Chapter 3: Love Will Tear Us Apart

"Morning, Eric," Donna greeted me, and then she kissed me. Hyde stood off to the side with his Zen expression on, waiting for us to finish, and I kissed Donna back with a feeling like acid in my gut.

See, the moment Donna kissed me I realized I'd cheated on her last night. OK, maybe I'm an idiot, but the whole time I was with Hyde last night everything seemed so natural and right. It was all about me and him, not labels like 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' or 'dating.' But now, when Donna kissed me, it occurred to me that I'd kissed someone else last night. Part of my mind argued 'It was a guy, it doesn't count!' but the other part of my mind quickly let the first part know it was a dumbass.

"What's wrong, Eric?" Donna asked, pulling back.

I shot a guilty glance at Hyde, but he was already standing by the front passenger door of the Vista Cruiser. "I call shotgun," he said.

I was quiet during the drive to school. Hyde and Donna didn't seem to notice; they got into an argument about who was the better songwriter, Robert Plant or Janis Joplin. I didn't know how Hyde could act so normal.

What the hell was I going to do? I was attracted to both of my best friends, and I was already dating one of them, and the other one had invited me back to his bedroom tonight. I knew, in theory, I was being a total sleazeball sneaking around behind Donna's back... but it was Hyde! Didn't that make it different somehow?

The day went by in a blur of torturous introspection. Donna asked me a couple times if I was OK; I told her I had a headache. Hyde acted like nothing had happened at all - which I was grateful for, but at the same time it drove me nuts. I didn't know how to look at him, I didn't know how to talk to him, and at lunch when I was sitting at a table in the caf with all my friends, I felt like the words 'I kissed Steven Hyde!,' were written in fire floating over my head. I couldn't believe that no one saw them.

My last class of the day was gym - my least favorite class, for a whole lot of reasons. For one thing, none of my friends were in it - Hyde, Kelso and Fez all had second period gym. Also, being a skinny weakling really worked against me in this class. The teacher had obvious contempt for me.

And finally, there was the torture of the locker room.

I stood under the jet of cold water, clenching my teeth to keep them from chattering. The hot water heater'd been broken since my freshman year. I raised my arms to let the water rinse my pits, and wished for the thousandth time that the boys' shower room had shower curtains the way Donna told me the girls' one did. I stared at the grimy tile wall, pretending very hard that there weren't nine other guys showering right now, every one of them macho and beefy in their nakedness.

I shut off the water, grabbed my towel, and hurried back to the lockers. The less time spent naked in the presence of muscular guys who didn't like me, the better.

"Hey! Forman!"

My shoulders tensed, and I looked up. Richard, this square-jawed jock who liked to hit me in the head with basketballs, was glaring at me. "What, Dick?" I said.

"I heard about you." His lips curled with disgust and I noticed a couple of his football team buddies hanging out just behind him, watching us while they pulled their shirts on.

Crap. Hyde might've convinced his old friends to lay off the get-Eric-killed campaign, but it looked like the rumors they'd started about me were still going strong.

"Heard what?" I asked as offhandedly as I knew how, hoping that miraculously Richard wasn't thinking what I thought he was thinking. Or at least that he'd be too chicken to say it to my face.

Meanwhile, I stood in front of my gym locker wearing just my towel, feeling awkward and vulnerable. With Richard sneering at me, I wasn't about to drop the towel to put my pants on.

"You're a pervert, aren't you?" He came in so close I could smell his pizza lunch on his breath, backing me up against the lockers. "You've been checking us all out in the shower, haven't you?"

"No!" I yelped. Unfortunately, when I panic I tend to a) get sarcastic, and a) channel my mother. "That is a sick, sick lie and I can't believe a smart young man like you would listen to filth like that," I said.

He spat towards my feet. "You're the sicko." And then I barely had time to brace myself before his fist was connecting with my belly.

My knees buckled, but Richard's two buddies stepped forward to grab my arms and hold me up against the lockers. Lucky me. The other guys in the room hovered in the background, some of them watching wide-eyed, others pointedly ignoring us. None of them seemed motivated to step in and rescue me. God, I wished Hyde or Kelso was there. I was living a flashback to my nightmare.

Richard rubbed his fist, as though my soft belly could have done him any damage. "You shouldn't be in here, queer."

Well, at least we had something in common - I didn't want me to be there, either. "I'm not gay, dickhead," I managed to choke out. "I have a girlfriend."

