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act now, think later

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step one: realize your feelings

 

They're sitting at their bench like they always do.  It is an unspoken rule that their friend group just sits there.  When people see them heading over, suddenly it's the emptiest table that has ever existed on a college campus.

Boss likes it.  He likes having places to rely on.  He's not a big fan of change.  He's a status quo kind of guy.  Anything but rocking the boat, that's what Boss always says.

He glances up at Mek. It's just them today.  Boss and Mek, Mek and Boss, the dynamic duo, one man of too many words and another of few.  Best buds.

Mek has his nose buried in the script of a short film he's been recruited to act in.  Boss smugly pats himself on the back.  He's partially responsible for showing Mek's talent to the world; he has an odd sense of pride in that.  Boss doesn't have much going for him, but he's nothing if not perseverant; in Mek's debut film, Boss snagged himself a brief scene.  It was, however, easy to tell that his acting chops would not cut it and that they were incomparably worse than Mek's. 

Boss leans over, hoping to catch a glimpse of the scene that holds all of Mek's focus.

Mek coolly swats him away with the flick of a wrist.

Boss giggles and sticks out his tongue, "I'm not a fly.  Let me see."

His friend begrudgingly peels his eyes away from the highlighted pages in his hands.  It's a friendly glare.  Mek does not have time for his nonsense.  He narrows his eyes and scans the mischief on Boss's face.  He uses his words: "I'm busy."

"I know.   I can help you read lines if you want," Boss offers, perking up with a grin.

Mek wavers.  (Mek has never been particularly good at curbing Boss's constant need for attention.  Mek knows that Boss knows, so Boss tends to flagrant in his shamelessness.)  He shakes his head, "It's not my lines I need help with today."

Boss makes a face; what on earth does that mean?

Mek scratches his head and points out a specific line in the script.

 

[They dance; each is too shy to maintain eye contact.  Their bodies slowly get closer over the course of the song.]

 

"You need a dance partner?" Boss asks.

"The only part I really need another person to practice with."

Boss jumps to his feet and extends a hand.  "Use me. I've danced with many a girl, a well-practiced gentleman in the art of slow-dancing I am"

Mek blinks, face somehow becoming even more neutral than before.  He leans back and gracefully rises to his feet.  He clears his throat and takes out his phone, unwinding his tired earbuds and checking to make sure the jack is plugged in.  Boss watches him carefully choose a song.  He tucks an earbud into Boss's ear. A soft song on the slower end of a medium tempo starts.  It's an English song, but Boss understands the emotions in the voices of the singers, the soft yet desperate resignation in their words.

"I'll lead," Boss declares.

Mek shakes his head and murmurs, "No."

Boss tries to place a hand on Mek's hip, only to have him immediately move it to his shoulder.  Mek gently clasps Boss's free hand, "I need to practice leading."

Boss's playful come back dies in his throat.  Mek's voice is so soft and his hand softly rests against his hip.   He guides Boss into an easy slow dance.  They shift weight from one foot to another.  The hand on Boss's hip starts to drift, wrapping around his back and pulling him closer.  The dance changes into more of a sway, and it is becoming impossible to breathe and maintain eye contact with Mek.  His bones might melt if he continues to bear the brunt of the sweetness, the ache, the longing in Mek's gaze.

He shifts his eyes, looking at Mek's chin instead.  He should have chosen somewhere further away from his lips to look.

Mek brings Boss's other hand to his shoulder gently.  Now both of Mek’s hands are holding the small of his back.  Mek exhales shakily and leans forward to press their foreheads together.

Oh no.  His heart is either beating too fast to be heard or not beating at all.

Boss slides his hands over Mek's shoulders and interlaces his fingers.

Their noses touch.

Boss's eyes flutter to a close.

Mek has Boss crushed against his body.

When the song fades out, Mek somehow has the presence of mind to pull away from Boss.  Every cell in Boss's body rejects the idea of having to withdraw from the embrace.  His lungs feel out of practice; they do not want to breathe in air that doesn't taste of Mek's cologne. 

Boss flounders for a moment, his mind running through every expletive he ever learned; he eventually clears his throat and throws on an overly bright and impossibly fake grin.  He claps his hand on Mek's shoulder, "That helped right?  Got you into the character's mind?"

Mek remains stoic.  Boss cannot tell if it's a carefully schooled expression or if he's truly that unaffected. When Mek finally acknowledges him with a curt nod, Boss takes the easy way out, "You're such an intense actor.  Be careful or co-lead will fall for you."

