Aramis always had a few major misconceptions about himself. The sort of misconceptions people have about themselves, and perhaps spend their whole lives in blissful ignorance about it. Two of Aramis’s most lethal misconceptions, however, were as follows.
1) He firmly believed he was smarter than he had been.
2) He firmly believed he was straighter than he had been.
Now, it should have probably been a warning sign that whenever well and clear-spoken Athos came forward with a plan, he had not much to add apart from "Can you explain one more time?"
But as these things go, one likes to assume that it is always other people's fault.
A little bit how he always believed he loved women but was much more the Catholic boy deep inside his parents wanted him to be to ever go through with anything.
You see it is a sad truth about life that once boys turn thirteen or so, they must assume this stance towards girls with a special kind of bravado. Or are they even men. Now so, still stuck in that land of teenage make-believe Aramis must be the ladies' favourite, and at the same time, an immaculate choirboy, untouched, unsullied, a Saint.
Maybe his friends disliked him for this a little, and maybe he even felt it, but he also knew they were wrong. He did his best to be tolerant. He really did.
When d`Artagnan came with the whole "boys are cute too" thing a few years back, it was the first shock. But he tried. He tried!
Aramis so diligently talked about girls the whole time until then that he couldn't help but feel a bit conned. Was it a free for all this whole time? Were you allowed to do anything you pleased and have a personality? Oh, everyone had been doing it already, only Aramis never noticed?
D'Artagnan was breaking some of his unwritten rules.
And yet, he barely said anything. Well, of course, he freaked out a little. He thought boys were cute all this time, while they were sleeping over at each other's, and changing in front of each other and...
"Sure, it is fine," he told d'Artagnan, in a voice that suggested that nothing was fine at all. "But what if you are going to look at me that way, you know? Have you ever looked at me that way?"
He got a pair of puppy eyes.
"Oh you? No. Don't worry. Only Porthos."
Somehow, that made things even worse. Although d'Artagnan did not show the singlest interest in him, he could not help thinking for a few days, what if he is out there, thinking his wildest thoughts about him, and all without his consent. How could he even agree to a man just... subjecting him to all sorts of vile thoughts? And he knew too well what kind of thoughts boys his age had: he performed them during conversations frequently in order to fit in a world perfectly that was not ready for immaculate choirboys, unsullied, Saints.
And really, he tolerated all sorts of misgivings d'Artagnan and the others had. He really tolerated them, he just asked d'Artagnan never to talk about boys again, and sometimes kept Athos between them, as a sturdy barrier, just to make sure that nothing would happen. (Arms brushing together incidentally, and the such.) It really was the most one could ever do. You know, refusing to touch him at all, with his face running deep red even if only their fingers brushed into one another, or when d'Artagnan's leg accidentally pressed against his during a late-night cab drive.
He rarely ever made a comment.
He only ever asked d'Artagnan once never to talk about his boy crushes again. Maybe he snapped a little and yelled at him, saying he did not want to hear about That, but he still counts as a tolerant, supportive friend, right? He tried his best to be nice.
And d'Artagnan never brought it up again.
Not the crush, nor the fact that Aramis snapped.
One would think that hearing about girls made him feel all the better. That was how things normally went on, right? Boy meets girl, boy talks about his girl crush to his best friend, they get married, happy end．
So, enter Louis.
Dirty blond, small frame, huge black eyes. So much for d'Artagnan only ever looking at Porthos, he thought. And he also thought, alongside with that: this would be the end of his suffering.
D’Artagnan finally graduated from boy-land and he would have his girl crushes again, indefinitely.
But hell only started here. Hell came knocking on his door. No. Hell barged into his house, opened his fridge wide, and poured milk all over the kitchen floor.
So, when d’Artagnan requested to come over, all of a sudden, wanting to be alone just the two of them. Well, he knew something was different.
He prepared a glass of coke for each of them before, a comfy sofa, and solemn silence. No background music. The curtains of the room were drawn so the buzzing of the traffic would be obscured by them. Ever since the whole thing with boys came out and he snapped and perhaps ruined their friendship a tiny bit, both d’Artagnan and Aramis tried to make sure that they would not meet just the two of them.
