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Backseat of the Hyundai

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Xion was thinking about anti-masturbation bracelets again.

Okay, that made it seem like this was a thing he gave a lot of thought to and, while it was true that the last few days found him considering them with an almost worrying frequency it wasn’t really —

oh god he needed to stop thinking.

There was a hitch in his roommate’s breathing — a nightmare, maybe? He had those a lot (or so Xion assumed — he only met Pera Rivers two days ago, the brief facebook conversation they shared when they learned they’d be sharing a dorm didn't count, and Xion’s behaviour sure as hell got weirder since then so maybe bad dreams were just this guy's version of gay thoughts and —)

Xion buried his face in the pillow, mentally screamed.

Okay, if he was being technical, these weren’t the first not completely heterosexual thoughts he’d had — his parents had him enrolled in at least five different martial training classes and the changing rooms were a thing and so was getting pinned to the ground by other men (often, in Xion’s case, because he sucked) but those were ignorable. He’d blame them on friction or hormones or something and maybe he never had a thing for girls but he was just a late bloomer and —

And turns out it was much harder to ignore any unwelcome urges when the source of them was sleeping right under you.

(oh god that was terrible phrasing)

Sound of rustling as Pera rolled over in his bed, whimpered. Xion bit down on his lip.

Pera was. Weird. Wore a lot of nice smelling clothes and knew how to cook and liked animals and had sad eyes and cried in his sleep and Xion had never seen a boy cry and he was supposed to sneer at that and message his brother about how much of a pussy his roommate was you wouldn’t believe like Tahlus had when he’d went off to college, years ago, but —

Xion didn’t want them to know about Pera.

And it was so stupid because, it made no sense that he’d be this overprotective over a random boy he shared a room with but everything about Pera made him so confused because, when he wasn’t having nightmares or crying honestly how could one cry so much he looked peaceful and looking down at his sleeping face made Xion’s breath catch and he was being creepy now but he’d never seen a boy asleep before either and maybe that was for the best because having this crisis back home would have killed him and like it mattered they’d kill him either way, his dad had said long ago no son of his would be — and Xion was —

“Xion?”

Xion realised his face was wet. The irony of the situation was honestly hilarious, on some xenoplanar existence.

“Xion?” Pera called out again — bed creaking as he moved, presumably to check up on him; Xion turned around to face the wall, tried to fake deep breathing. Realized he couldn’t. Realized he couldn’t breathe, at all, and —
“Xion, are you alright?”

Xion was going to fucking off himself, the moment he could breathe again.

“Yes,” he tried to say. It came out as stretched-out, weepy polysyllable.

“Huh,” Pera said. “Want some tea?”

Oh, and Pera liked tea. Well, tea and soup — when Xion said Pera could cook he mostly meant, he saw him heat up things and — he did it with so much focus and serenity and Xion was maybe coming to a conclusion he’d been creepily ogling the guy’s every action for the entirety of the week.

Clanking of the dishes as Pera set the water to boil. Xion tried to take a deep breath.

“It’s okay,” Pera was saying. “You don’t need to feel embarrassed.”

But I do!! Xion wanted to scream. That was his new mood constant, just, needing to scream.

“I get it if you don’t want to talk about it.”

Xion made a mistake of looking up. Caught the gentle smile Pera threw his way. Needed to lie down again.

“Okay,” he managed.

“Okay,” Pera repeated. “But if you want to—”

“I don’t.”

A beat of silence. “Okay.”

A mug of steaming tea — Xion honestly had no idea which flavour it was, but it was warm and oddly comforting in a way he wasn’t really comfortable with — was placed into his hands.

Pera gave him another one of those smiles. (Xion was going to die). “Hope this helps.”

Xion couldn’t trust his voice. Swallowed. Nodded.

“Thanks.”

Pera’s smile grew. Abort!! “Good night.”

“You too.”

He spent the rest of the night awake, decidedly not looking in Pera’s direction.

