Wet and Tackled
It was raining again. Alejandro hated it when it rained. Scowling, he leaned his desk chair back to tug the curtains across the window. Objectively, he knew that there hadn't been enough rain that year, and that the more rain that fell, the less likely it was that a drought would occur. All the same, however, he missed the sun and the feel of a spring day where he would suddenly feel as though the bite of winter had disappeared.
Instead, no. No spring sun. He had to deal with this damn rain. Jamming his hand through his jet-black hair and pushing it roughly back from his face, he inclined his head and looked back down at his textbook, feeling distinctively grouchy.
Unfortunately, the textbook wasn't holding his attention very well. He read the sentence, "U.S stakes and goals in Vietnam did not dictate the strategy for fighting the war nor the tactical scope and character of the war" a full five times before he managed to absorb a single word of it.
"Dammit," he muttered. "Focus, you idiot, focus." He shook his head back and forth a few times wildly, then bent his head over the textbook again. It wasn't easy to focus with the sound of the rain beating against the window echoing in the small dorm room. But he tried. How he tried. He tried so hard to pay attention to the small printed words that when the door to his room crashed open unexpectedly, he leapt to his feet in surprise with a startled yell.
"Jesus," Alejandro breathed, his hand pressed to his heart, as he saw who was standing in the doorway. "You could have knocked, you know."
Jack Kelly, who presumably lived down the hall, but spent most of his time in anybody's room but his own, merely shrugged sheepishly before shaking his head like a wet dog and scattering drops of water all over the room.
Alejandro recoiled and shoved his textbook behind him so as to protect it from water damage. "Dammit, Jack," he snapped, ignoring the funny twinge that he got in his stomach whenever Jack smiled, "if you're determined to make a mess, your own room is only three doors down."
"Oh, cheer up," Jack said, waving a dismissive hand in the air. "It's raining!"
"Yeah, I know," Alejandro replied. "Why do you think I closed the curtains?"
Rolling his eyes, Jack reached over and grabbed Alejandro's wrist. "That's why I came in here. I saw the curtains closed, and I knew that you'd be sitting here, glaring at a textbook."
"So instead you come in here, shake water all over my stuff, and make me glare at you instead? I'm sure the textbook appreciates your efforts, but it doesn't do me a whole lot of good, does it?" Alejandro couldn't help but stare at Jack's hand against his skin. Normally, Alejandro didn't really like letting people touch him -- it just felt weird and uncomfortable. Jack, however, constantly forgot that, and seemed to be one of the most touchy-feely guys that he'd ever met. Over time, Alejandro had not only gotten used to Jack's seemingly random touching, but had also, at some point, realized with a start that somehow, he didn't mind when Jack touched him. In fact, he liked it. Quite a lot.
Refusing to be put off by Alejandro's grousing, Jack laughed and tugged on his arm. "You're such a wet blanket. Didn't you ever play in the rain as a kid?"
"No," Alejandro replied clearly. "No, I didn't."
Jack paused, blinking several times. He seemed to be honestly surprised by Alejandro's answer. "Well... Why not?"
"I..." Alejandro paused. Suddenly, he couldn't remember why he'd never played outside in the rain. "I dunno," he replied, knowing that he sounded slightly surly. "I mean, it just never occurred to me. Why would I want to go out in the cold and get wet? What would I do out there?"
Jack shook his shaggy head almost sorrowfully. "You must have had a really lousy childhood, Alejandro. Did you ever have any fun?"
"Of course I did!" he exclaimed. "I read a lot." Jack's response was a disbelieving look, so he added, "I like reading."
Now Jack laughed aloud. "Of course you do. You read more than anyone I've ever met, man. So it'd be raining, and little mini-Alejandro would be..."
"...inside, warm and dry with a cup of hot chocolate, reading a book," Alejandro finished. "What would you want to do outside while it's raining?"
During this conversation, Jack had kept his grip on Alejandro's wrist, and now he pulled on it. "Well, come on and I'll show you."
Alejandro really, really wished that his brain hadn't immediately flooded with dirty images when Jack had said that. Even more than that, he hoped that Jack wouldn't notice the response to his words. Alejandro didn't think that his facial expression had changed overmuch, but his heart felt as though it was about to pound straight out of his chest.
For the most part, Alejandro was a reserved boy. He didn't have many friends and he had even fewer close friends. When the other guys on the hall were partying, getting completely smashed, hooking up with random girls, and vomiting all over the floors, Alejandro would be in his room, headphones firmly in place, curled up with a good book. He just didn't care about doing that other stuff. Sometimes he wondered what he was missing, but for the most part, he was completely fine with it. After all, what if some random guy on the hall got him drunk, and instead of talking about how much he'd like to hook up with Alyssa from upstairs or Britney from the next building over, Alejandro were to start babbling about how cute Craig from next door was? No, it was safest and all for the best that he didn't join in with any of the traditional masculine idiocy.
