I want to say a quick thanks for all the response I got on the first chapter and sorry for the long delay in between these chapters. It’s a story that’s been in my head for a while and I just wanted to get some of it out of my brain and into the world. I started writing it all out of order and have been very slow in getting the pieces all connected how I want them. I’m hoping there won’t be quite as much downtime between chapters from here on out…
Over the next week, Ryan was becoming more and more concerned that he had made a terrible mistake having Nick move in. He loved his little brother and had genuinely been looking forward to spending more time with him, but Ryan couldn’t help but notice how miserable Nick seemed. Nick spent most of his time at the house shut up in his room and he avoided Jason at all costs. And Jason was no better. He tiptoed around the house whenever he knew Nick was there.
By Thursday morning, Ryan decided he needed to do something to relieve the tension. He sat at the kitchen table watching Nick silently pack his backpack for school. Jason was sitting on the other side of the table reading the newspaper. Jason never read the newspaper beyond the comics, but Nick was standing at the counter shoving his books and lunch into his bag and so Jason was making a valiant effort to care about the sports section he held in front of him.
Ryan sighed. “So Nick, you’re on spring break next week, yeah?”
Nick was startled by the sound of Ryan’s voice. He had grown quite accustomed to the usual silence throughout the house while he was there. “Oh, uh, yeah. I was thinking I’ll probably go spend it with Mom and Dad.”
“Really?” Ryan knew how excited Nick had been to be getting away from their parents a few months early, their mom especially. She meant well, but overbearing was a gross understatement and it ate Ryan up to see how much it hurt Nick that he couldn’t come out to her. Years of not-so-subtle comments about Jason made it fairly clear that having a gay son was not something she would be okay with.
“I mean, everyone’s out of town so I might as well. I don’t really have a whole lot to do here,” Nick said, zipping up his bag and swinging it over his shoulder.
“If that’s what you want. Just don’t leave before Saturday night. I’m sticking to my word on that house-warming party.”
Jason glanced up from his paper to shoot Ryan a look at the news that they would be throwing a party in less than 72 hours. Nick looked warily between his two roommates, very much hoping to not get in the middle of something between the two of them.
Nick checked his phone and, despite his usual neuroses regarding punctuality, almost let out a sigh of relief when he saw that he was running late for school. “Sure, whatever. Sounds good,” he called hastily while fleeing the house. He hopped on his bike and started pedaling off.
“So we’re having a party,” Jason stated skeptically, eyeing Ryan while pushing a spoonful of milk and cheerios into his mouth.
“You gotta problem with it, party boy?” Ryan responded with a smirk.
“No, it’s just a little last minute, don’t you think?”
Ryan shrugged. “You’ve met our friends. Free booze can change any plans they may already have.”
Jason gave a sidelong nod. “Fair enough.”
“Anyway, what are you doing up right now? It’s like the middle of the night for you.”
While Ryan had a pretty normal 9-to-5 office job he was using to try to break into sports writing, Jason was slightly less high-achieving. He worked as a waiter on a schedule he had specifically designed to be able to stay in bed until at least noon on any given day. Being alive to the world at eight in the morning was a rarity to say the least.
It was Jason’s turn to shrug. “Couldn’t sleep. Thought I’d go for a run in a bit.”
“Yeah, it’s nothing. I’ve just been keeping weirder hours than usual.” Jason picked up his now empty bowl of cereal and brought it to the sink.
Jason hated lying to Ryan. He always had the distinct feeling that Ryan could see right through him but understood Jason’s reasons for lying so played along with it anyway. It felt like lying just called more attention to whatever he was lying about, but neither would actually talk about it.
The truth was Jason could sleep. He just didn’t want to since every time he did, Nick was there. Over the course of the last week, Jason’s dreams had become more and more Nick-centric. Nick curled up in Jason’s lap watching a movie together. Nick shirtless and sweaty hefting moving boxes into the house. Nick in his underwear bent over the kitchen table working on his homework. Nick naked with his lips wrapped around Jason’s cock. Nick on all fours writhing beneath Jason, moaning his name…
It was that last dream that had woken Jason up this particular morning sweaty, sticky, and in need of a new set of sheets.