Pera slept the night without incident, peaceful and oddly pretty, especially when first morning rays peeked in through the shitty curtains the dorm came equipped with.

There was a weird warmth in the bottom of Xion’s stomach. He decided to blame it on the tea.

__

 

The music was loud and the drink someone pushed into his hand was gross (and probably a bad idea — what were the chances someone spiked it with something more sinister than a questionable combination of bud light and Johnny Walker? Xion had heard the stories but he also, objectively, knew that drugs were expensive and this place was packed with people getting wrecked on their own, was anyone really that invested ?)

Phyrane Tinueth, the girl from his History of ancient civilisations class, was sprawled out on the couch next to him, sipping on her glass.

“Hey,” she spoke up.

Xion looked at her.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” she sloshed the liquid in her glass about (where’d she get a legit glass?) (maybe it was better he didn’t know). “But I’m trying to get laid.”

Xion blinked, a little taken aback. “Oh?”

“And right now, it looks like you’re my boyfriend.”

“Oh.”

“Which you’re not.”

“Yeah, I’m aware.”

“So,” Phyrane smacked her lips. “You need to go.”

“Right.”

She smiled. “Bye, then.”

He got up and walked away, almost as if on autopilot. That sure just happened.

The kitchen was crowded — Xion watched the Motley trio (or a ...quadr — a foursome? That sounded wrong? They had a dog — or something that looked like a dog) play beer pong for a full minute, still processing.

The short stocky bearded guy finished off the last of the beer, let out a victory scream — the short blonde Xion had seen work the local coffee shop and a clearly drunk redhead both cheered on, the animal-whose-species-Xion-couldn’t-deduce-oh-god-he-was-going-to-fail-biology pseudo-howling along.

“I did it, Oinkers!” The guy jumped down to crouch next to the animal, gave it a bone-crushing hug. “Told you I could!”

“Should’ve never doubted you,” the redhead wiped away fake — no, wait, fully real, fully real tears — off her face, smiled. “I’ve never been more happy to be proven wrong.”

“Yeah, Torrvick!” The blonde guy clapped. Noticed Xion. “Hey!”

Xion startled.

“Who are you?”

All three sets of eyes turned to him — correction, four, the Thing was staring at him too.

“Uh,” he said, intelligently.

“Oinkers,” the redhead said, suddenly very authoritative. “Sniff him out.”

The animal moved towards him. Xion stepped back.

“I’m Xion!” He said, maybe a bit too panicky. “Nice — uh.”

“Oinkers,” the bearded guy supplied.

“Okay,” Xion was going to accept everything he needed to accept in order to not get eaten by a creature of an unnameable geni. “Nice Oinkers.”

The guy’s face softened. “She’s a beauty.”

So, a She. “Yeah.”

“You look nervous,” the blonde noticed. (Xion could not, for the life of himself, remember his name) (oh god, he was one of those bourgeois assholes who never noticed retail staff’s name-tags now, wasn’t he?)

All the eyes were at him again.

“You do,” the redhead nodded.

“You need a drink,” the bearded guy said.

“Torrvick, that’s a great idea!” the guy (DORRO his name was Dorro, Xion was fine) clapped, again. “Get him a drink!”

“I don’t drink,” was out of Xion’s mouth before he could rethink it.

Redhead slanted her eyes at him. “I saw you drink.”

“I’m —” not supposed to. His parents weren’t here right now (his parents would never be proud of him again). “Busted.”

Roaring laughter, from the beard guy. “Get him a drink!”

“Get him one yourself!” The redhead laughed. “Not a maid.”

“Didn’t mean to imply,” the beard guy clambered up to his feet. “That you possessed any sort of a practical skill.”

“Hey!”

There was a glass of something clear, pungent, being thrust in his hand — Xion started, never having seen Dorro approach.

“Oh,” he looked down at the most unappetizing thing he’d ever considered imbibing. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome!” Dorro was very loud. “I’m Dorro!”

“I know,” he really didn’t want to drink this.

