Private Independence Day

"You got a fast car
I want a ticket to anywhere
Maybe we make a deal
Maybe together we can get somewhere
Anyplace is better
Starting from zero, got nothing to lose
Maybe we'll make something
But me, myself, I got nothing to prove

You got a fast car
And I got a plan to get us out of here...
Managed to save just a little bit of money
We won't have to drive too far...
You and I can both get jobs
And finally see what it means to be living

You see my old man's got a problem
He live with the bottle, that's the way it is...

But you got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way

I remember we were driving, driving in your car
The speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
City lights lay out before us
And your arm felt nice wrapped 'round my shoulder
And I had a feeling that I belonged
And I had a feeling
I could be someone,
be someone,
be someone

You got a fast car
I know things will get better...

You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so we can fly away?
We gotta make a decision
We leave tonight or live and die this way"
-Tracy Chapman, "Fast Car"

The night of the play, in mid-May, Ben's attachment to Anthony's angel costume finally caught up with Anthony's. Fully dressed as Icarus, in his sheet-made toga with one of his slender, creamy shoulders sliding out from under it, he was bright and beautiful and seemed to realize it for once, to some extent, because Ben noticed him smiling and socializing. The experience had tied the entire grade to each other, making everyone empathetic and friendly with a consensus of anxiety that seemed to turn everyone into the same person in its atmosphere. Even Jake was being civil, if only because he didn't have the time to be cruel while he was studying some of his lengthier lines while the other performances went ahead of his.

"I feel like a different person in this," Anthony explained to Ben backstage as they watched the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe from the other side of the heavy maroon-colored curtain. And he did feel different, like his own modern interpretation of Icarus himself, confident and lovely as they stood alone and separated from the quiet, urgent talking and rapid moving about of the other waiting students.

"You look happier. I mean, you don't usually look that comfortable when you're around a lot of people."

"I dunno, I guess... I guess I'm just excited," he smiled uncertainly up at Ben, as if a little embarrassed for feeling it.

Ben smiled, then frowned as he peeked out at the audience. "I wish your parents could've come. I bet you'll be really good at this."

Anthony sighed. "Yeah, I know... it's okay, though. Your mom'll clap for me," he smiled, though the fact that his parents would be watching him had been one of the reasons Anthony had been looking so forward to performing. He'd seen it as a strange way of redeeming himself and giving them something for which to be proud of him, showing them that it was possible that he had admirable talents and ambitions that were solely his own. When they'd told him remorsefully that they would have to attend a church meeting instead and that Rose could drive him to the school auditorium, he had been disappointed but too angry (wrongly, he realized, but that didn't matter to his anger) with them to show it.

"Yeah," Ben agreed brightly, and drifted comfortingly closer to Anthony. They had become braver with their public affection, wondering if they should accept that people knew the nature of their relationship and if there was any point in pretending to be platonic anymore. There was no way to know what was whispered behind their backs, but telling themselves that it didn't happen was unavoidable denial.

Anthony sighed, holding his elbows and watching the play. He was unusually calm, drifting in one of his moments in which he was upset by nothing and seemingly determined to not be disturbed, and Ben savored the mood; Anthony was equally easy to talk to, to tease, to joke with, and to stand still and comfortably silent with during these times.

They remained this way, content in each other's mere company, remarking occasionally on good and bad aspects of the performances on stage, until it was Ben and Michelle's turn to go on-stage. She found him, announced that they would be going next and asked if he was ready. And, when Ben said he was, she rubbed a finger in a small round plastic case of body glitter, and smeared some on his cheeks.

"Now you're ready," she chirped, then looked at Anthony. "You need some too."

"'Kay," Anthony, who'd been secretly hoping he'd get to wear it too, agreed, and let her lather a bit of it on him.

Anthony watched them leave without moving from his station beside the curtain, and smiled unconsciously at Ben's performance through nearly the entire act. The smile burst into an approving and encouraging grin on the instances when Ben glanced at him from the stage. He recited his lines well but had little enthusiasm about it, while Michelle balanced out the acting by filling the stage with long trails of melodrama.

