The first time that they end up kissing, it’s on camera. It’s Russell’s ‘forfeit’, but as forfeits go, it’s pretty tame. There’s a lot of hesitation and it would have been awkward but it’s too funny to be awkward; because holy shit, their parents are probably going to see this and Greg isn’t ever going to be able to show his face at the BBC ever again but in the end, that doesn’t really matter because it’s not real. He doesn’t feel a single thing when they finally get around to it. Having Russell’s hands holding his cheeks doesn’t give Greg butterflies and the kiss itself is dry and rubbery and altogether not very nice. Ten minutes later and the entire studio have moved on and it’s not important enough to ‘discuss’ so it’s never mentioned again.
The second time that Greg and Russell kiss isn’t as easily forgettable as the first. Greg had been searching through his Twitter mentions when he first sees it and after a minute or two of link-clicking, it’s all he can see. According to the British public, he’s a “disabled cunt”. It would have been a million times easier to laugh off the comment if he didn’t see another. and another. and another.
Greg knows that he’s not as popular as some of the other radio presenters but he really doesn’t understand why anyone would call him a “retarded fuck” and that he should “go die already” because that’s… Greg just doesn’t understand because he’s a people-pleaser and he’s easy-going and he doesn’t need this.
And so he goes from hurt to pissed off in 3.5 seconds because don’t they fucking understand how hard he had to work; how much he had to beg and plead for a chance to get to where he was today? Greg is overcome by how his ‘haters’ have absolutely no right to abuse him like this for no real reason and for a moment, his vision blurs as the anger spreads through his system like fucking wildfire or some shit and he’s supposed to be rehearsing for ‘Unzipped’ but he just… fuck that shit, which is exactly what he says to Russell when he rings twenty minutes later to ask where he is. It’s not long after that Russell is barging through his front door, (without knocking), and starts asking questions in that worried fucking tone of his and can’t he see how angry Greg is; how much he wants to bite and kick and scream and just rip the world to pieces?
Greg settles for just glaring with all his might at the laptop sat innocently on his coffee table, wishing for nothing but the entire internet to just go up in flames. Russell takes a closer look at some of the blogs that Greg found and he doesn’t even look surprised which leaves Greg feeling absolutely betrayed. Did Russell know about this and not tell him? There are pages and pages and pages dedicated to telling the entire fucking world just how worthless Greg is and nobody thought to warn him? Greg begins to think that nobody spared his opinions on the matter a second though and that leaves Greg wanting to cry and he genuinely thinks that a very tearful version of himself will be making an appearance any second now but then he’s saying those magic words.
I’m sorry, Greg, I didn’t know how to tell you
But Greg doesn’t think that Russell sounds very sorry at all and that just leaves Greg even more upset and confused and so, so frustrated and he just wants Russell to understand how he’s feeling. He wants Russell to suffer too and so he makes it happen. Greg is across the room in one, two, three strides and smashing two pairs of lips together.
It’s painful and awkward and almost exactly like the last time except that Greg is nibbling on Russell’s bottom lip until his mouth falls open slightly and then it’s anything but dry or rubbery. It’s messy and wet and almost enticingly hot and Greg doesn’t even question diving tongue-first into Russell’s mouth because he’s pouring everything he’s feeling straight into Russell and he’s tasting and pushing and he can’t help but allow his hands to travel down Russell’s slim body and hoist him up with hands at the back of his thighs. Hands immediately weave their way through Greg’s hair and holy fuck that feels good and is the world still spinning because it feels like it’s stopped and it’s all because Russell is dragging his teeth across Greg’s tongue in a way that should be completely illegal.
A moan catches between them and they both freeze as the world begins to catch up with them. It’s all wrong and the situation slips away from them slightly, or maybe it just becomes clearer that Greg is not supposed to be sexually assaulting his closest friend and his co-worker in his flat and he’s not supposed to be snogging another man and he’s definitely not supposed to be enjoying it.
