|Primary Characters:||Thomas, Pierre, Martial, Bertrand, Fatia|
|Warning:||m/m sex, some strong language|
|Description:||Pierre and Thomas fight, then Pierre bumps into Martial. Martial, as always, has an unsettling effect on Pierre. For a while, things seem to work out, but Martial is a very complicated person. Most of the students at the dorm end up getting hurt before the situation is resolved.|
Bertrand was standing with the others, trying to elbow his way to the board where the results of the exams would be announced. There was no feeling of expectation. After the previous two, he’d lost hope of even passing one of the required exams. He just had to know anyway. Finally, it was his turn and he scanned the printout for his name. When he read the results he had to read it again, then again. He couldn’t believe it was true. Someone had to have made a mistake. That was the only explanation. It said that he’d passed. Not by that much, but – he’d passed.
Other students wanted his place and he was shoved aside. As he was walking away from the board, he still couldn’t quite believe it. Had he really read the printout correctly? If he’d been led astray by his wishful thinking, he’d – Suddenly, he felt he had to turn back and start pushing and shoving his way back to the head of the queue.
Someone put a hand on his back and said his name. He looked up and saw Martial standing by his side, a wide grin on his face.
“Congratulations, my friend.”
Stupidly, Bertrand could only blurt out the first question on his mind.
“What are you doing up so early? It’s only – two in the afternoon.”
“I knew today was the day you’d get the results of your exam. Of course I had to come. You did great.”
“It was just thanks to your help.”
“What? I only showed you how to think. You did the hard work. Me, I’d never have the patience to sit and study like you do. It was entirely your own achievement.”
“You think so?”
“I know so. Come on. Do you have any more lectures this afternoon?”
“No. I’m done for today.”
“Excellent. Let’s go out and celebrate.”
“Ok. Where are we going?”
“It’s a surprise. Really awesome place. Just wait and see.”
They stopped off at the dorm to get rid of Bertrand’s textbooks and the rather thick jacket he was wearing. Martial told him it would be crowded and hot where they were going. He eyed Bertrand’s shirt doubtfully.
“Listen, my friend. That shirt -”
“Is there something wrong with it?”
Bertrand sounded anxious he wouldn’t fit in at the wondrous place they were going to.
“No. It’s fine, but not for this place. I can lend you something. Then there’s those pants -”
“Not fancy enough?”
“That’s not it. Fancy isn’t necessary. Cool, is what you’re after.”
“Let me see your wardrobe.”
Bertrand self-consciously opened the door to the closet and showed Martial what he had. Martial seemed to take the whole thing seriously and pulled out each pair of pants and shirt and studied them intently. In the end, he settled on a pair of rather tight jeans, which had shrunk a little in the laundry. Bertrand could never get the temperature right. He stared at them enquiringly. Was Martial having a joke at his expense? It didn’t seem that way. Martial’s face was completely serious.
“Put them on. Go on.”
It took Bertrand a while to realize that Martial wasn’t going to leave, not even to pick up the shirt he’d promised him. Instead, he was looking at Bertrand encouragingly.
Reluctantly, Bertrand pulled down the pants he’d been wearing and, feeling a total fool, he turned his back on his friend.
Martial stared crictically at Bertrand’s shorts. This wouldn’t do.
“No, no. Those shorts won’t do either. Don’t you have anything – less baggy?”
Bertrand turned around again, one leg inside the pair of jeans he was trying to put on. He almost fell over and Martial reached out to steady him.
“No one’s going to see them.”
“You never know.”
“What do you mean?”
Bertrand was beginning to feel a little suspicious by now. Why was Martial so eager to dress him up? On the other hand, Martial had always been nice to him so he didn’t see any cause for concern. They were just so – different. It was hard to know what was going on inside the southerner’s mind.
“You’ll know, won’t you? Wouldn’t you feel better if you knew you were cool all over?”
Bertrand thought about it. He found it hard to believe he’d ever be or feel cool, but he was touched by Martial’s concern.
“There. You see. Take those jeans off again and – tell me if you have any – tighter shorts.”
Bertrand’s older sister had given him a pair, she’d bought for him in Milan last autumn. They were – tight – and had buttons in front. He’d never had the nerve to wear them. Bertrand knew he wasn’t good looking and the thought of putting on a pair of those shorts obviously meant for a much sexier guy embarrassed him. Still, now Martial was standing there telling him he needed something – cooler. What else could he think of suggesting?
