Constellations

A/N: Alright, so, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to post this, but I shared it with one of my friends (aka eksley05) and she said I should, so here it is! Christophe's family is my own creation, as is his backstory here. And yes I know this is ricockulously long and should probably be split into two chapters but I really feel like it flows better without it being broken up.
One important thing to remember is that this is Christophe's story, not Kyle's. There may seem to be (and there are) parts of the whole story missing from Kyle's side of things, but that's done on purpose.
And If anyone's wondering about my chaptered stories…check my updated profile, yeah? Anyway, onwards!
Warnings: Blood and violence, 'cause, you know, Christophe is a mercenary, character death, light drug use, swearing and (pretty vaguely written) sex.
Pairings: Christophe/Kyle. There are past pairings that are implied, but they aren't overly obvious.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer goes here.

(one)

Christophe can feel the blood (sticky and hot) staining the torn fabric he has wrapped around his upper arm. He doesn't look to see it, mostly because he can feel it. He's done this too many times for it to really be some big fucking deal so he doesn't make it out to be one as he enters the drugstore, which is nearly empty anyway.

The lady, girl really, behind the counter just snaps her gum at him, tap, tap, taps her carmine nails on the matching countertop in front of her, says nothing. He doesn't think he's seen her here before, but he figures that if you work the nightshift at a drugstore in this town, well. Him stumbling through the automatic doors probably isn't the weirdest thing this chick has seen while working her hours.

He's been here before so he doesn't have to look to know where to go. He still kind of inventories in his mind, though. Grad cards, stately and matte and gold, all calling out to him. Five dollar DVDs that no one's ever going to really want, but all wrapped in shiny cellophane, awaiting someone, anyway. Some kid with red hair and a brand new backpack (though he looks too old for something like that) pushing through the colorful boxes of hair dye.

Christophe ignores him. Other people are–unnecessary, he decides is the right word. Other people are unnecessary. Yeah, that sounds right.

The aisle he's looking for is near the back of the store. By where the pharmacy is, closed-up for the night, almost eerie in the flickering fluorescent lights. He can feel the fabric around his upper arm threatening to slip down, but he just braces it against his side (and shit, that kind of hurts, he winces) and lets his eyes wander until.

Ah. Bandages and hydrogen peroxide, one in a neat little box and the other in a trusty brown colored bottle. Christophe grabs both with his right hand, his left hand feeling like it's not even there, even though he can see it, it still feels like it's not even there.

Could be worse. Could be like that time last year when his right knee had been practically split open and he had felt everything (saw everything, too, the blood and muscle, yellow fat and even the protruding bone of his kneecap). Yeah, he thinks, could be worse.

The bottle-blonde at the front counter has been watching him the entire time, he knows, and she dutifully grabs the items he has, once he sets them down, passing them over the scanner and waiting for the affirmative beeps that mean the computer has processed whatever the hell those black and white lines are called–Christophe can't remember and doesn't really care to.

"That will be," she says, all bored and words covered by chewing gum, "uh." He sees her falter for a second, bright red nails hovering above the cash drawer, dull brown eyes moving almost imperceptibly to the left. "Five eighty-seven."

But Christophe is looking behind him, where he knows she was looking for just that fraction of a second, and he's surprised he didn't feel it. The redhead with his brand new backpack, standing right behind him, eyebrows all–oh, what did they call it–knitted together and mouth just slightly open. The look is the one people get right before they ask haven't they met you somewhere before.

"Right," he says, quickly turning back to the girl at the counter, "Five...five?" He's fumbling for words, not wanting to give the redhead behind him any silence that he can fill with an inquiry.

"Five eighty-seven," the girl snaps, and it takes him a second to realize that the giant mass of pink he can see out of the corner of his eye as he searches for change in his pockets (he has too many fucking pockets in these pants) is her blowing a bubble. In the end he just throws a five and a single at her and mutters that she can keep the change.

"Hey, don't you want a bag?" she yells after him.

But he can barely hear her as he leaves the drugstore, listening only to the mechanized swoosh of the automatic doors. He can hear the redhead behind him too, and he knows it's useless to try and get away. Not because he can't get away from the kid, but more like because this was going to happen eventually, so why not right now?

He sits down on the edge of the sidewalk in front of the drugstore, long legs and bandages and bottle of hydrogen peroxide all sprawled out on the pitch black of the parking lot.

The redhead sits next to him, brand new backpack settled between his skinny legs, playing with the zippers.

"Fuck," Christophe mutters to himself as he starts peeling away his haphazard tourniquet. It's hard to see in the faint parking lot lighting but he thinks that the gash isn't so bad as it feels. It's not deep, anyway, probably hit an artery which explains the amount of blood, but nothing serious. Which translates to: no need to go to a hospital, which is definitely good news.

"Hey, um," the redhead says, and then pauses as he watches Christophe throw the fabric into the parking lot where it lands with a slightly disquieting noise, looking like it's covered in tar instead of blood in the weak, yellow lighting. "You're, uh. You're him right?"

Christophe glances at the kid for a second and–Jesus, what color are those eyes–scoffs a little. Picks up the hydrogen peroxide and unscrews the top. "Zat depends," he says, holding his arm out and staring at it for a moment, "on who exactly you mean by 'him'." He doesn't hesitate very long, he's not even sure why he hesitates at all.

The redhead flinches noticeably as Christophe pours the liquid onto his wound, keeps his eyes focused on his backpack, says, "Well, you know. That French kid. Ze Mole"–he does this fake French accent that'd be sort of offensive if Christophe was the type to be offended–"or whoever. That's you, right?"

Christophe is already pulling the medical gauze out of the tiny box as he listens to that name come out of the redhead's mouth and he pauses for just a second before continuing. "I 'ave not...no one has called me zat for a very long time," he admits, slowly. He looks at the kid a bit closer and, the kid, he looks back.

His eyes are like...like the color of a cough medicine bottle, Christophe thinks. Which is a weird comparison, but, hey, he's a weird guy. He just can't help but to think of Nyquil when he looks at the kid. How even when you hold one of those bottles up to the light you still can't really see past that dark green.

"B-but," the redhead stutters, obviously flustered under Christophe's stare, "that was you, right? Um. You were...you remember all that, right? Helping us?"

Christophe doesn't answer as he starts to wrap the bandage around his upper arm, something he can only do because he's done it so many times. He likes doing this, likes making the bandage so tight around his skin that it almost makes the wound hurt more.

"Hnh," he answers, in the most non-committal way that he can. "I 'ave helped a lot of people."

The redhead pouts in what he probably thinks is an angry way, but instead he just looks like a fish or something. Christophe grins into his shoulder as he finishes wrapping the bandages.

"I remember, I remember," he says, looking sideways at the kid sitting next to him, a smirk the closest thing to a smile that he's willing to give. "Kyle, ah, oh, somezing."

"Broflovski," the redhead mutters, flushing something awful. "I know it's not the easiest thing to remember." He's playing with the zippers on the brand new backpack again.

"I am not good wiz last names on principal, Kyle," Christophe says, raising an eyebrow at the way Kyle's hands shake just slightly when he says his name.

"Well I never even really knew your real name, so," the redhead glances up at him as Christophe is standing up, already thinking about getting back to his apartment and getting as much sleep as he can before his phone starts ringing in the afternoon. Christophe can sense that the kid wants to know his name, but he ignores it. The less people who know his name...well, the better.

