He looks so fine

Colette International

They took a staircase, Mathias leading in the dark — Mathias always leading in the dark — and Alberto advanced into the deepest black, a shadow among shadows, but with a faint smile on his face. He knew. He knew he wasn’t alone, and he knew what awaited him atop these stairs was nothing to be afraid of.
Once again, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

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© 2023 Zelda French / Background by Cosmofrogg

Please be advised that this novel is rated 18+

He Looks So Fine: Part One

Two things are well-known about Alberto.One: he's gorgeous. Like it or not, like him or not, there's no debating that.Two: Alberto feels nothing and everyone constantly jokes about it because there isn't much else to say about him. He's a model and he's gay. He's soulless and he's vain. Or is it the opposite? No one knows for sure.Floating about like a drifting cloud, Alberto likes minding his own business, but out of nowhere, an angry guy named Mathias charges into his life, demanding answers.Alberto doesn't have answers, he never did, but for once he's curious, and he has questions. And deep down he knows Mathias isn't the solution to his problems, but it doesn't matter, as long as he feels something.Before he knows it, what started off as something mindless quickly turns more problematic. That's the annoying thing with feelings: they sneak up on you at the least opportune time ...


Mathias is new in town and enrolled at Colette International due to unfortunate circumstances. His devotion to his family places him face to face with a puzzling equation, one he never thought he'd have to solve before.Now he's forced into the path of a schoolmate he particularly dislikes, and not without reasons. The only problem is, he can't seem to take his eyes, nor his hands, off him.He was promised a peaceful senior year after everything he went through. But Mathias already knows life is never that easy.And now he's in the thralls of an unfeeling demon.


He looks so fine is a book about two young men's rediscovery of empowerment, communication and trust, about the lasting damages of trauma and the healing virtues of friendship.The seven-part story seeks to challenge the way we regard others as well as ourselves. Just like its two protagonists, the readers are made to look in the mirror and hopefully, come to realise they too deserve to be happy.


Part One is 370 pages long and contains arcs 1 to 3 pertaining to Alberto and Mathias's journey.The longer Part Two contains arcs 4 to 7 and concludes their story.Art by Odette A.Bach.

Art by @ohkitzinger

Soundtrack

ARCs

ARC APPLICATIONS ARE OPEN AGAIN

You can apply to join the ARC team for He Looks So Fine: Part Two here

Thank you 💜Zelda

Content Warnings

For the reasons listed below, this story isn’t intended for readers under the age of 18. In addition to profanity and underage drinking, the contents of Part Two depicts acts or mentions acts of:

Homophobia, sexism, grieving, depression, suicidal thoughts, harassment, violence, abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal, sexual), nervous collapse, suicide, and explicit sexual acts between two eighteen-year-olds.

Part One

Full Chapters in chronological order

Part Two

Extracts have been removed as Zelda resumed work on Arc 6 and 7 and small modifications on previous arcs are anticipated.

Coming Soon

Extract unlocked on May 26

Eric and Mathias seem to have a different vision of romance...

*This is a scene and not a full chapter.Content warning: *language; mild violence

chapter 2

Bad Ideas

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

“Balls?” Mathias asked. “Balls?!”“Yeah,” Eric said.Mathias had not been listening at first; his mind had been focused on other things—better things—like full lips leaving a trail of incendiary kisses down his chest, the sound of a broken moan in his ear, but Eric really went too far this time and tore him even from that daydream.
He glared at his friend. “That’s your idea of romance? Balls?”
“Yeah?” Eric replied, loudly chewing his gum. He didn’t sound so sure anymore. “No? Maybe?”“Balls, really?”“Yes, balls! Why?”Mathias shook his head. What an absolute idiot. If Eric weren't his best friend, Mathias would have run away in embarrassment. They had just arrived at practice, and since Kayvin was barking orders at Xavier in the middle of the frozen football pitch, they stepped farther back toward Mathias’s goal to avoid getting overheard.“Let me make this clear: you want to invite Zak on a date?”“Yes.”“To your place?”“Yeah.”“And you want to impress him?”Eric popped his gum. “Yup.”“You want to make him dinner?”“Yes.” That asshole started to sound impatient.“And as for the atmosphere... you’re thinking... balls?”Eric shrugged. “Sure, what’s wrong with balls?”Mathias wanted to grab him by his jersey and shout, What’s wrong with you?! But he managed to stop himself. “Let’s see... Have you ever seen a romantic movie where the girl is showing up to the venue for, I don’t know, her wedding, and she enters the place, and she goes ‘Oooh, nice balls’?”Eric’s smile faltered. “... No?”“No? Are you sure?”“No?”“Then why the fuck are you going with balls?!”“Because they’re round!” Eric excitedly jumped in place. “Round shapes are, like, relaxing and... and nice to the eye! People like balls. They’re funny! They’re balls!”“Okay...”“Listen, I found this shop that sells like... these massive balls. You can sit on them, and they’re super bouncy. Nice, nice stuff.”“Like a yoga ball?”“Yeah, exactly that! But if I bought a lot of them in different sizes and colors, it would look really cute, I think.” He spread out his hands.Magical.”“Yeah, so magical! Poor Zak.”“Why ‘poor Zak’? Why? What do you know about these things, anyway? You’re not a wedding planner, as far as I know.”“There’s a whole universe between wedding planning and balls!”
“Okay, okay, calm down.” Eric chewed on his gum fiercely. “It seems I got it wrong. Help me, best buddy. What do I do?”
Mathias slipped Kayvin a quick glance. He was now shouting at Charles-Henry, and he wasn’t paying attention to them. “First, forget about yoga balls.”“How about beach balls?”“No! How does Zak deal with you, honestly?”“Fine. No beach balls. What, then?”“I don’t know, but like... lights?”“Lights?” Eric asked with a frown. “Light... balls?”“Just lights!” Mathias clenched his fists. “The lighting does everything, not balls or whatever.”“Or...” Eric said, scratching his chin. “... I could also use balloons. Lovely pastel balloons!”“I’ve never ever heard of anything romantic being associated with having balloons everywhere. Balloons are for birthdays and elections. I think you— Hey, listen! I know that face. I think you just like balloons, and you convinced yourself somehow that they’re perfect for every occasion. Because you’re crazy.”He saw he was right from the way Eric’s ears turned pink. “So, no balls, then? Not even one or two?”“The only set of balls you’re allowed to bring to your date are the ones attached to your dick. And they should also stay in your pants—if you’re a gentleman.”Eric grinned. “What do you know about being a gentleman?”Mathias ignored his jab. “I was forced to watch a lot of rom-coms, okay? The sort of movie where no dork ever shows up with balloons like a circus clown freak.”“All right, I get it. But don’t call me a dork. It reminds me of Alberto.”Mathias’s heart jolted, and he momentarily forgot how to breathe. “Lights,” he croaked. “Fairy lights. You want to make your boy feel special? You get the fucking lights. You get the mood right. And you get what he likes.”“Zak likes balls. He said it. It’s not the first time I’ve thrown him a party.”Mathias clicked his tongue. “I bet your ass he lied because he likes you.”Eric giggled. “He does. I hope he does.”There was no doubt about that. Mathias had seen them together. With the way it was going, even Eric’s transfer wouldn’t be a problem. And of course, his thoughts flew back to the other freak. He wondered what would happen if he put together a romantic date for Alberto—tell him to dress nice, that they had the entire apartment to themselves—and he sighed. Alberto would probably show up in the same weird clothes, smirk at the fairy lights, and toss his cigarette butt in the Champagne right before he’d sweep the dishes aside with one hand, lay his ass on the table, curl his finger at him, and purr out some shit like, You know where to put it.Mathias sighed ostensibly, not knowing if something was wrong with him, because that sounded like a really nice date, actually. But he also... he also would like...What the hell was he thinking now? Last Sunday, Alberto clearly demonstrated he wasn’t attracted to him anymore. And good riddance. Mathias had never liked him, anyway.Unfortunately for him, despite how many times he told himself he wouldn’t waste any more time on Alberto, the latter wouldn’t leave his thoughts alone. Mathias kept thinking about the first morning he got this hands on him, all warm and soft, about his face when he sat among the trash, about his mocking smirk when he confessed he’d made out with Xavier, and Mathias hadn’t understood at the time why he was so angry. These unwanted thoughts constantly plagued Mathias, and practice was the last thing on his mind. In fact, he didn’t even notice when the ball was kicked his way and rolled to a stop at his feet.“Shoot it back!” Kayvin sputtered from the halfway line.Mathias stared at it without seeing it, his forehead creasing.“Matt...” Eric was trotting toward him; he came at a stop a few feet away from him. “Matt?”“I didn’t see it coming,” Mathias muttered.Kayvin stomped his foot. “Shoot, putain!” His tone forced Mathias to look up.If you insist.Mathias shot, aiming right at Kayvin’s head. He didn’t miss. He loved the dumb sound it made upon colliding with Kayvin’s skull and had to try hard not to snicker. How do you like being pushed around, asshole? Because of him, Xavier had had his way with Alberto.Mathias turned to Eric with a smile. “You were right!”“About what?” his friend asked, looking tense.“Balls. They are funny.”

Taking advantage of her impromptu presence at school, Alberto's mother finally gets to meet his friends.

*This is a full chapter.

chapter 12

Friendship Goals

copyright © 2022/2023 zelda french / All rights reserved.

