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Friday Night Bracing for Monday

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Chuckie gets the first postcard two weeks after Will leaves. It's postmarked Salt Lake City with the stamp aligned neatly in the corner, and the picture is one of a building with what looks to Chuckie like a thousand tall spires. Must have been a bitch to build.

Figured you wouldn't want to say goodbye, it reads in Will's lousy handwriting, the letters close together so the words all fit. I'll let you know how it goes.

Chuckie laughs at that, but it hurts at the same time. His ma takes one look at him when he goes in the house and asks around her cigarette, "The fuck's wrong with you?"

"Nothin' - it's nothin', Ma." He puts the postcard up on the fridge with one of the old bottlecap magnets. The tall building is nice to look at.

She gives him another look, accompanied by a shove. "Go get cleaned up while I make dinner."

They trade off making dinner because she thinks he ought to know how to cook something; it's Chuckie's turn tonight. "It's my night," he protests, even though he doesn't really want to make tuna melts.

His ma's still in her MBTA uniform with dark circles under her eyes. He knows she'd gotten called in early this morning. She pushes him towards the stairs again. "Nah, I got it, Chuckie. You can make tuna tomorrow."

He nods and goes upstairs to shower, wondering where Will is now. He never said where in California Skylar was headed for doctor school. She seemed nice, funny to boot. Chuckie never saw Will look at another girl before the way he looked at Skylar.

Sure, Morgan's in the passenger seat, but Morgan's not Chuckie's best friend.

"Willy don't come around so much anymore," his ma says when he sits down clean at the table. She made pancakes and scrambled eggs, Chuckie's favorite dinner growing up.

"He moved to California."

She moves the ashtray out of the way of their plates and hands him the syrup. "Sorry, Chuckie."

*

Uncle Paul pulls Chuckie aside at the end of the day. Chuckie's filthy after a couple hours spent sledgehammering through a wall, his work boots sending up little puffs of concrete and drywall dust every time he takes a step. "Hey, Chuckie," his uncle says.

Chuckie wipes his hands off on his shirt. "Heya, Paulie. Something wrong?"

"No, no - nothin' like that. Got a question for ya, though. Come on into the trailer."

Chuckie's sure he's too fucking gross for the site trailer, but he follows his uncle inside. Paul tosses him a bottle of water from the cooler, then waves at one of the folding chairs scattered around the small space, so Chuckie takes one. "I been thinkin'," Paul starts off, "you know we're gonna lose Dickie at the end of the year, and Chavvy next year, so I'm gonna be down two carpenters."

Chuckie nods.

"You ever think about doing something more than knocking shit down? I ain't always gonna have a demo crew for you to be on, Chuck."

Chuckie shrugs and rubs his condensation-damp hands on his thighs. "You want me to do something else?"

"The carpentry apprenticeship is a couple of years, but I'd pay for the hours you were in the classroom," Paul says, his expression underneath his cap serious for once. He raps a pen against his desk. "You move off the demo crew and start working with Chavvy on the bank job, learn some stuff before you apply to the school. Then it's one or two weeks in class for every three months or so. It's not a lot of actually sitting in a classroom but there's OSHA rules and shit to learn. It's a good job, and you been a good worker for me, even if your ma's always bitching you ain't motivated. Plus, you're in the Union then."

"Can I think about it?" he asks, twisting the cap on and off the bottle a few times. "Talk to Ma?"

"Sure."

"You really think I'd be good at it?"

Paul breaks out into a smile, then laughs. "Yah, Chuckie, I do. Now get the hell out of here before Morgan comes looking for ya."

Morgan's outside leaning against the Olds. He gives Chuckie a strange look. "We goin' or what?"

"Shut the fuck up," Chuckie feels comfortable replying.

"You didn't get fired or nothing?"

"Nah."

He drops Morgan off at his dad's house, but goes past his own place and drives around the neighborhood for a while, thinking. Watching people coming and going from their own jobs, people in MTA uniforms and people in scrubs and people in suits. Guys in coveralls splattered with paint. Chuckie always thought that was a pretty decent job, painting somebody's house or office, making it look nice. Uncle Paulie is probably right, learning carpentry wouldn't be a bad thing. It'd be an actual skill. He sure knows there's not much skill involved in swinging the fucking sledgehammer.

Chuckie turns the Olds into his narrow driveway and thinks about the day he watched Will take down half a wall himself, channeling his anger into the blows, too stuck in his genius head to realize it was okay to be too smart for a dirty demo job. Suddenly he misses Will so hard it's like a hammer to his own chest, slamming and ugly, and he has to physically shake off the sensation as he gets out of the car.

He leaves his work boots by the side door and goes up to scrub off before he does anything else. The water spits out in fits and starts for a few seconds before starting to flow with decent pressure; they probably need a new showerhead, maybe even a plumber. Yet another reason why a raise would be good. The city sure ain't giving his ma one anytime soon.

The phone rings when he's pulling on a pair of jeans. "Sullivan residence."

"We goin' out tonight?" It's Billy.

"Sure, I got enough cash for a pitcher."

"Cool, see ya later." Billy hangs up and Chuckie snorts.

Downstairs on the kitchen table there's a baggie with four Oreos in it and a postcard propped up against the saltshaker. The picture is a long expanse of tan brick buildings with archways and terra cotta roof tiles, and Stanford is printed in the lower right corner. Chuckie flips it over.

1600 Sand Hill Rd. #3 Palo Alto 94034

There's a tiny smiley face and Will's initials underneath. Chuckie shakes his head, smiling, and puts the postcard in his pocket before he heats up some leftover casserole for dinner.

When he's done, he heads down to the bar. Billy's already there, slouched at their usual. "What's up," Chuckie says, sliding into the chair across from him.

"Shit," Billy drawls.

Chuckie laughs and reaches for the pitcher already on the table. "Where's Morgan at?"

"Over in the corner talking at some broad."

Chuckie cranes his neck to look where Billy's gesturing to, and sees Morgan talking to a girl Chuckie recognizes from the neighborhood, his hand gestures clearly telling the story of how he almost got smashed by a chunk of concrete earlier in the week. "He's gonna fucking die one of these days if he doesn't grow up," Chuckie says.

Billy opens his eyes all the way and raises both eyebrows. "Yah?"

"You and me, we got enough common sense to watch where we're walkin'," Chuckie adds, and Billy huffs like he gets the point without Chuckie telling the rest of the story. "I'm gonna get more beer."

Michelle who used to work at the laundromat is behind the bar tonight. Chuckie flirts sort of lazily while she refills the pitcher with Bud Heavy, but he's struck out with her like half a dozen times now and knows he's not gonna get anywhere. "You ever make it with Michelle?" he asks Billy when he sits back down. Billy stares at him long enough that Chuckie starts to feel flustered and demands, "What?"

"She only makes it with other girls," Billy says like Chuckie's an idiot.

"Oh," he mutters, also like an idiot.

"She's wearing a fucking flannel shirt. Also, you dropped this." Billy tosses Will's postcard at him. "You gonna go visit?"

"What, right now?" Chuckie asks without thinking as he refills his glass.

"No, fucker, sometime."

"I don't think the Olds would make it. And Will just got there. He prob'ly needs to settle in and shit."

Billy looks as unimpressed as possible over the rim of his glass, like he's judging every one of Chuckie's life choices tonight. "Write him back at least."

Chuckie's never bought a postcard in his life. "Yah, sure."

"Do it, you asshole." He shoves away from the table. "Gonna hit the head."

Chuckie nods and drains half his beer in one go.

*

He stops at the Superette after work the next day, since they're out of milk and his ma likes her cereal before she goes to work. Plus Chuckie puts it in his coffee sometimes. There's a rickety wire display of postcards by the register - old-looking things, probably here since 1975. The corners on most of them are bent. Most of them are generic Boston scenes and the pictures hardly look like those places anymore. There's one of Harvard Stadium but he decides against that right away.

"You checkin' out or what, Sullivan?" the store owner asks from behind the counter, forty years of beer and cigarettes in his gravelly voice. Chuckie's already resigned to sounding the same when he's sixty. "I ain't got all day."

Chuckie waves him off. "Gimme a minute, Sal, geez."

Sal huffs and goes back to his newspaper. Chuckie goes back to the postcard display. The Boston scenes are stupid and it's not Mardi Gras so he's not getting that one. Then he shakes himself - this is all stupid and he's only sending it to Will. He grabs the one with the Statehouse on it. "Alright, I'm ready."

At home, he cracks a cold beer and digs a pen out of the kitchen drawer where they keep all the miscellaneous crap. He copies Will's address carefully off the Stanford postcard, then sits at the table drinking his beer for a few minutes trying to decide what to write. He's never actually written anything to Will, except for that time in elementary school when they had a Valentine's Day party during lunch hour and everyone traded cards with their friends. Chuckie just signed his name to most of the rest but wrote "thanks for being my friend" in laborious cursive on the one he gave to Will.

Chuckie suddenly feels like he's nine years old again. That was the first year he and Will were really friends - Will's new foster home was in Chuckie's neighborhood, so they started walking to school together. Will was too skinny then, quiet, hunched against the frigid Boston winter in a too-thin coat.

He thinks about writing thanks for being my friend as a joke, but he's not sure Will would remember. He fishes another beer from the fridge.

"Whatcha doin' just sitting there?" his ma asks when she comes in the door.

"Writing Will a postcard."

She looks over his shoulder at the blank space and smacks him on the side of the head. "Write that you miss his genius ass and be done with it," she says. Chuckie nearly chokes on his sip of beer. She walks towards the stairs and yells back over her shoulder, "Then put water on for the pasta!"

He puts the can down and writes Good to hear you made it., then stops and stares at the words. It sounds stupid but he can't cross it without looking even more retarded and he doesn't want to go buy another card. He adds, Me and the guys miss ya before he can chicken out, and tosses the pen back in the drawer so he doesn't write anything else that's dumb.

*

His class at the Boston Carpenters Training Center starts at the beginning of September, and Chuckie discovers after the second day that all the parking spots fill up faster than he can get there after work, and the street parking is shitty. There's a Yellow Line bus stop down the street he can usually get to from wherever their site is without a lot of transfers, and if he misses it at night, the walk home is only about half an hour. He lets Morgan drive the Olds back to the neighborhood with the threat that if she gets so much as a scratch, Morgan will be walking to and from work. And also dead.

The rest of the guys in his session are all young construction guys, almost everyone in dusty clothes and work boots. He recognizes a couple from other jobs. Most everybody keeps to themselves, tired after a day's manual labor. Chuckie slouches in the stupid little desk and figures they're all just here to get their certificates, and not make friends.

He starts working with Chavvy, too, learning stuff hands on. It's less mindless than tossing concrete blocks. Not that he'd ever minded working demo; he could definitely see the results of his labor, but putting something together starts to feel even better. He watches and he learns, and he listens to Chavvy talk about how he translates a lot of what they're doing into small-scale stuff, making bookshelves, nightstands, and a crib for his granddaughter. "Turned out so beautiful," he says, pride evident in his voice. "Then my son-in-law, Francisco - he help me stain it, make the wood really shine. Help me get to know Francisco too, you know?"

Chuckie nods. Chavvy looks at him out of the corner of his eye. "What about your family, Chuckie?"

"Just me and my ma," Chuckie says. "Paulie - he's her brother, so we got different last names." He pauses, then clears his throat. "My dad left a couple years ago -" he shrugs "- not that he was there all that much before that."

Chavvy nods in his sage old guy way and passes Chuckie the sander. Chuckie thinks about the day his dad left, how Will had stayed up all night with him. The two of them driving around in a junk heap of a boosted car that they ditched at sunrise. It was February and the heater barely worked, and Chuckie's toes had nearly frozen as they crept through the darkened city, pretending they weren't looking for Chuckie's dad even though they were.

"He's prob'ly long gone," he muttered as they walked back to his house after leaving the car a few blocks away.

"Yah."

Chuckie jammed his cold hands even deeper into his pockets. "Does it - does it ever stop feelin' weird?"

Will was quiet for so long that Chuckie figured he wasn't going to answer. Which was fine, Chuckie felt weird even asking it. It wasn't until they were going up the shitty steps to the shitty porch that Will said, "No, I don't think it ever stops feeling weird."

Then he punched Chuckie awkwardly on the arm and turned to go back down the rickety steps. Chuckie snagged the back of his jacket. "Come crash with me," he said.

Will shrugged. "Yah, Terry won't give a fuck anyway."

Chuckie's ma was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a pile of Kleenex. Her jaw worked for a second as she looked at them. "You're fuckin' lucky it's Saturday," she said. "There's some tuna casserole in the fridge if you want it later."

"Thanks, Ma," Chuckie muttered, and yanked Will up the stairs.

In his room, he borrowed Will some sweatpants and an old Red Sox tee with a hole in the neck and threadbare armpits. Will sniffed it. "Smells nice."

Chuckie raised his own pajamas to his nose; the fabric smelled of laundry detergent. "Terry shitty at the laundry or what?"

"I gotta do it myself at the coin place on Broadway, and the soap there is some powdery shit," Will said. He sat down on Chuckie's bed, then shrugged. "Not like I got money for Downy or whatever."

