This time, Michael lifted his head, met Robert’s eyes, and spoke clearly. “I’m in love with you.” 

Robert was on his feet before he’d even processed the words. It seemed suddenly very important to have space between him and Michael. As much space as possible. 

“You’re what?” 

He hadn’t meant to shout. 

“That’s not funny,” Robert added, trying to modulate his voice. 

“It’s not a joke. I’m in—” 

“Don’t you say that again. You will never say that again.” 

Michael paled. “I know you probably… I know you don’t feel the same way, that you couldn’t…”

All at once, with a force that nearly swept him off his feet, Robert was flooded by a rush of memories: Michael’s hand on his shoulder. Michael’s arms around him in an embrace. Michael wrestling with him. Michael gently adjusting his grip on a sword. Michael lying in bed a few feet away from him, night after night. Michael stripping down, taking his hand, pulling him into Lake Lyn. Michael, chest bare, hair soaked, eyes shining, lying in the grass beside him.