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If I Was Your Boyfriend

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   "Please Mark!" Ethan grasped his hands together, eyes wide and pleading.

   "Ethan I already said no" Mark said with full exasperation as he placed their used dishes in the sink.

   "Come on! I need you to do this for me pleaseeeee when have I ever asked for anything?" Ethan begged bending into Mark's space at the sink.

   "Hm let me think," Mark said sarcastically, "Building your gaming chair, fixing your camera and oh yeah putting away your dishes"

   Mark nodded at the dishes in his hand and eyed him with an incensed expression glued on his face. Typically Ethan would suggest something absolutely insane, Mark would denounce his goofy bullshit and then Ethan would find another concept to get obsessed with. This time was different somehow. And while Mark would sometimes get roped into Ethan's plans once he shot those puppy dog eyes and lopsided smirk at him this time he wouldn't. He couldn't.

   "Oh come on" Ethan whined and damn it the puppy eyes had arrived.

   Mark sighed hastily, closing his eyes partly to block out Ethan's incessant whining and catastrophic dimples. What Ethan was proposing could only end in disaster for their friendship and shared channel.

   It all started when Ethan was invited to go to this office party that his nemesis at the company was hosting. Some guy named Ricky or Randolph or something. Originally he affirmatively said no to the offer considering he would rather cut off his toes individually before having to interact with that man all night. But then his boss joined in the conversation and briefly mentioned the promotion that Ethan had been striving for ever since he began as an intern for the company. He talked directly to Ethan about attending the stupid party, gushing about how he should have some fun for once and Ethan of course agreed only wanting to get on his good side. 

   "This is entirely your fault Ethan!" Mark proclaimed.

   "Hey, it's not my fault Richard is an ass-munch and started going on about his fantastic wife and being all like 'Oh Ethan you aren't bringing anyone right?' in the smuggest damn voice I'd ever heard!"

   Ah yes, Richard.

   "Ethan" Mark deadpanned.

   Ethan gnawed on his lip staring Mark down until finally he resigned the battle and sighed drearily, "Ok fine it was my fault"

   "And how was it your fault?" Mark pushed, raising an eyebrow like an upset parent.

   Ethan's eyes slanted and he rolled them before answering, "It's my fault for telling them my wonderful, fantastical boyfriend would be coming too"

  Mark threw his arms up in the air as if to say 'see?' and went back to scrubbing the dishes. 

   "You're really going to let me look like a complete ass in front of Richard tonight?" Ethan inquired, resting his hand on Mark's shoulder.

   'Better than pretending to date you' Mark thought to himself. 

   For years now Mark had been shoving down his emotions for this boy so he could stay in his life and with what he was asking Mark he would be forced to give that all up. Spend one amazing night being able to kiss and touch Ethan with no worries about affecting their friendship and then be heartbroken for the next 364 days of the year? 

   "Please Mark" Ethan's dough eyes clouded his vision, "I really want that promotion I've been working my ass off for years" 

   Damn it Ethan knew his weak spot. Hard work not being paid off. And Ethan wasn't bluffing the number of times Ethan had stayed up even later than him which was a great feat in itself to finish a project was astronomical. He had been working at this company ever since he was eighteen desperate to make his way up the ranks. His eyes skirted over Ethan landing on his weary expression, he could be one manipulative son of a bitch but Mark felt the sincerity radiating from him. Presented through the small flicker of tangible fear in his eye alongside his twitching muscles. 

   This was where the issue began and ended for Mark. Starting way back when Ethan was a humble teenager and Mark a lonely hardworking hardass. And they worked together too well. Which was prevalent by them starting a Youtube channel together to pass the free time which Ethan consistently alleges he has even though he works almost all day on flow charts and slogans. And after a while, it all just clicked for him, not wild and rapid as some claim love to be but slow and willing. One hand always on the trigger ready to shoot his shot but being held back by so many factors.

   Mark let his gaze sit for a couple of seconds longer, let himself remain selfish in his thoughts and how he was totally going to lose this battle. He couldn't resist watching the adorable way Ethan ran his tongue over his lips constantly when he was nervous, leaving a sheen of spit shining and drawing Mark's eyes to them like crystals. Truly, how did anyone expect him to not fall for Ethan's eccentric personality and sparkling raw amber eyes?   

   "Fuck" Mark huffed, eyes landing on the ceiling as he recognized how awful an idea this was, "Fine I'll do it"

   Ok, there was one thing more fun than watching Ethan nervous and that was him excited.

   "Really!?" Ethan exclaimed eyes popping out of his head as he jumped up and down, "You mean it!?"

   "Only" Mark continued, "If you learn how to clean your own fucking dishes lazy-ass"

   "Fuck yeah!" Ethan hollered, fist-pumping the air which made Mark snicker, "Won't let you down papa bear!"

   Mark groaned and rubbed his forehead knowing it was concerning that he found even the use of that weird nickname charming. 

   "So as your 'boyfriend'" Mark grimaced, "what exactly do I have to wear?"

   "It's business casual Marky-moo" Ethan teased his tongue poking out childlike, "Button-down and jeans should do it"

   "But have you considered my green t-shirt with a dinosaur on it?" Mark asked, eyebrows raised, "Could make an impression Ethan"

   Ethan rolled his eyes and picked up his keys which were laying on the granite counter, "Not a good one Mark"

   He strode over to the front door, eyes still twinkling with victory making Mark bit his cheeks to stop from smiling. He had to at least pretend he was somewhat upset about being forced into this. Ethan turned the brass knob yet stopped before heading out of the door.

   "I'll pick you up at eight" Ethan turned his head and winked dramatically, "Boyfriend"

   With that exaggerated exit, Ethan grinned widely and bounced jovially out the door, humming an unknown tune. A half-washed glass floated mid-air in Mark's hand as he processed the loveable and infuriating qualities of his counterpart. 


   "Ok, we met at a Frank Ocean concert about a year ago" Ethan explained in the Uber while adjusting his collar, "You asked me out and—"

   "Hey!" Mark exclaimed, "Why am I the one who asked you out?"

   Ethan rolled his eyes at Mark's defensive tone, "Fine Mark I asked you out...happy?"

   A slow but patent smirk grew on Mark's face as he succeeded in getting a rise out of Ethan, "Very"

   "Control freak" Ethan mumbled checking his watch for the billionth time.

   There was a meagre tremble to Ethan's voice which hinted Mark to his anxiety way before Ethan started to pick at his fingernails, nervous habit number two. Mark placed a gentle hand on his shoulder grabbing his attention.

   "Hey" he pitched his voice quieter, "Everything is going to be fine ok?"

   Ethan swallowed apprehensively but nodded all the same, trying to calm his breathing.

   "Besides if you mess up I have enough natural charisma to get us through this entire night"

   Ethan huffed out a chuckle which meant Mark had completed his mission. 

   "Can't believe I'm dating a total narcissist" Ethan teased.

   Internally Mark knew it was a mindless joke about their current predicament but hearing Ethan refer to him as his boyfriend sent a flutter of nerves crawling up Mark's spine.

   "You gotta admit narcissism looks hot on me"

   Ethan snorted and shook his head, his gaze clear from stress. 

   "We've made it sir" Brady, their Uber driver, declared.

   Ethan wiped his sweaty palms down his pant legs while Mark checked his reflection in the mirror.

   "Thank you," Ethan said with a sweet smile and grabbed Mark's hand to pull him out of the car, "Come on sweetheart"

   Mark's eyes narrowed at him pretending to be disgusted with the pet name while his blood boiled from the heat swirling in his chest. Before he could respond a well-dressed man who was linked arm in arm with an attractive young woman approached them. His jawline was defined while the rest of his features Mark deemed soft. Wide oval eyes sparkling with nefarious delight set by a smile curved upwards unlike Ethan's effortless one in so many ways. His partner held a completely different look. Her eyes were almond-shaped and coloured to fit while her perfectly straight teeth gleamed underneath the street light holding true innocence. 

   "Ethan! I'm glad to see you made it!" his tone was sickly sweet fake in tone and presentation.

   Ethan's happy smile soured at the tone but to his credit, he didn't let his hatred of this man replace the mirth in his eyes.

   "Richard," Ethan leaned onto Mark which sent a spike of fire through him and a spike of resentment through Richard based on his twitching smile, "This must be Abigail, it's lovely to finally meet you"

   When talking to Abigail Ethan's tone altered significantly, his marketing degree coming to full use. Abigail tucked a piece of her honey-coloured hair behind her ear and returned the pleasantry.

   "Likewise" her voice was soft and elegant punctuated by a slight southern twang.

   While Ethan had been the only person on his radar for a long time this woman would have been a contestant if there was a competition for his affections. Subtly he c checked out her ample features without notifying the other people around them. Short with lascivious curves that sent any man or women's mouth watering.  

   "And who is this fine gentleman?" Richard's snooty voice pricked Mark like a needle drawing his attention back.

   Ethan wrapped an arm around him which didn't feel unnatural since Ethan was quite an affectionate individual without all the fake pretences. Playing up his act to make Ethan proud his lips spread into a broad grin the one he used countless nights to charm conquests.

