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Purple hadn't always been Howie's favorite color. He'd gone through a rather horrendous phase in middle school wherein all his notebooks had needed to be neon colors. Through most of high school, he'd been seriously into green.

Howie remembered the date he had started thinking of purple as his favorite color, never to switch again. August 22, 1993. His twentieth birthday.

Brian had picked Kevin and Howie up from work and treated them to snow-cones because it was well over a hundred degrees outside, and flavored ice was cheaper than ice cream. Howie had gotten back to the apartment to find a small pile of presents on the table, his mom's Mole in the stove and a few select people all looking very ready for a birthday party. Brian had grinned like he'd thought up the solution to poverty, "Happy Birthday, D!"

It had not gone unnoticed by the guys that Brian enjoyed birthdays -- his own, and everyone else's. Howie had thought that he should have suspected something more than a night off was being planned when Brian had confided, "Um, just so you know, Kevin's really bad at gift-giving." Howie hadn't said a thing about expecting presents, not even that he didn't want any.

The Mole had been devoured by the five boys, John, Caroline, Angie and Polly, while Hoke and Paula ate slowly and politely, looking on in amusement. Denise had sent chocolate cupcakes that could have been sold on the black market in place of heroin. Brian had lit a candle in the shape of the number twenty on top of one of them and the guys had promptly harmonized 'Happy Birthday' for Howie. John had done his very best to ruin it.

AJ had threatened to open all of Howie's presents for him if the birthday boy didn’t get on top of it right that very moment. Howie had acceded to AJ's demands. There hadn't been anything particularly special, a few CDs that Howie had mentioned wanting, a set of pots and pans from Angie, who was tired of having to ask the people next door for cookware every time she wanted to make something for her brother and his roommates and an easy-travel sewing kit from Brian, who was the only one of the guys whose masculinity wasn't threatened by Howie's somewhat odd choice of hobbies.

Kevin's gift had ended up being last by random luck; Howie had started at the top of the pile, working his way down. The gift had been in a department store box, unwrapped. Kevin had commented, "Hey, I took the time to tape it shut."

Howie had opened his Swiss Army pocket knife and cut each piece of tape. "My appreciation of your effort will last me a lifetime, I'm sure." Howie had tossed the top of the box aside and gasped.

The room had gone silent for a moment before AJ had interrupted it, "If it's not inappropriate to be shown in front of the 'rents, you've got people waiting here, Dorough."

Howie had held up the halter top, its deep purple velvet seemingly rippling in the low-lighting of the apartment. Brian had been impressed, "You done good, Kev."

Kevin had shrugged. "Thought of D when I saw it's all."

Howie had rubbed the velvet lightly against his cheek, whispered, "It's perfect," and changed his favorite color.


Kevin got sick for the first time in four years as they were pulling into Calgary. It was just a cough at first, and Brian had eyed him with concern, "You feelin' alright?"

Kevin had mumbled something about 'needed rest' before another cough got in the way of his answer.

Nick, whose maternal instincts seemed to exist because nobody else in his family had any, hustled Kevin into bed and left to go purchase tea. He made Kevin promise not to leave bed. Kevin was choosy about who he kept his promises to, but Nick was at the top of the list, since all the guys were big on having Nick realize that some people could be trusted, even if most couldn't. Nick tried not to take advantage of this on a regular basis; he read comic books, he knew all about using power for good.

Howie poked his head in Kevin's door after seeing Nick bustle down the hallway toward the stairs. "Sleeping?"

Kevin motioned for Howie to come in. "Which one of you let me stand out on the autobahn and allow several large automobiles to run me down?"

"You told us you were only going to stand in front of those tiny cars, we believed you. We won't make the same mistake again," Howie assured him.

"Can you stay in here tonight? I want Nick to get some sleep before the show tomorrow and he won't unless he's sure someone's here to take care of me." Kevin just barely managed to finish the sentence before breaking off to cough violently. Howie rubbed Kevin's back in a circular pattern, not saying a word. When the coughing let up, Howie positioned Kevin so that he was leaning back against the pillows, still sitting up. Howie walked to the bathroom and ran the hot water, getting a hand towel wet and wringing it out. He called to Kevin, "Take off your shirt."

Kevin was shirtless when Howie stepped back into the room. Howie placed the damp towel over Kevin's chest, holding it there and waiting for the heat to loosen up the congestion underneath the skin's protective layer.

