Work Header

An Awkwardness of Firsts

Work Text:

1. First Friend

Jeremy was supposed to go to the big school. Jeremy had yellowish hair and greyish eyes and glasses that made marks on his nose; he was small for his age but his mum said he more than made up for it in brains.

The big school had three whole buildings, and a field, and a library that he tried to get lost in but his dad found him, and even a room with a computer that the children were allowed to learn from. He was going to go on a minibus every morning and every afternoon, and wear a tie, and take dinner money for lunch, and it was going to be perfect.

Then one day in the summer, Jeremy’s dad had come home without his tie on. The day after that he had worn his jeans all day and shouted into the telephone a lot. The day after that he hadn’t even got out of his pyjamas. After that he made piles of newspapers around the house and highlighted bits of them, and Jeremy didn’t have to go to the childminder any more, and with his mum at work all the time dinner got weird.

The knowledge that he wasn’t going to be going to the big school any more hadn’t really come to him all at once. First there was the big booklet with a different school on the cover that mum showed him. Then there were the velcro shoes, even though the big school said you had to have laces. It was the sweatshirt that really swung it, though. It was a cheery shade of jade green that would have looked horrible against the red bricks of the big school, but looked just fine against the pale stone of the village school, set on its tiny green.

There were ducks in the little pond. Ducks were good, anyway. Jeremy liked the duck pond, where no one else really went, where he could be on his own and he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, and also they wouldn’t break his glasses for knowing more than them about MegaBots.

One day, when he was feeding the ducks the crusts of his sandwich - because his mum always forgot about the crusts - there was a yodelling yell...


...and a crashing smashing weight against his back that hurtled him forward into knee-high water and pond weed and all the unmentionables he was certain ducks rarely thought about leaving the water to do.

The crashing smashing weight was there, too, hands slapped over his mouth and brown eyes wide and cheeks bright red with all the laughing he was holding in his hands. Jeremy hated his school.

Levering himself to his feet, he checked quickly for his backpack, safely slime-free on the neat brick lining of the pond. Jeremy breathed out a sigh of relief for his books and squelched out clear on the other side, pulling off his shoes and emptying out the water.

Brian,” said an annoyed boy’s voice, one that sounded practically like a grown up, with how much hands-on-hips it was soaked with.

Brian,” echoed another, only this one was horrified and gleeful, probably at how Brian was still sitting waist deep in the pond and somehow had pond weed on his head.

Jeremy looked up to find someone eyeing him in return. The someone was sturdy and blond and blue-eyed, and the someone had a tip-tilted nose and folded arms and a cool assessing look in his eye, and the someone was AdamYoung. Everyone in the village school knew about AdamYoung, catch them not knowing the name AdamYoung, when everyone from the Headmistress to the dinner ladies yelled it in annoyance at least fifteen times a day. AdamYoung was a legend.

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Adam.”

Jeremy could feel himself going all pink. He took his glasses off to clean them on his jumper, which had escaped the pond clean enough, unlike his trousers.

“I’m Jeremy,” he mumbled.

“Pepper,” said the girl beside him. She had long red hair and freckles and a cheerfully mean grin, and a jumpy sort of energy to her that’d make her hard to ignore, if only she weren’t next to AdamYoung.

“Pepper?” Jeremy asked, confused.

“Do not,” Brian said, heaving himself to his feet in a tidal wave of mud and weed and water and unmentionables, “call her anything else.” His voice held the warning tone of bitter experience, and Jeremy nodded automatically. “Sorry about cowabungaing you,” Brian added.

“Brian’s Michaelangelo,” Pepper said, helpfully. “I’m Raph, obviously.”

“So you’re Leonardo?” Jeremy asked, and Adam smiled like it was obvious, like it was the only possible thing that made sense.

“He’s got some swords,” said Pepper, with a terrifying sort of glee,“his sister got them in Spain, but we’re not supposed to play with them. Any more,” she added, faintly contrite. “Especially not in school.”

“I’ve got numchuks,” Brian said, happily dripping slime.

“And Raphael’s got the forks,” Adam said, with authority, “and -”

“Actually,” Jeremy interrupted.

Pepper and Brian looked at him, horrified, almost exactly like the vicar at Cousin Meredith’s Christening had when his mum had said a swear in the church. Jeremy blinked at them, then he blinked at Adam, whose mouth was hanging open a little before he closed it, decisively, with a thoughtful sort of expression.

