It starts like this: they're in college and Tuck comes home late one night to find FDR moaning like a cheap whore under some muscled asshole. He freezes for a few seconds, then backs out of the room as he spits apologies and they never do speak of it.
Still, that knowledge sits in the back of Tuck's mind and trots itself out every CHIPS night when FDR inevitably leans back just enough to reveal a strip of pale skin; he forces himself to swallow through the arousal on those nights and mutters, "You're my best friend," partly to FDR and partly to remind himself.
The response always comes, "And you're mine."
(It's 'I love you' without using those three words and sometimes—sometimes—Tuck wonders what it would be like to whisper them to FDR in the middle of the night, under sweaty sheets.)
Katie, try as she might, can't compete with FDR in the end: after their last screaming match leaves Joe screaming in his crib, she tells Tuck, "I can't do this," and Tuck feels numb while she packs up bags for herself and their son and takes off for her mother's house.
He sits on their couch for a few hours, in the dark, until his phone lights up and who else would it be.
"Hey, you were supposed to be here by now," FDR laughs. "You on your way?"
And because he can't think of any other way to say it, Tuck blurts out, "Katie left me," before his resolve snaps and he's sobbing into the phone like a fucking woman. He tries to get control of himself but he can't, tries to stop but there's just too much coming up at once.
He's still crying when FDR's voice stops coming through the phone; he tries to calm when FDR pulls him up and to the bedroom, lays him down and curls up around him like a fucking octopus. He doesn't say anything and he doesn't let Tuck go, and when Tuck finally stops, it's morning out and FDR's still awake.
"Her loss," he tells Tuck.
FDR grew up in privilege, but he's a better cook than Tuck could ever hope to be and every field assignment ends in FDR's kitchen with pots, pans, and mixing bowls over any available surface. FDR cooks a smorgasbord, Tuck blends yogurt and fruit into the smoothies he used to make at Jamba Juice (college jobs are never glamorous), and they plow through it all before collapsing onto the carpet in front of the TV.
It's what they're doing the night before Joe's sixth birthday, the two of them sprawled across the floor under the flickering pool lights, when Tuck asks, "What's it like?"
"What is what like?"
"Kissing a guy."
They're punchdrunk from the case, the food, and actually drunk from the rum FDR had started pouring into the blender when Tuck looked away, and that's probably why FDR doesn't ignore the question. He says, "Kind of like kissing a girl, kind of not," and then smiles at the ceiling.
Tuck contemplates that for a few minutes, lets it sink in; he rolls over to his stomach, and then crawls close to FDR. "Could I kiss you, then?"
"Hm, curious or experimenting?"
"I don't know."
"All right, but just... don't freak the fuck out after," FDR says, the voice of experience, and pulls Tuck in with a hand to the back of his friend's neck.
The kiss is both a lot like and nothing like kissing a girl. (If that girl was six foot tall, lean muscle, and wearing painfully expensive silk suit pants with a threadbare DMB concert tee, of course.) FDR lets him take control, tilting his head under the mess of the kiss and Tuck knows, in that instant, that if he wanted more, FDR would give it to him.
He pulls away and pants with his head on FDR's shoulder, licks his lips, and mutters, "I should go," because he can feel how much this would change things if he gave it the chance. "Call me a cab."
They don't speak until FDR pours Tuck into the backseat of the shitty cab he calls, and then it's only, "Enjoy the freak out, buddy. See you in the morning."
It's one more thing that Tuck doesn't talk about, the kiss, and then there's Lauren and this unidentifiable something in the pit of his stomach when he thinks about FDR and Lauren and the fact that there's a snowball's chance in hell of her not falling for FDR. (He did.)
They go to fucking war over her though, and partly because Tuck hates anyone who gets to touch FDR—seriously, there's a rule between them to never discuss FDR's conquests and it's not for the reasons FDR thinks it is—and partly because he's so fucking lonely. He loves her because he wants to, but not enough to be in love with her; he loves her because it's easier than trying to keep FDR's attention.
But he loses in ways he can't verbalize.
He makes peace with it because he has no other choice and sinks himself into teaching Joe some self-defense moves, into his work, (eventually) into planning a wedding he's no interest in actually showing up to. But it makes Nana happy and it makes the ache in his heart easier to bear, so of course it has to end badly:
Katie's picked out a color scheme and flowers. She's chosen her dress, his tux, the suits for all the groomsmen and for Joe. She's happy and smiling and Tuck's started to feel true love for her again, more than the overwhelming affection he'd felt for her as the mother of his child. It's been, not perfect, but wonderful.
It's also made her a ridiculously easy target, and she's kidnapped one night while Tuck's in Russia. Men looking for payback, they take her and Joe and by the time Tuck and FDR make it to the warehouse where the two are being held, it's minutes before Katie bleeds out on the concrete and all he can do is tell her he loves her until she's gone.
