The day before the day before New Year’s.
The day after Andrew and Neil had left to go visit Nicky in Germany for the week.
The tenth day in a row since Aaron had stepped foot outside of the dorm.
The eleventh day since Katelyn had broken up with him.
Not that he was counting.
Aaron knew loneliness. Had felt it most of his life. He was lonely now. But this was one of the first times in a long time that he was actually alone. For the past several years, there had always been someone present whether it had been Andrew or Katelyn or the other Foxes. But now, with the dorm completely cleared out for the holidays save for him, there was no one there to help him pretend.
That was until famous Exy striker Kevin Day stumbled into the dorm he shared with Matt, half drunk and completely distraught.
“Kevin,” Aaron began, glancing over the back of the couch and taking in Kevin’s dishevelled state. “What the fuck?”
“Aaron, I…I need to lie down.” And he did, right where he had been standing. With a sigh, Aaron put down the controller and padded over to the front door Kevin had left open during his theatrics. Kevin didn’t even flinch when Aaron was forced to kick his foot out of the way in order to swing the door shut.
Aaron had never seen him look so pitiful, and he was no stranger to Kevin’s moods. It wasn’t the half empty bottle of vodka clutched against his chest nor even the unlaced shoes. It was the way he gazed blankly up at the off-white ceiling. A hollow man with a hollow stare.
Aaron kept his features neutral as he leaned over into Kevin’s line of sight. “You gonna tell me what this is about?”
Kevin took a deep breath and then another before he finally replied. “She left me, Aaron.”
A single, slow nod was his only reply.
“Fuck. I’m sorry, man.” And Aaron meant it. His heart had plummeted when he’d heard those first words. After all, his own break-up was still very, very fresh. How could he not empathize with his teammate in that moment?
Kevin closed his eyes and kept them closed as he continued. “She called me…a couple hours ago now, I guess. She said…she said that she couldn’t do the long-distance thing anymore.”
“That’s harsh, dude,” Aaron prompted, sitting down on the carpet beside Kevin’s prone form.
“We’ve been through so much together. We survived the Nest together. All those nights spent hiding, all those days spent pretending…”
“Uh huh.” Kevin didn’t stop him when Aaron reached out and grabbed the bottle of vodka.
“But…the weirdest part is…I’m not even that upset. Like, I’m upset, but…I knew it was coming, you know?”
Aaron knew. He’d suspected it in the back of his mind for months. How Katelyn would come up with excuses to hang out less. The way his heart had stopped skipping a beat whenever he saw her. That hadn’t made the final blow any less excruciating. Whether you see the ball coming at your face or not, it’s going to hurt the same no matter what.
Kevin finally opened his eyes and turned to look at Aaron just as he was taking a swig out of the bottle. His eyes were barely red. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Yeah, poor timing on her part. Neil and Andrew left yesterday.”
Kevin shook his head. “No, I’m not here for them, I’m here for you…Wait, no, what I mean is…” Aaron could practically hear the alcohol-addled gears of Kevin’s brain spinning as he attempted to put his thoughts into communicable words. What he eventually settled on was: “I miss the old days.”
“The old days?”
Kevin nodded. “The old days. When we hung out.”
“Kevin, we see each other all the time at practice.”
“Yeah, but we don’t hang out, you know?”
“Kevin, we were forced to ‘hang out’. Andrew wouldn’t let us out of his sight,” Aaron retorted.
“Ok, but still. We would chill and play games and chat-”
“Kevin, we barely talked. Ever.”
The other man practically glared at him. “You’re missing the point, Aaron.”
Aaron shifted so he was leaning back against the couch. “Enlighten me then, Oh Wise One,” he said sarcastically.
Kevin, still flat on his back drunk, had to think for a long while about what he wanted to say. “We’re not the kind of people who have a lot of friends. We’ve been through shit others just can’t understand. So, it’s important that we all have each other. That’s what the Foxes have taught me…”
“God, even when you’re shit-faced, it’s all about Exy…” Aaron took another drink from the bottle. Leave it to Kevin to get the cheapest vodka he could find.
