Taking the first step is the hardest. At least, that's what Brom read online, and it had been proving to be true. He had been sitting in his truck for almost ten minutes, watching the clock tick by as other people slowly strolled into the building, seeming to know each other well.
He didn't need therapy. He was normal. So what, his wife left him and he was in a dead end job and had been living in the same town his whole life. A lot of people went through that, and they didn't need therapy. He tightened his fingers on the wheel, watching as the clock flipped again. 5:54. In six minutes, he could either be in the truck, or in there.
Brom sighed and turned the truck off.
Group therapy had been Katrina's idea. He'd been offended at the suggestion before she sat him down and told him about all the teachers she knew that went and how past trauma could carry into adult life and I think you could really benefit, Brom. She was right, of course. She always was.
Brom hadn't been in the church since he was a kid, when he was dragged in on Sundays by his grandmother. He didn't remember much except a few hymns, and some less than savory sermons. Apparently, the church had reformed and was much more open than it had been back then. Brom didn't care to find out.
Anxiety washed over him as he left the cab of his truck, looking at the building. He was ready to get back in and forget everything until he heard a voice from behind him.
"Hey! Are you new?" The question came from behind him. He turned to see a woman stepping out of a smaller car a few parking spots back.
"Uh, yeah. I am." She smiled at him, crinkles appearing at the edges of her eyes.
"Awesome! It's always good to see more people getting help! I'm Trinity." She had made her way over to him, and held his hand out for him to shake.
"Brom." He gave an anxious look over at the building. She followed his line of sight.
"Are you ready?" Trinity asked.
"As I'll ever be." Brom answered, taking a step in the right direction.
The room where the meeting was held was much bigger than Brom had expected. Trinity had led him down the stairs and around the corner into the room, where people milled about. A few women stood by a counter where a Keurig had been set up, and more people were sitting in the circle of chairs, some talking to each other, some on their phones. A teenager shuffled in behind Brom and Trinity, walking towards an older man.
"Honey, I can feel the nerves off of you." Brom turned to the source of the sound, looking down at the woman. It was always strange for Brom to meet someone short enough he could actually look down at them, but the woman couldn't be taller than five feet.
"It's my first time here."
"Uh huh, and you don't think you need to be." She pursed her lips at him, and he nodded. "Well, everyone gets something out of it."
"Aliyah, honey, but just call me Nana. God knows I'm old enough to be yours." She reached up to pat his cheek.
"I'm twenty nine, you don't look nearly old enough to be my grandmother." Aliyah gave a hearty chuckle.
"Oh, honey, you flatter me."
"You're not very good at telling when someone is lying to you, huh Nan?" Aliyah squeaked and swatted behind her, hitting the man who spoke in the arm.
The guy seemed like someone Brom would remember meeting. He was all eyes, big and doe-like, with a sense of innocence. Or idiocy. His face was marked with moles, and his messy hair fell over his forehead.
"Ichabod, honey! I missed you last week!" She turned to hug the man, who smiled, melting into her arms.
"I missed you too." Brom awkwardly stood by, pretending he wasn't staring at the man. Ichabod seemed to have noticed him, and he gave a gentle smile.
"You're new, right? I'm not great with faces." Ichabod asked, rubbing his arm anxiously.
"Yes, this is my first time."
"Cool. I'm Ichabod." Brom held out his hand towards Ichabod.
"Brom." Ichabod blinked at him before gently holding Brom's hand.
"Ichabod, honey, he was going for a shake." Aliyah corrected, shaking her head.
"Oh! Oh, right! Sorry!" Ichabod dropped his hand awkwardly, and Brom felt heat rise on the back of his neck.
"It's all good."
The session was more intense than he had thought it would be. The whole thing felt like it was a movie, they started out by introducing themselves to Brom before going to talk about issues that hung over them. The teenager, Ezra, spoke about the bullying they were dealing with at school, and how it made them worry about their future. Nana spoke about her late husband, as their anniversary would have been during that time. Trinity spoke of her estranged son, and Brom listened as the rest of the group spoke about their issues, their problems. And no one judged each other.
"And, Ichabod? How are you doing? I noticed you missed last week." Trinity asked, nodding at the twitchy man.
"Uh, not too bad. I only missed last week because I had food poisoning, I meant to call but I had left my phone charger at work. I'm officially four months clean now." He nodded, staring at the ground, where the smiling Jesus carpet seemed to meet his gaze,"it feels good. I've started to put weight back on, so my doctor is less concerned." He shrugged.
"And how are you doing, honey?" Aliyah asked, and Ichabod took a shaky breath.
