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Move on Forward with Your Friend at Your Side

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Jeremy looked around the basement he was in when the tell tale thumps of someone coming down the stairs broke him from his thoughts. When he looked up he saw a tanned skin, black haired guy exiting the staircase. The boy was wearing a slightly too big red hoodie with an array of colorful patches adorning it. Jeremy watched him plop down on a red beanbag chair in front of a beat up TV. He wasted no time in grabbing the controller sitting next to him and started up the gaming console. Jeremy stood awkwardly wondering what in the hell he was suppose to do. He rubbed his arm self consciously trying to work up the courage to say something.

He opted for clearing his throat loudly. The dude made no attempted to turn around. Assuming he didn’t hear him, he walked over beside the beanbag chair and did it again, his hand now clutching his other arm tightly. He followed the guy's fingers as they moved deftly over the buttons on the controller in a skillful way. If he heard Jeremy clear his throat or walk over, he wasn’t showing it. Red hoodie dude had the tip of his tongue between his teeth and his brows furrowed in concentration, a lock of his thick, dark hair had fallen in front of his eyes. The guy was trying to blow it out of eyes and all Jeremy could think about was how absolutely adorable it was.

He looked over at the TV to see that Level 9 of Apocalypse of the Damned was being played. It was the same level that Jeremy was currently stuck on. The guy's character attempted to push the bad guy aside but he didn’t noticed the one coming up to him from behind. Just as caught up in the game now as the other kid, he sort of groan yelled to warn him if that was a thing but it was too late. GAME OVER appeared in blocky red letters on the screen. Jeremy sighed and looked back down to the boy beside him only this time he was met with two wide warm, brown eyes looking right at him from behind a pair of thick framed glasses. Jeremy opened his mouth trying to think of something to say that’d make this way less awkward because he was literally standing in a strangers basement warning him about Nintendo zombies. He managed a mumbled “guhh” through a forced kind of smile turned pained looking grimace, too bad he lacked the skills to calm and cool and chill. The boy opened and closed his mouth a few times and looked like he was about to say something but just flicked his tongue out to wet his lips instead. Jeremy's eyes zeroed in on the action subconsciously leaning down. A full body blush was making its way up his neck and he looked back up locking eyes with the other boy who seemed to have also moved towards Jeremy. The space between them had closed to where he could feel the others breath ghosting over his lips. He leaned in to close the gap and

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Jeremy shot up from the bed. He reached over to silence the alarm blaring on his phone. He sat there for a minute trying to acclimate back to reality. Did he just almost kiss some dude in a basement last night? He shook his head, no it was only a dream he reminded himself. He did try and hold on to the dream but the details seemed to get more muddy the longer he was awake. This was definitely caused by the gallon of Mountain Dew he drank before bed. Yep, that's it. He grabbed his phone checking to see if he’d missed anything major in the last 8 hours. There was a text from Christine reminding him to bring his costume for their play rehearsal tonight. He replied and soon after an alert exclaiming “Player 1’s Birthday!,” popped up. Holy shit, it was Michael’s 17th Birthday! He pulled up their chat to type out a quick birthday text.

Player2: HAPPY DAY OF BIRTH!

Player1: Thanks man! You gonna be on Live tonight?

Player2: I wish. Play rehearsal. Tomorrow?

Player1: Ah hell yeah. Break a knee or something today dude

It was already 7:00am which left him a whole 30 minutes to shower, eat, and get to school on time.

Player2: Thanks man! Gotta go. Dad’s gonna be pissed if I’m late again

Player1: At least he’ll be pissed while wearing pants? :-) Later Jerebear

Player2: Yeah I guess. Anyway happy birthday Mikey! Bye!

Jeremy managed to get to school right as the bell rang. His pits straight up reeked from the run but it was a small price to pay for the extra few minutes talking to Michael. Fuck! He had meant to talk to him about the weird ass dream he’d had but whatever, he could only remember vague parts of it now anyway.

