“What does this sound like to you?”
Eirik drew his eyes away from the clouds to glance at Erlend while he laid on the blanket. He took a moment to put his guitar on the ground next to him. Turning to his friend, he propped his head up on his hand and waited.
Erlend sat cross-legged. He cleared his throat, hunched over his guitar, and began to play. His long fingers were quick and graceful as he strummed each chord, a few individual notes heard here and there. He moved a little with the melody, which was fast and bouncy and punctuated with a beat when he hit the fretboard.
When he was done, he pushed up his glasses and looked up at Eirik expectantly, who had been pursing his lips.
He continued staring at Erlend with a neutral expression for a few seconds until he nodded and reaffirmed, “Yeah. French.”
Erlend rolled his eyes playfully. “Descriptive. Thanks.”
Eirik chuckled briefly. “Alright, alright. It sounds... uh...,” he said slowly, drawing out the last syllable.
Erlend raised his eyebrows.
“Hang on, I’m thinking.”
“I can tell.”
Eirik snorted. “I’m feeling a little pressured right now.”
“Okay, well—“ Erlend shook his head and waved his hand, “—take your time. It’s not like we’re in a big hurry.”
They never were. They were perfectionists for what they do— quality over quantity, after all. They move along at such a pace because the thing is, perfection can be pretty damn subjective.
Eirik studied his friend fiddling with his guitar. Erlend’s fiery red hair looked brighter today; it stood out against the faded colors of the blanket and even the grass seemed slightly muted in comparison. His hair stuck out at different angles everyday, but it always suited him. Perfectly.
The melody he played did remind Eirik of a few things; it was upbeat, a bit hushed, but it still had an alluring aspect. Like something out of a summertime memory, he thought, picturing as if the sun was already gone but the warmth still somewhat lingered and wrapped around him like a blanket. Or being halfway into a road trip with someone and wondering where the next stop would be. Or...
Okay, truth be told, the piece did sound French to him, partly because it sounded like something out of a traveling commercial. But a good traveling commercial. Enough that Eirik would probably be willing to actually buy a flight to visit a random place a country over or the like-- and maybe drag Erlend with him if he was down for that.
“It sounds kind of wistful,” he finally decided. Erlend looked up. “Maybe a little hopeful? It sounds happy, but it sort of feels like I’m longing for something at the same time. Like, maybe it’s in the past, maybe it’s not, but I’m not sure exactly what it is that I’m longing for.”
Now it was Eirik’s turn to raise his eyebrows. “Seriously? You got the next song down already?”
Erlend went back to his guitar grinning. “Mmm, when I can start to put the words to paper, I’ll let you know.”
“Oh damn.” Sounds like another field day recording, Eirik thought, getting his own guitar and lying back down again. While he absentmindedly fingered some random chords on the muted strings, he turned his head to look at Erlend, who was busying himself with the pegs on his own guitar. His glasses had slid down his nose slightly, and he had stuck his tongue in his cheek as he was changing the tuning. Eirik smiled at the sight. When Erlend started to raise his head, Eirik quickly looked away.
At first glance, “convenience” might seem like the sole reason that keeps them together. A bold and sharp and free-spirited character paired with a figure all calm, pensive, grounded— as if they were each pulled out of completely different stories and stuck inside a new one, and forced to figure it out together.
Instead, Erlend would play the first few notes of a song while Eirik would bob his head along with the rhythm. All the attention was on them in the darkened room, the audience hushed. Four more beats. A deep breath. And right on cue, almost instinctively, they would begin together— two voices that found each other instantly, intertwined in harmony.
Sure, they seem to be the reason to coin the phrase “opposites attract”. Complements for what the other person wasn’t, and clicking like lost puzzle pieces. It added an interesting layer to their creative outlet.
Use this progression.
No, use that progression.
Though as strong their pull to one another is, it isn’t without clashes, of course. Two different trains of thought heading for the same destination and pulling the same cars, but each adamant on their own paths.
You started too early.
You came in too late.
There’s always some disagreement, but the worst starts with a bit too much stubbornness. The engineer would look more worried when they start to yell at each other. Or maybe it was because with the way Erlend glared at Eirik behind his glasses while Eirik stood with his arms crossed and a tired, slightly irritated expression, neither of them showed any sign of backing down.
You’re rushing the rhythm.
You’re dragging it.
Then a door would slam, and whoever was the one that hadn’t stormed out after their last word would be left in the room breathing heavily, his face embarrassingly flushed, and with a bad taste in their mouth. It also meant that he was the one stuck with having to awkwardly reassure whoever else was in the room that everything’s sort of alright. So usually, it was Eirik.
I want it more like this.