Chuckie sat down next to him, close enough that their shoulders pressed together, but Will didn't move away. "Bring some over and mix it in with mine, I bet my ma won't notice. And you know you can wear some of my stuff if you need it."

"Really?" Will asked, and Chuckie nodded. "Yah, okay."

The bed really wasn't big enough for the both of them, and with Will there, Chuckie couldn't jam one of his two pillows between himself and the wall. He laid on his back instead. There was a small crack in the ceiling above him.

"Aren't you tired?" Will whispered.

Chuckie was exhausted. "Thanks - thanks for comin' with me tonight."

"Of-fuckin'-course."

Chuckie closed his eyes, then felt Will's fingers sliding between his, squeezing his hand. "It always feels weird," Will whispered, and his breath hitched slightly. "But after awhile it doesn't hurt as much."

*

The weather turns hard at the beginning of November and Chuckie has to get out his knit cap for the drive to and from work, and wear it under his hardhat some days. He even lends Morgan five bucks so Morgan can also get a hat and so his ears don't freeze off. "Why are you such a failure at life?" he asks Morgan as they stop at the Basement after work.

"Shut up, I ain't a failure."

"You don't even own a hat and it's fuckin' winter now."

"I had a hat, you fuck. I lost it." Morgan elbows him hard as they go down the aisle. "Why are you talkin' like you're a responsible adult all of a sudden?"

"Compared to you, I am a responsible adult."

Morgan scoffs and eyes the display. "Should I get red or green?"

"Black. You look like a fuckin' leprechaun in green."

Morgan mumbles something about a pot of gold that Chuckie figures is probably supposed to be an insult, then asks, "We goin' out tonight?"

They went out last night and Chuckie felt kinda tired this morning, and then he spent all day cutting and sanding pieces of molding to go around doorways. His hands still feel like they're vibrating. "I don't think I am, no. But you can come over for a beer if you want. I'm making spaghetti for dinner."

"You never invited me over for dinner before."

"Do you want spaghetti or not? It's nothin' fancy."

Morgan pays the cashier with Chuckie's money, then pulls the hat on. "Yah, sure. Thanks, Chuckie."

"Just don't do any weird shit."

"When do I do weird shit?" Morgan asks, and Chuckie just gives him a look.

Back at the house, he starts getting out the stuff for sauce. Morgan watches, his mouth hanging open. "Don't you just open a jar?"

"You think my Italian mother would let me open a fuckin' jar of sauce? This ain't hard, Morgan."

Morgan looks skeptical. Chuckie almost makes him dice the onion as payment for the hat, but decides it'll be neater and faster to do it himself and not get onion all over the floor or whatever. "Look, you just cook these for a few minutes until they stop being all crunchy, then add a couple cans of tomato stuff - sauce or the chopped up ones, whatever - and the Italian seasoning. Stop looking at me like that, it's not rocket science."

"Might as well be."

Chuckie rolls his eyes. For that, Morgan can open all the tomato cans. "What the fuck, who cooks your food?"

"My mom. Or else I walk down the street to the McDonald's."

"Christ, dude."

The phone rings as Chuckie's shaking in the seasoning stuff. "Stir this," he orders Morgan, and grabs the handset. "Sullivan residence."

"Chuckie?" a familiar voice asks.

"Will?"

Morgan looks up with wide eyes. Chuckie motions for him to keep stirring.

"Yah, it's me," Will says. "Hey, man. What's going on?"

"Uh, nothin' really. Just showing Morgan how to be a real man and make some pasta sauce."

Will's laughter is warm and real, and Chuckie realizes his heart is beating faster than normal. "Ain't this long distance?"

"I got a phone card," Will says, like Chuckie knows what that means.

"Ask him how's California!" Morgan says, loud enough to be heard, and Will laughs some more.

Chuckie wishes Morgan wasn't in the room. He asks, "So how's California?"

"It's - I keep expecting it to change seasons, you know? But it's still really fucking warm, like we're all walking around in shorts and shit. It's throwing me off."

"And here I had to buy Morgan a winter hat today," Chuckie says dryly. Morgan flips him off. "So, like - what are you doing for work out there?"

"Well, Gerry - the guy at MIT - was pretty fucking pissed that I left, but then he called this guy he knew at CalTech, and that guy called a guy he knew at Stanford, so now I'm tutoring for a couple of the classes - calculus and statistics and matrix algebra. It's all cash under the table sort of shit since I don't have a degree, but it's okay."

Chuckie can't help but huff a laugh. "So what you mean is, you're explaining math to snobby college students older than you are."

"Yah, yah, that's what tutoring is, you asshole," Will laughs.

"I hope it's decent cash."

"It is. You still doin' demo?"

"Nah, Uncle Paulie got me into this carpentry apprenticeship thing, so I'm going to class every couple of months and then training with Chavvy."

"That's fucking awesome, Chuckie."

Chuckie shrugs even though Will can't see him. Morgan starts making gagging noises and Chuckie flips him off. "So hey," Will says, "my phone minutes are almost out, but if Boston gets too cold this winter, you can come visit if you want."

His heart starts racing again. "Uh, maybe if Paulie'll give me a couple days off, and I can fix the Olds up enough to make it out there."

"Sounds good. Tell everybody I say hi, all right? Except Morgan."

Chuckie snickers at that. "You bet, man."

"I'll call you again sometime," Will says, then says goodbye.

"Catch you later," Chuckie says like a dumbass, and returns the handset to the cradle.

Morgan's eyes are wide. "That was the worst phone call I've ever heard in my life."

Chuckie feels himself turn red but ignores it, and says, "Fuck off, you degenerate, and give me that fuckin' spoon."

*

When Chuckie was fourteen, his dad came home one night with a camping tent that he'd gotten from somewhere - probably stolen, Chuckie figured later. He shoved it roughly at Chuckie and said, "You and Willy go out in the backyard with this, lemme talk to your ma."

Chuckie looked down at the tent; it was old and smelled kind of musty. Then he looked up at his dad, who looked like Chuckie better not argue. "Can I get my sleeping bag from my room first?"

"Yah, sure, just hurry the fuck up."

He and Will ran up the stairs and grabbed the old sleeping bag out of the closet, Chuckie's extra blanket, and their sweatshirts. Will took the tent out into the yard while Chuckie snuck into the kitchen and grabbed the half-empty bag of pretzels for a snack. If they got thirsty, the hose was still hooked up.

Will had unpacked all the tent parts and laid them out in the grass. "This looked like the spot with the least rocks," he said, like Chuckie's backyard wasn't the size of a postage stamp and bumpy as fuck.

"Looks fine to me," he agreed. Even without the directions, they got the tent put together in under ten minutes. Apparently Will could tell just by looking at the pieces what went where. Chuckie spread the unzipped sleeping bag out over the plastic bottom, and they crawled in one at a time.

"Guess I thought it would be bigger," Chuckie said. He had to squirm a little to get comfortable, but with the sleeping bag, it wasn't awful.

"I think it's supposed to be a two-person," Will replied, reaching out to fiddle with the zippered flap. Then he said, "I've never been camping."

Chuckie knew he wasn't the smartest kid, but he also knew this wasn't camping. "Me neither."

Will settled onto his back with his head pillowed on his arm, so Chuckie did the same. Will said, "Needs a skylight or something. Like in the mall in Somerville."

"Yah."

"I got a couple cigs, you want to smoke?"

"Sure."

Will knocked his foot against Chuckie's, then shifted to get his hand in his pocket, and pulled out a folded-up Kleenex and a lighter. Carefully, he unrolled the tissue and picked up one of the cigarettes. "We can share, right?"

"That's cool." Chuckie hasn't smoked much, a couple cigs bummed off Billy's older brother. He mostly coughed his way through them.

Will lit it like he'd been lighting cigarettes while lying on his back for years, and he didn't cough when he took a long drag. He passed it to Chuckie, and Chuckie kept his breath shallow enough that he didn't immediately start choking. The small space of the tent above their heads quickly began to fill with smoke.

"You ever smoked weed?"

"No. You?" He passed the cigarette back carefully and their fingers brushed.

"Nah. Are we sleeping out here?"

"My dad sure made it sound like we should, so I guess so. Are you cold?"

Will made a negative noise and took another drag off the cigarette. "I slept on the porch a bunch of times," he said.

"Like, recently?"

"When I lived at Carrie and Howard's."

That was almost two years ago. Then CPS had moved Will to a different foster home, after the guidance counselor at school reported Will's black eye. Chuckie knew the current place wasn't any better, but Will was pretty tight-lipped about it. Quietly, Chuckie asked, "Did you do it so Howard wouldn't smack you around?"

"He locked me out a couple times when I missed his stupid fuckin' curfew." Will sat up so he could tap ash outside of the tent, letting in a cool stream of air. Then he settled back down, closer, his skinny arm and leg a warm line down Chuckie's side.

"If Terry ever locks you out, come over here," Chuckie said. "My ma'll bitch but she won't mean it. She likes you ever since you said you liked her turkey sandwiches."

Will snorted. "It's a turkey sandwich, how can you not like it?"

"She puts enough mustard on to burn my nose hairs."

"Chuckie, you're not old enough for nose hairs."

"Shut up," Chuckie grumbled, and Will laughed, then moved again so he could stub the cigarette out against the dirt outside.

"If you really hate them, I'll trade you for Terry's peanut butter and jelly. That's the only sandwich he ever makes me and Timmy. Peter Pan and fuckin' grape jelly from the Dollar Tree."

"All right," Chuckie said. "We can trade. You leavin' the flap open there for a minute?"

"Yah, guess so." Will waved a hand through the smoky haze, trying to move it out, then kicked his foot lightly against Chuckie's again. "What's up with that Rhonda girl, are you gonna get with her or what?"

"She said if I tried to talk to her again, she'd kick me in the nuts."

Will laughed for longer than Chuckie felt was necessary from his best friend. "Sorry, Chuckie."

"Yah, whatever."

*

"You splurging tonight or what?" Chuckie asks as Billy sets the pitcher of Sam down on the sticky table.

Billy raises both eyebrows at him. "I'll drink the whole fuckin' thing myself if you're gonna complain."

Chuckie waves a hand. "No, no."

Billy fills their glasses, then says, "You know where Morgan went?"

"He's over in the corner talking to the future wife," Chuckie says, jerking a thumb over his shoulder.

"They're never gonna be able to afford a wedding," Billy sighs, and for a second Chuckie can't tell if he's being serious or just making fun of Morgan. "Their kids are gonna be in high school before they can afford to tie the knot."

He shakes his head, and Chuckie laughs. "So," Billy continues, "how's Will?"

"He's good, I guess. He called a couple weeks ago."

From the look on Billy's face, he knew that already. "And? He get a job out there or what?"

"Yah, fuckin' tutoring some rich Stanford kids in math."

Billy laughs into his beer. "Figures."

"Hey, Chuckie," someone says, and he looks up to see Krystyn standing there, in her tight jeans and shiny, too-high heels, with a bottle of beer dangling from her fingers. "You guys mind if I sit down? Cathy's mackin' on Morgan again and I didn't really want to watch, ya know?"

"Sure." He kicks the chair next to Billy out from under the table, but she sits down in the one next to him. "So, uh..."

Krystyn pops her gum loudly and smiles at him. "What you been doin' lately, Chuckie? I don't see you here as much."

"Chuckie got a fancy job now," Billy cuts in.

"Really?" She rests her hand on his arm.

"I'm covered in sawdust all fuckin' day, it ain't glamorous," Chuckie says dryly, picking up his glass to dislodge her arm and drinking half of it in one go.

"How about you, Krys, how's the Shaw's?" Billy asks.

Krystyn shrugs. "Fine. So Chuckie, you're doin' what - carpentry shit now?"

"Yah." Chuckie drains his glass and gives Billy a look. "And speaking of, I gotta get up early to make it down to Ashmont tomorrow morning, so I'm gonna head out. You can have my share of the pitcher."

Billy flips him off where Krystyn can't see it as Chuckie gets up out of his chair and maneuvers around the table. "See ya!" he calls over his shoulder before pushing out the door into the cold night air.

The phone rings about thirty seconds after he walks in the front door. "Sullivan residence."

"Dude, what the fuck?" It's Billy, the noise of the bar in the background, so he's calling from the payphone.

"Sorry," Chuckie replies, wincing. "Just not feeling it tonight."

"You coulda got with her. But I guess you let her down easy enough."

"I just - really wasn't feeling it," Chuckie repeats at the same time Billy says, "Look, Chuckie -"

"What?"

"You been kinda - I don't know, kinda weird since Will left."

Chuckie doesn't know what to say to that. He's silent so long that Billy says, "Hello? You still there?"

"Uh-huh."

"I thought you hung up on me."

"No."

There's another long pause and Chuckie shifts uncomfortably. Billy says, "I'm not gonna make fun of you for missing your best friend, Chuck."

Chuckie shifts his weight again and picks at the sleeve of his coat. "Thanks, I think."

"Yah, okay," Billy laughs. "We're still going to the Funzone on Saturday, right? I gotta beat Morgan's ass down."

"Yah, I'll pick you up."

"See you then, fucker." Billy hangs up.

