An extra long chapter for all my lovely followers! I ignored my homework for you guys! (You're welcome!)
Chapter 14: Technically Alive
I looked around. I was hesitant to find him at first—I had a guilty conscious of having left him without his knowing. I was less walking, and more creeping. Peeking around corners before turning and knocking on doors before entering. I had assumed he would have returned back to his own room after seeing that I wasn't where he'd left me. I had knocked so gently, that the sound hardly reached my own ears. I gradually increased its volume, wishing that he would at last, open the door. My knocking was only catalyst to the growing tumult in my chest and head. Finally, after what felt like hours condensed into the length of a minute, I persuaded myself to open the door. He wasn't there. The lights were off, and the scape untouched by human life. I chided myself for the apprehension I had felt, only to receive such conclusion. I then started to comb through the usual places, less worried and more anxious about meeting him. I checked into the common room, walking over to a bookcase. I plucked out a navy-bound book, opening it somewhere near the middle. Pusillanimous \pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-muhs\ , adjective: Lacking in courage and resolution; contemptibly fearful; cowardly. I turned my head to look at the rest of the room. Mello wasn't there either. I slid the dictionary back into place, walking back into the hallway. I traveled to the library next. I spent quite a while, wondering amongst the shelves, never feeling satisfied as I went around. I don't know the chances of it happening, but what if we are just nearly missing each other? What if we are both in the library, but as we look for each other the shelves are placed just so we cannot see each other? I approached the same student teacher that would monitor every day. Her nose was nearly pressed against the paper she was writing on. Small, precise, little loops of cursive. She didn't notice my presence, and I decided not to bother her until she found time to notice on her own. While constructing another long string of loops, her eyes shifted upwards, probably out of habit. The loop she'd been in the process of making became a long dash of ink across the paper as her head followed her eyes to see me. I apologized for surprising her, and she told me it was alright. I asked if she had seen Mello enter the library at all today. Her eyes widened, eyebrows raising as she put up a weak smile. She hadn't been looking, but she didn't think she had. I left after she gave her word to keep and eye out. I passed by the boys rooms again. I looked inside Matt's room. He wasn't there. I looked in my own room—it was really the only other room I was able to check. And all the while, I would look out the window. I hoped to maybe see him pass by. To see him and a group of children playing. They weren't out today though. It was the transition of fall into winter. Not until there was snow on the ground would there be much to do outside. The summer was long gone. I wandered though the halls wondering. I looked out the window, and stopped. When had all the leaves fallen? They were all bare... How much time had passed? Since the very beginning—only the end of a summer, and all the fall. Things have changed so much. So much.
I entered the room where I had last saw Mello. He sat by the bookshelf, paging through a used paperback of Homer's Iliad. He was draped comfortably in the seat, leaning into one corner of the backrest, legs hanging over the armrest. I was kind of...shocked into stupidity. I didn't know what to say. He'd been waiting here the whole time? I felt so stupid. I really wanted to blame him for all the trouble I was going through. It would be so nice to blame him for everything. I wanted to blame him, and be...angry. But I also didn't. I was happy to see him.
Mello looked at me, slowly lowering the book. His legs slid off the armrest and onto the floor. He didn't care to mark the page he was on, he simply laid it on the seat next to him. He didn't look angry. He looked almost happy.
"You came back?" he asked.
"I'm glad. I mean...I wasn't really sure what to do when I saw you were gone. I wanted to go find you, but then I thought maybe you didn't want to see me? I didn't know what to do, so I sat down and hoped that you would come back."
Mello gave a casual smile. No teeth showing, just an upward curve to show satisfaction in the situation. It was like...he liked me. It was weird to think so now, after going through so much, but the realization struck me with an odd suddenness. Though, it felt like that now. Like he'd shed all gloom and doubt that he had for me—cast it off and was happy.
"When did you ever get the chance to grow to feel towards me? You hated me, and yet you cared for me?"
"This again?" Mello stood up, crossing his arms. "I've told you already."
"But...I don't understand. Hate and love are different."
"Not so much... it is really easy to hate someone you like. The thing is, that hate always wears off, and you get more mad at yourself for not being able to stay mad."
"Is that so..."
"It is so."
"That is it."
"You expected more?" Mello walked so there was only a body's length between us, arms still crossed.
"I don't know. I guess I didn't know what to expect." I was staring at our feet, unsure of what I should be doing.
