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Breaking Down Barriers, Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven - With a Single Step

Ivan brushed past Gill's shoulder, keeping his head low as he clambered onto the island's grassy edge. The water sliding down his body elicited a shiver to run through his body, but maybe that wasn't the only reason he was shaking.
Memories of encounters with his old roommate were flashing through his mind like gunshots; with every bang there was a searing feeling of hurt as a new image popped up in his head for a fleeting moment.

"Hey there, Ivana, what's wrong?"


Ivan looked up from his notes and saw Duncan hovering over his shoulder. His gleaming green eyes were so close that he could see the tiny flecks of yellow dotting his irises, dancing around the pupils that smiled down at him. It took a large amount of effort to look away, a blush rising to his cheeks.


"Nothing," the brunet mumbled, turning reluctantly to his notes. As he stared at the paper, the words becoming a sea of swimming letters that refused to register in his head, he felt Duncan's arms fold over his chair, the heat radiating from his body getting closer.


"Doesn't look like nothing's wrong," his roommate mused. He leaned in and Ivan felt his shoulders stiffen in surprise, the taller student's red hair brushing against his cheek. Duncan was closer than ever, a worried expression furrowing his brow. "Just tell me already, or I'll have to force it out of you."


Ivan swallowed thickly, his eyes darting from Duncan's eyes to his lips to his nose and back to his eyes, settling on nothing as he felt his face get warmer. Eventually the face in front of him creased into an amused smile and he stopped at Duncan's eyes.


"You know, you look so cute when you're confused."


Behind him, he could hear Gill follow him out of the water like the loyal lap dog that he was. The rancher rubbed his eyelids roughly, heaving another heavy sigh out of his chest as he resisted the urge to look at the dripping blond because he knew that he wouldn't see what was really there.

"I hate this room."


Ivan glanced over at the redhead sprawled out on his bed, one arm dangling off the edge of the mattress and the other draped across his forehead. He looked at his roommate lazily, the green eyes maintaining their piercing look despite the fact that he looked almost tired.


Biting his bottom lip with concern, wondering in the back of his mind if he could quell that exhausted expression that taunted him from the other side of the room, Ivan asked quietly, "Why?"


"Because there are walls." Ivan was sure that confusion was twisting his face into an unsightly expression when he heard the statement come out of Duncan's mouth. The taller student smiled, an apologetic tone softening the curve of his mouth. "What I mean... Is that there are limitations. So. Many. Limitations."


The sheets on the bed rustled as Duncan stood, and the next thing he knew, the redhead was directly in front of him, offering a wide hand and a challenging smirk.


"Come on," he murmured, voice low and enticing, "Let's get out. And do whatever. Escape with me."


Gill was standing an arm's length away now; he could tell by the volume of his quiet breathing. He felt guilty for what he was doing to the younger man; he knew that he was frustrating him, taunting him by withholding information that he wanted to know. Although the blond had no idea what it was, he knew that he was hiding something, and being in the dark was one of his most hated feelings.

Their breath mingled in puffs of hot air as they panted together, mouths separated for only a moment. If it weren't for the necessity of oxygen, Ivan would never have let go of the redhead for even a moment. Right then, he wouldn't have to, Duncan's lips claiming his own in another heated--


Ivan groaned, hating the way that the piteous sound escaped his body without his permission. The slick sound of wet arms moving mixed with his distressed sigh and he turned around to see Gill waving his hands around as if he wasn't sure what to do with them. Swiftly, the rancher caught them, holding his wrists and the blue-eyed gaze rigidly.

"Gill," the brunet whispered, his eyes barely registering the concerned face in front of him. Gill's pale countenance was beginning to blur into a freckled, artificially tanned face wearing a smirk that mocked him, shouting into his ears that he wasn't good enough, would never be good enough, while at the same time confessing his deepest, sincerest love for him.

Ivan repeated his name again. It was louder this time, an attempt to drown out the jeering screams that echoed in his ears. Gill flinched in his hands, staring curiously at him with wide eyes. The brunet almost smiled at that, clenching his eyes shut to stop him from looking at him in a way that wasn't proper.

"...Are you okay?" Imagining Gill's expression, knowing that he was still worried and wondering what was wrong with him chased out the images of Duncan smiling at him and smirking at him and staring at him and--

"No," Ivan breathed, shaking his head. Gill's voice was quiet and small, and he couldn't have that. The blond was supposed to be the haughty, composed, mayor's son that he was, not some worried mother, worried lov-- "He's... Can't stop thinking about him. That bastard. I thought... I was over him. But I guess I'm not."

Gill was quiet for a moment, as if letting the words settle in his mind. His hands grew limp in Ivan's grip, his fingertips brushing against the back of his hand in a way that was almost ticklish. "This... Duncan... What..." The younger man's voice was strained and hesitant. Ivan had to give him credit for trying. He knew that Gill had to do this, had to find the will to ask about awkward things. Gill was still learning. Besides, he knew that he wouldn't find out if he didn't ask. "What did he do to you?"

"He lied to me," Ivan muttered darkly, lowering their hands so that they were hanging loosely between them. It was the simplest answer to the question and deliciously vague. He opened his eyes just to take a look at the frustrated and flat expression the blond was wearing before continuing. "He made me believe that he was perfect. He pulled me out of my shell that focused so hard on studies and literature and taught me how to live life by the fullest. I admired and loved him so much that I fell so hard when I saw him with a woman."