Ben's forehead was shiny with a film of fresh sweat after he bowed to his performance's applause, and his eyes were large, swelled with the excitement of it. As he entered the backstage area once again, he fought off the congratulatory hugs applied to him, accompanied by the giddy squeals of girls who'd watched him. They were each coated in reeking clouds of hair spray and make-up, and Ben would have pushed them off of him had he been a less polite person. Anthony had listened with amusement to a particular group as they doted in giggles and reverent whispers about what a great treat it was to see Ben in a toga. He'd silently agreed with them and a part of him had even wished to join the worshipful conversation, but instead he'd merely vowed to tell Ben about it.

When Ben crawled out of his pit of admirers, he and Anthony gave each other the same knowing, secret smile and Anthony hugged Ben himself, but much less tightly and energetically as the girls'.

"You were good," Anthony grinned, letting the truth follow a few teasing remarks. Then they made some jokes about Ben keeping the toga outfit for sex games, laughed, and stood closer than before, watching the other plays.

The majority of the acts passed while Ben and Anthony watched, good an bad stories with equally good and bad performances, before it was finally time for Anthony and Jake's portrayal of Icarus and Daedalus. Jake did not meet with Anthony about this- instead he stood with his arms crossed over his chest on the opposite side of the stage in acknowledgment that he'd be going on-stage next.

Anthony sighed and exaggerated a pout at Ben, to draw some final luck or courage. Ben smiled encouragingly and assured him that it wouldn't be as hard as it seemed.

When the play preceding his was over, Anthony inched toward the edge of the curtain in preparation, and gave Ben a final look over his shoulder for empowerment. Ben grinned, once again basking in the chance at seeing Anthony in the Icarus costume and eager to see him perform in it. Jake passed Anthony rigidly, wanting to appear unconcerned with the experience.

He was scared nearly to paralysis initially, but despite Jake's flat regurgitating of his lines, Anthony amazingly grew engrossed in the acting and glowed with a complete indulgence in being Icarus. Ben and everyone backstage noticed the stark contrast from who Anthony actually was. Icarus was proud, ambitious, determined and possessed Anthony's body with fierce vigor; it seemed Anthony had been forcefully shoved down into some hidden corner of himself and Icarus had expanded throughout him to take over in a supernova of finally being released. It was the best performance all night, and everyone in the audience was ecstatic to have witnessed the debut of such enthusiasm and talent. Despite knowing exactly how the myth went, they were anxious when Icarus took to the sun and sad when his wings melted and he fell to the sea. The play's budget did not allow Anthony a believable method of the illusion that he was flying, so it was only portrayed by Daedalus's observations of it. The sea that he was to crash into was made of blue and green sheets and confetti being blown into slow billows from underneath by a large fan. It wasn't at all ocean-like, but was somehow better and more poetic.

Richard sat in the middle of Anthony's room, in a pool of his son's belongings. Cassette tapes, school papers, allowance money and books fenced him into a small circumference on the carpet. So far the most disturbing thing he'd found was a stack of math papers slaughtered with bad grades in blood-red ink, but he had convinced himself that he would eventually find the thing that led him to the explanation behind Anthony's behavior. He was drunk, seeing from behind a veil of amplified irritation, and was waiting to find something that would allow him to finally be completely furious. He might have been drinking peacefully in the kitchen while everyone was sleeping, but a fight with Brenda before she'd left for the meeting had triggered his desire for alcohol. In truth, he had been hoping the argument would escalate until he would have the right to say with completely justified intolerance that he wouldn't go with her. He had, and then had gone to get what he'd worked for from the back of the refrigerator, covered and hidden in one of the plastic drawers. Mid-way through his second beer, sitting on the counter had not been enough and, because the argument had been about Anthony, he'd stomped to the boy's bedroom in determination.

He still had no idea what he was looking for, but was fiercely sure he'd find something incriminating. The math papers had been a sweet reward for his decision to look through Anthony's things, and were a promise that there were worse lies hidden from him somewhere in the room.

Rose had already driven home, but Ben had announced that he wanted to walk with Anthony to his apartment, because it was nice out. She'd told them to be careful and they'd climbed out of the backseat, Anthony having to try several angles before he could exit with his wings.

He was still wearing the wings as they approached the basketball court near the apartment building.

"You like those?" Ben smiled knowingly, because he loved them himself.

"Yeah," Anthony said, sliding an artificial feather between his index and middle finger fondly. "They feel real," he smiled.

"They look real too. You looked really good up there with 'em on." Ben groped with his fingers until he found Anthony's in the darkness, and clasped them together.

