„Is there a reason why you didn’t tell me you weren’t coming to school today?“
„-hnmm was tired.“
„O-kay.“ Michael let his backpack fall to the floor and connected his phone to the bluetooth speakers in his room. The soft tunes of Muse filled the basement and he starting humming along.
A dissatisfied grunt came from the bed and there was some light shuffling making the bed sheets move a tiny bit, revealing pale fingers and a mop of hair. Michael couldn't help but smile at that.
“Are you gonna join me here or just keep on sleeping in my bed without any explanation at all? Which is fine, you do you, but ya know?”
„Mikey shut the fuck up I'm having a great time ignoring the world here.“
Snorting, Michael let himself fall on one of the beanbag chairs and started the Playstation.
This wasn't a particularly new situation for the two of them. Especially after the incident, as Michael liked to call it, Jeremy craved Michael’s attention and closeness. They‘ve had spare keys for the other one‘s home for years, so Jeremy randomly showing up wasn’t really that surprising anymore.
Him not being in school but in Michael’s bed instead was a little unusual. Not in a bad way though, it wasn’t something he cared about right now.
He would later, when Michael would be alone in his bed surrounded by his best friend‘s scent and the knowledge that Jeremy felt comfortable enough to hide in here … but that was a problem for future Michael.
Good luck with that, bro.
„So today, I found this dude holding a damn nice speech from like some weeks ago. You should check him out I think you’d find it interesting.“
„You think so?“ Michael hummed in response and then fell silent shooting at whatever attacked him in the video game.
Some minutes passed by in comfortable silence. One song faded into another one and another one before Jeremy finally shifted on the bed.
Michael just heard the soft thump of his body hitting the floor and about 10 seconds later the bean bag next to him was full of a curled up Jeremy whose head just barely touched Michael’s thigh.
„Show me that video“, Jeremy mumbled into the fabric.
„No, you’re dying.“
„When did I ask for your opinion?“
Jeremy snorted before shoving his friends arm. „Micaah.“
„Fuck off, Jere. I’m doing so good right now.“
Michael’s eyes were fixed on the screen and … yup that were Jeremy’s fingers poking into his side. Ridiculous. They’ve been friends for more than 12 years, what kind of weak creature would he be if he was still affected by that?
But then Jeremy took the controller out of his hands and shoved it under his cardigan.
„Show me that video.“
„This is homophobia, Jeremy.“
„I’m gay and this is offending me, you’re awful. “
„Shut up you’re being dramatic. “
Michael gasped and placed his hands over his heart, his eyes wide and lips pouting.
„You wound me, Jeremiah. Light of my life. My player two.“
He reluctantly stood up anyways because he could only resist Jeremy’s puppy eyes that long. He kicked the bean bag his friend was sitting on before making his way to the laptop. Jeremy freed the controller and paused the game before slowly sitting up and looking after Michael who was slowly and gently moving to the ongoing rhythm.
“Sorry for showing up here unannounced.” He fidgeted with the hem of his shirt and bit his lip.
Standing at his desk Michael turned around and furrowed his brows but before he could answer Jeremy kept rambling.
“ I-I mean it should be f-f-fine, shouldn't it? I-“ Breathe. “You're my-my best friend we've done this before I just… I f-feel bad all of a sudden”, he laughed quietly. “I d-don’t know why, I’m sorry.”
Michael pressed his lips together.
This was a thing as well after the whole Squip thing had happened. One of them suddenly feeling awful or lost or sad and the other one frantically touching hands and shoulders and cheeks because
I’m here it’s fine we forgave each other please stop crying I can’t handle it anymore I love-
It never really made Jeremy’s self-hatred disappear and it never let Michael truly relax around him anymore, the constant fear of leaving was present but it wasn’t real. They just had to remind themselves from time to time and they tried.
Right now though Michael just shoved his laptop into Jeremy’s lap and gave him his headphones instead of doing any of that. Then he sat down on the floor next to him, fiddled a bit with YouTube and pressed play.
“Please just watch this.”
A kid with a cast and a striped tie sat on the ground with tears and panic in his eyes. His breathing was fast and he hiccupped twice before awkwardly standing up and beginning to sing.
“Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever felt like you could disappear? Like you could fall and no one would hear?”
Furrowing his brows Jeremy glanced at Michael who just nodded at the screen again. The camera was shaky, as if the person filming this wasn’t really allowed to, and the boy was fidgeting hard. He talked really fast, stumbling over his own words before continuing.
“Well, let that lonely feeling wash away. Maybe there’s a reason to believe you’ll be ok.”
Michael started humming next to him.
“ ‘cause when you don’t feel strong enough to stand”
The picture vanished for a second and then the camera zoomed in on the boy’s face. He was crying, and it wasn’t pretty. Jeremy’s breathing got faster.
“You can reach”
Michael shifted a tiny bit closer, radiating heat.
“Reach out your hand.“
There was a short pause, some seconds of silence that ringed loudly in Jeremy’s ears. He stared at the screen feeling Michael’s fingers slowly ghosting over his for a second, but they pulled away again.
“And oh, someone will come running. And I know they’ll take you home.”