A week or so had passed when Alberto woke up in class to Mrs Paquin shouting at him again. She asked him a question, then another. Were they still doing Rousseau?Rousseau? In English Lit?Alberto recalled the way Mathias’s lip had curled…“Did you even do your homework?” Paquin asked, relentless.Alberto flicked open his notebook with a haggard expression. There was nothing in it but a few decent doodles of Mathias’s hands and wrists, which she unfortunately noticed, resorting to shrieks. That’s when he decided he’d had enough. He abruptly got up, sending his chair flying backwards and shocking the classroom into silence.Unimpressed, Mrs Paquin scoffed at his tall figure. “What is it? What excuse are you going to give me this time?”Alberto had never given any excuse; he usually accepted her wrath with indifference. But he recently went from sleeping too much to not sleeping at all, and the blood rushing in his veins felt like so many crawling vipers, rendering him fretful. “I’ve got a condition,” he said coolly.She gave a mocking laugh. “Listen to that, everyone, Alberto has a condition. How about this: prove it, and you can stay. Otherwise, get out of my class.” She paused and added, “And for that little display, I’m calling your parents over for a visit. Today.”That last bit irritated Alberto enough that he held her stare until she threatened him with a month of detention.Mrs Paquin never engaged in empty threats. While Alberto was finishing class in detention — mercifully free of Cher’s company — she found two minutes to call home, and when the bells announced the second half of lunch break, Alberto could only watch as Mamma stormed Colette in her high heels with a dark expression he had rarely seen. He felt himself shrink at the sight, and he cast his eyes down and waited for her to scold him, but she only took his arm and said, “Let’s go, Tesoro.”When they entered her classroom, Paquin rose from her chair and thanked Alberto’s mother for coming so quickly. Mamma shook her hand impatiently. Judging from her simple attire — jeans and a soft cashmere jumper — and her hair hanging loosely on each side of her face in its most natural state, she had most likely been forced out of a nap by Paquin’s phone call and wasn’t happy in the least.“I don’t understand why I have to be here,” she said coldly.Alberto’s teacher blanched a little. Despite her formidable appearance, Mamma had always been sort of shy when faced with the typical macho man, but she wasn’t afraid to use her power over women she disliked. She towered over Paquin, all supermodel like, and didn’t look at all friendly. On the other hand, Alberto’s teacher was a veteran, and she couldn’t afford to be intimidated by parents. She said her piece in a haughty tone, explaining in detail what had happened this morning, not forgetting to blame Alberto for a pattern of abject rudeness and indifference to authority.“And when I asked him why he constantly falls asleep,” she concluded, “he claimed he ‘had a condition.’”Mamma had listened without interruption, only slipping Alberto a quick glance, who turned his attention to his shoes.“As a matter of fact…” she said, taking a seat in — coincidentally — Zak’s chair. “… he does have a condition.”Her words made Alberto look up in surprise. Paquin also blinked, momentarily speechless.“W-Well…” she said, “in that case… if I could see a doctor’s certificate, then I might be willing to—”Mamma’s eyelashes fluttered angrily. “Excuse me? Are you suggesting I should share my son’s medical history with you?”Paquin turned ashen. “But I need to see proof he has a condition.”“Then I need to see the headmaster right away, to ask him since when it is legal for teachers to request private medical information about their pupils.” Mamma crossed her legs and pointed at the door. “Go on, go get him. I’ll be waiting right here.”Paquin was getting paler and paler. Alberto could understand why: nobody would want to spend more time than necessary with a man who was rumoured to have become a headmaster in order to torment students and staff indiscriminately.“I see no need to bother Mr Van Bergen, Mrs Gazza.”Mamma’s eyes narrowed. “Why? I’m sure he’d love to be bothered by me.”Paquin seemed to hate hearing those words just as much as she disliked Alberto, but it worked anyway: she readmitted Alberto into her class without Mamma having to divulge any kind of information.Alberto and his mother walked back to the car together. Mamma had driven herself in the Jaguar. The sight of it reminded Alberto of Mathias, of how they’d met, of that silly story he had made up about their parents’ affair. He affectionally brushed his fingers against the roof of the car.Despite holding the key in her hand, Alberto’s mother didn’t open the door. She was gazing back at the school with a frown. “You’ll be homeschooled from now on so I can keep an eye on you.”Alberto’s heart lurched in his chest. “No! No, I don’t want to.” He took her hand. “What about Ma— my friends?”“Fine, then. Let’s meet these friends.” Mamma tilted her head toward the gate. “Introduce me to them right now, and we’ll see.”Alberto stared at her, dumbstruck. What should he do? He didn’t have any friends, and he really didn’t want to be homeschooled, or Stasia would likely be the end of him.As they walked past the gate, Alberto scanned every corner of the yard for someone — anyone — who could pass as a friend. Xavier’s face popped into his mind, but he was nowhere in sight, and with the risk of having that bastardo Kayvin creeping after his mother, Alberto would have never gone for it.Then, a childlike laugh exploded throughout the schoolyard, catching his attention. Alberto’s gaze fell on Eric, on Zak nestled into his arms, on Arthur and Camille standing arm in arm next to them, and on Mathias hovering behind them with his head down. He realised he had no other option. Between the idea of embarrassing himself in public or spending more time with Stasia, the choice was easily made.“They’re over there,” he told Mamma.When they saw them approach, the lot stared at Alberto as though he’d just come flying down on the back of some winged horse with glittery hooves.“Hello, everyone!” he said, using every ounce of his acting skills, knowing he was probably red to his ears from cringing. “So, Mum, these are my friends.”Arthur let out a loud snort, prompting Camille to elbow him in the ribs. If Zak seemed shellshocked, Eric’s lips were pressed together so tightly, they had disappeared altogether, and Mathias looked like a wooden toy with his hands buried in his pockets.Mamma inspected each one of them carefully, then sort of smiled. “It’s so nice to meet you all at last.” She shook everyone’s hands.Alberto spoke before someone — Eric — could say anything stupid. “We did the movie together this summer.”“The movie?” Mamma’s brow furrowed lightly. “You mean the part you didn’t get?”“Yes!” A weight lifted off Alberto’s shoulders. “Eric got the part,” — Mamma gazed at Eric as though he owed her son an apology — “and this is Zak. He was playing the leading role.”Zak looked petrified. “How are you, Madame?”Mamma barely spared him a glance. She seemed perplexed, as though she could feel, deep down, that she was being strung along, but she couldn’t be certain of it. When Alberto accidentally met Eric’s eyes, he helplessly blinked at him to urge him to play along and received a puzzled look back.“I wrote the movie!” Camille said, helpful at last, “and Arthur here did the camera work. It was really fun!”“And what did you do again?” Mamma asked, turning to Alberto.“You know, this and that…” His cheeks grew hot when he recalled he mostly spent his time running after Michael, whom he didn’t even like.“Alberto was the director’s assistant,” Camille said. “He was very important.”“Assistant?” Mamma said, a note of disappointment in her voice. “What can I say? He’s always been too shy.”There was a silence. It was clear no one here believed Alberto to be shy, but more like he was a great arsehole. Thankfully, Mamma didn’t notice, being too heartbroken over her son’s crippling timidity.“There’s just one thing I’d like to know,” she said, breaking that heavy pause. “Which one of you slept over the other night, then?”While the others all stared at her, wide-eyed, Alberto’s stomach dropped like an anchor. How could she possibly know about Mathias staying over, if it weren’t for Stasia? She really would be the death of him. Alberto’s eyelids fluttered shut, because he couldn’t get out of this, and even if he lied and said it was someone else, it was going to be impossible to prove. If only Xavier were here, but he wouldn’t be able to cover for Mathias anyway, because that poor soul was thicker than a neglected sheep’s fleece and… God! It really was the end, wasn’t it? It was over. Alberto was done for.“It was me,” Eric said out of the blue.Another awkward silence followed his statement. Mathias had turned as red as sin, and Alberto hoped he was the only one who’d noticed. Camille and Arthur’s expression had turned completely blank, and Zak said nothing, but his eyebrows drew together in an ominous frown.“Oh,” Mamma said. She gave Eric a thorough once-over, including the hand he had wrapped around Zak’s waist. “Next time, why don’t you stay for dinner or… breakfast? Whatever’s coming next.”Eric turned a perfect shade of pink, while Zak’s face darkened and darkened. Mamma turned back to Alberto.“Let’s go, Tesoro.”Leaving Zak and the others behind, Alberto let out a sigh of relief and followed his mother toward the exit.“Who is this Eric?” Mamma asked once out of earshot.“He’s a… he’s a football player.”She wrinkled her nose. “A football player?”“Yes. He’s… nice.” Alberto grimaced at his own lie.“But why is he touching that little boy?”“Little boy? Wh— Oh! No, Mamma, that’s Zak! They’re… they’re a couple.”Mamma stopped right in front of the gates. “Excuse me, what?”Alberto looked all around in fright. “What?”“Why isn’t he with you?”“I… ahem… What?”“Why would he pick that little boy over you?”Alberto’s mouth fell open. He shook his head so fervently, he almost unscrewed his head from his neck. “No, Mamma… I don’t want him.”“You don’t want him? Then why does he visit you in the middle of the night?”“Huh…?”“Stasia said someone came in the middle of the night, some handsome young man. It’s him, isn’t it?” She tilted her head. “I could have sworn she said his name was Alex…”Alberto sucked in a breath. He didn’t want to admit to drinking and having poor Mathias take him home. “It was him! Eric, Alex, sounds about the same, right? Stasia was probably confused.”Why did that sly, evil monster have such a good memory, when his own was like a malfunctioning old copier that would only start when kicked repeatedly?“I brought him home because… he was drunk, and he didn’t want his family to know because they’re… they’re American Mormons! They don’t believe in alcohol and… ahem… swearing and stuff.”Alberto’s mother didn’t seem convinced. “So, you were never a couple?”“Mamma, I can promise you that. He left in the morning, and he was embarrassed. He still is! You saw how pink he was out there.”She nodded and brushed her hand against his cheek. “He was pink. Okay, my love, that was kind of you to help him. You’re a good friend.”I’m really not, Alberto thought, now hating that he owed Eric a debt — Eric, of all people. Now, he would have to be called best buddy and have his hair ruffled and… God, no! He’d rather move to Iceland.“I’m relieved, I’m relieved,” Mamma said with a sigh. Before Alberto could ask, she added, “It was obvious he likes that little boy!”“Please, stop calling him that. Zak’s only a year younger than me.”“And you wouldn’t be a good match, obviously.” She lowered her voice. “A football player, it’s already questionable… But a Mormon, really?”“Come on, Mamma…” Alberto turned his face away. “Don’t discriminate.”“And look how tall you are, compared to him.”He let out a nervous laugh. Did he really need to find someone taller now? It would be hard enough to find someone who liked him. Now size mattered? He only knew one man taller than him, and it was the freakish headmaster. Alberto’s thoughts turned to Mathias, his 180 cm, his rough hands, his aggressive lips, and the size of something else that arguably mattered. He let out an anguished groan, and Mamma put her hand on his arm.“What is it? Are you embarrassed? Did you think I didn’t know?”“What? No. Though… am I really so obvious?”The words predictably queer rushed back to his head, forcing a grimace out of him.“I’m your mother, Tesoro. I know you’re not interested in girls, or we’d be swimming in them by now.”Alberto gave a dry laugh. “It’s not like we’re swimming in men either.”“And I like it just this way,” Mamma said with a smile. “They’re all so… brutish at this age. Just wait a little, don’t be hasty. When a good man presents himself, we’ll assess him together.”“Yes, Mamma.”But Alberto knew boys could be brutish, and they could also be worthy. Like Mathias, who wanted to snuggle during the night.Mathias and his ceaseless kisses down his neck.Mathias and his fingertips dancing, featherlike, across the skin of his back, causing even the smallest of his hairs to stand on end.Ma-tyas.No matter what it’d take, Alberto couldn’t wait to be alone with him again.“Alberto.” Mamma held his face in her hands. “How fast you’ve grown… You’re taller than me now.” She stared into his eyes, but was probably faced with a reflection of herself; she looked unhappy when she released him.

When Mathias arrives at Zak's birthday party, he doesn't
have any hope of seeing Alberto there. And yet...