"I don't know. It's hard to make friends here, everyone knows each other and I feel like I'm intruding. The woman that I work with is also going through some stuff right now, so even though I'm living with her, I don't actually talk to her that often. She needs space. I guess I'm lonely."
"Do you want to talk about it more, Ichabod? We'll all listen."
"No thanks." He shifted, rubbing at his forearm awkwardly. Ezra elbowed him, and he stopped his fidgeting. They fixed their eyes on Brom.
"What about you? You've been quiet." He shifted in his seat, putting his elbows on his knees as he leaned forward.
"Uh, my name is Brom. I'm twenty nine, and I'm a history professor at the community college," he rubbed at his nose, uncomfortable with everyone looking at him, "and I'm recently divorced. Like, two weeks ago divorced. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't, and that's probably my fault. I wasn't trying hard to be, y'know, a good husband. I'm on good terms with her but... I don't now. She told me that I should seek help, and this is me-" he waved his hands at the group"- seeking help."
"What do you think you need help with?" Trinity kept her voice gentle.
"Everything, I guess. Katrina.. she said we both needed more. We got married really young and just ended up staying here, we both wanted different lives. She wanted to run off and be an actress and I wanted to teach Ivy league and really make a difference. She wanted kids, I was indifferent. We didn't really have romance." He took a deep breath. "This is horrible. I don't know if I ever really loved her. Romantically, I mean. I definitely loved her somehow but... we made a mistake and got married. And it was easy."
The session felt way shorter than it was, and Brom felt exhausted by the time he was leaving the building. His mind felt like it had been washed out with soap, and all he wanted to do was eat a pizza pocket and go to bed.
"Hey! Brom!" He turned to see Ichabod a few feet back, fiddling with the zipper on his coat.
"Uh, you're Katrina's ex, right? Van Tassel?" Ichabod asked, and Brom's eyebrows furrowed.
"Uh, I work with her. At the school, I mean. I'm a teacher, a new teacher. She talks really highly of you." Ichabod squeaked out, looking all sorts of nervous. Brom nodded, a smile ghosting his lips.
"Good to know." He turned to leave.
"Um, I was wondering if you wanted to get coffee with me sometime? It's just that I don't know many people in town and..." Ichabod trailed off.
"I'd like that. How about on Thursday? My classes end at four so I could meet you at the cafe downtown? Coffee Culture?"
"Yeah, yeah! That sounds great! I'll see you then!"
It was something to look forward to, Brom realized when he got home. He didn't usually have anything to look forward to. He taught his classes, came to an empty house, watched whatever football or hockey game was on, and went to bed.
He wrote it in his planner before going to bed.
Thursday was a hard day. Brom's head pounded from the moment he awoke, the reminder of the last night's drinks putting pressure on his brain. He stumbled through his morning classes, feeling like a shell. His afternoon classes weren't much better.
He had seen Katrina the day before. She looked good. Better than him, at least. She had cut her hair, the bob swaying as she spoke to the cashier at the Walmart, Ichabod standing a few feet behind her, playing on his phone. She nudged him, and he looked up, laughing at something and nodding, locking his phone.
He knew he should have been happy at seeing Katrina so well off. She looked so happy.
After getting his groceries, Brom headed to the beer store.
Ichabod was waiting in the corner booth when Brom arrived at Coffee Culture. He already had a drink in front of him, swinging his legs under the booth as he stared at his phone. Brom felt the corners of his lips rise as he headed to the bar to get his drink. The coffee was made quickly, and he joined Ichabod at the table.
"Hey, Ichabod." Brom slid into the other side of the booth, and Ichabod looked up at him, eyes soft behind his glasses. He smiled gently.
"Hey, Brom! How's your week been?" Ichabod asked, swirling his spoon in his mug.
"Long, but it could have been worse. What about you?"
"It's been okay! The kids are just started on Christmas music, it's really getting me in the festive mood." Ichabod paused for a minute. "My students, I mean. I don't have any kids." He scrunched his nose up a bit before taking a sip out of his mug.
"What are you drinking?"
"Oh! It's hot chocolate. They're the only place that has vegan hot chocolate, so every time I come I get one." He smiled, and Brom looked at the drink with furrowed brows.
"Do you get the marshmallows added?"
"Yeah! They're my favourite. I wanted to treat myself."
"Buddy, they're not vegan." Brom said, and Ichabod's eyes widened.
"What?" He asked, scrambling to get his phone out of his pocket. Brom stifled a laugh at his Scooby Doo phone case as Ichabod searched it up. "No!" Brom chuckled before taking a drink from his coffee.
