Chris pulls up to the park and thinks to himself that he must be as out of shape as he is late. He knew he was supposed to meet the rest of the band at this park, but he’d known nothing of the hill at the center of it. Perhaps the nap he’d taken earlier still has a hold on him. He’s seen much higher hills, but this one, just looking at it, makes his legs ache. As he exits the car he groans. Up there, probably nobody is left, since he should have arrived two hours earlier, but he’s got to scale the summit to find out for sure and either make himself feel bad or make himself feel, well, worse.
He sees nobody, of course. But he hears someone. He looks around, because he knows that husky alto floating through the air better than he knows the sound of his own voice. It is coming, he thinks, from somewhere near a large patch of shrubs halfway down the slope of the hill, on the opposite side from which he’d arrived. There is enough room for Jon in there. There is enough room for Jon in most places.
Chris lumbers down the hill, thankful that his feet are big enough that they tend to act as effective skids no matter what angle he has to walk, but the incline still renders him wobbly, gawky. He has been twenty-two for a little over a month, but ever since he dropped out of school, he thinks there is a bit of him that is always a quiet, clumsy teenager.
Especially around Jon. And he wonders if Jon has noticed, if he noticed that one night, but he shakes the thought away and keeps walking until he arrives at the ring of bushes.
Though he expects to see a head of black-brown waves somewhere among the shrubbery, he finds nothing when he parts the bushes and looks in. The plants are taller than he is, though, by some miracle, and when he looks inside the clearing within, he sees one plant, something akin to a lovechild of a tree and a bush, growing smack in the middle of it. Jon’s voice still calls to him, conscious or not of whether it means to. He is singing, but not words. Just sounds.
“Jon?” he calls.
The singing stops. “Oh!” Jon’s head appears around the corner of the tree in the center. He sits on the ground, apparently, and smiles at Chris once the surprise leaves his face. “Christopher! You’ve come to join me at last! What a lovely thing! Please, please, come to me, Christopher!”
As if he’s been on some kind of Jon hunt. He smiles, anyway, and he lopes over to him, not ready to take a seat on the grass yet, though from the way Jon peers up at him, his brows tilted, he feels invited to.
“I’m, uh, sorry I got here so late,” he says. He can’t make eye contact with Jon. He looks up beyond the ring of tree-bushes around them at the clear blue circle of sky above. “I fell asleep again.”
Jon sighs, but Chris hears the smile in it. It makes him look down. Jon holds a ring of daisies woven together in his lap, a few other flowers arranged in a pile to his side. “I expected as much,” he says. “But that’s quite alright. The meeting was rather short.”
“What’d you talk about?” Chris asks.
Jon waves his hand in the air, floppy about his wrist, and then picks up his daisy chain and examines it. “Oh, you know, all the whole Peter business, but really, all it is cleared up. As soon as we can we shall get that Steve Howe fellow and call him our own.”
“He’s still in Bodast, though,” Chris says.
“That won’t be a problem, though, I figured, since you’re going to make it up to me by going and speaking to him, won’t you? So to make up for this whole lateness business. You’re my best mate in this, you know that, Christopher?” He can’t smile without giggling a little. His best mate. “Come sit with me, I’ve a present made for you.”
He knows before he takes a seat what Jon plans on doing, so as soon as he is seated beside him, he bows his head as if receiving the honors of knighthood and waits until he feels Jon crown him with the daisy chain. Then, anointed, he sits up straight. “How do I look?” he asks.
“As handsome as ever did a knight before his faerie queen,” Jon says, a happy kitten-purr, only opening his eyes to pick up another pair of daisies from the pile at his side and begin weaving anew.
Chris knows that voice well. Jon uses it whenever he is particularly satisfied with himself, whenever he thinks he has done something to make the world a more beautiful place, and when nobody around him has any mind to disagree. When Jon speaks in that voice he is right.
It terrifies Chris a little.
It terrifies him, because once, after a gig all the way up in Manchester, they’d arrived back to the house in the blue hour of dawn, and, robbed of sleep and wracked with fatigue from heart to fingertips, Jon slumped against the side of the building in the alley and cried, and Chris gathered him in his arms and carried him inside, and he told him it would be okay and they could get some sleep now, and would he like anything, and Jon wouldn’t say a word discernible through the tears, so Chris told him again that he’d done a wonderful job on stage, and he sounded beautiful and he looked every bit the angel he sounded, and did he know how perfect he was, voice and body and spirit, and Jon moaned quietly, and Chris leaned in and kissed him, and in the middle of realizing what he’d done, Jon, in that voice, said, “I fancy you, you know, Christopher, and I’m glad you fancy me, too, isn’t that nice?” and then fell asleep, and Chris never got to answer.
That was weeks ago. And although Jon hadn’t pressed it at all, Chris still didn’t know how to answer, and he wondered now if he even should. He fingered the petals of the daisies upon his head, each one delicate and smooth, and it all reminds him of Jon’s skin without him even thinking about it. Exactly like his skin. The soft white curve of his cheek right where it meets the corner of his mouth.
