The Cliche

 

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The Cliche

 

There was only one reason why Gennady Yartsev was attending Mr Crompton’s period today and it was because he wanted to get his test results. Just like everybody else, he was anxious to know if he’d passed or failed. The conceited part of his brain told him; of course you’ve passed! You’re a genius! But that didn’t stop the tell-tale speed up of his heart beat when the tall, slightly obese teacher called the person a couple names before his for their session and it would be his turn soon.

He rolled his tongue around in his mouth, distractedly playing with the little black ball of his tongue piercing and staring at the doodle he’d been working on since the class started. He didn’t think he was that much of an artist, but at least he tried.

The sketch was of someone’s face, just barely there, but the hair, eyebrows, eyes and the hint of a nose and mouth were visible on the lined page of his notebook. If any of his classmates looked hard enough – or he’d not been such a shitty artist – they probably would instantly recognize who exactly Gennady was sketching – so he started altering the drawing, biting his lower lip and inwardly cursing himself for being obsessed.

Because his surname began with a ‘Y’, he was the last person in class to get his review. Abigail Vernon was probably half-way done with her review with James Crompton, their sixty year old geography teacher, when Gennady felt his phone vibrate in his pocket, the familiar beep alerting him of a text message, the sound loud in the relatively quiet classroom.

James looked up from whatever he was saying to Abigail, raising an eyebrow and giving him a sharp reprimanding look and Gennady only shrugged in apology before sliding his phone out of his pocket to read a text message from Elhan.

Got some blow – see you behind the school? Xxx

Gennady grinned at the message and was just texting an affirmative, his day made instantly brighter, when James called his surname.

“Yartsev,” James called in his naturally cheery voice and Gennady pushed the phone back into his pocket, text unfinished, grabbing his backpack and making his way to the front desk, a seat placed opposite it to receive his review.

As he got comfortable, James pulled out his test result sheets and feedback and Gennady wasn’t that surprised to see the big “A*” marked in red and his score of hundred per cent – Geography was one of his favourite subjects after all.

“This was brilliant as usual,” James began with a smile which faltered when Gennady’s phone rang again, and his eyebrows shot into his hairline when Gennady rudely pulled the phone out to look at the text message, smiling a bit before looking up at his teacher.

“Sorry about that.”

James only sighed. “As I was saying, your test was great as usual; nearly perfect grammar and description for a native Russian speaker like yourself – I’m always severely impressed with how far you’ve come with your English in just two years, I’m sure you’ll ace the IELTS exams coming soon – the only problem I have with you is –” Gennady’s phone rang again, and James slightly pursed his lips, “– that.”

“Sorry,” Gennady said without an ounce of sincerity, pulling his phone out again carelessly. Elhan was repeatedly texting him because he wasn’t replying, so he typed in a reply, ignoring the way James was tapping his foot impatiently against the floor.

When he was done texting Elhan that he would be there as soon as possible, he was having his review, he looked up at James with a sheepish smile, “You were saying?”

James stared at him thoughtfully for a bit before asking bluntly, “What do you plan on studying when you get to University?”

Gennady was instantly put on the spot. If there was anything he hated, it was decision making, so he swiftly turned it around like the smart lad he was, “What do you see me studying?” he asked with a smirk, but James wasn’t as gullible as Alex, his English teacher, and he didn’t even crack a smile.

“That’s not what I asked. You ace all your subjects from what I hear, so really, you could do anything you wanted – my question however is; what do you want to do?”

Gennady swallowed and decided to be honest about it. “I haven’t decided.”

“You see, that’s your problem. You’re a floater, Yartsev. Sure, you’ve got the brains but that’s about it. You don’t see anything in your future and you barely have a foundation as of now. People tell you to do this and that’s what you do, but you can’t do that anymore. What are you now; seventeen or eighteen? Its –”

“Seventeen,” Gennady interrupted with a smile.

James frowned as he continued, “Yes, but that’s not my point. My point is…you need to grab the reins on your life and take control or everything is going to spiral away in your future and you’ll be left hanging and wondering what slit you in the throat.”

Gennady was getting bored. He’d heard this talk over and over again from different teachers and he found it exhausting. Just how many times were they going to hammer their advice into his head when they could see that it was obviously not sticking?

“You hardly take your work serious, you’re basically part of a gang – don’t think we don’t know – and the other teachers and I are only worried for your future – Yartsev are you even listening to me?”

Gennady’s phone chose to ring at that moment, and he at least had the grace to flush in embarrassment.

“I’m listening,” he said, this time ignoring the phone as James sighed and crossed his arms.

“You miss at least three classes a week – at least.”

“I’m not breaking the attendance rule, now am I?”

“Yes, and that’s what’s troubling. The other teachers and I feel like you deliberately calculated just how many periods you can skip without letting your attendance drop below ninety per cent, impressive thinking really, but also irresponsible. Do you like having to study and catch up on everything by yourself at home?”

Gennady flushed even redder because James had hit the nail on the head. It was a rule for all students not to drop below ninety per cent in attendance or it might affect their chances of getting to University,, and Gennady had deliberately calculated just how many times he needed to be in school to stay right on that percentage without having to worry, while at the same time he could stay away from the horrible atmosphere for as long as he could.

He nearly physically flinched at the word ‘study’ but he shrugged and said, “I really don’t mind.”

“Having a sharp intelligent mind isn’t going to get you far, Yartsev. You need to start taking responsibility for your brain. Your attitude to your work and your future in general really need to change.”

Gennady nodded with a look of utmost concentration on his face that James immediately knew was as fake as his wife’s manicured nails. Gennady’s phone chose that moment to ring again, and James rolled his eyes this time.

He nodded at Gennady and at first, the Russian boy was surprised but if there was one thing James knew, it was that no matter how many times he spoke to Yartsev, it just didn’t stick in his brain how important planning for the future was.  

Gennady raised a questioning eyebrow and made as if to leave his seat. “Are you – or?”

“Yeah, yeah, go on to whatever mischief you’re up to this time.”

Gennady grinned, “Thanks, Mr Crompton.”

The class emptied the minute they realized Gennady was done with James, heading to their different directions for the end of school.

When he exited the school building, the cold hit him like a ton of bricks and he shivered, pulling his leather jacket tighter to his body. Gennady took long strides until he got to the bike stand behind their school where his closest friends, Elhan, Viktor and Kristina were waiting for him. They were all smoking, dressed similarly in all black, except Kristina, who was dressed almost too casually in a pair of grey sweatpants and a white tank top with a really nice black fur jacket thrown on top; her feet covered in really ugly grey Ugg boots. It looked like she’d gotten out of bed and just thrown the jacket on to get to school.

They were all speaking in fluent Russian and simultaneously rolled their eyes when Gennady approached.

Gennady grinned, “It helps you practice.”

“Not everyone is good like you in English,” Viktor complained, his accent coming off heavy as he slurred the words.

Gennady was trying to teach them English since amongst them all, he was the most fluent at it. They really didn’t have time – they had their International English Language Testing System, more popularly known as IELTS, exam coming up soon, and it was really going to be difficult for them to get into the University if they failed it. They were just so used to speaking Russian it was proving to be a hard habit to break. Kristina was the most stubborn – she would never speak English on her life if she could help it, but Gennady had already told her that she didn’t have a choice, so instead, she chose to remain silent during their meetings unless Gennady wasn’t present to scold her.

“Did you get it then?” Gennady asked, nodding in thanks as Elhan handed him a cigarette and lighter.

Elhan nodded and started speaking in Russian, and Gennady coughed pointedly, making Elhan flush.

“This is not fair,” he groaned and then sighed, patting the side of his laptop bag, “I have it in here.”

“Where are we doing this?” Gennady asked as he took a puff of his lit cigarette, handing the lighter back to Elhan. The warmth of the smoke swam through his lungs like an electric shock, driving the chill of the November evening away for a few seconds. He unconsciously played with the little black ball stuck through his tongue – smoking when he had his tongue jewellery in always made him do that and he couldn’t stop even when his friends had pointed it out to him.

“Your place?” Viktor asked.

“Not mine,” Gennady replied, licking his lips against the dryness, “you know I live in a homestay.”

“What about you, Kris?” Elhan asked, “Will your flatmates be at home?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied in Russian and Gennady didn’t bother reprimanding her as she continued, “they don’t stay home that much anyway.”

Gennady really wanted to protest. Kristina’s three flatmates just seemed to love frying things and because of that, the house nearly always smelled like curry, noodles, or shrimp. It irritated his nose and gave him headaches, but there really wasn’t anywhere else for them to safely smoke the weed Elhan had managed to get.

Just then, the back door of the small school opened and three people spilled out, talking animatedly.

Gennady felt his heart leap into his throat as he spotted Declan Bush’s messy brown hair, his long, lean frame enveloped in a long coat twice his size, carrying books he could barely balance in both his hands, his thick-framed geeky glasses nearly sliding off the bridge of his nose.

Gennady’s grip on his cigarette tightened briefly and God, he couldn’t tear his eyes away as he watched and listened to Declan talking to his two closest friends, Musharff and Helen.

In Queens College, Declan was the only purely English student. Everyone else came from different backgrounds and nationalities, mostly international. The college was basically a pathway for international students to make it into a British University, and so it wasn’t a surprise that ninety-nine point nine per cent of the students weren’t from the UK, except Declan of course, who was a special case. Musharff was from South Sudan, and Helen was from North Korea.

Just listening to that milky rich voice speaking in that lilting British accent made Gennady’s toes curl in his shoes as he imagined just how that voice would sound if it called his name or whispered sweet nothings in his ear.

“Are you hearing me, Gennady?” Elhan said impatiently, and Gennady flushed guiltily, tearing his eyes away from the disappearing trio in the distance, Declan’s soft-looking messy brown hair forever imprinted in his mind’s eye.

“What were you saying?” he asked, taking a very long puff out of his cigarette before throwing it on the floor and stomping it underneath his boot.

“We are going to meet at Kristina’s house later in the day at seven. What do you think?”

Gennady glanced at his watch, “That’s in four hours.”

“Is it too late for you?”

“No, it’s perfect. I’ll see you guys then. Take care. Do you mind if I borrowed another cigarette? I’ll give you out of mine tomorrow when I get a new pack,” Gennady asked, suddenly feeling very much like a stalker and itching to catch up with Declan as he walked home.

Elhan fumbled in his pockets, and then handed him another cigarette, lighting it up for him before Gennady was racing to his motorcycle – a guilty treat he’d gotten for himself while he was in the UK – and unlocking it from the rack, sliding his leg over the seat and quickly throwing on his helmet before he was shooting out of the courtyard.

Of course he missed Declan, because he was all but gone during the ride home, and Gennady told himself to be content that he saw his crush at least once that day.

 

*

 

It was like fate was playing in his favour, Gennady thought on an early Thursday evening as he stared at the Facebook post. Queens was organising a trip to Walgroove, a well-known amusement park that weekend, and Gennady hadn’t really thought about going until he saw the person who’d commented on the event’s page about seven hours ago.

I’ve got a spare ticket if anyone’s interested. Just private message me and let me know :) xx

Declan Bush was going for the event and he had a spare ticket.

Gennady felt like his heart was about to explode out of his chest as he stared at the status, his mouse hovering indecisively over the ‘comment’ button. God, should he do this? Should he not? Was this a test from God? What if Declan was selling his own ticket and Gennady ended up going on his own? It’ll end up being a waste of money really. He only wanted to go if this was a chance to get to know the British boy.

Do it! His mind screamed, this is your only chance to talk to the guy!

He swallowed thickly, feeling like he was about to jump off a cliff as he typed;

Hey, I was wondering if you still have that spare ticket? Please message me back, thanks.

He pressed ‘Enter’ before he could change his mind and then started panicking. Oh my fucking God, what the hell had he just done?

“Oh my God,” he groaned out loud, voice coming out breathless, his heart pounding in his ears, “oh my God.”

It’s just a status! He tried to console himself, stop freaking out.

But this was Declan he was talking about. Declan Bush. His imagination was going haywire. He was going to have to meet Declan to get the ticket which meant they might have to either add each other on Facebook or exchange numbers and then they were going to go to the amusement park together – like…God, dare he say it?