Russell’s legs unhook from Greg’s waist and Greg immediately misses the weight and the warmth and how solid Russell is against him and then he’s dropping to his feet and taking a small step backwards. Neither say anything and the air is tense, the silence broken only by their heaving chests as they attempt to catch their breath.
“I…” Russell bites on his swollen lower lip, missing how Greg’s gaze is instantly drawn to it. Russell shuffles slightly, adjusting his weight. “Greg…”
“Goodbye, Russell,” Greg chokes out, looking anywhere but at the other presence in his flat.
Russell leaves silently and Greg closes his eyes against the onslaught of sensations that his memory immediately begins to provide him with.
Greg refuses to go in for rehearsals until even the tiniest hints of stubble rash have disappeared, leaving no evidence of that apart from the long silences shared by the duo and the inability to look one another in the eye. The next time they see each other, it’s all business and the kiss is irrelevant. They don’t speak about it.
The third time they kiss, Greg is too drunk and distressed to be held accountable for his actions. His world feels like it’s crashing down around him and it wasn’t even real; it couldn’t be. A single phone call had rocked the foundations of Greg’s entire being and everything just needs to fucking fuck off and take their fucking bullshit with them because it was lies, okay? Fucking lies and Greg refuses to believe it and so he acts like he would on any other day of the week, (except that he doesn’t), and decides to get fucked.
He ends up in a seedy bar in a rougher part of London, downing whiskey like it’s going out of fashion. He doesn’t even care when he realises that he has no way of getting home because he’s just spent any money he had on enough alcohol to knock out a horse. Greg doesn’t care when the barkeeper cuts him off either; he just closes his eyes, pillows his head on his arms where they are crossed on the bar and goes to sleep. He’s woken by fingers stroking through his hair and someone calling his name and he’s momentarily lost when Russell first swims into focus, hair flat and eyes wide with worry, just watching him. And then everything falls into place and oh…
Something must show in his face because Russell scoops him up into a hug and Greg can do nothing but feel so isolated and so smothered and cling to Russell’s jacket because he doesn’t know how to make everything better this time. It’s only when Russell tells him that it’s okay, I’ve got you does Greg realise that he’s whispering a litany of please, please, Russell, do something, please into Russell’s jaw and Russell holds onto Greg as tightly as he can too and asks what’s wrong babe but how can Greg tell him? How do you find the words to explain that you’re mother is gone and she’s never coming back and you never had the chance to say thank you or goodbye or tell her just how much you love her? How do you force that into words when the screams of your heart drown out everything else and you can’t even breathe?
And so Greg pushes his lips against Russell’s and breathes in what Russell breathes out, mouths open wide and barely sealed as he waits for the strength to pull away and not shatter into a million pieces on the floor. They’re pressed close enough that Greg can literally feel Russell’s confused frown and Greg heaves a broken sob when tentative teeth pull his bottom lip into the wet warmth of another person; arms winding around his waist and gathering him up, tethering him to something real and tangible and now.
The salt of shed tears pave another step of this impenetrable bridge of forgotten moments and ‘what ifs’.
It’s only a couple of months later when it happens again and Greg is still futilely trying to put the pieces of his life back together and his father is slipping down that steep, steep slope of depression and danger and Greg feels like it’s his responsibility to hold the entire world together, but he’s so tired and world weary and it must be really obvious if even Russell is quieter around him; still as obnoxious as fuck but a steady beacon of comfort and support nonetheless; and Greg really fucking appreciates it because he feels so lonely nowadays and he isn’t going to lie and say that he doesn’t feel like crying whenever Russell drops by with pizza and beer and a shoulder to snuggle into, should he need to.
Oddly enough, their fourth kiss is preceded by some mild nudity and an argument-that-is-not-quite-an-argument.
Greg swears it never would have happened if he’d just stopped Russell from being an annoying little bastard and decided on something to watch but he didn’t so Russell is mindlessly flicking through each and every single channel in search of something to watch. But then Russell has exhausted all options and he throws the remote down on the coffee table and the TV flickers from station to station for a moment or two before it settles on some made-for-tv shit and usually, Greg would roll his eyes because it is just his luck and the TV just had to stop on this channel and couldn’t Russell flick for even a second longer? But then there’s a flash of soft, toned thighs and smooth skin and it’s just a flash but it’s enough to make Greg pay a little more attention and it doesn’t even take long before he’s transfixed if he’s being honest with himself.