“Actually,” Jeremy continued, determined, pushing his heavy glasses a little further up his nose, “they’re called sai. It said it in the comics. They’re used in marital arts, I read about them in the library.”

“There’s comics?” Brian’s face was like a bowling ball, with his big round eyes and his wide mouth.

“What’s marital arts?” Pepper asked curiously.

“I reckon,” Adam said. The others instantly fell silent. “I reckon it’s maybe about when you get bored of bein’ married? Mr and Mrs Tucci next door had to go to a marital counselator when they’d finished breaking all the china.” He shot a narrow-eyed look at Jeremy, almost like he was waiting for a correction, but Jeremy didn’t really have anything more accurate to offer. The library had been closing by the time he’d found the book with sai in, he’d only managed a quick look.

Adam’s expression melted into a smile, as though all was once more right with the world.

“Blimey,” said Brian, “what do you need a sai for when you get married?”

“If you say one word about -” Pepper started.

“It’s probably because girls are so scary,” Adam said, with a devilish grin, and he was up and running like the wind before the girl could even get her sensible shoes untangled. She flew after him, but not before dealing out a swift kick in the shin to Brian, who grabbed his leg and yelped loudly in Jeremy’s ear.

“Ow,” he said, pointed, but the others were long gone. “So there’s comics then?” he continued after a moment, unfazed.

“There’s comics,” Jeremy said. “I collect them. I keep them in order in a special box my dad gave me. You can read one, I suppose,” he added diffidently, “if we’re going to be friends.”

“I’d love you forever if you let me,” Brian told him seriously.

“You’ve only seen the cartoon?” Jeremy asked.

“Not him,” said Pepper, returning, looking a little flushed but otherwise no worse for wear. “Not with his mum.”

“Not with my mum,” Brian echoed easily. “My mum reckons if we watch anything except Songs of Praise on the telly we’ll all probably end up in Hell.”

“My dad says television is the opiate of the masses and Hell is a bedtime story made up to subjugate the proletariat,” Jeremy said.

“Right,” said Brian. “What’s that mean?”

“I,” Jeremy - who hated to admit ignorance on any subject, was at a loss. “I, er...”

Everybody knows what that means, don’t they, Jeremy?” Adam said, in a superior tone, then scrunched his face up at Jeremy in something that might have been an attempt at a sly wink. He picked at a scrape on his elbow, looking like an illustration from the sort of book that used the word ‘rascal’ without irony. “ If it helps, they’re both wrong.” He looked at Jeremy for a long moment, like he was judging him and finding him surprisingly worthy. “You can be Donatello, if you want,” he offered.

“Okay,” he said. Donatello was his favourite.

Jeremy could see Adam being his first friend, through a rosy-pink haze of delight. Someone who always sounded that sure about everything had to be a good sort of friend, and he liked Pepper too. So long as he stayed on her good side he thought people would probably be afraid to break his glasses any more if she was his friend.

Brian was a bit unpredictable, though, like a bomb about to go off. Also apparently he didn’t put his crisp packets in the bin even when there was a poster specifically telling him to put his crisp packets in the bin. Jeremy was almost sure he didn’t want to be friends with Brian.

He bent over to pick up his backpack, and when he stood up something tapped him on the shoulder with a soft crinkly noise, and Jeremy reached up and found a brightly coloured Penguin bar resting there, a bit damp but otherwise intact.

“It’s a bit melty,” Brian said apologetically. “It’s been in my shirt pocket.”

Jeremy offered an uncertain smile which Brian gave back a billion times brighter, and it was impossible not to let his smile widen in return.

He decided to hold off judgement on Brian. Just for the moment.


2.First Kiss

Wensleydale didn’t feel like a Wensleydale; he was still a Jeremy inside. Jeremy’s hair had darkened to a sort of sandy brown, though his eyes were still greyish; his glasses no longer came from the NHS and he liked to think that made a difference. Jeremy was, outside of his bedroom, far too old for MegaBots now - he knew things about politics and read bits of the Guardian in the hopes that he could impress someone with titbits about Afghanistan dropped casually into conversation.

