Work Header

something warm about you

Chapter Text

March 1992

Lars watches through the window, hypnotized by the way Kirk glides the net across the shimmering water to pluck out errant palm fronds. His sunkissed arms are a visual treat, faint lines of muscle rising to the surface like waves.

Kirk is smaller than Dave, tanned and sweeter too. Kirk smiles and waves when he sees Lars watching through the glass doors of the house.

The second time Kirk cleans the pool, Lars brings him a cold beer after the day’s work. Kirk’s skin glistens in the sun with a faint sheen of sweat. Lars wonders how it might taste on his tongue.

It’s the way Kirk looks at Lars that has him shaken. The shy little glances, like a shoplifter tucking a stolen item into his pocket. Lars lets him look. Dave will never know.

Megadeth is currently recording their fifth studio album in Burbank. Rather than make a five-hour drive twice a day from San Francisco, Dave has elected to crash at the Los Angeles home of his bandmate David Ellefson.

With Dave absent when Kirk visits, Lars becomes a little more brazen, inviting Kirk’s gaze to linger on his bare legs, on his arms exposed in a singlet. Lars works hard to keep in shape; someone ought to fucking appreciate it.

“You listen to Megadeth?” Lars wonders.

Kirk shrugs a tanned shoulder. “Sometimes. I’m more into Diamond Head, Exodus, Rainbow, Samhain, Deep Purple.”

“I fucking love Deep Purple. They were my first concert back in Denmark.”

Kirk doesn’t seem surprised that Lars isn’t a San Francisco native. A name like Lars probably gives that away immediately.

“Lucky,” Kirk says, straightening up. “I haven’t seen a lot of big bands. Just some underground stuff.”

Lars draws Kirk into a conversation about bands, music, and live shows. They move to the poolside chairs, and conversation flows easily, with Kirk happily envious of Lars’ concert history.

Lars rises to fetch Kirk another beer just as the glass doors to the pool slide open.

“Lars!” Dave calls, tall and tense. “Where the fuck’s dinner?”

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Lars asks.

“I can’t stop into my own house?”

“It’s a five-hour drive.”

“I drive fast,” Dave says with a grin. He glances at Kirk, momentarily confused. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is Kirk. I hired him to clean our pool.”

Kirk offers a wave and a polite hello. “Nice to meet you. I like your music.”

“Thanks,” Dave says, but there’s a storm cloud forming on his brow. He gives Kirk a chilly glance before looking back at Lars. “Now where’s my dinner?”

Lars gives Kirk an apologetic glance as he rushes inside. “I didn’t cook. You want me to call for takeout?”

Dave scoffs. “I’ve had enough of that shit from Marty.”


“Get me two double cheeseburgers.”

Lars sighs. “You couldn’t have stopped while you were on the road for five hours?”

“I didn’t know you were gonna sit on your perky little ass all day,” Dave says, squeezing Lars’ ass for emphasis.

Lars has only been home about two hours, and most of that time was spent talking with Kirk. But whatever. Arguing with Dave is a losing game.

Lars goes out and gets Dave’s stupid burgers. He remembers when Dave used to help with the cooking, how he’d hover behind Lars and smooth his hands underneath Lars’ shirt to distract him from chopping vegetables. How Dave used to pin him against the fridge or the pantry and screw him until something burned on the stovetop.

When did that disappear? Lars can’t remember. It must have been a slow process, all the spontaneity and passion slowly draining until nothing was left.

When Lars comes back, Kirk is gone, and Dave’s sitting on the couch, watching TV.

“How’s the album coming?” Lars asks while they eat.

“It’s a process,” Dave says, which answers nothing, and Lars knows that’s all he’ll get out of Dave in regards to the music.

“How come you don’t record at a studio here?”

“It’s easier for all of us to get together at Junior’s.”

“You know he hates when you call him that.”

“I think he’s warming up to it,” Dave says with a crooked grin.

Lars doubts that, but it isn’t worth arguing over. He glances toward the pool, as if hoping to see Kirk there.

“How much longer are you gonna be gone?” Worried that might come across as a complaint, Lars adds, “It gets lonely around here.”

Dave misses the implication entirely. “Is that why you hired a pool boy?”

“It’s one less chore for me to do,” Lars says, oddly defensive. Dave won’t let him hire a housekeeper to clean while they’re both out (“I don’t want someone stealing my shit”), and Lars has qualms about lounging around the house while a maid dusts and vacuums.

“Well, normally we could wrap up recording in a week or so,” Dave says, “but since there’s a fucking curfew in L.A. now, the studio closes at six. Makes it hard to get anything done in a timely fashion.”

Again, Lars wonders why Dave’s going through all the trouble when there are perfectly serviceable recording studios in San Francisco. But whatever. Maybe they’re working with a producer who won’t travel. If Lars raises the subject again, Dave will turn it around on him, because Lars was the one who wanted to live in San Francisco, and that makes the inconvenience his fault somehow.

“Don’t worry,” Dave says, recognizing whatever Lars’ face is doing, “I’ll check in on you.”

It’s a long drive, and Lars wishes Dave wouldn’t, but he smiles and says, “Keep me out of trouble.”

The next time Kirk shows up, Lars is ready for him, dressed in a pair of dark shorts and no shirt.

Kirk blushes, glancing away as he sweeps leaves from the water. “Oh. Hey.”

“Hey yourself.” Lars takes a seat in a nearby chair. It’s nice out, another breezy San Francisco day, but Lars isn’t here to enjoy the weather. He’s focused on Kirk’s arms, exposed by his sleeveless tee.

And Kirk’s ass is a sight to behold in those dark, tight jeans.

“I didn’t get you in trouble last time, did I?” Kirk asks, glancing over his shoulder at Lars.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“How did you end up living with Dave Mustaine?”

“I guess you’d say I was a groupie,” Lars admits with a pained smile. “I followed Megadeth to their shows when they were just getting started. Dave must have liked me best.”

Oh. You’re, like… together?”

“Is that a problem for you?”

Kirk blushes hot. “N—no, I just — I mean, I’m bi, so it doesn’t bother me. I just thought you were, like, roommates or something.”

How preciously naive. Why else would Dave live in this expensive house with a guy who isn’t a relative or a bandmate?

“Nope. I’m the common-law trophy husband.”

“Oh. He isn’t around much.”

Lars watches a bead of sweat trickle down Kirk’s jawline and throat before disappearing under the ripped collar of his shirt.

“The life of a rock star, right?” Lars says with a shrug. “What do you do for fun?”

Kirk looks surprised to be asked. “Um… I like horror movies. I play guitar. I’m trying to get a novel published.”

That piques Lars’ interest. “A novel, huh? What’s it about?”