Like they were on a date.

Oh God, don’t get too ahead of yourself, Gennady. That’s just ridiculous; the boy doesn’t even know you!

He stared at the status, his heart racing as he waited for the notification from Declan. The most he’d done to Declan since Declan had started at Queens two months ago was smile at him and even now, he regretted that smile because he felt that he’d looked silly and Declan might not have even noticed or maybe he even thought Gennady was creepy –  

The Facebook notification pinged and Gennady nearly lost his soul. He switched tabs to check and almost screamed in frustration when he realized it was just some random person liking his profile picture.

It took a few hours – after Gennady had had his dinner and was just browsing aimlessly on the internet – and he’d nearly even forgotten the status when he finally got a message from Declan.

He couldn’t breathe as he clicked on the chat box.

Hi! I’ve still got the spare ticket if you’re interested. Do you mind adding me on Whatsapp and then we discuss the details? My number is 075******** :D xxx

This wasn’t happening, Gennady thought as he stared at the phone number like it was the devil’s incarnate. This was not happening. It couldn’t be as easy as that. This was a trick, a prank from his friends to make him look stupid. But even his friends didn’t really know about his crush on Declan – sure they suspected, but Gennady wasn’t ready to tell them yet. They’d proved so far to not be so accepting of same sex relationships, especially between two guys. Hell, he didn’t blame them because every Russian had it deep rooted into their brains that homosexuality was the equivalent of kill.

Gosh, he had to stop being paranoid. He didn’t need his mind ruining this before it even started. He re-read the message and his eyebrows furrowed, wondering what the hell was a ‘Whatsapp’ and had to Google it before quickly downloading the free messenger onto his phone and saving Declan’s number.

He stared at Declan’s name on his contact list, wondering if he should put a heart or something beside it to show that he was someone special – it wasn’t like anyone was going to see it, right?

He blushed furiously as he decided to put a blushing emoticon beside Declan’s name, exactly how he felt at the moment, before going onto the app where Declan’s name had already automatically been added.

Hello, I messaged you on Facebook about the spare ticket.

Gennady re-read that message a few times before he was satisfied it was appropriate, before pressing send. A green tick appeared when it was sent and then another tick followed, and he frowned in confusion before his heart leapt when he saw the word ‘typing…’ on the top of the chat box. He held his breath for a second when his phone vibrated as it received a message from Declan.

Hiya! So I was thinking we could meet on the day and I give you the ticket. I’m selling it for £12 (an extra £1 because of the booking fee, I’m sorry!), is that okay? :) xx

Feeling like he was struggling to breathe, Gennady replied immediately; yeah, that’s completely fine by me.  

The reply came a few seconds later; Eeep! I’m so excited! Have you actually ever been? It’s my first time, I’m gonna go on the canoes, definitely! xx

Gennady bit his lower lip, inwardly squealing. Was Declan actually trying to make conversation with him? God, just how much luck could he get in one day?

It’s my first time too. And I agree, the canoes are a must!

The price was actually quite good, wasn’t it? I asked a few friends of mine and they said Queens sold the tickets really cheap, it costs almost twice or at least three times as much if you buy it from the park itself :O xx

God, he really was talking to him. This was real. This was happening. Gennady suddenly felt like curling up on his bed with a hot cup of hot chocolate and snuggling his phone to his chest. He bit his lip at the thoughts, a brilliant reddish hue flooding his cheeks and neck.

Really? Gennady typed in reply, that’s really good then! Are you going with your friends or…?

Gennady had already pressed send before he could think about what he’d just asked. Oh God, did he sound like some creep asking if Declan was going with his friends? Did Declan even know who he was? Well, of course he did! There was the time Gennady smiled at him – which he was really trying to forget – but he was sure after that Declan had to know him by face at least. But God, it sounded like Gennady wanted them alone and that was bad. That was really bad.

He almost dreaded the ping of his phone.

Sadly, I’m going alone. My friend bailed on me which is why I’m selling her ticket :( What about you? Are you going with anyone? xx

Oh, Gennady thought giddily, oh. He was going alone. And he’d asked if Gennady was going alone too. Was that just human courtesy or did it mean something more? He decided not to think too much about it.

Nope, I’m also going alone, he replied, extremely glad that this conversation was by text message because he was sure that if he was talking physically to Declan, the British boy would definitely hear the joy in his voice.

Woop! I hope you don’t mind if I tag along with you then, I’m not sure I know anyone else that’s going. Do you mind? :) xx

No, Gennady thought with his mouth hanging slightly open, no. These things didn’t happen just like that. He frowned down at his phone in slight confusion and disbelief. Things like these definitely didn’t happen so easily. He didn’t get to speak to his crush in one day and at the same time get to spend another entire day with him…alone together…in a freaking amusement park for god’s sake!

It was like some mighty deity up there was testing his will and self-control. Was there some kind of catch? Was he going to be involved in an accident? Was he going to find out that Declan was already in a relationship or something?

Good lord, give him a bloody sign!

Realizing that he was taking too much time to respond, he quickly typed in; Nope, I don’t mind at all. In fact, I would very much not like to be alone at the park. It’s always better when you’re with someone else, right?

Gennady wondered if that reply was casual enough and that it didn’t hint at anything. He was able to breathe easier when Declan’s reply came in a few seconds later.

I know! I would be totally bummed if I were to go alone. Anyway, I’m sorry to be a downer but I’m absolutely knackered! I’ll see you on Saturday. Goodnight xx

Gennady’s shoulders slumped at that. He’d been enjoying their conversation but then he told himself to take what he got and he was going to see and spend the entire Saturday with Declan at Walgroove so it was okay.

Goodnight :), he replied and then immediately regretted adding the smiley. Was that too much? He hardly ever used the goddamn things, would Declan notice? He didn’t have to worry though because Declan didn’t message him again that night.

He felt like Saturday couldn’t come fast enough, but he didn’t have to wait that long to hear from Declan again because he messaged him again Friday evening.

Gennady had just finished making dinner for himself; his homestay parents were never at home and sometimes he felt it was because they were scared of him or something – it had something to do with him being Russian, he thought, and his “wrestler” build wasn’t helping either – but he didn’t mind, he actually preferred it because it gave him as much freedom and privacy as he wanted.

He carried his plate to his room and dumped it on his bedside table, dragging his laptop towards himself as he collapsed into the swivelling chair in front of his desk. He took a bite out of the jacket potato he’d successfully prepared just as he noticed his phone blinking on his bed, signalling that he’d received a message.

He unlocked it distractedly, obsessively checking his Facebook messages and notifications and then his email, before paying attention to the text.

His heart leapt into his throat when he saw that it was from Declan.

Hiya! Don’t forget that tomorrow; we need to meet up at Queens first to get the coach to Walgroove at 8:00am. Shall we meet up at say, 7:45? Just to be safe. Is that okay? xx

 That sounds fine; Gennady replied instantly, food and everything else forgotten.

Great! I’ll wait for you in the common room. We can sort out the ticket thing then and then leave together. Yay for excitement! :DD xx

Gennady decided not to reply to that, congratulating himself for the restraint. It took his cheeks slightly hurting for him to realize that he was grinning like an idiot. He groaned and palmed his cheeks, inwardly scolding himself, but now he could barely even sleep because of the excitement.

Saturday seemed to crawl close, and then it was finally seven a.m. in the morning and Gennady was standing in front of the Queens School building, smoking a cigarette while he waited for Declan to show up. Curling his tongue a bit in his mouth out of habit reminded him that he’d deliberately left out his tongue jewellery. He knew it made quite the number of people shocked when they first noticed the little coloured ball in his mouth, and he was taking a wild guess that Declan’s reserved British nature might not really appreciate a tongue piercing. And the gods knew he wanted to be in Declan’s good graces for their first meeting together.

Take it nice and slow, he’d told himself.

A few other people had shown up already and were also waiting outside because the doors to the school had yet to open.

There were surprisingly not that many people going to Walgroove and Gennady didn’t know if he was grateful for that or not. He was just starting his second cigarette when the doors finally came open at seven thirty, and the few students outside started piling in. He was trying to quickly finish his cigarette when he recognized Declan’s tall skinny frame enveloped in one of his many oversized jackets as he bounced his way down the curve of the street, a signature book in his hand, glasses perched on his nose.

He didn’t notice Gennady standing beside the doors at the bottom of the stairs, too absorbed in his own little world as he made his way into the building.

Gennady felt his stomach sink that Declan didn’t even notice him there but shrugged it off, deciding that Declan was probably in too much of a hurry to meet up with him inside. This caused him to hurry up with his cigarette, stubbing the end on the pavement before he shoved his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket and made his way inside the school.

Declan was sitting alone on one of the long couches, a very big book perched open in his lap while he read with a cute little frown of concentration creasing his forehead.

Okay, Gennady, don’t mess this up.

Gennady moved up to him and sat beside him. Declan looked up at him and Gennady only then noticed just how incredibly thick his glasses were, the black frames so prominent, and that Declan had the biggest, brownest eyes Gennady had ever seen. They probably looked so comically huge because of the glasses, but Gennady couldn’t help the way his heartbeat seemed to stutter in rhythm when those large eyes landed on him. The colour reminded him of molten honey or golden syrup, little flecks of blue and dark brown surrounding the slightly large pupil.

Declan’s adorable small round nose wrinkled, and Gennady realized he must still smell like cigarette smoke and for a second, he felt his heart stop, realizing that Declan might not like smokers. He felt almost intensely relieved when Declan didn’t say anything about the smell and managed to open his mouth to speak.

“Hi,” Gennady said with a small smile, but his smile faltered when Declan frowned at him in confusion.

“Hello,” he replied a little slowly, and then it suddenly seemed to dawn on him and his expression brightened as he snapped his book shut, “Oh! Hiiii!” he drawled, clutching his book to his chest with one hand and throwing his other hand out, “Nice to meet you! I’m so sorry I didn’t recognize you, bad eyesight and such,” he laughed nervously and Gennady ignored the pang in his chest, smiling reassuringly at Declan.

“It’s okay, really,” Gennady replied and shook his hand, “Nice to meet you too.”

“Right, I’ve got your ticket here somewhere,” Declan said and began fumbling in his numerous jacket pockets. It took a while and Declan was blushing in the awkward silence until he found it and thrust it at Gennady, “there you go.”

Gennady felt like he was crushing on Declan all over again as he handed the British boy the money and took the ticket from him.

“So, I’ve been wondering since I saw your name on Facebook – how exactly do you pronounce it? Is it the ‘G’ like ‘J’ in Generator or like the ‘G’ in ‘Gwen’?”

“Its pronounced gyen-nah-dee with the ‘G’ in ‘Gwen’,” he said in explanation, breaking down the syllables.

“Gennady,” Declan repeated and God, Gennady did not shiver at the sound of his name leaving those lips in that accent. He absolutely did not. “Gennady,” Declan repeated and fuck, yes he did shiver a little while Declan beamed at him, “did I get that right?”

“Yeah,” Gennady replied, thanking the heavens that his voice didn’t come out choked, “and it’s Declan right?”

“Absolutely – nothing special about my name,” he laughed a bit, “that’s a nice name you’ve got there though, I have to admit.”

“Thank you,” Gennady replied, trying not to let his blush show.

At that moment, one of the teachers escorting them to the park appeared, and began leading them to the coach station. Gennady relished in the warmth of Declan as he walked with him side by side, and he was so nervous his palms were actually sweating despite the unforgiving cold of the November morning. Standing side by side, Gennady realized that Declan wasn’t that much shorter than him – and being that he was about six foot and three inches, that was saying a lot. Declan was probably about six feet tall.

Gennady was glad he’d checked the weather before he’d left home and it was supposed to be sunny all day despite the cold, so at least there was that to look forward to.

“So have you been at Queens long?” Declan asked when they were finally on the bus to Walgroove, seated side by side, “I don’t think I see you around much.”

“I’ve been here a year actually,” Gennady replied, “this is my second year doing my A levels.”

