Michael is the most frustrating tutor Adam’s ever had.
Granted, he’s the only tutor Adam’s ever had for pre-med, but he thinks it’s some cruel joke that Dean referred him to the only one at his college with a GPA average of 4.0 majoring in Adam’s field who looked like he’d just walked off the set of Grey’s Anatomy.
Adam learns all kinds of confronting things about himself spending ten hours a week elbow-to-elbow with Michael in half-empty classrooms or hunched over piles of textbooks at the college bar.
Michael traces the passages he wants Adam to note with the eraser-end of his pencil while reading them aloud. He’s learned that Adam has better recall of spoken instruction. He hasn’t learned that Adam is sickeningly enamoured with the sound of his voice and stares so hard at the page until the words are seared into memory, because when he looks Michael in the face, he gets weirdly disoriented and flushed at the intensity of those blue eyes on him, or distracted by those thin, black rectangular frames that Michael only wore for reading, and God forbid he look at Michael’s mouth, because that’s about when all brain function stops. So, he resolves to look Michael in the eye as little as possible these days.
It’s only been two months, but as if the accidental development of a real friendship between them wasn’t bad enough, Adam knows a large part of the reason Michael is so attentive is that Adam is his ex’s youngest brother. Michael used to be Dean’s, before Adam and his Mom re-entered the picture, and they’re still on good terms (hence the referral).
There are so many covenants Adam’s breaking just by thinking about it, but Michael’s not making it easy. He’s patient, intellectually brilliant, unintentionally funny, and – as Adam learns – fiercely protective of his own family.
One night Michael doesn’t show up to their scheduled session and Adam waits for over an hour. He doesn’t know if he’s sorer about the lack of a heads up or the knowledge that if Michael had shown up in the end, his genuine, sheepish smile of apology would have just punched Adam in the chest anyway.
He knows Michael doesn’t mean to have this effect on people, but it doesn’t make it any easier, especially when Adam learns that Michael stood him up because he was out with his brothers confronting a gang from a rival college who had attacked their youngest sibling, Castiel. Both sides end up in the hospital that night, but no charges are laid.
Michael turns up at Adam’s house the next day with stitches over his brow, smaller scratches with dark bruises colouring his cheek, and apologises profusely for almost five minutes that he’d missed their appointment because he was being harassed by nurses, then questioned by police, and he would have called Adam, but everyone’s phones were confiscated and Michael had used his one call for Dean.
Dean was seeing Castiel now and was absolutely crazy about him. Adam understands. Actually, he respects Michael even more for getting his priorities right, but it doesn’t lessen the blow, and there’s been so much tension building inside of him for the past two months that when Michael goes to apologise for the tenth time, Adam’s threshold snaps.
“Cry me a river, Mike. I understand. I don’t care.”
He doesn’t care that Michael didn’t show up, because he was looking after his family (sure, at the time he was hurt and confused, but Adam has appreciation for the bigger picture) and that was valid.
It’s not until some time later, that he realises how his words might have been misconstrued. It could have also explained the abrupt hurt and confusion in Michael’s face. Adam has never seen that expression on him before and, at the time, he thought it was just because Michael preferred being addressed by his full name.
“Adam… are we okay? You’ve been different lately. Is there anything you want to tell me?” Michael’s tone is halting and careful, and because it’s the sole thing burning at the forefront of Adam’s mind these days, he assumes in a flash of revelation that Michael’s discovered his secret.
Adam’s entire body flushes with horror and shame, and he takes the absolute worse response: he goes on the offensive.
“Different? Like the fact I’m now top of my class and you’re finally proving you're worth the mint I’ve been paying you?”
Adam’s never seen Michael look so stunned, either.
“What… where did that come from?”
“If anything’s different here, Mike, it’s your twenty-dollar face.” With a simple change in tone, Adam could have made that funny, but instead it comes out dry and disappointed, and even as he’s saying it, he can feel his gut twisting because Michael is a nice guy and Adam’s proud of what he did. He doesn’t want to hurt Michael, but he has to because Michael is stupid and ignorantly wonderful and Adam hates him for that. How does that even make sense?
