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Modern Twist

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Chapter 1  - a new friend
 

 
Eleven leaned back in his chair. He gazed out the window at the odd sight of the red star shining in the sky during the daytime, as the professor droned on about something or other. He was feeling particularly tired today. He stifled a yawn behind his hand and looked around, blushing, hoping his professor hadn’t seen him. His attention was thankfully, elsewhere. Eleven gazed out the window again, contemplating the star and doodling absently in his notebook. 
 

The star had been in the sky for around a fortnight now, and astronomers were puzzled to say the least. It had simply appeared out of the blue one night, and they could not account for it other than to speculate that perhaps they were witnessing the death of a star which had faded from existence thousands of years ago, and this was it’s dying light only just now reaching the present day. Everyone had been talking about it for the first day or so but by now the excitement and muttering about it had died down. No one really took any more notice of it, apart from Eleven. 
 

He couldn’t describe it but he felt his attention oddly drawn to it.  Like it was calling to him, or shining for him. He knew that wasn’t possible, but he felt a strange sort of connection to the red light in the sky nonetheless. Tearing his eyes from it, he looked back to his professor, who was pointing something out on the presentation board. Try as he might, Eleven just couldn’t pay attention today. He hadn’t been sleeping much as late, his dreams plagued by images of a giant tree with a glowing heart confined within. Sometimes the tree called out to him, calling him something he could never recall the next day. He’d been having the dream for around a fortnight. Waking in a sweat as sometimes the dream was full of people screaming, evil laughter, and the tree falling from the sky to crash to the earth below. He didn’t quite know what to make of it all. 
 

He checked his watch, only 10 more minutes of this lecture and then the rest of his day was free. Maybe he’d go home and take a nap. God knows he needed it. He shut his notepad over, admitting defeat as all he had managed today was to doodle a few random symbols and shapes. He cast his gaze around the room. A few others seemed to be in the same state he was, some pretending to listen with their eyes glazed over and jaws slack, some hunched over and shuddering awake every now and again. Some were listening intently, he supposed he’d have to ask them for today's notes. 
 

There was movement a few seats to his right as someone was now brazenly lounging back in their chair with their feet up on the desk, hood pulled up, arms folded behind their head. They were using their feet to lightly rock their chair back and forwards in an agitated sort of way.  
 

“Ugh jeez, hurry up old man.” The hooded lounging figure muttered. Eleven chuckled quietly and the figure started, turning his head round to look at him. 
 

“Heh, you’re so quiet I didn’t realise you were sitting there.” The figure mumbled, chuckling too. “He can sure drone on huh?” his accent was a little odd, Eleven couldn’t place it. He nodded at the lounging boy and smiled shyly. 
 

Finally their professor dismissed him and the boy a few seats from him was up and out of his chair lithely, gathering up his things and putting them into his bag, which looked empty other than a large frisbee disc. Eleven supposed he must be part of the group that often liked to play Ultimate Frisbee on the grounds.  
 

The boy glanced over at Eleven from under his hood. “Wait, don’t I know you?” he said, looking up at him. With his hood pulled over like that Eleven had no idea, though he thought he had heard that accent before somewhere. 
 

The boy pulled down his hood to reveal a shock of bright blue spiky hair. He considered Eleven for a moment. “Oh yeah! You’re that guy from the show aren’t you? The psychic show? We got pulled up on stage together during fresher’s week, right?” 


 

Eleven remembered the hair, it’d be hard not to. This was the boy he had sat next to on stage during a psychic show some of his dorm mates had dragged him along to as part of their fresher’s week events a few weeks ago. He had been randomly, (and rather dramatically), selected from the crowd to join in. He had gone up on stage, extremely reluctantly, and sat quietly as the psychic proceeded to make a show of telling him fragmented and vague hints his future. Eleven hadn’t believed a word of it but played along smiling and nodding until it was all over and he could retreat back to the safety of the audience. The blue-haired boy had been called up soon after Eleven in an equally dramatic fashion and she had made a big drama of telling them their paths would cross and their fates would be intertwined for an important quest. The blue haired boy had chuckled heartily at this and told her their fates were only intertwined because she had dragged them on stage and that his most important quest right now was to expose her as a fraud.  
 

He remembered laughing when the boy had said that, and the flush of annoyance that had crept up the psychic’s neck. She had tried to salvage the rest of the segment but the magic had been broken as the audience laughed. She had then grabbed Eleven’s wrist tightly and tapped on the birthmark on his hand and told him he had an important destiny. Eleven had awkwardly smiled and nodded and backed away from her when she released him. All in all it had been a very odd event and he was glad when they had left – the whole thing had unsettled him. 


 

“Yes... that was me.” Eleven said, feeling suddenly shy. 
 

The blue-haired boy chucked. “Man, that was nuts. She was really going for it. I didn’t know you took this class...”he trailed off and then gasped dramatically and gave him a look of utter shock, “Wait!” he exclaimed, grabbing Eleven’s sleeve. Elven could only stare at him in startled surprise. “She was right! Our fates ARE intertwined!” he stared at him intently for a second or two, then let go of Eleven’s sleeve and laughed heartily again, rolled his eyes and pulled his bag on over his shoulder.  
 

Eleven smiled and then laughed as he realised the boy was joking. He had been slow on the uptake on that one. The other boy looked back at him and grinned and Eleven’s stomach did something odd. They shuffled their way out of the row and made their way to the exit.    
 

“The name’s Erik, by the way”  
 

 
Eleven smiled. “I’m El.”  
 

 
********** 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 - Frisbee and Fates
 

 
As they walked they spoke, and it turned out Erik had the rest of the day free from classes too, so they accompanied each other as they walked somewhat aimlessly through the campus grounds, chatting about classes and settling in to college. 
 

“I’m actually headed to go play Ultimate Frisbee with a few guys from my dorms, you wanna come play?” Erik said, pulling out the frisbee disc Eleven had spied earlier. Eleven smiled and shrugged. He had been planning on going back to his dorm for a nap, but out of the lecture hall now and in the bright sunshine chatting with Erik, he suddenly didn’t feel quite so tired. 
 

“I don’t know how to play, but can I watch?” Eleven asked quietly, eyeing the frisbee somewhat nervously. 
 

Erik chuckled “Sure! I’ll teach you if you want though, it’s not hard, watch.”  
 

He stopped suddenly and, so quickly that Eleven almost missed it, he flicked his wrist and the frisbee went soaring out high above them and sailed across the ground, eventually knocking into the side of a waste bin. Erik ran ahead to pick it up, his spikey blue hair bouncing. 
 

Eleven walked after him. Erik picked up the frisbee and turned round, he signalled to Eleven to stop walking and he did.  
 

“Okay,” Erik called out to him. “I’m going to chuck it at you, and you try and catch it, alright?” 
 

Eleven swallowed, nervous he was going to miss and make a fool of himself in front of... his new friend?  He nodded, and stood facing Erik across the grass, feet apart and slightly knees bent, ready to lunge to grab the thing when the time came. Erik laughed again and took aim. It seemed like he threw it more carefully this time and it soared more slowly through the air. Eleven jumped a little bit and managed to catch it. He landed back on the ground, ginning, holding up his prize triumphantly. 
 

“Yeah! You’re a natural.” Erik beamed at him, running back over. 
 

Eleven blushed. “Beginners’ luck I think.” They started walking together again, Eleven handed the frisbee back to Erik. He felt a blush rise on his cheeks again when their hands touched and hoped the other boy didn’t notice his awkward embarrassment. 
 

Erik appeared oblivious as he strolled along. “So, where you from then?” he asked good-naturedly.  
 

“Oh, you won’t have heard of it, it’s just a little village called Cobblestone.” Eleven answered, feeling supremely uninteresting. 
 

“Cobblestone...huh, nah I don’t know it. Sounds like something out of a fairytale though.” Erik mused, flipping and spinning the frisbee between his hands deftly. 
 

Eleven laughed softly. “Kind of. Everyone is like family. Nothing much goes on there. I was the only person for ages to leave the village and go off to college. My mum, well, I call her mum but she’s my adoptive mum really, she was really sad to see me go but really supportive too...” he rambled, surprised at himself. This was the most he’d spoken all at once in a long time.  
 

Erik cocked his head at him “You’re adopted? Did you always know?” he said, sounding genuinely interested. 
 

“I think I’ve always known, though my mum only told me when my granpa died. He was a travelling salesman or.... something like that I think. Once he passed, my mum told me I was adopted. I didn’t feel sad about that or anything, I love her and I loved my granpa. They are my family. I do sometimes wonder who my real parents are though.” Eleven mused, looking up at the sky, his eyes finding the red star again. Then he blushed furiously. “I’m so sorry! I’ve been rambling, I don’t usually do that!” He looked down at the ground as they walked. Why had he just rambled his whole boring life story to this boy he’d known less than an hour? How embarrassing. He covered his face in his hands. 
 

Erik put a hand on his arm. “Hey! Don’t worry about it. I like talking with you, ramble any time.” He smiled warmly. Eleven couldn’t bring himself to speak again so he just nodded shyly. 

 
 
Eleven opted out of playing frisbee with Erik’s dorm mates and took out a bottle of water from his bag and sat on the grass content to watch them, sipping his drink. They were in loose teams, with some who changed sides as soon as one team was up a few points. They were more interested in having fun than strictly adhering to the rules of the game. Erik was by far the best player of all of them. He was quick and nimble and his aim was perfect. Once or twice the frisbee ended up over near where Eleven was sat spectating and Erik would jog on over to retrieve it, stopping for a chat as he did. 
 

“You sure you don’t wanna play? I’m telling you, you’re probably better than most of these guys here.” Erik laughed, a little out of breath from all the running around. He wiped a sleeve of his green hoodie across his brow. 
 

Eleven smiled and shook his head. “I’m happy to watch. You’re really good!” Erik flashed him a grin that told him he knew it. 
 

“Thanks. I think I’ll give some of the others a chance for a while though.” He took aim and flicked the frisbee back out to the group, knocking off one of his friend’s hats. Erik pointed and laughed. “Ha! I wasn’t even trying for that! I am really good at this game.” He sat down beside Eleven, who offered him some of the water he was sipping.  Erik took it gratefully and glugged some down. Eleven watched him, finding himself oddly fascinated by the boy. He noticed for the first time that he had gold hoops in both his ears. The glinted in the afternoon sunlight. 
 

Erik sighed and leaned back. Closing his eyes, he tipped his face up to the sunshine. “It’s so warm here.” He said contentedly. 
 

Eleven studied him. Lounging back, his hair shifting softly in the light breeze, sunshine playing across his features. He was stunning. Eleven blushed. Where had that come from? He coughed to hide his sudden embarrassment. “Yeah uh, nice day.” He commented, feeling lame. 
 

Erik seemed not to notice any of this. “Yeah,” he agreed. “I’m not used to warm places.” 
 

“Oh?” Eleven said, “Where are you from? Your accent...I can’t quite place it.” 
 

Erik lay back down on the grass, arms folded under his head. “North” was all he said, shrugging. 
 

“....North?” Eleven pressed, interested. 
 

Erik opened his eyes and looked up at Eleven. “Yeah. Far...north.” he glanced away from him, seeming uncomfortable. “It’s not too interesting to be honest. No nice village family, no adoptive parents, no parents actually...no fairytale.” He spoke harshly, then chuckled, as though trying to lighten the mood. 
 

Eleven felt awkward. He felt like he’d done something wrong but wasn’t sure what, and wasn’t sure how to fix it.  
 

“Sorry...I...didn’t mean to pry.” He said, mentally kicking himself. He’d finally made a friend from class, and now he had offended him by being nosy. 
 

Erik sat up and shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. I asked you first. My story just isn’t very interesting, or very happy.” He looked back up at the sky, blinking in the sunlight. He held up a hand to shade the worst of it off his face. 
 

“Looks like the mysterious red star is still hanging about.” He mused. Eleven could tell he was trying to change the subject – trying to pierce the awkwardness that hung around them. 
 

Eleven looked up. Sure enough, there it was. Although....”It looks a little brighter today...somehow” Eleven said, staring at the sky. He used his hand to shield the sun from his eyes as Erik was doing. 
 

“Huh. You know what, I think you’re right.” Erik said, then he turned to look at Eleven, a smile playing on his lips. “Maybe it’s shining bright because we have finally realised our destiny and intertwined our fates?” he said in a joking tone, cocking an eyebrow up. 
 

Eleven chuckled, feeling a tiny swoop in his stomach. “Yeah, maybe.”  
 

Erik’s eyebrows knitted and he sat up. “What’s that on your hand?” he asked, then his eyes widened when Eleven showed him his birthmark. “Oh hey that’s cool!” Erik reached for Eleven’s hand to hold it for a closer look. Eleven felt heat rising in his cheeks and the same swoopy feeling in his stomach. 
“Honestly,  I wouldn’t have thought you were the tattoo type though, especially a hand tattoo.” Erik continued, turning his hand over and looking at it this way and that. Eleven felt very warm. 
 

