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Justin doesn’t think about it.

 

He keeps himself busy, throwing himself into being a good captain for the boys, immersing himself in his studies and planning more Haus Parties in a year than ever before. If he starts to think about it, he goes on the defense, pulling his notes back out or opening Instagram up on his phone and getting lost in the study aesthetics and kittens tags. Other people are obviously thinking about it; he can see it in the way Bitty pulls his bottom lip between his teeth and the nervous looks Dex and Nursey exchange as the season draws to a close. But then they make it into the playoffs, and everybody (including Justin) forgets about that thing looming in the middle of May.

 

They make it to the championships and they win this time, Bitty scoring the game winning goal with a beautiful slap shot. Justin has never felt pride and excitement and relief like this before, watching this team pile together on the ice, red and white confetti falling from the ceiling and clinging to the sweat and tears on their smiling faces. There’s strong arms lifting Justin in the air, and he knows who it is, knows there’s only one person that even has a chance of moving his feet from the ground . He grins and clings to Holster, forcibly not thinking about what comes next.

 

The month that follows the championship flies by in a swirl of parties and exams. Senior week comes and goes, and Justin still doesn’t let himself think about it. Lardo is, it’s evident in the way her generally edgy art has gone soft and warm, like she’s trying to make the memories and feelings that make Samwell home permanent. Holster’s thinking about it too, his noise level increasing by the day in an attempt to cover it up. He probably wants to talk about it, but Justin has been finding increasingly creative ways to dodge that bullet.

 

The problem of course, lies in the fact that Justin has always been extremely successful at the things he puts his mind to. And sure, that’s all well and good, until one day he, Holster and Lardo are decorating the tops of their caps in the Haus kitchen, and the next Justin’s got three new roommates in a too small apartment in Providence, with almost 200 miles separating himself from his best friend.

 

Justin is decidedly thinking about it.

 

He should have said something, after the championship game, when he and Holster were pressed together on that gross green couch, cups of tub juice in their hands and soft smiles on their faces as they watched Chowder and Farmer slow dance to Beyonce. Or he could have said something during senior week, when Holster had stuck to his side like glue as they wandered the streets of Boston, as if that blue eyed, blond haired white boy was the one who needed to be worried about the city streets. Graduation would have been a good time too, when Holster’s fingers wrapped around his, hidden beneath their robes. He’d turned to look at him and seen his best friend staring back at him, same goofy, too big smile on his face as always. That familiar warmth welled up inside of Justin, and it occurred to him that he couldn’t image a future without Holster.

 

The unfortunate part is, that appears to be the future he’s living.

 

And sure, his roommates are pretty cool, and Alpert Medical School at Brown is going to be amazing, and he gets to see Jack a lot more than he thought he would, but none of that even comes close to the comfort just the sound of Holster’s voice alone brings. Growing up isn’t supposed to be like this. Sure, they talk about how hard it is to leave your high school friends when you head off to college, but Justin’s never seen anything about meeting your soul mate on the first day of hockey pre-season, and the heartbreak that comes four years later.  Justin had kind of been counting on Holster’s dramatics to keep them in touch with phone calls and skype dates and bi-weekly hangouts. But what he hadn’t figured into the equation was the fact that Holster is now Adam, working sixty hours weeks at some investment firm in New York City. While Holster would have called Justin every night and forced him to watch Mama Mia at least once a month, Adam is at work twelve hours a day and wears a necktie on Wednesdays and hasn’t updated his Facebook or Instagram in months. Adam sometimes forgets to text him back, and Adam sounds so tired on the phone the few times they’ve spoken that Justin feels bad for keeping him awake.

 

Medical School is no joke though, and Justin is soon sucked into it all. It’s like the stress of midterms but constant, like he’s always trying to prove that he’s smart enough to be here. It wasn’t all that hard, to be the smartest student in his high school, or to graduate suma cum laude at Samwell. But here at Brown, all of his peers graduated at the tops of their classes, with undergrads like Harvard and Yale and UPenn. He’s far from being the only person of color in his class, but there’s still that feeling, like he needs to do more than succeed, he needs to excel, in order to be taken seriously.

 

He’s doing better than he expected.