"Not zat I care," he says, off-handedly as he heads towards his car (and, yeah, he hears the jingling of the zippers on that backpack and the hurried footsteps that tell him that the kid is following him once more), "but what are you doing up so late? Don't you 'ave school tomorrow?" Unless he's totally off, which is possible because he kind of just runs on what his body tells him, he's relatively sure that it's about three in the morning and tomorrow, today, really, is a Tuesday.

"I'm always up this late," is the self-assured answer that he gets. There's no weariness, no exhaustion in the words, so Christophe knows that Kyle is something like an insomniac by choice.

"Well, you shouldn't be," Christophe says. He doesn't really care, doesn't even really look back at the kid, but he says it anyway because probably it's the right thing to say.

"How old are you anyway?" the redhead asks, and they're halfway across the parking lot now, walking on faded yellow lines that make up the empty parking spots.

Christophe stops walking, sighs and lets himself look at Kyle for a few seconds longer than are probably necessary. In the middle of the parking lot his eyes are easier to see through, his hair more obvious and frizzy, his skin almost fucking translucent. Hell, if Christophe wasn't outside with him right now he'd assume the kid never left his house.

"I am nineteen," he answers, slowly, wondering why that should matter to some kid he hardly even knows.

"No shit?" Well the redhead seems surprised enough. "So you were, what, eleven back then?"

"Um, oui, no shit," Christophe repeats. He's getting tired of holding the stuff he bought in his hand, it's all sweaty and for some reason this is just making him uncomfortable. "I was–small, when I was little."

"Yeah, no shit," Kyle says, and Christophe wonders how many times they're going to have to use that particular phrase. He quickly calculates that Kyle is a year or two younger than him, so, at best, he's eighteen and probably a senior in high school. Probably graduating soon. (Christophe graduated from the Catholic school in Fairplay, and all he remembers learning there was that while his friends were putting their hands up some of the girls' tartan skirts he was content to be coercing that stupid, blond sophomore boy into giving him a blow job.)

Christophe has to clear his throat, mouth dry at the thought, and asks what he's been wondering for a while. "What is in your backpack?" He's surprised to realize that he actually wants to know the answer. Well, he figures, it sure as shit isn't homework, and so whatever it is has to be interesting on some level.

"Um." Kyle swings the thing off his shoulder and unzips it a bit, peering in. "Some hair dye stuff, some movie with, uh, Sandra Bullock or whoever, some hairspray, some cologne...I think it's cologne anyway..."

"Why–is zat," Christophe says, not sure how to actually ask what he's thinking. Something like: why the fuck is all that shit in your backpack and why do you not know what it all is and why are you so weird. He doesn't remember Kyle being this weird, but then he doesn't remember much of anything, and he was (is) pretty weird anyway so, in comparison...

"I stole it all," the kid shrugs, flushing just a bit. "I mean I wouldn't have told you if you hadn't asked. I don't brag about it. I just uh...it's what I do, I guess, when I can't sleep." Christophe thinks, that's...well. Kleptomania that only occurs when the person can't sleep can't exactly be a common thing. If, you know, the redhead is even telling the truth. "You're not going to uh...kill me, right? That's what you do, I mean, so."

"Kyle," Christophe sighs the kid's name more than he says it, and the redhead's hands shake just a bit again, "I am only going to kill you if you insist on following me home." And with that he leaves the redhead, with no intention of ever seeing him again.

(two)

So, of course, he sees him again. It's maybe a month (give or take a few days) since they first met, and it's under those same fluorescent lights, on the aisle that Christophe often abuses at these late hours. Really, where else would it be?

"What're you looking for?" the redhead asks, just all of a sudden there like he's been hiding behind the rack of sunglasses at the end of the aisle, waiting for Christophe to show up.

Christophe, to his credit, doesn't jump in surprise, mostly because, somehow, he isn't surprised. And, besides that, he has an awful headache and, really, just hurts all over. He doesn't really have it in him to be surprised, quite honestly.

"Painkillers," he mutters, "I ran out of zem."

"These work?" And Kyle is some sort of magician, because he has the little box that holds exactly what Christophe is looking for. He grabs them from the redhead with a muttered thanks and a silent hope that he'll be left alone (but also this kind of small wish that he won't be and he's not exactly sure why that is).

He isn't left alone as he buys the painkillers from the guy at the counter (some twentysomething guy who's, most likely, high and whose dreadlocks probably indicate a dislike of being clean more than they do some sort of misguided fashion statement). Kyle follows him out of the drugstore and to the parking lot, where Christophe stops and looks at the kid for a minute.

It's only been a month, so it's not like he's changed much. But still, he's definitely different, calmer maybe, not fidgeting around with the backpack, which is still there but less brand new now. That hair is still deep red and frizzy in the parking lot lighting and those eyes are still hard to see through from a distance. He's still guarded, yet somehow open.

Well, Christophe thinks, he hasn't changed much either, save for the haircut he gave himself a week or so ago, just orange scissors in front of his bathroom mirror. His hair's still an absolute tragedy but at least his bangs don't get in his eyes anymore. Other than that, he figures, he probably still looks like the weird French kid who no one really knows.

He leans against the brick wall of the drugstore, more out of exhaustion than anything–he's so fucking tired. Finds a half empty pack of cigarettes in one of the pockets of his pants, along with his cheap lighter. And, hey, for ninety-nine cents it's pretty damn reliable.

"You 'ave school tomorrow?" he asks, before leaning in to light his cigarette. He sees the redhead eyeing him with something like apprehension and knows it's because this is kind of weird, acting like they talk all the time or something. But, Christophe thinks, what does the kid expect? Other people are unnecessary to Christophe, sure, but he knows as well as the next person that it's not good to go without some conversation now and again, so.

"I, uh, no," Kyle responds, looking down at the ground for a second. "Uh, graduation rehearsal, you know. But no...no school."

"Excited?" Christophe asks around his cigarette. He doesn't know what to say. He didn't go to his graduation. Never got a cap and gown. Doesn't know about that whole experience and kind of sort of doesn't care about it.

"I guess," the redhead says, hesitates, then adds, "I mean, I guess I am. In like, the purely, I'm done with school sort of thing, all that bullshit. But...well, yeah, it's kind of bullshit."

"You will, ah, appreciate it later on in life or somezing like zat," Christophe says, with a smirk. It's not that he doesn't believe that what he's saying is true–honestly, Kyle is exactly the sort of person who those sorts of sentiments apply to–but he still knows that he sounds like a Hallmark greeting card, which is exactly the sort of thing that he avoids sounding like.

"Right," Kyle has this sort of smile on his face (where it doesn't really reach his eyes, but Christophe doesn't think anything reaches those eyes), "well, I'll get back to you on that one."

Christophe pauses at the words, which he realizes are just a figure of speech, but, still. He finds his cell phone easily; it's one of the few things that he always knows where it is, mostly because he rarely uses it. Tossing it to the redhead, who catches it more because of reflex than anything, Christophe says, "Put your number in zere."

Kyle doesn't say anything but Christophe can see that he's finding his way around the phone like only someone their age can, not needing any help as he enters his own information into it.