“Oh, A levels? You must be a hard worker then,” Declan teased with a soft laugh, “I was going to do A levels but it’s so intense. I just started my foundation year just this past September. It’s not so bad I guess.”

Gennady didn’t really like when people associated him with being a hard worker because he really wasn’t. He was just gifted with an unnaturally high IQ and a sharp, sound and intelligent mind which meant he required little to no effort to ace all his subjects. He hated it because despite the fact that he wanted to pass and make his grades, he didn’t like the responsibility and expectations that came along with being so intelligent.

It was always ‘sit up straight’ and ‘you need to represent your school’ and ‘your character needs to match your brains’ or even ‘you’re such a smart boy, you should be more well-behaved’ and he naturally just rebelled.

No one was going to tell him how to enjoy his bloody life just because he was smart. This was exactly why he decided to live life the way he wanted, not giving a shit about what anyone expected of him as long as he was making his grades. His teachers seemed satisfied, they didn’t talk to him that much anymore about his smoking or his drug dealing habits or any of his other mischievous doings, and for that he was grateful.

“Where do you plan on going to University?” Declan asked cheerfully, and Gennady was almost choked with panic.

Should he lie to impress Declan or just tell the truth to look badass and cool?

“I don’t know,” he said quickly, truthfully, knowing he couldn’t spend time thinking about a response, “what about you?”

“I was thinking Oxford Uni, but I don’t think I’d get in – too prestigious. My second choice is Manchester, and I’m also giving University of Sheffield a chance.”

Gennady was impressed, and he could hear it seep into his voice as he replied, “Those are really great Universities, not too far away from Oxford in terms of ranking.”

Declan blushed and Gennady felt his gut clench at the sight.

“Yeah,” Declan said, sounding shy as he fiddled with a corner of his jacket, “but they’re still not as high as Oxford.”

“I guess,” Gennady smiled in return. His gaze dropped to the book Declan was fiddling with in his hands and he asked curiously, “what book is that?” It was way too big to be a novel, unless it was some strange novel.

Declan looked inquiringly at him and raised the book, showing him the title with a bright blush burning his cheeks, “Oh, this? I know it makes me look like a nerd but as unusual as it sounds, I absolutely adore Geography but I suck badly at it. I just took this for some light reading.”

Gennady laughed a little, for some reason reminded of Hermione from Harry Potter because who took such a fat Geography textbook along to an amusement park for some light reading?

“Geography is my favourite subject,” Gennady said a little giddily, happy he’d found one thing he had in common with Declan.

“Is it? Do you do well in it? I study so hard and never get the grade I want,” Declan pouted, and for the first time since Gennady had started crushing on him, he wanted so badly to kiss that pout.

The thought of it sent tingles rushing up his spine and he unconsciously licked his lips and clenched his hands into fists, the dig of his nails into his palms somehow grounding him, heartbeat quickening underneath his ribcage as he forcefully tore his gaze away from that full mouth.

“I can teach you if you want,” Gennady said without thinking, and then he mentally face-palmed himself. Really, Gennady, really? Did he think this was some kind of cliché chick flick? ‘I can teach you’ like really, who even says that?

“Really?” Declan asked excitedly, “you don’t mind?”

Gennady glanced at him; mouth parted slightly with shock that he was actually serious before he shook out of it and managed a bright smile, “Sure…that’s if…you know, if you don’t mind either.”

Declan snorted, “Of course not! With the way things are going, I’m going to need all the help I can get. I was going to ask Mr Crompton if he could do extra lessons with me or give me some work for extra credit, but I can only stand being called a ‘teacher’s boy’ for so long. I really don’t want to make it worse.”

Gennady wasn’t aware that Declan was called names. Sure, he thought maybe Declan was way more into school than he was – with the numerous amount of textbooks he seemed to always be carrying each time Gennady saw him – but he didn’t know he was being ridiculed because of it. 

“You shouldn’t let what they say get to you. You’re probably not going to end up with them in Uni anyway.”

Declan shrugged, “I guess not but still, I’d rather have a great time right now instead of suffering through it. But enough of that! Let’s talk about something else.”

Gennady found out that Declan was a talker and the Russian boy wasn’t, so he tried not to visibly shiver as the British boy rambled on and on in his seductively sultry voice and accent. They got to the park, and seeing Declan so excited made Gennady even more excited himself.

In one day, he found out so many things. Declan loved a lot of pickles (ew) and tomatoes in his burger with lots of mayo, he had the sweetest tooth Gennady had ever seen – he must have had at least seven lollipops and about two ice-cream cones and three popsicles in just the first couple hours of the day – he didn’t like when Gennady had taken out a cigarette to smoke. He’d slightly moved away and had mentioned he didn’t really like the smell – which, who did? Gennady was sure he didn’t like it either but that was beside the point – and that led them to talking about alcohol and Declan absolutely detested it, so Gennady decided not to mention how he practically drank Vodka like it was water.

Declan told the worst jokes and the most horrible puns Gennady had ever heard and to his surprise, Declan actually had a really dirty mind. He couldn’t count the number of times he said something that sounded remotely provocative, and Declan was saying slyly ‘that’s what she said’, which made Gennady roll his eyes even though he’d be laughing at the same time.

At the end of the day, Gennady was so high on the excitement and spending the time with Declan that he felt that he had fallen madly and irrevocably in love.

And on the inside, he felt that Declan might like him too. Declan was really touchy with him, holding his hand when he wanted to drag him along on a ride, or squealing and stroking his arm when he thought of something interesting, or just the way Declan smiled at him like he hung the moon and stars. It might have also been the fact that Declan outright flirted with him, but Gennady was too shy and mind blown to flirt back even though Declan didn’t seem to mind. God, could this day get any better?

On the bus ride back home, Gennady felt like he couldn’t breathe. His heart was pounding, palms sweating and he kept biting his lower lip nervously.

“Do you go out?” Declan was asking while he texted rapidly on his iPhone, “cause me, Helen and Musharff are thinking of heading to the pub this weekend. You can bring Viktor, Elhan and Kristina over if you want too,” he turned to beam at Gennady and the Russian boy felt his heart clog in his throat at the blinding beauty of that smile, “we might even do some karaoke if we feel up to it,” he winked.

Oh God, I’m in love. I’m so so in love, Gennady thought with a brief rush of panic and exhilaration as he replied breathlessly, “Yeah, I go out. I’ll make sure to tell them.”

“Great! I can’t wait.”

Gennady’s heart squeezed in his chest. God, he’s never felt so love-struck. His cheeks seemed to be burning in a permanent blush and each time Declan locked gazes with him, he felt his heart skip almost painfully underneath his ribcage.

He kept staring at Declan’s messy brown hair, his long eyelashes underneath his glasses framing his golden brown eyes, and slightly defined cheekbones, and pouty lips, and felt like he was going to suffocate with the pure emotion rushing through his veins like bubbling hot lava.

Oh god, I want him, I want him so fucking bad.

“This is my stop,” Declan said as the bus stopped in front of a street.

“I’ll walk you,” Gennady said without thinking, and Declan glanced at him in surprise.

“You don’t have to –” he began.

“I want to,” Gennady interrupted, “besides, I live just about three stops over so it’s really fine,” he lied. The bus had already passed his stop ages ago. He just hadn’t been ready to say goodnight yet.

“Oh, alright,” Declan said and they both got off the bus, shivering slightly in the cold. It had already gone dark since the clock hit five, and it made them both walk briskly down the neat row of houses along a curved street.

They finally reached an apartment complex at the end of the street that Gennady instantly recognized as Slate Park, where most of the students from Queens resided, and Declan turned to Gennady as they stopped in front of the glass door which had a keypad beside it, meaning it could only be opened with a code and a key card.

Declan was smiling brightly, his cheeks and nose flushed adorably red from the cold, “I had so much fun today! You’re such a great person to talk to. I know I talk non-stop all the time but it feels great when people actually care about what I’m saying, you know? We should definitely do this again sometime. So, I’ll see you around? Don’t be a stranger,” he winked.

Gennady was staring at his lips as he spoke. They were a bit dry and chapped because of the weather, but he didn’t really care. Declan was smiling so softly at him that it just seemed right to lean forward to plant a quick kiss on his mouth.

It was awkward because Gennady wouldn’t stop shaking – and it wasn’t because of the cold – their noses bumped and Gennady’s lips ended up mushing clumsily against the corner of Declan’s.

There was a brief second during the press of those soft lush lips where all Gennady felt was complete true and utter bliss. But that all came crashing down when Declan almost instantly jerked away from him the minute their lips touched.

“Whoa, what the hell,” Declan gasped, instinctively taking another step back while a hand snapped up to the place Gennady had kissed him, “what are you doing?”

Gennady felt his entire world come to an abrupt halt.

His lips parted to say something but he had lost his voice. The look on Declan’s face wasn’t one of pleasant surprise – no, it was downright fear and horror. Declan suddenly looked extremely uncomfortable and kept glancing wildly around; like Gennady was suddenly going to assault him and he needed a witness or something to stop him.

Gennady felt bile rise up in his throat.

“I’m sorry,” he croaked. He was shaking violently now, and he felt like the cold was seeping into his pores, his bones and his chest, making everything hurt.

“No,” Declan whispered and then he got angry, “why the hell did you just kiss me?”

“I…I thought…” he began shakily, “I just…assumed…”

“Fuck you, you pretentious asshole,” Declan spat, and then he whirled around and rushed up to glass door, fumbling in his pockets for his key card and thumbing in the security code before he disappeared inside, forcefully pulling the door so hard – which must’ve been hard given that it was a fire door – that it actually slammed, and Gennady jumped a little. He was surprised the glass didn’t even shatter.

What just happened?

As he walked home, he was in a numb state of shock. The last few minutes kept replaying over and over again in his head and he felt like such a freaking douche.

I just assumed? He thought bitterly to himself, what gave him the right to just assume Declan liked him back? God, did Declan even like guys in the first place? He put himself in Declan’s shoes, imagining someone he’d literally just met planting one on him out of the blue at the end of a deserted street, in the middle of the night, and he felt like he was going to throw up.

Stupid, he thought, chest aching and eyes getting hot with the beginnings of tears, so fucking stupid. He’d ruined everything before anything could even begin. Why couldn’t he just have taken things slow, found out if Declan was actually into him or not before jumping to conclusions? He laughed to himself, remembering his thoughts when Declan had asked if he could spend the day with him.

He’d felt then that something bad was going to happen and look at what fucking happened – talk about some awesome foreshadowing. He was about to walk past a liquor store when he changed his mind and made his way inside. He felt so damn cold and he knew it wasn’t the November air. It felt like he was dying. The guy behind the counter eyed him with concern when he bought more Vodka than was considered okay, but he ignored him. There was nothing like some good alcohol to numb everything.

 

*

 

On Tuesday, Gennady felt like he’d been hung over for his entire life. He had the mother of all headaches, and he was constantly in a bitter mood since Saturday night. If he had it his own way, he wouldn’t have come to school for at least a week or two, but that would mean he’d have to attend every single day until he made the ninety per cent mark on his attendance, and he’d rather attend three times a week like he usually did than go below the percentage.

He avoided the corridors and public spaces in Queens at all costs – it was a really small school and there was a ninety per cent chance that he could bump into Declan, and God knows after his stupid show on Saturday he didn’t want that. Just thinking about Declan made his heart ache and his eyes smart in the beginnings of embarrassed tears, but he didn’t cry. He didn’t let himself.

He had dark shades covering his eyes and his tutors didn’t even ask because it wasn’t the first time he was turning up to school hung over. They were only grateful he was at least in school for the day, even though he spent all the periods on his phone doing random nonsense, or with his earphones in his ears, blasting loud music that disturbed the entire class.

He basically breezed through the day and couldn’t speak to his friends long because he hated the world and just wanted to be alone. He stood with them for about five minutes out of human courtesy, before Elhan’s deep, strong voice began to irritate him, and Kristina’s quietness and Viktor’s stupid laugh.

He rushed through his cigarette and told them he was going home. They nodded in understanding – he was always irritable when he was hung-over – and he moved to his bike, fumbling with the lock. The thought of home and soaking himself in a bath and forgetting the world sounded amazing.

