am i more than you bargained for yet?

1. the first clue that something is off is the money in the tin. he's been keeping it in the tin for years now -- it used to be full of udit's old tea. he'd given it to kolya soon after they had met, and he'd turn it into a bank for himself, putting money there whenever he could. he was smart enough not to tell aaron outright what it was for; he also didn't do much to hide it from him either. he makes sure to count it as much as he could, putting it away casually. there was no reason to be suspicious, and aaron always took care of himself. except this time, after a night out, when kolya presses his fingers inside, he instinctively knows: it's short.

confused, he pulls it out, counts out the bills. he's twenty dollars shorts.

2. what do you do when the boy you fall in love with doesn't seem to be trustworthy anymore?

3. "did you need some money from me, aaron?" there's no need to beat around the bush at all. he never does, has never had to. aaron glances up from his place at the kitchen, eyebrows rising. "you would just have to ask."

aaron pauses, and frowns. "you accusing me of stealing?"

4. the tone he uses is familiar. it's the tone he uses when joking, it's the tone he uses when being playful, it's the tone used to smooth over arguments. nothing in his demeanor feels suspicious, he's never lied before. kolya smiles back at him. "no. just saying -- you can ask me. that's all." he comes over, kisses his cheek. he decides that whatever it was might've been embarrassing or just cigarettes. he figures that aaron will tell him, and it will be forgiven.

5. there are a lot of little pieces of forgiveness over the time: missed calls, missed dates, missing change. forgiving him for outbursts, for small shoves, for small slaps, for clipped tones, for lingering looks. they're small. they pile up. people who love each other are supposed to forgive each other. they're supposed to let go of the small things, work toward the bigger things. destroying for the sake of destruction, to hold a grudge was never in kolya's heart.

6. he doesn't want to start playing things close. he doesn't want to start suspecting every little thing. it's too much of a burden to bear, to be suspicious of the man that you are in love with. he doesn't want to have to do that. kolya doesn't think there's a real reason to do so, and so he lets the forgiveness pile up. he moves the tin, but he continues to trust aaron, to stay with him, to believe in him. he doesn't want to have conflict, and he's not even sure how to. there is nothing outright to pull on, no real thread to really point to as an example, as a real red flag. it's not like in movies, it's not like television shows with smoking guns, where the perfume is obvious or the lipstick is on the neck. there's no phone to be broken into, no loud accusations.

7. it's just one day, waking up to a pounding headache and trying to find his phone. it's getting up, getting ready for work, and realizing that his wallet is gone. looking around frantically for it in the apartment and realizing that aaron's jacket is gone, his keys are gone. realizing that almost everything he had in the apartment was gone -- and the tin with all of his extra money, was gone to.

8. he makes ten calls. they all go straight to voicemail. kolya gets the picture.

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.