Even to his own ears, his laughter sounds shrill and grating.

Fuck.

 

//

 

step two: panic. panic. panic.

 

Boss stares at himself in the mirror, trying to recognize something, anything in the face looking back.  As if his internal change has been mapped onto his body somewhere.  For as different as he feels, he doesn't see anything different.

It feels impossible that he could suddenly feel different about everything.  There is the horrific implication that something had been blooming internally while he was none the wiser.  He isn't different; he just understands himself a little bit better than before.

It makes sense now that he gets all flustered when Mek offers him a rare smile.  It makes sense that he gets jealous of people he's never seen before when Mek devotes any amount of his precious attention to someone else.  That he never tires of Mek's company even on days when he feels as though he never wants to speak to Bohn, King, or Tee again.  That he doesn't really mind when Mek frets over his careless injuries.

Boss wanders out of his bathroom and lays face down on his couch.

He groans and picks his face back up.  Mek's sweatshirt has been on the couch for two months.  Mek keeps forgetting it every time he comes over.  Mek is not helping Boss think about non-Mek things.

Even after months, the sweatshirt still smells like Mek.  Boss hugs the garment and takes a deep breath.  He's back in Mek's arms, thinking about how easy and nice it would be to kiss his best friend.

He frowns.  How will he keep his feelings from Mek?  Mek knows him better than any other being in the universe.  He knows Boss inside and out, is practically telepathic in his ability to hear what Boss is saying beneath his actual words.  Boss trips into love a lot; he's kind of careless when it comes to letting people into his life.  Mek picks up the pieces when people end up breaking him down, not caring enough to leave kindly.

Boss thinks he knows Mek better than anyone else too.  However, Mek is so guarded.  He chooses words carefully and only welcomes people he deems worthwhile.  Sure, Boss can read Mek's catalog of expressions better than any of his other friends, but he still falls short of understanding every look.

He grapples with the painful idea that he will be one in a long line of many to fall for Mek and have those feelings unreciprocated.  He has never seen Mek in love, even a little, with anyone.  He's warmest with Boss and Tee and King and Bohn, but-- that's not the same thing as being so enamored of someone that it's hard to remain tethered to the planet.

 

//

 

At lunch, Mek smiles.

Bohn is going on and on about how great and wonderful and cute and funny and charming and cute and amazing and kind and cute and thoughtful Duen is.  Bohn giggles and sighs dreamily, perching his chin against his fist, "Have I mentioned that he's cute?"

"At least seven times," King says numbly.

Boss gets where Bohn is coming from.   He freezes and thinks of nothing but how great Mek is when he catches a smile on his lips. Boss knows this expression; it's a fondness that pops up from time to time.  Mek's happiness that Bohn's happy bubbles up into a small smile.

"I just--" Bohn sighs again, mouth forming a toothy smile, "I think he's just swell."

Mek shakes his head, shifting his focus back to his assignment, the smile still playing on his lips.  Boss is more aware than ever how much Mek smiling makes him want to smile.  It's infectious, and he spends a lot of time trying to elicit a smile from Mek. He loves finding the cracks in Mek's cold exterior, even if he's not the only who gets to see the warm, gooey interior.

Boss straightens up, sitting with the best posture he's ever had in his life.  He worries that he is too obvious; will all of his friends be able to tell that he's ogling at Mek?  The only person that looks even remotely concerned about what he's up to is King, and to call it concern is a bit of a stretch.  King is consumed in his own personal drama.  He likes a boy; from what Boss has divined, the Boy has been less than warm to King's attempts at wooing.

Keeping his feelings locked down tight must become his number one priority right now.  Mek cannot hurt his feelings if he pretends there are none.  (Sure, his feelings will be bruised, but they won't be outright obliterated.  He can handle that, he thinks.)

 

 

 

//

 

step three: devise a plan

 

It takes all of four seconds for Duen to figure him out.

He catches Boss in an unguarded moment, staring at Mek from afar, all soft and wistful.  The short film is using the courtyard as a filming location, and Boss can watch from the open walkway on the third floor without getting caught.  It could be the perfect place to unmask and admire Mek unburdened by the idea of someone confronting him about his feelings.

Except.  Duen's there for who knows what reason and ruins his quiet moment of appreciation.

"Do you like him?"

For how soft and pitiful the question is, it makes Boss jump out of his skin.  He considers denying it, playing dumb because he does that well anyhow.  However, he's relatively new carrying a secret with this kind of weight, and the pressure is slowly crushing him.  He inhales, ready to explain away what he must have looked like or somehow deflect it.