He was just removing his helmet when a soft cough brought him out of it. He turned around and lost his grip on his helmet at the sight of Declan standing there, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot. He managed to catch the black helmet before it crashed to the floor, staring at Declan like he was the devil’s incarnate.

“Uhm, hey, I just wanted to apologise in person for Saturday,” he began, not meeting Gennady’s eyes, “I mean, my actions were justified, you can’t blame me…like, I really don’t know you and I was a bit terrified, but maybe I blew things out of proportion, I don’t know. You’re a great guy, and I like you as a friend and I’m incredibly sorry if I led you on or came on too strong – which I tend to do because flirting is practically ingrained into my psyche and if that gave you the wrong impression, then I’m really sorry. I just got angry because…well, my whole life, because I’m slightly effeminate and sort of a nerd – not to mention the dreaded flirting –” he rolled his eyes at himself, “people just assume I’m gay. And it pisses me off so much because I’m not. It’s just like, I meet people and they just inwardly go ‘yeah, he’s so gay’ and God, it is the most annoying freaking thing on the planet,” he spat out the word ‘freaking’ with so much emphasis that he might as well have just cursed, “So, there it is. And you know, I was kind of scared because you’re not exactly a small person, now are you?” he gestured at Gennady’s person with an awkward laugh, “You look like The freaking Rock…” he paused and his cheeks and neck suddenly flushed a brilliant red, “and I’m rambling, I’m sorry.”

He waited, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot and looking expectantly at Gennady. Gennady was lost. He truly didn’t know what to say to that.

He swallowed and the pain from the weekend till now seemed to dull except the thrumming in his head – his headache suddenly felt a million times worse.

Only one thing out of Declan’s rambling stood out.

He wasn’t gay. Declan wasn’t gay.  God, he felt completely and utterly stupid. Declan wasn’t even gay, so he hadn’t even stood a chance right from the beginning.

The kiss had probably told Declan just how Gennady felt about him and it made Gennady feel like someone had slashed his stomach open with a knife and was letting his insides spill out for the world to see. He felt painfully exposed, raw and vulnerable, and the urge to hide or rewind time and take it all back was unbearable.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to say, wincing at how dry and cracked his voice sounded because of his hangover, pretending he didn’t notice Declan wince too and eye him in mild concern, “It was wrong of me to kiss you like that. You don’t know how sorry I am that I just assumed things so stupidly. It was my fault and you don’t need to apologise. Your reaction was warranted. I’m just…I’m gonna go now.”

His hands were trembling as he fumbled with the helmet and shoved it over his head without removing his shades, the press of the helmet making it uncomfortable but he didn’t care. He just needed to leave, needed to be at home…to be away, far away.

When he got home, his phone was blinking with the alert of a new message but he ignored it. His head was pounding and his heart was still racing and he just needed to calm down. He thought about calling Elhan, about asking him for some weed or even a bit of the heavier stuff, desperate for the floating and dreamy feeling it gave him when he smoked it, but he knew that would only make him feel worse, especially with his current hangover, so he resisted and made himself a cup of dark coffee, the liquid so black it might as well have been tar.

After forcefully drinking the hot cup of coffee and successfully burning his tongue, he filled the tub with hot enough water and proceeded to soak in the bare water, disregarding the bubble bath because the scent of the soaps were too sharp for his hung-over sensitive nose.

He stayed in the water, burying his head underneath at different intervals until he felt vaguely human again and the water had gone cold. He took some painkillers when he was done soaking and shrugged into a soft black bathrobe, making himself another cup of coffee before picking up his phone, blinking in surprise at the sight of three new messages.

He felt his heart in his throat and the distant echo of his headache as he read the messages – all from Declan.

Hey, look, I didn’t mean to scare you off, okay? You’re really great and I think we click in a way I haven’t clicked with anyone in a long time and I don’t want our friendship to go to waste. Can we just put all this behind us? xx

Gennady stared at the message with disbelief. Was Declan actually being serious right now? He scrolled to read the next message.

You promised to help me with my Geography :( xx

What an asshole, Gennady thought, and he did not crack a small smile at the sad face. He absolutely did not.

Fine, we don’t need to be friends. That was presumptuous of me to even ask, I’m sorry. Is it okay if you can still tutor me in Geography? I really do need all the help I can get. We could even meet with Mr Crompton if that makes a difference. I totally understand if you say no (please ignore my first message, that was rude, sorry) xx

Gennady bit his lip. This was just totally unfair. Didn’t Declan know how he felt about him? Didn’t he have a clue how much his rejection had hurt him on Saturday? He was acting like the kiss never happened. He was acting like he didn’t…know.

Gennady was suddenly struggling to breathe. What if Declan truly didn’t know how deeply Gennady’s crush ran? What if he thought that the kiss was just on a whim because of the excitement of the day – which it totally was – and didn’t think it meant more to Gennady? That had to be it; it was the only reasonable explanation. If Declan knew how much Gennady really felt and given that he said he wasn’t gay, Declan would be giving him some space to get over himself – it was only polite.

It would be downright heartless if Declan knew about his feelings and still asked for a friendship. So the messages did prove that Declan thought he didn’t feel that deeply and thought they could be friends.

God, should he - ? Was it wise?

It was totally unwise. There was a ninety per cent chance he was going to fall even deeper if he became friends with Declan – just one day with the guy had made him so high that he’d stupidly kissed him, how on earth was he going to stand being friends with him for more days to come?

But of course, Gennady was stupidly in love and replied almost giddily, are you sure you want to be friends? It sounds more to me like you only want your Geography help.

The replies were instant, making Gennady’s heart leap a mile in his chest.

Oh thank God! You’re still talking to me.

Hold on.

I’ll send you a voice note :D xx

Gennady held his breath when he saw a little microphone icon in the chat box and he bit his lower lip distractedly as he clicked on it and waited for it to load. His heart lurched again when Declan’s voice was suddenly drifting out of his phone and into his room.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you! Seriously, you have no idea how badly I need your help. You really don’t. Psh, I mean, you’re a great guy and this is totally not about Geography,” he said, voice filled with a mischief that made Gennady’s stomach roil with butterflies, “okay, maybe it is a bit,” a small pause and a giggle, “I’m totally okay with you being gay in case you were wondering – that is, if you do identify as gay, you could be bi or pan for all I know, hah – and I’m sure Helen and Musharff will be okay with it too. I just wanted to ask if you’re out yet so I know if I should be careful.”

The voice note ended there and Gennady was still feeling too raw to reply with a voice note, so he typed, I don’t know. I guess I’m sort of out? Like, I don’t go around announcing it if that’s what you mean. If people ask, I tell. And I identify is gay.

This time the reply took a bit longer.

I know this sounds really stereotypical but you don’t exactly give out gay vibes aha You look like you were built to model for steroids or something – I mean that in a totally flattering way btw ;D

And it was after that message that Gennady knew, being friends with Declan was going to be the worst decision he had ever made in his life.

 

*

 

They managed to meet up a few days later – after mostly texting each other during the period – during a lunch break, and Declan went straight to business, bringing out his Geography textbook and notes.  

And Gennady was a bit shocked that Declan sucked. Like, he really totally hopelessly sucked at it. Gennady could tell he was trying, from the frown of concentration on his face to how much he practiced the test questions after each chapter in the textbook, but no matter how many times Gennady explained or how many times they went over the chapters, it was like it was going through one of Declan’s ears and straight right out of the other. Declan was always flushed and quiet with shame and frustration – sometimes even teary-eyed – after their lessons, and it made Gennady ache and he felt so angry at himself because he couldn’t help and he didn’t know why. It was so bad that he even googled other ways to help Declan, since his methods of teaching obviously weren’t working.

The tutors noticed that Gennady had started attending practically all his lessons lately. Their beams of happiness and approval made Gennady both cringe and blush because he was only coming to see and talk to Declan, not because he gave a damn about his studies, although he didn’t bother to correct them on it. They also seemed to notice Gennady trying to help Declan, and that sort of put him in their good graces, and it came as even more of a shock when they told him how Declan was failing in almost all his subjects and if Gennady could also please lend a hand in Maths, Chemistry and Biology? The only subject he was relatively good at was English.

Gennady at first felt a rush of embarrassment for Declan, and then a bit of guilt because he’d gone and assumed things again. He’d just thought with all the books that Declan always seemed to carry and his geeky looking glasses that Declan was a Brainiac, and it was so much of a surprise to learn that it was otherwise.

Gennady didn’t ask Declan if he wanted help with his other subjects because Declan already felt inadequate with his abilities in Geography, and Gennady didn’t want to be rude or make him feel worse.

Christmas soon came upon them, and when Gennady arrived home at Russia for the holiday, to the blankets of snow and the resulting biting cold, he missed Declan so terribly he thought he was going to be physically sick. Being with his family and his reckless sisters didn’t even help to distract him – the loss of contact between him and Declan was staggering.

There was the occasional comment on a new picture he’d upload on Facebook, or even just a like, but Declan didn’t contact him otherwise, and Gennady was obviously trying to pretend he was just a friend so he thought it was unwise to message him out of the blue.

So he writhed in silence and agony until about a week before school was set to resume, when he logged into Facebook and there was a message from Declan waiting for him.

His breath locked and he hyperventilated a bit before clicking on the box with the glowing red notification.

You have a tongue piercing? :O How have I never noticed?

The first emotion he felt was panic. How on earth did Declan know that? Then he remembered one of his sisters taking a picture of him with his tongue stuck out obscenely, his middle finger sticking straight, the white ball of his tongue piercing jewellery more than visible.

Oh God, did she upload the pic?

A few clicks told him that she did. He was so going to murder her later.

Declan was offline and for some reason, that made Gennady confident to message him and he wrote, um, yeah, I kind of stopped wearing my tongue jewellery so that’s why you probably never noticed.  

Almost instantly, the chat box went green, showing that Declan was online, and Gennady nearly had a heart attack at the instant reply.

Gosh, did it hurt?

He swallowed and replied; just a bit. The guy had me literally eat ice to numb my tongue before he did it, but it still hurt a while after it was done, and it was a bit uncomfortable to have something in there constantly, but I’m used to it now.

That is so cool.

Gennady blushed despite himself and just like that, he felt like his world was back on its axis. After that, they seemed to have one long conversation throughout the week on the Facebook chat, and Gennady could feel his stomach churning with butterflies as the school’s resumption date drew nearer. He was dying to see Declan again, face to face, hear his voice and look into those abnormally huge eyes and teach him Geography and lie to him about getting the right answers to see his golden eyes flare up happily.

God, Gennady was in so deep and it hurt, it hurt so bad and so good at the same time and he couldn’t help torturing himself even more, entertaining foolish ideas of Declan suddenly turning gay – despite how silly and impossible he knew that was – and falling for him and them kissing and going on dates, and he hurt so much he wanted to break down and cry while simultaneously laughing at the same time. God, he was going mad.

Finally, after what felt like ages, after talking to Declan all week on Facebook, he was back in England. He ignored the stares of all the teachers who were surprised to see Gennady actually in school on a Monday morning given his history, but he didn’t care. He was hot and cold and breathless, and when he saw Declan during lunch, he felt like he was dying and coming alive at the same time.

God, was it even possible for Declan to look more stunning than he had before they’d gone home? He was chatting excitedly with Helen and Musharff, oblivious to Gennady staring from across the room.

He’d changed the frame of his glasses, they were no longer thick and black but almost non-existent, making the rectangle-shaped little glass pieces look like they were floating on his nose and God, it made him look more mature for some reason, and so undeniably sexy and Gennady felt a delirious rush gust up his spine. 

His hair wasn’t messy today, it looked like he’d actually taken effort to style it, the front swooped up a bit and combed back in a risen flawless flair.

Gennady could feel his heart pounding in his ears, his chest and his limbs, pounding absolutely everywhere and his face was heating because he couldn’t stop staring and he felt so stupidly happy. He felt like his blood was surging through his veins like he was pumped on cocaine and it was glorious and absolutely wonderful.