“Dorro, that looks disgusting,” the beard guy sighed, coming forth with a bottle of something yellowish. Xion noticed he had a really nice accent — mentally flinched from the thought. Still couldn’t look away as he poured a shot. “Put that away, boy, try this.”

Xion was acting on autopilot now, but guessed it was working — accepted the glass, sniffed it. Nearly belched.

“Tastes better than it smells,” the redhead promised.

“I don’t know your name,” Xion said.

She winked. “I’ll tell you if you take a shot.”

Xion knocked the glass back — the liquid was surprisingly sweet.

“Huh,” he said.

The beard guy was laughing again. “Atta boy!”

“How old are you?” Xion asked.

“We’re all, like, nineteen,” Dorro was pouring him another shot. “Torrvick just likes to act like he’s old.”

“Because he looks old,” the redhead snorted.

Xion nodded.

“I’m Rina,” she thrust out her hand for him to shake (he assumed). “By the way.”

Xion took it. “Uh, Hi.”

“Give him your number while you’re at it!” Dorro hollered.

Xion’s stomach did a flip. “I’m not —”

“Dorro, shut up!” Rina hissed. “Ignore him.”

“No, don’t ignore me!” Dorro swung the bottle around, somehow not dropping it yet. “I’m just wingmaning here!”

“I don’t think the guy is interested,” Torrvick was busy scratching his unidentifiable beast’s belly.

“Exactly,” Rina crossed her arms, rolled her eyes. “Dorro's just stupid.”

“I’m not stupid!” Dorro nudged Xion’s side. “Are you, though?”

Xion was shortcircuiting. “Stupid?”

“No,” Dorro snorted. “I can tell that for myself.”

“Dorro!”

“I didn’t say what I could tell,” Dorro rolled his eyes, laughed. “Interested!”

Xion felt his heartbeat race up — okay, no. Knocked another shot back.

Dorro was immediately filling it up again, then took a chug straight from the bottle.

“I think that’s a no,” Rina, thank god, didn’t look upset.

“Then he really is stupid!” Dorro set the bottle down. Squinted at Xion. “Or gay.”

Xion was not panicking.

“Let him be,” Rina whined. “You’ll chase him away.”

Dorro gave him one last curious look, then shrugged. Laughed again.

“Want to join us in stealing all of the host’s pricey booze and then loitering on the roof?”

Xion didn’t say no.

__

He woke up to the sun all but stabbing him in the retinas, a headache threatening to crack his skull open, and he really needed to pee but getting up felt like a chore he wouldn’t be up to for another fifteen years, min.

He groaned into his pillow.

A soft chuckle rang out in response.

He sat up faster than he thought possible (or than he should have — mother of fuck, his head) stared up at Pera, watching him over the rim of his busted up laptop.

“Good morning,” that soft smile was back on. This wasn’t humane. “Did you sleep well?”

Xion’s brain was overheating. “No.”

Pera chuckled again, tried to hide it behind his hand — fuck him, fuck him and his being cute. “I tried to get you to drink water, but, you wouldn’t.”

Xion all but felt the cold sinking of dread in his stomach — blamed it on post-alcohol nausea, see this is why your family didn’t want you to drink or be gay it’s bad for your gastric system. “I — what?”

“Dorro brought you here, around three in the morning — thought you wouldn’t remember, you were quite drunk— I tried to get you both to drink water but Dorro was trying to steal our things and by the time I was done talking him out of it you were asleep.”

He said it all like it wasn’t weird. Xion wondered what sort of life the guy normally lived. (oh dear god he was such an idiot)

“Dorro tried to steal our stuff?” he asked, instead.

Pera beamed. (Xion was screwed) “Just our glass jars — he says they have fish.”

“They have fish.”

“Torrvick and him,” Pera nodded. “I told him that’s nice but we need those jars and he said that’s fair and still stole one but I guess we can share.” Another smile. “For the fish.”

“For the fish.”

“Yeah,” Pera tilted his head. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

Xion considered lying. “No.”