“Zombies…” Kirk says, like he’s ashamed of it. “It’s called Creeping Death. But the twist is it’s told from the point of view of a zombie. He sorta still has his sense of self. He can’t talk, but he can think and feel. So he does his best to survive and find other zombies like him.”

“That sounds fucking cool. I’d love to read it.” Lars doesn’t usually read horror, but he’ll make an exception here.


“Absolutely. Is it finished?”

“Yeah, I just need someone to look it over, y’know, and tell me if I’m wasting my time trying to be an author.”

“I can tell you you’re not.”

“There’s no way you could know that right now.”

“You’re passionate,” Lars says. “You have great ideas.”

“That doesn’t mean I’m any good.”

“So you keep trying. Maybe this one’s a dud, but the next one might not be.”

Kirk smiles at Lars as though no one has ever believed in him before. “Thanks. What about you? What do you like to do? I don’t even know what you do for a living.”

“I do some bullshit copywriting at an advertising firm,” Lars says with an eyeroll.

“I can’t see that at all. You look like an artist. Or a rock star.”

“I could’ve been. Maybe in another life. Art and music are important to me, but I don’t know if I’d call them hobbies. Mostly I read and play tennis.”

“At the same time?” Kirk says, grinning at his own joke. “Wow, you must really be good.”

Lars laughs despite himself. God, he’s corny. “It’s in the genes. My father was a tennis star back home. I decided to eschew the family legacy and become a full-time disappointment.”

“You’re not a disappointment.”

“There’s no way you could know that.”

“Well, I do. It takes a lot of guts to live your way instead of following what other people tell you to do.”

Lars looks at him, this beautiful boy with dark, dazzling eyes and a smile that blows a canyon through Lars’ chest.

“Do you want to come in for dinner?” Lars says, his heart thumping loudly. The invitation feels like a precipice.

Kirk swallows, and Lars watches his throat. “Isn’t Dave coming home?”

“If he’s smart, he’ll call first.”

Lars leads Kirk inside, through the sliding doors and into the kitchen. Kirk stands awkwardly by the island while Lars reheats last night’s leftovers.

“Go on. Sit,” Lars says.

Kirk lowers himself into a seat at the island.

“Can I get you a drink?”

“Umm… sure.”

“You’re gonna have to tell me what you want.”

Kirk finds Lars’ gaze and licks his lips; Lars wants to lick them for him. “Just water, I guess.”

Lars pours him a glass of water over ice. Kirk takes it with a quiet “thanks,” careful not to brush Lars’ fingertips when he takes the glass.

“How long have you been cleaning pools?” Lars asks to get him talking. Maybe conversation will make him more comfortable.

“Just a few months. I took this job ‘cause I needed something quick after I got fired from my last one.”

“Where’d you work before?”

“A comic shop downtown.” A wistful expression crosses Kirk’s face. “Man, it was so great. I worked with a bunch of cool people. Even my boss was cool. Then he got sacked. He popped positive on a drug test. I guess it showed more than just weed.”

The microwave beeps, and Lars has to pull away, finding himself drawn closer by Kirk’s story. He pulls the dish out of the microwave and sets it between them on the island.

“And your new boss was a shithead?” Lars says, retrieving silverware for them and sitting across from Kirk.

“A total dick,” Kirk agrees morosely. “He comes in and starts running the place like a fucking boot camp. He fired my friend Jason for being a slacker, which is total bullshit. Jason worked harder than anyone. And I got fired for ‘not working hard enough.’ Which was also bullshit. I know he fired me ‘cause I’m bisexual.”

Lars frowns. “I don’t think he’s allowed to do that.”

“Yeah, well, fuck it. I’m not putting myself on the line for some dumb ‘sales assistant’ job. Manager, maybe.”

“He was probably just jealous you were getting twice as many dates as him,” Lars says to lift Kirk’s spirits.

Kirk huffs a laugh, cheeks flushing. He drops his gaze and pokes at the food with a fork. “What is this?”

“Beef stroganoff. Sorry it’s leftovers.”

“That’s okay. I love leftovers.” Kirk takes a bite and makes a sound of approval, then he keeps eating. He must be starving.

Lars pours himself a couple fingers of whisky to calm his nerves. Is he really considering seducing Kirk here? Is he nuts?

Maybe a little. The idea is there, a worm wriggling in the fertile soil of his brain. Twice, Kirk mentioned being bisexual. Would he have bothered bringing that up unless he wanted Lars to know?

Lars downs the shot, and the whisky burns.

No. It would be wrong. Dave might screw around on tour, but Lars is good. Lars is faithful. He would never cheat, even if Dave doesn’t respect him anymore. Even if the love has gone out of their ‘marriage.’

Cheating is what shitty protagonists do in literary fiction written by authors living vicariously through their characters’ midlife crises. A desperate fantasy about escaping the domestic two-point-five-children hell they’ve locked themselves into.

Lars doesn’t have any of that. No kids, no wedding ring, not even a certificate that recognizes a marriage. All he’s doing is cohabitating with a rich rock star. It’s not like Dave beats him. Lars isn’t living in a made-for-TV movie about an abusive husband. He’s just bored, slowly approaching thirty and wishing he had so much more.

Just like everyone else on the fucking planet, Dave would say with a sneer. Life sucks. Get a helmet.


Kirk’s voice pulls Lars from his thoughts. Kirk has finished half of the leftovers, his fork hovering over the dish.

“Are you gonna eat?”

“No, go ahead. It’s all yours.”

Kirk scoops up another forkful. He’s so skinny. He could use a good meal or two. Lars thinks about cooking especially for Kirk and feels a delicious curl of arousal in his lower belly. Is that something Lars can do without crossing an invisible threshold into infidelity?

Lars pours himself another shot and takes his seat.

“Do you have any cool stories from touring with Megadeth?” Kirk asks him.

“Not really. There is one, though, but it’s less cool and more funny? Except Dave doesn’t laugh about it.”

Lars tells Kirk a story about how, in 1987, Megadeth stood on stage for fifteen minutes without playing a note while their entire discography was screamed at them by a drunken crowd. Kirk laughs in all the right spots. His laughter is a bright, crisp sound, something Lars wants to fall into like a pile of leaves.

“Of course they ended up playing a few songs, but I think they only performed for fifteen minutes total,” Lars says when it’s over. “Probably his best gig.”

“And Dave doesn’t think that’s funny?” Kirk says through giggles.

“No! He gets all snobby about it because he thinks that was the moment he sold out.” Lars rolls his eyes. “What the fuck ever, man. Take the money, buy yourself a new Flying V, and shut up.”

Kirk grins, looking sweet and enthralling. Lars finishes his shot.

