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The Sensibility of Joe

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“I am so sick of this shit—I mean, I don’t know how much more I can possibly take of this man.”

The best part about sharing an apartment with your boyfriend is that you get to know every little detail about him – The type of shampoo he uses, how much salt he puts on his food, how many rolls of toilet paper he flies through a week, and of course, how much he hates his professors at school.

Ben’s favorite part was the last.

“I mean, first he gives me a C- for ‘lack of organization’ in my writing, which—Thank you very much, Professor Asshole, I’m organized,” Joe ranted, pacing the living room as he struggled to remove the cap from the top of his beer bottle. Frankie was curled up within Ben’s lap where he was sat at the couch, the dog’s big, round, bug-like pupils following Joe as he walked across the carpet, towards the window and back to the television. The living room had framed photographs of he and Ben, as well as photos of Joe and his father. There was one located upon the windowsill of he, Ben, Rami, Lucy, Gwilym and Allen on their camping trip from high school. Joe kept one of his high school baseball trophies on the shelf by the television. “And then, to put the fucking cherry on top, he tells me my title is ‘unoriginal’ and that it’s like any other typical sports movie. ‘Unoriginal’? Unoriginal? Oh, okay, sure, a movie I’m writing about my own brother is unoriginal.” Joe huffed, giving up on the beer bottle as he set it down onto the coffee table.

Ben watched with an amused expression, giving Joe a moment to calm before he commented. “Feel better now, love?”

Joe exhaled again, smoothing a hand over the scruff that was growing on his face, situating himself next to Ben on the couch. He still had his coat, shoes and scarf on. “No. Well… A little.”

“Don’t worry about it, all right? College professors are assholes. Just like you said.”

College. Ben and Joe were aiming for their Masters now, and Joe was diving in deep into the Filmography classes, practicing what he’s always wanted to. It’s a great passion of his, and he had already created one short film during his Bachelors, a film by the name of Matters of Life and Death. His professors loved it, but it was the second run now, and the next level of Filmography classes… Which meant a new instructor, as it was every semester. People say the great thing about college was that you could choose your professor for your college classes – In this case, that was an issue for Joe. He had no idea his new professor was going to be such a prick.

“Yeah.” Joe sighed, tucking himself into the crook of Ben’s arm, stroking Frankie’s ears. “I don’t know. I hope by the next time I ‘reorganize’ my description he’ll like it. I really think Undrafted could be a great story.”

“It is, and will be.” Ben encouraged, planting a kiss to the top of Joe’s head.

Joe just nodded a little, resting his head about Ben’s chest. “I missed you at school.”

“I missed you at work.” Ben replied, allowing his chin to rest upon Joe’s head.

“No classes today?” Joe questioned.

Ben shook his head. “Thursday is my off day.”

“Oh, shit. It’s Thursday?” Joe chuckled.

Ben laughed. “Are you getting old on me already, Mazzello?”

“I’ve always been old.” Joe grinned, untangling himself from Ben to stand up again, and shed his outdoor apparel. It was freezing outside, for it was expected in New York around November, but Ben had the heat kicking inside, and Joe was swiftly growing accustomed to it.

The two of them had, of course, ended up staying in New York for college education. It was definitely expensive, but they could afford a one bedroom apartment in Queens with their jobs combined. Joe was employed at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City as a receptionist – A little silly, but it was a decently paying job, and right around the New York Film Academy that he attended, both of which were located in Manhattan. Ben worked as a supervisor in the CVS by his university, and also walked dogs on the side. Also a tad ridiculous in regard to both jobs, but it paid the bills rather well. Ben was striving for an acting job and actually attended the Tisch School of the Arts. He had a couple of small jobs, such as commercials and background figures that helped him to save some cash, but otherwise was still aiming for something big. Joe got a full ride to his university, and with grants and financial aid, Ben had nearly been paid in full.

For now, they really felt as if they were on top of things. Sure, sometimes bills ran late or they were a tad short, but they were confident where they were at right now.

Well, mostly.

“Old enough to fold the laundry I left for you in the bedroom?” Ben teased lazily.

Despite any other adult sulking at the idea of laundry, Joe lit right up at Ben’s words. It was a little unhealthy how much he actually enjoyed folding clothes. Even when Ben insisted he do it sometimes, Joe refused to allow him. He really felt he was that good at it.

“Absolutely old enough. Do you even know me?” Joe chuckled, stretching a little as he hung up his coat. “Should we order in for dinner?”

“Gwilym actually said he was going to bring Allen over.” Ben explained. “They’re bringing pizza.”

“God bless their sweet souls.” Joe sighed happily, grabbing his beer bottle again as he approached the kitchen area, which was attached to the living room in a way. It was a studio apartment, and so the only separate rooms were their bedroom and the bathroom. “Wait—Didn’t we have pizza last night.”

“Wasn’t that two nights ago? I thought last night we bought those two dollar sandwiches from the Greek food truck.”

Joe squinted in thought, using a bottle opener to remove the cap from his beverage, taking a sip as he set it down onto the counter and turned towards Ben. “We had Greek last night?”

“I’m pretty sure.” Ben said, though uncertain.

“My brain is really fried today.” Joe sighed. “Thank God I don’t have my filmography class until next week. I thought I was supposed to enjoy the class I’m majoring in, not cry over it.”

“You haven’t cried over it.” Ben said with a laugh, unmoving from the couch since he didn’t want to disturb Frankie.

“Yet.” Joe pointed out, heading into the bedroom next to search for something comfortable to wear. “Hey—Did you see my sweatpants anywhere?”

“The ones you threw on the floor this morning?”

“Uh-huh.” Joe called from the room, with the sound of shuffling indicating he was looking for them.

“Uh… I think I threw them in the hamper.”

“Shit. All right. I’ll change after Gwilym and Allen leave, then.” Joe said, coming back into the main room.

“I don’t know why you assume you’re going to sleep with clothes at all tonight.” Ben smirked a tad.

“All right, big shot, don’t get too cocky.” Joe laughed, leaning down from behind the couch to peck Ben’s lips. “But you’re kind of right.”

“As always.” Ben teased. “Come on, come sit. You’ve been gone all day.”

“Too long for me.” Joe explained, making his way around to take a seat. “Oh, that reminds me – I have to tell you about that one kid from my class today that keeps doing that thing with the gum.”

“Again?” Ben’s brow furrowed.


“Christ, Gwil, if you keep drooling over Allen like that, I’m going to kick you out. It’s not like you’ve been together for seven years now. Haven’t you seen him enough?” Ben teased fondly.

Gwilym rolled his eyes, leaning back against the couch, an arm slung around Allen’s shoulders. “As if you and Joe haven’t been dating for nearly eight.”

“Hey, leave me alone. We still gaze fondly at one another.” Joe said cornily, moving forward on the couch cushion a bit to help himself to another slice of pizza. The box was rested upon the coffee table. “Speaking of ‘gazing lovingly’, how’s Rami and Lucy doing?”

“I haven’t spoken to them since Rami took up that job for the television series.” Gwilym said truthfully.

“That was Sunday, right?” Joe asked.

Allen nodded. “He’s a busy guy now.” He chuckled.

“Oh, he’ll text back. Lucy responds to me all of the time.” Gwilym said. “They’re doing great, actually. Rami’s loving Evansville.”

Evansville – As in the University of Evansville in Indiana. He definitely went far-reaching for the university, but it was where he always wanted to go, and he got in. It was, after all, where a lot of his family was. Lucy applied and got into NYU, which is where she attended now. Although she didn’t see Rami very often with her striving for a medical degree, Rami visited as frequently as he could on the weekends, and they made it work.

“That’s so awesome.” Joe beamed, settling himself back into Ben’s side. “Hey, good for the both of them. They deserve it.”

“Definitely.” Allen said in agreement. “How’s the film working out for you, Joe?”

“What’d you say you wanted to call it?”

“’Undrafted’,” Ben answered for him, grinning. “And it’s going great. Joe’s professor is holding this competition in the near future, for the films—”

“Ben…” Joe warned lightly.

“And whichever one he chooses gets to be financed to become an actual film. Obviously Joe’s going to win, so this movie might be an actual one sooner than later.”

“Joe—That’s great!” Gwilym grinned.

“Nothing’s even happening.” Joe chuckled, nudging Ben. “I’m not going to get picked. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but my professor despises me and my film.”

“Doesn’t mean he won’t pick you.” Allen pointed out, toying absently with Gwilym’s fingers.

“See, Joe? You’re overreacting. Your professor’s going to love it. He’s just nitpicky.” Ben reassured.

“Hope so.” Joe sighed, grabbing a napkin to wipe off his fingers. “Are you guys staying tonight?”

“I’d love to, but I’ve got work in the morning.” Gwilym sighed.

“And I’ve got classes.” Allen said.

“And you two are rushing out of here to have sex.” Ben commented.

“Ben.” Joe scolded, smacking his arm harmlessly.

Ben chuckled. “What?”

“We’ll come by again soon, though.” Gwilym promised with a grin, moving to stand. “I think Rami’s coming to visit next week, so maybe we can all get together again.”

“Absolutely.” Joe responded. “Hey, don’t work too hard at the clinic.”

“I’m just the secretary.” Gwilym chuckled. “Not a veterinarian yet.”

“Just think—One day you’ll be neutering all of those puppies.” Ben teased.

“All right, buddy, call me when you get a real job.” Gwilym said playfully back in return. He and Allen gathered their things, said a goodbye, and exited not soon after.

“I can’t believe those two are still together.” Joe chuckled, standing up to start to clean up.

“We’re still together.” Ben commented, and grinned as he hooked an arm around Joe’s waist, tugging him close and away from the coffee table. “C’mon. No cleaning yet.”

Joe rolled his eyes, though easily situated himself within Ben’s lap. “You missed me that much?”

“I go through Joseph Withdrawal if you’re away for too long.” Ben said teasingly, leaning forward to match their lips in a kiss.

Joe sighed contently, returning the gesture as he kissed back, moving his lips along firmly and lovingly. “We’ll have to solve that, won’t we?”

Ben grinned against his lips. “Out here on the couch?”

“No, you animal.” Joe chuckled, pulling back with a mischievous expression. “You think that lowly of me?”

“I don’t know. It’s kind of hot.” Ben smirked a little.

“On second thought, being an animal isn’t always so bad.” Joe said playfully, leaning down to kiss Ben once more.

Ben’s eyelids fell shut, his hands already smoothing down to the hem of Joe’s shirt. “Not so bad at all.” He murmured into the kiss. “Laundry’s still on the bed, anyway…”

“Mmm… I should do that.” Joe said, teasingly beginning to pull away and stand.

“No, no, no,” Ben chuckled, pulling Joe back down into his lap. “Nice try, love, but the laundry can wait ‘til morning.”

“It’s calling my name.” Joe whined, though remained in place with Ben, lips traveling down to the sensitive stretch of skin along the side of his neck.

“It can wait until morning. I’ve been waiting for you all day.” Ben murmured affectionately.

Joe didn’t fall asleep with his sweatpants on as planned. The two of them ended up passing out on the couch with a blanket, but Joe couldn’t complain.

Aside from the fact that he was late to class the next morning, he didn’t regret the previous night one bit.

Chapter Text

Joe rested his chin in his palm, squinting at the brightness of the computer screen within the darkness of their apartment. He was seated at their kitchen table, finishing something up on his laptop, slouched sleepily in his chair. There was the sound of the keyboard being clacked every so often as Joe edited his project, leaning forward a bit to read over the words to make sure what his sleep-garbled brain was saying made sense.

The bedroom door opened, and Ben leaned against the frame, crossing his arms comfortably over his chest as he watched Joe from where he stood. He had a t-shirt on, and a pair of boxers. “Joe…”

Joe just grumbled in response, eyeing the keyboard warily as he typed in something else.

“Come on, love.” Ben tried to coax, approaching Joe from behind the chair. “It’s two in the morning.”

“Uh-huh. And this is due at eight a.m. tomorrow.” Joe murmured. “I just have a little left, I’ll be done in five minutes.”

“So skip tomorrow.” Ben said, leaning down to plant a kiss upon his temple. “I don’t have work. We can sleep in.”

Joe tried not to let himself be drawn in by both Ben’s words and his lips, though it was rather hard, per usual. “Mm… I have to email it by eight.”

Ben rolled his eyes, kneeling down next to Joe’s chair, eyeing the computer. “All right, so? How much do you have left?”

Joe pointed to the screen with a yawn. “This paragraph, here.”

“Looks long enough to me.” Ben said with a shrug.

“Yeah, but, I—I don’t know. It doesn’t seem right to me.”

“Let me see.” Ben read over the text on the screen, biting his lip in thought. “All right. So, change that last sentence with a finishing thought. Then you should be good.”

“You sure?” Joe asked, though he began to change it, anyway.

“Yeah. Just tie it all together.” Ben said, moving to stand again.

Joe finished up, reading it over one last time. “Like that?”

“Perfect. Come on, bed time now.” Ben said impatiently, slipping his hand into Joe’s.