Mostly he was only Jeremy in secret, though, and with his relatives, and when he met people Adam didn’t know - and even then, it was never for long. Adam was pervasive, omnipresent, and that meant so was Wensleydale, even if Brian had been the one to come up with the name in the first place. Jeremy had thought maybe it would change when he went to the secondary school, when he could reinvent himself to be just one in eight hundred students, someone bland and unextraordinary and cheeseless, but after four years at school he was still doing things like being invited to the party of the most popular girls in year 10, and he had no idea what he was doing there.

Adam was around somewhere, of course, and the ominous crashing sounds from the kitchen gave him a pretty good idea of where Pepper might be. It’d be nice to pretend that in the eight or so years he’d known them he’d made friends beyond their little circle, but it was hard to need anything else when Adam was your friend. It was hard to remember much else existed.

Brian existed. Brian, who always looked entirely out of place but somehow managed never to be, was dancing to something terrible in front of a pair of patio doors with an enthusiasm that was making Jeremy nervous, enough that he was having difficulty looking away. He’d once had to sacrifice a MegaBots t-shirt after Brian and a window had collided, Brian still grinning under his rakish bandage even as the ambulance pulled away.

(Brian was entirely too solid not to exist, of course. Brian, Wensleydale was beginning to think, was solid enough for his own gravitational pull.)

He slumped back against the wall and toyed with the ring-pull on his can of Pepsi. One of Megan’s brother’s friends had bought some cheap vodka and already someone was being sick in the flowerpots; Jeremy wasn’t going to drink anything that wasn’t sealed.

A long-fingered hand grabbed his, and Jeremy’s heart thumped hard in his chest, even when he looked up and saw that it was only Brian anyway.

“Come on Wensley,” Brian said, yanking him away from the wall and towards the kitchen; Adam was watching them from the doorway, which explained Brian’s rush. He was ushered inside and tugged down onto a freezing floor, part of the apparently coveted inner circle. There was a ring standing around them, watching as Megan - by some cruel twist of fate right next to Jeremy, making him unwillingly the centre of attention - ceremoniously placed an empty vodka bottle in the middle of the circle. It rang against the tiles.

“Is it Truth or Dare?” Jeremy asked Brian, who was a long line of warmth against his side. Apparently his voice wasn’t quiet enough, because Megan laughed a derisive laugh and Jeremy flushed an uncomfortable pink.

“Shots, I think,” Brian said. “And maybe kisses? Or shots and kisses, or something.” He was close enough that his breath was all hot against the side of Jeremy’s face. It was twisting his stomach.

“Adam can go first,” Megan said, which was interesting because he’d never been sure what the batting of eyelashes actually looked like in real life. Adam shrugged and spun it, looking like he hadn’t a care in the world until it slowed and looked like it’d come to a stop in front of Megan. Pepper made a derisive, angry noise, somewhere to Jeremy’s left. Adam twitched a hand in the direction of the bottle, his mouth thinning - it must’ve displaced the air, or something, because the bottle found a last moment of momentum and turned a little more, pointing decisively and exclusively at Jeremy.

“Oh,” he said.

The thing about being in the popular crowd - one of the things about being in the popular crowd, one of the many, many awful things - was that you had to be just like everyone else. Adam didn’t, of course, ‘cos Adam was Adam was Adam, and always would be. And Pepper - catch Pepper being like everyone else, not Pepper. Even Brian hadn’t managed it, exuding a sort of puppyish enthusiasm that let everyone forgive him anything. Wensleydale, though, Wensleydale Adam’s Friend, he had to be just like everyone else in the hopes that no one would notice him long enough to take exception. He sometimes wished he could be properly Jeremy. No one would care about Jeremy, about the fact that he’d never wanted to see Megan Herrett naked, about the fact that he sometimes thought that maybe Adam was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. He sometimes - secretly, in the deepest darkest depths of his soul, where he was pretty sure even Adam couldn’t see - wished that Adam’d never found him in the first place.

“Alright, Wens?” Brian breathed, leaning his weight heavily against Jeremy’s side. (Even in the deepest darkest depths, though, he couldn’t regret it completely - Adam’d got him Brian, after all.)

“I’m - not drinking,” he said, seizing on the first possible excuse.

“Right,” Brian said. Jeremy turned his head to see him looking like a soldier off to war, grim-faced and resolute. It was easy to forget, he thought, how nice Brian’s face was, especially since most of the time it was elastic and pulled into the most ridiculous shapes.

Brian grabbed the shot that Megan had poured right out of her hand and chucked it back.