“Do you want your money back? Is that what this is about?”
“No, keep it. You earned it.”
Michael frowns then.
“Why do I feel like you’re calling me a whore?”
It hurts being called on his bullshit, even though Adam knows he deserves it.
“Just go home, Mike. Okay?”
“Why are you calling me ‘Mike’?”
Adam almost breaks. He’s going against everything he is and Michael knows that, but all Adam can think is fuck you, this isn’t fair.
There’s a fierce burn behind his eyes and the wave of grief hits him so hard he almost chokes on it, reaching blindly for the doorknob.
“Please, just go home.”
It could be the fact he says ‘please’ or that his voice completely betrays him, but the resentment immediately melts from Michael’s expression, replaced by pure concern.
“Adam – what’s wrong?” Michael reaches for him and Adam panics, backing quickly inside.
“I have to study.” He doesn’t really slam the door, but he’s irrationally afraid Michael will stick a hand in the jam or try to push it open despite the clear message, so he spins the deadlock the second it’s shut and storms upstairs. Collapsing onto his bed, he muffles his groan with the crush of his pillow because he’s so, so stupid and it hurts.
When he wakes up, it’s dark outside and he knows that, somehow, his efforts to keep Michael out have failed. He doesn’t stop to muse at the strangeness that this is the first time Michael’s ever been in his bedroom, or the fact that Michael is more importantly in bed with him, his arms wrapped around Adam like he’s done this a hundred times before.
It feels like everything he’s ever wanted, but a horrible sense of loss constricts Adam’s throat in spite of it, and he pulls Michael’s arms tighter around him.
“I can’t stand you being angry with me,” Michael murmurs into his hair.
Adam’s fingers clutch the sleeve of Michael’s football jersey. He’s such an asshole.
“Adam,” Michael protests and gently pulls Adam’s shoulder until he relents and rolls onto his back. Adam resolutely stares at his collarbone, then at the crest of their college football team over his heart. “I’m sorry for whatever I did. But you have to talk to me or I can’t fix this.”
There’s a lump that has somehow slipped through the noose around Adam’s throat and he can’t swallow it. He manages to shake his head, still focusing on Michael’s shirt.
Michael’s hand runs up his arm and squeezes his shoulder reassuringly.
“You can tell me anything.”
Adam doesn’t want to be that jerk that has to tell their friend it’s not you, it’s me, but it’s the only answer he has. It’s the only one he’s prepared to venture.
“Hey.” Michael gently coaxes him, then waits, thumb patiently stroking Adam’s shoulder until Adam steels himself and meets Michael’s gaze. Michael smiles sadly. “I miss you.”
It’s impossible not to see from this close, from the way Michael refuses to look away: Michael feels something for him, too. Adam already feels like his heart is going to beat right out of his chest, he’s too high strung to rationalize if he’s relieved or terrified. Even when Michael leans down and finally kisses him, Adam can’t make sense of the wrench in his chest. He can barely coordinate himself to respond to the way Michael patiently coaxes his mouth open before kissing him, deeply and languid, like he has all the time in the world to convince Adam to talk once he realises he has to remove his tongue from Adam’s mouth to do that.
Adam pulls him closer, he can’t help it, he wants to feel every inch of Michael while the guy will let him, so he opens his thighs when Michael gently pulls at his knee.
“I miss you,” Michael whispers again when Adam surfaces for air, then loses it all with the roll of Michael’s hips against him through their clothes. There’s vindication in the clear evidence Adam feels that he’s not the only one getting off on this. He swears, hands flying to Michael’s waist as Michael thrusts against him again, and his hips buck, back arching under the full press of Michael’s weight.
“Ngh, I hate you,” Adam groans, and strains up for another kiss. Michael spites him, hovering out of reach with a curious frown.
“Why?” Michael’s hands stroke up beneath Adam’s shirt, warm palms travelling from his navel to his neck in a soothing massage that draws Adam’s eyes closed with a shudder at the comfort of it.