There's no point when he really thinks about it.  Duen has seen the truth with his own eyes.  Boss thinks it would be nice to have a confidant; none of his close friends would be able to keep this secret for him.  He nods and frowns, "It's not like I want to."

Duen offers a pitiful look.  "Why?  What's so bad about liking him?"

"Nothing.  Everything." Boss turns around, facing the hallway instead of watching Mek practice his scene with his beautiful costar.  "I just wish we weren't best friends."

Duen pats his back softly, empathy etched into the lines of his delicate features.  He wiggles his nose and tells Boss, "It's not like it's easier to fall for a stranger or classmate."

Boss looks at his hands, guilt washing over him, "It would hurt less."

"No, it wouldn't," Duen argues, "Hurt is directly proportional to how much you care.  If it hurts less with someone else, all it means is that you didn't care as much for them."

He pauses to consider Duen's opinion. There's a valid point somewhere in there.  He cares very much about keeping Mek around.  He would be so lost if Mek decided against continuing to be his friend. Boss shrugs, "It hurts to keep it inside."

Duen makes a face, something akin to disgust, "Don't keep it inside.  You need to be direct and communicate your feelings.  There is no chance for you to start something more with Mek if he doesn't know that is what you want.  Express yourself now, get the idea of rejection out of the way before it becomes overwhelming."

"That is oddly sage advice coming from you," Boss offers.

Duen scoffs and smiles, "It only feels that way because Bohn was relentless in pursuit of me.  He's very clear in his intentions.  Plus, although I changed the words a little, the essence of the sentiment comes from someone much smarter than me."

"Thanks."

Duen pushes off the wall, "You can talk to me any time.  I've got to go now.  Let me know what you decide later."

Boss waves at Duen as he walks away.  He turns back to watching Mek's scene, leaning against the railing to peek past some of the obstructive foliage.  He whispers to himself, "I like you, Mek."

Duen's directions are so simple, but Boss doesn't know how to even broach the conversation.  Casually mentioning that he hopes to be more than a friend to Mek seems wrong.  Boss is no stranger to loud and obnoxious proclamations of love, but Mek deserves better than that.  He cannot force an answer in a public space; Mek would hate it.  It's not like Mek would like a lengthy speech or a love letter.  Mek likes concise language; he values his time tremendously.  Honestly, it's surprising how much of Boss's excessiveness he puts up with.

Boss's knees give out when he thinks about how ill-suited their friendship is.  It confounds him; Mek should not like spending any time with Boss, but he does. 

Boss wilts.  He knows he's too much, but Mek puts up with it gracefully, most of the time with a smile on his face.

Boss shakes his head; he's not good with words either way.  A love letter is out of the question.

He thinks as he observes Mek silently nodding in thanks to an assistant who hands him a snack.  Boss perks up; actions speak louder than words.

He'll just have to show Mek somehow that he loves him.

 

//

 

step four: shoot your shot

 

Mek welcomes him to class with a smile.  He silently moves his bag and pats the newly empty space gently, inviting Boss to sit next to him.  Boss almost stumbles in his haste to take his seat. 

Mek offers a look of concern, "You okay?"

Boss nods and fishes a water bottle out of his bag, sliding it over to Mek.  He smiles meekly.

"Why?"

Somehow, Boss gets flustered.  He's not sure what imagined would happen, that Mek would swoon at a cheap bottle of water and ask him to kiss under the stars for the rest of forever?  Boss taps his fingers against the desk, "Just thought you might be thirsty."

He wants to slam his head against the table as Mek nods slowly before shrugging.  He cracks it open and takes a swig.  He promptly offers the bottle to Bohn, who happily guzzles the remainder of Boss's first meager attempt to express his genuine feelings.

Boss slides down in his seat, choking down the embarrassment of his failure and attempting to quash a pang of jealousy when he thinks of indirect kisses.  Bohn is lightyears closer to kissing Mek than he is.

He sulks for the rest of class; Mek touches his shoulder in concern, trying to catch Boss's eye to figure out what's bothering him.  He gives a gentle squeeze to tell Boss that he is here if Boss wants to talk about it. 

Internally, he bitterly gripes that Mek should stop being so nice to him if he's not into him like that. It is supremely unfair.  He'll probably even offer Boss a copy of his notes.  Dick.

 

//

 

His second attempt at showing Mek the depth of his feelings is a hug.

Mek picks a leaf out of his hair gently and takes care to rearrange the affected section of Boss's hair with a feather touch. 

