The Companion

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Giovanni tilted his head to try to read the title of the dark leather bound book, but was distracted by the elegance of the man’s fingers.

The delicate way he cradled the book in his hands.

Only after carefully studying the man’s hands, trying to understand why they captivated him so, did he realize the man was watching him as well. In a quiet intense way that made Giovanni feel as if he was being thoroughly seen, in a way he never had been before. The man had dark lashes surrounding deep brown eyes, but ‘brown’ wasn’t accurate enough a word to describe the shades of hazel and gold in his gaze. His eyes were simply beautiful.

He was beautiful.

There was something about him, maybe it was his sharp jawline and dark brows that made him look so serious and regal. Or his gentle, graceful movements as he moved throughout the library. Perhaps the divet between his collarbones that peeked out of the collar of his sweater. The way his lips looked perfect for small, soft smiles. Something indescribable made him the most beautiful man Giovanni had ever seen.

He could feel the flush on his cheeks as the man looked at him and nodded a shy, awkward greeting before ducking behind a bookshelf. His heart seemed to be throwing itself against his rib cage.

He thought it was the most wonderful feeling.

________________________________________

The next time Giovanni was in the library he looked for the man. Looked for the curly dark hair and round tortoiseshell glasses that he only vaguely remembered, most of his attention having been fixed on the man’s hands. He found him in a far corner of the library.

Tucked away between the historical non fiction and autobiographies, he was running his slender fingers over the books as if they were old friends. It took Giovanni five whole minutes after seeing that strangely beautiful sight to work up the nerve to enter the same aisle. The man looked at him for a moment but said nothing. Another five minutes and Giovanni turned to him and uttered a very quiet, even shaky, “Hello.” The man simply stared at him with the same intense focus as before as he nodded. No return hello, no smile, no change in his placid expression on his subtly handsome face. Just a slight curiosity in the depths of his eyes.

But it was enough for Giovanni.

________________________________________

Giovanni went through a process every time they met in the library.

Taking his time to calm his nerves enough to manage a hello. Maybe a few sentences on a good day. And the man, who on their sixth meeting Giovanni had been counting revealed his name was Henry, would more often than not stay silent, reserved, and simply listen. When he did speak, Henry’s voice was low and his words were slow coming. He seemed to measure every word before he spoke. Giovanni liked his thoughtfulness.

He treasured Henry’s rare words.

He tucked them away, deep in his mind where they would be safe. He poured over them again and again when he lay in bed at night. Thinking of Henry.

The dark made Henry’s words seem to glow in the moonlight streaming through Giovanni’s windows.

________________________________________

It was simply a miracle of fate, or so Giovanni thought, that one day they happened to bump into each other on the way out of the library after their eighth meeting. Giovanni wondered if he could count this as their ninth meeting even though it was on the same day.

Henry had straightened his jacket and nodded to Giovanni, and didn’t offer güvenilir bahis a complaint when Giovanni caught up to walk beside him for a few blocks. After his customary few moments needed to gather his courage, of course. Never mind that Giovanni lived in the opposite direction, he could find a bus back to his apartment.

The butterflies in his stomach from walking with Henry made him feel almost light headed but he found it to be a good kind of feeling.

They walked in silence for a few minutes before Giovanni thought he noticed tension gathering in Henry’s shoulders. It was then Giovanni realized perhaps, even though he simply wanted to spend more time with Henry, it was too forward of him to walk Henry home. He mumbled something about a forgotten appointment, wished Henry a quiet ‘good day,’ and turned to head home.

He walked so fast, trying to escape the embarrassment of his overzealousness, that he almost didn’t hear Henry’s soft,

“Thank you.”

His heart was pounding all the way home.

________________________________________

On their fourteenth meeting Henry smiled at Giovanni.

It was a small upturning of the corners of his mouth, but to Giovanni it was the most sincere and warmest smile.

All because Giovanni had remembered the book Henry had been reading the last time they’d met at the library. He only remembered because that day their chairs had been closer together than usual and Giovanni hadn’t been able to look away from Henry, taking in everything about him. From the gentle slope of his neck as it met his shoulders to the book in his hands.

Giovanni wondered what it would be like to have Henry hold his hand in the same delicate way he held the copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra.

________________________________________

It was their twenty second meeting that Giovanni finally worked up the nerve to ask Henry if he would like to go out for a cup of coffee.

Henry had gone completely still.

His voice was hard and defensive as he looked Giovanni straight in the eyes and said, quite clearly so there would be no mistake,

“No.”

Giovanni felt his heart clench painfully at the instant rejection, in fact it felt like suddenly there was no air to breathe. Icy fingers seemed to grab hold of his lungs as his mind ran through about all the possible reasons that caused Henry to say no.

But he only nodded.

He could be happy with their little meetings in the library.

Henry stayed tense for the entirety of time Giovanni remained and eventually Giovanni said goodbye, leaving the library so Henry could read in peace.

He didn’t want to ruin whatever fragile bond they had over a cup of coffee and his own quiet fantasies of intimacy beyond the library walls.

________________________________________

Giovanni didn’t talk much, if at all, the next few weeks as they met in their same corner of the library. The air was tense between them where before it had been almost intimate, comfortable, and Giovanni just prayed he hadn’t messed things up to badly with his foolishness.

It was Henry who decided to speak first.

“I don’t feel desire, I don’t crave physical intimacy. At all.”

He spoke slowly and carefully like he always did then flinched, as if expecting Giovanni to rage and lash out.

Giovanni thought over the statement quietly, not sure what to feel. What to think. Had he thought about being intimate with Henry? Yes. Had it given him an elevated heart rate caused by slight panic? Yes. But türkçe bahis Henry didn’t want intimacy at all.

