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You May Jump Without Fear

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Lew was resting easy in the understanding that college was the hardest thing he would ever have to deal with.

His classes were fun and intriguing, with just enough of a challenge to really keep his interest, his classmates were nice and funny, and his roommate was -thankfully- everything he could have hoped for and more.

Wilbur “Runner” Conley was a small bastard of a man- the smallest Lew had ever seen, if he was being honest. He was sweet enough looking on the outside and just enough on the inside to be called “nice” but had just enough of a mischievous devil streak to be called an asshole on occasion. Lew loved when that occasion arose and he found himself laughing right along with him at whatever misfortune had befallen Leckie or Ronnie or, god forbid, Hoosier. He was tidy and knew how to cook and had good taste in music and movies, so of course he and Lew became best friends within a month of knowing each other.

They got along swimmingly and had done so for the last two years, which was the problem because now Lew found himself harboring a bit of a crush.

“A bit of a crush” was an understatement according to Hoosier and Leckie. Lew had made the mistake of coming to them for help since they had been together for the past year. All they had done was laugh at him and his attempts to parse his feelings for Runner. After a while of Lew pacing and tearing his hair out, they decided to put their own best foot forward and actually help Lew by having him put together a list of things Runner did that Lew liked or loved.

The list was…. longer than expected.

When Lew asked how they managed to get together when their personalities were so obtuse and they butted heads so easily, he was expecting some passionate explanation of careful planning and explosive execution. Lew figured that he and Runner had much more in common, so there should be no problems in actually confessing or being together as a couple. All Leckie had said in reply was “I know I'm dating Hoosier but that doesn't mean I know how it happened.”

Lew would get the truth out of them. Eventually. Knowing those two, there was much much more to that relationship that Lew may or may not actually want to know, but by god was he going to concern himself with the love lives of his friends to distract himself from his own.

His college life was full of pestering his friends, pestering his roommate, and pestering his teachers. He excelled in his classes and always asked questions and yeah maybe he stayed up until two in the morning correcting work but who didn’t, right?

Once finals season arrived, and essays became a teacher's favorite thing to assign, Lew had a completely different idea of college. It came up the same every year, and every year Lew forgot the mayhem and mentally exhausting work that was coming.

“This is bullshit! She assigns us a three thousand word essay three days before its due! I have a lab that same day so I can't work on the essay the day of, and then I still need to study for my other exams. Runner, I have like four essays due in the next three weeks!”

Runner rolled his eyes from the bed he was laying on. “That's definitely an exaggeration, I'm sure. Just spend more time on your essays instead of playing Call of Duty and you'll be fine. It'll last, like, a week.”

“Besides,” he added, turning to face Lew properly. There was an impish smirk on his face. “I think I have five due.”

“Oh, yeah, because you always have it worse than me,” Lew snickered. “You always have me beat somehow.”

“Exactly. someone's gotta get it through your thick and rock-like skull that you can't win at everything.”

After that, the conversation lulled. They worked for a while like that, quiet comments made about the work or a scathing remark saved for a teacher or fellow student. Runner reached over to the speaker they had, turning it on and connecting it to his phone. Music started coming through, the sound low and ambient so they could still focus. Lew recognized it as Hoosiers “Chill Playlist.”

They continued for about an hour more, Lew finally getting into the groove of working and finding a rhythm to his words. Meanwhile, Runner had begun to growl irritably under his breath.

Lew stopped humming along to the song when he noticed this. Runner had a hand in his hair, not pushing it back out of his eyes in a move Lew adored (it was number 5 on The List), but instead gripping tightly and tugging every once in a while.

“Hey, Bud, you alright over there?”

Runner looked over. His eyebrows were remarkably downturned in a way Lew had rarely seen except for during this time of year, and even then, it never seemed so bad. He longed to smooth out the wrinkle between his eyebrows, and maybe kiss his forehead too. Lew longed for a lot of things.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Just an essay I'm having trouble with. Teacher gave me rotten reviews and bullshit advice, so I don't really know how to fix this mess.”

“The stupid essay about that dumb play you always mention?”

“Yes! I keep thinking I'm done with it but she always comes back with some nitpicked issue! I swear she has it out for me,” Runner sighed and turned back to his laptop. The typing resumed, this time at a slower pace than the furious clacking from before. “I'm just trying to get the bare bones done for tonight and then I’ll stop.”

Lew frowned. He honestly doubted that. Runner had a hell of a work ethic and sometimes he just didn't know when enough was enough. Leckie said it came from his inferiority complex stemming from his height- an inferiority complex Runner denied having- and that he just needed to chill out about somethings. Coming from Leckie, this was laughable. That man never knew when to chill out.

“Alright. If you need any help, just let me know.”

Runner waved a hand in his direction, effectively dropping the topic so he could go back to work.

The problem wouldn't leave Lew's mind, however, and he drifted away from thoughts about his work. He felt like he had done enough for today and knowing Runner, he definitely needed a break right about now.

Lew grabbed his phone, noting the time and ignoring the 15 texts from Leckie and three missed calls from Gibson. He went straight to the youtube app.

Sneaking a quick glance at Runner to make sure he wasn't looking, Lew reached over and unplugged his phone from the speaker. The music cut and Runner didn't stop typing. Mission success.

He looked at the tense line of Runner's shoulders and the irritated set of his mouth as he typed in the song with fumbling fingers, only making about three spelling errors.

He clicked on the first video he sees and groans softly when it takes a while to load. Fucking shitty wifi.

“Hey, did you stop the music?” Runner finally noticed, looking over at him with a confused look on his face.

Lew didn't answer and maintained eye contact as he turned the volume dial on the speaker all the way up just in time for the music to start blasting.