"Sorry, buddy." Ichabod shook his head, looking disdainfully at his hot chocolate.
"I guess my week is bad now." He sighed, locking his phone again and placing it face down on the table. Brom nodded at his phone.
"Scooby Doo?" Brom watched as Ichabod flushed, putting the device back into his pocket.
"It's embarrassing, I know. I get scared really easily so Katrina is trying to, like, cure me by making me watch scary stuff." Ichabod answered, cheeks still dusted a soft pink.
"And Scooby-Doo is scary for you?" Brom's voice had a teasing lilt to it.
"It's scary for anyone that's not a sociopath." Ichabod raised an eyebrow at him, and Brom laughed.
Brom could tell they were going to be friends.
The next therapy night, Brom sat beside Ichabod. They had walked in around the same time and started a conversation about school, Ichabod needing help on dealing with a difficult student.
"I don't know. I don't want to be a total asshole to this kid, but I know he can do better if he just gave a shit. At all."
"He might care more than you think."
"Brom, this kid was playing Fork Knife on his phone during class. It's music, I can tell when you're not playing your instrument! If you're going to be an airhead, at least use that air to blow into a fucking flute." A couple seats over, Ezra looked over at them, clearly eavesdropping.
"Ichabod, it's not called... Fork Knife. It's Fortnite." They leaned over to the pair.
"I'm too old to know what that is."
"You're, what, twenty-seven?" Ezra asked.
"And what about it?" Ichabod leaned back in his chair, and Brom shook his head at him, chuckling.
"You gotta let yourself have fun, man." Ichabod turned to look at Brom, scowling.
"I have fun. At least I don't do puzzles like some people."
"Puzzles keep your brain sharp and improve thought processes."
"Tell that to the other people at the old people center." Ichabod quipped, and Brom laughed, throwing an arm over his shoulders. To his surprise, Ichabod moved closer to him. Brom decided he didn't mind, watching as other people moved towards the circle, getting ready to start their meeting.
Trinity was emotional that night. Her birthday had passed over the last week, and her son didn't call. She said that she hadn't really expected to, but it would have been nice. The rest of the group seemed to know far more about their situation than Brom did, so he asked when silence began to overtake the room.
"Uh, Trinity, if you don't mind answering... why don't you and your son talk anymore?" Trinity gave him a long stare before sighing.
"I wasn't a good mom, I guess. I had him too young, and he grew up too fast. I lived through him, I know now that I was too controlling. He didn't get to be himself."
"And he's never tried to reconnect?"
"Not since he was eighteen. I think it might be too late now. I'm going to invite him to Thanksgiving. If he feels like he can forgive me anytime, it'll be then." Brom nodded, absentmindedly rubbing Ichabod's shoulder, his arm still on the back of the other man's chair. Nana coughed lightly, drawing attention away from the conversation.
"Okay, honey. You don't have to talk about it more if you don't want to."
"Thanks, Aliyah." Trinity said, dabbing at her lashes. Ezra spoke next, saying that they had formed a queer student alliance and felt like they were getting some support in talking to other young queer people. At that, Ichabod piped up.
"My high school had that too, when I was younger. A GSA. I think they're a really good idea, maybe I should see if I can get Sleepy Hollow High to start one." He suggested, and Ezra nodded their head.
"It'd probably be nice for them to have a gay teacher in charge."
Brom's head spun for a moment. He had figured that Ichabod was different, but it had never crossed his mind that he was gay. Gentle, yes. Feminine at times, but not flamboyant. Suddenly the arm across Ichabod's shoulder felt like hot lead, but he didn't want to pull it away. He didn't know why.
Brom barely spoke that night.
Sessions flew by faster than Brom would have expected, but he seemed to be getting better. More stable, more independent, more sure of himself. If Ichabod had anything to do with that, well...
Brom didn't want to admit that much.
"Do you have a tattoo?" Brom asked, eyes drawn to Ichabod's side. The thin fabric of his shirt stretched as he tried to reach a wreath on a shelf that was too high for him. Ichabod dropped from his tip toes, glaring at the Walmart shelf. He raised his eyebrows at Brom.
"Which one? The side one?" He asked, rubbing at it absentmindedly.
"You have more than one?"
"Yeah, I have a couple. I don't remember some of them, but I got this one when I was eighteen." Unashamedly, Ichabod pulled the side of his shirt up. Brom tried not to blush at the expanse of soft looking skin, dotted with moles. The soft lines of the mic stand stood against the pale skin below it.