(The day they bury her, it's supposed to be their wedding day and Tuck hides away in his old room at Nana's with Joe and they cry on the floor together until FDR slips in, pads to the corner and wedges himself in with the other two. He holds them both, really, and cries along with them.)
"Here," FDR says the morning after the funeral, pushing a coffee across the island in Nana's kitchen, and when Tuck coughs through the first sip, FDR admits, "It's more whiskey than coffee. Figured you could use the pick-me-up to deal with family today."
"Gonna take the whole bloody bottle to do that," Tuck replies.
The bottle is set down on the counter half a second later, the glass tinkling against the marble. "Drink up. I'll guard the door for you."
Tuck sighs and takes a sip, then tells FDR, "You're my best friend," as the door to the kitchen pops open under FDR's hand.
"And you're mine."
Lauren and FDR float around each other for a long time, like bullets fired that ricochet furiously, and for all the love between them and all they've shared, there's some things that neither thinks to tell the other.
Like the fact that Christmas ceased being a Foster/Hansen family tradition the year FDR's parents died, that no matter how much time has passed since the accident, FDR hates the very thought of pine trees and decorations and colored lights in his own home. So when he and Lauren have their first fight, it's Tuck who has to tell her why—after he gets FDR out from the bedroom.
"Hey," he says after he knocks a dozen times to no response. "It's Tuck."
"Tucker," comes back through the door and it's not good because the last time FDR called him Tucker it was back in college the night FDR pounded back enough to shoot himself into alcohol poisoning.
"I'm not going away and I will break in if I have to. Let's save the expense of a new door, hmm?"
The lock pops but the door doesn't open and Tuck nods down the hall to Lauren, then waves her off when she starts to move toward him; she looks upset but he doesn't have time to argue because he knows what he's going to find when he steps foot in the room.
He grabs the bottle of vodka out of FDR's hands the moment the door opens and Tuck throws it—open—out of the room before snapping the door shut. There's no other bottles around and the old, worn photo album (the one with FDR's parents in the pictures) is closed on the bed.
That's all the time he gets before FDR comes at him, angered by Tuck removing the liquor from the room. It's sloppy and Tuck allows FDR to get a throw in before he quickly and neatly lays FDR out on the bed; FDR rolls onto his feet and tries again.
For an hour, maybe more, FDR tries to land a punch only to be stopped with painful efficiency and the last time, he mutters, "She's mad."
"I'll talk to her."
FDR sniffs and looks away, drags a pillow under his head as he says, "Thanks, Tuck."
(Lauren wants him to get therapy and maybe that's why they agree on a separation; Tuck thinks he's doing pretty damn well for a guy who'd been in the car with his parents the day of the accident and maybe that's why FDR starts up with CHIPS nights again.)
They're on the floor and it almost feels normal, if one ignores the fact that FDR's been off-kilter since the whole Christmas debacle, and there's a set of completely alcohol-free shakes on the coffee table that are untouched though every last drop of the Kopi Luwak coffee FDR'd had stashed in his cabinet has been drunk. There's still food in the cupboards and the fridge, but FDR was eating better than he'd been a few weeks ago.
"Fucking weird," FDR tells him mid-way through an episode of SVU, "Think I'd be over this by now."
"Don't think you get over losing your parents, Franklin."
"No—wanting to kiss you."
Tuck blinks. "Did you take something?"
FDR lifts an eyebrow, because no, he's not intoxicated. He just... doesn't have the energy to ignore that thing that's been hovering between them. Too much has happened to them lately, their friendship tried and tested, and it's not like he's never noticed how Tuck looks at him sometimes.
"I'm not stoned. And by the way, we've got surprise drug testing on Monday."
"Good to know. I'll save the coke for Tuesday," Tuck replies and hopes the silence between them will entice FDR to sleep, but both of them seem to have run dry on luck.
"Seriously. It was what, three years ago? Four? Still think about it every once in a while."
"And by every once in a while, you mean you've been thinking about it continuously since, oh, Lauren left?"
FDR has the good grace to nod, only to break that grace with the admittance, "Yeah, but for a while before that," then, in a softer voice, "You ever think about it?"
The feeling in the room is heavy and Tuck feels like he did on the very night they're discussing, like this can change something and he's so scared because he can't fuck this up. Not again.
He tells FDR, "Sometimes. When you're not being a complete moron."
A few minutes of silence, again, broken when FDR speaks. "Want to do it again?"
"You're my best friend," Tuck says, feeling a little helpless under the flashpoint arousal.
"And you're mine." FDR crawls over him on hands and knees, a grin on his lips when Tuck lifts his hands to cradle FDR's hips.
Then Tuck's leaning up, pulling FDR in, claiming FDR's mouth and the world slips away.