Loving you, loving me

Chapter 15

Many thanks to Sterling for editing.

He shifted his feet, his eyes closely following them as he sat himself down on my bed. There was a muffled sound as the fabric of his clothes came into contact with the blanket decorated with still butterflies. The blanket creased slightly under the weight of his body, and the butterflies seemed to fly and flutter. His shoulders slouched, his head hung a little low, causing strands of his hair to droop over his forehead. Leo said nothing. I understood why.

I said nothing. And, perhaps, he too understood why. With my arms clutching tightly around my now agitated stomach and chest, I climbed onto the bed and positioned myself next to him. Under the spotlights shining on us, our shadows looked like dwarves huddled close together, almost touching, almost merging, were it not for the sliver of space separating us waiting to be bridged. The wind started to groan, like someone disappointed because of obstacles he could not penetrate.

I coyly cocked my head sideways in his direction, and saw him doing the same. There was a small grin on his face. An embarrassed grin which told me he felt what I felt, which told me he was thinking what I too was thinking. For a few awkward moments, we sat on the bed, not sure what to say, even though we both knew someone needed to say something, something to break the silence, something to connect our minds and bodies in this uncharted territory we found ourselves lost in. The wind began whispering lowly, like a restless audience wondering whether anything is going to happen between two equally embarrassed and blushing boys. "Leo...?"

"Hm, Dave?"

"What--what are y--you thinking about?" The words choked and stumbled in my stomach at first, and it was only with great effort did they manage to escape my trembling lips.

With a small smile, he answered in yet another meeting of our minds: "I was about to ask the same, Dave."

"I--I'm not sure what I'm--I'm thinking about."

"There must be something going on in that mind of yours!" A slight wink and smile.

 "I'm--I'm a little sca--" My hand shifted nervously around my mouth, muffling that last word.  It was so important to reveal what I felt at that moment, but, at the same time, so difficult to say.

He looked at me with a gaze that was so tranquil, so sympathetic, so calm. "A little scared? Well, that's something else we have in common then."

Knowing that he was, indeed, feeling what I was feeling, I found confidence to reach out and touch him. First my fingertips, as if still unsure whether it was safe, explored the surface on the back of his hand. Once the tingling sensations reverberated throughout my body and mind, my hand lowered to cover his, the two coupling together like a warm tight fit. I could feel slight trembling, feel the warmth seep through his soft skin into my entire being. Images of him reaching out for my hand and holding onto me on the cold, slippery ice earlier flickered before me. The parallel between that moment and this were mind numbing. We were so close, but still a silent stream separated us. Both of us needed to be ready to step into it, regardless of how deep and dangerous it may be, in order to find one another and get even closer. "You--you're scared too?"

"Well, maybe unsure is a better word, Dave. Unsure what we're doing."

His uncertainty matched mine, and instead of multiplying it, seemed to take it away, bit by bit. The scent shrouding his body in an arousing veil lured me in like an invisible but irresistible force. His glistening eyes, his moistened lips enticed, like a long sought after treasure within reach. Yet, at the same time, a cautious voice at the back of my mind nagged and nagged. What the voice said was obscured by the longing for intimacy, the desire for physical contact. Consciously licking my lips, my face drew closer and closer toward his, so close that I could feel my own breath bounce back from his cheeks. "I'm not so sure either, but it feels good." My nose brushed against his face, triggering a soft sigh from Leo.

"Feels good? What feels good?" he teased, winking and pulling back a little.

I got on my knees so that I could lean even closer than before. First the tip of my nose, then my lips slid softly on his cheek, in random movements back and forth that inched toward his lips, only to playfully withdraw, and then inch nearer again. The sensual foreplay made my heart thump. "This. Doesn't this feel good?"

As if his earlier withdrawal returned with a sweet vengeance, Leo turned his head without saying a word. Between the soft, warm breaths that invisibly escaped his nostrils and his stroking of my skin, his lips gently pecked and pecked. "It feels..." Small, soft kisses showered all over my face and forehead, as he gently stroked my neck, tickling the fine hairlets which danced to the direction of his fingers. "...good, but it..." Each peck was random and brief, yet the effects meaningful and lasting. "...could be better," Leo said, suppressing the laughs between each successive peck.

