Connor clenches his jaw and forces himself to stare back at Oliver with cold, hardened eyes.
“You…you want to stop this?” He asks, his voice lacking any specific emotion as he echoes Oliver’s words.
If Oliver is affected by this conversation at all, he certainly isn’t showing it; instead he chooses to stare right back at Connor, standing his ground with his head held high. The only difference in the two of them right now is the tiniest glimpse of vulnerability in Oliver’s eyes that only Connor would be able to notice because he knows him so well.
“I have to” Oliver responds “I just…I can’t do this anymore.”
Connor frowns, his eyebrows drawing together so hard that distinct lines form on his forehead.
“Why not? It’s been going good hasn’t it? You can’t say you didn’t enjoy any of it!” Connor adds the last part in with a small laugh, “Come on Ollie these past few months have been great-“
“I’m not denying that.” Oliver says simply “I just can’t continue like this, us fucking all the time but hanging out at school and at parties like we’re still just best friends, I can’t go on as if-“
“As if what, Oliver?” Connor’s voice has turned almost mocking and cruel in an attempt to guard himself and his emotions and he tries his best not to clench his fists so much that his fingers force blood from his palms. No matter how tempting the thought is, he doubts it could hurt more than this sinking feeling in his stomach as he waits for Oliver’s explanation.
Oliver sighs exasperatedly, “As if I’m not in love you”.
Just like that everything freezes and Connor’s bedroom falls completely silent, except for the faint ringing in Connor’s ears.
He feels lightheaded, his mouth unconsciously drops open and his eyes widen and he feels like a professional boxer just took a strong swing at him.
It’s not the words themselves that shock Connor. Being friends with Oliver for the past five years, he knows how to read him and Connor may have suspected Oliver had feelings for him but Connor was determined to bury those suspicions, if Oliver didn’t want to tell him then they could continue with their friends-with-benefits charade and everything would be fine.
Except Oliver has just told him that he loves him and he told him in the most exhausted tone that Connor’s ever heard. That’s what shocks him and that’s what hurts.
The knowledge that Oliver has…just given up.
“I…” Connor starts, he doesn’t know what he wants to say, doesn’t know how to fix this or what he wants to happen but he just knows he has to say something. “Oliver I…I like you…you’re my best friend. I just…I…”
“Don’t do relationships?” Oliver supplies and there’s no resentment in his voice, it’s even and balanced as if he’s just stating a fact; which Connor supposes he is in a way.
“Exactly.” Oliver whispers “You don’t do relationships and I do.”
“Hey, you were the one who started this.” Connor reminds him, his words dangerously boarding on the side of harsh.
But it’s no lie. Six months ago it was Oliver who approached Connor at Asher’s house party. It was Oliver who pushed him against the wall and rambled into his ear about how much he wanted him.
Connor had reluctantly shaken his head and refused. Oliver had been drunk, so much so that Connor could smell the revolting scent of cheap beer every time Oliver leaned in towards him and there was no way in hell that Connor was going to take advantage of his best friend, especially when he wasn’t in his right mind.
Oliver had glared back at him, utterly furious and stormed off to Michaela who later brought him home because Oliver refused to go home with Connor as originally planned; the next morning Connor woke up to Oliver’s ringtone and the second he answered, Oliver’s desperate apologies flooded his ears.
“Hey, hey Ollie calm down, it’s fine.”
“No, no, fuck it’s not Connor I’m so sorry, please, I was so drunk and I’m sorry, I-“
“Did you mean it?”
“Oliver. Did you mean it?”
“Y…Yes I meant it.”
“That you wanted to fuck me?”
“I…fuck Connor you’re such an asshole, yes.”
“Well then, what are you doing later today?”
And that was that. Afterwards Connor asked if Oliver was okay with this just being a sex thing with no romantic feelings attached. Oliver had readily agreed and as far as Connor could tell, Oliver hadn’t been lying when he said he was okay with it.
Perhaps it was the afterglow that had clouded Connor’s judgement. Maybe Oliver had looked upset or disappointed when he said that but Connor never picked up on it. If he had, he never would have continued this in the first place.
“I know I did. I’m sorry. This wasn’t fair to you.” Oliver wraps his arms around himself, his right hand clutching his elbow and his left hand underneath clutching his side.
Connor runs a hand through his hair, swallows hard and stares down at the stain on his carpet that Oliver made two years ago when he spilled his spaghetti bolognese dinner from laughing too hard at something Connor said that neither of them can remember now.
“So why did you…why did you keep this thing going if you…you know?”
Oliver’s dark, sarcastic laugh is what causes Connor to look up at him again and the pain on Oliver’s face cuts through Connor’s heart like a knife.
“Because somewhere deep inside me, I still have hope that you’ll fall in love. How pathetic.”