“Um, it’s not a tattoo...it’s a birthmark.” He mumbled shyly. He hoped his hand wasn’t clammy. He felt clammy. Why did it have to be so hot today?  
 

“Get out. No way that’s a birthmark. It’s too precise.” Erik’s tone said he absolutely did not believe him. 
 

Eleven shook his head and laughed. “No I’m serious. I know it’s pretty weird.” He felt embarrassed and tried to take his hand back, but Erik held on, looking even closer. 
 

“No, I’m sorry, you have to be joking. This is like....perfectly drawn on your skin.” With his index finger he traced the odd symbol that had been on Eleven’s hand his whole life. It felt like it was tingling now. It had never done that before.  Eleven’s adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. 
 

“No....really....I’ve had it since I was a baby.” Eleven said softy. To be honest the mark was a topic of much confusion and speculation for him and his family too. At first he had tried to research it. Pouring over every resource he could get, but found nothing. He had thought the same as Erik, it was too precise to be a birthmark. His imagination ran away with him and he had wondered if it was a brand – if his real parents had been captives or something and he’d been branded as a baby. But it wasn’t raised like a burn or a brand would be. Plus, that just seemed like a crazy story that didn’t happen to real people in the modern, somewhat civilised world. 
 

He let Erik trace the mark, unsure what else to do. Erik seemed to realise he was monopolising Eleven’s hand and dropped it, flushing. “Uh, sorry. I’m being super rude. That’s so weird though. Not in a bad way-!” Erik broke off, ducked his head and smiled, looking embarrassed. “Sorry.” He muttered.  
 

“It’s alright, honestly. I know it’s weird. I have no idea why it looks like that.” Eleven smiled at him to show he wasn’t offended, and was just as mystified as Erik was. 
 

Erik eyed it again but made no move to touch his hand where it lay on the grass. “Hrm, maybe you do have an important destiny after all then huh?” he mused, giving Eleven a playful smile. “You’ve been marked for greatness I think.” He carried on, giving Eleven a sidelong look. 
 

Eleven held out his hand and looked at it. “Oh yeah?” he chuckled softly, feeling shy again. 
 

“Yup. Psychic lady knew it too. She knew we’d end up right here on this exact patch of grass discussing your very, very mysterious hand. It’s destiny. We were destined to be here.”  
 

Erik’s tone of voice was suddenly so serious that Eleven had to look back at him to tell by his expression that he was joking. He shoved Erik playfully on the shoulder and laughed. Right at that moment, Eleven felt so content and happy. He had made a new friend. This boy was funny, bright, energetic, interesting. He couldn’t wait to get to know him even more.  
 

Eleven chuckled to himself and thought that maybe there had been some small accidental truth in what the psychic woman had told them – that they were somehow fated to be friends.  

 
 
 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3. 
 

Eleven’s phone buzzed and rang. He woke with a start, fumbling around under his pillow. He picked it up without looking at the caller I.D, dropped it on his face, cursed. 
 

“...Hello?” he mumbled sleepily 
 

“Good Morning lazybones.” Drawled Erik, sounding far more chipper than Eleven felt. Eleven’s heart did a little stutter. 
 

“Mornin’. What’s up?” Eleven asked, yawning. He sat back up in bed and rubbed his eyes. 
 

“What’s up is I’m waiting outside your dorm... did someone sleep through their alarm again?” Erik said. 
 

Eleven groaned. “Sorry,” he held his phone away from his face to check the time and cursed again. He’d slept through both of his alarms. Erik laughed on the other end of the phone. 
 

“I think I’m a bad influence on you. You’ve cursed twice already today and you’re barely awake.” 
 

“M’sorry. Give me like, five minutes?” Eleven climbed out of bed and made his way to his bathroom. 
 

“Sure, I’ll just stand outside alone like a loser.” 
 
 

Eleven had a quick shower, washing his hair as swiftly as he could. He’d have to leave it damp today. Lucky it was sunny outside, his hair should dry quickly enough. He turned off the water and stepped out, drying himself off. He towelled off his hair roughly and combed it once. He grimaced as he pulled his jeans on over still damp legs. Chucking a t-shirt on over his head, he stepped into his shoes and grabbed his jumper. He quickly brushed his teeth with one hand as he gathered up his bag and fumbled some books into it. He rinsed his mouth, placed his toothbrush back in the holder and headed out to meet Erik, who smiled as soon as he saw him. 
 

They had been meeting up to walk to their shared classes together ever since that first day they’d officially met. Eleven looked forward to it. They had to rush a little today thanks to Eleven sleeping in. They snuck in the back of the lecture hall, trying not to giggle as a few classmates turned around and gave them disapproving looks.  
 

“Here,” Erik muttered, grabbing his arm and steering him into a row the back with two empty chairs. They got their books and notes out and settled down for the class. 
 

They had quickly become best friends. It was so easy to relax in Erik’s company. Eleven found he was more comfortable in Erik’s company than any one else’s. He had made a small group of friends at college, mainly consisting of his dorm mates: Veronica, her sister Serena and Sylvando the drama major, and the stoic Hendrick – though he mostly just stayed in his room. 
 

Erik had slotted in to their little group of misfits rather easily. He and Veronica had got off on the wrong foot – a clash of personalities, but that was mostly resolved now... though they still liked to poke fun at one another. Erik had seemed quite wary of Sylvando at first, not quite sure how to take with him, but he had been won over eventually by the drama student’s fun-loving nature and compassionate outlook.  He barely interacted with Hendrick. But then again, he hardly came out of his room anyway unless it was to make food or go to class. He was not unfriendly, just...very awkward, Eleven thought.           
 

The lecture ended, and Erik and Eleven made their way to their next individual classes - not sharing this one, they agreed to meet up for lunch. 
 

Eleven walked into the student union, spotted Erik’s blue hair shining like a beacon. Erik waved him over casually, as if El hadn’t already spotted him. He sat down opposite his friend, who gave him a critical look and laughed. 
 

“How can your hair look like that when I know you left the house with it soaking wet this morning?” he mused, picking up his coffee. 
 

“What d’you mean?” Eleven asked, taken aback. He automatically grabbed a lock of his hair, trying to get a good look at it. “What’s wrong with it?” Erik was eyeing him over the lip of his coffee mug and Eleven felt extremely self-conscious. 
 

Erik laughed. “Nothing! That’s my point.” He set his cup down and leaned back in his chair. “It’s like, just sitting perfectly. If I left the house with wet hair and no product in it, it’d be a total bird’s nest.” 
 

Eleven giggled, feeling shy at the compliment. He picked up the cup of tea Erik had ordered for him. “Oh, you mean your hair is supposed to look like that?” he sipped. 
 

Erik looked at him incredulously. “How dare you. This is my best feature. “ Erik touched a hand to his own hair tentatively, frowning. “Why, is it sticking out weird?” he exaggerated trying to catch his own reflection in the window. 
 
 

Eleven sipped his tea, shook his head and laughed. Erik grabbed a menu and handed it to him. After a quick browse they ordered some food.  
 

“So, you looking forward to the party tomorrow then?” Erik mumbled in-between bites of his sandwich. 
 

“What party?” Eleven asked, nibbling on his own food. 
 

Erik laughed. “Have you not checked your phone at all today?” 
 

Eleven shook his head, pulling out his phone. He groaned when he saw the amount of messages in the group chat. 
 

“Where is it? Do I have to go?” Eleven grumbled, scrolling down the phone to try and makes heads or tails of it. 
 

“Uh I don’t think you’ll have much of a choice. It’s at your dorm.” Erik laughed at the horrified expression that spread across Eleven’s face as his words. 
 

“Oh no.” He mumbled, skimming through all the messages. It’s not that Eleven hated parties, he could deal with them in moderation. Having one at his dorm though.....he groaned and pushed his plate away. There would be no escape. 
 

“That’ll be a no then?” Erik laughed, watching him. 
 

Eleven shrugged. “Nothing I can do about it now.” He checked his phone again, having felt it vibrate. A new message, not in the group chat.  

 

Gemma: Hey! You busy this weekend? Was going to come visit you, it’s been ages! 
 
 

Eleven smiled. He’d not seen Gemma since he left their little village well over a month ago. Going from seeing his friend almost every day to not seeing her at all had been difficult at first, though since hanging out with Erik, he had missed her a lot less. He felt a bit guilty about that. Maybe they could weather the party together. 
 

“What’s got you all smiles?” Erik chimed in, hands folded in front of his chest as he observed him. 
 

“My best friend from back home just messaged me saying she’s thinking of visiting this weekend.” El explained, hastily typing a reply back. 
 

Eleven: That would be great! We are having a party tomorrow in our dorm, just so you know.  
 

She, huh?” Erik said, his tone mocking. 
 

Eleven glanced up at the obvious implication in his words. Erik was leaning forwards, arms folded on the table. His eyebrow cocked up. “Old girlfriend?” 
 

Eleven shook his head. “No, nothing like that. Gemma and I live down the lane from each other. We’ve been friends forever.” 
 

“Just friends huh? No teenage romance stories?” Erik asked, eyeing him, a knowing smile on his face. 
 

“No!” Eleven waved his hands. “Honestly, nothing like that. I think everyone in the village expected something to happen with us but it never did.” He mumbled. His phone vibrated again. He glanced down. 
 

GemmaOooh a college party! Sounds great, I can’t wait! I’ll book my bus ticket now! Missed you! x 
 

El smiled as he replied. 
 

Eleven: Missed you too! See you tomorrow! x 
 

“Should I be jealous?” Erik asked, bringing Eleven’s attention back to him.  
 

“W-what? What d’you mean?” Eleven flushed, pocketing his phone.  
 

Erik gestured to said phone in his pocket. “Of your oldest friend...Will we have to duke it out for the title of Best Friend?” He was watching Eleven’s expression, a smile on the corner of his mouth. 
 

Eleven laughed, and ran a hand through his hair. “Oh! No, no I don’t think so.” He grabbed his cup for something to do, but it was empty so he sat it back down. 
 

“Because I’ve already won right?” Erik flashed him a brilliant grin that sent El’s stomach looping.  
 

Eleven ducked his head. “I’m not doing this. I can have two best friends.” 
 

Erik sat back grumbling. “Nah I’m not sharing. I’ll show this Gemma girl her place has been taken thank you very much.” He gave El a soft smile to show he was...hopefully...kidding around. 
 

El shook his head. “I just want to get through this party with no drama and nothing getting broken.” He frowned, thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong. 
 

Erik laughed at him. “God forbid you actually have fun! I think it’ll be a blast. Plus I finally get to see your room and all the secrets you’ve been hiding.” He wiggled his eyebrows. 
 

“I’m not hiding any secrets!” El blushed as he said this, not sure why. He felt his heart pound a little. Erik shrugged. 
 

“Well we’ll find out won’t we. Maybe I can ask this Gemma about your sordid past.” 
 

Eleven laughed quietly. “Kinda hard to have a sordid past in a place like Cobblestone.” Eleven said, rubbing the back of his neck. 
 

“Well. Either way, I’m going to have a blast.” Erik said smiling, lounging back. He lightly kicked Eleven’s foot with his own. “And I’m going to make sure you do too!”  
 

El smiled. He always had fun when he was with Erik, but he wasn’t sure this party was a good idea. Now Gemma was coming to visit he had that to look forward to, and hoped she would get on well with his new friends too. 


***Party Prep***


He’d met Gemma at the bus stop just outside campus. She grinned and waved at him as soon as she saw him standing waiting. She hopped off the bus and charged at him, hugging him fiercely. He hugged her back tightly. 
 

“I really missed you!” Gemma smiled, stepping back to look at him properly. 
 

“Me too Gems, how’ve you been?” El grinned. Now that she was here he realised how much he had missed his oldest friend. They linked arms as they walked. 
 

“Oh you know, same old same old. Just helping with the family shop. Nothing ever happens back home. “ she huffed. “But tell me about you! About college life! I’m so jealous!” 
 

“Well, you could go to college too, you got the grades.” El said. 
 

Gemma shrugged. “Not right now, I need to help with the shop and stuff. Maybe one day. Anyway, tell me everything!” 
 

Eleven smiled and started to tell her all about his classes, the campus, and all his new friends. He felt his ears grow inexplicably hot when he started talking about Erik, and Gemma looked up at him, frowning slightly. He thought maybe he offended her by making another best friend... 
 

Feeling uncomfortable, Eleven decided to change the subject. “Oh, and I’m not sure if you can see this back home, but there’s this weird star in the sky I spotted my first week here, look!” he pointed up at the red star. 
 

Gemma gasped. “Oh wow!” she gripped his forearm. “Why is it red like that?” she asked, staring up at it intently. 
 