It’s only when he hears Russell snigger that Greg turns away from the TV to glare but it’s half-hearted at best because his eyelids feel heavy with lust and he can feel them flutter slightly before opening again. Russell is staring at him strangely and Greg would blush, but apparently, his blood is preparing to flood a little bit further south.
“Why don’t you go out for the night?”
Greg startles at Russell’s voice before shrugging as nonchalantly as he possibly can. Apparently, Russell isn’t ready to drop it, which is typical of him.
“Seriously, why don’t you go and find yourself a girl for the night? It’s been ages and you’re pretty fucking desperate…”
Greg scoffs. He’s not desperate for anything, really. He’s just tense and overworked and over-tired and, contrary to what Russell thinks, picking up some stranger in a bar just won’t be good for him right now, he knows that.
He remembers how he’d guiltily kicked girls from his bed just as easily as he’d let them fall into it and Greg always feels kind of lonely, the morning after. It’s a shock to the system to go from sharing body heat during the chilly nights to hearing the door slam shut and making coffee for one. Greg frowns. He doesn’t want that.
“Well, why don’t you put yourself out there again,” Russell continues. “The sexual tension that follows you around just makes me really horny.”
Greg smiles at the lewd wink but that is not sexual tension, it’s just been a really fucking rough year, okay and he just needs to fall into a little cocoon of warmth and darkness and never wake up again, because that’s what he wants right now. Not to introduce a stranger to his fuckton of problems; awkward conversations and questions he can’t answer is just… Just no, really.
Of course, Russell always needs to be right and so he shuffles closer to nibble on an earlobe and throws a leg over Greg’s thighs and Greg does not suffer from repressed sexual tension, it’s just that Russell is warm and heavy and the mixture of his aftershave and apple-scented shampoo and just Russell is both heady and intoxicating. If anyone ever asks, Greg most certainly doesn’t:
a) let a low whine escape from the back of his throat
b) clutch at the folds of Russell’s jeans where his leg is pinning him down
and c) grind uselessly up into the air in a bid for friction
Russell freezes and ah, there’s that blush that’s making Greg feel altogether too warm and it’s just fucking awkward and Greg wants Russell to move away so that the ground can swallow him whole or something. Greg suspects that Russell’s next actions surprise the both of them because Russell is look pretty damn uncertain when he puts all of his weight on the leg thrown over Greg’s waist and shifts until he’s sat in Greg’s lap.
He looks softer somehow; more vulnerable; and the way that Greg has to look up to meet Russell’s gaze leaves white hot arousal shooting through every nerve in his body. Greg’s hands dance along both of their bodies before they settle at Russell’s hips, but he makes no move to start this thing, decides to let Russell be the one to cross this boundary because he’s toed this invisible line for so long and he’s pushed and pushed and pushed but they just weren’t brave enough and so he stares imploringly at this wonderful, wonderful creature and silently begs it not to leave him in the morning because he doesn’t want to feel lonely anymore.
Everything is still and Greg looks down because the silence is so overwhelming and he just cant because it feels like he’s been running on borrowed time and the world is finally catching up with him. Greg closes his eyes and breathes deeply because just it’s kind of a little bit not fair.
He’s shocked from his disappointment when Russell nuzzles his jaw slightly; using his lips to guide Greg’s head backwards to bare his neck; and Greg holds his breath in anticipation, waiting for something to happen. His body simultaneously locks into place and melts into the cushions beneath him and he can’t help the sound he makes when Russell’s teeth scrape across his neck and sucks on the warm skin to be found there. It’s hesitant and Russell’s insecurity is near enough a separate entity in the room and if the carefulness Russell exhibits when he peppers skin with kiss after kiss is what causes Greg’s pupils to widen and darken with lust, then it doesn’t matter because when Russell notices, it gives him the confidence to capture Greg’s gaze and to roll their hips together slowly.