"Cool." Brom looked away as Ichabod dropped his shirt again.
"You seem like someone that would have one." Ichabod noted.
"Something basic. Pine-tree-forearm looking ass."
"Rude!" Brom spat, and they both laughed.
"Can you grab that for me? The red leaf one. I want to have some sort of decorations for Thanksgiving, even if I'm not really doing anything for it." Ichabod admitted, and Brom reached up to grab the wreath for him.
"Why aren't you doing anything?" He asked, handing the item over. Ichabod gently took it from him.
"My parents and I don't talk, and I'm too new in town to actually have... stuff to do here. Katrina is going to Albany to spend it with family."
Brom hadn't thought of that. Thanksgiving without Katrina. Thanksgiving without her nieces and nephews, the bickering over left overs and her grandma's pumpkin pie.
"Do you wanna do Thanksgiving, just us? Kat..." Brom busied himself by picking up the turkey shaped picture frame in front of him. Ichabod was nice for him to be around, a new face in a town that had always been unchanging, ever stagnant. The shorter man looked at him for a long moment, as if in disbelief.
"Uh, yeah. Yeah. I'd really, really like that."
Brom skipped therapy the next week. He didn't know why he didn't go. Maybe its the looks he got from the women when he talked about his marriage, how they shook their heads at each other when they thought he wasn't looking. It could be how much Aliyah reminded him of his late mother. The real reason is Ichabod.
Ichabod, who was all sharp lines and soft laughs, who came across much dumber than he was. They're friends in a way Brom had never been friends with anybody before. They spoke about their feelings, they laughed, they went shopping together, they cried together, they drove for hours like they were high school kids, listening to shitty music from the early 2000s.
Brom had never had a friendship that felt so real. Organic, even. He didn't feel like he had to be anyone but himself: Ichabod would accept him, flaws and all.
And that's why it became a problem when Brom realized that he might like Ichabod a bit more than he had bargained for. His usual porn website running on his laptop, Brom had scrolled through videos, trying to find something intriguing. A couple minutes into the video, Brom realized he was watching the slight man on screen far more than the woman. He switched videos. The next one was worse, the man having a scattering of moles across his back.
Ashamed, Brom thought of Ichabod until he was done.
He didn't sleep well.
Brom woke up to texts and calls that he elegantly ignored. More came throughout the day, Ichabod leaving voice mails and emojis whenever possible, but Brom couldn't escape the feeling of guilt at what he'd done.
He jerked off to the idea of his gay best friend. How fucked up was that?
His classes went fine, the usual mundane courses of World War history blending into his History of Love classes. He changed the lesson from Lord Byron's lovers to letters between spouses in war for good measure. The further he could get away from anything gay, the better.
That proved to be a problem, however, when he got back to his house from work to see Ichabod sitting on his front porch. He had a dark coat on, a black scarf wrapped around him like a blanket, shivering as Brom's truck pulled into the stone driveway. Brom clobbered out of his truck as Ichabod stood up, fixing him with a look that was as intimidating as the man could conjure.
"What the fuck, Brom?" Ichabod took a few steps forward, his voice quivering. "What happened? You don't show up last night, you don't answer my texts, you ignore my calls-"
"Maybe I didn't want to talk to you!" Brom spat, avoiding looking at the man. Ichabod stilled.
"What?" He asked, voice fragile. Brom scrubbed at his face.
"I don't know what the fuck I'm doing anymore." His voice cracked pathetically, and Ichabod reached out to place a gloved hand on Brom's bicep.
Ichabod pattered into the house after him like an obedient dog. Brom didn't know if he wanted Ichabod to be there or not, but he sure as hell wasn't going to kick him out, not after the man had to walk all the way through the woods to get to Brom's house. Ichabod left his coat by the door but carried his scarf in, wrapping it around himself once more as he sat on the edge of Brom's recliner, watching as the other man puttered about the kitchen, getting himself a coffee.
While Brom waited for the Keurig to brew, he rubbed gently at the skin on his ring finger. The tan line was fading for the first time in years. He didn't know how to feel about that. A minute later, he joined Ichabod in the living room.
The brunette looked guilty when Brom walked in, which made his chest hurt. Ichabod hadn't done anything wrong. He had looked for his friend and reached out and came to make sure he was okay and Brom was the fucked up one.
"Sorry it's chilly in here, I need to get my HVAC checked before I can turn my furnace on." Brom set his coffee on the table before walking over to the electric fireplace to turn it on. Ichabod shrugged, and Brom could feel his blue eyes on him. He crossed over to the couch.
