Since the very beginning of their friendship, Jeremy noticed things about Michael. The differences between his real and fake laughs and smiles. How it seems like his favorite color is red, but it’s really gray because of how calm it feels. His favorite slushie flavors. How no matter how cold it gets, Michael’s hands are always warm. The fact that he knows all of the capitals of the states, but cannot match any state to any capital correctly.
And that he’s the biggest clothes thief in the world. Whenever Jeremy loses an article of clothing, he checks Michael’s closet first and foremost. He loves Michael and hates Michael for it, because he seems so happy and content when he’s wearing Jeremy’s clothes, but also Jeremy really needs that shirt back, Michael, he has no clean clothes left.
It took Jeremy a while to figure this out, because Michael’s pretty sneaky about it, and only steals clothes if he’s really comfortable with someone. It was about half a year into their friendship when he first noticed Michael in a t-shirt that was too big for him and promptly realized that it was because it wasn’t Michael’s shirt.
Michael was properly embarrassed over the whole ordeal at first, but Jeremy just laughed and said it was fine as long as it didn’t happen too often, which Michael then interpreted as, ‘Go ahead and steal all of my clothes, there’s nothing I can do about it.’
And there really wasn’t anything he could do, because no matter how much he teased, complained, and annoyed Michael about it, the smaller boy took every possible chance to steal Jeremy’s clothes. And though Michael tried to hide it, Jeremy knew he was totally finding amusement in Jeremy’s lamentations over his lost clothes.
But now it was different. Because after the “Squipcident”, as Rich had dubbed it, Michael was still cautious around Jeremy. Sure they had carefully gone over what happened and there were apologies and long talks about issues that had arisen because if this and issues that were already there. They talked about their shared anxiety and Michael’s dependency issues. Michael revealed that he was still nervous that Jeremy would turn on him again though he was pretty sure he wouldn’t and that he was gay, Jeremy said that he liked Christine but that he wanted to be her friend more than her boyfriend after a few dates and that he might be bisexual. They supported each other through everything they talked about and started to rebuild the trust they once had.
But it had been months and Michael hadn’t even stolen a sock from Jeremy. And it made Jeremy sad, but he understood. The other boy needed time to get back to where they had been before, and Jeremy was sure they could, but they both needed a little space. They still hung out all the time and Michael and Jeremy opened up and became friends with the people who were once their bullies, which was hard for both of them. These guys were all great now, but it was hard to just automatically get over years of overall suckiness.
So they had a talk with them and cleared the air and tried to get on with life, which led Michael, Jeremy, and Christine to playing Mario Kart in Jeremy’s living room. Well Michael and Christine were playing Mario Kart, Jeremy was playing games on his phone and would half heartedly cheer when one of the other two would say something. When Christine lost to Michael for the 10th time, though Jeremy was sure she was letting Michael win because Christine was obsessed with Mario Kart and played it every day with her little brother,she “gave up” and pulled out her phone as well, Michael following suit.
They sat in silence until Michael laughed a little and showed Jeremy and Christine the fifth picture Brooke had sent him of her with a dog today. Jeremy was glad that Michael and Brooke had become such fast friends, even if he was also a little jealous of the easy bond the two seemed to share. Whenever Mikey saw dog now, he would do his best to get a picture for Brooke.
“I gotta piddle, be right back,” Michael rolled off the couch and onto the floor before standing up and going down the hall. Jeremy was still a little nervous to be in the same room as Christine cause it’s hard to get over such a huge crush right away even if you want to be just friends now.
“Piddle?” Christine raised her eyes from her phone to Jeremy in a questioning manner. Jeremy shrugged.
“He doesn’t like any of the regular names for pee, he thinks they sound weird.” Christine nodded in mock seriousness. They sat in silence again until Michael got back and flopped over the two of them, opening his phone back up. Instead of remaining quiet, Christine sighed loudly and, after no response from Jeremy or Michael, tossed her phone at Michael, getting him right in the chest. Michael tossed it to the other chair in retaliation.
“I’m bored. I wanna do something stupid.” Christine whined as she slowly slid off the couch to her phone. Michael crawled into her spot, kneeing Jeremy in the chest, and tried to come up with different things to do.
“We could go to my house and get high in my basement, Brooke would probably wanna join us though. She keeps asking me to get high with her again, but last time that happened we ended up in a children’s playground with two unexplainable ice cream bars at midnight. Or we could make prank calls to random McDonald’s in other states. Or we could have cart races in the grocery store parking lot...” Jeremy tuned out Michael’s rambling and continued to stare at his phone deciding to go with whatever the other two wanted to do.
“I’ve only gotten high once or twice at parties and I kinda wanna try again, can we do that?” Michael shrugged and nodded at the same time, then tapped Jeremy with his foot to get a reply.
“Sounds good to me, let’s go.” Michael rolled off of Jeremy at his response and repeated his earlier actions and fell to the floor again.
“We stan,” Jeremy said as he helped the smaller boy up. Christine giggled and walked out ahead of them. Jeremy called upstairs to his dad to let him know they were headed over to Michael’s house. He heard a quick okay and they set off, Michael calling Brooke to see of she wanted to join while they walked over.
It wasn’t a long walk to Michael’s house if you cut through the middle school, but it was long enough for Jeremy to be freezing to the bone, wishing he grabbed a cardigan, he curled around Michael for warmth, Christine attaching herself to Mikey’s other side, both of them ignoring his protests and grabbing for his hands.