A faint flush on his face, Bertrand pulled out a drawer and searched among his underwear. Finally, he felt the dark blue fabric under his fingers. He pulled the shorts out and showed them to Martial.
“That’s exactly what I was talking about. Put them on. I’ll go and get that shirt.”
At least he was going to be left alone for this. Bertrand hurriedly changed his underwear, then struggled to get into the jeans. They weren’t exactly too tight as much as too short, or rather too low. He felt embarrassed at the way the denim stuck to his body.
“Great. Try this on now.”
Martial had come back without Bertrand noticing. Uneasily, he was wondering how long his friend had been standing in the doorway watching him. He took the offered shirt. It was small and tight too. A tennis shirt. Bertrand again turned his back on Martial, to his friend’s amusement and put the shirt on. It really was tight. Bertrand’s pectorals pushed it apart at the neck, so it wouldn’t close. No matter how he tried, he couldn’t button it up.
“That’s enough. It’s supposed to be that way. Come on. We’ll have something to eat first, then I’ll take you to the bar later on.”
“It’s a really wicked place. You’ll see. Totally rad.”
The restaurant Martial took Bertrand to, was a typically Provencal place, or so it seemed to Bertrand. In any case he found it very different from the restaurants in his native Brittany, despite certain superficial similarities. Seafood for instance. There was a lot of that, even if the seasoning was anything but similar. The waiters were all as swarthy as Martial, many of them also sporting mustaches or even beards. They wore their shirts open in front and their sleeves rolled up. Bertrand noted that all except the youngest, a boy of about fifteen, had hairy arms and chests and smelled strongly of sweat and garlic.
Bertrand himself wasn’t too fond of garlic. It was a spice which wasn’t common in Breton food. Martial spoke to the waiters in rapid Provencal, of which Bertrand could understand practically nothing. He thought perhaps Martial had asked for the menus, but instead, the man, who seemed to know Martial well, returned carrying two heaped plates. To Bertrand’s relief, the food didn’t taste of garlic.
A pitcher of a dark red wine appeared on the table and the waiter poured generous amounts of it into their glasses. To Bertrand’s surprise, it wasn’t diluted with water. In his experience it was a little early in the day to have wine without water added.
“What’s wrong? Don’t you like the wine?”
“Oh, it’s fine. Isn’t it a little too early for undiluted wine though?”
“It’s never too early. Go on. Try the food before it gets cold”
Bertrand stuck his fork into the steaming dish and brought it back to his mouth full of – whatever it was. He could identify some of the shellfish in it, but the rest was a mystery. It was good though. Very tasty, if perhaps a little too strong for his taste.
“It’s great. Very nice.”
Martial nodded approvingly. They finished the wine and the waiter refilled the pitcher for them. To Bertrand’s surprise, Martial got up and walked away from the table.
“Where are you going?”
“Stay here. I – need to do something. Be right back.”
Bertrand felt puzzled. Where was Martial going? He sipped the wine which didn’t taste quite as good, now that he’d had so much already. It was time he watched out. Any more of this, and he’d be too drunk to enjoy the evening. He looked around for their waiter but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. After a while, he became a little concerned. What was keeping Martial so long? He was uncomfortably aware that he hadn’t brought any money. If Martial had taken off, he’d be stuck washing dishes until dawn. Unless these southerners had other – more violent ideas.
Eventually, the youngest waiter showed up. He looked amused somehow, but Bertrand couldn’t think of any reason for that.
“Yes? What can I do for you?”
He spoke with a strong Provencal accent, but his French was fully understandable.
“I – was looking for our waiter.”
“Oh, he won’t be back for a while.”
The boy giggled as if at some private joke.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Coming right up.”
Bertrand couldn’t see what was so amusing, but perhaps, since he found their accent so notable, they might be laughing at his Breton accent. He hadn’t believed it so prominent, but how could he be sure?
Finally, by the time he’d almost given up all hope he’d see Martial again, his friend showed up.
If Bertrand had expected an explanation about the prolonged absence, he was disappointed. Martial didn’t say anything about that and the look in his eyes didn’t encourage any questions.
“Are you ready to go?”
He sounded a little impatient as if Bertrand had been the one to keep him waiting.