Thinking of Michael made the butterflies in his stomach rave. They met playing some rpg online almost 5 years ago. It was around the time his mom had started dating again after his parent's divorce. He had had to split his time between both of them and it was fine really until she started seeing Squip. His name was Brock (God how pretentious is the name Brock?) but he preferred to be called by his last name. He made Jeremy’s life hell on Earth each time he was at his mom’s house. His favorite past time was reminding Jeremy how everything about him made his family want to die. Deep  down he knew that wasn't true but you can only hear something so many times before you start believing it.

Jeremy wasn’t sure he’d have made it to 17 if Michael hadn’t been there for him. He didn’t really have friends then, so Michael was like an ice cold cherry slushee on a hot ass day. Between his dad moping around the house in his underwear and his mom’s bastard boyfriend, his world was honestly effed up for a long time. Michael made sure to tell him how wonderful he was though each and every time he called him in tears or went on long, winding text vents. It wasn't until sophomore year that things started changing for the better. His dad actually put on his big boy pants and started working again. His mom found out that she’d been lied to and explained that Squip had been ‘sqipping’ half the ladies in town. He also got a lead role that year in the school’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and met the embodiment of human goodness, Christine Canigula.

Michael and Chris hit it off immediately the first time she played Xbox Live with Jeremy. They started talking on their own time after that and Jeremy would be lying if he said he wasn’t a little disappointed. It’s not that he didn’t want them to be friends, he just sort of liked having all of Michael's attention to himself. Along with Christine he also gained a group of friends who seemed to actually kind of like him most days and like Chris, they knew Michael was Jeremy’s best friend because he never shut up about him.

By the time lunch rolled around, Jeremy was exhausted. It felt like he hadn’t slept at all last night. He got to their usual table first and immediately rested his head on his arms. He sent a prayer to whoever was listening that everybody would just leave him alone but no such luck.

“Sup tallass?” Rich had apparently sat down with his tray followed by Jake while he pretended sleep. Jeremy just groaned in response. He felt Christine sit down by him and when he lifted his head, she had the Look already on her face. The one that said, I'm not going to pressure you but you're going to tell me what's up. "Are you okay, Jere?"

“Uh, I’m just tired?” He hadn’t meant for it to sound like a question but he guess it was. Like what was he suppose to say ‘oh yeah, just sleepy because my dreams exhausted me," Rich would take it and run with it. 

“You’re always tired. What’s actually wrong?” Christine focused on him like a lion stalking a gazelle.

“I just had a weird dream last night is all.” He shrugged. Christine nodded seriously but from his other side he heard Brooke give a small, excited squeal.

“Did it happen finally? Did you see your soulmate?” She said almost giddily, bouncing in her seat. Brooke was their resident soulmate expert and hopeless romantic. When Rich turned 17 and started sharing dreams with Jake, Brooke almost exploded when they told them all. Everyone had already knew they’d been crushing on each for like ever but it wasn’t official until Rich informed them via group text.

Lilcheesehead: yoooo sucked jakey d off in my dream last night. guess who has a soulmate bitches >; )

JakeyD: Dude!

Brookeeeeee: BRIDMRISKSUJFFJFTJH:7;58(8((7(8;7(7)OMG

LeadingLady: I’m happy for you guys <3 

ImHEERE: Well I’m out $15.

Didyahear: You guys actually broke Brooke

Chlo: Fucking knew it. Pay up, Heere!

LeadingLady: Also happy birthday, Rich!

Chlo: Ditto was Chris said

Didyahear: Ditto what chloe and chris said

Brookeeeeee: EKKKK That’s so great guys!!! Happy birthday, Richie!

ImHEERE: Um also ditto

Lilcheesehead: thanks dudes im so fkin gay

Jeremy just shrugged again because soulmate? Who would fate pair him up with? Not everyone had a soulmate anyway and he didn’t get to be like Rich and Jake or Brooke and Chloe. He knew it was leftover self-hatred from Squip but sometimes it just felt like the truth. No one deserved to be stuck with him until they died even if it was only just in dreams.

“Earth to Jeremy!” Jenna had literally leaned across the table snapping her fingers in front of his face. He just blinked at her a few times. God, he really needed to sleep. He was having a hard time focusing without zoning out. “You were talking about your soulmate? This is hot off the press shit, Heere. I need the deets!”

