Dan sat with his back against the headboard of his hotel room bed with his legs stretched out in front of him, crossing at the ankles. Arin was still digging around in his luggage, setting things out, getting everything ready for the handful of days they would be spending together in this room. Arin had a few meetings lined up that he needed to travel for and he didn’t really feel like going alone. Suzy would have normally been the one to come with him, but she had some things that she needed to work on for her own store. She felt really bad about not being able to go, wrapping her arms around his neck and saying she might be able to push her work back a few more days. Arin wanted her to. He hated traveling without her, but he would never ask her to do that. Not with everything she’s had on her plate lately. So instead he reassured her that he would be fine and kissed her on her nose.
It just so happens that Dan had a few free weeks to spare before he had to jump head first back into everything that was Ninja Sex Party. When Arin had mentioned going alone on a long trip Dan jumped at the opportunity to tag along. He missed spending time with Arin. They had so many projects going on now it was hard to squeeze in some time that wasn’t dedicated to Game Grumps or Starbomb. Now here they were, settling in and winding down from a long evening of driving.
“I’m telling you dude,” Arin says, elbows deep in his suitcase. “Egobang. Look it up.”
Dan snorts as he opens the freshly downloaded Tumbler app on his phone.
“I mean, I know we have a … ship name… I guess, But it’s just a couple handfuls of fans, right?”
Arin casts him a look with his eyebrows raised.
“Dude, just check it out, see for yourself.” Arin says as he gathers up his bag of toiletries. “I’m going to hop in the shower. I feel all gross after being cramped up in that car all day.”
“Kay” Dan mumbles as he hits the search bar at the top of the screen.
He types in the word and hits search and at first it’s just a bunch of fan art drawings of him and Arin, nothing too scandalous about that so far. However he is a bit taken aback at amount of support this ship name has behind it. There was so much art. Most of it featuring him and Arin hugging or doing something cute together, and all of it was amazing.
“Dude, this is so cool…”
Dan swipes his thumb up the screen again and what he sees next makes him pause. It’s a sketch, a really amazing, really detailed sketch of him holding Arin’s face between his hands, kissing him right on the mouth. He feels a strange uneasiness swimming around in his stomach, sloshing around in his insides and bouncing off his organs. It feels so foreign, yet so familiar at the same time. He feels a twinge of curiosity mixed with… something he isn’t able to identify as he presses on the name above the picture.
It takes him to a profile that was chalk full of ‘Egobang’ content. There are more pictures that depict him and his best friend kissing, hugging, touching in some way that was maybe toeing the line of inappropriate. There are stills of them from the 10 minute power hour that showed Dan laughing, leaning against Arin, hugging him, all of the things that he didn’t realized looked so… intimate… from a different perspective.
He clicks on a video of him and Arin on stage at a Game Grumps Live show. The video shows Arin picking him up and spinning him around, laughing hard as Dan’s feet knock over the nearby stool. He breathes out a laugh as he remembers that night as if it had happened yesterday. But it’s the next video, a gif rather, that makes him stop in his tracks. It’s of him and Arin in slow motion showing Dan looking over at Arin as he is distracted with whatever bit he was doing at the time and smiling. It wasn’t the kind of smile you give when you think something is funny, it was as if he could feel himself in that very moment, heart warm and melting with affection, respect, and appreciation for his best friend. It was the kind of smile that could move mountains just by the sheer force of love behind it. It was the smile that was on his face, directed at Arin, and it was as if he was only just now seeing it for the first time.
Dan drops his phone onto the bed.
Something was stirring in him. It feels as if he is toeing the edge of something big, some huge, larger than life secret that he’s kept buried deep within, something that he wasn’t even aware of. Or maybe he was… Maybe he was like a kid, pretending to hide his head under the covers in hopes that the monster creeping around the edge of his bed would just disappear so he wouldn’t have to look it in the face.
A few more moments scrape by before he reaches for his phone again.
“This is stupid…” He mumbles. After all, it’s just pictures! Just artwork! Beautiful amazing artwork that he should be marveling at instead of tripping balls about.