"Why do you want my number, anyway?" the redhead asks, but he's already handing the cell phone back, and the question is right near Christophe's shoulder as he comes to stand next to him.

A question like that is hard to answer with anything but the truth, especially when this redheaded kid who might just be the only person you've really talked to in a while is this close when asking it. So Christophe just says, "Because I want it," because he does.

He walks away from the kid and turns back when he's about halfway through the parking lot. Kyle's just kind of staring at the ground like he's wondering what the hell just happened, and Christophe can sympathize–maybe a bit sort of a little, okay not at all because Christophe always knows what's going on. But he feels for the kid, nonetheless, knows that this all is not exactly a normal situation.

So he calls back to the redhead, "What time does zis rehearsal end?"

Kyle looks up–and, fuck, those eyes–then calls back, "Around ten, I think."

And then Christophe leaves, with nothing more than that question as a promise, because it's exactly like him to do something like that.

(three)

Christophe goes to church on Tuesdays. His mother would be mad that he's not going on the Lord's Day, but most people would be surprised that he goes at all, so he finds something like a happy medium in going in on Tuesday evenings when there's almost no one there and the candles don't flicker because there's enough oxygen for the flames to stay alive.

The church in this small town is nothing special. Just the Stations of the Cross in stained glass windows and statues of Jesus and Mary in alcoves. Fake green plants in corners and a crying room in the back. Sometimes there will be a family back there, like today, with their kids. One of them is small enough for the mother to hold him in her arms while he's lulled to sleep by the pastor's voice that drones over the speakers.

The other is a little girl with blonde hair in messy pigtails and patent leather shoes that were probably shiny once, back before anyone owned them. Christophe doesn't know her name but every time he sees her here he smiles–a real smile too–and she waves a little after checking to make sure her parents aren't watching, because she's still at that age where strangers are the only people who can hurt you.

Christophe likes kids, which is probably just as surprising as his weekly visit to church. He doesn't have a reason to not like kids, really, is what it is. Sure some of them can probably be real nasty, and they were never very nice to him when he was a kid, but now they all just seem innocent even though he knows they're not.

Leaving the crying room and entering the church he dips his fingers in the holy water by the doors, but as always doesn't actually use it to make a cross over himself. It's not that he doesn't want to, he just feels like that sort of thing is reserved for the truly innocent. People in church just have this way of looking at you that makes you think that they can tell every little detail of your life, so while Christophe could probably get away with it he doesn't risk it.

He sits where he always sits, in the back by the stained glass window that shows the fourteenth station, where Jesus is laid in the tomb after his death. Christophe knows all the stations because he had to study them in school and, unlike a lot of the other stories in the Bible, he found it interesting and worth remembering.

See, while Christophe thinks God is, sure enough, a fucking cocksucker, he still believes in Him. And while he knows that Jesus is kind of stupid, he still respects the guy. Anyone who can go through what happens in the Stations of the Cross would earn Christophe's respect. So when Christophe goes to church he doesn't do it out of some sort of misguided spiritual quest, he just does it because he figures that's what you do when you believe in this sort of shit.

And, anyway, it doesn't change the fact that when he leaves at seven oh five he takes a smoke right outside and the only evidence that he was ever there is the dying embers of a half-smoked cigarette that he was too lazy to even finish.

(four)

When Christophe finally does call the redhead it's maybe a week later. And this is partly because he's had so much shit to do (stealing paintings for some guys in this small town outside of Denver, stealing the paintings back for the rich guy he took them from in the first place, no one the wiser) but it's also because Christophe is, for all his self-assurance, still pretty socially awkward.

In the sense that, when he looks at his contacts and finds 'Kyle' staring at him, he has a hard time pressing the call button. He doesn't even want to know how many times he's stared at the glowing screen of his cell phone the past few nights wondering if the redhead even really cares if he calls. Thinking probably not and going to sleep, or trying to, instead.

So when he finally does call it's the opposite of wandering into the drugstore with his arm bleeding everywhere. That is, it's a big fucking deal–to him, at least. And, when Kyle answers, well.

"Yeah?" and the redhead sounds half-asleep and maybe sort of sick, but Christophe still smiles to himself anyway.

"Zis is Kyle, non?" he asks more as a precaution than anything. And well, okay, probably best for the kid to not be aware that he can tell from one word that, oui, it is Kyle.

"Oh, yeah," Kyle says, sounding a bit more awake. "Yeah, this is–uh?"

"Christophe," the French boy supplies. "My name is Christophe."

(five)

For a week it's just phone call, after phone call. Sometimes Christophe doesn't pick up but he (always) calls back as soon as he can. Kyle just always picks up. Christophe takes to talking to him while out on his balcony, looking up at the few stars he can see. After a week–exactly a week–comes the first time that Kyle says something like, "Hey, you want to go for a walk?"

(six)

Christophe lives on the bad side of town–but, really, in a town like South Park there's hardly enough space for there to truly be a bad side. Still, they meet up closer to where Kyle lives, at home with his parents for the summer before he does whatever with his life.

They walk for a while as Kyle thinks and Christophe–well, he thinks too, but mostly just about what it is Kyle could possibly be thinking. It's not the middle of the night, it's barely nine in the evening, so outside it's dark but not pitch black and inside houses you can see the golden glow of lamplight, where people–normal people–settle into sleep. It's the beginning of summer, so the air is sticky sweet with humidity, even if there are still recluse patches of snow on the ground.

Finally the redhead says, "Concrete," and looks down at the sidewalk they're walking on. Grabs Christophe's wrist with skinny fingers and pulls him, wordlessly, down to the end of the street, to where the sidewalk branches off and curves. "See?" he says, letting go off Christophe and pointing.

Christophe supposes he does. See, that is. There are quiet markings on this one square of sidewalk where someone, a kid probably, pushed their hand in. So, yes, he sees, but no, he doesn't. He nods, regardless.

"I–this doesn't make much sense I know," Kyle rushes to say. "But...but, well." He sighs and then continues, still staring down at the handprint. "When I was little, maybe four or five, when they were putting in the new houses on this side of town, they were also putting in sidewalk. Y'know, digging and putting in planks of wood on the sides and actually pouring the stuff in.

"And they let us–well, actually. See if they let us, like Stan and me and whoever, that would all be too poetic, really." And Kyle smiles as if he finds some sort of twisted humor in that statement, but continues on. "It was the older kids, like eight and nine, more, who got to do it. I think Kenny's older brother's handprint is somewhere. But that's not really the point."

And Christophe is thinking, like, okay, then what is, but just focuses on his cigarette and the sound of Kyle's voice.

"What I'm saying–what I think I'm saying–is that, well this is all too real, but." He sighs again, heavily, and Christophe knows that sigh. It's the type where this all sounded better in your head. "I think that, in as much the way that we, like these kids who got to put their handprints in the concrete, leave a mark on the town we grow up in...I think the town. I think it does the same to the people who grow up in it."

They stand there for a while, Christophe idly blowing smoke up into the air and Kyle still staring down at the sidewalk. Some car, probably full of high schoolers, drives by, bass far too loud, and someone in the car yells at them, but neither of them responds.

"Is zat," Christophe finally asks, "all zat you wanted to tell me?"