Declan didn’t notice him during lunch, skipping out with his two friends when it was over and Gennady didn’t see him again after that, even when he lingered at the back of the school as he caught up with Elhan, Kristina and Viktor, smoking several bouts of cigarettes with them and talking in Russian with them – giving them a breather because he was still high on seeing Declan again after three weeks.

He was filled with so much happiness and emotion when he got back to his homestay and received a message from Declan asking if he was back because Declan hadn’t seen him at all today.

He suddenly felt so overwhelmed he felt like crying, wanting to throw his phone away at the desperate ache of longing growing in his chest. He stared at the simple message, thumbing the buttons on his phone distractedly and feeling like a horrible mess.

Hiya! Are you back in England yet? I didn’t see you at all today. We need to hang out! No Geography, I promise ;) I just thought you’d want to do something…shisha maybe? Text me if you’re around! :D xx

Sniffing and licking his lips, he quickly replied, hey, I’m back! I didn’t see you either. Shisha sounds like fun. When do you want to go?

He rubbed his thumbs against his closed eyelids after sending the text, spots dancing underneath his lids from how hard he was rubbing, calling himself stupid and irresponsible and telling the ache in his chest that he deserved it for torturing himself like this but God, he just couldn’t stop. He wanted Declan so badly and he just felt so much and there was no way he was going to give this up for the world.

How does the weekend sound? I’ll message you again the details! See you then :) xx

The weekend sounds perfect. See you.

Gennady buried his face in his palms, calling himself all kinds of stupid, but that didn’t stop his heart from racing with excitement at the thought of seeing Declan during the weekend.  Time couldn’t come faster, and before he knew it, he was standing in front of the restaurant slash bar, outside having a quick cigarette before Declan showed up.

He’d used his motorcycle to get there because Declan said he’d be coming with Helen and Musharff and he didn’t want to be stuck with them on a bus. He was horribly self-conscious of the dark red ball currently stuck through his tongue piercing, and he kept unconsciously playing with it as he smoked. It was the first time he was wearing it in Declan’s presence, and he hoped it didn’t put the British boy off. He wasn’t even half-way done with his cigarette when said boy showed up with Helen and Musharff.

“Hey!” Declan called, dressed warmly in a big brown coat with scarves wrapped around his neck and covering half of his face, a woolly hat over his hair and ears, hands enveloped in thick gloves against the chilly January air, “how was the holiday?” he asked cheerfully, his voice slightly muffled by the scarf after they shared a brief awkward hug, and Gennady managed to nod at Helen and Musharff.

“It was okay,” Gennady replied, nodding at his cigarette, “do you mind if I quickly finished this before we head in?”

“Oh I can wait, catch up and stuff. Why don’t you guys go secure us a table? We’ll only be a minute,” he said to Musharff and Helen, and they nodded and moved into the restaurant.

“You grew your hair out,” Declan commented cheerfully, and Gennady instinctively reached a hand up to sift through the dark brown strands, blushing a little.

“I…yeah,” he mumbled in response, taking another puff out of his cigarette for a distraction.

His hair had always been in a short and neatly trimmed buzz cut, but he’d let it grow over the Christmas period. It still wasn’t that long, but at least he didn’t look like an ex-army general anymore. Gennady was trying not to stare at Declan’s adorable red nose and his wet eyelashes beneath his glasses, noticing that the cold made Declan tear up. He took a long pull out of the cigarette and puffed it out on a long exhale before unconsciously trailing the red ball piercing over his lips.  

It took a second to realize that Declan was staring at his mouth with a look Gennady couldn’t quite decipher. He felt his heart flutter underneath his ribcage but he ignored it, taking another long pull from his cigarette.

“Uhm…so…what did you do during the holiday? Travel?” Declan asked and he sounded a bit off, slightly forceful, like he wasn’t really concentrating on what he was saying.

“Uhm, well,” Gennady began through a puff of smoke, “We were actually supposed to go to Brazil for Christmas but things happened and we ended up staying in Russia. It was great I guess…seeing the family. How about you?”

Gennady’s heart lurched when he turned to look at Declan and the British boy was still staring intensely at his lips, before he snapped his gaze up a few seconds later, cheeks flushing guiltily.

“Sorry…it’s just…your piercing…it’s just…wow…it’s really something,” he blushed.

Gennady could feel his entire face heat too and he instinctively rubbed the ball piercing over his lips again, unable to help it. He tried to shrug nonchalantly but the move came off jerky, “yeah, I remembered you saying you’ve never seen it. So I…decided to wear it…so you could see it.”

“Could you…extend your tongue a bit?” Declan asked in curious excitement, and Gennady felt awkward but he obeyed, sticking out his tongue to show the piercing. “Oh wow,” Declan said with a grin, “that’s wicked. That’s so badass,” he giggled.

Gennady blushed even harder, self-consciously tucking his tongue back into his mouth and rubbing the ball up against the roof of his mouth. “Thanks,” he mumbled and finally finished his cigarette.

Things changed a bit after that day. It was a subtle change, but Gennady noticed it. It was like after hanging out with Declan and his close friends, the British boy suddenly became more open and friendly with him. He’d been guarded before, after what happened the first time they’d met, but now he was back to his full-on self and it made Gennady feel a little dizzy.

And then at some point, things got a little weird. Declan would stare intensely at him when he had his tongue piercing in or when he was smoking, and Gennady would feel extremely self-conscious. Then one day, Declan showed up to school with red eyes from crying or lack of sleep, Gennady wasn’t sure which, and he refused to talk to Gennady throughout the entire day and for the few days that followed, and Gennady had felt like he was about to die.

But when those few days passed, Declan was back to his old self, a bit reserved but himself nonetheless, and Gennady was a little worried that something might have happened to his family or something, and he prayed to God that everything was okay with the other boy.

“Do you want to come over to mine to finish up with this Geography stuff?” Declan asked out of the blue one day, and Gennady stared at him like he’d grown two heads.

Declan shrugged even though his cheeks had fired up with an intense blush as he waved a hand carelessly in the air, “I’m just really tired of staying behind in school, you know? I felt like a more comfortable environment would help me concentrate better and besides, you said you lived just a couple blocks away, right? So it should be convenient for both of us.”

“Well…” Gennady began hesitantly, and Declan was quick to reassure him.

“My flatmates are going to be around anyway, so it’s not like I’m going to jump your bones,” he giggled tensely and Gennady managed a strained laugh too. Memories of that night that had nearly ruined everything flashed in his mind’s eye, but that didn’t stop Gennady’s heart from pounding so hard it felt like his ribs were hurting.

Just standing in front of Slate Park reminded Gennady of his stupid thoughtless kiss of months ago, but he tried to shove it to the back of his mind as he entered the apartment block. He told himself that Declan thought he was a friend now, so it was more than okay for them to hang out at his place.

Declan led him up to the flat and left Gennady in the kitchen.

“I’m going to drop my bag and change into something more comfortable and get my laptop,” Declan was saying as he made his way out of the kitchen, and Gennady was only human, so the sound of ‘something more comfortable’ had him thinking about Declan in really skimpy underwear and nothing else, and he flushed guiltily but Declan didn’t notice, already at the door, “Some of my textbooks are the ones on the counter in the corner,” he pointed out before he was gone, leaving the Russian boy alone in the kitchen.

Gennady picked up the books and then thumbed through the Geography textbooks, looking for the simplest one when a magazine dropped from between one of the textbook’s pages. Curiously, he picked it up and realized it was a men’s fitness magazine and he chuckled a little because he used to read these when he was young and easily believed in bullshit. The thought of Declan’s skinny frame trying to get some muscle made him crack up inwardly.

He looked up when he felt a presence and his lips were turning up in a smile when he noticed Declan standing at the entrance to the kitchen, clutching his laptop and looking extremely pale. He’d changed from his jeans into a casual pair of grey sweats, feet covered in adorable fluffy slippers and an oversized light blue t-shirt.

Gennady’s smile instantly wiped off his face at the sight of Declan looking like he’d just seen a ghost.

“What?” Gennady asked in a panic, glancing from Declan and down to the magazine in his hands and back up again, the magazine which Declan was staring at like it was the root of all evil. Gennady was wondering why Declan would look so scared of the Russian boy finding his magazine when it suddenly just clicked.

The half-naked man on the cover, the magazine carefully hidden between his textbooks –

Oh,” Gennady whispered into the silence, his face and neck burning with a furious blush.

To his surprise, Declan’s eyes filled with tears and his lower lip began to tremble. Gennady was instantly out of the couch; the magazine dropping to the floor, forgotten.

“Hey, hey,” he whispered, “I…what’s wrong?”

Don’t assume, he told himself warningly. This probably didn’t mean what he wanted it to mean.

Declan licked his lips and then moved away, stalking to his room. Gennady followed thoughtlessly, wincing a little when Declan carelessly dropped his laptop on his bed.

“You,” he hissed, pointing an accusatory finger at Gennady, “it’s all your fault. I can’t – this isn’t – god, I’d thought this had – God, no –” Declan was obviously stressed, tears spilling down his cheeks and hands roughly tugging on his hair.

Oh my God, Gennady thought, heart pounding with exhilaration. God, had he made Declan curious? Was that why he was – oh my God, this wasn’t happening.

“Declan, calm down,” Gennady said softly, more to himself even, moving up to him and grabbing him by the arms to stop his furious pacing, “breathe.”

Declan inhaled deeply and suddenly, huge golden eyes were settling on him and then on his mouth. Declan deflated in his grip, tears sliding down his cheeks, “you and your stupid smoking and your stupid tongue piercing and…I…God, Gennady, I dreamt about you. I dreamt and I woke up and I had to – I’m –” Declan bit his lip so hard Gennady feared the skin would break.

It took a second for what he was saying to make sense, and Gennady felt warmth bloom in his stomach.

“W-What?” he stuttered in hopeful confusion. What was Declan saying? Was he really - ? Oh sweet Jesus.

“I’m…I’ve never felt like this,” Declan whispered and was his face getting bigger or was that a trick of the light? “I’ve never…you make me feel…God, Gennady.”

Declan’s voice broke on Gennady’s name and the Russian boy felt his heart stutter at the sound.

He was frozen as Declan moved his face closer, breath puffing against his lips. His breath locked in his chest as Declan brushed his lips delicately against his. God, his lips were plush and pillowy soft, practically melting against his mouth. Their lips parted, and then connected again. And again. And again. And again. Soft, quick kisses that soon turned hard and desperate, and Gennady was struggling to breathe. His grip on Declan’s arms tightened, like he was afraid this wasn’t real and his thumbs began stroking harshly while he felt like he was completely drowning in feeling.

Pure want and longing were curling up in his stomach and chest and Gennady knew he had to stop, his mind was thoroughly confused about what was happening, but his heart and his body were singing with lust and love and desire and God, he wanted to push Declan onto the bed and just ravish every single inch of him while he had the chance.

He pulled away, flushed and breathless, his dark brown eyes impossibly wide, “Declan, what are you doing? I thought – I mean – you said –”

“I know what I said,” Declan interrupted breathlessly, and Gennady couldn’t think with the way Declan’s hands were curiously and shyly exploring, stroking and squeezing tentatively over his arms and chest, his back, his hips, the muscles of his stomach.

Their foreheads rested against each other.

“I’m just…God, Gennady. I-I don’t understand why…I-I’m…fuck, I’m so attracted to you,” he whispered brokenly.

Gennady felt like he’d just died and gone to heaven. The last five words kept repeating over and over again in his head and he couldn’t help the way his breath hitched when Declan connected their lips again, and he was suddenly so aroused, so overwhelmed with his feelings and his desire, throbbing in his jeans as Declan shyly snuck his tongue into his mouth, wet, slick and hot, the action so new and shocking it sent sharp blasts of pleasure shooting up Gennady’s spine. He felt his toes curl as that tongue teasingly and at the same time bashfully rubbed over his ball piercing and God, Gennady was shaking and he had never felt so hard in his life and God, God, he felt like he was going to come in his pants from the sensations alone, oh God.

He pulled his lips away in a rush to breathe and send the blood back to his head, trailing his lips down to suck a hickey into Declan’s neck and the soft breathy sound that escaped the British boy’s lips was nearly Gennady’s undoing. He moaned in the back of his throat when Declan’s hip brushed against the front of his jeans, an almost painful tease.

