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I’ll protect you (I’ll completely change you)
I’ll rip up your heart (I’ll completely change you)
I’ll wipe away your tears (I’ll completely change you)

It starts with Pat coming out of the closed.

No, actually it starts with two segments on the legendary third season of Gill and Gilbert.

No, no, I’m telling it all wrong.

You see, Brian became big. Like, real big. Like – star quality big.

So maybe it starts with Tara being a bad, no good, fucking awful boss.

*

When Brian got his manicured little bisexual hands on the first five minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Ghirahim’s Blade before most of humanity could even dream that that was going to be the title of the awaited Breath of the Wild sequel – seriously, Nintendo gave it to a handful of maybe 30 lucky bastards – his already growing fame exploded. His videos had to get subtitles in fifteen different languages, and his analyses of the five most fabulous moments of Ghirahim in both the new and the original game went so viral Pat could hear Tara’s laughing in his sleep for weeks after.

Patrick would tell you any day that it was highly deserved, that Brian was a genius and an amazing guy, but honestly – honestly, the whole thing could be summarized by very good timing of Nintendo of America. Let BDG chaotic energy lead the States into a Ghirahim frenzy was just a genius move. No other human being would sell the demon swordsman as well as Brian, and seriously, if a gamer and a game character were ever meant to be, it was those two.

This was just after Brian was out of his weird mustache-and-short-hair phase and back to his colorful-twink energy looks: Pat finally told him in he shouldn’t be trying so hard to look different from Patrick, and Bri accepted he was never going to be daddy material. Honestly, Patrick regretted even opening his mouth on that terrible Half-life streaming to talk shit about how they both looked like bad NPC design, too alike. Brian’s face never deserved that punishment he called a statement.

So honestly, he was gorgeous and young and queer and smart and bright and desperate and everything millennials would eat up with a spoon, talking about the most awaited game of the decade with the return of one of the gayest characters to ever lick a hero. It was impossible for it to not become a hit, and Brian’s star just took to the fame as it should.

Everyone was suddenly thirsty for superb content from that funky little Brian. People were digging up things like Polygon’s equipment tests, everyone was suddenly making gifs out of the forbidden Cyberpunk streaming, Jackbox became part of a lore of its on. Of course, people would go crazy over Unraveled vids, but those took time and fandom would literally starve if that was the only Brian content it was going to get.

You want a starving fandom as much as you want a starving shark.

So that’s why Tara had to make a fast decision. Gill and Gilbert was never forgotten, and Polygon’s videos on any other subject would still get comments like “Oh how I hope Pat and Brian come back from the war”, so Tara knew it wouldn’t be exposing Brian’s image to something the fandom wasn’t already in love with. If it would take Patrick’s career alongside the ride, it was a plus: Pat had his own smaller fandom, and he was much more present on social media to make it up for BDG’s lack of patience with Twitter.

So, Gill and Gilbert was up to a third season. The fifth was surely to bring on a movie.

*

“And how about this… and nopes! That’s another one with a very subtle hand job happening almost – but not quite – outside the frame. Kudos for the discreet porn, though.”

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Pat always knew their chemistry on streaming was enough to make people wonder. To make people ship. He and Brian would flirt shameless, because that was the nature of their friendship and they were both very comfortable with it. But since Brian became the Oprah Winfrey of game reviews, the fans were getting quite more porn-y in their ways.

“Does it count as a hand job if my real dick isn’t long enough for this angle to even work?” Pat wonders aloud. It was getting increasingly more difficult to find art to gill in the name of these days.

“Pat Gill, we don’t want to crush our fans dreams and hopes. Let them believe your cock is 12 inches long.”

“And that you’re the new Elastigirl, apparently.”

“First, congrats for the well placed Incredibles reference! Second, shut up, I could bend that way if I wanted.” Brian proceeded to immediately try to reach the angle in the fanart, proving that he very much could not bend that way.

“If you wanted and if you had at least ten bones missing. Stop that, you’re gonna hurt yourself.”

“Oh, honey boo, worried I won’t be able to provide you with your daily impossible hand jobs?”

The ugly snort out of Pat’s mouth is the reason why he always aims to be the stoic one. “Worried I might have to explain to the good people on the ER what you were trying to do when you broke your arm.”

“Asshole!” Brian swatted at him, and Patrick was happy enough with the kid’s smile to pretend he couldn’t see the dark circles under his eyes.

The thing was, Polygon was working Brian to the bones. He seemed to be in every video, every picture, every project. Patrick and Clayton and Simone (and Jeff. And Jenna. And… everyone, really) all tried to help as they could – honestly, most times lately Brian would just show up in time for them to connect the stream without even knowing what game they were playing on G ‘n G. It took away all the fun in working with him, since they weren’t coming up with the ideas and choosing the segments together – but it wasn’t about how much fun Patrick was having, was it? It was about feeding the fandom with good content that they like and that makes sense, often enough so no one was going to stalk Brian on his mother’s home just out of abstinence.

It was unfair, but Pat knew he was complaining over nothing – they were living the fucking dream.

“Pat, I’m kinda dizzy, and now that I think about it I don’t think I ate today? Like, at all? So I’m just gonna lay my head down and keep scrolling through the fanarts like this, you can shout if I miss anything good or pass out.”

Mostly, it didn’t feel like much of a dream.

*

Still, they both enjoyed streaming together. Gill and Gilbert was their weird, unusual love baby and it kept being good even when Brian was half dead by his side.

“This one comes from @gooigiwet – oh, that’s a fan, Pat! Always nice to see your weird job affecting the, the world – and this is a segment called” pause for the song, Pat hits the wrong button, it’s the introduction again, the start of a segment song overlaps with “Live from the Polygon’s…” “We do that sometimes; we like to start over. Hey, guys! Welcome to Gill and Gilbert-”

“Again.”

“Again! So anyway, this is a segment called ‘Piss Constable meets Shit Colonel’.”

And off they went.

That night they were playing No More Heroes 3 and making awkward phone calls anytime one of them died – in memory of the weird Wii Controller phone call you got to make on the first NMH. The rules were simple: they had to bring up someone unexpected from their contacts and make it awkward – it was every millennial worst nightmare. By now Brian had called a cousin who had voted for Trump, his mother to wonder again if he might actually bring Pat home to Thanksgiving, an old acquaintance from his college days, and Clayton. Pat, being much better at this kind of game, had made only two calls: Laura Gilbert – he had no idea why he had her number on his contacts…

(“Hello, Laura? Hi, this is Pat.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Wha?”

“I know the voice of my own brother, you asshole. Who the fuck are you?”

“Bro- oh. No, Pat Gill.”

“Oh, hey Pat! Sorry, didn’t recognize your voice on the phone. You coming over tonight? Jonah is getting that fancy ass beer you like so much, what’s it called, something something Bear.”

“Oh, yeah, I – uhm, I can’t. We’re getting off Polygon late.”

“So what? We’re closer. Just stay, what’s the matter? There must be still some clean shirts of yours somewhere in Bri’s closet.”

“Yeah, no, I ain’t…”

“If you’re not coming over, why you- JESUS CHRIST WHAT HAPPENED TO BRIAN?”

“What?”

“Is he okay? Did he get into an accident? Is he alive? Jesus Christ, is he awake?”

“Nothing happened. He’s… he’s fine. Nothing happened.”

“Nothing… happened?”

“No. I mean. We’re okay.”

“You’re sure you’re both okay?”

“Yeah.”

“Did he tell you something weird?”

“He’s Brian. Of course he told me something weird. He says weird shit all the time.”

“Weirder.”

“I don’t even know Brian has a weirder at this point.”

“Okay, so why are you… oh, wait. Today is Friday, right? I had totally forgotten about the gaming. The professional gaming. The gaming you do for your professional careers. You guys are live right now, aren’t you? Is this one of those, those segments?”

“I’m very happy you seem to be so aware of the inner workings of Gill and Gilbert.”

“Like I wouldn’t tune in to watch my brother hurt and humiliate himself on weekly basis.”

“He seems very offended right now.”

“’Course he does. Take care of my lil’ bro, Patsy. I’mma gonna hang up on you now.”)

…and an ex-girlfriend who he hasn’t spoken with in seven years. Excruciating calls, but he was sure Brian was going to have to call his ex-mother-in-law very soon.

Good content.

“Pat Gill, how are you feeling? Emotionally, that is. I mean, you ‘kay?”

“I’m ‘kay. I- I mean, humiliated and deeply ashamed. Don’t ever wanna see a cellphone again. But, ye-yeah. I’m ‘kay. How ‘bout you, you ‘kay?”

“I’m ‘kay. Sure. So tell me, you think you could get even more humiliated? Like, are you over, did you hit rock bo-”

“Oh, no, oh, you know, I’m always down for some good humiliation.”

Brian’s nervous laugh revealed his dirty thoughts enough that he didn’t have to voice them.

“Especially,” Brian had to stop to laugh “haha, especially live on the internet.”

“You know how I like it, daddy.”

The chat was going insane, but Patrick wasn’t going to look unless the thing was actually, literally on fire. It’s not like he was able to read out loud any of the shit the fans were surely sending.

Brian kept the show on the road, even though he was red from trying not to giggle.

“Oh, yeah. So, yeah, you wanna – are you up to – up to some seggos? Wanna do some seggos?”

“Yeah, hit me with some seggos. Them good seggos.”

“Yes, some of that good seggos juice over here. Okay, so.” Brian hits the “this is a segment called” button way too soon, makes a face, but there’s nothing to it. “Okay, yeah, I shot too soon, story of my life, so uhn, yeah, this is, this is from @thero- the roach?”

“The road. Road.”

“Yeah, sorry, I’m sleep deprived, @theroadsofar, and this is a segment called ‘Freaky Friday for the next five minutes’.”

“Oh, this is a good one.”

“This is a great one, thank you!”

“I have no idea if I can channel your energy this late on a Friday, though.” Pat admitted. He was no Polygon’s golden boy but he was tired as well, and Gill and Gilbert now being Fridays nights was Half-Life hell all over again. “You have way too much hope and, and, and joie de vivre.”

“And that just proves to you all that Patrick- Patrick doesn’t know me at all, folks.”

“Bri, c’mon-” but Pat’s words were too late, Brian was already singing “If you don’t know me by now” by Simply Red, and even though Patrick loved his voice, the song was clearly out of his reach.

“Okay. Okay. I’ll do it, let’s complete this seggo.”

“Let’s complete this seggo!” Brian yelled, and Patrick was sure he couldn’t reach that level of happiness in his twenties, let alone now. “Ready? I’m gonna set up the alarm and you can give me the controller ‘cause I will try to kill that jambroni dead this time.”

“And this time” Pat agreed. “you’re gonna do it, you’re gonna fucking do it, you know why?”

“Because you trust my abilities as a competent professional gamer?”

“Because you’ll be me!”

“FUCK I WALKED RIGHT INTO THAT ONE! Fuck you, Pat!” Brian couldn’t stop laughing for another two minutes, so when they finally managed to set the alarm and go to their places – they switched places on the couch to make it more realistic – the game was already ready to roll and the controller in Brian’s hand.

“So – no, wait, let me start over.” Patrick swallowed and put an effort on sounding more cheerful. “Hey, guys. Welcome to Gill and Gilbert. So uhm, Pat-”

“Why you – oh god, haha, why you greeting our viewers again, Brian?” the real Brian said, chocking once again. “Why you, fuck, why are you greeting them again? We’ve been streaming for half an hour, Brian! Get your shit together, Brian!”

“I can’t get my shit together, Patrick – Pat. Pat Gill.” Pat wanted to be better at impersonations, but all he’s got for Brian is a sort of artificial happiness that doesn’t come close to the bundle of energy that is the real BDG most of the time. “I’m sleeping five hours a week, my shit is all over the place.”

“Oh, no, oh no, Bri.” Brian was not even trying very hard to emulate him, though, concentrating as he is in playing the game. He might be calculating his words, though. “That’s too bad – fuck, how do I play this gaaaaaame. But, uhm. Brian. You know you should sleep. You gotta catch some Zs, young boy. Actually, you know you should sleep because I tell you this about five hundred times a day. Go to sleep. You should be asleep. Go. Now. Is not that you look bad, is that you look like twice warmed-over shit.”

Pat wants to ask if he’s really so overwhelming in his worries, but that’s not how you play this game.

“I should sleep. But I guess I’ll just stay awake and bedazzle everyone with my fluffy hair.”

“Like one do.”

“Like one do. But, he-hey. Hey, guys. Welcome to Gill and Gilbert.”

“FUCK, BRIAN.” Bri is laughing so much he’s having trouble keeping Travis Touchdown alive.

“I- I wanted to ask you what are your plans for this weekend.”

“Me? Or the chat?”

“You, I don’t give a fuck about the chat.”

“Oh, oh. Oh. Let me think for a sec- think my very Patrick -hm, Patrick Gilb- Patrick Gill thoughts.”

“Patrick Gilbert.” Pat teases, because Brian seemed lost for a second there.

“Patrick Gilbert, yeah, exactly, Patrick David Gilbert thoughts. Ugh, no, Pat Gilbert is my Pat.”

“Your brother.” Patrick amends quickly, before the chat can go insane and unknowingly ship incest. “I mean. My brother. Because I’m Brian. I have a brother named Patrick and a sister named Laura who actually believes I’m at risk of dying at any giving second.”