Nick came back with tea and lemon slices. He mothered Kevin for about an hour before being sent off to bed. Howie stayed, as he said he would, applying the towel again. He woke up, time and again, to the sound of Kevin unable to breath and helped him through it, sitting him up, reminding him to suck air in and let it out. By four in the morning they were both exhausted. Kevin was sleeping again, his breathing wet and sickeningly loud.

Howie dozed for a bit before getting up and splashing cold water over his face. He picked up the random items scattered about the floor and packed them into the appropriate bags. Eventually, he came across the shirt Kevin had been wearing the night before. After a moment, Howie slipped it into a side pocket of his own bag.

Kevin mentioned something about the shirt being missing a few days later. Brian blamed it on the laundry service they had used at the hotel and nothing more was said on the subject.


Neither Howie nor Kevin felt all that confident in their roles as the oldest members. Howie thought Kevin put on a better face than he did, that maybe Kevin actually enjoyed it more, but inside, they were both used to being the youngest. Howie knew this, knew that it was unfair that he should be allowed to go to Kevin as an older brother, but not be able to return that support in the case of Kevin needing it.

Howie wasn't always good with approaching a problem head on, though, so he tended to go to Kevin when he sensed Kevin faltering. It mostly happened on significant days, like the anniversary of Kevin's father's death, but sometimes, it took something as small as Nick being a whiny teenager to spark it.

It flared up at the beginning of the week that they were scheduled to be in France. Howie could tell by the way Kevin's hands were constantly balled inside his pockets, his accent growing sharper by the second.

Howie knocked on Kevin's door the second night into the week. Kevin answered, calling up a smile, "Need something?"

Howie walked into the room. "I was thinking you might."

Kevin walked to the TV, turning it off. "Um, no."

"Drink? Girl?"

Kevin shook his head, puzzled.


Kevin's eyebrows went up fractionally.

Howie rolled his eyes. "I'm observant. And you look, even if you don't touch."

"Fine, what is this about?"

"Nick's driving you up the wall with his angst, AJ and you are at each other's throats about every issue from the way the toilet paper should be loaded to what t-shirts are appropriate for fan consumption and Brian is homesick and of no help to anyone."

"I know all this."

"Then let me… Be your friend, I guess."

"You…are my friend."

"No, I'm one of your brood."

"I'm responsible for you, that's all."

"I'm well past able to take care of myself, Kevin."

"I know-"

"You don't know. If you did, you'd get whatever's on your mind out to me and we'd pretend like we were equal."

Kevin opened his mouth, let it hang open for a second, then shut it. "I'm sorry. I…didn't know I was treating you that way."

Howie wasn't one to beat a dead horse. "Talk to me, then?"

Kevin sat down on the bed. "How long've you got?"

Howie took the other side of the bed. "All night."

In the morning, housekeeping was left to wonder who would want to steal a single pillowcase.


It was about an hour into one of the endless award shows they'd had to go to that Howie gave up trying to pay attention and began going over multiplication tables in his mind to keep himself awake. The awards show was done Golden Globes style, with them all sitting at tables and having been served dinner before. Howie had taken in three cups of regular coffee so far. His heart was beating at twice its natural speed, but his brain still wanted to shut down.

Kevin was the first to catch his bandmate's glazed expression. He jostled Howie's leg lightly under the table. Howie turned his eyes slowly to see who had bothered him. His expression didn't change when he saw it was Kevin and Kevin held a hand over his mouth to cut off a laugh at how out-of-it Howie appeared. "Naming all the presidents in order?"

Howie smiled. "I was at seven times twenty-three when you interrupted."

"Ah, another classic."

"Are we even up for anything, or did we come to the wrong awards show?"

"There's a possibility that this is a see and be seen function."

"Just when I had managed to convince myself that our looks weren't the only things that mattered to our career. Again."

Kevin winced. "I hear you. We have a show tomorrow night, though."

Howie would have twirled his finger slowly in the air if he hadn't been trained into hyper-awareness of who and what was around him. Kevin caught the barely muted silent sarcasm on Howie's face. "Well, it's better than this."

It was too, but nearly two years of touring had somewhat dampened everyone's enthusiasm. "I know, I don’t think I would mind it so much if we changed stuff up a bit."

"I'm working on it, I've been talking to people, seeing what can be done."

