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I Wanna be Your Leap of Faith

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Tangmo watches the trees through the van window as they drive. He’s sitting in the middle seat, with Love between him and the window, and he glances at her every time he gets the chance. If he does it too often she slaps his arm and gives him an embarrassed smirk, but sometimes that’s what he’s hoping for. It’s been a week since the second semester started, and while most third year students are focused preparing for their university entrance exams, Tangmo decided to join the yearly volunteering trip, and with some clever convincing, dragged Vier along as well.

Love and her first year friends had been easy to convince, it’s just the beginning of the semester for them, and the half dozen or so other first and second years are people Tangmo doesn’t know the name of. Teacher Kate is driving the van, and beside her in the passenger seat, as the student leader, is Love’s brother Good, which poses a significant problem for Tangmo’s particular plan for this weekend.

Tangmo and Love have been a couple for two weeks now, and for some unexplained reason, they have not kissed since the very first time in his hospital room. Tangmo plans, however fruitless that plan may be, to change that.

His intermittent view and Love watching pattern continues for a few more minutes before he makes what he is calling his first move. He moves his hand slowly across the arm rest between them and takes Love’s hand from her lap. She turns to him with furrowed eyebrows before pulling her hand free quickly.

“Tangmo we’re at school.” She says in a half whisper. Her eyes dart around the van at their classmates.

Tangmo smiles a bit and leaves his arm draped over the armrest between them. “We’re in a van.” He replies, deadpan.

“A van with the school’s name on it.” She counters.

“Two hours away from campus.” He smiles, unable to maintain his deadpan responses.

“Teacher Kate is driving.” Love is smiling too, despite her argumentative tone.

For this Tangmo has no counter argument, and he sighs and flops his head back against the seat in response. “You’re such a mean girlfriend.” He says, and smirks at the way she blushes at the statement.

 

After 5 hours of driving the van pulls up to what is a fairly isolated group camping spot. There is room enough for half a dozen tents as well as a covered eating area with enough tables for them all and space to set up grills. Their camp spot is only a half hour or so hike from the area where they’ll be planting trees, which is the volunteer part of the trip, but today is just travel and camp set up before things start to get dark.

Tangmo joins Vier in setting up some tents.

“Hey, Vier?” Tangmo says, assembling a tent pole.

“Mm? What is it?” Vier answers without looking up from his task of finding the place to hook the hook he’s holding.

“Do you think it’s weird that Love and I only kissed that one time?” Tangmo does make a small effort at least, for his voice not to travel too far, but Vier looks around just in case.

“How would I know? Do you think it's weird?”

“Pfft, no.” Tangmo rolls his eyes. “I mean, shit, unless she doesn’t like me anymore?”

Vier stops moving and looks at him with a blank expression. Fortunately, Tangmo knows what this one means, but it’s not flattering.

“Okay I’ll shut up now.” Tangmo replies.

 

By the time all the tents are set up it’s nearly time for dinner, and a group of students with Teacher Kate’s guidance prepares food enough for them to eat at the picnic tables beneath the covered shelter.

“Wow, Menn,” Nuclear says as Tangmo sits by Vier at the end of the long table, “I’m surprised you’re that good at setting up tents.”

Menn shrugs. “I’ve been camping.”

“Are you sure he’s good, not that you’re just bad, Nuclear?” Tangmo offers and Nuclear makes a disappointed noise.

Love is sitting between Vier and Menn on the opposite side of the table and Tangmo regrets not getting a spot by her sooner, but at least from this angle he can see how many times he can make eye contact with her during the meal.

“Where’s everyone sleeping?” Vier asks the table. They all sound off and Tangmo, who is sharing with Vier, learns that Menn and Nuclear are sharing, and, in a horrible turn of events and also because she is the only girl here, Love is sharing with her brother.

After dinner is cleaned up and their dishes are washed, the students are dismissed to their tents and to get ready for bed. Tangmo sits cross legged on top of his spread out sleeping bag, using his phone flashlight to illuminate the tent. Vier is laying back using his bag as a pillow with his legs crossed at the knee.

