Part II: Vaan

Everything was warm and musky and kinda sweaty. A wide stripe of heat burned against me from the back of my thigh to my shoulder, a heat that was making little smacky sleep-noises near my ear and tickling me with its hair. I grinned into the yellowy morning light oozing through the blinds of Saul's window, and stretched my limbs out a little under the covers.

Damn, I was sore. In lots of places, expected ones and not-so-expected ones. And I had nothing to complain about. Except for the fact that I wasn't supposed to actually be here still, shit. No idea what time it was, but it was way past get-back-in-the-guest-room o'clock for sure.

"Ohhhh man," I groaned, and flopped an arm grudgingly over the blankets. It was freezing outside the warm bubble of Saul's bed, and I sucked my arm back inside and tried to brace myself for a second try. "Better go, shit, 's'morning already."

"Mrrnmr," Saul said, or something like it, and I laughed at him.

"Babe, I gotta go, 'kay?" I slid a leg out of the bed and was about to force the rest of my self after it, when hands grabbed my shoulders, hauled me back.

"Mff, no. I don't care. Stay this time, please."

So I let him drag me into the bed again, definitely not complaining. Still... "Sure?"

"I want to wake up with you. I'm not awake yet, so you hafta stay until I am. s'my birthday."

"Mm." I chuckled and nuzzled in closer. "'kay. If we get in trouble it's your fault, I'm gonna blame you completely."

"We're adulllts," Saul said, and draped a heavy arm over me. "We're even doing it safe, they can't complain."

"Yeah, I dunno how I'd explain to my folks if I got knocked up. I still got school to finish," I said, and Saul bit my shoulder lightly and then buried his face in the back of my neck. I shut my eyes and folded the edge of the pillow up so I could grin into it, because otherwise I mighta done something really weird, like start yelling some jubilant nonsense to anyone that would hear. Goddammit, I was fucking happy, and it was like a wild physical thing that wanted to claw and burst out of me.

"This's so nice," Saul mumbled after a minute, sounding half-asleep again. His palm rubbed up my ribs, pressing his fingers into the muscles of my side. "You're warm. Always feel so good."

"Mm. Babe. You feel perfect." I grinned to myself, remembering just how perfect he'd felt a couple hours ago. "Perfect last night, too. Early this morning. Whenever."

"Hmm," Saul said, and I felt a smile drag against the back of my neck. "You'ere good too."

"Just good?"

His laugh rumbled down my spine and got the attention of my dick. I shifted, shoving the heel of my hand down there and trying to kinda will it away. I mean, I'd totally wanna give it attention normally, but we weren't at school and I wasn't even supposed to be in his room right now. There was such a huge chance of one of his parents showing up, and I really didn't wanna be in the middle of fucking if that happened.

"Really good," Saul mumbled, and it took me a sec to remember what he was even answering.

"Oh my god, all the faint praise here, I can't even handle it."

His arms suddenly threaded between mine, wrapping up around the front of my chest, and he shook me back and forth a little. "Shh, shut up, you know you were perfect."

"Now I do."

He jostled me again, laughing thickly into the back of my shoulder. "Stoppp itttt."

"You're really the best when you're half-asleep, you know that? Glad you're not drooling on me."

"Could fix that."

"No, ugh, ew. I'll kick you out of your own bed."

Saul made a sound that was basically a giggle, and curled even tighter around me. "Love you." The words were soft but fierce between my shoulder blades, and Saul's arms suddenly cinched up on me like a vise. "Love you so much."

A big stupid smile stretched over my face until it almost hurt. "Yeah, babe. Love you too."

"...yeah." He said it through a quiet sigh. "I know."

That sounded...weird, all of a sudden. "Hey, what's...what's with that?

"I know you mean...that you mean it. I know." Saul was mumbling so quiet into my back I could hardly hear the guy. I wanted to twist around and look at him, but he wouldn't let me; he was holding on too tight.

"Of course I mean it, hey, what's going on with you?"

"Nothing, no." Saul shook his head against me. "Don't listen to me. I'm asleep, not making sense, it's not anything."

Well, right, that was just bullshit, and I was just about to call him on it. Except a sudden rap on the bedroom door got us both half-panicking and flailing around and I was even thinking about looking for a damn hiding place 'cause I was really not supposed to be in Saul's bed with half a boner if I wanted to make any kind of decent impression on his folks.

