A/N: Well, I'm sorry to say that this is it. The end. *sigh* I know; my heart is breaking, too.
So, with that said, I really hope you enjoy this last to all of those who reviewed, favorited, etc. Your support is always greatly appreciated; it keeps me motivated and puts a smile on my face.
A SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF
It was the end of the last rehearsal before the show. Kaleb thought it had been the best rehearsal they had ever had, but that was just his opinion. The only person who could really be the judge of that was Rawnie, and she hadn't said anything so far, even though it had been about five minutes since they'd finished.
Everyone on and offstage was visibly nervous as Rawnie got out of her seat and began walking slowly towards the stage. Leland was anxiously biting the fingernails on the hand he wasn't holding Kaleb's with, and Kaleb was feeling a bit uneasy himself, if he was going to be honest. Had he been wrong about rehearsal going well? Was Rawnie going to chew them out now for it?
He didn't know. He couldn't get any hints from Rawnie's face, either. Her expression was perfectly blank and controlled. Completely unreadable.
"Everyone out here, please. Even the crew," Rawnie then said, once she was at the edge of the stage. Kaleb watched her pull herself up onto it as him, Leland, and everyone else made their way out from behind the curtains. Her voice had also given nothing away.
When everyone was out where she could see them, she motioned for them to sit down. They all did. Kaleb glanced curiously around at everyone once he was seated on the floor, with Leland leaning against him.
Nobody was talking. Not one single person. The only other time this had happened was when Nathan had yelled at everyone.
Kaleb turned back to Rawnie, absently pulling Leland's hand away from his mouth as he did (the redhead was likely to chew his cuticles into a bloody mess if he continued). He watched the blonde girl survey the cast with that unreadable expression still on her face for another minute or two. And then—
And then Rawnie beamed at them.
There was—or seemed to be—a collective sigh of relief from everyone on stage. Leland sagged against Kaleb with a small, thankful laugh. Grinning, Kaleb hugged him tighter and rested his chin on Leland's shoulder, now comfortable and content to listen to what Rawnie had to say.
"That was—by far—the best we've ever done," she told them. Her voice was the warmest and happiest Kaleb had ever heard it. "There were still some small, microscopic bumps in it, but my meticulousness can suck it, because I'm sure you guys will do it perfectly on Friday night, and then again on Saturday and Sunday." Still smiling, Rawnie rested her cheek in one of her hands, gazing fondly at them.
"I know we've had some rough times, and I know I've yelled at you a lot. But…I'm so proud of you all," she said. "And I can't describe with words how honored I am that you were a part of this play—my play. You guys are like my family, and that made it all the more special to see you act out something I wrote that I wasn't exactly sure would turn out to be good."
"It's brilliant, Rawnie!" shouted Jake, and everyone nodded or murmured in agreement. Rawnie beamed at them again, and Kaleb was kind of shocked to see that, this time, she had tears in her eyes.
"Thank you," Rawnie said to Jake. She then looked back to everyone. "Thanks to all of you. You've made my senior year so extraordinary—I'll never forget it, just like I'll never forget any of you…"
She abruptly sniffed and turned her face away, trying to discreetly wipe her eyes. Kaleb then noticed that a lot of people were beginning to cry as well. Smirking, he looked over at Leland, about to say something teasing, only to have the words die in his throat when he saw that silent tears were also running down Leland's face. Kaleb let his forehead drop onto Leland's shoulder, and shook his head.
He understood why everyone was getting like this—he felt the sharp emotions brought on by Rawnie's words, too. But still…he didn't think it was something to cry over.
"Yeah, so…moving on," Rawnie said, and then cleared her throat. Kaleb lifted his head up from Leland's shoulder so he could watch her again as he listened. "I know a lot of you are nervous about Friday—especially those of you who've never acted on stage before—but I know you'll all do great. I have faith in you, so have faith in yourself."
"Inspirational words if I ever heard some!" DJ said, laughing.
"Hear, hear!" exclaimed Jake and John.
Rawnie rolled her eyes and shook her head at them, but she was smiling all the same. "Right, so, anyway… On to the next order of business: Choosing my successor…" She smirked, slowly glancing over each person on the stage.
