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I'm a little touch starved but that's ok

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Garret is not sure how to react. Sure, it’s a simple yes or no question, but the implications of either of these answers and what is going to follow them are, well, quite the commitment. On second thought, that’s not entirely true - only one of them would result in Garret leaving his accidentally acquired comfort zone of Orion’s room. The other one is just. Too predictable? Boring? Disappointing?

Speaking of Orion, he’s still looking directly at Garret, expecting an answer. Seconds pass and the gears in Garret’s head are begging to be turned.

“So? Do you?” Orion says, after a moment of silence, trying to prompt an answer out of Garret. He’s sitting at the opposite end of the couch, leaning on the armrest, one leg on the floor, the other balancing his laptop.

Up until now this has been an exceptionally quiet Saturday. Aside from it being a mama-papa Lavont date night, Rosie is staying at Lily’s tonight, which leaves the house is completely empty—save for the two of them, currently chilling on the couch among scattered books and conversation topics. The evening rays of the summer sun are gently drowning the room in orange hues, making the dust dancing in the air sparkle. It’s almost heartbreaking that the potential for an ideal uncomplicated night will go wasted because of one unfortunate question that is still waiting for its dedicated answer.

“Why are you asking me? No matter how I look at it I’m definitely not in your top 10 of people to go to a house party with.”

“Mona, Nova and Jack are busy tonight, but I’d hate to go alone so I thought I’d ask. I’m not forcing you, if you don’t wanna go just say so,” he says.

Easier said than done. On one hand Garret’s not the best at socializing and "putting himself out there" which agreeing to Orion’s proposition would eventually result in. On the other… he’s never been to a house party before and the curiosity is rapidly chipping away at his initial discouragement. Garret hasn’t got the slightest idea of what to expect. All he knows is that a house party is something that is a regular part of regular lives of regular people his age. A regular life that was outside of his reach not too long ago. Shouldn’t he take advantage of this?

Garret keeps turning this thought around in his head, and like a shard of glass rolling around in the waves, it slowly loses its unwelcoming edges, until all that's left is a curious little trinket.

“…I’ll go,” he finally answers.

“Well, now you sound as if I was holding a gun to your head. I’m serious, if you really don’t want-”

“I do! I do. I've just never been to one, okay? Like ever. You can’t blame me for hesitating?” Garret takes a deep breath. “I won’t even know what to do.”

It’s still embarrassing to admit that the rituals of normal human behaviour escape his knowledge. What do people do at parties exactly? Dance? But how? Or maybe talk? But about what? He has never seen these people before in his life, which will hardly result in a meaningful conversation. Perhaps there will be food? …Would it be weird not to leave the buffet area for the entire night?

“It’s not a test, dude. You can’t fail.” Orion says, closing his laptop and getting up to put it away in the desk drawer.

“Oh, I can-”

“You won’t, alright? You’re going with me, the ultimate cheat sheet. A textbook open in your lap. Hell, I’m a whole pre-filled exam.” He waves his hand dismissively.

Despite rolling his eyes, Garret can’t help the snort that escapes his nose nor the tiny smirk that is making it's way on his face.

Orion is rummaging through the wardrobe now. Opening and closing drawers, moving clothes around, he seems to be looking for very specific pieces of clothing. Ah yes, Garret’s completely forgot this is also a part of the thing he just signed up for—he will have to look presentable to attend the party.

“Here” says Orion, throwing what seems to be a black t-shirt in Garret’s general direction. ”You can have these pants too. And the socks. Remind me to give you the other Vans when we go downstairs.”

Garret scans the t-shirt. Seriously, does Orion own anything else other than graphic tees? Although he must agree, this one is rather nice – it’s simple with thick white lines on the sleeves and around the collar.

“I’m gonna go take a shower so put these on in the meantime. Unless you want to shower after me?” says Orion closing the bottom drawer. He’s holding a bunch of folded clothes under his arm.

“Nah, I’m good. I showered this morning. Unlike some people here I care about my hygiene even without the pressure of social events.”

 “Ah, if only you’d manage to keep your surroundings as clean as your butt, that’d be marvellous. One can dream, though.” Orion grins but before Garret can think of an equally snarky reply he’s already left the room.

The clothes are surprisingly comfortable, considering the fact that Orion chose them on a whim without checking if they’d fit Garret at all. The tee is quite loose and fits nicely around his collarbones,, and while the trousers are more of a tight fit, they’re still far from inconvenient or limiting to his movements, not to mention that they make the aforementioned clean butt look very flattering. Garret scans the outfit in the mirror hanging on the closet door. All in all, it’s very casual, minimalist even. In a crowd of people, it will hardly attract any attention yet on its own it still looks presentable, which is exactly what Garret would want from it.

 


 

“Fallen in love with your own reflection or are you straight up possessed now?”

The words make Garret jump slightly. Did he really space out staring in the mirror?