Kyle laughs in this strangled kind of way, then meets Christophe's eyes, raising an eyebrow, and says, "Who says I wanted to tell you anything? I just knew you'd listen."

And Christophe knows it's not the truth, especially as the redhead adds more, looking back down now, at anything but the sidewalk.

"Still, I just. I think that you'll never really understand. And that I'll never really understand. I mean me and you. We'll never really understand each other. Because we have these marks on ourselves, from different places and people."

"But isn't zat true for everyone?" Christophe asks, wondering exactly how the kid's thought process is working.

"Maybe," Kyle replies. "But it's different. I know everything about people who I grew up with here, not because they want me to, but just because I do. You and me–we only know what the other person wants us to know."

"And is zat good or bad?" Christophe is asking all the questions, but he knows that if Kyle really didn't want to answer them then they wouldn't be standing here in the first place.

"I don't get that question." And it's a very Kyle thing to say. "I don't get–I think that's just how it is. No good or bad. It just...is."

(seven)

If Kyle had said it was bad, them not knowing everything about one another, then Christophe might have offered his story. Which goes something like this.

He was born in France which, besides being obvious, was also a shitty way to start a story. But Christophe was a mercenary and not a storyteller, so that was where he would have started. He was born in France, in a port town where the ocean met the land and turned into a river. He lived, however, closer to the mountains, where all the affluent families lived, in a large house.

Most of his young life was fairly typical. A little boy growing up in France is not much different than a little boy growing up in most other modernized countries of the world. He was better at fighting than most, stealthier and trickier. But he was somewhat terrible when it came to math and science, and hated school because of it.

Really, his life only ever stopped being typical the day before his brother disappeared once and for all.

Christophe was ten at the time, and, to him, his older brother was something like God. At seventeen Jordan (whom Christophe had always called Jordy, ever since he had been young and unable to pronounce the last syllable) was actually something more like a failure.

But Christophe, as younger brothers are apt to do, practically worshipped him. Because, really, as a child he was no different from any other little boy. Even little redheaded boys growing up across the ocean. They weren't that different at all.

Jordan was different, though. He didn't make the normal older brother sorts of mistakes. Never accidentally swore in front of Christophe or said that he didn't think God really existed. Never told him about boys kissing. None of the things that would, usually, be used by an older brother to shock a normal little boy like Christophe.

All Jordan ever did was run away from home when he was fifteen and Christophe was seven. All he ever did was come back two years later and act like nothing had changed.

The problem, of course, was that everything had changed. That, while Jordan had been off doing God only knows what, Christophe had been stuck at home with no one to talk to.

He had never been particularly good at making friends. And their parents, while good people, were of the type who didn't quite know how to interact with their children, and so the household was, normally, a very quiet one.

So when Jordan did finally return, the only one who was really all that happy to see him back was Christophe. Nine year-old Christophe DeLorne who, really, just like any other kid, only wanted to see his older brother again. He would have taken Jordan back no matter what.

Jordan came with long, uncut hair and a leather jacket, cigarette in hand.

He came to tell Christophe that he was never coming back, not again.

But the fact was that the most important things he did were the ones that he didn't come back to do, but ended up doing anyway.

(eight)

All the things that Christophe doesn't tell Kyle are (probably) for the best.

Kyle doesn't tell him all that much, either, really.

From what Christophe can tell most of their meetings happen when one or both of them needs someone around, but doesn't quite want to talk much. Or maybe it happens when they have things to say that no one else will listen to. Something like that, anyway.

The point is, by the end of June they'll both drop pretty much anything if they sees the other's name when they check to see who's calling.

(nine)

"You know," Kyle says, one day when they're sitting in the food court at the mall.

Neither of them have food, and they're surrounded by people. When you have enough people around you, really, it's almost as good as being alone. They're just two people among maybe three dozen others having conversations. Christophe knows that, in the grand scheme of things, what Kyle is saying hardly matters. But to him–to him, everything Kyle says is important (even if that's stupid), and so he listens.

"You know," Kyle is saying, "I used to think that where I lived was just–like, really fucking weird."

"It is," Christophe says, matter-of-fact. Because, well, it is.

"Yeah," the redhead concedes, slowly, "but, it's all in context isn't it? I mean, because where I grew up was weird...doesn't that make it normal? To me, at least?"

Christophe shrugs and feels himself begin to sweat. Starts to drum his fingers against the top of the table between them, even though what he wants to do is take his cigarettes from his pocket and–well, but he can't.

"Do you ever think," Christophe interrupts, "zat you think too much?"

Christophe thinks Kyle thinks too much. He thinks that Kyle over-analyzes and obsesses and worries and just think, think, thinks way too much. He doubts there's a moment where the kid ever just lets go and does something mindless. Because as much as everyone's crazy about always doing things, sometimes you just need to do nothing.

And Kyle? Is always doing something. And most of the time? That something is thinking.

Kyle pauses at Christophe's question, cocks his head to the side. He's really one of those people who shouldn't be attractive, but who is. One of those people who doesn't know it, too. His neck isn't all that long or elegant and his skin almost looks sickly in the dim light of the food court. But Christophe can't help but want to touch him, even when his only answer is, "Yeah, well, you're just weird."

(ten)

One time Christophe does touch him, when they're standing in the local library between two tall bookshelves packed with books. Libraries in the middle of a sunny day in early July are nearly always close to empty, but Kyle blushes anyway at the way Christophe touches his wrist.

The redhead grabs a book and says, "Let's get out of here."

So they do.

(eleven)

Christophe can't get enough sleep no matter what he does.

He thinks it must be the dreams.

When Christophe was eight and Jordan first ran away everyone said that his parents didn't care. Didn't care that their eldest son was missing. Didn't care that their youngest son could just as easily go missing the next day. Didn't care about anything.

But Christophe knows they did.

Sometimes when he dreams it's of his father. He'll be walking down the hall in the middle of night and see a room with light spilling out of it. He's nine and, therefore, curious, so he goes to the doorway without a second thought. He sees his father, tired and falling apart (but not yet broken) bent over his desk and working. On what, Christophe never knows.

It's not that his father doesn't care, and he's aware of this. Has always known that his father was many things, but uncaring was not one of them. They weren't well off because of any great familial wealth, and it was only by his father's hard work that they lived the lifestyle that they did. So, really, though he cannot, even in his dreams, remember his father's laugh or smile, he knows that his father did care and that him not being there all the time was a sign of that.

Other times when he dreams it's of his mother. He knows her story better because she's told it to him many times. She has said, "Christophe, come here," her voice heavy and weighted with alcohol, and Christophe has come into the sitting room where the late afternoon light filters in–golden. Everything covered in a layer of cigarette smoke.

His mother smells like pressed-on make-up and, beneath that, just like any other mother, the intangible smell that having children gives you. Cigarette smoke is so imbedded in his life that it smells like nothing by now. His mother tells him stories about how she used to be a dancer. How that was her dream. And Christophe always asks if she had to give up that dream for all of this, her husband and her children.

His mother always answers the question the same way, with a smile, "No, mon cher, you see, dreams can often change, and it so happens that along the way I realized that you were my dream all along."

And that's almost always when Christophe wakes up and rolls over, blindly grabbing for his phone, and–

(twelve)

–calls Kyle, just to hear his voice.

This particular time the kid says, "I'm going away to college."

