Treasure Hunt

           The house smelt like the fresh emerald paint coating the inside walls from the front porch. Nyko ran up the steps and spread his arms over the mahogany deck. The smile across his lips was the widest Bao had seen on him since he had surprised Nyko by coming to his college graduation. He couldn’t help but return the smile. Not even a moment at their new house, and it was already home. While he hung onto the banister with one hand, Nyko waved Bao to join his side with the other. 

           They had been friends since childhood. Though both boys were quite introverted, and Bao had never been one to join in games someone was playing alone, seeing the other girls on the playground refuse to play with Nyko made Bao’s face run hot. It took less than a second before he decided to run over to the sandpit and sit down. 

           “Can I play?” 

           Nyko wiped a tear from his eye and nodded, “Mhm. I’m playing Treasure Hunt.” 

           Bao cocked his head, “Huh?” 

           “My dad made it up. You have to find all the toys in the sand before it’s time to go, or you don’t get ice cream.” 

           Bao beamed, “If I help, can I get ice cream too?” 

           By the time they’d reached high school, Nyko had long since forgotten how he had met his best friend, but every so often, the scene replayed in Bao’s dreams. In their senior year, Nyko made Bao promise to move into the small wooden cabin in the overlooking mountains after college. It took a couple years after they graduated, but Bao eventually fulfilled his end of the deal by showing Nyko the deed to the house signed in navy blue ink. 

           The house needed work. There were some rotting boards under the deck and half of the outlets didn’t work, but that was nothing that couldn’t be fixed. Though his degree was in education, Bao had always liked busying his hands with labor. As they had driven up the mountain, he’d decided he would leave the wiring to a professional, but handle the boards alone. Had he have been thinking straight, he would’ve started checking what he’d need as soon as they had gotten on the porch, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Nyko’s ear-to-ear smile. 

           Bao rolled his eyes with a soft grin and walked over. As soon as Nyko could reach him, Bao was grabbed and pulled to his side. He leaned on the banister but still towered above Nyko despite him wearing lifts in his charcoal boots. As he surveyed their new landscape, Bao began to recognize the small flickers of light within the town that looked no bigger than the butt of a cigarette. He pointed to the red building, “Is that…” 

           Nyko nodded, “Mara’s bakery.” 

           Bao rested his elbows on the corner of the banister and leaned his head back. “Has it really been that long already?” 

           “Six years.” Nyko ruffled his silver hair between his fingers, doing his best to avoid getting loose strands or knots caught on the various rings he’d begun to wear over the past few years. “What ever happened to you two?” 

           Bao laughed, “Did I never tell you?” 

           Sticking his tongue out, Nyko mocked an octave up, “Did I never tell you?” 

           Bao knocked into Nyko’s shoulder with his own, “She broke up with me because I spent too much time with you.” 

           Turning so his back leaned against the rails, Nyko scoffed, “Well, I’m great company. Any normal person would love to spend every moment of their day with me.” 

           A cold breeze brushed between the two, making Bao’s thick black hair wave in time with his laughter. “I tried to explain that to her, but no luck.” He pushed himself off his elbows, then matched Nyko’s pose against the railing. “I was kind of surprised you know. Not that she broke up with me—we did not work well together, but that her main reason was you. My only guess is all the rumors spread around high school about us made her feel like second place.” 

           Nyko coughed out a laugh, “The rumors where people thought we were dating‽ I thought those were just a joke!” 

           “Nope,” Bao shook his head. “I had like six different people ask me how long we’d been dating. When I told them we weren’t, they said that I ‘don’t have to worry’ and they ‘won’t tell anyone.’ What made it annoying was that they were asking me, and not the person who’d never had a girlfriend.” 

           Nyko pushed his shoulder, “Hey! I’ve just been waiting for the right person!” 

           He rolled his eyes, “I don’t know if anyone besides me can stand more than ten minutes with you.” Before Nyko could retort, Bao covered his mouth, “Good thing I’ll never be leaving you.” 

           Nyko licked the palm of Bao’s hand, making Bao loudly gag while he wiped his wet hand on Nyko’s button up. “That’s what you get, Ass!” 

           Glaring, Bao scoffed, “How are you calling me an ass?” 

           As Nyko talked, he pulled his fingers with air quotes, “I don’t know if anyone wants to be around you for ten minutes.” 

           “In my defense, I did say I could stand you for more than ten minutes. I’ve dealt with you for almost sixteen years now.” Bao brushed back the few silver hairs that’d fallen into Nyko’s eyes, “And anyways, you know I’d rather be forced to be by your side than spend a moment without you.” 

           “Speak for yourself,” Nyko hissed under his breath. 

           Even without the porch lights on, the red rising on Nyko’s cheeks and ears had become evident. Bao smirked, “Alright, Nicholas—” 

           Nyko glared and covered Bao’s mouth, “I’m going to kill you!” 

           Nyko’s grasp was loose enough for Bao’s fit of laughter alone to push it off. “Sorry, Man. How can I make it up to you?” Nyko crossed his arms and Bao sighed, “Fine… Do I have to drive all the way back to town by myself?” 


           “Aww. You’re going to leave me all alone?” Bao cooed. 

           Nyko turned his back to Bao. “Maybe if you’d be nic—” He was stunted by his waist being grabbed. Bao smirked and began tickling Nyko relentlessly until they were on the porch floor with Nyko giggling under him like a school girl. Nyko pushed back against Bao, “You’re such an idiot!” 

           Bao trapped Nyko’s waist between his thighs and placed his hands on his hips victoriously as he sat up, “I win, you’re coming with.” 

           “No way!” 

           “It’s the rules!” 

           “We aren’t six anymore.” 

            Bao leant in and whispered, “I’ll make ice cream if you come with me.” 

           Nyko’s eyes went wide and he grabbed the collar of Bao’s white sweater, “Really‽” 

           Bao reached out with a pinkie, “I swear.” Nyko hooked his own pinkie around Bao’s. He rolled off top and stood, offering his hand to Nyko, but he pushed it away and got up on his own.  

           “Ah come on, Nyko. You can’t be mad at me for winning, especially not when I’m making you ice cream.” 

           Nyko crossed his arms, “I’m not mad. I’m just annoyed. You’re annoying.” 

           Bao threw his arm over Nyko’s shoulder and grinned, “I love you too, Idiot.” 

           Nyko’s nose twitched as he took in a deep breath, “You smell that?” 

           “Your defeat?” 

           Nyko rolled his eyes, “No, shut up.” He took in another deep breath and sighed, “The mountain air. It’s nice.” 

           As Bao’s eyes drifted across Nyko for what felt like forever, the smile that had been unable to fall grew wider, “And it’s even better when I’m next to you.”