“Can I kiss you?” Jeremy asks for the first time when they’re both six years old, small and stupid and drenched in afternoon light. He asks for the first time, crouched by Michael side, his hand hovering over Michael’s shoulder as if he’s still figuring out if he wants reach out or not. He asks for the first time here on a curb in Michael’s neighborhood after Michael fell off his scooter and onto hard pavement. Michael’s knees are stinging and he’s trying not to cry because he’s fine and he’s not a baby but Jeremy asks and—
“What,” Michael says.
“You’re crying,” Jeremy sits next to him, still hovering, unsure. “It’s what your mom always does when you’re sad.”
“I’m not crying,” he says because he’s not. But Jeremy is still looking at him, eyes too worried for his own good, like somebody’s dying or something. Michael isn’t crying but he sure might start if Jeremy doesn’t stop, so he mumbles. “Sure. Okay.”
“Okay,” Jeremy nods, determined and serious.
Jeremy shuffles closer and sits up on his knees. Not so gently, he takes Michael’s face in his hands like he’s on a mission, and it startles a laugh out of Michael before it tapers off when Jeremy leans in and presses a quick, soft kiss to Michael’s forehead.
“Did that help?” Jeremy asks, settling down, and Michael has to think for a bit.
His knees still burn, but his eyes don’t anymore. He can ignore the pain for the most part because he can feel the slight tingle from where Jeremy kissed him. There’s also something in his chest. It’s bright. It’s warm. It’s afternoon and Jeremy, his best friend, is here by his side making sure he’s okay. Michael feels like he’s brimming with light.
“Yeah,” he says. “It did.”
“Can I kiss you?” Jeremy asks when they’re both thirteen and terrible, hanging out in Jeremy’s room, playing video games. He asks as Michael tries his best to focus on pixels and motor skills and not on the electricity that’s begun to take root in his chest. It’s a feeling. Here but then not here but always so, so strong around Jeremy and he doesn’t know what it means and—
“Uh,” Michael doesn’t take his eyes off the screen. He doesn’t look at Jeremy and the worried expression Michael knows he has. He doesn’t look at Jeremy, scared that maybe he’ll see whatever it is that’s buzzing inside of him. “Why?”
“You just look like you need it.” In the corner of Michael’s eye, he sees Jeremy shrug. “You look—out of it. Kinda bummed.”
“I am, I guess. A little.” On screen, Michael’s character dies in a mess of pixels and sound. “It’s nothing serious.”
“Okay,” Jeremy says. He wants to know, but he doesn’t ask. Michael wouldn’t know what to do if he did ask. He doesn’t know how to deal with the sparks in his chest and under his skin. “If ever you wanna talk about it, I’m here, okay?”
“Yes,” Michael says.
“No, I meant. Yes. Yes, you can kiss me,” he says, each word feeling like carpet static in his lungs. “If you wanna.”
Jeremy pauses for a moment before leaning across the small distance between the beanbags. He presses a kiss to Michael’s cheek, just for a few seconds, then settles back.
“Better?” Jeremy asks.
Michael doesn’t know how to say that yes, no, maybe, electric, what is this, what are you doing. So he doesn’t say any of that at all. He just playfully shoves Jeremy into his beanbag and nods.
“Better,” he says. And the buzzing makes itself at home in Michael’s heart.
“Can I kiss you?” Jeremy asks when they’re seventeen on the night Michael spills his heart out, honest and pouring, filling up first in his chest before he finally steels himself and tells Jeremy his own personal deluge. Michael waits for the disaster to happen, but instead he gets this. He gets Jeremy looking at him with wide eyes and a smile that’s still hesitating to crack, looking at him like he’s an oasis.
“Yes,” Michael says, not really believing any of this is real. “Yes, oh god, Jeremy—”
Jeremy wades through the water, takes Michael’s face in his hands, and shows him how real this is.
“Can I kiss you?” Jeremy asks after their first Real Date, one leg literally already out the door of Michael’s car. He asks it like he’s surprised he can, like an afterthought he’s been keeping away in a box. He asks with a glint in his eyes, and Michael feels like he’s drowning in him.
“Yes,” Michael says. “Jesus, do you even have to ask—” and Jeremy surges forward. Michael’s words are lost to his lips. Lost to an undercurrent. He lays a hand on Jeremy’s neck to anchor himself lest he get washed away. He doesn’t want to be anywhere but here, he thinks as Jeremy pulls away, grinning like a dweeb.
“Can I—” Jeremy tries to start one night, pressed against Michael’s bedroom door, looking up at Michael through his lashes like a menace. He doesn’t get to finish his question because Michael answers by kissing the sly smirk off of his face. Michael answers with his hand running through Jeremy’s hair, tilting his head for a better angle. He answers with a slide of his tongue and Jeremy makes a soft noise, his hands gripping Michael’s shoulders. He answers by kissing Jeremy until he can’t anymore. Until the push and pull recedes and they’re left on the shore, here in Michael’s messy room, breathless and almost still.
“That’s one way to say yes,” Jeremy says against Michael’s lips. “I could get used to it.”
“You better,” Michael tells him before diving back in.
“Can I kiss you?” Jeremy asks one morning, just one of many, when they’re both in bed, sleepy and stupid, drenched in morning light that filters through the window. He asks now, just a few minutes after they both blinked awake, too lazy to leave the sanctuary of the covers, of their bodies, resorting instead to back and forth rambling about things that mean nothing or things that mean everything. He asks now, at Michael’s side, all sleeps-slurs and dumb jokes and beautiful.
“You can stop asking, y’know.” Michael props himself up on his elbow, “My answer’s never gonna change.”
“I know,” Jeremy rolls his eyes. “I just love hearing you say yes.”
Not for the first time, and definitely not for the last, Michael wonders how he got this lucky.
“Yes,” He says. Michael leans down and presses a kiss to Jeremy’s forehead. He’s thirteen and seventeen and all the years before and now and after. “Yes,” He says. Michael presses another kiss to the tip of Jeremy’s nose as Jeremy laughs, trying weakly to swat Michael away. He’s electricity, pulsing through his veins. “Yes,” he says. Michael kisses his cheek. Michael kisses corner of Jeremy’s mouth. He’s waves crashing, gentle, over and over again. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says. Bright. Warm. It’s morning, and Jeremy is here.
They’re brimming with light, Michael thinks.
“You’re such a sap,” Jeremy throws an arm over his eyes, laughing.
“Hey,” Michael gently pries his arm away. “Only for you.”
Jeremy reaches up to brush Michael’s cheek, then moves to the back of his neck. “Kiss me,” Jeremy says.
And that’s his cue.