“Yeah, ol’ Laura Katheryn and her fear of siblings’ imminent death. Yeah, so, no. No Patrick Gilbert. You be Brian Gill.”

“Brian David Gill.”

“Are we both David? Am I Patrick David Gill?” Bri asks, still unable to land a good blow in game.

“We both Davids. It’s a profusion of Davids over here.”

“An abundance of Davids. Davids- Davids’ club only.”

“Full on Davids in this house. The Good House of Davidsons.”

“God, that’s terrible.” Brian snorts, miss Travis combo, curses, rubs a hand through his hair. “What was the question again.”

“Freaky Friday for five minutes.”

“No, your question, Brian.” Real Brian said, finally hitting a good damage hit, but losing battery in his katana for it.

“I asked you what are you doing this weekend.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Sure. I mean – just Pat things?” Brian laughed at his own jokes. “Just Pat things, this should be a tumblr.”

“It probably is a tumblr.”

“It’s mine. I own that tumblr. Justpatgillthingz.tumblr.com, with a z.”

“A tumblr where you talk about the things you do and like, because that’s Pat Gill at heart.”

“Oh, yeah. Because I am Pat Gill. That means I have a fanpage of my own… my own creation, Jesus. So yeah. What am I doing this weekend. Probably watch wrestling-”

“Watching wrestling, my God.” Real Pat smiled at the dorkness of this kid.

“And, you know, carry Brian’s weight around Polygon since he can’t get his shit together long enough to do his own work. Write all the Unraveled’s scripts and figure all the segments and the stuff for Gill and Gilbert and probably wipe Brian’s ass since he’s a mediocre bitch and I’m a much better and stable professional than he is.”

Oh, so it was roasting yourself time in Brian’s land, apparently.

Pat had to swallow down and blink for a few seconds. Everything was way too much and the sight of Travis being slashed once again wasn’t helping. The camera wasn’t helping. The chat… fuck.

“You know, Pat, I-I don’t think I ever heard you talk to me like that. Ever.” Real Pat whispered, because he couldn’t even begin to react to all that. “And, and, and. You know. Pat Gill, I never – I never got the feeling you think I’m mediocre. I mean, a bitch, sure, we both are – we all are. Maybe not Simone. But I always. I always believed you loved my work and – and thought great things of- of me. Because you may, I mean – I may be tired lately, I know I’m tired, but I’m still the best in my – just, fuck, the best, okay? I may not know that I’m the best, but I am. You…”

The alarm. Five minutes were up. They were back at being their usual selves.

“Gee Louise, that was something.” Brian puts a hand through his face, and Pat knows he isn’t crying but the image still made his heart swallow. “You… you think this is a segment complete?”

“Fuck, I hope it is.” The “segment complete” button was hit without much ado, with just a glimpse of the “tweet of the week” for a second on the screen. “You wanna do another segment?”

“No, I’m dead.” Brian said, with so much sorrow in his voice it didn’t sound he was talking about Tyler any longer. More worrisome, Pat completely lost track of the game they were supposed to be playing while working on that segment. “I have to make a – you know what? You know what, Pat Gill? That’s, that’s fine. I can – I got this. I’m gonna make my other call.”

“Don’t you wanna let the chat chose?” The chat have been choosing who they called, by saying things like “call the 15th person on your contacts”, since the beginning of the stream.

“No, I’m – sorry, chat.” Brian smiled, a man with a plan. “I, I need to make a call a right now.”

Brian called. The call didn’t go through.

“Patrick!” Brian yelled suddenly. “Why the fuck is your phone turned off?”

“I’m in the middle of streaming, you lunatic.”

“A streaming about phone calls, Pat!” Brian yelled.

“Okay, fuck, wai- wait, yeah, here. Do it again.”

“We lost the dramaticity of it.” Brian bitched, already dialing again. “We lost all the surprise element ‘cause-”

“Shut the fuck up, I’m getting a call.” Pat answered, Brian’s name on his phone. “Hello, this is Patrick Gill.”

“Hello. Hey.” Brian started awkward, but soon changed his tone of voice. “Hey, guys, welcome to Gill and Gilbert, a public-”

“Jesus Christ!” Pat was breathless from laughing, almost dying. “You asshole!”

“No, seriously. Hey, Pat. I’m just calling you ‘cause I don’t think I’ve been clear to… to you of how much I appreciate that you’ve been covering for me at work; and how much I appreciate your writing and, and how much I love working alongside you and, and streaming. I’m sorry I’m such an ungrateful… ungrateful asshole about it. You’re an amazing person and I’m just- just happy to work with you.”

They weren’t looking at each other.

“Hey, I-” Pat swallowed, tried again. Gill and Gilbert wasn’t the place to get fucked up emotionally. “I’m glad you called, Bri, ‘cause I’ve been meaning to call – no, fuck, really. Because I worry and I know it’s a millennial thing to believe you are all fake and a, an impostor,” even saying the word felt horrible. “but I need you to see how amazing you are all on your own. We work on a team and the reason we do it it’s so we can – fuck, we can have each other’s back. I have no idea how many times Clayton saved my ass. But – and you, you too, sure – but like. It’s no coincidence you are… you are big, Bri. You were always going to be big. That’s… that’s just how things were supposed to be.”

Silence for half a second, then:

“Fuck, I didn’t put us on the Wii Phone Boot camera.”

“That’s… just, put us now.”

Brian put the camera on and proceed to look over at Pat, clearly out of ideas to end this phone call.

“So… What’s good, hum, Pat Gill? I heard you and Laura talked?”

Pat laughed relieved. They were fine. “I was fishing for more pics of your theatre kid days.”

*

It hasn’t been even three hours before that segment was a video on its own on YouTube and everyone with a twitter seemed interested in retweeting it. People just wanted to talk endless about it. Exactly four hours later, when Pat was home and trying not to open his mentions on Twitter, Brian called him again. Patrick answered with:

“Hey, did you just die on NMH again or are you in danger of actually dying in real life?”

“You getting Laura’s weird perception of the reason why people call each other?”

“Well, she had a point. Calls get us all anxious, why the hell would anyone call except to give fucking bad news?”

“To apologize again for being an asshole? And maybe to apologize for dragging you into some fucking discourse on the internet? Or maybe to apologize for having a mental breakdown in the middle of a stream?”

“Bri, fuck off.” Pat sighed. “No, do not fuck off. I’m not mad at you. We are all humans here, dude, and not sleeping will get you in a weird mental place. More… fuck, I don’t wanna say sensitive, but then again, why are we so afraid of being sensitive, right? Why does it have to be a bad word for us, being able to feel things.”

“Good try, Pat Gill, but I’m not getting into gender expectations discourse with you and avoiding talking about how much I fucked up on the streaming today.”

“You didn’t, that’s what I’m saying. You showed a side of yourself and of our friendship, a side that maybe it would be best if we kept for ourselves, but honestly? That’s way more for the sake of our own privacy than about your fans. They want to see everything that is to see of you. They don’t resent you from breaking down on camera, and that’s the most dangerous thing. They’ll drink your tears just as happily as they’ll eat your smiles, and you have to take care of yourself before you’re giving them way more than you’re comfortable with. Before you give everything and ends up empty.”

“I… fuck, I’m not sure where the line is anymore. So many hours in front of camera, I just… thank you for always taking care of me. For being so gentle with my mess.”

“Fuck, don’t say shit like that. Not to me, not on a Friday night after all the shit we went through this week.”

“It was a shitty week.”

“It was. Fuck. I might sleep on your call. Tell me anything else.”

“Want me to sing you a lullaby, Pat Gill?”

“How about Thumbnaill? I like that one.”

“Is the only one you like.”

“No, is the one I like best. I’ll be asleep before you end it, you know.”

Even though Pat had asked for a song half-joking, Brian sang for him, in a small, melodious voice, and Pat tried really hard to pretend it was normal bro’s stuff to be so sweet with each other, but in the end, figured it was a “who gives a fuck” kind of problem. Life was way too hard and unforgiving to deny yourself small pleasures because it was not proper boys’ behavior or some shit like that.

*

“Is there a reason why everyone is talking about a Laura on the chat and why we should call her?” Thomas asked, in that drawling voice of his.

“Oh, that-that’s probably…” Bij held the microphone to Patrick, so he could be heard. Boyz Talk really needed better equipment. “That’s Laura Gilbert, I think they mean. Laura Katheryn Gilbert.”

“Brian’s sister?” Thomas asked, and fuck, the boys immediately connecting it to Brian is worse, right? If there even is a worse, the Twitch chat has been talking about BDG non-stop. Bij and Thomas knew to avoid it, but Pat had forgotten to mention the possibility of Laura being brought up.

“Yeah, I called her and… I don’t know, it was a thing for, for Gill and Gilbert.”

“Great show, you guys should all watch Gill and Gilbert, live on Friday’s.” Thomas said, apparently feeling Patrick’s discomfort. Bij, on the other hand, had no such sensibilities:

“Yeah, we should. According to the chat you guys are married and Laura is your sister-in-law, so I bet there’s a lot of story in that.”

“Hahaha, yeah, I- the phone call was something and… I don’t know.”

“Don’t get married without us, bro.” Thomas said, before quickly changing the subject. “You guys afraid of phone calls? Think that’s because of the Scream movies?”

*

“And guess what?” Bri said on the small screen. He was wearing a wonderfully tailored, softly green three piece suit and his hair was flowing free, giving him a slightly elf aesthetic. The background, as usual, was plain black. “Today I, Brian David Gilbert, will scientifically build the best Mario Kart course!” big white letters popped over the screen, while Brian dances to the Mario Star Theme remix playing on the background.

Two weeks after the Emotional Seggo Incident, the next Unraveled was almost ready to be posted. Life continued quite normally, with Brian shooting a small game profile on why the mechanics on Pacman Colors worked so well with the original concept of the game and Pat starting on yet another gameplay to add to his NMH Guide. Mostly they focused on writing and recording this single Unraveled episode, and opted out of recording another Gill and Gilbert. It felt like a nice way of putting things on a hold, not having to deal with the chat just yet.

While Pat was quite sure this episode would be a success – the hype for Mario Kart 9 was really something, and Polygon was nothing if not eager to jump onto that Nintendo train –, this particular time Clayton’s editing was bothering him enough he wasn’t able to just give the thumbs up and go on to the next project.

Patrick watched the whole thing yet again, this time taking notes.

At 1’05, right after Brian announced the title of the episode and walks away dancing – presumably to be cut off to the next part – Bri looks back a little over the top of the camera on his left – that’s Pat’s camera, the whole internet knows that by now – and says:

“That’s right, Pat, just saying ‘Rainbow Road is the best’ ain’t enough, we gotta do science over here, you asshole.”

By the five minutes mark, as Brian is explaining the mechanics behind the co-op system on the fourth installment of the racing game, Pat’s voice over gets subtitles as he says, with his best porno voice:

“Uhhh, double dash. Double dash.”

“Oh, you like some double dash, baby?” Brian answers, already laughing. “You into some double dashing?”

“Got the hots for some double dashing, babe.”

At 7’25, Brian is saying: “And we all eventually enjoy the secure simulation of falling from the roads of our lives through a dark pit to disappear into the endless void.”

“Same.” Pat had answered – and he knew he had giving enough time for Clayton to be able to cut that part right off.

“You can’t say ‘same’ to a line you wrote, Pat, that’s just being an annoying puppeteer.”

A little over the 10 minutes mark, the interaction is a silent one: Brian hands him the scissors and Pat just gives him the thumbs up, a small demonstration that everything is doing fine. That was, probably, the one that felt more intimate of them all: the soft not-smile Brian offers in return, the way Pat’s eyes follow him until he’s back in position and Pat is back behind his camera. The way Brian looks just over said camera before he is back to his explanation, such a grateful, relieved look. Just too much.

At the end of the episode, the small screen just shows a full minute of Pat losing his shit over the line “And that’s the moment you have to ask yourself if you like it slippery, wet, or as dry as Wario’s… hum… gold mines, if you know what I’m saying.”

That is… a lot. He tries to tell this to Clayton, and he even takes his notes with him.

“Dude, that’s part of the series. Brian shoots, you react to it. We already have that on brand, there are whole gifsets on Tumblr of you laughing at Brian’s deliveries.”

“But it feels like there’s a lot… more, I don’t know? I think I’m maybe in one or two scenes tops in the other ones. This Unraveled feels like I’m in it just as much as Brian, and that’s… not fair, I mean.”

“I don’t think it’s too much.” Tara offered, coming out of her office. “I mean, sure you are more in it than in the others. But people are also way more interested in your dynamic after the Segment Incident, so it should feed the more engaged fans without weirding the others out.”

“‘Engaged’ is a way of putting it.” Pat said under his breath.

“Well, Patrick…” Tara seemed to consider her next words carefully. “Obviously those snippets weren’t meant to end up in the final cut. We can edit it all out if you’re not comfortable with, even though I’m sure Clayton would not enjoy it.”

“It’s meh.” Clayton answered, already working on a different video entirely and mostly focusing on his screen. “We can insert the bit about the game items, I skipped most of that since Brian kept making small mistakes. Nothing we can’t fix with well-placed subtitles.”

“I could do it.” Patrick said, but Tara was already shaking her head.

