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Pop, Sam and Earth say at the same time, "Stud!"

 

"You know him?" Pop looks at Sam and Earth. Sam doesn't say anything, he glances uneasily at Earth and glares at Stud. Earth shrugs, "Yes, he is my friend. Since college. Boom, Boyo, Stud and me."

 

Sam refuses to look at Stud properly and it doesn't escape Earth and Pop. Pop smirks to himself.

 

Stud shakes his head to himself. Does Pop know? Is he trying to get him and Earth in trouble? Stud was pretty sure that he was doing it right, carefully, to keep Pop away from Earth and Sam, especially the latter. He realizes with a sinking feeling that Earth is probably going to hate him for this, if this goes south, which it probably will.

 

They are already walking on thin line with each other, extremely thin line. Earth didn't ask him explicitly to do something with Pop but there was something underlying in his tone. After all, Earth knows that Stud would probably do anything to at least be friends with Earth, to get over what he did to Earth and Sam.

 

And they even had sex - not initiated by Stud but by Earth himself - just a week back. Did Earth want to get back at Sam? Did Earth want to get back at Stud? Was he just sick of being the good guy in their group? Stud still doesn't know and probably it is better if he doesn't either because this new side of Earth kind of scares him. Is this new? Maybe it was just repressed. 

 

Yet, a part of him is thrilled to see this different side of Earth. A dark side. A manipulative side. Carefree side. Even if Stud is getting hurt and crushed - he did a lot of hurting and crushing others, Earth included, in the past and Stud is also a masochist if he were to be honest.

 

Stud walks in and takes a seat beside Pop. Pop just kisses his cheek and smiles cheekily. This is not the usual Pop, sure, Stud is getting to him but there is no way Pop would do this to him without reason. And a sinking feeling tells Stud that Pop really suspects something, he probably doesn't know everything but he is trying to figure out. He is trying to show that he won't just take it all sitting back like an idiot. Stud sighs, he should play his cards right so that it won't blow up in all of their faces.

 

He ignores the way Earth stiffens as Pop kisses his cheek. There is no way that Earth is jealous. He is not. Period. But a part of Stud is a little bit happy to see some kind of reaction other than painful indifference. Earth brushed Stud away at the gym like it was nothing, like it meant nothing to Earth, that night probably didn't to Earth but to Stud, it was something different. Earth isn't a string less, feeling less one night stand to Stud. 

 

Stud should seriously move on, fuck.

 

Surprisingly, it is Earth who starts the conversation instead of Pop.

 

Earth looks at Stud coolly, "This is P'Pop you were telling me about, seriously? The world is small."

 

Pop looks surprised, "He told you about me?"

 

Earth nods. "Yes, that he is going after someone high. Someone who is hard to get. High standards. And I told him about P'Sam's ex, P'Pop, who is finding it difficult to stay away from P'Sam. Our descriptions didn't match much."

 

Stud and Sam stiffen at Earth's dig at Pop. Before Pop can say something, Stud jumps in.

 

Stud nods. "And sadly, neither of us had photos of you to confirm." Earth doesn't have Pop's photos for obvious reasons. Earth recently has been out of all social media platforms to take care of his mental health. Stud doesn't know about Pop's social media platforms - it is a miracle he even has Pop's phone number, not even Line ID - and Pop doesn't post his own photos, just random generic photos. That much is true.

 

Pop just twirls the glass in between his hands, trying to control his anger. The fact that Sam is silent through it all makes it worse. Pop knows for sure that Sam will never come back to him. After all, Sam pushed him out of the house when Pop tried to get back together. Pop has high ego and expectations but all of that crashes when it comes to Sam. And fuck, it was Pop himself who ruined their relationship.

 

This isn't going where he wants it to go. He thought he was going to unmask Earth but maybe there is actually nothing between Earth and Stud, maybe it is just one sided on Stud's part, Stud did say he liked someone all on his own.