Christophe says, "I know."

"At the end of August."

"I know."

"I'll be–I mean, Denver it's...kind of far away."

"I know."

"Do you, Christophe?" And Kyle says it in a way that no one else can. Says the words that anyone else would say harshly in this sort of soft, half-asleep way. Christophe imagines the redhead lying in bed with his eyes half-closed, even though he knows that's not the case.

"I do, Kyle," he replies.

And then there's dial tone.

(thirteen)

Sitting on a bench by Stark's Pond, Kyle says, "You smoke too much." He says it in the sort of way where Christophe can tell he's been waiting to bring this up. Kyle's the kind of person who will either tell you something the second he thinks of it or tell you about it two weeks later. This has probably been on his mind since three in the morning in the drug store parking lot.

"So?" Christophe says in response.

"So?" Kyle repeats, in disbelief. He sighs. "So, I don't know, I don't want you to die. Or something."

Christophe figures he could make some stupid argument. Like how he could just as easily be hit by a car or gunned down in a grocery store. But that's probably not true and, even if it is, he knows the inherent difference between those scenarios and his smoking cigarettes. He gets it.

"Why do you care?" is what he ends up saying, not looking at the kid sitting next to him, and instead watching as a plane flies in the night sky. From so far away it looks like it's going at a snail's pace.

"Because," Kyle sounds exasperated, "I just do. You'd care if I died, right?"

Christophe shrugs.

"So, I feel the same way. That's all."

(fourteen)

When Jordan left the DeLorne household the first time, no one was ever really quite sure where he had gone. As it turns out, Jordan had gone just about everywhere he could get to using weed and hand jobs as a means of currency.

He used to write letters to his little brother back in France. He'd write them when he was high or drunk; the sorts of times where people living his lifestyle thought of the loved ones they'd left behind. But the letters always got left behind on the floors of hotels and youth hostels, on the bedside tables in the rooms of people he'd slept with the night before. Once he even left one on the beach in Denmark, and he always kind of wondered if it got washed out to sea.

The fact was, Jordan left home because he didn't know what to with his life. He was smart, good-looking and charismatic, but, he had found over the years, dismally bored with everything around him. So he left and, perhaps, he never quite found what he was looking for, but he certainly was no longer bored.

He also started smoking cigarettes.

(fifteen)

One time Kyle has Christophe come over to his house.

Christophe is scared of awkward meetings between him and the redhead's doting (otherwise known as obsessive) mother. But she's not there, she's, "At some meeting for people who are against something," Kyle tells him. It sounds about right.

There's a kid, maybe eleven or twelve pulling on a jacket as he walks down the stairs. Kyle is upstairs, not stupid enough to take the French boy up into his room. Christophe is just kind of standing there in the living room, not used to being in houses that are this clean.

"Hi," the kid says, his mouth seemingly set permanently in what's not a frown and what's not a smile. When he talks there's a hint of silver in his mouth, braces. "What're you doing?" He sounds just like any other kid, except too serious. So not like any other kid, really.

"Waiting for Kyle," Christophe answers, looking up at the ceiling for a second before glancing back at the kid.

"Oh. I'm Ike," the kid offers, zipping up his jacket and walking across the room, like this is a normal occurrence in their house, Kyle bringing home French boys who smell like cigarette smoke and are afraid to sit on the couch. "I won't tell my mom or nothing," he adds as he reaches the front door.

"Alright," Christophe agrees, and then there's a gust of warm-but-still-cool air as Ike leaves the house.

Christophe has a few minutes to himself in the family room. It's really not as clean as he thought, but it's in the sort of way where you have to be looking close to see that things are dusty and covered in fingerprints. The only thing that, really, separates it any from the living room that Christophe knows at his mother's house is the lack of a picture of Jesus, and, Christophe supposes, there's a good excuse for that here.

Kyle comes downstairs offering the question, "Want to get high?" He doesn't have on pants and already has a joint rolled, so, really, is Christophe in any position to say no?

They don't discuss anything important, but, of course, it all feels extremely important at the time.

"I hate wearing pants," Kyle says, for instance.

"Zen don't wear pants," Christophe replies, like it's that simple.

"It's too," Kyle pauses, sighs heavily, finishes, "fucking cold to just wear, like, boxers all the time, though. I think, anyway."

"Zen...I guess you 'ave to wear pants," Christophe decides.

And so on.

Christophe kind of loves it. Later on when they're not really all that high anymore, Kyle's saying how he's pretty sure he doesn't have any pot left, but he can probably get some from Kenny. Says how Kenny's not a dealer, but, well, close enough.

"Kenny...McCormick?" Christophe asks, sitting up on the couch a little. He's long since lost any feeling that he shouldn't be sitting on it.

"Yeah, he's like, um, one of my best friends, I guess," Kyle says, playing with the frayed edges of the sleeve of his hoodie. "I thought you never, like, met him, or whatever. He was sorta dead and all by the time you got involved, from what I remember."

"I know Kenny," Christophe says, sinking back into the couch. "I know him."

(sixteen)

Kenny McCormick, to put it bluntly, just does not give a fuck.

Well, alright, maybe he does, a little.

He lives two floors above Christophe, on the fourth floor of the apartment building. His apartment smells like weed and, if you can make it in a microwave, then it's part of his diet. For money Kenny does whatever. And mostly that's part-time at the video store a block away and every so often that's selling drugs.

He'd dropped out in the middle of junior year, not because he was doing badly or anything like that. It was just that, you know, after dying a few hundred times he'd kind of gone, "What's the point," and decided that he would much rather live life than just–well, whatever.

Point was, he knew how stupid that decision was now. Getting kicked out a few months after making said decision had pretty much solidified that realization. And living paycheck to paycheck in an apartment that was barely big enough for half his ego kind of made it obvious, as well.

But, the one thing that Kenny really does give a fuck about is his friends. And they're always around, to buy drugs or talk movies. Sometimes they'll even sit around and listen to Kenny ramble on about this new camera he wants or whatever, and that's how Kenny knows they're real friends, through and through.

Besides, if he ever gets bored enough, he always has Christophe to annoy.

(seventeen)

"You do?" Kyle says, back in the family room in the middle of suburbia.

Christophe barely has a chance to formulate an answer before the front door is opened and it's Kyle's father (he assumes) saying something about how it's never really warm in this town and it drives him crazy. Christophe is wondering how much the house smells like pot and if this is going to be a problem. Kyle just says, "Yeah, sucks, doesn't it?"

Kyle's father seems to notice Christophe just as he's about to go into the kitchen. All he says is, "Oh, are you one of Kyle's friends from..." and trails off.

"We met, like, years ago, Dad," Kyle says, nonchalant. "Just hanging out and all, you know."

"Right," his father replies, "well, your mother will be home in maybe an hour or so." And then he's gone.

"That means you should leave soon," the redhead monotones. It's quiet for a minute before he says, "So, how do you know Kenny, exactly?"

(eighteen)

A few months earlier, in January, Christophe made the mistake of holding the elevator open when a short blond in a ratty, orange parka had yelled something like, "Wait, wait, wait for fuck's sake!" Said blond had practically taken a dive into the elevator and knocked into Christophe, promptly spilling his iced capp all over the both of them.

It had felt like something out of a sitcom, quite honestly.