“We who are about to die salute you,” he said, aiming a weirdly genuine grin directly at Jeremy and making his stomach do somersaults. Then he dived across the circle and smacked a kiss right on Adam’s mouth and kept going, heading for the door with a singleminded focus which was justified when Pepper took off after him with a strangled yell. Adam leaned back on his elbows, his lips red and stretched wide in a laugh that Jeremy couldn’t help echoing, even with the hot weight of strangely shaped jealousy that was making itself known.

He’d forgotten, he thought. He’d forgotten that it didn’t much matter if anything outside their circle existed.


(“Brian,” he whispered, later, when it was just them, when he’d seen Adam brush the carefullest of kisses against Pepper’s mouth, when she’d kicked him in the shin and scowled and called him names before dragging him off somewhere, probably to kiss him back.

“Brian,” he whispered, heart in his mouth, “I don’t - I don’t really like girls. I think I like boys.” It sounded okay in the darkness of Megan’s parents’ spare bedroom, where they were hiding under the coats. A gentle hand brushed against his face, one finger accidentally sticking up his nose - although you never knew, with Brian - before it rested against his cheek. Brian’s mouth had maybe been aiming for his cheek but it ended up carefully pressed against his eyelid, the most fragile skin on the human body.

“Love you, Wens,” Brian said, and squashed him close.

“Thank you,” Jeremy said.)


3.First Date

Jeremy was still at the core of him, even with the flash of Wensleydale, Adam Young’s Friend, painted in bright colours over the top. Jeremy was the side-parting he still put into his hair, the inability to refrain from pedantic comments no matter how hard he tried. Wensleydale, he’d admit, may have had a hand in the heavy black-framed glasses and the really quite uncomfortably tight jeans.

He shifted on the sofa, trying for a position that wouldn’t pinch, while Pepper attempted to plug the Z-Cube into the TV.

“It’ll have to be a quick one,” she said, busily disentangling the miles of leads. “I’ve got to get ready to go out for dinner.”

“Alright for some.” Jeremy went to pull the joysticks out of the cracked plastic box that mostly served as a coffee table. Someone - probably Brian - had left an empty can of pop there so long that it stayed put on the lid even when Jeremy flipped it open and upside down. There was an artistically folded crisp packet inside too, a metallic shining flower that Jeremy smiled at absently and tucked in his shirt pocket.

“We’d have invited you, only we didn’t want you to be left out. Fifth wheel, you know.”

“’salright,”, Jeremy said, “it’s not like Adam’d want me there, not with - wait, fifth?”

“Brian’s coming too, didn’t he tell you?” Pepper popped upright, her face flushed and her hair frizzing its way out of its plait, a frown on her face. “With Eloise Martin from biology. You remember her, she turned green and fainted when we did frogs.”

Jeremy focused on picking apart the tangle the joysticks had inexplicably got themselves into.

“Brian’s going?” he asked nonchalantly.

“I’m going,” Brian said dramatically from the doorway, “because I’m in love.”

Usually there was a thin veneer of Wensleydale over a solid core of Jeremy, that was the general way of things. Jeremy was strong and shock-absorbent and could deal with practically anything. Right now he felt like a thin veneer of Wensleydale stretched over a - a vacuum, or a black hole, or an unexpected drop. Oh, he thought, numb and useless and apparently too late. Oh, no.

Eloise was pretty enough, he supposed. He knuckled under his glasses, absently. He was glad no one was in position to see his face.

“In love? Gross,” Pepper commented, matter-of-factly, from behind the telly.

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand,” Brian said with an injured sniff. “You’re a vegetarian.”

Wensleydale blinked rapidly. “What?”

Brian crossed the room and fell to his knees next to him, grabbing his hands and staring into his eyes. Wensley swallowed, hard.

“Burgers,” Brian said, with an intensity that made his eyes luminous. “Oh Wensley, Wens, you haven’t tried burgers until you’ve tried the burgers at The Rockstone.” He moaned. Jeremy crossed his legs. And cursed his jeans.

“I’ll have to do that,” he said, hoarser than he’d like. Pepper chuckled quietly, from behind their televisual behemoth.

“After the cinema?” Brian tugged at his hands eagerly. “Saturday?”

“Absolutely,” Jeremy said.

“You are,” Brian said earnestly, “the actual best. Love you, Wens.”

“Enjoy your date,” Jeremy said.