“He’d never let that shit happen nowadays,” Lars says. “He’d just start playing, sloppy drunks be damned. But back then they only had two albums out, and they weren’t super huge yet, so I think it was a bit of an ego boost to have that much power over a crowd.”

Kirk listens intently, his chin resting in his palm, and Lars can’t remember the last time Dave paid half as much attention to him.

“What a rush. I’d love to publish my book and have just one person recognize me,” Kirk says. “Or have someone see my name on my credit card and go, ‘hey, aren’t you the guy?’”

“Bring your manuscript next time. I wanna read it.”

Having a piece of Kirk in the house excites Lars. He imagines reading it in bed, in the same bed where he sleeps with Dave. At least when Dave is home.

“You really want — okay, I can do that.” Kirk flashes a crooked smile, like he can’t believe Lars has offered. He eases back from the island and slides off the stool. “I should get going. Thanks for dinner.”

“Anytime,” Lars says and means it.

Lars has a hot meal ready when Kirk comes around next time. He put a little more effort into preparing it, because Kirk will appreciate that; he won’t eat and run without so much as a thank you.

“You must be starving,” Lars says, lingering in the open doorway while Kirk’s finishing up. “Come inside.” Lars means every bit of that double entendre.

Kirk seems to hear it too; a flush creeps over his face as he approaches. He smells the savory aromas in the kitchen and says, “You cooked for me?”

“I cooked, and you happen to be here,” Lars says, shrugging in a display of indifference. “Did you bring your manuscript?”

“Yeah. It’s in my car.”

“Well, go get it.”

Kirk hurries out of the house, and Lars wonders if Kirk is uncomfortable with the subtext here. Is Kirk picking up what Lars is putting down but choosing to ignore it for the sake of being polite?

It’s probably unethical for Kirk to entertain any flirtations from a client anyway.

Lars serves up the parmesan crusted chicken and roasted sweet potatoes by the time Kirk comes back with the manuscript.

Kirk sets the tied stack of papers at the edge of the island, away from their plates. “Here it is. Just don’t read it in front of me. I’ll die if you do. I know that sounds silly.”

“You think I don’t understand weird artist quirks? I’ll read it tonight.”

“I hope it doesn’t put you to sleep.” Kirk cuts into his food and takes a dainty bite, as if the food might be poisoned. “This is good!”

“You thought I’d serve you crap?”

“Well, no, I just — ”

“Relax. I’m teasing you.” Lars would prefer a different kind of teasing, where he could drag his fingertips down Kirk’s chest and whisper dirty fantasies in his ear.

“I knew that,” Kirk mumbles, so cute and surly it makes Lars smile.

He’s grateful the kitchen island is a solid wall between their lower halves, else Lars might try to snake his foot up Kirk’s leg.

“Dave won’t be upset that you had dinner with me?”

“I’m allowed to have friends,” Lars says, mostly to convince himself. “Why the fuck should he care?”

Kirk drops his gaze, making a point not to look at Lars. “I just — I don’t want to cause problems between you.”

“Sometimes our friend James shows up, and I’ll have a pizza and a beer with him. How is this so different?”

Because James is a mutual friend of Lars and Dave. Because James is married. Because James is straight and would refuse any advance Lars made.

Because Lars isn’t thinking about James bending him over the couch and wrecking him.

Kirk shrugs and says, “I guess it’s not.”

Maybe Lars is just horny. A romp in the sheets with Dave might satisfy Lars’ craving for physicality, and this dangerous thing between him and Kirk will dissolve as easily as it formed.

After Kirk leaves, Lars cleans up the kitchen. Midway through, the phone rings.

It’s James. “Lars? What’s up?”

Lars and Dave met James in 1983 during the larval stages of Megadeth. If they’re splitting hairs, Lars met James first. They’d met in the L.A. clubs where Megadeth cut their teeth; James was an avid thrash metal fan, and Lars found himself attracted to the shy, tall kid with piles of blond hair.

So maybe Dave got a little jealous and swooped in to stake a claim on Lars.

“Nothing much,” Lars says, wiping down the stovetop.

I’m destroying my marriage through a slow-burn seduction of the pool boy. How was your day?

“So, hey, my anniversary’s coming up,” James says, “and I wanna sweep her off her feet, y’know? I think I blew my load with the first one. I wasn’t thinking I’d have to keep outdoing myself every fucking year. How do you guys keep it fresh?”

Last year, Lars wanted to take a short vacation for their anniversary, but Megadeth had concert dates in Rio that week. So Lars tagged along, feeling like a third wheel among the rest of the band. He spent more time with Nick and Marty than his own ‘husband’, and when Lars had a nice dinner brought to their shared room after the concert, Dave never showed, opting to get plastered and pass out in Junior’s suite.

This year, their anniversary went unmentioned and unacknowledged.

“Um… You don’t have to top last year’s,” Lars says. “Just show her you appreciate her. Fran hates big gestures anyway, right?”

“Yeah. Shit,” James grumbles.

“Make her dinner or something. Or take her to a restaurant she likes. Hire a maid to do the chores so Fran has the day to herself. Just be thoughtful, you dick.”

“I’m nervous, man. I don’t wanna fuck this up so early.”

“You won’t.”

“How do you know?”

Because you’re not me. Because you love a good woman, and her love has made you better.

“I have a sense for these things,” Lars says. He catches a glimpse of himself in the reflection of the stovetop and turns away.

“Alright, well, if it goes to shit, I’m blaming you,” James says.

“Fair enough.”

They hang up, and it takes a while for Lars’ eyes to stop burning.

January 1991

“I can’t get over you and Dave,” Nick said to Lars while they drank cocktails at the hotel bar.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s just — he doesn’t seem like your type, I guess. And you’re so far from who I thought he’d be attracted to.”

“Cause I’m a dude?”

Nick blushed. “No. Well, yeah, I mean. You know how he is.”

Homophobic slurs were some of Dave’s favorite insults. So yes, Lars knew.

“But you’re …” Nick paused, toying with the tiny umbrella in his drink. “You just keep shit organized, you know? And Dave is just this huge control freak. Like oil and water, I guess.”

By this point, Dave had already fired seven members of Megadeth for various infractions. To say Dave was a control freak would be an understatement.

“It was really nice of you to send me a gift basket when I joined,” Nick said, smiling shyly. “You didn’t have to do it, but you did. I think that’s the big difference between you and Dave.”

“That I’m nice?” Lars said with a laugh. It sounded like a joke, but Lars suspected it was closer to the truth than either of them thought.

“You’re thoughtful,” Nick said, as though there was a difference. Or maybe he didn’t want to potentially badmouth Dave to Lars’ face. Dave was known to fire band members for less.

Lars really couldn’t imagine Dave doing something nice for someone just because. Maybe at the beginning of their courtship, when Dave had something to gain by playing nice. But now?

