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The World is Far Away

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Jerry’s touching him. Dean doesn’t mind. He realised almost immediately after meeting him that the kid needs this, needs to know what’s in front of him has form, has weight, that it exists; he’ll stand too close, put hands where hands don’t need to be, push his mouth against Dean’s ear then speak at normal volume. His eyes, too, need reassurance. They’ll skitter and search, flick back and forth across a crowded room to make sure he’s still there. He always is, of course, and something in the way the kid’s face lights up when he spots him makes Dean’s chest feel full and warm. He doesn’t think too hard about what that means.

Jerry’s touching him. They’re in the dressing room, slick and shiny with sweat from their raucous show, and soon they’ll be back onstage for another hour of singing and dancing and general nonsense. Now, though, they’re quiet, and Dean can feel the kid’s hands inside his jacket. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t tell him to stop, or that he shouldn’t do these things. He just sits on the couch, smoking, with his partner pressed against him. He lets the kid’s long fingers slip along his damp shirt, apparently searching for something Dean knows he must have but can't think where it's kept. The hands stay high, up on his back or on his chest, where the fingertips stutter against the buttons. Dean’s tie is gone, the neck of his shirt open and clinging to his chest, and he feels the kid’s hands hesitate here, then retreat to his spine.

Jerry’s touching him. The kid’s mouth is on his neck, half-open and wet and warm, short hot breaths coming in time with Dean’s pulse. Once, some months ago, Dean went to see him backstage after a show, and the kid came to him like a child to his mother. Dean held him, stroked his back, told him how great he was, because he needs that, too; Dean knows the touching is just a part of it, and hearing is another. The kid nodded, turned his head. A second passed, another, and then the kid’s mouth shifted against his skin. Dean froze. He remembered a story the kid told, about what happened to him backstage once when he was younger. Too young. As the kid tried something new against his neck, Dean thought about how casual the telling was, how the kid had frowned at Dean's concern. He wondered if the kid thought this was what you always had to do backstage, if he thought that was why Dean had come to see him. The thought scared him so badly that he grabbed the nape of the kid's neck. He stopped, hugged tighter. He hasn’t tried that since and even now – even though Dean can sense how desperately the kid wants to – his lips are still.

Jerry’s touching him. He mutters something, and Dean laughs – the kid’s funny – and nudges him, dislodging his mouth long enough to let the kid take a drag on his cigarette. One of those long-fingered hands emerges, steadies itself on Dean’s wrist as the kid almost daintily puts his lips to the filter and inhales. Dean focuses on the tip as it flares orange, on the faint crackle, on the plume of greyish-white smoke the kid breathes into the room. He likes this. He likes sitting with him, watching him smoke. It's better than talking, better than touching. He doesn't even have to think. He just listens and watches, and when they do speak, they speak low, easy, inconsequential. The kid nods, eyes bright. Dean smokes again and passes the cigarette back. The kid finishes it, pitches it, then turns to his partner.

Jerry’s touching him. His fingers tremblingly refasten Dean’s shirt, and Dean thinks dimly that the kid may as well be sitting in his lap for all the space that’s left between them. He’s found Dean’s tie and slides it back under the collar, sets about tying the knot at his throat. It’s too tight, but Dean doesn’t mind. As the kid works, Dean strokes his back slowly, almost lazily, head leaned against the wall, eyes closed, feeling the tug of the fabric at his neck. It is not exactly unpleasant. Dean thinks of the times he has undressed his young partner after a late show. Once, the kid touched Dean's arm and asked if he could do for him. Dean shook his head. He stroked the kid's face and told him to sleep, and the kid never argued. Dean thinks now that if the kid had gone ahead and started working on his buttons anyway, he wouldn't have stopped him.

Jerry’s touching him. He takes the time to smooth Dean’s collar, and then his hands come to rest on the back of his neck. Dean opens his eyes. He can see what the kid wants to do. He does it, sometimes – on stage a lot, offstage too if people are around, and sometimes when they’re alone, but it’s different then, quieter, and Dean has to say no without saying it – and Dean doesn’t mind it, not really, but it would be better if the kid didn’t look so damn serious about it. Silly is better; silly is easier to process. When the kid’s silly about it, Dean can laugh and push him gently away. But when he gets this look on his face, Dean never knows what to do. He wishes the kid would go back to hiding in his neck so he doesn't have to see that face. He thinks he might like the kid to try that thing with his mouth again, if it means he doesn't have to see that face. Sometimes, Dean thinks about what the kid knows, what he still has to learn, and the ratio frightens him.

Dean touches him. The kid gasps softly, but Dean ignores it. He smooths the kid's jacket, checks his tie. Wordlessly, he gets the kid to stand in front of him, surveys him, makes sure everything's in place. Then he gets to his feet. As always, he is a little shocked that the kid isn't shorter. They look at each other, and Dean wonders if he might let the kid do what he wants anyway, but before he can even begin to consider the reality of that, there's a knock at the door. It's time. The kid grins and takes Dean's hand, leading him out of the dressing room and into the cramped shadows of the backstage corridor. As they wait in the wings for their cue, Dean whispers something in his ear. He thinks the kid must be glad of the darkness, but Dean knows he's blushing. He chuckles, says he's only teasing. The kid pretends to hit him and then, in a childish act of revenge Dean saw coming a mile away, seizes his lapels and hauls him close. His tongue slides along Dean's jaw, and then he's gone. Dean watches him go, takes out his handkerchief and wipes his face with a hand that trembles.