“Hey Vier?” Tangmo asks.

Vier glances over. “Yeah?”

Tangmo hunches his shoulders and cups his hands around his mouth like he’s telling a secret. “Are you ready for a top secret super special mission?”

Vier uncrosses his legs but leans back further into his bag-pillow. “Absolutely not.”

“Awww, what a buzzkill.” Tangmo whines. “Okay if you won’t help me can you do me a favor?”

Vier lifts an eyebrow. “Depends on what it is.”

“Shit, so many conditions with you! Anyway, I’m trying to get some time to see Love tonight, which means sneaking her away from her brother. If I bring her back here can you go crash with the other first years or something? Come on, be a friend.” Tangmo holds his hands palms together like a prayer and bows repeatedly in Vier’s direction.

“You really think she’ll be able to sneak away from Good?” Vier ignores Tangmo’s bowing and sounds skeptical.

“Of course she can!” Tangmo replies. “She told me how many times she had to sneak past him out of the dorm, I know she can do it.”

Vier rolls his eyes. “Whatever you say.”

“So will you do it? Will you give me, your best friend in the whole world, a chance to be alone with his girlfriend?”

“Ugh, fine.” Vier agrees, and starts scrolling something on his phone to indicate the conversation is over.

Tangmo is happy though, because even if he doesn’t have back up, maybe he can spend some time with Love tonight.

 

He waits until camp is quiet and no lights are visible through the various tents. The night sounds feel loud around him, the rustle of trees and crickets chirping, as he walks slowly between tents across to where Good and Love’s tent is. Their tent is nearest the edge of camp, and Tangmo finds a spot behind a tree nearby to hide as he pulls out his phone and sends Love a text.

-I’m outside, find some excuse to leave, or sneak out if you can.
-I want to see you.

He’s close enough, and it’s quiet enough, that he can hear the vibration of Love’s phone when she receives the messages. She doesn’t reply, but less than a minute later he hears the tent unzipping, and peeks around the edge of the tree to see her stepping out. She’s wearing her shorts and t-shirt pajamas and slips on a pair of sandals to join him when he waves her over.

Tangmo grabs her wrist to pull her along with him, and then slides his hand down until her hand is in his. She doesn’t pull away this time, and they walk without speaking far enough away that Good will not hear them.

“Come back to my tent with me.” Tangmo says, ducking his head down to be even with hers, looking her in the eyes.

“What about Good?” Love sounds worried, and Tangmo gives her hand a small squeeze.

“We can always hope he won’t notice.” Tangmo says with a smile and Love punches him lightly on the shoulder in response. “Let’s go.”

Love nods and they walk hand in hand back to his tent. When they arrive Vier is curled up and asleep. Tangmo brings Love inside, zips the tent behind them, and then turns to shove at Vier with his foot. “Wake up.” He says.

Vier doesn’t stir. Tangmo pushes harder, shoving with his foot until Vier is rolled entirely off his sleeping bag and even then he doesn’t stir. “Hey, shithead, you promised.”

Love tugs at Tangmo’s arm. “It’s okay, I can just go back.”

“Aw, you already went through the trouble of sneaking out.” He sighs. “We’ll just have to go somewhere else.” Tangmo kneels down quickly and pulls a sweatshirt out of his bag and hands it to Love. “Here, you’re going to get cold if we stay outside. Let’s go.”

Love hugs the sweatshirt to her chest and then unzips the tent so they can both step out. Tangmo closes it behind them.

“Should we just sit somewhere and talk for a while?” Love offers as Tangmo turns back around to face her. She offers a shy smile in exchange for what Tangmo’s sure is a grumpy expression on his own face.

“Put the sweatshirt on first.” Tangmo says, smiling towards Love.

They walk hand in hand towards the covered area where they’d eaten dinner earlier that evening, and sit side by side on one of the table benches. Tangmo is a little bit worried about this area being lit, but for being the criminal who snuck out, Love looks alarmingly cool about the whole thing. Tangmo holds Love’s hand in both of his own against the top of his thigh.

