“This game makes me happy.”
She had been distracted again by the bones breeching against his skin, by the plateaus and canyons that channeled shadow through those famished hollows and the sharp, glacial pinch of his cheekbone grinding against her toned middle. In her weaker moments, she worried quietly about his bones, which seemed so light and drawn that even the sinews twined between them could snap them if jerked too abruptly. He was powerful in his own right, strapped with emotional and intellectual brawn, but the thought of his peachy core having only those ice-brittle bones for protection made her heart clench. Remembering herself, she tousled his dishevelled curls. “You just say that because you love Minecraft sheep.”
“I love Minecraft sheep…” Kyle repeated as if just remembering this to be true. He had started their visit in a mannered sitting position, resisting the inherent vulnerability of proneness, but pain and an afternoon dose of his medication had brought that posturing to an end. Presently, he was curled up on his side with his head tucked against her stomach and a heating pad clutched to his chest. Jessica knew she should probably take the pad away from him per Rebecca’s incredibly long and incredibly detailed instructions about Post-Surgery Kyle Maintenance—”no heating pad for >25 minutes, burn hazard”—but she couldn’t bring herself to do it just yet. The thought of his delicate sternum—that ceramic treasure in a chest, painfully breakable—being split open to scoop out a lump was distressing enough without denying him that small comfort for a few more minutes.
“Do you wanna watch something else? I think this stream’s been running for, like, forty minutes,” Jessica said, reaching forward to toggle her laptop’s mouse pad. She had chosen the first Minecraft play-through stream that YouTube recommended to her, which turned out to be an unbearably tedious stroll through pixelated landscapes. Kyle had been watching it obediently for nearly an hour now, but he would have gladly watched paint dry in his current medicated state. It was slightly unnerving seeing Kyle, who usually couldn’t stay focused on the screen during a thirty-second ad break, so content to stare at nothing, even if it was from his favorite game.
“Anything’s fine… I just like the sounds.”
Jessica snickered. “You’ve been half-asleep this whole time, haven’t you?”
“Nooo…” He nuzzled his head against her extended arm, surprising her with his affection. Cuddling was nothing new for her given how many sleepovers with the swim team ended in sleeping bag snuggling and she’d never hesitated to be touchy with Kyle, but he was always so tense when it came to intimacy. She could practically feel his skin receding when she touched him, his body seizing with primal fear and his brain rejecting the possibility that he was deserving of a touch. Today, however, he lacked the faculties to be embarrassed or ashamed of wanting human contact; he soaked up her love like flowers did sun, nourished by it. “Jessica?”
“Yes, my lord?”
“My dad… He wouldn’t’ve let my mom get me a Care Bear,” he mumbled. Rebecca had given him a Take Care Bear plush when they returned home from the hospital, which was currently resting against his pillow.
“That’s because he’s a fucking asshole.” She didn’t like to mince words when it came to him. Despite never having met him, Jessica had learned a great deal about the Sugarman patriarch from Kyle’s bouts of Explainstorms—her personal term for those anxious moments where he would ramble about a bad memory or a habit that he felt pressured to validate through long-winded explanations. A vast majority of these Explainstorms involved his father in some capacity, primarily as the instigator of said memory or the reason said habit had to be adopted. It definitely made her wish she had paid more attention to his drama class presentation.
Kyle glanced up at her with those space-dark eyes, lightly cataracted by painkillers. “He’s wrong. It’s good to be…”
“Good to be what?” Jessica prompted gently. It was important for him to finish his thoughts, doubly so when he couldn’t find the exact words to snap his feelings into focus.
His mouth closed to form a serene smile, the glow of which sunned the dark corners and dips of his face. “It’s good I’m me, I think. It’s not a bad thing.”
A bloom of love flowered violently in her chest. She rarely entertained the concept of soulmates or even best friends, having believed for years that she was too common to be found and nurtured by the sort of uniquely special person who would choose her again and again and again, but she found herself blossoming under the care of his warmth. The adoration he had for her—once a novelty—was both precious and infinite, something ground into the atoms of everything that had and ever would exist. Its sustaining light was so powerful that it doubled-back, reflecting the beauty he saw in everyone onto his own heart. Kyle loved her enough to love himself.
There would be a time and place to ruminate on this, but for now, Jessica merely laughed and adjusted the heating pad still pressed to his chest. “Of course it’s a good thing, you clown. It's always been a good thing. Now do you have it in you to watch another Minecraft video? With sheep?”
“Yeah.” He closed his eyes, feeling blissfully at home. “I love them.”