“I don’t understand.” Was the best he could come up with.

Henry seemed to relax, only slightly, at the calmly spoken question. Seemingly still expecting a more aggressive and negative response from Giovanni. But eventually he spoke in that slow, thoughtful way of his.

“My body. I don’t want to share it with anyone. It is mine. I don’t feel comfortable sharing something so personal.” His face was thoughtful, with a little crease between his brows that always appeared when he was discussing something he found difficult to put into words. “I don’t want to give my body to anyone. I just don’t.”

Giovanni took it all in, his mind going quickly from one thought to another discarding comment after comment when he judged them too rude or too ignorant sounding. He wanted to ask so many questions, to clear up the confusion he felt when he tried to grapple with what Henry had told him. But he didn’t think it would be appropriate at the time. Eventually he settled on what he hoped was the least offensive statement running through his mind.

“I won’t ask you to share your body. But I would like to be close to you. Is that alright?”

Henry watched him warily. It made Giovanni’s heart ache to imagine what could have made Henry so afraid to share this part of himself. But he waited, letting Henry think over his answer for as long as he liked.

“Yes. It’s alright.”

And they left it at that, both wanting to say more but not knowing how. Questions hanging between them making the silence heavy.

________________________________________

Giovanni remained the same quiet reading partner he had always been.

He took time when he was at home to do research on people like Henry, asexuals, and tried to understand.

All he wanted was to be close to Henry.

He would respect whatever boundaries Henry needed no matter how much he might want more. He didn’t need access to his body for that, a realization he came to as he reviewed their conversation, again, at 4 a.m. in the morning as he lay awake. Restless as his mind refused to let the idea rest. It simply kept repeating in his head over and over until he couldn’t deny the truth of it.

He didn’t need sex.

He just needed Henry.

________________________________________

Bit by bit when he realized Giovanni wouldn’t suddenly attack him and demand sex, would never demand anything of him, Henry eventually relaxed.

Henry started to smile more, talk more.

He seemed to let Giovanni in past the high walls of his usual reserved behavior and let him see what was inside.

He explained all the failed relationships, ‘No one wanted to try to understand,’ he had said in a quiet voice. All the bitter partings that always followed him explaining his lack of interest in sex.

“They thought I didn’t care.”

And worst of all, the one person he had found that he thought understood one day had a fit. Saying Henry was a tease for wanting the occasional kiss and for not realizing how tempting some of his actions were. Giovanni silently agreed that Henry was tempting, Giovanni was constantly tempted to pick Henry up and hold him close, breathe him in, but he couldn’t agree with the idea that it was somehow a fault of his. Henry told Giovanni the way he could feel his heart breaking as his partner threw him out and refused to speak to him again. Giovanni felt such a strong need to comfort Henry as a loss güvenilir bahis siteleri and hurt filled his big brown eyes that he could ignore the nerves that seemed to be his constant companions, and laid a hand over Henry’s silently. Letting him take as much time as he needed to remember that it was in the past.

Giovanni silently vowed to himself he would never allow another person to put that look on Henry’s face ever again.

And still Giovanni stayed, after every story that Henry told him he would remind his friend he had been bold enough to ask Henry if he could call him that and had never felt more happy when Henry had agreed that he was content with just his company. The occasional brushing of hands when they exchanged books.

Just being his companion was enough.

________________________________________

On their fifty-third meeting, exactly three months after they first met, yes Giovanni still counted, Henry rested his hand on Giovanni’s thigh and leaned in to kiss his cheek.

Giovanni was struck dumb.

He could feel the softness of Henry’s lips on his skin and he was sure his face was bright red.

Henry simply went back to reading with a pleased little smile on his lips, finally trusting that Giovanni would never push him for more than he was ready. Giovanni was beyond happy. His heart swelled with love for this man who had become so dear to him in such a short time, just from little things that wormed their way into Giovanni’s affections. Like the adorable way Henry would frown when he disagreed with something he read and the way his eyes would light up every time he had a new recommendation for Giovanni.

Giovanni had realized he was in love with his friend on their thirty-seventh meeting after Henry’s usual, ‘hello, my friend,’ had made Giovanni yearn to hear that phrases for the rest of his life. And now he knew he also would die a happy man if he got to be kissed, so sweetly, by Henry every day until he stopped breathing. It was a deep need to be around this man that made him realize the heaviness of his heart was an amount of love he had never thought himself capable of.

But still, the way his heart was pounding from the chaste kiss would take some time to get used to.

And they continued like that for months, eventually meeting outside the library. Going to the park to watch the birds in companionable silence. Sitting in coffee shops speaking in low intimate tones about whatever book had caught their interest.

One day, in their corner of the library, Henry set down his book and turned his chair so he was facing Giovanni straight on. His serious, handsome face was sincere as he spoke.

“You can have this.” Henry pointed to the center of his chest, towards the heart of everything he was Giovanni thought. His heart. His soul. “You can’t have my body but this I offer to you, my companion.”

Giovanni only nodded, laid his hand over Henry’s and murmured a barely audible but heartfelt thank you. It was the most beautiful moment Giovanni had ever known.

Giovanni thought finally, he had found his life companion.

________________________________________

It wasn’t until they had been living together for years, as close as two people could be, that Henry kissed Giovanni on the lips.

It was Giovanni’s thirty fifth birthday, and their one hundred and fifth visit to their library.

Later that day Giovanni proposed to Henry. When Henry had whispered in a voice laden with unspoken words of affection, ‘yes,’ Giovanni stopped counting their meetings.

It was only logical, he thought. After all, they would have the rest of their lives. It made much more sense to Giovanni to start counting something else.

Like the first time he said ‘I love you.’

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