Kevin Price stares at his reflection in the cracked mirror in his and Arnold’s tiny bedroom. A room that really isn’t big enough for the two of them. Every night, Kevin can hear Arnold’s heavy breathing and the squeak of his mattress when he rolls over, and it’s like their already compact room is getting smaller, squeezing the very life out of him.
He moves closer to the mirror, his thighs pressing against the chest of drawers underneath so he can get a better look at himself. He doesn’t recognise the person staring back at him. Maybe he isn’t actually looking at himself. Maybe he’s just looking through a window at someone else.
There’s a patch of dry skin underneath his right eye, almost but not quite obscuring the really quite horrendous bags that have made a home there. His lips are dry and cracked, and there’s a spot of dried blood on his bottom lip from where he’s developed a habit of chewing his lip when he’s anxious. And he’s always anxious. He can’t remember the last time he wasn’t anxious.
He runs a hand through his hair, and it’s as though he’s touching someone else’s hair. He’s let it get greasier than he should have done and he hasn’t styled it since the incident with the General. He doesn’t know why, but he’s developed a strange aversion to styling his hair, to just looking after himself in general.
Downstairs, he hears the sounds of Arnold’s gleeful laughter, coupled with the laughter of the other Elders and he feels a pang of sadness about the fact that he isn’t there with them. He moves away from the mirror and places his hand on the doorknob with the intent to leave, but then he remembers that they probably won’t want to see him, anyway. He’s the one who fucked everything up for them, after all.
Instead, Kevin locks the door - because he knows that Arnold will be with Nabulungi tonight - and gets into bed. He doesn’t take his uniform off. He hasn’t taken it off in a week. It’s too much effort. It’s hot at night and it makes it difficult to sleep, but Kevin is okay with that. No sleep means no Hell dreams about the General.
There’s a gentle knock on the door and Kevin holds his breath. Whoever it is will go away eventually.
“Kevin, buddy, it’s me,” comes Arnold’s voice, “I’m going to Networks now. I’ll see you tomorrow, yeah?”
He doesn’t reply, because he feels like he doesn’t have to. And Arnold seems to get message because he hears the sound of his footsteps dying away, and Kevin is alone again. It isn’t the nicest feeling in the world, but Kevin doesn’t mind.
Kevin knows that he’s a bad friend, and he knows that he doesn’t deserve Arnold because Arnold is too good to him. Arnold, who had the painful task of telling everyone else what happened to Kevin because he was too much of a coward to do it. Arnold, who understands that sometimes Kevin needs to talk about what happened and needs someone to hold him and to tell him that it’ll be okay even though it seems like it isn’t going to be. Arnold, who understands that sometimes he needs the exact opposite of this.
It’s been five months since everything happened; the General, the play, the ex-communication, and it doesn’t feel real. Kevin doesn’t feel real. Sometimes he sits cross legged in the middle of his bed, pinching himself to see if he feels it. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t. His arms are littered with bruises, and Arnold tells him that he shouldn’t, thats it’s unhealthy, buddy. You shouldn’t hurt yourself . Kevin doesn’t really care. He’ll just shrug his shoulders and turn away from him.
Kevin lies in bed patiently, waiting for the sounds of his fellow Elders going to bed. And finally, he hears it: gentle chatter and then a cheerful chorus of “Good night, everyone!” followed by the sound of doors being shut for the night. He doesn’t move straight away though, knowing that McKinley will make his rounds first. He hears the gentle thud of the district leaders feet and can swear he hears him pause outside of Kevin’s room before going away again.
When Kevin finally hears McKinley shutting his door, he gets out of bed and creeps downstairs into the kitchen. He makes himself coffee - taking extra care to not make too much noise - finds something to eat (tonight, a Pop Tart. It’s not his favourite flavour, but he doesn’t care) and ventures outside of the hut, sitting on the front step.