Mostly everybody sat up straighter as her icy blue eyes past over them. Kaleb didn't, though. He knew Rawnie wasn't about to choose him. Kaleb did, however, cast a look over to Leland, almost positive the redhead was going to become next year's drama director.
"I've already decided who it's going to be," Rawnie told them. "I'm pretty sure some of you will question my choice, but I'm telling you right now that it's not up for debate." She gave everyone a severe look. "He's the person I think will be able to run this club the best after I leave. He's extremely talented, and I know he takes this as seriously as I do."
Yup, Kaleb thought, nodding to himself. It's Leland.
"So…" Rawnie continued, smirking again. "My successor, if he does so accept the title and responsibility is—"
"It's definitely you, Leland," whispered Nathan, who was sitting just a few feet away. "You're a shoe-in. I don't see how anyone else—"
"Nathan," Rawnie said, and Nathan instantly looked over at her with a sheepish smile.
"Sorry, Rawnie," he said, apparently thinking she had said his name because he was talking while she'd talking.
Rawnie grinned. "No," she laughed, shaking her head. "You're my successor—if you want to be, of course."
Nathan stared at her incredulously, his jaw dropping a little. Everybody else was doing pretty much the same thing. Nobody seemed to have been expecting that, Kaleb included. In fact, the only person who didn't seemed shocked by Rawnie's choice was Leland.
"Congratulations, Nathan," he said, beaming at the blonde.
Nathan just blinked, dazed.
"So, what do you say?" Rawnie then asked him. "Do you accept?"
"I…" Nathan blinked a few more times, and then slowly a large grin broke out across his face. He laughed a bit and nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I do. I most definitely do."
Kaleb heard Leland give a small chuckle and then began applauding for Nathan. Kaleb joined him, now grinning, and soon everyone was clapping, smiling, and congratulating Nathan as well. Nathan blushed deeply, but he looked extremely pleased with himself.
"Well, all right then," Rawnie said, once the noise had died down. She was still grinning at everyone. "I think the only thing left for me to say is bring on the show!"
And as he cheered with everyone else, Kaleb found he couldn't agree with her more.
Leland peaked through a small slit in the curtains. He knew he shouldn't be doing this, but he couldn't help himself. His curiosity had gotten the better of him, and he needed to do something about how antsy he was feeling. There was only thirty minutes before they would start, and Leland had never felt this excited or eager about any other show.
When he saw how many seats were already filled up, Leland's eyes widened. Opening night was always packed, but Leland couldn't remember ever seeing it like this. Word must have gotten around that this was student-written play, or something along those lines. That was the only reason Leland could think of for there being this many people. He grinned and stepped away from the curtain, feeling even more excited now than before.
On his way out of the auditorium, Leland passed by Elliot. Elliot opened his mouth, about to say something, but Leland just shook his head at him and kept on walking. He had no desire to hear what Elliot had to say to him, whether it was apologies, excuses, or whatever. Leland had meant what he'd said the other day: He wanted nothing more to do with Elliot after finding out that he had taken Kyle's journal. That had just been the final straw for Leland, after everything else that had happened, between them and just in general.
Maybe it sounded horrible, but Leland didn't even feel upset about Elliot and him not being friends anymore. At first, Leland had been a little surprise and confused about the lack of sadness, though after thinking about it, he had realized why he didn't. When Elliot hadn't made more of an effort to fix their friendship after the argument Leland had had with him, Leland had already unconsciously decided their friendship was over. And the pain of it ending hadn't been present, because, by that time, Leland had just been fed up with it all and hadn't really cared anymore.
He still didn't.
So, Elliot could try to talk to him and apologize all he wanted, but it wasn't going to work. Some friendships just weren't meant to last; things happened, and people changed and grew apart. Leland had already accepted that this was what happened with him and Elliot. The sooner Elliot realized and accepted that too, the better off both of them would be.
Leland shrugged off the thoughts of Elliot as he made his way back to the music room where everyone else was waiting in. He needed to keep his mind on the play if he planned on doing his part perfectly. Which he did.