“Yes. Of course. Aren’t you going to pay?”
“That’s taken care of. Let’s go.”
He sounded gruff somehow, as if his good spirits from earlier had dissipated a little. Bertrand again wondered about his friend’s odd behaviour. It occurred to him that Martial might be taking drugs.
As they were leaving, Bertrand caught sight of the waiter, who was picking up used dishes from a table now emptied of its guests. He cast Martial a glance filled with some sort of message Bertrand couldn’t decipher. When he cast a look at his friend, he noticed that Martial’s face had closed somehow. There was nothing to be read on his features.
For the next half hour, there was a heavy silence between them. Bertrand didn’t understand what could have caused the change in mood. As they approached the bar Martial had mentioned, the southerner’s spirits seemed to have lifted and he flashed a contented grin at Bertrand.
“This is it. Are you ready to have fun?”
“Yes. Thanks for taking me.”
For the next four or five hours, they listened to music, danced, talked with strangers, mostly girls, and had drinks. Martial seemed to know the owner and the man made sure they had a good table at a reasonable distance from the band. Bertrand loved the band. He’d assumed that there would a sound system and perhaps a DJ, but the band was really cool. It seemed to be playing mainly eighties music. Bertrand had a vague idea it was a little like Indochine, but he wasn’t sure. He usually listened to other types of music.
Suddenly, Martial was missing again. Bertrand had been dancing with a pretty girl from Martinique and hadn’t been paying attention. When he returned to the table, he couldn’t see Martial anywhere. Again, he was concerned about being left to pay the bill. Uneasily, he stayed at the table until he knew he had to find the men’s room. He began to move across the floor, looking for any likely looking door. In the end, he had to ask a guy who seemed to be about his own age. The guy was clearly a goth, or so Bertrand vaguely thought. At least his eyes were accentuated with that black goo most girls seemed to use. He pointed towards an opening in the wall, which turned out to lead to a narrow passageway.
There were two doors, one to the right, the other to the left. Bertrand opened the one with the outline of a man on it. Inside were a row of doors, leading to private cubicles. Bertrand hated using one of those urinals, so he glanced at the doors. Most of them were closed but one at the end was standing ajar. He went inside and closed the door behind him. When he was done, he went outside to wash his hands.
The stalls were covered all the way to the floor, so he couldn’t see how many of them were actually occupied. From inside one of them, he thought he could hear a noise which made him feel embarrassed. Had someone sneaked a girl into the men’s room? Or had he mistaken some other – more natural sound in this context – for what he thought he’d heard?
To his surprise, Martial emerged from one of the stalls. He couldn’t tell if it was the one where the noise had come from, or another. In any case, Martial looked as surprised as he was. He glanced over his shoulder towards the stall behind him, then faced Bertrand again.
“It’s getting late. Shall we go?”
“Yes. Of course. I was just wondering where you’d gone.”
“Well, here I am. Are you done?”
Bertrand shook his wet hands and looked around for a dispenser of paper towels. There wasn’t one, that he could see. Now that he’d moved away from the wash basin, Martial bent over it and began to scrub his hands.
“What are you staring at?”
Once again, he sounded gruff and tense.
“I was wondering where I could dry my hands.”
Martial shrugged as if he didn’t care. He seemed to be in a hurry.
Bertrand caught sight of one of those machines which blew out hot air so you could dry your hands.
“Are you coming?”
Martial’s obvious impatience made Bertrand abandon the idea of drying his hands over there. Instead, he wiped his hands on his jeans. He noted that Martial did the same. Thirty seconds later they were heading for the exit.
“Aren’t you going to pay?”
“For the drinks and -”
“I’ve already taken care of that. Let’s go.”
They walked slowly away from the bar. Bertrand was wondering where they were going. He didn’t think they were heading towards the bus stop, but he wasn’t familiar with this part of the city, so he wasn’t sure.
After about ten minutes or so, they arrived at a parklike enclosure. There was a stone wall around it, and once they’d passed through the gate, Bertrand realized they were in a cemetary. It seemed to be quite old and some of the memorials were crumbling. On a few of the graves there were statues or elaborate carved tombstones.
Martial showed Bertrand to a bench which overlooked a hill with a small grove. They sat down. It was so dark, they could barely discern anything, even though there was a nearly full moon above. Right now, it was partially hidden by a veil of clouds.