He was rather proud of himself for speaking so calmly, and with full sentences, too. Opening his eyes fully, Ivan stared silently at Gill. The eyes that looked back at him held such sympathy, gleaming with the desire to comfort him. Ivan dropped their hands and grabbed the sides of the blond's face, boring his eyes into him, searching. Looking for any kind of signs of fault, a sliver of deception that would confirm his fears about trusting the human race.

"I..." Gill swallowed, fighting back a blush and the urge to tear his eyes away from the rancher's intense gaze. "I would never do that to you, Ivan."

It was easy to believe him. So, so easy. He wanted to, Gill wanted him to, and there was no evidence of trickery in the younger man's expressive eyes. They were wide, fearful of Ivan. No, not fearful of he himself, but rather the possibility of breaking him. Ivan knew that Gill was familiar with the confident, casually detached Ivan and was having a hard time accepting this new, trembling mess of a person.

Gill was not lying. Ivan knew that well. The squelching noise of Gill opening his mouth to lick his lips was the only sound passed between them as Ivan continued to stare wonderingly at the blond's eyes, hoping that some otherwordly would send him a message through them and tell him that everything would be alright.

"What do you need me to tell you so that you can believe me?" Tone pleading, Gill's eyes closed longer than what should be considered to be a blink. His voice cracked on the last part of his sentence, the brunet's downcast emotions starting to bleed through to Gill.

Ivan inhaled slowly, air whistling between his teeth. His thumb brushed Gill's cheekbone gently, feeling the skin stretch momentarily as he spoke. Calloused hands dropped to pale shoulders, sliding downwards to grip his arms.
"I want you to tell me that this is real," Ivan whispered, unable to risk lowering his gaze and allow Gill the opportunity to escape his perception.

He needed to know that this all meant something. Words refused to settle in his mind, peeking their heads in for an instant before disappearing. Ivan's mouth hung open as he attempted to find the right way to phrase his fears, but he could not gain a decent grasp of his thoughts. He also wished to test him, and maybe he did not want to take responsibility for Gill's reactions, and discovered that it was easier to let his words hang in the air.

Hesitantly, Gill placed his hands on Ivan's hands. The gentle touch was frighteningly similar to Duncan's and Ivan struggled to stifle his desire to flinch away. All of this contact after years of cold loneliness was stirring things that he wanted to stay buried forever.

"God, why won't you leave me alone..." Ivan mumbled under his breath, closing his eyes. Thankfully, Gill knew that he was not talking to him and chose not to reply to his offhanded comment.

"Ivan. I don't fully know the... demons that haunt you, but I think... that I can help you face them," Gill started, pausing to take a breath, "I don't know what you're thinking or what could have hurt you so badly that you're both this, this shaking... man and the cocky son of a bitch that I know so well, but I'd like to. I want to know you, I want to know how to... How to..."

Warmth left Ivan's hands, only to be replaced on his cheeks. Brown eyes fluttered open as Gill pressed his forehead to his.

"Love you." The blond swallowed for the umpteenth time, his eyes darting to the side as he fought to discard his pride and admit his feelings. His lips remained parted as he tried to continue his train of thought. "Because you deserve it. You have... done things to me that no other person has, taught me things that no one else has. You're on this... this level that is as if it were made exclusively for you. No one has ever gotten on my nerves so much, not even Elli, or, or, made me...
Made my... Stomach jump, like you."

Ivan gazed into Gill's eyes, watching as realization dawned in them. He spoke the words as they came to his mind and the rancher had to admit that he was a tad envious that he could understand his thoughts with such clarity. A smile managed to crawl its way onto Ivan's lips, making the corners turn somewhat awkwardly.

"Would you still love me if you knew that I really don't deserve it?" Ivan asked, his smile transforming into something bitter. It was almost pleasant, seeing as he was so accustomed to such an expression. "I could tell you who I really am, but would you still want to stay with me?"

Gill frowned, his countenance colored with a hint of anger. "How can you..." Something to the left became more interesting all of a sudden and he looked away, eyes troubled. "Ivan, these things can't be taken back... You're stuck with me, and that's that."

Silence began to settle in the air once more. Ivan watched as Gill continued to look at the twitching blades of grass surrounding them, unable to look him in the eye. The blond's hands remained on his face, moving downwards so slowly it almost escaped the brunet's notice. They nestled against his neck comfortably, fingers twining together softly.

An idea sparked in Ivan's mind. Sure it was a little sneaky, desperate even, but it was a definite way to test Gill's sincerity. The brunet began to pull away, keeping an eye on Gill as he waited for the shorter man to let go of his neck. Instead, Gill's brow creased and he finally raised his eyes, tightening his hold on him. His eyes hardened in a way that said, "Just where do you think you're going?"

Grinning so hard he thought he might be scaring the blond, Ivan extended his arms and placed them loosely around Gill's waist. He shook his head and pulled him in for a tight hug.

He could trust Gill. Maybe now he could finally relieve himself of Duncan's strangling grip. It would take a while to climb the high walls that he had built around himself, but he knew that Gill was on the other side trying to break them down. This knowledge was enough motivation to keep him going.

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