Then d’Artagnan came, and he sat down and had a huge gulp of coke and he started speaking and speaking and speaking.
Louis was somehow real but in all the wrong ways. These years he got accustomed to believing that d'Artagnan had these hidden thoughts about him that made him want to hide away from his sight.
Now his point of view changed. As if d’Artagnan worked like a switch: when he liked a boy, he would only look at boys, when he liked a girl, his history with men was gone. Believing that d’Artagnan had no eyes for men should have left him relieved.
It should have made him more relaxed. It should have made d’Artagnan more relatable and easier to talk to. When d’Artagnan, out of character, all solemnly made him sit down with him and slowly got to his point about liking Louis, he finally said:
“Welcome back, d’Artagnan.” But the celebratory tone got lost somewhere before the words would form on his tongue.
D’Artagnan only laughed, carefree and happy. Then it was a nosedive from there.
“I think I’m in love with her a bit, but she doesn’t really look at me,” he said. “You know, then I thought that for this, I need an expert’s touch. Someone like you.”
Aramis folded his tongue into a crane in his mouth, then tried to swallow it whole. D’Artagnan just spoke and spoke, and there was no stopping it at all.
He was free to do so. Of course. The ban on talking about relationships and crushes was gone because finally, d’Artagnan was back to what Aramis considered as normal. The barrier that he put between them all that time ago was supposed to be gone.
Instead, he could feel the gap widen, a gulf, an abyss. He could feel it because d’Artagnan could not and he had to face that the interest he was so scared of may have never been there. The gap itself was the attention he believed he always received, and now, under a minute, completely lost to a girl.
“So I need your help.”
“You’re always so smooth: girls find you sexy. I always think it’s best to be yourself when it comes to these things, but I admit, I might need some of that sexy now.”
Back to point 1). Aramis squinted. “What do you mean.”
“Come on, don’t play hard to get: help a friend out. Give me some tips. Share some of your secrets.”
The secret was, in all honesty: the charm of elusive disgust, sprinkled with a healthy amount of indifference towards women. Everything else was just a gaudy decoration on top of that, but if Aramis had to choose the one thing that made him popular, it was definitely his nonchalant nature.
“It works if your heart is only half in it: just don’t think about the consequences.”
In fact, d’Artagnan rarely thought about the consequences anyway, so he seemed to be the perfect student in the art of Aramis’s make-believe seduction.
“But I do care about the consequences,” d’Artagnan insisted. “This time.”
“Let’s pretend for a moment that you don’t.”
That in itself would not help, d’Artagnan claimed. He wanted something more concrete. Something he can really work with. Physical training instead of just mental preparation.
“You always do that wink of yours and make all the girls swoon,” d’Artagnan added, shooting a pleading look at him.
Aramis tentatively closed an eye. “You mean like this?”
D’Artagnan closed his mouth and his lips turned into a thin line. He remained silent for a few moments.
“I meant that, yes.”
But either way, there was no secret behind it, no divine knowledge, nothing. Even an innocent, immaculate, unsullied choirboy, a Saint, knew this much. “You just need to close half an eye. That’s it.”
First, d’Artagnan blinked, then he blinked again until he could muster a very mature, full-fledged wink. Aramis felt that wink down his entire spine, fully paralyzed, and stared into space. He realized he had never been on the receiving end and wasn’t sure about how much he wanted to become the victim of it once again. (Perhaps a little bit.)
“I think you’ve got it.” His voice came out rather faint.
Yet, d’Artagnan kept asking. What is next? What is next? He seemed to want a full-on course on being Aramis suddenly, although both of them knew that there was hardly a point in emulating someone else’s (fake) mannerisms.
Truth to be told, if he did not know it was for a special girl’s sake, it would have been a great pastime activity, now that he got his friend back from somewhere he personally exiled him to. But then, the barrier was still there. Except now that he removed the iron curtain he believed he had to build for his own protection, he found out that there was a transparent, glass wall between the two of them this whole time.
As d’Artagnan was pressuring him for more, he decided to go on.