"What about you?"
I looked up at the immediate addressal. Mello had raised his eyebrows, looking pointedly.
"What about you, Near? What the hell is your reason for liking me, since we keep coming back to the subject anyway."
What? My reason? "I...don't know. I didn't at first. I was only interested in why you acted the way you did...it escalated from there."
I couldn't pinpoint a exact moment. It wasn't from the moment we had kissed. It had to have been before that, or I most likely wouldn't have allowed it. I can't say when...but sometime along the way. How did it happen?
Mello smiled with mischief. "What do you like about me then?"
Like about him? I frowned, thinking it over.
"Ah—I was only teasing. You don't have to take it so seriously..."
"I've had a recent attraction to your eyes," I stated.
Mello's mouth hung open a little, surprised.
"That's only a small part though...I do like other things too."
Mello had lowered his arms, standing straight and looking at me. I stared at his left hand now. I was kind of out of conversation material. My last remarks had taken more of an effort to say than I had expected. They had bumbled past my lips in barely a murmur. The atmosphere was uncomfortable again. Mello had lost his little smile and was staring somewhere past my head. I don't think either of us knew what to do next. I wished for someone to conveniently walk in and save the day. They didn't come though. We both stood silent. I struggled to figure what the next move would be. I sifted through the thoughts in my head. Nothing. I was thoughtless. Stuck in an unusual suspension of reality and a dream.
I looked up at Mello.
"Where were you this morning?"
It seemed only like an attempt at normal conversation, yet inconveniently it was a conversation I didn't wish to have. "This...morning?"
"I...had to shower."
"You had to shower?"
"Yes. And I hope that is is alright with you if I cannot return the clothes you lent me..."
"The clothes? You mean those pajamas?"
Why? "Because..." How was I meant to explain? It was because... "Just because."
"Really, just because?"
"Not just because...I just don't want to say so."
"I don't want to say..."
"You are surprisingly shy for how apathetic you used to be."
I grimaced. Yes. I can appreciate my old ability to tell simply what I meant.
"I wrecked them."
"I don't know. I had a dream...not a bad one. But the product of that dream resulted in your ruined clothes."
"Yes. I'm sorry—I've never...so I didn't know what to do. I tried to fix it. I failed..." My face was increasing in temperature. It was probably noticeable. He could probably tell by know what that meant. For some reason, that agitated my insides more than it should have.
"Don't worry about it." Mello crossed his arms again, not making eye contact. "They weren't that special..."
The conversation puttered to a stop. We could have spent forever trying to explain things in words...and I imagined we'd still end up in the same place. It's hard to try and label. Labels are useless unless it is something concrete. I don't think it is fair to confuse people with feelings being labeled. That is my problem. I try to label things, like feelings, when a label doesn't work. Word just don't do the actual feelings justice. To say, "mad" is only a cardboard definition. You don't feel mad, just by hearing the word. You have to experience it. I can't say what I was feeling...but it was something that made me lean up. It made me put my lips on his, because that is what I wanted to do. It was only a moment, though. I can hardly stand to be in that position for long...
Mello's eyes were a bit wider than usual. Then again, I was acting less than usual. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who was surprised. Though, he recovered faster than I. Mello came very close. Another kiss, very soft and laced with caution. As if he were ready to pull away at any moment. I didn't like that. I don't want him to be so anxious to leave. I held onto his back, trying keep close. It was warm. I took a breath through my nose, inhaling the sent of clean hair and...chocolate. The next vision bloomed in my brain, a vivid memory played within a fraction of a second. My eyes opened to make sure I was where I had left myself, and I pulled away. Mello stood frozen, not daring to move. I felt a fever that was too familiar. Was this going to happen every time we were close? Would it always end like this then?
"It's nothing you've done," I tried to explain. "I just... I can't."
He didn't move from his place on the floor. He straitened up, looking passive. "It's alright. I told you already, I won't do anything you aren't willing to do."
I'm not unwilling. I don't think my responses are necessarily negative, only that I cannot control them. I cannot control them, and I'm not sure exactly what to do with them. I looked toward the open doorway. "Is this the proper place to be engaging in...?"
Mello's eyes flickered towards the hallway. "I guess not."
He uprooted himself, walking out. I followed close behind, whether or not he wished me to or not was unknown, but I felt compelled to. After a few turns, I knew where we were headed. It was only a few moments before we both stopped in front of his room. I could decide not to enter. He was allowing me, if I wanted, to escape. There was no need to escape though. I waited patiently, however long it took him to understand.
