No one can hurt me, I am my worst enemy. No one can hurt me, I am my worst enemy. No one can hurt me, I am my worst enemy. Kaemon keeps repeating this to himself as he walks into the monumental room where the ball takes place. He knows, he can meet bad people here, people who want to hurt him, but he had to come as a representative of Pseudo Wave. Annika is here as well, somewhere, so if something should happen, she can help a little. Lais is here too, but he can’t talk to him, they’re supposed to be colleagues at most.
This night is tiring and too stressful. Kaemon shakes hands with a few people, talks to them about the gallery he works at and invites them to drop by sometime. By the end of the event he’s exhausted.
When he’s done, he says goodbye to Annika and they agree that they’ll meet tomorrow at work. He walks down the main stairs at the entrance and sees a small group of people by the end of it, standing and talking on the sidewalk. He notices Lais among them, but turns his head, walking to the car that’s waiting for him about a block away. He almost reaches the crosswalk when he hears his name, his nickname being called behind him.
'Kae, wait for me!'
He stops and looks around, but it’s just him and Lais, the street is empty around them.
'What do you want?'
'A goodnight kiss.'
'Annika could be nearby, or someone associated with work.'
'Oh, come on, no one’s here.'
'Okay. Then at least talk with me for a minute.'
'I don’t know, how was the night for you?'
'Yeah, a lot of people were there, I can understand.'
'How about you?'
'Did you enjoy the ball?'
'It wasn’t that bad, I got to talk with a lot of people.'
'Kae, don’t you want to come over tonight?'
'I’ll have to work tomorrow.'
'You can go from my place.'
Kaemon looks at the direction of the car waiting for him and shakes his head.
'Sorry, maybe another time.'
'Okay. Good bye then!'
Lais caresses his face then turns and leaves, back to where he came from.
Kaemon continues walking towards the car and gets in. On the driver’s seat his best friend smiles at him.
'Shall we go?'
For a while they don’t speak, but then Ali breaks the silence. She questions Kaemon about what’s bothering him, and the boy tells her that he doesn’t think it was the right decision to ditch his boyfriend, but he already asked Ali to come pick him up in the middle of the night, so he didn’t want to leave her.
'Oh, honey, I’d have understood! You don’t do this all the time, so it would have been fine.'
'Don’t be sad now, next time just do what you’d like to do, okay?'
'Okay. Thank you.'
When they got to Kaemon’s apartment, they immediately went to bed, but the boy’s phone started ringing as soon as he covered himself with the blanket.
'Kaemon, I need your advice.'
'Mari? In the middle of the night?'
'Yeah, now that Peter’s away, I can only call you. He said I can trust you and bother you.'
'Why are you even awake?'
'Why are you awake?'
'I just got home from work.'
'I’m working too. So do you think that mixing cute and dark themes to the extent that it becomes really disturbing and makes you question humanity is a bad idea?'
'I’m really flattered that the great Marion Tessla asks me while creating a new art piece, but do you really think I’m a good choice to stake out your boundaries?'
'Stop overdoing the civil, just answer my question.'
'No, it isn’t a bad idea. Whatever you come up with is a good idea, okay?'
'How can you know that?'
'I know people say talent is just practice, but I could practice painting for decades, I couldn’t reach your level. But you, with only practicing as a hobby, can do nothing wrong. It’s a given.'
'Okay. Thank you. Bye!'
Kaemon drops his head on the pillow. This is not the first time it happens, since Peter left. The guy is on a paid vacation, or what. He travels and he said he’d attend a public experiment to witness how far humans can go. Or something like that. The point is that since he’s not around, Mari keeps calling Kaemon whenever she has art block or just feels lonely. Which he doesn’t mind, but why does her phone calls have to always be at night?
The morning comes too soon for Lais; he’s still tired so he decides to have a lazy day, staying in bed for longer. Riley checks up on him but leaves to go grocery shopping.
It’s been quite a few months since he got together with Kae, and almost a year since he met him again at the gallery. He tries his best to support and tolerate his boyfriend’s mood swings and still closed personality, but lately it gets almost unbearable. He wants to be more with Kae. He wants to get closer, do more.
Lais throws himself around in the bed and squeezes his eyes. He knows that hurrying things is bad, but he’s just so impatient, he wants to skip to the part when he doesn’t have to monitor what he says.