El shrugged. “Nobody seems to know, though some are saying its a star that exploded a long time ago and we are just now seeing it’s light. Weird huh?” 
 

“Certainly is.” Gemma glanced back up at him and poked his side. “So when is this party?” 
 

“Ugh, 7pm.” El grumbled. 
 

“You don’t seem too happy about it?” Gemma mused as they resumed walking towards his dorm. 
 

Eleven held up his hands. “I guess I just haven’t been to many parties. They always seem so loud, too many people.” He shook his head. 
 

Gemma giggled. “You are such a square. Well, I’m excited. It’ll be fun!” 
 

They reached the dorms and Eleven lead the way to his flat. He introduced Gemma to everyone. They all welcomed her warmly, Sylvando scooping her in for a hug. “Ohhh darling! We are delighted to have you here!” he simpered, winking at Eleven over her shoulder. 
 

Eleven rolled his eyes. He really hoped the others weren’t going to make a big deal about Gemma visiting. He looked around and took in the scene around him. The others were laying out snacks and creating a makeshift bar in a corner of the kitchen. The flat wasn’t exactly large by any regard, the shared living/kitchen space had enough seats on the sofas for the five of them who lived there. There were a few bar stools tucked under the kitchen breakfast bar, and a few random chairs the others must have procured from elsewhere.  He felt a little nervous. 
 

“How many people are coming to this?” he asked, dreading the answer. He and Gemma took the snacks they were handed and started dishing them out into plates and bowls. 
 

Veronica shrugged. “Dunno, I invited my classmates and I’m sure Sylv has been eagerly spreading the word across campus.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Sylv, who clasped his hands and bounced up and down. 
 

“Oh darlings, it’s going to be a ball , just you wait and see! I’ve got a bunch of cuties from drama class who are more than ready to party.” He giggled. 
 

Veronica cocked her head at him. “How cute we talking here?”  
 

Sylvando smiled wickedly. “Oh very cute! They are friends with me, how could they not be!” he winked, rearranging the paper plates. 
 

Veronica grinned then turned to Serena. “Maybe you’ll finally get some action then.”  
 
 

Serena blushed scarlet “Veronica!” she chastised her twin, looking profoundly embarrassed.   
 

 
“Have you even invited anyone?” Veronica rounded on her twin. 
 

Serena nodded shyly. “I invited a few of the girls from class....not too many though..” 
 

Veronica nodded, then turned to El. “What about you, how many did you invite?” 
 

Eleven stared pointedly at Gemma. “Uh, well Gemma.” He said. 
 

Veronica sighed. “Well obviously, I meant how many classmates did you tell? I need to know if we have enough snacks and mixers.” 
 

“Well...” Gemma interjected, looking bashful. “El didn’t really invite me, I sort of invited myself to visit and then he mentioned you were all throwing a party.” She chuckled. 
 

 Veronica rolled her eyes. “El you are ridiculous. How do you expect to make any friends if you don’t invite them to stuff?” 
 

Eleven shrugged, and popped a cheese puff into his mouth. “I have you guys?” He said simply. “Oh I  guess Erik is coming too. He’s from class, does that count?” 
 

Veronica eyed him. “No, seeing as it was us who invited him and not you, that absolutely does not count.” She frowned at him. “You two are practically joined at the hip anyway, so he is a given.” 
 

Eleven felt his ears grow hot. Gemma giggled. “Should I be jealous? Is this Erik taking my place?” she asked playfully, nudging his elbow. 
 

Veronica walked away to stack paper cups. 
 

Eleven shook his head. “Can’t a guy have two best friends?” he grumbled. 
 

Gemma nudged him with her shoulder. “Hey, you know I’m only joking.” She looked over her shoulder at the hallway. “Which room is yours? I need to get ready for the party.”  
 

“Oh right, yeah, sorry.” Eleven leaned away from the breakfast bar and headed out to the hall, down the far end of the corridor. “This is my room here, you can use my shower if you need to.” He  offered. 
 

Gemma whacked him on the arm. “Are you saying I stink?!” she laughed, looking mildly offended.  
 

Eleven held his hands up. “Oh no! No I didn’t mean that! Sorry I just...you had a long bus trip I just thought I should offer...”he trailed off. 
 

Gemma laughed. “I’m only messing! I’d love a shower actually, thanks!” she gave his arm a squeeze and looked up at him. “Try to relax El, I know you think a party might not be your thing, but give it a chance – you might enjoy it!” she smiled. 
 

El nodded and smiled. “Alright, I’ll try.” He opened the door to his room for her and she walked in, closing it behind her with a smile. 
 

El returned to the kitchen/living room. He jerked his head to gesture at Hendrick’s room, door closed as always. “Is Hendrick coming out for this or is he the only one who is allowed to hide?” he asked sullenly. 
 

Serena was the one who answered. “He said he would join in for a little bit. He didn’t seem too bothered, but not opposed either – which was a little surprising.” 
 

“Maybe he feels like making a little effort.” Sylvando said, musing. Veronica merely tutted and shrugged.  
 

“So, about Gemma...” Sylvando began, clasping his hands under his chin and fixing Eleven with a wry smile. “Is there something going on between you and this pretty little thing?” he wiggled his eyebrows. 
 

El sighed. He had been expecting this. Couldn’t a guy and a girl just be best friends? “No, it’s not like that. “He huffed. “We’ve been friends forever is all.” 
 

Sylvando pouted. “And nothing ever happened? Not even a little kiss?” 
 

Eleven blushed. He hated how easily he blushed these days. “No! No, nothing like that. If it was ever going to happen it would have by now. “  
 

He had thought about this over the years. Tried to picture himself getting together with Gemma. There wasn’t really anyone else his age in the village when they were growing up. When they’d gone to school they had remained best friends, always in each other’s company. He thought once or twice, maybe something should happen...but it felt more due to everyone else’s expectations than because he actually wanted it to. 
 

“Well, maybe this weekend is the time it will!” Sylvando sighed dramatically. “A little distance between you has maybe made hearts grow fonder, no?” he put his hand on his hip, surveying El’s expression. 
 

El shrugged, then smiled. “It’s not like that, trust me.”  
 

“You are not interested in her, darling?” Sylv pressed. He could feel the others watching him.  
 

“Like I said, we’re best friends...”  
 

“Like you and Erik are best friends?” Veronica interjected, folding her arms, raising an eyebrow.
 

“Can I not have multiple best friends?” El huffed. He was getting more than a little tired of this. He had expected the others to question him about his relationship with Gemma, but it was incredibly draining.  
 

“Sure, “Veronica nodded. “But does Gemma know you’re not interested in her like that? The way she looks at you....” she frowned. 
 

El shrugged. “I’m sure she does. Let’s just drop this please?” he said, allowing an edge to seep into his tone so they would get the message. 
 

Sylv nodded and went back to arranging the furniture in a circle, sofas facing in to each other rather than the TV. 
 

El plopped down on the sofa. There wasn’t much left to do. He picked up his phone and started sifting through, looking for music to stream. “What time are people getting here?” he asked. 
 

“I said 7, but no one will show up until 8.” Veronica answered, leaning over his shoulder to supervise his music choices for the party playlist. 
 

Eleven craned around to look at her. “What? Why?” he asked, puzzled. 
 

Veronica laughed. “I don’t know how, but I keep forgetting just what a stick-in-the-mud you are. No one turns up to parties on time El.” 
 

El frowned. “I would.” He said quietly, adding a song in to the playlist. Veronica leaned over and tapped his phone to add another. 
 

“I know you would.” She laughed. 


 

 *******

 

7pm rolled around and sure enough, nobody arrived. The others had all settled in to the couches with a drink, chatting among themselves. Gemma had emerged from El’s room fresh and ready. She had curled her hair, put some makeup on, and was dressed in a red skater skirt and black top. She sat down beside El. “Hey you.” She beamed up at him. El leaned back a bit, Veronica’s words from earlier still in his ears. Surely Gemma wasn’t interested in him like that...? 
 

“Hey, You want a drink?” El leaned forward towards the coffee table, gesturing to the bottles they had brought over. He tried to dispel the sudden awkwardness he felt. 
 

“What are you having?” Gemma asked. El handed her his drink to try. “Ohh this is nice! I’ll have whatever this is.” 
 

El nodded and picked up the bottle of Malibu and mixed her a drink. He handed it to her. “Not too strong?” 
 

She sipped it, then shook her head. “No that’s fine.“ She settled back into the couch and turned around to him. “Okay so, tell me everything. What have you been up to? Who’s dating who? What are the scandals? What’s the deal with the other guy not coming out his room?” she asked all of this in quick succession, sipping her drink and looking up and him expectantly. 
 

Eleven laughed. His sipped his own drink and tried to work out which question to answer first. He felt a bit more at ease. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was just seeing his oldest friend again. Maybe this party wouldn’t be so bad?





 

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – The Party. 
 

 
The Party was in full swing by 9pm. A lot of people had turned up. Their flat was pretty packed, with people standing in every corner. El had excused himself to change after Gemma had spilled a drink on his t-shirt. She was full of apologies. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it. I’ll be back in a minute.” El had reassured her, slipping off to his room to find another shirt. He squeezed past people who were standing in the hallway, unlocked his door and went in. 
 

He flung the wet shirt into his laundry bin and started hunting through his wardrobe for another top. He found a purple t-shirt and pulled it on over his head. He smoothed down the fabric to get rid of any little creases. 
 

“Knock-knock...” came a voice from the doorway. El turned around to find Erik leaning against the doorframe, holding the door open. 
 

He felt a grin spread across his face. “Hey, You made it!” 
 

Erik shrugged. “Course I did. Why are you hiding in your room? Should I start calling you Henry?” 
 

Eleven snorted. “Hendrick, you mean,” Erik shrugged and wandered into the room. “And I’m not hiding! Gemma spilled a drink on me, so I had to get a fresh shirt.” Eleven’s eyes followed Erik as he wandered around his room, taking stock of everything. 
 

Ohhhh Gemma, chucking alcohol at you is she?” Erik turned back to him, smirking.  
 

“Don’t you start as well.” Eleven sighed, “Everyone was questioning me about her earlier. Can’t two people just be friends?” he grumbled. 
 

Erik’s smirk softened, he raised an eyebrow and shrugged. “Hey, whatever. I was just kidding around.  I’ll drop it if it’s a touchy subject.... “ an almost uncomfortable silence stretched out between them. The first of it’s kind  in a long while.  

 
Erik turned and resumed his wandering. He paused at Eleven’s desk, looking over all the polaroid pictures he’d taped up on the corkboard of their little friend group. He smiled. His fingers grazed absently along the desk, landing on a video game case, he picked it up to read the back. 

 
“Sorry...”Eleven said, sighing, hat sat down on his bed heavily. “I’m just bored of everyone asking questions about us. I got it all the time back home, and was getting used to not having to explain my friendships here.”  
 

Erik glanced over at him, listening. He set the game back down on the desk and leaned back against it. “It’s none of my business. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” He said. 
 

Eleven huffed and stood. “It’s fine I just...wish everyone would stop – it’s making me be awkward around her and I don’t like it.” He said, swinging his arms absently at his side. 
 

Erik nodded.  “Fair enough.” He jerked his head to gesture at the door. “Lets get back to the party. Maybe you can find someone to chat up and everyone will shut up about you and Gemma?” He suggested, a small wicked smile on his face. He pushed off from the desk and made his way to the door.  
 

Eleven laughed and ducked his head, following him out. “God no, that’s almost worse.” 
 

They squeezed past the people in the hallway. A few girls caught sight of Erik and made eyes at him, smiling brightly, but he didn’t seem to notice. They made their way to the kitchen, making some drinks. There was nowhere to sit so they stood by the breakfast bar. Eleven noted that Gemma was sitting talking animatedly with Serena who was nodding and smiling. Eleven smiled, he was glad Gemma was getting along with his friends. He had been a little worried it might be awkward. He noticed, with surprise, that Hendrick had even joined the party. He was standing by the wall with Sylvando and his drama friends. He caught Eleven’s eye and nodded at him, raising his cup in greeting. El smiled back in return and raised his. 
 

“Wow even Henry has come out to play tonight, this is a raging success El!” Erik grinned and thumped him on the back. El gasped a little, swallowing a mouth full of alcohol. “His name is Hendrick”. He spluttered. 
 

A girl he didn’t know walked up to the makeshift bar in the kitchen and stood between them to fill up her drink. She smiled at El and blushed a little when she noticed Erik. “Hi.” She smiled at Erik, twirling her hair. She had finished mixing her drink and was lingering between them, eyelashes fluttering at Erik. Eleven felt a stab of annoyance. Didn’t she realise they were in the middle of a conversation? 
 

Erik glanced at her. “Do I know you?” he asked, unsmiling. 
 

“Um...no I guess not.” The girl giggled awkwardly.  
 