 

And that doctor doesn't seem to hold Sam in high regard even if they are colleagues and supposedly friends, maybe he just wanted sex from Pop and made this seem big on purpose. Earth seems to be glued to Sam and isn't stuttering or trying to cover up anything.

 

Earth didn't seem like a good liar. If something had happened, would he be sitting like this, guilt free in front of all of them, especially with Sam?

 

Earth looks at Pop, "P', you still came after P'Sam even though you have Stud now? Don't hurt him, don't hurt yourself or P'Sam."

 

Pop's eyes grow wide, he shouldn't be surprised that Sam told Earth everything and Stud snorts. Pop isn't the one who is hurting Stud right now. Since when did Earth become someone like this? Did Stud drive him to this? Did Pop? Did Sam?

 

Stud coughs as three pairs of eyes turn to him. "Earth, don't worry. We aren't official yet, we are open, not committed, not like you and P'Sam."

 

Something flashes in Earth's eyes. Why the fuck is Stud standing up for Pop?

 

Pop glares at Earth. "Sure nothing is going on between you three?"

 

Earth narrows his eyes. "P'Pop, I am sure you heard about P'Sam and Stud. About our little break. About Stud's one sided crush on me. It used to be a mess but we have sorted it out, you don't have to try anything. There is nothing to dig. This is a genuine surprise and I hope you don't make it nasty."

 

Before Pop can say something, anything, Earth raises his hands and continues. "Let me make things clear. I didn't set Stud after you. There is nothing between me and him, between him and P'Sam. And there is nothing between you and P'Sam."

 

All three of them look at Earth in surprise and a little bit of fear. Earth isn't someone to be messed with or taken lightly. Has Earth always had this inside of him? It looks like he has been pushed to his limits. Has Earth always been capable of something like this? His anger looks so raw and genuine and all three of them shiver a little. 

 

Stud opens his mouth, "Earth, I think that was a little too-"

 

Earth snaps at Stud. "I don't want any unsaid misunderstandings, Ai'Stud."

 

Earth zeroes onto Stud. 'I am trying to clean this up and don't you dare make this worse like you always do. Don't you dare take his side, fuck.'

 

Thankfully, Stud gets it and backs off.

 

Sam clears his throat awkwardly. "Let us just finish this so Pop can take the house and we can leave."

 

Earth nods and places his fingers on Sam's hand. "I will tell you everything more clearly when we reach home, P'Sam."

 

Sam nods and smiles as Earth softly kisses his cheek. He gently ruffles Earth's hair. Earth ignores the reactions from Pop and Stud - jealousy and yearning and loss. Well, ain't it too late for that? The ship has already sailed.

 

This is a messed up, toxic, unreliable, chaotic relationship, among the four of them. Thin lines. Unpredictable. One that could blow up anytime and strangely, Earth doesn't feel anything weird for the first time in months. It honestly doesn't matter, whatever happens, he will face it all. On his own.

 

**********

 

/* BONUS */

 

Earth likes Sam. Earth likes Stud. He likes, possibly loves, two people at the same time. A friend. A boyfriend. He hates Sam. He hates Stud. They cheated on him, on his back, they broke his trust. But he can't live without them. He wants both of them.

 

A part of him wanted to hurt them - and he did, kind of - but he has moved on and now there is a different longing inside him, a fire. He doesn't know what exactly he wants, he is confused but he definitely wants something. He feels too tight in his own skin. He feels like he is burning, but for what?

He is sick of being the support, the good guy, goody two shoes, the nice, kind, all knowing, patient guy. Maybe that is him - was him? - but he is not all white either.

 

Can't he have both of them?

 

They seem to hate each other now but it seems like a façade to Earth. To make Earth happy but it is just driving him up the wall. They seem to be dancing, acting. How could they have slept with each other if they hate each other? They obviously have some tension between them. But they don't want to accept.

 

When Earth asks Sam about Stud, he gets a noncommittal response.

 

When he asks Stud about Sam, he gets a don't care response.

 

But Earth sees through it and he will do something about it.