For the amazing, snazzy, inspiring Rafay. Thank you for our conversations, babe.

~TLL~

"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,

"And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

"And frogs in the pools singing at night,

"And wild plum-trees in tremulous white.

"Robins will wear their feathery fire

"Whistling their whims on a low-fence-wire;

"And not one will know of the war, not one

"Will care at last when it is done.

"Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,

"If mankind perished utterly;

"And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn

"Would scarcely know that we were gone."

Connor peered at Jude over the top of his laptop screen and tapped his fingers across his kitchen table. "That one's depressing."

Jude flipped through his borrowed book, Inside Poetry. "Most of them are a little depressing. This one's even called 'To an Athlete Dying Young'."

Connor stretched across the table and pulled the book out of Jude's hands. "They can't all be that bad!"

"Give me my book back!" Jude insisted. "We agreed – you take the internet stuff and I'll take the book stuff."

"We have all afternoon for this poetry project. Just let me prove a point."

Jude rolled his eyes and propped his head up on his hand. Connor met his eyes and smiled, nudging his own foot against Jude's. Jude rolled his eyes again, even as a grin came over his face. He trapped Connor's sock foot between his two bare ones. Connor wiggled his toes against the soles of Jude's feet.

"Why don't you just look up dumb poems on the internet?"

"Because we were talking specifically about the depressing poems in this book. Found a good one!" Connor announced, flattening the book against the table. "If you wander far enough

"you will come to it

"and when you get there

"they will give you a place to sit

"for yourself only, in a nice chair

"and all your friends will be there

"with smiles on their faces

"and they will likewise all have places." Connor snapped the book shut. "Not depressing at all!"

"Fine, you win," Jude conceded. "Can I have my book back?"

"In a minute." Connor had the book cracked open again and was flipping through the pages.

"What are you doing now?"

"Annoying you," Connor informed him. He held the book out in front of him and cleared his throat dramatically. "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

"No!" Jude laughed.

Connor stretched across the table and grabbed Jude's hand so that he could gesture dramatically with their intertwined hands as he boomed, "Though art more lovely and more temperate;

"Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May –"

"You're shaking me," Jude interrupted, although he tightened his grip around Connor's hand.

"Of course I am," Connor scoffed. "Weren't you listening? You're my 'darling buds of May'."

"Call me that one more time and I'll …"

"You'll what?" Connor challenged. "You're just too delicate to be threatening, my darling buds of May."

Jude kicked one of his feet up, catching the inside of Connor's knee. Quickly, Connor pushed his chair away from the table to escape Jude's foot but he pulled Jude into the side of the table as he went, Jude's torso thudding awkwardly against the wood.

"Ow," Jude complained, pulling his hand away from Connor's to rub his chest. "Was that necessary?"

"Sorry! Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Jude said, massaging along his chest one more time. He held out his hand. "Give me my book back."

"No way! I still have poetry left to read!"

Jude put his elbow on his notebook and propped his head up on his hand. He couldn't help from smiling at Connor as his boyfriend focused on the poem in front of him.

"And summer's lease hath all too short a date;

"Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines … Do you think you're hotter than the eye of heaven?"

"I don't think you're interpreting the poem correctly." Jude laughed.

"What happened to 'poetry's open to interpretation'?"

"You killed your right to interpret poetry the moment you started butchering Shakespeare."

Connor rested his feet on top of Jude's. "Not like you have any great love of Shakespeare."

"I didn't kill him."

"He's been dead for, like, a thousand years."

"You killed him again!"

"And often is his gold complexion dimmed –"

"Get your hand away from my face, Connor," Jude instructed as Connor caressed his cheek.

"But I like your face."

"I like your face too," Jude admitted.

"And every fair from fair sometime declines,

"By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed.

"But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

"Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow … Oops, no, owest,

"Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade

"When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

"So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

Jude met Connor's eyes and then had to look away. "Can I have my book back now?"

"Are you going to read me some poetry?" Connor asked, but he surrendered the book.

"We have a project to do," Jude reminded him.

"Oh, yeah." Connor looked at the binders spread over his kitchen table. "We should probably try to get something done."

Jude didn't miss the way Connor's eyes flickered and he flipped his book open. He could read Connor a poem. He'd read Connor every poem in his book if it would make him smile. He found a poem near the front of the book and quickly skimmed it. Perfect. And he wouldn't have to butcher Shakespeare like his boyfriend had done.