After about an hour of this procrastination, he gets up and decides to take a walk to the nearby stream. He gets dressed and leaves the house. The sun is already quite high up, he notes; he must have lost his sense of time. Looking at the running water mesmerizes him, not noticing the girl waving at him from the other side of the brook at first. When he looks at the other, she smiles and holds her finger, signaling for him to wait there.
In a minute the girl stands next to him. She has long wavy dark ginger hair and blue eyes; her dress has long sleeves despite the hot temperature.
'Hey, I’m sorry that I just hailed you down, but at first I wasn’t sure it’s really you.' She chatters, and reminds Lais of a robin.
'Then I guess it’s really me. Though now I’m not sure I know who you are.'
'Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t know me, I’m just a huge fan of yours. I’m Mary Tigram.' She extends her hand and the boy shakes it.
'In that case, nice to meet you!'
'The pleasure is mine. Would you mind exchanging a few words with me? Also a selfie?'
'My apologies' Lais takes a step back.', I don’t really like being photographed. But I’d be glad to talk.' He smiles.
'Being a photographer but not liking your picture taken, surely interesting.'
'It’s not a superstition, I just know too well how a photo can be manipulated; so I guess it’s more like paranoia.' The boy laughs and scratches the back of his head.
'You make photography sound scary.'
'In the wrong hands, a picture can destroy more than a nuke.'
'Sorry, but it’s true.'
'All right. Are you working on a project right now?'
'Not really. Art block.'
'Oh. It’s hard to imagine. What helps you overcome it?'
'A few days off, distracting myself…'
'With what?' Mary cuts in.
'Anything but work. Friends, family…'
'That sounds so nice! I bet your partner helps a lot too.'
'Huh? My partner?'
'Well, I don’t know anything, it’s just rumored that you’re in a relationship.'
'Oh, I see. And you want me to confirm or deny it.'
'Lais, I wasn’t entirely honest…'
'I’m gonna pretend I’m surprised.'
'I really am a great fan of yours, but I’m also a journalist. I work at a magazine that specializes in arts and entertainment. I write for the visual arts department.'
'Shall I write a small article based on what we talked about? Strictly what we talked about.' She corrects herself.
'Mail it to me before you publish it.'
'Of course! Thank you!'
'Bye then!' Lais turns, his mood slightly ruined.
'About my last question…!'
'There wasn’t even a question.' The boy halts but doesn’t turn.
'You know I have a pretty good idea whether it’s true or not.'
'And what’s your guess?'
'It’s kinda obvious… that it’s true. And everyone wants to know more.'
'I bet. Bye.'
Lais picks up his pace and practically runs home.
His chest hurts and feels so tight, though he can’t comprehend why. He’s never felt like this before. Sure, he’s felt shitty and annoyed and angry, but this is different. This is like… Yes, he’s panicking. Great. Kae infected him.
He knows all of this is ridiculous, but he calls Ali – the only person he knows that can handle situations like this.
'Hey, how’s it going?' The girl answers, probably busy, diverting her attention.
'Ali. I’m… I don’t know what’s happening. I feel bad. Very bad.'
'Are you sick?'
'No. I think… I’m panicking?'
'It’s about Kae, I guess.'
'What happened to him?' Now Ali concentrates fully on what Lais says.
'Nothing? Technically it’s my problem, but it’s about him.'
'Okay, Lais, tell me everything that’s happened; what upset you.'
'I met a journalist who said people think I’m dating someone and they want to know more.' Summarizes the blond. 'What if they find out about Kae? They’ll kill him!'
'Why would they? Same-sex romantic relationships are far from rare.'
'Unintentionally. Can you imagine how Kae’d react? He’d drop dead.'
'Holy fuck.' Ali understands finally. 'And you started to panic because of this.
'Lais. Considering everything, no matter how bad the situation looks, never panic. Never. Once you start, you’ll get trapped. We’ll solve everything, so you gotta stay calm.'
'No!' The girl almost yells. 'Don’t care about it. Promise me you won’t give in to panicking ever again. Then we’ll handle Kaemon.'
'Okay. But it feels wrong.'
'If both of you lose control over problems, god save us.'
'So? What will we do?'
'Talk to Kae. He should have known the risks of dating you, but I guess he forgot to care about them. Damn that Peter has to be away for so long! Nevermind, we’re having a meeting tonight. At yours, you cook.'