Greg’s hand immediately fly to Russell’s arse to hold their bodies together, to prolong the contact as Greg’s body undulates beneath him and then again and this time, Russell grinds down as Greg thrusts up and the friction is delicious and when Russell throws his head back and moans, Greg can do nothing but lick a teasing line down the column of his throat.
And after that, time starts kind of… jumping about but kind of not too because Greg is so lost in sensation and it’s just him and Russell and the rest of the world doesn’t matter and clothes are coming off, skin is being bared and hips don’t stop rolling or circling or pressing, not even for a second and Greg pushes kisses into Russell’s skin like he’s never going to kiss anybody ever again and Russell’s expression is torn between confusion and something that looks a hell of a lot like desire and…
Jesus fucking Christ.
The restrictions between them become fewer and fewer until both pairs of jeans are pushed halfway down their thighs and Russell is sucking one, two, three of Greg’s fingers into his mouth and holy fuck he looks absolutely beautiful and Greg can’t believe they’re going to do this but then Russell is guiding Greg’s hand between his legs and Greg can only watch as Russell’s eyes kind of fall open and Greg can see need and he looks a little bit wild and then he gives a nervous giggle when Greg’s fingers finally breach him and Greg just stares and smiles slowly because only Russell would do something so bizarre and Greg knows that Russell thinks so too because he’s blushing pink and that’s funny but unimportant and so Greg pushes his finger in even further and spreads them as slowly as he can against the resistance and then Russell is squirming above him and he’s begging and pleading and it’s please Greg please do something and so Greg does the only thing he can think of and nudges Russell’s thighs further apart, slips further down the couch to give himself enough space to move and pushes into Russell, centimetre by centimetre until Russell’s whispering a broken stop and his eyes are almost watering and Greg thinks he’s fucked everything up when Russell tenses above him and Greg fights off all of his instincts and doesn’t move; doesn’t even dare to breathe because he knows that Russell isn’t gay but Russell is also very easy to persuade when drunk so Greg hadn’t seriously thought that he hadn’t done something like this at one point but this is kind of proof, he supposes because he very highly doubts that Russell would let things get this far if he knew what was to come and so Greg stays still and hopes that he doesn’t break this fragile little moment that the entire universe seems to be trapped in because he needs Russell right now and not for fucking sex of all things, that’s just a nice benefit.
And then Russell’s eyes open again and he relaxes slightly and he nods and then it’s started again and every movement of their bodies is perfectly synchronised and it’s intense and they’re steamrolling their way towards some kind of precipice and everything is just harder and faster and the musky scent of sweat and sex permeates the air and Russell is begging for more, something more, and Greg has nothing left to give him and so he crashes their lips together and forces his tongue into Russell’s mouth and tastes and takes and gives nothing in return but the blind fury of his passion and he grabs at Russell’s hips as their bodies separate and pulls them back together with all of his strength and Russell’s eyes shoot wide open as he flushes and his mouth falls away from Greg’s and Greg would tell everyone about how an actual fucking tear falls from Russell’s eye but he won’t because it’s a little bit adorable how easily Russell opens up and how small and vulnerable Russell is even as his body explodes with the pleasure of it all and Greg follows right behind into that dark void of relief and gives Russell everything in a very literal sense.
They eventually come down off of their high a little bit and it’s a huge strain on Greg’s exhausted body to manoeuvre a sleepy and utterly pliant Russell so that he’s lying down on his back when Greg is still feeling weak and boneless and when Russell groans in protest and his eyes flutter open, Greg makes sure that he’s watching as he trails a finger through the mess on Russell’s stomach before bringing his fingers to his lips and tasting them.
He smirks because he likes the way that Russell throws an arm over his face and groans. Russell then falls asleep before Greg is even settled behind him with his back to the sofa cushions.
In the grand scheme of things, their fourth kiss is pretty unimportant.
