"Do I have something in my face?"

Tintin caught Haddock looking at him intensely across the table. He even stooped spreading butter on his toast.

"Is that jelly?"

The Captain made a startled a look and shook his head.

"Sorry, lad. I shouldn´t have looked at you that way. It´s just...well I never saw anyone with so much freckles like you. In fact, I never saw anyone at all."

Tintin recovered from the surprise and smiled.

"That was it? It´s quite common here in Europe, Captain. Especially in redheads. I almost forgot I have it."

"They look good on you, you know, lad. It fits your milky skin and rosy cheeks."

Tintin blushed madly at the observation. That was the first time he ever heard the Captain talk about him like this.

"Er...thanks,Captain."

"That´s the truth, my boy. And truth has to be said."

He gave Tintin a wink.

Tintin almost choked in his coffee.

"So, Tintin...I believe you´re harassed by lots of young ladies, hu?"

The conversation was taken an unusual path. He lived with Haddock under the same roof for some years and he never had raised such subject. Until now.

"What?"

"Oh c´mon, lad. A cute face like yours surely isn´t indifferent to the girls."

"Well...I guess not..."

"Surely you do have someone under your eye?"

Tintin hesitated. He didn´t know how he could answer the question.

"Yes...I do."

Was Tintin´s imagination or Haddock´s body seemed to tense?

"Oh...and do I know the lucky lady? Does she know about your feelings?"

Tintin gulped.

"In fact, Captain...I´m afraid that person will never return my feelings."

"Does that mean you´ll not even try, Tintin?"

The young man lowered his head and looked at his shoes, biting his lip.

The Captain gave a heavy sigh and looked at the big window.

"Enjoy life, lad. Enjoy while you´re young. Time is over for me. I know one day you´ll settle with a young lady and leave Moulinsart. I lived my life all alone, anyway."

The elder man felt soft arms around his strong frame. Tintin´s head was over his shoulder. He whispered in his ear.

"No,Captain. I will never abandon you."

He cupped Haddock´s face between his hands. The Captain´s blue eyes looked deep into his, amazed. He closed them instinctively.

Soft, tender lips touched his rough ones. He didn´t remember being kissed like that all his life. It was love. True love.

They broke the kiss. The young man smiled shyly. The elder man´s eyes were teary. But it was tears of happiness.

"Tintin...lad...blistering Barnacles, I never thought you liked that old sea dog. I´m so old and gross and you´re so young and delicate."

Soft arms hugged him.

"No,Captain. You´re the most beautiful man I´ve ever seen. Any other man wouldn´t stand a life like you used to have."

The Captain smiled and touched the youth´s face.

"You have no idea how much I wanted to do that, mon ange.

He leaned and kissed Tintin´s freckled forehead. Then kissed down his cheeks and nose.

"I would love to kiss each of your freckles."

"There´s more freckles, you know..." Tintin gave him a mischievous smile