Boss hugs him, wraps his arms around Mek tightly and buries his face against Mek's shoulder.  Mek is warm, and he smells nice.  Boss could stay right here for an embarrassingly long time, as long as Mek would let him.

Mek laughs, softly, it rumbles in Boss's ear.  It's light and airy; Boss doesn't even have to look to know the smile on Mek's face and the way his eyes are sparkling.  Mek pats Boss's back, "I know, I know, I'm the best friend you could ever ask for.  Don't mention it."

He peels himself away, off of Mek's shoulder, returning to his status as Mek's best friend.  He wonders when he'll find the nerve to correct Mek's assumptions.  He's trying, at least credit him with that, he's trying to give Mek attention that shows he wants something more.  He just doesn't have the right combination of words and actions to convey it correctly yet.

Mek's warmth fades back into a cooler ambivalence.

Boss tries to bury himself in his social media feed to ignore the burgeoning need to hold Mek's hand and kiss his cheek and tell him he's flat-out lovely.

Mek clears his throat quietly.  Boss whips his head up quickly and stares at Mek.  Why is Mek using his polite and nervous cue with him?

Mek ruffles through some papers and itches the length of his neck.  He licks his lip as he says, "The crew is holding a wrap party for shooting tomorrow.  Do you want to come?  Since you're, like, my agent or something."

A party.  Alcohol.  Plenty of chances to pull Mek aside and say something.

Boss nods, already flattered that Mek wants him to come.  Two months ago, he probably would have complained about Mek using him as a buffer to keep from unwanted conversations and come-ons.  Now, it almost feels like he's being asked on a date.

Boss is optimistic for what tomorrow night holds; he bites back a bright smile that rises within.

 

//

 

He wishes he didn't know why it stings that he and his whole crew are Mek's wrap party.  It just feels less special to be invited as a handpicked guest when four other friends and their tagalongs come too.  He looks at his jeans, knees exposed along with other flashes of skin along his thighs.  He prettied himself up like he and Mek would be at the party for an obligatory appearance before disappearing to get hot and heavy in a guest room.

He supposes he's lucky that everyone else is too preoccupied to notice his effort.  Mek simply offers a supportive, "You look nice."

He chugs the first cup of beer he's offered, hoping that it will kill his nerves.  He desperately wants to cling to Mek's side and kick away anyone who tries to lay it on thick. 

He ends up alone on a couch, sharing it with a very passionate set of girlfriends.  He looks away as he nurses a shot of schnapps that was passed to him.  Bohn and Duen are nowhere to be found, King is talking to a house plant, Tee is inches away from sticking his tongue down some girl's throat, and Boss is sitting there watching Mek mingle with his castmates and crew members.  He has been to house parties with an ambiance worse than this, but he just feels lonely.  He doesn't know anyone here.  The only person he wants to hang out with is engrossed in a conversation with people more handsome and interesting than Boss.

He knocks back his shot and sighs.  He has a mission here.  It's to tell Mek how he feels, and he can't even get the time of day to tell his best friend that he's in love with him.

He doesn't quite remember getting his hands on a double shot of Malort, but it tastes fully awful and leaves him hazy vision. He wants Mek.  Where's Mek?  Boss giggles to himself when he sees Mek checking in on King.  God, Mek is great.  Look at him, at a party celebrating him, and he's taking care of his friends.

Boss wants to hold him and kiss him and -- what else do boyfriends do?   He topples over; he's not sure that he feels awesome.  He had too much too quickly, and now, he won't even get to tell Mek that he wants to date him.  He pouts and presses his face against the rough fabric of the couch.

"Boss," he hears Mek's voice.

His eyes land on Mek's chest first and travel up to his face to find a concerned expression marring Mek's pretty pretty face.  He reaches up to smooth away the wrinkle lines.

"Are you okay?"

Boss keeps his hand on Mek's face and confesses, "I think I need to throw up."

That's not what was supposed to come out.

"Come on," Mek pulls him up by the arm, draping it over his shoulder, and slowly guides him to a relatively clean and surprisingly empty bathroom on the second floor.

All at once, the nausea turns urgent and Boss hurls himself onto his knees in front of the toilet and purges his stomach.  He feels Mek rubbing his back to soothe the tension in his body.  There is so much more vomit than Boss thought there would be.  He's embarrassed.  He's wearing nice clothes, and his night has turned into him losing his lunch in front of the person he likes the most in the world. 