 

Not that he expected to do poorly, but there was a brief moment of panic when he realized that no one knows about his occasional need to hide under a table when the stress of exams get to be too much. But studying is different here. There’s no parties or hockey games or pies (god, he misses the pies) to distract him from his books and notes. And all his roommates are in the medical program too, their living room turning into study central within a week. Teresa is a blessing, her beautifully organized notes and stacks of post its and highlighters eventually converting the space that started out messy and filled with crumpled papers and pizza boxes into something neat and… dare he say it, ideal for studying. Justin doesn’t end up in a ball reciting the human anatomy, and when Adam asks him how school’s going, he doesn’t have to lie.

 

It’s closing in on American Thanksgiving when Justin realizes he hasn’t seen Holster since July. His stomach starts to churn immediately, guilt burning at the back of his throat and behind his eyes. He’s walking home from class, the cool, damp air cutting through the fleece fabric of his jacket. This part of Providence is busy at night, streets lit softly and young people filling the restaurants and bars, talking too fast and nasally for Justin’s tastes. He likes it here though, likes all the different kinds of food and the art exhibits everywhere and the lazy river that curls through the streets. It would be better with Holster there though, dragging him to the same lame restaurants and making up stories about the people they pass on the streets.

His hands are shaking by the time he closes his apartment door behind him, though he’s not sure if it’s because of the cold or that other thing. Luckily his roommates are all out, Teresa and Kole both went home to their families already – due to the week off for Thanksgiving – and Maeve is most likely at her girlfriend’s house, which means there’s no one there to freak out when he ends up on the kitchen floor. He’s not curled up in a ball this time, just sitting up against the fridge, knees pulled up to his chest. His phone sits on the floor in front of him, where he placed it after the third time he pulled up Holster’s contact information before quickly locking his phone.

 

The thing is, calling Holster feels awkward.

 

And sure, Justin’s dealt with anxiety his whole life, and calling anyone besides his immediate family tends to make him nervous, but nothing with Holster has ever been anything but weirdly normal. From day one they were attached at the hip, dating girls together and sharing food and sleeping in the same bed. They’ve held hands and rubbed sunscreen on each other and definitely been mistaken as boyfriends in public, but none of that was ever awkward.

But this… this is .

 

Maybe it’s because he hasn’t physically seen Holster in months. It’s the longest they’ve been apart since before they met… which upon reflection is probably a little weird and codependent. They haven’t spoken on the phone in weeks, and their texting volume has decreased significantly and… and… Justin huffs and glares at his reflection in the oven door. This whole situation is absolutely ridiculous. Friends grow apart all the time, and if he doesn’t want that to happen, he needs to grow up and pick up the damn phone. He’s twenty two years old, not a sixteen year old pining after his girlfriend. 

 

Fuck.

 

It seems pretty obvious, sitting here on the cold white tiles.

 

He’s in love with his best friend.

 

The thing is, Justin’s never been the type of person to value any type of love over another. He’s always known he’s loved Holster, but he always thought it was a platonic, best bros forever kind of thing. And maybe that’s still the case, he’s not really sure, but right now all he knows it that the only thing in the world that could possibly make him feel better is the warmth of Holster’s body pressed against his back and strong arms curled around his chest. He thinks about it for a moment, the way Holster’s breath on his neck always made him squirm, how sometimes he’d look at Holster and wonder what it’d be like to kiss him quiet.

Which… he does that a lot. Not the thinking about kissing Holster thing necessarily, but he generally thinks about kissing everyone. He just likes pretty people, and he likes thinking about intimacy. Not necessarily sex either (though that is good, too), but more just soft touches and bare skin.

 

He picks up the phone.

 

“Wow Justin, what’s the occasion?” The sound of his sister’s voice actually makes him feel a little better than he thought it would, though her tone is a little uncalled for.

 

“I need advice.”

 

Hi Ife, how are you?” Ife mimics the sound of his voice, poorly. “It’s me, Justin, the brother you haven’t heard from in centuries. I wanted to tell you how much I miss my favorite sister!

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Justin grumbles, curling his fingers in the sleeves of his sweatshirt. “I’m in love with Holster.” It kind of just comes out, and he meant to be a little more delicate in his approach to this situation, but Ife was never really good with delicate things anyways.

 

“No shit,” she laughs, that laugh that sounds just like their mom. “It’s only going on like five years.”