I want to save this memory to myself though. So, I will stop here. I don't want to taint it with words—so I will remember it as it was, without explanation.
"You okay?" Matt asked, sitting in the desk next to me. That wasn't is assigned spot, yet assigned placement wasn't as enforced as strictly as it may have been in other institutions.
"I'm fair. Do you have a reason you're asking, or were you just being polite?"
"You look tired. Dreams still getting to you?"
"Really? You were making such a big deal about it yesterday."
"That conclusion is incorrect as well."
"What happened then? You look worn out."
"My time yesterday was spent on other things."
"Other things? What does that mean?"
"It means—" I was then witness as Matt was tipped onto the floor and replaced by a boy more blonde.
"Good day, Near." Mello said, making no acknowledgment of his other friend.
Matt grinned on the floor, sitting upright and hugging his knees. "Thanks a lot—I see how it is."
Mello looked down, "Oh. Matt, I'm sorry. I didn't see you down there."
"I'm sure that's true," Matt was able to hop back to his feet, standing casually with his hands in his seat pockets.
"So, what were you over here for anyway?"
"I was just talking to Near. I'm allowed to do that much, aren't I?"
"I don't know. I guess. Why would you ask me?"
Matt shrugged. "You used to get so...passionate, about keeping Near to yourself or something..."
"I did not."
"That's a fat lie."
Mello rolled his eyes, refusing to answer.
"So, things are better then? No more..." Matt did an exaggerated pantomime, twisting his face up, clawing that the air and gnashing his teeth. He broke into a smile afterward, looking with glassy green eyes. Mello sneered, only a moment before smiling back. They both had such an unusual relationship.
"Everything is fine, Matt," Mello insisted.
Matt raised his eyebrows, the arches disappearing into his bangs.
Mello stood up, kicking the chair he'd been sitting on. "Yeah."
Matt nudged me in the shoulder. I looked up at them both, dazed and tired. "Hm?"
"You have to remember though, you still need to sleep," Matt reminded.
"I know that sleep is a necessity. I have not forgotten."
"Well, sometimes people need reminding. Sometimes it's easy to...disregard that for other things..."
"Matt, stop making such dramatic conclusions about our personal lives," Mello droned, crossing his arms.
"Don't act as though you've changed completely. When you're passionate about something, you tend to dedicate yourself to that thing, and that one thing only. Before every test, you study through the night, every night, for weeks. When you're pissed off, you beat the kid until you're forcefully restrained. I can only pity over what Near might have to go through."
It wasn't as if I weren't there. "I am treated very well. There hasn't been anything I have had trouble with—Mello is very gentle."
Mello's eyes widened, and his face blushed as he began to cough. Matt laughed out loud, holding a hand over his mouth. I didn't understand the humor.
Mello punched Matt in the arm, "Shut up, he didn't mean it like that."
"Even if he didn't—"
"Why do you have to know everything, huh? I'm not asking about your personal life."
"I don't have a personal life!"
"You sure as hell don't. If you weren't burying you head in all those retarded games—"
"Hey. You don't need to go into defense mode, alright? I'm teasing. Teasing. That is something friends do. Take a chill pill."
Mello swallowed, looking at the ceiling.
"It's alright. I know how sensitive you are."
Mello glared at Matt through squinted eyes. Their interactions seemed so full of malice, yet it was underlined with sentiment. Matt smiled, and Mello quirked up the corner of his mouth. Sometimes I wonder if their arguments are all just an act. They get along so well.
Mello looked back to be now, smiling more slightly still. I recalled the night before, and suddenly became very focused on my desktop. He knew very well what I had been thinking. I felt his fingertips brush against the top of my head as he walked to the back of the room. Matt said a rushed goodbye, escaping the classroom just as the teacher entered.
"Un cœur aimant est le commencement de la connaissance."
"What is that?"
"Oh, I am just talking to myself... Near, you seem to be moving forward very much now," Creole commented, as we both sat across from each other in the library.
"I mean...you do not seem nearly as...confused. As you had. It makes me suspect that something has changed?"
She already has guessed—she is only waiting for confirmation. I wonder where she had come across that knowledge?
"Is it Mello?"
She already knew.
"I knew it. I knew it. There was a certain...Je ne sais pas. I can't describe what I see. You both look healthy. Very!"