Howie admired the way Kevin always seemed to be on top of issues before most other people were even aware they existed. "That'll be nice."

Kevin nodded slightly, but the agreement behind the action was fervent. "You wanna go out after this? I think I got Brian to agree. He can drink here, so I thought we'd hit that place Dan was telling me about."

Dan was a friend of Kevin's who did a considerable amount of business in Canada, which was where the Boys happened to be. "I'm beyond up for that."

Kevin went back to smiling pleasantly, pretending that he wasn't thinking about killing someone just to get the proceedings over with quicker. Howie multiplied eight and twenty three while reaching for the clean linen napkin two spaces over.


Kevin had climbed aboard Howie late into their first American tour in an unusually spacious hotel room and Howie had pushed him off with an urgent, "I like Kristen!"

"So do I," Kevin approached Howie again, more cautiously this time. "She suggested this."

"Sit down." Howie pointed imperiously at the bed. Kevin obeyed. "Now, explain."

"You know we broke up during the summer, right?"

Howie nodded. Kevin hadn't spoken for three days out of fear of yelling at someone irrationally.

"Then we got back together, but with conditions, because neither was really up for what had been going on before. We both, um, take whatever life brings to us, at least for the moment, with both of us on the road."

"Casually, though. Not someone you have to wake up and see the rest of your life." Howie hoped it was that long, at least.

"I can’t casually experiment."

It took Howie a couple of seconds to catch on, because heterosexually speaking, Kevin was probably the most experienced person Howie knew, as all the Boys had learned through a few too many games of I Never. "She wants you to-"

"Kris says I need to know myself completely before I can begin to know her by half."

Howie really liked Kristen. "What did she say about you and me?"

"We both agreed it was a lesser of evils kind of situation."

Howie gave Kevin a dry look. "You sure know how to charm a guy right into bed."

"Not like that, D, and you know it."

"Okay, but I still think this is a bad idea." Howie actually thought it was a horrifically bad idea, for more reasons than Kevin could possibly conceive of. The same reasons that meant he wasn't going to turn Kevin down.

Kevin looked into Howie's eyes for a few seconds. "Maybe I shouldn't."

"Who else are you gonna go to?"

"Maybe you could teach me how to pick up discretely."

Howie shook his head. "Remember how we made a decision early on not to let Nick's first sexual experiences be with random fans?"

Kevin collapsed backward onto the bed. "I see."

Howie laid down on his side, facing Kevin. "If we do this, are we gonna tell the others?"

Kevin hesitated.

"Because they'll figure it out. We'd probably have more time before Nick did, but he would."

"We could take it as it comes. Just, when they ask, be honest."

"Are you up to that?"

"It's not like they're homophobic."

Howie couldn't argue that point.

"Are we facing the biggest issue here?" Kevin sounded uncertain that he even understood what he was asking.

Howie rolled slightly on top of Kevin. "It's mine to face." He leaned down lower. "Now, to proving your hypothesis."

After the Boys had moved out the next day, Housekeeping sighed at the disappearance of another washcloth.


It didn't surprise Howie to find out that Kevin was more talkative after a good screw than any other time. Howie'd suspected as much for awhile with no way to prove it. In the hour or so after Howie would have taken Kevin's head off with a blow-job, Kevin reciprocating with not half as much technique but more than adequate enthusiasm, Kevin would curl up around or sprawl over Howie and let his mouth go wherever his mind was.

Sometimes Kevin's train of thought worried Howie, like the time Kevin brainstormed with himself about a gift for his mother's birthday not ten minutes after having naked relations with another man. At other times they could be amusing, particularly when Kevin got in a mood to be completely neurotic about the other guys.

There were some nights, though, when Kevin would admit things like, "Kris thought I enjoyed my prostate a little too much," that Howie's ears would perk up and all he would offer to Kevin was, "Did you?"

"Probably. I mean, we've been doing this stuff for a month and I've been thinking about things, really thinking, and I pretty much still want you to fuck me."

Howie thought his, "Pretty much?" probably came out a little squeaky, but Kevin seemed to understand the basic question.

"I'm not really sure what you're gonna say, which is why I hadn't told you."

Howie made his brain number the things he should say and started with number one. "Have you been talking to Kristen about…whatever's going on?"

"From the sound of things, I'd say Kris is less in the dark than you are." Kevin kissed Howie's shoulder apologetically.