He’s not sure what he should say. He made this whole plan to get them alone together and now he’s speechless, just staring at their hands and occasionally looking up at her face. Love seems to be staring mostly into the darkness beyond camp but they catch each other’s eyes a few times before Tangmo speaks up.

“Uhm, are you excited for tomorrow?” He asks at last, struggling for anything relevant to say.

Love raises her eyebrows in response. “For planting trees? Is that exciting?”

Tangmo laughs a little uncomfortably and looks down at their hands again. “Mm, guess not.”

This plan is not working. Tangmo wants to squirm as he suffers through the awkward silence that follows his response, but instead he decides it’s time. He has given himself a mission, and they’re alone, she should be okay with this, right? He slightly adjusts the way he’s sitting to turn more towards Love and looks at her until she turns to face him. He keeps her hand in both of his as he begins to lean towards her. He can see the way her eyes widen at first and then flick between his eyes and his mouth as he leans closer, and she leans to bridge the gap.

“Love, what are you doing?” Good’s voice comes from out of the darkness and Love springs back quick enough that Tangmo can hardly even notice that even her hand is gone from his.

“Nothing!” Love calls from her now standing position. Tangmo can see where Good is standing now, and he waves his hand towards Love.

“Come on, back to bed. Everyone should be in their tents by now. Tangmo should know better as well.” Good says.

Tangmo does a mocking salute. “Yes sir, sorry, sir.”

Love turns back towards Tangmo, looking embarrassed that Good caught her and silently mouths her apology before scurrying quickly towards her brother. Tangmo sighs and leans back with his elbows on the table. What a mess, he thinks.

When he gets back to his tent again Vier is awake and looking not at all like a man who was recently dead asleep. “You’re such an asshole.” Tangmo says without much aggression and punches Vier in the arm. Vier laughs as Tangmo crawls into his own sleeping bag and closes his eyes.

 

Breakfast in the morning goes much the same as dinner had the night before, though they prepare enough food to take to-go lunches for today’s activity. Everyone seems a little bit squinty eyed and tired after their night in tents. Only Vier seems fully coherent, used to waking early and being outside for his daily runs, but Nuclear is still his hyper self, even when yawning between anecdotes.

“Tangmo,” Nuclear says, “can I trade tents with you. Menn is clingy.”

Menn scoffs but then immediately looks embarrassed. “I’m not! I rolled over in my sleep…”

“You cuddled me like a bolster pillow!” Nuclear is smiling though, and Tangmo rolls his eyes rather than responding.

Menn groans and looks down at his breakfast plate. “...I was asleep.” He grumbles, and most of the table laughs.

Tangmo and Love sit beside each other this time, and Tangmo spends most of the meal filling Love’s plate with various types of food until she begs him to stop. She smiles through most of the meal, though, and even lets Tangmo put his arm around her at one point so he feels accomplished.

 

The whole group gets together after breakfast and Teacher Kate instructs them on their activity. They each take their supplies and hike the half hour to the area where they are going to spend most of the day planting trees. Tangmo is beside Vier for most of the hike, but he can’t help but notice the vaguely menacing glares coming from Good’s direction. Tangmo sticks his tongue out at him.

The area where they’re planting is a small field, though much of the dirt has been plowed up already and it’s wet enough that most of them sink slightly into the mud as they start planting the small saplings with wrapped roots that they brought with them.

Tangmo spends most of his time trying to get other students to fall in the mud, mostly unsuccessfully. Love gets him to plant a few saplings of his own before Teacher Kate calls them all to a stop for their lunch break. Once Tangmo and Love grab their lunches, Love pulls him away from the group. Tangmo laughs when he hears the hoots and hollers from their friends behind them. Love stops not too far away from the group and sits cross legged in the grass beneath an old tree with twisted branches. Tangmo sits down beside her.