   "Mark" he extended his hand politely, "I've heard so much"

   Ethan coughed to cover a snicker and squeezed Mark's shoulder in warning. Mark kept his gaze on Richard, intimidation through passive-aggressive kindness was too fun. 

   "Strange" Richard countered, "I haven't heard much about you at all"

   Abigail, attempting to be slick, hid shoving her elbow into Richard's side with her purse, producing a wince from him. So at least one of them knew how to be civil. 

   "Why don't we head inside? The air is getting a bit nippy" Abigail suggested motioning to the door of the building. 

   Bless Abigail's kind southern heart. 

   "Couldn't agree more" Ethan chimed happily.

   They began walking and Mark tried to ignore the fact Ethan grasped his hand again. The ride up the elevator was more than awkward as Ethan attempted to converse with Abigail through Richard's interruptions. No matter what was said Richard would use it to either jab at Ethan or compliment himself. Mark was gritting his teeth trying to quell his frustration as he felt Ethan's self-esteem go under attack through and through.

  "So how long have you been at the company for?" Abigail sweetly inquired, her tone speckled with disappointment in Richard as well.

   Ethan sucked in a deep breath probably preparing himself for another cut off from Richard. And as it were—

   "Couple years right Ethan? I believe he first started as an intern while I was in my third year of being an employee. Took a while to climb the ranks didn't it bud?" 

   Mark bit his lip to the point of blood vessels bursting. This fucking guy was really trying to call out Ethan for being inexperienced? He had done more to serve this company than dickbag Richard seeing as he runs his mouth more than he works. An angry flush rose up Ethan's neck and he could see the frantic energy glaze over his eyes. Mark needed to step in before Richard was a corpse on the floor.

   "You're right Richard"  Mark jumped in all eyes turning to him, "and soon he'll be promoted despite being so new! Truthfully I always thought this company could use a....younger touch"

   Yeah, take that you jackass. 

   Ethan hid his gaping mouth behind his hand as Richard snapped his gaze away from Mark's knowing eyes. Fake boyfriend or not he would not stand here and listen to this little bitch put down Ethan. Even Abigail was biting back a smile, the scintillating amusement in her eyes giving her away. 

   Finally, they landed on the top floor which was prevalent by the low humming music pouring in through the slit of the elevator door and the pleasing soft ding that alerted all of them. 

   "And here we are," Richard said regaining his superior poise.

   As the elevator doors slid open, a few dozen people turned to glance at who was arriving which sent a tremble of unease through Mark. For how outgoing he appeared in videos Mark was a purebred introvert who would rather be eating popcorn and watching movies alone than making small talk with boring business people. Still, it was all about appearances which he prided himself on.

   "Richard, Ethan! You made it!" 

   A small man with a balding patch in the centre of his head easily visible due to his height rushed over to them. Mark wracked his brain for the name Ethan gave him but came up empty feeling guilty at his short-term memory. 

   "And this must be Abigail and Mark, it's truly a pleasure" he grabbed Mark's hand and vigorously shook it then dropped it and gave Abigail the same treatment.

   Even in this day and age, Mark was surprised by the progressive nature of this office, opening their arms to a same-sex couple. Then again the company was going through some changes. Mark wasn't kidding when he amped up Ethan's age, the company started to hire younger once Ethan became a full-term employee.

   "Pleasure is all mine" Mark hastily said tacking on an effortless smile.

   "Same goes for me" Abigail laughed, cheeks rosy and eyes bright.

   "Well come on, go grab some drinks and enjoy this lovely Friday evening away from your desks!" 

   The man hurried back to a much younger woman who was decked out in a leopard print shawl and black sequin dress. Mark concealed his judgemental frown by coughing into his hand and turning to Ethan. Ethan's wide eyes showed he was feeling the same type of way he was.

   "Well, I'll see you, boys later, enjoy yourselves alright?" Richard sneered and threw on a grimy wink.

   Ethan and Mark nodded, enthusiasm dulled by their obvious disinterest.  Richard pulled Abigail along who sent them a small wave and apologetic smile.

   "So" Ethan smirked, "What do you think?"

   "Oh, we hate Richard" Mark said in a hushed manner.

   Ethan chuckled and grabbed Mark's hand to pull him along, "Thought so"

   "And what about Mr. Monopoly Man over there whose only missing the monocle?" 

   "Mr. Buddington?" Ethan clarified and then with faux curiosity added, "Whatever do you mean?"

   "Well if that hot side-piece isn't Mr. Buddingtons daughter than I've never seen a more ostentatious sugar daddy"

   They stopped at the drinks table and Mark watched as Ethan poured Ginger Ale into two glasses.

   "What you don't think he could get her on his own terms?" Ethan asked with a grin that meant he knew the answer.

   Mark scoffed and grabbed the drink from Ethan's hand taking a brief sip before continuing, "He has the appearance of a mouldy lemon Ethan, do the math"

   Ethan lost it at that one, ginger ale running down his chin through half-stilted coughs and giggles. Mark rolled his eyes and picked up a red napkin from the table leaning over to dab the liquid off of Ethan's chin before he could think against it. Their eyes met and the napkin, as well as Ethan's eyes, darkened which halted Mark's movements. Ethan stopped Mark's crazed internal worrying that he just gave himself away by smiling affectionately.

   "Thank's babe" Ethan teased, laughing still.

   Mark laughed with him after a short delay trying to play it off like he was just really good at his role as well as being genuinely relieved that Ethan unknowingly gave him an out. Ethan let him wipe his chin a couple more times before grabbing the napkin out of his hand to finish the job himself. Mark silenced his nerves by taking a long sip from his cup, so lost in thought he didn't really taste the sugary drink anyway.

   "Why soda for you? Not planning to get drunk tonight?" Mark questioned, a teasing aspect to his voice alongside actual interest.

   Ethan bumped their hips together lightly as he finished licking off the remnants of soda on his face.

   "What? And leave you to deal with my sloppy drunk ass? Nah we're partners in this dude, if you have to get through this night sober than so do I"

   Though his words were only those of a considerate friend Mark couldn't help but flush at Ethan calling him his partner. And also willingly choosing to deal with Richard all night without a drop of alcohol in him. Hell, Mark was fucking allergic to the stuff and after a three-minute elevator ride, he was considering chugging the entire bottle of whiskey on the table. Mark's eyes flickered back to Mr. Buddington and his young arm candy laughing obnoxiously loud at one of his jokes.

   "So where did he pick her up? Summer camp or the strip club?" 

   "He's a wealthy business owner with looks that could kill—and not in a good way—he didn't have to pick her up anywhere, she found him"

   Mark hummed deep in thought not exactly sure how to answer that. His eyes scanned around the room, intrigued by the constituents that made up this dull party. The music was as lively as a funeral and the chatter of everyone was combining together into one big glob of nonsensical rambling. Mark hated these types of things which must mean he truly loved Ethan by just being here.

   "So what does one do at a business party?" Mark questioned, nervous energy thrumming through him the longer they stood around.

   He wasn't being watched but in this atmosphere, a glance in his direction felt condemning. 

   "Listen to a bunch of narcissists stroke their egos" Ethan quietly admitted and then slapped him on the shoulder, "Hey! You should fit right in!"

   Mark rolled his eyes and shouldered his hand off of him, "So who should we talk too first?"

   Ethan didn't miss a beat before responding, "My boss, he's the one handing out promotions on a silver platter"

   Mark shook the tension out of his shoulders and took a deep breath in finding his balance in this crowd-heavy room.

   "Alright, lead the way"

   The biggest smile he could manage was plastered on his face by the time Ethan and he joined into the conversation. Buzzwords flew around about leadership and effective communication while Mark listed off as many skills of Ethan's he could without recking the flowing dialogue. Once in a while, Ethan would send him a thankful glance or a smirk that said tone it down and Mark followed through. Just as any good boyfriend would.    


   After listening to Mr. Buddington's booming laugh after one of his hilarious anecdotes and trying to ignore his not so subtle groping of his wife Mark needed to find a way to tap out of the conversation without being rude. There was only so much a man could take watching cookie crumbs scatter and stick in his beard while he continued to talk with his mouth open. He had been thinking up an excuse ever since what he called 'Act 2' in his head started which was three more people forcing their way over, one of those people being Richard. He had toned down the rude remarks about Ethan but amped up the narcissistic bullshit about himself. Mark's head was whirring with stories of yacht vacations and the secretary's daughter getting into Stanford. Safe to say he needed to leave before things got explosive.

   He timed everything perfectly, watching for an ample lull in the conversation before subtly glancing at the snack table and letting people notice him doing that. Once the time had come he jumped into his plan full force hoping no roadblocks would get in the way.

   "Oh! It looks like we're running low on drinks" Mark casually commented.

   Hearing a flaw about his wondrous party Mr. Buddington perked up walking around Mark to look at the table, "Nice catch young man! I'll go get more from the storage room"

   "No! I wouldn't want to drag you away from your vivacious party" Mark swatted his hand as if that would be preposterous, "Hey I know! Ethan and I can go grab them for you"

   A grateful smile overlapped Mr. Buddingtons scowl as he handed Mark the keys to the storage room, "Well thank you, Mark, how thoughtful"

   "Oh really it's no problem," Mark, without a sign of underlying motive, glanced at Ethan expectantly who had a look of awe cemented on his face, "Come on Ethan"

   Gracefully Mark whisked Ethan away, linking arms with him instead of dragging him by the shoulder as he usually would. He kept slipping in and out of his role as he watched their delusion fall on different people.