"It's not terrible." His soft voice came. Brom wanted to wrap him up in a blanket, the thin man looking so confused, pale knuckles white as he pulled the scarf even tighter around him. It occured to Brom that Ichabod might be using the scarf as more of a grounding agent than anything else, however, so he didn't offer one of the blankets that were scattered over the couches.
"I'm sorry I dipped out like that." Brom said, taking his mug into his hands again just to have something to do.
"It's... well, it's not exactly okay. I just want to know what's going on with you."
"I'm... fuck. I hate talking about my feelings." Brom said with an empty laugh.
"As most straight men do." Ichabod murmurred.
"See, that's the issue." Brom blurted, before setting his mug down. He felt like he needed to move, to pace about so it would be easier for words to flow without them overwhelming him. He didn't rise, however, as he felt a lump in his throat rising. He didn't want to cry. Not here. Not like this, in front of Ichabod when the shorter man didn't even know why Brom was doing so well.
Ichabod crossed in front of him, blue eyes shining with concern. Brom was suddenly aware of his heavy breathing, but it felt like he was watching his body do it anyway, almost as if he had taken a back seat in his own body.
"Brom," Ichabod began, voice soft, "take a deep breath." He reached out and stroked his fingertip slowly over Brom's wrist, breathing exaggeratedly so Brom would catch on to the exercise. After a few minutes, Brom felt like he was in control again.
"'M sorry. That was... a lot." Brom apologized, and Ichabod hushed him.
"You have a right to, like... feel things, Brom." Ichabod wrapped his skinny arms around him, and Brom's chest felt like it was sinking.
"Thanks. I don't know if I can... talk about that. Yet. I just... I don't want things to be different." Brom said.
"Okay. So, uh, I guess turn on some How I Met Your Mother and we can just sit here and pretend nothing happened." Ichabod slid into the spot next to him, nonchalantly leaning his head on Brom's shoulder.
He hadn't actually talked to Katrina since the divorce was finalized and she was moved out, which is why it was so weird to see her right across the table from him, calmly taking a sip of her tea. Sure, he had texted her and asked her to come to meet him but he hadn't known if she would come.
"So... this is weird." Katrina said, placing the paper cup on the table. Starbucks was overpriced and not as good as Brom had expected, but it was still new to the town, so it was quieter inside. The only other people sitting in were a couple groups of older folks and a pair of teenagers in one of the back booths.
"Yeah. I'm sorry that I called you up out of the blue." He stuttered, and her eyebrows raised.
"Brom, I actually think that's the first time I've heard you apologize."
"I'm kinda a shitty person, aren't I?"
"At least you're self aware. And getting better, I think." She offered.
"I've been getting help. Uh, going to a group therapy thing." Brom confessed, and Katrina smiled one of the big smiles that still made his heart feel happy.
"I'm glad you're finding something!"
"Yeah, it's helping a lot, actually, and it's made me... think about things." He huffed, and scratched lazily at his arm, a habit he was sure he picked up from Ichabod. "Did we... ever really... love each other? Like, I know we loved each other as people but... do you know what I mean?"
"You mean romantically? I'm... not sure, Brom. I'd like to make myself believe that we did but... I really don't know."
Brom exhaled a shaky breath, swirling his cup of coffee. Was it fucked up to tell your ex wife that you think you're gay and in love with her new roommate? Probably. But Brom had been a fuck up for most of his life, and it seemed too late to change things now.
"I, uh, I think I might be... y'know... gay." He hissed the last word like it was a curse, his stomach feeling like it was full of lead as he watched her face go from curiosity to surprise to something he couldn't place.
"Okay, yeah, I can see that." Katrina said, and reached her hand across the table to take his. Her nails were long, probably fake by the looks of it. That was new. "Is that why you asked me to meet you?" She asked, and he nodded, face feeling flush as he tried to blink away tears, fear overwhelming him. "Oh, honey..."
"I'm sorry, Kat. I'm so sorry. I've been so bad to you and now I don't... I'm..."
"Hey, our relationship wasn't just you. You're not the only one at fault, okay?" She chided, and he nodded, looking away to focus on the window. He felt like a piece of shit for doing this to her. For having done that to her, taking her youth in a shitty marriage that neither of them really felt anything about. She squeezed his hand gently before asking.
"Do you have feelings for someone?" He nodded, too afraid to speak without falling apart. "And it's a man?" Another nod. Silence fell over them for a minute, the sound of a blender and muffled conversations filling the air. She cleared her throat after a minute. "Is it Ichabod Crane?" Hesitation. A nod.