These are less than ideal conditions for him to describe the depth and breadth of his feelings about Mek.  He has no luck.  He sits back on his heels and holds his head in his hands.  When will he and his fragile feelings catch a break?

Mek offers him a tiny paper cup with water and calmly orders him: "Rinse out your mouth."

Boss takes some water into his mouth and swishes the liquid in his mouth a few times before spitting out the ruined water in the toilet.  He wipes at his mouth, wishing he was less of a mess.  He flushes the vomit.

Mek dabs at his forehead with a damp cloth.  Shit, Boss's heart takes off running.  Mek cares about him so deeply; he's busy taking care of  Boss who could never really hold his alcohol, at a party that's meant to celebrate his successful work.  He regards Boss with intense concern and compassion, eyes softer than ever as he drags the cooling cloth down Boss's cheek.

Now is his moment.  He needs to show his feelings now.  Throw caution to the wind and forget the food he just threw up; he's here for a specific reason, goddammit.

He practically falls forward, smashing his lips against Mek's, eyes closing at contact.  Mek does not move, body frozen in surprise.  It's like he's waiting.  His heart rides high; Mek can probably hardly believe it.  Boss wonders if he's been waiting terribly long for Boss to make a move.  It feels indescribably correct for Boss to be kissing Mek.  He never should have tried kissing anyone else; this is where he's supposed to be, who he's supposed to be kissing for the rest of time.

He starts to smile, hand raising to gather the fabric of Mek's shirt into his fist, and he tries to deepen the kiss.  Mek stiffens further.  That's not right; he should be softening, melting in the embrace, sighing into the kiss, murmuring sweet nothings against his lips.  Boss feels Mek's hands on his shoulders, and in time his heart has a split second to hope, Mek pushes him away softly. 

"No," Mek says softly, voice almost entirely made of pain. He repeats it again with a slight shake of the head, "No."  He looks away from Boss over at the shower stall and clicks his tongue, hands keeping Boss at arms-length. 

His touch burns Boss even though there's no grip in his hold.  His head, his heart, his knees, everything hurts. 

Mek sighs, "I'll call a cab to get you home."

He withdraws his hand and rises to his feet, leaving the bathroom quickly.  If he thought he'd find relief in Mek running away after pummeling his heart, he was wrong.

This is worse.  He can feel the magnitude of how much taking a risk has cost him.  Tears well in Boss's eyes.

Boss fucked it all up.  Even though he could see it coming, it hurts just the same.

He's alone, drunk, tired, heartbroken on his knees in a stranger's bathroom.

 

//

 

step five: have an adult conversation for once in your life

 

Boss doesn't want to talk about it.

What is there to talk about?  Mek doesn't like him back, not in the way that matters.  It sucks, plain and simple.

Mek does not bring it up, so Boss avoids talking about parties or alcohol or kissing at all costs.  Why should Boss press the issue? He can just choke and die on his own feelings; he'll figure out how to fall out of love with Mek.  He can just lie, pretend that it never happened.  Unfortunately, ignoring the issue does not remedy the sudden dead air between them.

An alien presence takes root in the silences they share.  It feels colder.  Maybe he's the only one that feels it; suddenly, there's no hope or chance that Boss can have something more.

Boss slowly drags the paintbrush across the butcher paper banner, pointedly looking anywhere but at Mek.  If he focuses on making sure the paint stays within the penciled lines, then he can avoid thinking about how poorly kissing his best friend went.  He can see Mek out of the corner of his eye; his body is stiff, face unhappy.

Boss's first want, the first thing that pops into his mind, is to make Mek smile; maybe, a small fit of laughter will ease Mek's mind, start mending the little bit of their friendship that Boss broke.  He's done it countless times before, been overly affectionate, lacquering on the cute and clingy persona that always seems to reach Mek, regardless of what clutters his mind.  It would be easier on him if he didn't like Mek, it was easier when he didn't realize that's what was underneath it all.

Boss clears his throat and takes a long sliding step to stand next to the man he hopes is still his best friend.  A gentle poke an elbow, "Is it the wrong color?"

Mek barely acknowledges his existence, the slight turn of his head and a powerful exhale are all Boss gets.

Then.

He receives his olive branch.  Mek quietly says, "Tee spelled 'welcome' wrong."

Boss takes a step back and looks at the very first word on the banner.  He nods solemnly, "At least, he's good at math."

Mek cracks a smile, "Truly, no one is perfect."

"Except me," Boss nudges Mek again, returning a small smile.