Tears started to burn in his eyes, not yet spilling but definitely close to.
“Even when the dark comes crashing through when you need a friend”
Something touched his fingers again.
“to carry you. And when you’re broken on the ground, you will be found.”
Yup, he was definitely crying now.
“So let the sun come streaming in because you’ll reach up and you’ll rise again. Lift your head and look around.”
He did and boy has this been a mistake.
“You will be found.”
Michael looked at him, eyes fond and soft. They just stared at each other for some seconds, the air thick and too many questions floating around them.
“You will be found.”
Jeremy slowly took the headphones off and rubbed the sleeve of his cardigan under his running nose.
Just like that the heavy tension broke and Jeremy smiled teary-eyed at his friend.
“Way t-to ruin the moment.”
“Hey” Michael let go of his hand again, trying to keep his face under control and failing miserably.
“I wanted you to watch this because I- … I’m not the best with words and shit but this dude kinda said exactly what I really wanted you to hear. I didn’t want you crying all over your clothes.”
Laughing Jeremy closed the laptop and then turned in the bean bag so he could face his best friend better. It was dark outside by now, the small windows that usually let some light into the basement were just black squares.
They sat there in silence, Michael’s chin in his hands and Jeremy looking up at him.
“You know that I’ll always come find you, right?”
The music stopped in the background and Michael stared at his hands now, nail polish slowly coming off of his nails. This week’s colour has been dark blue and the comfort that came with the polish dissolved with every piece that came off.
“I don’t care what you do, man. Whatever shit you’re trying to pull next, if you need me I’ll be there to-”, he shrugged and waved his hand towards the laptop, purposefully not looking at Jeremy.
“-take you home, I guess.”
“You’re being all cheesy, Mikey.”
Michael chuckled weakly. “Yeah well.”
Jeremy reached out and after bumping against his chest twice he found Michael’s hand and laced their fingers together again.
“You’re not alone, Jere.”
It was distracting, the way Michael blushed all the way to his ears.
“You're never gonna be alone.”
Jeremy looked at him with wide eyes that were about to fill with tears again. Michael opened his mouth to say something but Jeremy rudely interrupted him.
“If you are going to say ‘you will be found’ one more time I will wake you up tonight and cry over your entire body and then put you into the fridge where you can die of hypothermia.”
“Jeremy, what the fuck?”
Michael laughed out loud and shoved at Jeremy shoulder. He let his free hand rest there and squeezed tightly.
“How the fuck did you say that with a straight face?”
“Theatre is paying off, man.”
The room filled with laughter and the sound of pushing bodies off bean bags for some minutes before the quiet came back.
“So what was this all about?”
Michael sighed and nearly pulled his hand away from Jeremy, but that wasn’t what he wanted to do, not really.
So he didn’t.
“It’s just … I’d tell you all the time but I don’t know how. I mean I am telling you that I’m there for you but I don’t know if you believe it. Probably not and like, that’s fine. If you told me this I wouldn’t believe you either.”
Jeremy squeezed his hand tighter.
“But then I found this video and was like: ‘hey he’s singing and Jeremy likes singing.’ ” He shrugged and stared at their intertwined hands.
“You can be really sweet you know that?”
“Don’t say that you’ll ruin my reputation.”
“You know, the loner stoner mysterious guy reputation.”
Jeremy giggled, shook his head and then pulled Michael closer. His head bumped against Jeremy’s chest and Jeremy snaked his arms around Michael’s neck.
There weren’t a lot of moments where Jeremy Heere was brave or confident, but surrounded by Michael and the feeling of being important and needed, he suddenly did.
All those years of stolen glances and ignoring everything that his body made him feel. All those months of slowly building their friendship back together after the horrible weeks with the Squip.
All those nights of thinking he’ll never be good enough, of scratching his arms until they’re red, of biting the skin off his lips until they’re bleeding.
All those times inevitably led up to this.
“I love you.”
He heard Michael hold his breath for some seconds.
“I love you.”
“… Are you coming onto me?”
Michael leaned back and checked Jeremy’s face for any sign of sarcasm. But he just looked sheepishly at Michael and gave him a soft smile.
“Are you just being sentimental right now? Because I really couldn’t handle that.”
Jeremy huffed and ran his fingers through his hair. He didn’t feel anxious. He thought he would, when he imagined this happening. In reality he just felt warm, he felt safe. This was right.
“Michael, I’ve been lying in your bed and you didn’t even question it. You never question anything. And then you show me that video and, I’m pretty sure I didn’t read all of this wrong, and I love you and I think you maybe love me too.”
The space between them got smaller again; Michael’s eyes were so brown from this close.
“I actually question a lot of shit you do.”
“Oh my god, shut the fuck up.”
“Wow and people say romance is dead.”
They both giggled at that and Jeremy buried his hands in Michael’s hair, let himself be washed away by his friend’s fingers hesitantly touching his waist.
“You do though, right?”
“Michael, stop being an inconvenience.”
He laughed and gently raised Jeremy’s chin.
“Yeah man, of course I do.”
They closed the gap between them, their lips meeting, hands grabbing and the world didn’t even stop moving.