Not wanting to be left out, and spurned by his comment, I returned the little kisses, and tried to keep myself from giggling. It was like a game of tit-for-tat on the playground, just as exciting, just as fun, only this was a game between two boys exchanging mutual kisses and mutual feelings. Our lips dipped on one another's skin, like butterflies fluttering from flower to flower, in search of a sweet flow of sensations that the slight brushes produced. Our heads hovered around each other playfully, as we tried to peck the other on the cheeks, the neck, the head or the forehead, all the while trying to avoid being pecked in return. Briefly I closed my eyes and basked in the frolicking and bliss, my mind drifting between this very moment and those beautiful moments with Leo when the rain and snow showered on our upturned faces. The nagging voices were now a whisper, but they were still there. The wind continued to howl.

Just as I was drifting away, Leo pulled me back to reality with his lips nibbling on my own. Shy at first, our lips brushed ever so slightly against one another, until gradually the prior familiarity and memories made them decide to settle and stick together with warmth and passion. I heaved for breath from the unexpected intensity of it all, heightened by the hands that had unsuspectingly and miraculously wrapped themselves around my body, and that were gradually feeling and exploring their way up my back. My hands clambered onto Leo's torso, they too engaging in their own eager exploration of his beautiful body. My heart thumped and thumped.

[insert picture: butterflyduvet]

We slumped onto the bed, causing the still butterflies resting on the blanket to quiver as our bodies took flight and rolled together, all the while our lips never parting, never letting go. The silky smooth fabric of his shirt tickled my fingertips, while underneath the bold outlines of his chest remained hidden and waiting to be discovered. My lungs filled with this light, electrifying ecstasy, which spread and spread, making my nipples and other parts harden. The harmonious chorus of our breathing was joined with muffled, arousing moans which softly escaped like the purring of a kitten from the back of our throats. His hand felt between the buttons of my shirt, trying to dig to the smooth skin underneath the fabric. The wind continued howling like a mad man having lost all his hope and sanity.

Leo lay on top of me, his legs and my legs intertwined together like inseparable branches. My hands found pleasure in fondling his firm bum, marvelling at the tender build and curves. The hardness in our crotches ground together as our hips gyrated in what seemed like a slow, erotic limbo in bed. Lifting his head, our lips parted, gently and reluctantly. We took a brief moment to gasp for breath, looking into the depths of each other's eyes and seeing each other's reflection, and realising then how much of it the long kiss had drained from us. In a soft, sensuous whisper, in words and a voice that only added to the heated passion, he said: "I never thought kissing could even get better with time."

As if the heat had unleashed unpredictable urges within me, my lips lurched forward and clamped tenderly onto his. Slight shivers vibrated from the mixture of warmth and moisture they carried. "I guess it gets better with practice," I whispered. Succumbing to my initiation, his head lowered again, and our lips resumed the erotic dance from before, moving to the muffled rustling sounds and accompanying soft sighs of gratification. Our tongues joined in, starting with shy brushes and the tickling of the tips at first, before eventually entangling together in a definite embrace, sampling what delightful flavours our mutual affections produced. Pleasure... craving... lust... They seemed to be all that mattered, there and then. Yet somewhere, somehow a sinister shadow stalked. Almost unnoticeably, Leo started to unbutton my shirt, one by one. All the while, a silent storm was gathering.

Once more he broke off the kiss, his lips trailing downward, past my chin, and onto my neck. "You smell so amazing. I could almost faint in this scent," he said, inhaling hard and long.

 The tip of his tongue subtly licked my neck, leaving a moist trail across the surface, and me gasping from the unprecedented level of arousal triggered. "Oh, Leo..." My fingers crept beneath his shirt, caressing and adoring the fine contours of his smooth back.

Lower, and lower his head went, parting the front of my shirt which had miraculously been completely unbuttoned. The cold air chilled my torso, but Leo's seductive tongue and humid breath kept me warm. Now and then his eyes would look up and into mine, dim blue conveying a silent reassurance. The wisps of his fair hair tickled my tender skin, as all around me a subtle waft of his fragrance and shampoo tickled my nostrils. Lower and lower he went, parting my shirt further and further.

That image. Naked, exposed, vulnerable, in bed... Anxiety...

His fingers traced small circles on my abdomen, circles which got bigger and bigger, but timidly withdrew as they neared my crotch. He peered up at me again, in a silent glance, as if looking for approval. His tongue continued to slide across my chest, licking and lingering on my soft skin, triggering little shivers. My blood rushed and gushed, to no place more poignantly than my already hardened crotch. The bed creaked.