“Sorry guys, um, I don’t know? I never even said soulmate. I was just in some basement, I think? And there was a guy playing something but I can’t really remember exactly. It’s gotten kind of fuzzy, sorry.”

Rich had been paying rapt attention because all he took from it was “DUDE YOUR SOULMATE’S A DUDE TOO? UP TOP... OR BOTTOM.” He gave an exaggerated wink to which Jeremy just weakly raised his hand for Rich to slap. Jake snorted beside him and leaned down to press a small kiss to Rich’s nose.

“How’d you guys know? Like that it was a soulmate thing and not just a regular dream?”

“You just know, man.” Jake offered. Rich, Chloe, & Brooke all nodded like it was the best explanation ever given. Loads of help there. Christine and Jenna hadn’t turned 17 yet so they couldn’t really offer any help. Christine patted him on the shoulder anyway smiling, “You should ask Michael too. Maybe he knows how to tell? Maybe you’ll even see this mystery fella again tonight?” With that she went back to looking over her script.

He looked around the table. Chloe had Brooke wrapped in her arms, they were both smiling at each other like there was no one else in the world. Rich was stealing fries from Jake’s tray who in turn elbowed him playfully in the side. Jenna’s attention was captured by her phone and her fingers were moving fastly across the keyboard. He took a moment to appreciate these people he called his friends. He was fortunate to have them. He felt a buzz from his phone. When he unlocked the screen he’d been tagged in a Tweet from Jenna.

@Player2 totally has a soulmate!!

Ugh! Jesus Christ, okay so he was lucky to have some of these people. This is exactly why he didn't do social media. The day flew by and rehearsal went off without a hitch. The show was going to be great if tonight was any indicator. He hugged Christine bye and headed home. Once he’d crashed on his bed with controller in hand, he noticed Michael was still online. A second later a message popped up on the screen.

Player1: Soooo how’d it go? You’re going to thank me for being the best friend in existence when you win a Tony, right?

Player2: It went really good. I think we’re ready for opening night. How’s your birthday going?

Player1: Not bad. Wish you were here getting high and playing Arm of the Damned with me though.

Jeremy blushed and bit his lip. He might also have a small sort of major crush on Michael. They talked almost everyday whether through text or mics while they gamed. It never failed to be the highlight of his day either. On more than one occasion, he'd been tempted to try and see about meeting up or Skype but what if Michael hated what he saw? Michael had actually suggested it a few times but he rush to change the subject. Jeremy wasn't sure he could handle seeing Michael for the first time just to see his face filled with disappointment. He actually bribed Jenna to not post pictures of him on Twitter or literally anywhere else once Michael started following them all. It cost him some dignity and $50 but she did it. He sometimes wondered if Michael spent as much time thinking about what Jeremy looked like as he did Michael. There were no pictures of him to be found online and Jeremy knew that because he'd spent hours stalking him one night. To be honest though, it didn't actually matter what Michael looked like because Michael was... well, Michael. He was the the greatest person on the planet who knew all the right things to say and when to say them. Jeremy didn't need to know how he looked to know how much he loved him.

Player2: You know you’re my favorite person, right?

Player1: Is it really true I’m your favowite person?

Player2: Okay. I take take back. Favorite person privileges revoked

Player1: It comes with privileges? Dearest Jeremy do tell me more!

Player2: No

Player1: You wound me, Jerebear!

Player1: Jereeeeeeeeeee

Player1: Jeremyyyyyyyyyyyy

Player1: Jerry berry~~~

Player2: Never call me Jerry berry again and privileges are restored

Player1: Deal! Oh hey, so I found out I’m moving today.

Player2: What? Really? Where???

Player1: I forgot but apparently it’s happening next week.

Player2: That’s great, man. You excited?

Player1: I think I am? I hate it here so anywhere else is an improvement.

Jeremy felt his heart constrict. Michael didn’t have it easy at school. He didn’t ever go in to detail with out some hardcore prying of information but Jeremy knew. Michael was always upbeat and happy so drastic mood changes were definite cause for concern. At least he’s moving, Jeremy told himself. Things will get better. 

Player2: Mikey, I’m here for you whenever you need me.

Player1: That’s gay

Player1: But thanks, buddy.

