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Flammable Materials (I) by Zero


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Hey, guys, Zero here. I frankly don’t have much to say about this one. It’s a slow paced, coming-of-age. As always, all comments are welcome!



Prologue


"I didn’t know that you were..." his gaze flies over the portraits in the living room, carrying the last of his luggage towards the room.
"That I was what?" the man cuts him off, a steely edge in his voice.
He stops glancing at the photograph of two men in dress uniform, arm in arm, underneath an arch of swords, staring into each other’s eyes "... Married".
A pause at the top of the staircase "There are a lot of things you don’t know about me".

There are still months ahead of them, despite any of their wishes.

There are whole lives for them to learn about each other, willingly or unwillingly.

Besides, everything was different. Everything is different.

Everything will be different.

It’s the end of summer and it feels like the end of everything.




I



He’s just angry. Fuming. Not at anything particular. His rage was an aimless, untamed, vicious thing he never quite knew what to do with. He was furious. At everything, all at once.

As a consequence, he doesn't even know what or why exactly he shouts at the man that night when he arrives at dawn.

It could be about him drinking or stealing the car or something else caused by his ‘self-destructive’, ‘risk-taking behavior’, ‘passive suicide ideation’ like the school counselor sometimes refers to it.

He doesn’t recall if that’s what he did that night. If it was either of those things or if just the concept of them. They always fight about their previous fights and it all gets mixed up.

No, he definitely s**ts on his military baggage and gives him a cue for him to say at a certain point of their shouting match that:

"Fine, if you want to see me run this house like a boot camp, we can do it!".

He knows threat when he hears it, and he won’t stand for it "Okay, I want to f***ing see it!".

The answer comes almost like a slap.

"Get in the bathroom. You’re getting your head shaved. Right. Now".

If he hadn’t been an obnoxious, pissed at the world and everything in it, cynical, sixteen-year-old he might have tried to settle down and offer a truce or an apology.

But those are exactly the kind of things he is at that moment, so instead:

"Are you out of your f***ing...?".
The man cuts him off, his voice overpowers his still cracking and developing one "Am I not being clear, Leonard?".
"What are you...?" he still tries to argue, if not his way out, at least to the upper hand.

The man throws his hand forward and grasps his arm in a death grip, the pressure on his bones remind him what he was trained for, that he knows how to shatter them in two with his bare hands.

Right away, the man makes a display of the problem-solving and leadership skills he was taught in the military.

In short: Coercing people into doing what he orders them to.

"Listen, this how we’re going to do this. You’re doing to keep your eyes forward and your f***ing mouth shut" he presses into the swearword "Since you’re dying to see me treat you like this is a boot camp, we’re getting started tonight".

He feels the pull of his body towards the bathroom, his fingers still anchored around his arm.

"You..." he starts swearing at him but the words get stuck somewhere between his throat and his teeth.

He watches him take out a pair of chrome-colored hair clippers from inside the cabinet.

Then, as if he was trying to get down on his terms "I hear another f***ing word out of your f***ing mouth, I will have you regret it like you can’t even f***ing imagine".

Risk it.

A voice that seems to be born from his entrails tells him to test him. To push him farther, just to see how much farther he can push him.

Either the devil or God do their job, (it doesn’t matter which one is it, because neither of them ever have his back anyway) and keep him from doing it.

Next thing he knows is that he is shoved against the bathroom counter, while the clippers are turned on and he feels the metallic teeth climbing up his sideburn in a flash.

He sees a stream of locks fall dead on the sink.

Dark brown, wavy. No mistaking they’re his, that they’re falling off the side of his head.

He knows it’s his hair, but it still takes a heartbeat or two for him to grasp that the man is actually shaving his head.

He is actually buzzing off all his hair at this ungodly hour inside the bathroom. On a school night, He has almost forgotten about that last part.

"Are you f***ing..." he asks him, feeling the clippers sliding back up from his temples, a vibration that travels through the entirety of his skull, a deafening noise.

He tries to raise his head and give him a glare at the very least, the pull on the locks on his crown gets more vicious in response.

"Do you really want to f*** around and find out?" the man pushes him further down against the counter.

The locks that cascade down his face obscure his sight.

The clippers land on the base of his neck this time and bite into his hairline at the nape and dive in the blink of an eye inside his mane.

He claws tight against the rim of the sink, until his hands hurt, until the blood stops flowing down his knuckles.

He can feel the blades biting into his scalp, the buzzing noise both jolting his whole body awake and numbing his sense of reality for a second.