Pera’s smile turned sad. “I wish I had some painkillers to offer you, but — I can make tea? We don’t have eggs, or — any food, we should get on that —”

Shit. “Yeah, I was going to go shopping, but —” he was never drinking again. He fell back, groaned.

“It’s okay,” Pera sounded like he really meant it. “We can do that later — I think we have some ramen noodles?”

Xion was certain he would actually die if he ate anything. “I’m fine, thanks.”

“If you’re sure?”

“Yeah,” he snuck a look up. Pera looked genuinely worried, so fucking soft. Xion looked away, maybe too quickly. “Thanks.”

 

__

 

Xion only managed to get himself out of bed ten hours later — they entered the store twenty minutes before closing time, with a brief shopping list in an empty text message on Pera’s phone and a shared sentiment of refusing to be those assholes who made underpaid workers stay open late.

“Okay, pasta, that’s there,” Xion tugged the shopping cart into a sharp right — Pera, who was unsurprisingly the muscle of the duo (Xion had no upper body strength to speak of, despite the years of trying) followed suit. “How much, uh, do we need?”

“How much can we afford?” Pera whispered.

Xion grinned. “That’s a better question.”

Pera returned his smile.

Xion was terrified.

Pera insisted they got cheese, because he’d apparently noticed Xion liked it, and Xion responded by refusing to let Pera skimp out on his comfort foods (“no, no, we’re doing this fairly, put those back in the cart, Pera I will fight you”)

They left the store the second it closed. Shared an enthusiastic victory-five at the parking lot.

Xion’s hand still felt tingly, almost an hour later. He promptly pushed it back, to where all the thoughts he didn’t want to dwell on went.

__

“Xion!”

Xion nearly dropped his coffee, blinked. There was a figure looming over his table. “Dorro?”

“That’s me!” The man did the classic peter pan pose, grinned. “Whatcha working on?”

Xion had been researching the legality of conversion therapy in all fifty states. “Nothing.”

“Hm,” Dorro didn’t look convinced — Xion slammed the laptop shut as he tried to take a peek. “Okay, you’re weird — anyways!” He straightened up, beamed. “What are you doing this friday?”

Xion raised one eyebrow.

“Not asking you out on a date, by the way.”

Xion felt his face flush. “Why would —”

“I don’t know!” Dorro, apparently, didn’t have an inside voice. “I know you’re —” he made a hand gesture. “So —”

“Are you,” this conversation was ridiculous. Xion was getting on his own nerves (still repeated the hand gesture, though).

Dorro’s face was now red too. “No!”

“Then why—”

“People like to talk shit about my “”””weird sexuality”””” he made a show of exaggerated quotation marks. “Or something. So.”

Xion was nodding.

“Just being careful.”

“Right.”

“Nothing wrong with —”

Right.

Dorro cleared his throat, loudly. “So!” Another smile. “Rina is having a house party and wants you guys there.”

Xion was nodding. “Yeah, sure — wait, Pera too?”

“Yeah! He’s cool,” Dorro nodded. “And he works the evening shift here so. Worker solidarity!”

Xion hadn’t known that. Refused to file it away, because it was none of his business. “Also, you stole his jar.”

“I did not !” Dorro started. “Okay, I did.”

Xion nodded.

“Anyways!” Dorro whistled. “Friday? Like, nine-ish, because I have this stupid shift I need to do — Pera has the address, so that’s that.”

“Yeah,” Xion wasn’t sure why he was agreeing to this. He didn’t really want to go anywhere where there’d be people who knew — thought! — oh, fuck it, knew — he liked — he was —

He was being so ridiculous.

“Okay, see you there!” Dorro was talking.

“Yeah,” Xion repeated.

Dorro watched him for a second too long. “I’m not giving you your jar back.”

Xion exhaled. “That’s alright.”

“It better be.”

“Okay.”

“We’ll be expecting you!”

“Okay!”

