Ichabod wiped at the condensation on his glass, trying to ignore the look of terror on Brom's face.
"What do you mean you've never been to a football game?" Ichabod sighed, leaving his glass of juice alone to nestle further into the corner of the couch.
"I mean that I've never been to a football game."
"How the fu- what kind of father didn't take his son to see football?" Brom had risen from his end of the couch on the last commercial break to grab another beer and had yet to sit down, instead gazing down on Ichabod with scrutinizing eyes.
"My father left." He shrugged. Ichabod had become used to people asking him questions about his upbringing, especially around nosy Katrina and the rest of the sleepy, strange town he now lived in.
"So? High school? You didn't get out there, even just to watch some boys in tight pants?" Brom wiggled his eyebrows at him, obviously uncomfortable with the reality of Ichabod's father.
"I don't know, not really? I did a lot of clubs, there never seemed to be time." He moved to grab the bowl of pretzels off of the coffee table, but Brom bent down quicker, passing it to Ichabod so he didn't have to move. He sat back down, his body facing Ichabod, even if he did have his eyes on the screen. It warmed Ichabod's heart, in a weird way, to see Brom trying to keep some sort of conversation while sweaty guys ran around a field.
"College?" Ichabod sighed softly, watching as Brom took a deep drink of his beer.
"We didn't have a football team." Brom's head swiveled towards him.
"What backwards ass school doesn't have a football team? Ivy league has football teams, and they're academic."
"The day you don't remind someone you went to Columbia.... I went to Berklee, Brom."
They fell into a comfortable silence after that, just the quiet hum of one of Brom's new neighbors vacuuming and the sound of the TV filling the air. In some ways, Ichabod felt bad for what happened between Brom and Katrina, as though it was his fault they got divorced, but each of them on multiple occasions had reminded him their marriage had been failing long before he arrived in Tarrytown. The apartment Brom rented was small but nice, especially considering he was on a teacher's salary. Ichabod guessed that was one of the charms of small town life, an apartment that size would have costed a fortune back in Manhattan.
Sunday night football was a new thing between them. Katrina ended up asking Ichabod to come over most nights after school, seeing as she was rather lonely for the first time since she was eighteen, and Ichabod needed a day to himself, which became Saturday. So, every Sunday since Brom moved out, Ichabod would come over just before eight with takeout, and they would watch a game. Sure, Ichabod only knew what was going on some of the time, but if the other man needed anything right now, it was a friend.
When halftime finally came, Ichabod stood up to stretch out and clear away the empty takeout containers. Brom looked up at him, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
"Are you free next Saturday?"
"Uh, yeah, I think so."
"I'm picking you up, be ready at noon." Ichabod raised his eyebrow at him as Brom started gathering his own garbage, as well as the three already empty bottles of beer he had surrounded himself with.
"You gotta see a football game, just trust me, Ichy. It'll be fun."
Ichabod stood in the mirror, regretting almost every choice he had made in his life. He had never realized how strange his glasses made his face look or how his hair was that wrong, and when the hell did he get so skinny? He puffed his cheeks out, glancing down at his phone, the Chopin playlist not calming his nerves at all. It wasn't a date. He knew that, and yet, Ichabod felt more nervous than he ever had for any of the bar dates or Grindr hookups back home. Maybe it was because, for once, he felt like he knew the guy he was going out with. As friends. Because Brom wasn't gay.
The pile of rejected clothing was growing on his bed, shirts and sweaters tossed on it haphazardly. He wanted to text Katrina, ask her for help on what to wear and what to do, but it felt awfully soon to ask his best friend for tips on how to get into her ex husband's pants. He itched at his arms as he examined his closet, deep shades seeming awfully boring for football, but bright shades would make him scream 'queer, not meant to be here'. He pulled a plain white turtleneck off a hanger and folded it between his hands.
The shirt looked good on him. He admired himself in the mirror over his dresser as he tucked the bottom into a pair of jeans. The shirt was a little thinner than he would have liked, the fabric pulled tight enough to his skin to show the outline of the tattoo running down his side if you really looked for it. Privately, Icabod hoped Brom was a tattoo guy.
He got the text from Brom saying he was outside as he was doing his hair, which was a terrifying expirence, trying to style his mop as he rushed through the halls of his building, not wanting the older man to wait too long.
Brom's truck was a loveable piece of shit. It was exactly what Ichabod would expect from a guy like him, an older blue pick up with a partially scratched off stick figure family and a couple of dents on it. It lacked the usual step on the side of it, meaning Ichabod basically had to crawl up into the cab of it, Brom chuckling from the driver's seat. The door closed with a slam, and Ichabod relaxed into the seat, feeling pitifully exhausted from the effort.
"Ichabod, buddy, I don't think I've ever seen you in a pair of jeans." Brom gestured to the distressed denim, and Ichabod felt blush rise up to his ears.
"I can't exactly teach in these."
"You come over to my place in dress pants, man. You can relax, you know? I'm not going to judge you for not looking like you have a stick up your ass."
"Thanks, Brom. That means a lot." Ichabod rolled his head over to meet Brom's look dramatically, and they looked at each other for just a moment before cracking up.
"Ichy, man, you kill me. Let's get going."
Ten minutes into the drive, Ichabod couldn't tell if Brom's taste in music was bad, or if he was just pretentious. Twenty minutes in, he knew the answer as yet another Blake Shelton song filled the cab. Quickly, the thick trees turned into the familiar busy streets and hustling crowds of the city.
"Does it feel weird? Being back in Manhattan?" Brom looked over at him, his face artfully unreadable. The traffic left them a lot of time to sit and talk, and Ichabod wasn't sure if he was grateful for that.