Nick shrugged and took a sip of his drink. “Well, happy sixth anniversary.”

It shouldn’t have hurt that Nick remembered the significance of the date. Maybe Dave had mentioned it to him, or maybe Nick was cut from the same cloth as Lars and remembered things that were important to people.

Shit, Lars thought, studying his drink. It wasn’t the first time he’d considered that he’d made a mistake staying with Dave for this long, and it wouldn’t be the last.

March 1992

Lars takes his drink and the manuscript to the couch and begins to read. The story grabs his focus and keeps him turning the pages. He can hear Kirk’s voice in the prose, a little more polished and self-assured. The main character is awkward and endearing, like a zombie version of Kirk himself.

He almost doesn’t hear the phone ring. And ring. And ring.

It’s the second set of rings that startles him to attention. He hops off the couch and snatches the phone off the cradle.

It’s Dave this time. “You used to come when I call.”

“You used to call.”


“I made dinner,” Lars says. “Are you coming home?”

“Depends. Will there be dessert?”

Lars almost takes that on face value until he realizes Dave is flirting. He should chase that comment, turn it into something flirtatious and try to relight the spark they once had.

“There may be some poundcake in your future,” Lars says, playing coy.

Dave chuckles darkly, and the sound of it traces a finger down Lars’ spine. “My favorite. Wait up for me.”

He hangs up, and Lars waits, reading more of Kirk’s novel.

Dave comes home after midnight. Lars clumsily sets the manuscript on the coffee table to camouflage it amongst the TV Guide and newspapers strewn there.

“I’m sure you made a great main course,” Dave says, approaching the couch, “but I like to have my dessert first.” A leering smile forms on his lips, the same one that used to make Lars half hard in his jeans.

Lars lets Dave take him upstairs to their bedroom, lets him slide in and fuck Lars face-down on the mattress. Dave’s hands are warm and wide around Lars’ hips, and he still knows that perfect angle to make Lars lose his fucking mind.

Dave grabs a handful of Lars’ hair and wraps it around his fist, using it like a rope to tug Lars’ head back. “Fucking listen to you,” Dave murmurs at Lars’ ear. “Moaning like a slut.”

Lars can’t stop the groan that slips out when Dave shoves into him again. Those hard, quick thrusts pounding that sweet spot make Lars come in record time.

Lars presses his face into the sheets, his dick unloading onto the T-shirt he hurriedly laid underneath him as they undressed. Dave’s still pumping into him, his fingers clutching Lars’ hips.

“Fuck,” Dave groans, his pace stuttering as he gets close. “You came already?” Then he gasps, his body bowing over Lars’ spine as he succumbs to the grip around him. Lars arches into him, trying to press their bodies together at every possible point.

Dave slumps over Lars’ back, and they drop onto the bed. Dave’s breathing hot against Lars’ shoulder. Lars rolls them so he can cuddle into Dave’s chest. Dave moves onto his back, but Lars makes do.

“Thank you,” Lars says, slinking a hand along Dave’s arm. “I’ve been so fucking horny all week.”

Dave lifts an eyebrow. “You should’ve told me. I’m happy to be of service.”

“I thought I could jerk off and be done with it.”

Lars did plenty of jerking off, though he thought of Kirk while he did it.

“Sometimes you need an expert touch,” Dave says. He curls an arm around Lars’ shoulders, fingers brushing over his skin.

They lie together for a moment before Dave hauls himself out of bed. He ducks into the bathroom, and Lars hears the faucet running behind the door.

On jellied legs, Lars gets up and into a change of clothes. He doesn’t bother with a shirt — maybe Dave will stare at him the way Kirk does when he’s shirtless.

Lars thinks of Kirk’s flustered stares, how he hastily averts his eyes when Lars notices his gaze.

Dave’s stares are confrontational in their heat. When he ogles Lars, there’s a sharpness to it, as if Dave dares him or anyone else to challenge it.

Lars goes downstairs and reheats Dave’s dinner. Dave joins him a little while later, wearing only his shorts, his long hair cascading down his back. Lars eyes him, arousal revving up again.

Dave grabs a beer and takes his food to the couch. Lars casually sweeps Kirk’s manuscript off the coffee table and into his arms.

“What’s that?” Dave asks with mild interest, though he doesn’t look away from switching on the TV.

“Something for work.”

Dave makes a noise of acknowledgment and starts flipping channels. He settles on some late-night news program, and Lars knows to leave unless he wants to hear Dave bitch and moan about the state of the world like he always does.

Lars takes the manuscript upstairs. Curled under the covers with the bedside lamp illuminating the pages, Lars reads. He’ll hate himself in the morning for staying up this late on a weekday, but he doesn’t care.

Lars feels a stone in his throat about two-thirds in, when the zombie protagonist develops a bond with Lani, a human survivor. There’s no reason for the two of them to trust each other, but the zombie and his sentient dead clan risk their safety to protect the humans. And Lani sees something human in this undead boy, something worth protecting.

She teaches him rudimentary sign language so he can communicate with her beyond head gestures. He brings her trinkets and tokens from scavenging. She shares her favorite movies and music with him.

It’s messy and real, and Lars reads on, hoping the humans might find a cure for the zombie virus so these two can be together. The zombie is slowly rotting and falling apart as the elements destroy his body. He’s lost a few limbs, but the brain and the soul are intact.

In the last few pages, the survivor troupe and the sentient zombies find a compound that’s rebuilding society. The humans are allowed inside, but the zombies are unceremoniously gunned down at the gate; Lani’s heart breaks; end on a pithy observation about human nature; roll credits.

It’s a gut punch of an ending, and Lars sits there in silence, angry and heartbroken all at once. It’s almost a personal attack. He’s spent hundreds of pages invested in this relationship, only for Kirk to pull the rug out from under him.

“Fuck you, book!” Lars says in disbelief.

That can’t be the actual ending. Maybe Kirk wrote himself into a corner and gave up. He said he needed someone to look it over. Lars can guide him toward a more satisfying ending.

He’s still thinking about the story, even in the dark when Dave slips into bed beside him, erection pressing against Lars’ thigh.

August 1987

While Megadeth was on tour promoting Peace Sells…, Lars had been tasked with house hunting. Lars didn’t want to live in L.A., and after a great deal of protest, Dave had relented and agreed to a midcentury modern two-story home in San Francisco. It was large enough for both of them, including a basement Dave could eventually turn into a home studio.

But the attraction for Lars, along with the sleek, clean design, had been the pool.

“What’s the big deal?” Dave asked, sitting on the chaise and watching Lars float in the water as dusk settled around them. “Didn’t your Richie Rich parents have one?”

