Pharm’s fingers spiderwalk up Dean’s back and rest at his shoulders. “There’s soup in the fridge, and roti.” He yawns, and Dean feels a flutter of an exhale against his throat that makes it very hard not to hold him tighter, until it would surely hurt. As it is, Dean has basically swallowed him up. “P’Dean,” he says, with feeling, tugging hair at the nape of Dean’s neck, “let me go so you can eat.”
“I look at you and forget I’m hungry.” This close, he can hear the click of Pharm swallowing. “I forgot everything but this.” Slowly, he moves his hand so he can stroke the side of Pharm’s chest, a glide of his palm. He catches the edge of Pharm’s nipple, and he drops his hand as a scold to himself.
In the first quiet billows of an oncoming storm, his uncle wraps an arm over his shoulder and shivers in the wind, hair that grayed too early blustered out of its semblance, his eyes haunted by a ghost Pharm fears he will never stop chasing. How many people will he see pieces of Intouch in, his nephew wonders? How much more sea glass will he pull out of the sand to keep as if all the mismatched specks of color can be made into one whole?
At twenty, the narrator of the novel he wrote under a different name was broken, burdened, universal.
At fifty, Korn is cold, quiet, and tired.
There’s a house Pharm loves on the beach, a harbor, a sanctuary, that suddenly feels emptier than it ever has.
This is a breathtakingly beautiful “what if no one died” that left me speechless. Seriously, it gave me more emotions than most books I’ve read (and I’ve read many). The story might start with Pharm, but it’s when it shifts to Intouch and Korn trying to rebuild on the ruins of their tragedy that it truly shines, heartachingly painful but mostly filled with so much love. A masterpiece.
“Pharm.” Dean doesn’t turn around, but Pharm can feel the silent laughter vibrating through his body. “My shy little Pharm. I really haven’t. But I’d happily try it with you sometime, if you’re offering.”
Try it? Offering? Ohhh. Pharm is definitely blushing now, but also…intrigued? Speculatively he spreads his hands out on Dean’s back, fingers splayed. “My hands are awfully small,” he says dubiously.
Pharm, a shrinking violet? Pharm is the strongest person Dean has ever known. As InTouch, he’d been ready to brave anything to be with Korn: societal disapproval, family ostracism, physical abuse, even threats to his life. And as Pharm, he’d carried the weight of his past-life trauma for eighteen years without ever letting it dim his beautiful spirit.