“Okay, okay, hold on.” Joe said, sitting up to attach the project into an email, and send it over. “And… Sent. There. Okay, now I’m ready.” He said, moving to stand after he shut down his laptop, allowing himself to be led into the bedroom as he yawned once more.

“You’re not actually considering going in tomorrow morning, are you?” Ben asked softly.

“To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m going to get up in the morning.” Joe admitted with a drowsy chuckle, crawling into bed. He stretched a bit and moved to lay on his back, Ben moving to hover over him as he matched their lips in a gentle kiss. Sighing contently, Joe reached up, looping his arms around Ben’s shoulders, returning the gesture.

Ben pulled back over a moment, knees on either side of Joe as he helped him out of his t-shirt. Joe raised his arms sleepily, letting Ben remove his top, gazing lovingly up at him. “Good. I don’t want to get up, either.” Ben said with a chuckle, leaning down to gently plan kisses along Joe’s bare chest, unbuttoning and removing Joe’s jeans as well. They had gotten stuck at the ankles, but when Ben managed to get them off, he tossed them aimlessly aside, returning to his previous actions.

Joe kept his eyes open, knowing once he closed them, he’d be out like a light. He watched with a gentle expression as Ben littered his chest and abdomen in small, loving kisses, fingertips entangling with Ben’s blond strands. “No fair.” He mumbled after a moment, grinning as Ben pulled back to find his eyes in question. “Your shirt should be off, too.”

“So needy.” Ben teased, pecking Joe’s lips as he briefly sat up, tugging his t-shirt over his head, revealing the muscled chest and abdomen that he seemed to keep since high school.

Joe sighed happily through his nostrils, guiding his fingertips up Ben’s chest, searching his pupils with an adoring expression. “I need to go back to the gym.”

Ben chuckled. “Shush. I mean, sure, exercise is good, but you’re adorable.”

Joe rolled his eyes, moving his arms over his own torso, trying to hide it in a way. “Yeah, but you’re… I mean—” He fell short of his words with a bit more of a tenser exhale.

“I don’t care whether or not you’re ‘jacked’, Joe.” Ben said softly, gently prying Joe’s hands away from his chest to lean down and kiss his tummy. “I love every single part of you.” He kissed back up to Joe’s collarbone, and then his lips once more. “So, so much.”

Joe’s eyelids fluttered close, and he tried to convince himself of so within his own mind. “I love you.” He mumbled after a moment.

“I love you, too.” Ben whispered back. “You’ve no idea.”

Joe smiled against Ben’s lips, pulling back after a moment to take Ben’s face into his hands, staring up at him in admiration. “Well, your mom does tell me how often you talk about me. I think I have some idea.” He teased.

Ben flushed a tad, moving to lay down next to Joe. “You and my mom still text?”

Joe chuckled, remembering the first time Ben’s mother came to New York. It had been for Thanksgiving, and Joe finally had the chance to sit down with Ben’s entire family and get to know them all properly. She insisted they swap numbers, and Joe had even gotten to know Ben’s father a little bit better. He seemed okay with Ben and Joe’s relationship, and Ben talked to him pretty often. Now that he was in college, his father was a lot less keen on grades. No, he wasn’t entirely happy with Ben’s career choice, but… Whatever made his son happy. “Maybe.” Joe commented vaguely, wrapping his arms around Ben’s chest.

Ben brought him closer, tugging the covers over them both. “I swear, I might have to take that phone from her.” He said with a fond smile. “You know… I’ve been thinking.”

Joe peeked up at him. “Hm?”

“You’ve never been to England.” Ben said, smoothing a hand up and down Joe’s arm, glancing down at him in return. “Maybe we can go for Christmas.”

Joe rose a brow, though a smile appeared at his lips. “Really?”

“Yeah. It’ll be a nice change of scenery. You could see my family again. You’re a favored topic of conversation.” Ben said with a laugh. “Maybe instead of them coming here, we could… I dunno, head there for a change.”

“To Liverpool.”

“Mhm.”

Joe bit his lip in thought, smile widening a tad. “I’d love that, Ben.”

Ben’s expression lit up a tad. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Joe laughed. “I really need to travel again.” He said truthfully. “Maybe I can bring mom and Mary along. I know they’ve met your family before, but… It’ll be great for them to get out, you know?”

“Absolutely.” Ben said swiftly. “There’s plenty of room in our house out there. I’m sure you know, but ‘da likes to flaunt what he owns.”

Joe chuckled. “That’s not always a bad thing.” He said, kissing Ben’s cheek, before resting his head upon his chest.

“Guess not.” Ben smiled a little. “All right. Let’s get some rest, love, okay?”

“Okay.” Joe whispered, pulling the covers up a bit more. “I love you.”

“I love you.” Ben said softly in return, shutting his eyes. “Goodnight.”

“Night.” Joe mumbled sleepily.


Joe had woken up late the night morning – As expected, but he actually wanted to go to class. He had heard the alarm from his phone on the nightside table, but chose to ignore it, until it rang for the third or fourth time about a half hour later. He groaned, wiping the sleep from his eyes, and when he reached over Ben to peek at his phone, his heart dropped at the time. “Fuck.” He swore underneath his breath, beginning to untangle himself from Ben’s arms, who grumbled in protest.

Crawling out of bed, Joe grabbed his jeans that Ben had discarded upon the floor last night ( or early this morning ), struggling to tug them up his legs due to the fact that he was still half asleep. He paused, however, when he caught sight of something in the partially-open night table drawer. He tugged his jeans up all of the way, though left them unbuttoned as he approached the table, tugging the drawer open a bit more.

He blinked, half-convinced he was too exhausted to process everything correctly, but no one could mistake the item inside of that drawer as anything other than a cigarette.

It wasn’t even in its box – Simply a lone cigarette, as if it had fallen out of its container, left unattended inside of the night table drawer that Joe, quite truthfully, never went in.

He glanced to Ben unsurely, who was fast asleep once more after briefly stirring from Joe’s movement beforehand. He had never seen Ben smoke before, nor had he ever held the scent of a cigarette. It worried him slightly to think that Ben had turned to smoking, but pushed his thoughts aside as his phone began to ring.

Pocketing the cigarette, he buttoned his pants all of the way and grabbed a shirt as well as socks from the dresser drawer, pressing the phone to his ear after he saw that Lucy was calling. “Hey, Luce.” He greeted, stepping out of the bedroom and silently shutting the door behind him. “One second.” He said, pausing to tug the sweater over his head, searching for his coat as he placed the phone back against his ear. “Okay. Sorry about that.”

“No worries.” Lucy chimed happily from the other end. “When’s class start for you?”

“Uh… Half hour? How come?” Joe asked, plopping down onto the couch, pressing the phone between his ear and shoulder to put on his socks.

“Wanna get coffee before you go? I have a little time before my first lecture.” Lucy offered.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.” Joe grinned, standing up to grab his shoes, lazily slipping them on as he grabbed his scarf and coat. “Sounds great, actually. I planned on being late to class this morning, anyway.” He chuckled.

“Wonderful.” Lucy laughed a little. “I’ll meet you at Newsbar?”

“Twenty minutes. I’ll be there.” Joe said.

“Awesome. See you.” She replied, before hanging up.

Joe shoved his phone into his pocket, forgetting about the cigarette for now as he headed out of the apartment building, and out to his car.


“Aren’t they so cute?” Lucy grinned, holding up her scrubs where they sat at the café table, glancing between Joe and the uniform she held up. “I mean, it’s only temporary. But it’s a good start to my career, I think.”

“As a volunteer nurse? That’s awesome, Lucy.” Joe grinned, sipping at his coffee, a pick-me-up he didn’t realize he needed until now. “Soon enough, you’ll be a surgeon. And if I ever happen to need surgery, I’ll know who to go to.”

Lucy laughed softly. “You’re too sweet, Joe.” She said with a soft smile, tucking the uniform back into her purse, setting it aside for now. “I hope for your sake, you never need surgery.”

“Me, too.” Joe chuckled, expression softening as he propped his elbows onto the table. “How’ve you been, anyway, Lucy? I feel like med school has robbed me of your presence.”

“Med school’s great. I’m great, actually.” Lucy said, a bright smile appearing at her lips as she brought her bottom lip between her teeth. “I… I actually think Rami’s going to propose soon.”

Joe’s eyes widened slightly. “Propose?”

Lucy nodded. “He’s been very secretive lately.”

“Well, that could mean anything…”

“And Gwilym asked me the other day what kind of rings I like.”

“Oh, okay. Yeah, he’s going to propose.” Joe chuckled, though a wide smile appeared at his lips. “Lucy, that’s great! You’re obviously going to say yes.”

Lucy hesitated at that.

Joe blinked. “Or… You’re not.”

“I’m going to be honest.” She said, swirling the tip of her finger around the warmth of her espresso cup. “I don’t think I’m ready for marriage.”

Joe nodded in understanding.

“I mean… He’s still in Indiana. I’m still here, in med school. And… He’s got an acting job, you know? He’s really starting to be successful… But that means more traveling.” Lucy explained. “I’m not crazy, am I?”

“No, Lucy.” Joe shook his head. “That’s completely valid.”

“I mean—You wouldn’t be ready if Ben proposed to you right now, would you?” She asked unsurely.

Joe paused at this, glancing back at her. It was a big question. Something Joe never actually thought about until this very moment. Would he be ready? Would he say yes? Well, of course he would… Ben and he were happy.

But did that mean he was ready?

“Oh, shoot.” Lucy glanced at the watch on her wrist. “I just realized class starts in ten for me. I better run.” She said, scooting herself off her stool, grabbing her bag. “I’ll text you?”

“Yeah, absolutely. Hey, thanks for asking me to coffee. I miss talking to you, Luce.” Joe gave her a light smile, mentally winded from the question Lucy had asked him just seconds before.

“Of course, Joe. I miss you, too. When Rami comes back to New York, we’ll have to hang out again.”

“One hundred percent.” He said with a smile, standing up as well, giving her a tight hug goodbye.

“See you soon.” She said with a smile, offering him a wave as she rushed out of there. Joe waved back, scrubbing nervously at the back of his neck as he got all of his things together, heading to class as well. The question still rang at the walls of his mind, wondering if Ben would ever propose to him in the first place.

Chapter Text

Joe walked hand in hand with Ben, swinging them just a bit as they ventured through the airport with Lucy. Lucy was much too elated to stop for coffee, entirely excited to finally see Rami again after some time. He had some free time on his hands before he started filming his next show, which he hadn’t really told them much about. Only that he had gotten the part. Lucy practically dragged them along until they reached the terminal, though they hadn’t landed yet. It would be any minute until the plane was to come, however.

They sat for now, and while Joe relaxed within the airport chairs, Lucy’s posture was straight where she sat, pupils glued to the large windows in anticipation.

“What are you going to say to Rami when he comes?” Ben asked playfully.

“I’ll ask if he’s gotten shorter.” Joe teased back.

“You’re shorter than him.” Ben chuckled.

“Not today, I’m not. I’m wearing my high tops.” He teased once more, intertwining his fingers with Ben’s, looking to him with a gentle expression.

“That’s adorable.” Ben grinned, pecking Joe’s lips once.

“Oh—Look! They’re landing!” Lucy beamed, and she hopped up from her seat.

“All right, we tackle him, all at once.” Ben said.

“Rami’s kind of small. He might suffocate.” Joe replied.

“Shush. He’s cute.” Lucy defended in a playful manner, though her eyes were upon the doors, which were yet to open to allow the passengers off the airplane.

“Are Gwil and Allen still coming tonight?” Ben asked curiously.

“Uh… I gotta text them. Allen said he might be a little late because of work.” Joe commented.

“That’s all right. Everyone will probably end up crashing at our place, anyway.” Ben laughed.

“We have one bed and one couch.” Joe pointed out.

“Don’t worry. Rami and I will probably head home when it’s late enough.” Lucy reassured.

“He’ll probably want plenty of time with you, anyway, Luce. He never shuts up about you.” Joe responded.

Lucy sent Joe a small smile, cheeks flushing. “So I’ve heard.”

The door began to open, and one of the flight attendants stood at the side with a grin as everyone exited, wishing them a good day. Some people entered looking very tired, for obviously they had a long flight. When Rami stepped through, rolling his suitcase behind him, he looked a little exhausted himself, wearing a comfortable grey sweater and a plaid pair of pants. His hair was shorter at the sides, but he had a head full of curls nonetheless. He practically lit up at the sight of Lucy, for she was already running over.

“Look at them. A bunch of saps.” Joe teased, squeezing Ben’s hand.

Rami took Lucy’s face into his hands, kissing her affectionately, a sigh of content leaving his nostrils. “Hello, my love.”

“Hi.” Lucy whispered, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, embracing him tightly. “I missed you so much.”

“We better not get up yet. They’ll be there for hours.” Ben said back.

Joe chuckled, though he was standing up already. “C’mon.”

They approached as Rami pulled away from the hug, though he smiled widely to see his two closest friends standing there.

“You two didn’t think I forgot about you, did you?” He grinned, giving Joe a big hug first.