Brooke sat on Michael’s porch shivering while he rushed to get everyone inside, where it was warm. She gave a hug once they were all safely in the house, and Jeremy tried to hide his huff of mild irritation. Christine laughed but he pretended not to notice as they all crowded into the kitchen to grab snacks before going to the basement.
Michael got straight to the point and rolled two blunts, then fell into one of the beanbag chairs and lighting one, passing the other to Jeremy. They all fell into an easy rapport, talking about nothing and everything as the subject got sillier and sillier as they got higher and higher.
Christine was only having a little trouble not coughing anymore and had already shaken everybody off, having gotten tired of their “tips” when they stopped making sense. The four fell into an easy silence when Jeremy looked at Michael and finally saw what he was wearing.
He was wrapped up in Jeremy’s favorite cardigan, clearly cozy and content. He must have swiped it from Jeremy’s room on his trip to the bathroom. Michael wasn’t paying attention to anyone but his phone as he scrolled through some random dogs instagram and giggled at the cute puppy. He was curled up into himself sinking deeper and deeper into the beanbag chair.
Jeremy promptly burst into tears.
Michael barely flinched while Brooke and Christine jumped at his sudden crying. Brooke and Christine had never gotten high with Jeremy before, but Michael knew how Jeremy got when he was high and there wasn’t much he could do to comfort the twinkie.
“Did you start thinking about one-legged ducks again? I told you that they probably don’t even care about it.” Michael turned to see Jeremy trying to quell his tears, and reached for some tissues he kept on hand in the basement for times like these and passed them to Jeremy.
Jeremy thanked Michael for the tissues, but refused to tell the reason why he was crying to anyone. Michael sighed after trying to get it out of him for a few minutes, and just scooted over on the bean bag chair and patted the space next to him.
Jeremy scrambled over to Michael and they settled in together easily, letting their eyes drift away from Brooke and Christine fighting over a controller down to Michael’s phone, where the dog’s Instagram was still open. The girls didn’t notice when the two boys fell asleep, busy trying to figure out how to play Michael’s retro games before giving up. They took picture of the vulnerable pair before curling up with them and joining their nap.
When they woke up feeling not super refreshed and hungry, the group moved back to the kitchen to raid the fridge. They sat around the island in the kitchen, it had been recently redone and Michael’s moms were really happy with the outcome, and ate toast. Michael and Brooke were talking about some of the dogs that Brooke got to pet as she took her morning walk today, and Christine and Jeremy were talking about the upcoming play. Everyone was relaxed and happy when Christine noticed Michael’s clothing situation as well.
“Isn’t that Jeremy’s cardigan?” Michael froze mid-large hand gesture and turned to make eye contact with Christine before moving to Jeremy, locking on to him.
“Oh! Uh...Yeah, I was cold so I swiped it from his room on my way back from the bathroom. That’s okay right?” There was a lot of weight on that sentence for just three little words and Brooke and Christine seemed to notice, waiting on Jeremy’s answer with anticipation.
Jeremy smiled to comfort Michael, “Of course, I know how you are, you clothes hog, I know not to expect it back for a bit,” his light jest at Michael seemed to put him at ease which put the girls at ease.
“You steal clothes, Michael?” Brooke said trying to conceal her amusement.
“Well, kinda, I just like having something of my friends with me, you better keep an eye on your stuff too though, nothing is off limits when I’m around!” Michael punctuated his sentence by tickling Brooke’s sides, she shrieked with laughter and jumped away, so Michael went for Christine. While she was distracted with trying to get away from him, Jeremy helped gang up on her and snuck up from behind. Before he could get to her, though, Brooke got to him, brushing her fingers along his sides making him squeal like a piggy on helium.Michael doubles over from laughing and Christine takes the opportunity to tickle him before he can get her and soon enough all of them are running around the house in a 4-way war, forming and breaking alliances like children.
Michael calls a truce only when his mom, Emma, gets home to help with groceries. She laughs at their childish games but as soon as she can she traps Michael in a hug so the others can tickle him till he cries.
When everyone calms down as they sit in a big pile on the floor, Emma asks if they’re going to sleep over or just stay for dinner. The other parents give permission, and they all end up sitting around the dinner table, Michael’s mamma, Lily, getting home part way through the meal and sitting down next to Emma. She gives a big kiss to Micah’s cheek, earning her a blush and a groan of “Mamma…”
When they decide to sleep, Michael lends them all pajamas, and extra toothbrushes, saying it was fine cause his mom was always stealing them from her office. They split up in twos and the girls end up on the top bunk of Michael’s bunkbed, and Jeremy and Michael end up on the bottom.
Christine checks out as soon as her head hits the pillow snoring softly enough for it to be cute instead of annoying. The other three giggle and talk for a bit until Brooke stops replying, indicating that she’s done for the night as well.
Jeremy turns on his side so he’s facing Michael and he follows suit.
“Micah,” Jeremy says seriously.
“Jere,” Michael says less seriously.
But Jeremy pushes through and grabs Michael’s hand, and looks him straight in the eye. Michael seems wide awake, the night-owl, but Jeremy’s fading fast and he’s gotta say this fast before he falls asleep and loses his courage.
He smiles warmly, “I’m really glad you wore my cardigan, even if you do keep it for a super long time,” and he’s falling asleep, but not before he hears the quiet “Me, too.” from Michael.
The next morning Michael’s got dark circles under his eyes and blushes when he sees Jeremy in the morning, but neither of them mention the night before.