If his dad was here. Scratch that. If his mom was here. Or maybe if S wasn’t an asshole.

He sees the mounds of his hair piling up inside the sink. The machine shrieks every time it touches a lock of his hair.

The man is pressing the blades as close as he can humanly get them against his scalp, like he wants it to hurt, he wants him to have that numb burning in his skin after he is done.

He grimaces when the blades meet his forehead and slide from his bangs all the way back to his cowlick on the crown of his skull.

At the second pass he sees the bare chattering steel teeth.

He can’t feel a single strand touching his right ear.

The clumps keep falling on top of another. He sees a long campaign against his parents for the right to grow his hair out down to his shoulders in high school end in nothing.

He can feel his face burning. His heart is pounding inside his chest. He doesn’t know what drowns the world around him more, the sound of the clippers or the thundering of his heartbeat.

"Up" the man orders him "Stand up straight".

He sees him change the blade out of the corner of his eye.

The metallic case of the machine is littered with millimeters, centimeters at most of his hair, dark lines that almost look like cracks.

He obeys with a sigh and a muttered curse, closing his eyes and opening them for a second before coming face to face with his own reflection.

He hates what he sees.

A translucent stubble that shows off the scar the surgeon promised him he wouldn’t have when he stitched the wound on top of his head.

He can't even see what color his hair is. Hardly a hint of the dark hue of his shorn waves.

He doesn’t recognize himself, but he makes out the resemblance, how much he takes after all the other men of his family and hates it.

"Don’t move".

The clippers climb up the back of his head, stopping short of his crown this time and he feels the distinctive drizzling of millimeters of hair on the back of his neck.

His face and ears are already splattered and itching everywhere.

Not to mention the burning where his skin has turned a raw red from the constant grinding of the blades against his skull.

When the clippers come back for his side and temples, he can see the bristles being removed, how the blades shave even closer than the previous one.

He winces when they run across the back of his ear, the blades feel like they will tear his skin off.

Until the man finally turns them off and speaks to him again.

"Inspection at five hundred thirty" he holds his gaze in the mirror "Curfew at twenty-two. Have I made myself clear?".

He doesn’t say anything back.

"Clean that up. The clippers too. Make sure to oil the blades".



The man's husband, (Rick, Mick, maybe Eric? His name keeps slipping his mind) meets him as he gets ready for school.

After the hour long run around the block.

"You’re awake early today" he tells him while rinsing his face after shaving.

He doesn’t give him an answer.

"Why is there hair is the trash can and all over the bathroom sink?" Rick/Mick/Eric’s voice comes his way.

That’s when he finally bumps into him in the hallway. The man husband’s stares at him in stunned silence, as he takes in the image of his entire head basically shaved.

"Ask your husband about that" he says, refusing to refer to him as anything else or to give him any more details.
"I will talk to him" he tells him in this f***ing solemn tone (full of pity, really) and he doesn't want him speaking in his behalf or anything.

He doesn’t want anything from any of them.

All he wants is to get out of here and for everything to go back to the way it was before.

The second part is not happening anytime soon, but he can get out of this place for the time being.

He leaves the house with a cap that he does not remember if it is his or if he stole it from S or if someone else forgot it in his bedroom at some point.

But in any case, it’s his now.

He feels how much looser it fits around his skull and resignedly adjusts the size.



The worst is when he walks into the classroom. He has enough with the attention for everything that has happened.

Getting more attention is the opposite of what he is looking for this school year.

He is wearing the cap and only the shaved sides and back of his head are visible. He can almost read the questions in his classmates’ eyes as he strolls to the back of the room.

Then, the teacher enters. She glances in his direction and tells him to take off his cap.

He pretends not to hear her the first time.

"Rose" his last name echoes through the classroom.

The second time he tries to appeal, he replies that he has been to the barber and it didn't go well. The woman asks him a third and last time.

Finally, he uncovers his head.

His hand keeps anticipating that his hair will fall into his face and every time he moves to push it away, he brushes his bare forehead and the rough line of stubble where his bangs would grow.

And A keeps looking at him from the position just behind his.




At the end of class, the teacher asks about his dad.

She also asks him about S.

He doesn't want to talk about S.

A is there, at the back. Picking up his things from the desk. Intentionally or not, eavesdropping.

Then, right before he leaves, A walks up to him and tells him the haircut suits him.

Not a second goes by and he asks him if he's a faggot.