"Thanks," Anthony said, squeezing his hand. "I really liked it- I didn't think I would."

"You were good. I mean, Icarus was a stupid guy, but you made him seem better."

"Well...," Anthony started. He felt a strange connection with and understanding of the fictional character now, and felt an obligation to defend him. "You can't blame Icarus. He'd been trapped in a maze with his dad all his life and he was excited about finally being free."

"He could have been free and not gotten his wings melted off," Ben argued.

"But he was overcome!" Anthony said, grinning and debating in good nature but passionate about it nonetheless. "The sun hypnotized him. He wanted to be free."

"Well, he's not!" Ben said suddenly, pinning Anthony against the fence surrounding the basketball court. They laughed, and Ben kissed Anthony's mouth.

"Hey!" Anthony hissed. "Someone'll see...!"

Ben looked around, but didn't seem very concerned with being caught. "Neh," he said, then grinned and kissed Anthony again.

The metal from the fence pressed its lattice pattern into Anthony's back, but he didn't mind. He put his arms around Ben's neck when he felt his tongue, especially hot and slick with the night's humidity. Anthony decided that it was the best kiss they'd had. It was so spontaneous and rebellious, announcing to the night that they didn't care who saw them. However, there was no one to appreciate their boldness and watch as Ben cupped Anthony's hips and curved his body slightly over Anthony's, pushing passionately with his mouth, his throat throbbing slowly with the rhythm.

The math papers had been enough to satisfy Richard's need to be angry at Anthony, but what he'd found in Anthony's room afterward had tipped him over an unexpected cliff. He was beyond needing to yell at the boy, and his fury was a very real and very sudden kind. When he heard the front door lock tick with Anthony's entrance, he snatched his discovery, crushing it in his hand, and stood in the doorway in preparation.

Anthony sighed, and was just noticing that all the lights were on when he caught Richard standing rigid across the apartment and jumped in fright.

"Dad!" he panted. "You scared me. I thought you were at the meeting..."

"Brenda went. I stayed," Richard explained shortly and tersely, for this was not what he wanted to discuss. His forehead was becoming hot with drunkenness and the sight of his son.

Anthony looked at him strangely in reply, attempting to figure out his father's mood and how he should react to it. "Oh. Why?"

This time Richard avoided an answer altogether. Instead, he snapped the piece of paper into Anthony's view. "I found this in your room."

Anthony's body adjusted erratically to the change in atmosphere. His heart burned and swelled, stinging more each time it beat. He swallowed, and the taste of Ben's tongue still fresh in his mouth was suddenly drained dry, making his own tongue a shriveled desert.

Richard came closer, shortening the distance between them. "What is it?" he asked Anthony relentlessly.

Though Anthony stood motionless and rigid, Richard did not slacken. He instead saw it as a confirmation that it was just as bad as he'd thought.

"What is it, Anthony?" he repeated, pinning the paper roughly and loudly to the kitchen counter with his palm.

"What...?" Anthony looked at it fleetingly, recognizing his own handwriting and trying to force and expression of curiosity. But his face had gone stony and pale with fear, and any expression he might have tried to make with it would have been washed in the petrifaction.

"Look at it!"

Anthony closed his mouth to keep the hot air out. He tried to get away with an explanation of, "It's a poem..."

"What about it, son?" Richard demanded. He had wanted to remain calm for a period of time, but being so close to the hideous epidermis of the source of his anger overthrew his restraints. "Come here!"

Anthony approached cautiously, but tried to appear as if he had no reason to be afraid of the poem.

"What is it about!" Richard pointed violently at the sheet, wrinkled from being crumpled in his hand. "It's about sex with a boy!"

"It's not...," Anthony fumbled, "It's supposed to be symbolic," he tried.

Richard laughed at the attempt, shortly and humorously, just enough to make Anthony feel stupid. It opened the flaming red path of anger for him. He clamped one hand around the back of Anthony's neck to drag his head forward, and smashed the paper into Anthony's face with the other. Anthony jerked immediately in surprise, but Richard pressed Anthony's head and the paper together more forcefully, twisting the paper in his wrist so that it burned Anthony's nose. He might have done this until Anthony smothered had Anthony not reacted, abrupt with terror, without considering who or where the pain was coming from, throwing his hands forward to shove it away. His palms connected with Richard's chest and were successful in helping him escape, but he stumbled backward, his balance even more askew with the heavy wings on his back. This was enough to fuel the flame of Richard's fury further, giving him a primal notion to chase what resisted him. Before Anthony could gather his balance or emotions again, Richard's hands were hard, heavy manacles around his upper arms. Anthony felt himself being shaken, and his thoughts were scrambled.