Joe pat his back, closing his eyes. “Good to see you, Rami.”

“Hey, no hogging.” Ben complained.

Rami chuckled, pulling back to face Ben. “You think I’d forget about you? You fool. C’mere.” He teased, moving his arms around Ben to embrace him as well.

“Well, I do give the best hugs.” Ben said with a grin, hugging Rami tightly, before eventually pulling away.

“He does.” Joe testified.

“Are you hungry, love?” Lucy asked, bringing dainty fingers through Rami’s disheveled curls.

“Not yet. But I’m probably going to be in the mood for some New York pizza later. Pizza in Indiana really doesn’t do it for me.” He said, sliding his hand within Lucy’s.

“I’m pretty sure we’ve had pizza about eight times this week.” Ben exaggerated.

“I could go for some, though.” Joe commented. “It’s what we’ve relied on.”

“That’s terrible.” Rami laughed as he grabbed his suitcase, heading out with them. “Old habits never die, hm?”

“In high school, the only thing I relied on was sleep. And I never slept. Thanks to someone else…” He glanced at Ben in a lighthearted manner.

“And it was entirely worth it.” Ben smirked as they head out to the car.


“Woah. You guys have a balcony?” Rami pushed back the curtains, unlocking the door to their ( very ) tiny balcony that overlooked Bayside, Queens.

“Well… We consider it a second fire escape that doesn’t actually help us escape.” Joe chuckled, poking his head out. The air was crisp, slightly chilly, but it was a nice night. Lights from peoples’ homes jeweled behind curtains, with Manhattan lit up in the distance, as it usually was at night.

Lucy watched from where she was in the kitchen, stirring some iced tea mix into a pitcher. Her expression was gentle.

Ben removed the ice from the freezer, joining her by the counter. “So, how are you, Lucy? I haven’t really properly talked to you in a while.”

Lucy glanced to Ben, smiling a little. “I’m great, really. I… I actually feel like my life is starting to come together.” She said truthfully, pushing the pitcher towards Ben.

Ben removed the ice cubes from the tray. “That’s great. What I want to hear.” He said, placing the ice into the pitcher slowly so it didn’t spill. “You know, Americans and Brits have a much different interpretation of ‘tea’.” He chuckled.

“No? You guys don’t like sugary, fat and cold?” She teased, stirring it a bit more.

“Well… Lipton’s kind of shit. But Joe likes the brand.” Ben beamed.

Lucy smiled a little as well. “So, you two? You’re doing well, then?”

Ben nodded. “Really well.” He said. He was remaining vague, but Lucy had hoped he’d be a bit more specific in regard to a ring. He glanced over to where Joe had joined Rami on the balcony. “He means the world to me.”

Joe tucked his jacket closer to him, glancing back inside to spot Ben. He gave him a loving smile, before turning back to Rami. “Hey… Rami, could I ask you something?”

“Anything.” Rami replied, resting his forearms upon the metal railing.

“You and Ben talk a lot.” Joe said.

“That’s… not a question.” He chuckled. “But yes, we do.”

“Does he—I mean… When you used to hang out with him, or… Or even when you text… He never mentioned… someone else, did he?” Joe asked.

Rami blinked. He briefly glanced to Ben and Lucy, who were now giggling childishly as they tried to clean up the powdered tea mix they had knocked onto the floor. He swiftly looked back to Joe. “You think he’s cheating?”

Joe immediately felt color rise in his face. He felt a bit shameful for thinking such a thing. He knew Ben would never. “Well, I… Yes and no.”

Rami tilted his head.

Joe shoved his hand into his pocket, revealing the cigarette. “I found this in the night table drawer.” He said, handing it to Rami.

Rami rose a brow. “Ben smokes, though.”

Joe blinked. “No, he doesn’t.”

He nodded in return. “It’s definitely his, Joe. He likes Marlboro.” He commented, handing the cigarette back to Joe.

“But, I… I never smell it on him, or—”

“He must be hiding it well, then.” Rami said softly. “He tells me it helps him to relieve stress.”

“Stress?” Joe frowned, suddenly feeling entirely shut out from Ben’s true emotions. “He’s stressed out?”

Rami hesitated. He had no idea all of this was new information for Joe. “Uh… I mean, yeah.” He offered a weak smile, nudging Joe’s arm gently. “Aren’t we all, though?”

Joe glanced back down to the cigarette, fumbling with it subconsciously. “Yeah… Yeah, I guess. He’s just never mentioned it before.”

Rami placed a hand on Joe’s shoulder, squeezing it gently.

“Hey, guys—Come in! The pizza’s here!” Lucy called from inside.

The two of them entered, Rami closing and locking the door behind them.

“Joe, sweetheart, my wallet’s in the bedroom—Could you grab it?” Ben asked, still trying to sweep up the mix from the floor.

Joe nodded, doing just that. He pulled out a couple of bills, approaching the door. When he opened it, however, it was Gwilym and Allen.

“Ooh. I didn’t know we were selling ourselves tonight.” Gwilym teased. “We’re gonna need a lot more than that, buddy.”

Rami’s expression brightened when he saw the two of them in the doorway.

“Rami!” Allen beamed, slipping past Joe to give Rami a tight hug.

“Yeah, hi to you, too, Allen.” Joe teased flatly.

“Jesus, Al, how much have you grown?” Rami chuckled, embracing him in return. “I haven’t seen you in so long.”

“That’s because you’re being absolutely boring in Indiana.” Gwilym teased, approaching as well to tug the both of them in for a large hug. He was much taller and had incredibly long arms, so it wasn’t hard.

Rami exhaled happily as they pulled away. “I missed you all so much. I have some really great news, though.”

“Oh?” Lucy perked up from where she was at the kitchen counter.

“Well… I was gonna wait until we were all sitting down and eating.” Rami chuckled.

“No, no—Tell us now.” Joe demanded with a grin.

Rami blinked in realization that everyone’s eyes were on him.

“What is it, Rami?” Ben asked curiously, setting the broom aside.

His lips curved into a smile. “Well… You all know the show that I’ve been casted for.”

“We don’t, but go on.” Joe commented.

“It’s filming in New York.” Rami said, smiling a little more.

“So… You’re moving here?” Gwilym smiled widely. “What about college?”

“I mean—I have my degree. And… I think I could be really successful if I follow through with this.” Rami said, looking to Lucy to search her expression for a sign of something positive. “So I’m moving back here.”

Joe glanced over to her as well. He knew his previous conversation with Lucy about marriage had been a little bit of a heavy one, and a big reason she was going to say no was because Rami was in Indiana – But now he was moving to New York.

Lucy, nonetheless, formed a wide grin. “Rami… That’s amazing.” She said, and she seemed genuinely happy about that. “I’m so happy for you.”

“That’s awesome, mate.” Ben commented with a light smile, though he seemed almost… slightly bothered. Not so much by the fact that Rami was moving to New York again, but for something else that Joe couldn’t exactly pinpoint.

The door knocked again.

“If that’s another prostitute, we may have to end the night early.” Gwilym warned playfully. “I’m quite exclusive.”

Joe rolled his eyes fondly, grabbing the cash from before. “Don’t worry. Private shows only for you, big boy.” He teased, answering the door to pay for their dinner.


As expected, Allen and Gwilym ended up passing out on the couch, tangled up in one another. Rami and Lucy had snuck out at some point while Joe dozed off during Pulp Fiction, and eventually found himself underneath the covers within the bed he and Ben shared, snuggled up to his chest.

Despite the sleepiness, both the cigarette and mention of Ben’s stress egged at his mind.

“Ben?”

“Mm?” Ben grumbled sleepily.

Joe smoothed a hand up Ben’s back, shifting closer. “Could I ask you something?”

“Mhm.” He hummed once more, voice gruff and sleepy.

Joe hesitated, fingertips smoothing back down to the small of Ben’s back.

He abruptly decided against it. It was too late to discuss it at the moment.

“Goodnight, Ben.”

“Night.” Ben murmured back, clearly too exhausted to comprehend the conversation. He slipped into an easy slumber.

Joe stayed awake a tad longer, simply pondering.

Chapter Text

“Do we have eggs?”

Joe wiped a hand over his face as he pushed their shopping cart along, swiping at his eyes along the way. He hadn’t been getting too much sleep the last couple of nights. He had been up for most of them trying to complete as much work as possible, as well as finalize his project for Undrafted. He figured, though, with a day finally off, he and Ben should pick up groceries. Leftover pizza and half a wedge of a lemon really didn’t cut their nutritional values.

“Love?”

“Hm?” Joe glanced over at Ben. “Oh, uh—No, we don’t. I think there was one left this morning, but that’s it.” He explained.

“You all right?” Ben asked gently, pulling the shopping cart along from the front, a finger or two hooked around the metal bars.

“Yeah. Sorry, just… I was up late.” Joe mumbled, before yawning.

“I can tell.” Ben chuckled, opening up a carton of eggs to make sure they weren’t cracked, before closing them again and placing them gently into the cart. “You fell asleep on your computer.”

“I’m gonna be honest, I don’t even remember you bringing me back to bed.” Joe chuckled softly, bringing a hand through his mess of ginger hair.

“It was pretty late.” Ben explained. “You shouldn’t stress yourself out over all of this, you know.”

“It’s the biggest project of my life.” Joe said. “Or… Well, right now it seems so. It’d be amazing to have Undrafted funded. That would be a dream come true.” He admitted. “It’d also be nice to show my brother. He doesn’t even know the movie exists yet.”

Ben smiled. “I’m sure he’ll feel honored to know it’s about him.” He explained as they ventured towards the milk next. “Why don’t you have him over for Thanksgiving? It’ll be nice to see them again.”

Joe smiled a little. He always loved it when John, his brother, brought over his wife and kid. They were a source of positive energy to have around. “Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I’ll have mom over, too, of course. And Mary.” He smiled. “They miss you, you know.”

“There’s never enough of me to go around.” Ben teased, and Joe laughed a little at that.

“Well, I’m not complaining. I don’t like to share.” Joe smirked playfully, dragging the cart into the next aisle. “What else do we need? We got fruit, bread, cheese, milk, eggs… Vegetables… Should we get the chicken at the butchers instead? Meat from the super market can be kind of shady.”

Ben chuckled. “Might be best. I don’t think they’re open today but I’ll swing by tomorrow morning and get stuff before work.”

Joe nodded. Once they got everything they needed, they headed to the registers, Ben helping to place everything on the belt as it rang up. As they were unloading, Joe caught sight of some of the boxes of cigarettes behind the counter. His mind instantly traced itself back to the conversation he was supposed to have with Ben quite a few nights ago.

He was still unsure about it, even after that night Rami had told him Ben smoked. He wasn’t sure if Ben smoked on occasion, or if it was frequent, but his thoughts had been proven not too long ago.

It was one night, when Joe came home late from work. Ben had given him a hug on his way in, and Joe caught a whiff of it – Brief, but he was sure. He couldn’t have mistaken such a scent other than anything besides cigarettes, though he soon came to realize it was heavily buried beneath laundry detergent and cologne.

He planned to ask him, but it never seemed the right time.

The cashier bagged all of their items, and they wheeled the cart out to the car.

“Ah—Hold on. I’m gonna run in and grab something we forgot.” Ben said.

As he headed back inside, Joe glanced down at the list. He was sure they got everything. He only wondered ( he had a decent idea, though ) what Ben had ran back in to grab.

After packing up the trunk, Joe slid into the drivers seat, yawning for the eighth or ninth time that morning. He could really use a nap.

Ben came back out again, placing the bag he had in his hand in the trunk, before getting into the passenger seat.

“What’d you get?” Joe asked.

“Coffee.” Ben explained.

Joe nodded. They actually did forget that. “Right. God knows I need plenty of that.”

Ben smiled a little. “Why don’t we run a bath when we get home? You could use a little stress relief, don’t you think?”

Joe smiled gently in return. “I think we both could.”


Tucking away the milk in the fridge, Joe closed it shut as he made sure he placed everything away. Ben was in the bathroom, the sound of the bathtub filling up.

“Hey, Ben?” Joe called out from the kitchen, peeking into the refrigerator again. When he realized Ben hadn’t heard him, he spoke up again. “Honey?”

Ben poked his head out from the bathroom.

“Did we leave the bread in the car?”

“I’m pretty sure we grabbed everything.” Ben replied. “Did you put it in the wrong spot?”

“I don’t know.” Joe sighed, checking the cabinets next. “I better run and get it.”

“No, no— C’mon, we’ll get it later. The bath’s ready.”

“It’s really no problem, I can just run and go get it.”

“Too long, too far.” Ben grinned, approaching Joe as he slipped his hand into his boyfriend’s, guiding him along to the bathroom. “The bread can wait a little while.”

Joe’s lips formed a smile as he allowed himself to be led through their small apartment, stepping into the bathroom with him. “Poor bread. Sitting in that dark, lonely trunk.”

“Your guilt tripping isn’t going to work.” Ben chuckled, tugging the knot from Joe’s sweatpants loose, before beginning to undo his own belt and jeans.

“Worth a shot.” Joe beamed, peeling off his own shirt.