“Oh God you’re hard,” Declan whispered in surprised breathless pleasure, and he cupped Gennady’s cheeks in his palms, kissing him so hard the Russian boy swore the world tilted on its axis. Declan was rubbing his thigh feverishly against Gennady’s arousal, and it was driving the Russian boy absolutely out of his mind with need and pleasure.

Alarm bells were ringing inside Gennady’s head but he couldn’t stop. He had Declan in his arms, warm and responsive and pliant and he ached – he ached so badly and he wanted so desperately, but memories of that first night and Declan’s rejection suddenly rose up in his mind and he pulled away, cheeks flushed, taking a step back to give them some space.

He’s just curious, his mind was saying, he said he was straight. He can’t just turn gay overnight. This isn’t real. Spending time with you has just made him wonder. It happens. People experiment.

“Declan,” he began in a soft voice, but the British boy placed a finger on his lips.

“No, don’t,” he whispered, “I don’t…I don’t want to think about this, please, please, I – hold me? Just hold me.”

Gennady complied, pulling Declan into his arms and hugging his trembling body tightly. His pulse was pounding in his ears and life had never felt so perfect.

 

*

 

Things got a little awkward after that day. Well, they did for Gennady. Gennady’s talks with Declan became strained. Declan became jerky around him and didn’t stay long to chat, and sometimes it even seemed like he was avoiding Gennady, and the Russian boy felt his heart break at the thought.

Declan started spending less and less time with him, and when he did talk to him, he spoke of nothing but Geography and school and didn’t linger to catch up or talk. He didn’t even message Gennady anymore – not on his phone or on Facebook – and the Russian boy felt strangely lost. He felt like he was a balloon, floating into the air with no anchor, and it was a horrifying feeling.   

There were times when he’d be having lunch in the cafeteria and he’d catch Declan staring at him, face cloudy with an expression he didn’t recognize, but the minute the Russian boy looked up at him, Declan was quickly diverting his gaze elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Gennady was dying of guilt because almost every night, he couldn’t help reliving those brief intimate moments he’d shared with Declan in his mind, and he’d end up touching himself, always fast and hard, whimpering, “Declan, Declan, Declan” , remembering the blissful press of Declan’s thigh against him until he was biting his lip to hold back his howl of pleasure as he came so hard his toes curled and his vision whitened, shaking and trembling to the whisper of the lingering taste of Declan in his mouth.

But then after that, he would feel so horribly disgusted with himself that he’d hardly sleep, and when over two weeks passed, he could feel the panic rising inside him. All he could think about were the kisses he’d shared with Declan – when Declan had been feeling vulnerable and confused, he’d fucking kissed him, several times, and God knows he might not have even stopped there if he hadn’t remembered that first night and halted himself, and now that Declan was back to his right mind, he was avoiding him like the plague.

When Gennady finally couldn’t take it anymore, he decided to confront Declan and apologise. He’d come to the conclusion that the moments they’d shared was a mistake. Declan had gotten briefly curious and that was it. He already knew Declan’s timetable by heart, so he made his way to the Chemistry class, wanting to wait outside the lab for him but froze when he heard voices.

“What on earth did he do, though? You guys were best buds and now you’re barely talking.”

A familiar exasperated sigh and then, “it’s just that he’s…uhm, well gay…and he likes me, so things got awkward I suppose.”

Gennady froze because that was Declan’s voice. He couldn’t move while he felt his heart shatter into a million pieces in his chest. He startled when the lab doors came open and he saw Declan pale at the sight of him standing there, and he just knew that it was definitely him Declan had been talking about, and by the looks on Helen’s and Musharff’s faces, they really didn’t approve.

“Oh God, Gen –” Declan began, but he was already spinning on his heel and nearly jogging out of the school and up to his bike.

There was a loud ringing in his ears as he jumped on his bike, shoving the key in the ignition and revving it up. And great, the bike chose that exact moment to be a bitch, coughing and sputtering before stopping and he kept revving it over and over again, his heart pounding in panic.

He didn’t want to see Declan. Please please not now, he couldn’t – couldn’t

“Gennady! Please wait!”

No, no, he thought to himself desperately, revving the motorbike more furiously and thank God, it finally started up and he shot out of the courtyard almost dangerously, a loud screech ringing in the neighbourhood from his scraping tires, nearly slamming into a car on his way out but he didn’t even stop, ignoring the bang of his helmet against his knees which he’d forgotten to put on. But safety be damned.

He blamed the cold wind rushing into his face for the tears that blurred his vision.

 

*

 

He was hung over again.

Gennady please talk to me xx

Call me back xx

I’m sorry. I was being an insensitive asshole. I was feeling vulnerable and confused and Musharff and Helen wouldn’t stop pestering me and I felt cornered and – this is all no excuse, anyway, so it doesn’t matter. I’m sorry. Please. I’m really sorry. Please xx

Can you like message me back? I want us to be okay xx

Please, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please.

To each message from Declan, Gennady thought ‘fuck you.’ He deleted every single one of them because when he let them linger, he ended up reading them over and over again and felt his chest ache. He ignored the insistent calls and even had to put his phone on silent on one occasion because the ringtone was suddenly getting on his nerves. Cigarettes, coffee, a little bit of weed and vodka became his best friends over the week. He nursed his wounds while he was high with his friends, trying to escape the harsh reality of life.

He was horrible to everyone at school because of his mood and the teachers were really disappointed that he’d gone back to his skipping days but he really didn’t give a fuck.

He knew he had to talk to Declan, straighten things out, but the rejection he knew was waiting for him in the horizon made him feel like ripping out his own lungs.

It’s just that he’s…uhm, well gay…and he likes me…

Anger, hot and boiling rose up in his throat as Gennady recalled those words, because even though he didn’t mind if people knew he was gay, it wasn’t Declan’s right to tell people. He had no fucking right. Not to mention the way Declan had said those words, spat out the word ‘gay’ like there was something wrong with Gennady made the Russian boy feel like howling with despair. It hurt so fucking bad, and he told himself he was going to wallow in self-pity for a week or two before he would finally meet Declan to hear what he had to say – listen to his rejection, plain and simple, so they could stop being friends and he could go back to his old life without Declan in it.

The fact that Valentine was a week away and everyone was getting all cosy and lovey dovey didn’t help matters at all. Queens had put up a big red box in the middle of the lunch room and called it ‘anonymous’ where basically, anyone in the school could write a love letter or sign a card and put it in the box and then on valentine, the cards were sent out to the respective receivers. Of course, it was called ‘anonymous’ so that the senders could choose to either sign their names or remain unknown. Who knew the teachers in Queens had a thing for romance?

But seeing some girls giggling as they put cards in or the guys sneaking to put a card in only made Gennady madder because he couldn’t even have that.

And wasn’t that just the icing on the cake.

 

*~*~*

 

Declan Bush still remembered the first day he’d met Gennady Yartsev.

Talking to him had been so easy. At first, he hadn’t really recognized him when Gennady had asked for the spare ticket to go to Walgroove and neither had he remembered him when Gennady had smiled at him in that incredibly shy way that looked really odd and at the same time adorable because of his incredibly bulky build.

The day they’d spent at the amusement park had been one of the best of Declan’s life. There was just something about Gennady’s presence that was just…amazing. He was quiet, yet attentive, and the way he had looked at Declan all day like he was the most special person in the world made Declan feel like he was king.

Sure, he thought Gennady was a little weird with the intense staring and constant blushing, but he just summed it up that Gennady was probably just really shy as a person or didn’t go out much. But something about Gennady made Declan feel so comfortable and free that he couldn’t help but let his mouth and inhibitions run away. He became some sort of perverted joker who was at the same time a little kid going to Disney world for the first time. Being with him that day had be exhilarating.

But then Gennady had kissed him on that same day and it had ruined everything.

All his life – ever since he practically left the womb – people just assumed he was gay. There’d been a time he’d failed his math test when he was six, and he’d gone to his mother sobbing and wondering how he was going to tell her.

And what had she said?

“Sweetie, it doesn’t matter who you love. I mean, I know you’ve been gay since the minute you left the womb. Your father and I still love you so very much.”

Declan had stared at her, gobsmacked and confused. What on earth was she talking about? She’d only laughed and said he’d understand when he was older.  He’d forgotten completely about it until about four years later, when he was in final year of primary school and his teachers told him he was going to repeat a year because his scores were so bad they couldn’t let him into secondary school.

He’d been terrified of telling his mum and dad that he’d ended up curled on his bed in his room, crying his heart out and wondering why God hated him so much. No matter how hard he studied, he just couldn’t make his grades. Was he stupid? Maybe he really had been dropped on his head as a child as many of his bullies had taunted.

His mother had found him like that.

“What’s wrong?” she’d asked in concern but Declan hadn’t known how to reply when his throat was so choked up. After a while, she asked, a bit hesitantly, “Is it…do you have something to tell me?”

He nodded into his pillow.

She sighed, “Declan, you don’t need to cry. I know.”

He sniffed and looked up at her hopefully, a bit happy that the burden of telling her he’d have to repeat was gone, “you do?” he asked, eyes wide.

She smiled softly at him, “of course I do. I’ve known since you were born.”

He didn’t really understand her statement but when he did, he felt like he’d been slapped in the face. What was she trying to say? That she’d known he was stupid since he was born? That was just plain hurtful.

She noticed his look and was suddenly hugging him, “Oh Declan sweetie, please don’t cry. I know that society is mean and stupid, but just know that I don’t care. It shouldn’t matter who you love and anyone who gives you crap because you’re gay can shove right off,” she pulled back to look him in the eye, “if anyone’s bullying you because of this, you let me know, you hear?”

There was a sudden ringing in Declan’s ears and he was suddenly so…so…so damn angry! Here he was worried about his stupidity and his mother was going on and on about him being gay?

“I’m not gay, mum!” he yelled, tearing out of her embrace and jumping off his bed, glaring harshly at her, “God, you would think I’m the stupid one!” and then he was running out of his room and hastily putting on his shoes while he mum called after him.

Many incidents repeated after that. During thanksgiving, his grandpa would shove him jokingly and ask his dad ‘has he come out yet?’ and his father would laugh humorously and say ‘of course not, he’s just real cosy in his closet, aren’t you Declan?’ every fucking year.

When he met new people, girls he had crushes on would ask him shyly, “are you gay?” or he’d get hit on by some random pervert in the supermarket and all the incidents just built up his self-loathing until the word ‘gay’ made him so pissed at the entire world.

So when Gennady had kissed him and the words ‘I just assumed’ had spilled forth from his lips, it had taken everything in Declan not to break his nose. It was only when he’d gotten to his room that he actually felt bad for lashing out at him. Thinking back during the day, remembering how touchy he’d been and how uninhibited, shamelessly flirting with Gennady, had made him flush with shame as he realized he might have just let himself go a bit too far.

And besides, he’d never had company like Gennady. He was such a perfect presence to be around that it was almost unreal. Plus Geography was his favourite subject and if Declan wanted to get into the University he wanted to study the course of his dreams, he needed to pass that subject ASAP. Gennady couldn’t be more perfect in his eyes.

So he’d sucked it up and apologized. Gennady had accepted his apology – after a bit of ignoring him because he’d probably been mad because Declan had led him on – and they’d become friends. Declan became a lot more reserved after that – he knew that no matter how comfortable he was around Gennady, he couldn’t let his mouth and body run away again.

When their lessons started, Declan had been so ashamed that Gennady would now know just how much of a failure he was, but he knew if he needed help then he had to let Gennady teach him and for some reason, he trusted Gennady.

Gennady was the most patient and helpful teacher he’d ever had. All of his past home and private tutors had gotten frustrated with how slow he was during his lessons, and some had even gotten pissed off and called him names.

You’ll never get it right, you’re just so dumb!

How are you so fucking stupid? The answer’s so obvious!

God, teaching you is such a chore and a waste of my time.