"Except you," Mek replies quietly, withdrawing all of the brief warmth that he offered Boss.  He looks pained as he mechanically drags the brush up and down within the confines of the letter.

Boss bites the inside of his cheek.  Before he can devise a new way to break through the frigid air, he hears Bohn curse very loudly as paint splashes across his face.  He turns to see Bohn on his knees next to a very clearly defined paint slick, hand covering his mouth with an apologetic look on his face, "Oops?"

"Is there any way I can wipe this off in the bathroom?" He asks numbly, thinking about what a pain it'll be to get this cheap, chunky paint out of his clothes and hair. 

Bohn shakes his head with a grimace.

"This is a shower kind of situation," Mek tells him softly.  He sighs, "Come on, I live close."

Mek drags him to where his bike is chained up.  He can see where the paint clipped Mek too, small stains on his face and a fine misting of blue in his hair.  Boss avoids touching Mek once he's sitting behind him; he doesn't want to make the paint situation worse.  He's been the sole passenger on Mek's bike before, but he has never so badly wanted to wrap his arms around Mek's middle and rest his chin on his shoulder.

In the time it takes for him and Mek to get off the bicycle and into Mek's small living space, Boss realizes it's much worse to be entirely alone with Mek in the aftermath.  There's no way to distract himself. 

"You shower, and I'll get our clothes in the washer," Mek says after tossing his keys on his desk.  He unearths a clean towel and hands it Boss, seeming less interested in Boss than ever.

Boss opens his mouth to protest, ready to spout off some nonsense about how he's a guest and Mek should go first.  Mek cuts him off with a decidedly annoyed glare, "You're clearly covered in more paint than me.  Go."

Wordlessly, he accepts the towel and steps into Mek's small bathroom. He strips off the clothes caked in paint.  He thanks his lucky stars that his boxers are unaffected.  He shyly opens the bathroom door a crack and gathers his ruined clothes in one hand, shoving them unceremoniously into Mek's waiting arms.  He offers a pathetic and meek: "Thank you."

He steps into the shower and starts the long process of trying to rid himself of the paint. He must wash his hair seven times before the water runs mostly clear.  It feels like there's no amount of scrubbing that will rid him of the stain on his arms; he supposes there will be lingering speckles on his face and neck for days to come.   He wonders how long he could stand here before Mek would start worrying.  Would he worry at all?

He emerges from the shower with a few remnants of paint on his body, but it's good enough for now.  He slowly and carefully exits the bathroom, boxers on, towel draped over his head.

Mek doesn't even spare him a second glance and brushes past him to take a shower of his own.  Boss feels a pang of bitter disappointment that Mek doesn't even feel flustered by the idea of his mostly exposed body.  Boss takes a seat on the edge of Mek's bed where his friend has left a clean set of folded shorts and a shirt.  Mek is being more than clear about how he doesn't feel anything particularly special for Boss.  It burns yet leaves Boss cold.

He pulls the shirt on over his head; somehow, the fabric overwhelms him.  It's not like Mek is that much bigger than him.  The gym shorts fit like gym shorts.  Boss feels small, unwanted, out of place.

He burrows under Mek's covers, laying on his back and staring at the ceiling.  It's not like he hasn't been in Mek's bed before.  To the contrary, Boss has been in this position hundreds, if not thousands, of times.  It is a bed: four corners, sheets, covers, pillows, kind of lumpy in some places.  The location itself is utterly unremarkable.  The feelings, the awkwardness, that is what's new and novel.

He doesn't like it, not knowing what to do and how to comport himself. 

He hates, abhors, the stiff air between them.  Being in this private space that only smells like Mek reminds Boss that he never should have kissed him.   Not acknowledging that he did has poisoned his best friendship.  His lips cannot seem to stop tingling, replaying the momentary wholeness that he felt when his mouth messily met Mek's.  His shoulders certainly refuse to forget the gentle pressure that Mek used to push him away.  Bittersweet are his memories.

Boss needs to fix it.  He needs to try anyway; even if Mek will never be on the same wavelength as him, Boss always wants to have Mek as a part of his life.  Boss swallows roughly, glancing over at Mek as he walks out of the bathroom, drying his hair with a towel.  How should he begin?

"Hey," Boss offers quietly, waiting for a cue from Mek to indicate he's listening.

Mek raises an eyebrow and takes a seat on his bed, legs stretched out, body resting against the headboard.

"Can we talk about what happened at the party?"

