Brian and Hugo both returned from their respective trips on Christmas Eve, but Brian got home very late, so Hugo couldn’t see him until the evening of the twenty-sixth, when Mary was sleeping over at Erin’s house.

“So how was Disneyland?” he asked as they walked towards the woods.

“Awesome,” said Brian in a tone that clearly said you should be jealous of me. “The rides were amazing. And Mickey Mouse was just walking around. I’ve gotta admit, I’m an insane Mickey Mouse fanboy. I met this really sweet girl there, too.”

Damn. “What was her name?” asked Hugo.

“Buffy Summers. She lives in L.A.”

“That’s a bit long-distance, isn’t it?” Oh, god. Had he said that out loud Hugo had sworn to himself that he wouldn’t try to disrupt any relationship Brian got into, even if it was with someone like Erin. And now Brian had met a girl who was probably much nicer than Erin, and here he was trying to undermine his relationship.

“What?” Brian actually laughed. “Dude, she’s eleven. No romance there, buddy.”

“Oh.” Hugo began to laugh as well, more relieved that he’d like to admit.

“Aaaand,” said Brian after they’d finished laughing and sat down on opposite sides of a large root, “I got you a souvenir.” He handed Hugo a small package. Being a sucker for presents, Hugo ripped open the packaging to find a tiny model of Mowgli and Bhalu.

“You said you liked the Jungle Book,” Brian said.

“It’s awesome!” said Hugo, grinning widely. “I got you a present too,” he said, handing Brian the bag he’d been holding.

Brian took the bag and pulled out the gift inside-a Christmas ornament in the shape of a golden, four-pointed star.

“A Christmas ornament? Isn’t it a bit late?” asked Brian.

“It’s not just an ornament,” Hugo explained. “It’s… it’s supposed to be the Unreachable Star.”

“Ohhhhh.” Brian’s entire face lit up with understanding and sudden joy. “Wow. That’s got to be the best present ever. Thank you!” He leaned over and gave Hugo a hug.

They sat together in silence for a few minutes, both admiring their presents. Brian couldn’t help but admit that Hugo was one of the most amazing people he’d ever met for thinking of such a great gift. Hugo was just amazed that Brian had been thinking of him at all on his vacation.

“Can I be completely honest with you?” he asked after a while.

“Of course,” replied Brian, a bit concerned. Did Hugo think he couldn’t trust him? He really hoped not.

Please don’t hate me for this, Hugo thought. He took a deep breath and then finally said, “I kinda like you.” He winced once the words had left his mouth. Why had he said anything? It would probably just hurt their friendship. God, he was an idiot.

“Uh… I like you too. You’re my best friend,” said Brian. That had to be what Hugo had meant. Because there was no way he could have meant anything else.

“No…” Now that Hugo had begun down the path to misery, he wanted it over quick. “I mean I, y’know… like you. Not just as a friend.”

Brian blinked a few times. “Oh,” he said. That was all he could get out for the moment. He thought about all the times Hugo had helped him with homework, or invited him to hang out after school or Youth Group. He supposed that probably made more sense now. Then he thought about how Hugo always put up with his musical rants, how he had been the first to welcome him into the town. How he’d understood Brian, even after knowing him for only a few months, well enough to get him the most perfect Christmas present ever.

Brian had never imagined himself as part of a couple. He had always been too busy imagining himself as part of the Initiative.

But right now, being part of a couple didn’t seem too bad. Having someone to share his life with actually sounded pretty nice.

And if there was anyone with whom he wanted to share the rest of his life, it was the nervous but hopeful-looking boy sitting across from him right now.

“I think I kinda like you too,” he said. “In fact, I think I kinda love you.”

“Y-you do?” asked Hugo, who had clearly not expected this.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Brian.

And then he kissed him.


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