April doesn’t know when Christopher and David started sleeping together. She figured it out just now. She was making breakfast and they walked into the room. It all snapped together, like two little clicks in her head.
Christopher had a hickey on his neck.
David came from the east side of the building. Not the west, where his room was.
It made sense, suddenly, and next thing she knew she was burning the eggs.
Jalil, of course, knew before April. He just didn’t talk about it. If Christopher wasn’t that made it a secret. Jalil isn’t one to break a confidence, even if Christopher and David don’t yet know they’ve made one.
He sees it. When they’re fighting and David stares a moment too long and Christopher can’t think of a thing to say. When Christopher drinks and licks the wine off his fingers. When David stretches and cracks his back, Christopher always says “that’s sick, man” but he squirms in his chair.
Jalil can read it in a thousand glances, a thousand little touches, or just the angle of Christopher’s hips when he stands next to David.
David hates who he is. Not sometimes, not most times, but all the time. Call Jalil obsessive-compulsive, but David is the one who examines flaws and mistakes, calls them up again and again to be analyzed and reanalyzed and overanalyzed until he can make daisy chains of “what ifs” that always lead to it being his fault.
Donny is his fault. His parents’ divorce is his fault. Everworld is his fault. Senna is his fault. Ganymede is his fault. Ka Anor is his fault. He tries to blame himself for Christopher too, which he can only do a half-assed job at. He knows Christopher was messed up before so he qualifies by saying he fucked him up more. David knows he’s still guilty. Every one of Christopher’s moans, every cry for more, every level they sink to, every kink they exploit, every fantasy they emulate, every nerve they twist – David’s fault, all of it, the bruises on Chris’ body, the look on his face, the way he writhes and begs, turns into something he isn’t.
When it comes to Christopher, David’s guilt is tinged with something else.
Christopher doesn’t know why David comes to him. He doesn’t have the brains or the patience to figure David’s games out. He doesn’t know what makes David tick. Why didn’t David go to Jalil? Jalil’s the smart one, right? Or, hey, you know, April. April’s the mother figure around here. Or even Athena! She’s David’s number one fan, after all, and a goddess to boot. Like she couldn’t make any problem just go away.
Sure, he went into this knowing David was messed up. He knew from Day 1 that David was messed up. The only difference is that now he cares. Worse, now it’s his problem too. And he’s not saying he doesn’t want to help David; he just doesn’t think he can. Christopher is as broken as David. In different ways maybe, but really just as broken.
A month later she sees them. She walks into the stables to go for a ride outside the city, away from the dust and grime. And they were lying in the hay.
She’s never seen David naked, she realizes, not in all the time they’ve spent together. She’s certainly never seen him with his legs spread like that. She’s never seen that look on Christopher’s face. She’s never seen two boys like this, tangled sweaty limbs and harsh noises.
Her last thought, before she flees, is that Christopher’s hair is the exact color of straw.
To say that David hates wanting Christopher is an understatement. There’s the guilt, for one, and the overwhelming sense of need, for two. David probably hates the need more.
He remembers needing Senna, the nameless rush in his bones every time she touched him, the ache he felt when she was away for too long, the sweat-soaked dreams, the haziness. She was a drug, more or less, to hear Jalil explain it, and David can’t help but agree. The only difference is that quitting Senna felt better than anything he’d ever done before, and every time David tries to quit Christopher all he wants to do is cry. Christopher’s the drug. Christopher’s the best drug ever, and David won’t ever quit.
It’s a scary thought, someone more powerful than Senna.
Christopher loves David in a way he’s never loved anyone. He loved his family, sure. His parents were alcoholics, but they weren’t abusive or negligent, just self-absorbed. He loved roughly a third of his girlfriends too, but he knows that was just the sex talking. Senna was magic mojo, a little razzle dazzle, and Etain was a fascination with perfection. Beautiful elvin princess ahoy!
So, yeah, Christopher doesn’t know what David is, but it’s like nothing he’s known before. David is fragile enough to cry in Christopher’s bed, and strong enough to hold him down on it. He wants Christopher enough to ask but never enough to beg. In the bedroom Christopher can do whatever he wants to David, but elsewhere he can’t touch him at all.
April can tell when they’re together. It’s a humming in her bones, a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach. Although the level of Christopher’s alcohol intake is also a good gauge.
Today is a together day. She’s not so sure it’s a good thing. The whole mess… it sets her teeth on edge. She’s not sure what to think. The part that April hates most is not knowing. She doesn’t know if what they have is good for them. She doesn’t know if it’s a game, if it’s about power or taking their rivalry one step further. She doesn’t know if it’s just sex, or if only one is in love with the other, or if they’re both in love and don’t know it, or can’t show it properly, or if this is just their way of showing it.
She can’t call them on it either, because she isn’t supposed to know. Sometimes she half thinks she imagined it. They do everything normally, race horses, fight, argue, name call, try to drink each other under the table… The Christopher and David dynamic is exactly as ever, except for what goes on behind closed doors.
They head out to the training fields. She watches them from the window, the way they walk apart from each other, perfectly synchronized.
“Why do they do it?” she asks tremulously. “Why do they keep… going back?”
Behind her, Jalil stops stacking the dishes. “They can barely pull themselves away.”
When Christopher touches him, David is unafraid. That hasn’t happened since Donny. He doesn’t remember anyone who could touch him without sending a fission of fear through him first. Not his mother, not Senna, no one but Chris.
Paradoxical. This is the same Christopher who turned his nose into a piece of burger, who has beaten him up numerous other times, and who still tries daily to kill David on the sword field.
But also the Christopher who knows about the tiny scar on David’s left hip. The Christopher who knows the softest hair in the world is found at the nape of David’s neck. The Christopher who knows how to push David’s buttons in all the best and worst ways.
Jalil knew the minute it changed. His room is just past Christopher’s and he knows everything. He knows the routine, that every three days or so David will go up to Christopher’s room. He knows what they do, how first they fight and sometimes they talk. But never are they silent.
So when Jalil hears David’s footsteps from down the hall and the door opening and closing, but nothing else, that is when he knows.
David sleeps on his side, curled up, fists right. Ready to defend himself even when he’s not awake. Christopher knows that David is never defenseless, but actually seeing it is something else. It feels like a secret, watching David sleep.
Maybe it is.