The blood trickling from his finger told Kingsley everything he needed to know.
“Hell,” he swore, crossing the bland kitchen for the towels. “What where you doing?”
His eyes were hard from holding in signs of the pain. “Trying to cook,” he said softly.
“Why the hell would you do that?” snapped Kingsley, tearing large pads of the paper up into smaller sections. “You know how terrible you are with kitchens. And knives. And anything that could be a weapon.”
Kingsley set out the paper on the kitchen table and motioned. “Rex, sit.”
Rex sat. And Kingsley drew up a chair and settled next to him, dabbing at the wound.
“Please,” said Kingsley, hiding his eyes behind his long fringe of hair. “Don’t try again.”
When Rex spoke, his voice was filled with hurt. “I was trying to help, Kingsley. I feel so useless. I’m supposed to be older than you, and yet it’s you that worries about everything, both in this house and out. I feel so guilty… I feel like I’m leeching off you.”
Kingsley crunched the tissue into a tight ball, and took up one of the torn pieces. “So you can’t work out your place in this relationship, is that it?” he said.
“I just can’t work out why it is that you picked me. You must have terrible taste. You, Kingsley Corcoran, head of the Universal Peace Command Post, could have had anyone in this world, and probably several others. Why me?” said Rex softly.
“It had to be someone, hadn’t it?” laughed Kingsley playfully, carefully wrapping the paper around Rex’s finger.
“I suppose… Kingsley… why was it me? How am I contributing to this relationship?”
“How are you not?”
Rex laughed, but it was a cold laugh, with no emotion in it. “How am I contributing?” he said sadly. “You’re the Universal Peace officer. You’re the one that wakes up earlier in the morning to cook breakfast. You’re the one that goes out every morning and spend the day making big decisions that affect entire galaxies. Then you’re the one that comes home every evening and makes the most amazing suppers ever. And you’ve always got a lunchbox waiting for me, even on the busiest of times when you have civilisations to save. And what do I do? You care for me, but I… I can’t even do the simplest of things for you. I can’t even share the burdens with you.”
Kingsley knew what was wrong. Rex was blaming himself, blaming himself for all the troubles Kingsley was going through. Kingsley didn’t want him to know the truth, since he knew that it would only cause the other boy distress. No wonder Rex was in the kitchen, trying to cook. He saw himself lacking a place in this relationship, realised Kingsley, and he was trying to change it.
“Rex…” began Kingsley, letting the name slide on his lips. The same way he’d said it for the past two months. Since even before the Starway Wars.
Rex shook his head dismissively. “Kingsley, I can’t work out the ways in our relationship. I keep feeling as if I’m taking advantage of you. You’re too nice. You’re too good. You’re too pure, you know what I mean?”
“I’m not pure,” said Kingsley. “You know it. I can’t even count the number of individuals I’ve killed to date. All in the name of justice.”
“You know it was necessary,” said Rex. “And I know how much it kills you. That’s why… I think you deserve much better than me. I don’t even know how to comfort you when it’s too much for you to bear.”
Kingsley tied off the makeshift bandage with a small knot, and looked up into Rex’s brown eyes. The same, deep, dark velvety eyes that he had fallen in love with. The same eyes that took him out of the darkness of his emotions. The same eyes that protected him from the dark spears of guilt.
“Rex, it’s never been too much for me to bear,” said Kingsley evenly.
“It will be,” said Rex. “And then I won’t know how to handle it. And I’m scared… I’m scared I’ll hurt you more. And then I’d feel the guilt, I’d feel the guilt that I couldn’t help you, and I’d just have to stand there watching your own guilt eat you up, helpless, unable to even do the tiniest thing to help you out of your misery.”
Kingsley got it now. He leaned forward and rested his head against Rex’s chest, hearing the heart beat rapidly inside.
Badump. Badump. Badump.
“You don’t know it,” whispered Kingsley, “but you help me every single day.”
Kingsley heard Rex take a sharp breath.
“It does hurt,” continued Kingsley. “I felt the guilt prickle on my heart, more than once. I was about to succumb, about to go insane. But then that was the day you confronted me and demanded to know what was making me act so weird, as you put it.”
Kingsley closed his eyes.
“I remember your face,” he said. “You were so… so concerned at that point. And I was so weak at that point. Emotionally. I knew I was on the verge of being unfit to command. The papers were already on my desk when you came up to me.”
Rex didn’t say anything, but Kingsley heard his pulse quicken.
Badump badump. Badump badump.
“I thought you knew after I spilled everything to you,” pressed Kingsley. “I thought you knew that the way you helped was by protecting me.”
“I don’t protect you-”
“You do,” said Kingsley. “You don’t protect me physically, but you protected me from the harsh knives of my own emotions. Something even I wasn’t able to do.”
Kingsley pulled back.
“Just promise me that you won’t touch knives again,” he said sternly.
“Fine,” said Rex.
Kingsley smiled as he let himself be drawn into one of Rex’s lifesaving embraces.
- The Story of a Heartbeat (adadriandakota.wordpress.com)