He isn’t sure he means it; it just comes out of his mouth like a breath and he’s still pissed and A just grazes his shapeless anger.

His classmate is speechless and pale for a second. A second later he says other things to him and then he calls him a bastard.

And the teacher gives both of them detention.




But enough on that.

On his anger issues, on the man’s absurd rules, on his teacher’s suffocating concern for him, because where his attention is at in this moment during detention is A.

A is. Where to start.

A is a newcomer, really. He’s just been at their school for a couple years, and reigns over all of their teachers, their golden boy.

If he had to make a guess, the most likely of them to run a presidential campaign or for senator or something like that or become a CEO featured on magazine covers. He has the vanity and quiet arrogance to him for that.

They’re both on the track team. A, just recently.

He, on the other hand, has been there since middle school. Running might be the only thing he’s good at as far as he is concerned.

A also hates his name and prefers to be called by his last name.

Only and eldest son to a family that’s overpopulated by women. No brothers. Just his dad, him, his mom and his three sisters. Two of them twins.

In addition to that, A has hair that is, well, perfect.

His hair is the color of the sun. An immaculate, untainted blond.

He’s old enough to recall and have seen the blond of some of his classmates’ hair darken, mature into a deeper shade of honeyed, burnt bronze.

But not A’s hair. It’s a cascade of shimmering rays of gold even at the brink of adulthood, like they supposedly are.

As he sits a row and a column apart from him in detention, he admires the way the sun travels from the window to his mane.

His locks are untouched, they rest at the back of his neck, not quite touching his shoulders or his breastbones.

He would like to bury his fingers at the hair on his nape that still remains loose even when he pulls it up. He wants to know if it feels like silk as much as it looks and shines like it.

He would also be vain and arrogant if he looked like that, he concedes.

"Hey, I’m sorry about the thing with your dad and your brother" A’s voice tears a hole into his thoughts.

For all in the world, he does not want to talk about this.

Not to him, not to their teachers, not to the counsellor or the therapist the man tried to get him to go to, not to anyone.

"Sorry I called you a faggot".

A goes quiet after that. Utterly mute as he had walked out and left him there, even though he’s still in front of him.

Slowly, his face goes back to the desk, his hand fondles the pencil and Rose sees a sketchbook full of half-done drawings of hands and faces and bodies. Male figures almost all of them.

"You can go now" the teacher watching over them glances at the clock on the wall.

They both get up and get handed their notices to take home. He shoves his in the depth of his backpack.

He stopped giving his dad those long ago, there is no need for him to give them to the man.

Besides, it probably goes into detail of his liberal use of a slur that the man will absolutely chew his ass off if he knows he said it.

"My parents are going to kill me" A mutters underneath his breath, folding the note in half.
"First time in detention?" he asks him.
"Hey, boys!" they run into their coach "Whoa, Rose! Found a new barber?".

His coach is happy he shaved his head. But that’s an understatement.

He is f***ing ecstatic. Grinning like they’ve just taKen all over all places in an Olympic podium.

He is rubbing his head back and forth with his hand, like he is trying to verify that not a single hair in his head is longer than a millimeter.

As he needed to inspect that the stubble is actually his once shoulder-length hair, shorn down to the skin and not some kind of illusion, however that was supposed to be pulled off.

"Hey, coach" he massages his sore scalp with light touches after the man finally lets go.
"Good thing you left unscathed and it didn’t put your athletic scholarship in peril!" his coach almost slams his hand onto his shoulder with the force of his encouraging, rough, fatherly slap, the way no one in his family touches him.
"Yeah, good thing" he replies, ignoring the knot in his chest.
"Wish you did the same and got rid of this mop" the coach ruffles A’s hair at the crown.

Their coach sports a fully shaved head, whether he is balding or not, he has no way of telling. In fact, the pictures he’s seen of him as a young athlete he doesn’t seem to have even trace of a hairline.

"I’ll trim it sometime next month, coach" his classmate compromises or at least fakes it well enough.
"Not a trim! I want to see you buzzed too" their coach mimics a pair of clippers running over the top of the other teenager’s head, forcing his bangs back.

He catches a glimpse of A’s hairline, the hair at the roots is unmistakably golden, full, a widow’s peak peers in the blink of an eye before the clumps fall back into place.

"By the way, Rose. How is your dad?" the coach asks him.
"Still the same".

Immediately, the coach gives him a prefabricated speech he has already heard unnumerable versions.