"Hey, kid, it's almost ten," said Mike's voice, loud and cheerful through the door. Both Saul and I froze guiltily, throwing wide-eyed looks at each other. And then Mike added, lots quieter, "you guys better get up if you don't want your mom to come check on you."

"Oh god," Saul said faintly, and then louder, "okay, I'm getting up!"

"See you out here in a few," Mike said. "Your mom's doing the birthday thing." And then the soft creak of floorboards as he turned and walked away.

I flopped back into the pillows, scrubbing my hands down my face. That'd taken care of the whole boner thing for sure; now I was just hyped up on adrenaline and mild guilt. Less of it than if Mike wasn't clearly totally a hundred percent cool with this, but there was still Saul's mom and the fact that this was their house and I should probably be following their rules which had basically been an unsaid you and Saul don't share a room while you're here.

"Real good guy," I said, and Saul half-smiled.

"Yeah. He is."

I dragged myself upright, leaned over my knees, scrubbed my knuckles through my hair as I watched Saul do the same thing a lot slower next to me. I reached out and ran a hand over his shoulder, just soaking up the warmth of his skin and that he was here, and everything was great, and the whole sex thing had been awesome, and there was no way I was getting back on a plane in a couple days without it happening again least three more times. Or more. More would be really acceptable.

"Love you," I said, leaning in to smush a kiss onto his shoulder. I wasn't really testing, but...he didn't react as weird this time. He smiled down at his hands and bumped his shoulder into mine. I yawned and glanced around, lookin' for the clothes we'd thrown all over the damn place last night, spotting some of mine on top of the dresser and the rest in a lump on the floor.

I shuffled unwillingly out of the bed and collected 'em, got dressed while Saul just combed one hand through his hair over and over and stared unfocusedly at the window, still clearly not all the way awake. I sat back down on the bed and touched the side of his face, and he startled and glanced at me.

"M' real clothes are all in the guest room. So, uh, I better go get 'em."

"Yeah," Saul said.

"'kay. See you in a bit."

"See you." Saul met me halfway when I leaned forward. His fingers scratched into my hair and then dropped away.


I'd kinda forgot that Saul took a lot longer to get dressed and ready and everything, so I was out in the kitchen way before he was. Which meant I was all alone with his mom and Mike, who were both real nice people but shit, I hadn't actually talked to them without Saul there before.

"Morning," I said, trying to walk in all casual and totally not like I'd just had sex with their son. But Mike already knew I was spending nights in Saul's bed, and he was pretty sharp and he worked with horny teenagers all damn day so...there probably wasn't even any hiding it from him. Not that he seemed to care that much. Still, wasn't a thing I wanted to broadcast all over the place. Mostly 'cause Saul wouldn't want that.

"Good morning, Vaan," said Eva, Saul's mom, whatever I was supposed to call her. Never real good with the whole "what to call friends' parents" thing. She was half-hidden behind the cabinets in the kitchen and there were all kinds of clinking and cooking noises going on back there, and something smelled really good.

"Wow, what is that?" I said. "Is that breakfast?"

An arm wielding a wooden spoon poked out from behind a cabinet and waved at the table. "Go on, sit down."

I went ahead and dropped down at the table, next to the missing chair spot where Saul would go. There were already a couple things on the table, like a whole pot of coffee sitting on a coaster.

Saul rolled out into the kitchen about ten minutes later, lookin' real put together and handsome like always. He was wearing his glasses, which I just fucking loved. One of those big goofy smiles threatened to take over my whole damn face again, and I had to bite down on it because fuck, obvious much? Still, I had to reach out and touch Saul just a little bit when he got himself up to the table, running my fingers over his ear and tugging on it a little. I got a smile back from him before he turned towards the kitchen and called, "good morning!"

"Oh, sweetie, good," said his mom's voice. "Everything's just about ready!"

"Is there like a special thing going on here or what?" I said to him, and Saul popped his eyebrows up at me like, you'll see.

"We kind of do a birthday breakfast instead of dinner," he did say, and that was about when his mom and Mike started carrying plates loaded with food over to the kitchen table.

There was really a whole ton of stuff; sausages and things that looked like cooked tomatoes and little mushroom. It all smelled fucking great, I took lots of everything. There was a bowl of things that looked kind of like bread, cut in thick strips. But they were a lot harder than bread when I plopped a couple onto my plate. Hmm. Actually, other than the tomatoes and the sausage, I had no idea what most of these things were. I was guessing this was maybe all like...South African food, and that was pretty awesome.

I leaned overin Saul's direction. "Hey babe, you're gonna explain to me what this all is, right?"