“No, we had a tennis court,” Lars said, floating on his back. He gazed up at the stars beginning to emerge in the darkening sky.

“That’s right. I knew it was something obscenely WASP-y.”

Lars rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on.”

“I never had one,” Dave said, as if making a point. “Or a tennis court.”

Lars glided over to the edge of the pool where Dave sat. “Are you gonna complain, or are you gonna join me?”

Dave smiled, almost leering, at the invitation. He stood up and stripped down, leaving his undershorts on to match Lars’ state of near-nudity. Dave slid into the water with a splash. Lars swam away from him, daring Dave to follow.

Dave was much taller than Lars, so his long arms and legs helped him catch up in a few strides. He pushed Lars against the edge of the pool. Lars could have ducked beneath Dave’s arms and swam away again, making a game of it, but Dave’s lurid and wanting gaze sent heat flooding through Lars’ veins.

“Spoiled little rich boy,” Dave said, pressing himself against Lars, enough that Lars could feel the strain of his erection.

It was oddly freeing to be out in the open like this, yet still concealed by the foliage and towering palms on either side of the property. Dave must have felt safe here, enough to be this close to Lars without worrying about prying eyes.

Lars wrapped his legs around Dave’s hips, pulling him impossibly closer. Dave made a low groan.

“I’m not the one with the multi-million dollar home,” Lars reminded him. “All I have is a car to my name.”

“I don’t count?” Dave said with a frown. A rare moment of vulnerability. They never spoke plainly about what they meant to each other or about the depths of their devotion. Lars put more value in actions than words, and Dave preferred not to do ‘girly shit’ like talk about feelings.

Lars’ hands came out of the water, wet and glistening, to slide around the back of Dave’s neck. “I have you?” Lars smiled, growing hard against Dave’s stomach. “I guess I am spoiled.”

March 1992

Kirk comes by the same time the following week. Lars is ready for him, manuscript in hand.

“I read your book,” he says, lying on the chaise at the edge of the water.

A nervous smile spreads on Kirk’s face. “Did you like it?”

“Of course I did. It was great. The ending, though... Did you run out of steam?”

Kirk looks over his shoulder, the pool net slowing in his hands. “What do you mean? Should there be more? I thought it was a good place to end, but — ”

“It’s not where you ended it, it’s how. All that buildup and he just fucking dies? No happy ending?”

“It’s happy for the humans,” Kirk says, returning to his work. “That’s what he wanted. For Lani to be safe. For humanity to rebuild.”

“Well, it’s a huge fucking downer. Why can’t the sentient zombies be let into the compound too?”

Kirk chuckles, like Lars isn’t in on a joke, but it doesn’t have the cruel edge that Dave’s laughter does sometimes. “You’ve never seen Night of the Living Dead, have you?”


“Seriously?” Kirk looks at him again, bewildered. “It’s a classic. The new one’s fucking garbage, though. Anyway, in the original film, everybody dies. The main guy the audience is rooting for survives the zombie outbreak only to be shot when he walks out of the safe house. So my book is an homage to that. If you like horror, you’ll get it.”

“I get it,” Lars says, a bit nettled by Kirk’s snobbishness — or maybe he’s hearing something that isn’t there. “I just don’t like it. End it on a high note. It doesn’t have to be all wrapped up. You could imply the survivor camp is working on a cure — maybe they have some scientists there or something. Let the sentient zombies live. Show some optimism and hope for the future.”

“Plenty of best-sellers have main characters who die at the end. Especially horror.” Kirk doesn’t sound annoyed with Lars’ criticism, which is refreshing.

“I didn’t spent three-hundred pages rooting for Lani and her zombie boyfriend just to have him get his head blown off,” Lars says.

“You were rooting for them? I wasn’t sure the whole romance thing was working. I thought you’d tell me to scrap it for sure.”

“No way. The human connection is always the strongest part of a story. So it hurts ten times worse when you want them to be happy, but the world won’t let them.”

“Shakespeare did pretty well writing tragedies,” Kirk points out, unconfrontational.

“Well, fuck him. People read books and watch movies to escape the crappy reality of their lives. So give them something good to hold onto.”

It occurs to Lars that he’s no longer talking about the book.

The sun is blindingly bright on the surface of the water. Lars clears his throat and says, “Besides, do you really want the ending of your book to be a ripoff of something else? For a short story, that’s fine, but this is hundreds of pages. The payoff needs to be better. Especially if it’s your first book. You piss the readers off, they won’t come back.”

Kirk makes a soft noise. “Hm. I never thought of that.”

“Or you could write two versions of the ending and see which one a publisher wants. Maybe I’m wrong.”

“That’s a really good idea! Man, Dave’s so lucky to have access to your brain all the time,” Kirk says.

During the writing of “Peace Sells”, Lars made the mistake of suggesting to Dave how to best structure the riffs in the song. Dave gave him a look like Lars was something left unflushed in a toilet.

“How many songs have you written?” Dave sneered. “Leave the music to the professionals, Uli.”

Lars felt scorched, flattened under the heel of Dave’s boot.

“Yep.” Lars huffs a joyless laugh. “He calls me the honorary Fifth Member.”

Lars invites Kirk inside, as has become his habit. Kirk explores the living room, studying the framed photographs on the mantel. “You look different here,” he says, examining a picture of Lars and Dave from last year’s trip to Brazil.

“Different how?”

“I don’t know. Just different.”

In the photo, Lars’ smile is forced, given because it was expected of him in a photograph commemorating his sixth anniversary.

Kirk places the frame back on the mantel. “Is this what love looks like?”

God, I hope not.

Kirk looks at the gold and platinum records hung around the house — monuments to Dave’s ego. “He’s not home a lot. Or do I come at a bad time?”

“He’s very busy. He’s recording a new album,” Lars says.

“Is it any good?”

“I haven’t heard it. He doesn’t like to workshop his material with non-musicians.”

“Oh.” Kirk finds the bookshelves then, drawn to a picture of Lars, James, and Dave crammed near the end of a shelf. Kirk laughs softly and picks up the frame. “God, you were just a baby here!”

In the photograph, Lars’ smile was brighter and bigger back in 1983. Even Dave looked innocent with his cocky grin. James stood between the two of them, his arms slung around both of their shoulders.

“I was nineteen, probably,” Lars says.

Kirk glances at the photo, then back to Lars, as if he can’t believe it’s the same person. “Wow. How long ago was this?”

“Nine years, give or take.”

“So you’re twenty-eight,” Kirk says to no one in particular. He replaces the photograph and asks, “When’s your birthday?”

“December 26th.”

“That sucks! Do you get totally overlooked ‘cause of Christmas?”