  "Vivacious? Really Mark?" Ethan snickered quietly, dropping his head to hide his growing smirk.

   Mark watched Ethan try to restrain himself and smiled giddily happy that his idea had gone off without a hitch. 

   "You know there's a fatal flaw in this plan?" Ethan whispered secretly, lips dancing close to his ear as lovers do.

   Mark concealed a shiver at the puff of warm breath tingling the skin and scoffed quietly, "And what is that?"

   Mark pulled him into a hallway that connected to the cleared off boardroom where the party was being held. Now that there were fewer people around Ethan raised his voice a little.

   "You have no clue where the storage room is"

   Mark whose gaze had been forward pretending he knew the route snapped to Ethan who was smirking at him mockingly. 

   Mark pulled him in closer so they were eye to eye and heard Ethan's small gasp at the surprise move, "Then you better help me"

   Ethan sighed in annoyance but the thin glimmer of fondness present in his eye dissuaded that.

   "Come on" he huffed and began to drag Mark with him down the dark corridor dimly lit by fading lamps. 

   The music weakened into a low hum as they travelled farther and farther away from the prattling of Ethan's coworkers sucking up to any higher official. Not like Ethan was any better he supposed but Mark liked Ethan, so he wasn't put on their pedestal.

   As Mark and Ethan searched for any sign of a storage room Mark took account of how maze-like this office was. And what for? This was an advertising building you'd think they'd have marked the hallways with more tact. Hallways led into more hallways which ended in large boardrooms surrounded by glass and most likely locked. Even if Mark knew what he was looking for he doubted he'd be able to find it.

   "Ya know this is kinda like in the horror movie when the killer is hiding in a dark spooky building waiting to slaughter unsuspecting teens," Ethan said, inching closer to Mark.

   "Scared Eth?" Mark teased, "Don't worry your big burly boyfriend will protect you"

   Ethan scoffed, "As if. You'd throw me to Freddy"

   Mark hummed in thought, "I do have a thing for sexy burnt skin and fedoras...think he'd let me try it on?"

   Ethan grimaced but a short laugh plummeted from his mouth, "You will never know how happy I am that in this scenario I'm already dead so I never have to see the atrocity that is you in a fucking—"

   "Ethan? Mark? Where you boys at?" Richard's grating voice echoed through the empty hallway, close enough to be around the corner.

   Mark flinched at the abrupt noise of another human while Ethan's eyes widened first in shock and then in dismay. He motioned for Mark to follow him as footsteps gained volume from down the hallway. The last thing Mark wanted to deal with was fucking Richard right now. Suddenly they were being hunted by something worse than Freddy....an ignorant prick.

   Mark lightened his steps as they tip-toed quietly and quickly down the hallway hoping that the linoleum floors wouldn't pick up the noise. But Richard was as loud as ever and only seemed to be getting closer. As Mark and Ethan skidded around another hallway corner, frantic enough that their legs almost slipped from underneath them Mark recalled that one scene from The Breakfast Club. He held back a chuckle needing full focus on their efforts of escaping Richard the Bitch-ard. 

   It was hard to see anything in these dark hallways especially considering the doors were marked 'Room 1...2...3' and on. How nondescript could they possibly get? The footsteps behind them seemed to pick up speed and sooner than later Mark and Ethan were going to meet their tragic end. The music was amping up, suspense rising as audience members leaned forward in their seats. When Ethan tapped him frantically and pointed to a door across from them. The 't' had faded over time but 'Sorage' was good enough for him. The music was crescendoing as Mark fumbled with the key, hand shaking as he placed it into the keyhole. 

   "Hello?" Richard exclaimed, his voice bouncing off the walls too close for comfort. 

   "Shit, shit," Mark muttered as he tried and then retried to successfully unlock the door.

   "Hurry!" Ethan squeaked pushing on Mark's back.

   The piss-poor encouragement played little part in Mark finally twisting the doorknob and pulling Ethan by his collar into the room just as Richard's foot appeared around the corner. They were shoved into a tight closet shelved with toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Ethan pressed his chest into Mark's as they stealthily swung the door closed with no sign that Richard saw them. Their breathing intermingled as they listened with intent to the sound of footsteps halting in front of the room. Mark's heart thrummed in his chest as Ethan grasped his own mouth to stop any noise from exiting. Thankfully within seconds the footsteps began again and dulled into a faint clicking noise after awhile. 

   Feeling as though the coast was clear Ethan dropped his hand and turned his attention to Mark who was staring wide-eyed at him, close enough he could feel Ethan's breath on his chin. Mark did a double-take of their position, more nervous about how good Ethan pressed up against him felt than Richard finding them. But also how ridiculous they had been acting as if this was actually a horror movie. 

   Synchronized chortling sputtered from their mouths like a rusty engine, Ethan leaning his forehead onto Mark as laughter wracked his body. They stayed like that for a few moments indulging in the simple pleasure of laughing, Ethan's chest inflating with each deep breath he took. Ethan grasped onto Mark's shoulders for support. Once they regained a sense of balance and established goals Ethan lifted his head, their space still close and connected. A stifled breath flew from Mark as he peered into honey glazed eyes, raw with emotion and jollity. 

   "Fucking Richard," they said in unison, dopey smiles gracing their faces. 

   "Are you impressed with how quickly I found the door?" Ethan commented, waggling his eyebrows, "Must be from all my pro-gaming skills"

   Mark scoffed and rolled his eyes, "Now I know that's not it considering how shit you are at them"

   Ethan pushed against him lightly, "Hey that's not very grateful of you! Seeing as I just saved your ass!"

   "Oh I'm sorry" Mark replied in a mocking apologetic tone, "Do you want me to get on my knees for you?"

   Oddly a light blush dusted Ethan's pale cheeks, the contrast deafening. Yet he smirked and looked Mark up and down forcing him to conceal a convulsion of warmth. 

   "Well that's certainly one way to repay me" 

   Mark raised an eyebrow unopposed to Ethan flirting but surprised by it. He glanced down at how close they were and knew exactly where his face would be if Mark got down. Electrifying tension was fizzling between both of them and Mark was having a hard time assessing what it all meant. It wasn't rare for Ethan to flirt and sometimes even push the boundaries of comfortable platonic friendship but somehow this felt different. A proposition of sorts. 

   "And a perfect way to kill time" Mark flirted, licking his lips deviously.

   Ethan wasn't immune to his outlandish claims and snickered at the rebuttal but that glimmer of interest didn't fade from his eye. They remained in each other's space, Mark's eyes travelling up and down Ethan's face before settling on his lips. They were so close and years of wanting had made him more desperate than he would care to admit. One push forward and he'd be able to lick the sweet soda off of him. Ethan seemed to be figuring things out as well, his eyes drifting down to Mark's lips in the form of curiosity rather than desire. It was all in an instance, a fleeting moment in time before Ethan slid sideways and broke the bond. 

   "Well here are the drinks" Ethan mentioned trailing a finger down one of the boxes.

   Mark followed it with his eyes half stuck in a daydream that he couldn't rid himself of completely. Was Mark only imagining the magnetism drawing them in? Ethan had so effortlessly broken away while Mark was still hanging in the balance unsure of his next move.

   "As much as I'd love to hide out in here for the next hour" Ethan smiled naturally with a hint of apprehension in it, "I think my boss might fire me if he doesn't get his fix of San Pellegrino"

   Mark nodded unable to push any words past his disappointed lips. Of course, he got his hopes up what alternative was there in a situation where they were pretending to be together? Mark needed to just get through the next hour unfazed and then repress this entire experience.


   His boss was happy enough that they brought back drinks and Mark had to say his and Ethan's acting was impeccable when Richard asked if they heard him in the hallways. He probably was coming to steal the drinks from them or try to place them in some scandal. Ethan did excuse them from the abysmally boring conversation with his boss which was a huge plus. He'd rather talk to Ethan at the drink table instead of talking about investing in the stock market with Mr. Moneybags. 

   "Hey, Mark?" Ethan inquired as Mark poured himself a drink.

   "Yeah?" 

   "I just..." Ethan scratched the back of his neck, "Thank you, for coming with me I know this hasn't been the most fun"

   Mark's eyebrows rose unprepared for the sincerity of Ethan's gratitude. A soft smile slid onto his face and he bit his lip to hold back from ruining the moment with a joke.

   "It hasn't been all that bad" he admitted, "You always make things fun"

   Ethan's lips twitched into a smile and he took a small sip from his drink, resolving the conversation before it had a chance to go anywhere interesting. Something piqued Ethan's care in the distance though as his eyes slanted with puzzlement and his knuckles turned white from him gripping his cup. Mark was about to turn around so he could question Ethan's sudden rigidness when Ethan skimmed a hand down Mark's cheek softly. Mark blinked slowly, eyes watching his hand slip away and graze Mark's chest slow and with purpose.