"I don't know. I mean... this is the first time I've been back, well, since I left. I don't really remember the last few months I lived here." Ichabod rested his head on the window, looking out, peering down the side streets they passed, memories threatening to take hold. "Where are we going anyway?"
"Columbia is facing off against Penn today, I figured you'd like college football more than the NFL."
"Is there a difference?"
"Is there a- I'm going to be nice because this is your first game, but yes there is a difference." Ichabod pulled away from the window as they passed an overly familiar bar, huffing as he shuffled into his seat. Brom cleared his throat.
"I probably should have asked if you were ready to be back here."
"No, it's alright. It's like exposure therapy. It's not like I wouldn't have come back eventually." He absentmindedly scratched at his forearm, dull nails pulling at old scars. Brom swatted him.
"None of that in my truck." Ichabod could see Brom trying not to smile at him as Ichabod rolled down his shirt sleeve again.
"So... a football game. What's that like?"
"You'll find out."
The parking lot was crowded, and Ichabod stuck close to Brom's side, daunted by the amount of drunk college students rallying around. The older man was confident in his movements, parting the crowds with practiced ease as he directed them towards the entrance. Ichabod waited a few feet back as Brom bought their tickets, insisting that he covered them because he had dragged Ichabod out.
Before he left the car, Brom had pulled out a jacket and a hat, and Ichabod was already a bit disappointed he had been neglected to be told that football is, in fact, played outside. The wind cut through his thin shirt as they shuffled towards the bleachers, which were already busy with students in blue. He followed Brom as he brought him up to one of the middle bleachers, which were a bit more sparce with spectators than the lower or the higher spots.
"Hey, you wait here, I'll go grab us some drinks." Brom pointed down towards a concession stand Ichabod hadn't noticed they passed by. He nodded, letting himself watch Brom's ass for just a moment before checking his email, answering questions from students. A few minutes passed before Brom came back, smiling widely at him with a plastic cup in each hand.
"Beers for the boys!" He chuckled, placing the cup with a straw beside Ichabod.
"Uh, thanks Brom, but I don't drink, remember?" Brom took a sip of his drink before settling down beside Ichabod, their thighs nearly touching.
"Yeah, I know. Yours is root beer. They don't put straws in the big boy drinks." Brom swirled his beer around in the clear cup, and Ichabod felt warm.
"Oh. Thanks." He took a sip through the straw, shuffling closer to Brom. Ichabod watched with amusement as the band began setting up, excitement building in his chest, he hadn't known football meant music. He squeaked when he felt fabric push over his head, skewing his glasses slightly. Beside him, Brom laughed adjusting the hat to be pulled over Ichabod's ears.
"You're gonna freeze out here, buddy." Brom's hair was stuck up wildly, having pulled the hat off to put on Ichabod. He pushed his glasses back on before nodding at Brom.
"Yeah, I didn't check the weather before I left. That's on me. Thanks for the hat." Brom nodded, throwing an arm over Ichabod's shoulders, shaking him in a way that made Ichabod feel like he was killing his braincells.
Halftime had Ichabod on his feet the whole time, entranced by the large marching band taking over the field, every student in perfect step as they played. Brom laughed from his seat as Ichabod clapped at the end of a song, and Ichabod looked down at him.
"This is really cool." Ichabod covered his mouth when he realized how loud he was speaking, the ringing in his ears almost overwhelming the crowd. Brom chuckled, standing up beside him.
"Hey, we should get a picture." He pressed his thumb into the home button, looking around for someone to take a picture of him. Ichabod cleared his throat.
"Brom, you're adorable." Brom turned to him, eyes wide.
"Your Google is still open. What would make you think root beer isn't vegan?" Brom looked down at his screen and huffed, clearing the search quickly.
"I wasn't sure, I didn't want to, like, poison you." Ichabod shook his head, putting his hand on Brom's bicep.
"You're nicer than I thought."
"Yeah, don't you let word get out." Brom smiled at him, nose scrunching up before he turned to a girl behind them.
"Hey, could you take a picture of us?"
The energy from the crowd took over Ichabod in a way he didn't expect. With every tackle, he rose to his feet, slapping the hands of the students around him, and he had no idea what he was shouting from time to time, but it was fun. Really fun. He hadn't felt like part of a crowd in so long, but here, he could cheer for a team he had never seen and feel genuine excitement when anything happened, even if he didn't really understand the game.
Brom pointed to the field with the hand that wasn't comfortably around Ichabod.
"So this guy, number sixty-three, he's one of the best players in the league right now, he's gonna go for the touchdown. And he's gotta get it, or they're gonna lose. They're on the fourth down and there isn't enough time left to do anything else." The game had gone by faster than Ichabod expected, and now in the fourth quarter, Penn State was up by four points, much to the chagrin to the screaming crowd. Ichabod nodded, cupping his mouth to join in with the chant.
The whistle blew and Brom was nearly jumping up and down, shouting with excitement. Scuffle broke out across the field, players from both teams pushing and pulling, making Ichabod nervous in a way he couldn't explain. The player he pointed out was tossed the ball and broke out into a sprint towards the end zone, throwing it down on the ground with a finality as the crowd exploded. Brom howled, arms wrapping around Ichabod's smaller frame, picking him up with ease, swinging him around in his excitement. Ichabod laughed, holding on tight until his feet hit the ground, Brom looking down on him with a big, toothy grin. In a moment of confidence, Ichabod reached for Brom's face, cupping his cheek. The smile on Brom's face changed and he leant down, meeting Ichabod's lips with a soft peck for just a moment before pulling back.
"Was that okay?"
"Kissing me? That was okay, it was just a terrible kiss." Brom laughed, full bodied, and shook his head.
"I've never kissed a guy before."
"Then why don't I teach you?" Ichabod lifted onto his tip toes, meeting Brom halfway. They'd have to go to more football games in the future.