Dave has forgotten Lars’ birthday the past three years. Not entirely, of course, just enough that all he offers is a mumbled, ‘Happy birthday’ over morning coffee — or right before bed as he tries to convince Lars that tonight’s sex is totally worthy of being a gift. If Dave really wanted to lean into ‘sex as a birthday gift,’ he’d give Lars a blow job, but Dave Mustaine is far too heterosexual to put a dick anywhere near his mouth.

Lars shrugs. “The important people in my life remember.”

“Does Dave remember?” Kirk asks, the words cutting through Lars like a hot knife.

Lars’ chest tightens. “He’s very busy,” he says again.

Suddenly feeling hollowed out, Lars goes to the kitchen for a drink. “I’d offer you dinner, but last night’s dish didn’t go over so well.”

“You messed it up?”

“No, it tastes fine. Dave said it looks like ‘something a bum throws up in a back alley.’”

“He said that?”

“He was joking,” Lars says, a touch defensively.

Kirk hops into a seat at the kitchen island. “Well, I’m hungry. Serve it up.” He blushes, as if apologetic for being earnest. “If you still have some, I mean.”

“I have plenty.” Lars smiles, swept up in Kirk’s sweetness. Kirk would never say Lars’ cooking looks like vomit — or if he did, at least he’d eat it in a show of solidarity and trust.

Lars pours himself some whisky while the microwave reheats the soup. With his back to Kirk, Lars takes a breath and swallows his drink.

I love Dave, he reminds himself as if in affirmation. It doesn’t go down as smoothly as the whisky.

I’m with Dave.

Maybe that’s more accurate.

“It doesn’t look so bad,” Kirk says when Lars sets the bowl of soup in front of him. “Is it chicken noodle?”

Lars shakes his head. “Vegetable stew.”

“Yum!” Kirk says with unironic enthusiasm. He scoops up a spoonful, cools it with his breath, and takes a bite. Lars waits for Kirk’s verdict on the meal, but somehow he knows he’ll receive a five-star rating. Kirk’s too kind to give anything less.

“Very good,” Kirk says, his mouth full. “Not pukey at all.”

Which Dave would have known if he’d tried the damn soup. Instead, he made himself a sandwich, which Lars took as a deeper insult; how could a lame-ass ham and turkey sandwich compare with a soup Lars spent an hour preparing and cooking?

While Kirk eats, they talk about his book. He explains how he’d come up with the idea after being annoyed by the remake of Night of the Living Dead. “I figured I could write a better zombie story, so I did. Or, I guess, I tried.”

“Is Night of the Living Dead your favorite movie, and that’s why you’re so mad they messed with it?”

“No, it’s just — it’s the godfather of the modern zombie movie, man. Show some respect.”

Lars chuckles. “Fair enough. Besides horror, what movies do you like?”

“Most of the movies I watch lately are the weird ones on Mystery Science Theater 3000.” At Lars’ blank look, Kirk goes on, “It’s a comedy show where this guy is a prisoner on a spaceship, and the mad scientists who abducted him make him watch bad movies to drive him insane. But he builds robots to keep him company and make fun of the movies. It’s really weird and low-budget, but I like it. It’s on super late, though. I have a bunch of episodes taped if you can’t catch it.”

“Sure, bring me a couple next time.” That’s a little late for Lars, who has to be at work at 9 a.m. and needs his beauty sleep.

While Kirk finishes up his bowl of soup, Dave comes through the front door. Kirk stiffens, turning to look.

“Jesus, man!” Lars says, exasperated. “I’m putting my foot down. You can’t just drop in like this.”

Dave lifts an eyebrow, ignoring Lars’ outburst. “Is this what you do while I’m out? Throw a party?”

“Two people is hardly a party,” Lars says.

Dave approaches the island where Kirk and Lars are seated. “Leftovers?” he asks, a thread of accusation in his tone that only Lars hears.

“I didn’t know you were coming.”

Kirk’s jaw tightens, his pulse beating in his throat.

“Yeah, well, Marty had some family stuff to deal with, and Nick had a doctor’s appointment, so here I am,” Dave grumbles. He stomps up the stairs for a shower.

“Is he always like that?” Kirk wonders, his brow creased.

Lars shrugs. Honesty would be a step too far over the neat line they’ve drawn, but Lars doesn’t want to lie to Kirk.

So he says nothing.

Kirk rises from his seat. “I should go. I’ve got, um, a thing.” He checks his wristwatch and gathers his manuscript. “Thanks for reading this. And for dinner. ‘S really nice of you.”

Their quiet little evening is unraveling, and all Lars can do is watch. “You don’t have to — ” he starts, but it’s probably best if Kirk and Dave aren’t around each other. “Never mind. Have a good night.”

“You too,” Kirk says, and he leaves through the back door.

The next morning at work, Lars yawns at his desk, drinking coffee to keep himself awake. He stayed up too late to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Dave must have thrown an afghan over Lars’ sleeping form on the couch, because Lars doesn’t remember doing it himself.

It’s these small gestures that make Lars reassess Dave. Because Dave isn’t good at talking about how he feels, or at controlling his worst impulses, but he’s trying. He’s making a five-hour drive (which becomes a ten-hour drive, considering the return trip) from L.A. to San Francisco at least once a week to see Lars.

Dave can be abrasive and inconsiderate, but he’s not a terrible person. Lars is terrible for mentally undressing Kirk and falling asleep to thoughts of domestic bliss with the goddamn pool boy.

“Lars?” Fran’s standing by his desk, waving a hand in front of his face.

“Shit. Sorry. Did James blame any anniversary snafus on me?”

“No snafus. It was wonderful. I’m sure you had a hand in that somehow, so thank you.”

“What? Me? No way.”

Lars introduced James and Fran three years ago, so he takes a bit of pride in their relationship. James almost didn’t go on that first date, convinced no smart, pretty copywriter would ever want a scruffy tattoo artist with only a high-school diploma to his name.

“Alright, I believe you.” Fran smiles at his avoidance. “James got four tickets to Guns N’ Roses next Friday. You wanna bring Dave?”

Lars laughs enough to make his stomach cramp. “You really don’t know Dave, do you?”

“James laughed when I suggested that, too. Does Dave have a problem with someone in the band?”

Lars pushes a hand through the hair that’s fallen in front of his face. “I really don’t know. You need a goddamn day planner to keep track of everyone Dave’s got a problem with. How’d James end up with four tickets?”

“One of the band’s roadies was in the shop getting ink,” Fran says with a shrug, like it happens all the time. With James’ tattoo parlor bringing him into contact with rock stars, and Lars dating Dave, Fran probably isn’t fazed by things like this.

“Well, Dave’s busy recording a new album,” Lars says. “So even if he doesn’t have beef with Axl, he’s not coming.”

