Prologue

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Josh is aware that it is noisy; there is a nonstop stream of traffic on the road less than twenty feet away from them, and pedestrians pouring out of cars and struggling with luggage. Not to mention the airplanes that crisscross back and forth overhead, breaking the laws of nature to innocently whisk people away from their loved ones.

While Josh is contemplating the cruelty of airplanes, Kay is tugging hard at the collar of his shirt, because he is suffocating. Josh does not notice because it doesn't seem like he is suffocating, but Kay has already decided that it is simply happening very slowly. He distracts himself from the lack of oxygen in his lungs by watching the wind blow Josh's clothing around.

"Talk to me," Josh says, just as Kay is starting to smile at how odd it is, in these circumstances, to have the wind pulling on Josh's clothes like a little kid. He loses the expression instantly at the sound of Josh shouting over all the noise.

"I don't know what to say."

Josh's blue eyes are huge in his face, which is thin and pale and covered in rain. Or tears. Something. Kay isn't looking all that closely.

"Kay." Josh's voice breaks on the most pathetic little sob Kay has ever heard, so Kay looks.

Josh doesn't at all resemble the bright, stammering boy he'd first laid eyes on the year before. He's drenched from the rain, blonde hair matted to his head and his clothes—obnoxious prep school stuff Kay has never seen Josh wear, probably something Josh's dad had picked out—are plastered to his shaking body. He looks ridiculously small. Somehow, at some point over the months they'd been together, Kay had forgotten how little Josh was.

"What."

"You don't have anything to say?"

"Was I supposed to copy down the dialogue from The fucking Notebook?" Kay is still angry. He can't help it. Even knowing this is probably the last time he'll ever see his boyfriend isn't enough to make him feel civil. Josh is staring at him and Kay can feel what he sees: the dark gold of Kay's hair as raindrops drip off it and stream down his leather jacket, the tight expression on his face and the fact that his jeans are soaked almost to the knee.

"You should have brought an umbrella," Josh whispers, an odd non sequitur. More so in light of the fact that he doesn't have one himself. As Kay gives him a disbelieving look, Josh snorts and looks down, rubbing his face miserably. "No, you would never do that, you wouldn't even use an umbrella in the middle of a monsoon. It wouldn't look cool."

"I'm leaving."

"Wait!" Kay has barely turned around when Josh throws himself at his back, grabbing onto the wet, slippery material of his jacket and clinging, viselike, to his waist. Kay raises his arms in half-horrified shock and stumbles forward a little. He struggles to turn in Josh's grip.

"Let go," he grits out, struggling to push Josh off, but unable to get anywhere near him. Josh's foot slips in a puddle of water and Kay manages to turn around, gripping Josh by his upper arms—probably too tightly—and pulling him up a little. "Josh, knock it off."

It's obvious that Josh is crying, now, rain or not. His lower lip trembles as he stares at Kay, choking on the hiccupy sobs that are starting to rise up in his throat. "I'm sorry. Don't let them take me."

"Stop it." Kay drops his eyes, glares off to the side, where he can see Courtland watching from the glass doors.

"Please."

"It's better for you this way."

"Better?" Josh's voice is incredulous, and Kay cannot blame him. Of course it is not better, of course in a better world, both of them would have their appetites, Josh wouldn't have lost ten pounds his skinny little frame had badly needed to begin with. In a better world, Kay would always be able to roll over at night and count Josh's breaths till he fell asleep. Kay cannot make the world better, and he cannot make himself want Josh in the aftermath of everything that's happened.

Josh stops trying to pretend he's not crying. "Don't let them. Please, Kay. I'll be so good. I'll be so quiet, and you can fuck anyone you want—anytime—I'll watch your TV shows—I'll do—I'll do the laundry—you don't have to love me anymore, Kay, please."

Kay pushes him off a little and tries to keep a cigarette out of the rain long enough to get it lit, knowing Josh is too far gone to notice how hard his hands are shaking. "Don't be a martyr."

"I love you!"

"You're still a kid."

Josh goes very still.

Kay has the cigarette lit. He puts his lighter away, looking up over Josh's head as Courtland comes up under an umbrella. He's accompanied by a uniformed guard who could not look more disapproving.

"Let's go, Joshua," he says.

"Kay," Josh says, very quietly, his eyes big and intense on Kay's face. Kay looks down at him and sees an entire year reflected in Josh's expression, and his stomach tightens into an iron lump. "I will be so quiet. I'll never talk again, if you just don't let them take me."

What does Josh expect him to do, anyway? Kay doesn't have to think about it, because the guard has come up and grabbed his arm with even more force than Kay had used minutes before. Kay's fingers strangle the cigarette momentarily, but he pushes the resentment away.

"I don't want to carry you," the guard says.

"Kay."

"Bye, Josh," Kay answers softly, and watches, along with everyone else on the sidewalk, as Josh is quite literally dragged into the airport screaming. Someone's going to recognize one of them from the newspapers soon; Kay's body is tensed to run.

Courtland looks at him. "I appreciate you not making a scene," his cultured voice remarks dryly. Kay stares at him for a second. Disgust sounds in the back of his throat and he looks away while Courtland moves, once more, towards the airport.

Inside, Josh has managed to break away from the guard. He gets as far as the doors before the man catches him again.

"Kay," he yells out the door, but it's the last cry. Kay stores it away carefully for now. Later, at home, he will replay it over and over again in his mind. It will become a kind of mantra in the next few months, in between fending off sympathy and trying to keep Nicholas alive. For now Kay closes his eyes tightly against the tears that have collected in the corners, and when the embers of his cigarette hit the puddle and fizzle out, it is the most fitting analogy Kay has ever thought up.

In his mind he can hear Josh talking, a year of phrases that had stood out to him, a year of random declarations of love and stupid little terms of endearment. One in particular.

"Kay? Is this going to hurt a lot?"

"Just for a minute, Josh," Kay says out loud, as if he is really talking to him again. The few spectators that hadn't scattered after Josh's performance ended look at him curiously. Josh's performance. Josh's performance is done, gone, over, just like Josh. He is never coming back. He will be lost in the pages of Kay's history, a vague question mark—where he'd ended up, why everything had gone so epically wrong.

"Isn't that the gay guy from that court case?" Some girl asks suddenly. Kay ignores her and starts walking.

"Kay? Is this going to hurt a lot?"

As an airplane takes off overhead, Kay thinks back over the last year.

"More than you'd think."