“What do you think?”
Bertrand wasn’t sure what to reply. In a way, the place made him feel sad. It reminded him of his grandfather who had passed away when he was about twelve. On the other hand, it was undeniably peaceful. Sitting here, might give you cause for reflection.
As if he hadn’t been waiting for a reply, Martial continued his own train of thought.
“I go here when I want to think. It’s beautiful, don’t you think? And peaceful. No one ever comes here except for a few old people. They sit here and remember their loved ones. In a place like this, you might get depressed. So many dead people, right? Who knows how some of them died? It’s hard to read the tombstones, but in some you can see the names and the dates. Sometimes, you even get the cause of death. There are soldiers who died in the war – the great war, not the second one – young women who died of childbirth – the baby is usually buried with her, suicides, even murder victims. And old people who are the last of their line. Despite all that, there’s a friendly mood here. Right? It’s as if they’ve long since come to terms with how they died.”
Bertrand was impressed. He’d known that Martial was smart, but he hadn’t known he was so imaginative too.
“That’s fascinating. Really interesting. And beautiful in a way.”
Martial turned to face Bertrand, his eyes dark and an unreadable expression on his face. Suddenly, his face lit up.
“Yes. That’s exactly how it feels. Beautiful. You can sense it too.”
They sat there for at least an hour, watching the scenery. Once in a while, the clouds were torn away from the moon by a sudden gust of wind and the cemetary was lit up almost as brightly as in the daytime.
Finally, Martial tore himself away. He and Bertrand were able to catch the last night bus and eventually found themselves back at the dorm.
Martial kept watching Bertrand intently all the way up the stairs. Every step he took, he turned and looked, as if to make sure his friend was coming along.
The long night was beginning to take its toll. Bertrand was feeling drained by all the walking and dancing they’d done. He was beginning to long for his bed.
“It’s really late. I’ll need to get some sleep. Thanks for -”
“Come on. Let’s have a few more drinks in my room.”
Bertrand hesitated. He was about to fall asleep on his feet and he knew he was more drunk than usual. It really wasn’t a good time to go visiting. On the other hand, Martial had been really decent. He’d taken him out and paid for the whole evening. Bertrand knew that only Elodie was comfortably off. All the others and especially Martial and Fatia had to count every centime. If Martial wanted to have another couple of drinks before bed, why not humour him?
“Ok. Sounds good.”
They made their way to Martial’s room as quietly as possible. At this time of the night, none of the others would be awake and it would be terrible if they made such a racket they woke someone up.
To Bertrand’s surprise, Martial didn’t stop in the kitchen to pick up a couple of beers. Instead, he dragged out a box from underneath his bed and picked up a bottle of some alcohol Bertrand wasn’t familiar with. He mostly had wine, beer or calvados. This gave off a strong smell, which Bertrand couldn’t identify. Martial poured generous doses of it into large glasses and handed one of them to his friend.
“A votre santé! For your health!”
“Et le vôtre. And for yours”
The stuff, whatever it was, was strong, so strong it made Bertrand’s head spin. He was already quite intoxicated from everything else he’d had that evening and night. It wasn’t long until he began to lose all track of time. From time to time, his head would nod to his shoulder, but the abrupt movement made him come awake again.
“Hey, this is really powerful stuff.”
“Yes. It’s our own special from back home.”
Bertrand wanted to ask what it was called, but it seemed to be too much effort. After a while, Bertrand couldn’t stay upright anymore. He began to slide down onto the bed and before long, he didn’t try any longer.
“You can stay here, if you like.”
Martial seemed to have taken away the glasses and the bottle too, but that was ok. Bertrand wasn’t really in the mood for more drinks. All he wanted was to sleep. He hardly noticed that Martial was kneeling in front of him and pulling off his shoes. Not even Martial’s hands unbuttoning his jeans and unzipping them caused him any alarm. It was awfully decent of his friend to help him out of those uncomfortably tight jeans anyway. After some fumbling and shifting about on the bed, the jeans finally came off and Martial threw them to the floor.
He pulled off his own jeans and the shirt, then stretched out beside Bertrand.
Bertrand’s eyes were closed and his mouth slightly open. A lock of his hair had slipped down into his left eye and Martial brushed it away. He lay on his side, watching Bertrand through thick dark lashes. By now, he was used to the effects of his native booze and it didn’t affect him as strongly anymore. He felt wide awake and alert.