It was an unmistakable tune, one that he was positive Runner would recognize and, sure enough, he burst out laughing.

“Fucking One Direction? What the hell is this?”

“An intermission!” Lew grinned. He began to sing along.

“You're insecure, don't know what for. You're turning heads when you walk through the do-oh-or!”

Runner was laughing at him now, Lew knew this. He also knew he would do just about anything short of maybe killing a man for that bright, carefree smile.

“Everyone else in the room can see it, everyone else but you-ooh!”

He jumped up to his feet, making Runner’s eyes go wide in delight. The smile on his face made it worth it when he hit his head on the ceiling. His feet narrowly avoided his own laptop as he began to hop around.

“BABY, YOU LIGHT UP MY WORLD LIKE NOBODY ELSE!”

He screamed the words, hardly singing anymore, and did a few more jumps on his own bed until he lept over to Runner’s in time with the song.

“The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed!”

Runner was scrambling to pick his stuff up and out of Lew’s path of destruction, but he was laughing too hard to properly grab anything, so he just pushed it all onto the floor in a giant heap. Lew held out his hands as he kept singing, grabbing Runners' wrists to haul him up to his feet.

“But when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell! You don't know, oh oh!”

Runner beamed up at him, tears stuck in the corners of his eyes, and wasn't that a sight. His smile took up his whole face here. Nothing but pure, blinding happiness.

“You don't know you’re beautiful!” He jumped in, adding his own voice to the crooning of One Direction. Lew barked out a laugh. He could feel his own smile splitting his face in two.

They began to hop together and eventually Lew let go of Runner to jump back over to his own bed. He wobbled and damn near lost his balance, but it was worth it to hear Runner’s laughter renewed.

“You know I don't have hair to flip, right?” Runner asked breathlessly. He was leaning against the wall, holding his side like he had a stitch.

Lew hummed. “Maybe, but your smile certainly gets me overwhelmed.”

And maybe that was too close to home but fuck it. It was late, and Lew had been studying for so long for shit he couldn't bring himself to care about at this hour. They were juniors in college and soon enough, they would graduate and truly be alone in the world without the friends they made here. It was unlikely they would end up at or near the same place, and Lew ached with it. He needed his friends, but if he was only able to keep one of them, he might as well just go for it.

Runner just laughed and continued with the song, bouncing lightly in place. It might’ve hurt if the sight hadn’t been so charming.

“Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe you don't know-oh-oh!”

He looked directly at Lew.

“You don't know you’re beautiful!” They sang together. Runner swung his arms up and jumped over to Lew’s bed. Lew wrapped his arms around his waist to keep him steady and they stayed like that for a moment, catching their breaths.

Lew had finally calmed down during the climax of the song, in a strange twist of irony. He had his head resting on top of Runner’s and could feel the rapid beating of his heart through his chest. He couldn’t tell if it was from the exhilaration of jumping, or from the confession at the tip of each of their lips.

Right when he inhaled, ready to ask Runner if he could talk to him about something important, Runner’s hand jabbed into his side, his quick little fingers lightning fast as he began to tickle Lew and the chaos started again, fast and hard.

The song picked up and they were screaming the lyrics, jumping from bed to bed as they tried to escape each other. Runner nearly fell off the bed and ate shit at some point, but he caught himself and they laughed uproariously at the noise he had made when he slipped. Lew couldn't remember a time he had laughed so hard and for so long.

Just as the song ended, Lew dropped flat on his back onto his bed, bouncing slightly. Runner made one last jump over and dropped next to him with a loud oof.

The song faded out and quietness filled the room, save for the stray giggle and gasping breaths. Lew looked over at Runner. He had his eyes closed and a smile leftover on his face like it was glued there. His cheeks were red and his hair was totally messed up, dark strands sticking up in random spots. Lew had never seen someone so beautiful.

Runner rolled over onto his side, opening his eyes. He propped himself up on his elbow and looked down at Lew. There was something in his eyes Lew didn't hope to give a name to.

“So… was there a reason for that song choice besides One Direction being the saving grace of the music industry for our generation?”

Lew chuckled. “Maybe I just have an affinity for their music, Runner, ever think about that?”

Runner huffed. “You've never listened to a One Direction song in all the time I've known you, but I'll let it slide.”

He laid back down, this time with his head on Lew’s shoulder. He stretched his arm out and over his chest as he nuzzled into Lew’s neck.

“I like your smile too, you know.”

Lew broke out into a grin. A true, beaming smile that he knew showed all his teeth and widened his mouth in an almost scary way, but he couldn't help himself. He couldn't wipe this smile off his face if he tried, not even if he was threatened to. All that was on his mind was this moment, with Runner right next to him and his rucked up blue sheets. Everything else in the world came after.

“I think I can work with that. We both like each other's smiles, so what else even is there to a relationship?”

“Favorite foods,” Runner mumbled. Lew could tell he was beginning to drift off. The hype of their “break” mixed with the late hour and all that time spent studying meant Runner was probably exhausted. Lew was feeling rather tired himself. “I already know yours, though. It's the shrimp scampi from Olive Garden.”

“And yours is a regular old corn dog from whatever place even serves those to a grown man.”

“Right you are, my dearest Chuckler.”

Lew’s grin turned soft. He knew he should get up and turn the lights off if they were to fall asleep now, but Runner was melting into the embrace, his breathing evening out into the deepness of sleep, and Lew’s own eyelids were beginning to droop. He felt more comfortable like this, with half his body on the bed and Runner’s arms and legs wrapped around him like a particularly handsome octopus, than he ever felt in his own bed alone.

Fuck it. They could deal with it in the morning.

Right now, it was the most perfect thing in the world to fall asleep with the lights still on.