"Shut up, faggot," he said, and hit me a couple more times. This time they landed on my ribs, and I couldn't hold back a cry of pain.

"Guys, what's going on in there?" yelled Mr. Burgher, the gym teacher. He poked his head around the corner and Richard and his henchmen stepped away from me, suddenly busy finishing getting dressed. I collapsed onto the bench, wrapping my arms around my chest. "Forman? What's going on?"

"Nothing, sir," I said, feeling everyone's eyes on me. I knew how this worked - the only thing deader than a faggot was a snitch.

"Well hurry up and get dressed. I haven't got all day," he said, and he was gone.

"You better stay outa my sight, Forman," Richard muttered, and he left too, with his friends.

I swallowed my bile, and waited for the strength to stand up and put on my clothes.


I went downstairs at 1 am. It had taken me that long to get my head together for what I needed to say to him, and as I crept down the basement stairs I was suddenly afraid that he'd already be asleep.

He wasn't. He was sitting on his cot with the quilt wrapped around his shoulders, reading some paperback and listening to the same Led Zeppelin album he'd played last night.

"Hey, man," he greeted me casually, tossing the book under the cot.

"Hi, uh, Hyde." I closed the door behind me and sat down at the foot of the cot. I drummed my hands on my knees and stared at the record spinning round and rehearsed the words once more in my head before I spat them out. "Last night was a mistake."

"Oh yeah?" He didn't sound upset.

"Yeah. See, Donna."

"Yep. Donna."

The cot squeaked like he'd moved a bit. I looked over and saw he was wearing his sunglasses now, and his bemused-Zen-master expression. I relaxed a bit. I'd been afraid he would....OK, I had no idea what I'd thought he'd do, but I sure as hell was glad he wasn't doing it.

"See, I realized when I saw her this morning that kissing someone else means cheating on her, no matter who it is."

"Shut it, Forman." He scowled a bit. "Far as I'm concerned, nothing happened last night."

"Right." I nodded stupidly. "Nothing happened last night. Good."

"Is that all you came down here to say?" He scratched his arm, and shifted on the cot like maybe he wanted me to get off it so he could go to sleep.

"Yeah. Um, yeah." I stood up. "I just - so it's all OK? You're not mad at me or anything?"

"Aw," he said, smiling at me in that sweet sarcastic way of his. "Afraid you hurt my feelings?"

"Oh, right." I laughed, feeling just a little hollow. "You don't have any."

He pointed his index finger like a gun, and made the clicking noise. "Bullseye. You're not as dumb as you look. G'night, Forman."

"'Night, Hyde."


I lay flat on my back, staring at the ceiling and wishing for sleep. I waited and waited, and it didn't come. The full moon shone through my window as bright as a damn nightlight. I felt...uneasy.

OK, I felt like a rat bastard for cheating on Donna, and at the same time I was feeling weirdly pissed at Hyde for not reacting when I told him last night was a mistake. I mean, he didn't even blink. That had to mean he'd thought it was a mistake, too.

Plus, my ribs ached every time I moved, or breathed. The pain wouldn't let me forget that Donna was not the whole explanation for what I'd just said to Hyde.

Last night was a mistake because kissing a guy can get a guy killed.

So I was a yellow-bellied rat bastard.

Why hadn't Hyde tried to convince me I was wrong?

Well, fuck him.

Fuck him and his no feelings. And his sunglasses.

I groaned and rolled over and bit my pillow. No one believed Hyde had no feelings, except maybe Hyde. The rest of us knew it was an image thing. I knew better than anyone, because once every century or so he let down his guard in front of me. Like last night, for instance, when he'd said 'Eric, I trust you.'

I was a yellow-bellied friend-betraying rat bastard dumbass.

Why did I always screw things up like this? Did this kind of thing happen to everyone, or did some people go through their whole lives without either kissing or screwing over any of their best friends?

I had to go back downstairs.

And say what? 'Hyde, sorry I said last night was a mistake. I mean, it was a mistake, but not because I don't like you that way. It's just that I already have a girlfriend who I think I'm in love with, plus if the jocks at school caught me making out with you they'd kill us both.'


'Hyde, I just want you to know that I love you. As a friend.'


OK, it was no good planning it. I'd just have to go downstairs and improvise.

I crept downstairs for the second time that night, skipping the squeaky steps. As I went through the kitchen I noticed it was nearly 2 a.m. now. What the hell was I doing? Hyde wouldn't even be awake. I nearly turned around, but then I remembered that 'I trust you' line again. I had to make things all right somehow.