"Oh, shit, sorry man," the blond had said, still talking rather loudly. Christophe figured it was because he was listening to his iPod, and even he could hear the lyrics spilling out into the now moving elevator between the two of them.

"It is not a problem," Christophe had replied, glaring down at his soaked black t-shirt. Well, really, it wasn't as if he didn't have another thirty of them back in his apartment. He just, like any other self-respecting young man, loathed doing laundry.

"Heh, yeah, well," the shorter of the two had grinned and said, "you got a couple dollars so I can go get another one of these?"

(nineteen)

"I can't tell if I believe you or not," Kyle says, as they walk towards Christophe's apartment building. "I mean, that does sound like Kenny. You gave him the money, right?"

"Oui," Christophe answers, somewhat sheepishly, "I mean, he's–"

"Yeah, I know," Kyle interrupts, almost glaring, but mostly just trying not to smile. "I guess I believe you. 'Cause, I mean, if you hadn't of met Kenny–well he's sort of one of a kind, is what I'm saying. Do you guys talk much or is just kind of one of those things?"

"We do not talk very much," Christophe says, thinking to himself, unless it's about him, you know, dying and all.

(twenty)

"Want to get high?" Really, it should disturb Christophe. The way that Kenny is, by no fault of his own, so similar, in mannerisms at least, to their mutual redheaded friend. Of course, it probably just has to do with them practically growing up together, the way that they both bring their eyebrows together in frustration. Kenny does it less often than Kyle, to be fair.

"I would rather not," Christophe replies. Not that he's ever said yes to Kenny. Even when the blond is in boxers, lying on his couch with a joint already lit. Saying no to him is a hell of a lot easier than saying no to Kyle.

"Alright, cool," says Kenny, with what might be a shrug, though it's hard to tell. His apartment is a mess, but in an organized sort of way. Christophe trips over stacks of magazines and books on his way to sit in the chair across from Kenny. He's used to the clutter by now, really, but it's still hard to avoid, for some reason.

"You never told Kyle zat we know each other?" Christophe questions. They don't really dabble in formality, neither of them have a personality that calls for it.

"Nope," Kenny says, the single word coming out of his mouth as easily as the smoke that accompanies it. "Never really saw the point. I mean, who's to say I ever knew that you knew him before you knew me. You know?" Kenny gets wordy when he's high.

"Uh...huh," Christophe mumbles in reply, staring past Kenny and out the door wall that leads to the balcony of the apartment. "I just never knew zat you two were...close."

"We aren't," Kenny says quickly, glancing at the French boy for just a second before looking away again. He never has been good at having a conversation while looking someone in the eyes. "I mean, we are, but. That's always been him and Stan, more, I guess." It's quiet for a long while before Kenny says, seemingly finishing some recluse strand of his own thought process, "But how attached at the hip can you really be at eighteen?"

Christophe doesn't know Stan. He knows a lot about him, however. He knows that Kyle spends most of his days hanging out with Stan. And that doesn't bother him. He actually rather thinks that, if he were to meet Stan (again, of course) he would probably like him a good deal. But Kyle doesn't want him to meet Stan, and Christophe isn't really about to demand that this happens.

Stan is just kind of this person that Christophe figures will never factor into his life at this point, and he thinks that he's the same way for Stan, and that perhaps that's for the best.

"So I think you should tell Kyle." Kenny is sitting up now, pulling a hand through his hair and yawning. "About, you know–"

"I know," Christophe cuts him off, somewhat harshly.

"Sheesh, man, I'd say to stop being so damn angsty, but," Kenny shrugs the words off a second after he says them. "You sure you don't want to get high, 'Tophe?"

(twenty-one)

When Christophe is nine years old and Jordan comes back into his life for the last time, they both smoke a cigarette. It's something like Jordan's three hundredth and Christophe's first. His brother lights it for him, snickers at the way he coughs when he inhales too much smoke, and tries to show him how to smoke the right way.

Christophe doesn't get the hang of it right away–therefore he hates it. And anyway he hates the way that the smoke hangs around Jordan like the opposite of a halo. He knows, and Jordan points out, that their mother dearest smokes, but that's different somehow. He's not sure exactly how, just somehow.

"I'm not coming back," Jordan says. He's only seventeen, just barely a real person, almost as insubstantial as the smoke that he lives in. To Christophe he's God.

"Alright," says Christophe, feeling the burning prick of tears at the back of his eyes. "Then don't. Mom and Dad don't want you here. And neither do I."

So Jordan leaves. The only thing that's left of him is a carton of cigarettes. And Christophe hates God.

(twenty-two)

Christophe smokes the rest of the carton. He still hates it. After that he bums cigarettes off of other people. He does things for them in return, steals things and such. He's good at it, has a way of not being seen, and considers himself, fancifully, at the time, a mercenary. Taking cigarettes from other people is a good way to be in denial. You aren't really addicted until you start buying them for yourself.

His mother leaves his father a year later and takes Christophe with her. None of them ever really got over Jordan leaving for good.

They go to England first, and stay in a hotel. It's rainy there, even during the summer. Christophe doesn't like it, misses the small town by the ocean that he grew up in.

That's where he meets Gregory. And it's things like this that makes him wonder if fate really does exist. The blond Brit is staying in the same hotel, on vacation with his family in London. They only talk a few times, briefly, but he still gets a nickname, the Mole, and promises the blond, somewhat sarcastically, that if he ever needs help in a political endeavor he'll be more than happy to help out.

It's not like he was supposed to know what would happen. That, when his mother decides they're to live in a tiny mountain town in Colorado, he'll find Gregory going to the same Catholic school. That they'll reconnect, Gregory will transfer and that stupid, little promise he made a year earlier will change his life so much. Really, it's not even one of those things that he can look back on and get mad at himself for not realizing.

In the end, yeah, it's not like he'd stayed dead, but that's never stopped him from blaming Gregory for his death anyway.

(twenty-two)

That's the funny part, honestly, he thinks as he and Kyle sit in his car. How he's still scared to die even though he's already done it. He and Kenny have talked about that before. Kenny says that you never really get over it. At least he never has.

They have the windows open, and the air is so typically South Park. Mid-July and the breeze still makes your teeth chatter, yet it sits with you, heavy with humidity and makes Kyle's hair frizz something awful. They have the radio on to a talk station, except it's more static with words interlaced than anything.

"What would you say, if I said–" Christophe begins, breaking the silence that's been hanging over them since he picked Kyle up from his house.

"If you want to say something, just say it," Kyle grumbles, fiddling with the air conditioning.

"I–well, it is just that...I am," Christophe says slowly, and then there's this pregnant pause between when their eyes meet, and he finishes with, "dying."

(twenty-three)

It had been near the end of January when Kenny had told him he should probably go to a doctor. Had said, "Look, man, don't close the door on me, I know this sounds crazy, but," as he'd pushed his way into Christophe's apartment, "I know these sorts of things. I don't like knowing it, but, like, I just sort of do."

It had all sounded pretty stupid to Christophe. But, then, he had heard of Kenny, and therefore knew that the blond wasn't lying about the whole dying and coming back to life bit. It was the I-can-tell-when-people-are-dying thing that made him sort of doubt the entire situation.

Still, he had gone to the free clinic in Fairplay. Being a mercenary, after all, didn't really come with health insurance.