Player1: I saw Jenna’s tweet earlier btw. Soulmate huh?

Player2: Christine actually told me that you might know something about them? I had like a weird dream last night and everyone is convinced it’s a soulmate thing. But idk

Player1: What was the dream?

Player2: I don’t remember much. Just that I was in like a basement and there was a guy there playing some video game. I didn’t tell them this but it felt like I might have known him or something?

There was a longish pause after that. Jeremy watched as three little dots signifying typing appeared and disappeared for the next 5 minutes. What if it actually is his soulmate in the dream? Can you just get over a years long crush like that just because you may have 'met' your soulmate? I mean, you didn’t have to be with your soulmate, right? Sharing dreams isn’t that big of a deal. Not that he’d ever even tell Michael how he felt in the first place but still.

Player1: Huh

Player1: Maybe just see if it happens again tonight. It’s suppose to be one of those when you know, you know things so maybe you’ll know?

Player2: Yeah, that’s what I’ve heard from literally every person I know. Thank dude, ready to play?

Player1: You know it

They ended up playing until almost 2am before Jeremy eyes started to get heavy. He told Michael goodnight and went to crash on top of his bed without even changing first. 

Jeremy ended up back in the same basement he’d seen last night. One look around showed him that the boy in the red hoodie was already gaming. Jeremy walked over by him only this time when the guy looked up, he handed Jeremy a controller and nodded towards the blue beanbag chair next to his. Jeremy took it from him and eased his way down until he was sitting. He looked at the screen which was back on Level 9 of Apocalypse of the Damned and then back over to the dude beside him. Jeremy palms suddenly felt clammy so he rubbed them on his jeans before picking up the controller again. The guy pressed START and they restarted the level together.

Before long the familiar sounds of his alarm broke through and the dream faded away. When jeremy grabbed for his phone, he immediately texted Michael. Remembering what everyone had told him yesterday about soulmates, he typed.

Player2: I know

Figuring Michael was still asleep, he decided to alert the group because they’d know sooner or later one way or another because Jenna existed.

ImHEERE: Remember when you guys were all like ‘you’ll know’ yesterday?

ImHEERE: Well I know

Lilcheesehead: NOICEE BRO

Chlo: Heere it’s too early in the morning for this sappy bullshit

LeadingLady: Oh Jere! That’s wonderful!

Brookeeeee: JEREMYOAKXNDPALSNSOELSMJSHEIIDKDJ37;99;$:8&!(72@$u$(&?6)<<<#*?ffyh(ghksjsjsusiwijbgvbb38383839)

Lilcheesehead: wowwwwwwwwowwww yo so jeremy gets more broken brooke than me and jakeyd got. not chill

Didyahear: Chloe is not the only one wondering why we’re doing this at the crack ass of dawn

Didyahear: Plus I tweeted this yesterday so old news

Brookeeeeee: Pinkberry on me?

Lilcheesehead: ...

Lilcheesehead: with as many toppings as I want?

Chlo: We draw the line at two toppings, asswipe

JakedyD: Don’t worry babe. All the toppings from me are free ;-D

ImHEERE: Jesus Christ

LeadingLady: D :

Chlo: Gag

Lilcheesehead: :-D

Didyahear: Well that’s my cue. See you losers at school

Jeremy got to school that day feeling equal parts happy and filled with dread. He, Jeremiah Heere, the once biggest loser at Middlebourough High School had a soulmate. A soulmate who apparently liked everything he did and was freaking hot. On the other hand, his crush on Michael was still there waiting in the wings. Is it cheating on your soulmate to like them but also be in love with your best friend? Christine would probably say yes. Michael would say... well, he wasn’t sure what Michael would say but it probably would play second fiddle to the fact that he’d have to admit his big gay crush in order to get his advice on the situation. So he decided to just clear his brain and move ahead instead. Besides, he still hadn’t even talked to his soulmate. Staring at each other and playing video games wasn’t exactly the start of prime relationship material. And they should probably exchange names or something and I don’t know, meet in person before he starts planning their wedding. His soulmate is probably just humoring him in the first place. No one would actually want a lanky geek like Jeremy anyway.