There was no light under his door. I stood there, blind in the inky blackness, debating whether to go in and wake him up. Would he be pissed off at me for waking him? Probably. He might even hit me.

But I needed to do this now. It would be too late tomorrow. This was a 2 a.m. kind of conversation.

I groped my way to his door and opened it gently. "Hyde, are you awake?" I asked. I was so nervous my voice cracked. He didn't laugh at me for that, so I knew he was asleep.

I stumbled into the room and found his lamp by feel. I flicked it on and turned to the cot.

He wasn't on it.

"Hyde?" I said, louder this time. "Hyde, man, where are you?" I went back out into the basement. The light from Hyde's room was enough to show me there was no one there. I even checked behind the shower curtain. Then I noticed, by the door, that his coat and his boots were missing.

I swore under my breath and went out the basement door. "Hyde?" I called out, gritting my teeth against the cold and going up the stairs to the driveway.

A fresh inch of fluffy snow blanketed the ground and burned my bare feet with its cold. The full moon lit the white landscape as bright as a cloudy day. And one set of footprints headed out of the driveway.

I ran along the footsteps as far as the sidewalk. The footsteps kept going, down the street and out of sight.

"Dammit!" I ran back into the basement and slammed the door shut behind me.

This was not good.

I quickly ran over my options: leave him to do his lone wolf thing, or throw my boots and coat on over my pajamas, take the Vista Cruiser and follow the footsteps.

One minute and thirty-five seconds later, I was turning the key in the ignition.

I had to drive slowly to follow the tracks. I was grateful for once that Point Place goes dead after 10 p.m.; there were no other footsteps to mix up with his.

A couple times the footprints headed away from the road, and I had to make detours to find the other ends of his shortcuts. One of them took me a good five minutes of driving around worrying and swearing under my breath before I picked up the track again.

When I got there, I realized I should have guessed. The reservoir.

I parked the car and walked through the stand of trees to the base of the reservoir. The footprints went on into the woods out back, then returned, ending at the bottom of the ladder. I looked up and saw Hyde sitting on the catwalk, looking down.

"What the hell are you doing here, Forman?"

"Well..." I spread my arms in a wide shrug. "I like to come out here and watch the moon, y'know. And freeze my ass off." I started climbing up the ladder, trying to ignore the way my ribs ached and the way my hands nearly froze to the rungs. When I got to the top, he offered me the bottle he was holding. It looked like a small wine bottle, but it didn't have a label.

"Since you're here," he said, "have a drink."

"Uh, sure." I pulled my coat as low as it would go over my ass, and sat down beside him with my legs dangling over the edge, and then I took a drink from the icy-cold bottle. "*gah!*" It went down like fire, and I coughed and choked and nearly dropped the bottle. "What the hell is this? Where did you get it?"

"George's special brew, man." He took the bottle back from me, and took a long drink from it. "Randy still hides it in the same damn hollow tree. Some things never change."

My teeth chattered. "Wouldn't it freeze?"

Hyde laughed. "Nope." He tried to hand it back to me, but I didn't take it.

"What are you doing out here?" I asked. At least he was dressed better than I was; he had jeans on instead of thin cotton pajama pants. No hat or gloves, though. Then I noticed that his knuckles looked even more messed up than they had last night. Actually, as I looked closer, it kind of looked like he was bleeding. "What the hell happened to your hands?"

He exhaled a frosty cloud and stared into the distance. I wondered how much he could see by moonlight with sunglasses on.

"Hyde? Did you get in a fight?"

He shook his head and took another drink. "Leave it alone, Forman."

"Come on, Hyde, I need to know if there's someone out there who's going to come looking to hurt us!"

"There's nobody here but us and the trees."

"OK, then who did you hit?"

"A tree." He glanced at me sideways and gave me the finger with his bloody hand.

I let out a nervous laugh, shivering hard. "W-what'd that t-tree ever do to you?"

"It was in my way." He offered me the bottle again with a grin. "Sure you don't want any? Warms ya right up."

"Actually, know what w-would warm me up? The heater in my c-car." I pulled my freezing legs back up onto the catwalk, and crouched beside Hyde. "C-can we go now?"

He shrugged. "Don't let me stop you."

"I'm not going without you." I gritted my teeth to stop them from chattering. It also made me sound very determined.

"Why?" He slammed the bottle down on the catwalk and faced me full on for the first time since I'd come up. "Why are you here?"