   "Ethan what—"

   Mark cut himself off when Ethan abruptly wrapped his pointer fingers in Mark's belt loops and pulled him closer staring up at him with a dopey affectionate expression overplayed on his face. While Mark's head was running wild with questions he couldn't bring himself to ask any of them. Having Ethan's attention like this? The dominant playfulness as his hands gripped Mark's sides and squeezed tenderly, one hand drifting further and landing on Mark's lower back? Well, it silenced Mark entirely. Clandestinely Ethan leaned in, eyes never once leaving Mark's making him go cross-eyed.

   "Laugh" Ethan whispered, his soft breathy tone ripping all air from his lungs. 

   The word confused Mark for how simple it was yet he didn't interrogate. A deep, breathy chuckle released from his chest with a level of ease he didn't even know he possessed. The tips of Ethan's ears turned pink at the noise and Mark needed badly to figure out what that meant. He wanted to know all of Ethan's quirks and reactions. Ethan didn't back away from his face though, instead, he took it upon himself to place his lips delicately on Mark's cheek. Mark's heart fluttered in his chest as he brought one hand to the table to steady himself. He was off-kilter from a simple brushing of Ethan's lips. They were soft and smelled like mint chapstick.

   When Ethan pulled back he gave a final glance over Mark's shoulder and then sighed out heavily, a grin spreading brightly on his face.

   "What...what was that?" Mark asked, his tan skin powdered a light salmon.

   Ethan snapped back into normal Ethan mode by blushing fiercely, fiery red spreading up his neck to his cheeks. He rubbed his hands on his pants anxiously.

   "I...um..." he coughed awkwardly, "...I saw...Richard, so I wanted to give him a show"

   Mark looked over his shoulder for confirmation and did see Richard staring at them in disgust. Mark shot an overly friendly smile back and felt his pride swell when Richard rolled his eyes and walked away.

   "Good call," Mark said hearing Ethan murmur in affirmation.

   "Hey...it's getting late we should probably get going" Ethan gestured to the elevator door but his movements were strained.

   Out of nowhere, Ethan was all fake smile, eyes glazed with discomfort. Mark opened his mouth to check if everything was alright when a hand landed on his shoulder.

   "Oh hello, boys! I hope you are enjoying yourselves?" Mr. Buddington queried.

   All discontent drained from Mark's face as he turned to face him. His hard features softened, worry lines disappearing from his forehead. Yet all he could conjure was a faint smile.   

   "Yes sir it has been excellent," Mark said, "But since it's getting quite late I think we are going to get going"

   Mr. Buddington clapped his hands together loudly, "Of course! Well, thank you for coming! But I do have a question for you before you go"

   Ethan and Mark looked at each other curiously both unsure of where this could be heading.

   "Listening to your opinions of this office Ethan has made me more than interested in what other ideas you may have for the future of this company," Mr. Buddington explained with a grin, showcasing stained teeth, "My wife is having a cocktail party on Saturday and I was wondering if you'd like to join? And that goes for you as well Mark" 

   The shock was visible on Ethan's face, highlighted by his agape mouth and enlarged eyes. 

   "Y-Yes sir that sounds fantastic"

   The smile that overtook Mark this time was real and filled with promises of Ethan's future. He certainly deserved the praise and was surely well on his way to getting promoted. But Mark couldn't help but be selfish for a second. He had been invited too and if he said no this rouse would be over. No more getting away with his longing stares or caressing touches. It would be back to normal Ethan and Mark who were simply friends. Giving that up was harder than Mark ever could have imagined. So without permission from either Ethan or himself, Mark let him have one more moment of greed.

   "I would be more than happy to come," Mark said, overlooking the inquisitive expression settling on Ethan's face. 


   
   Ethan didn't directly talk to him about it but the fact Mark accepted the invitation crept its way into every conversation they had anyway. Focusing on obstructing the ease in which they usually communicated turning their words static. 

   He came over to the apartment almost every day for filming but even then it felt like their line of communication had been disrupted. Cut by an invisible force that entered their lives when Mark agreed to be his fake boyfriend. Their videos entailed them to have great chemistry and long flowing banter however it's like Ethan and he had forgotten how to do that. The whole point of accepting Ethan's stupid plan was that it wasn't going to mess things up between them but now their whole dynamic was off. Like Ethan bought his groceries the other day because he noticed that Mark was out of milk and bread. Was it amazingly kind and sweet of him? Of course but that wasn't the point. The point is he had never done anything like that before. 

   Mark ruffled his hair and stretched his neck, joints cracking and popping. Shit, he was being insane. He couldn't argue that their little fake outing didn't add a newfound intimacy to their friendship. One where Mark could brush crumbs off of Ethan's lap because he always made such a goddamn mess or Ethan could buy his groceries without it being considered odd behaviour. Mark simply needed to remember that it didn't mean anything. Didn't mean Ethan liked him or that he wanted him for real. That was his own pipedream to harbour and he shouldn't displace it on to Ethan because his subconscious wanted to believe that Ethan's feelings were different now. 

   So Mark tried to act natural and pretend like he wasn't getting caught out more and more staring at Ethan from afar. What Ethan doesn't know won't hurt him but more importantly, won't make him leave Mark. That's why he invited Ethan to stay over for a movie night just like they used too and surprisingly Ethan accepted with little reluctance.

   "Here is your bowl sir," Ethan said plopping the bowl of popcorn down in Mark's lap.

   "Hey! Watch out for the goods!" Mark exclaimed jokingly, motioning to his crotch.

   Ethan rolled his eyes and jumped onto the couch farther away than Mark would have expected. A goofy and amused grin appeared on Mark's face as he tilted his head.

   "Um Ethan?" he wondered, "I'm not diseased"

   Ethan's eyes flitted from the screen to Mark who was staring at him with raised eyebrows. Without saying a word, Mark patted the spot next to him hoping Ethan was bright enough to get that clear message. Ethan nibbled his lip but quickly stopped probably realizing how nervous that made him look.

   "Right" he laughed softly and rubbed the back of his neck.

   The room was dimmed apart from the T.V which was casting most of the light. The bluish glare shadowed Ethan's face shading his features like a sketch. His movements were charged with hesitation as he scooted on the couch making it sag with his weight. He averted his eyes from Mark keeping them locked on the opening credits of 'Fight Club'. He was still pretty far from Mark but Mark wasn't about to complain and incriminate himself. 

   "I still can't believe you've never seen Fight Club" Mark murmured, his tone soft as to not take away from the movie's beginning dialogue.

   "You're surprised I'm not into watching guys fight each other?" Ethan said skeptically.

   Mark eyed him vigilantly searching for a comeback but ultimately released a defeated sigh, "Alright, you right, you right"

   Ethan smirked, his eyes more focused on Mark than the movie. Eventually, he shied away again, attentive to the actions playing on-screen but Mark could still sense his fidgeting. Uncomfortable with their closeness or something else Mark didn't know.

   As the movie progressed Ethan's squirming didn't stop if anything it grew more apparent. Mark attempted to ignore it as it didn't seem like Ethan was in the mood to discuss it but when a groan of discomfort slipped from Ethan's mouth he couldn't stop himself.

   "You good man?" Mark inquired worriedly.

   Ethan kept his eyes on the screen barely paying attention to Mark, "Yeah, why?"

   Now Ethan was good at a lot of things but lying was not one of them. While he tried to appear more invested in the movie than in Mark's concerned gaze the reoccurrence of his lip-biting told a different story.

   "Come on dude just tell me" Mark insisted, shoving his shoulder lightly.

   Ethan winced in pain and grasped his shoulder as he clenched his eyes shut. Immediately Mark sat up and pushed away his bowl, the movie forgotten from his mind, he held his hands outwards but didn't touch Ethan.

   "Hey! What's wrong?" Mark exclaimed examining Ethan's reaction.

   "Fuck," Ethan rotated his shoulder still tensed in pain, "Really it's nothing, my shoulders have just been killing me the past couple of days"

   Mark swung his arm to hit him but stopped himself just in time, "God you are...such a dumbass! Why didn't you just tell me?"

   Ethan made a horrid attempt to shrug his shoulders ending in him groaning, "Fuck, I don't know I didn't want to concern you!"

   "Jesus" Mark rubbed a hand over his forehead, "Turn your back to me"

   Ethan raised an eyebrow in questioning but did as he was told. The sounds of grunts and explosions were lost to them turning into fuzzy white noise as Mark glid his hands gently over his back. Even at that Ethan tensed which made Mark bite the inside of his mouth to stop himself from cursing Ethan out. He leaned into the nook of Ethan's shoulder to find Ethan staring forward unblinking.

   "Relax" Mark soothed.

   Ethan didn't meet his eye but he did take a giant breath in and then exhaled slowly which rid most of the tension in his muscles.

   "Good" he praised.

   He heard the sharp intake of breath from Ethan but he assumed that was due to the actions of Mark's hands. He dug his thumbs into the sore flesh travelling in a   curved path which resulted in a series of breathy sighs from Ethan. His mom was a masseuse so he did pick up a thing or two. He kneaded downwards with his knuckles feeling the knot unravelling under his hands. 

   "Fuck" Ethan sighed brimmed with pleasure. 

   Mark chuckled lowly which made it come out deeper than he intended. Ethan was feeling looser than before and the shift in energy had passed by both of them. Mark continued to lose himself in taking care of Ethan while Ethan relaxed, his head falling backwards at one point before he caught himself.