Chuckie puts his coat in the living room closet so his ma won't yell about him leaving his shit all over, then gets a glass of water and goes upstairs to get ready for bed. His pajamas are still the same shapeless sweats he's had for years; he puts them on thinking that Will's probably worn them once or twice. The thought makes his skin prickle - not in a bad way, he doesn't feel like he's grossed out by sharing pajamas with Will. It feels like the opposite, like it's actually sort of nice. It makes Chuckie want to burrow into the material even more.

He gets into bed and pulls the blankets tight around him, waiting for the sheets to warm up enough to be comfortable. He thinks about Will cramming in here with him, less and less available space the older they got, until they both only fit if they laid on their sides. Like parentheses, Chuckie thinks, bodies bracketing a tiny warm space.

Chuckie runs a hand over his thigh and realizes his dick is getting hard, like it's interested in this useless trip down memory fucking lane. He sighs and pushes his hand into his briefs, because he'll never sleep now unless he jacks off.

Usually he thinks about a porno he'd seen once - lithe girls with big tits, girls who cried out shamelessly as they got pounded by muscular guys with the kind of dicks that nobody had in real life. But tonight his brain won't focus on that memory, it keeps fading away no matter how many times he tries to think about those girls.

Instead his brain plays the memory of sharing cigarettes with Will out in that stupid tiny tent, and huddling together under the blanket from Chuckie's bed so that they would stay warm, waking up to realize his arm was around Will.

Will never said anything about it.

Chuckie muffles his ragged moan against his hand as he comes, and feels kind of ashamed as he cleans up with a tissue. He yanks the covers up over his head. Sleep comes quickly after all, and in the morning he's glad it was dreamless.

*

There's another postcard in the mailbox three days before Christmas. It's a picture of a decorated tree, all red and gold. Season's Greetings, it says in swirly letters across the bottom. Chuckie flips it over and reads Will's note. Merry Xmas! Hope everything is great. Slug the guys for me & hug your ma. I miss you. Love, Will.

Chuckie rubs his thumb over the words, then puts the card in his pocket. The Superette is open until eleven, he can walk down there and find a postcard to send in reply. It won't be Christmassy - Sal probably doesn't stock anything close - but Chuckie can always draw a little tree on it next to Will's address or something.

"Sullivan, you back again?" Sal grumbles from behind the counter.

"C'mon, Sal, you know you get like thirty percent of my paycheck," Chuckie replies. "You got any holiday cards?"

Sal's bushy white eyebrows go straight up. "Holiday cards?"

"Yah, like you send somebody in the mail."

"Who you even know that lives far enough away to mail something?" Sal turns and digs on a shelf. "I got… a birthday card for a five year-old and a Happy New Year card. Otherwise those old postcards I know you looked at a hundred times already."

What the hell, it'll give him a few more days to figure out what to write that isn't sorry I jerked off thinking about you. Chuckie buys the New Year's card and a pack of Winstons, remembering all the years he'd pooled his odd-job money in with his ma's so they could get Will a Christmas present, since no one else would.

Billy gives him a sharp look later at the bar, clearly seeing something on Chuckie's face. "Dude."

"What," Chuckie says flatly, hoping his tone will convey exactly how little he wants to talk about whatever it is Billy seems to want to talk about.

He's saved by Morgan running up behind them and flinging his arms around both their shoulders. His breath smells like hamburgers, which is gross. "Gentlemen!"

"Oh no," Billy says. "Whatever it is, Morgan, no."

"Look who just walked in the door."

Chuckie twists around to look. "It's that fuckin' Carmine fucker."

Morgan's grinning like a loon."You want we should pound him?"

Chuckie sort of wants to. He hasn't fucked anybody up since the last time Will got arrested. On the other hand, he likes this bar, their pitchers are cheap, and he doesn't want to get banned for punching some dude in the middle of it. "Nah. I don't feel like getting tossed out of the bar on my ass tonight."

"Here, here," Billy says, tapping his glass against Chuckie's. Morgan looks disappointed.

"What do you even care?" Chuckie asks. "You didn't want to fight him last time anyways."

Morgan's expression turns mullish. "But he got Will arrested."

"Morgan, sometimes you gotta be the bigger man, you know?" Billy says to him.

"What's that mean?"

"It means we don't fuck dudes up when we could be drinking a couple beers," Chuckie replies. "Go get a glass or something and stop hanging on me, would you? And don't go punch Carmine, neither, I'm not saving your ass tonight. It's almost Christmas. Get with the holiday spirit and all that."

"Fuck you." Morgan fucks up his hair and skips off with Chuckie swearing after him.

"Charles," Billy says once Morgan's disappeared into the crowd around the bar.

"William."

Billy makes a disgusted face at that. "Not even my ma calls me William."

"I know," Chuckie says easily. He grins at Billy.

"Look." Billy waves a hand sort of nebulously in the air. "How long is this pining situation going to go on? You told him to leave, man."

"I'm not pining for anybody, you asshole," Chuckie protests. He's not. He's used to going out just the three of them now, it's not like he's missing a limb or whatever. He refills his glass and asks, "Would you leave, if you had the opportunity?"

Billy shrugs. "Don't know. Never had the opportunity. Would you?"

"Don't know either," Chuckie says honestly. "I never wanted to."

"Me neither." Billy sits back in his chair, looking contemplatively down at his beer. "But I guess we all never thought Will'd leave until he did just the same."

"Yah."

Billy shrugs again. "Yah."

*

Chuckie's in the kitchen on a Thursday night, poking at the tuna melts, when his ma yells his name.

"What, Ma?"

"Look who just pulled up!"

Chuckie puts the spatula down and goes into the front room where his ma's watching the evening news. Or was watching, now she's looking out the window, her head stuck through the curtains like a busybody. Chuckie looks as well, and sees an old red Nova. It takes him a second to realize it's Will's car, that Will's getting out of it. "What the fuck?"

He goes out onto the porch. "Hey asshole," he calls. "You still driving my car?"

"I had to fix her up some," Will says, grinning as he jogs up the sidewalk. He's wearing khakis and an old t-shirt Chuckie recognizes, a plain zippered sweatshirt over it even though it's January now and cold enough Chuckie can see his breath in the air.

"Fuck off," Chuckie replies, and then he grabs Will in a tight hug without even thinking about it first. "Fuck it, I missed you."

He feels Will's fingers clutch at his back and hears Will's muffled, "I missed you, too."

"Chuckie!" His ma yells out the door. "Your melts!"

"Oh, shit. Come on inside."

"Hi, Mrs. Sullivan," Will says, stopping to hug Chuckie's ma. "You cooking?"

"Chuckie's cooking," she practically cackles.

"Hey, I got the tuna melts down now, Ma, lay off."

She waves her cigarette at them. "Make one for Willy, too."

"I got three on, so he can have one. You hungry?" Chuckie asks Will as they go into the kitchen. He checks his sandwiches - not burned, thank fuck. He flips each one onto a plate. "And what the fuck are you even doing here?"

"What, I can't visit my friends?"

Chuckie gives him a look and hands him a sandwich, then takes one out to his ma. "Are you telling the rest of the guys you're here, or is this just a short visit?" he asks Will when he goes back into the kitchen, sitting down at the table. "I mean, I'm glad you came to see me, but they might be pissed if they miss you."

Will shrugs. "It's not a long visit."

Chuckie gives him another look but doesn't push it for now. "You want to go walk around the block or whatever?" he asks Will when they're finished eating.

"Sure, if you got a coat I can borrow."

Once they're outside, he waits for Will to talk first. It takes half a block, but then Will says, "I got an interview in New York the day after tomorrow. Want to come with me?"

Chuckie glances over. "In the city?"

"Yah."

"Who does interviews on a Saturday?"

"Places that really want you to work for them," Will laughs. "We can hit the road after you get off work tomorrow, eat a late dinner on their tab - they got me a room in some some swanky hotel for the night."

Chuckie huddles a little deeper into his jacket; he gave Will the warmer one. "If you took the job, would you be moving there?"

"Don't know yet, I guess they have more than one office." Will tips his head back to look up at the darkening sky. "This sounds so fucking stupid, but I missed the weather changing. The leaves. Wearing a fucking jacket, even."

Having nice weather year round sounds pretty fucking good to Chuckie. They walk another block and he says, "All right, I'll go with you to the city. For the free food."

Will bursts out laughing, his whole face creasing up. Something squeezes weird in Chuckie's stomach, and it's not the tuna melt. I was just starting to get used to you being gone, he thinks. Out loud, he asks, "Where are you staying tonight? You can crash here if you want."

"Well, I was just gonna sleep in the car, but -"

Chuckie elbows him hard. Will slings an arm around his neck and squeezes; they stumble along for a few steps, laughing. Then Will lets go and asks, "So your mom's making you learn to cook?"

"She thinks I'll starve to death when I get my own place if she doesn't make me cook tuna melts and spaghetti." Chuckie shrugs. "I guess it's okay."

"You moving out?" Will sounds surprised.

"Once I start making more money, yah, but I got six months before I can move up. Ma's already makin' noise about renting my room out, though."

They head back towards Chuckie's. "Are you telling Billy and Morgan you're here?" Chuckie asks. "You know if you do, we'll end up at the bar."

"That's okay," Will says. Chuckie doesn't know what that means, like, are they telling Billy and Morgan that Will's in town, or not telling them? "You guys still doing the same shit as always?"

"I'll get fired if I show up at work too hungover, so I don't stay out so late anymore. But you know there isn't much to do here on the weekend but fuck around." Chuckie nudges a couple rocks off side sidewalk back into the flowerbed, then goes up the steps. "What do you and Skylar do for fun in Palo Alto?"

It's like a window slamming closed on Will's face. "I'm gonna grab my backpack from the car - meet you inside."

Chuckie goes up to his room, figuring Will knows the way. He's got his sweats on and the little TV turned to the Bruins game when Will slips in. Quietly, Chuckie asks, "It over with Skylar?"

"More than a month ago." Will crouches to dig in his bag.

"That sucks, buddy." It's all Chuckie can think to say. "Sorry."

"Yah, well." Will shrugs, then takes his boots off, putting them next to Chuckie's sneakers in the corner. He pulls his shirt over his head and Chuckie looks away, even though he's seen Will without a shirt on a thousand times. It's never made his hands sweat like this before. Will keeps talking. "It was sort of my fault, I guess?"

Chuckie sits down on the bed, pretending to watch the intermission interview with Ray Bourque. "Like how? If you wanna tell me, I mean."

Will doesn't say anything for another long stretch. Chuckie tosses him sweats to sleep in and doesn't push the topic. Will sits down next to him and stretches out his socked feet, wiggling his toes. Finally, he says, "I think I sabotaged it."

Bourque thuds off to the locker room and the NESN talking heads start their bullshit analysis of the first period. "How so?"

"Like I'd - I'd go out, not really anywhere in particular, just like to the park and watch people roller blade and play volleyball and shit, and stay there until I knew she realized I was gone, and then she'd be upset I didn't say where I was going to go. And I went out a few times with one of the guys I tutored, Rico, out to a club, and Sky thought I was out dancing with girls who weren't her. And then - then one day she told me she'd met someone else that she wanted to date, some fucking musician or something."

He pauses for a minute, watching the recap, then says, "I guess me going to California with her wasn't what she thought it would be. And I guess it wasn't that I thought it would be, either."

Chuckie bumps their shoulders together. "Can't blame you for not being used to living with someone you love. Or living with anybody."

Will snorts. "I think I just loved that she was different than everything here."

Chuckie fucking loves Southie, but he gets that. "So you being here, is that you leavin' California for good, or do you gotta go back for stuff?"

"It was all hers anyway," Will says. "I slept on Rico's couch the last two weeks, then I called Gerry."

Chuckie's never met Lambeau, but he's heard enough. "Bet Gerry was happy to hear from you."

"Gerry was fuckin' pissed," Will laughs. "But he got me this interview."

"What's it for, anyway?"

"Accounting."

"Accounting? The fuck you know about accounting?"

"It's just math." Will laughs some more, sounding tired and leaning against Chuckie. "Like, looking at other people's math, for mistakes, or to make sure no one's doing anything illegal. And then they might pay for me to go to school."

Chuckie turns his head to look at Will, but Will's so close he has to look away again. "You, go to college?"

"The thing about being a freak genius is it only gets you so far," Will says. "I can't call up Gerry to find me a job for the rest of my life, right? And he - he was at least right that it's hard to go back to running the fucking floor wax machine after you've done something you're good at."

Chuckie thinks about how he doesn't want to go back to doing demo and nods. Will leans against him a little harder, like saying all that had taken something out of him. "I'm gonna lie down. I drove ten hours today."

"Shit, why didn't you say so, asshole?" Chuckie grumbles at him, getting so Will can stretch out. He turns off the overhead light. "I'll bunk out on the floor."

Will pushes a hand through his hair, then moves closer to the wall and pillows his head on his arm. "No, it's okay. There's room."

There's really not room. "You want me to turn off the game?"

"You can leave it on. I haven't watched a Bruins game all season so far."

Chuckie settles down on his side, conscious of the minuscule amount of space between his back and Will. "Billy won tickets from the radio station in some New Year's contest. I think he got four of them, for a game in March sometime. Maybe against the Sabres."

"Good seats?"

"Nah, I think up in the nosebleeds." He pauses for a second, aware of the warmth of Will's body. "Nobody took the fourth ticket, so it's yours now."