The next few days followed in the same way. Every night him and his soulmate would attempt to beat Level 9 without saying anything to each other. Jeremy did notice that his soulmate’s concentration seemed more shot as the days went on. And maybe it was wishful thinking but he swore he caught him looking over at him a couple of times. He gushed about it to Michael who had been very not talkative at all lately. Jeremy was worried about that but chalked it up to the impending move and hoped nothing was going on at school. 

The week flew by and by Sunday his dad had set him down to have “the talk” with him because he said he’d noticed Jeremy acting strangely.

“Now son, I know you’re going to stick your thing in... places.”

”Dad, we really really really do not have to do this”

“I just want you to be careful.” He produced a bag filled with condoms at that point leaving Jeremy damn near mortified.

“Oh my god. Dad, all that happened was I saw my soulmate.” He started wide eyed at his dad with a look of horror on his face.

“Your soulmate? That’s great, kiddo!” his dad said ruffling his hair before shoving the bag in to his lap.

“Uh, Yeah.” He said lamely, using one hand to run the back of his neck and the other to grab the condom filled bag now in his lap. His dad smiled and stood to leave but turned before leaving the room,

“Go forth and copulate safely, my young stallion!” Jeremy’s mouth fell open and his cheeks burned. He got up and walked quickly past his dad back to his room but not before informing him that they’d never ever mention this conversation again.

Monday came then Tuesday both of which were uneventful. Michael hadn’t had time to talk with the move so things were extra dull with the exception of his nightly dream gaming sessions. It wasn’t until Wednesday that something actually changed.

The dream began just like all of them. He walked over to the blue beanbag chair sitting next to his soulmate. Except this time the other boy didn’t move to start the game, he just sat there looking at Jeremy. He saw the boys adam’s apple bob as he visibility swallowed. Jeremy wasn’t quite sure what to do so he did nothing but sit there and stare back awkwardly. The tension stretched between them until Jeremy blurted out, “can I kiss you?” before promptly covering his mouth with his hand. He was sure his face was redder than a tomato. The other guy didn’t say anything. He instead moved forward and brought one hand up to cup Jeremy’s cheek. Jeremy watched as the other boy closed his eyes before moving in to place his lips on Jeremy’s. Even though Jeremy was the one to ask, he was still shocked so it took a second before he closed his eyes and reciprocated the kiss. His soulmate’s lips were soft on his.The feeling sent tingles up and down his spine. It ended all too soon when they both pulled away. His soulmates hand still cupped his cheek. Their breaths were both labored. The other boy opened his mouth to say something but before he could the loud BEEP BEEP BEEP pulled him from the dream.

Jeremy laid there in his bed almost panting not even bothering to shut off the alarm. He stared up at the white popcorn ceiling feeling like he’d just run a marathon. Holy shit. He’d kissed his soulmate. His first kiss was in a dream and he wasn’t sure whether it counted but it was fucking awesome. He felt his smile widen before he realized his alarm was still blasting. He turned it off after and opened his messages with Michael to tell him about it because he figured he’d explode if he didn’t talk about it soon.

Player2: MICHAEL! You are not going to believe what happened last night!!!

Player1: Hey buddy. I can’t wait to hear about it but it’ll have to be later, okay? I start at my new school today. So that’s fun.

Player2: Yeah man, of course! May the force be with you on your first day

Jeremy got to school in a better mood than he’s pretty sure he’s ever been in. When he slammed his locker, Rich was staring at him from behind it with his eye brow raised. “Did you get laid, bro?”

“What? Oh my god, No. I d-didn’t get l-laid.”

“So why do you look like you got a good dicking, pal?” Rich seemed genuinely curious as to why Jeremy was in a good mood. Was he in such a bad mood all the time that a smile on his threw off the balance of the universe or something? Jenna walked up beside him sporting a look of feigned disgust with Christine in tow. “A good dicking, Rich? Are you 12?”

Christine looked almost amused “Sooo... did something happen?”

“You’re not going to yell at Rich for actually using the word dicking?” Jeremy asked incredulously.

“Not todayyyyy” she said almost singing. Jenna had brought our her phone and was no doubt tweeting their entire conversation. Jake walked up behind Rich, snaking his arms around his waist and resting his head on top of Rich’s.