And once he had his mind cleared, Leland finally noticed that there was a guy wandering down the hallway, looking a little lost. Leland knew he wasn't a student since the guy looked to be about twenty; but he somehow seemed familiar to Leland. Leland frowned thoughtfully, trying to place it and failing. He shook his head, and walked up to the guy, who had just noticed him in turn.
Never mind who the guy was, he still shouldn't be back here. Leland told him that.
"Oh, sorry," the guy said. He gave Leland a sheepish smile, and Leland had to bite the inside of his cheek in frustration. Who did this person remind him of? It was right there on the tip of his tongue, but it just wouldn't come any further than that. "I was just looking for someone."
"Who?" Leland asked.
"Kaleb Jacobs," said the guy, "I'm his brother, Connor."
Leland wanted to smack himself in the forehead, and just barely stopped himself from actually doing it.
Duh! Of course this was Kaleb's brother! Leland now saw the resemblance between them perfectly. They had the same black hair, the same build, and the same basic facial structure. How Leland had not seen and realized it before, he didn't know. Though…maybe it had to do with the fact that Connor's hazel eyes were no where near as intense as Kaleb's green ones.
Yeah, that's definitely it, Leland thought, now grinning at Connor. He laughed a little when Connor blinked at him in slight confusion.
"Why, hello, Connor. It's nice to meet you," Leland told him, holding out his hand for Connor to shake. "I'm Leland."
"Leland…?" Connor said slowly, with a confused frown. Then recognition suddenly flashed across his face. "Oh! Leland. Right. Um…hi." He quickly reached out and shook Leland's hand, looking a bit awkward afterwards. Leland had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.
"So, uh…" Connor said a few seconds later. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Can you take me to see Kaleb?"
Leland smiled at him and nodded. "Yeah." He turned around and motioned for Connor down the hall, towards the music room. Looking over his shoulder at Connor, Leland reached for the door handle. "He should be in he—"
Someone else opened the door from the inside before he could do it himself. Leland faced forward again, blinking, only to see that it was coincidently Kaleb who had done it. Kaleb smiled at Leland, not yet taking notice of his brother standing behind the redhead.
"There you are," Kaleb said to Leland. "Rawnie's just about to—" He finally noticed Connor, and stared at him in surprise for a moment before a grin spread across his face. Leland smiled to himself, and stepped aside so he wasn't standing in-between Kaleb and Connor as they talked.
"Connor!" said Kaleb happily. "You made it!"
Connor grinned back at him, nodding. "Yeah, of course. I wouldn't have missed it for anything. But…um, Kaleb…" His smile faltered suddenly, and he gave Kaleb an extremely apologetic look. "Mom and dad aren't going to come. I'm sorry. I tried to get them to, but they—"
Sighing, Kaleb shook his head and held up a hand to stop Connor from talking. "Don't apologize, Connor," he then said. "It's fine. It's not like I expected them to come anyway."
Hearing Kaleb say that made Leland's heart ache. He gazed sorrowfully at Kaleb. Kaleb must have seen him out of the corner of his eye, because he glanced at Leland then and gave him a small, quick smile before turning back to his brother. It didn't do much to reassure Leland though, since he knew how good Kaleb was at hiding it when something hurt him.
"Kaleb—" Connor began, but Kaleb cut him off again.
"I'm sorry, Connor," he said. "But we can't really talk now. Rawnie—the director—will most likely skin us alive if Leland and I don't get back into that room." Kaleb flashed Connor a grin. "We'll talk after the show, all right?"
Connor sighed, but nodded, smiling a back. "All right," he conceded.
"Kay. Cool. Thanks."
Kaleb threw Connor one more smile before he grabbed Leland's hand. Leland let himself be dragged back into the room as Connor turned around to head down that hallway, towards the auditorium to get his seat.
"Are you really okay with your parents not being here?" Leland asked once the door had fallen shut behind them and they were walking across the crowded room.
Kaleb sighed as he leaned up against a desk, and looked up at the ceiling. Leland waited patiently for him to answer, moving so he was standing in front of him.
"I don't know," Kaleb said after thinking about it for a few seconds. "I mean, I really didn't expect them to come, but I still hoped they would, you know? Stupid me, I guess…"
"No, no," said Leland quickly. He took both of Kaleb's hands in his and held them tightly as he swung them back and forth a bit. "It's not. I understand. And it's only natural for you to want them here—despite what assholes they are—because they're still your parents. But at least your brother came, right?"