"That'll be fun," Will mumbles, the words mangled on a yawn. "I only ever went to that one game when I was twelve and Howard's job gave him tickets. That's the only reason he woulda taken me. We were in the shitty seats then, too."

On screen, the Bruins go up 2-0. The cheering from the Garden sounds tinny over the shitty speakers, but Chuckie only paid fifteen bucks for this TV at Mrs. Johnson's garage sale and fixed it up himself. "Didn't we go down to Providence a couple times with Billy's dad?"

"Oh, yah, when tickets were five bucks. That was fun, I'd do that again."

"If they got weekend games, I'll go," Chuckie says. He feels Will shift slightly, tugging the blanket up a little more.

"Tell me about your carpentry stuff," Will whispers, so Chuckie talks about how the whole first section of classes was math, chuckling over the fact that trade math is all the It takes a crew 57 hours to install cabinets in one office. How many hours will it take to install cabinets in seventeen offices? sort of word problems that they used to make fun of in school, about Chavvy showing him how to make all the bits and pieces that go into edging the glass-walled areas of the bank job, even about all the kinds of molding, until he can feel Will's breathing has evened out into sleep.

*

"Hey, Paulie, can I knock off a little early this afternoon?" Chuckie asks at lunch, leaning in the doorway of the site trailer and giving his uncle his most winning, most hopeful smile.

"What, you got plans?" Paul asks around his bologna sandwich. "Or just your usual plans of like, go to the corner bar."

"You wound me, man," Chuckie laughs. "No, uh, Will's kind of in town, he's got a meeting in New York City tomorrow and asked if I wanted to go with, stay the night in the city tonight."

Paul's eyebrows lift. "Wow, Chuckie, actual plans. I can't believe it. Yah, sure, if you want to leave after three, that's fine."

"I'll stay late on Monday to make up for it," Chuckie promises.

"I ain't worried about it." Paul waves his sandwich.

Chuckie finds Morgan to tell him he's gotta take the bus home, makes up a fake excuse about a cousin's birthday. "But I know all your cousins, why didn't I get an invitation?" Morgan whines as he aims his burger wrapper at a trash bucket and misses.

"It ain't that kind of party."

Morgan doesn't look entirely convinced. He resettles his hard hat on his head. "You been weird lately, you know that?"

"Fuck off, Morgan."

Will's car is gone when Chuckie gets to the house, but he comes into the bedroom while Chuckie's changing out of his work clothes and doesn't say anything for a few seconds. "Uh, sorry I barged in."

Chuckie shrugs. "Do I need to look nice for this place we're going?"

"Nah." Will's wearing yesterday's khakis and one of Chuckie's henleys. He looks down at himself. "Can I borrow your suit jacket for tomorrow?"

"Sure." Chuckie pulls a sweatshirt over his head, then tosses Will the jacket. "You got other slacks?"

"Yah."

"Okay, let me just grab my deodorant and shit for tomorrow."

It's still light as they cross over into Connecticut. Will's driving, so Chuckie relaxes into the passenger seat and watches the miles roll by. It's all interstate wall on one side and bare trees on the other. He's glad it's not fucking snowing. "You ever drive this way before?"

"No, but I looked at the map earlier, so I think we're good." Will glances over. "If you want to sleep, that's okay."

"Nah, I'm good." But he closes his eyes after a while, listening to the sounds of traffic and the radio on the 80's station, Will singing along softly every couple of songs.

The clock reads almost eight when Will maneuvers the Nova into the valet circle at the hotel. "This looks fucking swanky," Chuckie says, peering through the window at the bright lights. "Like a week's pay, at least."

"Probably. Maybe even a couple weeks."

Chuckie hangs back as Will checks in, feeling under-dressed. There are chandeliers and marble floors and art on the walls that's probably worth actual money. He sticks his hands in his pockets.

"You want to eat?" Will asks, adjusting his backpack over his shoulder, Chuckie's suit jacket draped over one arm.

"Yah, I'm starving."

"Let's drop our shit upstairs first."

The room is just as fancy as the lobby - all dark furniture and plush carpet, the biggest television Chuckie's ever seen and a tiny refrigerator. There's only one bed. "Sorry," Will says, looking at it.

Chuckie shrugs. "Not like we didn't share last night."

"Speaking of, you could have woken me up this morning, asshole."

"I tried," Chuckie protests. He grins at Will. "You were dead to the fucking world."

He'd woken up with Will draped over him, hot and so close that Chuckie had yet another moment of gay panic. He slid out from under Will's heavy arm and practically ran to the bathroom to jerk off in the shower. Will was still asleep when he went back to get dressed, and only batted a hand at Chuckie when Chuckie shook his shoulder and said he had to go to work.

Will at least looks sort of sheepish. "Yah, yah, let's go eat."

It's late enough that the restaurant is quiet. The maitre'd makes no attempt to hide his distaste at Chuckie's Boston sweatshirt. "You want one, man?" Chuckie asks. "I'm sure you can order by mail."

They're seated by the kitchen, likely on purpose. Will grins at Chuckie over the top of his menu.

"Where'd you go today, anyway?" Chuckie asks.

"Just over to MIT to see Gerry." Will rolls his eyes. "Tom's finally moved on, so he's very -" Will shakes his head. "I don't think Gerry knows what to do without Tom."

"That was…" Chuckie has to think about it a second. "His assistant?"

"Yah."

"And he didn't ask you to be his new assistant?"

"Fuck that, I wouldn't do it, get Gerry coffee all day long," Will laughs. He looks at Chuckie again, holding his gaze. "Chuck."

"What?"

"You been quiet."

Chuckie feels his face heat up. Under the table, Will's foot taps against his. Then Will gets that look on his face, the one that means he's figured out your angle and is trying to decide if he wants to use it against you, or go along with it. Chuckie's seen that look a lot in his life, but usually not directed at him. Plus he's always been lucky, and Will's almost always gone along with him.

He's not so sure this time.

So he tries to play it off, spinning the steak knife between his fingers. "Sir," a waiter says reproachfully, coming to a halt next to their table. "In the interest of safety, I must ask you to stop. We are not that sort of establishment."

"You don't say," Chuckie drawls, thanking God that this waiter has given him a way to distract Will. He puts the knife down. "So just what sort of establishment is this? Because I'm certain I saw that gentleman over there -" he makes a vague directional gesture, "- do some blow in the bathroom a few minutes ago."

The waiter's eyes go wide. Will's trying to smother his laughter behind his hand. "I mean, I'm only letting you know," Chuckie continues. The waiter clearly hasn't figured out he's being fucked with. "In the interest of public health. And decency."

Will is shaking. Chuckie grins at him as the waiter stomps off. Then Will snorts and tosses his napkin back on the table. "Fuck this place. Let's get room service."

Chuckie's never gotten room service in his life. "More like, let's get out of here before the waiter comes back to kick us out."

"And that," Will laughs.

"You're going to keep all these little shampoos and shit, right?" Chuckie asks, wandering through the bathroom after they've ordered hamburgers and fries.

"Fuck it, of course I am."

Chuckie sits down on the giant bed and unlaces his boots as Will flips on the television. "This is the biggest fucking TV I've ever seen," Will says, voice dry like he's not impressed at all. He sits down next to Chuckie.

"There a game on?"

"Knicks maybe." Will starts flipping channels. "I bet we get HBO."

Chuckie wiggles backward to sit up against the headboard. After a minute, Will kicks his own shoes off and climbs up next to him. "This bed is like a fucking mountain."

"I know. And you're gonna have to get down to get the door when our burgers get here." Chuckie tosses a couple of the stupid decorative pillows away into the corner of the room. "Pick a fucking channel, will ya?"

Will turns on the preview channel, and they watch trailers for the movies on pay-per-view until there's a knock at the door. Will gets up for it, and Chuckie hears him talking to whoever's brought the food up.

He grabs the remote where Will left it and finds the Knicks game that's on, and they watch the Bucks nearly grind them into the court for most of the first quarter. "You watch Lakers games in California?" Chuckie asks in between bites of his burger.

"Couple. Skylar wasn't really into basketball. We did drive to Oakland for an A's game once, in August. They had some student lottery and gave out tickets."

"Yah, who'd they play?"

Will's burger drips ketchup onto the plate and he shoves fries into it. "Uh, the Sox."

Chuckie nearly drops his dinner. "No fucking way. Nomar?"

"Nomar got a run, Hatteberg..." Will scrunches up his face like he's thinking for a second. "Valentin, Jefferson, and Bragg."

"Jesus, Will. Why didn't you put that on a fucking postcard?"

Will shakes his head. "Didn't even think about it. Sorry, Chuckie."

Chuckie fishes for one of the fancy cloth napkins to wipe the grease from his hands. "I'm just jealous as all hell. Don't tell Billy or Morgan, they'll fucking pound you."

It's not like he didn't know Will was out living an actual life in California, doing stuff, enjoying better weather than fast-moving cold fronts. He huffs and mutters, "Nomar," and Will grins.

When Chuckie walks out of the bathroom a little later after making use of the ridiculously fancy shower, Will's stretched out on the bed with his shirt off, propped up on his elbows reading a paperback. The television is still on, a different basketball game, and Chuckie figures Will's at least listening to it even if it doesn't look like he's paying attention.

"That book doesn't look too scholarly," Chuckie says, settling next to him and looking at the page over Will's shoulder.

Will shakes his head. "It's fiction - Asimov. Robots."

"You like it?"

"Yah, it's good. I read it once before, years ago."

From this angle, Chuckie can see a new tattoo on Will's back that he hadn't seen last night. It looks like the outline of Massachusetts. "That new ink?"

"What?" Will twists like he's trying to look over his shoulder to see where Chuckie's looking. "Yah, got it done in San Francisco."

Chuckie reaches out to trace it without even thinking about what he's doing, and when Will doesn't move away, figures it's okay. "You find a decent artist?"

"Just a one-off, but she did all of Rico's. He had this really detailed castle on his back, with a huge fucking dragon." Will reads a few more pages - Chuckie will never stop being amazed at how fast Will can read - before marking his place and setting the book down. Chuckie realizes his hand is still on Will's back, and he's close enough on the bed that when Will turns over, his fingers drag over Will's side and press against his ribs. "Chuckie."

Chuckie snatches his hand away, face burning. "Sorry."

Will looks at him for a second, then shakes his head. He sits up and puts one hand on Chuckie's shoulder, and then his mouth is pressing against Chuckie's. The angle is off enough that Chuckie moves on what feels like autopilot to touch Will's jaw and bring their lips actually together. Under his fingertips, Will's skin is prickly with stubble.

Will pulls back half a second later, muttering, "Sorry, I had to know -" and Chuckie thinks fuck it, he started it and kisses him again quickly.

They stare at each other for a moment. Will's face is bright red. He doesn't move, so Chuckie doesn't move. "Did you - did you want to do that before now?" Will asks finally, the words barely more than a whisper. His hand is still on Chuckie's shoulder.

Chuckie nods. Will's hand slides over to squeeze the back of his neck. "Okay."

"Okay," Chuckie breathes. "Then, uh. Did - did you?"

Will nods.

Will makes out with him for a while, until Chuckie's neck starts to hurt from leaning forward the way he is. Then Will moves so he's flat on his back and Chuckie's hovering over him. "Really?" Chuckie asks.

"Fuck it, come here." One of Will's hands slides into his hair and pulls him down.

Kissing Will isn't like the girls that were content to let Chuckie just stick his tongue in their mouths for a while in the hope that they'd let him get to third base. Will's already got his shirt off, so it's not like Chuckie can avoid touching him, and the hand that Will doesn't have in his hair is creeping up the back of his sleep shirt.

Chuckie reaches up behind his head and grabs the neck of his shirt, hauls it up over his head. Will laughs at his terrible tattoo, like he always does, and rubs a hand over it. "You've never going to get this fixed, are you?"

"Fuck that, who can afford that shit?"

Chuckie takes a few seconds to just look at Will: a little more golden than it seems like East Coast winter deserves, but maybe he only looks that way because the sheets are so white. Other than that, he looks the same as ever, right to the curving scar where fucking Timmy Laperry had gotten him with the kitchen knife outside Filene's, pissed that he'd gotten the beating from their foster father the night before instead of Will.

Chuckie and Billy got Will to the hospital, grabbing the skinny kid waiting by the bus stop to help put pressure on the wound. That was how they met Morgan - by scaring him out of his goddamned mind, or so he told people. Timmy Laperry had gone back to juvie; none of them saw him again after that, and Will had been stuck with Terry another six months until the track coach noticed the belt marks on his back.

It's been six years but Chuckie still feels a little sick when he remembers all the blood.

"Chuckie?" Will asks, and Chuckie realizes his hand is splayed over the scar, covering it up.

"Sorry, I -"

"We never did get free of Morgan after that," Will laughs, totally knowing what Chuckie's thinking about. He curves his hand over Chuckie's and moves it a little bit away from the scar. "Feel like I should apologize or something."

Chuckie can't help but laugh at that. "I guess he ain't all bad."

Will grins sharply, but then his whole face softens and he runs a slow hand up Chuckie's back, asking, "You ever do this stuff with a guy before?"

"Saw some dicks in the locker room, but -" Chuckie shakes his head. "Have you?"

