…You touch me;
I hear the sound of mandolins;
You kissed me;
With your kiss my life begins…”
I hear the sound of mandolins;
You kissed me;
With your kiss my life begins…”
"Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky,” Pickford reads. He turns beady eyes on the class. “Now that, boys, is real poetry.” He leans over the record player at the front of the classroom. The record is already spinning, and Pickford lowers the stylus with a hiss and crackle.
On Jensen’s left, Claude "Eggy" Fitzgerald leans over and whispers, "Is he fucking kidding or what?"
"Not kidding,” Jensen whispers back.
"Jesus, what a cock."
Jensen smirks, working his mouth soundlessly over the words, murmuring them in his head. You're a cock, Pickford. A big, fat, dirty, old cock…
Pickford rounds on him. "Something to say, Ackles?"
"Good. Because we don't want to hear it." Pickford spins on his heels and slaps the board duster against the blackboard in a chalk dust cloud. "I want you all to close your eyes." He glares at them all. "That means all of you."
Jensen lowers his eyelids reluctantly, sliding down in his seat. Pickford leans over the record player once more, lifts up the stylus to drop it down again, moving them onto the part of the record that actually has lyrics. Jensen stares at the back of Edward "Two Shits" Reynolds’s head directly in front of him. The kid’s got a terrible dandruff problem, small flecks dotted neatly all over his greasy hair.
On the record, Roger Waters finally starts to sing. On Jensen’s right, Ian "Lay on" Macduff mouths along to the music, pale-lashed eyes closed. "Come on you target for faraway laughter, come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine…"
Fucking Floyd. Fucking talentless bunch of pretentious wankers.
Something catches in the corner of his vision. A tall maroon and brown blur through the frosted window of the classroom door. Someone knocks on the door and twenty pairs of eyes snap open, twenty heads turn to stare at the intruder.
"Come in!" roars Pickford.
The door thuds open, jerking the needle from the record with a comedy screech. For a moment, there's a terrified silence, broken only by the ominous hiss as the needle scratches mercilessly across the LP, then Pickford dives, arms outstretched to save his work of musical poetry. He cradles the record against his chest like a vinyl child, sliding it into the sleeve with a reverent look in his eyes.
"Yes? What? What is it, boy?" he barks.
The newcomer is still standing in the doorway. "Mr Tulliver said he'd told you. About me. I'm Jared Padalecki."
Padalecki, Jensen thinks, Christ, poor sod.
"What about you?"
"I'm in the Lower Sixth, Sir, Mr Pickford, but Mr Tulliver said for me to join your English Lit group. Um, is this the right room?"
"It is." Pickford finally raises his head, placing the record cautiously on his desk. "Well, what're you waiting for? Take a seat."
The newcomer, Padalecki, nods, gulps, and scuffles his way to the empty desk one row ahead and to Jensen's right. He's trying to make himself as unobtrusive as possible as he sits down, pulling out the chair without the usual piercing shriek, removing each object from his bag: exercise book, pens, pencil, ruler, brand new copy of Tess of the d'Urbervilles with exaggerated carefulness. He’s tall, taller than Jensen and Jensen’s one of the tallest kids here, but this kid is built like a high jumper, all angles and long limbs. He’s got a mop of dark hair, flopping over the side of his face and covering his eyes.
Jensen looks away from him. At the front, Pickford has finally stopped dicking around with his record and picked up his copy of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. He brandishes it with pointed disdain.
"Soooo, lit-er-a-ture. Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Not his best work, though certainly his best known. Who's read this then?"
A few hands go up. Jensen watches Padalecki glance around before tentatively raising his own hand.
"Aha. And who's read all of this?"
Most of the hands stay up.
"How about you, Ackles?" Jensen raises his head, meets Pickford’s eyes with his blandest, most inscrutable look. "Have you read it?"
"Right, right. And what's your oh-pin-i-on" Pickford extends the word, the vowels long and derisive.
Jensen leans back in his chair, returning Pickford's sneering gaze. "It was okay."
"Okay? Praise indeed!" Pickford spins away to lean over Padalecki's desk: "How about you - our new resident genius?"
Jensen sees the new kid flinch at the epithet, hiding a rapidly colouring face under a sweep of dark fringe. "I liked it… it was, um, poignant."