Once they were undressed, Ben took Joe’s hand again, slowly stepping into the hot water. Joe eventually joined him, and once they settled, Joe rested his back against Ben’s chest, situated between his legs. The two of them sank down into the heat and warmth of the water, a soft exhale of content slipping from Ben’s lips.

It was silent for a while, Joe’s eyelids falling shut. He was ninety percent sure he was going to fall sleep, until Ben spoke up.

“Did you talk to Rami at all?”

“Mhm.” Joe said softly, keeping his eyes closed. “He was talking to me about asking Lucy to move in with him.”

Ben quirked a brow. “Really?”

Joe nodded. “I don’t think she’ll say no. I mean, they’ve been together practically since the end of Sophomore year of high school, so…”

Ben nodded as well, moving a hand up and down Joe’s arm soothingly.

“Lucy thinks Rami’s going to propose, too.” Joe smiled.

“Oh, yeah?” Ben grinned. “I wouldn’t be surprised. Rami’s a bit of a romantic.”

Joe chuckled. “Yeah, he is.”

“What’d she say about that?” Ben asked curiously.

Joe shrugged a little. “She just said she’s not sure if she’s ready. That they’re still young, you know?”

“So what?”

Joe’s eyes fluttered open. “Well—Lucy said they should focus on their careers first.”

“I don’t know.” Ben said after a moment.

“What do you mean?”

“I think life’s too short to wait sometimes.” Ben replied. “I also think those two are meant for each other.”

Joe’s lips formed a bit more of a smile. “Who’s the romantic now?”

“Ah, shut up, you sod.” Ben chuckled, kissing Joe’s temple. “Don’t you agree with me, though?”

Joe was quiet, feeling Ben’s arms wrap around him. He placed his hand over Ben’s. “I agree with you that life is short.” He said softly, thinking back to his dad for a moment or so. “And that those two are meant for each other.”

“So, you believe in soulmates.” Ben smirked a little.

“Now you’re just setting me up.” Joe laughed.

“No, c’mon. I wanna know. Do you?” He asked in all seriousness.

Joe was silent once more, thinking to himself, before sitting up a bit and turning around in the tub to face Ben. He took both of his hands into his own. “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Ben tilted his head in question. “What about us? D’y’think we are?”

Joe’s lips once more pulled into a smile. Ben was adorable. “Soulmates are a silly thing, don’t you think?” He said, squeezing Ben’s hands gently.

Ben brought them to his lips, kissing each of them. “How come?”

“I shouldn’t have to be with someone because ‘fate willed it so’. I could be randomly matched with Mister Softee, for all we know.”

Ben laughed at that. “No, seriously. Do you think we are?”

“Of course I do, Ben.” Joe whispered, leaning in to place a kiss upon his lips.

Ben leaned forward instead, matching their lips in a full embrace. He released one of Joe’s hands to caress his cheek instead, deepening the kiss just a tad.

Joe returned the gesture, shifting closer, though he pulled back after a moment.

“Just so you know, I’m going to flaunt you to Mister Softee next time we see him.”

Joe laughed at Ben’s comment, grabbing the soap to begin to clean the both of them off. “You may be barred from buying his ice cream, then.”

“It’ll be worth it.” Ben grinned, planting a kiss upon his cheek.

They relaxed within the tub until their fingers and toes shriveled up, allowing the tub to drain. Ben laid out a towel on the tile floor for them as they stepped out, wrapping another one around Joe’s shoulders, as well as one around his waist.

While Ben stepped out to grab them some fresh clothing, Joe dried himself and wrapped his own around his hips, leaning down to pick up their dirty clothes that they changed out of before.

He picked up Ben’s jeans, removing the belt completely and placing it aside neatly. He was about to place it in the hamper, though couldn’t help but acknowledge the obvious added weight that there was to it. He didn’t want any keys to be washed or pens to explode in the machine, so he dug his hands into the pockets, tugging out whatever was in there.

He happened to pull out a box of Marlboro cigarettes, still in its package.

“Hey, sweetheart? Did you see my—” Ben paused as he stepped into the bathroom again, paling at the sight of his cigarettes in Joe’s hand.

Joe glanced up to him, inhaling a little, capturing Ben’s frozen stare. “I think these are yours."

Ben shifted a bit, unsure of what to say.

"I also think we should talk."

Chapter Text

Hi, guys! Unfortunately, this is not a chapter but it is more or less an update. I am not sure when I will be able to get the next chapter in ( I started writing it a little while ago ), so it is just a fair warning to you all. Monday morning, my father passed away due to cancer, so it’s been very hard for me to process everything at once. I love each and every one of you for sticking with me until this point, and I promise a new chapter will be in soon.

Thank you. ❤️

Chapter Text

Joe moved to take a seat upon the couch, fingertips slightly shaken as he set the box of unopened cigarettes upon the coffee table. They were still wrapped in plastic as well, untouched, though they had clearly come from the supermarket. Ben must have picked them up when he ran in to get coffee beans.

Anxiously, Ben took a seat towards the other side of the couch, but not terribly far. He was turned in his seat slightly so as to face Joe, though refused to meet his eyes at the moment. He was expecting yelling. A lot of irritation from Joe, too. Maybe some more shouting mixed in.

Joe shifted a little, trying to search Ben’s eyes. “I’m not mad.”

Ben didn’t look up. “Be honest.”

“I am being honest, Ben.”

“No—No, you’re just saying that ‘cause you don’t wanna start anything.” Ben murmured.

Joe frowned. “Ben… Look at me.”

He still refused to do so.

“Ben…”

“Why should I? So you can scold me?” Ben snapped, all of the sudden.

Joe had to take a moment. “Scold you?” He questioned, brow furrowing. “When do I scold you?”

“I don’t know – You always seem unhappy with what I do.” Ben said, tone just as thick.

Joe frowned at this now. “That’s not true in the least, Ben. I’m very proud of you. Where is all of this coming from?”

“Nothing.” Ben sighed. “Just— Nothing.”

Joe paused before he spoke up once more. “I’m not mad. If anything, I’m worried.” He said softly.

Ben eventually moved his eyes up and over to him. “Worried?”

“Yes.” Joe said, scooting just a tad closer, only a little. “You’re smoking. Which, in my eyes, at least… It’s very unlikely for you to do so.” He said softly. “Or maybe you have been for a while, and I really have been this oblivious.”

Ben brought his bottom lip between his teeth, unsure of what to say.

“I just want to know why.” Joe continued.

“’Why’?” Ben questioned.

“Yes. Why you started smoking.” He commented in return. “I… I want to help you, Ben. Help you through whatever it is you’re going through.”

Hesitating again, Ben averted his gaze down to his hands. He said nothing once more.

Joe leaned forward a little. “You can tell me anything, Ben.”

Ben frowned a little bit, shaking his head almost unnoticeably.

Feeling a slight pang at his heart, the ginger leaned back into the couch cushions. Could Ben tell him everything? Was he truly that afraid to come out and say that he was smoking? Was he that terrified of revealing the answer as to why as well?

Joe tried to convince himself he was overthinking it. Ben wasn’t exactly an open book, nor did his emotions shine true very often. Joe knew Ben might need a little more time, but… He still couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to sit around while Ben might be hurting.

“Ben… Listen. I can’t stop you from doing anything.” He said, sitting up a little bit. “If you want to smoke a cigarette – Smoke a cigarette. But I’ve lost enough people in the long run to assure you that I am not going to allow you to fall into some sort of…” He paused, trying to form his words. “Some sort of downward spiral into stress, and smoking away your thoughts, and—And…” His grip tightened just slightly upon the couch cushion below him, fingertips grasping as it as he struggled to allow his words to escape his lips, “And cancer.”

Ben’s expression softened, just in the slightest. “Shit.” He huffed, wiping a hand over his face. “Joe, I didn’t mean—”

“I told you, I’m not angry.” Joe said swiftly, placing a hand upon Ben’s forearm. “Tell me what’s wrong, Ben.”

Exhaling silently, he shifted a tad and avoided Joe’s gaze once more.

Joe waited patiently, eyeing him. Not like a hawk, but in an understanding manner, giving Ben his time.

Despite the fact, Ben shook his head.

“Ben…”

“I’m going out.”

“What?”

Ben stood up abruptly, starting to gather his things. “I—I just need some air.”

“You can talk to me.” Joe encouraged, reaching for Ben’s hand. Before his fingers could even brush the blond’s, however, he was rushing out of the house with his shoes already on.

Joe only noticed afterwards that the box of cigarettes from the coffee table was gone.


Ben needed air – and that was fine. But Joe didn’t want to be home when Ben came back.

Joe needed a bit of a breather himself. So while Ben took his own ( a bit ironic that he had the cigarettes ), Joe ended up dialing Lucy’s number.

Rami was out, and so Lucy agreed to go out with Joe for a little while for some coffee and a chat. Although they originally planned to get just coffee, they ended up in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru with an order of fifty-piece chicken nuggets and plenty of fries.

Lucy sipped from her bottle of water, setting it back down into the cupholder as she leaned back into her carseat. They decided to remain in Joe’s car within the parking lot to chat. New York’s 101.1 Classic Rock played hushed on the car radio. “You didn’t know Ben smoked?”

Joe sighed, a bit exasperated. “Seems like everyone knew but me.”

“Well—I mean, I knew because of Rami. They talk quite often.”

“Didn’t know that either.” Joe commented. “I mean, I knew they spoke, but not frequently.”

“Yeah. Ben’s always asking Rami about advice for acting and whatnot.” She explained in response. “I’m sorry, Joe.”

“No, it’s—” He shook is head, waving off her apology with a small hand gesture. “You don’t have to apologize. And neither should Ben. I just… He seems to be distancing himself from me recently.”

“It’s probably his way of coping.” Lucy pointed out, nibbling on some fries. “Give him some time. He’ll come around.”

“I hope so.” Joe said, sinking down a bit into the driver’s seat as well. “I’m just worried.”

“You don’t have to be ashamed for feeling things, Joe. It’s normal to worry about your significant other.” She explained.

“Yeah?” Joe rose a brow, glancing to Lucy.

“Rami always has me worried sick.” She admitted, though a soft laugh escaped her lips.

“How so?”

“Well, he’s a bit of a perfectionist, especially when it comes to his roles. And that’s great – But if he receives ninety-nine percent and not one hundred, he puts himself down for not being good enough. It’s never good to mentally beat yourself up like that.” Lucy said, wiping her hands on a napkin.

Joe finished chewing before he spoke again. “Yeah. That’s very true.” He said, knee bouncing out of nervous habit. “How are things with you and Rami, though? Kind of shocked us there when he mentioned he was moving back to New York.”

Lucy nodded. “Yeah. I’m… actually really glad about it. I know I spoke previously about wanting to move slow, but… I don’t know, my mom always told me it’s good to move in with the person first to see what they’re truly like.” She said. “I mean, it’s not like he’s proposing to me. We’re just moving in together, right?” She asked, in a slightly rhetorical manner, or perhaps for reassurance. Although she seemed rather relaxed, her fidgeting fingertips spoke otherwise. Joe noticed immediately.

“Yeah, Luce. It’s good to take things slow. And moving in together is definitely a slower step than marriage.” He chuckled.

“The word ‘marriage’ kind of freaks me out.” Lucy laughed as well, a tad nervous. “I suppose it wouldn’t be so bad. But I’d like to be certain.”

“About Rami?”

“No—Goodness, Rami’s the love of my life.” Lucy said in a slightly blurting manner.

Joe smiled a tad.

“What?” Lucy flushed. “Anyway, I want to be certain that I’m ready.”

He then nodded in understanding.

“I don’t know.” Lucy continued, when he didn’t say anything. “Maybe it’s silly… Life’s so short.”

“True, but you want to make the most of it.” Joe pointed out. “So taking it slow isn’t terrible at all. Mind you, taking it slow doesn’t mean thirty years.” He encouraged politely.

“Very true.” Lucy responded. “Hey—How’d this shift to me? We’re supposed to be talking about your problems.”

“Ah.” Joe waved his hand. “I don’t have problems. Ben’s not a ‘problem’. As you said… I have to give him his time.”

“As I said,” Lucy repeated, “He’ll come around.”

Joe nodded once more, sipping at his soda. “Hey—Easy on the fries. I’d like some too, you know.”


It had been a couple of days since Joe found Ben’s cigarettes. They were at a weird point in their schedule where Joe was at school all day, and then Ben worked all night, so for the most part, they really didn’t see much of each other. Joe’s kind of been drowned in his work, anyway—He’s been so swept with working on Undrafted that he’s barely had enough time to snooze for the twenty minutes of sleep he actually receives.

It was to the point that bags were easily starting to appear under his eyes, and he resorted to one meal a day when he came home. Don’t get him wrong – He loved food. But with the amount of work he’s had to complete, he hasn’t really had the time for basic body necessities. Also, he kind of forgets to eat.

The beauty of procrastination.

