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They’re naked, or almost, sprawled on the mattress having given themselves up to the inert heat of this August afternoon. The morning’s breeze has gently blown itself out, and now the open window seems to mock them with its useless glassy eye. Dean’s sitting with his back against the headboard in the centre of the bed, so hot he barely made a show of protest when Jerry flopped dramatically across his lap. He stretches quite happily now, despite the sweat beading on his brow, kicking his legs, but even that is too much work. And he can’t be quite so casual anymore because Dean’s trailing fingers up and down his spine. Jerry giggles, squirms, lets the fingers fall away, then takes that huge hand and puts it firmly back in place, high up between his shoulder blades and then, after the third time, when he feels braver, at the small of his back. Dean hums and rubs his thumb dangerously close to the waistband of Jerry’s boxer shorts. He cries out, inarticulate, spluttering, lets his friend’s rich laughter wash over him and looks up, studies the pleasure crinkling his eyes.

Jerry thinks sometimes that when Dean touches him he’ll break into a million pieces, explode comfortably in his friend’s palm, to have all the parts of him collected up and then laid out piece by piece, freshly fused together, only to be broken happily, willingly again and again, coming back better, from torn and crumpled paper to warped cardboard, cracked wood to blemished stone or overfired clay, stronger each time, fashioned by his friend’s gentle fingers. He thought once – and secretly still thinks – that his friend must have been sculpted by a Renaissance master: Michelangelo’s Dino, but handsomer, with none of David’s unattainable distance; kinder, softer, and still he hopes with space beside him for Joey in Jonathan’s place. A sculpture maybe, but now Jerry hopes a sculptor, too, and willing to work on God’s skinny, jerky project. The thought’s not an altogether pleasant one, not when Jerry’s alone and attempts to make sense of it; but then Dean touches him again and he prays for fractures, flaws in the façade, that he might come back one day as marble.

He thinks the heat is making him crazy, crazier, delirious. He crawls off his friend, tries to find a comfortable position on the bed, but it’s impossible, not least because of the heat; he can still feel Dean’s hand on him. He mumbles that he’s melting, melting, oh, what a world, and Dean’s chuckling, far away, then sighing, cursing, and Jerry wants to lie on top of him, skin to skin, heat and sweat be damned, and he thinks Dean might let him do it for a little while, might protest weakly, thinking it’s one of his jokes, and then gently push him away to lie beside him again. Jerry wants to reach out for his hand, just extend an index finger, and see if Dean will meet it, see if the sculptor’s tool will fuse with him, stick with the residue of his latest project. He wants to stroke Dean’s face, feel again the smooth success of his handiwork, and he wonders if he goes a little further, if he pushes too far, if Dean might touch him differently. If soft fingers on his back make him crumble, how might a palm or a fist rearrange and improve him? How might a mouth? A tongue? He shivers. Dean’s asking how he can possibly be cold but Jerry has forgotten how to speak.