"I let Gino DeVita kiss me in sixth grade," Will says. "You remember Gino? That poor limp-wristed fuck." He shakes his head. "Richie Russo smacked him around after school every day for six months."

"I didn't know that." Chuckie barely remembers Gino, mostly his too-big bright orange winter coat. "All I remember is he played the trumpet."

"He played more than that," Will says slyly, and Chuckie nearly chokes on his laughter.

"Did you?"

"I only kissed him. And I danced with Rico at the club we went to, and some random dudes I didn't know." Will moves slightly, so he's a little more underneath Chuckie. Chuckie has a sudden flash of Will dancing with some faceless guy, lightly flashing to the beat of the music, their bodies pressed together.

Will smiles that same sharp smile. "I didn't want to fuck around with any of those guys, though."

"But you definitely want to fuck around with me," Chuckie says, wanting to be sure.

Will's "uh-huh" gets lost between their mouths.

Chuckie feels like he loses himself a little as he and Will ditch the rest of their clothes, as Will touches his cock - hesitantly at first, then gaining confidence. Chuckie winds up on his back, shivering - shaking, even, reaching down to touch whatever parts of Will his hands can reach as Will exhales hotly over Chuckie's cock.

"What are you doing?" Chuckie whispers.

"Contemplating."

"Well, stop contemplating and - and do something, maybe." He puts a hand in Will's hair. It's nice. He rubs the strands between his fingers.

"I'm calculating the angles," Will says, looking up and smirking. "If I'm gonna suck your dick, I'm gonna do it right."

"Oh God, you probably read a book," Chuckie groans. His head is swimming and he lets it drop back onto the pillow, but keeps his hand in Will's hair.

"Maybe I did," Will laughs, but then he opens his mouth to Chuckie's dick, and Chuckie's glad for whatever books it was Will read.

*

Will's left for his interview when Chuckie wakes up. He's not surprised to find himself alone in the room. It's dark, but only because the curtains are tightly drawn. Winter sunlight floods the room when he pushes them open. There's a room key on the dresser, so Chuckie brushes his teeth and gets dressed, then goes out to explore a couple blocks of New York City.

It's freezing and he wishes he brought an extra pair of socks by the time he finds a place that's got coffee and bagel-and-egg sandwiches sold wrapped in waxed paper. There's a little table in the corner and Chuckie leaves his coat on as he sits and eats his sandwich.

He feels like someone put both his brain and his heart in a blender and pushed the start button. And then maybe put the blender on a rocky ledge somewhere, where Chuckie could vibrate right over the edge.

Chuckie knows that he's spent half his life standing at Will's shoulder, waiting to offer a coat or to punch someone in the face. At the same time, he knows he was also waiting for Will to decide for himself that there was more to the world than Southie and leave Chuckie standing there alone, no longer half shielded from life by Will's presence.

"You grown up a lot, Chuckie, since Willy left," he remembers his ma saying just before Christmas, as they walked the three blocks to the church, his ma holding onto his arm. "You know, I always worried you'd be okay not wanting much outta life besides a job that paid you enough to buy a couple pitchers at the bar."

Chuckie wasn't sure what to make of that. "Gee, thanks Ma."

"I don't mean it to be harsh." She shook her head, then squeezed his arm. "You're going to school, you're learnin' an actual trade, you chip in for the bills, you don't burn dinner anymore…"

"That was one time," he protested, but she smiled and kept talking.

"After your father left I was worried about you. What sort of man you'd grow into, with me working all the time and him hardly paying any of the support. Not that he was ever around all that much before he left, but I still worried."

"Ma. I know he's a piece of shit, okay."

She stopped walking and looked at him. "You're already a better man than he ever was. I want you to know that, Chuckie. I'm proud of you."

Chuckie slouches at the little table and drinks his coffee, thinks about the structure his life has now and wonders where Will would fit into it, if he took this job and moved back. Maybe Will wouldn't fit anywhere; maybe he decided what they did last night was wrong and that his life didn't need to contain small Southie things that were only remembrances of his shitty childhood and bad choices.

Maybe Chuckie's overthinking it. He tosses his garbage in the can and heads back out into the cold.

He's only back in the hotel room long enough to shed his coat when Will comes in. "Hey."

Fuck, Chuckie wants to kiss him. "Hey."

Will stuffs his hands in his pockets. "I, uh. Checked us out already downstairs, so we can leave whenever."

"Yah, lemme just grab my shit." He ducks into the bathroom, glad for the excuse to stop looking at Will, willing his pulse to stop racing.

It's only a few seconds' reprieve. Will's right there when Chuckie steps back out, and he puts a hand warm on Chuckie's arm. "This is really fucking awkward, isn't it?"

Chuckie can't help his laugh. "Only somewhat."

Will meets his gaze, seems to search Chuckie's face for a moment. Then Chuckie's getting pushed back against the wall and Will's kissing him, sloppy, and the collar Chuckie's sweatshirt is chafing almost painfully at the back of his neck because Will's hands are gripping the front of it so tightly. He nips at Will's lower lip and reaches up to curl his own hands around Will's, trying to ease his grip, and the skin of Will's hands is hot and dry. Will licks at his teeth. His mouth tastes like Doublemint. He's still wearing Chuckie's suit jacket.

"Will," Chuckie whispers.

Will seems to realize he's using his whole body to press Chuckie to the wall, and draws back slightly. "I can feel your heart pounding, Chuckie."

Chuckie swallows hard. His throat suddenly feels like sandpaper. "You get me all kinds of fucked up."

Will looks confused at that, then his gaze drops to Chuckie's mouth. "I, uh - are you ready to go?"

I would be, but - "You need to let go of my shirt first."

"Oh." Will drops his hands and takes a step back.

Chuckie crouches to pick up the stick of deodorant he dropped when Will jumped him, then slides out from between Will and the wall to toss it in his backpack. "Now I'm ready."

In the lobby, Will stops in front of one of the paintings on the wall, the same one Chuckie had figured was actual expensive art yesterday; was that only yesterday? "What is it?" he asks Will, meaning did you stop for a reason.

Will gestures at the painting after a moment of staring at it, during which Chuckie stares at him, watching Will's face. "It's a Turner."

Chuckie looks at it, trying to see what Will sees. The small placard mounted beside it reads Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) – The Morning after the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, 1843 (reproduction). To him it looks like a tunnel, or maybe a ball of yellow light. The title doesn't help. "What's it supposed to be?"

Will shrugs. "The great flood, from Genesis."

"Like, Noah's Ark?" Chuckie squints at the painting again. "I don't see any fucking ark."

"There's no ark, I don't think," Will laughs. "It's also supposed to be a reference to a philosopher's theory that yellow is the first color transmitted from light."

There is a lot of yellow. "Okay, that I sort of get."

Will hitches his backpack a little higher on his shoulder. "This one and the one that goes with it were stolen," he tells Chuckie as they continue through the lobby. "The fuckers who stole it locked themselves in the museum overnight. A couple of them got arrested right away, but they wouldn't tell the police where the paintings are."

"So they're still stolen?"

Will hands the valet his slip. "Yah."

"Huh." Chuckie tightens his coat a little more around his neck. He feels out of his depth, and wonders if this is how Will's brain always works, and if Will had kept all this to himself before.

"Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be smart like that," Will says as they wait for the valet to bring the Nova around.

Chuckie glances over at him and raises his eyebrows, still confused. "I don't understand."

"Those guys - they knew just what paints to put where, how to layer them precisely, how to make it look like the sun was setting outside the window even though there's no sun actually in the painting. Or like a lady is wearing a veil over her face, but you can still see a reflection in her eyes. That takes days, weeks. Fucking months, even." Will hunches a little against the wind.

Chuckie's still not sure what Will is getting at. "So you're not the next van Gogh?"

"I can draw you a map to get somewhere, but I can't draw you anything else."

Chuckie grins and elbows him lightly as the valet pulls up, feeling confident in saying, "Now you know how the rest of us feel."

Once they're on the FDR, Chuckie asks, "So, you get the job?"

"If I want it. There's an office in Weymouth."

"That's great," Chuckie says, and he means it.

"Do you - would you wanna move there with me?" Will nearly trips over the words, mumbled around the cigarette they're sharing. "I know you're not making a shit-ton of money yet, but they're paying me like forty grand a year, and some relocation money. We could put that towards your share of the rent for a while."

Chuckie blinks. "What - really?"

"Or even not right away, if you want to stay in Southie, but - eventually? I just thought maybe you'd..." He trails off and glances over his shoulder before changing lanes.

Chuckie wishes they were somewhere he could put his hands on Will, and not on the interstate. "Like, you have your own room and I have my own room sort of live together, or what we did last night sort of live together?"

Will blows out a cloud of smoke and says quietly, "I liked what we did last night."

Chuckie remembers the feel of Will's mouth and shivers. "Me, too."

"Are you worried about people finding out?" Will rolls the window down just far enough to flick the butt out of the car. "Because nobody will know a fucking thing unless we tell them. We could get a two-bedroom, have separate rooms. Like, for real, not just as a front. Nobody ever has to know what we do when we're alone. If you - if you even want to do that again."

Chuckie rubs his hands over his face and sighs. He says, "Honestly, when I had my big gay-for-Will epiphany a couple months ago, I never figured you'd actually move back and make me worry about acting on it."

"What, it was better in your head?" Will flashes him a grin and drums his fingers on the steering wheel.

"More like it never crossed my mind that you might want to touch my dick." Chuckie shrugs and turns the heat down a notch, then lifts his hips to get the cigs and lighter from his pocket again.

Will glances at him and his inhale is audible in the small space. "Chuckie, look - I don't know how to do this any more than you do. But what I do know, and I didn't learn this from any fucking book, okay, is that you can know everything the world, but you can't figure out if what you got with somebody is worth it until you try."

Chuckie fumbles as he tries to light the cigarette, his hands shaking as he strikes the lighter. He takes a drag, willing his heart to slow down just a little - good luck - then passes the cigarette to Will to share. "You sure we won't kill each other living together?"

Will grins again around the cigarette. "Nope."

"You really gotta stop fucking up my life," Chuckie says, but he reaches over to rest his hand on Will's thigh.

*

All the apartments they go to look at are bigger than any place Chuckie's ever lived - and he's sure they're bigger than any place Will's ever lived. He's sure they're both a little wide-eyed at the third apartment they see: three bedrooms, two bathrooms, vaulted ceilings, and fucking granite counter tops.

"Dude, I don't think I've ever seen a kitchen like this outside of a movie," Chuckie whispers to Will, minding his language because the woman showing them apartments is standing a few feet away. Will's new company had hired her, and she has a list. In the meantime, they're putting Will up in a hotel, and Chuckie's slept there the last couple nights.

"I think this apartment is too fancy for us Southie boys," Will says to Melissa, clearly opting for bluntness.

She looks unimpressed. "I have others."

"I need to get to school," Chuckie tells Will, eyeing his watch. "You just pick a place."

Will's eyes widen. "What? Melissa, I'll be back in a minute, I'm gonna walk Chuckie out to his car."

"You don't -" Chuckie starts to protest, but Will pushes him towards the door.

It's snowing again outside, and they both duck their heads against it. "You okay, Chuck?" Will asks over the wind.

Chuckie shakes his head. He unlocks the passenger door for Will, then lets himself in the driver's side. He turns the car on so the heater can get running, then says, "I don't know what I'm doing."

Will is quiet for a moment before he replies, "We're just looking at apartments."

"No, I mean -" Chuckie stops and presses the heels of his hands against his eyes. "I don't know what I'm doing."

"Explain it to me."

Chuckie huffs, feeling frustrated, but that's not Will's fault. "If you were a girl, I'd be taking you out. Buying you dinner. Buying you some nice stuff. I could put my arm around you at the bar, or the movies. Instead I - I look at you and I want to do that stuff but I can't and I also want to suck your dick every opportunity I get, and that - my brain is really fucking confused, all right?"

He rubs his forehead like the confusion is a headache, then feels Will's fingers curling around his, pulling his hand away from his face. "Chuckie."

"What."

"You go to school, and I'll look at a couple more places with Melissa, and we'll figure this out, okay?"

Chuckie takes a deep breath. "I'm gonna sleep at home tonight. I can't leave my ma hangin' another night. But I'll tell her we're gonna get a place together, that she can go ahead and rent out my room."

"Okay." Will squeezes his hand, and hard.

It's dark in the car, so Chuckie feels okay leaning over and pressing his mouth briefly to Will's. "I - whatever place you pick is cool."

Will nods, kisses him once more, and slides out of the car.

Chuckie turns on the radio for the drive to Dorchester but it doesn't distract him from wondering if moving in with Will is really a good idea. He wants to - the last few nights of falling asleep with Will draped over him, and the mornings of waking up to Will kissing his neck, mumbling about all the places on Chuckie's body he wants to put his hands - it's been excellent. But Chuckie's watched enough television and been around enough human beings to know there's a difference between sleeping with someone on the regular and living with them all the time.

It's not that he doesn't think it's time he moved out of his ma's place, and the money thing doesn't bother him all that much - he knows Will's going to let him pay more of the rent once he's making more - but there's something Chuckie doesn't really know how to explain, even to himself. None of their friends are going to look at them moving in together and wonder if there's gay shit happening. Maybe it's just that he's never lived with someone he's fucking.