Speaking of, Undrafted was due that night. So Joe, naturally, had waited to finish the last few scenes of his script until that day. It was to be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. or else it would not be accepted, nor could it be emailed or brought in the next class. So, Joe was working his ass off to finish these last few scenes. It was the final draft, and the beauty of sending it in tonight was that it would be considered for the competition to become a film in the near or distant future. Had it not been sent in tonight, that possibility would be entirely out the window.

It was around 11:30, and Joe was working on the last scene. He was sitting upon the couch, curled up with a blanket and the computer in his lap, while a mug of cold coffee rested on his coffee table ( no coaster – yes, Joe was that tired ). Despite the caffeine, he still felt exhausted. The only thing the caffeine did for him was supply him with a surplus of nerves to feed into his anxiety.

He was nearly finished around 11:52 p.m., when his computer signaled that his laptop was on ten percent battery and would need to be charged.

Joe mumbled something under his breath with a sigh and set the computer aside.

He stood, knowing exactly where the cord was. Venturing into the bathroom, he dug around the drawers for a bit until he pulled out the charger and headed back out into the living room.

So, he forgot to lower the brightness. And his computer died.

No worries – It was only 11:53, and his computer would turn on as soon as he plugged it in. Besides, he had the document on auto-save.

He connected the charger to the wall and plopped down onto the couch, connecting the other end to his laptop. Yawning a bit, Joe scrubbed at his eyes as his computer turned on again. He typed in the password, and opened up the document to save it and send it on over.

It was 11:55 when his cellphone rang.

Joe glanced tiredly over at his device, though he had perked up a bit when he saw it was Ben. The only text he shared with Ben these past few days was Hey, take the bread out of the car, thanks, and even then, Ben didn’t respond. Joe picked up the phone, placing it to his ear as he typed in his school website to submit it to the professor. “Y’ello?”

“Joe!” Ben beamed loudly into the phone. Joe had to physically move the phone away from his ear a couple of inches, face tightening at the sudden vibrance of Ben.

“Yeah, it’s me. You at work?”

There was a pause. “No.”

Joe’s brow furrowed, and he paused for a moment with the computer. “No? Where are you?”

Another pause, and… “Dunno.”

Exhaling, he wiped a hand over his features. He needed a shower. And sleep. “Okay. So you’re drunk.”

“Mm… ‘Lil.” Ben slurred. “Oh, hello!”

Joe blinked. “Is someone else there with you?”

“Mhm. Nice man, on the street—” Ben slurred. “Offered me… ‘ride home.”

“No. Ben, no—Don’t get into that car. Do you understand me?” Joe was already standing, his project long forgotten. “Are you at Jo’s Bar?”

“… Think so.” Ben mumbled.

“Okay. Go back in, okay? I’m coming to get you.”

There was a shuffling sound on the phone, and then someone else spoke up.

“Hey, Joe. I’m the nice man.”

Joe sighed out of relief. “Jesus Christ, Rami. I was already halfway out the door.”

“No worries.” Rami chuckled softly, very much so sober on the end of the line. “Ben and I went out for a couple of drinks. Couple more on Ben’s side. Hope you don’t mind.”

“No, no—Not at all. Thanks for looking out for him.”

“After all this time, I always thought Lucy was the designated driver.”

“Yeah.” Joe laughed a little to Rami’s comment, his heart starting to slow down again. He stepped back inside, kicking off his shoes now. “When am I gonna see you again?”

“You free Thursday?”

“Uh… Gotta see. Yes for now?”

Rami laughed. “Sounds good. I’ll drop Ben home soon.”

“Thanks, really – So much.”

“Course.” He said in return. “Hey, get some rest. You sound like you’re about to pass out.”

“I think I am.” Joe chuckled. “All right. See you soon.”

After hanging up and recovering from his panic, Joe was sent into another wash of alarm when he realized he hadn’t pressed submit for his project.

“Shit— Shit!” Joe cursed, rushing to his computer, still on the couch.

It was 12:01 a.m. When Joe tried to press submit, a notification popped up on his screen:

This server is no longer accepting documents.

Joe felt like he was about to throw up that leftover Asian Terrace he had earlier. He panicked for about another minute or so, before anxious fingers typed in ‘gmail.com’ as he attached his document, and sent a sloppy, frantic, and exhausted email to the very professor who hated his guts. He used the classic server was down and wifi wasn’t working response, hoping to God that his instructor wasn’t on his usual pissfest.


“C’mon, Ben—We gotta get you home to Joe.” Rami coaxed, guiding him towards the car.

“Don’t wanna.” Ben grumbled, though his feet were dragging him over nonetheless. He nearly hit his head as he was placed into the passenger seat.

Rami buckled him up and made his way around to sit in the driver’s seat, buckling up himself.

“M’gonna fail.” Ben murmured.

“Do you have a test tomorrow?” Rami asked simply, trying to feed into the conversation by keeping the responses light to a drunken Ben. He slid the keys in and put the car into ignition. “Or… Well, today.”

“No.” He replied, slumping in his car seat. “Just… Suck.”

“Huh?”

“I suck.” Ben commented, a bit more firmer, though his tone was still very much so drunk.

“Why’s that?” Rami rose a brow in his direction, not yet leaving the parking spot.

“Cause… Can’t act. No jobs, n’… Joe hates me.”

“Joe doesn’t hate you, Ben.” Rami reassured softly. “What do you mean ‘no jobs’?”

“Broadway.” Ben said plainly. “Shows… N’movies!”

“All right, well… that takes time you know.” Rami explained lightly.

“You already have a show.” He mumbled, quite jealous.

“And you will, too.” Rami replied, patting Ben’s arm before he started down the road, back to Ben and Joe’s apartment. “Don’t give up, Ben.”

“’Kay.” Ben said nonchalantly, though he was still clearly bothered, drunk or not.

The ride was silent as they drove home, and once they got back to his apartment, Ben took about ten minutes to remove his keys from his pocket.

When they got inside, Joe was passed out on the couch, the exhaustion finally getting to him as he calmed from his nerves. Ben hadn’t even noticed him, much too drunk, and Rami led Ben into the bedroom.

Setting Ben down at the edge of the bed, Rami started to unbutton Ben’s shirt, helping him into something more comfortable.

Ben smiled playfully, completely wasted. “Woah, partner.” He said, mustering an American accent as opposed to his British one, reaching up to place a hand on Rami’s to still him.

“Calm down.” Rami laughed a little at Ben’s quirkiness. “You’re not sleeping in jeans in a button up. I can promise you that’s the worst feeling in the world.” He commented, though his voice fell silent so as not to wake Joe. “Let go of my hand.”

“Do you use lotion?” Ben placed Rami’s hand against his face.

“Hand lotion? Sometimes.” Rami said, wriggling his hand out of Ben’s weak grip to continue to remove his shirt. He had a t-shirt underneath, so that’d be fine to sleep in. The jeans were another story.

“Smells nice.”

“Huh?” Rami glanced at Ben briefly, before turning to take off his belt once the button-up was successfully tossed aside.

“You.”

“Thanks, Ben.”

“Like flowers n’candy.”

“Okay, Ben.”

Ben was quiet again, almost slipping in and out of sleep while still sitting up. Rami finally worked his belt off, starting to unbutton his jeans.

“I’m a virgin.”

Rami laughed. “Excuse me?”

Ben opened his eyes, where they rested half-lidded. “Condoms. If you don’t use condoms, m’gonna get pregnant.” He blinked. “N’m’a virgin.”

“You’re not a virgin, Ben. You’ve described to me in plenty of detail the wonders of you and Joe.” Rami said, chuckling softly once more. Ben was a cute drunk. Anyone could agree. “Not that I wanted to hear. Come on, a little motivation, Ben. I can’t get these jeans off you by myself.”

“Giving or receiving?”

“Shut it, wise ass.” Rami teased, tugging down Ben’s jeans a bit more. “I gotta get home to Lucy, so, really… Help me out.”

“Who’s Lucy?” Ben squinted, tilting his chin up at Rami. He was still sitting at the edge, and Rami was standing directly in front of him.

“Oh, you know. The woman I’m going to propose to.”

“Cool.” Ben said casually, though his eyes remained on Rami.

Rami just finished taking off Ben’s jeans when the blond had leaned up, messily brushing his lips against Rami’s.

Rami immediately leaned back. “Woah—Okay. You’re really drunk.”

“Oh.” Ben blinked. “Thought you were Joe.”

“Definitely not.” Rami patted Ben’s shoulder.

“You’re pretty too, though.”

“Okay, buddy. Time for bed.”

After Rami laid Ben down for bed and left the room, he tried not to think about what had just occurred in the last ten minutes, or last thirty seconds. He glanced briefly to Joe, who was still snoozing on the couch, before rushing out of the apartment and heading back home to Lucy.

Chapter Text

“He kissed you?” Lucy asks, sitting up in bed. Rami had come home in a panic – He was terrified that Lucy would take it as him cheating on her, or Ben cheating on Joe intentionally. Which absolutely was not the case, at all.

Ben had a couple of drinks too many. Which Rami felt pretty bad about, too – He should have stopped him at the third or fourth… Or second.

“Well—Sorta.” Rami said, pacing the bedroom, glancing to Lucy only briefly. “He said he thought I was Joe, and— He leaned up and kissed me.”

“And he was drunk?” Lucy asked, though she didn’t seem upset.

Rami nodded.

“Love, calm down. Come, sit.” She urged gently, the blonde strands of her hair quite a mess where she sat up in her pajamas. The duvet was still nested around her lap, and her pajama shirt hung slightly off her right shoulder. She was definitely sleepy, but she couldn’t have Rami in a panic all night, especially when he didn’t do anything wrong.

Rami obliged, hesitantly moving to sit next to her at the edge of the bed. While Lucy’s legs were criss-cross and she sat to face him, Rami’s legs were dangling off the side, and he was turned towards her, pupils washed with worry.

“You know I’m not angry.” Lucy reassured softly, placing a hand upon his knee. “It’s not plausible to be. And you told me right away, which… Despite the lack of sleep, I truly do appreciate it.”

His expression softened. “Of course, Luce. You deserve nothing but the truth.”

Her fingertips gently squeezed his knee, and she leaned in to peck his lips. “Maybe when Ben’s sobered up, tell him what happened. This way, he can decide what to do with the information. I know he’ll tell Joe, but… Keeping this from Joe as a whole would be destructive.”

He nodded, despite the fact that he was entirely unsure about it. He was nerve-racked to even bring it up to Ben, though he knew he definitely should.

He told Lucy… So why couldn’t he tell Ben? If anything, he was closer to Lucy, and had much more to lose in such a case. For Christ’s sake, he had a ring for her. He figured that, in any case, he also feared losing Ben’s friendship. The two of them had grown incredibly close over the years, when in reality, Rami started out as a total asshole to someone completely misunderstood. He didn’t want to destroy the friendship they had. Besides Lucy, of course, Ben was a great buffer from the responsibilities of his everyday life, and also gave wonderful relationship advice. Ben and Joe had had tumbles here and there – And somehow, the two of them always found some way to bring themselves back together.

It was a beautiful thing, and Rami knew he had the same with Lucy.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll call Ben up tomorrow. Maybe even grab a coffee with him.” He explained.

“Good.” Lucy leaned in, planting a soft kiss to his cheek. “Now, come to bed. I’ve missed you all day.”


Despite falling asleep on the couch, Joe had woken up in bed. ( Ben must’ve carried him there, but Joe didn’t think much about it. His mind was dwindling with exhaustion. ) It was late already, though he knew when he passed out around one in the morning, he wasn’t going to get up at five o’clock to get to his seven o’clock class. It wasn’t the most important lecture, and he hadn’t missed one of hers before. He’d send an email over and excuse himself as sick.

The second thing that came to mind when Joe had awoken was the empty, unmade bed space next to him. There was a small note on the bedside table, and after Joe wiped his eyes and partially brought himself from tiredness, he reached over and snagged the post-it, reading it lazily.

Class early today. You deserve the rest.
P.S. Let me know how Undrafted goes!!!

Joe was too focused on the Undrafted part that he barely skimmed the cheesy hearts doodled in next to the message. He scrambled out of bed and entered the living room where his computer still lay on the couch, opening it up to where he had left all of his tabs opened.

Refreshing his gmail page, Joe felt his heartbeat pick up considerably at the thought of Undrafted. His teacher sure enough would murder him on the spot.

At the top of his page read a highlighted, unopened email.

Uncertainly, Joe clicked on it.

RE: Undrafted

Joseph,

I am sure you were aware of the rules for this project and how it was to be completed – I asked specifically that your script be finalized and submitted by Tuesday, November 2nd, at 11:59 p.m. You failed to complete these instructions, and therefore, I cannot take Undrafted into consideration for the film festival.

Perhaps it was just a submission error. Either way, it was unwise of you to wait for the last minute to complete this project and send it in. I will take a look at your script, anyhow. After all, it is to be your final grade for this semester. I will have to take points off for tardiness. You were warned of this previously. I beg of you not to allow procrastination to fail you in the future as it has today.

I will see you in class on Friday.