 He’s ready to pick up where they left off with their ongoing banter but when his eyes find Orion leaning on the doorframe his throat clenches, trapping the air inside his lungs. Orion’s outfit is the polar opposite of Garret’s. Although it’s still black you can tell he wants to be the center of attention—from the parts of flesh poking through the holes of his ripped jeans to the unusually sewn top dotted with sequins and even more holes. And is that a choker?

Garret has seen these clothes before, all those months ago when he used to go through Orion’s things when he wasn’t around. However, back then they weren’t anything special, arguably a tacky mess of stripes, and who in their right mind would willing choose to wear torn clothing anyway? But this, it recontextualizes them for him. His gaze lingers on the white decorative ribbon woven along the tee’s side that barely covers Orion’s ribs and hipbones.

“…possessed.” Garret mumbles sarcastically, having forgotten his original reply that totally would have rendered Orion speechless. Alas. Next time.

“Okay, Emily Rose, are you ready to go?”

“You mean we’re leaving right now? When does it even start? Isn’t it quite early?” he asks turning his head towards one of the windows, and yup, the sun is still up.

“Would you believe it’s actually way past 7?” Orion responds holding up his phone as if to prove to Garret that he’s right. “Plus, we’re walking there. No way I’m bringing out my motorbike just for that, especially since there’s a big chance I won’t even be able to ride it back.”

“Are you planning to get wasted already?”

“Not “planning”, just… you know, being realistic.”

 


 

The house is not as big as Garret expected it to be. Sure, it has a garden but all in all it’s nothing to write home about. This, combined with the crowd of people already inside—seemingly at least three per every meter squared—really makes the space feel quite suffocating. The air is filled with the vibrations of whatever song is currently blasting from the speakers and the scattered jigsaw puzzle of voices trying to cut through it with all the luck of a pair of dull scissors. The party itself must have started some time ago, Garret deduces from all the fried junk food scattered in various states of consumption across most flat surfaces present in the packed living room. Accompanying it are plastic cups, some standing proudly filled to the brim, others empty, laying on their side never to be picked up again, and others not even resembling cups anymore, ripped to pieces by whatever party goer’s hands needed to occupy themselves with something.

Garret makes a solid attempt at giving Orion a look, however he is too focused on introducing Garret to a handful of other party attendees. It isn't long after their names that Garret can barely register are dropped, polite nods are exchanged, and Orion starts heading inside, that Garret officially decides he’s ready to leave. What was he thinking coming here? That he was somehow going to have fun the unusual way? Pfsh, ridiculous! He should have stayed home, and let Orion go alone, since it appears that he’s perfectly fine and capable of having fun by himself, just look at all these people that he knows and exchanges hugs with. Right now he could be reading something, anything, on the comfy couch wrapped in a blanket, or emptying the Lavont’s fridge or literally anything else! Hell, if Orion left he’d have the entire house to himself! The entire house!! He really was possessed to agree to this!

Just when he’s about to start physically kicking himself in the ankle, he feels a hand delicately closing around his wrist.

“You good?” Orion’s lips seem to say, not that Garret can hear the actual words that leave them.

He nods, causing Orion to raise a brow. Give him a break, what else can he do, really? Start complaining five minutes in and be a total killjoy? No, thank you. It’s time to clench his jaw and power through.

Orion turns around and enters the sea of meat and bones standing around the house, pulling Garret behind him. Garret looks down to see that the other is still holding his wrist, a barely there touch, not letting him drift away. His slender fingers are cold as ever, a strong contrast to the hot and stuffy space they find themselves in.

They end up in the kitchen which is relatively empty. A few people there are trying to fix themselves something to drink, and, of course, Orion knows them, too. His hand leaves Garret’s wrist to greet them, leaving an even colder trail in its wake. Some new names are thrown in his general direction and this time he even heard them, not that he made an effort to remember any. Orion engages in small talk with a petite girl with long blonde hair, and from their conversation Garret guesses she’s the party’s host. Unfortunately, the exchange is cut short when someone calls for her from the living room (something about beer being spilled?) and she hurries off to take care of whatever situation requires her presence.

Garret looks around the place. Alright he’s already here, time to make the most of it. So, what now? Right, let’s start with-

“God, you’re standing out like a sore thumb.” Orion smirks turning towards the counter and reaching for a bottle of apple cider. “Whaddup, I’m Garret, I’m 19, and I’ve never fucking learned how to be social.”

“I’m going to punch you.” He jokingly lifts his fist and makes contact with Orion’s shoulder as the other tries to bend away to avoid the attack.

“Here, why don’t you go and eat something” Orion says gesturing to the pizza laying in the open box not too far from them. Garret turns to look at the food item in question. Hm. “Surely that will make you feel more welcomed here, eh?” the other adds while handing him a cup with something sloshing inside. Clearly one punch was not enough so Garret hits Orion again causing that little bastard to snort loudly.