He worries at it like a loose tooth the whole drive, squinting against the snow, but he hasn't come up with anything else by the time he parks down the street from the training center. Going to class winds up being a welcome distraction; this session is all OSHA rules and regulations that Chuckie has to learn, and taking copious notes means he can concentrate solely on the material. It helps to think about something else for two hours. He actually feels better when it's over.

*

"What are you doing after work today?" Will mumbles, rolling on top of Chuckie in the soft hotel bed.

Chuckie works a hand through Will's messy hair, easing out a few of the knots. It's always tangled after Will's slept on it, sticking straight up in one spot, out to the side in another. Part of Chuckie still can't believe he gets to do this, that Will doesn't move away, instead rubbing his cheek lazily, like a cat, just for a moment against Chuckie's palm.

"I don't know," he answers Will. "Why?"

"Come with me to look at the last couple of apartments. I think Melissa's going to light me on fire if I don't decide on a place soon."

"Well, that wouldn't be good." Chuckie yawns and strokes Will's neck, the skin there still sweat-sticky from sleeping warm under the sheet and blanket. "If she can wait until after six, I'll come. And then we can get a beer afterward, yah? You need to show your face before Billy thinks you've skipped town again, you fuck."

Will's dropped his head to Chuckie's shoulder. His laughter is muffled, Chuckie feels the breath damp against his skin as he mumbles, "Yah, yah, okay."

Chuckie kisses him, then gets up and goes to work. They're putting up the drywall on the second floor of the bank today, so he spends most of the day alternately hot from the exertion and cold because it's February. But the HVAC guys are almost done, and the electricity should be on next week so they can roll in a couple space heaters if necessary while they're doing all the detail and trim work. Chuckie's pretty sure he never noticed all the different sorts of trim around so many different kinds of doors and windows until he started carpentry school.

"Chuckie, I brought you food today," Chavvy says when they break for lunch. "All those hamburgers..." He waves a hand, as if to indicate Chuckie eats too much fast food, which Chuckie probably does. "Only the chicken we had left from last night, but you know my wife, she packs extra."

"I'm gonna miss you when you retire, man, I hope you know that."

Chavvy only grins and opens his lunchbox. He passes Chuckie a waxed-paper wrapped sandwich that turns out to be shredded chicken in a spicy sort of sauce, with crumbly white cheese and a thick spread of what Chuckie figures is refried beans. "You win, this is better than whatever I would have bought down the street," Chuckie says around a mouthful.

Chavvy just gives him an I told you so look and pulls his hat down over his ears a little further before unwrapping his own sandwich.

"Does Betty give cooking lessons?" Chuckie asks.

Chavvy's eyebrows nearly disappear under the edge of his hat. "You need to learn?"

"I'm movin' out of my ma's, getting a place with - with a buddy of mine." He only stumbles over the words a little, tries to mask it by taking another careful bite. "Can't eat fast food every night."

"Sure, if you want to be like Jerry," Chavvy says slyly. "Cheeseburgers all the time, cheeseburgers forever."

Chuckie snorts at that. "No, thanks."

"You building things? For the new place."

Chuckie shrugs, says, "Yah, prob'ly."

"Less money than buying," Chavvy points out. "You can borrow my tools, okay, Chuckie?"

Chavvy is seriously too nice to him. "Thanks, man."

*

Will shoots down the first apartment Melissa shows them that evening, almost immediately. He makes it three steps into the living room, stops, and shakes his head with a strange look on his face. "Sorry, Mel. This is too - no. Not this place."

Melissa, to her credit, barely blinks. "All right. I've got two more places in your price range here in Weymouth. After that, we'll have to expand the grid."

She waits for Will to nod, then says, "Let's move on, then. You can find our next stop?"

"I looked at the map."

In the car, Chuckie looks at Will as their breath clouds in the cold air, waiting for him to explain. Will shakes his head, then backs the car out of the parking stall. As they turn out of the complex parking lot behind Melissa's Taurus, he says, "The wallpaper in the living room was the same as the wallpaper in Terry's kitchen. And I - I can't look at it. I can't look at it ever again."

"Okay," Chuckie murmurs, having figured there was something about the apartment that reminded Will of a bad time or place. He adjusts his seat belt, not sure what to do with his hands. He wants to touch Will but he's unsure of how welcome it would be right now.

"Could you light us a cig?" Will asks. He drums his fingers on the steering wheel.

"Yah." Chuckie gets the pack and lighter from his jacket pocket. "If we go to the bar, I'm gonna have to stop and get another pack," he mumbles, cupping his hands up to light the cigarette.

"Okay."

Chuckie takes a drag, then passes it to Will. They smoke in comfortable silence the rest of the drive.

Melissa waves them into a driveway, visible in her white coat under a bright porch light. "So this one is a little different than the rest you've looked at," she says, as Will and Chuckie go up the snow-dusted walk. "Since it's a duplex, it's a little more separate sort of place than the apartments in the complexes. You'd have your own garage and it's attached. We'll go out through it when we leave."

She unlocks the front door and leads them in. "There's a little foyer here, then the living room. The owner repainted everything when the last tenant moved out, so it's all neutral colors - no weird eighties wallpaper."

The living room is large, with an open sort of kitchen visible over a half-wall. Everything is painted a light tan. Chuckie sees a big bare wall connecting the two rooms and thinks I could build Will a nice desk and bookshelf for that spot. It would fit perfectly, and he's sure he can match the stain that's on the kitchen cupboards without any trouble.

He looks at Will, and sees the smile threatening Will's face.

Melissa shows them the small laundry room and the bathroom, then the two bedrooms on either side of the single hallway. Chuckie's fairly certain that each of them is larger than Will's old studio apartment.

"The owner lives on the other side, so if you have any problems, your landlord is right on site," Melissa says to Will as Chuckie slides the bedroom closet doors open and closed smoothly on their tracks. The place looks well-built. "She is looking for tenants who would be willing to clean their own area when there's snow, and to help out with the yard in the summer."

"We could do that, right, Chuckie?" Will turns to ask him.

"You bet."

Melissa's looking hesitantly pleased. Chuckie figures Will's been driving her nuts. "What do you think?"

"I think I like it," Will says.

"The only downside there might be for you is that you'd have to smoke either on the porch or in the garage." Melissa makes an apologetic face. "To be honest, a lot of rentals these days don't want you to smoke indoors. So it's not an uncommon stipulation."

"Well, we could prob'ly stand to smoke a little less in general," Chuckie replies, thinking of Sal at the Superette and his raspy, gravelly voice.

"I guess that's Chuckie's seal of approval," Will says to Melissa. He's smiling outright now.

"Great!" She claps her hands together. "There's some paperwork to draw up so it'll be a few days before you can move in, but the company handles all of that, and I can drop the keys off to you at work if that's all right?"

"That's fine with me," Will says. "Thanks for putting up with me."

"You are far from the pickiest relocation I've handled for Wasserman," she laughs. "Let's go out through the garage so you can see it."

It's a two-car. There's a single lawn chair hanging from a nail on one of the walls. Will looks at Chuckie. "You could prob'ly set up some woodworking stuff out here if you wanted, Chuck."

"That would be really nice," Chuckie says honestly. "There's more than enough room. You could get your car in here, too. Gotta keep it in good shape."

"You're just saying that because you paid for it," Will says in his fakest whiny voice, and Melissa laughs and opens the overhead door.

They say goodbye and Chuckie steals the keys from Will so he can drive for once. "You feel good about it?" he asks Will in the car.

"Just feels right," Will says, looking out the window at the duplex, then back at Chuckie. "Don't you think?"

Chuckie's already nodding. Will reaches over and Chuckie feels Will's warm hand sliding up his thigh; he shivers a little under the touch. "Sure you wanna go out for beers?" Will asks.

Chuckie blows out a long exhale. "I'll like to go back to the hotel and pin you down on the bed, but if we skip out on Billy and Morgan with the excuse that you gotta work late yet another night since you got back, you're probably going to get fucking decked."

"True," Will sighs.

"However," Chuckie continues, "we can prob'ly get out of there before ten, and then I can pin you down on the bed."

"Excellent - oh, wait, fuck, it's Friday." Will groans. He rubs the hand not resting on Chuckie's thigh over his face. "We'll never get out of the bar before ten. Fuck."

Chuckie flips on the turn signal to get on the interstate ramp. "I don't like these sacrifices. Why do we even have friends? Plus they're gonna make you buy all the fucking beer since you make the most money now."

"I'm debating taking that punch to the face," Will says seriously, making Chuckie snort.

"On the other hand, seeing as it is Friday - I don't have nowhere to be tomorrow morning, and neither do you."

Will hums for a second. "All right, there is that. I guess we can go drink some beers with the guys."

Chuckie slants him a look and squeezes his hand over Will's. "You could always blow me in the bathroom."

Will snorts a laugh. "In that hellhole? We'd fucking get fucking gonorrhea or something."

"I'm just sayin'. The option is there," Chuckie says languidly.

A loud cheer goes up in the bar when they walk in, and Chuckie laughs as Will turns beet red and pretends to duck back out the door. Chuckie catches him by the jacket collar, an innocent-looking move that lets him press his hand warmly to Will's upper back. "Settle down, settle down, you fucking animals," Chuckie yells, and another cheer goes up.

Billy dekes through the crowd and grabs Will around the knees, lifting him several feet in the air. "Fuck you, put me down," Will yells, grinning and beating on Billy's shoulders.

"Willy, I missed ya," Billy says solemnly, and lays a loud smacking kiss on Will's cheek. "Chuckie wouldn't give us your address."

Chuckie points at him. "Fuck you."

"Nah, fuck you." Billy grins cheerfully. "Come on, assholes, time for shots."

Billy elbows his way to the bar, and Chuckie leaves Will to it as he ducks around people, looking either for an empty table, or Morgan holding a table for them. The best he finds is a two-seater, but he manages to grab a free chair. Morgan will just have to find his own seating if and when he shows up.

"Move, Chuckie!" Billy yells in his ear, and Chuckie gets out of the way in time for Billy to set a cluster of shot glasses on the table top. Will's behind him with a pitcher of what looks like Sam, and his mouth looks wet like he's already done a shot or two. Chuckie wants to lean over and taste what it is, but instead he sits down at the table and pours himself a glass of beer.

"Whiskey? Or whiskey," Billy says, gesturing at the tiny glasses.

If Will's getting drunk, then Chuckie is driving. "Just one, I gotta drive," Chuckie replies, and tips it back. It burns all the way down and he smacks his lips. "You know we never ate any fucking food," he says to Will.

Billy raises his glass. "I got you, Chuckie," he says.

"Motherfucker, there ain't food here."

Will does another shot and licks his lips. Under the table, his whole leg presses against Chuckie's in a long, hot line, and Chuckie thinks maybe they should have really taken the beating and gone back to the hotel to fuck again. He contemplates doing another shot just because.

A large white paper sack lands on the table directly in front of him and he looks up to Morgan yelling "Assholes, where's my chair!", then grabbing Will in a hug.

"You can cram in," Billy says to him. To Chuckie he says, "Told you I got you. It's a party, baby."

There are four takeout boxes in the bag. Two potato skins, one onion rings, and one french fries. There are also a handful of ketchup packets, and Chuckie dumps them out onto the table. "Did he pay for this, or did you?"

Billy rolls his eyes. "That fucker ain't got no money and you know it."

Morgan's stopped hanging on Will and is wedging a chair in next to Billy's. Will tries to move over further, but any further and he'd be in Chuckie's lap, and this is not the place for that. God, this building is stiflingly hot tonight. Chuckie tries to roll up his sleeves.

"Warm?" Will whispers in his ear.

"Shut up," Chuckie whispers back. He nudges one of the takeout boxes a little closer to Will. "Eat some of this unless you wanna be drunk in like ten minutes."

Will grins broadly and hooks his foot around Chuckie's under the table, sending Chuckie's heart racing again. "You're the one driving."

Chuckie eats a couple potato skins, sips his beer, and listens to Will tells Billy and Morgan stories about his time in California that Chuckie's pretty sure are a bunch of lies. Morgan especially seems to hang on every word. "Were the beaches full of hot girls?" he asks Will. "With big tits?"

"Morgan," Billy groans.

Will's laughing. "You watch too much fucking Baywatch," he tells Morgan.

It's past midnight when the crowd starts to thin and Chuckie's able to say he and Will need to head out. "I gotta dump this drunkard at his hotel, and then by the time I get back to Southie it'll be almost one, and I been at work since seven this morning. So we're leaving," he says, when Morgan tries to complain.

Will drains his glass and stands up. Or really, stumbles up. Chuckie catches his arm. "Whoa, whoa, Hunting."

"I'm good, I'm good," Will insists. "Night, losers," he says to Billy and Morgan.

"You're buying from now on, I fucking mean it," Billy says, pointing at Will before waving them off.

Chuckie has to keep a hand on Will's elbow to keep him from meandering. The cold air makes Will's cheeks even redder, and Chuckie can't help but keep looking over at him as they walk down the street to the car.

"If you're gonna barf, do it before we get on the road," Chuckie warns as he digs the keys out of his pocket.