He’d revel in Brian’s wince, but he was probably imagining it.


4.First Time

Jeremy introduced himself as Jeremy. Wensleydale didn’t get a look in, not today, not when he was off on his own, and wearing his jeans, and dancing like no one important was watching.

Adam and Pepper had chucked him out for some alone time, and Brian was off with Eloise, who he’d unexpectedly hit it off with. So Jeremy, heart in his mouth and stomach in his throat and courage screwed to the sticky place the illicit vodka had left on his coffee table, headed into the city.

Jeremy introduced himself as Jeremy, and grinned at the flirty barman, and danced with a boy who called himself Ginger, tall and red-haired and surprisingly knowledgeable about the design of spaceships.

“Do you want to get out of here?” Ginger asked, after a couple of rounds and a spirited debate on the inherent silliness of warp drives.

On balance, Jeremy decided, he did.

Jeremy’s first time was on a rattle-trap sofa-bed in a flat that smelled like Glade layered over last week’s chips. Ginger had big hands and a soft mouth, and they both got the giggles at all the trouble they had getting Jeremy out of his jeans. It was nice enough - fun and sticky and silly enough to be awkward in places. Jeremy wasn’t always sure quite what to do with his hands. After, he collapsed onto his back and fumbled to get his glasses on, not sure of the protocol when you were done with Before.

“Thanks, Ginger,” he said, feeling stupid and shy.

“No problem, Wes,” Ginger said, then blinked and sat up a little. “No, wait.” He shook his head, looking confused, looking a little angry. “You’re - you’re not Wesley, are you? I’m usually not so bad at this.”

Jeremy smiled with one half of his mouth and looked down at his hands as they grabbed his jeans, as he started to pull them on.

“’salright,” he said. “I’m probably not who you thought I was, anyway.”


Interlude: First Breakup (+1 awkward unfirst; +1 unawkward first)

“I can’t be with Adam all my life, Wens,” Pepper said sensibly, digging into the Vienetta Jeremy had brought, happily. “The majority of it, yes, but there’s loads of time to muck around first.”

“To muck around with the bloke at the chip-shop, though?”

“You’d understand if you saw him naked,” she said, her eyes going distant. “He’s got an enormous -”

PEP!” Jeremy moaned and covered his eyes with one hand. He’d never eat a jumbo battered sausage from there again.

“What?” Pepper said, around a mouthful of ice cream. “I’m not like you, actually, with your romantical soul. I’m being practical. Having my ice-cream cake and eating him too.”

“Aargh,” Jeremy said, monotone and hoping she’d take the bloody hint. “Aargh.”

“Yeah, alright,” she said. “Now go watch telly or something. After all this ice cream I fancy a chip butty.” She leaned over and gave him a smacking kiss, shoving him towards the door.

“Aargh,” Jeremy said.


Brian’s room was dark and musty, the curtains closed and the duvet wrapped firmly around a faintly grumbling lump. Jeremy poked his head in to offer some MegaBots - he was old enough now that it was retro - and plumped himself down on the edge of the mattress when there was only a low moan in response.

“You alright, Brian?”

A mop of brown hair appeared, followed by a scrunched up nose and a woeful eye.

“Fort,” Jeremy said, decisive, and Brian disappeared back under the duvet but left it flipped back a little, in welcome.

For all that the Them had always been the Them, forts were mostly just a Brian and Jeremy thing. Especially now, especially when they were nominally grown ups with almost-degrees. Forts were for sad days and, these days, hangovers, and they happened often enough that the building materials had their own box in the corner.

Jeremy dragged out the clothes drier, the broom handle, and set about rearranging the chairs, while Brian made himself useful flinging body-warm pillows across the room and into something resembling a pile. There were two waffled orange blankets in the box, too, and Wensley draped them over the whole lot, fussing with the positioning enough that by the time he was done only the trailing edge of a Star Battles (tm) duvet cover hinted at Brian’s changed position. He crawled in after, barely settled before he had an armful of warm Brian, a lap full of uncoordinated limbs.

He squeezed without thinking, brushing one hand through Brian’s staticky hair.

“What’s up?” he said.

“Eloise dumped me,” Brian answered, and the tiny spark of victory that attempted to set up home in Jeremy’s stomach was ruthlessly, viciously squashed.

“I’m sorry.”