“.....Right...” Erik leaned around her to talk to Eleven. “Whatever El, If Henry can have fun, you can too. Come on.” Erik stepped around the girl, grinned and grabbed his wrist, leading him into the living room area. El felt his ears go hot as Erik lead him into the foray He shot a glance back to see the girl at the bar looking a little put out. 
 

People were sitting playing a drinking game at the sofas. Erik pushed his way into the group with El in tow. “Room for two more?” he said to the group, nimbly squeezing on to the sofa and forcing people to make room for him.  
 

“Ugh Erik, You’re squishing me!” Veronica complained. Erik ignored her. El stood beside him, unable to fit on the couch and unwilling to push his way in as Erik had. Erik looked at him expectantly. 
 

“Sit down then.” Erik instructed him. El looked around pointedly. There was literally nowhere to sit. 
 

“Where?” El asked 
 

Erik turned to Veronica. “Move over.” He said, rudely. She looked aghast. 
 

“Absolutely not! I was here first!” she exclaimed, glaring at him. Erik sighed and held up his hands. 
 

“El! You can sit here, come on.” Gemma called out, giggling. Grateful, El scooted around the coffee table to squeeze in beside Gemma and Serena on the larger sofa. 
 

Erik leaned forwards, grabbing some fresh cups and starting to fill them. Eleven caught Erik eyeing Gemma out the corner of his eye. He frowned slightly. 
 

“So, what are we playing then?” Erik asked, filling a cup and handing it to Eleven before making his own. 
 

“Well we were about to start Ring of Fire” Gemma said, sounding a little shy. Veronica huffed, shuffling a pack of cards. 
 

“Decent. “ Erik commented, he sipped his drink, glancing between Gemma and Eleven. “I don’t believe we've been introduced,” he said to Gemma, his voice was all smoulder. Eleven stared at him. Gemma blinked and glanced up at him.  
 

“I’m the new best friend.” Erik said smoothly and flashed her a brilliant grin, his eyes sparkling mischievously.  
 

Gemma blinked a few times, and then laughed. “Ah, so you’re Erik then?” she asked him, smiling. 
 

Erik cocked an eyebrow at Eleven, who shrugged and sipped the drink Erik had made him. 
 

“I see my reputation precedes me.” He smiled again, it looked like effort. “And you are...?” he said, sounding sweet, but Eleven knew what game he was playing. Veronica was watching the exchange, eyes snapping back and forth like she was watching a tennis match. 
 

Gemma flicked her hair over her shoulder and smiled. “Gemma. The oldest, best friend.” She said, giving Eleven a little nudge with her shoulder. 
 

Erik nodded. “Oh of course,” he sipped his drink. “The one he left behind.” 
 

Gemma stared at him, then she looked at Eleven, who smiled weakly and took a large drink. Gemma laughed and turned back to Erik. “Are we supposed to arm wrestle now or something?” 
 

Eleven snorted into his drink. Erik chuckled and leaned back. “Nah, I wouldn’t want to hurt a pretty little thing like you.” He actually winked at her. Eleven narrowed his eyes. Veronica chuckled. Serena looked to be hiding a laugh behind her hand.  El glanced at Gemma and saw a light dusting of a blush had appeared on her cheeks.  
 

“I’m a country girl, I can hold my own.” She said back, then noticed the rapt attention of the group and blushed. “But for now, maybe we can just play the drinking game?”  
 

Erik shrugged, took the cards out of Veronica’s hands and gave them a quick shuffle and leaned forwards to dish them out on the coffee table. “Ring of fire then. Here we go.” He grinned.

 

 

 

*****

 

The drinking game was brutal. Why did people even play these things? It was obviously just an excuse to get as smashed as possible. El tried to pace himself as much as he could. He wasn’t a big drinker. 
 

Erik drew a card on his turn and showed it to the group. “Two,” he said. “Two is choose someone to drink for you.” He gazed wickedly at Eleven. “Drink up El.” He grinned. 
 

El rolled his eyes and took a large gulp of his drink while Erik chuckled.  
 

“Anyone would think you’re trying to get El drunk, Erik.” Serena giggled, a lopsided smile on her face as she swayed. She was clearly a lightweight.  
 

Erik shrugged. “If anyone needs to learn how to loosen up and have fun it’s El.” He said, lounging back on the couch.  
 

“Here (hic) here!” Veronica called, raising her glass high and cackling. 
 

Gemma giggled, Eleven shot her a look of mock betrayal. She looked at him sympathetically. “Sorry El, but Erik is right. You were so stressed out about attending this party and its a roaring success. Let yourself have a bit of fun.” She smiled at him. 
 
 

El rolled his eyes and sat forward, picking a card on his turn. He showed the group. It was an Eight. 
 

“Eight,” Erik said, “is Mate. Pick a mate to drink with you, and from here on every time you have to drink, they have to drink.” He explained. 
 

A smile curved up at the corners of Eleven’s mouth. This was how he  was going to get Erik  back for picking him to drink on  hi s turn. He  slowly raised his index finger and pushed the cup Erik had sat down on the table back towards him, grinning as he did.    

 
Erik rolled his eyes grumbling. “All right then, Challenge accepted. Looks like we’re drinking partners.” He raised his cup in a salute. Eleven grinned and drained his cup in one and stared expectantly back at Erik. He felt emboldened by the alcohol, his head was a bit fuzzy. 
 

Erik’s eyebrows raised. He made a face and flipped his middle finger at El as the girls all giggled, and he drained his cup in one too. He sat the cup down with a little thump and lounged back in his chair. 
 

Bloody hell, it’s hot in here.” He complained, fanning himself. Hed undone the top few buttons on his shirt and was reaching to undo another. Eleven swallowed, watching the movement intently. 
 
“God Erik, you might as well just take that shirt off it’ll be halfway down your stomach at this rate.” Veronica laughed. Gemma giggled beside him. Eleven felt his stomach do a little flip as the image of Erik with his shirt buttoned down to his navel flew unbidden into his head. He pushed the image away it, shaking his head to try and clear it, blaming the alcohol for making him feel weird. 

 
Erik laughed “You trying to get my clothes off?” He teased Veronica. She wrinkled her nose up and rolled her eyes. 
 

“No thanks, no one wants to see that.” Veronica snorted. Eleven kept his face blank and tried not to show his stomach was suddenly training for a career as a gymnast.  
 

Erik merely chuckled and twisted around, looking behind him. “Hey, crack a few windows would  ya ?” he called to the  people by the back wall. They obliged and soon the room was blessed by a beautiful cool breeze. Erik sighed “Ah, bliss.” He smiled, closing his eyes.    

 
A few more turns went around and the gang got more and more tipsy. Sylvando came closer to watch the fun and pulled Hendrick along with him, who was red in the face and looking worse for wear. Some of the party goers had cleared out, going out to the clubs, so the room was a bit more airy than it had been. Some others had started a game of beer pong at the breakfast bar. Every now and then their cheers would punctuate the room. 

 

“All right, my turn again.” Gemma giggled, as Eleven  drained  another drink , and Erik of course had to drain his cup too.  Eleven felt his head swim a bit. He knew he needed water, or food ,  or  a nap...or  something, but this was fun. He was having fun!  He glanced  over  at Erik who was making a face after draining his last drink. He was practically melted into the couch , shirt open to  the middle of  his chest . Veronica was leaning heavily on his shoulder,  pointing and laughing at his face. He shoved her playfully and rumpled her hair.  

 
Gemma held up a Queen. “Um, what’s this one again?” she asked. Erik glanced over at her and his face lit up when he saw the card.  
 

Ohhhh this is a fun one! Queen means Question Time.” He sat forward, his shirt gaping open to his bare chest. He flicked away the lock of hair that had sprung free to hang down in front of his eyes. Eleven licked his lips, paying rapt attention. He tore his gaze from Erik’s bare chest and focused on his face. “So how it works is, you ask a question Gemma, any question, to the person to your left, and they have to ask the person on their left a question.” 
 

Gemma frowned. “So they don’t answer it?” she asked, slurring slightly and hiccoughing at the end. 
 

Erik shook his head. “Nah, if you answer or do anything other than ask the person on your left a question, you drink.” He sat back. “Get it?” 
 

Gemma nodded slowly. “Yes, I think so! OK...um,” she raised a finger to her lips as she thought.  “Ah!” She smiled and turned to Serena. “What’s your favourite colour?” It was more of a statement than a question. 
 

Serena blinked, then turned to Veronica. “What’s your favourite food?” She asked, looking unsure of herself. 
 

Veronica sat up straight and turned to Erik, grinning. “What is your accent all about?” she asked giggling. 
 

Erik rolled his eyes and swatted her away. He turned his full attention to Eleven and leaned forwards, elbows resting on his legs.  “Who’s your best friend?” he said and shot Gemma a wicked grin. She shook her head at him, chuckled and raised a clenched fist. Erik held up his hands and shrugged, smiling lopsidedly.   
 

Eleven waved him away and turned to Gemma. “Um, What.....What’s your favourite food?” he already knew the answer to that and felt silly asking it. She turned away and asked Serena “Do you like apples?” 
 

Serena looked ready to answer and then caught herself, she turned bodily to Veronica. “Do you like horses?” she giggled like it was absurd. 
 

Veronica turned to Erik. “Are you jealous of Gemma?” she grinned from ear to ear.  
 

Erik pinched her lightly and she squealed. He turned to El. “Are you...attracted to anyone in this room?” he asked, his eyes gleaming. Watching from the sidelinesSylvando gasped audibly and glanced from Erik to Eleven to Gemma, watching them intently. 
 

El’s  breath caught. He couldn’t help his eyes flicking down to Erik’s  bare  chest and then back up to his face. He felt a blush begin .  He felt guilty for some reason, like he had been caught  out doing something   he shouldn’t . His heart hammered in his chest  

 

He suddenly realised he was meant to be asking a question. He turned to Gemma. “Are....Um.....What.........” 
 

“Time!” Erik yelled, laughing. “You took way too long dude. Drink up.” He laughed heartily. Veronica slumped, giggling. She took a sip of her drink then remembered she was meant to be playing and set it down. 
 

El wrinkled his nose and blushed. He took a gulp from his cup.  
 

“Erik, you know that means you have to drink too?” Serena giggled. 
 

“Aw hell, I forgot.” Erik grumbled. He sat forwards and eyed his drink warily. He took a deep breath, picked it up and took a long sip.  
 

El felt pretty smashed. He knew he had to tap out. Everyone else was slumped on the couches or giggling away. El got shakily to his feet. “Guys....I think I’m out. I feel.....not O.K” he said, swaying. 
 

Gemma reached up to steady him, her hand resting on the small of his back. “Are you alright? Do you feel sick?” she asked, concern etched on her face 
 

 Eleven shook his head and then stopped abruptly. He definitely should not be doing that. He gripped on to the side of the couch for support, his head swimming. 
 

Erik stood, stumbling a little as he did. “I’ll get you some water.” He weaved through the dissipating crowd of people and headed to the sink. 
 

Veronica giggled. “He’s like a mother hen.”   
 

Erik returned and shoved the glass into  El’s  hands. “Sip it, don’t glug it.” He instructed. El did as he was told  

 

“Do you need to sit down sweetie?” Sylv asked him. 
 

El carefully shook his head no. He felt if he sat down he couldn’t get back up. 
 

“Do you want some fresh air?” Erik asked, looking concerned. Eleven nodded, fresh air sounded pretty good right about now. It might clear his head of the fog that had decended. 
 

“Alright, c’mon. We’ll be back soon guys. Don’t get jealous Gemma.” Erik said, his tone playful. 
 

Gemma sighed and rolled her eyes. “Fell better El.” She called after them as Erik steered him out to the hall, then to the landing and carefully into the lift , they didn’t even attempt the stairs. Eleven leaned heavily on the walls, and closed his eyes. He clutched his pint glass of water to his chest. 
 

Erik lifted it to his lips. “Drink it, don’t hug it.” He chuckled, his hand on his shoulder to keep him steady. 
 

Eleven grumbled. “How come you’re not drunk?” he asked, feeling annoyed. They’d had roughly the same amount, if not Erik had actually drank more. 
 

Erik laughed. “Oh, I am, trust me. I’m just more practiced at it.” He squeezed his shoulder and stepped back. 
 

El tried to stare at the floor and not thinking about the lift moving. It came to a stop and a soft beeping noise echoed out as they reached the ground floor. 

 

 

 
 

Chapter Text

“C’mon.” Erik said, and he reached for Eleven’s hand to guide him out the lift. Eleven followed him blindly, his hand tightening his grip on Erik’s.

 

Erik lead him to the little patch of grass in front of the building and plonked him down before sitting beside him. “Just sip your water and breathe.” He said. Eleven obeyed, taking long deep breaths.