They eat their lunches together in a relatively comfortable silence, trading smiles. Tangmo wonders if he could get away with trying to kiss her here, or if she’d shy away again. There’s still a part of him that worries that she’s no longer interested but, almost as if she can read his mind, Love scoots closer and takes him by the hand while he’s lost in thought.

“So…” Love says, and Tangmo turns to look at her. She’s avoiding eye contact but sitting close. “About last night, what were you about to do when Good interrupted?”

Tangmo smiles, he can’t help it. He uses his free hand to tilt up Love’s chin until she’s forced to make eye contact. “I’m pretty sure you know.”

“I’m supposed to let the guy do this, right?” Love says quietly without looking away. Tangmo can feel his heart beating fast and he smiles slightly while moving his thumb from her chin to slowly stroke against Love’s cheekbone before cupping her jaw. He watches the way her lips part slightly as he starts to lean forward.

A loud yell sounds from the direction of the planting field where their classmates are. Tangmo freezes and Love pulls away.

“What was that?” She asks.

“I don’t know, we should go see.” Tangmo stands and pulls Love up by her hand. They move quickly back towards the field to find that one of the second year students had fallen in a hole and twisted his ankle.

On Teacher Kate’s instructions, Good takes the injured student back to the camp, and the rest of the students, Love and Tangmo included, finish their planting for the rest of the afternoon. The trip back to camp is more subdued than the morning, probably due to some level of physical exhaustion.

The injured student got some rest in the afternoon and seems to be fine, as far as Tangmo can tell, and dinner is prepared by the group without much incident. He finds his seat next to Vier, and quietly tells him the story of the afternoon.

“This is getting ridiculous.” He says. “I can’t believe how hard it’s been to kiss her. It’s like the universe doesn’t want it to happen.” Vier laughs and Tangmo gives him a glare. “I can’t believe that you’re laughing at me.”

Vier shrugs and takes a bite of his dinner. “It’s funny.”

“Since when did you grow a sense of humor, anyway? I taught you too well.”

Vier rolls his eyes rather than replying to that statement, and Tangmo eats the rest of his meal with the grumpiest expression he can manage.

Bed time is much the same as the night before, though this time Tangmo sees no hope of getting Love to sneak out again. He lays in his sleeping bag, tent only lit by the screen of his phone, texting Love.

-You sure there’s no way you can get away?

-Good is refusing to go to sleep until I do.

-He’s watching so close.

-damn. I really wanted to see you tonight.

-we saw each other an hour ago.

-yeah but you’re cute and i miss you.

-(⁄ ⁄•⁄ω⁄•⁄ ⁄)⁄

-see? cute.

-omg stop it, I’m going to sleep now.

-wish i was there.

-shut up.

-sweet dreams.

 

The next morning a quick breakfast is followed by packing up camp before the drive home. Love and Tangmo once again get seats next to each other in the van, and this time she lets him hold her hand and about half way through the drive she falls asleep on his shoulder and Tangmo really wishes he could kiss her right there and then. Vier notices the smile on his face the whole time Love is asleep and just grins back.

It’s late in the evening by the time they reach the school and everyone grabs their bags and shuffles off to their dorms. Good and Teacher Kate seem to be handling the general supplies, and Tangmo carries Love’s bag and his own as they head up the stairs.

They reach the 3rd floor landing, where Love would head towards her room and Tangmo would continue further up. Vier gives Tangmo a nod as he passes and continues climbing the stairs. Menn and Nuclear are lingering nearby.

“You guys go on ahead.” Love says to them. Nuclear looks like he wants to protest, but Menn nods and drags him away before he can talk.

Tangmo sets Love’s bag down between them in the stairwell. “Well.” He says.

“Hey, Tangmo?” Love asks, and Tangmo faces her directly. She steps forward, stands up on her tiptoes, and kisses him quickly on the lips. “Good night!” Love quickly shoulders her bag, waves, and walks with a bounce in her step off to her room.

Tangmo stands, frozen in place for a few too many seconds. Perhaps she does still like him after all.