Orion sways back a little and looks to the side, towards the living room that stretches before them. He must have recognized someone across the room because in a matter of seconds he waves and disappears in the crowd of people guarding the entrance to the kitchen.

The pizza is cold but still tasty nonetheless. As he’s nibbling on the hardened cheese Garret looks down into the cup he’s received from Orion and delicately sloshes the beverage from left to right. Eh, the most pointless drink on earth, made specifically so that Garret can be reminded time and time again that he’s not normal, that he’s physically unable to get drunk because of whatever line of code made him completely immune to ethanol and its effects. A weird trait to have but at least not as noticeable as the black eyes. For Garret all alcoholic beverages are just nasty: none of them taste outright good and only some are bearable - given the chance he’d drink literally anything else. The sweet smell of apples rising from his cup mixes with the taste of pizza creating a rather unpleasant sensation. He mentally prepares for the sip that he’ll have to take in order to actually swallow the bite that turned out to be just a little too dry to go down smoothly and is currently putting pressure on his windpipe in the most uncomfortable of ways. Reluctantly he brings the plastic cup to his lips, tips it over, and to his surprise the dreaded liquid turns out to be regular apple juice.

 


 

Garret has no idea how much time has passed. When was the last time he saw Orion? An hour ago? Or was it only a few minutes and he’s just really bored? It’s probably the latter, he can count the number of songs that played between then and now on his fingers; still, it feels like the witty kitchen squabble happened ages ago. He’s been trying to locate Orion ever since he wrapped up his meal, wandering aimlessly from room to room in the sea of people hoping to bump into him or see his face. Unfortunately, no such luck. Instead of Orion’s face there is only a suffocating crowd, pushing at him from all sides as he’s trying to make his way forward.

The house is… unusual but then again Garret hasn’t been to that many houses in his life. The ground floor is a long serpentine of rooms stretching across the place creating an enclosed spiral; a living room, a kitchen, and a dining room both separated yet connected by a few thin walls and short corridors. All the furniture has been pushed to the walls to create as much floor space as possible for the rowdy guests to walk and dance on. On his way around the maze Garret can see a set massive of dark wooden stairs climbing up the walls to the second floor. He considers the possibility of Orion being up there which would explain why he’s nowhere to be seen, however a glimpse of the deserted darkness waiting at the top makes him abandon that thought. He walks back down, takes a long breath and looks around once more making sure to analyze every person, every face in his field of vision.

Nothing.

For a while he just stands there, surrounded by the crowd, unmoving. As he’s taking one last disappointed glance across the room a distant feeling fills his chest. A feeling that had been locked away, caged in the block of ice that, little by little, is now melting and there’s nothing Garret can do to stop it.

Right now, even despite all these people surrounding him he’s… not required for all this to take place, not any more than the table shoved against the wall right next to him. A random NPC that was given no lines of dialogue, whose entire purpose is to wander aimlessly in circles to create a more genuine experience for the real protagonist, whoever they may be. He’s become a redundant factor existing both in and completely outside of his surroundings, a being unmoved by the world which is equally unable to be affected by him. He remembers this emotion and how weirdly freeing it felt, even if there was always an air of sadness and solitude surrounding it. The loneliness shifts around him, laughing, pushing and pulling, and he lets it wash over him wave after wave until all he can do is surrender and… dissolve.

The only coherent thought that stays with him is the cold. An unpleasant pricking sensation radiating up his hand, forceful and unwilling to let go, grounding him in whatever is left of the present moment. An anchor.

As the grip around his hand tightens a dull sound echoes outside.

“Are you okay?”

He looks at the source of the sound.

Orion. He’s staring at him, wide eyed, with raised eyebrows that if Garret didn’t know any better could indicate worry. He’s standing close, close enough that Garret can hear him clearly over the music without the need to read his lips. Caught off guard he musters a slow nod.

“Are you sure? You’re as pale as a wall.” Orion remarks.

“Me? Pale as a wall? So I’m still at least 3 shades healthier than you.”

Orion rolls his eyes and his eyebrows return to their default position. “Congratulations, you win. I have no idea how to bounce this one back at you.” Garret could say the same thing, because he’s not sure how to pick that one up either.

Although they both fall silent their surroundings are far from quiet. All the people around them are still having a blast, hundreds of voices mixing into one uncoherent stream of words. Their chests are vibrating in time with the heavy bass of the song that’s currently erupting from the speakers filling the silence between them but not making it any less awkward.

Oh, he’s pulling Orion in, into his personal limbo. He’s ripping him away from the party and all the people he’s been talking to and whatever fun things he’s been up to. He’s isolating him by purely existing in his orbit.

Orion’s thumb gently traces small circles into Garret’s wrist.

“Would… you like to sit down, maybe?”