He does this whenever he can. It’s his one moment of solace when the world doesn’t seem too bad. He sips his coffee and stares up at the night sky, taking in the stars. Though his eyes linger longer on the moon, because he swears there’s nothing more beautiful than a full moon. It’s always been his favourite thing in the world. His mom used to joke that in another life, he must have been a werewolf, because why else would he be so drawn to the moon?
Kevin jumps, splashing coffee all down himself. He turns around to glare furiously at Elder McKinley.
“Oh, gosh, Elder, I’m sorry!” McKinley exclaims, “I didn’t mean to startle you,”
Kevin shakes his head wordlessly and turns back to the moon. He doesn’t feel like talking.
“Are you wearing bug spray?” McKinley asks.
Kevin shakes his head again.
McKinley sighs and walks away. Kevin doesn’t take his eyes off the moon. He wonders how many other people are staring up at it right now.
“Elder,” a very quiet, soft voice says behind him, “you need to put this on.”
Kevin turns around again, McKinley is back. This time holding out a can of bug spray and a clean shirt that he places besides Kevin.
“You’ll get bit to death,” McKinley says, shaking it at him, “come on.”
Kevin shakes his head, this time more forcefully. It’s too much effort. Everything is too much effort.
“Do you want me to do it for you?”
Kevin shrugs, as though to say, ‘go on then’.
“Move your coffee, I don’t want to get this in it,”
Kevin does and, out of the corner of his eye, he sees McKinley take a tentative step forward. Kevin flinches when the spray hits his skin. He’s in the sort of mood where he doesn’t want anything to touch him. Even the ground beneath him his making him uncomfortable.
“See you tomorrow, Elder Price,” McKinley says, dropping the spray onto the floor next to him, “Breakfast is at 9 if you...if you feel up to it,”
Kevin nods. That’s the only way he can bid McKinley good night. And McKinley seems to understand that, because he walks away and Kevin is blissfully alone.
When he eventually walks back into the mission hut, the Elders are tucking into their breakfast.
“Hey, buddy!” Arnold says gleefully, patting the seat next to him, “come sit!”
Kevin shakes his head and walks by the table. Before he goes upstairs, he stands on the bottom step and stares at Arnold, a silent plea for him to come with him.
“Do you want to speak to me, pal?”
“I’ll be up with some food in a minute,”
Kevin nods again and hurries upstairs. He knows that the Elders are whispering about him, he just wished that he cared a bit more.
Kevin is sat outside. A strange occurrence because it is day time and there are a lot of people around. He’s watching as Elder Church and Elder Davis teach the villagers how to play baseball. It was McKinley’s idea. He had been looking for a way to bring the District 9 Elders and the villagers together, and when Church and Davis mentioned that they were on their schools baseball team, the match had been organised.
He, like Kevin, is not participating. Though Kevin suspects that it’s for two very different reasons. Kevin was actually an athlete back in school, on the track and baseball team, he just isn’t going to tell anyone this. Which is strange, he thinks to himself, because there was a time not too long ago where Kevin would have liked to make sure that the entire village was aware of this. He could barely remember that person.
“You were sporty back in school, weren’t you, Elder?” McKinley says to him casually when the game begins.
Kevin frowns at the floor, “How do you know?” he thinks that since he’s outside, he can at least try for a conversation.
“I don’t know. I can just tell.”
“You weren’t,” Kevin says, keeping his eyes fixed on the floor.
McKinley snorts, “and how do you know that?”
Kevin squeezes his eyes shut and tears the grass out at his feet. This simple conversation is making his head spin, but he forces himself to act like a normal person for once.
“I don’t know. I can just tell.” he says.
This is met with silence, and Kevin thinks that he’s said the wrong thing, that he’s overstepped a boundary. He brings his knees closer to his chest, trying to make himself as small as possible but then McKinley starts to laugh and Kevin feels himself relax. It’s a pretty laugh, if laughs can be described in such a way.
“I’m glad you’re out here today, Elder,” McKinley says, “it’s good for you,”
Kevin nods his head silently. He thinks he’s done enough talking today. Thankfully, McKinley has to hurry up and tend to Poptarts who’s managed to hit himself in the face with his own bat.
