Connor watched silently as they lowered his boyfriend’s body into the ground. He did not cry. In fact, he had not cried once since receiving the news. He felt only numbness and a sense of unreality.
Kevin was dead and he was never coming back.
Connor looked around at the solemn faces of everyone in attendance. This was what Kevin’s life had amounted to: five friends and a younger sister.
It could have been so much more, Connor thought. Kevin could have had tens of hundreds of people at his funeral. If only he had never met Connor. That was truly when his life started to roll down hill.
They had met on their two year mission to Uganda. Kevin had arrived with a smile on his face and Elder Cunningham by his side. He had been ready to take on the world.
But then everything started to slip. Kevin’s perfect life was ripped at the seams. He lost his faith in God, he was sodomized, and eventually he was corrupted by Connor’s homosexual thoughts.
The two had quickly fallen deeply and madly in love.
But by then, Connor was already diseased, disgusting and unworthy. He had succumbed to a moment of weakness with a Ugandan man while pining for Kevin. He hadn’t know about proper protection, being from a private school that taught abstinence only education.
Connor had then unknowingly passed on his sickness to his beloved Kevin.
Poor Elder Price didn’t stand a chance.
When Kevin told his family that he was sick, they disowned him. His sickness was his punishment for his sinful ways, after all.
The only family member who hadn’t completely rejected him was his youngest sister, Mary. She had told him that she loved him no matter what.
Kevin died about a year later. The doctors did everything they could to make him comfortable. In the end it was all they could do.
Connor had stayed by his side through it all. Whether it was out of guilt or love, he no longer knew.
Arnold and Nabulungi had also been there for Kevin. Arnold was as torn up over Kevin as Connor was.
Everyone at the funeral was devastated. They were the only ones in the world who cared, but Connor thought Kevin would be pleased with that.
In the end, these people were the only ones Kevin needed.
When the casket in finally buried, Arnold softly asked Connor if he was ready to leave. Connor nodded dazedly. They were the last two at the gravesite.
Connor figured Chris and James must have taken Mary home.
“Where is Nabulungi?” Connor managed to ask.
“Home, I imagine.” Arnold replied, guiding Connor down the path to the church. “She’s going back to Uganda tomorrow.”
Connor didn’t bother to ask why. He knew Arnold would continue.
“We broke up.” Connor looked shocked at this news. “She said I was too broken to ever really be with her.”
Connor frowned and placed his hand on Arnold’s shoulder, causing the boy to stop.
“Because of-” Connor couldn’t say his name. Luckily, Arnold knew what he meant.
“He is- was my best friend.” Connor winced at the past tense. He let go of Arnold’s arm and continued walking.
The two were silent until they reached Arnold’s car.
Connor finally broke the silence.
“Will you come home with me?” The red head asked hopefully.
Arnold reluctantly nodded. “Sure.”
He drove Connor home and before he knew it, they were in Connor and Kevin’s apartment.
Connor took off his suit jacket and tossed it on the couch. “Do you want some tea?” He unceremoniously flung his nice shoes across the living room, heading for the kitchen.
“That would be great. Thanks.” Arnold said awkwardly, sitting on the small couch.
Connor put the kettle on the stove and walked back into the living room, taking a seat next to his friend. He sighed heavily and loosened his black tie.
“Connor,” Arnold started carefully. “I think… I think you should see someone. Like a therapist or something.”
Connor frowned. “Why?”
“Because you spend all day shut up in your apartment and you haven’t cried since… Since.” Arnold said resolutely.
“I’m fine, Arnold.” Connor lied.
“No, you’re not.” Arnold always seemed to see right through Connor. Wasn’t Arnold supposed to be the oblivious one?
Connor pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I’m fine.” He repeated. He’d been repeating it for years. Sometimes he almost believed it.
“Connor.” Arnold practically whined in a way that sounded painfully like Kevin.
The kettle whistled from the kitchen.
“I’ll get it.” Connor said, practically running from the room.
Arnold sighed and shook his head. He was trying to help Connor. Why couldn’t Connor see that? It’s what Kevin would have wanted: Connor being at least okay.
Had Connor ever been okay?
Connor returned with two mugs of tea and handed one to Arnold, taking his seat again.
“I know it’s an odd request, but…” Connor looked slightly nervous. “Would you stay the night with me? It’s just… I don’t want to be alone. Not tonight.”
“Of course.” Arnold answered without a seconds thought. This was the love of his best friend’s life. He would protect Connor at all costs.
That night Arnold slept on a pile on blankets on the floor right next to Connor’s bed. Connor almost didn’t feel quite so lonely.
Connor woke up to the sound of movement coming from outside his room. He could hear someone humming from the kitchen.