'What? I like your food and Kaemon does too.'
'Fine. See you tonight.'
So this is what Kae feels all the time. He just barely got scared for his boyfriend and made himself upset, but the other boy must experience this much more intensely and more often.
Lais’ heart aches to the thought of his love suffering.
Ali drops by the gallery to pick up the sourboy. She waits outside after closing time, but there’s no sign of Kaemon, but the lights are still up in the gallery. As she walks up to the door, she sees the dark haired at the counter, leaning on his elbow, talking to someone sitting behind the counter. Maybe he has to work over hours? Ali decides to enter, ignoring the Closed sign. To the bell being hit by the door, Kaemon turns his head and now the girl can see that it’s Mari who he’s talking to – again.
'Hey guys! I could have guessed. But Kaemon, I told you we’ll have dinner at Lais’.'
'I know, but I got busy suddenly.' He turns back to the other girl, who shrugs her shoulders.
'Peter said I can…'
'For the hundredth time, I know what Peter said! That still doesn’t mean you can use me as your babysitter. I can’t believe Peter does this voluntarily.'
'Who said he does?'
'No arguments here.'
Ali just watches the bickering pair and feels the urge to laugh.
It’s so good to see Kaemon getting along with someone who was a stranger just almost a year ago, on his own. She’s so proud, she wants to pet his friend’s head. But she values her arms, so she restrains herself.
'All right, both of you, come now. I hate being late, especially on my day off.' She instruments, to which the others get going but continue arguing over insignificant things.
They only stop when the car stops in front of the beautiful house where Lais and Riley live.
Kaemon’s stomach narrows, but over the many months it turns to a sign of excitement rather than fear.
They enter the garden and the door slams open in front of them, Lais standing in the doorway with a smile frozen on his face.
They greet each other. The air cools a few degrees, but Ali makes her way inside, walking by the blond. Mari follows her, but Kaemon just stands there, waiting for… permission?
'Ah, Kae, I didn’t know Mari was coming too.'
'Is it a problem?'
'N-no, not at all!' He forces out a weak laughter.
Kaemon doesn’t understand what their problem with each other is. He knows it’s a professional disagreement, something about the differences in their art forms; as far as he’s concerned, art is art, and if their pieces can share space at the gallery, the artists could do the same.
He takes pity on the disappointed boy and steps closer, giving him a quick kiss on the lips. To that, Lais finally smiles and kisses back, just a bit longer.
'I’m so happy to see you, Kae!'
For the first few months, Lais was the one to initiate physical interaction between them, and then he found out about Kae’s lack of interest in sex.
He was devastated, he has to admit, but accepted and got over it quickly, especially when his boyfriend told him that it doesn’t mean they won’t do it. Still, for what seemed like ages to him, Kae wouldn’t really do more on his own than a few kisses on rare occasions. Lais waited patiently, but one day he just couldn’t take it anymore, mostly because he didn’t understand it. When he brought it up to Kaemon, the other admitted that he had no clue what should he do. Because of the lack of his experience, he wasn’t sure what he’s supposed to do and when.
Lais mentally banged his head in the wall, then begged the other to just act on his feelings. During the next few days, Kae visibly thought hard about it and concentrated to read the mood and anticipate the right action required of him. It was even worse than when he didn’t do anything. The blond had to talk to him again; he explained that there aren’t any expectations he needs to match, it’s just nice sometimes to know that one’s being loved not only by being told. Lais thought that if it fails this time too, he gives up and just does things on his own.
The next day, he woke up to an empty bed. He looked around in the room, but there was no sign of his boyfriend. He went to the kitchen, and found Riley sitting at the table, drinking a shake.
'Have you seen Kae?'
'I’m not supposed to tell. ' The other turned their head.
'But don’t worry. He’s surprising you.'
'Now go back to bed just a little. I never thought I’d say this to you…' Muttered the other to themselves while Lais shambled back to his room.
He lay on his back for a while, then heard some noises closing on him. He pretended to be asleep, but it came out more as being half-asleep.
The footsteps halted next to him, and he felt a soft palm on his face. He couldn’t stay still anymore, so he opened his eyes to see Kae peeking at his face thoughtfully.
'Good morning!' He greeted Lais, then stepped back, only to raise one of his legs and sit on Lais’ lap.
