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Without You

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Pranetta district is interesting.

Jean tugs his case from his pocket and pulls out the cigarette the district chief took and handed back. He thinks about lighting up, but doesn’t. The cigarette joins the ones from the other districts, individual declarations of support. For him.

The people of Dowa are interesting. Jean doesn’t know what to do, and doesn’t know who he can turn to. Doesn’t know who he can trust.

Pranetta is oppressively hot during the day, and though the night air helps cool things down, Jean’s still not used to the heat in the room. He opens the window in the night duty room and stares out. The sky here is clear, like it was in Birra. In Badon, Jean can’t see the stars. And like in Birra, he tries to see if he’s being watched, but this time he gets nothing back. It feels like it’s just Jean, the heat, and the stars, even though he knows that’s wrong.

He sighs. “I know you’re there, Nino.”

Nothing. Just like every other night since Kororë.

It’s not like Jean’s given to anger, but he feels angry right now. Nino dropped a story at his feet and ran; didn’t he say that Jean needed him? Didn’t he say that they’d always be by each other’s side? Does it even count if they don’t see each other?

Jean doesn’t understand how Nino can think this is the right course of action. Nino’s going to watch over him as long as the king is alive? That’s fine. That’s fine. But doing that without showing himself accomplishes — what, exactly? Not being able to see or talk to Nino feels wrong. For the first time in his life, Jean wants to tell Nino to fuck off. But the second the thought passes through his head, it’s gone again.

“Damn you,” Jean mutters to the open window.

It’s dark. It’s dark and it’s just Jean and the heat and the stars. And Nino. Nino’s definitely watching him. Jean unbuttons his uniform shirt and pushes it off his shoulders.

“Do you really think I’m going to hold your life against you?” Jean says. He unbuckles his belt and tugs it off, letting it drop to the concrete floor with a clank. “Should I pretend you’re not always there?”

Jean flicks open the button on his trousers and pushes them down, stepping out of the puddle that forms around his feet.

“Then I’ll just do what I do when I’m alone.”

He takes off his underwear and stays in front of the window. Jean wonders how much a passerby could see, if they just happened to look up. He wonders what Nino can see through the lens of his camera, how close the zoom can go. The thought makes heat flood to his cheeks.

“Can you see in?” Jean says to the darkness. He’s already getting hard and he hasn’t even touched himself. “Can you see everything, Nino?”

Jean takes himself in hand and strokes, getting himself the rest of the way there as he uses his other hand to brace himself against the open window. Is he trying to do this like he’s alone, or like he’s giving a show? Does it even matter? Either way, all he’s thinking about is Nino.

Nino, laughing into his beer. Nino, stealing chocolate from Jean. Nino’s arm around Jean, helping him home from the bar. Nino, on his knees. Nino, spread out and waiting for him. Nino, in his house, in his face, in his life.

Jean’s mouth falls open as he moves faster.

“What would you do if you were here right now?” Jean stares straight out the window and comes all over his fist. “Where are you, Nino? Didn’t you say I’m useless without you?”