Howie forgave him, knowing all the while that he shouldn’t. "It's going to hurt."

"I know. That's why I'm asking you. I mean, I'm sure enough about things now to do pick-ups, but not for this. I need someone I trust."

Howie breathed in and out slowly. Kevin's trust was hard won, much more so these days than a year before, when he hadn't had to watch his cousin get his heart carved into and fight to protect his little brothers from a threat he hadn't seen until far too late.

Howie whispered, "Okay" from right above Kevin's heart.

The pair of boxers that Kevin thought he had laid out the night before weren't there in the morning. He shrugged it off and dug another pair out of his bag.


Howie's palm slid over the top of the Berdina sewing machine. Kevin, for some reason that baffled Brian, had the best ideas for gifts when it came to Howie. "Merry Christmas, D."

Howie's eyes roamed over the settings, marked in purple. "Custom made?"

"It comes with choices."

"Who'd you ask about it?" Berdinas were top of the line, but it would take someone who knew about sewing to have access to that sort of information.

"My mom. Got her one, too. She was jealous."

Howie smiled a little. "It's…"

Kevin interrupted Howie's search for the perfect word, "Look, you still sew with the traveling kit that Brian gave you, I just thought maybe you'd like to go all mechanical, but I can take it back-"

"Don’t you dare."

"I did okay, then?"

"I'm pretty sure that the only way I'm going to be able to pay you back will be through sex. If you’re not up for that, maybe you should take it-"

The Berdina stayed safely on the counter until the next morning, when Howie loaded it with a spool of Violet Wine thread.


Howie, who didn't talk much ever, post-coital or no, wiped himself down with a washcloth and made himself say the words, "I have to stop."

Kevin scrubbed at the skin of his stomach a little too forcefully. "I thought that might be, well. I know."

Howie walked down the hall to his room and didn't steal anything.


Kevin and Kristen broke up a lot. She was an actress and he was a romantic so between the two of them, it meant a lot of melodrama and a good week and a half of making-up-time. Howie was convinced that was half of why they did it. That and the fact that, in the time that they weren't technically "with" each other, they usually managed to fix all the problems that had built up between them.

There was a pattern to the breakups. First there were the conversations that ended with neither Kevin nor Kristen saying "I love you." Then there were the big "discussions" about that. Then there were one or two big screaming matches before someone yelled, "Fine, fuck off and die," or something of that ilk. Then, having mutually agreed that they were broken up by some code that had been created when nobody was watching, they wouldn't speak to each other for a week or two before trying to work things out rationally.

It was probably because things didn't go that way that everyone missed it when the two of them broke up for the final time. Though none of the other guys were exactly sure when it had ended, Howie was convinced it had been the conversation that had ended with Kevin saying, "No, I know, I love you too. I love you." Howie knew Kevin's every inflection. The tone Kevin used to express loss was one that Howie had heard more often than he had wanted to.

Kristen hadn't stopped calling and Kevin hadn't stopped answering, so when Kevin announced one morning, "I think that y'all should understand. Kris is, well, doing me a favor, I suppose. We…we're not. We're not a 'we' anymore, but she's gonna let it go on as if we were, with events and stuff," AJ choked on his coffee and Nick accidentally let slip, "Shit."

Nobody bothered to look at him reproachfully.

Brian said, "Okay," like he was asking a question, but he wasn't, it was just the way he phrased things when he was upset.

Howie poured Kevin some more coffee and ignored the older man's order for him to leave later that night, when Howie pushed Kevin across the bed and climbed in next to him. Kevin cried and Howie tried not to wonder how many times he had done it alone.


The thing was, though nobody was willing to mention it, was that technically, Kevin shouldn’t need a beard. It wasn't such a big deal for one of them to break up with their girlfriends. Nick and AJ had proven this fact time and again. Howie was mildly convinced that break-ups meant a boost in their popularity. Which left one reason for Kristen to continue on, so painfully nice about things that Howie wanted to cry himself every time she was near.

Howie wasn't exactly sure how to approach the subject, though, so he didn't. Kevin, though not much of a talker without the aid of an orgasm, talked when he needed to and everything that had to be said always was at some point or another. Knowing this, Howie was not surprised when three shows after their tour date in Kansas City, Missouri -- Kristen's home town, and consequently, the show she had been around for -- Kevin made his way through just enough whiskey to admit, "You ruined me for women, D."