The other didn’t say anymore, but kissed him while stroking his hair. The blond’s eyes widened and wanted to ask what’s happening, but he felt hands making their way under his shirt, tugging it up, trying to free him from it.
'Kae…!' He called, but the other didn’t seem to hear him.
The blanket disappeared from over him, and Kaemon started planting kisses all over his upper body. Slowly licking the contours of his abs, lower… Holy shit!
'Kae, wait!' He cried, grabbing the hands of his boyfriend, but the other one seemed so determined, he just ignored Lais.
With his hands being held, he used his teeth to remove the pair of boxers in his way. The lying boy put his hands on his mouth to soften an unintended pleased groan.
Now Kaemon could use his own hands and didn’t hesitate to do so; grabbing the other’s tights he put the leaking cock into his mouth, earning a mixed shriek and scream. He started working the technique he’s researched – text and video provided –, holding the base while using his tongue to lick the tip, right at the slit.
It’s kinda shameful to admit, but Lais came so fast, he didn’t even have time to warn Kae. The smaller boy looked surprised, but not caught off-guard; he swallowed and finally stopped to look at Lais’ deep red head.
'What the… why?' That one seemed like at the edge of crying, scaring the shit out of Kaemon.
'But… I thought you’d be… happy…'
'I… you were so forceful… and took me by surprise.'
'No, it’s… fine.'
Lais forced himself to get over the shock and leaned close to Kae to kiss him. It’s long and wet and deep; the blond can count it on one hand, how many of these they shared. Not counting the first, where it was one-sided. But not this time. Kae kissed back and even seemed dominant. Where the hell did he learn these things? Lais wondered, but that made him unprepared to the next attack; the other pushed him back to the mattress and sit on him, now without his own pants. He positioned himself over Lais, who despairingly grabbed at his ass and held him, only to realize that the other is all wet down there – must have taken precautions. The blond felt like fainting when he let his love move while he’s inside of him. Looking at Kae’s face, it’s the eighth miracle of the world: he’s so incredibly sexy and he can see the pleasure in his features, which is reassuring compared to the first time they tried. Lais’ mind was about to blow. Kae rode him providing such a view, he’d like to take a picture of it. That’s impossible; still, it’d be nice.
He felt reaching the climax again, but it’s not enough. He had to make the other feel good too, even better, more, so that it can remain as a pleasant memory. He held Kaemon at his waist and moved under him, thrusting at a pace and angle he thinks is the best for his partner. Long seconds pass before he can see the reassuring reaction. Soon the smaller boy’s voice turned into something like ‘I’m gonna…’ and that’s it for Lais, he didn’t hold back and with all his effort and focus, they came together.
Kae collapsed on top of him and they’re panting so hard, they couldn’t speak for minutes.
'What was that for?' Lais finally asked, to which the other knot his eyebrows.
'It’s not over.'
'Just wait here a few minutes and umm here’s some tissues.'
With that, Kae disappeared to the bathroom and came back in ten minutes, with fresh clothes on. Then he left the room again and got back in a few more minutes, with a plate in his hands.
'Here, breakfast. Enjoy your meal.'
It was a simple but delicious meal with eggs, bacon, bagel, butter... Kaemon just watched him eat, peaking at his face, trying to read his reactions. By the time Lais finished, it was well past morning.
'Thank you. But may I ask why?'
'To make you happy, of course.'
'It worked. But you know, you don’t have to go out your way to make me happy. It’s enough to see you and talk to you and hold you.'
'But lately you were talking about it so much.'
'How I should show affection.'
'Oh. I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to pressure you, I just… when you said you have no experience, I thought I’d say a few things, you know, like give advice.'
'Was it good?'
'Then it’s worth it.'
'Did you not enjoy it?'
'I did. But do I have to do this regularly?'
'No, if you don’t want to. Only if you feel like doing it.'
'And what if only one of us feels like it?'
'Then we can postpone it? Or compromise?'
'Okay. I can work with that.'
Lais lingers on the memories for a few more seconds, then follows the others inside. Everyone is already seated around the kitchen counter, Mari and Kae arguing, Ali and Riley chatting.
'Finally!' His flatmate exclaims. 'Shall we eat now?'
The blond puts the huge bowls of food in front of them, seating himself between Kae and Riley.
They’re having Italian dinner, so bruschetta for first appetizer, then pizza bread with prosciutto, lasagna as the main course, and cake with fruit salad as dessert.