   "Don't fall asleep on me man" Mark laughed, his nimble fingers rubbing across the base of Ethan's neck. 

   "You have no clue how good that feels" Ethan admitted.

   "You should never have underestimated by powers" Mark teased targeting Ethan's pressure points to release the stress. 

   Ethan replied with an airy moan which sent a cascading shiver down Mark's spine. Suddenly the energy in the room was making Mark's skin tingle as if the electrons were skimming across his flesh. Sometimes he got himself in situations that were definitely not good for his conscious but here he was. Rubbing the strong and tender back of his friend who also happened to be featured in his dreams frequently. Mark shoved those thoughts down, this was about helping Ethan not feeling him up. 

   So he didn't think about the fact he hadn't moved his head away from Ethan's shoulder which let him have a view of Ethan's face scrunch in pleasure. Not to mention how these circumstances had no excuse to be sexy, there where people literally getting shot on the T.V in front of them. So why were Mark's intestines swimming in a pit of heat rising in his chest? He could hear his own heartbeat echoing in his ears as he dug the heels of his palms into Ethan's shoulder blades, hearing the satisfying pop that indicated release as well as Ethan's answering gasp. Which was...unfairly hot. 

   "Better?" Mark's eyes were staring lasers into the side of Ethan's face, his tone dropping to a near whisper.

   Ethan tilted his head tinily but it made all the difference. They were as close as in the closet, a game of cat and mouse arising with every puff of air wafting from their close mouths.

   "Better" Ethan affirmed, eyes sharpened on his.

   Mark watched as different colours highlighted Ethan's face from the T.V. Neither of them moving forward or backwards, stuck in time. Until Ethan coughed brokenly forcing Mark's head to clear and recognize how astronomically disruptive he was being. Ethan scooted forwards, flexing the muscles of his back, testing out Mark's handiwork.

   "Well thank you dude," Ethan said awkwardly.

   "Yeah, no problem man!" Mark exclaimed, straightening his back and sitting forward again, "Glad—Glad to help"

   "You did! Really...much better" Ethan smiled but it was twisted strangely.

   A mantra of curse words reverberated in Mark's head as he ignored the transient scrutinizing looks coming from his friend. Rubbing Ethan's back? That was some fucking couple shit which was off-limits. Unless Mark made some remark about method acting, he should keep his hands to himself. The rest of the movie Mark yearned to forget what Ethan's skin felt like under his hands and hoped he would survive Saturday.


   "Formal? You have got to be kidding me" Mark complained, letting his shoulder hold his phone to his ear.

   Currently, he was studying a suit he hadn't worn since Wade's wedding and didn't really want to ever wear it again.

   "What can I say? Mr. Buddington and his wife are classy folks" Ethan replied.

   Mark snorted, "Classy? Ms. Buddington's dress was short enough to draw a crowd"

   "Well, Mark she's rich through association—"

   "—Meaning she gets to dress like stripper Barbie?" Mark interrupted with a smirk.

   "Meaning," Ethan continued, "she gets to wear whatever the fuck she wants"

   Mark rolled his eyes and laid out the suit on his bed, having an hour left to get ready before heading over to Ethan's since he lived close to his boss. They hadn't talked about their weird behaviour around each other and forget about mentioning movie night which was somehow obliterated from their minds. All Mark had to do was get Ethan his promotion and then he was home free from this entire thing. Surely Ethan could make up some story about them breaking up later. Mark told him as such.

   "Ooo could you tell them I died in a badass plane crash or something?" Mark suggested.

   "You want me to tell people my boyfriend died?" Ethan asked incredulously, "That's so fucking sad!"

   "Fell into a coma?"

   "No!"

   "House fire left me permanently disfigured?"

   "Mark—"

   "Ok, shark attack but survived as a hero...that's my last offer" 

   Ethan sighed exasperatedly, "Deal"

   "Yes!" Mark hollered.

   He put the phone down and tapped the speaker button. Shedding his clothes so he could get changed into his penguin suit.

   "So this thing shouldn't take too long alright?" Ethan promised, "Should be back home by eleven"

   "Sounds good," Mark said distractedly, securing his tie quickly.

   "Ok, see you in an hour then" Ethan replied, "Don't be late!"

   The call was dropped and Mark peered at the phone contemplatively. Their dynamic was more or less back to normal but Mark knew it was only going to be a matter of time before they had to discuss the residual tension between them. With that final thought, Mark headed to the bathroom to fix up his hair, maybe even add some product to tame his wild curls.


   Mark straightened his suit jacket feeling foolish in the getup. Typically Mark would be playing a new videogame with Bob and Wade or preparing video ideas on Saturdays, not going to any party. He knocked on Ethan's door weirdly anxious to see him as if this was a real date. That was what was supposed to make this easy, the fact Mark knew Ethan already all of his dumb quirks and silly expressions. Yet, Mark felt the least relaxed he had in a while. 

   Then the door was opening and Mark was the picture of carefree confidence. But Mark was certain that act dropped as soon as it started due to the presence of Ethan Nestor in a dapper suit. Mark swallowed tensely, adjusting his shirt collar even though he didn't need too. Ethan in a suit was something his cognitive centers were having a hard time processing. He was wearing a fleece coat around the suit jacket probably due to the finicky weather but it didn't take away from the rest of his attire. It was new and exciting to see Ethan so dressed up with a suit jacket trimmed to fit and a shirt that clung to his chest distractingly. There was only one thing askew that was bothering Mark to the point of snapping him out of his eye-fucking.

   "Dude your tie is fucked" 

   Ethan, who was standing oddly still for his personality, cleared his throat exuberantly and stepped forward. He was flushed and couldn't manage to keep his eyes held on Mark if his life counted on it. Mark couldn't comprehend why Ethan couldn't keep his hands still, bouncing from foot to foot nervously.

   "My tie is fine you pembis" Ethan joked albeit falteringly.

   Mark rolled his eyes at Ethan's alteration of the word 'penis' and stepped towards him, "Here, let me" 

   His fingers delicately took hold of the tie, fixing the shitty attempt Ethan gave.

   "So sorry I'm not a tie professional" Ethan said watching Mark's fingers work. 

   With an amount of concentration and dexterity, only Mark would possess while neatening a tie, he pulled the end of the tie through the top and pushed it up to tighten it around his neck. An easy silence fell over the boys as Mark admired his work and Ethan admired his proud expression. A mixture of interest and fondness swirled in Ethan's eyes until he pushed Mark backwards.

   "Come on dork, time to go see my boss"

   Mark shoved him back which Ethan had clearly expected as he regained his footing easily, smirking at him.

   "How is it that you live a block away from your boss?" Mark questioned, "Seems suspicious to me"

   Ethan chuckled, "Does it? What are you trying to accuse me of Fischbach?"

   Mark hummed, caressing his chin with his fingers as detectives do in crime movies.

   "Hidden rendezvous perhaps?" Mark suggested eyeing Ethan up and down dubiously, "You're his secret mistress aren't you!"

   Ethan rolled his eyes but clutched his heart suddenly and placed the back of his hand up to his forehead, swooning dramatically, "Yes Mark, Mr. Buddington and I have been having a torrid love affair for years now"

   Suddenly he placed a hand on his shoulder and winked at him, "How do you think I went from intern to employee so quickly?"

   Mark gasped emphatically and held a hand over his mouth as Ethan nodded boldly.

   "You know I sensed a Clinton—Lewinsky vibe," Mark said.

   Ethan shrugged his shoulders and wrapped his arm around Mark's waist confidently, "Gotta climb the ranks somehow big boy"

   "Hey! Who you calling—"

   "Mark! Ethan!" Abigail exclaimed from the doorstep of a large animated house, her lovely southern accent colouring the words.

   "Abigail?" Ethan whispered as they headed up the perfectly trimmed lawn decorated with rows of gardenias. "What is—" 

   Mark felt a flowing sense of fear fill his stomach at the same time as Ethan and they both stopped to share a similar look of displease.

   "If Abigail is here..." Mark trailed off, eyes showcasing his urgency.

   Ethan sighed, bleakness emitting from it as Mark's face scrunched up in annoyance.

   "Richard" They groaned in unison, quiet enough that Abigail thankfully didn't hear.

   Finally, they had made it up to her level and shared brief hugs. The door was slightly ajar from where Abigail had begun to open it and Mark could hear the faint sound of multiple conversations coming through. Abigail's presence radiated friendliness which could not be said for the man who emerged from the shadows behind her.

   "Boys! What a surprise" Richard sneered.

   "We certainly weren't expecting to see you here tonight," Ethan said striving to keep his tone light.

   "The boss invited me! He and I go way back you know?" Richard gloated, his chest swelling with pride.

   The fakest smile Mark had ever seen emerged on Ethan's face looking like crackable plastic.

   "Right...well...we better get inside" Ethan advised. 

   "Oh yes! Abigail did I ever tell you about the time the boss and I went on a trip to Spain—" Richard's voice quieted as he got shoved into the house.

   Ethan and Mark stayed outside for a moment longer admiring the beautiful house, that shone like a beacon in the dark night. The house was a pale yellow and unexpectedly modest for the wealth Ethan talked about. The windows aprons were adorned with white shapely decor and a large balcony hung directly above the front door with the same decor along the rails. 

