Hafsól

A cold, wet nose presses up against his fingers, urgent and familiar. Naturally, Kolya grunts in his sleep, turns himself over, tries to jerk his arm away from it. There’s a dream he’s still chasing, one full of cold, of sloping hills, of a mountain piercing a skyline so intensely that it takes his breath away with the vastness of it. A mountain that he aches to climb--

The whimper of an impatient dog pierces the imagery of the mountain, the taste of cold on his tongue. It forces him to wake up fully, eyes cracking open, and slowly, he comes to more fully. The whine continues.

On autopilot, he clambers out of bed, trying to be mindful of Bear as he does so. The pug gives a whuff of annoyance as East and West follow him out of the bed. His hands move in an easy flurry, taking down leashes, attaching them to the correct dog. His feet jam and then finally easy into a pair of boots, and in just a few minutes, he’s taking them to where they need in the cool morning.

Working on automatic means that the rest of him takes time to come into working order, half dozing as his dogs do their necessary business. Every time his eyes falter every so often, he sees those flashes: mountains in the sky, the swath of snow.

Mercifully, they’re done early. Kolya makes his way back into the house, letting them off their leashes, washing his hands thoroughly in cold water, does his own business, and then opts to put on a pot of coffee instead of tea -- something told him he would need this over the usual home comfort. His head felt a little strange; not necessarily like a hangover in intense pain, yet something adjacent to it in the way that the coldness, the heaviness of the dream lingered on him.

As he allows the coffee to brew, he finds the notebook he always uses for mornings on his desk, digs out a pen out of one of his jackets, and begins to let his pen and mind wander. It won’t necessarily lessen the odd sensation in his head -- it will however, try and distract him, one palm pressed against his cheek as he worked.

The days in quarantine have mostly blended together. Try as he might, trying to do more out of them besides what was basic was hard on him. Dreams had turned sluggish, his turn in his interests had wound down. To say nothing of the fact that his very job had been deeply understaffed, overworn. Going in and out when he could was risky, and as things started to finally shift, he was looking forward to going back to normal.

His fingers idled on the page, drawing what came to him, as his mind turned over the dreams. Over the snow, the feeling deep inside him that he needed to go, that he needed to accomplish this. That the mountain was conquerable, that it was imperative that he prove that to himself and to….

“Crom,” the name falls out of his lips right as the coffee machine beeps, signaling that it was complete.

Kolya blinks, looking down at the journal. His mouth turns in curiosity at the drawing before him, at the jagged peaks. It wasn’t very good, not very realistic all things considered, yet he could see that there was something there in the way he had rendered the skyline, the figure in the snow. The word he’d written beside it didn’t seem to be English--

West whines, nuzzles his side.

Kolya reaches down to scratch the wolfdog’s ear, glances at the clock. It’s still early, and if he wanted to make a head way, he would have to get his day started.

He closes the journal, goes to make his coffee. And thinks of the word Crom until he has to divert his attention to other things.

FEELING HELPLESS I LOOK FOR DISTRACTION I GO SEARCHING FOR YOU

"you don't need me to help you with this course," luna's voice is steady, calm and has that flint of tone that alexander was starting to recognize as an opening silo to an argument. "you haven't opened up that book the entire time you've been here with me."

caught, alexander isn't quite sure how he should respond to this. he keeps looking at luna's hands, poised in front of him perfectly clasped together, not touching the food alexander had ordered a few minutes ago. he feels as if he's been chastised by this man he's looked up to for months, who he followed onto this campus to know better--even if he would never admit such a thing outloud for fear of what it could mean, to admit to that. he swallows, looks up and tries to say something that doesn't feel foolish (luna makes him feel deeply foolish, sometimes)...

and comes up empty. his mouth closes, jaw clenching with the inability to voice what he wanted to say.

luna is patient, saintly almost, with his silence as it stretches onward.

it takes a few more moments of silence until alexander can finally voice, "no. i don't," he looks up fully, still struggling with what precisely he's feeling, sitting here in luna's kitchen, fingers nervously reaching out to start unpacking the chinese food before him. "you're smarter than-- i..." he feels as if there's something just beyond his grasp for what he wants to say, needs to say. he wants to get there, to stop feeling thrust under a spotlight like this.

luna's fingers touch his own on the bag. alexander freezes at the sudden touch. there are a thousand reasons as to why luna would have reached out to deliberately touch him with the first five being the ones that make him uncomfortable, as none of those ideas are something that he thinks luna shares.

and yet, he can't make himself pull away.

Till we're lost in the heat of the moment

whenever alexander mentions the boarding schools he's gone to, there is always an assumption that such places helped to engender a community of brotherhood, understanding and safety. anyone who has actually gone to such schools knows that such an idea is laughable.

for many people, they eventually made it out with friends, connections, rivalries that mattered in the real world, could always be circled back to, and in a manner, could make something of it.

most boys were not alexander, who routinely found himself sneaking off to other places on the grounds to eat his food alone, who kept to himself whenever he could manage, who's one friend lived elsewhere, and who preferred the company of his nanny to his parents' voices over the line interrogating him on grades.

it was all this to say that to have any semblance of kindness or friendship was sparse and lacking. most contact with other boys in the emotional and physical sense, for him were ones laden with tones of annoyance or purely punitive in nature. his roommate bodychecking him roughly in the hallways, the sports he hardly participated in left him bruised, and the visible irritation others had whenever those necessary social engagements happened and alexander, somehow, failed to miss a social cue, or did not understand the joke being said.

to be suddenly touched by luna ibarra, in his kitchen, in a way that does not feel punitive or laced with irritation is strange. stranger still is that there is a yearning alexander finds in those moments before he bolts from the apartment. a yearning to have that touch spread, to have it linger in a longer way than the few moments he was permitted there, to have a true sense of... of something he has no name for.

So draw me close

two days pass between the hasty retreat. luna texts him, emails him. alexander ignores it, tries to actually pay attention to the course laid out for him. he feels however, his mind starting to wander every few pages. he thinks about what he's left there, about the warmth of luna's hands on his in that moment, on how much he had wanted from it. the words, the emotions are still there, at the very edge of his mind, sitting there, wanting to be understood.

worse, really, is that he misses luna. it isn't the same thing as missing other friends, as missing his parents or missing anything else. it is deeper than that, sticks in the craw of his mind in a way that he can't dismiss the same or push down like anything else.

so when, on day three, luna sends him another text, asking him to meet him for lunch, alexander says yes.

when luna asks him if they are still friends, alexander says yes.

and when luna asks him if he wants to leave for awhile, to make up for time, alexander says yes.