That sound. Creak...creak... Panic...

His fingers felt under the seam of my trousers around my waist, sensuously probing the area around my belly button. An intense stream of pleasure surged through me as the tip of his tongue found my hardened nipple, and started to slowly lick, and lick, tracing random patterns and tickling around and around it. He looked deeply into my eyes again, trying to say something, but I was unsure what.

[insert picture: belly]

Until...until his fingers became bold and dug deep, deep into my trousers, into my boxers. There was an almost unfelt caress at first, the tip of his finger against the tip of my cock. Then, as Leo's hand felt further, more fingers simultaneously started to stroke its length, with his palm massaging my pubic hair. He stared into my eyes, full of yearning, full of desire...

That image... that sound... that touch... that look... Déjà vu... A chilling shrill pierced the air. The windows withstood the cruel, cold wind, but shook and groaned like they could not bear it any longer.

I shuddered. Staring blankly at the ceiling, then at Leo, then at the ceiling again, then at Leo again, uneasiness slowly rose and consumed me. My mind swung violently like a pendulum between the realms of darkness and light. My breathing heaved, short and deep, my jaws tightened and my teeth ground tightly together, making low gnashing and groaning sounds like machinery that needed greasing. Muscles throughout my body tensed, along with my fists and my eye lids. Harrowing sounds of the night outside gave me a terrible fright. Pitch darkness flooded me, and I was drowning, drowning, drowning...

"Dave, what's wrong?" Leo asked softly, his hand starting to withdraw from the seams of my boxers. "Dave...?"

No, please...

No, no, NO!

It returned. In the blackness of my lids, in the contact with my cock, sinister memories prowled, waiting for the moment, the place and the time to tear the victim apart, again and again and again. Waiting for the very sounds, the very touch, the very memories to converge and recreate scenes so unimaginably horrible and so intensely painful. The fondling of my body...the creaking of the bed...the breath against my cheeks... the utter fear that stifled and stole my voice and ability to scream...the creeping nauseating feelings be--before, before...

"Don't be afraid! I'm here!"

"Come, come closer. I'll not hurt you."

"I'm not going to hurt you, little boy. Have no fear. It'll be fun."

I burst. Breaking down the shelter of tenderness, warmth and passion that had been so beautifully built up throughout the day. No longer could the images be suppressed. No longer could the eerie voice be drowned out. For I was already drowning in the depths of my deepest and darkest nightmare, the nightmare that I thought had disappeared, or at least subsided, when Leo appeared. But it returned. And I burst, burst out in tears that streaked out of my burdened eyes and drenched the bed linen. And I burst, burst out crying, a low melancholy cry out of desperation and hurt. I cried, and my body curled up like a baby reluctantly forced out of the womb of love and comfort, and suddenly exposed to a world so cold and so harsh and so very, very violent.

Images flashed, voices echoed... "It'll be alright, little boy."... the poking from behind..."Don't fight it, just enjoy it."...the rugged body pounding on my body...the kicking and punching... "I know you'll like it! Hahaha!"... the cold and sticky liquid splattering all over me... The humiliation, the robbery of my innocence, the shame!

My head shook. As if in a trance, I shook from side to side trying in vain to shake away the coarse voices, the horrifying grin of satisfaction and traumatic images. It was as though if I shook my head strong enough I could drive out the dark demons and rid myself of the poisons of the past that were cursing my life with misery. Weak wails, so very vulnerable, so frail and fragile escaped my grinding teeth and trembling mouth. The sinister shadow stalking all this time had revealed its true ugly face. The nagging voice I did not heed turned into a cruel and uncompassionate laugh. Laughing, almost shrieking like the wind outside. Tears surged, flushing out the images from within my eyes like a clear, refreshing stream. The wings of the butterflies were wrinkled and soaked. They lost the ability to fly. They lost the ability to escape.

"Oh, Dave--Oh, Dave..." Leo's usually soft, sweet voice carried such sorrow and hurt that it only added to my own, and added to the tears that broke through my lids and flowed and flowed. In one gentle motion, and before I realised what was happening, I was in his arms, being rocked gently like the way he did that night on the beach. "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you, Dave, I really didn't mean to hurt you."