"Poignant? I can see why Mr Tulliver wants you in this class,” Pickford says sarcastically. Some of the other kids snigger obediently.
Jensen rolls his eyes, crosses his arms on his desk and leans into it, resting his chin on his forearms. Cock, he thinks, you’re all a bunch of cocks. He glances across at the new kid. He looks uncomfortable, like he’s squeezed too tightly into the desk, like a piece of paper that’s been folded in half too many times and has sprung back into its normal shape. He’s writing, elbow sticking off the edge of the desk as his pen darts inkily across the page of his exercise book, his other hand propping up his cheek. The maroon cuffs of his blazer are dirty, blotted with ink, and when he looks up, he pushes the hair away from his face with a swipe of his hand, leaving a matching blue trail across his cheek.
Jensen bites his lip and looks back down at his desk, tracing the letters like runes carved into the wooden surface. Pickford fucks arses, he reads and he bites his lip on a laugh. Pickford’s still droning on in the background, banging the blackboard with the rubber to emphasise his point. A thick cloud of winter sun is streaming through the huge classroom windows and specks of chalk and dust motes dance in the shaft of sunlight. It looks almost beautiful.
Jensen raises his eyes to the horizon, letting them find that special faraway point. He knows where he's going to put the ball. He can feel it inherently, his eyes transmitting signals to his brain, his brain translating those signals and pushing them out through his synapses, down his legs to his feet. He takes a breath, sets his shoulders, and runs up to the ball. He feels the solid connection of leather against leather and hears the satisfying thud. The tee spins away and the ball curls elegantly into the air, arching, swerving, higher and higher into the grey sky. It starts to fall, and Jensen can see that the angle is perfect - just as he felt it would be - the ball dropping neatly between the uprights and over the bar. It lands on the grass and bounces away in skewed hops.
"Two down, one to go," he mutters to himself as he squats down to shake the next ball out of the mesh bag sitting beside his feet.
He whips his head around, startled. Padalecki, the new boy in Pickford's class, is standing about five yards away, hands on his hips, chest heaving up and down with exertion. His face is red, his dark hair plastered to his forehead and neck with sweat. There are streaks of mud on his cheeks and chin, like he’s had his face ground into the mud in a scrum. He’s wearing the standard issue rugby shirt, except it’s far too big for him, the wind whipping it around his long thin body, making him look like a kid dressing up in his father’s clothes.
"It's a kick, not a shot,” Jensen corrects him.
"Right, sorry, yeah, a kick. I knew that.” He doesn’t sound convincing. He bites his lip, says, “You're Jensen Ackles, aren't you?"
“I've just joined your class, with Pickford - for English Lit."
"Yeah. I saw." Jensen squats down on his haunches, pushing the tee into the soft mud. He balances the ball on top of it carefully, tilting the curved edge of the ball away from him. He straightens, runs his hand through his short hair, counts ten paces backwards.
"You don't mind me watching?"
"As long as you stay out of the way." Jensen doesn’t look at him, keeping his eyes on the ball.
"Oh, okay, yeah, course. I get it, you have to do your thing,” Padalecki says. “I was - just before - it was that wanker, McKenzie, he had me running laps, for detention. I don’t even know why. I think he just doesn’t like me.” He stops speaking, puts his hands on his hips again. “Shall I stand here, or further back?”
Jensen glances at him, feeling the irritation bubble in his belly. “You’re fine where you are. Just don’t move.”
“Got it,” Padalecki nods. He bites his lip, watching Jensen from under a long fringe of dark hair.
Jensen tries to ignore him. He looks at the ball on the ground, looks up at the uprights, the crossbar. He rolls his shoulders and takes a breath: inhale... exhale... He visualises the ball, seeing exactly where he's going to put it, finding that faraway point on the horizon and the old lady in the imaginary stand. One more breath and then he moves: runs, kicks, heart thudding in his chest as the ball soars upwards. He knows instinctively that he’s got this one right, it’s another goodun. The ball tumbles, falls, clearing the crossbar with ease. A smile of victory slides across his face.
"Good kick." Padalecki catches his eye and grins at him.
Jensen pushes out a breath, grins back at him. “Thanks.”
The kid grins even wider, like he’s basking in Jensen’s approbation. He’s got a nice smile, all white teeth and dimples. “You’re really good at that,” he says.