“No, I want you helping Jenna with her next Resident Evil historical project. Besides, you and Bri are not opting out of shooting Gill and Gilbert this week, you better chose a game and start picking segments. Look, I’ll tell you the true: the reason I told Clayton to leave most of the parts where you two interact” and isn’t that an important piece of information Patrick had no idea before now. “was because you decided to not shoot an episode of your most successful streaming right after you both had an emotional break down on camera. Actually, right after that single incident gave us the most watched streaming in the story of the channel, so we know for sure people were interested in what you guys have to say. You both told me you didn’t have the time to shoot G and G, I agreed, that’s all fine, but I just thought it would be good to show the public you two in a nice, professional relationship, no hard feelings and all that.”

“I just wish you had told me that before we recorded the episode, Tara.”

She sighed, but looked him straight in the eyes. “Look, it’s not like it was an evil plan of mine or something. You were busy recording the NMH thing, Clayton was working on Unraveled, we both saw we had a lot of material to explore the dynamic between you and Brian. We don’t want to expose you, but sometimes showing less will create more rumors than showing more. Of course, the offer stands: if you’re uncomfortable, we can edit it again, Clayton has enough material to work with, the video will be a success anyway. We just have to post it soon, that’s all.”

Pat felt like Tara had talked over his fears before he had time to voice anything that was really bothering him: that this was Brian’s baby and that he was stealing his thunder; that Brian and him shouldn’t been seen as double package because Brian had a career of his own; that there was enough people talking about them as it was; that the fandom would never be satisfied, and the next rumor was just a matter of time.

But then again, practical reasons. Tara’s reasons. Time, Clayton’s efforts, the next project, the comedy valor…

“No, just… just keep it. It’s fine that way.”

*

“Today we’ll be soft.”

“Real soft.”

“Tender.”

“Lovable, I would say. And tasty.”

“Tasty, yeah, baby, today Pat and I are playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We will try to collect all the brand new collectable fruits this game introduced to the series. We are talking native fruits, island fruits, tropical fruits and even the Holy Grail of Pomes, the Perfect Special Fruit. Every time we get a new tasty yummy we get to eat some of these sweet, sweet fruits in real life. You’ll be happy to see we’ve skipped strawberries, so Patrick Gill won’t suffer from his allergies today.”

“We hope.”

“We hope. But the night is young, I might find something else to try and murder you with before the end of the stream.”

“If I gotta go, let me go looking into the tender, pure eyes of Isabelle.”

“Oh, to die by Isabelle’s side is such a heavenly way to die.”

It was a good streaming, Pat could tell already. Brian was rested and shinning, the fruits were helping both of their humors and even though Patrick wasn’t that into the game they were playing, it was always good to send a little love to Nintendo of America.

The chat was well behaved as well, only turning frantic when the segment involved braiding each other’s hair while telling a gossip.

(“So uhm, my… my grandmother, right?” Pat ran his finger through the soft long hair, so much lighter than his. It had a bit of gel in it but not enough to make it feel rough to the touch.

“Sweet lady Julia, she was so nice to me.”

“Yeah, grandma Julia has this friend, Janice? They met in church.”

“Yes, you guys catholic.”

“Yeah, anyway, Janice is a few years younger, but her son…” it was just so nice to run his fingers through the scalp, Patrick was considering just keep rubbing Brian’s head and never finish the braid. “her son is a journalist? And he got a divorce or something. Only, now, he’s now living with his ex-wife and with her new husband.”

“Wait, like polyamory?”

“Apparently not. Apparently the rent prices in Boston are pretty high. They live in Boston, this was not a, a, you know, a non-sequitur.”

“At least that’s what he wants mama Janice to believe.”

“Yeah, there’s that.”

“It’s so nice you’re up, up to speed, as the youths say, with your grandma’s social circle gossips.”

“She called me yesterday. She wanted to ask me if I’d ever do something like this. You now, it this is common-ish behavior for the millennials and their lack of money.”

“I think that was Lady Julia’s subtle way of asking you if you’d be up for some bisexual threesome.”)

Now, the thing is: Pat is the one choosing their segments. He knew what Brian might read next. The rule was to pick more segments than they would be able to perform, just to avoid running out of segs, so the true is that a single segment could always not make it into the episode. That doesn’t mean Patrick didn’t knew what kind of risk they were under every time Brian went for another one. Patrick could have easily avoided the whole mess.

But when he picked that particular segment – two hours prior, rushing before the streaming hour – it sounded like real fun. What’s a little awkwardness over having fun?

“…so, wanna do one more, real quick?” Pat asked, sitting back down after “this a segment called stand on one leg contest”. Brian won.

“We can do one more before we are back to our fruit orgy.”

“That tasty orgy.”

“That tasty, yummy fruit bacchanal. Yeah, so this comes from @jujume and – Pat, can you hit the…”

“Gillin’ in the name of” starts playing, Pat swears, hits the right button the second time around.

“So yeah, this is a segment called- uhhhhh, this will be… uh, wild, I think. Bold choice of seggo, Patrick Gill. This is a segment called ‘five minutes dramatic reading of the first fanfic to appear in the patbri tag on AO3’.”

Brian didn’t look weirded out or mad, just laughing nervously, kind of giddy. Pat could deal with that, but he had the obligation of at least try to offer the other man an out, in case he was too freaked out.

“You wanna do this now, it’s kinda long. We can choose a faster one.”

“Yeah, I mean, we have the time. Let me just open AO3 real fast, while I do that-” Brian fumbled for his cellphone, awkwardly typing the password. “…you a fic reader, Pat? Tell us about that.”

“Actually, I, uhm, no. Let me get the five minutes alarm ready on my phone. So, yeah, no, I had a friend who wrote X Files fics when I was a teenager and I read a few of those for moral support, but it wasn’t even… I think they were on Livejournal, or something. She used to write Mulder/Krycek, I think, and I never got it, like… Mulder/Scully was everywhere so I never got her pair, but yeah. And what about, what about you, you into that?”

“I’ve read my fair share of porn in the Harry Potter fandom, but I was never… wait, this, oh god!”

Brian was already laughing, throwing his neck back with his free hand over his eyes, so whatever he found was bound to be good.

“Oh my god, the tittle is A piece of ground in this town, by Moonshine_Givens.”

“Oh, good, that’s from the Altogether, right?”

“Yeah, Sophie.”

“See, I know your other songs.”

“You do, but you only like Thumbnail.”

“That’s not…”

“Okay, but the summary, Jesus: ‘Pat and Brian are two cowboys who met on a desert road way too far from home. In the quiet and lonely nights, they have to learn to trust each other.’ WE GOTTA GO BROKEBACK THIS MOUNTAIN, BABEY!”

Brian’s laugh was carefree and easy, and Pat was just as caught in the hilarity of it.

“That’s fucking amazing.”

“Let’s see. You wanna read the tags?”

“You know what? No, Bri, let’s…”

“Let’s just be taken by surprise with it, right? Let’s not spoiler this fun, adventurous reading.”

“Yeah, and let’s not read from the beginning, introductions are meh, just…”

“Yeah, let’s do dialogues, those are always fun.”

“Dialogue is where the fun’s at.”

“Dialogues are just… I bet – I bet you anything there’s a point where they – where we share a bed.”

“Here, that looks good.”

“Okay, Pat, wait a… okay, go, you start.”

“Here?”

“Yeah, no wait, just… two seconds.”

Brian ran outside the studio at full speed. Pat just laughed at the kid’s enthusiasm, no idea why he was gone: a couple seconds later, he was back with the cowboy hats they wore on the Red Dead Redemption 2 gameplay. Pat immediately put his on.

“There, we are good to go now.” Brian approved, siting back down.

Pat put on his best cowboy voice and started.

‘You are way too trusting, kid. Ain’t something to be ‘round here, Pat said, laying down close to the fire, but still able to watch Brian closely as the younger man brushed down Zuko’s mane’ – uh, nice touch, Zuko being a horse.”

“Just the idea of being that near a horse is stressing me out. Okay, let me: ‘I ain’t trusting everyone, ya think yours were the first one I ran into on this damn long road?, Brian asked, smiling softly at Pat. No, sir. You were just the first one I’ve been willin’ to put up for more than a couple hours. I know the true, you ain’t gotta say it. Skinny young pup like me, I’m bound to attract all sorts. I may have been born on a Sunday but it ain’t last Sunday, Pat Gill.’

‘Why you trust me, then?, Patrick asked, and Brian turned his back on Zuko to look directly into the older man’s eyes, as if searching for something, evaluating if he should give an honest answer.’

‘I’m not sure I can explain, Pat Gill.’ Okay, wait, do I really call you Pat Gill this often?”

“Once every three words.”

“Oh, okay, nice call out, then, kudos for the author for keeping me so in character, I guess. ‘I’m not sure I can explain, Pat Gill. I could just feel… look, since I got out of town ain’t much I can recognize ‘round me. Everything, everyone, seems… just strange. Like there’s a distance I cannot cross between me and… everything. Unfamiliar faces all day long and all night as well. For a while on the road I had Laura with me, but without her everything looks too different. I guess when I saw you for the first time I just… I just felt somethin’ like findin’ my way… like comin’ home.’ ” Brian paused his reading, his finger hovering over the words in the screen. “Fuck, that’s – any – okay, so, you. You go, now.”

‘You see me on a desert road for the first time in your life and I… I felt like home?, Pat wondered, his voice no louder than a whisper, his eyes following as Brian crouched over the fire. There was amazement in his tone of voice, not because he couldn’t believe what Brian was telling him, but because he couldn’t believe how close it was from his own feelings as he first laid eyes on the boy.’

‘Yeah, I – do ya believe in souls, Pat Gill?’

‘I’m catholic. Pat answered, to which Brian laughed a bright, gorgeous laugh – the sound was clear and dear to Pat’s heart already.’

Brian faked a laugh that had no resemblance with the laugh the author was probably aiming for. “ ‘That ain’t an answer but I’mma let it slide. It’s like that’ OH MY GOD, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS FIC.” Brian stopped reading again, laughing like a maniac. “Oh god, this is too good. She’s going to kill us. Or maybe not, I mean, I can see it, she would look gorgeous in those old corselet from the Old West. I apologize, I just got too excited, but like. Okay, let me get back to it and you guys will understand: ‘It’s like that whore that was sweet on you was sayin’, Pat, whas her name again?, the young man asked, his voice suddenly cold.’

Pat had to pause for a whole second to try and read it without laughing. “ ‘Simone.’ ” The moment he said it, though, there was no hope: he and Brian were gone – at least a minute was lost before they could both stop laughing. “ ‘Her name was Simone, Pat answered, already regretting not pretending to forget the whore’s name. He could still remember the thunder in Brian’s eyes as he stared the girl down, almost starting a fight in the saloon before the whore could even touch Pat.’ So cowboy!Brian is possessive much.”

“Yeah, cowboy!Brian is an right asshole, preventing my girl Simone for making a living. So: ‘She said it that day, and it was true – it is true. It’s like we are cut from the same cloth. My soul just wanted to recognize yours. I was never afraid because I could not be wronged by the very substance of my soul.’

It was Patrick’s time of being in silence. He could not believe he was actually feeling drawn by a cowboy!AU with flourish prose, but how many times had he considered Brian as an equal in a deeper, primal level than anyone else in his life? When they first met, how fast did he realize he and Brian had so much in common, that Brian was able to see him better than friends that had known him for years? Fuck.

“Fuck. So, hm. ‘Pat had to close his eyes, too overwhelmed by the words and Brian’s earnest look.’

‘How ‘bout you, then?, Brian asked in a lighter tone. I may be young but I could just as easily be a nasty lil trouble.’

‘Oh, you are trouble alright., Pat answered before he could stop himself, opening his eyes. No, Bri, when you’ve been on the road for as long as I have, you just see it. People carry their weight as if they’re draggin’ their past. Their sins are pillin’ like loads on their shoulder. You… you are so light you float. Your feet barely touch the fucking ground. I could never be afraid of you. In fact… from the moment I saw you I just wanted to get closer.

The alarm sounded just before Pat finished that line, but Brian still read:

‘I still want it.’ ” A pause, Brian took a sip of his Unnamed Piss Tea. “Uhm, yeah, and that was, that was A piece of ground in this town, a patbri fic on AO3.”

“Let me hit the…” the segment complete button was hit, for once, without incident. “Yeah.”

He made the mistake of looking over Brian. While they were reading, the screen had been a safe place to look. Now he had to face a Brian that seemed deeply astounded. His eyes were round and he had his lips partly open, as if trying to answer a question Patrick wasn’t sure he was asking.

‘He's more myself than I am. Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same.’ ” Brian was almost whispering, his voice taking a solemn shape as he recited the Wuthering Heights quote from memory. “I think... that’s a very Bronte fic.”

“It is, it is.” Pat agreed, smiling, looking away, immediately draw back to look over Brian’s red cheeks again, unable to keep his eyes away from long. “I thought this one was going to be a – a crack fic.”

“Me too. But that’s – that’s some emotional cowboying going on here.”

“Some cowboy feels.”

“Some, some deep yeehaws.”

“Yeah, hahaha, that’s... fuck, that was some emotional yeehaws. But yeah, that was a seggo.”

*

“I have the feeling mistakes were made on my part today.” Pat decided to say once they were outside, on the street.

“Are you apologizing, Pat Gill?” Brian asked with an easy, playful smile on his lips.

Pat made a face at that, unsure. “I… guess? Should I?”

“Nah. You gave me an out, and it was a good segment. At least we didn’t get to read out loud some noncon. Or, I don’t know, just plain porn, that would have been terrible as well.”