"Because I went back downstairs to apologize for being a dumbass, and you weren't there." Oh good, I'd hoped that I'd finally figure out why I went downstairs.

"What do you mean, apologize?" He sounded mad.

"I shouldn't have said it was a mistake. I was scared, OK?"

"Well, you were right. It was a mistake. So don't worry about it." He said it dispassionately, like he'd managed to pull some shreds of the Zen back over himself. Then he reached for the bottle and tilted it high against his lips, and I saw his adam's apple bobbing.

"Hyde, stop drinking that!" I grabbed the bottle and pitched it as hard as I could off towards the woods. It landed in a snowdrift and disappeared.

"What the hell?" He glared at me. "I should throw you off for that."

"Are you trying to reenact that story you told me about your friend who almost died out here, or what? It's, like, zero degrees out. I'm freezing my balls off. Come on, let's go." I stood up and extended a shaking hand to him, hoping he wasn't too drunk to climb down the ladder. He didn't sound too drunk, but Hyde never did.

He took my hand without saying a word, and let me help him up. When he got to his feet he stumbled one step toward the edge, and I grabbed him around the waist with a panicked "Stop!" He swayed on his feet and leaned heavily against me. I was shaking so hard it was hard to hold on to him. I couldn't understand why he wasn't shivering - was that a Zen thing too?

Oh, crap. The nurse's-son part of my brain clicked into gear: it wasn't a Zen thing, it was a drunk-and-hypothermic thing.

"Hyde, man, we've got to climb down the ladder." Fear pitched my voiced higher. "Can you do that?"

"Who do you think I am, Kelso?" He shook me off and headed for the ladder.

"Wait, let me go first!" I darted around him and scrambled down the ladder. Then I stood at the bottom, shivering and looking up and wondering how the hell I planned to catch him if he fell. He outweighed me by 40 pounds. I watched the snow-caked bottoms of his boots move down from rung to rung, and my breath caught in my throat each time they slipped, but he managed to stay on 'till his feet were level with my waist. Then he tried for a rung and missed it, and when I tried to catch him we both ended up lying in the snow, him on top of me.

Ow, the ribs.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"Yeah." He rolled off me but stayed on the ground.

"Come on to the car now...dammit, Hyde, cooperate!" I tried to pull him up by slinging his arm over my shoulder, but I didn't have the technique right or something.

"Get bent, Eric. Just leave me alone."

"What did you just call me?" I looked down at him. His glasses had fallen off, and he was lying on his back with his arms and legs spread. His hair was caked with snow. I spotted his sunglasses in the snow, so I tucked them into my pocket.

"You screw everything up. Go away."

"Damn it, Hyde! Get into the fucking car!" I grabbed him under both shoulders and pulled him up with all my strength, and he finally cooperated. He got to his feet and slung his arm over my shoulder and we made it to the car.

As soon as we were in there, I turned the heat up full blast. Cold air came out of the vents. By the time it really started to warm up, we'd be back home. Oh well. I looked over at Hyde; he was leaning against the window, and his eyes were closed.

"Hey! Hyde!" I punched him in the shoulder to get his attention.

He mumbled "fuck off," and didn't move.

"Steven!" I punched him again.

He opened his eyes and looked over at me. "What'd you call me?"

"Talk to me, Steven. I need to know you're awake." I pulled out onto the road.

He laughed a little. "Men don't talk, remember?"

"You know it's dangerous to get drunk by yourself in the woods in the winter." I gripped the cold steering wheel tightly with my numb fingers. "You know that, you told me yesterday your friend nearly died out here that time. What the hell were you doing back there?"

"You sound like your mother."

"Sometimes my mother's pretty smart. Answer the damn question."

"Haven't you ever wanted to get really fucking drunk on really bad liquor?"

I hesitated, then said "I think I know the feeling." I glanced over at him again; his eyes were open but he was still slouched against the window.

Man, this was intense. And scary. Hyde wasn't supposed to let things get to him. How did I get to him? It was only one night. It was only kisses.

What if I hadn't gone back downstairs and found him gone and followed his footprints? Jesus Christ. I wanted to grab him and hold on so tight that he could never slip away like that again, but I had to keep my hands on the wheel so instead I yelled at him. "Why the hell didn't you say something!? I was still in the house, you could have come upstairs!"

"Nah, I couldn't." He said it like it was some vague regret.

"Why not?"

He didn't answer me.

I couldn't get him to talk anymore. For the rest of the drive home I kept bugging him, poking him, provoking him, anything to make him show me he was awake. All he'd do was swear at me and tell me to leave him alone, but that was fine by me, it proved he was conscious. As long as he didn't fall asleep, I thought, he'd be OK.

We stumbled down the stairs to the basement together, and into his room. I had to warm him up. I went and unplugged the stereo so I could plug in the space heater, then I dragged it as close to the cot as the cord allowed. That wasn't close enough, so I pulled the cot closer to the heater - not close enough to set anything on fire, I hoped.

Hyde, meanwhile, had slouched down to the floor. He was sitting on the concrete with his head on his knees.

I quickly stripped down to my underwear, then I went to him. "We've got to get your clothes off."

He looked up, confused.

"We have to share body heat." I remembered it from Boy Scout survival training: the safest way to warm up a hypothermic person is with someone else's body heat.

"Dammit, Eric," he mumbled, but he didn't stop me from pulling his coat off him, and then his shirt, and then his belt.

I pulled the blankets and quilt off the cot, then made him lie down on it so I could pull his jeans off. I hesitated with my hands on the waistband, thinking about last night and everything that happened, and wondering if this was another terrible mistake. But with my fingers wrapped under the waistband of his jeans I felt how cold his skin was, and that scared me. I yanked the jeans down, relieved that his boxers didn't come with them. Then I threw all the covers over him, and climbed under myself.

He was so cold. I lay pressed against his side, half on top of him, one arm under his neck and the other wrapped around his torso. I wanted as much of me as possible in contact with him, warming him. I wished there were more of me.

His eyes were closed. His breath reeked of alcohol. "I can't believe this," he whispered.

Yeah. Neither could I.

I felt the space heater warming the air around us. I felt Hyde sucking away my body heat. I felt him shivering now. I wondered if I should've woken Mom up and got her help. She was the one who actually knew medical stuff - all I was going on was the afternoon in Boy Scouts when the wilderness guy came and talked to us. Still, as long as Hyde was still awake and talking, he couldn't really be in trouble. And explaining to Mom why Hyde happened to be getting drunk at the reservoir at two in the morning...fuck, I didn't want to do that.

I needed Hyde to talk to me, to keep letting me know he was OK. I searched for something to say. "Remember when we used to have snowball fights?"

"You mean last year?" His lips twitched into something like a smile.

"I mean the real snowball fights, when we were kids, with Donna and Kelso. We'd build two forts facing each other across the backyard, remember?"

"Yeah. It was always you and me against those two."

"Yeah." I nodded, my cheek rubbing against his shoulder. "Why was that?"

"'Cause Donna and I were the only ones who could throw worth a damn." He snickered softly. "We had to split up or it would've been murder."

"And when our fingers and toes started to go numb, Mom would always call us into the kitchen for hot chocolate."

"I wish we had hot chocolate now. I am so f-fucking cold."

"We can have hot chocolate. I'll go make it," I said, starting to slide away from him.

"Wait," he said. I stopped. "Don't go yet, OK?" he said in a strange, tentative tone.


He turned his head so he was looking me straight in the eye. "I love you."

I think my heart stopped beating. I must have heard him wrong. "What?" I sort of gulped.

"Don't make me say it again, dumbass," he said, in his familiar cranky tone.

"Hyde..." I said, and that didn't feel right. " are really fucking drunk, aren't you?"

"Drunk men and children tell no lies."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"I think I fell in love with you the first time you kissed me, man."

"You mean the time you sucker-punched me in the stomach?"

He laughed in a not-funny way. "I have some intimacy issues."

"I-" I had no idea what to say. I had no idea what I was feeling - it was all a bright, sharp, tangled mess. . He gave me a shove towards the edge of the cot. "Shut up Forman. Go make me some fucking hot chocolate."

I went. I pulled on my pajama pants and the first shirt I grabbed off the floor, which happened to be one of Hyde's t-shirts.

Upstairs in the kitchen, I risked turning the lights on so I could see what I was doing. I hoped my parents were sleeping deeply tonight. I put water in the kettle to boil, and sat at the table, and asked myself what the hell was going on.

I still was dating Donna. I still hurt from the beating in the locker room. At 1 a.m. those were enough reasons for me to tell Hyde that last night was a mistake. seemed so much more complicated.

Could I love a guy? Was that even possible?

Damn it, just smelling his scent on the Led Zeppelin t-shirt I was wearing made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy and good.

I wanted to kiss him again. I wanted to do more than kiss him. What did that mean?