Suddenly, Kevin was up and kneeling at Aaron’s side. In another movement, both of his hands had clasped the blond’s free one. “I want to be friends again, Aaron. Like the time you tried to show me how to play guitar.”
Aaron grinned. “Or the time I kicked your ass at Wii Sports?”
Kevin smiled back. “Exactly. Although, I would have won had you not cheated.”
Aaron couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “For the last time, I did not move the coffee table. You kept moving backwards until you bumped into it yourself.”
“That’s not what Neil said,” Kevin responded, gesturing for the vodka.
“Neil’s a pathological liar with a penchant for drama, and we all know this,” Aaron said, passing over the bottle.
“Ugh, don’t remind me. I have to clean up another mess of his when we we’re officially back from holidays.”
“Oh, do tell,” Aaron prompted, taking back the proffered alcohol.
And so the night passed, the two of them sharing stories and reminiscing about the past over a bottle of vodka that wasn’t even half good. But it didn’t need to be quality to work its magic. By the time it was empty, the two young men had found themselves seated side by side leaned up against the back of the couch. They’d had plenty of opportunity to move, but both had preferred to remain as they were, shoulder to shoulder with arms bumping into each other now and again.
It reminded Aaron of the times he and Katelyn used to talk like this…
“Aaron? What’s wrong?”
He must have gone silent for too long. “I was just thinking…about Katelyn.”
“Ah,” was all Kevin had to offer. He fiddled with the hem of his shirt, waiting to see if Aaron would continue.
“This is going to sound dumb, but I really thought she was the one. I’ve never felt like that about anyone except for…” He turned his head away.
Kevin knew he probably should have let it go, but he was curious and drunk, and the combination didn’t usually turn out well. “Except for who?”
Now it was Aaron’s turn to take a deep breath before answering. “Dylan.”
Kevin tried his best not to stay stunned for long. “Isn’t that a guy’s name?” He tried to wrap his head around it. “Aaron…are you gay?”
“It was freshman year of high school. We were friends, the only friends we had. I didn’t realise until later that I’d…had a crush on him.” Even with his face turned away, Kevin could tell Aaron was blushing. “Some kids found out he was gay, and he was bullied so much his parents had him change schools. Those same kids would come up to me and ask me if I was gay, and I denied it so much I bought into it. For a long, long time.” Another deep breath. “Although, I wouldn’t say I’m gay. I still like girls, so I guess I’m more…”
“Bi?” Kevin suggested. This made Aaron look up at him. “Yeah, me, too.”
Silence stretched between them as the pair held each other’s gaze. An understanding passed between them, then, that they’d rarely, if ever, felt with anyone else. It was the realisation of knowing that someone else had experienced the same thing you had.
Perhaps it was the alcohol, or the loneliness, or the simple physical need, but suddenly the two were crashing against each other like waves against rocks. Their lips never stopped touching as hands roamed and feet became tangled. Somehow, Aaron had ended up in Kevin’s lap as the two of them slowly slid sideways towards the ground. Breathlessness eventually forced them to stop, and the pause forced them to assess the situation.
“What are we doing?” Aaron managed between breaths. The blush was coming back into his face. He looked ready to pull away.
Kevin had only seconds to make a decision he knew would impact his life for a long time. For once, he wished he was sober. “I don’t know, but…I don’t want it to stop.” They locked eyes again, green on hazel. “I think I might be falling for you .”
In the silence, uncertainty ripped through Kevin like a bullet. But he needn’t have worried as a couple heartbeats later Aaron’s mouth had returned to his. The second time was softer, slower, less desperate, but no less passionate. Kevin let Aaron take the reins, and Aaron didn’t let him fall.
“Figures a couple of losers like us would find each other,” Aaron said as they broke apart at last.
Kevin couldn’t help but smile. “At least we can be losers together.”