   "Pretty" Mark commented.

   The night breeze was chilling yet with Ethan by his side he felt a complete wholeness to him that he ached for. He could stay out here for hours staring up at what could one day be his future.

   "You ever want to live in a place like this?" Mark questioned, watching Ethan's eyes glisten in the darkness.

   "Yeah" he replied simply yet it held power, "This is what I grew up in and it always felt like a home to me. More than any apartment ever has" 

   Mark nodded, leaving the words hanging between them as he tried to shove away the ideas of his future. Better to not wish for something that could so easily be taken away. The sound of car doors opening broke Mark from his trance and he quickly clasped Ethan's hand. While his hand was cold Ethan's was warm from keeping them stoved in his jacket.

   "We better actually make an appearance" Mark joked and gestured to the door.

   Ethan laughed with him and belatedly swung the door open the rest of the way. Instantly Mark's senses were overpowered whether it be the number of people or the soft melodious jazz music playing. Expensive perfume and cologne wafted through the air as the crystal chandeliers blinded him with their bulbs. They shimmered like stars in the sky, very expensive stars. Their foyer was a lot wider than Mark expected and departed into two large rooms. One of them embellished with a large black couch and massive flat-screen T.V. and the other a kitchen table with an assortment of empty and half-filled wine glasses on it and large white cabinets. 

   This was nothing like the office party in fact it made the office party look like a cheap knockoff in comparison. Men and a few ladies were decked out in suits, some black while others choose white. Most of the women wore long satin dresses, a colour palette of red, black, white and blue. Even though Mark resembled these people he felt underdressed in this gathering. He fidgeted with his tie trying to stave off his anxiety as he searched for a single identifiable face.

   "Hey, you ok?" Ethan inquired, tilting Mark's face to his.

   "What?" Mark exclaimed hastily, "Don't worry about me I'm fine"

   Ethan nodded briefly though the worry glowed brightly on his face and he pointed into the kitchen, "Look there's Mr. Buddington"

   Mark followed his finger and saw Mr. Buddington with his arm wrapped around the waist of his wife who was no longer dressed cheaply. She was wearing a long black velvet dress that draped on the floor. It accented her features quite nicely as it curved fittingly around her waist and legs. Her hair was pinned up into a braided bun and through the use of brown and grey eyeshadow and a red lip, she appeared elegant albeit youthful.

   "Someone had a wardrobe change" Mark observed which made Ethan stifle a laugh.  

   "Come on" 

   He dragged Mark through a group of people who grimaced and scoffed as they were pushed past even though Mark and he were polite. Mark thought about stepping on a particular lady's ugly as fuck white stiletto but restrained himself for Ethan's sake. Mr. Buddington noticed them and grinned brightly as they arrived in their small gathering.

   "So glad you boys decided to come!" Mr. Buddington patted Ethan on the back harshly.

   Mark hoped for his benefit the knots in Ethan's back had disappeared since Tuesday.

   "Actually I'm glad you are here young man" Mr. Buddington whispered to Ethan though it wasn't very secretive, "I'd like to hear some more of those ideas now if you'd come with me"

   Ethan nodded happily, eyes wide with mirth. Mark's heart fluttered in joy, seeing Ethan this happy was a gift honestly. He never gave himself enough credit.

   "Would you excuse me, Mark?" Ethan asked unable to dismiss the grin on his face.

   "Of course" Mark replied winking at him and leaned in to covertly whisper, "Go get 'em, tiger"

   Ethan's huffed a tiny laugh but nodded all the same and let Mr. Buddington lead him away. As Mr. Buddington took him down a desolate hallway and spoke about this or that, Ethan glanced back at Mark sending him a hopeful and appreciative smile. Mark, while proud of Ethan, mentally cursed being stuck alone now. He sunk away from the group which was not hard when everybody was focused on talking about their expensive vacations. He went in search of finding a non-alcoholic beverage at this cocktail party and maybe some snacks. His eyes explored the kitchen table until a silver platter caught his eye with a few pieces of cheese and crackers on it. He headed for it, his mission objective spotted and needed to be fulfilled. Grabbing a piece of cheese and two crackers, he crafted a mini sandwich and stuffed it into his mouth, allowing crumbs to fall freely since he was being judged for just being here anyway. 

   "Hungry too?"

   Mark looked up as he swallowed and almost choked at the sudden approach. It was Abigail, her long flowing hair curled flawlessly and spotless subtle makeup highlighting her gorgeous eyes.

   "Is it obvious?" Mark inquired, chuckling as he wiped his hands on his pants.

   Abigail giggled and tucked a piece of her hair behind her ear.

   "So how are you enjoying the party?" he asked politely, secretly grateful for the company.

   Her smile faltered as she delicately popped a piece of cheese into her mouth. 

   "It's...fun," she said with little emotion behind the words.

   Mark smiled grimly, "Oof, that bad?"

   She opened her mouth as if to argue against his assumption of her true feelings but then stopped and sighed, eyes falling to the floor.

   "Well, currently I have been abandoned at the snack table while Richard goes to play poker with his friends" 

   "What a gentleman" Mark commented, crossing his arms, "Want some more cheese?"

   Abigail's lips quirked into a soft smile but shook her head, "I think it's going to take more than cheese to cure this"

   Mark looked around the room to see if there were any eavesdroppers and then gingerly strode to Abigail's side.

   "What about a secret?"

   Abigail's eyebrows raised as she slowly munched on a cracker, "Consider my interest piqued"

   Mark chuckled deeply and motioned with his finger for her to come closer. She leaned in letting Mark get a whiff of the soft notes of her perfume, lilac with a hint of vanilla. 

   "Ethan and I aren't really dating" he whispered faintly.

   Abigail gasped, "You're kidding!"

   Mark shook his head as he crafted another cheese sandwich tactfully and wandered back to the end of the table.

   "I don't believe it," Abigail said, tone full of dubiousness.

   Mark held a hand to his chest, "I swear on this cheese sandwich"

   Abigail's lips parted in faux surprise, "Ooo that's pretty serious, I suppose I have to believe you now"

   "Legally I'd say so" Mark joked as he popped the creation into his mouth. 

   "Especially since the evidence has now been destroyed" she rebutted.

   Mark leaned against the table, his stomach feeling warm with content. Abigail was not only insanely attractive but funny as well? What the hell was Richard doing?

   "Well I have a secret for you if you'd like it," Abigail said mysteriously, "But I'm gonna need a pinky promise out of you so I know I have your confidentiality"

   Mark's intrigue grew and he nodded as he chewed. Without prompting he stuck out his pinky and Abigail laced her soft pinky around it.

   "Alright," she said and leaned across the table, scanning the area briefly, "Richard was not invited tonight"

   Mark's eyes enlarged and his mouth dropped, "What?"

   "He lied! He heard Mr. Buddington invite you guys and ended up persuading Mr. Buddington into inviting him" Abigail smiled widely, her face flushed with delirious excitement.

   "Sorry to say this but...I'm not as surprised as I probably should be" Mark acknowledged.

   "If I had a drink I would drink to that" Abigail stated.

   A calm silence fell between them until Abigail sighed headily and closed her eyes, smiling up at the ceiling.

   "You know this is the most fun I've had all night" she opened her eyes and grabbed Mark's arm, "Thank you"

   "No problem," Mark said cheerfully, "And if I may be so bold...drop fancy pants, if you were mine I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off of you never mind leave you for poker"

   Abigail blushed lightly and she brought her palms to her cheeks to hide it. She bit her lip and rolled it around as she studied Mark casually. 

   "You are very kind" Abigail stated, "But if I may be so bold, you have a good thing in your life, don't wait for it to disappear"

   Mark's eyebrows furrowed, not understanding what Abigail was referring too. She rolled her eyes and squeezed Mark's arm.

   "You may not be dating," Abigail said explicitly, "But you want too and...he hasn't taken his eyes off of you all night"

   She winked plainly, grabbed a piece of cheese and quickly turned on her heel, the lingering touch of her hand remaining. Mark huffed out a chuckle, evaluating how surreal that encounter was.

   "Mark!"

   Mark turned and there he was in all his glory, gleaming like an orb. Ethan grasped his shoulders, excitement showing in every feature.

   "I got it!" he squealed then quieted down as a few people's heads turned, "I got the promotion!"

   Mark laughed gaily and pulled Ethan into a hug, his heart beating erratically. He felt as though he was the one who got promoted with how exhilarated he was. 

   "Congratulations Eth" he squeezed harder and ruffled Ethan's hair.

   "It's all thanks to you," Ethan declared quietly only for Mark's ears "I couldn't have done this without you"

   Though Mark would have usually protested he let the kind words sink into him and thought on Abigail's words. This was his good thing. And if he held on for a little longer, appreciated it a little more it wouldn't leave him. He was certain of it.


  They had finally escaped the cocktail party at around ten after Ethan forced them to chat with Mr. Buddington and a few other coworkers about planning a company trip somewhere. Mark joked to Ethan that if it was the Bahama's Mark's storyline as the boyfriend was so not over yet. Now they were walking back to Ethan's place in the delicious crispness of an evening in February. Leaves were fluttering down all around them highlighted by the moon's glow and it would be scenic if it wasn't so damn freezing. Ethan as per usual was talking his ear off but Mark could stand it tonight. He spoke about his passion for his job, the thoughts he had in place for the company and all the praise he received from Mr. Buddington.

