“This tent is for two people,” I tell him. “I’m not trying to exchange body heat, as you so eloquently put it earlier. It’s just that I would feel better if you were in here when I get murdered by the cave troll.”
He doesn’t say anything.
“I heard you.”
I wait, heart hammering. After some rustling, I hear a zipper, and then a silhouette appears outside my tent door. It zips open, and Lennon’s dark head pops inside. “Give me your pack.”
I pull it across the tent floor and shove it toward the door. It disappears and thuds nearby. I think he stashed it in his tent. Another zipping sound. Then my mesh door parts and something unrolls next to me. Some sort of foam sleeping pad. The one that stays rolled up, strapped to the bottom of his pack. It’s followed by a sleeping bag, which he throws on top.
Lennon crawls into the tent and zips the door to close it. And before I know it, he’s slipping into his bag, a flash of black boxer shorts below his T-shirt, muscular legs . . .
Then he’s lying next to me. The tent is suddenly so much smaller.
“Happy?” he says, sounding vaguely sullen.
I smile to myself. Yes. “That depends. Did you bring your hatchet?”
His sigh is epic. “I’ll just have to choke the life out of the cave troll. Good enough?”
“Yes, that’ll do, pig,” I say in my best James Cromwell. “That’ll do.”
The hood of his sleeping bag looks fluffier than mine is, and he punches it around until it makes a pillow. Then he lies on his back, one arm over his head. Facing him, I curl on my side and stare in the murky light until my eyes adjust to him, my own gaze tracing over the sharp, straight line of his nose and the spiky fringe of hair over his brow.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there,” I whisper in the dark.
“I needed you,” he whispers back. “It was so terrible, and I needed you.”
An image of his father fills my head, and then unexpectedly, I think of my birth mother. Her face. Her laugh. How empty I felt when she died. I know exactly how Lennon feels, and that makes it all so much worse. Because I’d never in a million years want him to hurt that badly.
A strange, stifled noise fills up the space in the tent, and it takes me a moment to realize he’s crying. Lennon never cries. Never. Not as a kid, and not when we got older. The sound rips my heart to shreds.
On instinct, I reach out for him. When I lay my hand on his quaking chest, he seizes it with steely fingers. I can’t tell if he’s about to push me away, and for a brief moment, we’re frozen midway between something.
A tense sort of twilight.
He turns toward me, and I’m pulling him closer, and he buries his head against my neck, sobbing quietly. I feel hot tears on my skin, and my arms are circling him. The scent of him fills my nostrils, shampoo and sunniness and wood smoke, the tang of sweat and fragrant pine needles. He’s harder, stronger, and far more masculine than he was the last time I hugged him. It’s like holding a brick wall.
Gradually, the quiet crying stops, and he goes completely limp in my arms.