He wants this so badly for himself. He wants Michael’s body, mind, and heart, and Michael is in Adam’s bed against all odds, willing to give them to him.
That’s when Adam realises it’s not real.
He feels himself smile even as something shatters inside and he winds his hands in Michael’s that feel so real and warm, holding them to his chest.
Maybe if Michael waited long enough, he could say it, but it’s at that point he wakes up with the awful, broken ache still accentuating every beat of his heart like its cage had worn tissue thin. In the fever warmth of the lingering dream, he wonders how he let things get so bad.
It’s dark outside, he feels like he’s in mourning, and it sucks beyond words.
On the bedside table, his cell abruptly blinks with a new message. It’s Michael.
I’m here if you need to talk. Hope you’re okay. M.
The words are blurry to read after that, not only because Adam’s still half-asleep, and once he shoves the cell back on the bedside table, he falls into a dreamless sleep filled with black and shifting tides of that awful heartache.
In the morning, he thinks he understands emo kids a lot better.
He does not understand why Michael and his Mother are sitting at the dining table when he staggers downstairs twenty minutes later.
They both look up at the commotion of his entrance – Adam is so out of it, he’s feeling his way along the walls like he hasn’t lived here for the last two years – and Adam freezes.
Michael and Kate are both warming mugs of coffee in their hands and by all appearances they’ve been there for a while.
“Adam,” His mother gasps, rising from the table, but Adam leans away from her concerned hand when she reaches for his forehead. “Baby, you don’t look well.”
“What’s going on?” Adam looks between them warily. The day had barely started and he was already being thrown for a loop. He and Michael had been quickly becoming friends, but Michael had never invited himself over so early even when things between them were at their best: there was some sort of unwritten rule that the inner sanctum of the day’s uglier hours were reserved for only the most trusted company.
Michael had never even met Adam’s mother before.
Kate glances discreetly over her shoulder at their early visitor and Adam’s gaze follows in suspicion.
“Michael and I’ve been talking. I have to go to work, but I’ll let him fill you in.”
Another rush of horror swells in Adam thinking of what Michael and his mother could have been discussing, but she isn’t looking as disgusted as he would have expected with his rude, dismissive behaviour from the day before. In fact, there isn’t a hint of characteristic disappointment. Adam is suddenly even more confused.
Kate’s hand cups his cheek and she kisses his temple, lingering just a bit longer than normal.
“We’ll talk when I get home tonight,” She promises him, then adds with a suspiciously playful smile, “Good find, baby,” before she grabs her things and disappears out the front door.
The sudden silence is suffocating and Adam stares at the door his Mom just disappeared through. He can’t believe Michael is here. It’s too soon and there’s a hot, anxious feeling building in his chest. He can’t even draw a proper breath.
“She said ‘yes’.”
Michael’s voice startles him. Michael is studying the mug in his hands when Adam looks back at him.
“Well, she said once you turn eighteen, it’s okay. That’s only a month away. I’m twenty-one and otherwise it’d be… illegal.” Michael’s expression twists in bemusement at the word, like it’s not one he’s used to, though he was hauled to the police station barely two days beforehand.
Adam’s horrible feeling is spiralling quickly downward. He steadies himself by leaning against the counter.
“Mike, what the—“
“Hey,” Michael’s gentle interruption stops him short and the earnest, open acceptance in his gaze almost finishes Adam’s heart, too. “I like it when you call me ‘Michael’.”
Adam’s never seen that look directed at him.
“… What did I miss?”
Michael rises from the table with a sigh and pulls his cell from his jacket pocket.
“I had a feeling you’d forget; you sent it at three in the morning.”
Adam numbly takes the cell when it’s held out to him, bracing himself for whatever he’s about to read. However, he learns there’s no way to prepare for confronting your temporary moments of emo-charged insanity:
No. It’s me I’m an asshole I’m sorry you’re so fucking amazing and I ruined it. You’re not a whore. Sorry I’ve been weird I just miss you all the fucking time man. Even when you’re with me I miss you. I’m so stupid. I’m sorry.