Six months to the day since it happened.
Kevin can feel the General’s hands on him, the sharp corners of the book and the unrelenting pressure. He’s lay curled up in bed, gripping onto his pillow and biting down onto his lips as he entire body shakes like it never has before. White hot tears slip down his face and then he screams, because he has to.
He screams until his voice his hoarse and he knows that the other Elders are stood outside his door, having a whispered conversation of “should we go in or not?” but he doesn’t care.
Finally, the door opens and Arnold walks in. Kevin lurches backwards and topples off the bed, cowering behind it.
“I’m not going to touch you,” Arnold says quickly.
Kevin peeks over the edge of his bed, clutching his covers close to his chest.
“Do you need anything, buddy?”
Kevin shakes his head and his eyes keep on flickering towards the door, begging Arnold to leave. But he doesn’t leave, and Kevin feels the icy sting of betrayal.
Instead, Arnold crosses the room and opens Kevin’s closet, throwing a clean uniform onto his bed.
“At least change your uniform. I’ll be downstairs if you need me,” and then he’s gone.
Kevin doesn’t change his uniform. He snatches the new one off the bed and flings it to the floor before curling up in the space between the two beds, letting the sobs take over his body.
Kevin, for some reason, finds himself in Elder McKinley’s office. A fact that he would have been pissed off about if not for the coffee in front of him.
“Thanks for coming to see me, Elder,”
Kevin wants to point out that this meeting wasn’t really up to him. All of the other Elders were out for the day but McKinley had stayed behind and asked to see Kevin. It isn’t like Kevin wants to be there, he would much rather be alone.
“I know...I know you’ve had a difficult few months, and I just want to make sure that you’re okay,” Connor says, “and I...I want to offer you the chance to return home,”
Kevin shakes his head, rather forcefully.
“You don’t?” McKinley asks.
Kevin shakes his head again.
McKinley frowns, “Oh. I just - well, I thought that you would want to. You’re not exactly enjoying yourself, are you?”
Kevin shrugs, because he really doesn’t know. He has no idea what is going on in his head and this scares him more than anything else.
“Okay,” McKinley says slowly, “Okay. Well...you need to talk to me, Elder, or I can’t help you.”
Kevin shakes his head, his eyes wide with fear.
“Alright, alright,” McKinley says, “You don’t have to. You could...you could write it down? Tell me why you want to stay,”
Kevin stares at him for a few seconds and then nods. McKinley smiles slightly and pushes a notepad and pen over to him.
There’s nothing for me in America anymore.
McKinley frowns, “What do you mean?”
I don’t believe anymore. I don’t have anything at home. My family won’t want me if I don’t believe.
“That’s not true,” McKinley says, “I’m sure - I’m sure they will!”
They haven’t written to me once.
“Oh,” McKinley says softly, “I’m sorry, Elder, I didn’t realise.”
Kevin just shrugs and returns to his coffee.
“If you, um, if you ever need to talk to someone when Elder Cunningham isn’t around...I’m always here,”
Kevin starts to use the notepad more, even using it to communicate with the other Elders. Elder Neeley looked slightly shocked when Kevin tapped him on the shoulder and thrust the notebook underneath his nose, but still passed on his message to Arnold.
It’s slowly bringing him closer to his fellow missionaries again. He isn’t where he should be; he doesn’t eat well, barely sleeps and the thought of starting his duties again makes him want to jump into the river, but he leaves his room more. And on Sundays, he sits with McKinley and watches the baseball game. There are even days when he feels like he might want to join in. Not that he says this outloud to McKinley, because he’d never hear the end of it.
“Oh, goodness, no, I cannot deal with this anymore!” McKinley exclaims one Sunday, “Elder, you stink . Get in the shower,”
Kevin stares at McKinley, tears springing to his eyes. He really, really doesn’t like people shouting at him.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry, Elder Price, I didn’t mean to make you cry,” McKinley says hastily, “you just...you really need to have a shower. It’s unhealthy,”
Kevin shakes his head and he finds himself inching away from McKinley as he scribbles into his notepad.
