managed make what happened into a distant memory. His face didn’t bruise, and after a day his father’s tightlipped anger faded a little. But after being given notice of an exam Monday in his pre-calculus class, he follows Andrew home to study, cracks open his textbook and, out of nowhere, begins to hyperventilate.
“Hey, hey.” Andrew’s voice pulls him back. “Here, squeeze.” He picks up Milo’s hand, and that’s both grounding and soothing. Milo closes his eyes, but when he does, he sees his father’s face, and he feels the fear he feels every day when coming home. He’s breathing so fast he’s starting to feel lightheaded.
“Come here.” Andrew pulls him up, shoves aside hanging clothes and closes them into the quiet dark of his closet. There’s room on the floor; Andrew’s taken to keeping it clear so that they have comfortable space. Andrew keeps coaching Milo to breathe slowly and calmly. He squeezes Milo’s hand very gently and keeps his tone soothing. It takes a while, but Milo finds himself squeezing back and breathing the way Andrew coaches him.
“Fuck,” he says after a while. “God, this is so lame.”
“Milo, it’s fine,” Andrew says, his hand still around his. Milo’s not gripping it anymore, but he hasn’t let go. Even with it, he feels lost, without moorings. Andrew is cross-legged in front of him and he scoots next to him and tucks his face into Andrew’s neck. Andrew always smells the same: clean and light and familiar. Although Milo is much wider through the shoulders—almost too wide for Andrew to hug him at this angle—Andrew pulls him closer and combs his fingers through Milo’s hair. Milo smiles against Andrew’s skin.
“God, you’re obsessed with my hair.”
“It’s great hair,” Andrew replies easily. “If only you’d let me do it for you…”
“Good luck with that.”
Andrew tugs lightly at his hair and Milo sighs into the touch “Eh, a boy can dream.”
Milo laughs lightly and keeps his eyes closed and tries not to feel anything, because everything is really close to the surface and it’s huge and crazy and too much, even Andrew holding him. He pulls away and looks right into his eyes, because he owes him at least this.
“Dork,” Andrew says, something fond and sweet sweeping across his features. “Anytime. That’s what friends are for, right?”
“You know…” Milo swallows and smiles. “I kind of love you.”
There’s a hanging pause, loaded and heavy. Andrew’s eyes widen and then, suddenly, he’s kissingMilo. Kissing . Milo’s shocked enough that his head tilts instinctively. Andrew’s fingers are still in his hair; Andrew’s mouth is on his and his breath and lips are too much. He gasps in a breath, then… well, he’s not sure. Not sure how he goes from shock and panic to kissing back. The kiss is tentative and scared until, in the space of one tiny moment, it increases in confidence; both of their mouths open by fractions and Andrew’s hand comes up to cup Milo’s check. They stay like this for a long minute, barely breathing and kissing with the newness of youth. But then Andrew moves, deepening the kiss, and panic and confusion surge through Milo’s body.
Andrew has energy that naturally calms Milo. Maybe it’s just the ease of growing up together over the last eight years. In his presence, everything feels right. Milo can be just himself. Milo knows Andrew loves him, just as he loves Andrew.
Except maybe not the same way.
That’s the most coherent explanation Milo can land on, once he’s in his room, sitting on the edge of his bed, white knuckles gripping the edge of the mattress. His heart is still racing—mostly because he ran home, but also because holy fuck, what the fucking fuck?
God, he just ran away. Didn’t say a word. He fucked up, big time.
He kissed Andrew back . For this one crystal-bright moment, Andrew’s lips weren’t a surprise, but a revelation, soft and full and