Gennady never said any of those things. He was almost painfully patient, teaching him with a new technique every day to find out which one would make Declan learn faster. When Declan got some of them wrong, he couldn’t help his quiet frustration or the occasional tear sliding down his cheek. He was immensely grateful Gennady didn’t tease him, didn’t laugh at him or call him names. He didn’t once get mad or angry or impatient, always going over the questions over and over again until he got them right and Declan was sure that Gennady must’ve been an angel sent from heaven.

Gennady might’ve been a bit shy in person, but he wasn’t on the phone, which was what Declan had learned over the Christmas break. His texts still showed a bit of his reserved nature, but he was more open and a tad cheeky, and when Declan returned, he’d been so eager to see him again and hang out with him – outside of their lessons.

That’s why he’d invited him out and then started panicking as he stared at the text.

Hiya! Are you back in England yet? I didn’t see you at all today. We need to hang out! No Geography, I promise ;) I just thought you’d want to do something…shisha maybe? Text me if you’re around! :D xx

It sounded like a frigging date! He was sure if Gennady read it, he would think Declan was asking him out. So he’d called up Musharff and Helen as a last resort to go with him. And then seeing him again, something just happened and Declan had lost the bit of reserve he had left and he was back to the self he’d been during that day in Walgroove, comfortable and excited and happy.

Then something changed. At first, Declan had been innocently fascinated, but now he couldn’t stop staring at Gennady’s tongue when he had one of his coloured ball piercings poking in. It had gone from that to imagining what it would feel like to kiss someone with a tongue piercing, or how it would feel to have the jewellery brushing against his skin.

Gennady had the habit of rubbing the plastic ball against his lips and it drew Declan’s gaze like a moth to a flame and suddenly, Declan was finding Gennady smoking incredibly sexy and before he knew it, he was dreaming of Gennady pinning him down with those beefy arms, being trapped underneath his incredibly broad chest and being kissed within an inch of his life, those lips and that fucking piercing stroking against his sensitive skin and he’d woken up arching off his mattress and clutching his sheets in white-knuckled fists, lips parted on a silent scream as he soaked his pyjama bottoms with his release, coming so hard his body couldn’t stop shaking violently afterwards.

It had been the most intense orgasm of his life.

When he’d realized what had just happened, he completely broke down. The chants from his mother and his father, his fucking grandparents – basically everyone he knew kept repeating over and over in his head and he felt an incredible amount of self-loathing consume him. He felt like the fact that his family had kept shoving that he was gay in his face had actually now really made him gay.

He wasn’t gay, he kept telling himself, what the fuck was happening? It felt like everything he’d built in his life was suddenly crumbling before him and everyone was right – he was stupid and he was gay.

He’d cried himself back to sleep and after that, he couldn’t even bear to be in the same room with Gennady, too filled with guilt and self-loathing to look him in the face.

After ignoring Gennady for a few days, he felt horrible. It was obvious Gennady was hurt and confused about Declan avoiding him, and Declan felt like such a douche, so he resumed talking to him. He was reserved again, but after that night, after dreaming of Gennady like that, he couldn’t look at the Russian boy the same way anymore. His conflicted brain kept fighting the attraction that was steadily building. A part of him, deep down, wanted Gennady so bad it hurt, but the other half of him was telling him it wasn’t true, it wasn’t real, was telling him on instinct to deny, deny, deny.

He hadn’t been able to help when he got to the supermarket and saw the fitness magazine. The man on the cover reminded him so much of Gennady that he slipped it in with his groceries and when he was alone in his room, he pulled the magazine out, his gaze hungrily trailing over the built muscles, all hard, toned skin, and his cheeks were flushed and before he knew it, his hands were down his pants and he was tugging at himself so hard it burned, tears of pure, uncontrolled bliss in his eyes and Gennady’s name on his lips.

He reached breaking point soon enough after that. He’d shoved the magazine in-between his textbooks and completely forgot about it and then kept denying his attraction to Gennady over and over again, like a mantra that would never go away.

But of course, Gennady just had to find the forgotten magazine and everything that happened was chaos after that. Declan vividly remembered the press of Gennady’s soft but slightly chapped lips, his warm breath fanning over his face and God, how his body felt under his shyly exploring hands – so hard, taut and strong, and Declan had been so, so aroused.

He had felt the anxiety and confusion building up inside him, but for the life of him, he hadn’t been able to bring himself to stop. When he’d felt Gennady’s reaction to him, he’d felt so drunk on power and emotion. He made Gennady like that – his kisses turned Gennady on.

The thought was heady and exhilarating. Then Gennady had tried to speak, tried to make an understanding of what was happening, and Declan had simply panicked, and when Gennady had left later that afternoon, after Declan had very nearly cried his heart out, Declan was in a state of distress.

He didn’t want them to be right. He hated the fact that everyone had forced his sexuality on him before he even knew what it was and it was making him ache to show them, to prove that what they said about him was wrong and he was his own person. It was awful because he felt like just because his entire family had said he was gay, then he just had to be gay. The instinct to deny it was so strong Declan couldn’t fight it anymore and he started avoiding Gennady.

It was a phase, he told himself, I’ll get over it.

But what had he done? He’d become an asshole.

Memories of how he’d said Gennady was gay – how he’d outed him like he had the right made bile fill up in his throat. The absolute wretched and betrayed look on Gennady’s face had torn Declan apart from the inside out.

 

*

 

Can you like message me back? I want us to be okay xx

Please, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please.

Of course Gennady was ignoring him, Declan thought sadly when the Russian boy’s phone kept ringing on the other end of the line and then after a while, his voicemail picked up.

Declan felt absolutely horrible. He didn’t know how to make things right. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to make things right. This was what he wanted, wasn’t it? To cut Gennady off and prove he wasn’t gay? But each time he remembered the betrayal and anguish on Gennady’s face, it made his chest hurt.

After trying for nearly two weeks, Gennady finally responded.

I’m going to pretend I don’t know you, and for my sake, you’re going to do the same about me. Stop calling and texting me, please, thank you.

Declan felt his heart break at the message. Everything in him seemed to be screaming in agony. His fingers were shaking when he sent a hasty reply.

Please let me explain myself! I at least deserve to be heard, right? Then I’ll get out of your hair xx

The response came a few hours later, hours where Declan felt like he was about to vibrate out of his skin.

One chance. You deserve that. Then we’re done.

“I’m just going to go somewhere for a bit, so don’t wait up, okay?” he said to Musharff and Helen and then he was racing out of the school building and thank God, Elhan, Viktor and Kristina were leaning against their spot by the far corner of the courtyard beside the bicycle stands, smoking and speaking in rapid Russian.

He should probably wait, Declan thought, but he needed to air himself out now, afraid that if he gave Gennady more space the Russian boy would change his mind about letting Declan clear the air.

He felt insanely nervous around them. They just looked so menacing to him and the fact that they were dressed in signature black clothes didn’t help one bit. He sucked in his stomach and moved up to them, knowing that if he didn’t talk to them now he was never going to.

“Hi,” he called out nervously, loudly, when he was close enough to them.

They all glanced at him, and Kristina was just stubbing out her cigarette, looking at him like he was the scum of the earth as she blew smoke out through her red lips.

“Hi,” one of the guys he assumed was Elhan replied. He was the smallest of them all, still slightly built, and with short spiky brown hair.

Kristina said something to them in Russian and they all chuckled while Declan blushed in mortification, hoping to God she hadn’t said something about him when he guessed she probably had.

“What is it?” Elhan asked, still smirking at him and his accent was so thick Declan almost didn’t hear what he’d said.

He swallowed, “I’m looking for Gennady. It’s really important. Mr Crompton said I should give some things to him but I don’t know where he lives.”

They eyed him suspiciously and Viktor asked, “What are you to give him?”

Declan immediately made it up, “Oh, just some papers and stuff. He’s missed school for a few days and I think he missed a test or something? I’ve got the file in my bag; I just need to deliver this quickly so I can get back to school.”

The way he’d quickly spoken confused them a bit and they obviously didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself, so Kristina brought out a paper and pen from her purse and wrote down Gennady’s address and post code.

Her voice was surprisingly warm and friendly when she spoke, “Um, you know the number fifty?”

Declan nodded eagerly, “Yeah, I use that bus.”

“You take it from the store across the road and um…you stop at this street,” she pointed at the street she’d written down, “the number is there,” she said, indicating at the paper and Declan nodded gratefully at her.

“Thank you so much,” before he was turning and quickly making his way to the street to take the bus.

He was surprised when the bus stopped way before where he lived. He could vividly remember Gennady saying he lived close by but that was obviously a lie. A blush bloomed in his cheeks and he realized just why Gennady had walked him home and for the first time, he saw the Russian in a new light, remembering his intense stares and permanent blush and God, how had he not noticed?

His thoughts were all jumbled up as he made his way to Gennady’s house. God, what was he going to say when he got there? Did he want this? Did he want Gennady?

Yes, yes, God, yes. But the knowing smirks he knew he was going to receive, the ‘I told you so’s he was surely going to suffer from his family was more than he could bear. He shook his head to clear it as he finally got to the right house, adjusting the straps of his bag nervously before ringing the doorbell.

A smallish Indian woman opened the door and smiled brightly at him, bouncing a little baby girl on her hip, “Oh, hello there, can I help you?”

Her accent was decidedly British, and Declan beamed, “Yeah, uh, I’m looking for Gennady?”

“Oh, are you a friend of his? Come on in. I was just making some burgers. I know it’s still freezing but the sun is shining and the neighbours brought out their grills so I was like, what’s the harm?” Declan managed a small laugh even though he was getting a bit impatient, his heart pounding almost painfully underneath his ribcage. “Please take your shoes off and then just climb the stairs, his room is the first one on the right. I’ll see you boys in a bit.”

“Thanks ma’am,” he replied and she waved a hand at him.

“Call me Nabila,” but she was gone before he could reply, saying something to another little girl in the kitchen.

Declan was breathing heavily as he made his way up the stairs and to the right door. His stomach was roiling with butterflies and he suddenly felt like throwing up the smoked salmon he’d had for lunch that afternoon.

Fudge, was this a good idea? Should he have come? But he was already here

His hand was trembling when he raised it up to knock, and the sound of Gennady’s voice made his heart lurch hard, slamming against his ribcage.

“Yeah?” Gennady called out and then he heard the sound of shuffling and then his door came open.

Declan’s first thought was; God, he’s so perfect.

He looked exhausted. His eyes were red-rimmed and he was wearing a white tank top with grey sweatpants, his short brown hair somehow managing to look messy yet flawlessly styled at the same time, and he stared at Declan in a bit of apprehension and surprise.

“Hi, Gennady,” Declan managed, shifting nervously from foot to foot, suddenly feeling really out of place. “I’m so sorry,” he blurted.

Gennady swallowed visibly. “What are you – how did you know my address?” his voice, the mix of the Russian and slightly British accent was like honey to Declan’s ears and he tried not to shiver.

Declan blushed and started fiddling with a corner of his jacket, his eyes fixed on the ugly maroon carpet of Gennady’s room, “I asked Kristina. This was probably stupid and impulsive, I’m so sorry what was I thinking, I mean…” – stop freaking rambling Declan – “I can…if you don’t want me here I’m very happy to go.”

He waited, and waited, and waited, and then Gennady sighed and shifted, “uh…do you want to come in?”

The guilt he’d managed to supress built up and nearly consumed him at just how defeated Gennady sounded. Just get it over with, his mind told him.

He entered the room and felt like all the air was sucked through a vacuum when Gennady closed the door. The room was small but impeccably neat, and Declan was a bit surprised. He’d thought Gennady would be a messy person but apparently not. The only messy area in the entire room was his desk, where his laptop, a few books, cigarettes, and other items lay carelessly.

Gennady moved to sit on his bed, and motioned at the rolling desk chair for Declan.

Declan decided to stand. But now that he was here, he wasn’t exactly sure how to start.

“Gennady, I’m so sorry,” he finally began, “I had no right to just…out you like that, and you have no idea how sorry I am. I regret it every single second of every single day” – don’t you dare start crying, Declan, don’t you bloody dare – “I also – I didn’t mean what I said to come out the way it did. I’m horribly sorry. I wish I could take it all back.”