"What's wrong with you!" was the best Richard could do at putting his anger into words through his drunkenness. When Anthony merely widened his eyes and stared, his face preparing to twist into an expression of hurt, confusion, and his own anger in response, Richard squeezed harder, the soft meat of Anthony's arm squished under the bones in his hands.

"What is wrong with you! What are you, son!? A little sicko!?"

Richard thought of the idea of homosexuality in his son again, and was powered enough by its quick loathing catalyst to snap his forearm back at the elbow and swing his palm hard toward Anthony's head. He caught his son in the temple, and it wasn't a very powerful slap, but the shock of it threw Anthony further off balance, and he staggered backward again, this tip tripping on the edge of the carpet and falling against the wall. Before he even thought of being afraid of crying, he was faced with a more immediate fear of choking to death. His throat was tight and burned when it allowed him what little oxygen it did, and he bit his tongue to keep from swallowing it.

"Did you sleep with him?!" Richard bellowed.

"No! Stop it, what are you doing!" Anthony shrieked at his father coming closer, and at the terrifying strangeness of the way he was acting. Anthony would have been at home and comfortable with Richard sighing heavily and making some exhaustedly annoyed comment about him, but the fierce kinetics of this sudden reacting might as well have been coming from a stranger who'd broken into the apartment.

"Get up, little sicko!" Richard barked, interrupting Anthony and raising his voice deliberately louder.

"What is wrong with you!" Anthony flailed at him with all his energy when Richard reached down for him, as if this were just some temporary collapse into insanity and Richard would soon return to normal, and Anthony wouldn't have to use but a few moments' worth of energy on resisting. "Stop it! Get off!"

Richard had no idea what exactly he wanted to do with Anthony once he had him by the arm again, just that he wanted to inflict pain. He squeezed his son's arm hard, dragging him toward his bedroom, which seemed like a logical place to punish him, if all he could think of when he got there was to confine Anthony to it.

"You're breaking my arm, stop!" Anthony jerked it wildly, but Richard was powerful in his drunken rage.

"You're a little pervert!" Richard screamed suddenly, turning to Anthony. He grabbed his other arm, squeezed and shook him simultaneously. "You're a little sicko, a faggot!"

"I fucking hate you!"

Richard slapped Anthony again, but this clout had more direction and power than the last and Anthony would have toppled, but Richard squeezed harder and forced him to remain upright.

"I hate you!" Anthony repeated, releasing himself violently and rapidly through the words. "He loves me more than both of you, I hate you!"

The sudden admitting of the accusal took Richard by surprise, and Anthony was able to finally fling himself free and run to the kitchen counter. He snatched a decorative angel and chucked it in Richard's direction.

"I hate you!" he screamed, the first porcelain figure missing Richard considerably and smashing into the wall behind him in a burst of tiny white pieces and faint dusty cloud. Anthony gathered all the cherubs from the counter as ammunition and cocked them individually in his hand, threateningly, before he finally sent each one careening in a crazy burst at Richard. His jaw and mouth stung mercilessly from the last slap, and it so angered and hurt him that the tears burst promptly from the tight, hot, compact little ball in the middle of his chest in which they had been trapped.

Richard had nothing to say in return, but Anthony saw in his father's face the new flame he'd struck with this action. He tossed himself, barely able to keep up with the action even by running, at the front door. He slammed it open and slammed it closed without gathering more than a glimpse of his father beginning to move in the same direction. He'd torn off parts of his wings in careening through the doorway without taking it at a proper anger, and the damaged feathers trailed behind him as he ran down the stairs, taking them three at a time with the help of the railing.

He ran out of the building and down the sidewalk, passing the basketball court, the slapping of his shoes echoing and coming back at him. It was hard to run in the costume, but Anthony neither looked back to see how far away he was from his father nor slowed to get rid of the wings. Richard, still in the building, had tripped down the stairs in trying to stride over too many at a time, and now panted over the railing, stewing in the fact that he would never catch Anthony. Brenda had taken the car, so he couldn't gain on him that way. Huffing, his body heavy with all the slurred emotions, he stomped up the stairs again, toward the apartment. He would call Rose once Anthony had time to get there.