He has to be patient, and strong and that he will come out of this stronger. Both him and S have to rely on each other’s strength and their bond and blah blah blah.

"So, you’re staying with your mom’s family in the meantime, right?" his coach looks him in the eye.

He wouldn't call the man that. But given the circumstances "Yeah, I’m staying with a relative".

The man is his mom’s (older, estranged, half-) brother.

He doesn't call him uncle. He doesn't think he's ever going to call him that.

Which is fine because the man doesn't call him nephew either.

Xavier. His name is Xavier and that’s as personal as he will get to him in speaking terms.

"See you tomorrow at practice. And A, get a haircut, I mean it" he smiles at them.
A mutters a "Sure, coach".
"Afraid of a haircut?" he teases when it’s just the two of them.
"I’m not" A replies, defensive.
"Fair. I wouldn’t want to cut my hair, either, if I had it like yours" he puts his hands in his pockets and walks beside him.

The other teenager runs a hand across his hair and he sees the way the waves move like an ocean of light and gold.

It doesn’t take him too long to notice.

A’s attention is also on him.

His eyes keep meeting with his,

He waits for the bus and feels the prickly, clipped hair and remembers A’s fascinated, distant gaze.

And he thinks he wants to see how much more fascinated he can be with him.



II



After a couple weeks, the man wakes him up and puts a handful of folded bills over his night table.

"Go get a haircut".
"I think I’d need to actually have hair to get a haircut" he counters, sitting up on the edge of his bed.

It’s been two or three weeks since the clipper shave and Rose still can’t hold his hair between his two fingertips. He can’t comb it. He still can’t do anything with it.

Even his cowlicks hardly have strands to pull in any direction when he looks in the mirror.

Of course, his smartassery is not appreciated.

It never is.

"Fine, would you rather have me shave your head at home or drag you to the base barbershop then?" the man leans against the window frame "Or are you going to do what you’re told and visit a barber today?".

He takes a deep breath and keeps the money.

"Zero and a half on top" the man instructs him "You choose if you want a razor fade or a taper".



He can’t believe he is waiting for his turn at a barber on a Saturday morning when he could and should be sleeping in.

In fact, he can’t believe he also has to wake up at dawn and run laps with Xavier even on the weeKends, even when temperatures dropping and the light getting farther away from them at the onset of winter.

This is bulls**t.

He scrolls his phone feed and passes by a post from S. It’s a picture of him and his wife and his best friend at a gathering near a pool. Far away from the f***ing cold that’s starting to creep in.

Asshole.

He looks up and watches the barbers working and waits.

He hates waiting.

"Next".

He gets up, hardly exchanging words with the barber and making his way to the chrome and leather chair. He gets the specifics of how his hair will be cut out early.

The barber doesn’t react in surprise or asks him if he’s sure about the blade number he’s asking for.

He guesses he can tell that his last haircut was really similar and not that long ago just by looking at the slight grown fuzz.

A paper strip is secured around his neck. It’s followed by a light, white cape that moves in the air like a sail.

It’s not something he’s unfamiliar with. For the almost two years since he last entered a barbershop, his memory still has a blueprint of what getting his hair cut like this is like.

Fast enough, he can hear the clippers turned on behind him.

He looks in the mirror.

He looks like S the first time he visited them at the house after he enlisted.

It’s his face the one he keeps seeing in the mirror every time he walks past one.

It’s his features that come forward as the clippers peel his scalp.

He doesn’t wait for the barber to clean up his neck or his sideburns when he’s ready to leave.

The barber tells him it will take just five minutes more and gets his equipment prepared to shave him. He moves a brush in circular motions inside a vase filled with white shaving cream.

Rose sighs and lets him push his head further back and feels the razor scraping his nape.



"You got a haircut?".

They are alone together in the locker room and A's fingers climb up the back of his neck, towards his crown.

It’s not a rough, almost painful if not good-natured rub like the one his coach or the rest of his teammates keep giving him.

A’s hand goes slowly, once upwards, once downwards, once with the grain and once against it over the stubble on his head. The soft sound of the prickly bristles against his fingertips flooding and reverberating through his skull.

As if he wanted the tactile memory of them to really stay inside his hands like a tattoo.

The motion of his hand is gentle and curious.

He touches him in a way he’s never been touched before and he knows, he has never touched anyone else like that either.

His touch awaKens something in him.

Like his fingertips had found a wiring in his scalp that shuts off the rest of the world and sends a bolt throughout his body.

A stops midway when their coach’s voice comes through the walls asking them if they’re ready to go.