I want it more like that.
But they would later find themselves performing that same, finished song together, content and deeming the stormy processes behind it worth it; after all, it can take a lot of grit and labor, but eventually the roughest of surfaces would be smoothed out to something more polished. No matter the previous conflict, they would eventually calm down and find each other again, embracing with the same ferocity as whenever they fight.
Then they would eventually argue again over another creative difference.
Then come back together.
Rinse and repeat.
Take a break every so often from each other.
But never get too far apart.
That’s how they worked, that’s how they made it work. It never got too boring, that’s for sure.
Erlend never ceased to amaze Eirik, anyway, ever since they were younger. Creative, driven, adventurous— a ball of energy burning so bright and so hard to contain, lighting up the next room and jumping from place to place. Eirik sees him play with all sorts of different people and under different styles and languages, but he always hears and recognizes the constant heart that Erlend puts into, and he sees its effects on others— and himself, as well.
In fact, Eirik can think back, as far back as being teenagers, experiencing the effects firsthand. They were more carefree, ambitious, their thoughts flowing more freely in reciprocated motions because it was more personal, it was just the two of them in a big, big world.
But he can also think back to times when Erlend gave a part of his heart to help him, on the rare occasion that Eirik really didn’t feel mentally or emotionally strong enough by himself to handle something.
Though on the opposite end, Erlend can get physically affectionate at most and sometimes held on to Eirik as if he were trying to hold on to the current of a river, or as if to further keep himself grounded to a trusted constant in his life amongst ever-changing times. Eirik assumes it’s because they’ve known each other for so long, that Erlend got extremely comfortable. He doesn’t mind, and he gets used to it; at this point, he figured that he’s probably already memorized the calluses on his hands from all his absentmindedly tracing them.
So depending on the time of day you ask Eirik, Erlend was either an extremely close friend or a somewhat amicable colleague— they agree that neither of those can overlap and they would always acknowledge it as such.
If the comparison of being an old married couple ever came up, Eirik always just laughed with whoever’s asking, agree with the resemblance, and move on. The thought stays at the very back of his head because it was kind of accurate anyway and amusing to think about, nothing more, he tells himself.
But it’s in their style, practically their modus operandi to make everything feel personal, intimate, romantic. So whenever Eirik’s eyes start to linger on Erlend in the interludes and bridges a little longer than he should, or when he thinks he hears Erlend belt out the more intimate lyrics a little more passionately than usual, or when they make fun of each other no matter the time or place, alone together or with others, the line he sets between the feelings in their work and the feelings of his own gets blurrier with every note.
When Eirik inches closer, out of the corner of his eye, he can see Erlend do the same.
As a result, he thought it was like a cross between falling in love with your best friend and falling in love with your coworker. And as a result, he figured he was pretty much screwed the moment he made Erlend laugh out loud— a nice, clear sound— from some off-hand comment a while back and he had felt his heart skip a beat.
“Eirik!” Erlend said the third time.
He was brought out of his daydreaming. “What?”
“What were you playing?”
“Wait, what?” he asked again, forcing himself to focus.
“You’ve been kinda... fingering the same progression for a while. Like—” Erlend tried to mimic the chord shapes he saw him using, “—something like that?”
Eirik sat up. “Kind of? I’m not really sure, I think I was just messing around with the seventh chords.”
“Hey, you can’t go wrong if you pair them with a cool beat.” He started playing the riff again with a goofy, exaggerated rhythm.
Eirik gave a half-hearted smile, but didn’t say anything. As much as he could hide his feelings, it was really hard to ignore how endearing Erlend was, and he would get reminded of why he had this crush in the first place. If he could just tell him, then hopefully he wouldn’t have to worry about hiding it and getting distracted from their work. But he really didn’t want to damage years’ worth of friendship.
Erlend glanced up at him. “Are you okay?”
Eirik frowned. “Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”
Turning back to his guitar, he replied, “You’ve been zoning out more than usual, mate. Yesterday, too. I thought you were supposed to be the levelheaded one.” Erlend laughed a little, but became quiet when he didn’t hear a response from Eirik.
He raised his head and saw him looking away, in the middle of trying to form a good excuse. “Everything alright?” he asked.
Eirik still wasn’t facing him. “Everything’s fine.” It was not.
Erlend frowned. “No it’s not. What’s bugging you?”
“I am absolutely fine.”
“That is a lie, you don’t usually get this moody.”
Eirik blinked. “As opposed to, what, being a regular sort of moody?”
“Well, yeah.” He started to grin, but it quickly faded. “Sorry.” He cleared his throat. “I’m being serious, though. You’ve been looking really out of it lately.”