Dorro finally left. Xion opened his laptop, stared at the empty google search. Felt a little queasy. Decided to blame it on the coffee, maybe he was lactose intolerant, maybe he was discovering it late in life. Pushed the awareness that he wouldn’t be able to push these thoughts back forever back. Finished his coffee.
__

Rina’s roommate walked that thin balance of awe-inspiring and straight-up terrifying — she greeted Xion in the kitchen before grabbing herself a glass of fruit juice and retreating to her bedroom, looking composed despite her bright green fuzzy slippers.

“She’s finishing up an essay,” Rina explained, when Xion asked if they were a bother. “Don’t worry, the walls are soundproof.”

“God, rich people.” Dorro was sprawled out across a beanbag. “You make me sick!” He made retching noises, for good measure.

Torrvick poured him another drink. His monstrosity of a beast was nuzzled against his thigh. “How is she doing?”

“Uhhh,” Rina made a weird noise, sinked into the couch.

Torrvick nodded, like that had been a comprehensible reply.

Pera, who was sat to Xion’s left, caught his eyes, and shrugged.

Xion set his drink down, away from his reach.

Dorro watched this happen — they held each other's’ gaze for a second, and then Dorro’s flitted to Pera, and Xion’s heart dropped.

The guy looked back at Xion, a huge smile splitting his face — thinking a quick, fuck that, Xion downed the glass.

__

“I think I need to stop drinking,” Xion said, to no one in particular.

“No!” Torrvick protested. “Alcohol is great!”

“Torrvick, you have a drinking problem.” Sirena, whose bed they were all currently sprawled out in, said.

“No!”

“You do,” Rina agreed. Yawned. “But that’s okay.”

“Thank you.”

“I mean, it’s not, but.” Another yawn. “God, I’m tired.”

“Please go to bed,” Dorro whined — Xion could not, for the life of him, deduce where the voice was coming from.

“Yes!” Torrvick shouted.

“You still have a drinking problem, though.”

“I do not!”

“Yes you do!” Dorro was suddenly climbing onto Xion’s legs — Xion nearly threw them both off. “You have it! You have a drinking problem, and you also have an animal stealing problem!”

“I am rescuing them!”

And,” Dorro waved a hand. “You have two kids!”

A pillow came out of nowhere, hitting Dorro straight in the face. The guy rolled off the bed, disappeared.

“Do you really?” Pera asked.

Torrvick’s reply took a moment to arrive. “...Yes.”

Pera hummed, shifted — suddenly their knees were touching and Xion felt like he’d combust. “How old are they?”

“A month,” Torrvick groaned. “They live with their mam, back home.”

“Are you…” Pera hesitated.

“We were never together,” Torrvick said, maybe a little harshly.

“Except for that one night!” Dorro was suddenly by the window. Xion was halfway convinced the guy had some sort of a superpower.

“Dorro!”

“That one special, special fateful night!”

Sirena sat up again. “Do you need me to kick him out?”

Torrvick sighed. “No.”

“He loves me!”

“I will get Oinkers to eat you whole.”

Dorro made an offended sound. Still crawled up into the sleeping bag, next to Torrvick and his pet.

Xion decided not to wonder.

“So, you’re a teen dad,” Sirena said.

“Damn,” Rina laughed. “Straight for the jugular.”

“That’s how I roll,” Sirena’s teeth flashed in the darkness. “Are you in contact with them?”

Torrvick was quiet.

“He is!” Dorro was the one to speak. “He’s a great dad! He has their pictures in his wallet.”

Torrvick groaned again. “Shut up.”

“And he knits — he knit them little socks!”

“Shutup

“And he sends money, and everything, and that’s why we never have any food.”

Dorro.

Rina rolled over, causing Pera to lean against Xion’s side. “Heck yeah, Torrvick protection squad.”

Dorro and her high-fived.

“That’s really nice of you, Torrvick.” Pera was speaking.

Torrvick groaned. “Can everyone shut up now?”