“Isn’t there someone you could bring?” Fran asks, as if she’s curious why Lars doesn’t have a Rolodex full of friends he can call for social situations.

(“I haven’t seen a lot of big bands. Just some underground stuff.”)

Kirk would love this concert. Even if Guns N’ Roses aren’t his speed, he probably wouldn’t turn down a free ticket.

“I might know someone…”

Lars doesn’t know Kirk’s home number, but he manages to get him on the phone through the pool cleaning company.

Kirk’s voice is nervous and shaky on the line. “Lars? Is something wrong?”

“No, listen. You like Guns N’ Roses? ‘Cause I got a ticket with your name on it. Next Friday. Wanna go with me?”

Lars deliberated whether he should offer both tickets to Kirk, on the assumption that Kirk has someone he’d rather take to the show. But Lars wants to see how Kirk responds, if he tries to back out by raising the subject of a significant other like a wall (“Sorry, I can’t go without my girlfriend”). Or if he simply gives into whatever’s kindling between them.

“Oh! You — Dave can’t go?”

“He’s busy recording, remember? And he’s probably shit-talked GNR at some point. I can’t keep up with every band Dave hates.”

Kirk is silent for a moment. “Next Friday?”

“Yeah. I’ll pick you up, if that’s easier.”

“Dave’s okay with this? I mean, he won’t be pissed off that you’re not home?”

“I can do what I fucking want,” Lars says, mostly to himself. “Don’t worry about him.”

“Well, okay,” Kirk says, unsure at first, then a shaky laugh comes through. “Okay, yeah. I’ll go with you.”

Lars can see the scene in his head: he drives Kirk home after the concert, and they linger in the driveway for a few moments before Kirk awkwardly clears his throat and asks if Lars wants to come in. Then they’re inside, and in this imagined scenario Lars has the confidence to kiss Kirk, to guide them to the couch, where Lars gives Kirk a hell of a blow job.

Tonight, though, it’s just Lars thrusting into his own fist, imagining that slick tunnel is Kirk’s mouth. He’s gasping and swearing, his heels digging into the mattress as his hips buck. His nerves blaze like supernovas, his toes curling, and the thought that he could make it happen for real makes his balls ache.

Because he could. Kirk’s too shy to initiate anything, but Lars doesn’t have to be. Kirk might protest on Dave’s account, or try to preserve Lars’ fidelity, but ultimately Kirk wants this too.

The house is empty, no Dave tonight, so Lars lets Kirk’s name slip past his lips as he comes.

The following week is the longest of Lars’ life. It’s never occurred to him until now how Kirk’s visits are the highlight of his week. Lars tries to keep himself busy: finishing books he bought ages ago but never read, getting some exercise at the nearby tennis courts, and watching recorded episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the evening.

But it’s obvious that Lars is just trying to burn away time, and there’s something sad about how he wants to fast-forward not to when he sees Dave again, but Kirk.

Lars feels like he’s teetering on an impossibly high ledge. He’d love to get some advice on whether to jump, but every friend in his life, in some way, has loyalties to Dave. Fran will stand by James, who, when push comes to shove, will probably side with the rich rock star over Lars. Any member of Megadeth is off limits here. Which leaves only Kirk, but Lars isn’t stupid enough to raise the subject with him.

Maybe this is what therapists are for.

Dave calls on Wednesday evening, an almost territorial check-in. “What are you doing?”


“Then you can rub one out for me over the phone.”

Lars laughs. “Seriously?”

“We’re in the home stretch with recording right now. I can’t wait five hours to fuck you, so phone sex will have to do.”

What planet does Dave live on? Because it sure as fuck isn’t earth. Maybe phone sex was hot during the first few years of their relationship, but now it’s kind of pathetic.

But, whatever. Dave is trying, right? He wants to be close, but he doesn’t know how to communicate that without a sexual element.

Lars pushes a hand into his shorts, trying to get something going down there. “Well, I’m old. I can’t get hard on command anymore.”

“You didn’t seem to have much trouble the other night.”

For a moment, panic strikes Lars, and he assumes Dave has bugged the house and heard his Kirk-inspired stroke sessions.

“That’s different,” Lars says, noncommittal, closing his eyes and squeezing his unenthused dick.

“Can’t get off without a cock inside you?” Dave chuckles. “I’ve spoiled you, y’know.”

Lars would shoot off like a rocket if Kirk so much as touched his thigh. “I guess so.” Tug. Tug. Squeeze.

Subconsciously, Lars realizes he’s only going to get through this by fantasizing about Kirk. Maybe he could go the distance with Dave dirty-talking at his ear, but Lars wants this over with.

Kirk’s face appears behind Lars’ closed eyelids, suppliant and shy. Lars rubs a thumb along the underside of his cock, imagining Kirk touching him like this. Would Kirk pinch and massage the head, coaxing the foreskin to retract like a sunroof? Would he flick his tongue over the beads of precum, or trace the bulging veins with a fingertip?

Lars gasps, clutching his sac in his hand. Things are happening down there, and Dave’s murmuring something in his ear, but Lars chases the fantasy, internally chastising the small voice in his head that tells him how wrong he is for this.

There’s no way Dave hasn’t imagined someone else while fucking Lars. This is nothing. Dave just wants to hear Lars grunt and moan his way through an orgasm. That’s exactly what he’ll get, and the means by which Lars achieves it are irrelevant.

“You want it so bad, don’t you?” Dave purrs, the hitch in his voice telling Lars he’s jerking it too.

Lars moans in affirmation. He’s thinking of Kirk stretched around his cock, of Kirk’s face and chest flushed with desire. Then his brain switches gears, and he’s eating Kirk out, his tongue inspiring pathetic, hot little moans.

And that’s… new. Lars has never really considered eating ass before (even if he had, Dave would never let him do it), but if it was something Kirk wanted…

“Haven’t made you sound like that in a while,” Dave says, and Lars bites down on whatever noise he’s making, because a jealous and insecure Dave isn’t what Lars needs tonight. Or ever.

“It’s just the angle,” Lars says around a gasp, and as he takes his own sweat-slick fingers inside, he thinks of Kirk gently opening him up.

Like his riffs, Dave’s hands always work quickly, as if he doesn’t want to spend too much time pleasuring another dude — someone might think he’s gay.

But tenderness seems like second nature to Kirk, and Lars thinks he’d take his time discovering how to touch his partner.

Dave makes a choked noise that Lars recognizes. Dave’s breathing hot and quick over the line as he comes, breaking Lars’ link to the fantasy world where Kirk is knuckle-deep inside him.

“You come yet?” Dave asks.

Lars squeezes his eyes shut, as if that can shut out Dave’s voice. “No.”

“Well, hurry up, Uli.”