The world was a blurry haze, a gray mess of dampness and salted confusion. From a dark, dark part of my mind a sickening sensation surfaced, making my head spin, spin, spin like a storm that had been slowly amassing and was about to unleash devastation and destruction. I lay in his arms, stiff and stricken, as my mind and memories fought and fought with the past and tried to separate the then and the now. Then, under the tyranny of an ogre vile and cold. Now, in the arms of someone beautiful and warm. Then, as an innocent little boy unsure but very afraid of what was happening. Now, as a grown-up boy who has lost his innocence, but is still afraid of piecing together what had happened. The wind shrieked and howled, howled and shrieked, each gust, each howl, each shriek seemingly trying to outdo the previous one.

A warm droplet splattered on my forehead. And another. "Please don't cry, Dave. What--whatever it is we can talk about it. Please, Dave, don't cry." But Leo himself shed tears. Tears which trickled down and blended into the meandering streams that sprung from the corner of my eyes. My lips were moist and salty.

I opened my mouth, but there was silence. For in the grip of fear so deep, so disabling, silence was the only sound that resounded in my mind and memories. My teeth ground tightly together and punctured a hole inside my cheek. A metallic tasting liquid oozed in my mouth, mixing with the inseparable streams of tears and snot that seeped through my shivering lips. I wanted to shut out the memories, I wanted to exorcise them once and for all, like the ghosts from the past that had no place in the present, but I could not. I wanted to call out, I wanted to comfort Leo, like he was comforting me, but I could not. My hands clutched onto and twisted the sleeves of his shirt, as if trying to hang onto life itself that was draining away.

As if being small made me less vulnerable, I clenched together with such forcefulness that my whole body trembled violently. I remained curled up like a baby, with my arms hugging my legs and chin tightly pressed against my knees. "Oh, Dave. I'm so sorry for making you cry. It's the last thing I want to do to you, Dave," he whimpered, stroking my hair and face ever so softly again and again, attempting to wipe away the accumulated layers of hurting and sorrow, "I--I wish there was something I could do. Something to share your pain, Dave. To take away your fears."

In the small space between his arms, in between the strokes of his soft hands, I found traces of refuge. In the tenderness of his voice, in the sincerity and empathy of his words, in the faint beating of his heart, I heard hints of reassurance. "It hurts me to see you cry. It's like a part of me is crying," he whispered close to my ears between sniffs. The next moment his lips brushed against my cheek. He began to peck gently, to soak up the trails of tears that had streamed there before. "I wish--I wish I could kiss away your pain, like I'm kissing away your tears."

Such heartfelt emotions, such deep expressions of compassion... Leo was touching me physically and emotionally like no one else had done before. His silent kisses dried away the tears, but at the same time reassuringly reminded me, time and again, that I was no longer trapped in the past, and that the horrible confusion and torment would no longer last. Not when he was with me, not when he was holding me, rocking me, and protecting me from all else. "Hush, Dave, hush. You're safe now. You're here with me, and no one is going to hurt you. No one at all."

In the darkness of my eyelids the vile ogre slowly started to back away, along with the sinister shadows and harrowing impressions. It became safe, bit by bit, and I was no longer there, in the past, trapped under a rugged body, but I was here in my bedroom, in the arms of Leo. Sobbing still, I dared to open my eyes a little, but quickly closed them when the intense light around me stung. Being in the dark so long, it hurt to step out of it.

Leo's arms extended around me, the length of his firm frame arching over me, offering sanctuary and shelter. "Please forgive me, Dave. I--I should've been more sensitive to your feelings. I should've held myself back and taken things slower. I should've thought about all the things you went through, Dave. All the terrible things..." His soft voice and words that showed he understood, and the soothing strokes of his fingers on my arm were tranquilising. My aching heart started to feel again. Leo's scent started to fill my very being, filling me with a source of strength.

"You're here with me now, and no one is going to hurt you," he repeated again, almost songlike, reminiscent of the lyrics of a comforting lullaby. His words echoed in my ears and started to embrace the tattered self that was sobbing inside. Another kiss on my forehead, another stroke of his fingers on my arm. The intense trembling subsided, and the air was no longer filled with the wretched wailing of a fallen forlorn child. The air vibrated with a strange calm, a strange affection that tenderly transpired through his words. "Hush, Dave, hush, my sweet little Dave. Your beautiful face should never be covered in tears." He kissed again, this time around the corner of my eye, his moist, warm lips soaking up the little dew of tear that was just about to trickle down my face.

