* ** * ** *
It's always like this. Sincere eyes and voice ripe with emotion and everything so perfect and pure when he says, "I love you."
And then his hand on your mouth, so you can't say it back.
It's not that he doesn't want you to say it. You do say it. When you're in the little kitchen of the bus, side by side in the booth as you watch the world roll by and your fingertips are playing across the nape of his neck, "I love you."
You say it all the time, and sometimes he kisses you for it, sometimes he smiles. Sometimes he just looks at you with an expression you can't quite capture in words or even solid thoughts, only memory. He always lets you feel that he feels it, reciprocating through eloquent silence. But he never says it back.
It doesn't count when you're pressed together, hot flesh slithering in lush patterns. The words come tumbling from you both carelessly, earnestly. But that's not really saying it to each other so much as it is saying it at each other. Dripping the words onto each other's skin, rather than placing it gently as a deliberate gift. It doesn't count.
Maybe he thinks it makes it more special, truer, to say it without wanting it back. To say it only because you mean it. And it is special, and it is true. So much so that your heart swells to take it or give it, like a rose blossoming inside of you and being almost too big to hold, petals pushing to unfurl until you burst.
What you have is great beyond what you ever knew it could be. But you can't help but think it must be nice, to give it and then have it given back.
* ** * ** *