This is a full chapter.Content warning: language

chapter 5

Three Cheers for The Debauched

copyright © 2022-2023 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Mathias arrived at Eric’s a bit late, but not too late, just enough that he wouldn’t be the first to arrive. He entered the two-level apartment to the sound of cheers and found the whole gang crammed into the living room with Eric in the middle, some award proudly lifted over his head.“Matt, look!” his friend said when he spotted him. “We won!”Zak’s best friend Camille, all flouncy skirt, baby hair, and sparkly eyes, seized Mathias by the shoulders and pushed another award into his hands. Her lanky boyfriend Arthur took it back with a smile. “Sorry, we’re just drunk on success.”Drunk on success. Mathias had no idea what that felt like. He pushed past Joy, Melissa, Elodie, Xavier, and Charles-Henry and went to salute a few of Eric’s footballer colleagues from his club, nodded at their girlfriends, and soon, he was in a corner sipping a beer and wondering if it would be appropriate to go home as soon as he’d finished it.Now that the mock exams were over, Mathias wanted to see Alberto. After doing reasonably well this week—and even starting preparations for his entrance examination to his first choice of culinary schools—he logically felt he deserved a reward.There was no chance of Alberto being invited to this party, not with Eric as a host, so he figured if he went home early, he might be able to convince him to spend the night together. Dad would be sleeping already, and in any case, he never cared about who stayed over, not even when he was an innocent kid and Daphnée shared his bed. Dad never even said a word about Christmas Eve, only nodding faintly at Alberto when he walked out of Mathias’s room.As for Elisa, she had long stopped mentioning Alberto, which was a bit suspicious, but she was busy wrapping up the Colette Candy Guide, and Mathias wasn’t the kind to look a gift horse in the mouth.Eric spotted Mathias hanging in a corner with his empty beer in one hand and his phone in the other, and he rushed over, his hands filled with little plastic cups. He nudged him with his foot.“Matt, did you wish Zak a happy birthday?”Zak, standing behind Eric, was all dressed-up tonight, clad in an elegant buttoned-up shirt and a pair of tight jeans that were probably the reason Eric’s face was scarlet.“Happy birthday,” Mathias said.Zak shook his head with a smile. “It’s not midnight yet. My birthday’s at midnight.” He lowered his voice. “Everything will be different at midnight.”“Different how?”His cheeks darkened. “Just different.”“Zak’s really excited to turn seventeen!” Eric said, his hands shaking.Yeah, must be that, Mathias thought vaguely, stepping back to avoid getting splattered by whatever red liquid was in these cups. He glanced up toward the corridor, only for his heart to stop.Alberto.He was here… awkwardly standing in the doorway, his thumb scratching his brow.As tall as a baby giraffe and twice as cute.“Give me that,” Mathias told Eric. He emptied one of the cups and grimaced. “What the fuck is that?”“Punch!” Eric cried, seizing the cup back. “And it was Zak’s!”“I don’t care!” Zak squeaked. “Look!” He whirled his boyfriend around. “He really came!”Eric’s mouth fell open. “Christ on a cracker… He really did.”Mathias willed his heart to stop beating like a war drum and asked in a hoarse voice, “You invited him? H-How come? Don’t you hate the guy?”“He did!” Zak’s eyes shone like two giant marbles. “Out of nowhere, he invited him at the ceremony!” ✳️Eric looked as if a harmless prank had turned into a national disaster. “It’s Zak’s birthday. I wanted to make an effort.” His boyfriend gawked at him, too shocked to comprehend. “I’m too fucking nice,” Eric added with a bitter grin, before emptying a cup of punch.Mathias glared at Zak suspiciously. To his knowledge, that kid was the only one beside Alberto’s mother who didn’t inspire a snigger or a condescending word out of him. Mathias was certain Alberto liked Zak more than he let on. It’s the way his gaze softened when he talked about him. It wasn’t much, but it was there. Did Alberto’s gaze ever soften at the sound of his name? It did not. Mathias would know; he spent a whole lot of time staring at that face.Alberto eventually noticed them and approached, unaware of the longing looks half of the girls—and Xavier—threw his way.“Happy birthday, Zak.”His tone was soft as morning dew when he was talking to that little bastard. Mathias bit into his cheek until he drew blood. Zak warmly thanked Alberto, and Eric grabbed his hand and shook it hard enough to tear it from his wrist.“You’re late!”“I got lost.”“How can you get lost on the metro?” Seeing him shrug, Eric did his best to conceal his animosity and let out a forced laugh. “I’m so glad you came.”Alberto replied in a voice so quiet, he was barely audible. “Thank you for having me.”“Get yourself a drink, don’t hesitate!”Eric pushed him out of the way. With a quick look at Mathias, who pretended to look elsewhere, Alberto disappeared around the corner. Zak immediately opened his eyes wide.“Were you really serious about what you said earlier? You want to be friends with him?”“Yes, yes!” Eric laughed. “I’m serious.”Zak gave him a doubtful look. “Why?”“Oh, water under the bridge, that’s all.”“Water under the bridge?” Zak turned to Mathias for support.“Two weeks ago, he was still good old Shovel Face,” Mathias muttered. “What happened?”“I’ve had a lot of time to think,” Eric said in a disinterested tone.Was it special treatment because Kayvin shoved Alberto into the pool? It was entirely possible… And Mathias sincerely hoped it was because of that, and not to submit him to more humiliation at the hands of the football team tonight.Eric wasn’t in the mood for talking about his nemesis anymore; he waved his hands dismissively. “Zak, baby, did I remind you that I love you today?”“Only three times,” Zak said, faking outrage.“Only three? Guess there’s still time for a fourth, then.”“Great. I’ll put the kettle on.”Before Mathias could even ask, they left hand in hand. When they were a safe distance away, Alberto reappeared magically by his side. Mathias nearly jumped him. “You weren’t getting a drink?”“I was just hiding around the corner.” His fingers brushed against Mathias’s waist, who pushed his hands deeper into his pockets.“What do you think the kettle’s for?” he asked, to distract himself.“I don’t know.” Alberto sighed a puff of hot air onto his neck, and one of Mathias’s pockets tore. “I don’t like not knowing. I’m not usually like that.”Mathias didn’t like the way Alberto stared after Zak. He liked even less knowing that Alberto would brave dozens of people, bad music, and junk food just to wish him a happy birthday. “They, ahem… They’re happy with each other.”“They sure are…” Alberto said vaguely.So are we, Mathias wanted to add. In their own way, so were they. Weren’t they? Good sex was nothing short of a miracle, wasn’t it? And they were really good at it. Mathias yearned to plunge his hand in the pocket of his suit, graze a certain part of him with his thumb, and press his lips to his neck.“Look…” He sucked in the last breath of air left in the room, forcing himself to be smart. “We can’t—”“I know.” Alberto’s fingers, instead of touching his wrist as they apparently intended, disappeared into his pocket. “I know. I’ll just be on my side of the flat, and you’ll be on yours. It will be like I’m not even here.” He stepped back and shuffled toward the snacks, where he got immediately hounded by Xavier.During the next hour, all thoughts of going home out of the window, Mathias wandered about Eric’s apartment. He exchanged a few words here and there with Zak’s friends and pretended not to be bothered by Xavier’s insistence on introducing Alberto to everyone at the party, by his hands all over him, by his toothy grins and little complicit nudges. It only served to remind him of his stupid brunch, of when Mathias saw him leaving Alberto’s room, smugly wiping his lips with the back of his hand.Eric and Zak had long re-emerged, and they were circulating from group to group. Mathias was burning to tell Alberto the kettle had to be a dirty thing because they’d both returned with their hair a hot mess. But he could only stay on his side and watch from the corner of his eye as Xavier entertained the girafon.Mathias gnashed his teeth in his corner, full of conflicting thoughts and even worse ideas. He didn’t want to say the wrong things and have a repeat of the other day at the museum. But while staring at Xavier, he reminisced about the last time he and Alberto slept together, when Mathias was on fire and had fucked Alberto so well, he lost his English and had to revert to calling out his gods in Italian. He’d like to see Xavier try that!“Good party, am I right?”Mathias swung around with a start. Eric had returned and was offering him a fresh beer. “Yeah, sure.”“Then, why are you standing here all alone?”Mathias scowled. “I always say the wrong things.”“No, you don’t.”“Fuck off.”“Okay, maybe you do.”“… Sorry.” Mathias took the beer and patted Eric’s shoulder. “Did you lose Zak?”Eric pouted. “I have to give him space to enjoy the company of his friends.”“Christ, you sound like you’re reading forums on dating.”“I do! If I had my way, I’d be clinging to him all the time. How to Be a Good Boyfriend and Make Your Girl Happy says I should definitely not do that.”“Hang on. Your girl? Aren’t you reading the wrong book? Zak’s a guy!”“So?” Eric shrugged. “He’s also like a girl.”Mathias blinked at him, bewildered. “How?”“Like, you know, being a human being and all. I don’t think there’s a big difference between boys and girls.” Faced with Mathias’s incredulous expression, he grinned and explained, “For example, the book says if you wanna know how the girl you’re dating feels, then you should ask, and chances are, she’ll tell you. You just gotta ask.”“Okay.”“I don’t see the difference between girls and guys about that. We all feel and think things. We all want to say things we’re afraid to say. The more we wait, the worse it gets, whether you’re a boy or a girl.”Mathias furrowed his brow. “Fine. Sounds good and all, but your book is also suggesting you shouldn’t be yourself.”“How so?”“You’re naturally clingy.”Eric burst into a laugh. “That’s right! But even I know I can be a bit much sometimes. I don’t want him to get tired of me too quickly.”Amused, Mathias poked him in the shoulder. “What about you? Aren’t you tired of seeing him all the time?”“No! In fact, I don’t see enough of him. Hell, I even became an actor to pursue him. I’d do all sorts of crazy things just to see him. I’d even…”Mathias tuned him out and slipped a furtive look in Alberto’s direction. Xavier, Joy, Melissa, and a bunch of other people surrounded him, and were laughing gaily while he clung to the food table—his own idea of personal hell. Was Zak really worth it?And then he saw it: the quick glances, clearly addressed to him, full of knowledge and desire.Wait. Was it possible? Alberto came here tonight not for Zak, but for him? The thought filled him with blinding light. Now, he felt drunk. His heart thumping, he dipped his head and couldn’t help a smile from spreading across his face, but when he looked up, Eric was staring at him through narrowed eyes.“Stop looking at me.”Eric drew his face unbearably close to his own, like he was trying to read into his soul. It was very uncomfortable.“Back off! Are you making a pass at me?”Eric quickly threw up his hands. “No, no.”“You should look after your boyfriend. He’s flaunting his ass over there. It’s…” Mathias searched for the word most likely to trigger him “… indecent.”Eric almost tore his head from his neck to check on Zak who, tipsy, had fallen face-first on Camille’s lap, and his ass in its tight jeans was in full view of everyone. To Mathias’s astonishment, Eric managed to gasp, yelp, blush, and break into a sweat at the same time, rubbing his face with his palms until his eyes turned bloodshot.“Oooh, that ass!” He let out a sob. “I can’t take it anymore! I’m gonna have to take a cold shower. Now!”Mathias sighed. “I take it you haven’t slept together yet?”Eric shook his head gravely. “Zak’s an angelic being and won’t let himself be debauched so easily.”Angelic? Really? Mathias had rarely seen him without a frown. The rest of the time, he was usually wrapped around Eric and looked most certainly like he could be debauched easily.For fuck’s sake. Soon, Mathias would have to give sex-ed tips to a guy like Eric. “Wait. How long have you been together again?”Mathias hadn’t even spent one minute on a date with Alberto, but he never had any trouble debauching him. But of course, there was nothing angelic about Alberto—he was a dark creature—and it was probably the other way around: Alberto had debauched him, using his vast array of demonic tricks, and Mathias was the innocent one. Or something like that.Beside him, Eric was counting diligently on his fingers. “About three and a half months.” He forced a smile. “There’s time. I don’t care. I’ll wait until marriage if that’s what he wants.”“Ugh.” Mathias shivered. “Seriously…?”“No, no! That’s not what he wants. But I’ll wait. I’ll wait almost forever, just not forever.”Mathias didn’t exactly enjoy watching him look so helpless, but he kinda did, too, especially since he was always showing his boyfriend off, so he was tempted to make fun of him. But in the end, the question that passed his lips was nothing but serious, and it was something he’d wondered for a while.“How do you do it?”“Do what?” Eric wrinkled his nose. “You’re not listening to me! We’re not doing anything, that’s the problem, that—”“Shh, shh, shut up. I meant how do you control yourself?”“Oh.” Eric’s expression turned sly. “So, you wanna know what your best buddy’s up to, after all?”“Who’s that? Best buddy? I don’t know him.”Eric gasped. “Don’t be like that! I’ll tell you!” He lunged at him, but Mathias shoved him aside. He couldn’t help but think his friend was totally gullible and easily bullied. Smothering down his urge to laugh, he forced his face to look serious.“I’m listening.”“We do— We do other stuff, that’s all.”“Like what?”“We kiss.”Mathias snorted. “Nerds.”“Stop!” Eric pursed his lips, vexed. “Meanie.”“Fine, fine. I’m joking anyway. Of course I’ve seen you two kiss.” In fact, he’d seen too much of it. And not only him, but the entire school also had witnessed their… passion. And now that he mentioned it, the first time he’d talked to Alberto, that pervert had been staring at them while they were making out. “But no way,” he said, pushing the memory away. “There’s no way you two stop at kissing.”Eric jerked his chin. “It just requires a bit of practice and a lot of determination.” He was sweating just talking about it. “And a bike.”“Oh…” Mathias really struggled not to snigger this time. “That’s why you got the bike?”“Maybe?”“So… you just take him for a ride every time you want to… take him for a ride?”Eric’s mouth fell open. “Nice!” They shared a fist bump. “Listen. It keeps me in shape. Isn’t that great? My coach is very happy.”Mathias threw his head back and laughed. “Yeah, you definitely need to release some of that tension.”“Right…” Eric gave him one of his brightest smiles and pulled him close. “Hey… I don’t think I’ve ever seen you laugh like this before.”Mathias huffed and wrenched away. Eric was annoyingly tactile and had trouble understanding that some people weren’t. Mathias didn’t want to hug other men, squeeze their shoulders, slap them on the back, or other stupid shit like that. Strangely enough, he was fine pressing them into the mattress and doing all sorts of other stuff to them… Hold on. That couldn’t be right.“Of course you have,” he said gruffly. “I laugh, like everyone else. It’s just that your jokes aren’t funny.”Eric cocked his head with a self-assured smile. “I know.”

In truth, Mathias felt particularly light tonight, and definitely luckier than some. And Alberto was wearing a suit with a tie; it was hanging loose around his long neck right now. Mathias was feeling creative about that tie. Now, to think of a decent excuse to isolate that demon from the rest of the crowd without people noticing… It would be difficult, but it wouldn’t be the first time.

✳️ This is a callback to the final chapter of You're The One for Me, titled Love ends with an "e". In this chapter — occurring at an award ceremony — Eric shocks Zak by inviting Alberto to his birthday party.

Left to his own devices at Zak's birthday party,
Alberto exchanges with the other guests, with mixed results.