Mek nods slowly, eyes appraising Boss's face, reading into how seriously Boss needed the conversation to be taken.  He waits patiently for Boss to begin again, hands clasped in his lap, calmness washing over his expression.

Boss sighs and pulls the covers up to his chin. He knows where he needs to begin, but he doesn't want to say anything at all.  Mek certainly isn't going to press the issue; he probably thinks that the "problem" has already been resolved, left at the scene of Boss's poorly-thought-out crime.  He makes eye contact with Mek and decides he cannot look at him as he says this.  He doesn't want to watch Mek's face as it journeys through anger and disgust before settling on pity.

"I'm sorry that I kissed you," he says, voice smaller than it has ever been before.

He hears Mek slide under the covers along with a protracted exhale.  "I forgive you.  You make a lot of mistakes when you're drunk."

Boss could feel his face contort in confusion.  How could Mek say that?  He poured his heart and soul into a kiss that went absolutely nowhere; the feelings were sent, received, read, and rejected.  He had one too many shots of liquid courage for Mek to plainly call his attempt at conveying his freshly realized feelings a mistake

He can't help himself. He's got a short fuse, so in annoyance, he spits out:  "It wasn't a mistake."

An indecipherable voice: "What?"

"I did not kiss you because I was drunk.  I got drunk to kiss you.  There's a difference."

Boss sulks and sighs at himself; he gave the game away.  Even without staring into Mek's deep brown eyes, the truth spills out because he just has to tell everything to Mek.  This will change their friendship forever; his heart squeezes, god, he doesn't want Mek to never talk to him again.

Chewing on the inside of his cheek, he waits in the most painful, tense silence for another quiet rejection.

"Oh," Mek murmurs.  Another pregnant pause.  "You didn't have to get drunk to do that.  You could've just asked."

Boss scoffs.  Mek doesn't get it.  He doesn't understand how difficult it is to choke on feelings.  He hasn't needed to stamp out every spark of hope that lights up in his heart. He is still processing Mek's words as he starts speaking with sharp incredulity, "I didn't have to get drunk?  I could have just asked?  I could--"

Boss... could have just asked?  He shifts so that he can look over his shoulder.  "I could have just asked?"

Mek looks at him, long body resting on his side, hand propping up his head; Boss realizes they are close.  There's not much room on Mek's bed either way, but it would take very little effort for Boss to venture back into kissing his best friend territory. That's a dangerous thought to have at this very second.

Mek nods.

"What would you have said?" Boss whispers, his body rolling back a little further.

Mek stares into his eyes with such intensity that Boss can feel it in his toes.  Mek purses his lips, "You'd have to ask."

"Ask you to kiss me?" Boss breathes.  It feels like the space between them is shrinking.  There's not enough air in the room for Boss to be having this conversation.  It is filling him with hope, and it's unfair of Mek to give him something to cling onto.

"Or 'Can I kiss you?'" Mek responds quietly.

"Can I kiss you?" Boss parrots back without thinking.

Mek's face changes; it's softer than Boss has ever seen it.  He regards Boss seriously, brows bunched up, eyes searching for the answer to an unspoken question.  His free hand comes up to Boss's cheek, thumb gently following the curve of his cheekbone before picking up to sweep Boss's damp hair out of his face.  It feels like he's looking straight into Boss's soul; he feels naked, like there is nowhere to hide his plentiful flaws.  Mek's hand settles on just the right spot to cup his jaw.

Mek leans forward, and just when their noses brush against each other and Boss closes his eyes because he thinks that Mek is going to kiss him, Mek stops.

This is maybe the meanest thing Mek has ever done.  Boss can feel his own body trembling; he's ready to cry. 

Mek, on the other hand, is completely still, not moving forward or back. Boss can feel the rise and fall of his breathing against his shoulder, can feel the warmth of his exhale fan across his lips.  Yet, Boss cannot bring himself to open his eyes; he doesn't know what Mek will look like from this close.

After an eternity stuck in the intimate space of a kiss without anything happening but his feelings coming into even sharper focus, Mek speaks, "Yes."

Boss peeks, opening one eye, "Yes?"

"Yes, you can kiss me," Mek says so softly that Boss almost thinks he's hearing things. 

He promptly decides he doesn't care if it's a figment of his imagination supplying words for Mek; if there's a chance that Mek actually said it, Boss is going to seize the opportunity.  He closes the slight distance between their lips, eyes sealing shut once more, bringing his hand up to thread his fingers into Mek's hair.

It is remarkably different to kiss Mek sober.

