Zach closed the door. Sunlight streams hung like strings from the windows. The afternoon glow was radiant on the snow splotched ground and it made the interior of the shack almost cozy. Every detail, every chair of polished oak, every loose bolt and glinting tool was made magic by the luminous rays. Zach bent low and blew a film of dust from a lightly cluttered table.
He’ll be here soon, Zach thought. Four months... It’s been that long? Does he remember me? Well, of course he remembers me. But... I might have been imagining it. Does he know I kissed him while he was sleeping? Strings of thought flooded the labyrinth of Zach’s mind. He didn’t hear any rustling leaves or snapping twigs. But he heard the latch on the door flip open.
Zach didn’t start or jump. He merely straightened his back and squared his shoulders. Slowly, the boy turned; his head first inclining, then his shoulders, and finally a full rotation. There was Gage in the doorway. He stood with one hand on the door’s handle, the other braced the frame. Zach forgot to breathe and sighed quickly to relieve his empty lungs.
“You’ve come back,” Gage said in a low tone. Zach felt his blood surging, it pulsed in his fingers, up and down his arms, and in his chest.
“I was afraid that I might not. Cait and I... we were stuck and neither of us were getting direction. It was such a mess after Taylor disappeared,” Zach said. His speech was flowing smoothly, like a rehearsed message. It was full of fake confidence even though the words themselves were betraying fear. Zach was trying to sound like a grown-up, like he hadn’t panicked or cried or cursed God. He was still unsure of Gage’s feeling towards him. Did he know how Zach liked him? Did he know how often the boy had thought of him during the summer? Zach did his best to mask these uncertainties and anxieties in his speech and face. But his eyes betrayed his heart, and his feet betrayed his worry. Gage caught the searching spark, the question in Zach. He also saw how the remembered rage and anguish released in a gentle trembling now.
Gage stepped in and closed the door. He was still wearing the faded bomber’s jacket Zach had liked. It had a few more rips and stitches than a season ago, but the rugged fabric made the contrast all the more vibrant. Gage’s face held the light of hope like never before. It confused Zach and he was held by that tumult of thought so that he didn’t realize that he was staring at Gage even though the other had crossed the room and was standing two feet from him.
“Zach,” he spoke gently. Gage’s willed his words to reach through the worry and unwarranted dismay. The doubt was still written on Zach’s face. Then, in a moment of understanding, Gage knew the genesis of Zach’s lingering pain. In that instant, Gage knew he needed to step back and ask himself a thousand questions. But he put away those thoughts and closed the gap between their two bodies. Gage pulled his arms around Zach’s chest, also catching his arms in the embrace. Instinctively, Zach wrapped his arms back around the other’s torso.
Zach felt a wave of relief. But immediately there followed a tremor of confusion: What’s happening? Oh, God... oh, God... Zach’s breath sped, his heart quickened. Zach loosened his hold. He couldn’t let himself get this close. It would drive him mad for untold ages to come so near to something, someone he could not have.
Gage could feel it, almost hear Zach’s heart pounding. Another moment, Gage knew he needed to say something... no, this was new: he needed to do something. Gage took the slack afforded by Zach’s release and drew back a little to look into Zach’s face, “Why do you still doubt?”
Zach’s eyes flashed with fear. Fear that this wasn’t real, another dream, urged him to disengage. But as he brought his hands back from around Gage and prepared to push him away, Gage moved his hands too. They shifted, gently gliding over the surface of his back, until they came to rest on Zach’s arms. Gage and Zach stood in silence, the first holding the other. Zach’s hands had frozen and rested at Gage’s sides. Gage’s eyes burned with undeniable peace, like sapphire embers. They suddenly fell two inches. Zach knew Gage was looking at his lips. He watched the black centers of the two blue gems trace the lining of his mouth. A quivering sigh forced air back into Zach’s lungs.
Gage felt a peace that wasn’t common. It was rare indeed for him to feel at ease with his best, most laboriously studied plans. But this impulse brought calm... and Gage liked the easy warmth that was building in his mind. The warmth built like a fire kindled. In seconds he felt so right with the world. And he wanted to give that solace to Zach. The boy was trembling. He was scared. Gage knew he could settle the boy’s spirit, and he wanted to. His eyes drifted softly back to Zach’s. He smiled.
Zach saw the genuine feeling that had no name building in Gage. It was evident in his face, in his smile, in the smile that reached the other’s eyes. Zach could hear it. Like the pounding of his heart, it was a noise he heard from somewhere deeper than the world around him. Gage’s hands held strong on Zach’s arms. They absorbed the shivers and seemed warmer than the Arizona sun. Again, it was a deeper sensation than what comes in from the world around. Zach closed his eyes. The sensation of warmth intensified. He could hear Gage’s breathing. He could still feel the boy smiling. In a second, Zach let go of his fear. The jagged crystals of icy dread spattered and skipped before an energy greater even than death. He opened his eyes and smiled, “I was afraid I wouldn’t see you again.”
“I wouldn’t have let that happen,” Gage said. His voice was barely above a whisper and hummed at a low pitch in the magical afternoon sunlight. His hands moved with seamless volition. He brought them close to cradle Zach’s head just behind the ears. With a gentle pull, he brought Zach’s head forward and placed his forehead against the other’s. Their brows met as Gage rocked his head side to side, nuzzling with primitive, animal affection. He wanted to touch Zach deeper than their physical forms would allow.
Zach was overcome with this new warmth and confidence. He was ecstatic, he felt as though he were no longer Zach, or on Kesh, or anywhere but with Gage. His fear was gone. Zach nudged back, giving his soul reign and letting his mind with its logical concerns and sensible caution ellipse into darkness. All was light here. Zach closed his eyes again and grasped with his hands, pulling Gage’s body into his own. He lifted his head and brushed his nose against Gages’ chin. Gage’s head rested: so close, so there. Zach breathed, Gage breathed.
Zach’s breath smelt sweet. It had the feeling of a scent you craved to taste, but never had. Gage lowered his hands to hang over the boy’s shoulders. It was now that insight and wisdom and desire seemed to come back to a single pulsing light and life force. Gage felt the warmth discharging from his skin, flowing through the cloth that separated the two bodies. But there was a return. Zach was still and calm. And as Zach’s grasp worked to draw them more and more deeply into the same form. Gage found that peace become solid like steel, warm like vapors from a spring, and more alive than a river.
Zach tilted his head. His nose brushed Gage’s cheek. In one moment there was distance, in the next none at all. Power like a locomotive flooded Zach’s head. It made his hearing dim, and his scalp tingle as all his being focused on this shared being.
Zach drew back. The kiss had stirred Gage, the peace was suddenly gone. There was no equilibrium. No, I was too close. Too close to him, to me. I saw myself, I felt myself. I was alive! Building up to it... in that moment, I was alive. I felt Zach. He was there! But where did it go? Where did he go? Where am I? Gage opened his eyes. His first sight was a wholeness in Zach. A new calm eneverated the tumult and the peace returned. In that instant, Gage died and was reborn. Feeling began to radiate from his core. Union for a moment wasn’t enough.
Zach pulled back and at once felt good. Not okay, he actually felt good, and right, and holy. His living was valid. His suffering had meaning. If only he could share such a feeling with an other! He looked into Gage’s eyes and, for a second, saw his own fear reflected. Every insecurity and angst, every tear in his heart, all the pain was suddenly dancing across Gage’s face. But then it was gone. And a hand slid nimbly up his neck and pulled him in. Gage indulged himself in Zach’s essence and being as the other pulled him ever tighter to his own body. And, as the sun shone into the dusty house, Zach and Gage shared each other and each became whole.