"Yeah." Kaleb nodded, now smiling again. "You're right."
Leland smiled back at him, and leaned forward to give Kaleb a quick kiss before he rested his forehead against his.
Then, after standing there like that for a while in silence, Leland suddenly remembered something Kaleb had mentioned a while ago about Connor. He smirked and pulled slightly away from Kaleb.
"You know, Kaleb…" Leland began conversationally. "I'm not really sure what you were talking about when you said that everybody falls for Connor's charm. I mean—what charm? He just seemed kind of awkward to me when I talked to him." He smiled at Kaleb playfully, dipping his head and looking at Kaleb through his eyelashes. "As far as I'm concerned, you're much more charming and attractive than he is."
Kaleb just stared at him with his lips parted for a moment, and then a grin broke out on his face. Shaking his head and laughing, he tugged Leland back towards him and wrapped his arms around Leland's waist.
"Sycophant," Kaleb accused. But Leland knew he didn't mean it because Kaleb had sounded both amused and pleased, then had pressed his mouth to Leland's immediately after the word was out of his mouth.
Humming against Kaleb's lips in satisfied, sort of agreement, Leland wrapped his arms around Kaleb's neck and began to eagerly kiss him back.
And they continued to kiss until several minutes later, when Rawnie yelled at them to get on stage.
This was so easy—so effortless. Maybe it only seemed that way because they had been rehearsing since October, but Kaleb didn't think so. Rehearsals had never felt like this. In fact, Kaleb always felt pressured during rehearsals, with Rawnie as their only audience, ready to yell and pick you apart if you made even the slightest mistake. Rehearsals had really been nothing except stress, sweat, and shouting.
But this…this was something else entirely. Last night, when they'd first preformed, Kaleb had felt nervous for all of a minute until he had gone onstage. The moment he had walked into those lights and said his first lines, there had been instant relief. Something had seemed to have settled inside of him. And the rest after that had been so natural, he barely had to even think about it—he just did it, and it was right. Kaleb didn't know how to explain it other than that it was wonderful.
That was yesterday, though. And while Opening Night had gone spectacularly, tonight was going even better. It made Kaleb wish Connor had come to see this performance instead.
It was just a bit…strange to suddenly feel his character come to life. Kaleb now knew how Addison would react to certain things—things that weren't even in the play—and what he would say without needing to think about it. It was almost like another entity was inside of him. Perhaps Kaleb shouldn't be so surprised; after pretending to be him for all those months, it made sense that Kaleb would start to feel as if a part of him was Addison. Kaleb still didn't really understand it, but it wasn't like he was complaining.
Oh, no. He definitely wasn't complaining. Why would he when it made everything so simple?
Kaleb went through the scenes like it was second nature to him. It was second nature to him by now. He didn't even feel that slight twinge of nervousness when he sat down around the fake campfire for the scene that he would sing the lullaby in, like he had last night. He had already done it once and survived; there was no need to be anxious about doing it again.
And again, and again.
Something surreal happened, though, while Kaleb was singing it. For a moment, when he glanced around him at Leland, Nathan, and a freshman girl named Emma, Kaleb forgot that this wasn't real. For an instant, Kaleb wasn't just pretending to be Addison—he actually was Addison. And Leland was Tyler, Nathan was Noah, and Emma was Lily. It only lasted for a second, but it was enough to leave Kaleb marveling as he continued singing the song, and reminded him of something Rawnie had said a few rehearsals ago.
That had been what she'd called a suspension of disbelief, or the moment when the story became real to a person, all unrealities of it aside. Until now, Kaleb really hadn't understood what Rawnie had meant by it. She had explained it only briefly, and then as something just the audience experienced; she hadn't mentioned anything about them feeling it, too. But, as Kaleb just found out, apparently they could.
Rawnie had said it was the mark of a great actor if he could make someone have a suspension of disbelief. After what Kaleb had just felt, though, he disagreed. Sure, good acting had a little bit to do with it, but Kaleb thought it was more than that. Part of it, he thought, was more about believing and trusting in your character. Kaleb didn't care how good of an actor someone was, if that person didn't believe themselves to be that person even a little bit, then how could anyone else?