I don’t want to look at myself.
“What?” McKinley asks, peering at the pad, “I don’t know what you mean,”
I don’t like looking at my body. It reminds me of him.
McKinley’s look of confusion transforms into a look of sympathy and Kevin regrets ever speaking to him in the first place. He turns away from the district leader as anxiety courses through his body. Perhaps he should have taken him up on his offer to go home, wherever that is.
“You don’t - you don’t have to look, Elder,”
Kevin turns back to McKinley and frowns.
“Chris doesn’t sleep very well, so we have blackout curtains in our room,” McKinley explains, “I can - I can put them on the window in the bathroom for you and then you won’t be able to see anything. It might not work but do you want to try, at least?”
Kevin nods and McKinley beams, which does something very strange to Kevin’s heart. He decides not to focus on it. He’s got bigger things to worry about.
In the bathroom, Kevin actually laughs for the first time in months when he’s watching McKinley trying to cover the window. He’s not really tall enough to stick the black fabric over the window, and it’s quite a funny sight. As he stretches his entire body up, his shirt becomes untucked, revealing the pale flesh of his hips and Kevin, for some reason, blushes when he realises that the district leader doesn’t wear temple garments. He quickly looks away though, realising that he doesn’t have McKinley's permission to look.
“This is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” McKinley says, stepping back from the window and putting his hand on his hips.
Kevin looks up from the floor and smiles slightly. The curtain is peeling off at the top of the window where McKinley couldn’t quite reach. Wordlessly, Kevin brushes past him and sticks the curtain onto the window with the tiny amount of tape that McKinley had been able to find. Only a tiny sliver of light shines through, and it completely bypasses the shower.
“Right, well, I should go back outside and-”
Kevin reaches out in the darkness and grabs McKinley’s shoulder.
“Would you - would you rather me wait outside the door?”
“Please,” Kevin says, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Okay,” McKinley says, “Okay. I’ll wait,”
Kevin’s fingers fumble over his shirt buttons and he half considers asking McKinley for help before realising how strange that would probably be. It takes him a long time, and when he gets to his trousers, he freezes. He glances over at the door, realising that anyone could walk in and do anything and he would be powerless to do anything to stop them.
Completely forgetting the fact that he’s shirtless, Kevin opens the bathroom door and taps McKinley on the shoulder.
“Elder Price, are you - oh, gosh, you’re half naked,”
Kevin looks down at his chest and blushes. He mouths ‘sorry’ at McKinley and then scrawls something in his notebook, shoving it under his nose.
Make sure no one comes in.
“Elder, everyone is outside,”
Please, just make sure.
“Of - Of course, Elder. I’ll stand right here,” Mckinley promises, “I won’t even let anyone upstairs,”
Back in the darkness of the bathroom, Kevin thinks that he might be OK. He unbuckles his belt and pushes his trousers down, along with his temple garments. The hot air lies thick on his skin, and it’s as though someone is wrapping their arms around him, and he has to fight the urge to lash out at that imaginary person behind him.
Then comes a knock on the door and Kevin jumps.
“Everything alright, Elder Price?”
“Y-Yeah,” Kevin manages, “Fine,”
“Alright. Take your time,”
He is the shower for a grand total of three minutes, quite a contrast to the mammoth showers that he used to take. He smiles slightly at how Jack used to bang on the bathroom door, moaning because Kevin, you’ve been in the shower for three hours, dude! I’m going out in an hour, hurry up!
As quickly as he can without slipping, Kevin drapes as many towels as he can around him in an attempt to hide his body even more. Heart beating in a way that is probably quite unhealthy, Kevin opens the bathroom door and slowly walks out of it, his hair dripping water every where.
“Much better!” Elder McKinley exclaims happily, holding a pair of trousers and a shirt, “I got you a clean uniform, as well.”
Kevin smiles his thanks and takes the clothes off him, retreating back into the bathroom to get ready in the darkness. Even he has to admit he feels better when he pulls temple garments over his head that don’t smell terrible. Tears spring to his eyes when he realises how horrible it must have been to be around him when he smelled so terrible.