He didn't ask Katrina how she guessed it was Ichabod. She just rubbed his hand again and they sat like that for a long time, comforting each other for what was probably the first real time. After, Brom went home and curled up in bed, taking out a book that he noticed one of his students reading once they had finished a test. His thumb stroked the well worn pages, the copy having been borrowed from the library, before cracking the spine of the book, ready to get lost in The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue.
Ichabod brought him lunch the next day. Or, rather, he stopped by Brom's classroom with takeout for the two of them as they plan out what will be the saddest Thanksgiving Brom has ever had.
"What's a Tofurky?" Ichabod asked, taking a spoon into Brom's rice. Ichabod can't use chopsticks, which is an endearing yet, frankly, sad part about him.
"It's exactly what it sounds like. Tofu-turkey. I saw a commercial about it and figured that might be a better choice than me eating a whole bird." Brom answered, and Ichabod's nose scrunched up.
"Okay, yeah, that sounds good. I'll bring bags of corn and veggies, too, but I don't know how to make mashed potato."
"You just... make potatoes and then mash them with butter."
"I don't know how to make potatoes."
"How have you survived this long?" Brom chuckled, and Ichabod shrugged.
"Luck, I guess." Ichabod was wearing his school clothes, which were somehow vastly different from his normal clothes. His shirt was a soft baby blue, which brought out his eyes even more, tucked into a pair of khakis. He almost looked straight like this, with his tie crooked, his glasses nowhere to be found. Brom could almost let himself believe they were just two dudes hanging out on their lunch breaks, if not for the fact he felt tingly every time he looked at the other man.
"Do you have any, like, traditions that you like to do on Thanksgiving?" Brom asked, trying to pry into Ichabod's life a bit more. He knew that Ichabod didn't speak to his parents anymore, but he rarely spoke about his past at all, only in short doses, or if someone asked him a question at therapy. Ichabod's shoulders shrugged as he tried to dig into his noodles.
"No really? I like to watch the parade but that's pretty much it for me. What about you?"
"Parade or football, usually. Kat's family had some stuff they did, but I never really caught onto it."
"So I guess we'll have to make our own traditions."
Therapy passed quickly, as usual. All of them in some way spoke about the upcoming holiday, Ezra talking about family get-togethers and misgendering, Trinity was stressed about her son, Aliyah remembering her late husband's zest for it. Ichabod spoke of his family briefly, how he got an e-mail from his sister saying that he should go to the family event, but his parents didn't reach out at all. Brom talked about how it was his first real celebration alone.
Brom wasn't surprised when Ichabod reached out and took his hand. He was always a touchy guy, but he seemed to just know when Brom needed him even more. He was aware of how it would look to the rest of the group, and his head felt heavy, worries festering there. They leave the second the session is done, still hand in hand.
Brom called in sick the next day to work and took off for the city. The traffic was terrible getting in, cars packing the lanes as everyone flocked to their families or to hotels to see the celebrations that would be going on the next day. He didn't mind, using the time to listen to a playlist Ichabod had made for him, and really think.
He liked Ichabod. He had romantic feelings toward Ichabod. He had sexual feelings about Ichabod. Is that such a crime?
Ichabod was a good person. He was sassy, but not rude, empathetic, but not condescending. Ichabod may not have been the smartest person in terms of general knowledge or common sense, but he was deeply passionate about the things he truly loved. Brom once sat through Ichabod explain to him why two characters in Les Mis were gay for almost half an hour. He loved every second of it.
But as the trees rolled by outside, uncertainty began to form in Brom's stomach. He was too old to just be figuring this shit out. Most guys at his age were married with kids, with a nice house and a fulfilling career, but there Brom sat, divorced, living in a house that felt as empty as his bed, in a job that left him at the bottom of a bottle more days than not. It felt like he was doing something wrong.
But there was nothing wrong with the way his heart fluttered when Ichabod scrunched up his nose, or hummed when he cooked, or took Brom's arm when they crossed the street. So onward Brom drove.
"Uh... hey, I was wondering if I could talk to somebody?" Brom asked, peeling at the dry skin on his hands to avoid eye contact with the person behind the desk. He hadn't expected the LGBT community center to be so nice on the inside, with exposed brick walls and plants scattered around. In front of him, the receptionist nodded.
"Of course! Is there anything I can help you with to get you started? Anything you need to talk about?" They asked, beginning to click around on their computer. Another wave of anxiety came over Brom, and it took him a moment to muster the courage to admit it.
