Chapter 20: Jacky

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Before Jacky opened his eyes, he thought he was in a hospital bed, with his mother at his side, stroking his face. But when he opened his eyes, he realized he wasn't lying down. He was in Ryan's room, still leaning on Ryan. Only now Ryan had his arms around Jacky, and he was stroking Jacky's face.

He closed his eyes again, hoping Ryan hadn't seen that Jacky was awake.

Ryan's arm was holding him up, and his other hand was holding Jacky's head to his shoulder. His thumb was what was running over Jacky's cheek, over the cheekbone, where there wasn't any stubble.

With his eyes closed, he imagined they were in a place where nothing bad had ever happened. Ryan was out, Jacky still had his other arm, and they were just two people in love.

It was too bright in the room. Jacky's eyes wouldn't stay shut. The red numbers of the digital clock on the nightstand told him he had about five minutes more to sleep before he had to start getting ready for school.

Jacky cleared his throat. "Morning," he whispered.

Ryan didn't say anything. The thumb kept stroking, though, and Jacky realized suddenly that he had a boner. He usually woke up with one, which was why he hadn't noticed right away. But now Ryan was holding him. Jacky's hand, which had drooped down to Ryan's waist while he'd slept, now tightened.

The thumb stopped, just for a second. Then Ryan's hand exerted a pressure that tilted Jacky's head up.

They looked at each other.

Ryan's eyes had dark circles under them, and they were puffy from crying, though not red. The worst part, Jacky thought, was how dead they looked. How empty.

He'd do anything to change the expression on Ryan's face.

So he leaned over, and cautiously, watching Ryan's expression to make sure this was something he wouldn't mind, Jacky kissed him. Not like how Ryan had kissed him yesterday, or at the hospital. Just a little kiss. Soft. Pulling away immediately, searching to see if there was any spark of life on Ryan's face.

Then another kiss. And another.

Nothing about Ryan's expression said he didn't want Jacky kissing him. But nothing said he wanted Jacky to keep kissing him. One more, Jacky told himself. One more, and then he'd stop being selfish and leave Ryan alone.

Only this time, Ryan's arms tightened around him, and Jacky couldn't just pull away. And that was okay.

Jacky parted his lips and tested how Ryan liked that. Then they were tasting each other's morning breath and Jacky twisted a little, rubbed himself on Ryan's hip a little. Ryan gripped him tighter. His hand was hovering near the waistband of Jacky's sweatpants. Just an inch lower, Jacky thought, a couple of inches.

In the other room, his alarm went off.

Jacky jumped away while Ryan just sat there, his arms empty. "I have to..." Jacky started to say, then ran out to shut off his alarm, trying not to sound like he was running. His mother was already awake, she would be downstairs getting ready for work. He could already smell the coffee. Was his mom going to work, and Jacky going to school, and Ryan would be alone in the house all day?

He shut off his alarm and hurried back to the guest room. Ryan hadn't moved.

Jacky stood in front of Ryan. Put his hand on Ryan's shoulder. "Will you come have breakfast?" he asked.

Ryan wasn't looking at him. "I'm not hungry," Ryan said.

So Jacky bent over and tried to look in Ryan's eyes. His arm went around to rest on the back of Ryan's neck. "Please, Ryan. You need to eat."

Finally, finally, Ryan met Jacky's eyes. Jacky's heart twisted in his chest at the sight of them. Ryan didn't say anything. Jacky let his hand slide down Ryan's shoulder, down to hold his hand, and tugged. Ryan's fingers squeezed his. And he stood up. He didn't let go of Jacky's fingers until they reached the kitchen.

"Good morning, boys," Mrs. Jennings said warmly.

"Morning," Jacky said. He squeezed Ryan's hand a bit, but Ryan's hand had started to slip away. He drifted toward the kitchen table, where he sat down and stared at the surface.

"What do you want to eat?" Jacky asked, going to the cabinets to get his favorite cereal. Ryan shrugged. "Is cereal okay? Do you want something else? Oatmeal, toast... Pop-Tarts?"

He would have offered to cook up some eggs, but then Ryan mumbled, "Cereal's fine."

"Okay." So Jacky poured two bowls of cereal.

And though Ryan barely ate any of his, Jacky felt better that he was eating something.

___

Author's Note: I'm probably going to be taking Waiting Room off of Swoonreads before the end of the year, just wanted to let you all know in case you want to read the entire book in one fell swoop before then!  

Unfortunately, even though it's ranked pretty high on that site, they only publish a handful of books a year and it's been up there for about a year now.  My plan in 2019 is to start submitting this novel to literary agents and see how it goes :) 

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