“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
- CS Lewis, the Four Loves
The group of teenagers on the banks of the glimmering river cheered and screamed in laughter, already well into the effects of alcohol, as the fireworks erupted in a spray of golden light.
Julian leaned over the rail, grinning broadly as he cheered and laughed with them, Sebastian’s arm over his shoulders as the light of the fireworks flickered on all of their delighted faces. He found it fascinating that none of the inebriated teens around them recognized him—or at least didn’t imagine him to be who he was. In fact, at the level of blood alcohol content they were getting to, he doubted they’d even remember anything by tomorrow.
Sebastian grinned, looking pleased with himself and at the fleet of French misfits they had ended up fleeing a bar with. They were clearly out of themselves by this point. They giggled and laughed in the semi-dark, the lights casting eerie glows to their animated faces. He felt familiar fingers entwine his own and saw Julian smiling up at him, brown eyes glittering from the fireworks.
It was a strange way to carry on with the night, after what had happened not more than a couple of hours ago. Julian’s eyes flickered to the lips he’d kissed for the first time, and remembered that it tasted like the drink Sebastian had been sipping.
Sebastian caught the glance and leaned closer, a small smirk ghosting on his lips as he eyed Julian’s own, remembering that he’d already kissed them twice just this night and was certain that before this day was put to bed, he would kiss them again.
Fireworks exploded overhead, their compatriots’ cheering shattering past the sound of the lights overhead breaking to millions of pieces, much like the deal that had bound the two of them against each other.
When Julian’s hand squeezed Sebastian’s, it shook a little. Sebastian wondered if it was out of cold—unlikely, they were both wrapped up warmly in coats—or if he was scared. When he felt his own hand shake slightly when he pulled them both a little closer, he realized that it might be the latter.
And why shouldn’t they be a little scared? Julian wondered, as he stared at Sebastian’s blue-green eyes, a crescent of gold gleaming on them from the lamp lights. This was everything they said they wouldn’t do. On the very first night, they’d sworn it; to each other, to their own egos, to the lights in Paris, and to the cold December wind.
All transient things that, in hindsight, maybe they shouldn’t have sworn to. Maybe they should have sworn to more eternal, higher powers. To laws of nature, to the statues on the cathedral walls, to something… Because now, stripped of the deal that protected them both—
Another great golden burst in the night sky.
—they were vulnerable.
The lights illuminated their faces and they each saw not a spoiled young actor, not an egotistic political son: they saw another boy, young, hardly even a quarter to their lifespans, staring at another boy, wanting to give in to something that they couldn’t understand, that frightened them, that they couldn’t possibly be ready for so soon—
—that stopped all their witty words and pretentious declarations, choking into their throats and making it hurt to breathe. Who was this other person and did he really deserve what he was about to give him, and was he worthy of what he would receive in return?
Cold night air bit them, the warmth of the alcohol haze fled. Hands pulled each other closer and lips met again, as though drawing the warmth from each other.
It would hurt. It would cut them both down. It was everything they didn’t want to happen.
But if it happened anyway, then it must mean something.
Maybe it wouldn’t be like the fireworks that sang through the air and behind their eyes as they kissed, quietly, as their companions, oblivious, cheered at the lights.
Maybe it would last a little longer, maybe it would be beautiful, maybe they would learn, and someday—that day of days—they would find that it was worth whatever hurt it would bring.