Despite it being 7:30, Jason had gotten up and hopped into a quick, cold shower. When he was done, he threw on some sweats and a t-shirt, stripped the sheets, and headed downstairs from his loft bedroom to go start a load of laundry. He considered himself lucky that he didn’t run into Ryan- or worse, Nick- on his way to the basement. He was acutely aware of how easily either would have been able to tell that Jason had had a wet dream by the distinct smell of his sheets and the very fact that he was up and washing them so early in the morning.
“If you say so,” Ryan said, picking up the dishes from his own breakfast and depositing them in the sink. “Anyway, I gotta go to work. If you’re not doing anything, could you maybe start getting the word out about Saturday?”
“Cool. See you later.”
“Bye.” Jason watched through the window above the sink as Ryan exited the side door and got into his car. After Ryan had driven off, Jason turned and trudged back down to the laundry room to put his sheets in the dryer.
Jason decided he really would go for that run. It would be good to clear his head out a bit, good to put some of his pent up energy into something productive, or at least good to get himself exhausted enough to be able to get some peacefully dreamless sleep.
Through the first two miles of his run, Jason’s mind was still hung up on the mildly horrifying thought that he had really fallen for Nick. He tried to rationalize with himself, to make the indefinable part of himself that was attracted to Nick understand why feeling that way was a really bad idea. They were in completely different places in their lives. Nick was still in high school, while Jason had graduated college nearly a year ago. By Jason’s guess, Nick was probably still a virgin and sleeping together would mean something entirely different to him than it would to Jason. Casual wasn’t really a likely option. Jason ran harder to try to silence the feeling in the pit of his stomach that was telling him he’d be okay with not casual, that he maybe even wanted not casual. And Jason didn’t even want to start on the things that little feeling was telling him about getting to be the one to pop Nick’s cherry…
Somewhere in the third mile, Jason remembered how long it had been since he’d been for a run, but he kept going. He told himself it was weird. Nick was Ryan’s little brother and Ryan was the closest thing Jason had to a brother. Jason tried to convince himself that by some transitive property having feelings for Nick was practically incestuous. He could remember the day that Nick was born; Ryan spent the day at Jason’s and when they dropped Ryan off with his parents at the hospital Jason got to hold the tiny newborn. He could remember trying with Ryan to teach Nick to ride a bike and accidentally sending him face first into their neighbor’s hedge. He could remember the way, just three years ago, Nick sat across from him, fidgeting in their diner booth, as he said aloud for the first time to anyone other than his mirror, “I’m gay.”
Jason kept running.
His legs were starting to feel like jelly but his brain was continuing to torture him with real and imagined pictures of Nick. Childhood memories were interspersed with flashes of dreams of Nick’s warm body pressed against his. But in his whirlwind of conflicting emotions, he kept coming back to one resounding thought: Nick wasn’t interested. The brief memories he had of the kiss they shared on New Years made that much clear to Jason. It wasn’t worth all of this agonizing and pining, because that’s all that it was and all it would be. Jason pushed down the hurt he felt at that thought and did his best to convince himself it was just anger at himself for making this a big deal to begin with. However briefly it had lasted, they’d already been down that road and now Nick didn’t even want to talk to him.
Jason ran home, thoroughly exhausted and emotionally no better than when he had left. Once he’d lost all of his momentum, Jason’s legs nearly gave out while he tried to get the key in the front door. He practically had to crawl up the stairs to his room.
After sitting in the shower for some time, just letting the warm water run over his achy muscles, Jason decided he was done. Pining after Nick wasn’t going to get him anywhere and it wasn’t helping anything. When he stepped out of the shower, he would be done constantly thinking about Nick and dreaming about Nick. Nick wouldn’t pop into his mind just as he bringing himself to climax. Jason was stronger than that, better than that. He prided himself on his ability to be in control of his emotions. He didn’t do messy feelings. He did casual.
Jason continued to steel himself against his own emotions before finally pulling himself off of the shower floor. He quickly washed his body and turned off the shower with a sigh. No more Nick.
He towelled off and wrapped the towel around his waist while padding out of his bathroom and toward his bed. Jason grabbed his phone from where he’d left it on the nightstand, flopped onto his back on the bed, and started sending out a mass text that read: Saturday night rager at our house to welcome Ryan’s little brother. Be there and be ready to party.