The other part of it, however, Kaleb couldn't explain. It was something that you didn't recognize or know until it hit you. Kind of like love…
The applause Kaleb received when the song ended was deafening. The warmth and pleasure that flooded through him at hearing it was beyond incredible. Kaleb glanced surreptitiously at the audience as the lights began to dim on the scene, and had to fight not to grin when he saw the looks of rapture on people's faces.
Finally, he thought with a sense of wonder, I've found something I'm good at—something the makes me feel great and like I belong. God, it's about time…
Kaleb looked away from the crowd, feeling lighter than air, only to have Leland catch his eye. The pride and adoration in those grey orbs, and what Kaleb suddenly felt looking into them, made Kaleb's breath catch and his heart start pounding rapidly in his chest. Awed, Kaleb stared at Leland until the lights went out on the scene completely.
He'd been wrong earlier: A suspension of disbelief was nothing like love.
Love hit you harder, and felt a million times better than applause.
When Leland walked onto the stage for the very last scene of the very last show, it was bittersweet. He couldn't describe how much he was going to miss this play and its characters. Leland knew he was probably going to be bawling his eyes out when it was really the end.
But it wasn't curtain call yet. Leland still had Tyler's ending soliloquy to do before they all took their final bows.
He was standing in a spotlight, right in front of the main curtains, which were drawn behind him. He was the only person on stage, and the entire audience was focused on him. Leland could sense them waiting eagerly, on the edge of the seats, for whatever he was about to do or say next. The effect it had on him was euphoric.
Leland then began to walk steadily forward, away from the curtain, keeping his chin up and his back straight in that innately stubborn way of Tyler's. He stopped when he reached the edge of the stage, and stared out at the crowd with a resolute expression for a moment before he gave them a slow, ironic half-smile.
"Things were easier when I got back home," Leland told them. "Not because things had changed, but because I had changed. Sure. My old problems were still there—and so were some new were ones—but I had finally learned how to deal with them. If running away had taught me anything, it was that. Leaving might not have fixed anything, but it did help. I'd needed that month and half on my own to finally grow up.
"Of course," he continued, now sitting down on the edge of the stage, "I hadn't really been alone. I'd had Addison there to help me. If it hadn't been for him, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere." Leland paused for a second, and then added thoughtfully, "Actually, if I hadn't had Addison, I probably would have ended up dead…"
He blinked, and then shook his head, like he didn't want to think about that.
"Anyway," said Leland. "It's been almost a year since I've seen Addison. But I know he's okay. He still sends me a letter at least once a week, telling me where he is and what he's up to. There's never a return address on the envelope—why would there be when he never stays in one place for more than a few days?—but I still write letters back to him." He dipped his head a bit and smiled to himself, muttering, "I keep them in a shoebox under my bed, along with the letters he's sent me. I'll give them to him the next time I see him."
Leland suddenly cleared his throat, embarrassed, and looked back up at the audience. "I don't know when exactly that will be," he admitted, "but Addison hinted in his latest letter that it'll be soon." Leland chuckled a little. "Knowing him, he'll probably just show up on my doorstep sometime in August, having hopped a train all the way here.
"So, take what you will from my story and experiences," Leland told them as he got back to his feet. He began slowly walking backwards, away from the edge of the stage. "Learn from my mistakes, and learn from your own; it will make you a better person, in the long run. That's really the only advice I can give you…
"And as for me," said Leland, stopping directly in front of the closed curtain now. He smiled one last time at the audience. "I'll be right here, waiting on an August train…"
The spotlight on him went out.
Leland quickly ducked back behind the curtain, nearly collapsing with the overwhelming and gratifying sense of accomplishment he felt. It had been, by far, the best night out of the three. He wished he had a moment to bask in it, but there was no time; he had to get in his spot for the bows. Leland hurried to the back of the stage, where Kaleb was waiting for him with an admiring grin that made Leland flush in contentment. He smiled back at Kaleb and took his hand just as the curtains opened back up.