"I think I'm gay and I don't know what to do." He said, softly, and their eyes flicked up to him.
"Okay, honey. You've come to the right place. Why don't you take a seat on over by the window? I'll send someone over to talk to you. You're safe here."
Ichabod arrived at four the next day with bags of frozen vegetables and a big smile on his face. Brom opened the door to the beaming grin, and laughed as flowers were shoved at him.
"I couldn't hold everything anymore! The veggies are so cold!" Ichabod complained as Brom admired the flowers.
"No one's ever bought me flowers before." Brom noted.
"Oh, I didn't buy them. I cut them out of one of my neighbor's gardens." Ichabod said with a smile, and Brom could see the scissors sticking out of his front pocket.
"I don't even know what to say about that." Ichabod crossed over to the kitchen and threw his bags on the counter before bringing his hands to his face, breathing hot air on them.
"Why is your house so cold?" Ichabod whined, and Brom chuckled.
"I like it this way." He moved over to Ichabod, and gently took his hands between his own, then brought them up to his mouth. He exhaled deeply, rubbing Ichabod's hands slightly. They stayed like that for a moment. "Better?"
"Yep!" Ichabod squeaked out, suddenly looking very flustered. Cute.
"Man, take off your coat and shoes. Stop tracking dirt into my house, you animal." Brom chided, already tearing into the vegetables to heat them up. Ichabod muttered under his breath but went back to the coat rack, kicking his shoes off as well.
"Well, sorry that I was cold." Ichabod said as he almost skipped back. His cheeks were still rosy from the weather, his hair slightly windswept.
"You could've put your stuff in a bag."
"Huh." Ichabod huffed out.
"Didn't think of that, did you?"
"No comment." He walked into the kitchen, and his eyebrows crinkled as he looked at the pamphlets that were on the table.
"Oh, uh... I went to a queer center yesterday. To try and... figure some stuff out."
"Oh." Ichabod softly said. "And?"
"I'm not too eager to, y'know, slap a label if there doesn't need to be one. Just... thinking of things recently. I'm not sure." Brom shrugged, about to move away, but Ichabod's hand on his forearm stopped him.
"I'll be here for you, no matter what."
"I fucking hate this." Ichabod said, pushing the tofurkey with a fork. Brom nodded, wiping at his tongue with a napkin.
"How? How is it... that?" Brom coughed, and Ichabod laughed, leaning into his side. They were shoved close together on the couch, their small spread of food on the table in front of them, the Macy's parade on the television. Brom had got himself a fancy wine from the liquor store a couple days prior, not wanting to drink the same beer with a nice meal as he drank almost daily, and Ichabod had a wine glass filled nearly to the brim with cranberry juice, which he leaned forward to sip from.
"It's really something else. I've eaten ass that tasted better than that."
"Jesus Christ." Brom laughed, shoving his shoulder against Ichabod's.
"Just Ichabod is fine."
"One of these days, I'm gonna kill you."
"You'd miss my glowing gay face too much." Ichabod teased, pushing Brom back lightly.
"You're not wrong." Brom replied, and watched as Ichabod's face broke out into a grin again. He'd do anything to get it to stay there.
They ended up walking down the street to the Chinese restaurant in the strip mall by Brom's house to get take out, shivering in the brisk November air. Brom had forced Ichabod to take a hat and mitts, the man having only brought his regular scarf and coat with him, and his heart fluttered seeing Ichabod in his clothes, even if it was just that much. They ate while Ichabod criticized the Broadway performances that were shown, and Brom told Ichabod the few stories he could remember of going to see the parade in person before his mother passed.
They slept on the couch, each too full and lazy to brush their teeth or shut the lights off. Ichabod had shrugged off his sweater, laying half on Brom in his tee shirt and dress pants, one slender arm hugging Brom's arm close to him, like a teddy bear. Brom had watched as Ichabod slowly tapered off into rest, too content for the first time in a while to object to the position.
If there was going to be something between them, so be it.
The following therapy session was a trainwreck. Trinity's son hadn't shown up for Thanksgiving, and she had burst into tears a few times. Ezra had gotten mistreated over the family events they went to and still looked shook up. They had shaved their head as well, saying that it was a freeing expirence after cousins and aunts had pointed out their hair. A few of the others, the quieter ones who only seemed to speak in small groups, spoke up about their holidays as well.
Brom almost felt guilty that he had such a good Thanksgiving without his ex wife. Here sat so many people that had hard holidays, filled with memories of lost family members or bad experiences with current ones, and Ichabod and him had gotten take out and laughed the whole night. It didn't seem fair to the rest of the group.
