Tags: cftl, internalized homophobia, in the closet, childhood friends, angst, third person, minor fluff
Total Word Count: 5,963 (32,545 characters)
“His” and “His best friend” refer to one of the young men/his perspective
“he” and and “his friend” refer to the other young man/his perspective
PART ONE: On a Particular Evening
To say they were childhood friends would be an understatement.
Their mothers had grown up together, attended the same college, and ended up in the same city as adults. Throughout those years they kept in contact through letters, emails, and multi-hour phone calls. It had been pure chance that they literally ran into each other at Children’s Place, swelling bellies bumping as one entered and one exited the store.
Maybe it was then, in that brief touch of the women’s bellies, that the boys formed a connection. No one can really say. But after this incident, the mothers saw each other daily like they were little school girls once again. And, surprisingly enough, the boys were born within days of each other. Their beds in the hospital nursery were side by side.
As if a string tied the boys together, they were inseparable. Anything one did, the other did too. So enraptured were each of them with the other, neither boy had other friends. Even when puberty slammed into the both of them, their girlfriends came second. It led to both of them having short trysts throughout high school and college. Their mothers went from finding their unshakable bond endearing to finding it a hindrance that kept them from finding the loves of their lives and giving them multiple grandchildren.
And that’s how they found themselves here, on a double date set up by their mothers.
“I still can’t believe they fucking did this.”
A calloused hand, hot and clammy, rests over His fist. “Calm down.”
“How can you be calm about this?! They’re trying to set us up like it’s the fucking—”
“Eighteen hundreds, I know; it’s all you’ve been saying since we left the house.” The clammy hand weaves their fingers together briefly for a squeeze before retreating. “Just think of it as making new friends.”
“But you’re my friend! I don’t need—”
“Come on; even I have a friend or two at work. It doesn’t hurt, you know.”
But that new factoid does hurt, His heart beating painfully against His ribcage. “Y-you have office friends?”
“And you don’t? I see you talking to what’s-his-name every time I come by for lunch!”
But that’s different, He wants to say. All His interactions that aren’t with him are one dimensional, surface-level only, and carry no hint of depth. He opens His mouth to explain when the hostess stops at their table, two young women in tow. Not that He spares them a glance because of the shock short circuiting his thoughts; His best friend, only true friend, has other friends besides Him.
His ego prevents Him from being rational, and the blood rushing in His ears keeps Him from hearing the women introduce themselves. But always the gentleman, he is able to introduce them both with ease, managing to dig a sharp elbow into His side as he stands up to shake their hands.
Simply out of habit, He follows suit, limply holding out His hand to shake the cool one of a blurred face nestled in curls.
he has other friends…?
“If you don’t pull your head out of your ass, I’m locking you out.” The threat is deftly whispered in His ear as he reaches forward with the pretense of refilling both their water glasses. It’s enough to snap Him out of the fog that had swirled over Him, and He forces a smile, the woman’s face now clearly defined.
She matches His taste, if you look at the other women He’s dated in the past: chestnut hair that stops at her size DD chest, milk chocolate skin that glows underneath the muted lighting of the restaurant, and thick lips that would make any man think of putting them to use. Her beauty is obvious, but His eyes stray to the man beside Him. His best friend seems to be laughing and smiling with his date like it’s a normal day.
It takes a while, but He eventually blocks out His best friend turned-traitor beside Him, focusing all His attention on the woman smiling widely at Him. Her teeth are straight and white, drawing even more attention to her mouth. Maybe this isn’t as bad as I thought…
Sensing His change in attitude, his best friend pats His knee underneath the table three times. Before he can pull away again, He uses His hand not occupied with the fork to keep it there. He feels His best friend tense slightly beside Him, but he doesn’t pull away. They stay this way for the remainder of dinner, each eating with only one hand.
It annoys him that his friend is still pouting for attention as they leave the restaurant. He stands too close for comfort as they hail an Uber to head to a bar. It had been the ladies’ suggestion, and he needs a stiff drink after this fiasco. Even if his friend wasn’t here, the woman his mother picked wasn’t remotely his type. For several reasons. his cheeks hurt from the fake smiles and laughter and he hopes that alcohol will make things better. At the very least, it might make it easier.
The ride to the bar is filled with loud reggaeton music that the Uber driver wiggles to as she takes them through the lit up city center. he feels his friend staring holes in the back of his head from the back seat and knows that He’s dying to collapse into laughter at the music selection. he resists the urge to turn around because then they’ll start doing that thing their mothers describe as unsettling— blinking, waggling their eyebrows, and other facial movements as a form of communication. At this point it is its own language. Their own language.