“Hey, if you can’t share your dark backstories at 4 in the morning in a crowded foreign bed, when can you?” Rina laughed. Stopped. “Not that your backstory is dark, or —”

“I got it,” Torrvick’s signature grumpiness could not hide his embarrassment. Xion found himself grinning. “Thank you.”

Rina’s voice got high pitched, as it tended to get when she was nervous. “You’re welcome!”

“Who else has a dark backstory?” Dorro sat up.

Silence.

“I’ll start!”

“Oh god,” that was Torrvick.

“There’s this asshole back home —”

“Not again, I’m begging you.” Rina, now.

Xion was growing genuinely interested.

“We know, Dorro, we know, you hate baron LeFlure, you hate him with your whole being, you hate hate hate Baron LeFlure —” Sirena stopped for breath. “Please, not in my room.”

Rina was nodding enthusiastically. “This is a LeFlure free zone.”

Pera was moving, next to Xion. “Who’s Baron LeFlure?”

“He —”

“No!” Sirena snapped. Then, softer. “Not now, Pera.”

Pera curled back into his previous position. “Okay.”

“Pera!” Dorro was speaking up again, apparently undeterred. “What’s your tragic backstory!”

Pera was quiet for a moment.

“Maybe not everyone has one?” Xion offered.

“Uh, sure you don’t, mister drunk in a lesbian’s bed.”

Xion looked up at that, over at Sirena — she finger-gunned.

“Oh,” he nodded.

“That an issue?” she asked.

“No!”

“We think he’s gay,” Dorro called out.

Xion tensed up. Wasn’t sure why.

“Oh,” Sirena said.

Xion said nothing.

“Hey,” she whispered. “Isn’t your dad that —”

Xion buried his face in his knees.

“Oh,” Sirena sounded sympathetic. “That a yes?”

Xion bit down on his lip. “Yeah.”

A warm hand on his shoulder — he looked up, met Pera’s eyes.

“My brother is dead,” he said.

Xion’s eyes widened.

Pera looked embarrassed. “I’m trying to distract from your situation.”

Xion let out a shaky laugh.

“Wait, who’s his dad?” Dorro asked.

“That Kadar guy, with the poster —”

“The poster?” Dorro sounded confused. “Which — oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Oh!”

Rina sat up like that. “The ‘being gay is a weakness’ one?”

Pera grimaced. Was still looking at Xion. “Is that why you cry at night?”

Xion felt his face heat up. “Is your brother why you cry?”

Pera’s eyes didn’t waver. “Yes.”

Oh. Xion felt like all air got knocked out his lungs.

Pera smiled again. Squeezed his shoulder.

“I can’t believe you’re that actual gay kid straight liberals wish on homophobic politicians,” Dorro was still talking.

“Oh my god,” Rina shouted. “I hate those.”

“I know!”

“Like, wow, yeah, cause the parents are the ones that’ll suffer, sure.”

“Straight people are demons,” Sirena agreed.

Xion sunk deeper into the bed.

“Wait, is anyone here straight?” Rina asked, apparently an afterthought.

A moment of silence. Pera and Rina shaking their heads.

“Dorro’s sexuality is classified as ‘weird’,” Torrvick said.

“Dorro’s sexuality is classified as not you but you keep — ugh.” Dorro was suddenly on the bed again — Xion was ninety percent sure he was stroking out. “You call a guy in a fantasy game cute once —”

A guy?” Rina snorted. “It was an orc, Xion, don’t let him feed you lies.”

“Hey, orcs can get it.” Sirena said.

Dorro was gone from the bed.

“So, Pera.” his voice came from a new corner. “You too, huh?”

Pera shrugged.

“Straight people can’t enter my home,” Sirena declared.

“I thought I was straight until —” Rina counted on her fingers. “A week ago!”

Sirena shrugged. “The house knew.”

Xion sunk even deeper under the blankets; Pera followed his motions, chuckling into the covers. Sides of their bodies were touching. Xion felt like he was going to pass out.

“If anyone vomits on my bed,” Sirena started. Trailed off.

“What then?” Pera asked.