The sound of his choked sob must have alerted McKinley because there’s another knock on the door.
“Elder Price? Are you OK?”
Kevin snatches his notepad off the floor and scribbles in it before opening the door again and handing it to McKinley.
I’m sorry, I didn’t think of you and the other Elders.
“Uh, what are - what are you talking about?”
I stank. It’s not fair on you all.
“Oh, Elder Price, it’s...it’s okay. We, um, we just wanted you to do whatever it is made you comfortable,”
Kevin raises his eyebrows at him.
You’re the one who shouted at me before because I smelt so bad.
“I didn’t mean to shout, Elder, I’m sorry. It’s my job to make sure that you’re okay, I don’t want to fail you,”
McKinley smiles at him, “That’s a nice thing to say, Elder, thank-you. You better go and get your hair dry, Poptarts has the hairdry - no? You don’t want to dry your hair?”
Kevin is shaking his head as he writes in his notepad.
“You...you can’t dry your hair?”
I don’t like it.
“I understand that styling hair isn’t the most exciting task of the day, but you’re dripping everywhere and poor Elder Zelder might have combust if he has to clean up anymore water around this bathroom. He still hasn't forgiven Elder Church for dripping water from the bathroom to his bedroom,”
No. I don’t like touching my hair. It reminds me of what happened. I know it doesn't make sense.
McKinley bites his lip and narrows his eyes as he thinks, and Kevin thinks that he would like to see the district leader bit his lip more often. Which is definitely a strange thing to think.
“Well, I know that we - I know that we don’t really follow the rules anymore and you could leave your hair to dry naturally but - well, I like the uniform and I like us all looking the same and - this is strange, Elder Price, and if you don’t want to you have every right to say no but -” McKinley takes a deep breath and his cheeks turn red, “Would it...would it be ok if I did your hair? I just think that it would be good for you to - to start looking like yourself again,”
Kevin stares at McKinley as though he has never seen him before. His initial reaction is to scream no at the top of his lungs but as his eyes drop to McKinley’s hands that are fiddling with his tie, Kevin thinks that maybe he’d like them running through his hair.
So he nods.
“Was that - was that a yes?”
Kevin nods again.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Of course. Come on then,”
As Kevin is following Elder McKinley into his bedroom, he can’t help but feel like he’s going against every single thing his parents have ever told him. Never be alone with a homosexual, Kevin, you don’t know what they’ll try is what his father used to tell him. And now he’s going to let one do his hair. He hesitates in the doorway for a moment, chewing his lip.
“You can come in, Elder Price, I won’t bite,” McKinley says, picking up the hairdryer and waving it around slightly, “Unless you’ve changed your mind?”
Silencing the sound of his father in his mind, Kevin shakes his head and sits on the edge of Poptarts bed, looking up at McKinley who suddenly looks quite troubled. Kevin leans away from him, thinking that he’s done something wrong.
“Can you sit on the floor? You’re too tall for me,”
Kevin raises his eyebrows as a smile tugs on his lips. McKinley tuts and rolls his eyes.
“One comment about my height, or lack thereof, and I’ll throw your coffee in the bin,”
Sniggering, Kevin slides off the bed and onto the floor, crossing his legs underneath him.
“If it’s too much, just let me know,” McKinley whispers, his voice suddenly sounding quite strange.
Kevin closes his eyes at the sound of the hairdryer being turned on. He flinches slightly as McKinley’s fingers run through his hair but he takes a deep breath and clenches his jaw. It’s Elder McKinley. It’s only Elder McKinley. Elder McKinley is going to hurt you. It’s Elder McKinley. It isn’t Him. He isn’t here. And then he finds himself leaning backwards into his touch, his back resting against McKinley's legs.
“OK, there you go. You’re dry,” McKinley says, placing his hand on Kevin’s shoulder and squeezing it, “Everything alright?”
Kevin nods, writing his thanks in his notepad.