AJ had looked across the table, less than sober himself, but holding his liquor better and stated, "It's about that time."

Which meant that Howie had to wait until he and AJ had dragged a dizzy Nick into the car, where Brian was sitting with his own charge, the less-than-steady Kevin. Kevin looked up when Howie fell into the seat next to him, breathing heavily. "Kid's gotten big, eh?"

Howie looked across at Nick, curled up against AJ. The blond wasn't a kid anymore, hadn't been for so long. Nick would never be anything else to Howie and Kevin, though, and everyone knew it. "Yeah, traitor. He shoulda been the shortest."

Kevin smiled painfully. "Um, you knew about the thing that I said in the club, right? Because I thought it was pretty obvious."

"And I thought you loved Kristen." Howie noticed Brian trying to look at anything but the two of them.

"I do. In a platonic, rather unexciting kinda way."

"It's not that I don't believe you, or that I'm denying you the right to define your own identity, but there were so many before her Kev. You were like, our bastion of straightness."

Brian made an offended squeak, but continued to stare out the window. Howie was grateful that Nick was too out of it to flaunt his masculinity.

Kevin patted his cousin's thigh absent-mindedly. "It's…I know. That's why it took me so long to figure out what was going wrong between us. And, at first, I thought maybe it had just gone on too long, that I was ready for greener pastures…but. Nothing looked good. Well, some things looked good, but they weren't the right things. Or what I considered the right things."

Howie didn't know what to say to that. Kevin wasn't one to jump to conclusions or make hasty decisions. And Howie was hardly the person to claim it was just a phase, even if, evidently, Kevin's heterosexuality had been just that. Lamely, Howie turned to labels, "I guess, well. You could be fluid."

It was obvious in the set of Kevin's jaw that whatever he had been looking for, that wasn't it. "Guess I could be at that."


Howie placed his hands over the layers of cloth, spacing the thumbs carefully so that the needle mechanism of the machine would pierce in and out of the work-in-progress, rather than his flesh. A slight pressure applied to the foot pedal for less than thirty seconds resulted in a foot-long seam, with tiny, perfectly measured stitches.

Howie repeated the process three times, permanently attaching the patch to his project. Satisfied, he removed the cloth from the machine and dug around in the traveling sewing kit. He loved the machine's precision and ability to do things no human hand could possibly accomplish, but the kit Brian had given him allowed Howie the freedom to give his works a personal touch. AJ told Howie he was just a "fucking nostalgic sap who can't give up anything," which Howie knew was absolutely true when it came to things the guys had given him.

Howie stitched over the date he had penciled in to this particular piece of cloth with a thin silken thread.

The numbers 12/03/1995 stood starkly against the light blue worn cotton of the cut-up shirt's material. The thread was a dark green. It reminded Howie of fever-flushed eyes.


The first time Kevin saw the finished product, he almost didn't notice it. Howie had fallen asleep watching some movie while they were on the bus, and Kevin swooped down, more out of habit than anything else, to pull the blanket Howie had over his legs and hips up to Howie's chest.

It wasn't until Kevin was walking away that he turned back and squinted at the blanket. He couldn't remember there being a quilt on board. Nick had a favorite throw that was abused and patched so many times that it resembled one, but it was nothing like the neatly organized, patterned squares of cloth that made up the large blanket draping Howie.

Kevin approached carefully, still not wanting to wake Howie, and ran his finger lightly against the surface of the quilt. The pattern of the patches was far from linear, looked at from afar it had been swirling, with bursts of color trailing into pastels. Closer up, it was obvious that each piece had stitching in the lower right corner. Dates. Kevin squinted, trying to remember where they had been for each of the days represented.

He recognized the monogrammed swath of a towel from the first nice hotel the Boys had ever managed to stay in; the simple framed design of a handkerchief he had worn in his pocket to one of their first American awards shows; several sections of the back pack Howie had carried with him everywhere until it had up and fallen to pieces; logos and insignias that had graced the Boys costumes over the years and the light blue cotton of a t-shirt Kevin remembered losing… Kevin looked at the date stitched into the shirt and smirked.

He was still perusing the sections of the quilt that he could reach without waking Howie an hour later, when a sleepy voice interrupted Kevin's explorations. "I finished it."

"I didn't know you had started it."

"No, I didn’t say." Howie reached for one edge of the quilt and lifted it up. The entire frame of the work was done in a deep purple velvet.