"Five minutes!" the coach reminds them.
"I did" he says matter-of-factly, answering the previous question.
"For aerodynamics and speed and stuff like that?" A opens his locker.
"Why you ask? Want to try it?" Rose watches the other’s mane put up in a half-undone bun.
"F*** you" the other teenager gives him a dirty look and a smile.
"This… relative I’m staying with, he’s in the army" he runs his fingertips lightly a couple times over the top of his head "He’s built like that, I guess".
"I get that. My dad is in the army too. I also have a lot of rules. Not to mention that I have spent my entire life moving all over the country".
"I’ve heard of that" Rose puts on deodorant "My relative just moved back here recently too".
"My dad said this year is the last time he is relocated. At least for a couple years" A changes his shirt and throws on a jacket "I hope so. I like it here".
"It doesn’t suck here" he replies with a playfulness he hasn’t heard himself speak in for months now "Sometimes".

He sees A smile when he hears him.

"See you around".

The other teenager’s fingertips brush lightly once more against the top of his head.

"See you around".

A has a magnificent smile.

And he keeps thinking about it well into the end of the night, into the following days.

And he becomes a more recurring thought every day that passes.

Rose hates having his head shaved.

Except when A touches it.



And A always notices whenever he’s been recently barbered.

He is always able to tell if he got shaved with a razor or with hair clippers.

He never fails to notice redness around his sideburns and his neck that doesn’t fade until the second or the third day of his haircut.

Nor does he miss the loose hairs behind his ear that not even he himself perceives.

A runs his hand over his freshly shaven head and he doesn't know how to explain how it makes him feel but he knows he drives him crazy.

"I don’t think I would ever dare to" A confesses him once in the locker room.
"Do it" Rose tells him with a smirk.
He sees the other teenager secure his bangs back behind his ear "I don’t think it’s the right time".
"Then decide on the right time" he looks his way "How about after graduation? Before college?".
"I don’t know" A sits down on the bench, his hand fiddling with the half-ponytail, undoing it and putting it back up.
Then, he gives him another idea "Shave your head when you come out".
"What?".

Touchy subject. He knows it. He’ll keep pushing it then.

"I, well, we have hair clippers at home" Rose gets it farther when he continues, not bothering to test the waters, he never does "I could do it for you if you don’t want to go to a barbershop".

Rose doesn’t actually want see that gorgeous hair shaved off. But he’d love to see his face naked, and know what the back of his neck looks like and if he has any moles or birth marks or scars on his head.

Just once, he thinks. Just to satisfy both their curiosity for some months.

He’d love to see A shed his fear.

"I’ll think about it" his teammate nods "Did you do anything after you came out?".

Did he?

"I…" it takes him a second to recall, as he sits down next to him "I started growing my hair out".

Ha.

"You look really good with your hair this way" A takes a closer look at him.

Rose doesn’t keep waiting any longer.

He is more hormones than neurons and more heartbeat than synapses.

And he kisses him for the first time.

Yes, he is the one who initiates the kiss, the one who pulls him into the tide.

He is tired of waiting. He’s really bad at it and it’s just the two of them and the coach has given A the keys to close the locker room and it’s just the two of them allowed inside there at that hour and it just happens.

He feels A's body tense at the contact.

Then A's hand also climbs up his neck and up in the opposite direction to him hair growth, up his occipital bone, and their bodies get closer together.

They get entangled into each other. Into their own thorns.

He says goodbye to him with the fear and pleasure of feeling on the brink of an abyss.

They will either drown or grow fins at the end of it, and he finds himself not caring at all which one will it be.




Xavier apologizes. It's something that takes almost three months. They’re at the doorstep of the end of the year when the conversation happens.

His spouse watches over the exchange, an international observer on a diplomatic mission as the words come out.

"Treating you like a recruit isn’t going to solve anything, and me fighting you and you fighting me doesn’t accomplish anything either. So, let’s do things differently".

Xavier offers him an apology that is more than he can say of his dad or S.

"Okay, let’s give it a try".

His husband (Eric, he finally gets his name to stick) goes to tell him he’s done the right thing after their conversation is over.

Xavier takes his spouse's hand in his and places his lips on his knuckles.

They always hold hands when they go for a walk in the park, when they stop by a red light in the traffic.

Xavier sings in Eric’s ear, quiet ballads, when the two of them are alone.

Both wear their wedding rings.

He wonders if he will ever be in love like that.