"How about you, Abraham? How was your first Thanksgiving as a bachelor?" Aliyah asked, her lips pursed. She was actively ignoring one of the women who was crying. There had been a lot of tears that night already.
"Uh... Actually, it was good. Ichabod and I spent it together." Brom answered, knocking his knee into Ichabod's. Their chairs were nearly touching, and it almost felt like a secure bubble around them to be able to reach Ichabod during therapy.
"Oh! Great!" Aliyah exclaimed, a subdued grin on her face.
"Yeah, it was a really good time. A bit unconventional but... we liked it." Ichabod said, looking at Brom.
"I, uh... I've been going through some stuff recently with identity, and Ichabod has been helping me with it a lot. When you spend your whole adult life thinking you know yourself... it's kind of hard to be open to that change."
"I'm glad you're getting to know yourself, Brom. If you want to talk about-"Aliyah started, and Brom cut her off.
"I'm not really ready to share with the class."
"Whenever you're ready." She stated, and turned to ask Ezra about their hair. Ichabod reached out and intertwined their pinkies. Brom squeezed gently.
"You stole my roommate." Katrina accused, and Brom turned towards the source of the sound. They're standing in aisle four of the grocery section of Walmart, a similar basket filled up in their carts so far.
"Uh, he chooses to come over." Brom said, rolling his eyes though he was smiling. In a small town, you have to see everyone at some point. At least Katrina was being nice about the divorce.
"I know, but it's always 'Brom said this' or 'Brom does this' now." She pouted, and he chuckled.
"Sorry, I think?"
"It's still so fucking weird hearing you say that." Katrina muttered, and Brom pretended not to hear her.
"So, uh... I heard a rumour that you're skipping town soon."
"Oh! Yeah, I got into a show that's like off off off Broadway, but it's a start!" She exclaimed, and he let himself make a squeaky sound.
"Kat! That's great!" He went in for the hug, almost surprised when Katrina hugged him back.
"I'm so excited! I feel bad that I'm leaving Ichabod alone again but... this is a real opportunity! And he's not exactly home a lot anyway..." She trailed off and wiggled her eyebrows at him. He flushed warm.
"Oh, it's not... we're not... I mean... it's kinda soon to call it anything, if it's anything." He ducked his head, and she swatted at his arm.
"You dog!" Katrina giggled. "No, it's good for you, Brom."
"Thanks. It's weird to like-" He was cut off.
"I know, right? It's so weird to, like, meet someone and flirt without feeling like shit!" She laughed, and he nodded.
"No, it's all good with you two... getting together. I think you're a good match, if that means anything."
"It means a lot. Now, maybe you can tell me where to get those fucking weird gummies Ichabod likes..."
Christmas in Tarrytown really wasn't anything special. Sure, there are some coloured lights down the very limited main strip, but that was pretty much the extent, which is why it fills Brom with so much joy when he goes to pick up Ichabod from his building, and the shorter man runs out with bags tucked under his arms, a sparkly pink Santa hat just barely hanging onto his unruly hair. With a huff, he pulled the door of Brom's truck open.
"Merry fucking Christmas, Bee!" Ichabod hollered, pushing his bags into the cab.
"You don't have to scream, man, I'm right here."
"I'm just excited! I haven't done Christmas in a while!" Ichabod said as he climbed in, brushing snow off of his dark plaid pants.
"Well, I bought microwave Chinese food for tomorrow's dinner, and I figured tonight we'd just eat cookies and pie and not give a shit about how bad we're going to feel."
"That sounds perfect, God. I could kiss you right now." Ichabod froze the second the words left his mouth, and Brom turned to really, really look at him.
"Okay." Brom's voice cracked.
"Okay." He affirmed. Ichabod smiled gently, and leaned forward to oblige the request.
They walked into the next therapy session hand in hand, Brom laughing as Ichabod complained about his pants being tight from the holiday eating. Ichabod reached up with his free hand to wipe snow out of Brom's hair, then leaned up to leave a soft kiss on his lips.
"Woah! Woah!" Ezra shouted, sitting up straight in their chair. Beside them, Aliyah jumped in her chair before following their line of sight to the two men, still pulled close together. Ichabod hid her face in Brom's coat as she gave them a knowing grin.
"What did I tell you, child? Love was coming." She declared, and Ichabod nodded into his partner's chest. Brom ran his hand down Ichabod's back.
"C'mon, loser, let's talk about our feelings." Brom said, looking down into Ichabod's eyes.
Taking the first step is the hardest. It's always easier to walk together.