 

“Five… no… I… I just realized this Ife!” He groans, scrubbing a hand over his head. “I haven’t actually seen him in forever and I miss him so bad and he’s a giant dork who thinks that sriracha and salt and pepper are the only spices that exist and… and…”

 

“And what?” Ife asks. There’s a rustling noise in the background, following by a quiet meow that has to be her cat. “Oluransi’s are known for falling in love with dorks! Have you heard the jokes Dad tells? Have you met my husband?” There’s a muffled hey in the background, and Justin can only imagine the look of disgrace on Rich’s face.

 

“Well yes, but-“

 

“No buts!” Ife snaps. “Except for hockey butts, those are allowed.” Justin feels himself starting to smile without really wanting too, and he’s just glad his sister isn’t actually here to chirp him about it. “Stop being a wimp and call the beef cake!”

 

“Okay first of all, you are the worst,” he sighs, listening to the raucous laughter from the other end of the line. “And secondly, I don’t even… I’m not sure I even like boys… like that.” His cheeks feel hot just from saying it, even though he knows it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s just that his sexuality is something he’s never really examined. Even at Samwell, with the exceptionally accepting community, and the fact that one of his very best friends is gay, he just never really took the time to think about it. Girls who were interested in him weren’t hard to find, and he never really wanted to be in a relationship anyways. There have been a few of course, like March, and Jess in freshman year, Candace in high school.

 

“Pretty sure you have explicitly stated that you would sleep with Alexei Mashkov,” Ife says slowly. “I mean, I don’t want to go around assigning gender identities, but I’m pretty sure he identifies as a man.”

 

“Well celebrities don’t count,” Justin grumbles, trying to keep himself from pouting and failing miserably. 

 

Honey-“

 

“Plus, I haven’t really thought about sex with him or anything, really.” That’s a lie, a bit, not really. Just that he might have thought about kissing, and touching, and maybe sometimes Holster’s dumb face creeps into his fantasies when he’s jacking off in the shower.

 

“Gross man,” Ife groans. “I don’t want to hear about this!”

 

You called him a beef cake!”

 

“That is not permission for you to tell me about your sex life, Justin!”

 

“That was not-“

 

“Anyways,” Ife cuts him off. “You will have to figure out what it is you want out of this relationship for yourselves, together.” She continues, voice softening. “All I know is that Adam makes you happy, and judging by the way he looks at you, it’s not a one way street. You’ve got to talk to him.”

 

Justin sighs and leans his head back against the fridge.  “Yeah, I know.”


 

It takes three beers and almost an entire box of mac and cheese to work up the courage. The mac and cheese is pretty terrible, and not nearly as comforting as his mom’s cooking, but the mix between fake cheese and beer feels vaguely like he’s back in the Haus.

 

Holster’s phone rings and rings, and Justin starts to panic, glancing at his watch and frowning when he realizes it’s only five past nine. The call goes to voicemail, and he starts to feel sick again. Maybe Holster is upset with him, maybe, for the first time ever, he’s screening Justin’s calls. Maybe he’s on a date, out with someone who can be there, in New York City with him, not holed away and stressed out in Providence. Maybe they haven’t talk because Holster wants to move on, maybe he’s found a new best friend who fits even better than Justin. Maybe…

 

His phone starts to vibrate in his hand, Holster wearing stunner shades and mouth open in song lighting up the screen. He answers it immediately, fingers shaking as they slide across the screen.

“Hello?” He asks, breathless, heart in his throat.

“Rans!” Holster half sings, not as loud as he used to be but still cheerful. “Sorry I missed your call, damn thing was still on silent from work. ‘Sup bud?”

“Hi,” Ransom whispers, and he feels kind of like an idiot, but he doesn’t really care at this point. “I… I miss you, Adam.” His throat starts to get tight, tears burning at the back of his throat. “I don’t… I haven’t seen you in months and I miss you and your laugh and talking to you before I fall asleep at night.”

Rans,” Holster starts, but Justin plows over him, starting to gain momentum.

“And I miss watching Golden Girls together, and sharing beers and taking naps together in your bunk. I miss listening to you sing in the shower and the smell of your cologne, and I miss playing hockey with you. I just… life kind of sucks without you.” Justin chokes out the last words, hot tears welling in the corners of his eyes.