"You take my hand and

"I'm suddenly in a bad movie –"

"Bad?" Connor repeated shrilly, but Jude ignored him and plowed forward.

"it goes on and on and

"why am I fascinated

"We waltz in slow motion through an air stale with aphor-aphori-sms," Jude tripped over the word and took a deep breath. "we meet behind endless potted palms

"you climbed through the wrong windows

"Other people are leaving

"but I always stay till the end

"I paid my money, I

"want to see what happens

"In chance bathtubs I have to

"peel you off me

"in the form of smoke and melted

"celluloid

"Have to face it I'm

"finally an addict,

"the smell of popcorn and worn plush,

"lingers for weeks."

Connor was grinning as he looked at their project sheet. "Okay, you find an example of a haiku in your book and I will find a … limerick."

Jude checked the table of contents and the flipped to the appropriate page. "Should we use the depressing haiku or the non-depressing haiku?"

"Oh, the depressing haiku, of course," Connor said, copying a limerick from the internet onto a lined sheet of paper.

Jude copied out the Ann Atwood haiku (The day dark with rain./Young leaves struggling to open,/ you too have your tears). He had just finished when Adam walked into the kitchen. Jude gripped his pen. While Adam wasn't openly rude or disproving, he still made it clear that his feelings about his son's relationship and sexuality weren't entirely positive and Jude still didn't feel entirely comfortable in Adam's presence, although he could admit that things were slowly looking up; very slowly.

"Are you getting hungry?" Adam asked them.

"A little," Connor admitted.

"Want me to order a pizza for lunch?" Adam offered, already digging in the kitchen drawer that they stored their takeout menus in.

"Yeah! You good with that, Jude?"

Jude nodded, doodling a spiral in the upper corner of his notebook.

Adam unfolded a takeout menu along the counter. "How do you feel about pepperoni?"

"Good," Connor answered.

"And you, Jude?"

Jude glanced at his boyfriend's father. "Good. Thank you."

"Okay. I'll call it in." Adam's eyes raked over the messy table. "How's the project coming?"

"Great. We've gotten a lot done," Connor lied.

"Make sure you stay focused," Adam warned them.

"We will," Jude promised him quickly.

Adam didn't say another word; he just slipped from the room to make his phone call so that he wouldn't disturb the two boys further.

"'We will'," Connor repeated. "Are you sucking up to my dad?"

"My voice is not that high pitched," Jude grumbled. "And I want him to like me."

"Sorry," Connor apologized, dropping his voice ridiculously low. He returned his voice to normal as he asked, "Does it count that I like you?"

"Of course!" Jude nodded and then he glanced at their project sheet. "But if you truly liked me, you'd write an acrostic poem about me!"

Connor paused, racking his brain. "Uh … What's an acrostic poem?"

"Do you pay attention in class?"

"Not the ones you're in."

Jude opened his mouth to reply and then just as quickly closed it. He couldn't even criticize that because he found his mind wandering far too often when Connor was within eyeshot. He flipped through his notebooks and found his lazily scrawled notes from the day they discussed acrostic poems. "It's a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which certain letters in each line form a word or words."

"Oh! It's that poem where you write the name of the thing vertically and then you used the letters to explain it, right?"

"Yeah," Jude agreed, although something told him there were other ways to format it. Oh well. The one Connor described seemed easiest.

"Why would I write one about you?" Connor teased.

"Because I'm going to write one about you."

Connor's face lit up and Jude had a feeling that this was either going to turn out really great or really bad. He and Connor both pulled out individual sheets of paper, writing down each other's names. Jude had no idea how to start. Words that started with 'C'. Hmm. Cunning? Creative? Crafty? Cocky? Confident?

Across the table, Connor made a frustrated noise. "Who even has a 'U' in their name?"

"At least you only have four letters."

"What's two more letters?" Connor shrugged. "Some of them are the same."

"That makes it worse!" Jude pointed out, chuckling. "I need to find two 'O' words and two 'N' words that describe you."

"Unique," Connor said. "You're unique."

Jude decided that 'confident' was the best word for Connor. O. Ordinary? Definitely not. He could hyphenate a word. He could start with 'overly', maybe. Or … One thing he loved about Connor was how big his heart was. Jude wrote down 'openhearted'.

"D …" Connor muttered. Jude felt Connor's toes poking against his calf. "Dunce?"

"Then I'm changing this to ogre," Jude threatened.

"What's it say now?" Connor asked, craning his neck.