   Mark ached to tell him about Richards disparity but he promised Abigail and though it may not mean anything to her, a promise was a promise. Simply watching Ethan skip down the sidewalk, and cheering into the night sky was enough satisfaction. He didn't need to put down Richard, Ethan's achievements did that on their own. 

   The spark of passion present in Ethan's voice ignited Mark, made him believe in everything Ethan was saying. Ethan was truly living up to his potential and that warmed Mark more than anything. Eventually, they made it to Ethan's door and Ethan was still bouncing ecstatically and punching the air with vehement enthusiasm.  

   "Fuck you Richard and your dumb designer pants from Venice!" Ethan hollered, holding up his middle finger to the sky causing Mark to cackle.

  Ethan's bursts of laughter faded into a couple of chuckles and wheezes as Mark held his shoulders to steady him.

   "God Mark I wish I could see his face when he finds out I'm getting promoted! That'll teach him to call me inexperienced!" Ethan exclaimed.

   When Mark looked at Ethan all he felt was sizzling heat brewing inside him, contained but begging to be provoked. His cheeks were flushed pink from the cold air and his eyes twinkled gloriously like the crystals of the chandeliers, like the stars. It was hard to push away these feelings on a night so perfect. When everything had gone flawlessly right and Ethan's hands were wrapped around his biceps craving the stability Mark was offering. Everything felt like a dream, the wind was no longer rustling the leaves and the sound of people had dwindled into the air like smoke from a fire. And Ethan was swaggering like he was drunk on life and Mark wanted a taste.

   Ethan stopped suddenly not breaking apart from Mark as he gazed into his eyes curiously, "What?"

   Mark swiped his tongue over his lips hoping that Ethan would obstruct the moment so Mark was forced to think about the consequences. But Ethan wouldn't budge, he remained stuck in Mark's grip and looked happy to be there.

   "What?" he repeated with more intention, his smile growing with each passing moment at Mark's strangeness.

   Unaware of the flower picking occurring in Mark's brain. Does he love me....does he love me not? All signs pointed to no. This was all a ploy, a game to Ethan. He got what he wanted and now he was going to discard Mark back into his regulatory friend position. 

   But Ethan's smile taunted him, his darkening eyes luring him in like a van with candy. He craved a reality that was only used to help his friend succeed and he ratified the anger that knowledge generated so he could continue with selfish pursuit. If Ethan wanted to use him than he'd return the favour. Just one thing. That's all he wanted. He released his grip on Ethan's shoulders and instead grabbed his face, pulling it in and pressing his lips to Ethan's.

   He was right, Ethan's lips were smooth, slightly chapped and when Mark bumped his nose it was a cold contrast. The buildup of pressure in his shoulders loosened and tingles shot up and down his arms. But that selfish part of him never lasted long and when he realized what he had done he pulled away strongly. 

   "Fuck" Mark exclaimed, twisting his hands into his hair, "Fuck!"

   Ethan was frozen in shock, his fingers tracing along his lips dazedly. Mark paced back and forth unspoken words swelling his mouth like a balloon.

   "I'm sorry Ethan I—I don't know what the hell—"

   "Mark" Ethan said lowly, eyes following Mark's frantic movements.

   "—This was all fake! I know that ok? It was never supposed to end in me ruining everything but I just fucking did. God, I promise it was never my intention—"

   "Mark" Ethan repeated loudly grabbing onto Mark's hips to still him.

   Mark halted never hearing that tone of voice from Ethan. It commanded his attention.

   "Shut the fuck up," Ethan said slowly and caressed a hand down the side of Mark's face.

   The words triggered earthquakes in his brain as he stared blindly at Ethan. Ethan rolled his eyes and took the initiative to stop any further idiocies from coming out of Mark by silencing him with his mouth. Mark's eyes widened as Ethan deepened the kiss, fully participating in it now. He swiped his tongue across Mark's bottom lip making heat fizz in his fingertips. When he pulled back, his eyes were soft with affection and he ran his tongue over his tingling lips.

  "I've been waiting for you to do that all night" Ethan confessed.

   "W-what?" Mark inquired, a stunned expression fastened on his face.          

   Ethan stroked Mark's cheek with his thumb looking enamoured with Mark even while he was being a complete fool.

   "It might have started out fake Mark," Ethan said, "But things changed. I changed."

   "You made me realize that I had been searching for something I had in front of me the entire time, something wonderful"

   "But....but...." Mark struggled to understand.

   An amused smile appeared on Ethan's face, "Mark, do you remember at the office party when I started feeling you up out of nowhere?"

   Mark nodded unsure why Ethan was bringing it up. Ethan giggled faintly looking slightly embarrassed.

   "It wasn't because Richard was looking" he admitted, "I saw a girl checking you out and...it kind of set me off into feral possessive mode"

   "If you're fucking lying..." Mark breathed out slowly, trying to keep himself together.

   "Nope" Ethan smiled goofily, "This is your same old Wingus talking"

   Overjoyed and overflowing with emotion, Mark laughed helplessly and dragged Ethan into a hug, breathing in his fragrant pine cologne. Years Mark had been waiting for this moment and now that it was here he was having an out-of-body experience like no other.

   "I guess I understand why you were being so weird for the past week" Mark chuckled.

   Ethan laughed with him, their chests pressing against each other with each inhale. The breeze nipped at Mark's ears, shading them pink but Mark was numb to all other sensations other than Ethan's firm hold. Ethan liked him back, this wasn't a dream or fantasy Mark would have to wake up from. Ethan didn't just use him to get some damn promotion. He had fallen somewhere along the way for Mark and was possibly being as selfish as him by holding on for a little longer.  

   "Hey, Mark?"

   Mark hummed snuggling his face into the soft fabric of Ethan's fleece coat, he was a little tired from the explosion of emotions finally settling into dust.

   "Wanna come inside?" Ethan's voice shifted into husky.

   Mark tore away from the hug and saw a suggestive grin on Ethan's face as he bit his lip. Not a nervous bite this time though something much more deliberate. This was more of Mark's area of expertise compared to confessing feelings yet he was behaving a bit shy being pursued by Ethan straight away. Ethan extended his hand which Mark grabbed with no hesitation and nodded gently. Ethan pulled out his key and unlocked the door, dragging Mark inside with him easily. They raced to the elevator both eager for impending events. Ethan hit the up button repeatedly making Mark chuckle and squeeze his hand. When the elevator door opened and no one was inside all bets were off. Ethan was against the wall in a matter of moments and Mark's lips on his neck in seconds. Ethan wrapped his legs around Mark's waist and arms around his neck to keep himself stable. He groaned loudly praying that his neighbours were all asleep and not listening to the porno playing in the elevator. 

   Mark's lips moved quickly across the estate of skin, taking time to nip and bite hickeys for him to study later. It's a primitive pleasure Mark allows himself to be interested in though he recoils at even the thought of someone touching his neck. Thankfully he didn't have to explain that because Ethan knew Mark better than anyone. 

   "Fuck, b-button" Ethan moaned out, flailing his arm in the direction of the button panel.

   Oh right, they needed to actually move in this elevator if they were ever going to reach their destination. Not taking his eyes off Ethan Mark scrabbled to hit the fourth button and then went back to sucking marks into Ethan's neck. His hand untucked Ethan's light cerulean button-down and reached underneath yearning to feel the soft skin under his palm. Ethan shivered as Mark's cold hand travelled along his sides and then stomach, tracing his abs mindfully. His lips remained in motion, the taste of Ethan's sweat addicting to him. Sooner than Mark would have liked the doors were dinging open and Mark had to let Ethan down or otherwise he might lose control and hit the emergency button, trapping them in there forever.

   As the scratched metal doors opened like they were two civilized adults and not sex-crazed teenagers Mark and Ethan walked calmly to Ethan's door. Though if anyone saw Ethan's flushed skin or obvious hard-on he was presenting he didn't think it'd be hard to decipher the truth. Ethan slotted his keys in and the image reminded him of Mark fiddling with the storage room lock so they could hide from Richard. Mark was becoming impatient, running his hands under Ethan's shirt again hoping to hurry the process up.

   "Needy bitch" Ethan jested.  

   Once the door was open Ethan had no place to speak as he slammed the door shut behind Mark and shoved him up against it in the darkness. Ethan tangled his fingers in Mark's hair as he passionately kissed him, the briefest touches of tongue sending electricity through his body. He could get lost in Mark's lips easily. While Ethan was involved in biting at Mark's lip, he busied himself by shucking off Ethan's jacket and unbuttoning the infuriating shirt. Ethan's hot breath drove him wild and he could still taste the spearmint tic tac Mark offered him when they left the party. Once Ethan's shirt was off Mark freely ran his hands over his cream-coloured skin, indulging in its warmth. Losing his breath at the gliding hands of Mark, Ethan pulled back to watch the exploration. As he glanced down Mark's thumbs drifted quickly over his nipples making him gasp quietly. 

   "Sensitive?" 

