“hey man, call me back when you get a chance. it's tommy, by the way.” cracked the voice from billy's phone.
he paused from brushing his teeth and peered down at the screen, squinting. holding his phone in one hand, toothbrush still in his mouth, he fumbled for his glasses on the bathroom counter.
as billy shoved them into his face, he was able to read the time-stamp attached to his brother’s voicemail: 2:37am. his eyes flitted up to the top of the glowing display where the time read 9:14am.
god, why was billy even awake this early ? and why had tommy called him at two in the morning?
“what the fuck.” billy mumbled around his toothbrush.
he spit an abundance of mint toothpaste into the sink and made a mental note to call tommy back. he had a large iced coffee waiting for him.
“why'd you call me at two in the morning?” billy quipped, not missing a beat.
“hello to you too. i'm doing well, how are you?” tommy snarked in response.
“cut the bullshit, tommy. you only ever call me if you need something. so spill.”
“i need to talk to you. i miss you.” tommy's voice had softened considerably since his last words.
“oh. yeah, sure. yeah.” billy let the hardness in his words fall.
“cool. lunch?” tommy's snarky demeanor was back in a split second.
“yes! you're buying!” tommy blew through his words so quickly they meshed together, in typical tommy fashion.
“i hate you.” billy sighed, in response to the click his phone emitted when tommy abruptly ended the call.
“so,” billy spoke between mouthfuls of the mac and cheese the twins had picked up from a food truck, “what's up? i haven't seen you in a while.”
tommy shrugged. the two were sitting on a bench, not worried about conversations being overheard, the park was pretty desolate that cloudy morning.
“normal stuff, i guess. i don't know.” tommy finally complied. “what's new with you and the jolly green giant? how's the new apartment?”
“ teddy, is fine. the new place has been good,” billy said, while tommy shoved more macaroni into his mouth at an unholy speed.
“hm. any places near you up for rent? i've been thinking about moving.” tommy mumbled, not bothering to finish chewing before speaking.
“why? i thought you were living with david, what happened?” billy grilled, concerned brother mode: on.
tommy shrugged, his gaze resting on his sneakers.
“tommy.” billy spoke firmly.
“i don't think i can live with him anymore.” tommy murmured, still not looking up.
“why not? i thought you guys were friends. he just a bad roommate?” billy was leaning down, trying to look tommy in the eyes.
“no he's not. i just- i can’t.” tommy groaned. “i think i might like, like him. you know? and i can't let that be a thing.”
“i thought you were straight.” billy stared at his brother with crazed eyes.
“so did i!” tommy whisper screamed, gesticulating wildly towards himself.
“wait, david's bi tommy. so what's the issue here? it's not like you're crushing on a straight guy.” billy queried.
“he isn't into me! and besides i don't want to…” tommy trailed off, focusing more on his mac and cheese.
billy's brow furrowed. “‘don't want to’ what?”
“i don't want to date him.” tommy had begun to raise his voice slightly.
“but you like him.” billy replied, smiling.
“i can't date a dude!”
“what's wrong with dating a dude?” billy spoke quieter than before, looking down at his lap.
“that's not what i meant-” tommy rushed to explain himself.
“i never thought you had a problem with that.” billy cut his brother off.
“i don't! billy, i swear, if i had a problem with it wouldn't i have told you?”
billy nodded, “yeah, i guess.”
“i just can't date a guy. i'm not gay. i can't be.” tommy sighed, before standing up. “i've got to get going. let me know if you see any apartments for sale. love you.”
“yeah, love you too.”
“tell teddy i say hi!” tommy shouted as he ran backwards waving.
“will do.” billy smiled softly.
hours later, billy layed in bed, sending quick texts to tommy while teddy stood in the bathroom with the door open, brushing his teeth.
BILLY: hey uh
BILLY: is it ok if talk to teddy about your uh
TOMMY: don't tell anyone else though
“so, how was lunch with tommy?” teddy asked, still in the bathroom, toothpaste muddling his words.
“hmm?” billy replied sending one last message, “oh it was good. we got mac and cheese from that new food truck, the one by the park.”