Because of his, well, he supposed that other people would refer to it as anti-social tendencies, it was all the more important to him that he keep Jack as a friend. Jack had never seemed to care that Alejandro's door was nearly always closed, or even that Alejandro yelled at him for barging in every single time. For whatever reason, he seemed to like hanging out with Alejandro, and rarely a day went by that he didn't, at the very least, crack the door open, poke his grinning face through, and announce, "Heeeeeere's Jacky!"
So if Jack were to find out how Alejandro really felt about him, Alejandro just knew that he would lose Jack as a friend. Nearly anyone else on this campus... He could handle it if they didn't like him. But not Jack. Anybody but Jack.
He dug his heels into the thin carpet and said uneasily, "I dunno, Jack. It looks cold and gross outside. Wouldn't you rather watch a movie or something?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Five minutes. Just give it a shot. You don't even know what you've been missing all these years!"
Alejandro sighed. Maybe Jack was right. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe he could let Jack pull him outside. Maybe he could watch a sopping wet Jack act silly in the rain without completely losing his heart to him.
Yeah, right, he thought darkly, but on the outside, all he said was, "Five minutes. I'm timing it."
Jack smiled, one of those big smiles that made his angular face seem to light up and glow from the inside. "Don't worry. You won't melt."
Alejandro wasn't so sure about that. He felt a little bit like he was melting already.
But he did let Jack pull him out of the door and down the hall. He half-expected Jack to release his wrist once they were in the hall, where anyone could see them, but Jack did not such thing. If anything, he tightened his grip slightly.
And then they were outside, and it was pouring, as Alejandro had expected. What he hadn't expected, though, was that the water droplets weren't cold, but rather, were almost pleasantly warm. He held his free hand out to catch the raindrops in surprise.
Jack laughed, finally releasing Alejandro's wrist. He felt the loss of contact nearly immediately, and looked at Jack quizzically through the raindrops that were catching on his eyelashes. The brown-haired boy's response was, "You look like a kid who's just been told that chocolate isn't poisonous."
Alejandro blinked. "What?"
"It's a metaphor."
"Yeah, got that. What does it mean?"
Jack took a few steps further from the building, tilting his head back to let the rain catch him full in the face. "It means that you're surprised to learn that this is actually pretty nice."
"This? Standing around and getting wet?" Maybe the rain wasn't so bad, he decided, but it wasn't as though he were having the time of his life.
"Don't be an idiot," Jack called to him through the rain. "I was talking more about this!" He punctuated his words by jumping into a rather large puddle, which, either through incredible aim, or incredible luck, slashed Alejandro full across his face and torso.
Caught by surprise, Alejandro tried to wipe the rainwater out of his face with his sleeve, but as his sleeve was now nearly soaked too, all it did was push the water around. He glanced over at Jack accusingly.
"What'd you do that for?"
Jack began edging away slowly, a crooked grin on his face. "Because it's funny."
"But I'm soaked now!"
"Well, if you've got a problem with that, do something about it!" Jack jumped into another puddle. This time, Alejandro ducked out of the way just in time to avoid the splash.
"Okay, fine," Alejandro shouted over at Jack. "I'll do something about it!" His fists clenched, he purposefully strode over to stand in front of Jack, whose smile was beginning to fade.
"Did I actually -- Are you actually offended?" Jack asked worriedly. "Because if you are, I didn't mean to--"
His words were cut off as Alejandro jumped and slammed down as hard as he could into a puddle right next to them, splattering both him and Jack with muddy water.
The look on Jack's face was so flabbergasted that Alejandro couldn't help but grin, a white flash against the dark of his skin. He didn't think that he'd ever seen Jack silenced so easily.
"Wow," Jack managed finally, his eyes still unusually round in his dirty face, "I wasn't expecting that."
And now Alejandro did laugh. He tried to keep a straight face, but remembering the startled look on Jack's face, he just couldn't keep himself from laughing. It wasn't just a chuckle or a single guffaw, either. He tilted back his head and laughed as loud and as hard as he could. It felt like he'd been saving up this laugh for a very long time, holding onto it for just the right occasion.
As Alejandro laughed, Jack started to grin. By the time Alejandro bent over double, clutching his stomach, weak with laughter, Jack had started chuckling too.
And it seemed entirely natural that they would hold onto each other to keep from falling, Alejandro clutching Jack's shoulder, Jack's cheek pressed against Alejandro's hair. And Alejandro didn't worry about anyone seeing them -- of course, he was laughing too hard to care -- but for whatever reason, the quad seemed to be entirely deserted but for the two of them, clinging together and laughing insanely.