Jon takes to singing again. Nestled within his own conclave of silence, Chris watches him, as if indoors and peering through a window. It is amazing, he thinks, just how much motion is required to form the simplest syllable. Every different sound sends Jon’s lips puckering and pouting in a different way, his teeth shining, the tip of his tongue flickering out. His lips. They are pink and they snap, pop, poke, spring, kiss the air, snake between sounds.
Chris moves his hand from the daisy petal to Jon’s cheek without feeling a difference. He kisses him. He wonders if Jon feels a difference between singing notes to himself and kissing Chris back.
Does the kissing get better each time you do it with a person? Do you learn something new about them each time your lips touch? Chris finds himself, then makes sure that he is, kissing Jon fuller, more deeply, than that first time. He opens his mouth wider with each rocking of their heads until he requests permission to introduce his tongue. And Jon grants it. In he goes, a little deeper with each sweep, just a nudge against Jon’s or sometimes a looping dance around it to intertwine them. Jon tries to hold him tightly but his grip is weak. To relieve him, Chris eases him onto the grass and lays himself on top of him.
Jon moans in the same tone with which he sings. Exactly the same sound, too elven to be angelic, too angelic to be elven. Chris does not know where this person could have come from, or why he would fancy the likes of him, but God, he fancies him. Chris fancies Jon, he is absolutely right. He can only think it when he kisses him. He fancies him.
He loves him.
This is the only context in which it feels right to say to himself that he does fancy Jon. Completely and utterly. He says it to himself a million times, says it over and over again, I fancy him, I fancy him, I want him, I want to touch him, I want to do everything I have ever imagined doing with another person with Jon, I want to make him feel good, I want to make him cry out my name and beg for me, I want to be with him, I want him, I fancy him, I love him, because if he says it elsewhere, at any other time, he feels he doesn’t deserve to say it ever, because he can’t make the words come out of his mouth.
Well, if he can’t make the words come out of his mouth, he at least can make the whole thing latch onto Jon’s. God, he’s stupid. But Jon is grasping for him and he doesn’t want to let him go. If he lets him go he lets him down.
He loves him. For two years he has loved him.
Then something makes their kissing snag. Just as Chris catches Jon’s bottom lip in his teeth and softly tugs on it, he feels a kind of unconcerned tickling sensation near his hips. It is nothing being done to him. It is something just happening. Jon remains unconcerned.
In a moment, though, he hears a metallic clink, and he knows that Jon has unbuckled his own belt and let the massive, clunky, cross-shaped buckle fall loose onto the grass. Chris breaks away and sits up. Jon follows.
“Whatever is the matter?” Jon asks, panting, his cheeks the color of fire. Sweat has glued thin tendrils of his hair to his forehead, to the sides of his face.
Chris does not know how long he has been holding his hand over his mouth. Silent he sits studying the prone and willing and tiny—perfectly-constructed tiny thing—tiny tiny body of his singer—his singer!—before him. He is tinted with desire. His lips puff towards him, bright red and bitten, his hair speckled with crushed, broken daisy petals, panting, his belt loose and unbuckled, his green trousers unzipped, his thumb toying with the hem of his white tunic.
Chris shakes his head. “Christ,” he whispers. “Christ, shit, this is just like last time.”
“No it’s not,” Jon replies, closing his eyes so he can speak in that high, calm, quiet purr that cannot tell anything but the truth. “Last time was a sad time. This is a happy time. But we can move elsewhere, if that is the way you please.”
“I don’t know, Jon, I—no, I—”
Jon crawls forward, kneeling in front of Chris so he can wrap his arms around his shoulders, rest his head on one, and lean his lips in close to his ear.
“Ravish me, Christopher,” he purrs. “It’ll be easier for both of us.”
He moves away. Chris has not expected this. Jon rests his forehead against Chris’ and their eyes meet. Jon’s eyebrows tilt in that invitation angle, neither prying nor insisting nor expecting. Just hoping.
“I do fancy you,” Chris insists.
He wants to tack a “but” onto the end of it, but he can’t think of anything to put after it. With this on his mind he can’t look at Jon’s eyes. It’s too close to looking him in them. He shakes his head, wanting to bring his hands up to hide his face, hide his color. Jon, though, has clasped his own over them.
Jon smiles. And giggles. And speaks in nothing but his purr. “You look wonderful handsome in your flowers.” He gives him a kiss on the lips, over and done with as instantaneous as an inoculation.
Chris closes his eyes, laughing. “You’re so beautiful.” He shakes his head again, and he stands up, taking Jon by the hand as he goes.
And Jon takes him by the whole arm, leaning his entire body against Chris, his head against his shoulder. Then after they leave the ring of bushes he walks side-by-side with him side-by-side. “I love you,” Jon murmurs.
From the top of the hill, Chris sees his car parked down on the asphalt below. He exchanges a look with Jon, then gestures with a flick of his head down toward the vehicle. This is not the place for him to say, “I love you, too.” But Jon stands on his toes, reaches up, adjusts the daisy chain encircling his head, and then leads the way down. When they get to the flat he can tell him. There he can tell him every time he has ever wanted to, and every time he has ever felt, and every time he will ever need to.