Gennady wasn’t looking at him, and Declan felt a flash of unwelcome and completely inappropriate heat given the situation when the Russian boy’s tongue darted out, tracing a bright yellow ball piercing over his lips distractedly while his hands picked distractedly at his sheets. Declan shook his head, swallowing hard and trying not to remember how incredible it had felt to stroke that piercing with his tongue.

“It’s okay,” Gennady finally replied, shrugging his shoulders in a jerky motion, “I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you when you were vulnerable.”

Declan felt like complete and utter shit and he wasn’t thinking when he dropped his bag carelessly on the floor and sank into the desk chair, rolling it forward until he was sitting directly opposite Gennady and cupping his cheeks so that the Russian boy had no choice but to look up at him.

“You didn’t take advantage of me,” Declan said fiercely, “if I remember clearly, I was the one that kissed you. Both times.”

“Y-Yeah, but you didn’t know what you were doing. You were confused –”

“Not at the time, I wasn’t. I wanted you.”

There was a brief silence and a flash of the yellow ball piercing again, making Declan’s insides shudder with warmth.

“And now you don’t,” Gennady said softly and swallowed, “don’t want me, that is.”

Declan could feel his heart pounding. His instincts were telling him this was it, this was his out. Just agree with Gennady and he could put this behind him, but instead he was sliding his hands into Gennady’s prickly brown hair, urging his face closer, and when Gennady’s eyes seemed to helplessly fall shut, his face tilting upwards and his lips pursing and pouting, Declan took that as consent to join their lips.

Oh God, he felt like he was in heaven. HIs toes curled and his entire body shuddered from head to toe. Gennady opened up to him and they kissed with brutal, ferocious passion, breaths mingling hotly and the feel of the warm ball piercing tracing against Declan’s lips made Declan’s breath hitch as he shifted his legs, afraid he was in danger of creaming his pants. He never wanted to stop kissing him; he never wanted this to end. He felt like this was where he belonged. After a while, he had to pull away when he got lightheaded from lack of air.

“G-God,” he breathed out on a shaky exhale, his grip on Gennady’s hair softening as their lips parted.

Gennady was staring at him with eyes wide with hesitation and confusion, and Declan felt like twice the asshole.

“Oh fuck, I’m so sorry,” he whispered, “fuck, I’m ruining this. Gennady God, I’ve just…I want you,” he admitted desperately and then he felt like crying, so overwhelmed and shaky, “I was so conflicted and…and…” his voice faded when Gennady untangled his hands from his hair and moved to stand.

“Declan, I can’t do this,” he said, his voice thick with emotion as he began pacing around his room, “you’re confused or curious or something and one day you’re going to realize you don’t really like me like that, trust me, I know, it happens to most people –”

“No,” Declan hissed, the tears finally spilling down his cheeks as he stood up so he and Gennady were standing face to face. He was more or less the same height with the Russian boy, so it was easy to glare right into his eyes, “do you know how it feels to have your sexuality practically shoved down your throat at six years old? I didn’t even know what sexuality was and I hadn’t even had crushes yet and my entire family was hell bent on forcing me out of this fucking imaginary closet – they all just expected me to be gay – like I didn’t have a fucking say in the matter and the more they spoke it just built up this big wall of self-loathing and blatant denial and…a-and then I met you.”

Gennady’s breath hitched but he still looked like a frightened animal about to be attacked, and Declan bit his lower lip in despair. How was he going to make this right?

“Declan,” Gennady whispered, “I’m in love with you.”

Declan’s eyes grew as wide as saucers and he couldn’t help the way one of his hands flew to his chest to grip at his shirt like he was trying to stop his heart from flying out of his ribcage.

“I’ve been in love with you since the day we first met, I had the most horrible crush on you even when you didn’t know I existed and I want…I just want you to know that before you make any decisions.”

Declan bit his lower lip as it suddenly just hit him. He wasn’t in love with Gennady, not yet. But he was falling – falling fast and hard. The thought of walking away, of leaving this behind was almost physically unbearable. He couldn’t do it. The emotions that ran within him just looking at Gennady made him feel choked up and he whispered, “How do you feel about going public? Like, if everyone knew you were gay?”

Gennady shrugged, frowning at the sudden change in topic, “I don’t really care, but I know you do. After what you’ve said, is that what you want? I know how it feels to have people expecting things of you and how annoying it is when they feel that the only reason you’re doing it is because they told you to. But can you really handle it? Your family saying ‘I told you so’?”

Declan swallowed and just the thought of it made him incredibly mad, made him want to go back to denying how he felt. He hated it – he hated that it seemed like his parents had labelled him before he could even explore his own self and he clenched his hands into fists, not wanting that label to stick.

“What they say shouldn’t matter,” Gennady whispered, and Declan looked up at him, his eyes wide.

His heart was pounding as he thought, yes, it shouldn’t matter. They could take their labels and shove them up their asses. He wanted Gennady, simple and short. There was nothing more to it. Maybe he’d been gay all this while and his obnoxious presumptuous family made him supress it but that didn’t matter – right now, there was no gay or straight – there was…there was just Gennady.

It seemed like a heavy weight lifted from his shoulders. He felt light and free.

Opportunities come but once in a lifetime, and this was an opportunity he wasn’t willing to pass up. He wanted Gennady and everyone else could go to hell.

 

*

 

Valentine, Gennady thought bitterly, how he loathed this day.

It had been a week since Declan had come to his house, but he hadn’t seen Declan since then. When Gennady had told him that he shouldn’t care about what people thought, Declan had smiled at him like they had some kind of secret and said he’d see him in school – only he hadn’t. Gennady saw him walking around sometimes, and the British boy would smile warmly at him but Gennady was so confused because he’d been left hanging.

Was this the end? Did Declan not want him anymore? Or did Declan want him and was waiting for Gennady to make a move? The Russian boy just didn’t know and it was giving him a headache to think about it.

So he just let it be. He’d told Declan he was in love with him, and each time he saw Declan, he felt so raw, like he was peeled open, so there was absolutely no way in hell he was going to be the one to start something between them. If Declan wanted him, he was going to have to suck it in and come after him.

The day was passing by lazily, the classes decorated with red and pink hearts that were making Gennady’s eyes hurt. Something was cooking really nice and he couldn’t wait to see what they prepared for lunch. After the students had complained about the horrible and impossibly expensive food, the chef had tried to improve on her menu.

His period finally ended, and as he left his class, people were whispering and giggling as he walked by the tight corridors. He frowned in confusion but ignored them, going outside for a smoke before heading back inside for lunch.

 

*

 

“I can’t breathe. I literally cannot breathe.”

“You’re breathing fine to me,” Musharff replied dryly, and Declan only glared at him which made the Sudanese boy raise his hands in mock surrender, a teasing smirk on his lips, “you wanted to do this, lover boy.”

“Shut up,” Declan blushed, “God, this is so cheesy.”

“And cold,” Helen pointed out, rubbing her arms through her leather jacket, “Don’t forget the cold.”

“Thanks, the fact that I’m freezing my balls off did not remind me of that at all,” Declan bit back sarcastically, and Musharff and Helen only grinned at him because they knew the wait was making him nervous.

The day had so far been great – it had snowed, which was exactly what Declan had been hoping for and he, Helen and Musharff stood out in the snow, cold and shivering and waiting for a certain someone to get his message.

As Gennady settled himself into an empty table in the cafeteria with a plate of beef lasagne and garlic bread – the food had improved, thank God – an announcement cackled from the speakers.

“We’re going to empty the ‘anonymous’ box soon, so can everyone please be in the cafeteria in five! Thank you!”

Five minutes passed and the cafeteria was soon swarming with all the students from Queens, chattering noisily. One of the teachers, Anna, a smallish black woman walked up to the box and picked it up.

“Are we all excited?” she asked girlishly.

There were a few excited exclamations and more than a few groans of ‘let’s just get this over with please’ and she began picking out the cards and love letters, reading out the recipients and handing them out to the pleased, blushing owners. Gennady was looking around for Declan, a bit disappointed when he didn’t find that messy hair or those sexy glasses anywhere within the crowd, so he missed when his name was called.

A Chinese girl standing beside him nudged him in the ribs and when he looked up in question, everyone was staring at him and he only then realized that Anna was smiling and holding out a red envelope addressed to him.

His cheeks burned and he quickly moved up to grab the envelope, his heart shooting up into his throat as he recognized Declan’s lazy scrawl.

The world seemed to fade away as he eagerly and yet tentatively opened the envelope.

It was a plain white note card and on it, still written in Declan’s lazy scrawl was; Go upstairs and look out from the room we normally do Skills onto the courtyard xx

Gennady’s breath hitched and he made his way upstairs, taking the stairs two at a time and rushing to the window. There were already a few people in the classroom, looking at something fascinating out the window and giggling about it.

Gennady held his breath as he finally looked out the window, the students parting on his arrival.

The first person he noticed was Declan, dressed warmly from head to toe, standing in the snow of that morning. It was already lightly snowing again but then Gennady felt faint at what was behind him.

Gennady, will you be my valentine?

It was boldly spelt out on the snow, the red rose underneath the question nearly invisible now because of the new batch of snow pouring. Declan was looking up at the windows and his eyes lighted up as he spotted Gennady and he smiled shyly, his cheeks and nose red from the cold, showing that he’d been standing there for a while. He held another rose in his hands, a white one, playing with it nervously. Helen and Musharff were leaning against one of the bicycle racks, smiling up at him too.

Gennady’s vision was a blur as he left the windows and made his way downstairs and flew out of the back doors, flying into Declan’s surprised arms and crushing their lips together.

His lips were so cold and so were his cheeks and his breath but it was so perfect, perfect and Gennady pulled away when it began to hurt from how hard he was kissing him, whispering, “yes, yes, I’m sorry, God, yes.”

“Why are you apologising?” Declan laughed, the sound choked with emotion, the rose forgotten and blending in with the snow piling up at their feet.

“For kissing you like that,” Gennady replied, looking at him and smiling fondly at the sight of Declan’s eyes wet with tears underneath his wet glasses, knowing that the cold made Declan tear up and yet he still stayed out here, waiting for him. His heart was about to burst out of his chest with pure love.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me if I said I wanted you just like that, so this was to show that I was serious and I don’t give a shit what anyone says,” Declan said with a smile, throwing his hands up for emphasis.

Gennady then noticed the shirt and his eyes grew wide, “Declan are you – what are you wearing?”

Declan blushed furiously and grabbed the lapels of his jacket, pulling them tightly closed and pulling up the zipper all the way to his chin, “nothing, nothing.”

“Let me see,” Gennady laughed giddily, forcefully pulling the zipper down, eyes wide and dancing with mirth, when the white shirt underneath was revealed, “Oh my God. Is this even real?”

In bold letters printed on the shirt were the words: I WANT GENNADY.

Declan’s face was even redder now, “you weren’t supposed to see it. It’s so stupid. What was I thinking? It’s too much, isn’t it? God, I’m so sorry. I just really wanted you to know that I didn’t care who the hell knew about how I felt but I went over the line, didn’t I? God, I’m horribly sorr–”

Gennady cut him off with a kiss, “Shh, it’s perfect.”

You’re perfect,” Declan whispered back, his voice thick with emotion.

Declan could feel the billions of stares from the other students through the windows of the Queens building and a part of him still felt apprehensive, still felt anxious and scared but he shoved it to the back of his mind.

It didn’t matter what anyone said. He wasn’t going to let his family’s labels prevent him from wanting this.

And when Gennady softly whispered “Fuck,” against his lips, like he couldn’t believe what was happening, it made Declan’s heart swell in his chest.

And he just couldn’t bring himself to regret it one bit.  

 

THE END.

Comment Log in or Join Tablo to comment on this chapter...
Viano Oniomoh

Hi, thank you so much for your comment! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

Christopher Richardson

I really love this story. I was pulled into it really quickly and could not go to bed until I finished.

Michelle Rae

Absolutely true :)

Viano Oniomoh

Are you serious? haha I find that hard to believe but thank you! That means a lot to me :'D

Michelle Rae

Another great story. I cried, but then I'm very weak when it come to such raw emotions.

~

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