Garret nods again. He expects Orion to lead him towards the couch or maybe outside to sit on the porch buy instead he lets himself be guided towards and up the curved stairs into the secluded blackness. The music is much quieter there although still perfectly audible and there are no people in sight either. Garret sits down at the top step.

“Normally the upstairs area is completely off limits but I’m sure Froya would make an exception for me.” Orion says settling down next to him. Garret’s mind briefly wanders back to the tiny blonde girl that he met in the now very distant kitchen.

 The curvature of the stairs creates a weird sense of privacy together with the darkness that surrounds them like a freshly washed blanket. From where they sit he can’t see the people downstairs anymore, only their silhouettes moving and merging together, projected onto the tall wall by flickering lights. It’s the only thing providing any source of light, softly illuminating the deep abyss that is the corridor behind them.

“Are you feeling better now?”

“…I wasn’t feeling bad to begin with.” Garret answers with a surprisingly hoarse voice. He coughs slightly to clear his throat. “I just spaced out.” He adds waving his hand nonchalantly.

“Is it just me or are you spacing out a whole lot today?”

“What are you talking about, I haven’t even hit the daily quota yet. The spacing out market is dying!” Garret says in an overtly dramatic voice and clenches a fist over his heart to really sell his act which gets a snort out of Orion.

Ah, he likes this a lot. He likes when he manages to say something dumb enough to make the corners of Orion’s eyes wrinkle under the pressure of the smile on his face. Garret leans back on his hands and tilts his head to casually observe him. He likes looking at the fruit of his efforts, too.

Orion’s breathing evens out and they both stay silent for a moment, observing the dancing shadows.

“…Are you having fun?” he asks quietly but before Garret can so little as open his mouth he continues “what am I even asking, of course you’re not. Sorry for dragging you all the way here.” Orion awkwardly ruffles his own hair while keeping his gaze now hyper focused on the stairs.

“…I must admit it is not my domain, but it’s not that bad either.” Not since you came back from wherever you disappeared off to anyway. “It’s just, it’s all a bit new to me. Speaking of new things, I didn’t expect you to be such a social butterfly.” He prods hoping to get an answer that will sate his curiosity.

“I’m n- I mean, I am but that’s not really- I just know them, they’re my friends. Well, not friends friends but like…”  Orion trails off and sighs. He gathers his thoughts for a second.

”I don’t talk to them. But they’re… nice. They’ve always been nice to me. They’re mostly people I know from high school so I don’t see them often anymore and we only ever have a chance to catch up during opportunities like this one. It’s weird, we’re somewhat close? Like both me and them witnessed a big chunk of each other’s lives so it’s relatively very easy to talk to them.  But at the end of the day we do have nothing in common. I’m not actively trying  to distance myself from them but somehow it always ends up like that. But I do like talking to them. And when I see them after months I… get a little carried away. Mona and Jack know them too so I, uh, I don’t know, it escaped me that you don’t.”

“Do you…. miss these people?” Garret asks.

Orion snorts. “Oh, that’s rich. But… maybe? Somewhat? What I miss the most are the simple days when life would put potential friends right in front of you and even give you the pretext of school to socialize over. Nobody ever tells you when you grow up you also grow lonely, and that making friends suddenly requires effort.”

“Hey, you’re not lonely” Garret says. He’s got Mona, Jack and Nova, and his parents and most important of all, Rosie. That’s far from lonely.

Orion doesn’t say anything for a while. Finally he turns his gaze away from the spot he’s been burning a hole in for the past 10 minutes, and looks at Garret smiling softly.

“Yeah, I know. Thanks for coming with me today.”

Garret’s mouth falls slightly open and he can feel his ears getting warm. He breaks the gaze they’ve been holding embarrassingly fast.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.  Just don’t disappear randomly, I don’t know any of these people. And it gets boring, too.”

“Aw, but there are so many activities to entertain yourself with parties.” Orion snickered.

At that Garret raises an eyebrow. “Like what, eating cold pizza?”

“Mmhm. Drinking. Making small talk. Dancing.”

“I don’t drink, you know that. And making small talk with strangers is not my strong suit either.”

“and dancing?”

A pause.

“…Are you serious right now?”

 “What?”

“Do I look to you like a person who can dance? Like, like a person who knows how to? Obviously, I would be awful at it.”

“…would be?”

Now it’s Garret turn to observe the staircase. God, he’s really going to make him say it, isn’t he. This is beyond humiliating. “… I’ve never done it.”

“…Do you want to try?”

“What, there? With all these people watching? Please, the shame alone would be able to kill me.”

“It doesn’t have to be down there. It could be, I don’t know, here? Nobody is here.”

“You’re here, dumbass, as if I would hand you this free coupon to witness me making a fool out of myself.”

“…Get up.” Orion says already standing. He’s wearing the smuggest smile Garret has ever seen.