Will shoves at his shoulder, laughing. "Fuck you, Chuckie," he says, and Chuckie waggles his eyebrows. "You asshole, that's fucking terrible," Will whines, but he's still laughing.

Chuckie makes sure Will is entirely in the passenger seat before he shuts the door - "We don't need to accidentally crush any parts of you in the door, buddy, put your feet in the fucking footwell" - and gets in on the driver's side. Will smiles broadly at him. "You're so drunk, I don't remember the last time I saw you this drunk," Chuckie says, shaking his head.

"Your nineteenth birthday," Will replies, and Chuckie can't help but laugh as he guides the car away from the snow-piled curb. Of course Will remembers. He keeps talking. "I think - I think that was when I realized you loved me," and Chuckie's heart trips painfully in his chest. "That you'd fucking lie down in fucking goddamned traffic for me."

"Uh," is all Chuckie manages. Will's not wrong, but he is drunk enough that - yeah, he's slumped against the window, gone limp with sleep and starting to snore softly now. And Chuckie does love him, has since probably the first time he punched a guy for Will. He can't even remember when that was.

(1989, waiting outside Gavin Middle School for the doors to open, everyone shivering in the February weather. Chuckie no longer knows what it was Brian Murphy said, but he'll always know what it felt like when his fist connected with Murphy's cheekbone. His hand was swollen the rest of the day, but Murphy's eye was black for most of the week.)

Will makes a soft noise and tries to curl up in the seat. Chuckie settles a hand on his knee and leaves it there for the twenty minute drive back to Will's hotel, sweeping his thumb slowly back and forth over the side of Will's knee.

Will's stirring awake, blinking slowly at him as Chuckie parks the car. "You okay?" Chuckie asks softly.

"No more fucking shots, only beer from here on out," Will says on a yawn.

"Yah, good luck convincing the guys of that."

Will's much steadier now as they cross the lobby to the elevator. This hotel is much simpler than the one Will's company put him up in for the interview, Chuckie figures this place more of a long-term stay place than a ritzy destination hotel. The bed in Will's room is nice, but not nearly as nice as the one in the city.

Will leans against him in the elevator, and Chuckie slides an arm around his waist and squeezes. "Don't barf in the elevator," he says casually.

"I'm not gonna fucking barf," Will replies, voice grumpy. "If I was going to, I'd'a done it by now."

Will's a nice heavy weight against him so Chuckie squeezes again. "Just checking."

Once they're in Will's room, Chuckie tries to dump him into the bed, and only succeeds in being pulled down as well. "Uh, I seem to remember someone talking about sex earlier," Will mumbles, tugging at Chuckie's shirt.

Chuckie slides his own hands up under Will's sweater, making him jump. "Tell me honestly, could you get it up?"

Will squirms a little. Chuckie slides one hand down and cups Will's dick, lightly through his jeans. Will sighs and his eyes drift closed. "I - no, probably not. But that doesn't mean you have to go, Chuck."

"Well, I wasn't planning on leaving," Chuckie says, the words half lost as he kisses down Will's neck. Will sighs again and Chuckie feels Will's hand stroking slowly over the back of his head. "You really want to move in with me?" Chuckie asks, the words coming without him even thinking about asking, apparently straight from his subconscious right out into the open.

"Yes," Will breathes.

"Why?"

Will's fingers move in his hair, and it feels good. "Don't want to be alone," he murmurs, and that sounds like more than enough reason to Chuckie.

*

"Really, Ma, you don't need to give me all this kitchen stuff," Chuckie tries to protest, as she slaps tape on another one of the boxes they'd scrounged from the Superette. "I only need a frying pan and a pot to make spaghetti in, it's fine."

"Please." His ma rolls her eyes. "You need two pots for spaghetti, okay, and I don't need two casserole dishes just gathering dust in the cupboard so you're taking one of them, and how you goin' to drain noodles without a strainer? Huh-uh, you're taking all of this."

Chuckie accepts the box with a sigh. "Besides," she yells after him as he carries it out of the kitchen, "how are you gonna feed Willy dinner if you don't have any pots and pans to cook it in?"

"Will's a grown man who can buy his own dinner," Chuckie yells back, but she only laughs like she knows Chuckie's already promised to cook as part of his rent.

Will thumps down the stairs with Chuckie's two boxes of clothes. His little television is already in the car, along with a small side table and a lamp his ma had insisted they take once Will mentioned they only had a couch and a couple mattresses so far. "I'll be damned if you boys sit on folding chairs with only a box for a table," she muttered.

Chuckie was leaving his old bed and dresser so that she could rent out the room as furnished, and even with the table and lamp his possessions only take up the back seat of the Olds. "I really thought I had more shit than this," he says to Will as they go back into the house.

"I bet we can find some decent furniture at the Salvation Army in Weymouth," Will says with a shrug. "I went in there last week and I think that's where the rich people donate the shit they don't want any more."

"What were you lookin' for in there?"

"Clothes."

"You know you can at least afford clothes from Filene's now, right?" Chuckie asks, before his ma grabs him in a hug. "Ow, Ma."

She smacks his shoulder. "Shut up and let me hug you. You're movin' out, I can be emotional about it."

Chuckie hugs her back and murmurs, "You need anything, you call me. I'll come right over. And don't rent out my room to Morgan, please."

Will cracks up, but then he lets out an "oof" as Chuckie's ma hugs him just as tightly. "You better be feeding Willy dinner," she says to Chuckie, her dark eyes narrowing at him. "He's scrawny as hell."

"Hey, Mrs. S., that ain't nice," Will tries to protest. "I eat alright, I work out."

"Scrawny," she repeats, then waves a hand at the door. "All right, go on. I'll see you at church on Sunday, Chuckie. And you too, Willy."

Chuckie feels weird as he and Will go out to the car, and weird as his ma waves to them from the front window of the house. "I never lived anywhere else," he says quietly as Will pulls away from the curb, having plucked the keys from Chuckie's pocket without a word.

Will reaches over to settle a hand on Chuckie's knee. "You okay?"

"Yah, just -" he rubs a hand over Will's, then winds their fingers together. "Never moved out before."

Will's fingers tighten almost painfully around his for a few seconds, then relax. They're a few blocks out of the neighborhood when he says, "I think we have time to stop at the lumberyard, if you want to stop."

Chuckie's got some scrap wood already propped up along the wall in the garage. It'll work great for the bookcase he wants to build for Will, but it's no good for the bed frames he should probably make first. "Yah, I got my list in my pocket. And Chavvy's bringing over the stuff he said he'd lend me tomorrow afternoon, so the faster I can get a move on it, the sooner we can get the mattress up off the fucking floor."

"And the sooner we can stop having to fuck on the floor," Will says dryly, and that's enough to make Chuckie stop feeling to weird and start laughing instead.

The lumberyard isn't actually on the way to the place in Weymouth, but it's not too much of a detour, and it closes at four-thirty so he and Will have an hour to get in and out. Chuckie's not optimistic about making it there tomorrow morning; sleeping in sounds better.

Will hangs back as Chuckie gives the guy at the counter his list of supplies and pays. "What the fuck, stop lurking," Chuckie says to him when he's done and they're waiting for someone to bring the order up.

Will shrugs. "This is your thing, Chuckie."

"Well, you don't need to hide back by the door like you're casing the joint or something." Chuckie tosses him the car keys. "Make yourself useful and go pull the car up."

An employee comes up a few minutes later with Chuckie's lumber on a cart, and they get it tied down to the roof of the Olds. At the duplex, Will helps Chuckie unload it into the garage, then they carry his few boxes into the house.

"Okay, my ma's right, it does look pretty fucking sparse," Chuckie says, putting the small side table next to the sofa.

Will plugs in the lamp and turns it on, then off again. "We can find stuff. Want to just stick your TV in the bedroom for now?"

"Yah, that works."

The mattress sets Will bought have box springs, so they're a little higher up than what Will had in his studio, but Chuckie still feels distinctly like they're kids having a sleepover. He sets the TV down on a box Will stuck in the corner.

In the kitchen, Will's putting away the pots and pans. "I went to the grocery store on my way home from work," he says. "Got some coffee, milk, stuff for pasta, some eggs…"

"I guess we better get a coffee maker one of these days, at least for the weekend?"

"Surprise!" Will laughs, and opens one of the cupboards to reveal a basic Mr. Coffee like Chuckie's ma's got.

"Nice." Chuckie ducks in and kisses him, and Will leans hard against him and kisses back, his hands sliding up to squeeze Chuckie's shoulders.

"This still doesn't feel real," Will says when they part.

"I know."

Chuckie can feel Will's chest press against his when Will takes a deep breath. "Chuckie, what your mom said about church - I don't - I haven't gone to church in almost a year."

"I been going, but it feels weird," Chuckie replies. "Ever since I figured out that - that I wanted to do gay shit with you, I feel like Father Malone is gonna start lecturing me about going to hell or whatever. I haven't gone to confession in months, I don't know what to say. Like, do I have to confess this?"

He gestures between them, but doesn't move away from Will, and Will doesn't move, either. "You know - lots of dudes in history had male lovers, and then history kind of glossed over a lot of it," Will says. "And the Catholic Church doesn't want us to be gay because they want us to have a bunch of little Catholics. Go forth and multiply and all that shit."

"I never thought about it like that," Chuckie has to admit.

Will presses a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "I guess we're not making any little Catholics this way," he says, which makes Chuckie huff a laugh. "But really, Chuckie, you know I knew a bunch of families who had a lot of kids just because the Church told them to, and it never - it never turned out that fucking great for the kids, you know?"

Chuckie rests his forehead against Will's for a minute, thinking. "I guess I better go anyway, so my ma doesn't yell," he says finally. "At least for now, okay? But if you don't want to go, I'll tell her to lay off. Seriously."

"Nah, it's okay."

Chuckie rubs his hand slowly over Will's hip and feels Will sigh against his neck. "If it's weird there at St. Michael's, we could always try to find a new church, right? If we want to?" he asks, thinking it out as he goes. "I guess it's mostly that I'm just used to going. Not that I feel like God's gonna strike me down."

Will's chuckle is muffled. "I think your ma's more likely to strike you down for skipping."

Neither of them moves for a couple minutes, while Chuckie thinks about how he still can't believe he gets to do this with Will. And Will seems content not to move, either, his face tucked into Chuckie's neck with his arms loose around Chuckie's waist, just breathing. Then Will's stomach gurgles and they both start to laugh. "I guess I could pick up my end of the bargain and cook something," Chuckie says, but doesn't move.

"Mmm, that might be good. Can't be slacking already. You don't want to get kicked out after you just moved in."

Chuckie presses a kiss under his chin. "I think your options are spaghetti or spaghetti."

Will whole body hitches with laughter. "Guess either one is fine."

*

He and Will settle into what Chuckie figures counts as an actual routine: Chuckie gets up first, puts the coffee on, gets ready for work. Will generally emerges from under the blankets as Chuckie's standing in the kitchen having a cup, his hair sticking up everywhere as he shuffles, yawning, across the linoleum to kiss Chuckie good morning and try to steal his mug.

"Get your own, asshole," Chuckie tells him. "What time are you done tonight?"

"Uh, I should get out of the office around five, I think? We got a work lunch, Joe's making me go so I can explain stuff to Cunningham." Joe is Will's boss, and Chuckie's pretty sure Cunningham is the current client that Will's reviewing financials for. Will explained it a couple nights ago while they sat on the couch, both of them too tired to move much. Chuckie's pretty proud that he understood more of the accounting stuff than he thought he would. Plus Will's gotten better at explaining things to people. All that tutoring those Stanford kids for money, Chuckie figures.

Will gets his coffee mug from the dish drainer and fills it. "So lunch actually counts as work hours today, and then I don't have to stay until six."

"Nice."

"It would be better if Cunningham's sales figures weren't all over the fucking place, but." Will shrugs, leaning against the counter next to Chuckie. "What time are you done?"

"Four. Then I gotta pick up some oil for the car, and I'm gonna finish the bed tonight, I just gotta make sure the pads on the bottom are all dry so it doesn't fuck up the hardwood. We can probably bring it in when you get home."

"Sounds good." Will kisses him again, then heads for the bedroom to take a shower.

Chuckie rinses out his mug and puts his boots on before yelling a goodbye. Outside, it's stopped snowing, but there's still enough on the windshield that he has to clear it off, so he does Will's car as well, and brushes off the front porch with the broom that Martha leaves out for it. She's an older lady and she works for the hospital, and after Chuckie and Will moved in she had them over for dinner one night.

He's at the site out in Hyde Park today, a new subdivision. "Good for you to learn about building houses, Chuckie," Chavvy said when Paulie gave them the assignment. "Not always banks to build."

It's a half-hour drive, but when Chuckie parks across the street, Morgan jogs up to his car with a Dunkin' cup in each hand. "Morgan, you asshole, where's my bagel?" Chuckie teases, and Morgan looks offended.

"I'm not gonna get you coffee if you're gonna be a fucking jerk about it." Chuckie grins at him and Morgan groans as he figures out Chuckie's messing with him. "You are a fucking jerk, you know that?"

"Relax, dude, Jimmy's rolling up with breakfast right there." He points at the company truck that's pulling up to the site, then yanks his hat further down over his ears. "Jesus, it's fucking cold out here."

