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I peeked into Pal’s room. When I saw that he wasn’t in there, I frowned and walked down the hall. The light from the television bathed Pal’s half-naked body in a faint light.
“Hey,” I said. “You ok?”
“I can’t sleep,” Pal said. “You’re not gonna make me go back to bed, are you?”
I shook my head.
“You sure you’re ok?”
“I’m ok. Are you?”
I nodded and made my way into the kitchen. There, I made us each a sandwich.
“Thanks,” the boy said, drawing his blanket tighter around his body. “You didn’t have to make me this though.”
“I was hungry, and I figured you’d be hungry too.” I paused, then sighed. “You don’t have to worry, Pal. I’m more than happy to make you a sandwich. Please, don’t say things like that.”
“I’m sorry, Dean.”
“You don’t need to say you’re sorry. What’s wrong, Pal?”
“I… I don’t really know how to say it. I feel like I’m a burden sometimes.”
I set my sandwich on a plate and wrapped my arm around his shoulders.
“You don’t have to think that. Please don’t think that, Pal. Brad thinks you’re the greatest thing in the world, and you’re like the little brother I never had. We don’t think you’re a burden. If we thought that, we’d’ve made different arrangements.”
Pal took another bite out of his sandwich, then set it down and wrapped an arm around my side.
“It means a lot to me when you say that,” he whispered.
“I know,” I said, rubbing his back. “You don’t have to worry about anything. You’ve got me and Brad, you’re smart, and that boyfriend of yours is quite the stud, if I do say so myself.”
“Yeah,” Pal blushed, “Angel is pretty good-looking.”
“Pretty? Please. If I wasn’t with Brad, I probably would’ve tried to steal him from you.”
I winked. He continued to blush and brush the hair out of his eyes.
“Do you always get up and sit out here?” Pal asked.
“Do I? No, not really. I used to, but I don’t do it a lot anymore.”
Pal turned the TV down as a commercial came on.
“Me and Brad, we used to live in this little apartment,” I said. “You wouldn’t have believed it. It was a big one-roomed thing. There was the kitchen on one side, then the living room and bedroom on the other. The only other room in the house was the bathroom.”
“I don’t know if I could live in a place like that.”
“It was kind of romantic, really. I told Brad I loved him when I was sixteen, after we’d been dating for three weeks.”
“You said you loved him three weeks into your relationship?”
“Brad was the only thing I could think about. You know the feeling you get in your chest when you’re around someone you care about? It’s that warm feeling that makes you think you might’ve eaten something too spicy, or when you’ve swallowed something really hot. It was like that with me and Brad, but my warm feeling was more like a hot fire than anything else.”
“You were the one that said, ‘I love you’ first?”
I laughed at the tone of voice he used.
“What?” Pal smiled.
“Oh, nothing,” I said. “You make it sound like that’s out of character for me.”
“I don’t know… You just don’t seem like the kind of guy who would be the first to say you loved your boyfriend.”
“Yeah,” I said. “He had introduced me to his friends the night I told him. I ended up spending the night because I got tired. Brad was so paranoid that he didn’t sleep in the bed with me at first; I had to convince him to get in the bed with me.”
“You guys didn’t… You know?”
“Oh, no. Me and Brad, we waited until I was eighteen. It wasn’t like I wanted to wait, but Brad said it’d be better. I had the constant worry that the soreness you get from your first time might keep me from walking the right way. I was living with my aunt back then; you can imagine what kind of questions I might get asked.”
Pal took another bite of his sandwich. He set it down and stared at the coffee table.
“Pal? Is something wrong?”
“Can I tell you something, Dean?”
“Of course you can. You know you can.”
“I think I’m in love with Angel.”
I didn’t say anything. I wanted to smile, but didn’t for fear of Pal’s complicated feelings.
“I know it’s stupid,” Pal continued. “It’s stupid because I’ve only known him for two weeks, but he makes me feel like a completely different person. I mean, I like who I am, but he fills in those flaws, you know?”
“It’s understandable. Brad fills in all my flaws.”
Pal lifted his sandwich and finished it.
“Are you going back to bed?” Pal asked.
“If you want me to stay out here with you, I will.”
“I’d like if you did. I hate being lonely. You can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was to sit up and not be able to sleep when I was at my dad’s house.”
I scooted over and wrapped my arm around his shoulder. I would sit up with Pal if that’s what it took to keep him happy. I leaned my head against his and closed my eyes, letting the moment drown out all my worries.