- Professor Williams

Joe sighed, wiping his hands over his face, grazing a hand through his mess of hair. He could give less of a shit about his final grade. He knew it’d all be set in stone, anyway – But for him not to have a single chance for Undrafted to be considered? He was hoping he’d be able to do something for his brother, especially with how cooped up he was with his job out in Long Island.

The story deserved to be heard, and with that chance slipping from Joe’s fingertips, he suddenly felt frustrated. Upset as well, and mostly angry at himself. He really shouldn’t have waited that long to submit it, especially with how much this movie meant to him.

No worries. He could fix this.

While Joe gathered his things together and sorted out a problem in his head, the idea of disappointment in Ben’s face reeled at the back of his mind like a slideshow.


“Point is, you were really drunk.” Rami commented.

Ben pinched the bridge of his nose with his pointer finger and thumb, grumbling under his breath. “Yeah. The pounding headache has reminded me of that all day.” He sighed, glancing down to his mug of hot coffee. It was only sipped a couple of times, whereas Rami’s was nearly finished.

Rami remained silent for a moment. He still hadn’t said a word about the kiss, fingertips wrapped around the warmth of his ceramic mug. They were sitting inside of a coffee shop, and Ben had just finished up with his classes for the day. It was edging the time of a late lunch, but Ben felt as if he really couldn’t stomach anything at the moment, coffee aside.

“What?” Ben piped up, after he realized Rami had something on his mind.

Rami shrugged vaguely.

Ben sunk down in his chair a little. “What’d I do?”

“Huh? What do you mean, Ben?”

“While I was drunk.” Ben rose a brow in response, having a slight feeling that Rami was playing it off. “I screwed up, didn’t I?” He asked, though after a moment, his face paled. “Did something happen with Joe?”

“No! No—Ben, relax for a moment. Everything’s fine.” Rami said, neither confirming nor denying it.

His expression remained uncertain as he kept his eyes on Rami.

“Okay… Fine. Something did happen But it wasn’t even that bad. On either end.”

“’On either end?’” Ben questioned.

He blanked for a moment, unsure of what he should say, or how he should even describe what occurred.

“Nothing. You punched someone.” Rami blurted.

Okay – Lie. But he told Lucy. At this point, why should a drunken kiss matter? Lucy was never going to mention it, and it’d be blowing in the wind by the end of next week. Ben didn’t even remember the kiss.

Therefore, no issue. Lucy knew the truth, and it was a drunken, meaningless kiss.

Ben chuckled at this, bringing a hand through his hair. “I punched someone?”

“Yeah.” Rami mumbled, a little unsure himself. “You decked him, right across the face. He was going to call the police, but… I got him off your back.”

“Oh… Wow. Thanks, Rami.” Ben said genuinely. “And… thanks for looking out for me while I was drunk. You and our friend group are the few that would do stuff like that for me.”

“Don’t mention it.” Rami murmured, voice small.

“Listen, I better get going. I’m surprising Joe with a date tonight. Thanks for the coffee, though.” Ben said, leaving money for both of their beverages, plus a tip, upon the tabletop. “Don’t be a stranger, yeah?”

“Never.” Rami said with a regretful smile, watching as Ben exited the small café.

As soon as Ben had left, he got into the front seat of his car, but didn’t go anywhere yet. He was a tad nervous, seeing as he and Joe have been a little unsteady these past few days, as well as the fact that they hadn’t really seen one another or held a proper conversation.

He dialed Joe’s number. On the third ring, Joe answered.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Joe.” Ben said, smiling a tad into the phone.

“Oh—Ben.” Joe spoke, sounding a tad relieved, and also very stressed. “Hey, is it possible we can talk tomorrow? I… I don’t think I’m gonna be home tonight. Gotta get some stuff done right now.” Yes, he was being vague. The last thing he wanted Ben to know was that Undrafted was not going to be considered, and that he may fail his class, and that his teacher despised his guts. Well, Ben knew the third part.

Ben frowned a tad. “’Not home’? Tonight’s the first night we would have been able to spend together since Sunday.”

“I know.” Joe sighed gently. “I, just—I’m really busy.”

“Doing what?” Ben asked, though he realized it may have come off a bit harsh.

Joe paused for a moment. “Okay—First of all, you need to calm down. I understand you’ve been stressed lately, but—”

“But what, Joe? I’m trying to make things work between us.” Ben commented in return.

“Make things work? Do you think that you and I aren’t ‘working’?”

Ben was silent at this, knowing all of his words had spilled from his lips completely opposite of what he meant to say.

“I’m all of the way in Uptown Manhattan. I’m not going to be home tonight.” Joe said once more, this time intentionally with no explanation for a separate reason. “See you tomorrow.”

As Joe hung up the phone, Ben placed a hand over his face, exhaling in frustration.

After a couple of minutes, he fished around his jacket pocket until he pulled out his pack of cigarettes.

Chapter Text

Uptown Manhattan was the worst place to be around rush hour in New York City. Anyone knew that, whether they were a tourist, or a New York City resident. It took Joe a while to grow used to Queens when he first moved there from upstate, and adjusting to the city was a whole other level of patience.

Joe knew his professor had a class from eight thirty to ten thirty p.m. He decided to get into his car around six, prepare himself for the traffic that was to come, and catch his instructor after class to speak to him about his project. He knew he didn’t have his class until tomorrow, but he figured going to talk to his professor about it the day before placed him on a high moral ground, and also allowed them more time to speak, as opposed to a rushed conversation before the lesson he had began tomorrow.

He didn’t mean to rush Ben off the phone like that. He knew the both of them had a lot on their plate, and that the one night they finally had together, Ben was alone and Joe was stuck in traffic. Yet, his shoulders felt heavy, and his body felt sluggish, and he snapped at his boyfriend when he probably shouldn’t have.

He wondered how Ben was doing. He hadn’t really asked him in a while. Come to think of it, that was the first full conversation Ben and he had had in the last couple of days.

I’m trying to make things work between us.

Joe exhaled, rubbing his hands over his face, and pinching the bridge of his nose. “Christ.” He murmured to himself, sinking down in his car seat, moving up a couple of inches when the car in front of him moved. Otherwise, he was stuck at another red light.

His phone started to ring, connected to his car through Bluetooth. He was almost hesitant, yet when he saw it was Lucy, he tapped the ‘answer’ button. “Hey, Lucy.”

“Joe,” She greeted, and there was a smile evident through her tone. “How are you?”

Before he could answer, the person behind him pushed none too kindly on their car horn. “Sheesh—All right, I’m moving, I’m moving…” He grumbled, beginning to drive forward again. “Uh—I’m all right, thanks. Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Just checking in… I know it’s probably none of my business, but—”

“Ben and I are fine, Luce. Promise.” He stated, just slightly irritated that she brought it up. It really was just Ben and he’s business.

Nonetheless, she was making sure they were okay –Which, in a way, was sweet.

“You’re sure?” She asked gently.

“Yeah. I mean, all relationships have a rough patch here and there, right? Our schedules are just… They’re a little messy right now. Physically and metaphorically.” Joe said.

“Okay, but—”

“Luce, I love you, really I do, but I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay… Where are you now? I thought you were off tonight.”

“I am.” He stated. “But I’m driving all of the way to upper Manhattan to beg my professor to consider Undrafted for the festival.”

“’Beg’? What happened?” She asked with a frown.

“Kinda sent it in a couple of minutes late.”

“Oh, Joe—”

“It wasn’t my fault! Ben called, and—” He grumbled. “It’s not even his fault.” He said, the car stopping again in traffic. He briefly rested his forehead against the wheel. “Okay, maybe it was my fault. But still.”

“All right, calm down. Your teacher still won’t consider it?”

He sat back up again. “Nope. He’s really strict, so that’s just my luck. Probably should have taken all of this more seriously.”

“Well, you have a lot going on, love. Don’t beat yourself up over that.”

“Yeah, but what is Ben gonna think?”

“You’re really worried about that?” She asked softly.

Joe was quiet, shrugging a tad, even if she couldn’t see it. “Yeah, a little. I… I just thought some good news would do us both some good.”

“Ben’s proud of you no matter what. And I’m sure you feel the same towards him.” Lucy commented. “What you both need to do is just sit down, and hash it out. Communication is scary, but worth it.”

“How have you and Rami done it?”

“Done what?”

“I mean, you guys are perfect for each other.” Joe said.

Lucy laughed at that.

“What?” He rose a brow at her mirth.

“Even you’re old enough to realize that no relationship is perfect, Joe.”

“Well, yeah, I mean, I’m sure Rami and you have had a couple of arguments, but—”

“He proposed to me last night, Joe.”

Huh?”

“Or… early this morning… I guess.”

“He proposed to you?”

Lucy laughed again, this time gentler. “Yes, he did.”

“Oh—Shit, Luce—Congratu—”

“I said no.”

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“You said no?”

“Do I have to keep repeating myself?”

“Sorry, I—I mean… How? How did it happen?”

“Well… He woke up this morning, and he seemed like he had a lot on his mind. I guess it’s because of everything that went on with Ben these past few days.” She commented, though she was talking about the kiss between Rami and Ben. Joe thought differently, of course. “And since we both had a little time to ourselves today, he took me out for breakfast, and then we walked to the park.”

“Oh, God… Did he—?”

“Yeah. In the middle of the park.”

“Oh, Rami…”

“I love him. I really do. But I told him exactly what I told you. I’m, just… I’m not ready.” She said softly. “I don’t want him to make these spontaneous decisions on our relationship because of a couple of severs that really haven’t damaged our relationship at all. If anything, in the end, it strengthens it.”

Joe sat quiet for a moment, pondering. “And you guys are all good?”

“Of course we are. Rami understood. I told him to take a little time to himself. I think he ended up going for coffee with Ben.” She explained.

He hummed in response, tapping the wheel. He only moved about a block or so. “So—Spontaneous is bad, then?”

“… What are you saying, Joe?”

“Nothing. Gotta go. Call you back later, Luce.” He said, and he hung up the phone. He sped forward a little and placed his turning signal on, cutting off someone as he turned to the right and headed in the opposite direction of his school.


Ben felt like shit. He smoked approximately two cigarettes before he grew disgusted with himself and tossed the rest of the box in the glove box of his car.

Had he made everything with Joe and he worse? Joe hadn’t thought there were problems at the time, and Ben kind of brought the conversation upon his boyfriend rather suddenly.

He wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He ended up going right back home after coffee, cancelling the dinner reservation, napping for an hour or so, and then waking up to the horrid smell of his own clothing. Smoke and drool didn’t mix well.

He ended up washing everything – The sheets, his clothes, and he even ended up spraying his shoes with whatever Glade spray Joe had picked up from the store. ( He might have used the rest – He would promise Joe he’d buy more. ) He scrubbed himself clean in the shower, too, wanting every hint of tobacco to be off of him.

If Joe ended up coming home at around one, two in the morning, so be it. Ben was an asshole to Joe over the phone, and wanted to make it up to him.

Those few shots of espresso earlier with Rami probably weren’t the best idea. He felt jittery, and in his caffeine-awakening, ended up cleaning the entire apartment. After vacuuming the rug ( and essentially scrubbing down every inch of the place ), it was eight thirty-something p.m. ( he was too apprehensive to look at the clock ), he lost all motivation to wrap the cord up, and ended up collapsing onto the couch.

At least, for a couple of minutes. After that, he got up and started pacing, mind reeling with possibilities of what he could do to make Joe feel better. He sounded so exhausted over the phone.

He stopped in his tracks after a moment, glancing to their bedroom. Unsure for a moment, he headed inside and approached his dresser, bringing a hand through his hair. Opening up his sock drawer, he dug around and towards the back until he pulled out a small container, which was wrapped in multiple socks.

“Well, that just might work.” He murmured to himself.

Chapter Text

Joe felt anxious as he approached the door to his apartment. It was around nine by now, or maybe later – He hadn’t kept best track of the time, if he was going to be completely honest. He had no idea what behind that door held in store for him, but with a night Ben and he finally had together, it could end multiple ways. He tried not to think about it.

To reassure himself, he fished into his jacket pocket, pulling out the small velvet case with a shaky breath. He had picked up the ring on the way home.

Lucy may not like spontaneous, but Joe did.

This was probably a bad idea.

No, he was sure about it. He was positive.

Pocketing it once more, he retrieved his keys from his pocket, and slowly pushed it into the doorknob. Twisting it, he unlocked his apartment, and stepped inside.

The first thing he noticed was how clean it was. The floor was shining and spotless, the rug was vacuumed, the tables were sprayed and wiped and even the stove looked the cleanest it had since they moved in. The sink was empty, as was the drying rack for the dishes, and the blankets were folded neatly on the couch.

The second thing he noticed – if not tied with the first – was Ben. He was sitting at the edge of the couch, shoes on, mid-tying them, seemingly heading out. Maybe he caught him at a bad time.

They caught each other’s eye, and for a moment, an awkward silence settled between them.

“Hi.” Joe finally said after a moment, gradually shutting the door. It squealed obnoxiously as he did so, and he thanked the heavens when it was fully closed all of the way.

Ben sat up, inhaling a bit. “Hey.”

