DON'T TOUCH ME WITHOUT GLOVES

Rasmus tries to hold a calm exterior but his breathing is way too rapid and his eyes witness of his agony and his fear of dying. It breaks Benjamin's heart to see the love of his life suffer like that. "Can't I hold you?" he asks. Rasmus turns his back to him. "No, you can't," he says demonstratively. His breathing is quicker and more shallow now. They are silent for a moment.

"Why won't you let me hold you?" Rasmus looks over his shoulder at him. "Because I could infect you."

"Well, if that's the case then I'm already infected, aren't I." Benjamin touches Rasmus' shoulder lightly, tries to calm him, tries to console him. But he's brushed off. "Don't touch me. I said don't touch me." But Benjamin is not going to let his lover carry all his pain alone. He throws his arms around Rasmus, forces his arms down to his sides so that he can't get away. Rasmus tries to wriggle free and yells at him; "I said don't touch me. Don't touch me! Let me go!"

But Benjamin only fastens his grip och forces Rasmus down onto the floor. Rasmus screams, "don't touch me, don't touch me," and kicks and tries to twist away. Fear has completely taken hold of him now. But Benjamin tightens his grip on Rasmus' arms and puts all of his weight onto Rasmus to hold him down. Rasmus yells at him again but his voice cracks into a soft sob. "Don't touch me, Benjamin. I said don't touch me." He struggles to get free again but Benjamin is not letting up.

The struggle goes on longer than Benjamin thought it would. He tries to keep calm while Rasmus twists and turns underneath him. He is stronger than Rasmus. He's stronger even when the rush of adrenaline and panic and fear has taken over his lover's body and mind. There is nothing to do, nothing to say other than the mantra he keeps repeating over and over to them both. "Calm down, calm down, calm down..." Try to stay calm Benjamin, he thinks. Calm him. Help him. Comfort him. Save him. But there they are and Rasmus is screaming and crying; "don't touch me, don't touch me," and they both know he's going to die soon and die horrifically.

Eventually Rasmus gives up, kicks out one more time before going completely limp in Benjamin's arms. But he cries and cries and he's shivering and shaking so much that Benjamin doesn't dare let go of him yet, even though his hold on Rasmus is way too tight. It's too tight because he had to win their struggle. Win to take control, be the stronger of the two, the one who can comfort and calm the other and not let himself be broken by that horrible four-letter word A. I. D. S. that will tear them apart.

Rasmus is slim and not as strong as Benjamin and it's easy for Benjamin to hold him down. His arms are around Rasmus to keep him still and his legs wrapped around Rasmus' to keep him from breaking free. Benjamin's upper body is the only part of him that isn't trying to fetter his lover to the ground. It seeks to comfort by soft and warm skin against Rasmus' back.

It takes a while before the shivers and the sobs die down and Benjamin finally dares to let go of Rasmus' arms and wrists. Then he lets his hands wander to Rasmus' wet cheeks to gently caress the tears that just won't stop falling.

"Come," he says softly to Rasmus, "come." Come and let me comfort you. Or come back to me, don't leave me. He isn't sure which of the two he means, maybe both. He gets on his feet and grabs Rasmus gently by the arm. "Come, come," he says softly.

Rasmus doesn't look at him, just stands up and allows Benjamin to guide him back to their bed. His expression is empty and his behaviour almost apathetic. Benjamin waits while Rasmus lies down then slides in to bed next to him and pulls up the covers. The bed linens are cold now. He thinks about how fast they go cold once you've gotten out of bed and he realizes that his remaining time with Rasmus will go by just as quickly. That Rasmus will go from being a warm, and very much alive, human being to becoming a cold and empty shell of what was once a person. The thought is so painful he almost starts to cry but he quickly forces himself to stay calm.

He embraces Rasmus again but this time the hug is soft and warm and comforting. He plants little kisses on Rasmus' shoulder blade and whispers, "I love you. I will never leave you." He doesn't expect an answer and receives none. He holds Rasmus in his arms for a long, long time. He's completely drained of energy himself, feels empty inside, so exhausted and scared. He doesn't want to lose Rasmus, he wants Rasmus to live, he loves him so much. His head is spinning and after a while he's so tired he can't stay awake anymore. His head drops heavily onto the pillow and without even noticing it he falls asleep.

It isn't before he's snoring softly that Rasmus replies. "And I love you." His voice is low, so low you almost can't hear it. "But..." He can't make himself finish the sentence - not aloud at least, because then he will start crying again. And even though he tries not to even think about it, the last words force their way into his mind; ...I will have to leave you.

THE END