Eirik set his guitar aside. “Well, maybe I’m just tired and I have a lot of things on my mind right now.” He wasn’t lying, technically.
He fell back on the blanket, arms spread, staring at the sky. He exhaled slowly and closed his eyes. It was silent; he didn’t hear any plucking, strumming, tuning. He didn’t open his eyes until he felt his arm being moved and something settling into the curve of it. He turned his head to see a face a few inches from his, studying him.
Now, he had to take a few seconds to process what was actually going on: Erlend was resting on his side, awfully close to him, with one hand under his head, the other resting over his stomach. He was curled into Eirik’s arm.
“Your glasses are all skewed,” Eirik pointed out, trying to keep things light while almost dying of cardiac arrest.
“Your observation skills aren’t.” Erlend smiled.
Even though his heart was pounding, Eirik couldn’t help but smile back. “Fair enough. What are you doing?”
He shrugged. “I thought we could just, y’know, talk.”
Alarm bells were already ringing in Eirik’s head. “Alright. Well, what do you want to talk about?”
“Is something wrong? And don’t tell me ‘no’, because we already went through that bit.”
Eirik was still trying to figure out how to articulate his issue, so he couldn’t reply yet. The person that was basically said issue sighed and gently said, “You seemed pretty distracted lately, and I really want to help you out, mate.”
Denial’s been out the window. Lying’s going to make things worse; looking at how concerned Erlend was, maybe the partial truth was worth a shot. He took a deep breath. “Okay, ah. Let’s say that you know this person.”
“And you’ve known them for a while. A long time, years, even.”
“You’re on good terms with them, and...”
“Keep going.” Erlend appeared slightly relieved, now that they were getting somewhere.
“... And over time, you develop certain feelings for them. You weren’t sure whether they’re real, but gradually, they get stronger and you can’t stop thinking about it. You try to hide this from them because you’re afraid you’ll disrupt whatever relationship you had before with them or it’ll make them see you differently...”
Eirik tried to adjust his position to get a little more comfortable, resting his free hand across his stomach, but he forgot that his other arm was around Erlend and, without thinking, pulled him closer to himself. He realized it as soon as he did it and hoped that even though he felt him tense up a bit, Erlend didn’t actually notice. Thankfully, he just relaxed into his arm.
He didn’t expect him to also lay his head on his shoulder, but he definitely wasn’t going to complain about that.
“... like they won’t see you as a friend anymore. What would you do?”
Erlend thought for a few moments. “I’d just tell them.”
“... Just tell them?”
“If it were eating at me for that long, I’d feel like I have to tell them.”
He sighed. “That makes sense, I guess.” Coming from him, Eirik felt like he shouldn’t be surprised by how straightforward it was.
“Either that or you just try to ignore it and hope it goes away.”
“Right... so. You would ignore it at first, and then if it doesn’t go away, you tell them outright.”
“Yeah, unless you’re really that determined to hide it until you die or something.” If only that were an option. “Now then,” he said, putting on an impression of a trained therapist, “This is based on you and… some friend?”
“And you two have had a strong connection going?”
“For quite a few years.”
“Wow. Tell me about them.” Eirik set his attention to a nearby tree, searching for the right words.
“They’re… not afraid to be who they are. They’re confident, easy going. Expressive, and really I… I always admired how passionate they can be. And,” he added, turning his head to look at Erlend, “they’re not hard on the eyes, either.” A breeze had lightly ruffled his hair, and his glasses were still a little crooked from lying down. He had a faraway look in his eyes; he gave a half-smile, and that was enough to make Eirik’s heart ache.
“They sound amazing,” Erlend said, but Eirik wasn’t sure if he imagined there being an edge to his voice. “I’d love to meet them.”
He tilted his head up slightly. “Promise to still jam with me in the future when you two get together?” he asked more playfully.
“Of course I will. Will you do the same for me?”
“Hey, I’ll always come back for you.”
While Eirik was wondering how noticeable was his blushing, Erlend looked off into the distance again. “Even when you’re being regularly moody.”
“You know what, I changed my mind. I’m breaking up with you.”
“As long as I get joint custody of our songs.” He raised his head to meet Eirik’s eyes, which were filled with laughter.
Feigning offense, Eirik said, “What, no goodbye? Is this what our relationship has come to?”
“Okay, listen—“ As he started to crack up, Erlend shifted his body and rested his free hand on Eirik’s chest.
As soon as he did, Eirik froze, but so did Erlend. His smile faded, and his face reddened when he realized where his hand was. He seemed almost transfixed. And Eirik was reminded of how close they were pressed against each other.