“Still.” Pat reached inside his pocket and lighted a cigarette, trying to convey the fucked up feeling he got after they’ve hit the segment complete button. “It still felt… intimate. I don’t know.”

“It did.” Brian agreed, not looking very worried nor surprised. “Teaches us to read the tags beforehand, we could have picked a nice little crack fic with no feelings. At least we know we’ll get a bunch of cowboys fanart next week.”

“Livin’ the dream, babe.” Pat smiled, getting ready to say goodbye.

“Hey, wanna grab something to eat? Don’t feel like eating alone tonight.” Brian shrugged. “We can finish reading the cowboy kink fest and figure who bends who over the hay.”

Patrick knew neither one would be able to keep reading that particular fiction, but he nodded anyway. “Sounds like a plan. You chose.”

*

After that, people got way too nasty way too fast for Pat’s tastes, that was the thing.

Of course the fandom was going to react immediately to a whole segment of them reading RPF. Patrick knew that was going to happen, and maybe he decided to give them a little something to talk about that wasn’t emotional breakdowns in front of the camera – of course, that plan backfired a bit when the segment turned into a big angsty gay play as well. But, you know, at least it wasn’t their actual feelings, just some character loosely based on them living in the Wild West, for heaven’s sake. Patrick was okay with that.

He knew the gifs, the fanpages, the tweets, the fanvids, the fanarts were all going to rain on them. Brian knew as well, the second he decided to go all the way with the segment Brian had to know how the internet was going to react. It was just. Well.

The “they’re fucking” versus “Patrick Gill is straight” argument was old by that time, the fandom war between shippers and the allegedly Pat fans was as old as Gill and Gilbert. Some people would claim there was no way they were that close and touchy without something happening behind the cameras; while other people would claim to know – as if they had been there – that Pat had once been married, therefore legally unable to ever have sinfully thoughts about cocks of any kind.

The thing was: both sides were wrong.

Brian was Patrick’s best friend, his favorite person on Polygon – and that was saying something, he really loved Simone – and attractive enough, but Pat never got to fuck that twink. Why? Patrick had no idea. They flirted enough in the first days for it to become a very clear possibility, but it never evolved from that – so many late night dinners after streaming, so many planning evenings in each other’s bedroom, so many long weekends drinking and talking, and yet it never came to be. Brian hinted very strongly at something happening on the first E3 they attended together, but then he was sharing a room with Clayton and that was that.

Pat could seem them both, years down the road, old and gray, married with other people and Brian with probably five kids of his own, and someday Patrick would finally ask:

“Hey, Bri, why didn’t we fuck all these years?”

And the answer would be something stupid like “I sent you a DM five months into our friendship but I guess Twitter fucked up”.

Anyway, Pat wasn’t hitting that.

But he, just like Brian, very much wasn’t straight either. How many “New shoes” vids did he have to release into the world for it to be obvious? Brian, the fucker, of course thought it was completely hilarious that anyone would believe Patrick’s chaotic bi energy was anywhere close to straight, but well – these are the days of our heteronormative lives.

It didn’t really bother Patrick, as he made a point of not talking about his personal life online. It hinted at a really fucked up mentality of bi invisibility, but Pat wasn’t about to lose his privacy just because some assholes can’t figure the difficult math of a male having a wife and not being straight. It was their issue, and Patrick was very much fine with letting them all sink into stupidity.

But. But.

After that point – after airing two incredible personal segments, one phone call to Laura Gilbert and that one frankly queerbaiting episode of Unraveled, courtesy of Tara – people got way too nasty. The always present fandom wars evolved to fucking discourse about Patrick Gill being, of all things, assaulted by one Brian David Gilbert.

“Pat’s obviously uncomfortable.” Someone wrote over a gif of Brian sitting on his lap to a segment called different life forms and their youngs. “Gilbert is crossing so many lines, it’s disgusting. Pat’s straight and he doesn’t want to be groped on his workplace.”

“You can tell its unwanted attention, Pat is so awkward.” Well, he was awkward, but not because Brian was smiling softly at him while singing the Beauty and the Beast theme. He was awkward because he couldn’t remember a single line from that fucking song. “He’s not into guys, can’t BDG get a fucking clue.”

“You gay shippers are all nasty, can’t you see Pat is a REAL human being with a REAL sexuality suffering ASSAULT?!! ARE YOU DEFENDING RAPISTS NOW???” Some whack job wrote over a fucking Overboard teaser, probably thinking the video was fanmade. “He’s straight, GET OVER IT!!!! Also BDG is the worst kind of scum for assaulting a straight man, that’s James Charles all over again.”

Well. Fuck that noise.

Everyone was assuming things about him, and that was nothing new. But Brian’s fame was way too young and fragile for YouTube videos entitled “5 times BDG made Pat uncomfortable (warning: sexual harassment! Can be triggering!!)” with 47 thousand views on it. It went beyond what was acceptable and it was well on the way of tainting Bri’s fame.

Pat tried talking to him.

“Oh, you sweet summer child, Pat Gill.” Brian smiled at him from behind the mountain of unread scripts of movies about games that he was about to destroy in the next Unraveled. “For every fan saying I’m raping you behind the curtain, there’s at least four writing very explicit content about you pounding me like a tambourine, if you catch my drift.”

By that point, Patrick was already sorry he breached the subject while they were still in the office. They probably would end up having dinner together that night – as they seemed to be doing more and more in the past month – so he really should have considered his timing better.

“Yeah, but those fans are the harmless ones.”

Brian’s laugh was loud enough to rivals Simone’s. “The ones writing downright porn about us don’t bother you? Don’t strike you as invasive or anything?”

“Well, at least they get the right idea.”

“Oh my, mister Gill, I would never!” Brian rested a ridiculous hand on his chest, wiggling his eyebrows in such a cheesy way Pat couldn’t stop himself from laughing. “You really do have a monster cock and a piss kink? Also, please warn me when you’re about to make me come on my suit, I’m so very horny for walking around my workplace with come stains. Daddy.”

“No, asshole. At least the porn is not about you assaulting me. Well, most of it is consensual. Anyway, they’re not claiming to have evidence of you being a horrible human being.”

“No, just evidence of me being horny on main.”

“To be fair,” Jenna chimed from her worktable, and Pat could have sworn she’d been immersed on her headphones not a second ago. “we all have evidence of you being horny on main. Anyone with internet access has evidence of you being horny on main.”

“Same.” Pat agreed.

“Well, fuck you both very much.” Brian sighed. “I have no control over what people on the internet do with my image. I’m sorry this dragged you as well. I’ll- shit, I don’t know. Try to be less. Touch you less, I guess. Not touch you at all.”

“Bri, that’s not what I’m saying.”

“I know it’s not, but other than that I have no idea what I can do. Well, besides read 70 scripts in five days.” He pointed at his own table. “The only other option would be to end G and G again.”

“No fucking way.”

“Pat...” Brian’s hands were in his hair, and he looked way too overwhelmed for ten in the morning.

“Just – Bri, just forget it. You’re right. It will blow off soon enough. We’ll be okay, I won’t deal with this anymore.”

*

Of course, Pat was lying through his lying little teeth. He couldn’t just forget Brian being called scum and a pervert in his Twitter feed every day.

He went to Tara next:

“Polygon has to do some shit, T. We are going to lose subscriptions if word gets around our golden boy is an abusive asshole. It’ll be Nick all over again, and that didn’t involve the whole queer discourse. They have a fucking hashtag now, #stoptouchingpat, check it out.”

“Pat, calm down. I worry just as much as you. But we can’t engage trolls. I can’t release a note every time some internet forum decides to drag one of ours, we would be doing this every day. There’s nothing to do but let the fans shoot each other. You both have very faithful fans that will end up those rumors themselves. Polygon can’t do anything about it.”

Now, honestly? That was downright a lie. Patrick knew half the teasers and all the edits Clayton released lately were made to bring attention to Pat and Bri’s little moments – once that Unraveled aired, it opened precedent for a whole lot more, including the occasional romantic song as background to their most innocuous interactions. They were made to feed the shippers, to make them keep coming back for more. No one was more loyal than a shipper with a bone(r), and Tara knew how to play them.

It was downright an asshole move from Tara to bring attention to their “chemistry” and then let Brian to fight the sharks alone.

So Pat made a plan. Or, better yet, a tweet.

*

It was just after a three days holiday in the middle of the week Brian and Patrick earned for working the weekend and delivering an impeccable and lovable episode of Unraveled, ranking all the 79 movie scripts based on video games from bad to so fucking worst. Being the only two adult people that had nothing to do in the middle of the week, Pat and Bri decided to escape a bit and just enjoy their time off in the sun.

Well, I mean, decided is a bit too strong of a word.

(6h30 in the morning on their first day off:

“Run away with me.” was Brian’s first words to Pat when he picked up the phone.

“Fuck off.” Pat sweetly answered, and hung up on him.

30 seconds later, another call:

“I’m outside. Let’s go.”

“Brian, I want to sleep. It’s my day off. What you doing, fucker?”

“What are you going to do with it?”

“With what?”

“Your day off.”

“Wash my hair. Laundry. Jerk off. Adult stuff.”

“Fuck that noise, man. Let’s go somewhere. We can be adults on the weekend.”

“Are you really outside?”

“No, but I can get there in five minutes. I thought it would be more dramatic to open with that, though.”

“So you are kidnapping me away from my laundry plans.”

“Yeah. You might wash your hair, I’m willing to sacrifice vacation time for that.”

“And jerking off?”

“As long as you keep it out of my dashboard, I don’t give two fucks about it, jerk off in the car.”)

Patrick saw himself dragged to a small adventure – basically, they ate good food and took scenic pictures while driving up to Cold Spring. Brian excitedly hopped Pat into plans of making another series, trying to build the scientifically perfect videogame while playing older titles. They made plans and wrote bits ideas, promising to just post the videos in Brian’s own channel if Tara wasn’t into it.

It was so fucking nice to just watch Brian relax and have ice cream and laugh, that Pat was taken by the clear feeling of unfairness of it all: that such a sweet human being got to be judge and condemned by people he never met or hurt. Besides, he knew what would happen when they launched yet another series together. Brian was just so happy, so excited to start this new work, and every word, every interaction would be scrutinized by so called fans. It would crush Brian’s happiness.

So Patrick planned. Come Thursday, back in the office, he made a simple tweet, that read:

“Bi the way, I’m not straight.”

Followed by:

“Some of you insist in talking about straight Pat this, straight Pat that, but I don’t know her.”

That... had way more consequences than Pat would have imagined.

*

The axis of the problem was that it was, of course, a Thursday. Pat, much like the main character of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy never got the hang of Thursdays. You know, the day before Friday. The day before Friday when most people post pictures of past events in their social media profiles.

Fuck TBT.

*

The picture showed the royal blue porch of a small and intimate French bistro, with yellow windowpanes and a French flag on the center wall. Over one of the windows, the small tablet read “Brasserie Le Bouchon”. Sitting at the small table, both hands over the red checkered towel – orange nail polish on his delicate fingers –, Brian was clearly talking, lips parted around a vowel. On the opposite side, Pat had his head thrown back, one of his hands over his mouth, failing to contain his laugh. They were both turned towards each other, uncaring of the camera registering them. On the table, many wine glasses and two empty plates.

The caption read: “Pat Gill: the man, the legend, the partner. Thanks for this small vacay and thank you for so many other days – days in the past and days to come. Hopefully we’ll have news for you guys soon, fingers crossed that The Powers That Be give us the green sign. Keep your eyes and ears open, folks.”

The post was made on Instagram at 2:40 pm. Pat came out of the closet in his Twitter account at 3:15 pm, without having touched his Instagram feed in more than eight hours.

The picture was taken down from Brian’s Instagram account at 5:03 pm. It was way, way too late.

*

(“Hey, sir, could you please take a picture of us?”

“Oh, sure.” The waiter easily agreed. “You guys on a honeymoon or something?”

“No, Brian and – no, I mean, we are just coworkers. Just a small holyday away from the office.”

“Two bros chillin’ in a bistro…” Brian sang in the rhythm of the The opposite of a gaydar vine. Pat was laughing immediately.

“Oh, fuck, sorry guys, I pressed the thing and you weren’t even looking. Let me try again.”

“No, no, that’s fine, thank you.” Pat reached for his cellphone. “We have a thousand pics already, bro. Gotta save some for the honeymoon.”)

*

Came Monday, the first hour found Brian, Pat, Tara and the PR team all anxiously piled up in one of the streaming rooms, the best for that kind of meeting.

“Look, it was a complete coincidence. If we were to coordinate our posts, wouldn’t it be more rational to do it in a single social media?” Patrick asked. “Why would he use Instagram while I was posting on Twitter?”

“Pat, you’re grasping for technicalities here.” Tara argued. “No one gives a fuck if you guys used Facebook or a goddamn carrier pigeon, the time of the postings were way too close for it to be coincidental.”

“But it was!” Brian yelled, not for the first time.

“I know!” Tara raised from her chair, clearly trying to compose herself. “We all know. We’ve heard this story one hundred times. It’s not enough. You guys wanna convince every single internet user that Pat came out of the closet at the same time you posted a romantic picture and that one thing is not connected with the other.”

“I don’t think it’s fair to call it romantic.” Pat chimed, since Brian looked way too defeated.