Ben had changed from his costume and into a sweatshirt and long black shorts when Anthony fell against his door and beat it frantically with the side of his fist. It was Jennifer who answered, though, the telephone cradled between her cheek and shoulder. She stared, not knowing how to react to Anthony's state, panting, crying and winged.


"Is Ben here!" he cried, his voice breaking.

"Yeah, he..."

Ben had heard it from his room, though, and entered before Jennifer could call him.

"What the hell..."

"Ben!" Anthony whimpered, unable to explain anything amid his extreme relief to be there, to have reached the place where he was safe.

"Anthony-? What-?" Ben started, not knowing how to react, whether to be comforting or protective. He hugged Anthony, rubbing his back lightly. "What is it?" he asked, gently but urgently.

"I need you," Anthony hissed vehemently, panting and out of breath from his run. He clung to Ben's neck. "Ineedyou, Ineedyou," he said forcefully.

"Oh- okay, okay, shh," Ben said quietly, squeezing Anthony's body to his, crushing the remaining delicate feathers of the wing costume.

Jennifer, standing so that Ben could see her over Anthony's shoulder, mouthed silently, 'What's wrong with him?', but Ben glared at her fleetingly and absently, briefly letting her know that she was not involved in the tiny and complete private universe that Ben and Anthony had learned to live in.

Rose soon appeared from the hallway too, and wore the same blankly wide, worried, and curious expression as Jennifer upon seeing Anthony.

"Anthony, sweetie?" she said, then asked everyone in general, "What's goin' on?"

Jennifer shrugged, watching Ben and Anthony, but Ben ignored both of them and Anthony could do nothing until Ben could make his world stable and clear again.

"C'mon," Ben told Anthony softly, leading him to his bedroom.

"Ben!" Rose followed demandingly, because she mistook Ben's emotional understanding of Anthony for a knowledge of what had happened. "Ben, what is going on!"

"Shh!" Ben hissed at both Rose and Jennifer sharply. "I don't know! Leave him alone for now!" he said, and closed the door. He took a brief moment to sigh irritably at them, then turned to Anthony, who was throwing the heavy wing costume off.


"I hate him!" Anthony shrieked.

"Okay, okay... who?" Ben said calmly, sitting on the bed. When Anthony simply marinated in his emotions without speaking, Ben continued. "What happened?" Was it Jake? Did you get mugged?" he said, open to more outrageous suspicions as he watched Anthony.

"No!" Anthony said, and sat violently down on the bed beside Ben. His anger, hurt, and confusion all came to him in short, hot, looping intervals.

Ben put his hand on the small of Anthony's back. "What is it, baby...?"

"My dad!" Anthony said vehemently.

"What did he do?"

"He hit me! In the face! He would've beaten me to dead, but I ran out." Anthony's face crumpled at his next thought, as he finally had time to face the damnable thing that meant he could no longer be with Ben. "He found a poem I wrote! About you! He knows!"

"Oh shit...," Ben said, and rubbed the side of his face.

"I know! I-! He called me-!" Anthony's sobs burned and tried to come too quickly through a clogging of too much emotion, and he began to hyperventilate. "He-! called m-me a s-s-sicko an' b-beat me!"

"Oh God...," Ben said lowly, and pulled Anthony's body against his, pressing against his hitching back to stop the ferocity of the sobs.

"Ben!" Rose called from the other side of the door.

"Get me a paper bag!" he ordered in reply.


"He's upset," Ben said angrily, annoyed that he had to translate anything to someone who wasn't involved. "Just do it!"

Rose fetched one from the kitchen and continued to interrogate Ben about what was going on, but Ben ignored her, aside from throwing in off-handed statements like "just leave him alone". He didn't feel that anyone else had a right or knew how to comfort Anthony. He took the bag from Rose and handed it to Anthony, squatting down in front of him, holding his knees. The bag inflated and drained like a paper lung as Anthony breathed slowly into it as instructed. Ben rubbed the outsides of Anthony's thighs.

"S'okay, baby. S'alright, okay?" he said quietly.

