The first thing Alex always does is kiss Scott's collarbone. Maybe it shouldn't, but the tiny indentation where the hollow of his neck is formed-where girls let their necklaces dangle-evidences a vague vulnerability about the tough persona that Scott has so deftly taken on. Scott smiles wispily and kisses him on the lips. Alex kisses back, but carefully, until he remembers that they locked the doors. Then, Alex communicates all his enthusiasm into the rushed and about-to-be-broken kiss before there's a resounding thump behind one of the doors.

"Aren't they sleeping?" Scott whispers directly into Alex's ear. His hands can almost fit all the way around Alex's thin waist. Alex briefly recalls the Little House on the Prairie books his sister read aloud to him when Alex was eleven and she was seven. He remembered passages-repetitive passages, repetitive enough to force themselves into Alex's conscious memory-about Laura's mother's waist, and how Laura's father could span it with his hands before the kids were born. I'm small, Alex thinks. Maybe I'm a half-pint.

He starts to ask Scott this, and really, that was the intention he had when he opened his mouth, but Scott has other plans, involving a tongue and some lips that Alex knows are very, very talented. All thoughts of prairies and pints fall from Alex's mind easily. Scott's hands rest languidly on Alex's hips. Alex's arms are looped around Scott's back and hooked on Scott's shoulders. They lean side-by-side against the sink. When they breathe, they smile at each other. Alex glances at the mirror.

Scott, six full inches taller, rests his head on Alex's and pulls Alex so that they're front-to-back. He smiles photographically.

"We can't have one of these for real," Scott says to the reflection of Alex's eyes. They look gray or silver in the slightly tarnished glass, not like the bright, wild blue they are when Scott glances down into his real ones.

Alex looks down at the similarly tarnished sink. Falling apart, he thinks, this place is falling apart. "I know," he says out loud.

Scott's hands tickle Alex's waist lightly. "Which is not to say I don't want one." He kisses Alex's platinum hair, shining in the fluorescent light of the bathroom. "I do."

Alex nods unobtrusively and turns around, burying his face in Scott's green t-shirt, kissing his collarbone again. Scott runs a hand through his hair. It's longish and uneven; Noah says it's cut like a surfer-boy's. It ends at his jaw, and one Robby Adder says it makes him look like a queer, to which Alex internally replies, yeah, Adder, it's the hair.

Scott's well-muscled chest heaves with a sigh. They have done this for a year now, almost, (ten months), and Scott has become so familiar and comforting. He can sit with Scott in silence and be happy, and Scott can give him goosebumps and chills with a single, well-placed touch. It should seem so strange, the constant study in conflict, but it doesn't.

They are in love.

He cringes when he thinks this, because it is a cliché, and he cringes when he thinks that too, because when cliches become cliched, something is wrong. They're in first love, the kind that Chris Carraba calls starving and insatiable. Both of these terms fit their affair thus far.

Scott is barely eighteen and Alex is still seventeen. He will be until July. Sometimes, Scott teasingly calls him jailbait. Alex laughs. He loves being teased by Scott. It gives him butterflies, like the first time Scott kissed him.

Scott kisses him again now, kisses them both out of the cliché of boarding school and locked doors and into their own reality where nothing matters at all. Alex is most comfortable there. There are no roommates to knock inconveniently on the door, no Robby Adders to make his life miserable.

Robby does not pick on Scott, does not dare take on so formidable an opponent. Robby is 5'11"—still four inches smaller than Scott—and nowhere near as muscular. Scott is steady, with sharp eyes that sometimes shine so green that they look like they might be real cut emeralds, and Alex muses that they're the closest that the two of them can get to real jewelry exchanges. Scott's hair is bright red, but muted with gel. Scott does not tie his ties at school, rather lets them hang open. Alex finds this sexy and alluring—his boyfriend is a rebel.

Scott is his boyfriend.

These are not words Alex thinks often, because he cannot say them out loud. He cannot say them to his best friends of thirteen years, who know both him and Scott so well that they would probably throw them a coming-out party. He cannot say them to his little sister, or his mom, or the girls who hand their phone numbers to him on scented stationery in glittery pen. Or even, sometimes, the boys. This only makes Scott slightly jealous.

"I love you," he says at those times. "We'll get kicked out if we tell anyone. And even one person, it'll get out."

And Alex's eyes kind of fill with empty, waterless tears and he says, I love you too.

They are lucky, because Scott rooms with Noah and Alex rooms with Josh, and Noah and Josh have the exact same taste in music. They leave about twice a month to stay at Josh's overnight after a concert that runs until after curfew. These nights, after which Josh and Noah skip a day of school, are Alex's favorite times. They can have a bed instead of a bathtub, movies instead of reflections. They can pretend that they could be considered normal, instead of meeting late at night to rendezvous in a bathroom lit in a way to sharpen even the soft curves of Scott's chest.

Scott pulls away from the kiss as his watch, the one he won't take off, the plain Timex cloth-band one that Alex gave him for his eighteenth birthday (no inscriptions, no hidden messages, just a watch) beeps 3 AM.

"We have exams tomorrow," he whispers.

"Yeah," Alex whispers back, "for an hour."

"And it's an English exam." Scott has been in America for almost five years, after emigrating from Ireland, hence the red hair and the latent accent, obvious, it seems, to Alex's ears. Though he spoke mostly English there, American English tricks Scott sometimes. Alex, an English scholar of sorts, takes this as an excuse to hold long, deep conversations with Scott. Scott sees right through Alex's pretext and finds it adorable.

Scott kisses Alex's forehead. The skin is heated from their previous kisses, and Alex's skin is beautifully flushed. Scott closes his eyes and resolves himself.

"Goodnight, baby," he says.

"'Night," Alex chimes quietly. They go to their separate doors and turn out the lights in silence, then simultaneously open and shut their doors.

It does not seem like he who would do such a thing, but Scott blows a silly, sweet, sentimental kiss across the darkened room. Their doors close in unison, and they both sleep with smiles.

They are in love.

Written July 6, 2002 under the influence of much Dashboard Confessional.

Quote: "I'm just happy you stuck around." -The Promise Ring