I felt his breath caress my cheeks again, caress over my sore eye lids and dampened lashes, like a soft breeze tempting my eyes to open. And they opened, only to be captured by a pair of tranquil blue that shimmered like the surface of a calm, cool sea. I never knew what one look could do to a person, let alone one as afraid and broken as I. I never knew how the gentle, subtle stroking of someone's fingers could calm even the most disturbed and confused of nerves. He blinked, and in that split second his eyes softly shut was a serene face that I had been drawn to and lost myself in for so many countless moments. I do not know what made me smile, even though it was a weak and almost unnoticeable smile, but smile I did. Smile I did.

And Leo noticed. "Oh, there's that sweet smile I miss so much," he whispered poetically, his finger caressing the corner of my lips. "This is the Dave I've grown to love."

Love? What is this love? It was just a little word. Is this, lying in someone's soft tender arms, basking in someone's soft rhythmic breath, listening to someone's soft rhythmic heart beat, looking into someone's soft shimmering eyes...love? I was so unsure, so confused, but at the same time so warmed and so comforted. "Leo...I--I'm so sorry. You--you give me--me so much. But I--I don't deserve any of this." My voice was croaky, my words soaked with sobs that surfaced from the flooded depths of my insides.

"Oh, Dave, why are you saying sorry? I'm just doing what I can, to hold you, comfort you and be with you, and that isn't much. And you deserve so much more. So much more." He reached for the blanket adorned with still, colourful butterflies, and gently began wrapping it around us in a snug bundle of warmth and affection. As he did so, the butterflies started to flutter and fly again. The soft feel of the blanket and his arm around me made me unwind bit by bit.

"But--but..." I was afraid to say it, but it was what I thought and what I felt should be said, "But with someone else you'd not have to put up with someone being such--such a mess...all the problems I--I cause that get in the way..." I shuddered and shut my eyes very tight, afraid to look, afraid to see his reaction. The wind was but a hushed lisp.

"Oh, you can be so silly sometimes, Dave," he said, his fingers combing my eyebrows as if attempting to cast a spell to make my eyes open again, "Don't you see, Dave? It's everything about you that's the reason for me wanting to be with you? I don't want to be with anyone else. All I want is you. You." He traced little circles on my forehead, as if for all certainty marking who `you' meant.

"But all this time you've been helping m--me , listening to me--and comforting me...and I--I've not given you anything in return."

"It's not about giving or taking, Dave. At least not to me. It's all about sharing. Sharing the fun, sharing the feelings, sharing the excitement. And yes, also sharing the tears," Leo replied, with such depth and certainty, but at the same time sympathy in his voice, "You had another flashback just now, didn't you Dave?"

I hesitated and grasped for the words that floated around to describe what happened, but could not piece together a coherent thought. Leo's arms tightened around me briefly, in a show of assurance as if trying to tell me not to be afraid. "Ye--eah. I--I--did. It was going so well, until--until..." I started to tremble slightly again. Pulling on the blanket, I felt like I needed the extra warmth and layer to protect this exposed me.

"Until I went too far and touched you... down there," Leo finished the sentence for me, with a hint of guilt in his voice and flashing across his face.

"I'm so sorry. I--I'm sorry that it happened so suddenly. I didn't know how it could...I'm so sorry...so, so sorry," I kept on apologising, like it was the only thing I could say, the only thing that my traumatised self could muster to explain what happened.

He buried his cheek in my hair and rolled around in it. "No, Dave, I'm the one who should be sorry. I let my feelings take over. I really should've asked you, or at least talked about it before going further." His sunken eyes appeared to appeal for forgiveness.

Oddly he was the one apologising, even though I was the one who broke out in tears, the one who had pushed him away. "It's not your fault. It really isn't your fault. It just happened so quickly, and I--I couldn't control it and it was like I--I was back to the times when..." My voice trailed off, but my mind continued on with images and sounds.

"When you were hurt so badly?"

I nodded, feeling the pearls wallow in my eyes again. "It--it was here--here that most of it took place," I answered, afraid of mentioning the `it' by name, but by the look of the compassionate expression on Leo's face he understood. "Mostly when I--I was asleep. In bed. And he--he--he'd crawl onto me, and start to--start to--start to--"

"I understand, Dave. I understand." He embraced me tightly again, showing that he in fact understood, and dampened the bouts of trembling that were about to possess my body like a merciless ghost. "You don't have to go on if you don't feel comfortable."