Connor shakes his head hurriedly, feet thinking for him as he steps towards Oliver until there’s barely any space between them.
“You’re not pathetic.” Connor promises quietly
Oliver smiles but his eyes remain lost and uneasy as they look at the ground between them,
“I am; I always have been. I’ve… Connor I’ve loved you practically since we first met and you…you’re perfect and you’ve always been there for me and I didn’t want to ruin our friendship but that’s exactly what I’m doing and I’m really sorry but I just…I can’t take this anymore I can’t I-“
The tears that must have been building for the past half hour finally fall from Oliver’s eyes, one after the other until Oliver’s breathing sounds more like continuing, wrecked gasps and his whole body is trembling.
It’s a split second decision that Connor makes without any thought of why this is the most inappropriate moment to do this but he takes Oliver into his arms and hugs him tight. He feels Oliver’s sharp intake of breath against his neck, most likely stunned that Connor is hugging him because they’ve never hugged, the reason for that being that Connor never hugs anyone.
But then again, Connor’s never felt what he feels for Oliver, for anyone else.
He’s never felt that sickening, consuming, agonising pain like he’s going to throw up and never stop when he saw someone else in physical or emotional pain like he just experienced with Oliver a few minutes ago.
He’s never wanted to stroke someone’s hair back from their face and watch as they smile softly back at you with wide loving eyes after sex like he did with Oliver just the night before.
He never felt like he could trust or care for someone as completely as he does with Oliver.
He just never accepted it until now.
Rubbing Oliver’s back in circles gently, Connor waits a few minutes for his sobs to subside and until he himself gains total control and fights back his own tears before he says all the words he never could into Oliver’s ear,
“Ollie, you’re not pathetic. You’re not you’re…you’re kind and good. You’re fucking gorgeous. You’re my best friend. So I thought it was normal liking you, being willing to die for you and by that I mean the amount of times I studied for a test because you told me to. I just…I pretended that the only reason why I wanted to sleep with you was because you were hot and we were friends so surely that would make it better but…but that wasn’t the only reason.”
Oliver sniffs into his shoulder and Connor hears him faintly say, “You don’t have to lie to me.”
Now it’s Connor who laughs sarcastically, “I’m not lying. Oliver I…I tried not to like you, I tried not to love you. Before, it was easier because I just had sex with other people and tried to forget you but even then something wasn’t right. I kept thinking their eyes weren’t beautiful like your brown ones or stupid things like that and then…then when we started this…this thing, I thought my feelings would stop because I assumed they were just because you’re attractive but Ollie they just got worse and worse and I tried to-to fight them but I-I couldn’t….” Connor shuts his eyes as a single tear betrays him and falls down his cheek, “I couldn’t stop myself from loving you and I…I’m sorry it took so long for me to say it.”
A minute of silence passes…and then another and another until Connor’s heart is beating so hard in his chest that it’s physically painful but he knows he has to wait for Oliver to speak, for him to adjust to what his best friend just said.
Finally Oliver pulls back, his eyes are rimmed with a light, disturbing shade of red that makes Connor’s blood run cold but there’s a sparkle of hope in Oliver’s eyes that Connor feels like he hasn’t seen in such a long time.
“Did you mean all of that?”
“You…you love me?”
Connor’s lips turn up into a genuine soft smile and he nods again.
Oliver swallows hard, his eyes flickering across all of Connor’s features before daring to ask,
“What about your strict ‘no boyfriends’ rule?”
Connor blinks and his mind races with a million possible answers to this question but none of them stick out as any good, none of them feel right anymore so instead Connor leans forward and kisses Oliver gently on the lips.
It’s a chaste kiss, one they’ve only shared a handful of times and only when they were half asleep and drained from their previous activities.
Connor lets his lips linger over Oliver’s for a second longer than necessary before pulling back and lifting a finger to stroke Oliver’s cheek until he opens his eyes and meets Connor’s again.
“I meant what I said, I don’t want a boyfriend. I don’t want faceless boyfriends who don’t know me and who don’t care about me, the type of guys who usually ask me to be their boyfriend. I don’t want them, I never have. But I…I always wanted you, in whatever way you wanted me. You do know me…I’m lucky enough to have you care about me and want me so…so yeah…if you want to be my boyfriend then…then alright, let’s go for it.”
“Do you mean it?” Oliver asks; his voice already lighter and a ghost of a smile playing at his lips.
Connor nods, grinning as he leans in to kiss Oliver again, not so chastely this time.
“Yes, yes I mean it.”
Oliver finally grins wide enough to display his adorable, prominent dimples but Connor doesn’t get time to fully appreciate them before Oliver captures his lips in a soaring kiss and wraps his hand around Connor’s waist to pull him closer.
Needless to say, Connor isn’t complaining.