Kevin furrowed his eyebrows for a second before smiling. "That's your shirt! The one I gave you, like, what? Six years ago? You loved that shirt."

"I know, I practically had a funeral the day I realized it didn't fit anymore."

"My shirt's in there too." Kevin gave Howie an accusatory glance before refocusing his attention on the blanket.

"Sorry. About anything you find that was stolen, actually."

Kevin caught sight of several patches that looked familiar. He fingered the one of them. "My boxers?"

Howie peered at Kevin through his fingers. "Um."

"You could've just asked. I wasn't that attached to any of this stuff."

"Then I would've had to tell you what I was doing. I thought…I was worried that if I talked about it, it wouldn't get done. I dunno, I was just. It was my thing, I guess."

"Quite a thing." Kevin's finger skimmed over the date stitched in white over a deep blue piece of linen. "I assume the dates have significance."

"They correspond to the day I acquired the material they’re stitched into."

"That's all?"

"The materials all…there's a theme to them."


"There's nothing from Brian, AJ or Nick." Kevin made this statement out of the blue at dinner one night and the aforementioned members of the group stared at him warily.

Brian was the first one brave enough to speak up. "Feeling okay?"

Kevin looked confused for a moment, "What? Oh, fine. I was talking to Howie."

"There are group mementos," Howie replied when he had finished chewing. "The costumes and merchandise samples."

"But nothing specific to each of them, you weren’t stealing from any of the others." Kevin sounded as though he wasn't sure whether to be offended or complimented by Howie's actions.

Nick sounded much the same way, "You steal?"

AJ's response came nearly on top of Nick's, "Really?"

"I don’t steal. I…pilfer." Howie did his best to look indignant. "And, no, I didn't steal from them. They were part of the theme only in their larger context, as Us, the Boys."

"Then the theme is you and me. Two within five."

Howie had forgotten about how Kevin could sort out even the most complicated problem fairly easily given enough time. He had the ability to use logic in ways that very few human beings could.

Kevin was still talking, "But those dates were from before. And it just showed up, so you must've made it after."

Howie shook his head and studied his salad intently. It was colorful. "That's because there was a before and an after for you."


Howie found himself being handed a phone a few days later. It was Kevin's phone. Howie politely said into the receiver, "Hello?"

"I'm going to tell you Kevin's part of the story, and you're going to respond with any discrepancies, and I'm going to figure out life for the both of you, since obviously you're incapable."

"Hey Kris, how goes it?"

"Fine. We broke up not because he decided he's pretty gay, although, I will admit, that was a considerable part of it, but because he decided he's pretty in love with someone else. He thought it was a lost cause, way too many complications, but evidently this person made a quilt with a lot of memorabilia relating to the two of them."

"Kris, you gotta believe that I wasn't trying to steal him-"

"If you'd been trying to do that, the two of you would be sleeping together rather than angsting separately over each other."

"He knows how I feel."

"You told him that you had to stop making love."

"Because I was in love with him!"

"So why haven't you tried starting up again?"

"I wanted to give him time."

"Howard, the last six months of our relationship was time. Make your move, get your boy, all that."



"You're wonderful."

"Find me a straight guy who agrees, ok?"


Howie stitched the words "Do Me" in bright green on one of his nightshirts and sauntered casually into Kevin's hotel room, wearing it.

Kevin didn't say anything upon opening the door, although it was obvious from the look on his face that he had seen. He shut the door. "Subtle. Taking lessons from Brian, or something?"

"Actually, Nick came up with the idea."

"You talked to Nick about it?"

"I might've banged my head against a table and groaned something about not knowing how to deal with this."

"You could've just asked."

"You've been saying that to me a lot, lately."

"It's true."

"I'm sorry I fucked things up between you and Kristen."

"It was gonna happen, you or no you. You just made it not so ugly."

"She told me about. She said you…that it wasn't all about the being mostly gay."

"Tattle tale."

"I um. I love you too. I mean, in case the quilt wasn't a big enough clue."

"It was pretty big." Kevin held his hands out, like a guy telling a story about the fish he caught.

"Eight feet by eight feet."

"Six years."

"Pretty big."

"Do I get a prize for figuring out the clue?"

"I had to do half the work."

"I promise to do my part for the prize to be…fulfilling."

Howie threw his shirt, message of the day and all, across the room.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile