13

When Boots was thirteen, Bruno had a terrible wonderful Brunoish idea.

"So I've been reading about the First Nations for history class," said Bruno as he marched into room 306 and flopped onto his bed.

"Oh?" said Boots, looking up from his library book. He thought about all he knew of the government's shoddy treatment of Canada's aboriginal people, and decided he would soon be hearing the phrase "we should form a committee." Boots started making a mental list of students who weren't yet tired of Bruno's rabble rousing so far this year.

"Well, you know," said Bruno, "they were big on community and personal responsibility. I admire that in a people." He nodded forcefully, then brushed the hair out of his eyes.

Bruno and personal responsibility, Boots thought, go together like pickles and ice cream. He very carefully didn't laugh.

"And we're a community," said Bruno. "Dormitory 3, I mean, and MacDonald Hall. The Fish is like our Angakkuq." Boots furrowed his eyebrows. "I think that's how you say it," said Bruno. "Anyway, so I was reading about all these rituals, and, ummmm..."

Boots gave him a penetrating look. "If you want to do a rain dance, I'm not helping," he said. "Because we need the track to be dry for the meet on Saturday."

"No, no," said Bruno, "although that's not a bad idea. Using a traditional rain dance to draw the attention of the media to the plight of the endangered indigenous culture... hmmmm." He looked off into space, obviously thinking hard. Boots grinned and threw a pillow at him. "Right. But anyway, what I was really thinking is... d'you want to be blood brothers?"

Boots' mouth dropped open.

"I know it's kind of weird," said Bruno after a moment. He wouldn't meet Boots' eyes, and the corners of his mouth started to droop in that way that always made Boots feel like clouds had covered the sun.

"No, no," said Boots hurriedly. "It's a brilliant idea! I'm just... you really wanna? With me?"

"Of course with you," said Bruno. "You're my best friend." Boots could feel the smile spreading across his whole face.

"Then yeah, I want to," said Boots.

"Cool," said Bruno. "Now, the full moon is tomorrow night..."

20

When Boots was twenty, Bruno had a terrible wonderful Brunoish idea.

Boots ran into him in the dining hall as he was moving towards their regular table and Bruno followed him across the room, stealing fries from his plate as they went.

"I've decided what we're doing this summer," Bruno said as they sat.

"Bruno, it's only January," said Boots, slapping at Bruno's hand as he went for more fries. "How can you have the summer planned already?"

Bruno rolled his eyes. "I'm a forward-thinking kind of guy, Boots, you know that."

Boots had to admit it was true, at least for a relatively broad definition of "thinking." Still, he said, "we won't get to do whatever it is if you don't put your forward-thinking mind on your exams." He took a bite of tuna casserole and made a face.

"Oh, I'll be fine," said Bruno. "I've got a plan for everything except my intro constitutional law course and that'll be regurgitating stuff we learned at the Hall anyway."

Stuff you learned at the Hall through participatory insurgency, Boots thought fondly, but didn't say.

"Okay," he said, putting down his fork. "Tell me all about your genius plan, keeping in mind that we'll have to work around whatever job I can find."

"Well that's the thing," said Bruno. "You said you wanted to travel. So I got us travel jobs."

"Travel... jobs? Doing what?"

"Going across the US in a van and stopping to see all the sights along the way. It'll be brilliant."

"But, Bruno--"

"We're hitting Washington DC, Philadelphia, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas..." Bruno licked the grease from his fingers then ticked off their destinations.

"But, Bruno--"

"There's some others, too, of course. Something with cows. I just can't remember them all off the top of my head. I've got a flier back in the room."

"Bruno!" said Boots, finally getting his best friend's attention.

"Yeah?"

"What's the job?" asked Boots patiently. "They're hardly going to pay us to sightsee."

"Oh, it's dead easy," said Bruno. "We just have to shuffle some kids around, make sure they don't get into any trouble. The outfit's called Juniortours."

Boots was horrified. "Someone let you be in charge of a bunch of kids? Why?!?"

"Not me, us," said Bruno proudly, then gave a sheepish grin. "Although I may have played up your work experience babysitting your cousin a little bit."

"My cousin who's only a year younger than me?" said Boots pointedly.

Bruno shrugged. "You were still responsible for him. He's an idiot; you're not. Besides, you're good with kids. I'd trust you with mine, if I had any."

Intense warmth at Bruno's trust warred with horror at the idea of being surrounded by a family of Bruno-clones. Boots pictured all the mothers in the world making goo goo noises at an extremely adorable toddler lisping "der world ith crumberling around uth!" Then he had another thought.

"Wait, how old are these kids?"

"Umm, ten and eleven, I think?"

"Bruno, do you remember what we were like when we were eleven?"

"Yeah, we could take care of ourselves just fine. Nothing to be worried about."

"I'm not worried about them," said Boots. "I'm worried about us!"

30

When Boots was thirty, Bruno had a terrible wonderful Brunoish idea.

"I think we should get married," said Bruno. Boots spit out his beer all over the bar top.

"What?!?"

The bartender gave them a dirty look but came over and wiped it up. Boots waited until he had walked down to the other end of the bar and lowered his voice.

"So that was you practicing for a community theatre audition, right?" he said.

"I'm serious," said Bruno, pouting. Boots tried not to notice the way it accentuated his lips. "I mean. We already do everything together."

Boots felt his face flush and he pulled out his wallet, dropping enough cash on the bar to cover their drinks and a healthy tip. "I'm not marrying you," he said, and got up.

"Hey, wait," said Bruno. "C'mon, Boots, why not?"

They stepped out into the cold street, Bruno jogging a little to keep up with Boot's forceful strides.

"Boots," he said. Boots didn't answer. "Hey, seriously." Finally Bruno grabbed at Boot's shoulders and dug his heels into the snow, pulling them both to a halt. Reluctantly, Boots turned to face his friend.

"Can we just forget about this?" he said miserably.

"No, we can't," said Bruno. After a moment he let go of Boots and stuck his hands in his pockets. "Look, if you're not interested then that's, I mean, I won't say I'm not disappointed. But I didn't think you'd freak out on me."

Boots stared at his friend incredulously. "Not interested? Not interested? Of course I'm interested, you idiot. But I'm not going to take advantage of whatever existential crisis or crazy scheme is prompting this. I already make enough of an ass of myself as it is, thanks."

"Hey, hey," said Bruno. He brought one hand up to cup Boots' face. "Don't call my best friend an ass!"

Boots felt himself turn his face into the warmth of Bruno's hand almost instinctively, and his breath caught in his throat. "Bruno, don't," he said. "You don't know what you're doing."

"I do," said Bruno quietly. "I really, really do." He leaned in and brought their lips together, almost chastely. They stood together for a long moment, then Bruno deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue across Boots' lips as if asking for permission. Instead, Boots took a step back and looked at his friend with wide eyes.

"Look, I've tried to let you alone," said Bruno, "I've really tried. I thought you and Sarah were going to last, you know, and do the whole kids and family thing. And then you were doing rebound dates so I waited. But it's been months since you saw anyone and I just wanted... I just wanted to put it on the table, okay?"

"Bruno," said Boots, "you could've... you could've said something." Then he found himself laughing. "Something besides 'let's get married!'"

"What's wrong with that?" said Bruno with affected dignity. "It's direct. To the point."

"I suppose I should be grateful you didn't form a committee," said Boots, then paused when he saw the look on Bruno's face. "Wait, you formed a committee?!?"

"Just an advisory council!" said Bruno. "You know, for planning purposes."

"Oh my god," said Boots, but he was laughing. "Oh my god."

"Shut up and kiss me again," said Bruno, and leaned in. Bruno's kissing was like Bruno's everything - bold and brilliant - and Boots' heart felt light as he realized he could look forward to it for years to come.