Brian blew out a huff of air against Jeremy’s throat, but it didn’t hitch at all in the middle, and his voice was mostly considering when he spoke.

“I’m not. Not really.”


Brian breathed out again, warm and damp and close enough to Jeremy’s ear to have him shivering slightly, his stomach fizzing like a pop bottle that’s been shaken too hard.

“No.” Decisive. And that was - that was not just a breath, that was Brian’s mouth, pressing lightly against his skin. Jeremy flinched.

“Brian -”

“She’s very nice,” he mumbled, into the space between his mouth and Jeremy’s neck, which was not very big, which was getting smaller all the time.

Brian -” Jeremy said, strangled.

“She’s very nice,” Brian said, determined, and then licked a stripe up Jeremy’s neck, humming thoughtfully after as though cataloguing the taste. “She’s very nice, but she’s not you, which kind of ruins it, actually.”

Something close to his heart clenched tight, and Jeremy ducked so he could reach Brian’s mouth, so he could kiss him with all the longing of the last five years, and with entirely too much saliva, and rather too little tongue. Brian sputtered a laugh against his mouth but there was nothing mean in it - he sounded delighted. They shifted their weight, and shifted their heads, and things were altogether better when they tried it again.

The blanket fort, sadly, didn’t last the night.


“Hey,” Wensley said, first time for everything, heart in his mouth, “I love you, Brian.”

“Yeah,” Brian said, simple and sleepy and with the unconcern of total certainty, “love you too.” He didn’t so much kiss Wensley’s shoulderblade as smoosh his face into it and fall asleep there, dribbling slightly.

Wensley sighed and reached for his t-shirt, wiping awkwardly and one-handed at his shoulder and then wedging it carefully under Brian’s face. It wasn’t until he was trying to get comfortable on his one remaining pillow that he realised he hadn’t quite stopped smiling - that he probably wouldn’t for a little while yet.


5.First Dance

Pepper looked incredible.

Her bronze suit shone in the low light of Tadfield Manor, setting off her red hair - tied simply away from her face - beautifully. The black of her tie matched Adam’s suit; his tie and pocket hanky reflected hers.

Jeremy had honestly never seen them so happy.

He leaned a little sideways, knowing Brian would be just exactly there to catch his weight.

“Love you, Brian,” he murmured. Brian ducked his head and grinned against his cheek.

Adam, smiling bashfully, looking awkward and ungainly and hopelessly, helplessly human, dragged Pepper into the middle of the dance floor and pulled her into his arms. She whispered something into his ear and he blanched and then flushed, pressing his laugh against her cheek.

Gentle acoustic guitar plucked everyone’s attention, the room watching as they swayed gently to Jack Johnson’s voice.

Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try...

“I’ll probably end up with something awful if I get married,” Jeremy said after a moment, thoughtfully.

“Nah,” said Brian, placid. “We’re having Queen.”

“We’re -” Jeremy choked on something. Possibly his heart, which had made its way up to his throat somehow. “Queen?”

You’re my best friend, I was thinking, but I’m up for discussion.” Brian tossed him a sidelong look and, best friends or not, he couldn’t read it.

“Brian,” he said, slow and still a little choked, “are you asking?”

“You dancin’?” Brian countered, and shot to his feet, holding out a hand. Other couples were joining Adam and Pepper, swaying with about the level of rhythm any English wedding party is permitted. Jeremy sighed and grasped Brian’s hand, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet.

“I’m dancing,” he said, resigned; it was impossible to be disappointed when two of your best friends looked so happy.

Brian tugged him into some kind of foxtrot, a gavotte, something entirely inappropriate and clumsy and unutterably Brian, expansive and out of place and potentially dangerous to passers by. Jeremy trod on his foot until he finally stopped, consented to wrap him in his long arms and pull him close. Jeremy rested his cheek against Brian’s shoulder, the gentle beat of his heart ticking against his skin.

“Hey,” Brian said, his voice echoing deep in his chest. His arms tightened a little around Jeremy’s solid shoulders, and Jeremy squeezed him back around the waist. This, he thought, is what it feels like when you’re out of firsts. Or... no. Not quite. This is what it feels like when you decide against them. This is what it feels like, he decided, when you’re set on forever.

“Yeah?” He rubbed his nose against Brian’s collar, stupid and fond, and Brian ducked down so his warm breath brushed against his ear.

“I’m asking, Jeremy,” Brian said.