Jude slid the paper away from him. "That's cheating."

"It's about me! I deserve to know."

"Nope," Jude argued. He placed the paper on the chair next to him so that Connor would be sure not to see it.

"Fine," Connor grumped.

Jude turned his attention back to his page, trying to focus purely on 'N' words. He wrote down 'noble'. He was a little embarrassed to write down the word – who called people noble? But it seemed right in conjunction with Connor. For the second 'N', it was obvious what he had to say. He scrawled 'needy' in its spot next to the second 'N' and then he glared at the second 'O' in Connor's name. What was he supposed to say? Optimistic? While Connor wasn't actively pessimistic, it wasn't like optimism was one of his defining traits either. In a flash of inspiration, Jude wrote down 'outstanding'.

"Done!" Connor bragged.

"Almost done!"

'R'. After a moment's deliberation, Jude wrote down 'rare' as his final word to describe Connor. There weren't a lot of people like his boyfriend out there in the world, and Jude was so thankful that he had Connor.

"Can I read it?" Connor whined, leaning over the table again, trying to get a peek.

Jude smiled. At least what he had said about Connor's neediness was accurate. He and Connor switched pages and he quickly read what his boyfriend had written about him.

J: Joyful

U: Unique

D: Dashing

E: Everything

"You can't call me dashing!"

"You can't call me needy!"

"You are needy!"

"You are dashing!"

Jude reread the poem, feeling touched, especially at the last line. Then he admitted, "'Dashing' makes me think of a Disney prince."

"Does that mean I get to be your princess?" Connor joked.

"The point of you," Jude explained slowly, "is that you're not a princess. You're my prince."

Connor's eyes went wide. "Jude, you can't be a prince."

"What?" Jude asked, confused by Connor's sudden change in demeanor. "Why?"

"Because you're already the famous superhero, Super-Gay!"

This time, Connor was quick to move his legs out of the way of Jude's kick. Laughing, he caught Jude's foot before he could pull it away.

"I think it's cute," Connor assured him. "You'll be my superhero, I'll be your prince. Oh, Jude!"

"What?" he asked slowly, suspicious now.

"We already have our Halloween costumes."

Jude put his head on his hands and then shook his head. "Why do I love you?"

"Because I'm lucky."

Before Jude could reply, Adam came bustling into the kitchen, a large pizza box in his hands.

"How's the project?" he asked his son.

"Great. We might even get it all done today."

Jude shot Connor a look. At the rate they were going, this wasn't going to get done within the week! Connor happily ignored him.

Adam opened the pizza box and pulled out several slices, laying them on a plate he had grabbed for himself. He explained, "I'm still catching up on paperwork. The rest is yours."

"Thanks, Dad."

"Thank you."

Adam laid the pizza box on the table, covering some pages as he did so. Connor pulled the top of the box open and grabbed a slice.

"I'm so hungry."

Jude's stomach growled, but he stood up from the table. "I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?"

"The bathroom," Jude explained in a deadpan. "Care to join me?"

Connor almost choked on his pizza. "I don't think Dad would ever let me see you again."

"Probably not," Jude agreed. "Besides, I don't really want you to watch me pee."

"I don't really want to watch you pee either."

When Jude was out of the kitchen, Connor dropped his pizza slice onto the table and grabbed his laptop, frantically typing. He quickly sorted through the Google search results until he found the perfect thing. He was sure that Jude would think him silly for it, but he was also sure that Jude would love it. Connor lived for his boyfriend's smile. He reached for Jude's pen but then realized that it wouldn't be enough. He needed something bigger. He heard water begin to run through the pipes and realized that Jude would be back soon. Frantically, he grabbed for Jude's pencil case, pulling the blue highlighter from the inside. Quickly, he copied the short poem from his laptop screen onto the inside of the pizza box. He flipped the pizza box shut moments before Jude walked back into the kitchen.

He hoped that he looked utterly normal, sitting in his seat and eating his pizza. Jude didn't give him a second glance as he sat back down in his seat. He pulled the pizza box toward him and opened it. He stopped, holding the box top open, reading the freshly written words. As Connor had hoped, Jude laughed loudly.

"Connor, why?"

Jude was giggling. Jude was actually giggling. Connor attempted to keep a straight face but it cracked when he asked, "Why what?"

"'i like pizza

"you like pizza

"i am bad at poems

"please date me. From your secret admirer, The Prince'." Jude read, snickering. "Connor, we're already dating!"