And, as it had turned out, he was dying. Kenny hadn't been making it up. Somehow, though, that didn't make him feel all that much better.

The doctor who told him all this said that, more than likely, with treatment, Christophe could live for a good number of years. Christophe didn't have the money, and that was certainly factor. But, and this surprised him somewhat, he felt no horror or dread. He didn't want to die, but felt no intangible pull towards life that made him want to make it against all odds.

He had always thought that he would end up dying in some awful and bloody way. With bullets ripping though vital organs or something like that. It was simply the fact that he had, really, accepted that he was going to die at someone else's hand, and now that he wasn't, now that it was lung cancer, well. It just sort of paled in comparison with what he had always felt was coming for him.

So maybe he had made the conscious decision to not fight it, to do nothing. It wasn't like they could force him to do anything. He knew that, according to the things they said in church and things his mother had always told him, every human life was sacred. But as far as Christophe was concerned his own life had probably lost that sacred value a long, long time ago.

(twenty-four)

"Oh," says Kyle. And those dark green eyes–almost like pool table felt Christophe had decided once, that sort of dark, definite green–are suddenly so easy to see through. They belie everything that Kyle doesn't want to show, and it's almost not fair, because this is the one time that Christophe hasn't seen the redhead wear his emotions on his sleeves.

"Yes, well," Christophe says. He's not quite sure what he wants to say, but it hardly matters because Kyle is kissing him, which sort of negates any need for words.

Christophe hasn't kissed anyone in what seems like ages. In high school (which might as well have been ages ago anyway) it was always just some nervous kid who would seek him out behind the school and beg him to never tell anyone about it. And after that it was always something so attached to sex that he never did it at any other time.

Either way, it was definitely never like this.

Kissing Kyle is kind of like doing anything with Kyle. The redhead wants desperately to be some sort of enigmatic force, but simply isn't. He kisses in a way that's almost too straight-forward and packaged, but isn't because it's Kyle. Christophe knows that's his hormones talking, but he hardly cares.

It really is just kissing, too, just lips and maybe a little bit of biting from Christophe, because that's how he does things.

"Um," Kyle finally says, pulling away a bit, "sorry but this isn't really–er, I mean, I should probably unbuckle my seatbelt."

(twenty-five)

They end up at Christophe's apartment (of course) and from there words are lost in favor of feelings. Maybe they say things to each other, probably they do, but it's not like either of them are listening to most of it, so basically it goes something like.

Kyle's hands on him while he tries to lead them to his joke of a bedroom in the back corner of the apartment. They knock over some stuff on the island in the middle of the kitchen that, admittedly, he hardly spends any of his time in. Christophe doesn't care, and here it seems likely that he probably tells Kyle to shut up–but whether or not he uses words to do that is really up to debate.

What Christophe is thinking the whole time that they clumsily make their way to his bedroom is that he's really doing this. He just keeps thinking that. Am I really doing this? And then, Yes, of course I am. He might think it in French, he's not really sure, but he does think it, either way.

Sure, he's done this before, a few times with one guy who's name he can never bring himself to remember and numerous times with another guy who's name he will never forget. So he knows what he's doing, he thinks, sighs mid-kiss, but it's still so much different with Kyle, who he–

Well, who he–

It's just different.

The whole thing is not as awkward as it could be. There is some awkwardness, though, of course, like when he thinks he's being suave or something, opening up his bedroom door as he's leaning against it. Which, of course, just ends in him pretty much falling on his ass, and Kyle thinks that's about the funniest thing he's ever seen.

There's this whole part of Christophe that's thinking–that knows–that this is, fuck, just stupid and...and wrong on top of that. But mostly, he doesn't care. There's some, like, scientific reason for that which has to do with blood flow. Kyle's probably said something about that before while Christophe wasn't listening, told him why, exactly, you do all your thinking with your dick when you're horny.

Put simply, for the most part this isn't exactly some glorious sort of moment. There might be this small chance that Christophe is mumbling things in French (how typical) that could possibly have to do with love, but he's not really thinking about how much he loves Kyle right now.

For some reason he's thinking about how, because they're so close, he's sure they're sharing each other's carbon dioxide.

Kyle, he almost seems out of place on Christophe's bed. Not that Christophe has any fanciful ideas of Kyle being some pure little virgin, but it doesn't change the fact that the whole thing almost seems wrong. For fuck's sake, the kid is eighteen (well, Christophe thinks he is anyway) so it's not even that, either.

Mainly what's confusing Christophe is how boring kissing Kyle isn't.

Because it should be, by now, completely boring. Christophe can usually only take so much of this before it's absolutely the last thing he wants to do, but somehow it's not, even if Kyle is kind of the worst kisser in the world and he can kind of taste blood in the spit they're exchanging–it's almost all too much.

Honestly, Christophe doesn't do this. He doesn't take guys–much less kids–back to his apartment without really thinking about it. He knows other people do this shit and he doesn't care, but he's never considered himself the type of person to do something like this.

And yet, here he is, with Kyle underneath him, and it feels–well, Christophe can't really put it into words, but he figures the simplest way to put it would be–right.

Right now Christophe is just completely and irrationally aware of this entire situation. The way the sheets feel against his bare knees, which isn't such a bad feeling, really. Someone's conversation in the apartment next to his or maybe it's the television blaring. How everything smells, like cigarette smoke and laundry detergent.

And, yeah, the way his arousal feels against Kyle's, even through layers of clothing.

All Christophe can think about (his forehead resting against the redhead's neck, listening to both their gasps for air) is that maybe somehow Kyle has, like, invaded every part of him, and because he feels so much for Kyle he is, you know, consequently, feeling just as much for everything around him.

And, fuck, is that stupid and, well, exactly the sort of thing you think about at times like these, so it isn't real, and probably (definitely) not true. But Christophe, at this very moment in his life, feels like it's the only thing that makes sense.

In fact, Christophe half-convinces himself that the whole thing is a dream.

It doesn't take much work because he can be ridiculously simple-minded at times. And it helps remove everything, from inhibitions to clothing. It's not because Christophe thinks that if this is a dream he won't get hurt. Because, actually, he gets hurt in dreams a lot. He just thinks that if this is a dream he can wake up and forget about it. It will become nothing but some vague sort of memory, some "Hey, Kyle, I had a dream about us", something like that.

But then–well, it would be easier if it was a dream. That way, he could just wake up and jack off in the morning and think nothing (well not much, anyway) of it. It would be easier, but–

It's just sort of funny, because one thing–among others–that Christophe had never understood was how some people saw sex as this beautiful sort of thing. Biological was more his way of thinking of it. He had to get off and, so, he'd find somebody willing and that was pretty much that. There was nothing beautiful about it, it was really quite ugly and simplistic.

And, yet–in this moment, one that Christophe had never really thought of as being beautiful, it is, honestly, just that. If only because as Christophe stretches Kyle out with one finger and then two Kyle shows every emotion so openly that it makes Christophe feel like–

Well, like it's possible that Kyle feels the same.

Christophe can't really say what love is and he knows that just because he's (fuck) really turned on when Kyle says his name in this throaty sort of way...well he knows that that doesn't mean that he actually loves the kid. It just makes it easier for him to comply when Kyle repeats himself, "Christophe, please."