At first they all eat in silence; Lais takes that as a good sign. Slowly they start exchanging a few words, praising the cook. Riley asks Ali about work, but the others just listen quietly.
By the time they finish eating, everyone is so full, holding their bellies, congratulating and thanking Lais for the delicious meal.
The blond gets a little anxious because he knows, now he has to talk to Kae about his encounter from this morning. He asks him for a moment téte-á-téte. They go to the garden and sit on the swings behind the house. Lais struggles to start the conversation and after a few minutes of whist, the other speaks up.
'I’m sorry for bringing Mari along, she just came into the gallery unannounced to talk. I think she misses Peter.'
'No, it’s okay, perfectly fine!' Now he overdid it…
'Umm… do you… are you…' Kae chokes on his words.
'Are you okay?' Lais turns to him scared, with roundabout eyes.
'Yes. I’m just… Are you breaking up with me?' He’s suffocating while speaking.
'What?! No! Dear god, no! Why would you think that? Do you want to break up with me?'
'No. Of course not!' Lais can hear the relief in Kae’s voice. 'I just thought because you were acting so strange. Distant.'
'I’m so sorry I worried you, I don’t want to break up with you, ever, I just have something unsettling to tell you and I’m afraid how you’ll take it.'
'Then tell me.'
'Okay. I met a journalist this morning. She informed me that there are rumors of me dating someone.' Kae’s eyes widen. 'They don’t know more or any details, but knowing the public, they’ll want to find out more. Are you okay? - He peeks at his boyfriend’s face. That one shakes his head.
'No…' He chokes and starts hyperventilating.
'Kae, love, it’s okay, they can’t hurt you, they just want to know more about my personal life, and you’re part of that a huge part.' He murmurs, stroking Kae’s back in big circles; he’s gotten better at it with time.
'No… but… I can’t…'
'What can’t you? Calm down, deep breaths, through your nose in, in abdomen, then out through your mouth. Slowly. That’s it. Don’t worry, we’ll figure everything out. Good.'
'I’m breaking up with you.' Kae finally says, and Lais’ hand stops on his back.
'What?' His voice is this and he barely can breathe.
'You heard me.' With that, he stands and stumbles back to the house.
Lais can’t move. A few minutes later he hears Ali’s car starting and driving off. After some time, his sibling appears next to him and sits where Kae sat not long ago.
'What happened?' They ask in a while.
'He broke up with me.' Lais answers unemotionally.
He feels nothing. Emptiness. Soft pain from somewhere deep within. His world ended. And as cruel as fate is, suddenly he’s inspired to make art again.
There’s suffocating silence in the car. Even Mari is quiet, stopped bothering Kaemon. He can feel the expectation of the girls, waiting for some explanation, so he gets himself together to the tune of one sentence.
'I broke up with him.' The pain that hits him with this one statement is almost unbearable.
'You what?!' Ali loses control over the vehicle for a moment. 'Is it because of what that journalist said?'
'You knew about that?'
'Lais called me this forenoon because he panicked after meeting her. That’s why arranged this dinner; but I thought you’d work it out, not break up!'
'For ruining your intentions.'
'Oh, baby!' Ali falls silent for a few seconds, considering her next words carefully. 'I know it’s your relationship, and I know I can’t make decisions for you – I also swore to not intervene –, but do you really think breaking up is the solution?'
'I don’t know better.'
'How about working on it and actually solving the problem? You know, one has to work for a relationship, make amends for it and sometimes endure and make sacrifices. How do you think Lais feels right now? You just dumped him, and he wasn’t even at fault for being well-known.'
'I hurt him.'
'Yes, you did. It was cruel of you.'
'But I love him.'
'Your action speaks differently.'
'But I also suffer with him.'
'Elaborate.' Speaks up Mari, who hasn’t said a word since they got in the car.
'He triggers me.'
'What?' The boy sighs, so Ali answers.
'Kaemon loves Lais, but because of his illnesses and insecurities being with him makes our hero panic.'
'That’s fucked up.' The hero lets out a dry laugh.
'Yes, it is. I’m fucked up.
'No, honey, these are just difficulties, everyone has them, just different ones.'
'Mine are above the standard, in the real fucked up category.'
'I can see that.' Mari comments.
Ali tries reasoning with her friend for a while, but they don’t get forth. They all go to Kaemon’s apartment – for his convenience – and go to sleep.