*This is a scene and not a full chapter.Content warning: *language

chapter 6

Birthday Truths

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

The clocks struck midnight shortly after, and the tipsy — or full-on drunk, in the case of some football players — guests gathered in the dining room to cut the cake. Alberto admired from a distance how Eric managed to convince Zak the cake on display was not, in fact, a wedding cake, but a “super special three-tier birthday cake,” despite being clearly, from the snowy colour to the little bows to the outlandish size of it, a wedding cake. Zak, himself intoxicated and obviously smitten, went for the lie or pretended to believe him. He was, after all, a good actor.They sang — Alberto didn’t — the classic birthday song. Eric had a horrible voice, but Melissa didn’t, so it worked out pretty well. Xavier popped open a bottle of Champagne, and the cork flew straight toward Michael’s handsome boyfriend and would have given him a proper black eye if Michael hadn’t caught it right before the impact, as though he were prepared for it. Before long, Champagne glasses were passed around, and Camille was cutting the cake with what appeared to be a giant butcher knife, while Zak was busy opening a large pile of birthday presents. His friend Arthur kept urging him to tear the paper open instead of carefully unwrapping each one and driving everyone insane with impatience.Then, suddenly, Eric was standing near Alberto, holding a plastic cup under his nose. “Champagne?”“No, thank you.”Eric flung the cup at one of his friends like he hadn’t ever expected Alberto to accept it. “So… still doing all right over here?”Alberto avoided meeting Louis’s eyes for the tenth time tonight and nodded sheepishly. “Yep.”“Good. Good, good, good.” Eric watched Zak open his next present with relish and refused the portion Camille offered him with a smile. “Thanks, but I don’t touch that stuff.”“I don’t touch that stuff either,” Alberto said.Eric gave him a sideways glance. “That— that can’t be the only thing we have in common, can it?”“That, and… we both put our tongues in Zak’s mouth.”Eric gripped the edge of the table behind him with both hands. “I will fucking kill you one day.”“Mm.” Alberto nodded. “I’m looking forward to it.”Eric opened his mouth to say something, but some burly footballer interrupted them, insisting Alberto take a glass of Champagne. Despite his polite refusal, the guy wouldn’t take no for an answer, even when Eric told him to stop with a nervous laugh, but it was too late. His friends had heard them, and now Alberto was surrounded by drunk football players.“You don’t drink?” one of them asked. “Ever?”“Ever,” Alberto said.“But why?!”Everyone looked at him in shock. Alberto realised with some consternation he was the only one not drinking. “I don’t know… it seems to make people stupid sometimes.”His comment was met with resentful looks. The next second, he was fending off remarks about how harmless drinking was and how weird he was for not wanting to join in the fun.“You can have fun without getting drunk,” Alberto said.“But are you having fun right now?” Joy asked, smirking.Alberto hesitated and glanced around the room, but he didn’t find Mathias. “Not right now, no.”“Then, come on, have a drink!”Resigned, Alberto reached toward the plastic cup when Xavier appeared out of nowhere and swung his arm around his neck, almost putting him in a headlock.“If he doesn’t want to drink, then he doesn’t want to drink!” With an exaggerated laugh, he pulled him away from the others and into the quieter corridor.“Don’t let them bully you,” he said, releasing him.“Okay.” Alberto leaned against the wall. “Thanks.”“No problem. Hey, were you serious? About not having a good time?” The way he was looking at him, Alberto felt Xavier was about to ask him to kiss him again. He must have looked smug, because Xavier came closer, so close, Alberto felt his breath on his neck, and he couldn’t help feeling amused. “Can I help in any way?”Alberto twisted his neck to check out his eyes. They were eager and bright — and utterly confusing. Glancing over Xavier’s shoulder, he made eye contact with Mathias, who was just about to go upstairs, and his expression was murderous. Naturally, with the way Alberto had been flirting with him, Mathias had every right to consider his arse was his for the night. After the other day, he’d better stay clear of Xavier, however amusing his behaviour was.“I’m having a moderate amount of fun,” he replied prudently, while Mathias made his way upstairs. “Thank you.”He slipped away then, but Xavier followed, still bent on hugging him back to the dining room, where a group of people were watching intently.“Xavier and Alberto!” Joy exploded, making Arthur jump in fright. “Are you a couple?”Xavier burst out laughing. “You wish! I mean, I could have him anytime…” He met Alberto’s disapproving stare and gulped. “No, that’s not what I mean! I’m not gay!”“Yeah, we know that.” Joy narrowed her eyes impatiently. “But the question everybody wants to know tonight is… are you?” She was looking at Alberto. “Are you gay or not?” She added under her breath, “Is Zak a liar or what…?”Zak’s mouth fell open in outrage. “At my party, really? You’re gonna be like that?”“Zak isn’t a liar,” Alberto said, and his cold tone actually made Joy’s friend Melissa shiver. “Not that it’s any of your business.”With this revelation, half of the girls in the room let out a sound of disappointment under the bewildered gaze of their boyfriends. Joy sneered, clearly still mad at Alberto for the other night, while Elodie spread out her hands, muttering, “Seriously? Why always the hot ones?”Satisfied with his answer, the crowd moved on, except for Zak, who hovered by Alberto with a wounded expression. “So, what was it?” he asked. “You didn’t find me attractive?”Caught off guard, Alberto blinked stupidly at him. “What? No, not true. I always thought you were cute.”“Cute? Like a little boy?”“No. Cute, like, cute. Cute.”“But you didn’t want to touch me. Didn’t even want to kiss me.”What a dangerous conversation to have. Alberto had to get out of this, and quick. He looked around for a way out, but Zak was blocking his path. “Does it matter?” he asked. “Your boyfriend wants you so much, he’s practically foaming at the mouth, and he’s hotter than me, so why are you even talking to me?” He chortled at Zak’s shocked expression. “What? You both want it. Why not get it over with?”“Because!” Zak stomped his foot. “I had— I mean, I have principles. I wanted to wait.” He gave him a long, shrewd look. “And I always thought you were… you know…” He lowered his voice to a whisper, “like me.”“Like you?”“Waiting… you know… for the right one?”Alberto chuckled. “I’m probably the biggest slut in this room.”Zak’s formidable brows shot up. “What?”“Probably. Xavier is also here, so I don’t know.” Alberto carefully omitted Eric from the list, not just because he wanted a truce, but also because Eric had an unfair slutty reputation. Contrary to Xavier, who did bed more than half the girls in his year, Eric only had flings with a few. Eric was, in fact, possibly like Alberto, a monogamous slut, who dedicated themselves to one person enough to wear them out. That’s what Alberto intended to do with Mathias, anyway.“I really know nothing about you, do I?” Zak mumbled, wringing his hands together. “It’s just… I’ve always wondered what was so wrong about me, why you didn’t like me that way. Whatever it was… what if Eric thinks the same once he… sees me…”Alberto reacted fast and poked Zak in the shoulder. “He won’t. It’s not the same.”“Then, tell me why—”“Take off your clothes, see if his first reaction is not to try to destroy you. I’m willing to bet my favourite pair of shoes that he’ll turn into an animal.”Zak blushed. “Alberto…”“I’m just saying…” Alberto leaned forward and whispered something in his ear.“Alberto!”You’re welcome, Alberto thought. One day, he would tell him the truth, but today was not the day, so he left that cute little thing looking smug as hell and not worried anymore.Since when was he giving away advice to people? And rooting for them, too? He was turning into a strange person indeed.And speaking of strange, Mathias hadn’t returned; Alberto was missing him already. He left Zak to go in search of him, but he’d only taken a few steps before a hand closed around his wrist and pulled him away into the darkness.

Alberto accidentally gets drunk at Zak's birthday party, to Mathias's delight — and despair.

*This is a scene and not a full chapter.Content warning: *presence of drunken girafon

chapter 8

Silent Shadows

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Alberto slumped into Mathias’s arms just as they entered the bedroom. The latter got excited from relief at the sight of the bed, and he was about to bluntly—if not nicely—throw that drunkard on the mattress, but Alberto caught him by surprise and pushed him down first.“One little kiss,” he said, climbing on top of him.Mathias burst out a laugh. “You’re one slutty drunk, you know that?”Alberto crushed their lips clumsily together. Mathias returned the kiss first with impatience, then with growing desire, and he finally pushed Alberto off him and rolled him to the side of the bed.“Well played, but it’s still no.”With a dramatic sigh, Alberto finally laid flat on the mattress. “What if I’m slutty? What are you like when you’re drunk?”“See for yourself.” Mathias leaned over him and flicked his lower lip with a smile. “I’m pretty drunk right now.”“You don’t look drunk.”“That’s probably because you’re seeing three of me right now, and they’re all blurry. I’m used to drinking, and I had proper food at the party. Did you even eat anything?” Alberto lifted his head and whispered some words in his ear before he swiped his tongue over it. Mathias shuddered and pushed him down. “Bed. Now.” He began removing Alberto’s clothes, but Alberto suddenly became very still. Perhaps he thought he was about to get what he wanted. His eyes wandered drunkenly around the room and fell on the door Mathias had left ajar.“Lock the door,” he said.“Yeah, in a minute.”Lookn’tshelf, inblulephant.“What?”“The blue elephant!”Mathias tried his best not to laugh out loud, so much so, the corners of his eyes were prickling. At last, Alberto’s clothes were removed, and Mathias was covering him with his plush comforter.“Remember…?” Alberto whispered in the dark when Mathias’s lips grazed his forehead.“What?”“Remember the holidays?”“Yes, I remember what happened a few weeks ago. I’m not like you.”“Remember what we did?”Mathias chuckled. “No. You tell me.”“We had sex. A lot of it.”“That’s true.”Good sex, too, if he may be so bold. Fantastic sex, until that time he treated Alberto with the gentleness of a husband and got himself blacklisted for over a week.“And also…” Alberto’s eyelids were now half-closed. Mathias wanted to kiss them, but he knew he had to exert restraint.“Tell me.”“We sang.”“We what?”“We sang songs, remember?”Mathias smiled. “I remember.”They sang Bloodhound Gang songs in front of the mirror. They never got to the end of the last one. Mathias had never let him.

Alberto comes across Zak at a party.

*This is an excerpt from a scene and not a full chapter. This passage has been edited for spoilers and slightly differs from the official version.Content warning: *underage drinking

chapter 15

Not crazy, just fond of you.

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Alberto elbowed his way to the bar, where he found Zak rearranging the snacks display while bobbing his head to Discobitch. His eyes doubled in size when he saw him.“Alberto? Hi!”Alberto briefly held up his hand in salute and returned his attention to the bar. Zak watched him read the labels on the bottles with a slight frown.“You’re… Are you drinking tonight?”“Think so, yes.” He pursed his lips. “Is there any Champagne?”Zak’s frown deepened. “Champagne? Why?”Alberto pointed at the speakers. “Bad bitches drink Champagne.”“Oh.” Zak scratched his cheek. “No, I haven’t seen any. Xavier’s cousin Gwen probably drank all of it. She broke up with Kayvin, and he’s in a terrible mood. Even worse than usual.”“So… No Champagne, then?”“… No.” Zak hesitated for a few seconds before he picked up something hidden behind half a dozen bottles of strong liquor. “But… could I perhaps interest you in a glass of red wine?”“The thing is…” Zak added bashfully in the face of his hesitation, “I always bring a good bottle of wine to parties, thinking, one day, some other weirdo will want to drink it with me, and we’ll talk about things no one else wants to talk about, like adults, and hahaha! I’m talking too much, aren’t I?”Alberto gave him a long look, then snatched the bottle from him. “I can do that. I’m a weirdo.”“Well, let me open it,” Zak said, seizing the bottle back. “Because you’re shaking — is it that cold outside? — and this is actually good wine, according to my sister, who gave it to me…”A quick look at his hands told Alberto Zak was right, so he let him carry on without a word.“… Because, unlike you, I’m still a minor,” Zak went on, “and I’m not allowed to drink, technically, but I mean, live a little, right?” His lips stretched in a grimace. “Oh God, I really am talking too much.”Alberto felt like telling him that there were worse things a minor could do than having a glass of wine — he spoke from experience — but he swallowed back the urge and waited for Zak to pop open the bottle instead.“So, what did you do for your birthday, anyway?” Zak asked, searching for glasses.It took Alberto a few seconds, but he eventually recalled, even letting out a chuckle. “Cemetery stroll.” Zak froze and almost dropped the two little plastic wine glasses he’d found. “Fancy,” Alberto said, pointing at them.“Right?” Zak appeared both confused and relieved by the change of conversation. “Xavier said Gwen broke most of the proper ones in a fit of rage, so the baronet got mad.” He tasted the Saint-Émilion like a connoisseur, which Alberto found amusing since until six months ago, he had never had a drop of alcohol. “So, what should we talk about? Maybe not your birthday, then… What about—”“I got one,” Alberto cut in. “You know Xavier’s father isn’t a baronet, right?”He took an enormous sip of wine, but Zak was too shocked to notice. He was looking at him as if he’d just announced the President was actually three children stacked on top of each other under a trench coat.“No way…”“Way. Way, way.”“But why…”Alberto giggled into his glass of wine. “That’s not even the worst part. I don’t think he’s lying. I think he’s clueless!”Zak’s magnificent eyebrows drew together. “W-What?”“First, baronets are a British thing, and they don’t even have them anymore. There are almost none left anywhere. Xavier’s father is a baron, not a baronet. And the funny thing is that a baron is of a much higher rank, too, but for some reason, Xavier got his father’s title wrong.”Zak finally noticed his mouth was wide open; he hastily cleared his throat and smiled. “How do you know all this?”“My mother has an interest in those things. I looked Xavier’s father up once. It was an easy find.”Before Zak could answer, Xavier emerged from the crowd and stopped before them, his face glistening with sweat. “Alberto! You… You came?”To Alberto’s surprise, Xavier looked more shocked than happy to see him. It brought the former an inexplicable feeling of vexation. He retorted, “Why do you call your father a baronet even though he’s a baron?”Xavier blinked several times. “I… huh… I just thought it sounded cuter. Less, you know… threatening.” He briefly squeezed Alberto’s shoulder. “Just stay close to Zak, okay? I’ll be right back.”Mind your own business, Alberto thought, throwing back his drink.“Oh, you like the wine, at least,” Zak said with a nervous laugh.“Yep.” Alberto poured himself another glass and winked at his ex’s dubious expression.“You seem different tonight.”“Oh? Am I not handsome in your eyes anymore?”Alberto instantly regretted saying that. It felt cruel, for some reason. But Zak merely lowered his eyes. “Don’t play games with me,” he mumbled. “You know you look handsome, even more so tonight. But still, you look… different.”Alberto should think so. Mathias still hadn’t returned to him. On the contrary, he was flirting with blonde girls who looked exactly like that blasted Eric; that was enough to set his blood on fire. Speaking of, Alberto ignored the odd look of terror on Zak’s face and asked, “What are you doing so far away from the boyfriend?”Zak laughed, but not before his cheeks darkened, rendering him absolutely adorable. “We can spend some time apart, you know. Might as well get used to it,” he added in a thin voice.“Even if you’re talking to me?”“Huh? Oh, right. Yeah, even if we dated.” The way he said the word gave Alberto pause.“What? Are you denying that we were together now?”Zak scoffed. “Were we? I mean… Were we together? You…” He lowered his voice. “Let’s be serious, here. You didn’t even like me.”Alberto’s shoulders sank. “Of course I liked you, Zak.”“Clearly, not enough.”“No… maybe not.”“Finally.” Zak exhaled a sigh of relief. “You admit it. So, what was it in the end? Why did you ask me out? Was it out of pity?” He scowled. “Did you feel bad because you said these horrible things to me when I first asked you out? Is that it?”“No…” Alberto pinched his brow. “What was it I said again?”Zak let out a dry laugh. “You don’t remember. Great. As a matter of fact, you said you couldn’t throw yourself away—”“—to the first one who asks. Right.” His fingers tightly wound around the stem, Alberto studied at the wine swirling around in his glass. “Zak... Did I ever tell you about my mum?”