The kettle whistled, and I got up to pour the hot water into mugs and stir in the hot chocolate powder. I took the mugs downstairs, back to the furnace room.

He was sitting up on the cot with all the blankets wrapped around him. I sat down next to him. The space heater had warmed up the room so much now I didn't need to get under any blankets myself.

He extended a hand to take a mug from me. I noticed his knuckles still looked like hell; he'd probably gotten bloodstains on his blankets. He took a sip, then raised an eyebrow at me. "It's not as good as Kitty makes."

I shrugged. "I think she uses milk instead of water."

"Forman, take my shirt off."

"Huh?" I looked over at him, confused. He was wrapped up tight in the blankets, but as far as I knew he was still wearing nothing but his boxers underneath. "You aren't wearing one."

"You are wearing my shirt," he said with exaggerated patience. "Take it off."

I felt kind of wounded. First he tells me he loves me, then he gets pissed off that I'm wearing his shirt? Still, I couldn't think of a way to protest without sounding really lame, so I put my mug of hot chocolate on the floor, stood up, and pulled the shirt off over my head. When I could see again, he was frowning at me.

"I thought so," he said.

"What?!" I kind of snapped.

"Who beat you up this time?"

"What?" I followed his gaze down to my chest, and saw what he saw: big reddish-purple splotchy bruises over my ribs. "Oh, crap."

"Whoever did that, I'll make them regret it," he said, dead calm. "Tell me."

My mouth suddenly felt so dry I couldn't talk. I didn't want to tell him. If I told him and he went after Richard and his friends...bad things could happen.

"Was it Randy?" he asked. "That prick said he was going to leave you alone. If he did this to you he's going to regret it."

I shook my head. He took my hand and pulled me down onto the cot beside him. He let the blankets fall away as he put his mug on the floor, too, then put his arms around me. He felt warm now, and even though I wasn't cold I felt myself trembling a little.

"Tell me what happened," he said in a low, almost desperate tone. "Please, Eric."

I gave in. I had to, with him holding on to me and calling me by the name he never used. "It wasn't Randy. It was these guys in my gym class...." I told him the whole story. I remembered word-for-word everything Richard said.

"I'll make them leave you alone," he promised, in a frightening low tone I'd hardly ever heard him use.

"Don't you dare." I glared at him. "How do you think I would feel if you got hurt?"

"I don't know."

My throat suddenly tightened, and I felt bizarrely close to tears. "I would feel even worse than I do right now, you idiot. I love you."

Damn it, I was crying. It was all too much. I hid my face against Steven's chest, feeling like a complete idiot. He rubbed my back and murmured soft, comforting noises that weren't quite words. It was kind of surreal, and very warm and safe, and I started to feel better.

"You have to transfer out of that gym period," Hyde said, handing me a box of kleenex. "What do you have in the period when the rest of us have gym?"

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose. "Spanish."

"I have Spanish when you have gym. You can switch. I'll talk to the guidance counselor if you don't want to."

I leaned my forehead against his chest again. It felt good, even though I was thinking about really depressing things now. "Does it even matter? Half the people at school already think I'm gay. I'm going to get beat up no matter which classes I'm in."

"Donna can protect you."

I laughed bitterly. "Oh yeah, I'll get a girl to beat up anyone who threatens me. That'll really improve my manly image."

"Not like that, idiot," Hyde sighed. "You two have to raise your profile as a couple. Hold hands, kiss in the hall, let everyone see you. The rumors will die."

I looked at him. His face was so serious, and a little bit scared. He was scared of what could happen to me. I was scared of what could happen to him. And I loved him.

"Do you understand now," I asked very softly, "why I said last night was a mistake?"

He nodded. "If anyone found out about us..."

"I had a dream the night before last." I took his hand in mine and squeezed it. "I dreamed that Randy caught us kissing, and he killed you."

"People get killed for this," Hyde said, still talking low and sad. "For real."

I kissed him. I leaned in and his lips opened to meet mine, and I threaded my hands through his tangled, wild hair and I tasted him and smelled him and touched him, drinking in the sensations with frantic urgency because this was the good-bye kiss. We finally understood that we loved each other, just in time to realize that we couldn't bear to risk each other this way. Point Place had no room for our kind of love. So for one last moment, I let myself think nothing and feel nothing but his warmth and strength and love. Inside of that moment, I never let go. My body was walking up the stairs and climbing into my cold lonely bed and burying my head under my pillow to stifle the wracking sobs I couldn't control, but my heart was locked in that one moment, the only one that mattered.