 

Erik sprawled out on his back, closing his eyes and sighing. Eleven turned to consider him, a soft smile spreading across his face.

 

“Thanks, Erik.” He said quietly.

 

Erik cracked one eye open and looked at him. “For what?” he asked.

 

Eleven shrugged. “Making sure I don’t die?” he chuckled.

 

Erik patted Eleven’s arm. “No worries. Gotta get my best friend points up.” He smirked and let his arm fall to his side on the grass.

 

El took another sip from his water, and sat in companionable silence with Erik, stealing furtive glances at him every now and then. He looked tired, but peaceful. The streetlamps bounced light across his features and made his hair look like it was glowing.

 

“What you staring at you drunkard?” Erik drawled, bringing El out of his trance.

 

“Oh!” he said, startled. “Nothing...” he mumbled.

 

“Excuse me, I am definitely not nothing.” Erik grinned at him, one eye open to watch him. “Have I got something on my face is what I meant?”

 

Eleven shook his head slowly. “No I just...was in a kinda trance there.” He breathed, and took another sip from his pint glass.

 

Erik chuckled. “You are smashed.” He stated

 

Eleven nodded and giggled. Erik groaned. “That is bloody adorable, that noise you make.” He mumbled. Eleven flushed beet red and covered his face with his hand.

 

“Shut up.” El mumbled. He heard Erik chuckling.

 

“So, after all your grumbling, did you have fun tonight?” Erik asked him.

 

El waited till the heat burned away from his face before he looked back at him, he was laying on his side playing with a blade of grass. Eleven smiled. “Yeah I did.” he answered.

 

Erik lifted the blade of grass to his lips and blew it away. He glanced up at Eleven and grinned, which sent a wave of heat through Eleven. “Good.” Erik said. “Mission accomplished.”

 

El smiled to himself and drank a little more of his water. His phone buzzed. He reached into his pocket for it.

 

Gemma: Hey, you O.K?

 

He typed a reply, with difficulty.

 

Eleven: Yahy. Im fine.d. With Erk. Grass

 

“Your entourage?” Erik’s voice made his head snap up.

 

“No, it was Gemma.” El said, a frown knitting his forehead.

 

Erik nodded, then tilted his head to the side. “You’re really not interested in her?” he asked.

 

“No! I already told you...” El started, annoyed. He did not want to have this conversation again. Least of all with Erik when there were far better things they could be talking about, or doing.

 

“Yeah yeah I know what you said.” Erik muttered. “But you got super flustered when I asked that question tonight and then you couldn’t talk to her.” He picked out another blade of grass and shrugged. “I assumed....”

 

“You thought I just lied to you earlier?” El took another sip of his water, agitated. How many times would he have to tell people he wasn’t interested in Gemma before they left them alone.

 

Erik shrugged. “I mean, maybe? I could understand if you did. Like her that is. She’s very pretty.”

 

Eleven’s eyes widened and his eyebrows shot up. Is that what this was? Was Erik attracted to Gemma? Is that why he had asked him that question? To gauge his reaction? He frowned.

 

“She’s pretty, yes...but I already told you, it’s not like that.” El sighed, feeling his stomach drop a little. “You don’t need to worry about me getting in the way of you liking her.” He sighed.

 

Erik’s head snapped up and he stared at him. “What are you talking about?”

 

Eleven shrugged. “I saw you winking at her and stuff...if you like her...you should go for it. But don’t mess her about – I don’t want the drama.” Eleven sighed, he shivered, feeling cold.

 

Erik was quiet for a while. “I was only messing with her.” he trailed off.

 

Eleven nodded blankly. “O.K then.” he said, feeling way less than O.K.

 

Erik rolled over and sat up. “You had enough air? It’s getting cold.”

 

It certainly was, in more ways than one, Eleven thought. He bit his lip as he remembered something else that had bothered him from that evening, not registering what Erik had said. “What about that girl that was trying to talk to you earlier?” he asked, before realising that his mouth had said the thing his brain was thinking. He mentally kicked himself.

 

Erik frowned. “What girl?” he asked.

 

“We were in the kitchen, she tried to talk to you when we were getting a drink? She was pretty...” Eleven felt like an idiot. Why was he talking about this? He didn’t want to talk about any of this.

 

“I’ve not got a clue what you’re talking about. I don’t remember any girl, should I?” Erik sounded a little annoyed.

 

El shrugged. The sat in silence for a little longer. Why had he even brought all that up? El frowned. He'd made a big deal out of nothing....god damn alcohol was making him an insecure mess.

 

“Are you feeling any better?” Erik asked, piercing the silence. 

 

El nodded. His head wasn’t as swimmy. Erik climbed to his feet and brushed himself off. He seemed to hesitate, and then turned and held out his hand to Eleven. “C’mon, let’s go back inside.” El took Erik’s offered hand and let him pull him up to hit feet. He lost his feet almost immediately and fell against Erik’s chest heavily, dropping the empty pint glass with a yelp. It rolled away, instantly forgotten. Erik steadied him with hands on the top of his arms.

 

“Woah there.” Erik said softly. El mumbled an apology and tried to steady himself, his hands landing on Erik’s waist. He head was swimming again, this time with Erik’s scent. His face was buried in Erik’s neck where he’d fallen. He blushed furiously.

 

“You O.K?” Erik said softly, his breath tickling El’s ear. All traces of his earlier tone of annoyance had disappeared. Eleven’s heart thundered in his chest as he breathed in the heady scent of everything Erik. He nodded, although he didn’t feel O.K. His blood was pulsing in his veins and there was a rushing in his ears. Erik didn’t move, he just held him steady.

 

“Alright then....we should get you back inside.” Erik mumbled quietly. Neither of them had moved. Eleven nodded again and reluctantly took a measured step back, watching his footing so as not to look at Erik. He really did not want to analyse what his heart was doing right now. He focused on his breathing. He let Erik steer him back inside, into the lift. They leaned against the wall, side by side. Erik pushed the button for Eleven's floor.

 

When the lift doors shut. Eleven immediately felt the whole atmosphere around them kick up a notch. He felt like his head was buzzing, the air felt heavy and charged with static. He glanced beside him at Erik, who was looking up at him from under his eyelashes. El swallowed. He looked away and clenched and unclenched his fists. In doing so, his fingertips brushed against Erik’s and he thought he heard the other boy give a small gasp...or maybe that was him? He felt like a small shock of electricity had passed where their fingers had touched. His eyes snapped back up to Erik’s, there was something unfathomable there that made his heart thunder against his chest as though it was trying to break free of his ribs. 

 

The lift doors pinged open at El's floor and three drunken party revellers tumbled in, laughing and giggling. The spell was broken. Erik coughed and led the way out the lift, moving quickly. El followed. What that hell had that been? His head was back to swimming again, he wasn't sure it was the alcohol.

He quietly followed Erik back to the flat. Once inside he headed to the living area. The place had emptied out in the time they had been downstairs. Sylv was draped across Hendrick, who had passed out sitting up on the couch. His mouth hung open, slack. One of the small couches had been pushed further back into the corner of the room. Serena was sat on it, giggling with one of Sylv's "drama cuties" - a boy who was gazing at her adoringly. Veronica was yawning on a bar stool. Two random stoners were in the kitchen, eating anything they could. Gemma was curled up on the couch like a cat, a blanket pulled over her, sound asleep.

 

Veronica yawned again and nodded when she spotted them. “You’re back then.” She stated. “Your friend fell asleep.” She said, gesturing to where Gemma lay curled. Eleven felt immediately guilty. He had planned to give her his bed and make himself a makeshift bed for himself on the floor of his room with couch cushions...that didn’t look likely now.

“I think this is where we call it a night.” Veronica yawned again. Eleven nodded weakly. Erik made his way to the kitchen and grabbed the pizza box the stoners were fawning over.

 

“Hey man, no hogging.” They complained.

 

“Home time boys, party’s over.” Erik called over his shoulder, retreating back to Eleven and Veronica with the pizza. They shrugged and headed out the door.

 

“Thanks dudes, party was a blast” the said as they left, high-fiving them all. Eleven missed his high five spectacularly and Erik stifled a laugh. He caught his eye and smiled shyly. The weird static energy from the lift had dissipated, but he couldn't get it out of his mind. Erik opened the pizza box and took out a slice.

 

“Here,” he said, practically stuffing it into Eleven’s mouth. Eleven gave a startled yelp and grabbed the slice to stop Erik from smushing it into his face.

 

“Sharing is caring.” Veronica said, grabbing a slice.

 

Erik took a slice for himself and shoved it in his mouth, chewing appreciatively. “Right.” He said in-between bites of pizza, eyeing Eleven. “I’m putting you to bed, you reprobate.” He steered Eleven round by his shoulder and pushed him lightly towards the hallway. He dropped the pizza box on the coffee table.

 

Veronica yawned again. “Yeah, I’m pooped. I’m heading to bed too. Goodnight idiots.”

 

Eleven waved idly at her as he munched on his pizza and allowed himself to be steered down the hall to his room. Pizza was amazing. How could pizza taste this amazing? His head was no longer swimming, but he felt extremely tired.

 

Erik guided him to his room and pushed open the door with his foot, holding it open for Eleven to stumble through. His desk lamp was still on from earlier, allowing him to see the path to his bed.

 

El tumbled on to his bed face first. “Ah. Yes” he said. He heard Erik laughing softly, then felt his shoes being gently tugged from his feet, and heard them drop on the floor. He rolled around to see Erik seat himself down in the desk chair.

 

“You should go pee.” Erik said.

 

Eleven stared at him. “Excuse sme?” he said, slurring a little and giggling.

 

Erik stared back. “Trust me. Go now and you won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night with your bladder about to burst.” He said, eyeing him from across the dark room.

 

Eleven grumbled but got up all the same and stumbled into his bathroom.

 

He realised almost instantly that Erik was right. After what felt like forever, his bladder was finally empty. He flushed the toilet, and washing his hands. He caught sight of himself in the mirror. He looked utterly wrecked. His face was flushed, his eyes were wide and his pupils looked much bigger than usual. He picked up his toothbrush out of habit more than anything else and brushed his teeth. He rinsed his mouth and splashed water on his face. Then he bent to take a drink from the tap. Ah, sweet glorious nature nectar. 

 

He stepped back into the room and found Erik slumped in the chair, head rolled back over the backrest, mouth slightly open. Eleven laughed, then covered his mouth. Erik’s head snapped up instantly at the sound, he blinked wildly.

 

“What? What happened? What’d I do?” he muttered sleepily, looking around. “Oh,” he caught sight of El and actually blushed. Eleven committed the sight to memory. “I must’ve dropped off there.....”Erik mumbled, and then fumbled in his pocket for his phone.

 

Eleven crawled on top of his bed. “Who’re you calling at this time?” he said, trying not to sound jealous. Why was he worrying about that? Why would anyone think he was jealous anyway? His head felt foggy.

 

“Looking for a taxi number” Erik mumbled, scrolling.

 

Eleven scoffed. “Don’t be dumb.” He yawned. “Stay here.” He said.

 

Erik looked back up at him. “I don’t think you noticed in your drunken stupor, but all the good sleeping places have already been claimed,” He grumbled. “and I’m not sleeping in this chair.” He stretched, resuming his scrolling.

 

“Shup, you’re drunk too,” El muttered. Erik shrugged noncommittally. “And you were sleeping in that chair not five minutes ago. That’s not what I meant though, we can top and tail the bed?” Eleven said, though it came out as more of a question.

He felt the tip of his ears burn as he only just now considered the idea of spending the night with Erik in the same bed. It shouldn't be weird, but it sent his nerves on edge at the thought. He refused to explore the reasons behind that. His mouth had just ran away with that before his brain had thought it through. But he’d gone and offered now and couldn’t exactly take it back.

 

Erik looked up from his phone. He stared over at Eleven, and at the bed. It was bigger than a single but not quite a double, but it would have been big enough for both of them to squish in to. A silence stretched out that seemed to last hours.

 

“Are....are you sure?” Erik finally said, he sounded odd.

 

Eleven shrugged, huffing, trying his best to appear casual. Appear casual? He was casual. Casual as you like.

“Its up to you." he shrugged again, definitely casual. "I’m going to sleep now though, so make up your mind quick.” He lay down and shimmied his socks off, he rolled under the duvet and wriggled out of his jeans. He hadn’t wanted to take them off in front of Erik. He blushed, profoundly embarrassed by the thought. He kicked them out from under the covers and they dropped in a heap at the foot of the bed. He sat up and pulled his t-shirt over his head with effort. He flung it beside his jeans and fell back with a sigh. He was so very tired. He hoped Erik would stay. He didn’t quite feel like being all alone in his drunkeness. That was the reason for sure. Yup. Nothing else to it.

