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Tom

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"It just feels nice to fall in love with someone, you know. Even if they're not the right person for you. You just want that feeling you get in your stomach when someone tells you they love you. Even if its for all the wrong reasons".

Twenty metres away from me I could see a boy wrapped in a winter coat and scarf. I squinted, barely making out his face through the frosty mist. My feet instinctively shifted in his direction, without me even second guessing it. Warm breath condensed before my face; my vision obscured, my feet still restlessly continuing in his direction. I could be approaching a monster; someone with a face of scars; someone with a beautiful face, yet a hidden horror inside their gut. My feet didn't seem to care.

Somehow mere seconds had pasted before I was within an inch of this mystery boy. Someone from college, I recognised the pretty face from peaking over library barriers during study; Law student. Probably first class honours. I reached my hand out to greet him. "I'm Jake" I smiled. He smiled back, maybe out of awkwardness, maybe genuine intrigue; how could I have known.

A handshake; a crooked smile; a coffee date; a bathroom handjob.

My perfect dates weren't complicated. But they were a reach based on what normal people consider 'proper etiquette' for first dates. First date handjobs are not that common. But I was working to change society for the better.

"I'm Tom" was the reply I was met with. Usually, within the first few seconds people speak to me, I can tell what their future response to my date ideas will be: "Hi, I'm Tom, and I'm morally opposed to first date handjobs" was what I was expecting to read on his face. But alas, this boy was very good at hiding his intentions.

And go out for coffee, we did. New place on Henry Street, cute barista named Jackson. I had my eye on him and the best route for sneaking him into the cramped coffee shop bathroom. But for now, the prey had shifted. Tom. Thomas; probably. I politely allowed him to order first, secretly assessing what his coffee preferences were to see if a long term future relationship was viable. Americano. Solid choice. You'll be able to properly experience coffee the way it was meant to be tasted- fuck. Milk on the side? There's a special place in hell for you, Tom. This date is over.

I moved my hand, ready to grab my phone to orchestrate a beautifully believable scene of "Oh no, my mother did what? She's fallen down the stairs? Oh my gosh, how terrible, I must go show her my undying love and support". My act was cut short however. There was something in this boy's eyes that stopped me from pulling my phone out. Maybe I could live with someone who puts milk in their Americanos. Maybe.

We sat down on velvet sofas and each took our first awkward attempt at a sip of coffee, only to immediately realise its too hot and end up pretending to sip it then putting it back down on the table. Great start. "You study law, right?" Shit. How would I know that. "Yeah, eh, how did you know?" Sweat droplets down my forehead weren't making me look any more innocent. "You know what, I'm a good guesser, I can usually guess pretty accurately what people's interests are." Okay, I may be digging myself a deeper hole. "Oh yeah? Ok, read me, wizard boy. What is my perfect first date?" Tom, you are really pushing your luck here. I love it.

"Hookers, strip club, that kind of thing I'd say. You seem like a sexual mess." Tom cocked his head to the side. "...wanna go to a strip club?" He asked. Pathetic. Giving in on my first guess. He must really fancy me. "You can go on your own, Tommy, I'm a gay man with standards." That got a laugh. "You're not straight are you? You wouldn't put me to all this trouble and leave me hanging, would you?" A few more dumb negs and I could finally bring up bathroom handjobs. "Jacob, I would never lead you on like that." He joked. He was playing my game. Now I just had to work out a quick route to the bathroom.

"No but seriously, I find you super attractive, man. I know this is probably unconventional but, do you mind fucking people on first dates?" Tom asked. He was kidding. He had to be. No one this perfect could exist. "What?" He had caught me so off guard. "Yeah, no, I always say, first dates should be finished with a handjob." He laughed. "Sounds good."

Twenty seconds later we were making out in a bathroom stall. I pushed my hand against his chest to stop him for a moment. "Here, I know I come across as kind of an asshole. I really don't mean to. I think its just my way of dealing with awkwardness, ya know?". He grinned. "Totally. I'm the same." Perfect.

His teeth started to sink into my lips as he kissed me. My back was being pushed against the wall of the stall, making a rather loud clattering noise. We may get kicked out mid-handjob. Worth the risk, though.

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It was in that moment that, for the first time in a long time, I became painfully self-aware; aware of my manipulation tactics, my superficial bullshit. The fact that I had managed to get some pretty boy I just met to the point where he was grinding against my body, kissing my neck and touching my dick through my pants, and I wasn't completely concentrated on the task at hand; that was when I knew something within me had changed. I pulled away from him and pushed my hand against his chest.