“i know, tommy tweeted about it.” teddy shuffled across the room in his sock covered feet to climb into bed.
“of course he did. speaking of, tommy's kind of having a mid-life crisis at the moment.”
“he's twenty years old.” teddy laughed.
“yeah. well it's more of a gay panic i guess.” billy pushed himself up into a sitting position.
teddy just stared at billy for a minute. “i thought tommy was straight.”
“so did i! and apparently so did he.” billy rolled his eyes. “anyway he has a thing for david, but is insisting he's straight.”
“but he told you he has a thing for david?” teddy's eyebrows scrunched up in confusion.
“yeah, he's insane.” billy paused to think about his earlier conversation with his brother. “actually he said some things that kind of irked me…” he trailed off.
“it was actually kind of,” billy paused, face still screwed up in confusion, “homophobic?”
teddy looked more lost than ever. “tommy’s homophobic?” he carefully pronounced both words, thinking maybe he had misheard billy.
“no, he's not, he….” billy trailed off again, “at least not towards us.” he articulated slowly.
“what do you mean?” teddy truly had no clue what billy was talking about at this point.
“i don't know. remind me to call tommy tomorrow, okay?”
“okay. love you.”
“love you more.”
“hey, want to get lunch again today?” billy spoke into the phone pressed up against his face.
“do you ever go to class?” tommy sniggered.
“i take all afternoon classes tommy. jokes aside, i want to talk to you more about some stuff.”
tommy was quiet for a minute, and billy had thought he had hung up when he spoke quietly, “i don't want to talk about that anymore.”
“too bad. it's happening. you want to do this over the phone, or?” billy used his ‘big brother/i'm the boss of you’’ voice.
“i'm coming to your place just give me a second, okay?” tommy sighed.
“okay. see you.”
in seconds there was a knock at the door. billy flipped open the locks and pulled open the door to reveal tommy red-faced, with his hands shoved in his jeans pockets.
“hey. is jolly green giant around?” tommy pushed past his twin peering around the apartment.
“ teddy is not here. so we're gonna talk.” billy followed tommy into the kitchen.
“there isn't anything to talk about.” tommy said, now rifling through the fridge.
“you like david.”
“no i don’t.” tommy replied, laughing coldly.
“you told me, right out, that you like david.”
“no i don't. i don't like david. i don't like guys. i can't. i'm not gay!” tommy's volume raised as he continued talking, whirling around to face his brother, sticking a finger in billy's face. he looked angry, and sad.
“tommy…. i, um, were your parents, frank and mary i mean, were they homophobic?”
“what?” tommy's face screwed up in disbelief, “what would that have to do with anything?”
“it doesn't matter, just- were they?” tommy didn't answer. “they were, weren't they?”
“yeah, so what? it doesn't matter, because i'm not gay.” he turned back to the fridge.
“tommy there's nothing wrong with liking guys.” billy said sadly.
“then why do you still feel guilty about it?” tommy stilled at billy's words. “what, do you feel like you're what? letting frank and mary down? you don't owe them anything.”
“i don't feel guilty. because i don't like guys.”
“tommy, you don't need to worry about things like that anymore. you haven't seen them in years.” billy said softly.
tommy threw the container of food he was holding back into the fridge. “i can't! i can't stop worrying about it! they're in my head! they're everywhere i look! and i should feel guilty because it's wrong, billy! this is wrong! i'm wrong!” he slammed the fridge shut and sat on the floor, back resting against it, head in his hands.
billy kneeled down on the floor next to tommy. “tommy, there isn't anything wrong with you.” he whispered, as tommy's body trembled.
tommy let out an involuntary sob.
“i spent a lot of time trying to convince myself i wasn't gay. because i thought that there was something wrong with me. that i was a freak. and i know now that it wouldn't have changed anything if people knew, but i was still afraid then. it’s scary. but you have people who love you now, and who will love you, no matter what. it's gonna be okay.” billy had begun to cry as well.
tommy lifted his head from his hands and wrapped his arms around his brother’s shoulders.
“it's gonna be okay, tommy.” billy whispered.
“it's gonna be okay.”