“I refu-” but even despite his protests Garrets lets himself be pulled up and led a bit further into the corridor so they’re not standing directly at the staircase and risk tumbling down. “I can feel it, Orion, my bones are being ground to dust under the weight of embarrassment, you’re killing me-”

“Here, I’ll join you.” Orion interrupts Garret’s litany of complaints by grabbing his hand and twirling him around with the grace of a someone who downed at least two beers. He grabs his second hand and starts gently swaying them from left to right. The two of them look like a pair of kindergarteners during their first costume ball, standing at an arm’s length, rhythmically pushing in pulling which can barely be called dancing.

“Oh my god, this is awful. You’re awful at this.” Garret laughs.

“I’m awful? A dancing performance is only as good as its weakest link! Have you seen your own moves?” Orion teases.

Excuse me?” he retorts in a jokingly outraged tone and attempts to retaliate by spinning Orion around the same way he did not too long ago.

They keep at it for a while and with every passing minute their moves are slowly becoming gentler, more coordinated and almost thought through. At first Garret’s trying to keep track of his own feet and Orion’s movements with a keen eye however soon enough he manages to lift his gaze from the ground to the person in standing front of him. The sharp beats of the song seeping through the floor are carrying their steps and twirls and with every new tune the feeling of embarrassment seems to be disappearing from Garret’s mind leaving only unrestrained fun in its wake. The songs keep changing and so does their style, constantly evolving, from a pre-schooler’s birthday party to maybe something you could witness at a wedding reception. The distance between them is also changing; from a clumsy palm grasp to a gentle hand resting mid-air to secure a twirl here and there, the abyss of uncertainty is shrinking by the second as their touches grow ever more confident. The only thing that seems to stay unchanged are their smiles, fuelled by their little play.

Orion shifts his hand and he lets Garret’s palm loosely rest in his. They’re holding only one hand at a time now, switching from left to right every time one spins the other around, between parting and coming together again. Garret notices Orion is actually not half bad at this. In fact, he’s leading, silently deciding the next figures they’re going to make which allows Garret to relax, unwind and fully give in.

The melody goes quiet and soon enough a new song comes on however this one is far different for all the songs up until now. It’s not as energetic and up beat but instead calm and quiet, like the surface of a pond on a windless day. Their moves fall out of rhythm trying to slow down and match the new pace and even when they do they still feel strangely misplaced; all the progress that they made seems to have vanished into thin air.

Caught off guard by this development Garret doesn’t really know what to do and his movements unwillingly come to a halt; standing still he’s waiting for Orion to make a move or do anything to kickstart the flow of time and free them from the impasse they’re stuck in. And as if responding directly to his silent plea, Orion does.

He approaches him slowly, giving Garret a way out in case he wants to change his mind, and when he notices no signs of protest he reaches for his hands. He gently lifts them and puts Garret’s palms on his hips, right above the bone, and then places his own palms on the blonde’s shoulders. The cold sensation that pierces Garret thin t-shirt is a sharp contrast to the warmth that spreads under his hands and it makes his head swim. The pads of his fingers are resting atop that loose ribbon and if his not careful they might accidentally touch Orion’s skin, and the thought alone makes his ears burn.

 They shyly start swaying, making the smallest of steps, the smallest of movements. Garret doesn’t know where to look or what to focus on, his eyes frantically switching their centre of attention from the hem of Orion’s tee to the wall behind him, every now and then risking a glance at his lips or amber eyes.  It’s the longest he’s gone today without saying a word to Orion, but he feels that any sound other than the music will destroy the moment they’re in. For the sake of his own nerves he decides to close his eyes and direct his thoughts towards the melody and the way they are rocking to its rhythm, an attempt at regaining his lost footing. This, however, backfires almost instantaneously as without vision his body decides to sharpen all of his other senses. Only now can he feel the light pressure of Orion’s forearms resting on his chest and the way his thumbs are positioned so close to his collar the little shapes they’re tracing might as well be drawn directly on Garret’s skin. He doesn’t open his eyes though, too engrossed in the sensation to let it go.

Suddenly, he can feel the weight of Orion’s arms increase as the other takes a step forward and cautiously slides his hands past Garret’s shoulders till he can place his elbows where his palms were just seconds ago. Garret can feel the way Orion’s chest, now firmly pressed against his, rises and falls in tandem with a delicate breath that’s ghosting on his cheek. The smell of apples fills his nostrils and Garret decides there’s no way he’ll be able to open his eyes ever again or at least not till the song is over. Their foreheads are hovering mere millimetres from each other, too shy to try and convey anything deeper than the moment they’re in does on its own.