Mek has soft lips; that's the same.  However, Mek's lips are pliant this time, responding to the slow movements of Boss's kiss with soft pressure.  Mek's sharp inhale is music to Boss's ears.  Mek presses harder against Boss's lips, and Boss's mouth twitches into a smile.  Their lips slot together before breaking apart to get an impossibly better position.  Mek's teeth rake over the sensitive skin of his lower lip, and oh, Boss wouldn't mind if he did that again.  He tentatively prepares himself to lick into Mek's mouth because, honestly, he needs to.

He tries to chase when Mek pulls away completely, hand pressing against the Boss's collarbone to keep him in place.  He stares at Boss's mouth for a moment before his eyes slowly meet Boss's gaze.  His expression is open, a mix of awe, disbelief, and contentment.  Mek touches his lower lip with the tips of his fingers before shrinking away from their half-embrace.  He folds his arm under his ear and uses it as a pillow. 

Boss flips over to face him, too aware of the pout on his lips.  "Can we kiss again?'

Mek shakes his head, "No."

"Why not?"

"I need to ask you a question," Mek replies, brows pinching together.

His stomach twists; he holds his breath to avoid betraying how truly nervous he is. What kind of questions does Mek want to ask?  Good or bad?

Mek takes a deep breath.  "Why--" Mek pauses, searching for the correct words.  It is yet another side of Mek that Boss has never seen before.  Not once has Mek ever struggled to make a point or failed to find the best words for the moment.  Mek inhales again, "Why did you want to kiss me?"

"Seriously?"  (Boss thinks it should go without saying.)

"Boss, I-- I can't just kiss you. That's not something that friends do, and I'm not really okay with a friends with benefits kind of--"

Boss interrupts, absolutely, wholly incredulous, "You think I want to be friends with benefits?"

Mek looks lost and shrugs, "I don't know what you want. Thought I used to, now not so much."

"Wait, hold on a second, if you weren't okay with us kissing, why would you say yes?"

Mek looks ashamed and treats his next words like a quiet confession, "Because I wanted to."

"Well, I want to kiss you and you want to kiss me. Neither of us wants to be friends with benefits.   Use your thinking brain, what's left?"

"I just told you that I don't know what you want," Mek replies pitifully.

"You!"  Boss nearly screams.  He swallows his annoyance back.  He should be a little nicer if he wants his words to be believed.  "I want you, but you know, the parts that I don't get by just being your best friend.  The kissing and holding hands and cuddling and flirting parts."

Mek looks sad, lips turning down ever so slightly, eyes losing just a little light.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because I don't want to wake up in the morning to realize that this has been a dream, a really truly lovely dream," Mek tells him.  He reaches out his hand to intertwine their fingers.  His thumb gently caresses Boss's knuckle.  "I'm having a hard time pretending that I only think of you as a friend."

Boss feels his heart take off again, running around his chest is absolute glee.  Mek thinks of him in the same way.  "Mek, I just told you that I want to do boyfriend things with you.  It would be the highlight of my year if you agreed to date me."

"I want to but--"

"Date me."

"Boss--"

Boss slides right up against Mek, worming his arms around him with a bright grin on his face, "Be my boyfriend."

"When I wake up--"

"I'll kiss you square on the lips.  Please, please, please, pretty please with a cherry on top, be my boyfriend."

Mek closes his eyes and smiles in spite of himself. "Okay."

Boss squeezes him, "Can we kiss again?"

A nod.

There is no space between them anymore.  Mek actively wraps himself around Boss as their lips work together at a much faster pace than before.  Mek tastes very clean and sweet.  They must kiss for hours, late afternoon light fading into evening into a sunset into the pitch darkness of night.  Boss's lips are swollen and bruised, and if Mek hadn't paused to tell him that they should sleep, he probably would have kissed him until his lips bled and then some more.

He falls asleep in Mek's arms, resting his ear against Mek's heart.

He'll thank Bohn later for being an absolute klutz.

 

//

 

In the morning, he wakes up with Mek lying across his chest.

Boss feels whole; he could ask for nothing more than what he has at this very second.  He runs his fingers through Mek's soft hair just because he can.  He's already so smitten with the idea of all the things he'll get to do with his boyfriend.

Mek rouses with a deep inhale.

Boss keeps his fingers rooted in Mek's hair and says, "You're my boyfriend.  No take-backs."

Mek laughs softly and plants a kiss in the middle of Boss's chest before turning to look at Boss as he rests in place.  Although he doesn't use words, the look in his eyes and the smile on his face promises Boss that he's not going anywhere.