“Don’t feel like you have to come back outside, Elder Price, you’re probably tired,”
McKinley frowns down at his notepad, “What?”
Call me Kevin. That’s my name.
“Alright, Kevin, I’ll see you tomorrow, probably,”
Kevin takes himself, and probably McKinley, by surprise, when he reaches out and grabs his fellow Elders hand, stopping him from leaving.
What’s your name?
“Connor,” McKinley says, “my name is Connor.”
Can I call you Connor?
“Well, it is my name,” he says "it'd be a bit strange if you called me...Stephen or something,"
That night, Kevin falls asleep to the memory of Connor running his hands through his hair.
When Arnold tells Kevin that he and Nabulungi are going to Kampala for the weekend, he cries. Which is embarrassing, so then he starts to cry even more.
“Hey, buddy, it’s ok. It’s - you can, well - I guess you can come with us, if you want,”
But Kevin shakes his head, knowing that the last thing that Arnold and Nabulungi will want is to have to babysit their unstable friend.
“Why are you crying then?” Arnold asks, “Do you want to write it or say it?”
Kevin holds up a finger to signify that he needs a minute as he takes a deep, gulping breath. He doesn’t want to become reliant on the notepad and tries to speak as much as he can. Though he only really speaks out loud to Arnold.
“No, I...I don’t want to ruin your...your romantic weekend away,” Kevin says.
Arnold blushes slightly, “Don’t tease,”
“I just - scared. I’m scared . What if I - what if I have one of my breakdowns?”
It’s no secret that when Kevin has a breakdown, the only person that can calm him down is Arnold because he doesn’t like anyone else to be near him.
“Well...uh, Elder McKinley will be around. You’ve gotten more comfortable around him, haven’t you? And the rest of the guys know what to do if worse comes to worse and he isn’t there,”
Kevin nods, “N-No, you’re right,”
“Kev, if you don’t want me to go-“
“No!” Kevin says quickly, “No. Go. Please. Don’t - don’t change your plans because of me,”
“Are you sure?”
“I’ll be fine, pal.” Kevin promises, “Go have your fun. Be safe,”
Arnold blushes again, “Shut up,”
And Kevin is okay for the first morning. He even eats breakfast with the other Elder’s and manages to crack a few jokes - without his notepad. Of course, he was panicking the entire time and his eyes slipped in and out of focus a couple of times, but the sound of Connor laughing quietly had the same effect as a comforting hug usually would.
The realisation that he has started thinking about Connor in ways that he probably shouldn’t be prompts Kevin to creep back into his shell and up to his and Arnold's bedroom for the rest of the day.
The setting of the sun brings the sounds of the Elders to begin cooking dinner downstairs, and Kevin toys with the idea of going to join them, but the thought of facing Connor terrifies him for some reason. His fingers go to his arm, and he begins himself to pinch himself, pulling and tugging at his skin to focus on anything but the feeling of Connor’s hands brushing through his hair.
Kevin almost jumps out of his skin when he hears a knock on the door, followed by Connor’s voice.
“Are you eating with us, Kevin?”
Kevin dives across his bed and picks up his notepad and quickly scribbles in it before ripping the page out and sliding it underneath the door.
Please leave me alone.
“Oh...oh, OK. I’m sorry, Elder Price,”
Somehow, Kevin feels worse.
There’s a full moon shining in the sky, and Kevin is content.
He sits leaning against the side of the hut, a mug of coffee in his hands and a packet of Poptarts next to him. It’s nights like these when Kevin really believes that everything is OK.
Behind him, Kevin hears the door open and he turns around, expecting Arnold, but it’s Connor. Cheeks burning, Kevin turns back around and stares into his coffee mug.
“Can I sit?”
Kevin nods his head, still not able to look up at Connor. Instead, he turns his focus back to the moon.
“Are you mad at - sorry, that sounds stupid. Are you - have I upset you?” Connor asks.
Kevin shakes his head.
