One early evening they crouched together in a parking lot sharing a bottle of Jaegermeister half-concealed in a brown paper bag; Kyle would always remember this. It was November and although it had snowed only a week before, that evening was unseasonably warm, as if the dying light had given one last pretense of summer before the long winter nights. Kyle slouched bonelessly against his beaten-up '88 Accord watching the stars re-assert their presence in the darkening sky as the lights in the football stadium went out; stars always reminded him of childhood and nights around campfires. He whistled a raunchy summer camp tune and did not hear the pine needles crunching under Jared's boots. Jared was not subtle in his approach, but Kyle was lost in wistful reverie and was half-startled by a brusque and sudden, "hey".

Kyle awkwardly turned to face him and was taken aback by the dusky beauty of this man he barely knew in the half-light. Self-consciously he slipped his now moist palms into the pockets of his jeans and choked out a half-hearted, "hey", in response. Jared grinned lazily, his full lips glistening in the light of the gibbous moon, "tough night, huh? You never seem too phased by all the shit that goes on here. I gotta hand it to you. You must really love your job."

Kyle mutely nodded assent, not entirely sure what he was agreeing with. He pushed his slightly unkempt black hair off of his forehead and smiled wanly. There was a heavy moment of silence between the two, and Kyle felt as if the air was pulsing and swelling into something inflexible, something ready to shatter at the slightest touch. There was, for Kyle, an unbearable moment of desire and indecision where the urge to kiss Jared and the urge to run warred within him. Unnoticed by Jared, he began to bite his lower lip. Finally he broke the quiet with an almost shrill, "You work on the West Unit? I'd think the bigger kids would be harder to deal with."

Drawn back into something familiar to him, Jared grunted, "You'd think so? But your little kids are worse. You can't tell if they're gonna hug you or bite you. The West boys may be big on macho displays, but at least they're understandable. North boys are weird."

Kyle sighed deeply, although it was not because of the vagaries of at-risk boys, in the moonlight, Jared's shadow had weight. Rubbing his sweaty palms into the fabric of his jeans, he replied, "Yeah, but when I break up a fight on my unit, I don't have to worry about getting hurt."

Jared grinned at this, "I don't break up fights on my unit, we move in after they've finished."

For some reason they both laughed at this far more than it warranted, laughed until they were both breathless then slouched together by the passenger door of Kyle's burgundy Accord. They were close enough that they could feel one another's body heat, almost touching. Jared's voice became low and almost tender as he fumbled in his army surplus backpack and produced a rumpled paper bag, "Hey, it's been a rough day. I got a bottle of jaeger, wanna share?"

There was something seductive about drinking alcohol on grounds, something about the rush of doing something so forbidden with a willing co-conspirator. Then too, there was something forbidden about the earthy scent of Jared; he smelled of sweat, designer cologne and the peppermint on his breath. Kyle found that he did not want to refuse, and all too eagerly agreed.

Jared opened the cap and offered the first sip to Kyle. Kyle rarely drank and was taken aback by the licorice flavor and the burn to the back of his throat. He did not know if he wanted more, but he wanted desperately to prolong this moment. He handed the bottle to Jared who threw back his head and swigged greedily, Kyle longingly noticed the solitary drop of liquor that languidly spilled down Jared's neck. Their hands touched as Jared passed the bottle to Kyle, who nearly dropped it in surprise.

They didn't talk much after that moment, they didn't need to. There was liquor and inarticulate desire, words would have only made things awkward and unnatural. Later that evening they fucked in the living room of Kyle's small untidy apartment. It was desperate and bordered on the violent, Kyle's mouth felt swollen and bruised when he awoke the next morning on the living room floor. Kyle would always associate the bitter aftertaste of black licorice with unrequited love.

For the next week at work Jared would not meet his eyes, and hurried on to other tasks when they encountered each other by chance. A month later, Jared took a job across the city. Kyle only saw him once more after, going opposite directions on an escalator in a shopping mall. Jared was holding hands with a lovely blond woman with a carefree air. He did not acknowledge Kyle, nor did he look back at the confused man-boy with the black, slightly unkempt hair. As he descended into the mall's parking lot, Kyle thought he could smell licorice wafting faintly through the climate-controled air.

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