"Oui! You have color to you now! A lovely rouge in your cheeks."
"As my mémé said, 'Les joues roses font un coeur heureux.' Rosy cheeks are a happy heart!" Creole reached forward, grasping a hold of one of my hands. "You are happy, are you not?"
"I am so glad to have seen this part of you, Near."
What? I had been staring at our hands entwined together, and only did her voice draw my eyes away. Creole had buried her head in her arms. The voice was muffled.
"Avant de vous quitter..."
Creole took back her hands, covering her faced. Her hands twisted harshly around her eyes. A sniff.
"Nothing, Petit. I just am happy for you..."
"Those don't look like tears of happiness," I noted, seeing the reflective streaks.
Creole lowered her hands, eyes red. "Ah, there is nothing I can put past you now, I can tell."
"Nothing you should worry about, Petit. I am simply facing consequences of what I have done and throwing a fit over it. Tu vas me manquer," Creole rubbed her eyes again. "We should meet again someday, no? I'd like to meet you when you are a grown man."
"I'm sure you will be handsome! I cannot wait."
"What happened? Why are we saying goodbye?"
"This is not goodbye. It is not a goodbye unless you allow it to be." Creole smiled a watery smile. I felt my insides clench involuntarily.
"Where are you going?"
"I only wanted to have parting words with you...and to wish you happiness. I could only imagine the troubles you had...you were so lost it seemed. But now, it looks as though things are different. I don't need to worry and neither should you for me."
"Where are you going?"
Creole tucked a curl behind her ear and stood up, "Away."
I stood up too. Was she leaving now?
Creole walked over, wrapping her arms around me in an embrace. I didn't enjoy the finality in the action. I held on.
"You're my friend. I get it—you're my friend. So, don't leave now. Don't leave. I didn't even have time to enjoy it."
"I regret that our time together seemed so short... Near, you must let go."
"Are you really leaving?"
"Near, I have to go..." her voice was nearing a cry again.
"We are friends. Near, you have to let go now."
"Are you leaving soon?"
"After I've said my farewells..."
"Why hadn't you told me?"
"You were going through so much...I couldn't have heaped on more troubles for you. This is for the best. Near. We will forever be friends. You've improved so much already that I imagine you don't really need me either way."
"Creole..." She was carefully unwrapping my arms, forcing them apart.
"Now, now. You are not this clingy, do not pretend."
My arms were removed, and I dropped them down to my sides. They were useless either way.
"Are you really leaving?"
"I am going to miss you."
Creole smiled weakly. "I will miss all of you... You, Mello, and Matt. Everyone. I wish I hadn't ruined things for myself."
"Is this goodbye?"
"Non, non, non. Just...see you later." She stood on her tiptoes, kissing each of my cheeks with the softness of a gentle breeze. She pulled away, eyes still red yet not looking so sad. "Oui. See you later, Near. I wish you the best when growing up. I wish I could be here with you."
"See you later." I couldn't tell if she caught the whisper as I was finally able to force it as she turned to leave. Creole didn't look back. That was the last time I saw her. It turns out that she had been getting into trouble. She had been stealing, and this last time she had stolen something that no one was supposed to see. Creole was transferred. Whatever that meant. I was...sad. It felt as if I had lost a friend as soon as I had made one. It began to snow regularly. I liked to wear the sweatshirt she'd given me, and there were times where it was unusual not to have her burst into a room. I would think, where is she? Soon enough, after enough cases of disappointment, I had finally convinced myself that she was not there anymore. Soon enough after that, I was back to what was my normal self. There was still Matt. And of course, there was still Mello.
"You have to lock the door if you want any privacy. It has become a habit of some people to walk in here without warning..." I offered the advice ironically, due to the fact that Mello had done exactly that.
Mello leaned his back into the door, closing it. "Oh, is that so?"
I didn't respond, concentrating on the soldier in my hands. I was bothered enough by their uniformity, that I had taken it upon myself to give each one their own characteristics. It took an unusual bit of creativity to make each one different, but I was determined. Painting over the plastic faces, there were now a combination of smiles, frowns, freckles, wrinkles, scars. I was actually impressed with what I was accomplishing.
"Are you still working on those things?" Mello asked, leaning around to see what I had been working on.
"Still? I only begun yesterday, and I'm nearly finished now."
"Why are you doing that?"