“Oh, yeah, Pat, a small French restaurant dinner with wine in fucking Cold Springs, it screams platonic.” Tara drank some water, sighed, started again. “Sorry, I’m just… You know what? If that had happened back in 2018, it wouldn’t matter. Fuck, you guys were climbing each other and talking about your crotches on the streaming back in 2018. But Brian is way too big now. He brings too much attention. People think he’s some sort of Kpop idol or something. You know how many legal actions Polygon had to take on the last month to prevent people from selling t-shirts with your face in it? That’s like, just a small bit of what people are willing to do because of your fame. You’re a celebrity, Brian, Jesus.”

“Don’t blame this all on him.” Patrick had to say something. “I was the one who decided to come out of the closet without consulting our PR team. I was the one who didn’t check Brian’s social postings.”

“I’m not blaming anyone, my god. You think that’s what I’m doing here? Pointing fingers? Who did what? It’s your lives and your social media, I wish you guys could do whatever the hell you guys wanted with it. I wish we didn’t have to have this conversation. I’m not blaming Brian; I’m trying to explain why the hell we’ll have to do something about this mess. I’m trying to help you guys fix this before it ends Brian or Polygon.”

Patrick lowered his eyes. How the hell such a small thing could blow so out of proportion.

“You don’t think we could just announce the new series?” Brian asked, voice small and tired.

They all looked over Sarah, head of PR. “Honestly? It would be messy. By now everyone is buying the same narrative: you guys are together, try to assume your romance, Polygon sees it, censors it, you delete your post, Pat gets to keep the bisexual status at this point, but you are prevented to assume your relationship. The final secretive lines of your post together with the bad decision making that made you believe deleting would be for the best after Pat’s coming out statement will guarantee that this narrative keeps prevailing over others. It’s the perfect conspiracy theory. If your post was just about a new series, why didn’t you keep it after Patrick’s tweet?”

Sarah raised a hand before Brian could answer it. It was clear there was no good answer possible.

“Besides, this new series would have to be something solid for us to claim it was it you were talking all along. The only way would be to have a teaser ready today and the video posted by Wednesday.”

“That’s impossible.” Brian whispered.

“Exactly. If we talk about a new series right now, a series that doesn’t even have a title or a visual identity, it will look like it’s just a cover story to take the attention away from your romance. It will raise more suspicion.”

“Fine, then how do we fix it?” Pat was ready to do anything. He had the feeling it would mean quitting Polygon. “We can cancel Gill and Gilbert, I’ll step away from Unraveled.”

Tara laughed, humorless: “Suuuure, that won’t look like you guys are being punished in a homophobic company at all. Please, Pat. Any movement we do right now to try and keep you away from Brian will be read as prejudice against your relationship.”

“How surreal is that you guys keep saying ‘your romance’ and ‘your relationship’ when there isn’t a damn relationship in the first place?” Brian asked, bringing his hands over his eyes.

“Yeah. About that.” Tara finally sat again, took a deep breath. Patrick already knew he wouldn’t like anything she said next. “Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe we ought to have the relationship after all.”

“What are you saying?” Patrick asked, the much politer version of the what the fuck his brain kept trying to voice.

“I’m saying that you guys – accidentally, I know – created a situation in which you either assume a romance or Polygon is taken for homophobic and you both are taken for liars and cowards. There’s no third option. Right now, I can’t order – I won’t order you guys to do anything. But clearly a romantic relationship between the two of you would show that Polygon is open to diversity and not at all rotten with prejudice. Besides, it would finally put an end to all the nasty assaulting theories you were so stressed about, Patrick.”

“But…” that couldn’t be happening. Tara was not telling them she wanted a fake relationship, that could not be happening. “Brian’s image…”

“Would probably profit from the attention.” Sarah intervened. “Instead of being half of the worst kept secret of the internet and working on a shameful institution, he would be a queer, cute gamer with a handsome boyfriend who appears in his videos on occasion. Honestly, it’s already the image most of your fans have built around your dynamic, it’s not like anyone likes Brian for his heteronormative ways. I agree with Tara, it would be the most elegant solution.”

“No, wait.” Brian finally found his voice again. He had a hand raised, as if trying to physically keep away the reality of their words. “Wait, wait, wait. We are talking about lying for thousands of people, here. You can’t believe that’s the best solution? The simplest solution? Lying for everyone? We are sure to get caught sooner or later, what the hell.”

“We are not asking for you guys to get married.” Tara dismissed. “It would be a matter of a simple post, one picture, a couple lines confirming that yes, you are together. You don’t have to answer any questions; you don’t owe anything else to anyone. No need for public appearances, for PDAs, none of that. Just a single post and you can keep as you are. Fuck, you can break up in four months. It’ll be old news by then and the internet can deal with it. It’ll be raining fanvids with Adele’s songs in it, it’ll be great.”

Brian turned to face Patrick, wide eyes and bottom lip trembling. He didn’t look like he was about to cry, at least, but like he had a hard time believing they were immersed in a discussion with this level of surrealism.

“You can’t possibly be seriously considering this, Pat Gill. You can’t.”

“If you say we won’t, we won’t, kid. Simple as that.”

Patrick chose to look and act more confidently than he felt. For his part, he had no idea what was the right path, what was the best solution. But if he knew one thing was that he wasn’t about to pressure Brian into being someone he couldn’t live with.

“We shou- we should discuss this. You and me. Can we?” he turned back to Tara. “I mean, we can, can’t we?”

“Of course, Brian. We won’t force you guys to do anything. You should think. Meanwhile, we got a new series to bring to life as quick as we can, so you better get back to work.”

And just like that, it was their decision to make.

*

They were having dinner. Pat doesn’t understand why, but it looked like he and Brian were having dinner all the time now. They went for their favorite pizza place, so they could choose the toppings without having to actually consider a thousand new options and focus on the mess their lives were at the moment.

“Can you believe Tara just suggested we went with fake relationship as if we are a bad fanfiction trope, Jesus Christ.”

“She’s trying to look out for you, Bri.” Pat argued, taking a small sip from his beer.

“Yeah, right. She’s trying to look out for Polygon.”

“Well, since that is the fucking boat we are all riding right now, I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive.”

“So, you think this is it? We should just lie for everyone? I mean, what the hell am I going to say to mom, to Laura? What are you going to say to your fucking grandma, Pat?”

“That the internet sucks?” Patrick shrugged. Honestly, at this point, he didn’t feel very faithful with their fans, and God knows he always loved the small Polygon fandom. If people speculated less, they wouldn’t be in this mess. “Brian, fuck, we can tell everyone that matters why we are doing it. It’s not like we are gonna turn into Brangelina overnight, there won’t be paparazzi at our wedding. It’s a couple of tweets and maybe five awkward episodes of G and G.”

“And fuck being honest with everyone else?”

“Hey, you are the theater kid here. Are we forgetting every persona theory out there? You know as well as I do that every time we turn the camera on we both are wearing goddamn characters out there. How many times we were tired, sick, exhausted and we became clowns for the sake of entertainment? This would be just another bit, Bri. I don’t give a fuck about lying to people who were sticking their noses where they don’t belong to start with.”

Brian still seemed uncertain, so Patrick decided to put all his cards on the table. It was not something he wanted to do, but it was something he was completely willing to.

“Look, we don’t have to lie. There’s another simple option.”

“Yeah? One Sarah didn’t think of?” Brian asked, skeptical.

“Well, I think she might have thought but was just too polite to tell us. To tell me, I guess.” Patrick bit into his pizza, bracing himself to look unbothered and logical. “Look, I’m pretty sure Vox has other channels where I could help. Besides, with the amount of subscribers I get on Twitch, even if Vox is not interested, chances are I’d be picked up from any other game channel before Charlie discovers papa’s unemployed.”

“No, fuck off, Pat.” Brian shook his head. “You’re not quitting Polygon.”

“It’s the intelligent option. It would solve most of our problems, you have to admit this. Stop being sentimental for a second.”

“I’m not being sentimental, don’t fucking patronize me. It wouldn’t solve shit, Polygon would still be considered a fucked up homophobic channel if word gets out you were sacked for being in a romance with your male coworker. You’re not being intelligent; you’re being a sacrificial bastard. Besides. Fuck, besides, you won’t quit your job because I decided to be a sap and post the gayest pic we took on the whole trip.”

Pat smiled, beside himself. “It’s not the gayest.”

“Please, Pat, Tara was right. The French restaurant looked gayer than if I’d post us kissing.”

“It’s not the gayest. There’s that pic you’re sitting on my lap and we are drinking margueritas.”

“Fuck, the internet would demand a marriage certificate if I posted that one.”

Pat laughed. “Do you think there’s fanfic about the Cold Springs getaway already?”

Brian smile was open and completely ridiculous. “I know there is, babe. There’s one where I blow you under the bistro table.”

“Jesus Christ, can you imagine that!” Pat threw his head back, forgetting his pizza entirely. “That poor waiter…”

“No, no, the grandmas drinking mimosas just behind us, do you remember them? They would get an eyeful; the table didn’t have any cover.”

“A power move would be to come while maintaining eye-contact.”

“With the two grandmas or with the waiter?”

“With the police officer that came to arrest us for improper behavior.” Patrick let Brian laugh for a full minute, enjoying the sound – dear to his heart, that one fanfic had claimed. Yes, it was. “Bri, what are we gonna do?”

Brian sighed, drank a sip from his coke just to gain time. “The smart thing, I guess.”

*

“No. No, I know. I know, mom, I would never… why would I hide it, I would never hide something important from you.”

Behind Brian’s back, Patrick made eye contact with Laura, who was trying her best not to laugh. Brian was becoming more and more agitated – crazy-eyed and fucked up hair as his hands kept tangling into his locks – as the phone call with his mom kept going.

“Look, it’s not. It’s simple, really. I know. No, I’m not being threatened… Because public opinion matters when you’re trying to be a public person, mom! He’s fine with it. No, I know he’s fine with it. He’s right here. Okay, okay, fine, Jesus!” he turned towards Pat. “Patrick Gill, I’m sorry, but could you please talk to my mom?”

“Sure.” Pat agreed easily, having anticipated it might come to this. “Hey, Janet, how’s it going?”

“Pat, dear, could you please explain to me what Brian’s trying to tell me? Before you say anything, dear, just know I would be very glad if you and Brian are in a loving relationship. You seem like a wonderful boy and Brian’s been very happy since you two became closer.”

That is not awkward at all.

“Uhm. Yeah, I appreciate you saying that, ma’am, I really do, and I’m very happy you and, and Laura would be so supportive of us in case we were in a relationship.” Laura snorted by his side, clearly done pretending not to find the whole thing amusing. “The thing is, we are not really seeing each other… that way. We are really just friends. Only, that has been a few misunderstandings lately… online that is. I… I came out of the closet, let’s put it that way, recently, I kinda… told the internet I’m, uhm, bisexual, and our fans took it as a sign that me and Brian are together.”

“Honestly, Patrick, I think that’s a very reasonable conclusion.” Janet said in a voice that left very clear that Pat was the unreasonable one.

“I… I see, but I mean, even though it might be reasonable, it doesn’t change the fact that me and Bri are still just friends? So, yes, it was a, a misunderstanding. But it would be very bad for Bri and Polygon’s image if it looked like we were not assuming a relationship because we are working in a homophobic environment, so we decided it would be for the best to just… assume. The relationship, that is. The… fake relationship.”

Brian, by his side, grunted and put his head in his hands.

“Patrick, dear.” Brian’s mom answered. “By this point it would be just much simpler if the two of you just decided to date each other. You are single, right?”

“MOM, I CAN HEAR YOU, STOP SELLING ME TO PAT.”

“Tell Brian it’s not selling if I’m not getting any money out of it. The only thing this relationship would buy me would be a bit of peace and maybe better phone calls.”

*
It’s done, in the interest of keeping a bit of coherence, in the same fashion of the first fuck up mess that caused all this trouble: Brian posts first on his Instagram account – uploading the same pic he had deleted, this time with the lap margueritas one as a companion – and Pat confirms it on Twitter an hour later. His tweet is a simple: “Newsflash: me and @briamgilbert are an item now, or something. Don’t forget to tune in Fridays 9 PM EST at twitch.tv/polygon to see our love rituals of professional gaming.”

Everyone at Polygon knew they were lying liars, but people seemed to understand the need of protecting the channel and their careers, so Pat wasn’t feeling very judged. It was overall decided that Polygon members would not comment or talk about it on the streams, videos or social medias. That’s why on the next Cyberpunk Overboard, Simone just goes:

“Wait, wait. If you and Brian are now dating, does that means Vang0 Bang0 and Burger Chainz are in love as well?”

Brian immediately hides behind his hands, but Patrick has to maintain his character, so he readily answers in Burger’s Upper Midwest accent:

“Look, look. Now just hold on a second. I have been in love with Vang0 since day one, I have no idea what are you talking about. He just, he just… he ignores me.”

“Vang0 is aromantic.” Jenna chimes in.

“No, no, wait.” Brian finally emerges from behind his own hands, his flashing florescent orange t-shirt almost blinding Pat. “Vang0 thought he was aromantic, and that’s why he didn’t… or maybe he was aromantic for a while, but as we all know, sexuality is fluid, so now – now, fuck.” Brian is laughing hard, Pat can’t help but laugh at this weirdo. “Now, Vang0 proudly identifies himself as a moronsexual.” Everyone was laughing very hard, Clayton – who usually aims for not being seen or heard during the Overboard videos – included. Brian was breathless, but kept trying to talk over his own mirth. “He is attracted to dumbasses and dumbasses only. Like, last month, when Burger asked… when Burger fucking asked why does Dasha has a picture of herself tattooed on her back, Vang0 fucking snapped, man. Like, he realized…”

“Such a hot imbecile.” Jenna almost fell from her metal chair.