   Mark was simply asking but beneath it was deviously hidden implications. A smirk glinting in the dark room. 

   "What makes you—ah!" Ethan got caught off guard by his own moan as Mark twisted them lightly. 

   "Hot" Mark commented but there was a teasing aspect that Ethan recalled from their personas on their Youtube channel.

   "Fuck...you..." Ethan said breathlessly, hips canting forward as Mark continued to attack his weak spot driving him crazy.

   Lust boiled in his blood and a frenzy of whines were about to fall from his mouth if Ethan didn't stop this evil tactic. Ethan grasped Mark's wrists and held them above his head, heat in his gaze.

   "I'm...severely...underdressed" he commented, tone hinting at more than an observation. 

   He watched as Mark licked over his lips, a soft smirk settling onto his face. Ethan taking charge was hotter than he'd ever expected but that was to discuss another time. Ethan was basically speaking against Mark's mouth he was that close and it was loudening the rush of blood in Mark's veins.

   "And I've been wanting to tear that suit off of you all night" Ethan simpered, eyes flashing downwards with a sultry smirk on his face.

   He released Mark's wrists and grabbed him by his jacket as to lead him to the couch. Mark swallowed heavily, obsessed with that new desire crowding Ethan's golden sheen obsidian eyes. The tone and pace of this particular interaction had been set as frantic which Mark didn't have a problem with. Ethan went to work quickly tearing off Mark's jacket first and then dextrously managing the buttons. The level of focus on Ethan's face was foreign to Mark seeing as the kid could barely formulate a sentence since his brain ran so fast. When it came to nudity Ethan was some type of pro and Mark was shirtless in less than a minute. What was rewarding was the ardent gaze Ethan appreciated Mark's chest with. His palms were soft, unlike Mark's calloused ones and he swept them delicately across his abs. 

   "Not looking for sweet" Mark growled turning restless as he shoved Ethan onto the couch.

   Ethan's eyes widened but the growing grin on his face told Mark he didn't mind the brutish behaviour, "Alright cave-man Mark"

   Mark rolled his eyes, the nature of the room lightening with the teasing but staying heated as Ethan reached for Mark's pants and popped the button.

   "I know we're joking around but if Melon Man comes out I swear I'm out of here" Mark declared, raising his eyebrows in seriousness.

   Ethan scoffed but his lips quirked, "I make no promises"

   He unzipped them slowly but once he caught sight of a sliver of Mark's skin below his hips he lost his composure abruptly and removed them in seconds. Ethan's eyes ran all over Mark's muscular thighs, moving his hands up and down them but his stare soon got stuck on Mark's bulge. He bit his lip dirtily, eyes gazing up at Mark with wicked innocence. He tucked his fingers into Mark's waistband and swallowed stiffly.

   "Can I?" 

   His tone was hoarse with desire and flooded Mark with prickles of heat. He nodded assuredly, lost in his fantasies of this moment. It was happening and Mark was numb with want. Swiftly, Ethan pulled them down, exposing Mark to the cold air. Mark looked away unprepared to watch as Ethan saw him for the first time, his pride was a hard thing to shake but he so badly didn't want to mess this up. 

  "Fuck" Ethan breathed out, tone full of lust.

   Mark felt a fluttering pressure on his hipbone forcing his gaze down to see Ethan kissing him gently. He moved to the other side and kissed the other hipbone, staring  up at Mark with a clear purpose. Mark smiled softly, his heart swelling with affection and belonging and then Mark caught sight of Ethan's tenting pants and a switch flicked. He eyed them and raised his eyebrows provocatively at Ethan whose eyebrows furrowed until he clued into Mark's request.

   "You know you can use your words right?" Ethan inquired, moving his attention to getting his pants off.

   "Alright" A goofy grin formed on his face, "I want to see your dingus Wingus" 

   Ethan scoffed loudly and actually stopped his actions, "If that's your dirty talk I'm not sure I can go through with this"

   Mark raised his eyebrow, a plan formulating, "Not good enough for you? What about..."

   Ethan stripped out of his pants and before he could shed his boxers Mark was slipping his fingers into the waistband.

   "I want you to pull your cock out for me" Mark let his eyes go wide with raw innocence, "Please?"

   Ethan gulped, obviously not expecting the seriousness of Mark's words. A sting of arousal hit him as he clenched his nails into the sofa.

   Mark moved forward into Ethan's space and gave him a playful smile, "Better?"

   "Mu—" Ethan cleared his dry throat, "Much better"

   Mark's ego inflated seeing the effect he had on Ethan. He finally began to pull down the offending garment as Ethan lifted his hips to help. Mark's eyes flickered down and the air dissipated from his chest. Ethan may not be as heavy-built as Mark but he definitely had his strengths. His dick was long and thick and as veiny as his arms were. Mark bit his lip, the urge to get his mouth around it overwhelming. But not this time. This was all new and Mark was as equally nervous to jump in as Ethan was. 

   "Lay down" Mark requested.

   Ethan nodded two spots of pink on his cheekbones. As soon as he was horizontal Mark got on top of him and let their chests align. Ethan exhaled slowly watching Mark's face come closer to his with his arms braced on either side of his head. 

   "I want to do so many things to you" Mark whispered, more intimate than it was dirty.

   Ethan's breath caught in his throat as his lips fell open.

   "But right now" he let his body dip down which meant Ethan could feel Mark's throbbing arousal on his, "I just want to make you feel good"

   Ethan smiled sweetly, grasping Mark's face as pleasure surged through him, "You make me feel good by just being here"

   Mark's heart dilated, feeling full...complete. Mark bit down any stupid comments he would ultimately make in this vulnerable moment. 

   "Don't make me hurt you" Mark said intensely.

   Ethan huffed out a chuckle and let one hand fall to Mark's bicep, "I knew you'd say that"

   Mark moved his body steadily against Ethan's, pulsing members brushing against each other. Ethan let out a choked off moan as Mark spit into his hand and then reached down to grab both of them together. The sensation of Mark against him was making his head fuzzy and the air in the room declined. The slip of their precome along with the slick spit on Mark's hand helped Ethan rock his hips upwards which made him groan.

   "Fuck, that's good" he exclaimed, his muscles tensing.

   Mark let his head fall and bit into Ethan's shoulder to stop his moans from slipping out as he found a constant pressure and speed. Ethan's hips rutted into his fist which only made Mark thrust faster, his dick twitching every time he slid his thumb over the heads of their dicks. Ethan whined fervently and dug his fingernails into Mark's skin.

   "Fuck harder" Ethan pleaded, eyes clenching shut as pleasure engulfed him. 

   Mark amended by tightening his grip, feeling waves of arousal surround him like a magnetic field was sucking him in. Ethan's body strained towards Mark's touch, shivering every time the sensitive underhead was brushed. He felt his orgasm teetering on the edge as he chased the sensations Mark was causing. His calloused hand was rough against his skin which made it hard to forget who it belonged too. Mark's face was scrunched up in complete bliss, his teeth digging into his bottom lip sending shockwave images into Ethan's head. That same mouth going down on him, licking the precome out of his slit. Ethan groaned squeakily as he chased the fantasy of him pulling Mark's hair, fucking his mouth and Mark liking it. Wanting more.

   "Mark I—I'm—" Ethan couldn't get the last word out before he was coming between them with loud moans filling his apartment.

   Mark watched as Ethan fell apart, pleasure billowing through him at the arousing sight. His moans echoed in his ear, taunting his desires. Once Ethan was done Mark let go of him and focused on bringing himself over the edge. Ethan dragged his nails down Mark's chest which forced a whimpering moan from his throat.

   "You want to cum so badly don't you?" Ethan lowered his voice, knowing Mark liked it rough and breathy.

   Mark nodded driving his hips into his fist desperately. Ethan's nails were setting fire to his already roasting nerves and it was overstimulating in the best way possible.

   "I want to see you cum for me" Ethan demanded a rugged tone attached to his voice.

   Mark moaned lustily as he felt the pressure building in his abdomen. His breathing was ragged and faltering as Ethan's words swept him up.

   "Do it Mark" Ethan encouraged gently yet with fervour, "I want you to cum on my chest"

   That was the last trigger for Mark. His come exploded all over Ethan's pale skin as Mark whined whorishly in the back of his throat. The intensity of it made his vision go blurry for a moment as he rode through the aftershocks. Ethan grabbed a tissue from the tissue box on the coffee table and wiped away the mess which once discarded immediately prompted Mark to collapse onto his chest. Relaxation had fallen on him and his eyes drooped with exhaustion knowing it must be nearing midnight.

   "Old man" Ethan teased combing through his hair fondly.

   "I'm not into ageplay" Mark murmured tiredly a yawn following the sentence.

   "Ew" Ethan commented but left it at that.

   A couple of seconds of silence passed by them almost enough for Mark to slip into a completely sated state. 

   "Hey, Mark?"

   Mark hummed without answering, his thoughts scrambling in his head.

   "Will you be my boyfriend?"

   Mark's eyes popped open, regaining clarity in seconds. He stared at Ethan whose expression was open and hopeful.

   Mark smiled warmly and kissed Ethan's cheek, "Absolutely"

   He laid his head back down and listened to the beating of Ethan's heart as Ethan peacefully stroked his hair until they both fell asleep.