“Why did you choose here?” This time it’s His best friend’s tone that sounds short, and He watches with some satisfaction as he pulls at the collar of his shirt.
He can’t help but watch. Under the sidewalk lamp He can tell he’s sweating and swears He can see the droplets sliding from underneath His best friend’s chin, rolling down his neck. They’d finished a wine bottle at the restaurant, and it seems His best friend is a lightweight even with something like wine. It’s a new fact about him, and He files the information away for later.
“Let’s get going, shall we?” Sarcasm shrouds His words but His best friend doesn’t even chance Him a glance, equilibrium already restored.
It pisses Him off.
he can feel His ire as the bouncer holds the door open for them. Their usual hang out is loud this time of night, the lights all but turned off, cigarette and weed smoke floating above the numerous heads crowding together. Tonight there is a live band playing jazz. As they sit down at a small circular table, the saxophone starts its slow windup and he can’t help but glance at his friend.
It’s His favorite instrument. His love pushed Him to take up lessons during middle school. But, He learned He’s shit at it, and every time they hear those brassy notes, his friend’s nose scrunches up and His eyes water like He’s smelling the rankest rotten cheese, a reminder of his “lack of talent.”
This time however, He’s smiling down at the woman, His “date.” Before his agitation can grow, he notes that both his friend’s hands are in the pockets of His slacks. he knows they are balled so tightly crescent moons will be imprinted in His skin for minutes afterward. he feels like a cat stealing the cream knowing that he’s the only one to ever know this about his friend.
By the time they’re three drinks in, both men want to go home.
The women arranged their seats so that the men faced each other. He keeps drinking because the woman’s breasts feel like soft globes of heat against His arm. Across from Him, His best friend seems to be in a similar situation, date practically leaning into his lap. Her hands slide down from the top of the table, and He wonders if she’ll really be so bold as to do what He assumes she’s attempting to do.
But he’ll stop her. He shrugs His “date” off as He downs the rest of His drink. Bourbon sloshes up His nose as the wooden sole of a dress shoe rams into His shin. He glares at His friend only to feel His mouth drop open at the slight movements of the woman purring at His best friend.
his dark eyes stare into Him, a single eyebrow raised.
Oh thank fucking Christ.
“Well ladies, we’ve had a wonderful night, but as you can see he’s gotten a little too drunk.” As always, His best friend slumps forward onto the table suddenly, signaling his being ready to leave ASAP. he raises his head shakily and whips his head around like he doesn’t know where he is.
“Oh, that’s why,” the woman says, blood red lips pulling back into an ugly smile. Her hands reappear and He watches her wipe them hurriedly against the cloth napkin. Bitch.
He walks around the table to lift His best friend effortlessly, and he throws a limp arm over His neck. His best friend laughs softly in His ear and again He wishes they were already home.
“Make sure to give me a call, m’kay.” His date says it softly, but He still hears her over the music.
It’s clear she’s pretty drunk herself, too out of it to recall they haven’t exchanged numbers yet. Before her vulture friend can swoop in for attack, He smiles and reaches out to touch her arm. “Of course, we should do this again.” With a final smile, He hobbles away from them toward the exit.
When they step outside into the humid night air, their Uber awaits them. His best friend is good at timing their exits and He places him onto one side of the backseat, closing the door softly, before running to the other side.
Unlike before, this Uber driver has a soft rock station playing quietly, and both men are finally able to relax.
“God, that was awful,” He says, wanting to get it out of the way.
“I don’t know, I personally love getting felt up during drinks.” They both snicker, and He finds His fingers creeping toward His best friend’s splayed out on the leather seat.
“Next time they ask if we’re dating someone, we just lie.”
“But you know they’ll ask us to meet them immediately. And for pictures.”
He groans, tossing His head back. “Let’s just tell them the truth?”
“What, that we can’t stand other people?” he bites his tongue, choosing to shift and look out the window at the lights streaking by as they zoom down the highway.
What he said is true enough. But it feels wrong to Him, or more like… only half right. There is something missing, but that missing piece seems to be wedged between them, growing wider each passing day.
“Don’t you want a family, though? You used to talk about having a son to play basketball with. Before you know it, you’ll be too old to teach him.”
“Gotta find the right person is all.” He doesn’t know why they’re talking about this, but His ire from earlier in the evening returns. Where does this guy get off? Let’s see how you like it… “And what about you?” He turns as much as the seat belt allows to glare at His best friend.
The turn in conversation makes the back of his neck hot. he knows his shoulders are too tight, and he wishes he could swallow his words back up. Why did God make such a stubborn man? “I’ve been told mom not to concern herself with grandchildren; she’s just stubborn. Almost as bad as you.”
he says it so matter-of-factly that He doesn’t know what to make of it. Since when doesn’t he want kids?