Joe swallowed at the dryness in his throat, stepping into the apartment slowly, placing his keys upon the countertop for now. “You’re heading out.” He stated, as if it were more of an assumption than a question.

“I was.” Ben said in reply, reaching down to start to untie his shoe laces instead.

“Don’t let me stop you,” Joe said, raising a brow.

Ben didn’t glance up at him until both of his shoes were off, and he set them aside for now, sitting up to find Joe’s stare. “I was heading out to find you.”

“Find me?” He tilted his head. “Were you going to search all of Upper Manhattan for me?”

“If I had to.” Ben stated, moving to stand from his spot at the edge of the couch.

Joe could have smiled, if the situation wasn’t as it was. He shuffled in his stance a bit as Ben approached, but he didn’t walk all of the way to him, leaving a good three or four feet between them.

Okay. Maybe this was a bad idea. A really bad idea.

“I should—head out…” Joe started.

“No, don’t—” Ben began, a hand reaching out, though it promptly returned to his side.

Joe paused, clearing his throat quietly, and he nodded a little. No, he had to stay. He had to fight this.

They were going to get through this.

“Unless you don’t want to be around me any longer.” Ben rose a brow.

Joe squinted a bit, tilting his head. “What makes you say such a thing?”

Ben exhaled, rubbing his face over his hands.

“No—Ben, really, what—”

“I don’t know. I don’t—” Ben paused, shaking his head, and he glanced up at Joe again.

Joe felt tense under Ben’s stare, but he forced himself to relax. This was Ben he was talking about. Ben. Ben, the love of his life. If he knew that, there should be no hesitation, in any of this.

Risks needed to be taken, and leaps had to be made. This was just one of them in the phase of their lives.

Ben was the love of his life; He was certain.

“We… should probably talk.” Ben commented after a moment.

“Yeah, I… Yes.” Joe nodded, bringing a hand through his hair as he removed his hat, setting it with his keys. “Something we haven’t been good at in the last few days.” He said softly, taking another step forward to pull a stool out near the small counter. He didn’t take a seat yet, though.

Breathe, Joe. Breathe.

“We’ve been really rubbish at it, haven’t we?” Ben said, and there was a smile – Even a hint of one, where the corners of his lips curved up into some form of content.

Warm spread in Joe’s chest. He missed seeing that. A smile of his own formed. “Really, really rubbish.” He said in return, finding Ben’s use of it still adorable after all of these years.

It was silent again, and then all at once –

“I’m sorry—”

“Listen, I’m really so—”

The both of them paused as they cut each other off, and Joe’s cheek flushed. “Sorry… You first.” He said.

“No, really, it’s, I…” Ben paused for a moment. “These past few days have been really bad.”

“Really bad.” Joe nodded in agreement.

“And it’s not your fault, Joe.”

“It’s not yours either.” Joe replied.

“I have to disagree—“

“I’ll have to disagree as well.” Joe said, and the both of them smiled once more. Just vaguely, but it was there.

“Another argument?”

“C’mon, I can take you. Put your fists up, I dare you.” Joe teased, and Ben laughed at this a bit.

“You’re too tiny for that.” Ben commented, taking another step forward as Joe took a seat upon the stool.

Things felt normal. At least, they were starting to.

“Hey, I’m only in my mid-twenties. I still have time to grow.” Joe replied, expression softening as Ben stood in front of him.

Ben’s eyes were gentle as they were cast down at Joe as well, and a hand reached up, smoothing over the side of Joe’s face to caress his jaw. Instantly, Joe’s eyes fell shut, and he burrowed into the warmth of Ben’s palm.

“I’m sorry, Ben.” Joe mumbled, eyelids opening once more so that he could look up at him.

Ben’s other hand moved to the other side of his face, and he tilted his chin up with a smile. “For what, love?”

“For being an asshole.” Joe said, resting his fingertips over Ben’s.

Ben leaned down, planting a kiss to Joe’s forehead. “Me, too.” He said softly. “We should really talk, though.”

“Yeah, I just—I just wanna say—” Joe started, hand reaching for his jacket pocket, but Ben cut him off.

“Hold that thought,” Ben said, smiling reassuringly, and he took both of Joe’s hands into his own, guiding him off the seat.

“Ben—”

“Trust me,” Ben said, gently squeezing his hands, giving them a little bit more room as he brought him into the living room. He sat Joe down onto the couch.

“Ben…”

Not letting go of Joe’s hands, Ben knelt down upon the rug in front of where Joe was sitting at the edge of the couch. “Just… Listen for a moment.” He coaxed softly. “Joe, I… I didn’t mean that we weren’t working, over the phone.” He said, glancing up at him. “I just mean that I’d like us to work. And we are.”

“Of course we are, Ben.” Joe replied gently. “It’s normal, to have a fight here and there.” He stated, bringing a hand through his blond strands.

“I know, but I have to put in the effort to do that. I… I have to communicate with you. I mean, we’ve been together for so long, I… I shouldn’t be afraid to open up to you.” He said softly.

“You shouldn’t be apologizing for that, Ben.” Joe said softly. “You know that you deserve to take your time with whatever it is you need to say to me.”

Ben smiled a little. “I know, Joe.” His voice had fallen down to a near-whisper. “And the way you say these things, Joe, I… It just strengthens my love for you even more.”

Joe smiled a little more.

“And it’s reinforced the fact that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

Despite moving so slow, Joe felt as if his world was spinning.

Ben reached behind him and pulled out a small case from the back pocket of his jeans. Joe’s heart stopped as soon as he did so, eyes wide as Ben opened the case to reveal a looped, twisted silver ring, with a gorgeous diamond in the center.

“Will you m…—”

Ben paused in his speaking as he watched Joe start to shuffle around his pockets, before pulling out a case of his own. He opened it.

Inside of the case lay a ring just as beautiful, but simpler – More of a silver band, but just as precious, just as personal.

Ben’s jaw practically dropped. “No fucking way.”

Joe laughed, and his smile grew wide. The back of his eyes burned with tears, but they obviously weren’t sad ones. “Will you m—”

“No, no! I asked first!” Ben laughed, still entirely amazed at the fact that they had plans to propose at the exact same time. “Joe…”

“Of course I will, Ben.” He said with a wide smile. “Of course.” He said, voice falling to a whisper.

Ben beamed, leaning forward to catch Joe’s lips in a fervent kiss.

Joe felt the weight of the week leave his shoulders as soon as their lips met, at least temporarily. Issues were still at hand, but they dissipated for that very moment. With his free hand, he caressed Ben’s face, exhaling through his nostrils as he kissed him.

Ben pulled back after a moment, a smiling mess as he shakily took Joe’s hand, sliding the ring onto his finger.

“No, that’s—” Joe laughed. “Wrong finger, love.”

“Huh? Oh, fuck—”

Joe chuckled once more, helping him to slide the ring on the correct finger. “It’s okay.”

“Long week.”

“Yeah.”

“Give me your hand.” Joe said, and Ben obliged. He took Ben’s left hand, placing the band onto his ring finger. “Sorry, if it’s a little big, I…”

“It’s perfect.” Ben whispered, looking up at him with a grin.

Joe smiled back, and he leaned forward this time, kissing him just as deeply as before.

“Fuck,” Joe murmured, chuckling against his lips. “We’re getting married.”

“We’re getting married.” Ben repeated with a grin, resting his forehead against his boyfriend’s – well, fiancé’s.

Joe sighed contently, bringing his arms around his shoulders, face finding his hair.

Ben hugged him right back, eyelids fluttering shut.

“I missed you.” Joe mumbled.

“I missed you, too.” Ben whispered, inhaling the scent of Joe’s clothes and skin.

“I failed my project.” Joe mumbled, with slight laughter to his tone.

“What?”

Undrafted.” He said in further explanation, though seemed unbothered at the moment now that he and Ben were speaking once more. “I sent it in late.”

“Wait… What?

“Oh… Nevermind that.” Joe said gently. “We’ll talk about it later.”

"Joe..."

"Sh, no. It's okay. Talk later. Hug now."

It was quiet for a while again, Joe keeping close to Ben, grazing fingers through his hair.

“You smell really good.” Joe murmured, and Ben could feel his lips tug into a smile against his skin.

“I showered.” Ben chuckled. “I, uhm…” He pulled back, looking up at Joe from where he was still kneeling. “I smoked, before I came home, so…”

Joe nodded, thumb gently brushing over his lips. “Do you want to talk about it, hun?”

“I’m afraid.” Ben mumbled, and at that moment, he truly seemed vulnerable. His eyes shone with a type of fear that let Joe know they couldn’t let this go, and they didn’t want to.

“I know.” Joe whispered.

“I don’t want to argue, I—” Ben said, negative thoughts crawling his brain. “Maybe I ought to grab a drink…”

“No,” Joe said firmly, but not harshly. “No, I want you to stay, Ben.” He said, finding his eyes. “I want us to argue.”

He didn’t respond right away, grazing his finger over Joe’s knuckles. Then, he nodded.

“Good.” Joe whispered, kissing the center of his forehead. “I’m going to change. Then I’m gonna heat up that three-day old pizza because I’m starving, and then we can talk. Okay?”

His lips formed a smile. “Okay.”

Joe nodded, squeezing Ben’s hand before he got up, heading into the bedroom to change.

The whole while, the two of them admired their rings while they busied themselves.


Dinner was mostly gentle chatter. Joe spoke about his day, about how the entire Undrafted scene unfolded, and how he drove home in rush hour traffic in the middle of New York City in order to buy a ring and propose to Ben on the spot. They both had a laugh about their chaotic decisions, exchanging glances between the gorgeous jewelry on their (correct) fingers as they shared the old but delicious pizza.

“Maybe we ought to hold off telling Rami.” Joe said after a moment of silence. The two of them were now leaning against the small balcony’s railing, sharing beer. The air felt crisp and nice against his skin. The cold placed a reminder that Christmas was to arrive soon, not long after Thanksgiving.

“Oh?” Ben rose a brow, sipping from his bottle, puffs of warm air filtering from his nostrils briefly but cloudily into the fall air.

“He proposed to Lucy.”

“Really? That’s—”

“She said no.” Joe commented, glancing to Ben.

“No way.” Ben said, truly surprised by that.

Joe nodded. “She… said she isn’t ready. It’s not Rami, though, I know for sure.” He said. “She… explained to me afterwards, over text – Rami’s to head back to the West for a while again to work on another project.” He smiled gently.

"Even after he said he was going to move here?" Ben questioned.

"He still is. Just when everything calms, which should be by next year." He explained. “And she’s constantly tied up with classes, I… I guess she wants timing to be right?”

“I don’t think timing needs to be right. If they love each other, then… Any time should be right.” Ben grinned, nudging Joe’s shoulder fondly.

Joe rolled his eyes playfully, planting a kiss to Ben’s cheek as he stared down at the vibrant city streets. “That,” He stated, setting his beer down by his feet, “Or Lucy just might be the smartest person we’ve ever met.”

Ben chuckled at that, smoothing an arm around his fiancé. “I think it’s the latter.”

Joe snuggled into his side, keeping a soft grin. “Me, too.” He replied.

His fingers smoothed slowly up and down Joe’s coat, where his bicep was underneath.

“So, you—I mean, you smoked before.” Joe started. Ben knew this was coming, and despite dreading it, he knew it had to be discussed.

No more running.

“Yeah, I… It was after I phoned you.” Ben stated, swallowing a little. “I felt… Well, I was frustrated. After the conversation.” He murmured.

Joe stepped a bit closer, resting his head upon Ben’s shoulder.

“You’re probably disgusted.” He murmured.

Joe shook his head. “Not at all.”

“… You’re not?”

“Why would I be?” He asked in return.

“Because, it’s… It’s…”

“Ben, I could give less of a crap about the smell. You’re the cleanest person I’ve ever met. Shit, look at our apartment.” He noted.

Ben smiled a little.

Joe turned in towards him a bit, glancing up at him. “I’m only worried about you, bub.” He sighed, and Ben looked back down at him. “You’ve just seem so tense lately. So stressed.” He whispered, voice growing tender. “I hate it. I hate seeing you like this. I’m not upset with you – I’m upset that you’re going through this. I want to help you.”

He was silent again, offering Joe a vague shrug.

“What is it?” Joe asked gently, curious but caring. Not so much prying as he was concerned.

Ben glanced down for a moment, knowing he was in a safe space. He could share anything with Joe. “Well…” He started, and yet, before he could even continue his words, Joe’s phone rang.

Joe exhaled, fishing into his pocket and pulling out his cell. He rose a brow when he saw it was his mother. She never called this late at night.

“You should take it.” Ben encouraged softly, giving Joe a reassuring smile.

Joe, uncertainly, answered the phone and raised it to his ear. “Uh… Hey, mom.”

“Joey,” He could hear the immediate smile in her voice when he answered. “Are you home?”

“… Am I home?”

“Well, yes. Your sister, brother and I are right outside your door.”

Ah, shit. Thanksgiving was already this weekend?

