Grayson gets home earlier than Ethan and doesn’t stick around after the meeting, when Ethan pulls their manager aside to speak at length over one of his promotional ideas.
On a whim, when Grayson gets home, he packs a backpack filled with a change of clothes, throws in some water bottles and snacks, and switches his car for Ethan’s BMW before getting back on the road again.
It might be a good idea just to get away for a bit and cool off, and come back calm and collected. That’s the goal, anyway.
What happens is that he drives around aimlessly for over an hour, heading north, no destination in mind, before he has to pull aside at a gas station for gas. He’ll stop by at a hotel or a motel for the night once he’s tired, but that won’t be for a while yet. The sun is high up in the sky, it’s only a little late in the afternoon.
He checks his phone while he’s in line to buy iced coffee, and finds three texts from Ethan.
Text 1: yo where’d you take my car 11:45 am
Text 2: lol are you ignoring me 12:22 pm
Text 3: looks like you ran away like a giant pussy, packed your backpck and evrythng 12:36 pm
He shouldn’t be feeling guilty for making the right call, for doing the right thing and giving them both time to get their heads in check, but Ethan has a way of making him second guess everything that he does.
Grayson quickly texts back i’ll be back tomorrow dont do anything stupid while i’m gone and plans on ignoring his phone for the next few hours as well.
In the waning third hour of his drive, he passes by green fields and rolling lands, cows scattered along the plains on both sides of the road, the sun beating down hot on his folded arm, resting outside the driver’s window. There is so much open space, so much room to breathe, and he finds himself taking in huge gulps and just expanding his chest until the tightness and constriction passes, until his body lightens up and settles, calms down.
He pulls aside to a deserted rest area and digs into his snacks, takes out his phone, less reluctantly than before. Something about the infinite expanse of the sky, stretching on for far longer than the eye can see, makes him feel insignificant. And carefree.
The only new text that he has from Ethan says we need to talk , and while that would have filled him with an intense amount of dread earlier in the morning, it just feels like an inevitability now. Something that he must face.
With a determination that surprises him, after his walk around an adjacent farm, fingers being tickled by the tall grass and the smell of hay and manure lingering heavy in the air - making him feel nostalgic for home - he gets to his car in total peace. With himself. With whatever happens next.
He’s just a blip on the radar, in the grand scheme of things, he thinks.
It takes a little over three hours to get home and it’s nighttime when he parks the car and gets out, nearing eight o’clock. The lights in the house are off, but all of their cars are there, so Ethan is home.
He turns the lights on in the kitchen as he drops his stuff on the counter, and sees Ethan waking up from sleep on the couch in the living room, the television on and a cooking show put on mute. Ethan lets out a muffled sound as he pops his back, blearily glaring at Grayson's figure, hand scratching at the back of his head.
Grayson offhandedly says, "Hey," as he continues to drop his empty plastic bottles in the recyclables container beneath the sink. He's absolutely starving, so he opens the fridge next and looks at what his options are. He's got some mushrooms, eggs, a bell pepper, and avocados. Veggie omelet it is.
"I thought you weren't coming back until tomorrow. What happened?" Ethan asks with his voice thick with sleep, his feet dragging as he makes his way to the kitchen, fighting a yawn.
Grayson tries to hide his small smile as he washes the mushrooms and starts cutting. "I wanted to clear my head, and it took less time than I expected for that to happen." Grayson looks up at him then, at Ethan leaning against the counter, his arms crossed. "I'm good now."
Ethan's lips purse up and he looks contemplative, like he's trying to see if Grayson is lying to him. Grayson looks back down and grabs a bowl and cracks six eggs into. Gets the veggies sweating in the pan. "So you're done being a little bitch? We cool now?" Ethan asks, after a long pause, watching Grayson as he cooks.
"Yeah, why wouldn't we be?" Grayson really hopes that Ethan will take that as the peace offering it is, but it doesn't happen. Ethan lets out a loud snort and chuckles. Grayson doesn't turn around but he hears him go to the utensil drawer and then grab dishes from one of the cabinets.
"You're right, Grayson, we're totally cool. It's no big deal," Ethan says with sarcasm dripping, "and it's totally, like, normal, for two bros to kiss and make out." Ethan's eyes catch his challengingly as Grayson snaps his gaze up to meet his. "Totally."
Grayson tries to hide his wince and the flush working up to his cheeks, but he isn't that successful at it. Ethan rolls his eyes at him and takes the toast out of their new billion dollar toaster, as Grayson halves the omelets into their plates and drops sliced pieces of avocados onto them.
They eat quietly at the table and while it's a tense kind of quiet, it's already ten times better than what Grayson was anticipating when he stepped into the house. No yelling, no cussing, no drama. He can work with this.
When they're done, Ethan literally pushes his plate away from him and leans back in his seat, arms crossing. Grayson wants to pretend for longer that they're alright but the option is taken away from him when Ethan says with resolve, "We need to talk, dude."
Grayson sighs and puts his phone down and stops pretending to be engrossed with it. "What is there to talk about, E?"
Ethan's eyebrows draw together and his face scrunches up. "Are you serious right now? Don't play stupid."
Grayson shakes his head. "Okay, fine, let's talk about the fact that you were the absolute genius that started this entire thing in the first place. Why'd you do it, Ethan?" Grayson snaps, eyes firm and holding Ethan's slitted ones, wanting to know.