“I just...the other day, you didn’t...you asked me to leave you alone. I know that...I know that sometimes you need time alone but it just felt...it just felt rather, um...the timing was strange because you'd been in such a good mood,” Connor says, “and I...I can’t help but wonder if you are...if you felt like I’ve been um, coming onto you, so to speak,”
This makes Kevin turn his attention from the moon and to Connor. He tilts his head to the side slightly. He rather likes the way Connor’s skin glows in the moonlight.
Connor frowns, “You - you know I’m gay, don’t you, Kevin?”
Kevin feels himself turn red again and nods, realising that Connor has mistaken his admiration for confusion.
“And, um, I know that...I know that you were probably, uh, brought up to...to not like people like me but...listen, I just don’t want you to think I’m some creepy gay guy who’s trying to get in your pants, OK?” Connor says, “I just want to - to try and help you.”
Kevin nods, “I - I...” he clears his throat and takes a shaky, “I, um...”
“Where’s your notepad?” Connor asks, looking around for it, “If you don’t feel up to speaking-”
Kevin shakes his head, “No, I want to - I don’t want to never speak again,”
“Take your time,” Connor says quietly.
“I...I don’t think that you’re creepy,” Kevin says, “I, um, the - the gay thing it isn’t...I don’t care. It isn’t...it’s not a problem,”
Connor snorts, “It’s alright if you think it’s weird, Kevin. I don’t mind. I’m used to it. A couple of the others are still...well, they're trying,"
“N-No!” Kevin exclaims, “I - I really don’t mind. I, uh...I appreciate you being so...so nice to me. It wouldn’t be fair if - if after all that I was...I was mean to you because of...you know,”
Connor smiles at him but stays silent, and Kevin has the sudden urge to tell him how pretty his freckles are. Realising that he most definitely shouldn’t do this, Kevin turns to look back at the moon, feeling calmness wash over him.
They sit in silence for a while until Connor nudges Kevin with his knee.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Why do you always stare at the moon?” Connor asks, “sometimes - sometimes when I look out of my bedroom window, I see you sat here, staring up at the moon,”
“In darkness, light,” Kevin says quietly.
"It shines through the darkness," Kevin replies, "even though...even though sometimes it's just easier to let it take over you,"
“I never took you for a poet, Kevin,”
“It’s pretty,” he says, cheeks still burning, “the moon, I mean,”
Connor laughs, “I know you meant the moon, Kevin. I didn’t think you were calling me pretty,”
Kevin forces himself to laugh a little, keeping his eyes trained on the mood. He’s suddenly aware of everything; the way Connor’s knee is still leaning against his and the way that their shoulders are touching. There’s a tiny breeze that’s wafting the smell of Connor’s shampoo towards him, and it takes every ounce of willpower that Kevin possesses to not move even closer to him.
“Do, uh...do you think that the moon is pretty?” Kevin asks.
“I...I’ve never really thought about it,” Connor admits, “but, um...yeah, I guess so. Yeah, it’s pretty,”
He turns to look at Kevin, and his eyes are reflecting the stars. Or maybe his eyes actually contain tiny galaxies.
“Are - Are you alright, Kevin?” Conor asks, peering closer at him, “You zoned out a little bit there,”
“You have really pretty eyes,” Kevin blurts.
“O-Oh,” Connor stutters, “Oh, um, th - thank-you, Kevin. I - well - yes, that’s very...very nice of you to say. Thank-you,”
“I, uh, I’m sorry. That was strange,” Kevin mutters, running a hand through his hair, “I don’t mean to - I don’t mean to be weird,”
“No!” Connor says quickly, “No, it wasn’t - it’s not strange. You’re opening up and that’s...it’s healthy,”
“I - yeah, ok. Yeah,” Kevin mutters, “I’m - I’m getting better, I think.”
Connor grins at him, but it’s unlike anything that Kevin has ever seen before. His eyes are shining and an adorable blush creep up his cheeks, a stark contrast to his strikingly porcelain skin.
And Kevin finds himself grinning back, leaning closer to Connor and wondering if he should tilt his head or not.