"Sorry... I... I don't think I can do this" I couldn't believe the words escaping from my lips. Tom looked at me, a hint of disappointment in his eye, and sighed.
"Sorry man, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable" He said slowly.

I fixed my hair and buttoned my shirt back up. My back slowly dragged down the wall until I reached the bathroom floor.
"Do you want me to go?" Tom asked. I couldn't even tell whether he wanted me to say yes or no. I felt my adam's apple rise and fall as I gulped.
"Whatever you want" I murmered.

This was a boy who was more than willing to bust into a random coffee shop bathroom stall, with a guy he's just met, for some unsanitary foreplay. Yet he was also a boy who wouldn't leave when things got uncomfortable. There was more on his conscience than his staying chin-deep in his comfort zone. He slid down the wall to join me on the slightly damp bathroom floor; now that's commitment. He placed his head on my shoulder and stayed quiet. The feeling in the air at that moment was something I had never experienced; meloncholic, yet so calming. I felt safe by his side. I raised my hand to my face and tried to hide behind it for a moment. It was a shameful discomfort; no one ever stays during these moments, no one ever sees how you deal with it.

"We could just go for a walk?" He suggested.
I turned my head slightly in his direction, the sincerity in his eyes just within my field of view. He didn't say it just to patch up the awkwardness.
"Yeah" I mumbled.

Cold air hit my exposed skin as we exited the shop in a stiff and self concious manner. We both sensed that most of the staff knew what had just happened- what had just almost happened. This didn't stop Tom from doing everything he could to make me less horrifically uncomfortable. He lifted his arm and placed it over my shoulders, pulling me close to him as we tried to hide from everyone around us.
"Wanna play boyfriends?" He whispered as we walked. My heart jumped as he spoke. This boy. This boy knew me.
I turned to him and kissed him on the cheek. That got a cheeky smile out of him.
I had to admit in that moment, this might actually have been a better date than first date handjobs.

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The car window fogged up as I pushed warm air out from my mouth and drew shapes into it with my finger. I was still a child at heart, I guess. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Tom's hands on the wheel, a look of contentment on his face. Three weeks ago we'd been locked in a bathroom stall together. Now, after some more coffee dates and a solid amount of making out in dance clubs, he'd asked me on a road trip. Sort of a road trip. Well, a trip to the countryside. Frost lay crystallising on the grass around the city, getting thicker and thicker as we followed twisted road after twisted road, deep into the mountains I could see from my back garden. I was nervous, to be completely honest with you. We had been alone together but, not quite like this before. Always in view of someone else, at a club or shop, never alone for more than the few moments we allowed ourselves before an awkward silence grabbed one of us by the throat and refused to let go.

The sun illuminated the sky purples and rose pinks as the morning came to life, wind rustling trees and catapulting leaves through the misty breeze; It was brisk but I liked it that way. A hand touched mine as I inhaled, causing air to trap in my lungs for a split second longer than usual; I exhaled slowly, trying to imitate a normal human breath. I turned my head to meet a sparkling gaze directed at me. I smiled my best human smile. This was too much to handle. Love was a strong word. But when a feeling so powerful and so persistent hits your heart, it's hard not to name it for what it is. I didn't know where we were going or what we were going to do when we got there; but somehow, I felt like I wouldn't care if he took me to hell and back.

Before I knew it I felt the car slow to a halt, frost crackling underneath the wheels as Tom parked. In front of us stood a snowy hill, a well sitting atop it in the distance. I coughed as I stepped out of the car as the cold air hit me. I could see my footprints trail off behind me as Tom took my hand and led me forward. We didn't say a word, just listened to the sound of each other's breath against the frosted air. We walked for about 30 seconds before he let my hand go. My heart quivered for a moment, and I slowed my pace. I looked behind me towards the direction we had walked from, only to suddenly feel an icy impact on the back of my head. Asshole. I yelled at him before dipping my hand into the snow below me and starting a war. "Catch me!" He shouted before taking off into the snowy horizon. I ran through what was once hills of daisies and ferns, my boots cracking ice crystals and launching snow up around my calves. It was 7am; too early for this shit.

Finally I grabbed Tom by the hand and tackled him into the snow in front of him. He screamed and spat snow from his mouth, laughing hysterically. "Fuck you, dude" he giggled. I didn't even hesitate for a second before leaning into his body to kiss him. He pulled his face away from mine for a second and looked into my eyes; the winter morning light glinted in his pupils. He pressed his lips against mine. I could feel his hot breath hit my cheeks. "Why did you bring me out here" I asked after a few seconds. He paused. "For an adventure" he grinned and somehow got onto his feet before I could finish blinking. He reached out his hand and pulled me to my feet once again. "Let's go".