Saul handed off the bowl of bread-biscuit things to Mike, turned to eye my plate, and laughed. "You sure you got enough of everything?"

"Nope." I picked up one of the strips of bread and waved it towards him. "What's this?"

"That's rusk. It's just bread, really. You can dip it in coffee if you—no, you don't like coffee."

"Really? How are you getting through college," Mike said from the other side of the table. He was nursing a big mug of the stuff himself, and I'd definitely noticed yesterday that he didn't wake up until he'd had at least most of an entire cup.

"Force of will," I said, and Mike grinned wryly and handed the bowl of the gloopy rice stuff off to Saul's mom. Which reminded me I didn't know what it was, either. I nudged Saul, and asked him.

"Okay, that's mieliepap. It's porridge, pretty much, you can eat it just like that." He pointed at his own bowl, which had a slowly melting heap of brown sugar on the top of it.

"Dude, where'd that come from? I didn't see any of tha—" A little ceramic bowl popped up in front of my face. Saul smirked at me over it, then glanced down at my breakfast.

"You put yours on your plate."

"It kinda looked like rice! But then it wasn't." And it was kinda running all over. Oh well. I scattered sugar over the puddle and figured I could use that bread to mop it up with. Saul wrinkled his nose up at me and grinned.

I could sense Saul's parents watching us and trying to pretend they weren't as Saul explained breakfast and we teased each other and goofed around and basically acted usual, for us. I didn't have any idea what Saul was usually like with his folks, but maybe not so playful like this. 'cause it seemed like a thing they were intrigued by. I'd had this image of Saul-at-home as being a really polite and respectful guy who never gave them any trouble or talked back or anything. Maybe it wasn't all true, but

It had to be weird too, that he was the only person in the family that spoke with an accent. I'd noticed a tiny itty bitty hint of one on his mom, real faint, mostly just on certain words, that'd probably just rubbed off on her after living in the place for so many years. But Mike had a basic all-American accent and then there was Saul, who popped out like nobody's business when he talked. He was probably used to it, but it still had to feel a little...alienating, that even his own family sounded nothing like him.


Everything his mom had cooked was delicious, and I ate way too fucking much of it, and just about made myself sick. But when she got up to start clearing plates, I popped right up to help her, and got both a thanks from her an an approving look from Saul, so I felt I'd done good. Saul helped out too by carting dishes back and forth, I washed them off in the sink and his mom arranged them all in the dishwasher. And Mike nursed his coffee at the table and handed stacked-up dishes to Saul.

Since breakfast had happened kind of late and gone on for a while, it was past eleven already and I was kinda itchy to do something, just about anything.

"Hey, you wanna go for a walk or something?" I said, and Saul shot me an amused look. "Or, you know, a roll."

He chuckled. "You know it's sunny outside, right?"

"Yeah, yeah. I will deal." Honestly I just wanted more alone time with the guy, whatever it took to get that. His parents were great, but I sure wasn't dating them.

"Okay then," Saul said, starting to push himself into the living room. He grabbed a peach out of the basket of fruit on the kitchen counter as he went by.

"How are you still hungry?" I said to him. I think I was good to go for about a week after that breakfast. Saul just grinned at me and tore out a big mouthful from the fruit, and a glob of juice rolled down his chin. I just about leaned down to kiss it off him until I remembered his parents were still hanging around nearby. And Saul'd wiped it off with the back of his hand anyway.

"We're gonna go out for a little!" Saul shouted into the house, and got one answering reply from the kitchen and one from the master bedroom. Then he bumped my elbow and gestured to the front door. "Let's go."

It was probably a degree or two cooler than yesterday, which was decent enough weather but still too hot for me. The sunglasses woulda come out except I realized I'd left 'em in my other pants. Well, no big deal. Just a walk around the block wouldn't kill me.

The neighborhood had no sidewalks, which was sorta weird. I walked along in the vague dip that was a gutter, I guess, and Saul rolled along next to me. I wished we coulda held hands, but we'd found out a long time ago it was pretty damn impossible to do and still keep him moving forward. So I either had one hand on the handle of his chair or on his shoulder, and sometimes moved it to run my fingers over the back of his neck or into his hair. We didn't talk, but the quiet between us was comforting and real nice.

