juvenile bits of my soul wanted to let him catch up so I could punch him in the nose and scream at him. Right now, I just needed to be alone.
Somehow I ended up exactly where I'd started, just on the other end of the sidewalk, staring at McKay's sign. I stopped to breath, and then felt all my air go when Cayn bowled into me, pushing us both into the alley behind McKay's neighbor. He kept me from falling, but I didn't help him.
"Fuck off," I hissed, gritting my teeth and straining every muscle to pop his hold on me. "Don't touch me!!"
There should have been enough venom in that to knock him unconscious, but he held on. "Let me explain
"You're a bastard!" I went limp, trying the Dead Man tactic. No luck. "That's all there is."
"It's not that easy
" he whimpered, holding on even tighter. "Al wouldn't understand. I-I couldn't
he'd tell people!"
My jaw dropped. God, I was still getting a blast of surprise over these things. "My heavens, sounds like the Prelude to Armageddon."
He backed us into the wall, I felt the thunk. "That's not what I meant."
"What on earth did you mean then?" I would have turned around if I could have, but Cayn held me fast. "It sounded like pretty straightforward avoidance to me!"
And then he spun me, destroying what little balance I had. I clung to him, afraid of falling. I already had done, hadn't I? I'd fallen for him, so irrevocably that I wanted to hurt myself. Even if he said he was ashamed of me and then walked offI still wouldn't have been able to give him up. Maybe we'd started too late for turning back or second thoughts, or maybe we'd just taken too long and I'd let it get precious before it was even anything.
He pressed our noses together, which meant I could feel his lips brushing mine while he talked. My lower half didnt hear a word, but my ears were on the case. "Something is wrong with me
" he whispered, shuddering. "I don't want it to get in the way, but it's so big
The volume of his words was so low that I had to invent a new method of reading lips. "Then don't let it get in the way."
"It's not that easy!"
"Make it be easy. You just have to trick yourself into thinking it is." At least, that was what I meant to say. It was a long speech to make with his mouth so close to mine. I was only halfway through it when Cayn angled his head just right and caught me in a confused kiss. The turmoil welling up inside him gave his mouth a weird tang, but I just tried to pull him into me. Never mind it, I could skulk about. I'd kept it a secret for my own sake for two years, I could keep it a modified secret for him.
Besides, it was a little bit impossible to deny him anything when he was doing something that unique with his tongue.
We'd gotten used to doing this with a couch or bed handy, but the shower had been good practice. Cayn sort of rolled to one side to squish me into the wall, pressing his hips exactly where they were supposed to go while I guided his hand down my side. We had to cut it out and go home, or just somewhere else, somewhere we wouldn't get in trouble for this, but I wasn't going to be the one to break away first.
"Oh my god
Cayn dropped me without actually letting go, and the back of my head nearly said a quick informal hello to the brick wall. I followed his horrified gaze and followed his horrified gaze and found another, horrified and sickened gaze. Al stood at the mouth of the alley, holding a hand over his mouth. It didn't cover up the grimace and sudden loathing at all. "You
I waited for Cayn to protest or try out the tired, 'It's not what you think' line, but he was frozen. If the situation hadn't been so serious, I might have joked that Al was jealous of me, but it really wasn't the time. Sighing, I let go of Cayn, although he didn't move enough to let go of me.
"When didhow?!" Al squeaked, backing away. "God, Cayn. Why??"
Cayn finally let one arm fall away from me. He hadn't been holding me up at all, but it had been reassuring to feel his palms pressed against my skin. "Al, I can
I can explain."
"Explain what?" His voice was unbearably shrill. I wanted to leave, but I didn't know if Cayn wanted that or if he was afraid of it. Besides, I didn't want to go without him, and it wasn't time for him to go yet. Knowing what to do when Cayn was upset was always a gamble under normal circumstances, but when his obviously homophobic friend was glaring at me as if I'd murdered an old lady
Well, I could only look him boldly in the eye and pretend I wasn't remotely bothered by any of this. Granted, I would have loved to ruin his none-too-comely face, but that wasn't a brilliant idea.
Cayn peeled himself away from me and took a few steps, then slumped when Al backed away even farther. "Van is my
my boyfriend," he said quietly. "And
you'll just have to get used to that."
I couldn't help gasping and drawing myself flatter against the wall, the hate on my Al's face was almost three-dimensional. He didn't even say anything, he just looked disgusted and betrayed, and thoroughly thrown out of his world view. And then he stomped off.
Feeling like a heel and knowing I deserved it, I reached up to pat Cayn's arm. He didn't flinch. "You should talk to him," I said softly.
"Now is probably not the best time
I shrugged. I definitely didn't know. After all, this was nothing like my friends' reactions when I'd told them. I'd told Emily first, and she'd been my happy supportive confidant, Lyra had been proud of me, Roman didn't care in a 'Good for you' kind of way, and Dice
He had looked at me with that disturbingly focused frown and said, "Whoopty-doo, you just barely figured out something I've known since I met you." We'd had a fight after that, of coursewhich Dice won, somehow. Probably because he bit, and I hadn't had the heart to, I'd just been relieved that he was being so quintessentially Dice about it. I wished I knew exactly where he was so I could just go talk to him. I needed his clear counsel and inability to be blinded by details or irrelevant things like my hurt feelings.
"Can we go home?" Cayn whispered, turning around and lowering his head so that he could hid his face in my shoulder.
I kissed his head. "Yeah. You lay down and I'll go get groceries." There had been enough heartbreak and speed bumps in my life that I took a pragmatic view of them sometimes. The groceries had to be taken care of no matter how much you wanted to sit in your room and cry at the wall.
!" he whimpered, already getting a headstart. "I nee" he hiccupped, "I need you." His fingers tangled in my sleeves, reminding me of a little boy who just wanted to hang onto his teddy bear a while longer.
To confess a little, my own real teddy bear still sat on a shelf in my room. "You've got me." I reached up to massage one of his wrists until he let go of my sleeve, then held the hand attached to it. "I'll sing you to sleep, Oie."
The walk back to the apartment wasn't that long, but I worried about him the entire way. He leaned heavily on me, clinging so tightly to my hand that I could feel hot-cold numbness course across my skin whenever he changed his grip. He was going to need a lot of very private comfort.
I waited until we were back behind our securely shut door hug him and kiss his forehead. Then we just went to bed and I sang to him, stroking his head until he was fast asleep. I stayed there, staring at the ceiling and not getting the groceries.