It wasn't love.

He had looked up the definition of love before, many years and a whole world ago. Just to prove to those stupid girls in some elementary-school class of his that there was a definition for love, that it wasn't as mysterious or beautiful or ineffable or whatever as people might have thought it to be, dreamed it to be. By dictionary definition, "love" was an intense feeling of romantic affection and compassion. Simple.

What they had, all they had, was more along the lines of being thrown on the bed— the table, the floor, against the wall— lips pressed against mouth—jaw, neck, chest, and lower— to the point of suffocation, grasping desperately as if they were two parts of a puzzle that didn't quite fit but were frantically trying to blend together, holding on to each other as if one slip, one fraction of a second they were apart, would break them.

What they had wasn't love. It was more than that and less than that at the same time. Jalil had thought about it many times, over and over again in his mind, but never asked him about it. Never wanted to ask him about. They were what they were and they had what they had, and both were as close to content as they ever would be.

So Jalil didn't fight back when cold hands pressed against his chest, pinning him to the stone wall, or when chapped lips came smashing down on his own, or when his body, the body Jalil knew too well, slammed into his own, trying to fuse together, to become one. He didn't hesitate when he suddenly found himself shoved on the bed, under the covers, clothes hastily torn off in a frenzy of desire, cold and white skin against his dark, bed creaking, moans and gasps escaping from both their throats, the temperature increasing with each passing second. One of those nights.

What they had, what they were, whatever it was, was a need. Like one needs oxygen, water, food, shelter. It was a necessity. So it couldn't have been—it wasn't— love. Jalil didn't love him. It was different. He needed him. Like a parasite needs a host, like a person needs a pumping heart and a brain, like an addict needs coke. Jalil was never dependent on anyone but himself, but in that world, in that alarming, unfathomable world, things changed. He always knew that as long as he was in Everworld, it would be there, that insistent need in the back of his mind, as possessing as his previous disease but not in that manipulative way. In a way that it was keeping him alive; sometimes he'd feel that without it, he might just crumble. His whole body and even his mind might break down for a second time in his entire life.

And he hated that feeling because he hated being out of control, so he needed David. It was intense, but not genuinely compassionate or affectionate or romantic. What they did— against each other, smothering him with his mouth, wanting more, needing more, needing to feel the body against his own, pressing together, harder and harder—they did because they had to, to save themselves from their own mind. Because without each other, without someone being up against them throughout the whole, sleepless night, they might not able to function properly. Or live.

They didn't love each other, of that he was certain. Holding hands and kissing and touching in public was 'love'. Gazing deeply into each other's eyes was 'love'. Jalil would never, so long as he was alive, regardless of whatever universe he was in, become a victim of that predator.

And he would also never openly acknowledge that the part he would always look forward to was waking up with pale arms curled around him from behind, both of them tangled in a mass of sweaty limbs. The breath against the nape of his neck becoming heavier and shorter as they both began to awaken, the brief instant that lips brushed against the back of his head and those pale arms tightened around his chest and stomach, a final attempt to be melded together, thus beginning another day.

It wasn't love.

AN: This book soooo deserves more attention than it gets. But whatever, it's fun to write :D