Lars grits his teeth. He hates when Dave calls him that. It was kind of sweet at first to have a cute pet name, until Lars realized Dave only used it to be diminutive and patronizing.

Lars could fake an orgasm here, but he’s made it this far, and it seems unsportsmanlike to stop now. He rocks his hips into his hand, wondering if Kirk has ever laid in bed thinking about him, ever squirmed and sighed in the dark with his dick in his hand and Lars on his mind.

His orgasm is a painful cramp, releasing in a slow stretch. He whimpers through it, while Dave says, “Good boy,” at Lars’ ear.

Good is the last thing Lars feels right now.

With jizz drying on his belly, Lars hears Dave say, “We should be able to finish up by the end of the week.”

“Oh. Great. I won’t be home Friday, though.”

“You have plans?”

“James and Fran gave me an extra ticket to Guns N’ Roses.” Explicitly not mentioning Kirk. Lars is taking a risk here that neither Fran or James will mention him bringing a friend. He could ask them not to tell Dave, but that would be tipping his hand.

Dave snorts. “Axl is such a little drama queen.”

“Then you two would get along great.”

“Get fucked,” Dave says with a sneer.

I intend to, Lars thinks, his toes curling with anticipation.

Kirk drops by on Thursday with an armload of VHS tapes. “You don’t have to watch them all,” he says, setting them on the coffee table. “Of course. I just wanted to give you a selection.”

Lars checks the labels. Some of the episodes he’s already seen, but there are a few that sound unfamiliar. “This is great. Thanks. I’ve been so fucking bored this week waiting for tomorrow.”

“Don’t you see a lot of shows, being with Dave?”

“Not lately. And when this new album comes out, he’ll have to do a bunch of interviews and promos before starting a tour later this year…” Lars shrugs, wrapping his arms around himself as if cold. “It used to be fun, y’know, going with him to gigs. Now I have a job. And I feel like a third wheel lately when I do go on tour with them.”

It’s more honesty than Lars is used to, and Kirk seems to know it too. He goes quiet for a moment, studying his sneakers. “I, um, I’m not trying to be rude, I swear, but I don’t understand — Why are you with him?” Kirk swallows and forces himself to meet Lars’ eyes. “I don’t think you’re in love anymore.”

Kirk’s bluntness punches through Lars’ chest.

“I got with him when I was nineteen,” Lars says. Already, it sounds like an excuse. “I’m almost thirty now. People change.”

Kirk frowns at this evasion, but his expression softens as he watches Lars run a hand through his hair.

Softly, Kirk asks, “Does he hit you?”

“No! God, no. It’s not like that.”

“So you’re not afraid of him?”

“I’m afraid of what he’ll do to himself.”

“Did he threaten suicide if you leave? ‘Cause that’s… super not cool.”

Lars shakes his head, sitting on the arm of the couch. “A few years ago, Dave got arrested for DUI and possession of narcotics. He crashed into the parked car of an off-duty cop. That’s how fucking wasted he was. But he went through rehab, and I was there for him.”


“Because he needed me. And I care about him.” A deliberate choice of words. Even back then the love had faded, already mutated into a sense of obligation and duty. “He’s been drug-free ever since. If I leave him, and he goes back to using, that’s on me. How am I supposed to live with that?”

Kirk sighs, his brow creased in distress. “He has three bandmates who should be looking out for him too.”

“They can’t watch him all the time. And it’s not fair to make them babysit him.”

“But it’s fair to make you do it?”

“No, but — that’s what I signed up for, right?”

Kirk looks impossibly sad. “Did you? When you were nineteen, did you ever think you’d be here?”

If Lars time-traveled to his past self and told him one day he’d be bored with Dave and preferring to lust over the pool boy, Past Lars would have laughed in his face and called him a fucking idiot.

“Everyone takes stock of their lives at thirty and feels like there’s something better out there,” Lars says, deflecting. “Maybe there is and maybe there isn’t, but I can’t roll the dice on that unless — ”

Unless I know for sure it’s the right decision. Unless I know Dave won’t go on a bender because I broke his heart.

“No. I can’t.” Lars shakes his head again, all of his pain hurtling toward the surface. It would be nice to say something a little more honest, to make things a little more real, but it’s not happening.

“Does he love you?”

“As best as he knows how, I think.”

How cruel would it be for Lars to decide that’s no longer enough?

Kirk stares at him for a moment, as if challenging Lars to grow a fucking pair already, then he drops his gaze. “Okay. Sorry. I’ll — um, I’ll go do my job now.” He gestures awkwardly to the pool and steps out through the glass doors.

Lars stays inside, and it’s like they’re back to the beginning again: Lars watching Kirk from inside the house, drinking alone and seeing things he’s too afraid to reach for.

Kirk comes back in when the work is done. “Sorry, um, are we still going to the concert tomorrow? It’s cool if we’re not, y’know, I was — I was way out of line with what I said. I just want to know so I don’t wait for you.”

There’s the doe eyes again, and that absolutely pitiful expression, like Kirk isn’t even upset by potentially missing the show, only that he might have hurt Lars.

As a hard-ass teenager, Lars loved Dave for his “no fucks given” attitude and sneering sarcasm. Now Lars understands there is strength in kindness, in the willingness to be vulnerable and soft, to put your heart on the chopping block.

“Of course we’re still going,” Lars says, watching relief wash over Kirk’s face. “Leave me your number and address so I can pick you up.”

Lars can’t sleep, so he puts on one of Kirk’s MST3K tapes. Even Joel and the bots’ riffs can’t keep Lars’ mind from wandering.

(“I don’t think you’re in love anymore.”)

Kirk sees Lars so clearly, and it’s insane that Dave hasn’t reached the same conclusion.

Or maybe not. Dave hasn’t watched Lars swoon while Kirk talks passionately about his novel, horror movies, and comic books. He hasn’t heard Lars laugh unburdened at Kirk’s lame jokes. He hasn’t noticed how Lars blushes under Kirk’s gaze. Dave doesn’t see how Kirk has become a spot of brilliant color in Lars’ grey world. Maybe then, Dave would put the pieces together and see the thing percolating between them.

But Dave’s not stupid, and there’s a chance he has noticed something. Is it sheer coincidence that Dave just happened to show up unannounced while Kirk and Lars had dinner together? As if Dave wanted to catch them…

At any rate, Kirk knows something is growing, else he wouldn’t challenge Lars’ attachment to Dave. Too shy to address the subject directly, Kirk pokes holes in Lars’ defenses, hoping to find a weak point where Lars buckles under the weight of his own desire.

Does Kirk want the same things Lars does? Maybe Lars should find out tomorrow night. It would be easier to jump if Lars knew he had a net underneath him.