The day goes quickly despite the frigid weather. Chavvy throws out OSHA compliance questions every so often, keeping Chuckie on his toes. "You gonna quiz me all day?" Chuckie asks as they move lumber off the truck after lunch.

"You got to learn it," Chavvy replies.

Jimmy blows the whistle at four. "Yo, Chuckie!" Morgan yells after him as he heads for the car. Chuckie stops and waits for him to catch up. "We're still on for the Providence game this weekend, right? You and Will ain't gonna skip out?"

Chuckie ducks into the Olds to start it. "Well, we paid for the tickets already, Morgan," he says, leaning on the door.

Morgan looks as though he's not convinced this will guarantee their presence. "Yah, well, who's drivin'?"

"Prob'ly Billy, since he knows how to get there."

"Alright."

Chuckie runs his errands on the way back to Weymouth, getting the motor oil and some groceries so he can make dinner. Will's still not any better at making stuff that's edible beyond macaroni and cheese from a box and some sandwiches, but Chuckie remembers the hot plate that passed for his kitchen in the old apartment, and doesn't give him too much shit for it.

Will's not home yet when he gets there, so he hops in the shower, then calls his ma on the cordless in the kitchen. "When are you coming over to visit?" she asks.

"I don't know, Ma, maybe next weekend? We're going to a hockey game tomorrow down in Providence, taking a road trip."

She huffs. "I rented out your old room to a real nice girl, she's going to school at the college. Learning how to be a teacher."

"Uh-huh." Chuckie doesn't know why anybody would want that job, running around after snotty little kids all day. He tucks the phone between his chin and shoulder, grabs a beer from the fridge, and goes out to the garage. He stained the bed frame last weekend, and it's been drying for the last few days. They got a little space heater, and Chuckie runs it for a while every night to keep the garage from being completely freezing.

"You should meet her," his ma says, and Chuckie stills where he's checking to make sure the glue holding the felt circles to the bottoms of the posts is completely cured. He has no idea how to respond.

"Chuckie?"

"Uh, sorry Ma, Will didn't hang the handset up all the way so it's dying," he lies. "And we only got the one phone. Can I call you back tomorrow?"

"Yah, sure. Love ya."

"Love you, too." He sets the phone down on the workbench and exhales. Then he starts running a hand over the finished wood of the bed frame, making sure the varnish is dry and completely smooth. It's a dark stain, the color of coffee. Chuckie built the headboard separately, alternated a bleached ash, nearly white, for every two planks of the recycled wood that he stained dark.

"That looks great," Will says from the open doorway, and Chuckie looks up.

"I didn't even hear you pull into the driveway."

"I parked on the road for now." Will comes down the two steps. He's still in his work clothes, dark slacks and a white button-down. Chuckie knows he refuses to wear a tie, and no one at Wasserman seems to care.

Chuckie brushes his hands off on his on sweatpants and slides his arms around Will. "How was work?"

"It was work. The food at lunch was good, though." Will leans in to kiss him briefly. He still smells faintly of his woodsy antiperspirant, and he's warm against Chuckie in the chill air of the garage. "Is this ready, can we take it inside? I put the mattress up against the wall a second ago so there's room to get it in."

"You want to change out of your work clothes first?" Chuckie asks, running a hand up Will's back. Will shrugs, then shakes his head. "Yah, let's do it then."

They take the headboard in first, then the frame. It barely fits through the bedroom doorway. Chuckie attaches the headboard, and then they move the whole thing into place in the corner. "Makes it look twice as big," Will says as they slide the box spring on top of the slats.

"I did measure," Chuckie laughs.

They flip the mattress down and nestle it into the frame, then Will shakes out the blankets. When he's done, he grabs Chuckie by the front of his t-shirt and Chuckie finds himself being pushed down onto the bed. Will straddles his waist. "What's this?" Chuckie asks, sliding his hands up Will's thighs.

"Wanted to be sure it wouldn't break," Will says with a grin.

"Oh, fuck off."

Will keeps grinning. He leans down to kiss Chuckie, and Chuckie cups the back of his neck, stroking his thumb behind Will's ear. "Nobody ever made me anything before," Will whispers. His breath is warm against Chuckie's cheek. "You know? I think I got some homemade mittens once from some clothes drive, but - nothing like this."

"Wait until you see what else I got planned." Chuckie bites Will's lower lip gently, and Will groans, settling even heavier against him. The bed frame doesn't so much as creak. "And I was gonna make dinner, but this is good, too."

Will's hands skim over his shoulders, then over his neck where his pulse is hammering. "Chuckie."

"Mmm?"

"Did we leave the phone in the garage?"

Chuckie bursts out laughing, he can't help it, and he rolls them over so Will's underneath him. "Yah - I think - yah, I did," he manages to say, in between pressing kisses to Will's neck. He exhales hotly against the hollow of Will's throat, and undoes the first couple buttons of his shirt.

"I can't believe we can just do this whenever," he says without even thinking, as Will pulls lightly on his hair. "That you let me."

Will arches against him and Chuckie feels his dick hard through his slacks. "Why wouldn't I?"

Chuckie doubts that question actually requires an answer, and continues unbuttoning Will's shirt. Then he unbuckles Will's belt, watching Will's face twitch and his eyes slip closed. His cheeks are pink, and the flush goes down his neck and spreads over his chest. Chuckie pushes his shirt open and rubs a thumb over Will's nipple - he'd been kind of dumbfounded to learn Will got just as into it as some girls - and Will's mouth opens on a soft noise.

Chuckie teases until Will starts to squirm and his cock rubs up against Chuckie's junk through all their layers of clothes. "See, you shoulda changed," Chuckie whispers, even though he's found he likes getting Will out of his snobby work clothes.

Will makes a small negative sound and frees his wrists from the cuffs of the button-down. He rubs his thumbs over the skin above Chuckie's waistband, then tugs it downwards, right to the base of Chuckie's cock. "Will," Chuckie gasps, pinching Will's nipple again.

"I kinda think you like getting me undressed, Chuck." Will meets his gaze, flashing a dirty smile.

"That requires further research," Chuckie replies in his haughty faux-academic voice. He leans down to kiss Will, and Will slips him some tongue, and neither of them get any more undressed for a few seconds.

Then Will bites his earlobe. "So much for dinner."

"Uh-huh." Chuckie undoes Will's button and zipper, and slides a hand into his slacks to cup Will's dick through his boxers. He'd been unsure of this at first, until Will said "it's a dick same as yours, Chuckie" and Chuckie realized he needed to stop thinking about Will's cock as some sort of unexplored territory; that in reality, he knew more about making a dude come than getting a girl off, he only had to apply that knowledge to a different dick than his own.

Will yanks at his t-shirt and makes an impatient noise, so Chuckie pulls it off and tosses it in the direction of the floor. "Are you going to let me move so I can get my clothes off?" Will asks. In response, Chuckie puts his hand in Will's shorts and starts jerking him off, slowly. Will drops his head back against the pillow.

Chuckie watches for a minute, because he likes looking at Will, this Will who isn't so angry all the time, this Will who came back more comfortable in his own skin than Chuckie can ever remember seeing him before. Chuckie never really asked about Will's friend Rico, or about the clubs they went to, but he can guess.

Part of him is disappointed that he probably wasn't the first guy to get Will.

"Chuckie," Will gasps, moving restlessly underneath him, one hand sliding up Chuckie's stomach. "Chuckie, I gotta wear these pants again tomorrow, I can't get jizz on them."

"Shoulda changed when you got home," Chuckie replies, but he lets go of Will after another couple lazy strokes, and helps him get the slacks off and draped over the shorter foot board.

Will kicks his boxers over the edge of the mattress, then snaps the waistband of Chuckie's sweats. "You, too."

Chuckie ditches the sweats. His lack of boxers makes Will grin and ask, "Went bare, huh?"

"Why would I bother after I took a shower?" Chuckie asks, crawling back on top of Will again, their legs sliding together. His skims a hand down over Will's hip, the skin there smooth with only a few pinprick freckles, then ducks his head to mouth at the freckles along Will's collarbone.

Will mumbles something that sounds like Chuckie's name, and Chuckie feels Will's hands sliding over his ass, then squeezing. Will arches up, rubbing his dick against Chuckie's, a thing Chuckie thought was weird at first but now he likes because he can kiss Will at the same time, or lick the spot under Will's ear that makes him moan, then look embarrassed about the noise he's making. Plus it feels good, and Chuckie gets off.

"Bedframe's holding up," he whispers in Will's ear, making Will laugh and groan at the same time. The sound vibrates into Chuckie's skin, giving him goosebumps. And he's hot, the room feels hot, Will's skin is hot. Chuckie feels like everything is sticky - not painfully, just in the way where his skin rubbing against Will's bumps up against that line of too much sensation.

Will comes with a quiet noise. Chuckie weighs enough more than Will that Will's upward thrust barely moves him, and Will's hand tightens in the hair on the back of Chuckie's head. "Mmm, c'mon," Will whispers, the words humid against Chuckie's ear. Chuckie feels him work a hand in between them, then feels Will's fingers wrap around his cock, wet with jizz.

A couple tugs and Chuckie's coming, too, scraping his teeth over Will's shoulder as he does. It's kind of gross and sticky, but Chuckie also feels warm and alive. He can feel Will's heartbeat, feel Will's breath huffing over his temple. "Will," he mumbles.

"Yah?"

"Love you."

Fingertips trace down his spine and Will's chest presses up against his with every breath. "Love you too, Chuckie."

*

Morgan chatters nearly the whole way down to Providence, twisted halfway around in the passenger seat so he can make his stupid hand gestures at Chuckie and Will in the back. Billy picked him up first, so he called shotgun, even though Chuckie thinks he should have lost his seat when he and Billy got out to look at Chuckie and Will's apartment.

Chuckie found an old bed frame and dresser at the Salvation Army and fixed them up for the room they're pretending is his, so it at least looks like someone's actual room. Will leaned in the doorway and watched as he tossed a couple sweatshirts over the end of the bed before Billy and Morgan rolled up.

"This look okay?" Chuckie asked. He punched the pillow so it would look slept on.

"It'll be fine," Will said, as the doorbell rang. "They're not gonna check to make sure the bed is warm, Chuckie, come on."

Billy stuck his head in each of the rooms before he proclaimed, "Well, it ain't a dump, that's for fucking sure. You boys did pretty good for yourselves."

Chuckie rolled his eyes. Morgan punched Billy in the arm. "Shut up, Billy, you still live with your grandma."

"Yah, because she's old and somebody's gotta stay there with her," Billy said, glaring at him. "And you live with your ma, so you shut up."

Morgan flipped him off, then announced he had to piss. "Don't jerk off in my bathroom!" Chuckie called after him.

"Chuckie, you make this?" Billy asked, stopping in front of the bookshelf. There's a stack of books on it that Will had checked out from the library, and a couple he'd bought.

"Yah, Paulie gave me some scrap wood; this way Will doesn't leave his books all lying around in piles all over the fucking place."

"I heard that," Will yelled from the bedroom where he was getting his shoes.

"I wasn't tryin' to be quiet," Chuckie yelled back. Billy thumped him on the arm. "What, I'm not allowed to yell in my own apartment?"

"It's a nice bookshelf." Billy was giving him that look, and Chuckie squinted at him. Billy shook his head. "You and Will always were attached at the hip."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Chuckie whisper-hissed.

Billy shrugged and rocked back on his heels. "Don't mean nothin', Chuckie, but I'm glad you're not moping around anymore."

Will walked out of the bedroom yanking his coat on over his Bruins sweatshirt. "The fuck we all standing around for?"

"Waiting for Morgan to finish taking a shit," Billy said. "You guys got a nice place here, Will. Not bad for two assholes from Southie."

"Yah, Chuckie's ma had to give us half the furniture, though." Will grinned. Then he shouted, "Morgan! Come on!" and banged on the bathroom door.

Chuckie's glad now that Billy offered to drive, since this way he can slump down in the seat and close his eyes, even if Morgan's still talking. Down on the floor, next to a crumpled Pepsi can, the edge of Will's foot is pressed against the edge of his. "Can't you afford a new car?" he hears Morgan ask.

Will's voice is mockingly indignant. "What the fuck for? The Nova still runs. And you guys got it for me, so I gotta drive it until it dies, that's only right."

"It's gonna run forever," Chuckie says with a grin, just because, not bothering to open his eyes. He hears Will laughing softly, barely audible over Billy complaining about the weather again, and Chuckie feels Will's hand brush over his.

He slides his other hand into the pocket of his coat to stay warm and feels a thick piece of paper, folded in half. "What is it?" Will murmurs as Chuckie tugs it free, looking down at the picture.

It's one of Will's postcards from California, the last one that arrived, three weeks before Will's Nova pulled up in front of Chuckie's ma's house. I miss you. Love, Will.

Will nudges him lightly. "You carried it around?"

Chuckie skims a fingertip over the words and sticks the postcard carefully back in his pocket. "'course I did."

"Stop fucking whispering back there," Billy says, catching Chuckie's gaze in the rearview mirror. "I see you assholes."

Chuckie flashes a grin back at him. Then he slouches further into the warmth of his coat and pushes his foot a little harder against Will's.