No response.

“She’ll be sad,” Torrvick said.

“Oh,” Pera nodded. “Okay.”

__

 

Torrvick was in the coffee shop the next time Xion visited, head on the table and Oinkers under it.

Xion hesitated for a second before approaching. “Mind if I sit here?”

Torrvick looked up, lowered his head again once he realized who it was. “Go ahead, why not.”

Xion did so.

There was a mug in front of Torrvick, almost empty — Xion had assumed it was coffee, but realized now it had a too strong smell, too clear a colour.

“Is that —” it was. Right.

“None of your business?” Torrvick was still not lifting his head. “Good eye, boy.”

Xion swallowed, nodded. “So, uh. Hair of the dog?”

Torrvick looked up at him, one eye cracked open. “I let you sit here because I assumed you’d be quiet.”

Xion could read in-between the lines. “Okay!”

Opened his laptop, started his essay. Ignored it as Torrvick dozed off, unbothered by the chatter all around them.

Dorro’s shift started some forty minutes later — he showed up to set a glass of water on their table, give Oinkers a belly rub.

“Uh,” Xion whispered. Dorro beamed at him, waiting. “Is this…”

“Normal? For Torrvick? Yeah.” He shrugged.

“But —”

“We said he has a drinking problem,” Dorro swiped the nearly empty mug. “Did you think we were joking?”

“I — maybe?”

Dorro laughed. “Shout for me if you need a refill!”

__

 

Pera was having a nightmare again.

And Xion, he just decided, had enough of being that asshole — he was out of his bed before he could fully formulate the thought (and, subsequently, chicken out). Froze once again, towering over Pera’s form — his fingers were digging into the pillow so hard the knuckles were turning pale.

With a ‘fuck it’ thought so hard he was certain it had to have made a noise, Xion laid one hand on Pera’s shoulder, gave it a light shake.

“Hey,” he whispered. His throat felt very dry suddenly — what was he supposed to say, fuck, he really hadn’t thought this through. “Pera?”

Pera’s eyes shot open. There were tears, forming in the corners.

“You’re fine,” Xion said, like an idiot. “Uh.”

Pera let out a shaky breath. Tears kept flowing.

Oh, fuck. “Hey—”

“Sorry,” Pera was sitting up, pulling the covers up to his face. “Sorry, sorry, I’m —”

“It’s okay,” Xion was probably being too quiet. Still wasn’t moving. Tried to think of any piece of media that could have prepared him for this kind of a situation, how to comfort your very male crying roommate when you’re also very male, come on, found his mind blank. “It’s—”

Pera’s breathing was coming out rushed.

The only thing popping into Xion’s mind was the shoulder-squeeze Pera gave him, back in Sirena’s bed — with another loud FUCK IT, he knelt down, squeezed Pera’s shoulder.

“Let it out,” he said, because it felt like the thing to say. “Uh.”

Pera leaned into the touch. Xion froze for a second, and then just went with it. “Want some tea?”

Pera let out a wet, shaky laugh.

“What?”

“You’re saying the things I said to you.”

Xion couldn’t but smile back. “Maybe.”

Pera kept laughing. “That’s amazing.”

“Am I a quick learner or what?”

“Well…”

Xion faked an offended sound — Pera leaned against his side, fully, abort,, abort, exhaled.

“I’d like some tea,” he said. Pushed Xion away lightly, stood up. “But I’d also like you not to burn the kitchen down.”

“Hey!” Xion trailed after him. Wasn’t fully sure why. “Technically —”

Pera laughed. “Technically.

“You’re the only one who ever uses this, so—”

So—”

“You have a hundred percent more of a chance to set fire to anything, don’t you dare repeat that too—”

Pera had doubled-over laughing. Checkmate.

“I’m really sorry,” he whispered, after a beat. “For waking you up.”

“Oh,” Xion hesitated. “It’s not a — I woke you up before, guess that’s just what having roommates is like?”

Pera smiled. His eyes still looked sad. “I guess.”