By Marguerite Muguet
Gold and fire were dancing together in the trees, the cold wind giving birth to the dance. The weakening sun was painting the horizon, a beautiful masterpiece as fleeting as a butterfly. The forest was filled with so much beauty, that it was worth stopping and looking at it. To do so would take one's breath away, would fill with peace the most desperate walker.
Laughing eyes looking at him. At HIM. Love shining in his smile. A shy hand gets closer. Touching him, making sure he was real. A butterfly escapes from his lips, landing on the other's palm.
Todd Anderson was in bad state. He needed the calm of the forest, its immensity to hide. He sat beside one of the tall trees. He was in a clearing, he didn't know where exactly, but didn't particularly care. His inner walls had just been shattered. He felt raw, exposed-- his worst nightmare was happening.
Soft hair under his hands. Soft lips on his eyelids. Breathing in. Smelling him. Taking in his particular sent. "Kiss me." A plea, a demand. So long. Too long. Finally. Kissing heaven. Kissing love.
He had just been forced open in front of his best friend. One of his precious secrets had been lain out for outsiders to see and he wondered what Neil would do, what he would say. Todd felt ill just thinking about it : it was the blanket which never covers you completely. He hadn't wanted to stay, to hear the hateful words he was sure would fall from Neil's lips. He had run. Run into the woods to protect himself.
"God, I thought they'd never leave." A soft voice. Pleasure to his ears. "Knox's your best friend." Delicious heat on top of him. Moving slowly. "Yeah, well, he was keeping me away from your lips."
He had allowed Neil to get close. Who was he kidding? Neil wouldn't have accepted any other answer to his offered friendship. But, no matter what he did now, Neil had the power to hurt him. Todd knew that Neil looked out for him, but he doubted that Neil's affection would stand when faced with the truth. He just hoped he wouldn't say anything for his and Charlie's sake.
"Don't go." "I'm not going. I'm a bit cold, that's all." "I'll keep you warm. Come on." "Stop it. Charlie..." "Just one little kiss." "Okay." A whisper. The meeting of two beings. Sharing. Abrupt intrusion of reality in their haven.
"Oh my god."
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Startled, a cry escaped his lips and he turned to see who had found him. He had been so lost in his thoughts and misery that he hadn't heard the sound of Neil approaching. Instinctively, he tried to run, but Neil's voice stopped him.
"Wait. Don't go.-- It took me long enough to find you the first time. Here," Neil handed him a white handkerchief. "I should stop smoking ; I feel like my lungs are never going to stop hurting."
Todd took the handkerchief. He shyly said thanks, fearing what was going to happen. He could feel the stiff wet tracks on his cheeks. His friend, if he still was his friend, sat beside him and looked at him in the eyes. Todd thought he looked slightly angry so he turned his gaze away. He kept it on the fallen leaves wishing he were one, soon to hide underneath the snow. After a moment, not wanting to prolong the agony, Todd spoke.
"I thought you had rehearsal this afternoon." His voice was practically a whisper.
"I had, but it got cancelled since the director got called away." Was it his imagination or did he sound sorry? That was life for you : Always throwing things at you.
"Oh." Todd still wasn't looking at Neil and it unnerved him.
"Todd..." It didn't happen often, but he was at a loss of words. "About what happened... For God's sake, look at me. This is important."
Hearing Neil's anger, Todd reluctantly obeyed and met Neil's eyes.
"I really don't want to talk about this," Todd was trying to retreat inside of himself to remove his sensitivity away from harm.
"Stop it. Please, don't shut me out. You know fully well that I won't let you. What I saw..." Neil was struggling for the words. He obviously didn't know what to say.
"What did Charlie say?" Todd's question interrupted the other boy's search. "Where is he?"
"Not much. He was as shocked as I was, I think. He looked like he wanted to punch me, but he just said we had to find you," Neil smiled, remembering something. "and that he was going to break my jaw if I hurt you when we found you."
"Then why isn't he here ?" wondered Todd aloud, looking up the forest surrounding them.
"I convinced him to let me do the talking. You don't have to be afraid of me." Todd blushed a little as he realised that his friend had read him like a book. "I admit I'm stunned, but I'm ready to listen."
Todd had gone back to the leaves and was now nervously crushing some between his fingers. Neil stayed silent, waiting. Todd knew that this time he wouldn't pry; he would have to open up by his own choice. His protective shell was going to stay or disappear--it was his choice.
"What do you want to know exactly ?" Todd asked, still not looking at him.
"I don't know. Maybe the when and how to start with?"
Todd looked bravely at Neil's eyes, took a deep breath and started talking.
"Charlie and I knew each other before I came to Hell-ton. Our parents know each other, and Charlie's parent had purchased a country cottage last year. We got invited this summer. I didn't want to go because my brother was going to be there, but I didn't have a choice. Anyway, as you can imagine, Charlie hated my brother's guts before we were even there. And he decided to ignore him for the most part of the summer. Me-- he saw me as challenge. Get me to do crazy things with him." Todd couldn't help but blush just thinking what kind of 'crazy things' they did that summer.
"I see. Is that when you started..." Todd blushed harder at Neil's unfinished sentence. He nodded, not trusting his voice or his control over his emotions at this instant. He felt uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing. Fortunately, his friend didn't press for details.
"Shit! " Neil's outburst was followed by him standing up.
"What? " Todd was scared. Maybe Neil couldn't accept what he just had heard. Maybe he would tell everyone, maybe...
"It's practically dark. Come on. Move your ass, Anderson, or we're going to get caught outside."
While Todd's body obeyed Neil's command and ran, his mind was blank. When it finally caught up with the situation, the body stopped. When Neil realised that he wasn't following anymore, he turned back.
"Why did you stop?" Neil was visibly worried. "We can't stay here all night. What is it?"
"Is it okay? Are *we* okay?" Todd was anxious to hear the answer-- he couldn't go on without knowing.
"Of course we are." Neil smiled a little. "Although, I must admit it that will take time to get used to the fact that you and Charlie are a couple. Don't look at me like that. We're best friends. Right?" Not waiting for his friend's reply, Neil ran towards the school knowing Todd would follow.
And he did.
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