We went to the end of his street, turned the corner and went down another street that ran parallel to it. This nice neat little neighborhood wasn't exactly what I'd pictured when I thought ,iArizona—there were just regular trees everywhere (lots of 'em) and not a damn cactus in sight, although some people had those colored pebbles instead of lawns in their front yards, but that was a California thing too. Passing by the city itself on the freeway on the way from the airport had been the same way—way more green trees and grasses than I'd expected. It hadn't really got to me that Flagstaff wasn't actually in any kind of desert.

"Your mom's a real good cook," I said, when we'd rounded the block again. We bypassed his house and he didn't slow down, so we weren't finished with our walk yet, and I was gettin' itchy to hear the guy's voice.

"Yeah," Saul said, but he seemed less than enthusiastic about it. I nudged him, and it shook more words out of him. "It's really nice, that she does all that for my birthday. It's really an effort to find some of that stuff. But that's the only time. Otherwise it's like...she wants to forget South Africa even exists."

I whistled a little. "That's harsh, man. That was like your whole life!"

Saul took a long time to finish a last mouthful of peach before he answered. "Yeah. But I think it just reminds her of my dad too much. And she never liked living there in the first place. She didn't really like anything about the country at all, and her friends were all back here, her family...I get it. Nothing about it is happy for her."

"Yeah, but…" I stopped, 'cause I wasn't even sure how to word this in a way that didn't sound like I was being a dick about his mom. She was a nice lady, as far as I'd seen. But I'd also seen how the way she acted had affected Saul, like way down deep to a place where I didn't even think he knew. She probably didn't know either.

I realized I'd quit walking too, and Saul had rolled to a stop next to me. We were at the end of the block, where there was a big round corner and a whole bunch of bumper landscaping and not really anybody's house or yard, so it was sorta private.

"Lemme try and word this best I can," I said. "But this is making a lot of shit make sense. I mean, when I met you, you'd kind of like pushed it all down, you know? Where you'd grown up, where you were from, all that history of most of your damn life. The accent, yeah, that was there, but everything else was'd forgot about it too. Maybe you didn't do it on purpose like your mom does, did kind of do it."

"I...maybe that's true." Saul frowned faintly, like he was trying to think back and remember. "I do know I was sort of loosing my Afrikaans until you started making me say things in it."

"That's not a bad thing, is it?"

"No." Saul shook his head, and then suddenly there was a hand all caught up with mine and curling around my fingers. "Not at all."

"I just don't think it's good to erase all that. For your mom, or for you. Even if it's unhappy, you know? That's a lot of life to ignore."

Saul didn't answer, but he squeezed at my hand. I didn't wanna push this whole thing, because it was definitely something for him and his mom to deal with, but at least he was aware of it now. Or more aware than he had been.

We started up again, rounding the corner to make the start of our second lap around the block. I was getting a little sweaty around the armpits by now, and I was thinking about a shower or something when we got back. And I was also thinking about this morning, because something somehow in our conversation had reminded me of it, and I just couldn't let it go.

"Since we're already on serious topics here," I started, "can I bring up that thing that happened this morning?"

"It really wasn't anything," Saul said, and I didn't hear any kind of evasion in that. He meant it. But I didn't actually believe it. It'd been something then. And he knew exactly what I was talking about, and that meant he hadn't forgotten either.

"I don't care if it's nothing, if it's stupid. We can laugh about it or something. Just let me know."

"It's honestly nothing to worry about, I really—"

"You didn't sound happy."

"I—" That got him, I'd known it would. He closed his mouth and twisted it into a crooked little squiggle.

"It's stupid," he muttered.

"I don't fucking care."

"Just, it's going to sound selfish and weird, and just…I don't like being like that. Clingy like that. I don't even want to say it."

"Clingy? Oh my god, Saul." I grabbed the handles of his chair and yanked him to a stop again. He grunted as he lurched forward, and then shot a look over his shoulder at me. "Sorry, fuck. think you're clingy?"

"Yeah, kind of, sometimes," he muttered. "Or just…needy, or…something. It just seems like you handle this better, you don't get so...intense about it. Like it's a lot more...calm and manageable for you."

I'd just about never heard the guy be so wrong before. I wasn't that good an actor that I could hide this kind of shit, I felt like it was all over my face whenever I looked at him and all over my body whenever I touched him and and in every word I said when I talked to him. But apparently, somehow, he'd missed it all.

"Saul. You know how many times a day I was picking up my phone to call you and made myself stop, because there's no reason to bother you with every little thought that crosses my mind? I'd see something that you'd like or hear something that'd remind me of you, or I'd just think of you out of nowhere and it'd be awful, I mean I'd practically fucking panic because you weren't around to talk to.