Words cannot describe Garret’s one second disappointment when Orion moves away only to make up for it instantly by resting his head in between Garret’s neck and the arm on his shoulder. He hopes that Orion can’t hear the pulse of his beating heart but given their proximity it’s nothing but wishful thinking. The warmth of Orion’s arms surrounds him like a soft comforter and he can’t help but lean into it seeking more of this blissful sensation. He subconsciously reaches out sliding his own hands further, past Orion’s hips and up his back, and deepens the embrace by pulling Orion closer. Their swaying comes to a stop and they stand there unmoving, in the darkness, cut off from the rest of the world.

He can feel the ticklish breath on his neck. The pressure of his arms and how his chests rises and falls in long intervals. The cold. The warmth. He can smell his shampoo and the cologne.

All too soon a new upbeat song starts playing and suddenly the moment, the zone they were in crumbles like a sand castle built too close to the sea. They both lean back, and although Garret somehow managed to open his eyes he can’t look up past Orion’s choker. The realisation of what just happened between them is slowly making its way into the conscious part of his cerebrum and blood drains from his face.

Thousands of questions without answers flood his mind and the fact that Orion is definitely, undoubtedly looking right at him is popping his braincells like bubble wrap. He wants to run away, hide in his cupboard and tape the door shut so he doesn’t have to face another human being ever again, specifically not Orion.

What will Orion think of him now? Will he drop him like a hot coal because as it turns out Garret’s a little too fond of him? Or will he gift Garret with the blessed silence and pretend not to have noticed this entire emotional slip up? Cold sweat covers his palms.

Orion breaks the silence first.

 “Hey now, I didn’t expect you to really start dying of embarrassment.” he says which must be his attempt at dissolving the tension that build itself up like a cloud of smoke in a room with no windows. When Garret doesn’t answer, the soft smile on his face disappears to be replaced with a look of worry, not that Garret can see. “Is everything ok? Are you feeling sick?”

Garret looks off to the side dropping his gaze further.

“Do you want to go home?”

“…Yeah.”

He really, really does.

 


 

The journey home was pure torture, at least to Garret. They walked in complete silence all the way up until they entered Orion’s room where he announced he’s too tired to climb the ladder to get into his bed and collapsed on the couch.

It would seem Orion elected to ignore whatever happened at the party. Good. Garret can feel a sliver of tension leave his shoulders at the thought of not being confronted about that.

“If you’re really planning on taking up my sofa tonight then I’m stealing your bed.” Garret says, the first real sentence since they left that house. He’s back in his reservoir, ready to start bickering again to hide the truth away like a clam tightly closing its shell.

“Wha’ever” Orion answers, his words muffled by the couch’s soft arm rest.

Garret didn’t expect Orion to actually agree so he’s taken aback by his response. Ok, admittedly “agree” is a generous word but compared to Orion’s usual fussiness about his space and belongings this is a basically a permission. Not that Garret is gonna think about it for too long, he has nowhere to sleep after all and he’s not going back into the closet.

He discards his pants and the nice tshirt on the desk chair and reaches for the tee he was wearing earlier this afternoon – today’s designated pyjama. With every step on the ladder leading to the upper bunk he can feel the exhaustion seeping into his bones and the moment he sinks into the soft mattres his body turns to jelly.

Although he can’t seem to keep his eyes open every position he lays in is unusually uncomfortable. Minutes pass and the pillow becomes too warm to be slept on not to mention the comforter that make his body boil, yet without it goose bumps cover his skin. He’s trying to relax and to empty his head but it feels as if someone else is putting thoughts directly into it against Garret’s will. By now his brain is going a mile a minute, thinking of everything yet nothing in particular.

This pillow case is very soft. Must be cotton. It smells of Orion’s apple shampoo. The sheets smell of him too. And of the washing detergent, just like all of his freshly washed clothes. Is he really going to sleep in the same clothes he wore to the party? Those ribbons must be digging into his sides. Those ribbons…

Too lost in his own thought, Garret doesn’t react to the rustling from below the bed but when the mattress dips at his feet he lifts his head from the pillow almost immediately.

“O-? What are you doing?” he looks towards the creature trying to hoist himself onto the bed.

“The couch is… too uncomfortable. I can’t sleep.” Orion croaks sleepily almost losing balance on the ladder.

“You made your choice, go back there.” Garret drops his head back onto the pillow.

“You can’t kick me out… out of my own bed!”

“Yes, I can. Get out.”

“What’s that? I can’t hear you, I’m too tired.” Orion says throwing the dead weight of his body on the mattress right behind Garret causing the entire 2 meter tall bed frame to rattle. He’s lying face down and, yup, still wearing his jeans and the fancy tee.

Oh, this night is fluctuating between good and bad like a sine function. From the nice afternoon, to the unfortunate question, from the free pizza to the most boring half an hour of his life, from the dancing to the awkward moment-ruining burst of panic. And now he gets to share a bed with Orion? What will be the proportionately unwelcomed development from here? Garret’s trying to predict the possible outcomes however his brain is losing processing power by the minute, being flooded by… other thoughts.