Jensen shrugs, forces the smile off his face, schooling it back into its customary bland inscrutability, its safe look.
“Good job. If I'd arsed that one up, I'd probably be out here till dinner."
"Got to do three in a row before I go back in,” he says. “Lucky for me that was number three.” He bends to retrieve the tee, shoving it into the pocket of his shorts. He twines the handle of the mesh ball bag around his fingers. “I have to go collect all those balls.” He jerks his head towards the five balls lying under the posts over the other side of the field.
"Okay, I'll come with. That’s if it’s okay with you?” Padalecki says.
“Suit yourself,” Jensen says.
Jensen drags the bag behind him, mud squelching under their boots as they cross the field.
"So – why do you have to do three in a row?” asks Padalecki. “Is it McKenzie being an arsehole like normal?”
"No. It's just what I do. The only way you get better."
He can feel Padalecki giving him an incredulous look, like he doesn’t quite believe it. He shrugs; he’s not going to explain himself to some younger kid. Padalecki shakes his head and laughs.
"You're insane! No one would choose to be out here if they didn't have to! Bloody rugby, I hate it! It's just an excuse to beat people up."
"Piss off! No it's not!"
"S'alright for you. I've seen you playing. You're really good at it. I'm crap and I hate it, so McKenzie hates me back and makes me run round the field because he’s a bloody sadist.”
They’ve reached the uprights. Padalecki leans against one of the posts while Jensen untangles the mesh string bag and collects the balls, dropping them back inside one by one.
They turn back towards the building in silence.
“So, um, have you decided what you’re doing next year? For university? Where you’re going and all that stuff?” Padalecki says, breaking the silence.
"Why?" Jensen turns his head to look at him.
Padalecki shrugs awkwardly. “Well, you know, this time of year, it’s all everyone’s going on about. You have to fill out your UCCAS form and all that.”
"Not you. You're in the Lower Sixth,” Jensen says. “You don’t have to do it till next year.”
Padalecki laughs uncomfortably, ducking his head, but not before Jensen can see his cheeks flush with evident embarrassment. "Yeah, yeah I know,” he says. “But, um, me too. I mean I'm leaving when you are. That's why they moved me into Pickford's class, because I’m taking the exams a year early.”
"Ahh. Wish I'd thought of that. Could've been out of this shithole already,” Jensen says.
"They might not’ve let you go,” he says, “you know, for the rugby and stuff, ‘cause you’re the best player. I bet McKenzie is already shitting his pants about what he’s going to do next year when you’ve left.”
Jensen doesn’t say anything to that. He gives the ball bag a hard tug, hears it scrape against the concrete as they come to the edge of the field. The wind has cooled the sweat under his mud-caked rugby shirt and his skin feels clammy and cold.
"So, where are you going then?" Padalecki says.
"To the LSE, I hope," Jensen says. "For Maths, I like Maths. Numbers are easy, no themes, no bloody symbolism. Just numbers.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean.” Padalecki slants him a look, he’s smiling again, and Jensen finds his own face creasing into a smile. The kid’s got one of those faces that likes to smile. Infectious, he thinks. Then: like a disease.
“Then after I graduate, I’m going to get a job. I haven’t decided where or what yet, but as long as I'm filthy rich and able to tell cocks like Pickford to go fuck themselves, I don't care."
"That's very decisive of you,” Padalecki says.
Jensen shrugs. "I suppose. So how about you, where you going to go then? You seem like the kind of kid who’d have a plan, have it all worked out."
Padalecki flushes again. “Yeah, actually. I’m applying to the Slade, the Art School. Do you know it?”
Jensen gives him a look. “Just ‘cause I like rugby, doesn’t make me a total philistine.”
“No, yeah, course not, sorry. Yeah, so, there. I hope. Or, if not there, then another Art School. In London. Mr Cross is helping me with my application. I have to provide a portfolio of work.”
"So you want to study art?” Jensen says.
"More than anything else. Though my dad, he's mad for me to go to Oxford - Merton, it was his college." He turns his head, catching Jensen's eye, "I told him I didn’t want to. He wasn't very happy."
Jensen snorts, “Yeah, I bet.”