For Christophe sex has always been like kissing in that keeping his eyes open is really awkward. Paying attention to anything more than what he's feeling is just distracting. But with Kyle there really just is no paying attention, no trying to make things last longer. Because as soon as Christophe aligns himself and pushes in (slowly because god knows he isn't sure exactly how much of a virgin the kid is) there is absolutely nothing else for him to focus on.

All he knows is this enveloping warmth, his shaking hands on Kyle's thighs and the redhead's hands in his hair, pulling him closer so they are connected in every way possible.

And Kyle tastes like, Christophe thinks, not the cynicism and bitterness that he might imagined, but acceptance. He knows (or maybe he doesn't, really) that that sounds weird, but really, he swears, that the kiss, as much as it joins them, is really just Kyle telling him things that he can't say right now, things that they would forget by the morning anyway.

Christophe is the one to break the kiss, which is interesting only because he usually isn't. But, he thinks, as he presses his lips to Kyle's collar bone and listens, he likes what he hears. Christophe has never been particularly vocal during sex, which is somewhat surprising considering how vocal he can be the rest of the time, and he has never been particularly interested in hearing anyone else during sex either.

But Kyle–with his quiet moans and sometimes whimpers when Christophe angles his hips just right and his almost words that he's never quite able to finish...well, Christophe doesn't mind listening to that.

It's not all perfect really. It's all kind of awkward in this weird way, mostly because Christophe is so completely caught up in the whole thing. It takes him a while to even remember that Kyle needs a release too, and by that point he's so far gone that he's not even sure which one of them takes care of that.

And when it's done, and they're laying there in silence that is covered up by the muffled conversation they can hear through the thin apartment walls–it's then that Christophe thinks that the entire time he never stopped looking at Kyle. He's not sure what that means but he thinks he has an idea–though it doesn't matter because it leaves his mind as he falls asleep. And, maybe, that's for the best.

(twenty-six)

The next morning they're at the grocery store and Kyle's leaning over the cart, following him blindly and yawning. The whole thing feels very suburban middle-class and Christophe wishes he had coffee or else that he was back in bed.

"Tell me again," Kyle says, as they stop in the frozen food section, "why you woke me up at the ungodly hour of, uh, what was it?"

"Noon," Christophe reminds him, comparing prices on frozen vegetables.

"Right, the ungodly hour of noon, to come to the grocery store," Kyle says, then pauses and adds, "Remind me why, that is. Why?"

"I do not think I ever told you why in ze first place, actually," Christophe answers. This, apparently, is not the answer that the redhead wanted, if the way he sighs and glares is any indication. "I 'ave to take food to my muzzer's house. She hates shopping. Social interaction in general is not really 'er sort of zing, so."

"We're shopping for your mom?" Kyle asks, sounding incredulous.

"Oui, I always shop for her," Christophe replies. Which is actually, surprisingly, the truth. He's somehow always found the time to do it. Or maybe it's one of those things that he has to do, so he makes time for it. He's not sure which is more accurate.

"Oh, hell," Kyle runs a hand through his hair (or tries to, it's pretty messy), "does this mean I have to meet her?" He seems kind of terrified at the prospect.

Christophe just smiles at him.

(twenty-seven)

Kyle stays out in the car with the radio on.

Christophe's mother lives in the same house they moved into when they first came here. It had been new then and bought with money she had taken from his father. It's actually pretty nice and too big for just her to live in. But with the house entirely paid off and Christophe buying groceries her unemployment checks pretty much cover the rest.

The whole house smells like her and like his childhood. The sort of smell where you don't notice it until you come back somewhere years later.

He finds her out cold on the couch in the family room. There's no point in even smelling her breath, because he knows she's drunk, or would be if she was awake anyway.

Sometimes Christophe considers being that kind of son. The one who would try to get her into a program or take all of her alcohol away (because he knows where she hides it even if she hides it well). But he doesn't really see the point. If he was her–he'd want to forget, too.

So, he just does what he can. Puts the groceries in the kitchen and then sits in the family room with her for a little while.

He doesn't do anything melodramatic, like check for her pulse or even kiss her on the forehead. He used to do that sort of stuff. Back when he was sixteen and seventeen and would come home to this every day after school. He used to lay in bed at night thinking about how there was some chance that he'd come home one day and she'd be dead.

But now he just sits there, in the dark house he used to live in, and tells his mother, "I met this kid." He knows she can't hear him, but he has to tell someone, after all. "You would not like him. Maybe you would if you got to know him, but you would not want to get to know him, so it would not matter."

Something about this house–the whitewashed walls and the dusty television set that he remembers not being allowed to watch–compels him to speak in French, it's almost like he can't help but revert back to it here.

"It is just–kind of...funny, because, you know, I used to be like that, too," he continues. "It is not like this kid changed me or anything, but. I just think it is possible that sometimes you become willing to get to know people for a reason. I do not know. I am probably wrong."

He leaves her without saying anything about coming next week.

(twenty-eight)

Back out in the car and Kyle's listening to some shitty rock station.

"How'd that go?" the redhead asks, looking half-exhausted and half-bored.

"Ah, not bad," Christophe says, his hand on the keys in the ignition. He stares ahead for a few minutes, just sitting there like that, trying to figure out why he feels like he has something else he needs to do before they go.

"Did you talk about me?" Kyle says this all simpering sweet, the words oozing in fake hope, sounding nothing like himself at all.

"For a while, yes," Christophe replies, and Kyle says nothing more after that, so he turns the key in the ignition and they drive away.

Later he realizes that he usually smokes a cigarette after leaving his mother's house. The whole situation felt kind of empty without that. The two of them never talk about the whole thing again, but it's mid-August so it's not like they have much time left in which to do so.

(twenty-nine)

This guy who's got a gun pointed at him, well, at first Christophe thought it was his brother. In his defense he'd been half asleep when he'd opened his door. Really, though, there's no excuse for why he let the guy into his apartment. He's too young to be Jordan. Most likely he's been hired by someone Christophe fucked over, someone Christophe doesn't even remember. He's a kid, probably a drop out and probably high on something.

This kid, he's sweating like crazy and looks scared out of his mind–but his hands are steady and he has the gun, and that's all that really matters.

Christophe tries to say things to him, things like–

"You do not 'ave to do zis," while backing up towards his living room, one hand outstretched. He thinks he's seen this before in tv shows or maybe a movie. Certainly never in real life, where he's always the one with the gun, and even then it's always been purely precautionary, he's never fired a shot.

This kid, though, he's not taking any chances. He just yells at Christophe to shut up and put his hands behind his head. Even Christophe's reflexes aren't fast enough to give him time to grab the butterfly knife that's in his living room somewhere, and he knows it.

The thing that bothers Christophe the most is that this wasn't how he was supposed to die. Not anymore. He wonders if this wasn't what Kenny felt in the first place. Hates the irony of himself accepting death in one fashion only to be facing it this way instead. It's just–he has things to do. Like finding his brother, figuring things out with Kyle, and taking care of his mother, but.

That's the thing about sweaty, shaking kids who bear a passing resemblance to your long-lost brother, the thing about guns and bullets, the thing about death–they don't really care if you haven't done everything you have to do.

(thirty)

Sometimes your story ends before you're ready for it to.

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