"I was packed for the trip out here as soon as I got home from school, before we even talked about it really happening. I was so excited to get out here, to see you again, I didn't even care. I would've done anything to make this happen. I didn't even sleep well for like a week at home, because you weren't there and I couldn't just go downstairs to your room any time I wanted and it was way fucking worse than over the Christmas break, way worse. What the hell, calm and manageable, it's not."

Saulw as staring at me with huge eyes and his mouth clamped tight, and I just couldn't handle him looking at me like that. I dropped down in somebody's front pebble-yard, feet in the gutter and face in my hands. "Fuck. Clingy."

For a couple long long seconds, it was just my own damp breath against my face and the embarrassing heat of what I'd just vomited everywhere pounding in my ears like a heartbeat. Then tere was a little scuffle and then something that felt like an elbow bumped into me and a leg jostled mine, and I finally looked up. Saul was right next to me, and I meant right. Face-level and everything.

"Whoa, hey there," I said. He'd popped himself out of his chair and levered down next to me, his legs all at awkward angles.

"Hey." Saul picked my hand up off my leg and tangled it up with his own. "What I was going to say this morning sounds really stupid now, after that," he said, with a self-conscious laugh. "And makes me seem like kind of an asshole."

"Naw, you can't ever seem like that," I said, and he bumped his shoulder into mine. "Shoot."

Saul sighed, and let go of my hand so he could lean back on both of his. "Just the whole...'I love you' thing," he said, slowly. "You say it, all the time, and it's great. Just, the last time we actually...talked about it, you were trying to…I don't know. Downplay it, a little. Like it didn't mean so much. Or wasn't…the same." Saul sighed again, rubbed a hands through his hair. "I told you. It's really stupid. Especially now, god. But that's...that's the thing, what happened this morning, I was just thinking about that."

Didn't sound stupid to me. "But I get it."

"Do you." Saul still wouldn't look at me.

"Yeah. You had someone really fuck you over once, in the whole relationship department. I'd be weird about this kind of stuff too, if that'd ever happened to me. I don't think it's real wrong to want some reassurance, and you know, I really shoulda thought about that before now."

"You can't think of everything," Saul said. "And it's not like...I know that you...I know it. It doesn't even matter, because we have this and it's so good, and we really don't need to change anything."

"But you wanna know it's not just casual," I said, and Saul lifted a shoulder and focused his eyes somewhere around our feet. Yeah, he did.

I got his chin with the tip of my thumb, tilted his face up. "Hey," I said. "Hey. C'mere."

He leaned right in without much coaxing, and his mouth was kinda warm and sweaty and sticky from that peach he'd been eating. Heat baked down on us and soaked into my shoulders and hair, leaves rustled overhead and I could've stayed here like this with him forever.

Saul made a soft little hah sound when I finally let him go, and he was leaning pretty hard on my thigh and digging his fingers into the muscle.

"Hey, babe, you okay?'

"Yeah," he said softly. Then, stronger, "yeah."

"So. Here's kinda the thing," I said, and he turned those crazy two-colored eyes to me from behind his glasses. "This is the truth right here, and it's the same thing I was just saying before. I was kind of afraid of...too much too soon. Not knowing how to like, gauge that whole shit, and coming on too strong. Scare you off, or something, I mean did you hear all that shit I just said to you? Just never been in love with anybody before, you know? I had no idea if I was getting it right."

"God." Saul shook his head. "You're getting it right. There isn't even a right."

"Okay, I wanna get it right by you," I said. "And I don't wanna have to wring stuff like this out of you either, c'mon, when have I ever said anything you do is stupid?"

"Never," Saul muttered. "It just seemed so—"

"Don't say stupid."

"—juvenile," he finished, and then made a near-laughing sound and leaned on me. "And you're not clingy. You're not, you're—you're perfect, okay?"

God, the guy almost sounded like he was gonna cry. I slung an arm around his back and held him tight to me, knocked our heads together a little

"Hey," I said into his hair, squeezing my hand around his shoulder. "Hey. We're good, okay. Right? We're always gonna be good."

"Yeah." Saul made a soft sound that was definitely better than crying. It sounded more like a laugh. "Yeah, we are."


When we got back to the house a while later, both his parents were sitting together in the living room, waiting for us.

It looked real serious for a second, like there was a major talking-to gonna go down right now, and for a fast second I really panicked. 'cause I figured it'd be about me, or him and me, or the fact that we were having sex and not supposed to even be sleeping in the same room at all, and that I'd totally, totally blown this.