 

“I’m coming up there,” Holsters says, using his Captain voice. It means he doesn’t want Justin to argue with him, but that’s never stopped him before. “I don’t need you going into coral reef mode without me there.”

 

“I’m not though,” Justin huffs. “I’ve made it through a whole set of midterms without that. This is just… me. Missing you. A lot… more than I probably should.”

 

“No one’s allowed to tell you how much you’re allowed to miss someone,” Holster says, distracted, a lot of thuds and rustling coming over the line. “And I doubt… I miss you so much Justin, you have no fucking idea. It’s like, seeing you used to be my favorite part of the day, and we were together all day, and now… Now we’re so far apart and it sucks man.” Silence settles over the line, but it’s comfortable, just the sound of Holster breathing and a couple muffled swears.

 

“Shouldn’t this be weird?” Justin asks after a few minutes, blinking at the blank screen of his TV. “Like, I’m just sitting here, listen to you fuck around or whatever.”

“It’s not weird,” Holster huffs, a rustling sound in the background like he’s pulling on a jacket. “And I’m not fucking around, I’m packing a god damn bag.”

“What?”

“Don’t what me, Justin! I have next week off, just like you. And nothing’s gonna stop me from seeing my best friend.”

“You don’t-“

“Dude, I do, okay? And this is for me too, I need this.” Holster’s voice softens, and Justin’s throat goes tight, tears burning behind his eyes. “I’m hanging up now, but I’ll see you in like, three hours, max, okay?”

“Okay,” Justin chokes, fully aware that there’s no way Holster can’t tell he’s on the verge of tears. “I… I love you man.”

“Love you too,” Holster says back, like it’s easy, like it’s something they do. And it was, back at Samwell, the word love tossed around on a daily basis. It feel different now, six months later. “See you soon.”


 

Objectively, Justin knows this isn’t going to be any different than any other time he’s hung out with Holster. They’ve spent summers together, and holidays, and once went an entire year without missing a day of seeing each other. The smart thing to do would be to pull out some study materials, get comfy on the couch, and wait for Holster to get here.

 

Instead, Justin pulls out the bottle of Captain hiding behind the cereal in Kole’s cupboard and makes himself a drink that’s more Captain than coke. He tries to pace himself, knowing full well that his tolerance has faded with the absence of parties every other weekend, and he really shouldn’t be drunk for this, but the thought alone can’t stop him. So he keeps drinking, until his hands stop shaking and his vision goes warm and fuzzy around the edges. It’s a terrible plan, seeing as he needs to maybe have an actual conversation with Holster. The only time Justin ever executes terrible plans are when Holster’s involved, and that’s probably supposed to mean something. But he doesn’t care, because he’s going to have his best friend here with him for the first time in months, and nothing could be better than that.

 

The knock on the apartment door comes sooner than Justin expects, having gotten lost in a Wikipedia spiral that started on Jack’s page and ended on Halley’s Come t. Which, is really fucking cool honestly, but now he’s feeling all blurry from staring at his iPad and wobbly from the frankly concerning about of rum he’s drank. He stumbles to the door anyways, flinging it open without even glancing through the peephole.

 

“Brooo!!!” He sings, grinning wider than he has in weeks before practically throwing himself at Holster.

“Rans,” Holster huffs into the side of his neck, big arms wrapping around him, strong and sturdy. Justin sighs and presses closer, letting Holster walk him backwards into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind him. “Missed you.”

“Missed you more,” Justin replies, refusing to loosen his grip. He hasn’t had a hug like this in ages, sue him. Holster seems to take it all in stride, letting his bag fall to the floor with a thud before navigating Justin through the kitchen and out into the living room. Justin lets Holster push him down onto the couch, sprawling backwards and watching unabashedly as Holster slips off his jacket. He looks pretty much the same, though there’s blonde stubble crawling down his jaw and slight bags under his eyes. It feels different though, because Justin’s looked at Holster a million times before, but the way his biceps stretch against the sleeves of his shirt has never made Justin’s stomach flip like this, and neither has the width of his shoulders and the undeniable strength of his chest.

 

Fuck.

 

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” Holster smirks, and it sends electricity zinging down the length of Justin’s spine. He laughs because he knows he’s supposed to, but inside he’s starting to panic, the anxiety only dulled by the lingering effects of the rum.

