Richard's Redemption

Chapter 7

To my relief, Todd bolts for the dorm once he's out of the gym. I thought he might have headed for the cave... but with all the females on campus tonight, there's going to be extra security on hand, to prevent any couples from trying to sneak off. I follow him inside and up to our room, trying to be quiet.

I didn't need to. Todd is curled up on his bed, crying so hard he doesn't even react when the light from the hallway flares and goes out as I enter and shut the door. I don't stop to think, I just react to his pain, sitting on the bed beside him and putting my arms around him.

He turns into the touch, clinging to me and sobbing against my shoulder. I don't think he knows it's me. I think he's just reaching out for some kind of human touch and sympathy. But I don't care. I hold him close in the pale glow from the window, stroking his hair and letting him cry himself out. “I miss him so much...” he whispers brokenly through his tears.

“I miss him too,” I murmur. Without thinking, I press my lips lightly against Todd's temple, the way my mother used to kiss me when I was very small and upset about something.

Todd starts to nuzzle against my neck, then suddenly pulls away, his eyes flying wide open in shock. “You!” he practically hisses. “So... now you can go to Nolan and get me expelled. As if I care. Tell everyone, why don't you? Tell everyone that I loved Neil. Tell them all I'm a fag! I'm sure that'll make you feel oh so happy and important, won't it?”

I flinch at his words, I can't help it. Tears spring into my eyes but I don't bother trying to hide them. Not from him, not anymore. If this spells the end of my future, so be it. But I can't let Todd think I'm that horrible of a person, I just can't. “No, Todd, I can't do that. I...” I hesitate for a second, then take a deep breath and continue. “I can't do that... because I'm... I'm queer too.”

A sudden silence fills the room, broken only by Todd's breathing, still harsh from his recent crying. His face has gone from red to white in the faint light from the window as he stares at me with an unreadable expression.

“I... I guessed about you earlier this week,” I tell him, feeling my own face starting to burn. “I found a poem you wrote on the floor next to the wastebasket... I knew it was about Neil. And then I saw you looking at the picture before you went to bed and I just knew. And I was even a little jealous of you... jealous that you were able to reach out to Neil like you did. Like I always wished I could. Damn it, Todd, I am sorry about Keating, but I was so upset when Neil... I had to blame someone, and he was the easiest target...” I can't hold back a sob.

Todd remains silent as I speak. But when I start crying, he moves closer once more and puts his arm around me, silently inviting me to lean on him as he leaned on me a few minutes ago.

My God, it feels so good to hold and be held.

As my own sobs quiet, he speaks softly. “I don't think Neil ever knew how much I cared. I don't think he knew that I... wanted to be more than his friend. He tried to fix me up with Ginny Danburry after all. I used to daydream that someday, when we were out of here and he'd broken loose from his father, that he'd realize he cared for me the way I cared for him.”

“I think he knew, Todd,” I say. “I think he cared, but probably thought you didn't care for him. I mean... you weren't exactly, um, making passes at him, right?”

“Well, no,” he admits. “I didn't want to get kicked out of school if he complained. And I didn't want to have to face him again if he turned me down but didn't complain, you know?”

“I know,” I say. “When I started here in the seventh grade, I got Chet Danburry as a roommate. He punched me when I cried the first night. And threatened to tell Nolan I was a fairy.” I laugh mirthlessly. “I didn't even know what he meant back then, would you believe it? And then as it turns out, I really am one. But because of him, I never dared let anyone find out. Not until now.”

Todd pulls back a little, not releasing me, but enough to look into my eyes. “Why did you tell me?” he asks.

I blush painfully. “Partly because I... I didn't want you to think I was that low that I'd nark you out to Nolan for it. And partly because... well, because I'm... because I'm attracted to you, Todd.”

Now it's his turn to blush. “I... you... ah...”

I can't help the smile that creeps onto my face and into my voice. “Do you know why I was babbling like I was when I helped with your tie earlier? It was because I wanted to kiss you... and the way you were standing with your head up so I could work just made it look like you were waiting to be kissed.”

“Cameron... Richard. You... you're serious, aren't you?” Todd's face is a mixture of shock, hope, and fear. But his arm is still around me.

I reply by lifting a hand to his cheek, then leaning in and gently kissing him.


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