Then I realized there were a couple of sparkly wrapped up presents sitting on the coffee table. Oh, right. Still Saul's birthday. Man oh man. I needed to like, sit down after that. So I did, flopping right into a chair.

Saul'd seemed to realize what was going on the same time I did, and looked startled by it. "But I didn't...I said I didn't really want anything else—" he said, but his mom literally scooped up one of the presents and tossed it at him, and he gave up protesting.

That'd got him typical stuff, which was all just so normal and adorable. His mom'd got him some nice shirts—I was really starting to think he got his snappy dressing sense from her—and a couple of gift cards, and Mike got him a really suave-lookin' wristwatch that Saul put on right away. It was such a nice and wholesome family thing that I really had to work hard to chase the jealousy that'd been popping up in me pretty often over the past few days. I almost didn't wanna interrupt it at all, but I had something for him too.

"Hey. Psst," I said, and Saul glanced over. I pulled out the envelope I'd put in my pocket this morning when I'd gotten dressed, and held it out to him. "My turn."

"No. What is this," Saul said, giving me a mock-stern look. But he reached out and took it.

"It's your present, I told you. It doesn't look real fancy or anything, I know." Actually it was folded and kinda crumpled from being in my pants, but whatever. It wasn't how it looked that counted.

Saul pushed his fingers under the flap of the envelope and started working it open, still eyeing me like he honestly hadn't wanted a present.

"And you're totally not allowed to say no or tell me it's too expensive or something," I added, which was a mistake 'cause Saul stopped opening it and gave me an even more suspicious look.

"Vaan, honestly—"

"No, open it, you big dork," I said. Man, his parents probably thought we had the weirdest relationship, watching this. "C'mon, dude. Makin' me ansty."

Saul rolled his eyes at me, but finished sliding his fingers under the flap and folded the envelope open. He shook out the paper inside, unfolded it and smoothed it out. His expression folded into a soft frown as he looked it over, reading but probably not realizing what it was.

"Vaan, I really don't—"

"My mom knows a lady who knows a woman," I said. "And this woman, she specializes in massage therapy for people with, you know, like severe back injuries, or who've got disabilities, that kind of stuff. She's like really good, like a top-tier specialist and everything, like doctor-famous. So I got you some sessions with her. Just like a couple. If it works for you, you know, helps you out at all...we can totally get you more."

Saul was staring at me. "We can't aff—"

"You won't have to. C'mon, man. I'm gonna cover 's the gift part, you know?"

"I—" Saul said, and gripped the empty envelope so hard that it crumpled in half.

"Oh," I heard his mom say, and when I looked over at her she had a hand over her mouth and her eyes were kinda huge and glisteny. I had no idea if they knew my family was stupid rich, but I guess they'd sure know now. Maybe I shoulda waited for this until Saul's folks weren't around at all. This did kinda look weird and extravagant and maybe kinda like I was trying to fix him or something, when that wasn't what was happening at all. I just knew the guy had back problems occasionally and I had a way to possibly help him out some and so I'd done it. Saul'd understand. But his mom really looked like she was gonna cry.

"That's so—" she said, and then just shook her head and covered her mouth again. Mike even looked kind of stunned, and this was not exactly going over the way I'd planned. Actually, I hadn't thought about it much at all beyond just wanting to do it. Maybe it really was too much. Shit.

But I didn't know how to like, take it back, or just make this whole less less intense. And then Saul suddenly shoved himself backwards until he was right up next to the chair I was in.

For a long second, he just stared at me. And then he grabbed me by the face and kissed me, just right in front of his parents and everything. It was a long involved thing too, where he was squashing his hands hard against the sides of my head and just pushing our faces endlessly together to the point where I couldn't breathe, really couldn't breathe, but I didn't want him to stop for anything. I grabbed him back, hands all up in the front of his shirt, the edge of his glasses digging into my cheek

Eventually, though, he wrenched away. He kept his hands on my face, and his eyes were bright.

"Ek is lief vir jou," he said, and I didn't need to ask what that meant. I caught the back of his head and pulled him back close, made sure the words were quiet and just between us, even though I don't think he cared anymore.

"I love you too." And this time, he knew how I meant it. I meant it every damn way I could. Maybe I still didn't really know how to be in love, but it'd be okay, because Saul thought I was doing it right. That was what mattered. He was my best friend, and we made each other happy, and that was all that was important for us.