Eric reveals a crucial piece of information.

*This is a half chapter, taken from Part Two: chapter "Unwelcome". This passage has been edited for spoilers and slightly differs from the official version.Content warning: language, probably. Eric being Eric. Mathias being pissed off as usual.

chapter 10

Mood Swings

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Through the leafless and gnarly branches of the trees, the wind blew, uncaring and unrelenting. A full head smaller than her friends, Elisa strolled across the playground, her chin held high. Mathias watched his sister through the windows of the cafeteria with a faint smile. She’d never succumbed to misery, even after their mom died. She was the only tough cookie in this family. Dad had checked out and withdrawn into himself, and though Mathias couldn’t deny their recent change of scenery had definitely benefited him, he was far from being the laid-back, dorky father he was before he lost his wife.As for Mathias, he simply couldn’t remember who he was before. A part of him was still walking down that long corridor, his shoes squeaking across the linoleum, the dreaded door drawing closer and closer…Lifting his fork to his mouth, Mathias bit into his french fries and grimaced. Soggy, tasteless, inedible. He looked down at his plate with a frown.“Hang on a second… something’s different.” He turned to Eric and froze. His friend looked like he was about to explode. “Hey, have you—”"I had sex! With Zak!" Eric grabbed the edge of their table and shook it, sending pieces of food flying everywhere.Xavier dropped his fork into his pasta. "Woah!""That’s right!"After letting it all out, Eric finally seemed at ease. His cheeks glowing, he propped his chin in his hand with a contented sigh. Slowly closing his eyes, Mathias also sighed, but it was an expression of lassitude.“I was talking about the food. The food’s different.”“Ah.” Eric glanced down at his plate, then immediately back up. “But—”“No.”“Matt.”“Uh-uh. I don’t want to know.”Xavier leaned forward. “I’d like to know!”What a surprise. Mathias threw him a dark look and thought he should consider himself lucky he didn’t throw him his fist instead.“What?” Xavier met his hostility with a dumb smile. “I was there, remember?”Mathias blinked. “What?”“Can you not remind me of that?” Eric asked, wrinkling his nose.“I wasn’t in the room! I didn’t hear or see anything!”“Anyway…” He gave Xavier a warning look. “It happened at Zak’s birthday party. And I tried to keep it to myself for as long as possible, but…”“You’ve managed to keep silent for more than a week,” Mathias grumbled. “I guess it’s impressive enough—”“Nine days! And I almost died! Zak told me I could tell someone before my blood pressure gets out of control.”Mathias thought Eric looked a bit pent up last week, that’s true. He also didn’t spend more than two minutes with Mathias outside of class, who then had plenty of time to be trapped with his own thoughts. Now, he understood why: they had probably found a hiding place somewhere at school where they could… do to each other what Mathias and Alberto used to do. What a disheartening thought.“So… what happened?” Xavier asked, his eyes bright. “How does it work? Did you do butt things to his butt?”“Hey!” Eric took on airs. “That’s obviously classified.” He winked at Mathias in a way that hinted he’d tell him all about it later.Mathias grimaced and crushed his french fries under his fork. Why the fuck would he want to know?“Why did you bring up the subject if you don’t want to tell?” Xavier whined, pushing his plate away.“Don’t,” Mathias said. “Stop indulging his little gay fantasy.”“What?” Xavier looked shocked. “I don’t have a gay fantasy.”“You don’t? Really?” His clueless expression was an insult to him. “Just go suck a dick, okay? You’ll do us all a favor.”Eric’s mouth fell open. “Mathias!”Xavier tut-tutted. “My dude, you are very aggressive.”“So leave, please! Piss off! Go hang out with someone else!”“Why?” He took on a wounded expression. “Why can’t I hang out with you?”Eric poked Mathias. “Yeah, why?”The looks on their faces finally got through to him. Noting his french fries had turned into mashed potatoes, he gave in with a sigh. “I’m sorry. Forget it.”By all means, they should let Xavier take notes on whatever Eric and Zak did together. Then, the next time he’d feel like it, he could just grab Alberto and practice with him and then pretend he wasn’t into guys at all. Hypocrite.Claiming he felt unappreciated, Xavier left anyway. Eric turned on Mathias the moment he was gone. “Stop stabbing your food. Look at me.”“No. I hate looking at you.”“No one hates looking at me. I’m too cute. What’s going on? How come you’re not even happy for me?”Mathias glanced at his friend and realized he was being a dick. “I guess… I mean, of course I’m happy for you.”“Good!” Eric stole his hotdog, removed the sausage from the bun, and shoved it straight into his mouth. “You know, I feel like all my problems have been solved now. Like I’m at peace with the world.” He returned the empty bun to Mathias’s plate.Lucky bastard, the latter thought with envy. If having sex was the key to solving problems, then all his troubles should have vanished the moment he first slammed Alberto against that wall, but it seemed, to him, it was the opposite.“You know jerking off does exactly the same thing to you, right?” he asked in a bitter tone.One eyebrow quirked, Eric briefly pondered his words, then burst out laughing. “Sure. You almost had me there for a second.” He poked Mathias again. “Anyway, now that I solved my problems, I’ll have more time to fix yours.”“Bitch, I don’t have any problems, okay?”Bitch, you are a walking problem. If you don’t get help now, you’re gonna turn into Kayvin.”Mathias didn’t know whether he should laugh or scream.“Maybe you should go and suck a dick,” Eric said. “Might help you! Just sayin’.” He broke into another laugh, then caught sight of Mathias’s face and immediately turned serious. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You don’t have to… ahem… suck anything unless you want to. It’s just, I’m your best buddy, and I couldn’t help but notice… You see, you looked sad after the holidays, then you looked sort of happy—you did, really—but now you look sad again. What’s going on?”“I… I have mood swings.”Eric’s eyes widened; he lowered his voice. “Like a girl…?”Mathias threw his fork to the side. “I need a new friend.”His last remark wasn’t too well received, and he had to apologize and even hug his friend in the middle of the cafeteria. Only then did Eric’s tears magically disappear.Who are you?” Mathias grumbled, feeling used.“Come on now.” Eric slipped his arm around his shoulder. “I’m here for you, if you need to talk.”What was there to talk about? Mathias was so thoroughly confused by everything that happened since the day he transferred to this school. He couldn’t make sense of anything anymore.[...]“Ah, Mathias…” Eric sighed as they were leaving the cafeteria. “Today’s the best day of my life.”“Today?” Mathias took out his pack of smokes and his lighter. “Today’s the best day of your life?”
“Yeah…”
He struggled to light his cigarette, to no avail. “Today, really?”“Yeah, why?”“The day you tell me you’ve slept with Zak is better than the day you actually slept with him?” Mathias tossed away his lighter with a curse.Eric watched it fly over his head with a perplexed expression. “Oh, wait… maybe not.”“You’re a dumbass, you know that?”Eric, giggling, was about to say something, but Zak appeared just at that moment. If Mathias didn’t know before, he would for sure now. Zak and Eric were staring at each other like they had discovered the cure for cancer. It was unbearable. And Mathias kept hearing Alberto’s voice in his head, whispering in his devil’s tongue, “Ask him about his butthole.”“Goddamn it!”Deciding he should remain inside after all, Mathias shoved the door open with both hands, leaving the shocked pair behind. He heard Zak ask, “What the hell?”“Mood swings,” Eric replied as the door shut.

This is a full chapter occurring during the first half of the novel.
There may be slight differences in the published version.
Content warning: language, two young men being too horny for their own good.