They always said they’d get married and have sons that would be the best of friends like them; itt’s why He hasn’t given up on these dates completely. But, when it comes time to perform, things never worked how he wanted them to; in fact, He can count on one hand how many times He’s been intimate with women.
For a long time He felt like a broken jack-in-the-box; no matter how they wound Him up it never sprung out at the ready. But the few He had dated for longer than a month were… different; over time they would become more attractive and He would start fantasizing about them. And when it came time to have sex with those women, His body responded as expected, and it often felt really good, but at the end, when they were covered in sweat and the heady scent of sex, He would feel empty. Usually after that, He’d withdraw from the woman, and they would eventually break up.
But in spite of the emptiness, He kept striving for their dream. And now this asshole says he doesn’t even want the little shits…
“I can hear steam coming out of your ears,” His best friend mutters as the car comes to a stop in front of their house.
They share a two bedroom, two bath home just on the edge of the city. Since they both work in the same area, they moved in together after graduating college. Living together is as easy as breathing, both men finding their domestic role seamlessly.
He likes to clean: bathrooms, kitchens, the floors, anything that requires Him to get cleaner fluid. Or bleach. His best friend on the other hand is a foodie, and as such dedicates a lot of his spare time to cooking and trying new recipes. his mother had been anal about laundry growing up, so he also takes care of the sorting and washing.
They fold together though, usually during binge watching sessions on the weekend, which was an activity he rather enjoyed.
Shit, I forgot to sort the clothes before we left, he thinks as he stumbles out of the car. he’d been playing drunk before, but something about the car ride must have made the alcohol really kick in. “Shit.”
“Come on,” his friend says, taking him by the arm up the driveway. “Let’s get you some water.”
Once inside, he feels drunker, the floor swimming before him.
Noticing His best friend’s sudden change in demeanor, He effortlessly lifts him bridal style, walking to His side of the house.
“My room’s the otha way,” His best friend says, wriggling.
“But your mattress is too hard.”
“Because it’s meant for me.”
In reply, He dumps him onto the bed. “Whatever. Take your stuff off and I’ll be back with a glass of water.” He turns to walk back to the kitchen. “Lush.”
It was muttered, but he still hears it. Rather than respond, he turns onto his stomach and shuts his eyes. But immediately he opens them again because it feels like he’s on a tilt-a-whirl in pure darkness. Lying on his back is only slightly better, but sour saliva gathers at the corner of his lips.
“Dude, if you hurl on my sheets, I’ll fucking kill you.”
A glass of water appears above him and he reaches up thankfully, only for it to be yanked away. “You can’t even sit up right now, can you?”
his lips move, but his tongue feels so thick that no words come out.
“Oh well, guess it can’t be helped.”
he watches as his friend takes a long drink of water and, and almost as if in slow-motion, He gets closer and closer. His chilled, slightly chipped lips graze his before their pressure increases. Some water spills over the side of His best friend’s face at first because he refuses to open his mouth.
Stubborn idiot, He thinks, gripping His best friend’s jaw and yanking down so his mouth opens wide enough.
he can tell his friend is frustrated with him, probably cursing him out in His head and calling him an idiot. Well, you’re the stubborn idiot, he thinks, swallowing what’s given to him. You wanna talk about the truth?
he grips the back of his friend’s neck and thrusts his tongue into the cool cavern of His mouth. A shudder ripples through him from the sensation of something slick around his tongue, and the taste of bourbon and Him. It’s what he imagined it would be, but even better.
Euphoria only lasts for a moment, with his friend pulling back as if he isn’t using all his strength to keep him close. “Do you need to go to the bathroom and take care of yourself?”
“No,” he snaps, turning back onto his side. “I’m going to bed. Thanks for the water.”
He stares at His best friends back, wanting to ask what the hell his problem is. But exhaustion takes over His limbs, and He kneels onto the bed. Ignoring the tensing of His best friend’s shoulders, He reaches out and pulls the resistant man against His chest. He nuzzles into locs that smell of coconut oil and lavender. he wore them down tonight, and He’d never admit that He prefers when his hair is left free.
“Tomorrow let’s watch that one movie,” He whispers, nuzzling closer.
“I’ll help in the kitchen?”
There’s the sound of air escaping widened nostrils. “Your help always leads to a bigger mess.”
“But I always clean up my messes, don’t I?” On the L of clean, His tongue brushes against the ridge of his ear, breath adding to the heat already rushing to his face.
“Fine, fine, just shut up already! I’m drunk and tired.”
He squeezes His best friend in his arms, waiting for the easing of the muscles in the back against His chest, the sound of measured breathing.
“You know I can’t let you go, don’t you?”