"But if you say yes to the pizza then we'll be dating times two!"

"What's dating times two mean?" Jude asked.

"Twice as much kissing, to start," Connor decided.

"You haven't even kissed me today!" Jude pointed out.

"Oops," Connor said in realization.

Jude laughed and then crooked his finger at Connor, beckoning his boyfriend closer. Connor scrambled out of his seat, closer to Jude and then, not letting Jude take a breath, he pulled Jude close to him, pressing their lips tightly together. He felt one of Jude's hands at his waist and the other gripped Connor's arm.

"Your dad could walk in," Jude whispered when Connor let him breathe. Adam would not like the two of them making out in his kitchen; not that Stef and Lena would be overly fond of Connor and him hiding out in a corner of the Adams-Foster house to make out, either.

"I'll hear him coming," Connor swore, and then he decided that he was done letting Jude keep his lips to himself again.

Jude felt Connor's fingernails on his side as his boyfriend pulled him closer, and, though Jude blushed in the middle of their kiss, he leant further into Connor. His blush only intensified as his stomach grumbled.

"Eat!" Connor commanded him, although he hated to sit back down in his own seat. "Callie would kill me if I let you be hungry."

Jude could agree with that. He reached for his pizza, unable to keep his eyes off Connor's writing. He finished his first slice and then said, "Yes."

"Yes what?"

"Yes, I'll date you times two."

"It's only true when you k-"

Before Connor could even request affection, Jude had stolen his words and his breath with a kiss that felt almost too brief.

He smiled at Jude and then it was his turn to say, "I'll be right back."

"Need me to go with you?" Jude teased. "I am your superhero, after all. I need to protect you."

"If you hear me start screaming, feel free to barge in on me."

When Connor was gone, Jude grabbed for his poetry book. If Connor was going to write something to him, he was going to write something to Connor. He grabbed Connor's English binder and flipped to a random, blank page. He already knew what verse he was going to use from his book. He'd spotted it earlier, in the middle of a large poem. He found it with ease and wrote it down with a flourish. He carefully slid the binder back into the same position it had been in before and returned it to the same page. By the time Connor came back into the room, Jude was almost done with his second piece of pizza.

"Almost ready to get back to the project?" Connor asked him, even as he reached for another slice of pizza himself.

"We'd better be because I have a feeling your dad is going to expect us to finish this today."

"Dad's not that stupid," Connor maintained. "He knows we're spending more than one day on this."

Jude pulled his book into his lap, carefully turning the pages.

"Read me a poem?" Connor requested.

Jude popped the last bit of crust into his mouth and carefully chewed it, searching for another good poem to read Connor. He swallowed and then began, "love is more thicker than forget

"more thinner than recall

"more seldom than a wave is wet

"more frequent than to fail

"it is most mad and moonly

"and less it shall unbe

"than all the sea which only

"is deeper than the sea

"love is less always than to win

"less never than alive

"less bigger than the least begin

"less littler than forgive

"it is most sane and sunly

"and more it cannot die

"than all the sky which only

"is higher than the sky."

(-.-)

Connor squeezed one last note in the last line of his page and he glanced over at Jude, hoping his boyfriend was getting everything that their English teacher was saying; she talked fast and wrote across the board even faster. Connor flipped the page and stopped – there was already writing on this page. Even though the words were upside down, Connor could recognize Jude's handwriting. Ignoring the lesson completely now (he could discover the details of an Italian Sonnet on his own time), he turned his binder around to read what Jude had written him.

I feel wonderful because I see

The love light in your eyes

And the wonder of it all

Is that you just don't realize

How much I love you. – Your secret admirer, Super-Gay.

Connor laughed quietly and looked at Jude again, who was smiling back at him. Connor traced the outline of the note with his thumb, wondering how he had managed before Jude. Carefully, he brushed Jude's hand with his own for a brief moment before they turned back to their note taking, both thinking the same thing:

How I love that boy.

The book Jude has Inside Poetry is a real book by Glen Kirkland and Richard Davies and it contains all the poems Jude reads. The poems read/mentioned are: You Take My Hand by Margaret Atwood; Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton; The day dark with rain by Ann Atwood; Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? by William Shakespeare; Oh No by Robert Creeley; love is more thicker than forget by e.e. cummings; To an Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Housman. I found Connor's pizza poem on Google images and can't trace it back to the original source, so if anyone knows it, please tell me!

I don't own anything recognizable.

~TLL~