But comforted in his arms, sheltered under my warm blanket and surrounded by the fluttering butterflies, it felt like the trapped little boy inside was finally breaking loose and breaking free. "I--I guess it was the sounds, the touches and the similarities of it all with the past. I--I mean nobody has come this close to--to me--me since... then."

 "More reason why I should've been more sensitive and not rushed things. I really hope you can forgive me, Dave." He rubbed his cheek gently against mine, and it felt so very fine.

"It--it really isn't your fault. It happened, and it's not happening any more. But it's so hard to let it--it go. The worst is probably not when it--it was happening. I--I had no idea what was happening. It--it was only later, when I--I realised what I--I went through that it--it hurt so much."

He nodded in understanding, encouraging me to go on. "Especially because I--I was so young I--I couldn't understand. But I--I knew I--I was afraid and couldn't resist. And later when I--I started to remember, it--it was like the pain multiplied and started to possess my--my--my life. And I--I feel it's all my fault. I couldn't tell anyone, but I--I feel like everything is my--my fault." The injured `I', the tattered state of `me' caused me to stammer.

"But it's not your fault, Dave," he said soothingly as his fingers continued to caress my cheek, "It was forced on you. You had no way to resist, because you were so small and vulnerable. You were the victim, you must realise that. But you're not a victim anymore. You've survived, and now you must try to heal, try to let it go. I know it's hard, I know it is, Dave, but you must try." The wind was calm now, and the snow drifted and fell silently outside like magical white sprinkles.

He was right, and I knew that. But it was easier to listen than to hear and convince myself deep down of what he had just said. It was not the experiences that were traumatic, but the memories and their revival, and the association of the experiences with all things intimate and sexual that made it so very, very traumatic. "I--I'm really trying to piece my--my life together. Trying to regain control. But sometimes the slightest sound or image can trigger flashbacks, like--like just now. And suddenly a million things are in my--my head."

"What kind of emotions and thoughts do you have? I know it's a hard question, but sometimes when people talk about their traumas they also overcome it."

"I--I guess powerlessness is the word. Or--or being numb. It's strange. There are such intense feelings and thoughts that run around in my head. Like anger, bitterness, guilt, desperation, helplessness, frustration. But at the same time I--I feel so empty, so devoid of life."

He held my hand, his fingers subtly stroking the surface sending little vibrations spreading all over my body. Contrary to what I just said, I could feel. I could feel life pass through me, fill me, charge me with such stimulating strength and warmth. "And sometimes my mind is just blank. And I--I don't know what to think or what to say. Maybe it's good. It feels like when you're silent nobody can know your feelings. Wh--when you're silent nobody can know your pain. And when nobody knows what you're feeling, you can't be hurt any more."

"You know, Dave, I read somewhere that this happens to a lot of victims," he said, without trace of falsity, nodding with such naturalness and understanding. "I think subconsciously the mind is trying to block out the trauma, and the person feels nothing, but actually he's hurting inside. A lot. He feels like there's no one in the world who can understand. Like he's completely alone in the world, and that everyone's trying to hurt him, or trying to abuse him, so he avoids contact with people. And yet at the same time he tries hard to reach out."

Leo had gotten close, closer than anyone had come before, but miraculously he was reaching even deeper, so deep it was like he was able to peer into my soul, penetrate the barriers and defences surrounding this scared and scarred little child inside. And by his understanding and compassion he not only penetrated my soul, but he embraced it for what it was, tamed it, and showed it it had nothing to fear, nothing to hide. "How--how do you know so much?" I was amazed and comforted.

"Well, I've been reading up on some things since you told me. And I guess some things I could relate with."

"You've been reading up on this? But why?"

"Because I want to understand what you're feeling, Dave," Leo replied, his face nestling snugly into the nape of my neck, "Or at least try to. I want to understand you, so as not to hurt you, Dave. Because you've been hurt enough."

"But--but why?"

He breathed in deeply and sighed like he had reached some level of ecstasy. "Because you fascinate me, Dave. And by reading about the things you've had to go through I can get to know you better. Know what makes you cry, what makes you scared, what makes you laugh."

"But--but why?" I still did not understand. Did not understand why anyone would go through all that trouble, go through all that effort and spend all that time just for... me.

"You're so inquisitive!" he said, a sweet little smile breaking like that first streak of light at dawn, "You really want to know, Dave?"

"Yeah! Why?"

"Because you're worth it." The wind fell completely silent. Outside the window lay a stainless world of white satin.