 

“D-Man cuddle sesh!” He yells instead of saying something along the lines of ‘I want you to hold me down and bite my neck’. Holster, of course, just softens his smirk and climbs on top of him.

They’ve done this before, the cuddling thing, but usually there’s a TV show playing on someone’s computer, and they arrange themselves in a way that could potentially be viewed as platonic. But Justin’s a little drunk, and a little touch starved, and he really can’t bring himself to care that lying chest to chest and intertwining their legs isn’t exactly bro-like behavior. Holster doesn’t seem to care though, his hands cool against the skin of Justin’s back when he slips them beneath his t-shirt. Justin takes that as license to wrap himself even more tightly around Holster, pressing his face to the side of his neck and running his hands up and down his back. Holster sighs, tension seeping out of his body like a popped balloon.

 

“Remember junior year, when that rugby chick wanted us to kiss?” Justin hates his drunk self, he really fucking does.

 

“Yeah,” Holster says, but he’s cautious, like he has no idea where this conversation is going. Which, he’s not alone on that front. Justin shoulder really just laugh right now and say something normal like, ‘good fuckin’ times man’. Instead, he takes a very deep breath, and prepares himself to have a conversation.

 

“How come you said no?”

 

“Rans…” Holster starts to pull back, but Justin clings to him, afraid to meet his gaze. “Really… are we really having this conversation?”

“Is it because I’m a boy, or because I’m me?” Justin whispers, kind of hoping that maybe Holster just won’t hear him. He does, of course he does, because Holster has been the one person who always hears Justin.

 

“I’ve been in love with you since freshman year,” Holster laughs, and it’s more bitter than Justin is used to. “I was pretty sure I’d give it all away if I kissed you.” Justin lays there for a second, letting the words sink in. His fingers start to tingle as all of his memories tilt into a new perspective.

 

“Huh.” This time it’s him that pulls back, pushing Holster onto his back so he can look at his face. Holster goes easily but won’t meet his eyes, mouth set in that grim line that only used to appear after a tough loss. “Ife refers to you as a beefcake,” he starts, swinging his leg over Holster’s thighs to straddle him. “She said it like, multiple times man, it was weird.” The corners of Holster’s lips twitch slightly, and his eyes are startlingly blue when they finally meet Justin’s. “She also called me a wimp, and informed me that I’ve been in love with you for years.”

Holster just blinks up at him, expression closed off like he’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. Justin doesn’t like it, doesn’t like being the reason for his best friend looking so sad. He reaches out and smoothes the crease between Holster’s brows with his thumb, watching curiously as a dull flush starts to appear high on Holster’s cheeks. “I’ve always known I loved you,” Justin continues, letting his fingers trace down Holster nose and over the curve of his cheek. “But I was miserable without you, and it kind of led to this epiphany.” Holster hums quietly, his hands coming up to curl loosely? at Justin’s waist. They’re hot to the touch now, palm prints burning through Justin’s sweatpants and onto his skin. “And just now, watching you take your coat off, all I could think about was how bad I want your mouth on my skin.”

 

“Jesus,” Holster swears, fingers twitching against Justin’s hips and that flush brightening, spreading down his cheeks to his neck. Justin watches it light up Holster’s skin, mouth going dry as he thinks of following it with his tongue, dipping beneath the collar of Holster’s shirt. Thick fingers drag up Justin’s back, pulling at his shirt, and he snaps his eyes up, face going hot at the way Holster’s eyes have darkened.

 

“So like,” Justin swallows, trying his best to act like he’s actually got this whole situation under control. Holster’s fingers are pressing hot against the small of his back, dipping beneath the waistband of his sweats, and he’s never felt more out of control in his life. “Is it cool if I do that?”

 

“Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool ,” Holster mutters, blinking rapidly. “I mean, how drunk are you man? You’re not gonna like, regret this tomorrow?”

 

“I’d never regret you,” Justin says, and it’s probably the cheesiest thing he’s ever uttered, but it doesn’t matter, because Holster’s dragging him down and all of a sudden they’re kissing.