chapter 32

Angels & Demons

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

That day it was raining and they were trapped inside, bored. Homework wouldn’t do, so they were killing time on their phones, until Alberto started squirming on the bed, struggling not to fall asleep, looking extra devilish. He even held a lollipop between his treacherous lips, courtesy of Mathias's sister. To be honest, he had harassed her for it, and she only relented after Mathias begged her to let him have it.Mathias, never an innocent, wanted Alberto to have it. He had his eyes on him, was following him motionlessly like a predator stalking its prey. He had all the time in the world. He knew that at one point, he’d get to have him today. So there he was, in a good mood, wasting time for the sake of it, because he had no fear of watching him slip away.They talked idly, exchanging vague comments about the weather and Mathias's impending mock-exams as he flicked through Alberto’s modelling account on Instagram. Picture after picture of him looking his best made Mathias feel amused at first, gradually puzzled, then irritated, until Alberto took notice and even tried to take his phone away.“Are you still looking at this?”Mathias lifted the phone out of reach. “Almost done.”Alberto waved his hand, looking bored. “Why bother looking at these when the real thing’s right in front of you?”Now Mathias felt out of breath, so he kicked his foot and Alberto withdrew his hand.“The pictures are okay.” He lightly cleared his throat. “But why do they only dress you in black?”They don’t.” Alberto’s popped the glistening lollipop out of his mouth. “I only post the ones I like.”Mathias gave a small grunt as he shifted on the bed. “That’s dumb.”“Why?”“People can’t see what you’re worth in other colours. Like blue, or white.”“No need for pictures." Alberto blinked slowly. "I can tell you I look amazing in blue. And in green. And in burgundy—”“You’re so pretentious." Mathias nudged him with his foot.“—and! the world isn’t ready to see me wearing all white.”“Why’s that?”“I’m too adorable. Societies would collapse at the sight.”The way he pronounced the word collapse had Mathias clench his fists. “You’re so—““So what?” Alberto dragged the lollipop across the tip of his tongue.“Forget it.”“You don’t believe me?”“Of course, I don’t. You’re the king of bullshit.”“I have done photoshoots in white.”Mathias sprung to attention despite himself. “Really?” He forced his voice to sound indifferent but wasn't too sure of his success. Thank God Alberto had turned his head away and didn’t notice his eagerness.“Really.”“Do you have proof?”“…No.”“How come?”“I don’t remember the name of the brand.”“You’re joking.”“I’m not.”“Fucking hell.” Mathias threw himself back against the headboard. “I’ve never met anyone with such a shit memory.”He had been looking forward to seeing an all-in-white Alberto. Now he was in a bad mood.Alberto gave a taunting laugh. “That’s such a shame. Isn’t it?” Mathias grunted. “Now you’ll never know how adorable I look in white.”“No one cares.”“Oh. That's too bad. And just when I just realised something…”“What?”“Nevermind. Since you don’t care.”Mathias could have hurled him out the window. “What? Spit it out!”“There’s a simple way to find out.”“What is it?”Alberto looked at him as if he were stupid. “Guess.”“No care,” Mathias blurted out. He meant to say 'don’t care but was thinking no time. His stupid brain seemed to be lacking oxygen every time that creature was laying on his bed.Unconcerned by all this, Alberto played with his lollipop, rolled it over in his mouth while looking at Mathias. “Easy. Lend me some white clothes. I’ll wear them for you.”Fuck. Mathias had momentarily forgotten he did have the real deal in front of him. A real supermodel. Or just a model. Whatever he was, he was offering to wear clothes for him. The moment he heard him say for you, Mathias had already started to feel stiff down there. With the lollipop and the tone of his voice, it was a damn miracle this little talk had not escalated into some dirty shit already.He didn’t even bother answering him, he went straight to the wardrobe and picked up whatever clothes he could use. He tossed him a few items. Alberto snorted and gazed at him with his evil eyes.“What?”“Oh, I see what you like,” he said, holding a pair of socks.“You don’t know what I like,” Mathias replied, a bead of sweat trickling down his spine.“No?” Alberto started undressing and for some reason, Mathias felt compelled to turn around, which only caused more dry hilarity on the monster’s side.“You’re embarrassed and can’t look at me anymore.”“I don’t have white trousers. I don’t have trousers in your size anyway. Your legs are too long.”“But the socks, really?”Mathias whirled around. “Fine! I want you to wear the fucking socks. Will you, please, wear the fucking socks?”“Yes, yes, fine.”When Alberto was ready, he went “ta-dah!” And Mathias only briefly hesitated before turning around.Alberto stood in a simple combination of a t-shirt, football shorts, and football socks which on him looked nothing like a was an athlete and everything like he was up to no good in an impossibly filthy way. The t-shirt and the shorts were a size or two too large as well, which only added to the sinfulness of the picture.“It’s not bad,” Mathias said, swallowing.Alberto laid back on the bed. “Told you.”“But it's not so great either.”“What’s that?” Alberto sat back up.Mathias shrugged. “Could be better.” He tried not to smile at Alberto’s vexed expression.“Of course, it could. I could have been in a suit. I could have been in jeans. Tsk, even a lab coat would have been better than this.”Priceless.“You look a bit like a tennis player.”“What? What?!”Mathias couldn’t help laughing. He mimed the swing of a racket. “Yeah, you look like a tennis player.”Alberto grimaced. “Disgusting.”“Come on. A cute tennis player.”A pause. “How cute?”“Cute, cute.” Mathias didn’t want to annoy him too much, or he might not want to fool around anymore. “All innocent and shit.”“Oh, like a cherub?” Alberto’s eyes narrowed. “I see your kind!”“A what?”“A cherub. You know those weird baby angels?”“Angels…”“Yeah, angels. Those fat babies who are like, servants to God or something.” Alberto pulled the socks higher up his calves. “Child labor if you ask me…”Mathias suddenly got an idea and left Alberto to speak nonsense on the bed. He borrowed something from his sister's room and returned, all proud of his brilliant idea. Alberto saw the thing he carried in his hands and forgot all about child labor. He knelt on the bedspread with his arms crossed.“O-kay, Rodin, two revelations in one afternoon, are you trying to scar me for life?”Mathias turned and turned the fluffy angel wings in his hands, unsure of how to proceed to make Alberto wear them. He could coax him, offer him a reward of sorts, promise to go along his next ridiculous scheme, or he could simply say: “Put them on or get out.” And then proceed to hold his murderous gaze for a dozen seconds.And that's precisely what he did.“Asshole,” Alberto said, but he was almost smiling as he put on the wings. “Happy now?”Mathias watched him mess around for a minute, striking all sorts of silly poses, and using the lollipop to tease him. He briefly consulted with his own body and nodded.“Happy.”Alberto jumped off the bed and began to slowly circle around him. Mathias said nothing, enjoying the view, until he came around and slung his arms around his neck. The sweet scent of candy reached his nostrils.“You’ve got an angel kink.”“I don’t have an angel kick.”“A kink. And you do, look at you.” Alberto pretended to flap his wings. “All flushed. Just ripe.”“Demon,” Mathias mumbled, hating and loving the way Alberto’s lips looked when he over-pronounced his p’s. “You talk way too much.”Alberto arched an eyebrow. “Oh, am I a demon now? I thought I was an angel.” He proceeded to prove he was not an angel by leaving a wet trail on Mathias's cheek with the tip of his tongue.“You…” Mathias’s hands showed restraint, but his thoughts scattered. “You’re a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”“Hm?”“You know. A demon pretending to be an angel.”“And you…” Alberto almost kissed his lips. Almost. “You’re the opposite.”Suppressing a shiver, Mathias removed his arms from around his neck. Alberto turned around with a shrug.“Look, don’t be embarrassed. It’s fine. Angels in football gear. Some people like much weirder stuff. You wouldn’t believe it.”“Pff. I don't care.”But he couldn't help thinking, Like what? Like what, Alberto? What do you do with these other people? Do you like it better with them? Do they make you beg and cry like I do?While Mathias was struggling with his frustration, Alberto was running around the bedroom and flapping his wings. Mathias couldn’t remember the last time he saw that much animation in his eyes. He stared, losing track of his surroundings, and he started thinking run, run around little one, if I catch you, I’ll rip you apart. Who was the wolf? Who was the wolf again?Mathias staggered forwards to seize him and in doing so, forced Alberto to backtrack, and suddenly the demon was toppling over on top of the dresser by the window.Mathias had had this thing his whole life. That’s where he kept his school supplies and old textbooks and such. It was just a piece of furniture and he’d never really thought about it until the day Alberto fell ass first on it wearing cheap angel wings, his eyes round with shock.Mathias grabbed him. He really grabbed him. He dug his fingertips into his flesh and pushed his tongue into his mouth without mercy. After a strangled noise of surprise that sent Mathias’s head spinning, Alberto went “Fuck me!” and Mathias thought, just wait, just wait, while trying not to snap."So no angel kink, then?" Alberto chortled as he hooked his legs around him and pressed their bodies together. Mathias shook his head and closed his eyes, feeling suddenly like he couldn’t breathe at all. He gripped the first thing within his reach, Alex’s binoculars, and pretended to inspect the street down below.“Hey,” Alberto panted, “are you serious right now?”"Thought I saw something." Outrage gave a glow to his dull eyes. Mathias admired his work with a snigger. “False alarm.”Out of nowhere, Alberto clutched his face possessively and gave him a bruising kiss. Mathias had no choice but to drag him down and throw him onto the bed, but to his astonishment, Alberto clung to him and rolled them both over to lay on top of him.Mathias scooted backwards toward the wall. The moment their eyes met, his heart jolted savagely, and a powerful wave of longing rippled through him. The force of it confused him; he tried to push Alberto away.“Go. Go away.”“You dress me up like this and then you want me to go away?” Alberto watched him retreat deeper into the bed until his back met the headboard. “Not gonna happen.” With these words, he jumped and sat on top of him, trapping him between his knees. Mathias wanted to shove him aside, but it was too late. The moment he felt him against him, he turned both as hard as a rock and as soft as the drizzle outside.Alberto knew he had won. He gave a little laugh. “Angel kink.”“I hate you,” Mathias said, but he couldn’t help laughing.When they looked at each other then, they both seemed to realise something was different. Alberto on top. Never happened. Mathias smiling. Never happened. But there was something else. They were so close, and if they were to fuck right now, they would see each other’s faces and that had never happened before. The idea filled Mathias with excitement, yet also with inexplicable fear.Maybe he had overdone it today. Taken their games a little too far. He really should push him away now, call it a day, invoke the great excuse of piled-up homework. Maybe he shouldn’t see him again this week. This year. Ever.But then Alberto pulled the lollipop from his mouth, and slowly rolling his hips, hummed like this shit piece of candy was the best thing he’d ever tasted. Desire became stronger than fear, and suddenly Mathias wanted to tear off his clothes and take him in the middle of the bed with his socks on.“Is it good?” he asked, his voice thick.Smacking his lips, Alberto rolled back his hips before answering, sending a shiver down Mathias’s spine.“It’s good.”“Yeah?” Mathias’s hands had already moved to his thighs. He pointed at the lollipop. “What does it taste like?”“Coke!” Alberto said, bouncing up and down, causing Mathias to dig his fingers into his flesh. “I like the way it tastes. Even feels tingly, like the drink.”“Bullshit.”Alberto leant closer. Cold grey eyes, vaguely shaped like a cat’s, bored into his. "No, sei tu. Sei il re delle stronzate."No comprendo,” Mathias croaked. “Give it here.” He took the thing out of his mouth to plug his own, worried he might say something he’d regret later.Alberto glared at him. “Bastardo.”“Hey!” Mathias laughed around the lollipop. “I got this one.”“Hot.” Alberto blinked slowly, then his gaze turned cold. “Give it back. It’s mine.”Mathias had no intention of returning it, but the moment he removed it from his mouth to mock Alberto, the latter grabbed the stick and tugged it toward himself. Mathias resisted and they went back and forth, until Alberto suddenly let go and the lollipop flew across the room to stick itself to his expensive coat hanging on a hook on the door.“Shit, sorry,” Mathias said, thinking that thing was cursed. But Alberto didn’t care. He was smirking.“You’ve done it. Now there’s nothing left for either of us.”“That’s a shame.”“Although…” Alberto lowered his voice to a whisper. “There’s still some on my lips.” He swiped his tongue over said lips, then drew in a sharp breath when Mathias’s fingers curled around his thighs, before sliding under him as he brought their mouths together.Something definitely felt different. Their kiss started slow and tender almost, as though they really were trying to taste each other. But maybe because Alberto rocked his hips once more, or because Mathias hummed into his mouth, it quickly grew out of control.Mathias made short work of Alberto’s wings and they were tossed on the ground, and the t-shirt followed, then his own, and suddenly it was just Alberto in football shorts and football socks grinding against him. Mathias broke away to look at him, his heart pounding so hard he thought it might blow up right inside his chest.Fuck. Maybe that really was his thing after all. Still, at that moment, he had never felt more like a man. Thoughts none too gentle bounced around in his head, turning his mind foggy. With one shaky hand, he scrabbled around for a condom in his nightstand drawer, and with the other, he kneaded his supermodel’s ass, unwilling to part even for a second. Between messy kisses, Alberto was breathlessly trying to open his jeans. Mathias slipped his fingers into his white shorts and swallowed his feeble moan. Mathias thought he felt him smile. His own lip curled up.And then the doorbell rang.They immediately parted, eyes flying to the door. A series of excruciating noises blared out from the intercom in the hallway, as if the person ringing the bell was trying to play a tune.“Ah!” Looking like a possessed child going through an exorcism, Alberto put his hands over his ears. “What the hell is this?"“No…” Mathias forced the lusty fog that had engulfed him to clear. "I don't have anything planned until... Fuck!” It was Thursday already! “Fuck!”Alberto screwed his eyes shut and whined. “What is happening...”“It’s Eric. He’s coming for homework. I’d completely forgotten.”“That idiot! Does he have to ring the bell like that?”“Y-yes.” In his panic, Mathias’s voice cracked. “That’s what he does. Come on, get dressed.”Alberto scowled briefly at the ceiling, but he didn’t protest, despite Mathia’s expectations. He rolled off the bed and began to put his clothes on. Mathias felt uneasy watching him do as he was told in silence, so he rushed to the intercom and yelled at Eric to stop ringing the door.“Ok, but let me in, it’s raining!”"Just stop pressing that damn button!"

Mathias raced back to his bedroom. Alberto was already dressed. He threw a look over his shoulder, his beautiful face glowing even in the absence of light, and said, “what do I do?”What do you do? What do I do? What do I do?“Mathias?” Alberto's murmur of a voice tore him from his stupid thoughts. “Where do I hide? There’s only one door.”And Mathias thought about it for a split second. What would happen if he asked him to stay… If he opened the door and let Eric in and said, that’s Alberto, you know each other, yeah we’re just hanging out, what then? What then? What a dumb question. Everything would be fucked, that's what would happen. Mathias had to be smarter than that."Come, quickly."He led Alberto to the landing, hoping to let him take the stairs, but Eric, that maniac, was already climbing them. Mathias slammed the button to call the elevator, but that thing was God knows where and wouldn’t make it on time. And all the time Alberto was too tall and too quiet. And so Mathias shamelessly pushed him into the storeroom, with the neighbour’s stroller, his bike… and the garbage chute.Right when he was closing the door on Alberto’s expressionless face, grimacing at the bitter taste filling his mouth, Eric came onto the landing in a raincoat and wearing his backpack on his chest. He went to him, his hand stretched out as if he were about to shake it, but then changed his mind and pulled Mathias close for a hug, or a kiss, who knows, since Mathias just shoved him away.“Hey.” Mathias shook himself off. That was the second time in less than a week he was tossing Alberto into the trash. How the hell would he be able to look at himself in the mirror tonight?"Hey!" Eric nudged him. “Did you notice anything weird?”His blood froze. “Like what?” Eric squinted at him. Mathias held his breath. “What?”“The intercom! Did you get it? I was trying to play Funky Town!”Mathias let out a relieved sigh. He felt a sudden rush of affection toward his friend.“You’ve watched South Park again.”“That towel really gets me!”"I don't know what that means." With a last look toward the storeroom, Mathias led Eric inside.

