Call it what you like, but Link’s been getting… feelings, lately. At first he’d written them off as intrusive thoughts, random ideas from a mote of space energy triggering some weird, weird conflation in his imagination. That ain’t right, though. It’s happening too frequently, for one, and for another -
Well. Link’s known Rhett a long time. Can predict what Rhett’s going to say in most situations, can guess what Rhett’s thinking if he concentrates. Link knows Rhett like they’re two sides of the same coin.
And here it is: Link’s pretty sure - feels like - Rhett’s been trying to kiss him.
It’s not exactly an accusation Link can just throw out there, because as much as Link’s gut’s telling him he’s right, well - it’s a hell of a thing to bring up. Forget the forty years of repression - Lord knows they’ve been trying - it’d be the same kinda contentious if one of them was a woman, or if they’d been brought up somewhere different. You can’t just accuse your lifelong best friend and business partner of wanting to kiss you on something as flimsy as a feeling. You shouldn’t accuse them at all, really.
It’s getting increasingly more difficult as the weeks since Link started suspecting turn into months, though, and as much conflict resolution training the both of them have had Link’s rope is running out of slack.
They don’t work on Saturdays, but they’ve been out of town most of the week and have their final live show of the run tomorrow so Link finds himself sitting in Rhett’s den come evening. Their sugar-high children are shrieking as they tire themselves out in the yard, Christy and Jessie’s laughter is filtering in from the living room, and Jade and Barbara are asleep together where they’re curled on top of the show notes. Link looks over at Rhett as the contentment blooms beneath his ribs and knows: Rhett’s thinking about kissing him.
“Listen,” Link says, at the same time as Rhett starts, “Link…” but whatever Rhett was going to say gets talked over as Link fails to realize Rhett’s spoken in his haste to interrupt the moment.
“I watched the LTAT this morning,” Link goes on. “And I remember thinking - I remember feeling like, when you asked me to play Amber, I was freaking certain…” He pauses to try and laugh, discovers he can’t find it in himself to force it, and fiddles with his hem instead.
They sit in silence for a moment - or as close to silence as you can get with seven other people in close vicinity - before Rhett lets out a deep breath. It’s not a sigh, not quite, but it’s sigh adjacent, and Link bristles at the implication that he’s being tiresome.
“I wasn’t going to kiss you for a bit,” Rhett says, and Link’s patience draws taut for a moment before snapping.
“But you were going to kiss me,” he accuses. “This whole time - months, man, I’ve been able to tell - you’ve been thinking about it.” It comes out too hot, too angry; Link bites his cheek as Rhett’s expression goes from soft and amused to - shit, is that guilt?
I was right, Link realizes.
“I was freaking right,” he says, stunned despite his previous certainty.
“Yeah,” Rhett says, honest to god wincing. “Yeah, you caught me.”
Link blinks rapidly as his struggles to take in the not-confession. “You - what?” he manages, voice too-loud and too-disbelieving for someone who’d just had their suspicions confirmed.
He’s flustered, and Rhett knows it, because Rhett’s contrition fades fast in the face of Link’s confusion.
“I’ve been thinking about kissing you, Link,” Rhett says, voice barely cracking, expression calm and intense and focused. “For a few months, now. Almost done it a couple of times, too.”
“When,” Link says, more a demand than a question. Which times - why didn’t he -
Rhett only shrugs, something sparking in his eyes. Link wants to know what he’s thinking, tries to concentrate to get a bead, but Link’s too riled to tell anything but what he already knows:
Rhett wants to kiss him.
“Don’t you dare,” Link snaps, pointing. “Don’t even think about it, McLaughlin.”
Rhett laughs, tongue poking out the corner of his smile as he asks, “Why not?” like it’s a legitimate question and not a given.
“Because,” Link says, standing up, then taking a step back when Rhett stands as well. He scrambles to find a reason to articulate. “We - we’ve got wives, and kids - ”
“Link,” Rhett says. It’s an answer in and of itself: They know, they’ve always known. No two families are this intertwined on accident, their children aren’t stupid. It’s been brought up and laughed at enough that they answered in freaking unison on Larry King: not yet.
“Not - not - ” Link puts his hands up to stop Rhett from advancing. He can’t think like this, so he opens his mouth, lets himself process it verbally instead.
“You can’t just, it’s not that easy, man, it can’t be this - just a, a whim. Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to - people stop themselves doing things every day, I mean. We don’t just get to - it has to be special.”
“Special,” Rhett repeats. He reaches up to lace his fingers through Link’s, clasp their hands together. Link flinches, but Rhett doesn’t move closer, just presses his stupid sweaty palms warmly against Link’s own.
“Yeah,” Link manages, mouth dry, a bit dizzy from how far away from him this entire confrontation has gotten. Rhett doesn’t seem bothered as he rubs his thumbs across Link’s wrists, bends down to press a kiss to Link’s knuckles.
“Okay,” he says. “I can do special.”
“Outside,” Link blurts. “In - in the summer.”
Rhett’s lips twitch. “Any other special requests, dietary restrictions?”
Link opens his mouth to say shave your beard so I can pretend we’re teenagers again, heap on impossible requirements until this is all good and buried for another thirty-five years, but what comes out is cracked, “Don’t keep me freaking waiting, man, it’s been months - ”
He doesn’t get to finish the sentence.
(the now to not yet was never not going to be special)