Alejandro decided that perhaps the rain was kind of fun.
Finally, their raucous laughter subsided to chuckles, then weak, wheezing giggles. Slowly, they straightened up and looked each other in the face.
And for one odd, breathless moment, they just stared at each other, their faces only inches apart, and Alejandro wondered dazedly if it was possible that the look on Jack's face wasn't discomfort, but something else entirely.
The moment passed, of course, and they both drew back, a bit awkwardly. Jack was the first to speak.
"You do know that I'm now entitled to get revenge, right?"
"Uh, for what?" Alejandro asked nervously, but his fears were assuaged when Jack, with a mock-grim look on his face, pointed indignantly at the puddle. "Oh. Oh. That. Of course. Well--"
Before he could babble out some sort of ridiculous excuse, Jack had lowered his head and lunged. Alejandro only had time to let down a muffled oof as Jack tackled him to the muddy field.
His head rang, but he regained his composure more quickly than he had when Jack splashed him. After all, it had been a long time, but he and his younger brother had used to wrestle each other when they were younger. So Alejandro fought back.
Jack's eyes nearly bugged out as they tussled. "You're...stronger than you... look... y'know," he gasped out an instant before Alejandro stuffed mud down the back of his shirt and he yelped.
"Yeah... Well... lots of things might... surprise you," Alejandro panted, but his momentary lapse of concentration in order to reply gave Jack the upper hand.
Alejandro groped for more mud, but Jack, perhaps more experienced at this sort of thing, managed to have Alejandro flat on his back with his wrists immobilized within seconds. Now lying on the wet ground with the mud seeping through the back of his shirt, Alejandro wasn't sure at all whether he wished that Jack wasn't lying almost entirely on top of him, or whether he wished that Jack would do something about it. What he was sure of was that Jack was holding his wrists against the ground above his head, and that their faces were, if possible even closer to each other than they had been in that moment before Jack had tackled him.
Alejandro couldn't have stopped his eyes from tracing every angle in Jack's face, even buried as it was under mud, if he'd tried. He did pause, though, when he got to Jack's usually merry brown eyes. They were somber, and staring right down at him Alejandro's already rapidly beating heart did a flip-flop in his chest, and he was suddenly scared. Did Jack know now? Was he going to get up and walk away in disgust?
To Alejandro's complete shock, Jack did none of those things. Instead, he kept staring down at Alejandro, looking apprehensive. His hands, still holding Alejandro's wrists down in the mud, trembled.
"Jack...?" Alejandro whispered.
A muscle at the side of Jack's mouth twitched. He muttered, "Oh, the hell with it," and lowered his mouth to Alejandro's.
The kiss was brief -- more a brushing of muddy lips across other muddy lips than anything else. Jack pulled back quickly, as if afraid, and looked down at Alejandro.
For his part, Alejandro could barely believe what had just happened. Had Jack Kelly really just kissed him? He was sure that it was just some wonderful dream, that any second now, he'd wake up in his bed, quite alone. However, the longer that he and Jack stared at him, and the longer that Alejandro felt the cold mud against his back and on his face and in his eyes, and started to feel a dozen different tiny hurts from being tackled and from rolling around on the muddy ground, and the rain was still pouring down around them, almost as though it were shielding them from the outside world... Well, the longer this went on, the more Alejandro began to dare to hope that it was real, and a tiny, tremulous smile spread across his face.
He decided that he rather liked the rain.
While Alejandro was realizing that it wasn't a dream, Jack was looking more and more nervous. He released Alejandro's wrists.
"Alejandro, I... I'm..." he began uncertainly.
"Please don't say you're sorry, Jack," Alejandro said quickly. "If you do, I..." He clenched his teeth together in frustration. He'd been so worried about stopping Jack before he apologized that he had spoken too quickly. He was completely sure that he knew what he'd been about to say, and really wasn't sure that he wanted to say it.
"If I do, then what?" Jack asked quietly.
And now Alejandro saw the emotion on Jack's face for what it was. He suddenly realized it. It wasn't disgust, and it never had been. It had never even been anything remotely close to disgust. How could he never have known?
What he did know was that he wanted Jack to be happy again. He wanted Jack to barge into his room without knocking, and he wanted to run around in the rain with Jack, and more than he had ever wanted anything else, he wished with all his heart to put that big, glowy smile back on Jack's face, the smile that seemed to light up the world around them, and so as he lay there in the mud with the April rain pattering down around them, there was only one thing he could say.
"If you do, you'll break my heart," he replied simply, waiting for Jack's response.
Alejandro had never had a wish come true before, but all of those other wishes ceased to matter the moment that this wish came true.
He decided that he really liked the rain.