 

He glanced over at Erik. His expression looked as though he was trying to solve a particularly difficult math problem. He hadn’t moved from the chair, but he wasn’t looking up taxis on his phone anymore. Eleven sighed and closed his eyes. Please stay. He thought, inexplicably. He felt incredibly needy, but didn’t want to pressure Erik into staying because he was a pathetic drunk.

 

He heard Erik huff and heard him get up from the chair and walk towards the door. Eleven felt his heart sink and he swallowed. He heard the door open, then close. Then heard the sounds of someone in his bathroom. The toilet flush, water running from the sink tap. The tap being shut off. Silence......more silence.
The door opened again. Elevens heart skittered.

 

“El?” Erik’s voice said quietly, muffled. Eleven opened his eyes and saw Erik’s head peering round from the bathroom door, a toothbrush hanging out his mouth....El’s toothbrush, he realised, flushing from head to toe. He pulled the duvet up further to try and hide his reddening cheeks. 

 

“Yeah?” he breathed.

 

“Do you have clothes....I could wear to bed?” Erik said quietly. He sounded very subdued. 

 

El nodded. “Yeah, wardrobe. T-shirt and sweatpants. Any you want.” He whispered and rolled over, facing the wall, his heart racing.

 

He heard Erik rummaging through his closet and heard him retreat to the bathroom, brushing his teeth as he went. He squeezed his eyes shut against the barrage of thoughts that rolled through his mind. Erik is meant to be your best friend and here you are swooning over the thought of him wearing your clothes and using your toothbrush to brush his teeth. He ducked his head further, under the duvet now and he felt himself blush furiously. He felt a little ashamed. Why oh why did he have to be feeling these things? Why now? He absolutely did not want to mess up his friendship with Erik, but he had never experienced the confusing array of emotions he had been feeling around his new best friend. He pushed them down. He could unpack them later. He was very, very tired, and more than a little tipsy.

 

He heard the door open again, and he tried to keep his breathing slow and steady. He heard the bathroom light being clicked off, and then soft footsteps over to his desk. Eleven’s eyes flashed open. Surely Erik wasn’t going to sleep in the chair after all? He heard another click and the room got darker as Erik must have turned off his desk lamp. He heard his footsteps coming closer, then stopping. Eleven closed his eyes tight. He felt the covers lifting and the dip in the mattress as Erik slipped in beside him. His heart thundered. Why did the boy have this effect on him? He groaned internally, trying to steady his breathing.

 

“Sorry,” Erik’s voice whispered somewhere near his head. “I’m not sleeping with my head down beside your probably stinky feet.” He muttered. He felt movement beside him as Erik shifted and sighed. El wasn’t sure if he should pretend to already be asleep or not. He struggled internally with this decision, before muttering “It’s fine.” His voice sounded strained. He hoped he sounded tired. He was tired. So very tired. Erik stretched. Eleven wished he’d stop moving. It was so very distracting. Erik shifted again.

 

“Stop moving”. Eleven hissed before he could stop himself.

 

“Sorry,” Erik said sheepishly. “Trying to get comfy.” He wriggled again and Eleven started to wonder if he was doing it to annoy him. Their legs bumped and Eleven held his breath. His stomach was doing somersaults and he didn’t think it was all because of the alcohol. He suddenly remembered that strange, static energy in the lift and felt a wave of heat roll out from his stomach to spread to his fingers and toes. He had the absolutely absurd thought that he could just turn around right now and cuddle up to Erik. He wouldn’t be surprised if his face lit up the entire room then. 

 

Erik’s leg shifted again, pressing more into Eleven’s Eleven let out his breath in a little huff. He must be doing this to annoy him surely. Did that mean Erik knew the effect he was having on him? How utterly embarrassing. He couldn’t let the other boy see what a confused mess he was right now, he might decide to stop being his friend if he knew half of what was going through his mind. He concentrated on thinking of anything, anything but the boy lying next to him.

 

Erik shifted again.

 

“Erik I swear to god-“ Eleven began, he was about to lose his mind.

 

“Sorry...I take a while to settle.” Erik said in a small voice. His voice sounded...almost pained?

 

Involuntarily, Eleven had rolled over to face him before he even knew what he was doing. Erik was lying on his back. “Are you alright? El whispered, “I didn’t mean to sound cross...sorry. I'm just really tired.” He felt guilty somehow.

 

“I’m fine... “ Erik said, he didn’t sound fine though. His chest was rising and falling quickly.

 

El didn’t really know what to do. So he just lay there, looking at him, frowning slightly.

 

Erik’s leg twitched and bumped against his again. El found it didn’t irritate him this time. Tentatively, he shifted a little closer to Erik, curling in slightly towards his side. Erik didn’t shift away. El sighed. If he was going to die of embarrassment, he might as well go out with a bang. He curled up closer to Erik, his hands firmly gripping his own pillow to stop him reaching out for Erik. He moved his leg to rest gently against Erik’s, and lay his head against his arm. Chest pounding. He waited for the other boy to shift away. Waited for the sinking feeling he knew he would feel any minute now.

 

But Erik didn’t move. Instead, he sighed and looked down at him in the darkness.

 

“So, you’re a needy drunk then?” Erik said, sounding quietly amused.

 

Eleven gave a shy smile, ducking his head as far as he could. “Sorry, is this too weird?” he asked, dreading his friend’s reply.

 

Erik was silent for a moment. Then Eleven felt his chest rise and fall with a long, deep breath. “No...It’s fine.” He said finally. Eleven let out a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. “Just, can you move your head for a minute?” Erik asked softly, very quietly.

 

Eleven lifted his head. “What?” he whispered. Erik shifted and wriggled a little bit, rolling his shoulder and moving his arm free to stretch out over the pillows.

 

“C’mere.” Erik whispered, nudging Eleven’s shoulder with his arm, gently guiding him down to his chest. Eleven let himself be steered once again, and rested his head on Erik’s chest, his hands balled up in the duvet at his side. He sighed and breathed deeply. He smiled wide as he inhaled the scent of his laundry detergent and Erik. 

 

Eriks arm came back up to rest gently over Eleven’s shoulder. He sighed deeply, his chest – and Eleven’s head, rising and falling.

 

“Thanks.” Eleven whispered sleepily, his eyes fluttering closed. Erik squeezed his shoulder gently in response. Comfortable and content, he soon drifted off to sleep, and all he dreamt of was someone gently stroking his hair.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It was the mild throbbing in his head that woke him. He fought against it, keeping his eyes squeezed shut. Eleven felt warm. Very, very warm.  Slowly, he allowed his senses to settle into being awake, and became aware that he was wrapped around something...someone...that was radiating heat. 

 

 He inhaled sharply as fragmented memories of the night before came back to him in flashes. The party, the drinking – oh god the drinking, the game....being outside? Gemma. Oh god...no...Nooo, don’t let him be cuddled up to Gemma...that was the last thing he needed- to be leading her on when he wasn’t interested. 
 
But if he wasn’t interested, why had allowed himself to end up in bed beside her...? What the hell happened last night!?  
 
Slowly, reluctantly, he cracked an eye open, keeping his gaze cast down. He could tell he was sprawled across someone.  His arm was wrapped over them, his head was resting in the nook of their neck. He flushed with embarrassment.  
 
Steeling himself, he leaned back slightly to take in the face of who he was laying on. Silently praying. Don’t be Gemma, don’t be Gemma.  
But if not Gemma, then who? 
 
 

Bright blue hair filled his vision and he stopped breathing. 


 
Erik!? 


 
ERIK?! 


 
His heart stuttered, and then kicked into gear with a rapid, thundering tempo. He couldn’t move. He didn’t have a clue what to do. His head pounded in response to his rising blood pressure and he grimaced. He gingerly lay his head back down on his pillow. He tried to draw back his arm, but as soon as he lifted it free, Erik grumbled in his sleep and rolled over, curling in towards him and tucked his head under Eleven’s chin, his arm holding him tight. 


 
Eleven’s face may as well have been on fire. Maybe it was. It certainly felt like it was. He lay there, frozen, heart pounding. He desperately tried to remember the events that had lead up to this morning. His arm hovered in mid-air, he carefully brought it down to rest on his side. At least he could tell that Erik was clothed. His face burned again. 

 

 
Some of last night’s events started to click in place. He remembered the drinking game, Erik’s question “Are you attracted to anyone in this room?” he blushed again. The he remembered feeling light headed, very drunk,  a pint of water thrust into his hands, heading outside with Erik...the weird pseudo-argument they’d had about......about what? He couldn’t remember the details. He remembered them being in a lift and feeling like electricity was crackling under her skin. The weird, charged atmosphere. Then, it was foggy. He suddenly had a vague image of Erik leaning his head around his bathroom door to look at him, with his toothbrush in his mouth, and it was adorable


 
The sound of his door opening ripped him from his fuzzy memories. Oh No. 


 
All he could think to do was shut his eyes and feign sleep as someone tiptoed into his room. 


 
“El?” they whispered. It sounded like one of the girls. He forced himself to take long, steady breaths. He was not ready to deal with this, let along deal with someone else’s reaction to seeing this. 
 
He heard a quiet gasp and it took every ounce of concentration he had not to break his façade.  
 
A long moment of silence, and then the sound of movement near his desk, retreating footsteps, his bathroom door opening and closing. The shower starting. He hardly dared breathe. It must have been Gemma, he thought, coming in to get her bag that she had left in his room from getting ready the night before. He kept his eyes squeezed shut, and resisted the urge to pinch his brow. 
 
Gemma had definitely seen them, in bed, cuddling together. Her little gasp was proof of that. He groaned internally and shifted slightly, then froze – terrified that he would wake Erik up and have to deal with that too. But Erik seemed to be completely sound asleep. He lay there quietly, trying to steady his breathing, preparing himself for the inevitable moment Gemma would step back into the room.  
 
He suddenly decided he didn’t want to be there when she did. It was too much. Very carefully, he disentangled himself from the sleeping boy beside him. He crept to the edge of the bed, picked his jeans up off the floor along with the t-shirt he had worn last night, and hastily pulled them both on. He chanced a glance at Erik. The boy was still sleeping, facing the wall, curled in on himself. Eleven felt a pang of longing that he forced down into the pit of his stomach. He heard the shower turn off and he quietly hurried to get out his door before Gemma could step back into the room. 
 
It must have been early still. The flat was dead silent. El sat down outside his bedroom, waiting. He needed to talk to Gemma without Erik being there. Needed to explain.....what exactly? He put his head in his hands, feeling very confused and very tired. He sat like that for another ten or so minutes, then he heard to door opening very quietly beside him.  He stood up abruptly. 
 
“Ah!” came Gemma’s startled cry. A hand fluttered to her chest in surprise. She hadn’t expected him to be there, obviously. El help his finger to his lips and stood up. Gemma frowned at him. “What are you doing?” she whispered, towelling off her wet hair as she spoke. 
 
El didn’t really have an answer for that, so he jerked his head to gesture to the far end of the hallway, and lead the way out of the flat and onto the landing, Gemma following behind him.  
 


“El, what on earth is going on?” Gemma grabbed his arm as soon as they were outside the flat. El stopped and turned to face her. 


 
“I...I’m sorry Gems, I ….I don’t know. I heard you come in and I wanted to...explain.” he rambled, not making much sense. 

 
“So you were pretending to be asleep then?” Gemma put her hand on her hip. “Snuggled up with Erik.” she muttered. 


 
El hung his head, it had gone red again. “I don’t know what happened, I’m so sorry I didn’t mean.....urgh...this is all a mess.” he slumped down on the floor, head in his hands. 


 
Gemma stared at him. Then crouched down to sit beside him, pleating her long wet hair as she did.  “How long have you two been together El? Why didn’t you tell me?”

 
 
“We-we’re not together!” El spluttered out, turning his head to look at her. 


 
She laughed, a little coldly. “Come on El you expect me to believe that? They way you were wrapped up in each other?” 


 
El buried his face again. “It’s not like that.” he mumbled into his hands. 


 
Gemma tutted.

  
 
“It’s not, I swear. We’re just friends...I don’t know....nothing really happened! We just....fell asleep...and...cuddled.” his face burned with embarrassment. He turned to Gemma, she was fiddling with her braid, a small sad smile on her face. 
 
“You know El...when I planned to came to visit you...I wasn’t altogether sure if I wanted something to happen between us or not.” she said, not looking at him. Eleven stared at her. 
 
“I’m...sorry?” was all he could think to say. 
 
Gemma turned to look at him. “No, listen, “ she took a deep breath. “I thought...maybe something was meant to happen between us. We’ve been friends for so long, we’re from the same village....so close in age, I expected it almost. So when I came to visit, it was half in my head that maybe...this weekend might make things fall into place...and it did.” she smiled at him. 
 
Eleven frowned, confused. “I....I don’t follow...” he admitted. 
 