He rolled out of bed with a small smile on his face.
“Morning.” He called, changing into a fresh t-shirt.
He practically moaned at the scent of coffee as he walked into the kitchen. “Do I smell coffee, Kev-”
Connor froze at the sight of Arnold.
He had forgotten. For a few minutes he had lived in a blissful world where Kevin was still alive. He had thought it was Kevin humming from the kitchen like he always had.
Connor’s knees gave out and he fell to the floor, finally sobbing.
Arnold rushed to his side, shushing the red head and rubbing circles in his back in an attempt to comfort him.
They sat like that for about twenty minutes before Connor felt strong enough to get up and sit at the table.
“I… I thought…”
“I know.” Arnold said softly, placing a plate of food in front of Connor.
Connor took small bites of the eggs and bacon but mostly just sat in silence.
When Connor was finished with his food, Arnold cleaned up their plates and forced Connor to move into the living room. They watched several nature documentaries before Connor asked if they could please change the channel.
“But this is so interesting.” Arnold said sarcastically.
“I want to watch Annie.”
And so they did.
Arnold had fallen asleep halfway through the movie and had cuddled up to Connor sometime shortly after. Connor smiled slightly at the softly snoring man on his shoulder.
He missed touching another person. It felt like an eternity since the last time he had held Kevin’s hand.
They spent the rest of the day napping and watching movies, which soon became a regular habit. The two started spending all of their free time cuddled up on Connor’s couch.
Days turned into weeks. Week turned into months. Before Connor knew it, it had been seven months since Kevin’s death.
Connor wouldn’t lie. It had been hell mourning Kevin. But he had recently become closer to Arnold and things weren’t quite so painful anymore.
Connor and Arnold were now living together.
Rumors spread about the nature of their relationship after Chris Thomas had paid the two a visit, which prompted a call from Nabulungi one afternoon.
“Arnold, are you and Connor… You know…” She said awkwardly over the phone.
“Are we what?” Arnold asked.
“Chris seems to think… that you and Connor… Are you two fucking?” She finally spat out.
“What?” Arnold was shocked.
He didn’t even know why Naba would think such a thing. Sure, Arnold and Connor were close. And sometimes they cuddled. And Connor looked at him with this mix of sad and happy expression. But that was just… What was it?
Arnold had no idea.
“Gotta go.” Arnold shouted and hung up.
He needed to talk to Connor about this.
“Hey, Con…” Arnold started over Chinese takeout.
“Yeah?” Connor asked, wiping the corner of his mouth with a napkin.
“Remember in Uganda when you and Kevin were in this weird purgatory-like place with your relationship where you wouldn’t admit you liked each other and you thought the other didn’t like the other so you just flirted and danced around each other because you were confused-”
“Spit it out, Arnold.” Connor said calmly, completely confused about what Arnold had just said.
“Are we… a thing?” He finally said, cheeks turning slightly pink.
Connor looked shocked at the question.
“What makes you ask that?” He asked a little defensively.
“Well, it’s just that we spend a lot of time together and Nabulungi thinks we are having… You know… and you look at me like… like how you used to look at Kev- you know who.” Arnold had started twirling his thumbs during his speech.
“Oh…” Connor said, looking slightly pained. “Arnold, you are a lovely person.”
Arnold knew where this was going and he did not think he liked it.
“But I… Honestly, I’m not over Kevin. I love spending time with you. I really do. I just… I need more time.”
Arnold nodded in understanding.
“I guess what I’m saying is, give me time. I like you. I’m just not ready yet.” Connor looked slightly nervous.
Arnold smiled a little. “I can do that.”
Connor grinned widely and hugged Arnold.
Arnold couldn’t help but hug back. He could wait.
“I love you.” Connor said nervously, not having the courage to look Kevin in the eye.
Kevin chuckled and cupped Connors face, causing the shorter boy to look up into Kevin’s brown eyes.
“I love you too, Con. I have for a while.”
Connor couldn't think straight. He was so happy. Kevin Price loved him. He couldn’t have predicted this even if he tried.
They kissed softly. It was Connor’s first real kiss. It felt amazing.
“I can’t believe this is actually happening.” Connor said breathlessly, kissing Kevin again. This time the kiss was much more passionate.
Connor moaned softly when he felt Kevin grab his ass.
“Me either.” Kevin said with a laugh and then nipped at Connor’s pale throat, leaving a mark.
“You love me.” Connor moaned again. “You actually love me.”
“I do.” Kevin said, unbuttoning Connor’s shirt.
Connor had never been as happy as he was in that moment. He had finally connected with his soul mate and he would never let him go.
They would spend the rest of their lives together. Connor just knew it.