They've arrived at the back entrance to the school. Jensen shoulders the heavy door open, dragging the ball bag behind them. Their studs ring out loudly on the floor as they tramp down the corridor in the P.E. wing towards the changing rooms. Jensen stops by the equipment cupboard and draws the key out of his pocket. He unlocks the door and throws the mesh bag of balls unceremoniously inside.
“How come you've got the key to that?" Padalecki asks while Jensen locks the cupboard up again.
"McKenzie gave it to me."
"Wow, he really trusts you, doesn't he?"
"He's a fucking idiot."
Padalecki laughs and follows him into the changing rooms. "Your dad must be very pleased, with you wanting to go to the LSE and that?"
"My father thinks the LSE is some sort of hallucinogenic drug,” Jensen says.
The changing room is cold, the air thick with damp and sweat and Brilliantine, the floor covered with athlete's foot powder and clumps of mud and grass. Jensen wriggles out of his rugby shirt and tosses it to the floor. He drops to the bench to toe off his boots. Padalecki seems to have gone quiet, finally shutting up at last. The kid really likes to talk.
Jensen bends over to roll down his socks and pull out his shin pads. There’s a new bruise on his ankle bone, courtesy of Cliff-Bentley, first choice hooker and a fucking psycho, born to play in the front row and definitely someone you don’t want on the opposing side. Unfortunately, he had been on the other side in the practice seven on sevens and Jensen had borne the brunt of his particular brand of vindictive sadism. He straightens up, wincing, bruised skin pulling. He balls up the dirty socks in one hand and goes still.
Padalecki is staring at him from the opposite bench. He’s half-naked, clutching his rugby shirt in both hands. His body is thin, his chest hairless, the ribs showing through his skin. There's a purple-blue bruise on one side of his stomach, and Jensen wonders if Cliff-Bentley gave him that one too. His eyes look dark and shrouded and they’re focussed on Jensen with an intense scrutiny that makes Jensen’s stomach flutter, goose-bumps breaking out across his cold skin and a scary roaring in his ears. With a wrench, Jensen tears his eyes away. He turns around, putting his back to Padalecki, and tugs down his shorts. He grabs his towel, wraps it around his waist and doesn’t look back as he heads for the showers.
He hangs his towel on one of the row of pegs in the shower room. He swallows, willing his heart to stop racing, running his fingers over the worn fabric of his towel to try to steady his nerves. There is no sign of Padalecki, no sound coming from the changing room and Jensen hopes that the kid has left without bothering to shower. He shivers again, he feels odd, weird in his own skin and his heart rate is refusing to get back to normal. He shakes his arms, twisting his shoulder blades, cracking his knuckles and focusing intently on the large blotchy patches of black and green mould above the shower heads.
He steps down into the showers and chooses his favourite shower, second from the end. He tweaks the ancient metal dial, hearing it squeak as cold water gushes out. He’s prepared for it, and he dodges out of the way of the icy stream, counting to thirty before it’s hot enough to chance going back under. Lukewarm water cascades over him, plastering his hair to his face and making him close his eyes as he tilts his head forward into the spray.
He opens his eyes and stares down at his feet, watching the muddy, scummy water pool around his toes. He reaches blindly behind him, feeling for and finding the grey, cracked soap. He works the soap with one hand, working up a lather good enough to wash his sweat-dirtied hair. He closes his eyes and scrapes his fingers against his scalp, relishing the sensation. He rinses the soap out of his hair and blinks open his eyes again. There's another new bruise - a scrape really - on his elbow, fucking Cliff-Bentley. He lowers his arm, swearing under his breath, and freezes.
Standing right in front of him: strange, pale and naked. A lump forms in Jensen’s throat and he forces out a breath, hears himself exhale into the near silence, the only sound the drumming of the water and their own breathing. He shivers.
Padalecki is staring at him, his eyes locked on him, dark, intense and determined. Jensen stares back at him and realises distantly that his cock is stirring, thickening up, betraying him. Padalecki holds out one hand, slippery with soap-lather, and his eyelashes flutter, staring at Jensen, drinking him in. Jensen feels himself inch forward towards the other boy; the water pounds his back, like individual lukewarm nails. Padalecki takes another step, hand still outstretched.
Jensen gasps when Padalecki's long fingers curl around his cock. He leans in, looming over Jensen, topping him by a couple of inches, and pins him back against the mouldy, cold wall. His hand works steadily on Jensen’s cock, tugging up and down, working him to full hardness and then keeping on going.