Art by @ohkitzinger

This is a full chapter occurring during the beginning of the novel.
There may be slight differences in the published version.
Content warning: language,mild sexual content

chapter 16

Spanish Homework

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Despite Mathias’s insistence in inviting him over for Spanish homework, Alberto would say he didn’t come here to learn a new language. And yet, that's exactly what he was doing.He was learning how to seduce Mathias, which words would earn him a frown, which ones a glare, which one a kiss. He was learning what he liked, what he hated, what oddities were making him who he was.To his delight, Mathias remained somewhat of a mystery. That was partly because he was made of nothing but contradictions. For example, the first time Alberto returned to his flat, invited through a curt text message the day after their meeting at the infirmary, he learned Mathias could only do homework while playing music and that he hated it when Alberto got too near his hi-fi.He hated the sound of Las Ketchup even more—as anyone should—but for some reason, it featured on this homemade playlist he listened to all.the.time. Alberto had learned to tense every time a track ended, hoping the next one to play would be the cursed Spanish song. If it was, then he would make sure to stand in front of the hi-fi so that Mathias would have to manhandle him to slam his hand on the “next” button.Mathias would scowl and grumble “sorry”, and Alberto would make a wounded face which would sometimes make the other flush to his ears. (There used to be a remote, but Alberto slipped it under Mathias’s mattress when he wasn’t looking, then denied ever seeing it.)Overall, their Spanish homework sessions consisted of Alberto doing real school assignments while Mathias would peer outside—with binoculars!—to prove to him their parents really knew each other. Alberto had long stopped caring about this nonsense and was spending most of his time swinging on the desk chair and imagining what Mathias looked like under his clothes. After a while, the latter would inevitably lose patience, stick the binoculars into his hands, and do his own homework.Alberto has started believing Mathias felt safer looking into the binoculars than at him, and he found it cute. Mathias didn’t find Alberto cute at all.Whatever Alberto did or said, it was always wrong.Whatever Alberto did or say, it always ended the same.Mathias would say “You’re doing it wrong!”, get pissed off, and kiss him.Mathias would say “Move!”, push him aside, then kiss him.Mathias would shout “Get out!”, change his mind, kiss him.For days, they met to do their Spanish homework. Alberto still had no idea whether or not their parents knew each other, but he knew how coarse Mathias’s carpet felt because he’d been pushed down on it twice already.He had never seen Mathias’s dick per se, but he held it enough times to know it wasn’t small. Nor was it too large. It felt just right in his hand.He knew some of Garbage’s songs by heart; Mathias favoured them beyond everything else. But Bloodhound Gang songs could bring rare smiles to his face, helping Alberto realise there might be a raunchy fourteen-year-old kid living somewhere inside this angry boy.And now he knew Mathias wanted to be a chef. Alberto once asked him about the book on his desk and learned he planned to enter an esteemed culinary school after graduating.“Are you good with your hands?” Alberto had asked.“Very,” Mathias had replied, at first oblivious to his jest. Then it hit him, and he’d shot him a black look.It didn’t matter. They ended up kissing anyway. Then Mathias had asked him, “Do you like food?”“Meh,” Alberto had replied.“As I thought…” Mathias had whispered. “Dead inside.” And then he’d recaptured his lips.Time went by and Mathias still knew nothing of him. The only other thing he ever asked him was if he was good at school. No, not really, Alberto had said. What a surprise, Mathias had replied.“What a dick.”Alberto may have let that one break free. Oops. Mathias got all mad, but then he proceeded to lay him on the bed and kiss him until his lips went numb, so it was okay.Every day, they met. Every time, they kissed. Twice, Alberto got him off. True to himself, Mathias refused to look at him while it happened, and never offered to return the favour.Four perfect days, it lasted.And then Alberto ruined it all.It was Saturday. Mathias insisted on having Alberto over when the latter told him his mother took the car to get a haircut. He was staring into the binoculars at the pavement below. He looked nervous. Feverish. In any case, he was sexy as hell. Sinewy wrists poking through rolled-up sleeves… Eyes so bright they looked like ambers… Alberto was watching him, once again tracing the outline of his body with a burning gaze, imagining how his hands would feel on him, how his eyes would look as he came. Though he was pretending to write something in his notebook, in truth he only drew a few doodles, and after a second look, they all looked like dicks.Two hours of this crap and no kiss in sight. Alberto had met people dedicated to their lies, but this one was beyond belief. He gave a loud sigh when yet another Garbage song started playing through the hi-fi speakers.“I should have known you were gay the moment I found out you liked Garbage.”Mathias didn’t bother turning around. “Think wisely about what you’re about to say next.”His eyes narrowing, Alberto tapped the tip of his pen against the sketch of a particularly large dick he’d just drawn. Mathias, Mathias, Mathias… Whenever Alberto suggested to him that he liked dick because… well… his actions somehow implied that he did, Mathias would shut down, any other expression replaced by a scowl, and he would ask Alberto to shut up, and no kiss would follow. But after so much time spent fooling around, Alberto felt a little daring, and a little too confident. He thought to himself, if only he could push him over the edge, make Mathias face it, maybe he’d get rewarded with more than kisses.“Boy… girl.. boy… girl…” He leaned toward him. “Have you made your choice?”“Shut up.” Mathias didn’t look up from the binoculars, but he didn’t sound furious. He sounded way too focused on the stupid pavement below. Alberto sucked on his own lip and stretched out his foot to rub against his shin.“Don’t!” Mathias snapped. “I’m not in the mood.”Frustrated, Alberto tossed his pencil at him. “What a gay thing to say.”Mathias caught it with one hand, his eyes glowing with anger, and threw the pencil back with twice as much force. Alberto, not bothering to defend himself, allowed the thing to slam right into his forehead. Immediately, Mathias flung his binoculars aside and kneeled by his side.“Are you okay?”Alberto felt victory close at hand. He tried to pull Mathias by the neck for a kiss, but he dodged.“Stop.”Alberto stared at him, confused. “If you really aren’t in the mood, then what the hell are we doing here?" Mathias held his gaze but didn’t answer. “All right. This is boring. I’m leaving.”Leaving his homework and his dick doodles on the desk, Alberto got up and picked up his bag. His hand was on the doorknob when Mathias called out, “Don’t.”He slowly turned around. “What?”“You… you can’t go. My sister will see you.”Ah. Mathias’s infamous sister. The whole week, Mathias had been shaking every time it was time for Alberto to leave. He would first exit the bedroom, make sure she either wasn’t home or she was safe in her room, then he would basically drag Alberto outside like the dirty mistress he was. Alberto was tempted to go knock on her door right now to see if she even existed at all, considering Mathias’s history of making stuff up. But what he really wanted to hear was “Don’t go”, and this was close enough.He sat back at the desk and put his chin in his hand, not caring that his elbow was crumpling his book report for Paquin.“You don’t want your sister to meet me?”Mathias let out a derisive laugh. “That’s right.”“Why not?”“Take a wild guess.”Alberto tried, but couldn’t understand why. The only thing he could think of was that he was worried his sister would like him too much.Alberto didn’t have to pretend like the hypocrites out there. He knew how good-looking he was, people wouldn’t shut up about it, it’s not like pretending otherwise would help his case. Girls, in particular, adored him. The more he ignored them, the more they liked him too. But he didn’t want girls. He wanted the savage little werewolf half-sitting on the chest of drawers by the window, fingers curled around his binoculars, who was scowling down at the pavement.“Don’t worry, Mathias,” he said, taunting. “I don’t mind being your little secret.”His remark was met with a glare. “You’re not. You’re nothing.”He sure knew his way around flirting. Alberto couldn’t even imagine him dating a girl with his gruff manners and the way he couldn’t help saying shut up all the time. In fact, he couldn’t imagine Mathias with a girl at all. But how his dick would feel in his mouth, that, he could imagine, and he was doing it daily. He was doing it presently while trying not to hiss at the discomfort building up inside his jeans.“Anyway…” he said. “I won’t tell if you won’t. ““You won’t?”“You think I want everybody to know about this?”Mathias was silent for a while.“Why?” he said roughly, “what’s wrong about me?”Alberto knew an opening when he saw one. For years, all sorts of people had tried all sorts of things to coax and woo him. He only had to replicate.“Nothing’s wrong about you.” He lowered his voice. “Just the way you treat me.”“The way I treat you—”“The way you push me around.”Alberto looked up, deliberately. “The fact that I want you to.”Mathias rose again, his eyes lit up. But it wasn’t with anger anymore.Alberto had won. They would do no more homework today.“You’re so weird,” Mathias said when he had him in his grasp.Alberto didn’t bother replying. He let Mathias move him across the room toward the bed, huffing and puffing, his brow wrinkled. Alberto wondered, what was he going to do this time? Put a bag over his face or something like that? But to his infinite surprise, and though the hand that touched him shook, Mathias grabbed hold of his crotch.Alberto blinked. “Hello.”Mathias’s voice lowered to a whisper. “How come you’re like that already?”“Like what?”“… Like that.” He gave a squeeze and Alberto chuckled.“Why?” Mathias insisted.“I don’t know. You’re all pissed off. It’s hot.”Mathias studied his face. “So you’re some sort of freak.”Alberto shrugged. Mathias narrowed his eyes, but thinking Alberto was a freak didn’t make him remove his hand. His other gripped the back of his head to pull him down for a kiss.Alberto really enjoyed kissing Mathias, the frantic and so sensual way their tongues intertwined, like they really craved each other. Obviously, with such stimulation, Alberto could only get harder, and just as he was about to say Hey, let’s do something about this, Mathias released him and turned his back to him. Alberto stared after him helplessly. What was he supposed to do now?“So… what do you want exactly?” he asked coldly.“Hm… Let’s see... Oh, right. I want you to shut up.”“Nice.” Alberto smoothed the sides of his kimono. “And people call me an arsehole.”Mathias ignored his jab and pointed at the desk. “Homework.”Uh-uh. Screw that. Alberto crossed his arms over his chest.“Boring.”“Then… Go to the window.”“No.”Mathias whipped around, eyes blazing, and Alberto couldn’t help snorting. Mathias grabbed his sleeve, roughly dragged him toward the window and handed him the binoculars.“Get to work.”Alberto sighed, bitterly disappointed, and only did as he was told because Mathias was really sexy when he was domineering. He was about to sit on the chair left by the window, but was stopped by his hand.“No. Stand.”“Seriously?”“Yes.”Alberto gave him a look that implied, Have you met me? Everyone knows I can’t stay upright for more than ten minutes at a time, but Mathias ruthlessly forced him to face the window.“Eyes on the street. Don’t turn around.”“What the f—“He felt Mathias’s hands on him and froze, his heart stuttering in his chest. No way, there was no way he was about to… But yes. He really was doing it. The buttons of Alberto’s trousers popped open one by one, then Mathias just yanked them down.“You’re skinny,” he said after a pause.“Of course, I am.” Alberto shivered a bit under his gaze. He used his hand to steady himself against the window and pretended to look into the binoculars at the street below, mumbling, “I don’t know what you expected.”As for him, he expected hands to touch him, pull down his briefs, maybe pinch his ass or even slap it, or Mathias to simply push him and take him against the window, he was fine with all of it, really, but he didn’t expect that nothing would happen and he’d just stand around like a fool for half a minute. Alberto started to feel really skinny now, and really frustrated. He tentatively twisted his neck to check whether Mathias looked disgusted by the sight of him, but he was snapped at.“What the fuck did I say?”Alberto sighed. “Eyes on the street.”“And?”“… Don’t turn around.”Two warm hands finally laid on his hips.“Right. See anything?”Alberto noticed he sounded a little hoarse. “Just boring, boring pedestrians.”Mathias scoffed. “The way you say pedestrian. Like it’s a crime.”“Mm.” Alberto didn’t bother saying more.Mathias’s voice came low in his ear just as his fingertips slipped into the band of his underwear. “You wanna know what I think?”As long as Mathias’s hands kept touching him, Alberto would have listened to anything he had to say, including reading the phonebook aloud.“Yes…” he murmured, and a shiver ran through him when Mathias’s hands slid into his briefs to cup his cheeks.“Sometimes, I think you’re the devil.”Alberto’s chin jerked slightly, but Mathias’s hand had found its way around his dick and he no longer wanted to talk. Though he refused to look at him and forced him to turn his back the whole time, Mathias still got him off in the same way Alberto did for him all these times.Finally, they were going somewhere.

