“So, Jack,” I said, interrupting Milo’s awkward starting, “Milo really loves video games.”

“Really?” Jack’s face lit up, and I half expected him to throw Milo under his arm and dash off into the next room. “Come on. I’ve got like everything, and I mean everything. From Grand Theft Auto to Pong, I’ve got you covered.” He started to hurry into the living room, and Milo gave Ezra one last longing look before following him.

“Really? You have Pong? Why?”

“Cause its awesome!” Jack sounded mildly offended at being questioned.

“Finally, someone for him to play with.” Ezra smiled gratefully at me, and I looked away so I wouldn’t blush. “You wouldn’t believe how much time he spends on those damn things. Mae’s always trying to get him to go out and do something, anything, but it’s near impossible. She was so relieved when he met you and actually left the house.”

“Well, I’m glad that I could help,” I replied timidly. I “Where is Mae?”

“Um, she’s out.” Ezra’s normally open face closed up a bit, and it was a familiar expression that I’d seen written on Jack’s face every time he didn’t want to tell me something. “She really ought to be home soon.”

“I just wanted to make sure Milo meets her.” I rubbed my arm, afraid that I had encroached on territory they’d rather I didn’t. “I know he’d really like her.”

“Everyone really likes Mae,” Ezra grinned, and then I felt stupid. Obviously everyone really liked her, so it was a silly thing to point it.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” I fumbled. He laughed, and it was a tremendous laugh, but it wasn’t as spectacular as Jack’s. I doubted that anyone could ever match his, though, not even someone as perfect as Ezra.

“I am a lucky man.” He looked wistful for a moment, thinking of Mae, and I longed to have something like that. It was pure, unadulterated love. Then, his expression changed as he thought of something. “Peter’s upstairs, if you wanted to talk to him.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t really planned to talk to Peter, since he had this horrible way of simultaneously making me want to run to him and run away crying. But Ezra had said it in a way where I felt obligated to do it, and part of me really enjoyed the way Peter made me feel, even if it came wrapped in pain and confusion. “I’ll go see him then.”

“I’m just going to wait down here for Mae.” Ezra stood by the door, watching me as I went, looking a bit like a lost puppy.

I passed through the living room, but Jack and Milo were too entranced by some war video game to notice me. As I made my way up the stairs, I remembered the first time I met Peter, and the way he glared at me from over his book. I hoped that this wouldn’t be a repeat of that, but since Ezra had sent me up here, I had to believe that it wasn’t.

Peter’s bedroom door was open, and I leaned in the doorway, peering around for him. When I found him, my breath stopped and a burning flush went over me.

Wearing only a pair of jeans, he was drying his hair with a white towel. He wasn’t overly muscular, but his chest was defined and hard. A thin trail of dark hair started just below his belly button and traveled downwards, and my eyes had never been so tantalized by the prospect of what fell below the waist of his jeans.

When he noticed me staring at him, he tossed his towel on his bed and just looked back at me, his green eyes shooting through me. I ached for him in ways I had never imagined.

“I just took a shower,” Peter said.

His lyrical voice somehow managed to dampen the trance I had been under, but nothing could fully break it. He looked away and grabbed a white shirt off his chair, and much to my dismay, he pulled it on.

“I didn’t mean to disturb you,” I mumbled, finding it hard to speak clearly.

“No, you’re okay.” He sat back down on his bed and tousled his damp hair.

I waited in the doorway for him to say more, but that was a struggle. It felt like there was something inside pulling me towards him. Like a rope was attached to my heart and someone physically yanked on it. He looked at me with an expression I couldn’t read, but his eyes definitely looked pained.

“You can come in, if you want,” he said finally

It didn’t feel so much like I walked to his bed as I just gave in and let myself be pulled over to him. Then I was on the bed, sitting dangerously close to him.

I breathed in, and he smelled sweetly of apples. That was probably his soap, but there was something tangy and wonderful underneath that was all him.

Like a complete idiot, I told him, “You smell good.”

He smiled the first genuine smile I’d seen him have, and it struck me with its utter perfection. Then softly, he laughed, sending astounding tingles radiating throughout my whole body. I almost shivered with pleasure.

“What do I smell like?” Peter leaned in closer to me, as if he was sharing a secret.

He was so close that when he exhaled, a damp tendril of his hair blew back and brushed against my cheek. My skin trembled expectantly, demanding more touch from him.

“Apples?” I wondered how I managed to find the strength to speak.

I knew the conversation was utterly pointless and dull, but most of my brain had become occupied by him. And I don’t mean by thoughts of him, I mean him. It was as if he’d seeped in and somehow become a part of me, but it wasn’t enough. I was desperate for all of him.