Their fifth kiss occurs not even 9 hours later, in the early hours of the morning. Greg is sleeping and he feels delightfully heavy but then there’s clattering and muttered curses dragging him back to consciousness and back to reality where he’s actually pretty cold and stiff in places he hasn’t been stiff in for a long time. He blearily rubs at his eyes and waits for them to adjust to the new light of the spring morning. The first thing he sees is a wide-eyed, semi naked Russell staring right back at him. The next thing he notices is that he’s clutching at shoes and jeans and he’s trying to make a quick getaway.
Greg pushes himself into a sitting position as his brain catches on and holds his head in his hands because he doesn’t know what to do so that he doesn’t break them, (if they’re not already broken), and ruin his whole life in the process because Russell sneaking out, and getting caught making his walk of shame, has just made their little late night escapade both embarrassing and regretful and that just makes the atmosphere really awkward. Like, really awkward.
Russell drops everything in his hands to the floor and the noise startles Greg, who finally takes a good long look at him. His hair is flat and has been haphazardly pushed to one side and he looks…
Greg doesn’t really know how Russell looks, all he knows is that his eyebrows are furrowed into a confused frown and he’s biting his bottom lip and Greg isn’t distracted because Russell is wearing his knitted jumper and it kind of looks a little bit massive on him and Greg definitely isn’t watching the way that Russell’s tiny hands are tangling together nervously and pulling at the excess material that brushes against his thighs
Greg looks away because wasn’t the point of last night that Russell is just giving him a helping hand, so to speak, and ridding him of all of his sexual tension because he felt sorry for him because why else would Russell have done anything if it wasn’t because he felt sorry for him which is, of course, exactly why Russell is so eager to skip out on him because he’s been sympathetic enough and Russell can now leave without feeling guilty.
Greg has to squash the urge to complain that it was Russell who started everything and surely, if there was a God in the heavens, it should be Russell who feels this shit because Greg isn’t the bad person in this equation and this whole thing is so much worse because Russell was going to leave him high and dry and they’re friends. What bothers Greg the most is that Russell didn’t even have the decency to say goodbye.
Russell’s voice is soft and quiet and Greg raises an eyebrow because he doesn’t quite know what to say until he does.
“You should go.”
Taking a few steps forward, Russell speaks again.
Greg sighs because he doesn’t want to lose one of his best friends ever and he’ll do anything to make this go away if that’s what Russell wants which is what Greg thinks Russell wants but he can’t be sure because Russell is looking all tearful and upset and so Greg just opens his arms and lets Russell collapse into them with a quiet you’re a fucking nightmare, you know that, right and Russell laughs weakly before he’s pulling back and planting one on him and unlike all of the others, it’s actually kind of sweet and soft and exactly how their first kiss should have been especially when Russell pulls back but places a hand over Greg’s heart and Greg’s a little bit fucking confused right now because Russell just kissed him and now he’s saying that he has to go and Greg can feel something stupid and dangerous welling up inside him and so Greg just says something stupid instead because, although it still makes him want to beat himself up, it’s a vast improvement and it’s all he has left to say really because there’s nothing else so he looks down at the floor and utters a that’s my jumper, Russell into the quiet.
Russell sends a simple smirk and you’ll get it back before he’s flouncing out the door sans jeans and probably underwear too because Russell is nothing if not a little bit reckless but Greg’s too busy caught up in how, although he and Russell aren’t domestic and there are so many issues and problems and a fucking mile of bullshit between them, it’s the closest thing to a promise Greg has and if it sounds like Russell’s promising to come back, then Greg won’t get his hopes up, (because that’s stupid), but he’ll have faith because Russell has never lied to him yet and in the meantime, he will drag his heavy limbs and whirring mind to his bed and sleep and be and wait.
When Russell finally returns two days later looking as hesitant as ever but boldly allowing his body to ghost past Greg’s as he enters the flat, Greg thinks that maybe it’s time to stop keeping track of their kisses because he thinks he’ll happily start losing count instead.