Each passing second felt longer than the last. He can feel his heartbeat racing under Erlend’s fingers, which had started to curl slightly into the fabric of his shirt. His eyes glanced down and back up at his friend’s face, whose mouth had fallen slightly open. He decided to try something. Without breaking his gaze, he used his free hand to cover Erlend’s. “I’m listening.”
That seemed to shake Erlend out of whatever trance he was in, even though his eyes widened behind his glasses and he blushed an even deeper shade of red.
“Shit, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—“ he started to release his grip on Eirik, but he kept his hand on Erlend’s.
“No, no! It’s okay. It’s...” he trailed off, not knowing what to say next and most of his boldness already being gone.
Erlend’s gaze drifted down at their hands. “What are you doing?” he asked. His voice was soft.
Oh fuck. What was he doing? “I could have asked you the same thing.”
Erlend looked away, like he was at a loss of words for once. “I don’t know. I wanted to— I was just…” He shook his head and focused directly at him, concerned. “No, look, Eirik, I feel like... is there something else we should talk about?”
Eirik could tease him further about the hand thing, but he was the one that kept Erlend’s hand there. He could tease him back about deflecting from the subject, but he was basically trying to dodge the actual truth the entire conversation. He could tease him about how he’s being so sure that Eirik wants to confess something, but he knows Erlend’s right. He can’t really hide this forever, especially not from someone he works so closely with and who knows him so well. And what was probably the last small push was that Eirik can see a genuine curiosity in his eyes. Maybe even a glimmer of hope.
So he goes for it.
“I think I’m in love with you.”
“... Eirik?” It came out incredulous and quiet.
With a shaky breath, he repeated, “Erlend, I think I’m in love with you.”
For a few seconds, neither of them said anything, but only stared at each other’s increasingly flushed and wide-eyed faces. The thoughts running through Eirik’s head at a hundred miles per hour were starting to slow down to a single conclusion: he fucked up.
“How long?” Erlend asked suddenly. His voice sounded almost fragile.
“How long have you felt like this?”
“I don’t know. I— a while, I guess? A long while.”
“Oh.” Erlend said that even quieter, still blushing.
More silence followed, and as the seconds ticked by, Eirik felt more and more convinced that he royally fucked up.
Erlend looked down and turned his hand so that he could lace his fingers with Eirik’s properly. He ran his thumb along the side of his hand, studying it intently. He still didn’t say anything, and Eirik couldn’t read his expression; he wasn’t smiling, he didn’t look outright upset.
He felt better getting the truth out there, but at the same time the lack of response felt nearly as bad as if Erlend would have physically pushed him away.
When Erlend finally looked up at him, visibly hesitant and biting his lower lip, Eirik mentally braced himself for rejection, repulsion, anything confirming the worst-case scenario.
That is, until Erlend slowly leaned forward.
And pressed a kiss on the corner of Eirik’s mouth.
When he pulled back, he briefly looked like he couldn’t believe what he did either.
Finding his tongue, but barely his composure (assuming he had any left at that point), Eirik asked, “What was that for?”
Erlend set his head back down on Eirik’s shoulder. “Because,” he said, “to tell you the truth, I think I’ve been in love with you the whole time, too.
But I think I’ve been absolute shit at actually saying that as evidenced by this damn conversation.” He let out a shaky laugh. “It was heading somewhere, and I thought I’d just take this as the opportunity to try— I dunno— showing you instead? In what were probably the most awkward ways possible.” He sighed.
“Hm. It worked, though, didn’t it?” Eirik took this as an opportunity to hold onto Erlend more tightly, who was content settled in his arms. “But I do have a question though.”
“What happened to just ‘telling them how you feel’?”
Erlend lightly snorted. “Shut up.”
Eirik smiled. “Hey, at least you did something , I was suffering for like ten fucking minutes trying to spit this out to you—”
“— and you did a good job, by the way—”
“— yeah, you know, I think when you caressed my chest, it really helped—”
“— well when you held me closer against it, I thought it was a good cue to push my luck.”
“Shit, so you did notice that.”
Erlend chuckled. “Yeah.” He sighed. “God.”
“Look at us.”
“We’re a mess.” And at that, Erlend started to laugh again.
I can tell. And then Eirik began to laugh with him, partly out of relief. He didn’t ruin their friendship after all. But it was also out of pure joy, because oh God, he loved him. He loved him right back.
They eventually stopped laughing to turn their heads and gaze at one another. Erlend was bathed in warm shades of color from the setting sun and he looked absolutely perfect. Eirik thought he was probably grinning like a fool, but he didn’t care.
Lying in the grass intertwined under a darkening sky, they decided to lean in together. And like they always do, they meet each other halfway.