Padalecki jams one hand up against the wall, bracing himself. Jensen takes a breath and stares up at him. His bent face is in shadow, his hair a thick black curtain covering one eye. He’s biting his lip; the parts of his face Jensen can see are screwed up in intense concentration. Jensen lets his eyes fall closed; his cock is hard, so fucking hard. He brings his other hand up, gropes for Padalecki’s shoulder. He pushes and Padalecki stops abruptly. Jensen snaps his eyes open. Padalecki is staring at him, mouth parted in surprise. They stare at each other; Padalecki’s eyelashes are dark, sparkling, beaded with water, his cheeks flushed.
Jensen tightens his grip on the other boy, pushes, turns, and shoves him back against the cold, mould-flecked tiles. Padalecki lets out a gasp of surprise, but he doesn’t look away from Jensen.
Jensen grits his teeth, leans into Padalecki’s hard, bony body. He watches Padalecki swallow, the bob and roll of his throat. He groans again as Padalecki starts once more, hand working Jensen’s cock again, clumsy and impatient now. They’re standing close enough for their shoulders to brush together, and Jensen leans in, drops his forehead to rest against the side of Padalecki’s face. He can feel the other boy’s breath puff against his temple, his lips tantalisingly close to Jensen’s cheek.
Jensen shudders, and his cock spurts, his body rolling with the orgasm. Thin, translucent-white threads of come decorate Padalecki's stomach over the purple-blue bruise. Jensen’s gaze jumps downwards, he watches Padalecki’s hand grab his own cock. He has big hands, bigger than Jensen’s, and his cock, fat and full, is just as big, proportional to his oversized, awkward limbs.
He’s hung like a horse, Jensen thinks and he wants to laugh at the absurdity of it.
He sees the moment when Padalecki comes, sees the spunk on his fingers, coating his fist and splattering his pubic hair. He opens his mouth to say something but Padalecki is already backing away, a small, shy smile twitching at the corner of his wet mouth and white drops of come - maybe his own, maybe Jensen’s - adorning his stomach. Jensen feels the corners of his own mouth twitch upwards in response, that infectious smile getting to him again. He turns into the rapidly cooling water to rinse himself off and doesn’t watch him leave.
He's still shaking.
The Sixth Form Common Room and Dormitories, or “The Farm” as the collection of buildings have always been known are separate to the rest of the school, across the other side of the senior quad, giving the older boys the illusion of superiority and separation from the lower echelons. Along with the different coloured piping on the edges of their blazers, the different colour combination to their ties, and the introduction of the strange but wonderful phenomenon of “free periods”, it’s the only thing that changes once the select few make the leap from obligatory basic education to the specialist world of A levels and the glittering promise of university.
Renovations transformed the old farmhouse and outhouse buildings - which used to supply the school with fruit and vegetables and dairy - into The Farm just after the war. The dormitories are located on the higher floors, boys sharing in pairs, another distinction from the rest of the school where it’s five or six boys to a room, and the large Common Room, Study Room and Kitchen are on the ground floor. Furniture in the Common Room has been donated by various former alumni over the years, but it’s all well-used and peppered with gashes and cigarette burns these days.
The Common Room runs along a strict social hierarchy, based on seniority, status and popularity. The Upper Sixth have the end furthest from the door and closest to the radiator, and the most popular group in the Upper Sixth have the prime corner: the one with the record player – which means that they get to decide what the entire Common Room listens to.
Jensen can remember last year, sitting by the big draughty windows and listening to Eggy whine about the fucking disco music Denson and Matthews and O’Hanrahan and all those bastards were always fucking playing. This year things are different, Denson, Matthews and O’Hanrahan have left, and it’s Jensen and his friends who are in charge. They’ve made that corner their own, posters of Kate Bush and The Clash on the wall, as well as tearings from magazines of various pin-ups and random cool stuff to mark their territory.
Tradition still rules at Sanditon, and Thursday night means Top of the Pops, one of the only times during the week when the record player is silent. Most of the Upper and Lower Sixth crowd around the television after supper. As usual, Eggy bags the best seats up front, telling a couple of the Lower Sixth to piss off before Jensen slips into the seat next to him.
