The night’s warm, even warmer than usual, and Tay reflects that maybe the country’s weather had followed them back home to make it feel so warm, but it’s clear by the beautiful city sprawling out below him that he’s not in the country anymore. His feet dangle from the roof, eyes taking in the skyscape. The school’s rooftop has always been one of his favorite places to come and just think. Something about being here, on the edge of the abyss where he can see how small he is in the big scheme of things, helps to put his life into perspective. It’s quiet, too, the city’s noises somehow barely making it up here.

It’s August now, and school starts back in just a few days. A few more days of relative freedom before it’s back to studying and exams and performances. In a way, Tay is excited to be back, to be getting ready for another year. In fact, he’d even volunteered to help move Emery’s stuff to his new sophomore dorm, which is why he’s here days before school even begins, sitting on the rooftop on his own and looking out at his city instead of ‘enjoying’ the rest of his vacation at home.

The door behind him opens, but Tay doesn’t turn to see who it is. He already knows, and his suspicions are confirmed when Emery sits himself next to him on the precipice. “Thinking?” he asks.

Tay shrugs. “Trying not to,” he says, glancing briefly at his friend. There’s a soft expression on his face as he looks down at the city and he wonders if his own face shows how much he loves this place, how much it means to be up here, to see the city in front of them and know that it was theirs.

It’s quiet for a long time, the two of them just watching the city as it goes about its business, but then Emery shifts uncertainly to look at Tay. “Do you think August is really going to leave?”

This was the thing that Tay had been trying not to think about. Ever since August had told them of the internship in California, it’s been going around in Tay’s mind over and over. Their group, which seemed to be forever, was starting to look a lot more ephemeral than they thought. “I don’t know,” Tay says honestly. “But one thing is for sure.”

Emery looks at him questioningly.

“Nothing will be the same, no matter what.”

Emery chews on his bottom lip. “Even if he stays?”

Tay nods. “Even then. Just think about it—if he stays, just because of us, and he misses out on this opportunity, he’ll probably start to resent us. And if he goes…then we’ll become six.”

“Will the others leave, too?” Emery asks, and his voice sounds so afraid in that moment that Tay wants to tell him that of course not, that no matter what happens, even if things change, they’ll be there for each other. But he can’t lie—he’s never been very good at it.

“I don’t know,” Tay says again, “But listen…”

He reaches out a hand suddenly, placing it over Emery’s.

The other is surprised, giving him a wide-eyed look that’s almost too cute for words, mouth opening slightly and he knows he has Emery’s undivided attention. “Different isn’t always bad, yeah?”

“Y-you really think so?” Emery says, blushing lightly as he looks at their hands joined together on the rooftop.

“Yes,” Tay says and he pulls his hand away. Almost immediately, he feels a sense of loss. “And anyway, even if August—or any of the others for that matter—leaves, he’ll come back. Do you know why?”

“No,” Emery says, “Why?”

“Because this is our city,” Tay says. “And we’ll always come back to it. No matter where we go, how far we travel from each other, our feet will always carry us back here—back to each other and our city.”

“Always?” Emery says, and he seems much closer than Tay expects. In fact, when he turns to look at him again, he notices that there’s almost no space between them. He eyes the other boy’s tantalizing lips, so close to his. He wonders what Emery’s lips would taste like, if they’re really as soft as they look, and without realizing it, he licks his own lips some before he answers.

“Always,” Tay whispers, and Emery suddenly closes the little distance between them.

It’s a clumsy kiss, with too much teeth and nose-knocking, and Tay nearly overbalances where he sits precariously close to the edge. It’s only Emery’s strong grip on his waist that prevents him from going over. When they part, Emery is blushing so hard and stammering out an apology and Tay doesn’t know how to respond.

Taking his shocked silence as rejection the other moves to flee the rooftop, but Tay catches his wrist.

Emery turns his wide eyes to him once more, uncertainty in his gaze. “I…” he begins, but Tay doesn’t let him finish. Instead, he uses his grip on the other to pull himself to his feet and then reaches to cup the younger boy’s cheek, thumb following the trail of his blush.

Tay is almost the same height as Emery, so it isn’t difficult for him to close the distance between them once more—only this time, he makes sure that it’s slow and sensual, letting his tongue drag across Emery’s lower lip to request entry. Emery’s mouth opens automatically, allowing Tay to deepen the kiss.

It’s nothing like that first one; this kiss is calm, calculated, more guided. Emery is putty in his arms, melting into his embrace like he’s always belonged there, and maybe he has.

It would be a lie to say that Tay hadn’t been crushing on Emery since the moment they’d met. Emery had been shy back then, far more shy than he is now, and he remembers how the boy couldn’t get out a single word without stammering. It had been incredibly cute back then—he remembers telling Jem as much and the other had giggled and said he understood the appeal.

The thought of Jem, however, brings the kiss to a sudden halt and Tay backs up a step, trying to catch his breath. Emery leans forward a little, as if Tay’s lips were a magnet he didn’t want to be separated from, before Tay’s hand on his chest prevents him from getting closer.

Emery gives him a puzzled look, lips swollen and red from their kissing. “What’s the matter?” he asks, voice breathy and low.

“Jem,” Tay says.

Emery’s expression grows even more confused and Tay sighs. This is going to be the hard part. “Emery…” he begins. “I…Jem and I…we’re together.”

The confusion melts away, replaced by shock and then embarrassment in short order. “B-but…you and Jem? W-when…how did I not…” Emery is stammering again, and Tay is shaking his head.

“It’s a secret; you couldn’t have known. Nobody knows,” he says, trying to comfort the youngest despite the situation.

In fact, it had been going on for almost two years now. The two had hooked up after a party during their freshman year and since then, they’d been stealing kisses and blowjobs (and engaging in certain other activities) between meeting with their friends and their studies and everything else. Over time, however, the relationship had progressed from convenient sexual gratification to something deeper, something more. The two had agreed to keep it a secret, afraid that it could hurt their group dynamic. It wasn’t like Damian and Donovan, who were so damnably parental that it only made sense for them to become an item.

Tay watches as Emery’s face goes from the confused and embarrassed spectrum to angry in a split second and he braces himself. “But then you…you cheated on him,” Emery says, looking aghast. “You kissed me!”

Tay opens his mouth, wanting to say that technically, Emery had kissed him. But that second kiss had not been Emery’s doing and he knows it. He closes his mouth and looks shamefully at the ground.

“I can’t believe you,” Emery says. He runs a hand through his hair and then turns away. “I can’t…I’m going back inside.”

And this time, Tay can only watch as the younger leaves the rooftop. He sighs, glancing out at the city once more and he wonders if he’d been telling the truth after all, when he said that change wasn’t always bad and that they would always come back to each other and their city.

He feels pretty damn alone right now.



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