Row by row, cast members went to the front of the stage and took their bows. Leland and Kaleb were last, but that meant nothing. As they stood at the very front of stage and bowed, just the two of them together, Leland couldn't stop smiling. The entire audience had gotten to their feet, and were now giving them the loudest applause yet. There was no way for Leland to describe how great he felt.
After a few more seconds of savoring the standing ovation, the cast fell back, and the curtains closed again. Almost at once, everyone began cheering and celebrating. Tears of both joy and sadness were now running down Leland's face, like he'd known they would. Laughing, he wiped at his cheeks as he looked around at all the other people crying, grinning, and hugging each other.
Then his eyes fell upon Kaleb.
Kaleb wasn't crying—of course he wasn't—but he was staring at everyone with an expression of absolute awe on his face, his lips slightly parted, and his eyes wide and shining. Leland watched him, entranced, as Kaleb blinked torpidly a few times before he slowly turned towards Leland. For a few seconds, they just stared at each other, and then large grins suddenly took over both of their faces. The next thing Leland knew, they were in each other's arms, laughing and kissing.
"Jesus Christ, Leland," Kaleb whispered in-between kisses, his voice full of wonder. "I love you so much, I can hardly believe it, but I do. God, I really do."
He then nuzzled his face into Leland's hair and hugged him tighter, leaving Leland to stare at him wide-eyed as he hugged him back.
Did he…? Leland blinked dazedly. Had Kaleb just said what Leland thought he'd said?
Leland was just about to ask him when Jake and Nathan suddenly appeared next to them, all grins and tears, and forced them into a four-man hug.
Distractedly, Leland embraced the other two boys back, though his eyes stayed locked on Kaleb the entire time. The words he thought he'd heard still echoed in his mind, and even with everything going on, he wasn't about to forget them. Leland might have to wait until things settled down, and until he and Kaleb were alone, before he could ask Kaleb about them, but he would definitely bring it up later.
He had to if he wanted to know if Kaleb had really said that, and meant it.
"There you are."
Kaleb blinked and looked away from the now deserted seats of the auditorium, over to his left. Leland was walking steadily towards him with a tender look and smile on his face. After giving him a slight smile back, Kaleb shifted over on the edge of the fake train car so the redhead had room to sit down.
"So…what's up?" asked Leland once he was settled next to Kaleb. "You kind of just disappeared after we were done with clean-up."
Kaleb shrugged with one shoulder, and then reached over to take Leland's hand in his. He watched himself run his thumb slowly over the back of Leland's, in silence, as he thought for a moment.
"I don't know," Kaleb said at last. "I just…I can't believe it's over, you know? It's actually really freakin' sad. I know you told me it would be, but I really didn't think…" Frowning down at their hands, he left himself trail off, not really sure what else to say.
Leland sighed and leaned into Kaleb's shoulder. "I know…" he said gently, and then kissed Kaleb on the cheek. When he pulled, Kaleb saw out of the corner of his eye that Leland was grinning. "But—hey! There's always next year to look forward to! That's how I get through it."
"But do you honestly believe what we do next year will be able to live up to what we did tonight?" Kaleb asked, raising his eyebrows dubiously.
"Maybe," Leland said with a shrug, continuing to grin. "You never know."
Kaleb stared at him thoughtfully for a moment before he smiled, too. He then turned back towards the vacant audience, saying, "No, we don't. And I guess we'll just have to wait until next year to see."
"Exactly," said Leland.
Still smiling, Kaleb wrapped his arm around Leland's lower back and rested his head against his. Leland moved closer to him with a pleased little noise.
They sat there together like that for long a while, just staring out at the empty sea of seats in comfortably silence. And during that time, Kaleb's mind wandered aimlessly. It jumped from wondering what next year's play was going to be, to remembering he still had homework to finish before tomorrow, to spring break (which was coming up in two weeks), without much coherence. Then, in the next moment, he found the only thing he could concentrate on was the scent of Leland's hair. Kaleb breathed in deeply, trying to place what it smelled like and failing to do so. But whatever it was still smelled great, so he continued taking deep and slow breaths.