In all the thinking he had done tonight about kissing Holster, he hadn’t really considered the actual kissing part. He’s never kissed a guy before – cheek kisses withstanding – so scrape of stubble against his chin surprises him, though not as much as the way the sensation sends heat pooling at the base of his spine. And sure, he knows Holster’s bigger than him, a bit, but he’s never kissed anyone bigger than him, and it turns out he’s really, really into the idea of feeling small but still powerful. He licks against Holster bottom lips experimentally, skin and chest flaring hot when Holster groans and parts his lips. And then their tongues are touching, which is definitely kind of weird because he’s seen Holster do some out there shit that involve his tongue, but he can’t even think about it because his bones might actually be melting right now. Even though it’s not medically possible, but whatever.

 

Justin rolls his hips on instinct, unable to stop a gasp from falling from his lips at the feel of his dick pushing up against Holster’s. This is getting real interesting real fast.

 

“Rans,” Holster murmurs against his lips. He doesn’t pull away though, so Justin keeps kissing him, pressing open mouthed kisses along Holster’s rough jaw and biting that sensitive spot below his ear. Holster moans, loudly, but finally manages to push Justin back. Alarmed, Justin sits back on his heels, chest heaving as he stares down at Holster. His best friend looks thoroughly debauched, cheeks red and warm, pupils blown wide, lips looking almost plump and shiny with spit.

 

He looks fucking hot.

 

Fuck,” Justin whispers, curling his hand around Holster’s jaw and rubbing his thumb against his bottom lip. “You’re so hot.” Holster blinks at him from behind his glasses, as if he can’t quite believe the words.

 

“So are you,” he says finally, voice rougher and quieter than usual. “But I was thinking, like, even though I really want to give you a reason to reevaluate every blow job you’ve ever had, I kind of want to do this, you know, slow? If you want? ”

 

Justin can feel a smile taking over his face, and he knows without a doubt that there is no way to stop it. It’s a cheesy one too, where his cheeks get all round and his eyes crinkle up in the corners. But it feels good, because Holster wants this for real. He doesn’t want to just smash, he doesn’t want to be fuck buddies, he wants to actually do this thing.

 

“Fuck yeah bro,” Justin laughs, leaning down and planting a messy kiss right on Holster’s lips. “You gonna wine and dine me?” There has to be something ironic in calling someone “bro” and then kissing them on the lips, but he doesn’t really feel like examining that at the moment. There’s more important things to focus on, like the way Holster blushes so pretty just for him.

“I’m going to put your drunk ass to bed,” Holster says with a grin, running one hand up and down Justin’s forearm. “And we’re going to cuddle, and then we’ll talk about this in the morning.”

 

Justin can’t seem to wipe the smile off his face. “Deal.”


 

Justin wakes up overheated and groggy. His head kind of hurts, and he’s sweating as if it was early July instead of late November. He pushes at the covers with a groan, confusion settling in his chest when he realizes there’s an arm slung around his middle, effectively cocooning him in his blankets. He recognizes the hand splayed across his chest though, big and broad with a scar across the knuckles from that one time he tried to juggle knives sophomore year.

 

Adam.

 

It comes rushing back now, the mild panic attack, the call to his sister, the making out on the couch like teenagers. Justin grins into his pillow. Holster’s here and breathing and wrapped around him in his bed. And also turning the bed into a fucking sauna.

 

With a bit of effort Justin manages to squirm out from under Holster’s arm. He stares for a moment from the side of the bed, watching the even rise and fall of Holster’s chest and the way his fair eyelashes lay against his cheeks. He’s so big and beautiful and he’s his.

 

Justin slips out to the bathroom quickly, unable to force the goofy smile off his face. He hasn’t felt like this in a long time, probably not since the first time he and March made love. It still feels kind of ridiculous when he practically runs back to his bedroom, in a hurry to get back to Holster. He’s sitting up in bed, mouth down turned as he shoves his glasses on his face. He looks almost relieved when Justin slips back into the room, though he tries to quickly hide it with a grin.

 

“Thought you’d left,” he offers, voice gruff with sleep.

 

Justin slips back into the bed, kissing Holster – morning breath and all – as he curls himself around him. “You’re never getting rid of me now.” He feels more than sees Holster smile, back arching as Holster runs a hand down his spine.

“Good.”

 

Justin hides his grin in Holster’s chest. It’ll be more than good, they are going to be great.