 
“El, we have been friends forever and not once- in all the times we have stayed at each other’s houses or gone camping, not once have we ended up in a situation like you and Erik.” she said. Eleven’s ears burned again. “It just never happened. Maybe...because we knew it shouldn’t. I thought maybe I had feelings for you, but then I saw the way you and Erik were with each other at the party last night and I realised. We are best friends, nothing more or less than that.” she smiled at him. He felt a huge wave of relief crash off his shoulders at her words.
 
“Gemma...I......I feel the same.” he exhaled in a huff.  “I didn’t want to hurt you, and I didn’t want things to be any different with us...I’m so relieved.” he let his head fall back against the wall, the tension rolling away from him. He was so unbelievably glad to hear what Gemma was saying. The others had managed to convince him she had feelings for him. How vain could he get, to come to that conclusion. He snapped his head back around to her. 
 
“Hold on, what do you mean the way Erik and I were with each other at the party?” he said. 
 
Gemma sniggered. “Oh come on El. Did you not notice? The “playful” way he teased me, trying to gauge if I was jealous? Classic territorial move.” She laughed, taking in his puzzled expression, then continued. “It wasn't just that. He was so attentive to you. Did you really not notice at all? He poured your drinks for you first, before serving himself or anyone else. He made sure you were O.K when you'd had too much to drink, made sure you had water, took you out for air....and don't get me started on his subtle “question”," she giggled, “ “Are you attracted to anyone in this room?”  ”  she mimicked the cadence of his accent and laughed. “Come on, are you really so oblivious?”

Eleven frowned. He had noticed these little things, how could he not, but he just chalked it up to Erik being kind and considerate...which he was.

“Oh El. You were flirting back too, I could tell. And you looked so cure together this morning. You really are hopeless.” she chuckled, then shivered. The landing was cold. “Come on, why don't we go back inside. I'll make a pot of coffee for everyone, you can wake up your snuggle buddy, and we can all get breakfast.” she giggled and ruffled his hair, then gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.



Eleven put his face in his hands again as his face burned.


 Just then his flat door creaked open. Eleven peered round to see who was emerging. Erik stood in the doorway, wearing his own jeans and Eleven's t-shirt. He looked taken aback when he spotted them sitting there.



“Morning Erik.” Gemma said cheerfully. She removed her hand from El's shoulder. Erik stared at her, his hair was sticking up in all directions. He didn't say anything, but turned his head to look at Eleven, who still had his head in his hands and was peering at him through his fingers.


There was an odd sort of tension. El waved one hand weakly at Erik in an attempt to dispel it, a shy, embarrassed smile on his face. He noticed Erik had his shoes on.

 


“I...., didn't realise I was interrupting.” Erik said, quietly. His eyes darted between Eleven and Gemma.



“You're not!” Gemma said, smiling at him. “I was just heading in to make coffee, would you like some?”

 

 

Erik eyed her, then Eleven. He shook his head slowly. “I was just leaving.” he said. He sounded wrong, all ice.


Eleven took his head out his hands. “...what?” he asked, staring up at him.


Erik walked past them both, pushing the button for the lift. “I said I'm leaving, I gotta go...” he mumbled. He jabbed the button a few more times.


Gemma gave Eleven a look of alarm, jerked her head pointedly towards Erik, and then slipped back into the flat, closing the door behind her.



Eleven stood up. “You don't have to go...” Eleven said, but it came out like a question. Erik continued jabbing the lift button violently. He ignored him.


“Erik...?” Eleven started. “Erik, what's wrong?” He took a tentative step towards him. Had he freaked his friend out last night? Pushed a boundary that should never have been pushed?  He felt guilty, ashamed, concerned.


Erik wasn't looking at him. He sighed loudly, running a hand through his profoundly messy hair. “Nothing. Nothing, it doesn't matter. I gotta go.” he mumbled, still not looking at Eleven. He gave an angry-sounding huff and abandoned the lift, turning quickly to the stairwell and wrenching the door open.



“Wait!” Eleven called, dashing after him. Erik was through the doors and taking the stairs two at a time, not looking back, not answering him. Eleven felt his heart drop out of his stomach.


He heard the fading sounds of Erik rushing down the stairs and then the outside door echoing shut behind him. He rushed over to the window. He could see Erik walking away fast, his head down.

 

 

Eleven stood watching until Erik rounded the corner and was out of sight. He stood there for a while longer. The door to his flat opened again and Gemma crept out.


“El?” she said, “What happened? Where's Erik?” she asked, tentatively.


El turned to look at her, he could feel the beginnings of tears at the corners of his eyes. He blinked them back. “...Gone.” was all he could manage, in a small voice, his eyes prickling even more now. “He just....left....”


“Oh El,” Gemma said pulling him into a hug. El let the tears fall freely down his cheeks and held on to her tightly.

Chapter Text





The day had passed in a muggy sort of fog. By no means just due to his lingering hangover. He glanced down at his phone again. Eleven must have checked his phone about fifty times since he had emerged from Gemma's comforting embrace, wiping his tears away, embarrassed as he did.

He had only returned to his room to collect his shoes and jacket, firmly not looking at the rumpled duvet of his bed, and the pair had swiftly gone out to a coffee shop to talk undisturbed by his flatmates.



Gemma had given up trying to cheer him up now. He felt even more guilty.

“I'm sorry your visit has ended in....this...” Eleven said sadly, gesturing to nothing in particular.

Gemma shrugged. “I'm still glad I came to see you,” she smiled at him, “Though I'm gutted to see you like this – especially given how happy you were last night.” She frowned a little.

Eleven sighed, ducking his head. “I guess I messed things up huh?”

Gemma's frown deepened. She opened her mouth to speak, shook her head and closed it again. Eleven tilted his head at her and raised an eyebrow.

Gemma set her drink down on the table with purpose and stare him in the eyes. “O.K look I know you don't want to talk about it any more, but seriously, it takes two to tango.” she said, grumbling.

“Gems, please.” El groaned. He was trying and failing not to agonise over Erik's swift departure and what it meant for their friendship.

“No, I'm sorry. He was just as much a willing participant in your bed as you were–“ Eleven covered his reddening face with his hands, “I saw you both all snuggled up. He doesn't get to storm away after that.” she huffed.

“Nothing even happened. We just slept....Are you done?” Eleven asked, voice muffled by his hands.

Gemma shrugged, took a sip of her coffee. “You need to talk to him, El.” she said simply.

Eleven removed his hands from his face and picked at his sleeve. “He was one speed setting from literally running away from me Gems, what am I meant to do?” his tone was pleading, he was actually asking.

Gemma thought for a moment. “Well, I don't really understand his reaction if I'm honest. It seemed pretty obvious to me last night that he cared for you. Maybe he was worried you didn't feel the same? But that doesn't make sense either...who snuggles like that with their platonic friend for crying out loud..maybe....maybe he was afraid of what it would mean?”

Eleven just stared at her as his head gave a throb. He grimaced and reached for his coffee.

“Either way, we could sit here all day and speculate El, but I gather you would rather not torture yourself?” Gemma asked, eyeing him.

El shook his head, carefully. “My hangover is already taking care of that part.” he said weakly, raising a hand to massage his temple.

Gemma nodded. “Well, then I'm afraid you are going to have to be brave and reach out to him. At the end of the day, wouldn't you rather be his friend, than nothing at all?” she asked.

El considered that. He had thought they were just best friends anyway hadn't he? Until things crept up on him all of a sudden. They had grown very close over a relatively short period of time, but that can't all have been because of his little crush on him, could it? The idea of not having Erik to confide in, joke with, just hang out with, made his chest ache.

Eleven nodded at her. “He's my best friend, if that's all we'll ever be, I'll take it.”

Gemma smiled softly. “Then you know what you have to do.”



*********


After waving off Gemma on the bus, El sat down on a bench. He took his phone out his pocket and sighed, no new messages. Gemma was right, if he wanted to keep his friendship with Erik, he was going to have to be brave. It had been quite a few hours since Erik had left. Enough to sleep off the hangover, he hoped. He started to draft a message.



Eleven: Hey.....



Sighing in frustration, he deleted it.

 



Eleven: Hi Erik, I'm sorry about last night, I



He shook his head, delete, delete.

 



He stared out across the campus. He was making this way more complicated than it needed to be. He just needed to let Erik know he was sorry for overstepping and that he hoped they could still be friends, that was it. Easy- peasy. He stared at his phone, frustration mounting, eyes boring into it as if they could burn a hole in it or light it on fire.
Why was this so difficult? This was stupid. This was his best friend.




Eleven: Hey man, sorry about being an idiot drunk last night. Sorry if I overstepped a boundary and weirded you out. I guess I'm a clingy drunk. Hope we're still friends?


He read it over once, then again. Before losing his nerve he hit the send button, and then immediately stashed his phone in his pocket so he wouldn't sit staring at the screen, waiting for the “read” symbol.

He let out a puff of air and sagged back on the bench. What was he expecting really? He supposed he had been trying not to acknowledge to himself that he had a little crush on Erik, but did it have to be the end of the world? He could get over a crush if it meant keeping his best friend. He had just never really noticed any one else the way he had noticed Erik, and it had snuck up on him. Maybe it wasn't even a crush? Maybe it was just admiration and...his want for comfortable companionship? His phone buzzed in his pocked and he whipped it out so fast he nearly dropped it.



1 unread message – Erik.

 



His heart pounded. He tapped the envelope icon, pulse racing.




Erik: It's fine. We were both pretty wasted. Sorry for being weird earlier, I felt like I was gonna hurl all over your landing and my head was splitting. You surviving?




El's eyes read over the message hungrily. There was a little awkwardness there.  He noticed Erik hadn't answered his question if they were still friends though....His thumbs set to replying.




Eleven: I'm alright, hangover has mostly passed now. I'm never drinking again.




Eleven hit send and waited. The read sign appeared almost instantly and he could see Erik was typing a reply.



Erik: You say that now, but wait until the next party. That wasn't so bad was it? Maybe avoid the drinking games though....that was brutal.




Eleven felt a small smile pull at the corners of his lips as he hastily typed his reply.




Eleven: Lethal. No more drinking games for me. I gotta get back and help with the clean up. Dreading it.



Eleven felt more at ease now they were talking again. If felt like a massive weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Things weren't exactly back to normal, but he felt like it was going to be ok, maybe.




Erik: Did you really skimp out on cleaning duty? Poor show. Veronica will roast you alive for that one.


El chuckled. He really did need to get back. Veronica would unleash her fury if he didn't at least help out a little in the clean up.


Eleven: Not intentionally...Gemma took me for a coffee to clear my hangover and talk. Then I walked her to the bus stop. Heading back now to face the wrath.


The read sign appeared, then nothing. El put his phone in his pocket and started walking back to his dorms, feeling a little bit lighter.


*****


Most of the cleanup had been done when he got back. He felt a little guilty about that. He helped with what was left while Serena waved away his apologies.

“It's fine, it's not like you caused most of the mess anyway, I believe that was Sylvando's rowdy guests.” she smiled, showing no hard feelings. “Your guests were well behaved! How was Gemma this morning? She can't have been comfortable on that sofa curled up like that?”

 

Eleven chucked. “She was in a better state than me, that's for sure. She's fine. I just walked her to the bus stop.”

Serena nodded and smiled. “She's nice! I can see why you're friends.” she said. Eleven nodded and internally prayed she wasn't about to start asking if they were “just friends” again. He could really do without that.

Veronica plonked herself down on the couch. “I'm beat.” she croaked, her voice hoarse. Serena smiled and patted her twin's shoulder.

“You are pretty gone last night.” Serena giggled.

Veronica prickled. “Me!? El was way more wasted! “ she turned to him, eyes sparkling. “You were stumbling about all over the place. I thought Erik was going to have to pick you up and carry you over his shoulder at one point.” Veronica said, laughing. Eleven tried very hard to fight the blush that dusted his cheeks.

“Yeah, no more drinking games for me.” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.

Veronica chuckled, then turned back to him. “What happened to Erik anyway? I don't remember him leaving?”

El blushed a little now, unable to fight it. He ducked his head a little to let his hair hide it. “Yeah uh, he made sure I got to bed, then he crashed in my room. He left this morning while I was talking to Gemma, ran outside saying he was going to be sick.” he mumbled, mashing half-truths together.

Veronica rolled her eyes and made a face “Charming as ever that one.”

El merely nodded in response. His phone buzzed in his pocket.




Erik: Hope you survive the wrath, it would suck just a little not having you around.



Eleven smiled down at the screen.




*********

 

 

 

A couple weeks had gone by, and he and Erik had settled back into their usual easy familiarity with one another. Eleven could not express how relieved he was. He had been so worried that he had ruined their friendship with his stupid drunken clingy-ness. He was trying to come to terms with his inappropriate crush too. He was learning to deal with it, trying his damnedest to push it away and down, down to the depths of his mind, behind a locked door, in a locked chest.