Ethan lets out a short chuckle and teeters back on the legs of the chair, his gaze unwavering. "Why'd you let me, Grayson? Why didn’t you knock me out?" His voice grating as fuck.
Grayson lets out a frustrated sound and counters back again with, “I was blindsided! I wasn’t prepared! Why’d you kiss me first, Ethan?”
Ethan immediately taunts back with, “Why’d you make out with me, Grayson?”
That’s it. Grayson pushes his chair back and stands up, points a finger accusingly at Ethan. “This is not a conversation, Ethan. You’re acting like a fucking child and not taking responsibility for the fact that you started this shit in the first place.”
“Oh please, save me from the tears, bro,” Ethan says, his voice losing any playfulness, sitting more rigidly in his seat. “We both know that I do stupid things sometimes without thinking and this can count as one of them in a list of many, but what I don’t get is you turning it into a... A makeout sesh.” Ethan’s lips purse up again and he’s back to glaring at Grayson, his cheeks pinking up. He’s so fucking infuriating, Grayson thinks, a little desperately.
Grayson’s hands are flat on the table and he’s leaning forward into Ethan’s space before he knows what he’s doing. “Why didn’t you stop me, Ethan? Huh? Why’d you kiss back?”
Ethan turns his head away to the side and lets out a disbelieving sound, his jaw clenching. “Don’t flip this on me, asshole.”
“Answer me,” Grayson presses, his voice dropping in volume but still pressing, and Ethan’s hands fly out and he shouts, “I was surprised, okay? I wasn’t expecting that! You hit me like a fucking brick, dude. I just reacted on - on instinct.”
All of a sudden Grayson deflates and lets out a breath that he didn’t know he was even holding, hangs his head between his shoulders, eyes closing. “This is so stupid,” he says on his next breath. They both fucked up, they should set is aside, forget about it, and move on. They’re making it hard for no reason.
Ethan doesn’t say anything and that makes Grayson sneak a glance up and straight into Ethan’s guarded eyes, his hands in his lap. “Can we forget about this and move on?” Grayson asks plaintively, somewhat desperately, straightening up and crossing his arms over his chest.
Ethan opens his mouth to say something, pauses, looks away for a breath but then reaches some resolve before he gets up and haltingly asks, “Would you want to do it again, though?” He’s slowly coming around the table and Grayson feels his throat close up and his lips glue together. It feels like an earthquake. He only manages out a strained, “What?” while watching Ethan come to a stop in front of him, his movements hesitant and stuttering almost, his hands running down his sweats with badly concealed nerves, but still standing tall despite all of that. Still with an air of challenge.
Grayson takes a step back and wants more than the barrier of his crossed arms between them, at that moment. He needs the Great Wall, he needs an ocean of space, he needs different continents, thousands of miles, halfway across the world.
There is a moment where Ethan drops his chin down to his chest next, his hands going into his pockets, like he’s telegraphing every move. His voice is deep and tense but still sure when he says, “It didn’t feel like a joke, Gray, what you did.” His eyes flick up to Grayson’s to pin him and Grayson is immediately gutted. “It didn’t feel like a joke at all.”
The spotlight on his most secret, poisonous truth being laid bare is heart-stopping in that moment, and Grayson doesn’t know how to react without stumbling all over himself in complete incoherence. “Don’t,” Grayson bites out with a hard growl, as Ethan takes another step closer, concern showing on his face.
He spins on his heel and leaves the kitchen, going straight for his room. Grayson slams his door shut and locks it just in time. He hears it jiggle and Grayson just can’t deal with this. He can’t.
He flops down onto his bed with shaky limbs, feeling nauseous and like he’s going to throw up. So much for the peace he was feeling less than an hour ago. So much for all of that idealistic, thinking-positive zen bullshit. Since when do he and Ethan do things the easy way, anyway.
“Grayson, Gray, c’mon, open up. I wasn’t done talking to you!”
Grayson hopes that Ethan can’t hear the wobble in his voice as he yells, “Fucking leave me alone, dude, alright?”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Ethan would bring it up, because he’s not as dense or lacking in awareness as Grayson claims that he is. Ethan has also never backed down from anything ever in his life, so Grayson doesn’t know why he expected them to maturely ignore the elephant in the room and get on with their lives, like all adults do.
For the hundredth time in his life, Grayson wishes that they didn’t do things the hard way and were better at letting sleeping dogs lie. It’s just not their MO, though.
Grayson takes a shower and falls asleep like he’s been shot with a tranquilizer dart, the highs and lows of the day finally catching up to him. His eyes closing as soon as he climbs into bed.
In the morning when he wakes up, he braces himself for a tough day ahead, since he can’t just hide out in his room forever.
Grayson tries to take a quick glance at his phone before jumping into the shower, but that’s not what happens.
His heart stops in his chest as soon as he reads Ethan’s texts, he swears that it does, because Ethan is a fucking jerk. Ethan is the absolute worst.
Ethan’s texts from last night:
hey so if you werent such a dumbass i wouldve told you that i was feelin it too
and that it doesnt have to be a big deal since we’re adults
if you want to mess around
but you ran off like a drama queen so whatev
you’re so extra i swear grayson
The last text of the night reads:
i’ll say it was my fault if it makes you feel better
i’m sorry for messing things up