Anthony, nodded, his cheeks puffing as he breathed into the sack.

Then Ben stood up with purpose, as if this were all part of an event he'd orchestrated or been planning. He went to his closet and began to empty his back-pack and gym bag of their contents to replace them with clothes.

"What are you doing?" Anthony asked, lowering the bag once he could speak.

"Shh," Ben said, warning Anthony to keep his voice low and pointing to the door to remind him of Rose and Jennifer. "Getting some clothes together."


"I was sort of thinking about doing something in case something like this ever happened," Ben explained.

"Doing what?" Anthony hissed.

"I have a cousin that lives a few miles away. She lives with her boyfriend and goes to college. We can go to her house for a little while."


"Shh! Look, not run away. Just... to get away for now. I don't know. Your dad went crazy on you and he won't let you stay here, right? And he'll probably call soon."

Anthony stared, amazed that Ben actually seemed prepared for it. He hadn't known what to expect when he'd come to Ben's house; he'd simply gone because it was secure and right. Now Ben was planning an escape from it and, while Anthony saw the logic of leaving, his emotions were convinced that he would be safe at the Tate house, regardless of whatever circumstances were happening outside of it.

"I don't have any clothes...," Anthony said idly. He was sure there were more problems with Ben's plan than that, but his mind was scrambled.

"You can wear mine, like you always do. Here, you need to change," Ben said, tossing Anthony a red T-shirt and a pair of jeans.

"But your mom'll never let us go, will she?" Anthony said, pulling off the rest of the white costume.

"Nope," Ben said, already moving toward the window at the center of his room. He began to push his television and its stand out of the way.

"What- we can't walk!"

"Shh! I know; we're driving," Ben told him quietly. He opened the window and dropped the bags he'd packed onto the ground below.

"In what!" Anthony hissed.

"Shh," Ben told him again, though Rose and Jennifer were not at the door any longer. They'd gone to the living room to call Anthony's house, but Richard had fallen into a deep, intoxicated sleep on the couch in the apartment.

Anthony and Ben had worked to push the Honda Civic down into the road without cranking it after Ben had gone into the kitchen to sneak the keys from the counter, saying that Anthony needed something to drink. Ben had done most of the work, because he was stronger and because Anthony was less motivated by Ben's plan.

While Ben drove, Anthony tucked his knees to his chest and watched the spotlights from the streetlights pass in an endlessly repeated pattern of dark and light.

"It isn't far," Ben said.

"We can get in big trouble for this."

Ben sighed. "We might. But we'll just tell them that your dad was beating you. He was, wasn't he? Okay, so we'll say we did it to get you away from him. It isn't our faults."

Anthony rested his chin on his knees. It felt strange to not have total confidence in something that Ben was doing for him, but eventually he blamed it on the traumatic events that had shaken him. After all, the idea that he wasn't completely safe with Ben was so ridiculous that there was no point in worrying about how things might turn out. He sighed, sliding over to Ben's seat, positioning himself so that his body didn't disrupt the gears. He rested his head on Ben's shoulder, to confirm to himself that the world would be fine and to be closer to the warmth of the thing that ensured his safety. Ben drove with one hand and put the other around Anthony's shoulders.

"It's gonna be okay," Ben said quietly, laying his head against Anthony's.

"You're a good driver," Anthony answered lowly, nuzzling wearily against Ben's shoulder.

"I know…," Ben whispered.

"Not only did we steal your mom's car, you don't even have a driver's license."

"Shh…," Ben said soothingly, smoothing Anthony's hair with his fingertips. "Don't worry…"

Anthony sighed in agreement, deciding that the idea of giving in and relying on Ben was more appealing than reliving what had happened or worrying about what would happen when the world was not in such acquiescence with Ben's plans. He fell asleep on Ben's shoulder, surprising both Ben and himself, once he was awake.

"Mmm… What? We're here?" Anthony asked quietly when Ben gently stroked his hair and cheek until he opened his eyes.

"Yeah," Ben whispered. "I just hope to God she's here. I parked in an alley. No one should see the car."

Anthony groaned. "I can't believe we're doing this. I can't believe I fell asleep…."

Ben smiled, though Anthony couldn't see it in the darkness of the car. He could sense it in Ben's voice, however, when he answered, "Me either. Lazy." He kissed Anthony's forehead.

"I love you."

"I love you too."