“Did someone say dicking?” Jake said flashing that award winning grin to the group. Rich turned to look up at him chuckling. Jeremy sighed, “As titillating as this conversation is, I’m going to class,” and made to move.

Brooke walked up hand in hand with Chloe who was looking at him cooly, “Someone’s using their grown-up words.” Jeremy mumbled that titillating was at least a word to which Rich began to valiantly argue that dicking should also have it’s own place in the dictionary. Everybody except Jeremy thought that this conversation was hilarious apparantly. Christine shot him an apologetic smile and motioned for him to follow her. They told the others bye and headed towards class. She kept looking at him knowing that he’d break and tell her everything before long and that’s exactly what happened.

“We kissed. In the dream, I mean, and it was sort of incredible?” He said fighting to keep the smile off his face.

Christine giggled. “If it was that good in the dream, imagine how good it’ll be in person." The thought made him feel like his heart would beat out of his chest. She kissed him on the cheek after getting to his classroom and skipped off to hers. He sat in his usual seat in the back waiting for class to begin. Mr. Gretch had just started babbling about numbers when the door opened revealing the vice principal and was that a student? Both of them walked through the door and Jeremy almost passed out right then and there. In front him in actual flesh and blood was the boy he’d been playing games with for the past two weeks in his dreams, his soulmate.

After a brief talk with the teacher, the vice principal left leaving only the two of them up-front. “Attention class! We have a new student joining us. This is Michael Mell.” Everyone grumbled a hello leaving Michael looking nervous, he offered a sort of half wave and went back to fidgeting with the cuffs of his red hoodie. Did he just say red hoodie guy was named Michael? MICHAEL!? No, not his Michael? Fuck, he didn’t know Michael’s last name. All these years of friendship and he didn't even know his best friends last name. Nice one, Jeremy. There is more than one person named Michael in the world though, right? But what are the odds that Michael starts a new school today and there is now a new student named Michael in his class?

“We’re glad you could join us, Michael. There’s an empty seat in the back beside Jeremy. You can sit there.” It was then that Michael actually looked up. Their eyes met and Jeremy could see the moment Michael recognized him because his eyes grew comically large. He wasn’t sure how long they were caught up in the moment but it was long enough for Mr. Gretch to clear his throat. Michael walked to the back of classroom with his eyes never leaving Jeremy's. He threw his bag down before gracelessly sliding in to the desk. Jeremy gulped and wanted to say something, anything but Mr. Gretch had started droning on again. He tried to keep his eyes up front but knowing that his soulmate, his soulmate who could maybe be his best friend was sitting right beside him had his adrenaline pumping. The class felt like it dragged on for a thousand years before the bell finally rang.

By some unspoken agreement they exited the classroom together. Jeremy tilted his head towards the nearest bathroom and Michael followed him in. The door closed behind them leaving them alone in the thankfully vacant if not kind of gross restroom. Michael dropped his bag and Jeremy followed suit tossing his to the side. Michael surged forward connecting their lips together in an awkward, toothy kiss. Jeremy thought he could spontaneously combust on the spot and he'd die the happiest he'd ever been. Jeremy wrapped his arms around Michael’s waist deepening their kiss. It was everything and more. Michael tasted of sunshine, if sunshine had a taste, and Doritos. It was a taste Jeremy could get addicted to quickly.

In need of breath, they slowly pulled away from one another panting heavily. They’d dropped their arms when they’d stopped kissing but Michael reached out then and lightly grasped Jeremy’s hands in his. Jeremy noticed Michael biting at his bottom lip seemingly preparing himself for something. The hopeful expression on his face as he gazed at Jeremy took the breath he was just about catching away.

“Player 2?” Michael almost whispered as though it was more of a prayer than a question. Jeremy felt tears welling up in his eyes. He nodded his head once and asked a bit more confidently, “Player 1?”

Michael’s smile was almost blinding and Jeremy had never in his life seen something so beautiful. They closed the gap again losing their self in the sensation of being together. Tears were falling freely down Jeremy’s cheeks now. That Squip sounding voice that told him that he was terrible suddenly felt like it was a million miles away. His world might get effed up sometimes but at least they could make it a two player game.