"I sleep on the right side," Shawn informed Gus five minutes after they'd had sex for the first time. "And I'd just like to warn you upfront that if you're too manly to cuddle me as we fall asleep, then I'm not too manly to cry about it."
So Gus took the only course of action left to him and moved his alarm clock to the left hand side of the bed, clicked off the light, slid an arm around Shawn's waist, and settled down to sleep.
Sleep was a long time coming, and not just because Gus found himself engaged in the age-old dilemma of where the Big Spoon was supposed to put his other arm. He'd thought--when he allowed his mind to drift to this topic at all, which wasn't often--that having sex with Shawn would make him, well, happy. He loved Shawn, in an increasingly unbrotherly way; he enjoyed sex...combining the two ought to be like pairing peanut butter and chocolate. Not that he'd ever expected to test that theory, given all the ways that hitting on his best friend could go terribly and irrevocably wrong, but with Shawn clearing those hurdles for the both of them, at the very least Gus deserved a nice afterglow and a honeymoon period before Shawn started driving him crazy again.
What he hadn't expected, but probably should have, was the paranoia.
The problem was, there were people who were dependable as a lifestyle choice, like Gus, and there were people who were dependable in very specific and limited ways, like Shawn. When Shawn had left on his self-styled "journey of discovery," Gus hadn't worried about what that might mean for their friendship. He'd worried about practically everything else, but Gus was both an inveterate worrier and an excellent multitasker, so it hadn't slowed him down much. He could fret over the possibility that Shawn was contracting malaria, or being kidnapped by white slavers, or getting bitten by venomous snakes, while still feeling secure in a friendship so solid that it couldn't be hurt by years of absence alleviated by a single phone call (collect, naturally) and two short postcards.
None of which had changed, even taking recent developments into account. If Shawn decided to pack up and leave again, they'd still be best friends for life, no matter how many months or years passed between his visits home. But there was no way that anything more than friendship could withstand that kind of pressure, and Gus couldn't help thinking that it would be better not to have had this at all, if that meant not having to give it up later. Especially if Shawn freaked out about it in the cold light of day and left Santa Barbara ahead of schedule as a result.
Shawn's side of the bed was empty when Gus's alarm went off the next morning, prompting a quick succession of thoughts: 1) Gus had imagined everything--quickly disproven when his gaze took in the alarm clock on the wrong side of the bed...not to mention the used condoms in the trash; 2) his fears from the previous night had been scarily prescient; and 3) what the hell was Shawn doing up before eight in the morning, and did it have apocalyptic implications?
Gus yawned heavily and climbed out of bed and headed for his kitchen in pursuit of coffee. Figuring out what was up with Shawn required being fully caffeinated on a good day, let alone a day that quite possibly involved Gus getting dumped.
When Gus reached the kitchen, though, it became apparent that he was going to have to deal with Shawn earlier than he'd expected. Shawn looked up from a mixing bowl to fix Gus with a stern glare. "You don't have any Bisquick."
"I ran out," Gus said defensively. He poured himself a cup of coffee, brewed to perfection by his automated coffeemaker, and just managed to not drop it when Shawn kissed him on the cheek.
Shawn ignored Gus's surprised start and said, "My dad provided the recipe, so if the pancakes turn out wrong, blame him and not me."
"You called your dad at seven-thirty a.m. just to get a pancake recipe? You couldn't use a cookbook?"
"He was already up. Mostly. Besides, you'll thank me after you taste these."
Gus was pretty thankful that Shawn would make him pancakes at all, though it wouldn't pay to say so. Shawn's ego was inflated enough without giving him points for effort. Fortunately, the first golden brown pancake hit Gus's plate at that moment, steaming deliciously, and it was already obvious from its aroma that Shawn's prediction was correct.
Shawn slid the maple syrup over to Gus, who poured some over his pancake and took a blissful bite.
"It's good, right?" Shawn asked.
Gus moaned happily.
"You're welcome. So!" Shawn clapped his hands together loudly, which barely distracted Gus from his continued delectation of the sweet, buttery, fluffy goodness on his plate. "I'm thinking Boston for the wedding, but I could be persuaded to switch to D.C. Not Iowa, though, no matter how pretty fields of golden corn are."
Gus stopped eating. "Wedding?" he said, eyebrows raised.
"It's the logical next step," Shawn said in the ultra-reasonable tone which he used for all his most unreasonable statements. "Considering your last marriage, I can see how it might seem strange to marry someone you've known for more than, oh, a week, but I'm sure a little reflection will persuade you that our two decades of friendship isn't a bug, but a feature."
"Hold up," Gus said. "You actually want to get married? As in, you and me."
"Obviously. I don't make pancakes from scratch for just anyone," Shawn said. He flipped another pancake onto Gus's plate and poured more batter onto the griddle.
Gus seized the reins of the conversation. "Shawn, I'm not going to marry you." Shawn opened his mouth, no doubt to protest, and Gus continued quickly, "First, because no matter where we got married, our marriage would cease to be valid when we returned here, and I refuse to move anywhere that has an actual winter. Second, because there is no way in hell that I'm tying my financial future to yours. And, third, because my parents would kill us."
"You make a sound argument," Shawn admitted. "Well, lacking a marriage certificate, I guess I'll just have to rely on regular sexual favors to keep you tied to me."
Gus choked a little on the sip of coffee he'd unwarily taken while Shawn was talking.
"Starting now?" Shawn said hopefully, gesturing towards the belt of Gus's robe.
Gus swallowed and leaned back in his chair, legs spread widely enough for Shawn to kneel between them. "I have to leave for work in twenty minutes," he said, voice shaking slightly, as Shawn's open mouth slid hot and wet along the inside of his thigh.
"Not a problem," Shawn mumbled against his skin.
In the end, Gus was eight minutes late, but it was more than worth it.