I was touched. Touched like I have never been touched before. My heart started to ache a little, not an intense pain from being hurt but a stinging sensation you get when someone says something so very moving. My nose went wet again, and my body shivered. "I've never met anyone so sympathetic, so willing to listen to me. Why are you--you so special, Leo?" For the first time since I broke down earlier I felt confident enough to reach out and touch his face. My fingers ran tenderly down his smooth cheeks and were drawn to the moistness of his full, pouty lips. I wanted to touch him, lovingly and caringly, like he had touched me, time and time again.

"I guess I've always tried to value every person who enters my life, since I know life can just be taken away as quickly as it was given," he answered, but his eyes turned away for a moment to stare into nothingness in front of us. It was as if something he remembered had temporarily shadowed over his usually radiant self.

"Is something wrong, Leo? You seem sad all of a sudden."

"It's just something I've not told you yet, but I think you should know," he said, looking into my eyes, as if searching for understanding.

"What is it, Leo?" I asked, genuinely concerned and wanting to know. Deep down I silently longed to help him like he had helped me throughout so many moments of darkness. "I hope you can tell me."

He said nothing, and simply grabbed hold of my hand, pacified it, warmed it, and unexpectedly led it to the front of his chest. Then he started to unbutton his shirt, one by one. My fingers brushed accidentally against his firm chest and triggered an exciting response, but at the same time I was still unsure what he was trying to tell me. Just then, he said: "Remember that time in the woods, when I suddenly started panting? Or maybe these other times when I slowed down all of a sudden?"

I thought back, and remembered. Remembered how in the midst of our magical dance in the rain he turned very pale, and how the normal lustre of energy and life drained from him. "Yeah, I remember. But what did that mean, Leo?"

He pressed my hand gently down on his chest. The smooth surface was sturdy and tender, radiating with such welcome warmth that my fingers unconsciously began to take on a life of their own and started to shyly flirt with his chest. His heart beat, steady and strong, each beat carrying clear vibrations that travelled through my hand. "Look inside," he said with a little hesitation and embarrassment, as he peeled the side of his blue shirt open.

Curiously, I did as he instructed. Exactly as it felt, his chest was smooth, firm and tender, and so very pale. His nipples were hard and tempting. But just between them were marks that caught my eye. Before I could say anything, he began: "See now, Dave?"

Scars, perhaps five or six in total, somewhat faint, but nonetheless incisions stitched together, some the length of a finger, running downward, resembling the lines on the palm of your hands. Instinctively, driven by curiosity, my fingers moved to finger the scars. They were a little rough, like narrow, uneven islands in an ocean of smooth, pale skin. "Does it hurt?"

"No. At least not on the outside," he answered, his voice a little weaker and trembling with a hint of shame.

"But how?"

He retreated, his hands withdrawing from around me and started to uncomfortably fidget . "It's my heart. Just a few weeks after I was born they had to operate on me. The doctors thought I was hopeless, and thought I wouldn't make it. I--I eventually survived, but not without ma--many operations."

"But what's the problem?" I asked, reaching for his hand, and trying to pacify it as it had pacified mine before. I looked at him intensely, hoping Leo would look me in the eye and see that whatever it was that was bothering him he could share with me, and that he had no reason to be afraid.

"It's sort of complicated. You know how there're four chambers in the heart. Well, my heart is a little deformed, and one of the atriums is smaller than normal. And sometimes the blood flow is limited. Which makes me feel short of breath and tired."

"But why did you have to undergo so many operations, Leo?" I asked, trying to imagine what it must have been like for a little boy to be trapped in a cold, white building reeking of antiseptic, surrounded by sterile walls and masked men and women.

"Sometimes the narrow atrium gets blocked, and it stops the blood flow going to the heart. Which--which can be--be... deadly." His head shook slightly, while his eyes shut together tightly. It was clear he had difficulty saying that last word.

I felt the beat of his heart, strong and rhythmic like my own. With the things Leo had just revealed to me, I felt this urge to feel it, sense it, and somehow connect to it. Naively I imagined my hand suddenly possessing magical healing powers that would be able to make his pain and ailments all disappear. My shoulder shifted close to his, hoping he could sense that I was there to lean on if he needed it.