Jason set an alarm on his phone and set it back on his nightstand then threw his towel on the floor, wrapped himself up in his comforter since his sheets were still in the dryer, and settled in for what would hopefully be a Nick-free nap.
Nick was anxious. It was almost lunchtime and he knew that his best friend Alison was about to give him the third degree. The only class they had together on Thursdays was first period and from the look she gave him from across the room when he slipped into class late, she knew something was up. She always knew. She also happened to always know when Nick was lying. Always.
As expected, Alison nearly accosted Nick as he made his way to his locker.
“Okay, spill,” she announced as she grabbed Nick by the arm. Alison thrived on gossip. She didn’t want to spread rumors or anything like that. She just wanted to know everything about everyone, Nick especially.
“Hello to you, too,” Nick droned, opening his locker, depositing his books into it, and pulling out his lunch.
“Hi,” she clipped. She narrowed her eyes at Nick as though she could telepathically force him into telling her. She eventually gave up with a sigh, telling Nick, “You’re no fun, you know that?”
“I think you’ve told me that before,” he said with chuckle as the two left the building and headed towards the bench they usually ate at.
They sat down, Nick facing forward and Alison with her legs tucked under her, facing Nick. The two began eating their lunches in silence while Alison closely scrutinized Nick’s conflicted expression.
“Sooo…?” Alison drawled.
Nick sighed and tipped his head back to look at the few clouds roaming the sky.
“It’s nothing really,” Nick said, avoiding Alison’s prying eyes. “Well, nothing new anyway.”
“Still haven’t talked to him?” Alison asked.
Nick could hear her voice drop into a slightly lower register that he referred to as her “mom voice.” It was her way of telling him that it wasn’t about gossip anymore, that she was genuinely concerned. He appreciated it, even though it had a way of making him feel like a little kid.
“No. But now Ryan’s throwing this stupid party on Saturday and I can’t stop wondering about what if something happens between me and Jason,” Nick said in the least whiny voice he could muster.
“Like if you get in a fight?” Alison asked despite sincerely doubting that to be a likely scenario.
“Yeah, I guess. Or what if he hooks up with someone else?” Nick let his insecurities rush forward. “What if that’s just what he does? He makes out with guys at parties and it doesn’t mean anything to him. What if he just kissed me because he was bored and now he won’t talk to me because he regrets it so much?”
“I don’t really know what to tell you about that,” Alison started, “but I do think you might be being a little overly dramatic.”
“I know,” Nick pouted. “Just tell me what I should do.”
“Oh good,” Alison said as she straightened up, preparing to play her favorite role of Nick’s life coach. “Okay. Option one: Don’t go. My family’s leaving Saturday morning but I can give you a spare key and–”
“Can’t,” Nick interjected. “The party’s for me.”
Alison’s brow furrowed momentarily. “Well then, option two: Avoid him like the plague. It’s not super classy, but it gets the job done. And if you’re the guest of honor, you can be plenty busy.”
“And option three?” Nick ventured, though he felt he might just bank on option two.
“He’ll be drunk, you’ll be drunk. Conversation shouldn’t be too hard. Just happen to run into him at some point and ask him how his night’s going. You don’t have to bring anything up, just talk.”
“I guess I could do that,” Nick conceded. “Do I get any more options? Perhaps running away and joining the circus before Saturday night?”
Alison laughed. “Well I do have one more option…”
“It’s kind of an alternative to option three…” Alison began hesitantly. “If he’s drunk enough, and you’re drunk enough, just go for it.”
“Go for it?” Nick asked warily.
“Yeah. Just go for the Hail Mary pass.”
“I’m glad you think so highly of my chances with him,” Nick joked.
Alison sighed. “I’m serious. Even if he was just bored, he wouldn’t have given you a hickey the size of my fist if he wasn’t at least a little attracted to you. And what’s it gonna hurt? If he says no, it’s a little awkward, but it’s not like it’ll really change things from where they are now. And if he goes for it, at the very least you get to hook up with him again, and who knows? It might actually get you two to start talking again.”
The bell rang signaling the end of lunch. Nick and Alison packed up the remnants of their lunches and went back into the school. Just as they were parting ways to go to their separate classes, Alison caught Nick’s arm and looked him square in the eyes. “Seriously, Nick. Think about it.”
“I will,” Nick said.
In fact, he was fairly positive he wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it…