“Sometimes girls like it when you’re a little more assertive, a little surprising,” he said but was essentially talking about things he had little to no idea about.
You see, he was doing all these things he did, but there was no guarantee that the ladies would swoon the same way when someone else tries his tired tricks.
Aramis’s fingers were playing on the edge of his glass. “Well, stand up for a moment,” he asked.
D’Artagnan obeyed. Aramis beckoned him with his index finger to step a bit away from the sofa (and perhaps some people would say that this was enough of an example.) Then, without further due, he pressed d’Artagnan up against the wall.
Being quite a bit shorter than him, the effect was not really the same as he expected, but nevertheless, after a few moments of silence, d’Artagnan began to giggle. He changed their position with ease, a hand banging against the wall next to Aramis’s face.
“Oh, like this?” he asked with an unexpected softness in his voice.
Shallow breaths, a few moments of pregnant anticipation. If he ever got through 1) he would also be past 2) now, but life is complicated and the journey towards self-discovery is a long one.
Aramis knew the moment of clarity before every kiss, the single second that you realize something was going to happen: and the single second when you can still do something about it. He knew that moment very well, because he had been there often, and he did opt to run every single time.
But this time, a fog in his mind spread wide and far and he saw nothing apart from d’Artagnan’s face and a serene smile still lingering on his face. His stomach lurched.
The second was gone, his last point of no return past.
D’Artagnan’s lips found his, and then he blanked out for a good five minutes, or ten, or twenty. Then, as the fog came as it was gone.
“I’m not gay,” was the first thing he told d’Artagnan, still not over point 1). His chest was still heaving, but he decided to ignore that.
D’Artagnan laughed. “Yeah, me neither. But you know that already. I’m bi.”
However, he did not apologize, which Aramis came to miss after he was gone, and he found himself with a glass in his hand, thinking back to the few seconds he clearly remembered. It was an odd feeling to be left with his thoughts alone and bare. And with the knowledge that he had the key to stopping it any time, and yet, when the choice was his, he did not use it.
He played back every moment in his head when he ran from a kiss, and every moment made sense to his authentic, deeply hidden self, the Saint, the choirboy. I am not gay, he told himself over and over and over again, because he could bear the thought of standing corrected, by none other than himself.
They weren’t in contact for a few days, until one evening all of the squad got together for a bar night. There, D’Artagnan showed no signs that anything happened between them. Aramis slipped between Athos and him on the bench instead of leaving his usual gap. Their shoulders almost brushed together. They did, after d’Artagnan knocked down a few beers, and decided to get rid of his denim jacket.
No words were even spoken between the two of them, but he felt as if a hundred different thoughts were trapped between shoulders and arms, and a hundred different secrets.
“Something’s off,” Porthos thought out loud, which gave him a heart attack.
“Nothing’s off at all,” he protested immediately and sharply moved away from d’Artagnan’s vicinity.
Porthos blinked at him a few times, then glared like his eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. “Think I lost one of my contacts.”
Fifteen minutes of tipsy searching and fumbling about under the table ensued. Legs got tangled, people hit their heads on tables, there were a number of stifled giggles, then full-fledged laughter came along too. Everyone was desperately dabbing at the dirty floor in hopes of stumbling into Porthos’s contact lenses but to no avail. D’Artagnan’s hand accidentally found his pinky.
“Oops,” he said. This time, Aramis did not drag his hand away, which surprised him more than it surprised anyone else.
After a while, Porthos gave up and decided to change into his glasses in the bathroom instead. “The kids like it when I wear them anyway,” he claimed.
Nobody really commented on how there were not many children, late in the evenings such as this, especially at bars populated mostly by college students. Porthos left for a hot minute and everyone else tried to clean up with wet towels, then ordered another drink.
By the time Porthos returned from the bathroom, with slightly reddened eyes, but with glasses safe and sound, their pinkies were already touching under the table again. The conversation was soon swayed towards Louis, where Porthos half-drunk led a humorous interrogation.
Aramis’s face felt like freezing off soon enough, although now he sat with d’Artagnan hand in hand.