This is a full chapter occurring at the beginning of the novel.
A short paragraph from this extract has been removed for spoilers
but will feature in the published version.

chapter 09

Spies

copyright © 2022 zelda french / All rights reserved.

Mathias knew how to bark orders, but logistics wasn’t his thing, so he was nervous when the time came to take Alberto to his residence to spy on his father. He was nervous because he’d never told that arrogant prick where they were supposed to meet and because he didn’t know how to let him know. He couldn’t exactly go and meet him in front of everyone, or they would assume they knew each other, and Mathias really didn’t want anyone to think they had some sort of relationship.It was already difficult to pretend not to know him on Saturday. When Zak came up with the idea of going to the museum and let it slip that Alberto would probably be there, Mathias accepted Eric’s panicked offer to accompany them. Luckily enough, Alberto showed up right when they’d received their tickets. Despite being sort of moved by Eric’s despair, Mathias urgently excused himself, pretending he needed a cigarette, just to talk to his mortal enemy. What else was he supposed to do? The moment he saw Alberto’s face—and he had his eye on the doors—his heart rate went up just like that.So, Mathias could only stalk Alberto again, feeling a bit shitty about it and wanting to just go home and forget about the whole thing. In the end, he waited by the library and knocked into Alberto as he was coming out of the nearby men’s room. Not only that, he forced him back inside, twisted them both around, and used his body to keep the door shut.“Seriously?” Alberto looked more irritated than shocked at finding himself slammed against another flat surface.“Sorry.” Mathias let go of him and wiped his hands on his trousers. “I didn’t have your number.”“There are other ways. Ever heard of Facebook? Instagram?”“Oh.” Mathias really hadn’t thought about that at all. In his defense, he had Facebook and Instagram because everyone else did, but he didn’t spend much time on them.“Anyway . . . ” he said, quickly making sure no one else was around. “It’s now or never.”“Okay. How—”Mathias shushed him. “We can leave together now. Eric and Zak have gone home already. So has everyone else. In fact, it’s so late, I think even Van Bergen is gone, and you, me, and the janitors are the only ones left. What the fuck were you doing in here?” He gave a subconscious look toward the blue stalls in the back. “Jerking off?”“I was just killing time, waiting for you to find me. I didn’t forget we had a thing today.”“We don’t have a thing.” Mathias noted Alberto didn’t deny jerking off at all. He shoved him aside so he could open the door, and he stretched out his hand to invite him to go first.He had lied. It wasn’t that late. He just really didn’t like waiting, especially for somebody like Alberto. People like him, they made everybody bow and scrape for them. Mathias felt nothing but contempt for such assholes, so he was almost smiling when he dragged that posh bastard into the parking lot of his building on Rousselet Street. He told Alberto not to move and to watch out for his father’s blue Toyota. Alberto looked almost . . . disappointed when he took in his surroundings and he leaned against the wall to light a cigarette without a word.The parking lot under Mathias’s building was not underground, so they could see the narrow one-way street outside while being well-concealed themselves, but it didn’t stop the place from being drafty and overall unpleasant. Ten minutes in, Alberto, an obvious lightweight, was already looking half-dead, but Mathias couldn’t know if it was because of the cold or because he was, well . . . Alberto.He’d heard all sorts of things about the guy; some people even went as far as calling him a zombie or a vampire. Mathias slipped him furtive looks here and there, and all he saw was a privileged brat who acted bored with life. However, as time went on, and despite Mathias’s expectations, he’d yet to complain. He kept to himself, seemingly uninterested in talking to him. Mathias didn’t like having him standing at his back so much, but he also didn’t want to be the one starting a conversation, so he kept his eye on the road, hoping his dad or Alberto’s mum would show up sooner rather than later.When Alberto finally spoke after the thirty-minute mark, he had been so quiet this whole time that Mathias’s entire body jerked forward when he felt his breath upon his ear. “Should I have worn a trench coat like in the movies?”Mathias glared at him. “Excuse you?”He didn’t appreciate the way Alberto had suddenly appeared behind him. Worse, he leaned into his personal space, his voice lowering to a whisper, “Have you done this before?”“What?”“Playing detectives. Spying on your own dad.”“No, of course not.” Mathias wasn’t a psychopath. The circumstances were complicated. However, why should he explain it to this guy? “Look, I just have to do it.” He had almost said “we,” but he didn’t like the sound of it at all.That asshole snorted quietly, but he retreated at least.Mathias observed him from head to toe, his mouth twisted. “We’re not here to fuck around. This is serious!”“Fine, fine.”Alberto yawned at length and leaned back against the wall, his arms folded over his chest. Mathias felt irritated, but he couldn’t pinpoint the reason why. All he knew was that with each of Alberto’s yawns, he felt an irrepressible need to gnash his teeth.Approximately fifteen minutes and three hundred yawns later, just as Mathias was about to lose his temper, Alberto opened his mouth again.“Serious’s not the word I’d use to describe this. Boring. Boring’s the word.”Mathias wanted to choke him. “Could you shut up? Do you really think I want to be stuck here with you?”Alberto glanced at him with indifference. Mathias expected him to ask why, so he was thrown off by his apparent lack of curiosity. Just like Eric and the others had warned, it was like staring at a blank canvas.“So, what’s your deal?” Mathias asked in a sharp tone. “Hm? Why are you so fucking weird?”Alberto’s cold gaze didn’t flinch, but his lips remained closed.“You’re not gonna answer me?”“What’s the point?” He threw a vague look at the line of passing cars. Mathias stared at the side of his face with growing listlessness.“Great talking to you.”“I know. Aren’t I just a treat?”“And you talk weird.” Mathias shoved his hands in his pockets. His gaze slipped back to the road, only for his heart to stop when he thought he’d spotted his father’s car, but this one kept driving without slowing down.Mathias shivered. It was starting to get cold out here. “Why does it look like you don’t care about my dad and your mom being together?”“Maybe because I don’t?”“Really? You expect me to believe that?”“I don’t expect you to believe anything, honestly.”Fuck. He was infuriating. He was the most freakishly annoying bastard on the planet, and he had to be the one Mathias had no choice but to get stuck with, because for once, his dad decided to take action in his life, and it had to be this.Fuck, fuck, fuck!Alberto acted like a conversation with Mathias was beneath him. Like standing next to him was beneath him. Even like moving and breathing near him was beneath him. And yet, they were both here. Together. The most unlikely pair.“Guess we should call it a night,” Mathias muttered.“Oh?”“Yep. I have to be somewhere.” If he didn’t get his ass to the boxing gym soon, Mathias wasn’t sure his hands wouldn’t end up on this guy. He knew the signs. He had to be smart. “Wait here a second. I’ve got to get my bag upstairs. Keep an eye on the road. Remember, it’s a blue Toyota. My dad, my dad looks like—”“I’m only here to check if my mother will show up. I know how to recognise my own mother, thanks.”Asshole. Mathias’s hands balled into fists in his pockets. His heart pounding in his ears, he went upstairs to get his boxing gloves and his duffel bag.He’d never been very good at analyzing his own feelings. To him, they came and went in waves of colors. Blue when he couldn’t hold back his tears, red when he was choked up by rage, yellow when Eric laughed at one of his own jokes. Around Alberto, he felt different. Everything blurred, and nothing made sense. He could feel the rage, see it swirl around, red and hot like magma in his gut, in his lungs. But it wasn’t just that. He was murky waters, he was black, he was gray. He felt completely unknown.He couldn’t possibly be afraid of that prick, so why was he feeling so unsettled every time they were near each other? Mathias had first attributed it to the fact that he knew his hands were capable of punching any idiot in the vicinity, and Alberto was obviously very punchable. Then, just as he rode the elevator back downstairs, he finally understood. He was envious of him. Of his ability not to feel. That was it. Envy. Not great, but nothing to panic over. Anyway, in a week or two, they’d never see each other again.In the parking lot, Alberto was staring at the buzzing light overhead and not at the road at all. Mathias could safely say he had never met anyone who appeared so useless in his entire life.“Seen anything?”He had to ask twice because Alberto didn’t even notice him the first time.“Ah? No. Nothing.”Mathias sighed and put the gloves down. Alberto glanced down at them then back at him.“You’re a boxer.”Mathias shrugged. “I’m not very good at it. I just like to punch things.”Alberto turned his back to the road and came closer. “Really . . . ?” He bent down to brush a finger along the curve of a shiny red glove. “Do you like punching people?”“I said things. Not people.”“But isn’t boxing about punching people in the face?”“I guess, but they’re not like . . . innocent people.”Alberto blinked slowly. “You’ve never wanted to punch innocent people?”“What?”“Never thought of strangling a puppy or drowning a kitten?”Mathias’s eyes widened. “What the fuck?!”Alberto backed away with a lazy flick of his wrist. “Nothing, nothing.”Of course Mathias couldn’t drop it. “What the fuck are you saying? Do you do this sort of thing?”“Me? I’ve never hurt a fly.”The lack of expression on his face made Mathias doubt that statement very much.“Sure.”“Promise.” Alberto crossed his fingers and frowned at them before hiding them in his pocket.“Eric’s right,” Mathias said slowly. “There’s something wrong with you.”Another car was approaching, so Mathias went to check it out. He heard Alberto’s mocking voice behind him.“So that’s it, then. I agree, it’s smart to take Eric’s word for everything. He’s known to be the wisest guy ever.”Mathias didn’t bother turning around. “He’s not dumb.”“He’s not smart.”Now he did turn around, his teeth gritted. “Don’t you hang out with fucking Xavier?”Something flashed in Alberto’s eyes. “First, no, I don’t. Second, how would you know who I hang out with?”“Pfft.” Mathias returned his attention to the road, but the car was gone. It hadn’t looked like a Jaguar or a Toyota anyway. “Only because Zak obsesses about it.”“Really? Cute.” Alberto made a sound that vaguely resembled a laugh, his gaze softening for a second. “What? Why are you looking at me like that?”Mathias sneered. “Looking at you just pisses me off. I don’t know why.”“Don’t look at me, then.”As if it were that easy.It wasn’t. In fact, it was impossible not to look at him. Mathias knew he wasn’t sophisticated, not into finer things, not at all like the people Alberto most likely hung out with, but he could recognize when someone was unusually good-looking.This guy really had it all. His giant of a mum and her sleek Jaguar, they probably lived in a castle somewhere that Mathias imagined was like The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Alberto was tall and rich, and he looked like this, and yet, it seemed he felt not even one ounce of gratitude. Even accusing his mom of being a cheater didn’t bother him in the slightest. It was unbearable. It made Mathias want to grab him and shake him. In fact, if he didn’t leave now . . .“Will you fuck off now?” Mathias asked abruptly.“Oh . . . ” Alberto looked around in confusion. “Are we done?”“Yes.” Mathias pushed him aside to pick up his bags and his gloves. “I have punching bags to deal with. Unless you want to replace one of them.”He could have sworn Alberto looked tempted. Mathias bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself from making any comments.Alberto picked up the gloves before he could and handed them over. “So, how long do we have to do this?”“Until we catch them together.” Mathias hoisted his bag over his shoulder. “We finish school at the same times on Tuesdays and Thursdays.”“How do you know?”Shh, I’m talking. Let’s just meet here next Tuesday.” He noticed Alberto’s frown and added, “We don’t have school this Thursday, remember?”“We don’t?”“No. We have a four-day weekend. How can you not know?”“I’d forgotten.”Mathias took a deep breath. “Meet me here next Tuesday. Don’t let anyone see you. And hey! Wait.” He waited for Alberto to turn back. “You can’t tell anyone we . . . we know each other.”“Oh.” Alberto arched an eyebrow. “Are you . . . embarrassed of me?”“Fuck yeah, I’m embarrassed of you.”“Is it because of Eric?”Mathias didn’t see the need to answer. Alberto snorted loudly, and Mathias’s hands grew still in the pockets of his hoodie.“What’s so funny?” he mumbled, vexed.“You. You make it sound like I’m your dirty little secret.”And before Mathias could hurl insults at him, Alberto had disappeared into the night.

He Looks So Fine: Part Two

After spending the Christmas holidays together, Mathias and Alberto return to school disenchanted, and convinced of the other’s indifference. When they both find themselves in detention, they decide to skip school together, consequences be damned. But as they are inexorably pulled toward each other, their personal demons are working their hardest to keep them apart. For good.Is love even enough?RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 12, 2024ARC readers will receive the book weeks before this date.You can pre-order the book here in ebook format (more retailers to come soon).Paperbacks for the International Edition will be available for pre-order in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the classic edition will not be available for pre-order.Art: @broonarte

Teasers

Watch out for slighty NSFW content and strong language.