"Hey, look that way" A commands him one day, his sketchbook opened over the table in the park.
"Where? Which way?".
The other teenager’s hand makes a motion in the air "Just tilt your head to the right, just a little bit".

Rose peers and sees the circles that outline the shape of his head. An unfinished drawing of two hands clasped together above it in the upper half of the page.

The pencil draws his hairline, and A starts filling it in with short, sharp strokes while he observes.

"Are you drawing me?" Rose smiles.

A denies it, and his eyes go back and forth between them "I’m just practicing drawing shaved hair".

If this is the way he is going to choose to set his eyes on him, how he’s comfortable looking at him, Rose will stand still, just for him.



A doesn't take him by the hand in daylight.

A never takes him by the hand.

It's always him. It is always his hand that seeks his.

It is always him who holds out his hand to A and feels the first light touch of the other's fingers against his palm.

A’s fingers are slow to enter the space between his, to close over his knuckles.

And A always looks around when they're holding hands.

He doesn't know who or what he is looking for.

Or what is he thinks will find him.

"Look at me. Look only at me".



"I can’t just tell my mom and my dad" A tells him as they lay on the grass in the park.
Rose sits up straight "Well, what else are you going to do?".
"I don’t know" the other teenager says, shutting his sketchbook.



It becomes a habit. A ritual every twenty days.

Neither his father nor his brother cut their hair with hair clippers. Or at least his brother didn't until he enlisted.

His father's barber used a comb and scissors. Intermittent clicks and snips. A sound that resembled a dry branch being trimmed.

The clippers’ sound is like an angered thing, a mechanical and electrical growl that he’s grown more familiar with in time.

The sound quiets his own thoughts, and that is a good thing at times.



"Have you decided to keep it shaved after all?".
Xavier observes, he always knows something he doesn't.
"I have" Rose doesn’t tell him anything else.
The man connects both things without him needing to say a word about it.



"What is this boy's name?" Eric asks him one day while they’re having dinner, one spring night.

Rose says A’s full name. He knows the other teenager hates it, especially his first name, but he loves the way the alliteration rolls off his tongue and wishes it didn’t piss him off if he called him by it.

After all, A’s name, his voice, stops the noises all around him.

"Allen, you’ve said? I know his father" the man interjects in the conversation.

Right. A has told him he is named after his old man. It’s an uncommon and heavy name that the other teenager detests.

"From the military academy? From your class?" his spouse asks him.
He sees the man nod and remain thoughtful before asking him "Does his father know?".
"No" Rose answers "He doesn't know".

When Rose told his father, he looked him square in the face and told him that he had had two sons. Males, he emphasized.

And after that, they went weeks without speaking to each other.

He was angry at his dad. It was easy to be angry at him and it didn’t make him feel guilty or remorseful back then.

It was easy. His anger was a direct, sharp, palpable thing. Unlike now.

Back on the matter at hand.

"What does it matter if his family doesn't know?".
"It matters".

It’s the sparing answer that the man gives him.

"It matters, of course" his husband agrees.

F*** both of them.

He really doesn't care if they don't know.

"If it didn't matter, your grandmother wouldn't have kicked me out of the house when I was seventeen" Xavier sets his steeled gaze on him.

And then, for a split second, Rose sees a glimpse his long-lingering anger in the man.

It is true that there are a lot of things he doesn’t know about him.

"I’m just saying, if this kid is still in the closet…" Xavier sighs "… That’s not something minor".



A tells him one night underneath the stars, on the roof of a classmate’s house, away from the music of a party "I’ve made up my mind. I’ll come out by the end of the of the school year".

Rose gives him a smile.

"So, you’re shaving your head this summer?".

Rose pulls his golden forelock away from his face with his hand, sees the heart-shaped hairline underneath it.

Looks into A’s green eyes, there’s a hint of something wild in them, despite his attempts at taming and keeping that instinct on a leash.

It’s the beginning of April. It’s a countdown at this point, basically.

The other boy grins, and there’s so much fright in it but it’s still a smile.

"Yeah".

He leans in and kisses him.

A gently brushes the side of his head, his fingers running up and down through his hair that barely moves one way or the other.

It’s not a promise or anything but it comes close enough to it for both of them.

And the stars look beautiful on A that night, on his freckles.

Maybe they can both at least wish upon them, if they can’t promise each other anything.

A’s marvelous hair will grow back.

The more he imagines it, the more he wants to do it for him.

Because he keeps thinking about how different things could be afterwards for both of them.







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