"Because it didn't make sense for them to be identical. All people are different in their own ways." I took the brush, giving the blue soldier thicker eyebrows. Then, I gave him a thick mustache to match.
"They're only toys."
"Maybe," I set the man down, twisting around to face Mello. He bumped his forehead against mine and straitened upright.
"Otherwise, you're not busy?"
"No. I finished all work I have in class."
"Alright..." Mello stood there, saying nothing else. His hands were inside his pockets, wiggling around.
"Not really. I just came to see you."
I couldn't just ignore him then. I scooted the chair back, the wooden legs scraping against the floor. Standing, I wasn't as short as I used to be. I've grown, haven't I? Mello is still taller, though I am about equal to how tall Matt is now. I stretched my back, reaching above my head. I shouldn't stay crouched like that for so long.
Mello wasn't saying anything. I stopped, curious.
"Nothing is wrong?"
He shook his head.
I tucked my hands into my hair, leaning to the side and stretching again. Mello and I haven't been alone with each other for a while, I think. There were a load of testing things we had to deal with, and when we weren't dealing with that, Matt was along with us. Hm.
"Do you wanna sit down? I guess there's nothing that interesting to talk about."
Mello sat down on the bed, and I sat next to him, still trying to stretch.
"How have you been?"
"I've been fine."
"Good." I twisted ninety degrees to the left, satisfied with the crack given. I rolled my shoulders, making sure everything was loose now.
Mello didn't say anything, and I didn't feel particularly pressed to, so we sat quietly side by side.
I looked over, and Mello was staring right into my eyes. It had been a while since I looked. I still was drawn in by those eyes. The light and the dark...the feud I imagined between them was still memorizing. I was struck. Frozen. No, not frozen. I felt compelled to do so, and gave a kiss.
I could hear him breathe out heavily as I scooted closer, closing the gap between us. He was the only source of heat that I craved. Pressed more into the interaction, finally getting more of a response. Mello was keeping his promise, he never did anything that I hadn't asked for. Though, that leaves me having to ask for everything...and that has a way of ending things soon afterward, because I don't know what I should be asking for. For example...now.
I pulled away. I had to breathe.
He didn't respond, aside from looking me in the eye.
"Could I...suggest something?" He probably wasn't going to answer, so I continued, "Could I just...give you permission? To do whatever?"
"Yes... Permission to kiss, touch, and whatever comes with that."
I don't see why I would suggest it otherwise. I've come so far as to become comfortable enough with our relationship that I didn't produce a fever at a peck anymore... I suspected that I could survive a bit more than that then. "Yes, really."
I was surprised at the smile I received. Like a child on their birthday. Mello was suddenly crawling over me, pressing me into the bed with a fevered kiss. It was dizzying at first, but I was able to keep my brain from scattering and was able to realize how nice it was. His hair was ticklish on my face, and his fingers traveling all over. I could hear the zip as my sweatshirt was undone, and he helped my sit upright in order to take it off. There was a nice draft on my exposed skin...I hadn't been wearing any button-up today. Mello followed suit, lifting his shirt over his head and tossing it to the side. I was pressed back into the sheets, victim to random nips across my torso. Each nip prompted my stomach to jerk, and I think he was enjoying that immensely.
"Y-you better st-ahp that... If you're l-eaving marks..."
Mello came back up to face me. "I don't think I am..."
"You better not risk it. I bruise easily, remember?"
Mello sighed, giving a quick kiss. "Ah."
He slid back down, pressing his mouth near my ribs. Suddenly, out came something hot, wet, and wriggling. I couldn't suppress the gasp, or squeak, or whatever you might call it...as I tried to squirm away from the tongue. Mello lifted his head away, and I could feel the cold air around the place his mouth had been.
"You don't like that either? It won't leave a mark..."
"Is that bad?"
"I don't know..."
He returned to giving kisses instead, except when I didn't expect it, he would teasingly run his tongue along a ticklish spot, smirking at the response it got. He made it all the way back to my face, kissing my lips over and over until I kissed back. This was me. This was us. It's unbelievable...I thought I had been a hopeless case. Only someone who would experience the technicalities of life, not life itself. Now, I know happiness, sadness, arousal... I don't always understand what I feel, but apparently that is typical. I suffer all the symptoms of life, plus a few more...so what does that make me? Well, technically, alive.
Thank you everyone who stuck with me until this day came! I love you all!
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