“It’s funny, don’t you think,” he began, trying not to sound too tipsy, “He was gay the other day, now he’s straight for her.”
D’Artagnan’s thumb was caressing circles into his palm. “You know that isn’t quite right.”
“Something really is off,” Athos agreed, and he felt like he was caught in the act for a moment.
They were still hand in hand once they began to walk home in the early hours of the morning, tired, with even their skulls hurting from exhaustion. He was at the strange point of soberness when one was not exactly sober, although could feel the alcohol wearing off. Usually, people made the mistake of drinking one or two more, to get their spirits up, then find out the hard way that they had been drunker than they realized, to begin with.
However, this time they were more or less safe. The early summer breeze was cold against their clothes and kept their faces cool and fresh. Porthos and Athos lived in the other direction, so they said goodbye at the entrance of the bar, generously omitting any comments about their friends sneakily, and yet very obviously holding hands.
His entire brain was focused on their fingers. They said nothing the whole time, and the early morning was also calm and quiet around them.
“I am not gay,” he said when they stopped to say goodbye at the entrance of his flat.
Then, Aramis emerged on tiptoes, then, he put his hands on d’Artagnan’s chest, then, he kissed him deep on the mouth. He did not have the heart to repeat himself afterwards, he just left him out there with a “goodnight.”
He felt lucky that the night left him in a sort of drunken, tipsy stupor so he didn’t need to think too hard about what happened until the morning came, and with a headache, memories also came flooding back.
The first time it was d’Artagnan alright who began (most likely d’Artagnan, anyway, he cannot remember anything), then the second time he went out his way just to kiss him all over again. He can blame the first one on someone else but after all this time, even Aramis needed to face at least thirty per cent of the facts. Included that he really did go out of his way just to snatch a kiss.
And all that, while d’Artagnan was regrettably into Louis the whole time. Since that one time, he could not bear to be apart from d’Artagnan, like they were glued together when he had all the opportunities to be with him before: and promptly refused each time.
Why was it that now, all of a sudden, he wanted that attention he always thought he was disgusted with? When he should have felt relieved that d’Artagnan let the whole boy-thing go and settled with a crush on a girl, his gut feeling was all the same as before: he did not want d’Artagnan to have that crush at all.
Even worse, he did not want d’Artagnan to pay attention to anyone else. Which was odd. It was weird. He never considered that.
What if what he had been feeling this whole time was, in fact, jealousy and not disgust?
What if 1) he had been stupid this whole time? This whole entire time. His whole, entire life.
What if 2) … haha, okay, no. Not yet.
He did not want to talk to d’Artagnan. In fact, he dreaded the next time they had to meet, because what if he wouldn’t ignore what happened between them? What if he was forced to explain himself, and he had no explanation, at all, to provide? He had nothing ready. Not even a word for d’Artagnan. (Not a word more than what he said already.)
D’Artagnan did not ask anything in the next few weeks, but they proceeded to kiss in a public bathroom (very drunk), on a bench at midnight (very drunk), and in an otherwise deserted elevator (not so drunk) that might or might not have had a security camera installed. Still, d’Artagnan did not ask anything, although Aramis made sure to tell him each and every time that he was not, in fact, gay.
He even had d’Artagnan in his room, on his bed – fully clothed – hand in hand, and still had the guts to tell him. “But I’m not gay.”
And the patient angel d’Artagnan was, he only kept repeating himself. “You know, me neither: I like girls too.”
That was still not something Aramis wanted or needed to hear. Of all people, he only failed himself and he did so by being wrong. Sometimes admitting to your mistakes was harder than enduring situations you did not necessarily want or end up practicing just about the opposite of what you preach.
So, d’Artagnan drew him closer. “You don’t have to say anything else, but say you like me.”
“What about your Louis though?” Aramis retorted immediately. “Even if I said anything, you would still like her anyway.”
D’Artagnan tilted his head a little, and the double-chin made its appearance as he smiled one of his more mischievous smiles. “Oh. I suppose both of us forgot to tell something important to the other.”
He poked Aramis in the nose.
“But… I’ll say it first now, if you say it second.”