Garret can feel the way the too narrow mattress dips where they rest and the gravity trying to bring them even closer to each other. He’s close, so close, laying just behind him, only a few centimetres away. The warmth that Orion is emanating is slowly spilling over his back, both through the comforter and his tshirt making his body temperature too high to bare. He wants to kick off the covers however that would mean peeling away the precious layers that part him and Orion; the precious layers that help Garret keep his beating heart from exploding inside his ribcage. Ultimately the heat wins and Garret gets up to squish the comforter into the gap between the mattress and the wall, as slowly as he can, careful not to rouse Orion and start any kind of conversation at such a dangerous proximity. Before he manages to settle back down and scoot over closer to the wall to put some distance between them Orion’s voice pops the bubble of silence.

 “Hey… was the party really that bad?”

“…Weren’t you tired?”

Despite own hesitation Garret decides to turn around and lay on his other side to face Orion. He can see his face is still smushed against the mattress; He hasn’t moved at all since he first lied down.

“Did the pizza make you sick? Or was it my fault for leaving you in the crowd?”

“It was nothing. The party was good.”

“Was it the dancing?”

“What, no, it wasn’t.”

Are you making fun of me? Or did the alcohol make you miss it entirely? Of course it wasn’t, that was easily the best part of the whole night.

The yellow lights of street lamps outside provide just enough light so that Garret can see Orion’s face.  His expression is… Garret is almost certain he hasn’t seen it yet. It’s so different from the intense yet so familiar look that Orion gets when Garret allows him 5 bonus minutes of clock research and he decides to make the most of it; or when he’s giving Garret a short summary of one of his favourite TV series that is a “total must watch” which is followed by him putting the show on regardless of how well he managed to sell Garret on it. A look full of determination before something or someone will stop him from.

This one is… static. Mellow. Like he’s got nowhere to rush to and decided to indulge in the moment. It reminds Garret of the way they were dancing when the slower song came on and how he forced his eyes shut. What look was Orion wearing then? Was it this one? Or something entirely new, something Garret hasn’t seen yet? A shadow of regret settles at the bottom of his chest.

Orion takes a deep breath and sighs, and the air leaving his lungs gently tickles the skin on Garret’s hands. He closes his eyes, seemingly ending the small conversation that went nowhere, and Garret can’t help but feel like he’s about to miss an opportunity again.

“I…” Garret murmurs, the sound getting lost on his tongue. Sincerity fills his throat with cotton, suffocating his words before they even have to chance to leave his lungs. Frustrated with his inability to properly convey emotions with words he bites his lip and lets his hand play with the seam of the pillow he’s resting on.

 Being vulnerable is scary. It leaves you open to all kinds of disappointments and pain. It requires an inner conviction that even if you’re giving the other person a perfect chance to strike you down they won’t hurt you. Garret hasn’t trusted someone like that in a long time.

The silence grows and with each passing second tiny sparks run over his body missing the contact, the comfort, the pleasant pressure from hours ago. He lets himself bit his lip for the last time.

“I enjoyed it… when we were dancing. It was really fun.”

It’s barely audible and Garret immediately regrets it.  He does his best not to wince.

For a while nothing happens. Orion’s breath is deep and slow and Garret’s convinced that he fell asleep until the moment a sleep soaked voice reaches his ears.

“I really liked it, too. ”

Garret can feels his ears warm up.

Slowly, Orion props himself on his elbows. His movements are delicate yet clumsy, limbs heavy with sleep that can’t manage to capture him properly. Garret’s heart is beating loudly in his ears, he can see Orion moving in closer and closer, and he doesn’t know what to do so he closes his own eyes and braces for impact. With every missing centimetre the heat rises exponentially. He can feel the way the mattress dips in various places under the pressure of Orion’s body and how the pillow changes shape from the addition of new weight resting on it. Their foreheads touch and all movement comes to a halt. Orion’s breath is ghosting on his cheek again but this time it doesn’t go away. And when Garret’s eyes finally crack open they’re met with another pair, half lidded amber, staring right back at him.

 

“Is this ok?”

Garret nods, his face ablaze.

Oh, it’s like they’re dancing again and Orion is taking the lead. Slowly, as if not to scare Garret away he reaches out and takes Garret’s hand placing it on his side. His other palm rests finds his way to the crook of Garret’s neck, and starts tracing little shapes with a touch comparable to warm beach sand gently falling down dry skin. Garret’s mind is completely blank save for the sensation of the wide, elegant ribbon under his fingertips. He maps it carefully, the way it twists and stretches over Orion’s skin. His hand is trembling revealing just how inexperienced he is, a far cry from the confidence of Orion’s steady and precise touch. The hand that guided Garret’s is now moving up his arm leaving the sensation of blunt nails in its wake as it makes its way towards Garret’s face. It’s ticklish but pleasant nonetheless, and when Orion finally places it on his cheek Garret can’t help but sigh and lean into it.