“Vang0 realized he just, he had to have this stupid brainless idiot of a man.”

“And that’s where we are right now.” Pat concluded. “It’s sort of a Mexican standoff where Burger always loved Vang0 and Vang0 just now realized he wants to jump Burger’s bones. So yeah, just a…”

“Mutual pining classic fanfiction sort of situation.” Simone, their official shipper, chimed in.

So yeah, their coworkers were all idiots and their fake relationship was very much a part of the videos lore from this point on.

*

“And tonight we are Gillin’ in the name of, unsurprising, a lot of fanarts of our little vacay on lovely, lovely Cold Springs French bistro.”

“Our, our romantic getaway.”

“Me and Pat Gill’s romantic getaway. So here’s the, here’s all the wonderful, lovely art that we can show on the stream that you guys made.”

“Yeah, we are choosing not to show the ones with blowjobs under the table.”

“Yeah, we are redacting those, censuring, the word I was looking for is censuring those, but just because they are so very unrealistic.”

“It has nothing to do with not wanting to show porn of ourselves.”

“No, we are all for the good, dirty porn of ourselves that we can find online, but we don’t want to encourage… uhm, improper behavior. Or, actually, we don’t want to encourage you guys to believe it’s normal to just fellate your, your friend or boyfriend or girlfriend in public.”

“That’s not cool, dudes.”

“It’s not, it’s just… just impolite, guys.”

The streaming went smoothly, and besides the one talk during the Gillin’ in the name of, they didn’t comment on their love life again. They decided to play the Chamber Dungeon’s Challenge on Link’s Awakening, and the cute, upbeat theme of the game always got Brian in a good mood, so he was even more of a clown than usually. The chat actually behaved, and most interactions went in the lines of “You guys are so cute!” or “Congrats on the sex, boys!”. Unsurprisingly, there were no new comments accusing Brian of being the scum of the earth, so that was an improvement.

They decided on not doing any physical or compromising segments that day – Pat was so tempted to do the “Feel each other’s shirt fabric”, but decided against it on the last moment – so they did a couple of roleplaying segments, including a very good episode of Two Dereks and Gnome’s birthday party. All in all, they played safe, they kept it PG rated, they kept the flirting to a minimum, they didn’t try anything too forward and they made a very normal, if somewhat boring, Gill and Gilbert.

That’s why it surprises everyone when they get 300k views in less than two days of posting the video to Youtube.

“Pat. Patrick. Pat Gill.”

“Stop repeating my name, fuck.”

“If I’d know, if I’d just know that I only had to fake sit on your cock for our videos to get so many views, fuck, you have any idea how many hours I could have saved myself from fucking research on goddamn Unraveled.”

“I don’t think that’s how this works, I mean, people were probably only interested because you already-”

“THE YEARS OF MY LIFE I COULD HAVE SAVED IF I’D JUST CLAIMED TO BE SUCKING YOUR DICK, MAN.”

*

It was, of course, the perfect time for the pilot of the new series to be promoted. That meant doing a really sloppy job of a first episode of the brand new A+ Gaming Experience, which was messy but also incredibly fun to produce. The first episode tried to explain what were the general criteria for a good gaming experience, while playing Super Mario Bros in the original platform.

That resulted on Patrick and Brian practically living out of each other’s pockets. Every night was late night working together, and more often than not Patrick just crashed on Brian’s couch. He couldn’t remember the last meal he had that wasn’t in the presence of Bri and at least three different notebooks and one laptop or tablet. Sometimes they would have Laura sitting on a corner shaking her head and judging their life work, just for a different flavor.

“It’s amazing people actually believe we are fucking.” Brian said into a cushion.

It was three am. Fucking three am and Brian was muttering things into a cushion, lying down on the living room’s cold floor, while Pat habited the couch he had been living for what seemed like the past month, and tried desperately to type all the shit the bastard wrote on notebooks like a goddamn medieval priest, instead of working on his laptop like a normal person.

“I can’t understand a fucking thing you are saying, buddy, you either raise your big head or fuck the shut up.”

“I think you mean shut the fuck up.” Brian raised his big head. “But I’m not. Shutting up, that is. I was saying that it’s incredible that people actually think we are fucking.”

“People used to think we were fucking, now they know we are fucking. And more than that, they know we are in a stable, caring, loving relationship. That’s eons away from just fucking.”

“Right.” Brian sat down. His fluffy hair was messy again, and Patrick was so tired he didn’t even want to fuck Brian (at least not on this right second), he just wanted to comb that hair back and maybe hold onto him and Zuko and Charlie and live inside that cloud of fluff forever. “That’s what I’m saying. They don’t even think we are just fooling around, they think we are doing the whole relationship thing, and honestly, what a dream.”

“What, to date me? I concur, Brian, I am very datable.”

“Yeah, and just… have time to do things, like. Go out. Go to the movies. Eat out. Eat ass. Jesus.”

“And that’s your blasphemy of the day.” Pat is not going to argue the fact that Brian just agreed he is very datable. “Also, you should remember we are doing this because we want to, since we could just keep the two, wait, three series we are already hosting.”

“We are doing it for art.”

“We are doing it for food and shelter.”

Brian slowly sank back into a lying position, closing his eyes and resting his head on the cushion again. “I would love to just have the time to do stuff with you. Just. No work, just… stuff.”

“I…” what could Patrick possible answer to that? “I can’t hear you again.”

Brian either fell asleep or didn’t think it was worth repeating it – either way, the silence felt heavy.

*

“Hello, hello, hello!” Pat smiled at the camera, doing his terrible cockney accent. “Welcome everyone, this is the Polygon crew at the E3 this year! And we want to – actually, to be honest, what we really want is to test our streaming equipment…”

“There’s no need to be overly honest, Patrick!” Simone yelled from the small kitchen.

“Yeah, but we felt like, we felt like we could give you all a tour into our airbnb apartment since, since we had to like, test this thing anyway.”

“Where’s the- OH, hey! We are streaming?” Jenna opened the bathroom door, thankfully fully dressed but obviously unprepared to be on screen right now. “Did you… tell us we would be streaming, Patrick?”

“He did tell us, Jen, you were on the phone?”

“So like, Simone is standing on the kitchen, and we like, we got an apartment with a really small kitchen since like, we probably ain’t gonna find the time to cook anything.” as Pat tried to talk over the awkwardness, he realized he probably made a mistake jumping onto that test streaming so early, especially when Brian came out of the bedroom looking incredibly wide eyed. “So yeah, that’s our kitchen, where Simone’s hangin’, and Jenna just came out of the shower, so we are probably moving into invasive territory here.”

“We are definitely in invasive territory.” Jenna argued.

“But we are all for it because that’s what the Polygon crew is good at.”

“Hey, everyone!” Brian was not wide eyed anymore, completely recovered from his scare. “This is Brian David Gilbert here!”

Patrick had to laugh at that. “You’re probably the most easily recognizable person – celebrity person from all of us and you’re also the only one who introduced himself.”

“And that’s, babe, is probably the reason why I am the most famous. The fame monster… the Lady Gaga of Polygon, you’d say.”

“I would not say it, but yes, you definitely are.” Pat pointed at the small living room. “So this is probably where we’ll do most of our work for the next few days, the editing and the other, I don’t know, streamings of… things. And stuff. It’s, uhm, the living room.”

“We are all very excited to cover this year’s E3!” Jenna suddenly remembered she had to look professional and happy and not just annoyed with Patrick. “We are here!”

“Yes, we are in fact here.” Pat continued to move throw the apartment. “Out there is a nice balcony, nice but, you know, way too small for us to show it. And going over this door over here, we got, uhm… the… a… the room.”

Patrick knew he had fucked up, he just wasn’t aware of how much he had fucked up. The thing was: the apartment had two bedrooms. On the first one – the one Patrick was standing on like a loser – they had two single beds, that Brian and Patrick had claimed for themselves since they got on LA 12 hours before Simone and Jenna. The other bedroom had a queen bed, that Jenna claimed after a vicious rock-paper-scissors session. Simone was meant to sleep on the pull out bed/couch on the living room, and that was that: four coworkers sharing a living space for three stressful days.

But, well. Not just four coworkers, right? Two of them were supposedly in a gay committed relationship, weren’t they?

Fuck.

“So this, this is one of the, the bedrooms.” Patrick was stuck on that fucking line. He didn’t have to point out where everyone was sleeping, why the fuck was he so stuck on that line.

“This is mine and Jenna’s!” Simone came to his rescue, sprawling herself on Brian’s bed. “I sleep here, and Jenna sleeps over there. The two lovebirds sleep on the other room. This bag here is actually Brian’s, but that’s ‘cause we were getting all the streaming equipment out of it, so he just left it here like the lazy, messy boy he is. Brian, come clean out your shit!”

“Yeah, so, hm. They both sleep here, and… and this is… the other room over there is where… this is where me and Brian sleep.”

“Yeah, not that…” Brian was just as awkward, why the hell did they start this test streaming anyway? Hopefully there would be just five equally as awkward fans watching as well. “it’s not like we plan to sleep anytime soon with all the gaming news me and Pat Gill are going to bring straight to you, you wonderful viewers.”

“That’s a very subtle way of claiming you won’t be having any sex on this here bed.” If Patrick wasn’t so relieved Simone had given them an out just five seconds ago, he would be seriously pissed with her right now.

“Yeah, so, hm, this is the apartment, and obviously the streaming equipment works, so… just, we’ll have the first E3 streaming tomorrow afternoon, 5 PM, EST, so we hope all of you… uhm, hang with us to learn all the new stuff we have to learn about video games this year. So yeah, tune in for some good E3 content! Bye, guys! Bri, Jenna, Simone, say good bye!”

“Good bye!”

The streaming was over, and Pat just ran his hand over his hair, still nervous.

“Fuck, that was ridiculous. Thanks, Simone, you saved my ass.”

“And all for the small price of a single bed.” Simone was doing her ridiculous villain voice.

“What do you mean, you psycho?”

“I mean, you goofus, that that one bed I claimed to be mine? It’s claimed. It’s completely, definitely claimed. Don’t even think about touching it, I’m not going back to the couch.”

“C’mon, Simone, I can’t sleep on the couch, I have a bad back.” True was, he was kind of tired of sleeping on couches, since Brian’s were more his bed than his own lately.

“Sucks to be you!” she laughed, because she was a fucker like that. “C’mon, don’t be a sore loser, I did just save your ass. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jenna won’t mind sleeping on the single next to me, you can share the queen with Brian and not be a completely lying liar that lies this time.”

*

In the end, good or bad back wouldn’t make a difference: the couch was 24/7 propriety of the streaming equipment or occupied by the one of the four workaholic video producers from Polygon dot com. There was not much left to do than share with Brian and not be an asshole about it.

The first two nights were unremarkable, so to speak. They barely slept, with all the content they had to report and produce. On the first morning, Jenna, who was demonic, woke up early enough to take a picture of both of them lying side by side on the bed, ridiculous bed hair and humiliating games t-shirt. The picture was posted and their next E3 streaming was flooded with the shippers. So yeah, mostly, unremarkable.

Well, no, not really. The first two nights they were practically passing out from being so tired, but try as he might, Patrick could not pretend sleeping right next to Brian didn’t affect him.

It was the warmth of a body next to him. It was Brian’s fluffy, fluffy fucking hair. It was the scent of Brian’s body, and the feeling of a knee or fingertips or elbows just accidently touching random body parts. It was going to sleep to the image of Brian folding his eye glasses and waking up to Brian drooling on his pillow. Patrick didn’t felt hungry, exactly, because his bones were way too tired to allow his skin to indulge in desire. But still he could feel himself moving over the night, turning and tossing and just pressing into the other’s presence. Pressing into the pulsating life lying so vulnerable at his side. The warmth was inescapable.

Besides. They were fucking cuddling every night, that was the true, and there was just so much mental gymnastics one could do to avoid naming the thing they were doing, avoid thinking about the way a sleepy Brian would just tangle his legs and use his arm as a pillow without a second thought. Honestly, Pat had to be thankful Jenna didn’t photographed Brian lying completely over his body, because that’s how they ended up for most of the night. So yeah, not completely unremarkable, but Patrick was way too tired to freak out about it.

But the third day. The third day.

“I’m so tired, Jesus Christ.” Brian was kneeling on the bed, skin warm from the shower, wearing an honest to god Far Cry 4 t-shirt over his pajama bottoms.

“Lay down, I’ll just finish tomorrow’s mini script for the Nintendo presentation.” Pat was still on his work clothes, and even though he felt just as much as a zombie as Brian did, he still had work to do. “Just go to bed, I’ll be back in ten.”

“Noooo….” Brian whined. “I need some physical emotional support.”

“You need to cuddle, that’s it?”

“I thought we weren’t calling it that.”

“Cuddling? Want me to call it mid-night embrace? Because it sounds kinkier this way.”

“You’re the worst, Pat Gill. Come lie down with me.”

“I can’t, Bri. I need to finish this thing and then I need to shower. Do you want a hug? I could give you a hug.”

“I will take the affection crumbs you are offering, but just because I’m pathetic.”