Jensen watches the chart countdown distractedly, not even bothering to groan out loud when it reveals that that fucking Grease song is still number one. It doesn't get any better when the programme starts with David Essex as the first act.
"Jesus, this is shit," Eggy comments, dragging on his cigarette. "Why are the ones they get in the studio always so shit?”
“Hmm, what?” Jensen says. He’s not watching the programme, because he’s just noticed Padalecki, sitting in one of the less impressive corners of the room with that ginger kid that Jensen’s noticed hanging around with him all the time. They're playing cards; their heads bent closely together, brown hair mixing with ginger.
It's been three days since what happened in the showers. He hasn't spoken to Padalecki since then, but his body flushes hot all over every time he catches a glimpse of him, and he can't stop thinking about it.
"Ackles, what the fuck is with you tonight?" Eggy says.
Jensen turns his attention back to him. "What?"
"What? What?" Eggy parrots. "It's like you've lost your bleeding mind. Admittedly this is a barrel of shite, but what's so fucking interesting over there?" He jerks his head towards the less fashionable corner of the Common Room where Padalecki and his ginger friend are ignoring the telly and playing their game.
Jensen's heart skips a beat. "Nothing, nothing. God, shut up. You're so fucking dramatic." He snatches the packet of Benson & Hedges from Eggy's lap. Technically, they're not supposed to smoke here, but it’s one of the few rules in this place that the masters don't give a shit about.
David Essex finally finishes whatever shit song he was singing, and Peter Powell introduces The Buzzcocks.
"Ah! This is more like it!" Eggy exclaims. He gets up from his seat to twist the volume dial. A few kids make half-hearted protests but are silenced by the Fitzgerald glare and an eloquent, “Fuck off you tarts!” before Eggy sits back down again.
"You have such a way with people," Jensen tells him.
"Shut up, you sarcastic bastard. I'm definitely going to get this," Eggy says, gesturing at the telly with his cigarette and spilling ash over Jensen's trousers.
Jensen takes advantage of Eggy's engrossment in The Buzzcocks to sneak another look at Padalecki. Their card game has finished and Padalecki's shuffling the cards, which look ridiculously small in his big hands. Jensen stares at his hands, at the deft movements as he shuffles so easily. Jensen's crap at shuffling cards, he's still at the stage where he has to lay them face down on a table and push them around in order to mix them up, but he can tell that Padalecki's got the knack. He can probably do that fancy casino shuffle thing too.
He's good with his hands, Jensen thinks, and he feels a hysterical laugh bubble up from his belly. But it's true, the kid knew exactly what he was doing when he touched Jensen's dick, and it had felt amazing.
Padalecki looks up from his shuffling and glances across at him. Their eyes meet and Jensen feels a frisson rock through him. Padalecki's mouth crooks up at the edges and Jensen blinks, terrified. Does that look mean Padalecki wants to do it again? Does he want to do it again? His dick obviously thinks yes because he can feel it coming awake in his trousers.
He gulps and turns back to the telly. When he raises the cigarette to his lips his hands are trembling.
"Now, I'd definitely give her one," Eggy loudly proclaims.
Jensen looks at the TV. It's Blondie, not in the studio, but on one of those films they show. Picture This again, they had it on a couple of weeks ago. Eggy bought the single.
"And she'd like it, you can tell, it's in the eyes," Eggy continues. "Right dirty slag, that one."
"Is that a compliment?" Jensen says, raising his eyebrows as he looks at his friend.
"Fucking yeah it is," says Eggy. "Can't stand those uptight chicks.”
"I'm definitely getting their next album when it comes out."
Jensen rolls his eyes and bends over to grind out the remains of his cigarette in the ashtray under his chair. He turns his head when he straightens up again, catches Padalecki watching him. Padalecki shrugs, smiles shyly, like he’s embarrassed to be caught out.
Jensen turns his head around to face the TV again, feeling his cheeks heat up and his cock stiffen. He shifts in his seat, thanking God that he’s not wearing his drainpipe jeans. He thinks about the look on Padalecki’s face when he backed away from him in the showers, about how good his big hands had felt on his dick, and he realises with a warm, deep thrill to his gut that he wants to do it again.
He licks his lips, takes a breath, and looks around again. This time when he catches Padalecki staring at him, he smiles back.
On to Chapter Two