Was this pain? He shrunk back into the shadows as the girls twittered and asked what Wendla's experience was like back in the barn. Melchior, how… how could you? But it wasn't as if the other boy liked Ernst like that. It was only Ernst who would cross the sea and land for Melchior. If Melchior liked him, wouldn't it have been him who was twittering to the girls?

Ernst didn't know what else to do. He couldn't stand there and listen to Wendla as she told the girls how it felt to touch and be touched by Melchior. It made him blush and want to burst into tears. He touched his chest, feeling the tiny thing breaking silently inside, and turned away from the group, fleeing deep into the woods behind him.

Once totally alone, Ernst dropped to his knees by a willow tree. It seemed so cliché that he would stop here, by a willow and a stream. It was so… sentimental. But Ernst liked it that way. He slowly untied his school shoes and peeled his socks off, placing them delicately by the roots of the majestic tree. He dipped his feet into the cold water, not caring that it was only the very end of winter, and it was still freezing out. He listened to the stream for a second, drinking in the silence.

"How did I know I would find you here?" a voice crooned from behind him.

Ernst turned quickly to see one Hanschen Rilow, smirking from a nearby pine tree. Ernst turned back to his reflection in the water, not daring to look on the face of someone who might mock him for coming here. It was just his face in the water for a few minutes, and then it was both Hanschen and Ernst. Hanschen silently took off his socks and shoes and joined Ernst with his feet in the water.

"What caused you to come here this time?" Hanschen asked, as if he knew that this was where Ernst came to hide from the world.

Ernst refused to tell the older boy. Hanschen would just laugh at him and then confuse him with another one of his lectures. Hanschen turned to him after a few moments, as if the sudden silence made him uneasy. "Ernst… you can tell me."

"Melchior… and Wendla," Ernst said, staring at the stream's reflection of Hanschen.

Hanschen looked forward, across the stream into the woods. On the other side would be the hayloft.

"Do you… do you love Melchior?"

How did he know it was Melchior? Ernst was once again silent. "I might have loved him… once," he finally said after thinking about it. His cheeks flushed to admit this to the older boy, but it felt good to get it off his chest.

Hanschen nodded before gently pulling the younger boy's face toward him and sealing their secret with a kiss. "Good, because I can heal your wounds," Hanschen told him when they had parted.

Ernst was shocked that the older boy was bold enough to kiss him, but he smiled and leaned in for another kiss, which the older boy gave him.


/insert witty comments about this fic here/ /Ana drops on her bed in exhaustion/