Pat kneeled on the bed as well, quickly wrapping his arms around Brian’s clean, warm body. Immediately he felt like sinking into the bed and just sleeping surrounded by all that soup scent and warmth, but he knew he had to back away soon, so after what felt like just a couple of seconds, but was probably way longer than was proper, he unwrapped his arms from Brian’s waist.

The moment he started to back away, though, Brian just angled his head perfectly, bringing their mouths together. For a full second, it was just touching, mouths aligned just as their bodies were aligned, warmth and breath and soft lips. The next moment, though, Patrick opened his lips, and they were kissing, even if it was the slowest, most relaxed kiss in Patrick’s life. It was a kiss that didn’t aim to be anything else. It was a tired, sleepy kiss, an extension of their cuddling sessions, gentle touching and reaching. As soon as it begun, it was over, and they were breathing over each other’s skin without pulling away completely.

“Thank you, Pat Gill.” Brian smiled, gave him a last peck, untangled himself from Patrick’s body, threw himself on the bed. “Come to bed soon. I’ll be asleep, but you should rest too.”

“Sure.” Patrick agreed, and his voice wasn’t trembling, his body wasn’t shivering. His heart wasn’t racing and his hands weren’t sweaty.

In fact, it felt as if he’d been slowly kissing Brian David Gilbert all his life.

*

It didn’t have any other consequences. They kissed one night in the bed they shared because they had a fake relationship. They never talked about it and it didn’t reflect anything. They had a good E3 run, and A+ Gaming was doing great. Everything was great. They never talked about it and then they talked about it – in small jokes and ridiculous commentary like “well, at least you’re a good kisser” – and it still didn’t reflect anything. They were still Gillin’. As The Killers would so deeply put it, it was only a kiss.

*

Three months came and went. By that time, Brian was doing TV shows interviews and there was some talk about making a small, four episodes Netflix series of Unraveled. Gill and Gilbert became a monthly two hour event, but A+ Gaming and Cyberpunk Overboard were still going strong. Brian was making speeches in universities about the gaming community and diversity and there were Buzzfeeds articles about him almost every single day. The Altogether actually got a lot of gigs happening every week.

Patrick’s twitch was doing pretty okay. They were… well, profitable. Both of them.

It’s not like Patrick realized they should keep the farce to keep the fame, but much more like they were too busy with their many, many occupations they didn’t exactly had the time to just plan the whole fallout.

It kept, as it was.

*

At some point, Pat got a girlfriend. Nicole was tall, black, with short hair and round glasses and she introduced herself by screaming at him, outside the cinema theater:

“Hey! My little brother loves you!”

“Ho – how.” Pat stutters, realized he was saying the wrong thing, started over. “Thanks. I mean, I’m glad. How old is your little brother?”

“Twenty three.”

“Thank fuck, man, I thought you were going to say five.” Pat laughed at himself, sighed, laughed again. “I mean, Polygon content is not very suitable for minors.”

“Oh, trust me, I know. The fucker has been staying over the past year, I’m very used to your dirty mouth.”

“I’m sure there’s an elegant innuendo there but I refuse to make it until after you let me buy you coffee, young lady.”

Pat liked her, in the sense they had the same humor and grew up watching the same TV shows. It was a sort of companionship, to date someone with exactly the same age and upbringing, if nothing else. She was fun and uncomplicated.

Of course, the complicated one was Pat himself.

“Look, we might have to discuss something if you want to keep... doing this.” Pat said, right at the first date. “Which, no pressure, but I’m into. I mean. I would like to do this again.”

“You have a boyfriend.”

“What?”

“You, Patrick, have a boyfriend. I told you my little brother is a fan.”

“And as long as you keep calling him ‘little brother’ I’ll keep imagining he’s seven.”

Nicole laughed, but didn’t get side-tracked. “Look, is he okay with you dating other people? What’s his name again, Clayton?”

“No, Jesus, no. Clayton just works with us. My bo… his name is Brian. Brian David Gilbert.”

“Yeah, I might have heard that name a few times. You do a show together? Did you met before or were you already dating?”

“We – that’s... that’s the thing, we don’t date. I mean, publicly, yeah. But hm. We are not really dating. In real life, that is.”

“Oh... oh.”

“You sound almost disappointed.”

“I mean, I came here, knowing you were already taken, and I was expecting two possible outcomes – one, you’ re an asshole who’s picking chicks while publicly dating your coworker; two, the one I was hoping for, you and Brian were two modern guys in an open, honest relationship and he was okay with you dating me as well. But now I realize that actually, you’re both so morally twisted that you are playing the queer card to get more views on a show about games... I’m sorry if I’m not exactly thrilled with it right now. I mean, it’s better than the first option, but not by much.”

“Look, it’s not... not exactly like that. I mean, we are not pretending to be gay.”

“So you are gay?”

“No – I mean. I’m bi. That’s... that’s true.”

“At least.”

“Look, people were accusing Brian of assaulting me, and we were just trying to make people stop being so aggressive with him all the time.”

It was a long ass conversation, that’s for sure, and at the end of it Nicole wasn’t completely convinced. It took her meeting Brian for her to be okay with the whole thing – and, to be honest? Not exactly ideal situation in Patrick’s book. He and Brian had kissed, had some kind of non-story that left them in an awkward, almost-situation. He would rather not involve Brian with Nicole in any way.

But well, she insisted and Brian didn’t seem too fazed when Patrick casually commented he thought about bringing a date to the next Polygon outing. When Nicole and Brian finally met, on a ridiculously hipster bar Jeff brought them all, they were friendly and polite enough, even if not exactly close. For Patrick’s relief, everyone – and he was especially afraid of dear ol’ Simone – was sensible enough to not talk about how Pat’s boyfriend was meeting Pat’s girlfriend. (at least not out loud. The “this is my boyfriend and this is my boyfriend’s boyfriend” meme was posted on the chat group every time Nicole and Brian exchanged a couple words) It was all very normal, thank you very much.

So yeah, Patrick had a girlfriend. The company, someone outside Polygon, was refreshing, in the sense Thomas and Bij were wonderful friends; the sex was quite fine, if not very inspired; Nicole was very understanding.

Until she wasn’t.

It was a phone call, two months later, that Patrick got late at night, lying on Brian’s couch and playing with Zuko’s fur.

“It’s too hard to keep going like this, Pat. I like you, but…”

“The whole fake relationship thing is hard to keep, uhm?” Patrick completed, not feeling surprised in the least. For some reason, he always guessed they wouldn’t fall in love and be together for much longer.

“Uhm… look, do you really wanna know the reason?”

“I… yeah, I guess so? It would at least give me a chance to be better, in the future. I mean, not fuck up as much as I did.”

“…I want to tell you you didn’t fuck up, but I’d be lying.”

Pat laughed, at that. “Nicky, no worries. I know I fucked up. Just tell me why, if it’s not the fake relationship thing.”

“Well, it’s not. I mean, I know why you would think that. It kinda sucks not being able to post pictures and tell my friends about it, but you know… we were together for just a few weeks, it’s not like… I could wait for it, you know? If it was a fake relationship.”

“Brian and I…”

“You’re at Brian’s place right now, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, I-”

“I now you guys work a lot, I respect that. But you were at his place yesterday as well. And the thing is, I know you’ll probably want to have dinner with him tomorrow, after your streaming. And this weekend I’ll get to see you what, Sunday? Saturdays are Brian’s. You are going to the movies, aren’t you? Or is it theater this week? Honestly, I can barely talk to you when we are together because you are either texting or calling him half the time.”

“I don’t…”

“Look, we are over, you have no obligations to hear me talk your ear off.”

“No, I… I wanna hear it. How you feel.”

“Well, how I feel… I feel like your life doesn’t have the space for anyone else. Brian is… a lot, I mean. I honestly like him, it’s hard not to, but he is very overwhelming, just a lot. I don’t think you have the energy or the… I don’t know, Pat? Time, really, to care for anyone else. He consumes you… well, not consume, I guess. Not when you offer it freely. You are planning a South America trip with him, aren’t you?”

“I am, but it’s just… you know, vacation.”

“And you’re spending Thanksgiving in his family home?”

“Yes, but that’s an old joke, and Janet just thought… I don’t know, that it would be harmless.”

“I know that. It is harmless. Look, it comes down to this: you may not be sleeping together, but all your free time is devoted to him, every big thing in your life you share with him, and everything cool and funny you see on the street reminds you of him. Honestly, that’s way more of a relationship than just sharing a bed. There’s no space in your life, right now, for other people.”

“I…” Patrick finally let Zuko go, feeling strangely guilt for taking Brian’s cat as an emotional support during that talk. “I guess I should have thought about that before I asked you out.”

“I don’t blame you. It’s not your fault you didn’t realize you’re already half married with the guy.”

So, Pat didn’t get a girlfriend for long, after all.

*

(There was a small Chinese store on the corner, which sold cheap bootleg Chinese toys with bad English translations on their packaging. One of the fake swords had a small Chibi!Link on it’s handle, even though it clearly wasn’t a Nintendo toy: the package actually said “Come on, feel the pleasure together!”, and that was just wrong.

“U wanna feel the pleasure w/ Link, princess Brian?” Patrick texted.

“I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a toy or a, you know, ~toy~.” Brian texted back half a minute later.

“It has flashing lights. I’m getting u three.”

“OMG, Pat Gill, u r the best bf. U just spoil me.”

Patrick stood on the store, holding the three ridiculous toy swords and staring at the text message, his conversation with his ex-girlfriend replaying in his mind even as he started to compose a silly answer for Brian. Well. Well.

After that, Patrick could only text “I’m sorry I was an asshole.” to Nicole, and hope the bad karma didn’t kick him in the balls.)

*

“I’m so very happy you decided to join us this year, Patrick Gill.” Janet said, while Patrick drove her to the market for a last minute Thanksgiving shopping.

Pat laughed. “It’s so funny how all of you keep doing this. I know it’s because of your Pat, but I’m used to just Brian calling me Pat Gill all the time, it’s really funny.”

“Well, he talks about you on the phone all the time, ‘Pat Gill this’, ‘Pat Gill that’. I got used to think about you as Pat Gill, not much we can do now.”

“He does, really?” Patrick smiled softly at that, bringing the car to a stop and running outside to open the door to Janet.

“Thank you, dear. Of course he does! It’s like there’s no one else in that big city besides you two. And Zuko, of course. That’s why we were so glad to finally spend time with you.”

“Yeah, I’m happy too. I mean, I think Brian is going to get sick of my old face, but as long as he’s willing to put up with me, I’m happy to be around.”

She took his arm, smiling at him.

“You don’t really believe you’re too old for Brian, do you? I mean, that’s not even a ten years difference, you’re practically the same age.”

“Well, I did meet Brian when he was just twenty four. I don’t know, he also looks so young, even now.” Pat laughed, pushed his hair out of his face with his free hand, suddenly embarrassed. “It doesn’t actually make a difference, but I get self-conscious some times. What we the whole… the whole thing we have.”

“Non-sense. He’s very happy with you, I’m sure you can tell. Besides, Brian could use a few years in wisdom and stability. You give him the support he needs, especially during such a crazy time in his life.”

“I’m glad you think so, Janet.”

For the whole conversation – damn, through the whole holiday – Patrick couldn’t bring himself to call it a fake relationship and Janet didn’t behave like she was dealing with her fake son-in-law. In fact, the whole of Brian’s family just treated him like Brian’s boyfriend. It took Patrick a while to notice that that was true even for Laura: mainly because she had been treating him that way for a long ass time now, and he just couldn’t pinpoint it before.

During Thanksgiving, Brian ate and laughed and drank too much and had a killer hangover and they shared a queen bed with Laura and one of Brian’s cousins because there wasn’t enough space in the house for everyone, and through it all, Brian either didn’t notice or didn’t care about the “Brian’s boyfriend” running commentary. Pat, as it was, didn’t mention it either.

It kept.

*

“Okay, now all of you look festive and happy and not at all like we have been working for ten hours straight!” Clayton yelled from behind the camera, and that was, in itself, a Christmas miracle – Clayton never yelled.

“I can’t look festive if half my ass is falling from this couch.” Tara yelled back, pushing Jenna playfully.

“I’ll sit on Pat’s lap.” Brian offered, already climbing Patrick’s legs.

Clayton yelled “Rolling!” and they were all suddenly talking at the same time, the ironical “natural look” for their tradicional Happy Polygolidays Christmas video. Brian and Pat, sharing a seat, were talking with each other, mostly about how ridiculous that clip would end up. Jenna was explaining Simone and Tara how exactly she planned to get drunk on the next two hours.

“Okay, I’m coming, I’ll sit on the floor, the second I sit down everyone shuts up, looks at the camera and do some cute shit.” Clayton directed.

“I don’t know how to be cute.” Jenna answered.

“Sucks to be you, I’m queen of fucking aegyo on this shit.”

“Simone, stop making words up, it’s not funny.”

“I’m not, it’s-”

“I’m coming.”

Clayton sat at the floor. On the couch, Simone was making one of the small, two fingers Korean hearts because she was K-pop trash; Tara was smiling brightly and innocent; Jenna was hugging Clayton’s shoulders and Clayton was allowing himself to be hugged (and that was clearly the cutest Clayton ever was in his whole life). Pat mind just came to a blank, but Brian was there, looking soft and comfortable in his lap, so Pat just held his jaw gently and brought his lips closer.

They shared the smallest, purest holiday kiss, as if they were still sitting on Janet’s couch. It was over soon, and Brian just kept smiling at him.