"It's pretty horrible, Dave. They cut me open, and pry a few of the ribs open so they can access the heart and clear the blockage. Sometimes--sometimes I'm awake through the operation because they can't use too much anaesthetic. They're afraid my heart might stop completely. So--so I lie there, seeing my own ribs stick out, listening to the sound of them cutting and stitching. And then there's the pain..." he paused, in the short moment of which the rims of his eyes started to water, and then as a haunting afterthought: "The pain..."

"Oh, Leo," I gasped at the horrid images and sounds conjured by his words flashing vividly in my mind, "I'm so sorry you had to go through all that. I--I never knew that, and I feel so terrible not knowing." I felt guilty and ashamed. It was as if every moment I did not know his pain and traumatic experiences I was being selfish. I had not given him the understanding and care Leo had given me all this time. I cupped his hands between mine, and moved them close to my lips, in a position resembling someone in prayer. And I prayed, silently, for forgiveness, for the pain in Leo to go far, far away.

His shoulder brushed against mine and leaned on it. "Well, you couldn't have known, Dave. But thank you so much for caring. It means a lot to me." It was as if he could sense my silent thoughts, could hear the unspoken prayers. A smile returned to his face, and was directed solely at me. In his upturned lips and deep dimples, in the glistening of his blue eyes he conveyed heart-felt appreciation. "I've not told any one else before. I mean, of course, my family knows, but I've always wanted to keep it a secret for some reason. I guess I don't want people to treat me differently. Because really I'm not."

"Does it hurt at all now?"

"Now it's fine. There're good days and bad days, depending on the weather. It's bad when it's really hot, and I'd often have stabbing pains. It really comes and goes, and you never know when it'll be serious again."

"Serious as in hospital?"

"Maybe..." he answered, but as if to reassure the worried look on my face and the tightening embrace of my hands around his, quickly added, "But don't worry, Dave. This heart has a lot of life to give yet."

Deep inside I thought about what he said. A lot of life... and perhaps something else too. My own heart seemed to have weakened a little then and there. "I--I'm glad you trust me enough to tell me, Leo. It feels like we've got a fair amount of things in common. And it explains a lot."

His hands broke free from mine and gently pulled my head closer, so that we were eye to eye, nose to nose, lips to lips. "Well, you would find out eventually anyways. I mean it's not as if we're going to be dressed all the time when we're together, right Dave?" He smiled mischievously, and I was glad that he had managed to recover that joyous, confident self I so admired in Leo.

 He propped his head up and lay on his side, his hand petting the back of my neck and at times massaging my ear lobe. His movements sent the butterflies fluttering wildly all around us. "You know, Dave, I'm really glad we were able to learn so much about each other today."

"Me too. I've never felt so much intimacy with anyone before. And nobody has ever listened to me--me and understood me like you have." Memories, traumas, flashbacks...they seemed to be a world away, trapped and frozen outside the confines of the room. I snuggled up closer, lured by his fragrance and closing the snug space between me and the curvature of his body. 

"I'm happy to take things slow and easy so that we can both get used to one another. Whatever will come will come, Dave." He lowered himself to the bed again, and took me in his arms. I smiled as he held me again, making me feel wanted, comforted and protected. In return my hand played with his chin, occasionally a finger would ever so gently brush across his lips to explore that sensuous soft texture, and to taste that mysterious warmth and moisture that seemed to forever linger on them, attracting curious creatures from near and far. I smiled at him, and noticed how our feet were playing subtle games with one another while our breath mingled in between our blushing cheeks. The wind was a low, hushed whisper, like a careful audience afraid to disturb the magical moment in the room.

"You make me feel like I'm so special. Like I'm somebody. And it's been a long time."


"Because you are, Dave," he said, his tongue exploring the surface of his lips, and accidentally licking the finger which still lingered. "And I could just hold you like this forever. Just hold you in my arms and never let go." In the depths of his dilated pupils lay passionate desire.

I replied with a shy smile, my heart filled with such light tingling sensations, as my lips mouthed `me too' to him.

His lips drew closer. "You are so beautiful..." And closer, and closer, until his lips found mine, before starting to fondle, to nibble and to massage so very delicately, so very soothingly. He continued to whisper, ever so tenderly, ever so affectionately in words that were music to my ears: "You are so beautiful to me."

Outside the snow floated freely without a set destination, drifting and dancing to grace the earth below. I was somebody. We looked into the depths of one another's eyes, seeing each other's reflections. Leo was my somebody.

Song: Joe Cocker `s "You are so beautiful".

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