Dan jumps slightly as he turns to see Arin sporting only black sweatpants as he towels his damp hair.
Arin had been working out, everyone knew that. Dan was even his workout buddy most mornings, but still. Arin doesn’t take his shirt off often and now that he has Dan can see the light cut of muscles peeking through his skin but he still looks soft and … delicate almost.
Arin raises his eyebrow and glances down at Dan’s phone.
“Oh, you mean the ‘Egobang stuff’?”
“Uh…” Dan doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t really want to call other peoples hard work and dedication ‘stupid’ but what was the alternative? Admitting to Arin that he was staring at pictures of them together and feeling some sort of gay panic about it? What would Arin even say? He would probably just laugh it off, like a joke. It was all jokes… right? “Yeah.”
The movement is slight, but Arin’s eyebrows crease as he turns around to file some stuff back into his luggage.
“I mean, I wouldn’t call it ‘stupid’ exactly. It’s all make-believe man, no big deal.”
Arin’s words are nonchalant as he shrugs his shoulders, but Dan can see it in his face, the way his muscles tense as he speaks, the slight shift in his posture. Arin was lying.
Dan should just let it go. He could, right now. He could drop the whole thing and they would never have to mutter the word ‘Egobang’ again. He doesn’t even know why he wants to talk about this. He can feel the small waves of panic still lapping at the edges of his mind. He should let it go.
Dan readjusts himself on the mattress, crossing his legs and sitting Indian style.
“Does it weird you out?”
Arin catches his eye and then suddenly there is a slight change in the air. It’s not over powering, but it’s there all the same.
“Nah, not really man.” Arin says as he walks over to Dan and takes a seat on the end of his bed. The mattress dips as he leans his elbows on his knees. “Why? Does it bother you?”
Immediately Dan wants to say no. He doesn’t want to hurt Arin’s feelings, but he also knows he has to tell the truth. Did it bother him? He can admit to himself that before he looked this up, he felt different than he does now. Something has changed. From the time it took Arin to take a quick shower and Dan to jump down the never ending rabbit-hole that is ‘Egobang’, something has changed. He can feel it edging in on him and he is scared. He can’t face it yet. Dan knows who he is and it’s not this.
Dan snaps his eyes up to meet Arins and he know immediately that it’s a mistake. Arin is so open and loving and he wears his emotions like a fucking crown and now his face is covered with worry, worry that maybe he is making Dan feel uncomfortable now so Arin shifts back slightly, just enough to angle his body away from Dan, giving him some room.
Dan hates the added distance and that scares the shit out of him. He sighs, searching his mind and forcing out the truth. Well, some of it.
“I don’t know. It bothers me a little I guess, but not in the way that would make me uncomfortable? Does that make sense?”
Arin looks down at his hands and nods slowly.
Dan is watching him. He can practically see the gears turning in Arins head, but he can’t pinpoint what exactly he is thinking. Suddenly Dan wonders when Arins lips got so plump and inviting. When did Arins skin start to look so soft and touchable? What was happening to him?
Arin eyes catch his and once again the charge is back, stronger this time, like an unstoppable force shoving him from behind. Dan can feel the overwhelming urge to move into action. Something is happening, one way or another, and right now its fight or flight. But Dan is a coward.
He chooses flight.
“Man, I’m beat.” Dan says as he makes a show of yawning and shifts his body to pull the covers out from underneath him. Arin looks as if he’s suddenly been pulled from a trance as he blinks a couple times.
“Uh, yeah, me too.” Arin stands and makes his way over to his own bed as Dan unloops his belt beneath the blankets, shimmying his way out of his jeans. “First meeting is kind of early tomorrow, still wanna go with me?”
“Yeah man, absolutely.”
And Dan means that. Arin is his best friend and he wants to be there with him. He will get a decent night’s sleep and push away the weird feelings of tonight and in the morning none of this will have even mattered.
Except he knows, somewhere in the back of his mind as he watches Arin reach over to flip the light switch off, that’s a lie.
This will matter.
For one reason or another, after tonight, everything has changed.