Michael swipes his finger across the touch screen when it’s become clear that Adam’s gone into a state of shock and finished reading his embarrassing admission some time ago. Another series of messages follow Adam’s in the conversation.
“You didn’t reply to any of my messages,” Michael explains, and eventually pries his phone from Adam’s fingers when he fails to offer any response. “But I figured it out for myself.”
Adam’s grateful for the numbing shock that lets him look into Michael’s face without the usual disorientation.
“What did you mean when you said… my Mom said ‘yes’?”
“I asked for her permission to see you. You know. If you still wanted to see me.”
Adam gives the guy credit that he has enough self-assuredness not to look away when he says that. Then again, Michael had the ego boost of a bleeding, heartfelt confession to reinforce him, whereas Adam was still scrambling to put two and two together to deduce if it meant he had reason to hope.
This was never something that had entered his realm of realistic or feasible. Michael was a senior. He was also a freaking genius and not to mention he’d already sampled the Winchester stock.
Adam was following a similar career path, which was why he was referred to Michael… but this was Michael Novak. The guy’s legend preceded him. Was he serious?
“Uh… what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I’d like to take you out for coffee sometime.”
Adam blinks at him.
“We already do that.”
Michael deflates and he rolls his eyes before completely horrifying Adam by sinking to one knee and taking Adam’s hand between his.
“Dude, what the hell?” Adam tries to pull his hand back, but Michael’s prepared for that and holds on.
“Adam Milligan, I’d like to take you out for coffee. If you get what I mean. That is: I like you, and if you hadn’t waited until now to tell me how you felt, I could have asked you sooner.”
Adam glances from Michael’s hands holding his, to the earnest, if slightly exasperated look on his face. It still didn’t agree with Adam… was Michael serious?
“Why?” Adam asks.
Michael sighs, his grip relaxing and he rubs Adam’s hand between his, warm and dry. It’s ten times better than Adam dreamed.
“Adam, imagine how it would have looked if I asked you without a hint that you were interested. I didn’t want people to think I was working my way through the family, actually, that’s chiefly what I had to convince your mother of.”
Adam’s face warps in horror again when the earlier point finally hits home.
“Holy shit, you talked to my Mom about this?”
“I had to. It’s how I operate.” Michael looks strangely smug about that, and Adam thinks the bastard is getting a kick out of Adam’s discomfort. “If you want to be with me, you’ll need to understand that.”
“And who the hell said I want to be with you?”
Michael’s look turns droll.
“You did: because I’m ‘so fucking amazing’ and you ‘miss me all the fucking time’.”
Adam curls away at the hurt from having his words so casually used against him.
“Fuck you, man.”
“Adam, just say ‘yes’.” Michael groans and rises to his feet. He surprises Adam by drawing him into his arms, though his back is stiff as a board beneath the wrap of Michael’s arms around him, loose, but warm and solid. Adam looks from the stomach of Michael’s vest, to his chest, then the broad line of his shoulders, and finally to his face with those pale, blue eyes he fell so stupidly in love with.
This is surreal.
“I missed you, too,” Michael murmurs, and it's like a switch is flipped in Adam’s head. He didn’t realise that was what he needed to hear and almost melts with relief.
He still feels like there’s a violent whirlpool threatening to suck him down from the inside, but he doesn’t think that’s going to go away for a while, in spite of the slow realisation that something incredible just happened.
Did he just win? Did he actually just get what he wanted? By being emo about it?
“I’m sorry,” Adam sighs and lets his forehead drop to Michael’s shoulder, noting with abrupt pleasure that he and Michael were the perfect height for this. It’s a delayed acknowledgement: he’s been awful to Michael too, pushing him away without explanation and leaving him to wonder if maybe he’d done something wrong. He returns the embrace and completely fails to muffle the whimper of relief when Michael crushes him against his chest.
“I still need an answer,” Michael murmurs against his ear.
Adam smiles into his shoulder. A day ago, he never would have believed that he could be here. His answer is obvious, but there are no words for how amazing it feels to say it aloud.
Today, they both win.