The curve of Bertrand’s mouth kept drawing his eyes back to it. It was so – full and yet – strong – and the smile, when it was there, so innocent and good-natured. Martial envied him that innocence and simple cheer. Personally, he’d never been that young and carefree. Without even being aware of it, he inched a little closer.
It was time to sleep. If he didn’t pull away now, he’d never do it and he knew it wasn’t a good idea. It was so tempting to just reach out and – Martial rolled over onto his back and lay there, staring at the ceiling. He’d never get any sleep like this. Besides, knowing Bertrand, there was nothing to hope for. This had been a stupid mistake. He was on his feet, lithe as a cat and outside in the corridor, without making any noise.
There wasn’t anyone in the showers at this time of night – or rather early morning. He let it run until it was scaldingly hot. After having scrubbed himself thoroughly, he switched over to the cold water. The heat had made his skin tingly and red, now, the icy water raised goosebumps all over his body. It was so cold it hurt all the way into his bones, but it didn’t change the way he felt. With a sigh, he reached out with his right hand, which was numb with cold and turned the water off.
He might as well sleep on the roof. If he got any sleep at all. Again, his thoughts turned to Bertrand’s sleeping form in his room. It wasn’t fair. He fully intended to continue on up the stairs to the roof, but instead, when he passed his room, he opened the door and went inside, knowing all along he was making a serious mistake. If he turned and left now, no harm would be done. Bertrand would never know – He could go on tormenting himself and when the need became too great, he could go to Pierre or – anyone. It was all around, for the asking, if you knew what to do.
He sat down on the side of the bed, watching Bertrand sleep. It was obvious Bertrand had no idea how sexy he was. How beautiful. It showed in the way he moved, in the way he looked at himself in the mirror, and in he way he dressed.Tonight, Martial had allowed himself to indulge a craving, by dressing Bertrand as he really ought to look.
His hand was moving as of its own accord and the tips of his fingers traced the outline of Bertrand’s mouth. Bertrand’s lips twitched a little, but he didn’t wake up. Martial closed his eyes and tried to blind himself to the image of Bertrand’s face and body lying next to him. It didn’t work. Slowly, he closed the distance between their faces and let his lips brush Bertrand’s. Again, there was a slight twitching, but nothing more. Bertrand’s eyes didn’t flutter open.
Martial smothered a sob and suddenly, his mind was a blank. He didn’t know it, but his eyes turned black and expressionless. Once again, he let his lips touch Bertrand’s but this time, he didn’t stop. He hungrily devoured the mouth underneath him. Bertrand came awake, not quite sure where he was or what had woken him. Someone was lying so close to him. His head felt heavy and in the darkness of the room he couldn’t see a thing. What had happened last night? Had he scored? Who was that lying in bed next to him?
A heavy, muscular body descended on him, pinning him to the mattress. Someone’s mouth was covering his and though he struggled to draw in air to scream, he couldn’t. A hand was making its way inside the shirt he was wearing and stroking his chest. He panicked and bit down on the tongue snaking into his mouth. The other person’s mouth withdrew and he heard a muffled curse in some unknown language, which sounded vaguely familiar all the same.
At last he could breathe. He tried to knock whoever it was off him, but the person – he knew it was a man – stuck to him and he felt a hardness pressing into his abdomen. Strong arms were pinning him down and now a hand – a fist – punched his face so hard he felt ringing in his ears. Once again, the hand hit him, causing him to partially black out.
He drew in air to scream, and the noise shattered the silence. The man lying on top of him clamped a hand down on his mouth and held him so hard he saw bright spots dancing in front of his eyes.
Suddenly, there was a sound of a door being flung open and the lights went on. A loud voice boomed out authoritatively.
“Hey, get off him. What the hell are you doing? Leave him alone, you bastard.”
Martial jumped up and faced the furious intruder. It was only a girl. Fatia. He tried to evaluate her relative strengths and weaknesses but didn’t waste much time on it. No woman would be a threat to him. He was going to shut her up with a slap or two, nothing more. As long as she left him alone, he wouldn’t hurt her.