“Touch starved much?”

It’s almost like someone poured a bucket of cold water on Garret. His eyes snap open and he’s so ready to push Orion off of the bed just for this comment alone. Orion must have read it in his expression because a second later he’s apologising albeit with a silly grin on his face.

“I can’t believe you would just… God, you-! And in a moment like- like this, too! I can’t believe this! And here I thought-”

“Shhh… c'mere.” Orion answers smiling softly, still caressing Garret’s cheek. “But look, it worked, you’re not tense anymore.”

“Huh?”

“Your back was straight as an arrow. And I could practically hear your heartbeat all the way from there….”

Oh. He’s… right. Although his face is still warm his heart definitely calmed down. And his hands are not shaky anymore too. That one little comment singlehandedly burst Garret’s tension like a bubble. He looks back at Orion’s face ready to hand him his two cents about the method only to find the other looking quite bashful.

“…not that I’m doing much better.” Orion finishes his sentence. He grabs Garret’s hand, the one that was squished between them up until now and places it firmly on his chest.

Garret’s eyes widen a little. That’s…. woah. The beating is so pronounced and when Garret focuses he can hear it too. How did he miss it up until now? Was it like that when they were dancing, too?

Orion lifts his hand to brush the fringe from Garret’s eyes, threading his hair through his fingers. Garret’s attention is back on Orion’s face again, soft and smiling, dusted with the warmest shade of red. He can feel how the hand moved down from his hair and is now playing with his ear petal, the smooth and despite everything still cold fingers pulling and petting the sensitive shell, which causes him to make the most embarrassing sound in the back of his throat. And the worst part is, it makes Orion’s smile go from soft to sly in seconds.

Their noses are touching now, faces so close Garret’s vision is swimming in dark amber. Orion delicately nuzzles Garret’s face, bumping him with his nose and Garret reciprocates, which gets quiet giggles out of both of them.

When Orion slightly tilts his head and leans in Garret closes his eyes, waiting. He can feel him hovering just millimetres above him, a moment of hesitation before closing the gap at last. At first it’s nothing more than a soft press of lips, shy and delicate. They part after a few seconds only to reconnect, this time with more confidence. The gentle brush of skin is sends a shiver down Garret’s spine, and as the pressure intensifies so does his grip on Orion’s shirt. A grip that says don’t stop and I want you closer all in his palms.

They part again and Orion angles his face further, sliding his hand along Garret’s jaw to deepen the kiss. When Orion moves his lips Garret starts a little at the new sensation, first dry then wet, but he attempts to replicate it nonetheless.

Their innumerable kisses blended together until they have to break for air.

“Garret…” Orion sighs, his mouth butterflying across Garret’s face.

Their mouths link again but this time it’s slower, more sensual. Each kiss is longer than the last, filled with more meaning and emotion than its prototype from a second ago. Eventually they stop altogether and lay back down on the pillow, eyes closed,  just lips brushing against each other every now and then.

Garret nuzzles Orion’s face. “Tired?”

“Mhm….” Comes the response. If he didn’t ask Orion would probably drift away within the next minute or two. Not that it’s a problem, Garret himself can feel sleep finally pulling at his eyelids. He moves a little, assumes a more comfortable position and just when he’s about to say goodnight Orion speaks up first.

“Can I… um…”

“Yeah?”

“Can I… hug you? Like… cuddle?”

Garret’s eyes spark with excitement, however just when Orion hopes it will end with a simple yes-

“Aw, did you forget to bring Pookie? It’s ok, let’s hope I will be a sufficient replacement.” Snickers Garret.

Orion scoffs. “Yes, it would seem Pookie won’t be joining me tonight. I guess you’ll have to do. But that’s ok, you’re cuter anyway.”

Silence. A long one.

“Oh. My. God.”

Orion’s face explodes with red as if a tomato splattered on it.

“You really said it, huh? Called me cute, just like that, to my face? Young man, have you no shame voicing such lascivious thoughts- ”

“I regret this already-”

“No regrets, only facts. And the facts are-”

“That I regret this already-”

“That you find me irresistibly-“

“Annoying! Shuddup!!! Don’t say it!!!”

Their laughter fills the empty house.

At last they settle down, Orion’s head under Garret’s chin, hugging him tightly. Garret can feel his breath on his throat and once, maybe twice the soft pressure of lips against his pulse point. He can’t fight the smile pulling on his face and he hugs Orion even tighter.

Orion falls asleep first, obviously, and Garret briefly wonders if he’ll wake up tomorrow with a big drool stain on his tee. He drifts away not too long after, revelling in the pleasant warmth surrounding him.

He’s not sure what tomorrow will bring but for now he doesn’t have to worry about it. For now it’s just the two of them, together, and that’s ok.