He wasn't sure if he was imagining it or not, but Erik seemed to be being very careful not to touch him. Gone were the casual shoulder squeezes and bumps. Although, Eleven may just be hyper-aware of his presence now, which wasn't good. Push that down too.

It was late afternoon and classes done for the day, so they headed to the student union for a coffee.


“Two ciders, please.” Erik ordered as they stood at the bar. So much for coffee. Eleven eyed him warily, raising an eyebrow. Erik chuckled. “What? Gotta get back on the horse sometime huh? No drinking games though.” he wagged his finger at him.

Eleven shook his head. “No drinking games.” he agreed. They took their ciders over to a little semi-circle booth and sat. Erik grabbed a menu from a nearby table and peered though it, as if he didn't already know the contents by heart with the amount of time they both spent here.

Eleven kicked his foot lightly. “Why do you even read that? You're just going to order the same thing like you always do.” he chuckled.

Erik stared at him in mock outrage.” Maybe I'll surprise you and go for something different.”

Eleven shrugged, sipping his cider. It was refreshing.

A waitress spotted them after a little while and hurried over with a smile. “Hi, sorry about the wait! What can I get you?” she smiled at Eleven.

“Um, onion rings please? And a chicken burger?” Eleven asked, she nodded and wrote it down on her pad before turning to Erik, who was still perusing the menu.

“And for you?” she smiled and Eleven thought he saw her bat her eyelashes at Erik.

“Uh...”Erik mumbled, flipping the menu over, skimming it hastily, then flipping it over again. “Uhhhh., I'll have...ummm.”

Eleven sighed and then chuckled. “He'll have Chilli Nachos, extra guac, please.” he told the waitress. She looked back over at Erik to confirm before she scribbled it down. He laughed and nodded, handing her his menu.

Eleven eyed him over his cider. “Told you. Same thing. Why do you even bother to pretend to browse?”

“I don't pretend! I like to know all my options before making a choice.” Erik grumbled.


Eleven chuckled again. “You always just pick your favourite anyway.” he said, drumming his fingers lightly on the table, a habit he'd picked up recently.

Erik eyed his drumming fingers and then shrugged.

 

“Should I not give all the other food a chance to pique my interest? Am I destined to always come back to Nachos?” Erik sighed dramatically in a fashion more suited to Sylvando.



Eleven rolled his eyes. “You are so weird.” he laughed. Erik nodded and shrugged.



“You wouldn't have me any other way.” he said, eyeing him over his glass.



Eleven shrugged. “I guess not.” he admitted, his fingers drumming again.



Erik glared at his fingers and tutted, rolling his eyes. He reached over and grabbed Eleven's hand to still his fingers. Eleven jerked sharply in response, not remotely expecting it.



“Will you stop that? It drives me crazy!” Erik hissed, his voice low. He squeezed Eleven's fingers again to reiterate his words, before letting go and sitting back, huffing slightly.



Eleven could only stare at him, stunned. He blinked a few times, tried to assume his composure and convince himself his pulse was only racing because he was surprised. He flexed his tingling fingers. “Sorry...” he said, and ducked his head, blushing furiously.

Erik clicked his tongue. “You've been doing it loads lately, it goes right through my skull.” he muttered, chuckling a little.

The waitress came back over with their food. Erik leaned forwards eagerly as she handed them their plates. Eleven accepted his with a mumbled “Thank you” and glanced over at Erik, feeling inexplicably shy.

“Sorry, “El said once the waitress had gone, “I didn't realise I was annoying you.” he picked at his onion rings.

Erik was scooping chilli onto his nachos and putting a big dollop of Guac on top. “You don't annoy me. This weird new habit you've picked up though...” he smirked at him, then plopped the nacho in his mouth, groaning appreciatively as he chewed.

Eleven smiled slightly. Erik was always very appreciative of his food. Usually pretty vocally.

“I didn't even notice I was doing it.” El shrugged, biting in to his burger. It was good. It was always good here.

Erik shovelled more nachos into his mouth, then sipped his cider, looking thoughtful. His brow furrowed.
“Hrm, is this Gemma's influence then?” he mused before dipping a chip into the melted cheese.

Eleven's burger halfway to his mouth, he set it down and stared at Erik. “What d'you mean?” he asked, puzzled. He picked up an onion ring to nibble on instead.

Erik eyed him, swallowing his mouthful of nachos before speaking again. “I mean, is this a habit you've picked up from Gemma? Since you've been dating?”

Eleven dropped the onion ring he had been nibbling on. It bounced off his plate and rolled away across the floor, forgotten. He gaped at Erik. “What an earth are you talking about?!”

Erik wiped his mouth on the back of his hand, laughing sharply. “Oh, come on! I saw you guys on the landing the day after your flat party, all huddled together.” he glanced up at Eleven, eyes glinting. He took a sip of his cider, still eyeing him. “She had her hand in your hair? It looked like you were about to....kiss?” Erik said, and Eleven thought he noticed a slight redness in his cheeks before he lifted his drink to his mouth and took a long swig.

Eleven just stared at him, mouth open. Had Erik really thought he and Gemma had been dating ever since that day?

Eleven blinked. “Is that why you ran- why you left so suddenly?” he asked, staring at him.


Erik held his hands up and shrugged. “I didn't want to....intrude...” he said, swirling his almost-finished cider around in his glass. Eleven looked down at his plate, thoughts all jumbled. Erik really thought he and Gemma had been dating for weeks? Even though he told him he wasn't interested in her like that. He frowned. Erik was waving to get the attention of the waitress, “Could we have two more ciders please?” he smiled brilliantly at her, she nodded and walked off to the bar, fanning herself with a menu.

“Did you think I had just been lying to you all this time?” Eleven asked once the waitress was out of earshot, his voice sounded small.

Erik drained the last of his cider before sitting forwards. “No,” he said, “I just thought you must have a reason for keeping it so...secret...”

Eleven glanced up at him, glaring. “I wasn't being secretive. There is nothing going on with me and Gemma.” he said firmly. Erik watched him, picking at his nachos.

Eleven sighed and fell back against the booth. He felt tired. He was sick of feeling like he was having the same conversation over and over. He took a deep breath and kept his gaze on the plate in front of him. “When you found us, Gemma was.... She was reassuring me I guess.” He took a big drink of his cider, unsure how to continue, unsure how much to say. “She walked in to my room when we were....when we were in bed.” he said, blushing. His eyes flickered up to Erik. Did he remember? He clearly recalled seeing Gemma and him on the landing, but how much from the night before and the early morning did Erik remember?

Erik flushed lightly. “Oh.” he said, looking away from Eleven.

The waitress came back and set down their drinks in front of them with a smile, before walking off. Erik lifted his immediately and took a large gulp. Eleven drained what was left of his first drink, his mouth very dry.

“So, “ El continued. “I went to talk to her. I didn't want her to get the wrong idea about us sleeping together-” he stopped, flushing furiously. Erik spluttered into his drink, looking like he wanted the ground to eat him. “You know what I mean.” El mumbled, trying to regain his thoughts. “So Gemma and I went outside and talked and...”he huffed, exhaling loudly. “We talked about our feelings I guess, or lack off to be more specific.” Erik glanced up at him, eyebrow cocked. He leaned his elbows on the table as he listened intently.

Eleven continued. “We both thought we were supposed to feel something for each other...eventually. And we both realised if it was going to happen....it would have happened already. There was no magic switch to be flicked...we just....didn't feel it. I was actually....so relived.” Eleven sighed. “and so was she.” He finished, and not quite sure what to do with his hands or where to look, he took a swig of his cider and set it down.

Erik was quiet, considering him. “Well....huh” he said softly. Eleven gazed at him.

“Huh what?” he asked.

Erik shrugged. “Just.....huh. I...I really got that one wrong there.” he mumbled, looking bashful.

Eleven shrugged. “You and the rest of the world.” He toyed with his burger, not really feeling hungry any more but not wanting to waste the food. He picked at it.

Erik nodded, looking thoughtful. He spun his glass around slowly in his hands. They stayed quiet for a moment. Eleven could already feel the alcohol in his system. One pint. He really was a lightweight.



“So...what did Gemma say about.....about what she saw?” Erik asked quietly, looking up at him.



Eleven blushed, his fingers almost stared their drum beat on the glass he was holding but he stopped himself at the last second. “Uh....she uh...she had some thoughts.”



Erik looked back at him, head tilted. “Care to share?” he asked softly, his expression was unreadable.



Eleven swallowed. “Uh...she...she thought we looked cute?” he said, heat blooming in his cheeks. He sipped his drink for something to do, his gaze flickered to Erik and it looked like he was smirking. He looked away. His hands felt clammy.

Erik nodded. “I am pretty cute.” he stated, swirling his drink around.

Eleven nodded nervously without realising what he was doing, blushed, then shook his head. Then raised his pint to his cheek. “It's too hot in here” he mumbled, closing his eyes.

He could feel Erik watching him. He didn't know how much longer he could dance around this feeling he was desperately trying to shove into a box that was fit to burst and coming apart at the seams.

“Can we not talk about this please?” Eleven mumbled from behind his glass.

“Why?” Erik questioned him, an eyebrow raised.

Eleven sighed exasperatedly. “I dunno it's, it's embarrassing, I'm embarrassed.” he admitted, blushing again. There must not be any blood anywhere else in his body except in his cheeks at the rate they were heating up.

 

“Do I embarrass you?” Erik asked teasingly, taking a drink as he watched him.



“No!” Eleven exclaimed, before dropping his voice. “No, not you it's …” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “I'm embarrassed to be talking about...the fact that Gemma walked in on us...cuddling.” he finished, feeling incredibly juvenile and completely ridiculous. “She jumped to conclusions...” he mumbled, sinking back into the booth, looking anywhere but at Erik.



Erik looked down at his glass for a minute, then back up to Eleven who was staring intently at his burger like it was the most interesting thing in the world. “So...you're embarrassed that she walked in and saw us laying there...together...not because of anything else?” he asked, no hint of teasing in his voice this time.



Eleven squirmed, his foot bouncing nervously. “I mean I guess I'm embarrassed that I was being...so clingy and stuff. I'm not usually like that.” he said, and drained what was left of his glass. Feeling the alcohol swirling around his head. He needed that to take the edge off this entire conversation.

Erik was nodding to himself. He reached across the table and squeezed Eleven's hand. It took everything in Eleven's might to hold back the squeal that threatened to break free from him.



“You worry far too much about everything. Stop that.” Erik smiled at him. It was a reassuring smile. It was also beautiful.

 

El huffed out a big breath. “I guess.” he said, his skin burned where Erik still lay his hand. It was not unpleasant. Then, the heat was gone as Erik retracted his hand. He tried very hard not to feel the loss of it.

 

“I'm being serious. Don't worry about it.” He smiled at him again. The look he was giving him right now made Eleven want to melt into his seat. There was something in Erik's eyes, something...that took his breath away. Eleven could only nod, feeling shy again.



They paid their bill and stood up to leave, walking out in companionable silence. It was only a little awkward, as it felt like something still hung in the air between them. It reminded Eleven of the strange static air he'd felt when they were in the lift together the night of the party, although it was not anywhere near as charged. He felt like they'd just been on a date without either of them knowing about it. He blushed a little and pushed that thought from his mind. Wayyyy down in the box with all his other inappropriate Erik-thoughts.


“Look, Eleven,” Erik turned to him as they walked. “I don't want you to ever feel awkward or embarrassed around me, kay? You can talk to me, about anything.”

 

He stopped walking when they reached the corner of the street. Eleven's dorms were a little ways off to the left, and Erik lived further away in the opposite direction.


Eleven stopped alongside him. “Okay...thanks Erik.” he smiled shyly, looking away.



“No problem. Right, lets hug this out.” he turned to him smiling, arms extended.



Eleven laughed and rolled his eyes, stepping closer as Erik reached out pulled him into a hug, his arms around his waist. Eleven wrapped one arm around Erik's shoulders and held the slightly shorter boy close, his eyes fluttering closed briefly. He couldn't help but notice the fragrant scent of his bright blue hair as it pressed against his cheek. It smelled like a sea breeze. He caught his thoughts there before they ran away with him, and pulled back.

 

“Better?” Erik smiled up at him, his eyes gleaming. The thought crossed Eleven's mind that he could just lean down slightly, bridge the gap between them, and kiss him, and let the chips fall where they may. His heart pounded once, twice. A third time.



Bet Erik was releasing his hold on his waist. Eleven stepped back and nodded.



“Yeah, much better...thanks.” he smiled, all thought of kissing his friend being forcibly shoved down in the box that was definitely going to need some reinforcing.



Erik flashed him a grin. He put his hands in the pockets of his hoodie and backed away. “You get home safe now.” he said, and he winked at him before turning to walk away and waving casually over his shoulder.

 

Eleven watched him go, smiling. He felt a warm, happy glow inside. It wasn't just the cider.