He lunged at her, but found himself evaded at the last second. Turning, he made another attempt, but this time, he felt a numbing pain in his crotch. The slut had kicked him in the groin. He doubled over clutching his midriff. The pain was excruciating. She grabbed his hair and shoved him into the wall. He lost his footing and slid to the floor. Obviously, he’d misjudged her physical strength and her willingness to use it. By now, everyone else would have been alerted as well. No use risking anything over this. He’d been a damned fool anyway. Now that it was over, he was more angry with himself than Fatia. He’d really blown it now. Bertrand would never trust him again. That insight was accompanied by a searing sense of loss.
Seeing that Martial was incapacitated, Fatia turned her attention to Bertrand. She could hardly believe her eyes. Martial, who admittedly wasn’t a very nice guy, but at least he was one of them, had tried to – there was no doubt about it – rape Bertrand. Martial, the lady’s man. The guy with all the dates swarming around him.
She shook her head in disbelief, but realized that there would be time later to figure it all out. For Bertrand’s sake, she’d better do something before everyone else realized what had been going on. She sensed that a guy might not want his friends to know about something like this. There was the sound of footsteps in the corridor and Fatia knew she had to move fast.
She managed to get Bertrand to come along, she wasn’t sure how, because he’d been in such a panic, he hardly recognized her.
In the doorway she ran into Thomas and Elodie. Their faces were a study in perplexity.
“Nothing. The guys got into a little drunken fight. It’s no big deal. I’ll help Bertrand back to his room and – Martial is already in his so he’ll probably be fine.”
Fatia suddenly realized that Pierre had arrived without her noticing until now.
He was staring at Bertrand’s state of undress, then gazing hard at Martial, who was sitting on the floor, his back against the wall, looking sullen. What had Bertrand been doing in Martial’s room? It might just have been his imagination, which wasn’t surprising, considering the way he felt about Martial, but he had felt a stab of jealousy, the second he’d seen Bertrand lying on Martial’s bed. It was all wrong that a guy like Bertrand should be there. He couldn’t appreciate a guy like Martial. In fact, Pierre found it hard to believe Bertrand had ever agreed to do anything sexual. Could Martial have tried anyway? Pierre didn’t like to think so. Perhaps Martial had just been tempted to kiss Bertrand, no matter how alien that thought was to Pierre.
In any case, he intended to get rid of Thomas and that idiot Elodie so he could make sure Martial was ok.
Fatia managed to get Bertrand into his own room, then sat him down on the bed. She closed the door and turned the key in the lock. Bertrand deserved his privacy. She was hoping she wouldn’t find any serious injuries. If Martial had had time to – Even the thought was terrifying enough. Where she came from more girls than boys were raped all the time, but there were enough of them too. A raped child equaled an insult against a man’s honour. That insult couldn’t be wiped out merely by avenging himself on the perpetrator. The child also had to be punished.
Fatia had two friends who had had to keep their horrible secrets rather than be killed by their own fathers or brothers. They’d been forced to endure the pain, the terror, the humiliation, so they could at least keep their lives. She knew it wouldn’t be like that in Brittany or anywhere else in France, but for a guy, it would be different. They didn’t live by the same rules as women.
She anxiously scanned Bertrand’s body. He seemed to be ok, physically. His nose was bleeding but though the shirt seemed to have been pulled up, the shorts were still on. As far as she could see, and that wasn’t much, there was no blood anywhere else. She concluded that Martial had been interrupted in time.
Now she had to try and do something about Bertrand’s mental state. Her girlfriends had been crying hysterically and Fatia had spent all night holding them, on both occasions. Would Bertrand allow her to hold him? She might try talking to him first.
No reply. He seemed to have retreated inside himself. His breaths came in short, gulping gasps and she knew he was in a state of shock. She sat down gingerly on the side of the bed, beside him. After a few attempts, he let her touch his face. His nose was tender and swollen but the rest of him seemed more or less ok. At least she hoped so. She had no idea if he’d been hit so hard he’d had a concussion. At least he wasn’t throwing up. A tentative examination of his head didn’t reveal anything alarming.
She decided to try and warm him up. In a state of shock, you tended to lose body heat, she knew that. Pulling the covers off the bed, she gently tried to wrap them around him. In the end, she was successful.
“Bertrand. Try to lie down. He’s not getting in here. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on you, if you want me to.”
“Yes, it’s ok. I’m here.”
Something told her it would be ok to hold him, so she did. He slumped down against her and let her comfort him.