Chapter Text

“Mom,” Joe forced a smile as he opened the door. He loved his family, he really did – But they were here. “What, uh-… What are you doing here this late? Ben and I were supposed to meet you at your house this weekend…”

“Oh, I know! Don’t look so grumpy, or surprised. I’m not senile, you know.” She grinned, stepping out of the way to reveal Joe’s brother, John, fully. “John came in for an early flight. We wanted to surprise you.”

Joe, despite really wanting to have a chat with Ben, allowed a wide smile to appear at his lips as his older brother approached him with open arms. He easily moved forward and hugged him as well, clapping a hand on his back before he pulled away. “It’s good to see you, John.” He said, averting his eyes to his little sister with a grin. “Mary—Did you shrink?” He teased.

She rolled her eyes. “How many times are you going to use that stupid joke?” She laughed, moving forward to hug Joe as well.

“Ben—It’s so good to see you again.” Joe’s mother beamed, planting a big kiss to Ben’s cheek. They all said their hello’s, and Joe guessed he had to invite them inside. He did.

“How’ve you two been? It’s a nice little apartment you’ve got here. Expensive?” John asked.

Joe chuckled, fumbling around the kitchen, which was connected to the living room, to grab them all drinks. “Do you think Ben and I could afford expensive?” He teased, grabbing a tray to put the drinks on. “Erh— We have soda, beer and water, but… I’ll just bring it all over for you guys.” He said, bringing it back over to the couch to set it on the coffee table. As his left hand came into view, Joe’s mother gasped.

“Is that a ring?” She asked, dumbfounded.

“Hm? Oh! Right.” Joe laughed, face flushing a tad as he plopped down next to Ben, and he held up his ring. Ben followed through, doing so as well. “We’re getting married.”

“Oh! Oh, Joe, sweetheart, that’s wonderful!” Joe’s mother said, already growing teary-eyed.

“Who proposed?” Mary rose a brow.

“Mary…”

“What?”

Ben laughed. “Let me guess – You and John had a bet.”

“Just tell me!” Mary laughed, because Ben was right.

“Actually…” Ben glanced to Joe.

“We proposed at the same time.” Joe commented quietly.

“Huh?” John squinted a tad.

Joe huffed. “We proposed at the same time.” He replied. “Guess you both owe each other money.”

“Shit. Mary owes me Yankees tickets. I owe her fifty bucks.” John chuckled.

“I’d rather give you the fifty than pay for tickets!” She rolled her eyes, but turned to them both with a bright smile. “Congrats, guys. You two are adorable.”

Ben smiled a little, glancing to Joe. Then, he looked back to John. “When did you fly in?”

“Uh… Two hours ago, actually.” He chuckled.

“I dragged him over.” Joe’s mother said sheepishly. “Guilty as charged.”

“Ma…” Joe laughed, sitting up a little. “You should have let John rest! I would have seen you guys for Thanksgiving dinner, anyway.”

“Oh, we know. We just wanted to surprise you. Put a smile on that sullen face.” Mary teased.

“I think Joe smiles the most of all of us.” John commented, and Joe’s mother laughed.

John had Joe’s eyes, but his face was relatively closer to his mother’s than it was to his dad’s. His hair was darker than Joe’s, less ginger, but there was still a hint of it within the light. Mary’s was a light brown, if not almost dirty blonde, taking after her mother with a set of brown eyes to go along with it. They were an adorable family, and Ben still found it such a shame that cancer had taken Joe’s father too early. He would have loved to meet him, especially with the way Joe described him.

“How are your friends doing?” Joe’s mother asked with interest.

“Uh… Good, yeah. Gwil and Al are still together, as are Rami and Lucy. We hang out as often as possible, but work kind of sucks.” Ben commented. “Rami’s heading out West again for another job, but he’ll only be gone for a couple of months before he’s back. He’s pretty set on moving out here.”

She nodded, keeping her eyes with a gentle expression upon Ben. “That’s good. I’d love to see them all again.” She said, pausing for a moment before she spoke up once more. “How’s your father, Ben?”

Ben quieted for a moment, shifting a little in his seat. “Da? He’s, uh… Fine, I think. I mean, I hope. He hasn’t really spoken to me much.” In other words, Ben’s father wasn’t too happy about he and Joe being together – Nor was he very happy about Ben’s career choice. He could have sworn Ben would grow up to become a great lawyer, make lots of money for the family and become a family man with a wife and kids. He was the opposite of his father’s hopes, and due to the close-mindedness, he fell apart after the result of his son.

“Still works like crazy?” She continued to ask.

Ben wasn’t entirely uncomfortable about talking about it, but it wasn’t his favorite. Joe could tell right away, and has been able to tell for months. “I think so. I’m not really sure, actually. The last time I spoke to him was, erh… Easter, I think? Maybe a little before…” Ben mumbled.

“Why don’t we choose another topic?” Joe smiled over at his mom.

“Sorry. I’m a bit nosy.” She said timidly.

“That’s all right.” Ben chuckled. “Mum’s good, though. Still living in London.” He said. “She… actually invited you all out for Christmas.”

“Really?” Mary grinned. “To London?”

“Well, we have to go.” John said forwardly to his mother.

“Oh, I don’t know…” Joe’s mother said with a nervous laugh.

“C’mon, Mom. You’ll love it there, even for two weeks.” Joe reassured. To be truthful, he had only ever been out there once himself. Ben’s mother was an absolute sweetheart, but she seemed almost lonely, seeing as Ben’s father never really visited her. He was either working in America, or somewhere in the United Kingdom that was relatively far from home. He was solely interested in ‘making money for the family’.

Which, was fine. But also not.

“I wanna see London!” Mary said, already excited. “Just—John and I can get off of work, you can grab that old suitcase from the garage… I mean, you’re retired anyway…”

“Mary!” Joe laughed.

“What? It’s true!” She defended.

Joe’s mother smiled a little bit at that. “Okay, okay. I’ll think about it.” She stated.

“She’s going.” John nodded, starting to get up. “All right, mom. We should head out. Let these lovebirds go to bed.” He said, offering a hand to his mother.

She scoffed, though she took her son’s hand nonetheless to stand up. “Am I that old that I need assistance standing from the couch?” She teased, feigning offense, though she turned to Joe and Ben with a bright smile. “Congratulations again, you two. I love you both so much.” She said, leaving them with a big kiss to Ben’s cheek and a huge hug for the both of them.

“We’ll see you again this weekend.” Mary said, smiling with a wave, and John waved as well.

“Bye, guys. Thanks for stopping in.” Joe said.

As soon as they were out, he closed the door with a sigh, slumping against it.

Ben chuckled, watching Joe with a fond expression. “What? They’re adorable.”

“They’re exhausting.” Joe laughed. “I didn’t exactly plan to get engaged and tell my mother within the same three hours.” He said, approaching Ben and taking his hand, lacing their fingers together.

Ben swung their hands a bit as he started towards the bathroom so that they could get washed up for bed. “That’s all right. Get it out of the way, right away.” He said. “Hey… About that London trip… I was thinking about inviting everyone else, too.” Ben stated.

“Everyone else?” Joe tilted his head, stepping into the bathroom, grabbing his toothbrush and wetting it under the sink. After placing toothpaste on it, he handed the tube to Ben.

“Yeah. You know, Rami, Gwilym. Allen and Lucy.”

“Really?”

Ben nodded.

“I mean… Your mom does have the space for it.” Joe pointed out.

And it’d be nice to finally be together again, for that long.” Ben said. “I could ask Rami. See if he can come back here for two weeks if he’s not already out West.”

“Yeah. Actually, I think that’d be an amazing idea.” Joe nodded in agreement, giving him a smile. “You know how awesome it’d be to spend all that time together in London? And around Christmas time? I’m all for it.”

“Brilliant.” Ben grinned, pausing to begin to brush his teeth.

Joe started to as well. “Ma’be,” He began to speak, but finished brushing his teeth first before he grabbed the mouthwash. “Maybe,” He continued, “Well, maybe we can do a little touring while we’re there.”

Ben laughed, spitting as well as he wiped his mouth.

Joe nodded, taking in a cup full of mouth wash, swishing it around his teeth.

“You want me to tour in my own country?” Ben smirked playfully.

Joe rolled his eyes, spitting into the sink and wiping his as well. “You know what I mean. Go about London, the six of us. Have a little fun.” He shrugged. “It’d be nice.”

“Uh-huh. Until the snow’s coming down and doesn’t stop for days.”

“You know, for all my time in New York, living here… It’s only ever snowed on Christmas Day when I was upstate. And even then, it’s a slim chance.” Joe said, exiting the bathroom, Ben following along. “I can’t exactly complain if we get tons of snow.”

“Mmm… I think I can.” Ben laughed.

“What? Come on. How could you not enjoy the snow?”

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. For the first years of my life that I actually lived there, it was always rainy. Cold, with dreary winters.” Ben shrugged. “It’d be nice to have better weather. I don’t mind flurries.”

“I guess so. I think I like the seasonal changes to fit the year, though. Like,” Joe stepped into the bedroom, heading to the dresser, “I want snow on Christmas Day, and a breezy, but not too hot, Spring.”

Ben chuckled, following Joe as he opened up his drawer, grabbing a shirt to change into. “Yeah, but as soon as it’s over eighty-five degrees in the summer, you have a fit.”

“Hey,” Joe said, in a threatening but playful tone, “That’s too far. Summer is the worst.” He stated, tugging his shirt off of his head, and taking the shirt from Ben’s grasp instead of grabbing his own. It was a simple grey tee.

“That’s only because you hate flip-flops.” Ben laughed once more, grabbing another shirt for himself.

“Don’t ever get me started on flip-flops. They are at the very top of a very long list of why Summer can suck ass.” Joe said, though he gave Ben a small smile, starting to tug off his jeans so that he was left in just boxers. Heading towards the bed, he plopped on the edge, on his side.

Ben finished changing, crawling into bed next to Joe, laying flat on his back but not going under the covers yet. He let his hands rest on his stomach contently. “It can, sometimes.”

“All of the time.” Joe pointed out, shifting close to Ben to snuggle up to him per usual.

Well, per usual in general. They hadn’t really slept in the same bed the last few days, nor had they even spoken this much all the same. It felt nice to be back into the swing of things, to physically be back together again.

Joe was quiet for a while, placing a kiss upon Ben’s cheek, and he tugged him close. “Do you still wanna talk about it?”

Ben grumbled, scooting himself down a little so he could envelope himself in Joe’s arms, burrowing his face in his shirt. He sighed softly, but nodded. “Can’t keep avoiding it.”

Joe brought a hand through Ben’s hair, which was beginning to grow a bit longer. “We were interrupted before you were able to tell me.”

“That’s okay.” Ben mumbled, kissing Joe’s neck once or twice.

“So, tell me.” Joe said softly, not urgent, not pressing.

“Mm… Tell you what?” Ben stated playfully, continuing to place light kisses along his neck, before focusing on one spot.

Joe rolled his eyes, gently pushing Ben away. “Come on, Ben, don’t try and seduce me out of this.” He teased.

Ben chuckled. “’Seduce’? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you use that word.” He murmured, pulling back to instead connect his lips with Joe’s.

Joe exhaled through his nostrils, but kissed back, anyway. There was a bit of firmness to Ben’s actions, a slight of passion, and he found himself drawing nearer to the blonde within the kiss. “S’cause,” Joe murmured against his lips, “You’re an asshole.”

“I’m an arsehole?” Ben grinned against his lips, hand slipping between his thighs.

Joe grumbled, yet leaned into Ben’s touch as it neared his crotch.

Ben pulled back after a moment, grinning down at Joe. For a second, however, he faltered.

Joe blinked up at him, momentarily drawn away from the lust that had started to cloud within his eyes. “What is it, hun?”

Ben’s brow furrowed for a moment, and then he sat up, off of Joe. Something seemed off – Something seemed wrong.

“Ben?”

He glanced to one side of the bed, the side that was nearly no longer situated by Joe, seeing as they were practically sharing a spot.

“Ben…”

“Huh?”

“What’s wrong?”

Ben blinked, rubbing the back of his neck. “Nothing. Nothing, sorry, I just… remembered something.” He murmured. Or, rather, was trying to remember something.

“Remembered what?” Joe asked, sitting up on his elbows.

He squinted a bit in thought. “Was Rami here the other night?”

“Rami? Uh, I think so. He brought you home and put you to bed.”

Ben’s face paled.

Oh, shit. That kiss was real?

“Why?” Joe asked, a bit wary.

“Nothing—I—I’ll be right back.” Ben said, suddenly standing from the bed, searching the floor for the pants he had on before.

“Ben? What are you doing?” Joe frowned, sitting up all of the way now.

“I, just—Left something with Rami. I think he has it. I’m going to go grab it from him quick.” Ben excused, tugging on his jeans and pulling up the zipper.

Joe glanced at the clock. “Ben… It’s almost ten-thirty at night.”

“Just—I won’t be long. Lay down, okay? We’ll talk in the morning.” Ben said, placing a kiss to Joe’s cheek, before he left the bedroom, grabbed his shoes, and head out the door.

Joe sighed, slumping against the headboard, left entirely and utterly confused.