Kaleb only realized his eyes were closed, and that he was about to fall asleep, when Leland said his name quietly and brushed his knuckles along Kaleb's cheek. Kaleb hummed to let Leland know he was listening, though he kept his eyes shut. He heard Leland take a deep breath, as if to prepare himself for what he was about to say, before he began.
"After bows, when everyone was celebrating, did you…did you really say that you love me?"
Kaleb's eyes snapped open. Instantly awake now, he sat up a bit straighter and stared at Leland. Leland stared back at him, his grey eyes large, questioning, and hopeful. Kaleb felt himself flush as they continued to look at each other without blinking.
"I didn't know I said that out loud," Kaleb eventually admitted, a bit sheepishly.
"Oh…" Leland blinked, and his gaze flickered away from Kaleb. Kaleb couldn't help but noticing he looked a little putout. He watched Leland worry his lip for a moment before Leland abruptly turned back to Kaleb, looking at him searchingly.
"But…you did say it," Leland then said, his voice a bit uncertain.
Still staring at Leland, Kaleb inhaled deeply, holding his breath for a few second before exhaling. And then he nodded.
"And did you…" Leland began quietly, his voice timid and shaking slightly, "…did you mean it?"
It was obvious that while Leland really wanted to know the answer, a part of him was still scared to hear it. Kaleb understood how he felt; a part of him was absolutely terrified to tell Leland. His heart was pounding. He really hadn't been prepared for something like this to happen—he hadn't planned on telling Leland that, at least not yet. And like Kaleb had said, he hadn't even realized he'd said that until now when Leland had brought it up.
But what does that really matter? asked a sensible voice in the back of his mind. And once he heard it, Kaleb didn't even bother trying to argue with it, because it was right. What did it matter that he hadn't planned on saying it? That didn't change the fact that it was true.
So, gathering up his courage and ignoring how his face felt like it was on fire, Kaleb smiled warmly at Leland, looked him directly in the eye, and nodded.
"Yeah," he told Leland, "I meant it."
Leland let out a breath of relief then wrapped his arms around Kaleb's neck, nuzzling his face in Kaleb's hair. Kaleb quickly hugged Leland back, just as Leland's lips brushed lightly across his ear.
"I love you, too," Leland whispered a second later.
Shivering at the flood of emotions those words caused within him, Kaleb turned his head to the side, and sought out Leland's mouth with his own. Leland responded to the kiss eagerly, pressing himself even closer to Kaleb. Kaleb grinned against his lips, and tightened his arms around Leland.
The minutes then began to pass by in a beautifully slow, dreamlike blur. Their kisses gradually became more deep and passionate, and their hold on each other turned almost desperate. It was indescribably wonderful.
Kaleb shuddered at the feel of the slick, heavy weight of Leland's tongue sliding along his, and he savored the taste of it. Leland ran his hands through Kaleb's hair, tugging at strands and scrapping his nails along his scalp. Kaleb sighed and continued to greedily touch every inch of Leland's skin he could reach. The warmth of it was just as intoxicating as the taste of Leland's mouth.
There came a point, however, when Kaleb suddenly realized he was hovering above Leland, pinning him to the platform. Surprised, he broke away from the redhead and blinked confusedly down at him. Kaleb didn't remember doing that. When had it happened?
Before Kaleb could figure it out, Leland gave a frustrated growl beneath him, and roughly yanked Kaleb back down by his hair. Kaleb gave a small yelp of pain, but it was immediately muffled by Leland pressing his lips back to Kaleb's. And as Leland kissed him with renewed vigor, Kaleb began to no longer care about how they got in this position. What did it matter when this was the result?
He laughed into Leland's mouth, and let his hands resume exploring Leland's body, slipping them back under his shirt. Leland made a noise of approval, and then enthusiastically began following Kaleb's lead by removing his hands from Kaleb's hair, only for them to reappear at the front of his jeans.
And afterwards, when they lay together on the platform, spent and sticky with not just sweat, Kaleb found that he could not stop grinning. He glanced down at Leland, who had his head rested on Kaleb's chest, and was left breathless at the intensity of what just the sight of the redhead made him feel. Wrapping his arms securely around him, Kaleb pressed his lips lightly to Leland's forehead, and closed his eyes.
Yes, he thought happily. I've finally found where I belong.