“OH FUCK, JENNA!” Tara was laughing, already on the floor.

“What the fuck just happened, guys?” Pat asked.

“Jenna has an ass that won’t quit.” Simone answered.

“Won’t quit pushing me ‘till I’m on the fucking floor, that is.”

“Sorry! I was trying to reach down!”

Clayton was already getting up again. “I can’t believe I’ll have to be cute for a second time today.”

“Fuck off, Clayton, you weren’t doing shit.”

“I was being kawaii, you wouldn’t get it.” My god, they were all a bunch of nerds. Clayton was rewatching the last seconds of tape, and Pat knew the exact moment he got to the kiss. “Hey, Pat? Brian? There’s a kiss here. You guys want to keep it on the clip, or…?”

“I think I’m on my cutest when I’m being an unapologetic queer.” Brian answered, not bothering to move himself from his spot on Pat’s lap.

“I think I’m on my cutest when Brian is being cute for the both of us.” Pat looked over Tara, still getting up from the floor with Simone’s help. “That’s okay?”

“That’s wonderful, but don’t complain to me if your damn fans start to ask for kisses on the fourth season of G and G. You guys wanna kiss, go ahead, I’m not stopping anyone.”

“Can Jenna and I kiss?”

“Simone, that won’t be cute and you know it.”

Clayton came over again and this time, Brian turned without being prompted. They kissed once again, just as softly, for a few more seconds since this time they weren’t interrupted by anyone’s falling.

“And cut! You guys can stop making out now.” Clayton clapped, getting up.

“We should have brought mistletoe.” Brian said, slowly getting up from Patrick’s lap. “It would have been cuter.”

“Don’t need excuses to kiss my boyfriend.” Patrick answered, a hand around Brian’s waist.

“No, you don’t.” Brian gave him a small peck on the lips, and after that, everyone was gathering their things and going on their merry, merry way.

*

In the end, it happened in a ridiculous fashion, as if they’d met each other on Grindr.

They were texting each other. Nicole had been right – every night they didn’t dine together or slept in the same place, they just spent talking with each other anyway, it was quite ridiculous now that Patrick was conscious about it. It was that weird week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and they didn’t exactly had to deliver anything but they still made the effort of showing up at Polygon for two or three hours a day, since neither of them went back home.

Point being: maybe he had grew way to accustomed to Brian’s presence for at least ten hours of his life every day, and now he felt as if something was amiss.

“I’m still not sure if Banana Fish wasn’t fetishizing rape.” He texted, without context.

“I’m all for discussing Banana Fish, but can we please not talk about rape or assault or nothing bad tonight?” Brian replied immediately.

“Why? U k?”

“I’m k. This night sucks, is all.”

“Why?”

“I’m boring and hungry and lonely and horny. And cold.”

“Come over. I made tater tots.”

There was silence for two whole minutes. Patrick’s heart was finally beating fast, as if suddenly his body remembered he wasn’t actually dating Brian David Gilbert.

“Tater tots is only the solution for one of these five problems, Pat Gill.”

“I thought my presence was the solution for the other 4.”

Fuck, why did he type that?

“I’m getting a uber.”

It was late. It was almost eleven pm. People only got to each other’s house at that hour for one reason, and it was not reheated tater tots.

Patrick showered for the second time that night, and checked on his condoms, and on his lube, and waited.

*

The sex was… hm.

Okay, Brian got there, and Patrick answered the door and Brian gave him a smile and asked in the smallest voice “Is Quince here?” and Patrick grabbed him over the waist and kissed and kissed and kissed and kissed.

He might have answered a “No, he’s not.” eventually, or maybe Brian just figured it out when Patrick started to pull on his shirt right there on the living room.

Brian was a goddamn teaser, as Pat already knew he would be, playful and an asshole, biting on Patrick’s lips and teasing his cock with small, barely there touches. At some point the asshole actually pushed Pat away and ran off to the bedroom, laughing like a maniac, shirtless and breathless.

Pat tackled him on the bed, and damn, that felt good. They playfully wrested on the mattress, Brian laughing and pushing Patrick away while tangling his legs over Pat’s. They rolled around for a bit but Patrick was definitely stronger, even when Brian tried to tickle him: in moments, Brian was under him, both arms pinned and both legs secured under Pat’s weight, completely hard and with his hair all over the place, the prettiest thing ever, pink lips and huge eyes.

“You think just because you are stronger I’m going to let you fuck me, Pat Gill?”

“No. You are going to beg me to fuck you because you’re thirsty for my cock.”

Brian laughed, throwing his head back. “Fair enough. Just fuck me already.”

But he didn’t, not immediately. First he had to endure a true torturous blowjob in which Brian slowly, so very slowly, licked Pat’s cock like it would melt under his tongue, hot and wet and so very dirty. All in all, Brian was the biggest cock tease Pat had ever encountered, and when he finally sank his length into Brian’s tight heat, it was incredibly satisfying.

Yeah, the sex had been fucking awesome.

*

“I can’t believe you seduced me with reheated tater tots.”

“Wanna get take out?”

“Uhm-uh.” Brian shook his head, his mouth already full with the food, half lying in Patrick’s bed and sipping on his bear. “This will do. I’ll be asleep soon, anyway, before any take out gets here.”

“There’s nothing in the kitchen, I looked.” Patrick laid down back in the bed, phone in his hands.

“We have breakfast?”

“Nopes!”

“Fuck you, Pat Gill.”

“Later if you want.” Pat smiled without looking at Brian.

“Ugh, not today. Too tired already. Rain check?”

“I only offer my ass once, Brian. It’s a once in a life time opportunity.”

“Fuck it, I’m happy enough with your cock. Who you texting?”

“Not texting, seeing if that tortilla place is open.”

“Paaaaaat, I wanna sleep.”

“I thought you were hungry.”

“I’m sleepy.”

Brian didn’t asked if he was allowed to spend the night, there was no fumbling, no awkwards “how do we”. It was like they’ve been doing this for months. When he finally whined enough, Patrick just laughed and turned off his phone and the lights, hugging Brian when the man cuddled against him. The position was all too familiar, and they were asleep in seconds.

*

Once again, it didn’t change things. You’d think sleeping together would change things, but it didn’t. They didn’t go out on dates, there was no romantic declarations, they didn’t change their social status – even though, their social status, as far as everyone on the internet was concerned, had been dating for a while now.

It was all very casual, you see.

Everything else kept the same. The same dinners, the same texts, the same late night beers. The occasional sex, once or twice a week, and a few PDAs if the occasion asked for it. A peck here, a kiss there. Brian sat on his lap with more frequency now, some times in front of Jonah or Laura, even. But no one questioned. It was normal. Two close friends.

They were still planning their little vacation on South America together, the one Tara wasn’t very happy about it since they would both step away from the channel at the same time, but that had been planned for a long time now, so it’s not like it was a reflection of a change in their relationship. There was no change, none whatsoever. Except, of course, Pat would not sleep on the couch anymore.

The sex didn’t change a damn thing, and Patrick could not help but feel incredibly disappointed with it, even as he held Brian through the night.

*

“So, you work with video games? Oh, I’ve always been a Dark Souls’ kind of girl.”

“Really?” Pat answered her with an open smile, angling his body so he would look at her directly. “I used to stream Dark Souls’ gameplays all the time, how come you never watched it?”

“Oh, gameplays for me are just like porn. Why watch someone else do it when you can just have fun yourself?”

Brian suddenly excused himself from the table, pushing past Pat’s chair without a glance back. The movement seemed unnecessarily aggressive, and Pat forgot he was supposed to answer the pretty red hair girl in front of him.

“Well, I must get back there, but I’ll come to see your table as soon as I can. Later, Pat!” The girl named Susan waived, already backing away.

“Dude.” Karen threw a napkin at his face, and it was the second aggressive act in less than five minutes that left Patrick without reaction. “Stop flirting with the waitress!”

“I’m not flirting-”

“For fucks sake, Patrick, you totally are.” Jenna agreed, cutting him off.

“Okay, alright, I know we shouldn’t flirt because she’s in a delicate position and I’m a customer and I might make her uncomfortable, but honestly, she was the one asking questions, I was just answering on the same tone!”

“Okay, first of all, dude, it’s fucked up you know you shouldn’t be doing it and you’re still making excuses for yourself.” Karen listed. Patrick already felt bad, they barely saw each other, he didn’t want to argue with her when they were all together. “Second of all, dude! Dude! Brian was right here!”

“So?”

“What do you mean so?” Karen practically yelled, why Jenna and Simone kept repeating versions of “What the fuck?”

“So, what’s the deal? He doesn’t mind. I mean, he wasn’t jealous when I dated Nicole.”

“That was different, Pat.” Simone intervened. “You weren't together for real, by that time.”

Patrick immediately wanted to argue that they still weren’t together for real but.

But.

What the hell for real even means?

“I’m gonna go after Brian.” Patrick suddenly decided, leaving a few dollars on the table since he probably wouldn’t be back from this conversation any time soon.

“Good choice, asshole.” Jenna agreed, waving him away.

Brian was outside, not smoking, not drinking, just checking his phone in the cold January night.

“Oh, thank god.” he dead-panned, without looking up, clearly pissed. “You came. It would be really awkward if my dramatic exit didn’t even register on your horny perception, Don Juan.”

“The girls kinda kicked my ass.” Patrick winced, feeling like a mess.

“Oh, the girls kicked your ass? Meaning if the girls weren’t there you wouldn’t be able to see nothing wrong with your behavior?” Brian still didn’t look up, and Patrick was afraid he was already calling a taxi.

“Bri, are we dating?”

“Are we- what? Patrick Gill, what?” Brian spluttered, confusion all over his face.

“Are we dating? Like, for real?”

Brian’s face took a turn from “coldly pissed” towards “completely angry and possibly violent”. He lowered his eyes again to search for something on his screen, and when he lifted his phone towards Patrick, he was showing him the last post he had updated on his Instagram, just that morning.

The video showed him and Patrick running over a snowy street, hand in hand, laughing like maniacs. When they went over whoever was filming (Jonah), Brian said “It’s cold!” to which Patrick replied “It’s fucking cold!”. Jonah kept filming their back as they kept running, screaming things like “It’s too fucking cold!” and “Don’t go out!”.

“What do you fucking think, Patrick?” Brian was trembling, his hands shaking in anger. “Take a fucking guess.”

“I know, but that’s, that’s for show. I mean. That’s for the fans.”

“That’s for- fuck you, Patrick!” Brian turned his back at him, walked a few steps as if he was going away, came back, red in the face. “We work together, we sleep together, we get dinner together, you were at my family’s house for the holidays, you asshole! Is that all for the fans? You kiss me every day for the fucking fans, Patrick?”

“No, but we never talked. We never talked, Bri! We did all that in the wrong order, we didn’t date-”

“What the fuck is a date?” Brian finally yelled, and Pat was thankful it was too damn cold for any fools to be out in the streets. “Uhm, Pat? What the fuck is a fucking date? Because let me tell you, I feel like I’ve been dating you for ages now, I really don’t know how else to fucking date you.”

“I… You never told me anything. You slept with me and you never told me anything and I just, I felt so frustrated but you weren’t telling me anything! I thought nothing had changed!”

“Patrick, honestly? I woke up one day and you were coming back from the store with food for Zuko and you decided to just buy us some avocados because you said, and I quote, ‘We should watch a movie tonight and I feel like making guacamole’. You never asked if I had any plans for that night and you didn’t need to ask for the keys or what kind of food Zuko eats because you already knew all that. We weren’t even sleeping together by then, we were just… and you just… and I thought, fuck, that has to be enough, we are already…”

Patrick couldn’t take it any longer. He pulled Brian over and wrapped his arms around the smaller man, feeling pathetic and like an idiot.

“I feel pathetic and like an idiot.” He said out loud, into Brian’s fluffy hair, because Brian deserved to hear it. “And I feel like we did everything backwards. And I feel like I’ve been committed with you long before Tara told us to lie for the internet, but I also feel like I’m only letting myself believe it today.”

“I had to deal with your girlfriend, Pat. You asshole. I kissed you and I had to deal with your fucking girlfriend and you are an asshole.” Brian was not crying, but he was rubbing his cold nose on Patrick’s neck and holding onto his coat with both hands.

“I know. I’m sorry. If it’s any consolation, she broke up with me because she claimed I was already in a relationship.”

“You were flirting with a waitress five minutes ago, Patrick!”

“I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.” Patrick kissed Brian’s temple. “Will you forgive me? I wanna be with you, for real. I, fuck, I am with you for real. I love you.”

“You can’t… you were flirting with the waitress.” Brian repeated, this time hitting his chest.

“I was, but I also love you. I’m an asshole. I’m sorry.”

Brian looked him over, took off his glasses, looked at him again. Cleaned his glasses, sniffed, put the glasses back on, looked at Pat again.

“I… fuck, yeah. I mean. We didn’t talk. I thought we were on the same page but yeah. Okay, yeah, I guess I could have talked with you. Yeah, we can. Fuck, I mean, we are together, right? I won’t have to go on a first date with the guy I think as my boyfriend for months, will I?”

“No, no…” Pat laughed, took Brian’s gloved hand in his, pulled him close again. The prettiest fucking thing in the whole world, and Patrick was an asshole, but apparently he was an asshole who was getting a second chance. “I think it’s safe to assume we are out of the probation period.”