Lily watched as the young girl sitting across from her inelegantly blew her nose into the tissue. Snatching a fresh Kleenex from the nearby box, she then dabbed at her eyes. Lip quivering, she looked at Lily with the largest damn puppy dog eyes the sex therapist had ever seen.
Lily reached out for the plate of cookies on the coffee table between them, then held it out towards her guest. Freshly baked, the cookies exuded a heavenly smell of delightfully sweet goodness, golden brown and soft, the chocolate bits still warm and gooey. But the girl just waved the plate away.
Lily set down the plate, just barely managing to mask her astonishment. Pixie is turning down a cookie? Shit, whatever had happened between her and Michael must have been really, really bad.
The dark-haired woman waited patiently in silence for another moment, before she spoke. “So. You ready to talk about what happened?”
Pixie shifted in the oversized plush armchair, as her perfectly-manicured nails began to shred the tissue in her hands into little pieces. She sighed once. “You know how some friendships are so important, that you’d do anything to make them last?” she asked. When Lily nodded, Pixie said, “Well, that’s why Michael and I created the No-Bang List.”
Lily arched one graceful eyebrow. “You may have to elaborate on that, sweetie,” she said. “What, exactly, is a No-Bang List?”
Pixie pursed her lips, lost in thought. Where to begin? From when she and Michael had played together as children, perhaps? No, that was too far in the past. From when they created the list in high school? Well, actually, that wasn’t quite so relevant, either. Really, the trouble had all started at the beginning of their second semester at the university.
Because of Professor Dickbag’s class.
“Hold on a second,” Pixie said. “I’ll get there.”
Three weeks ago...
Just as the lanky young man stepped shut the door to apartment 301, the kitty-corner door of 302 banged open, and a girl in a whirl of lace and leather burst out.
“Michael!” she squealed as she threw herself upon him in the customary tackle hug.
The blond man, accustomed to this sort of greeting, gave her a quick squeeze in return, then put a hand on her shoulder. Gently pushing her back a step, he let his blue eyes, just visible over the top of his sunglasses, sweep over her outfit.
Pixie waited impatiently as Michael judged her fashion choices of the day.
“Is this what you’re wearing on the first day of a new semester?” he murmured. “Mmm. I approve.”
Pixie grinned, then struck a dramatic pose straight out of Tevinter Vogue. She then gave her friend the once over – a form-fitting black coat, a colorful and fashionable scarf he’d picked up in the outdoor market in Hightown, and jeans tight enough to show off his pinchable butt.
Pixie grinned again, and waggled her eyebrows approvingly. “You always look hot, and you know it!”
Michael returned the grin, then struck his own pose, also worthy of a fashion spread. “Well, it is a burden I must bear,” he said. Sliding his hand across his chin, he considered Pixie again. “Those sunglasses, though.... mmm, no. Absolutely not. Hand them over.”
The two friends exchanged sunglasses. Now Pixie sported Michael’s oversized designer frames in black, while Pixie’s slimmer red frames now perched on Michael’s nose.
“Much better,” Michael decided. “Okay. Come on, Pix. We’re going to be late for school.”
Pixie shuffled along reluctantly at Michael’s side. Maker, she didn’t want to go to school. The first day – having to find her classrooms, talking to strangers, not knowing what to expect – it made her anxious. Only half-joking, she whipped her phone out of her jacket pocket and pretended to read it.
“Oh, what’s this? Aww, it says that class was canceled.” Shoving the phone back into her pocket, she turned around and started walking back to her apartment. “I guess we can’t go...”
Michael quickly grabbed her before she got too far. Holding her arm firmly, he began dragging her down to the elevator. “We’re not staying home today. We’re going to school. Meet new people. We’ll undress with our eyes the ones we like. And torture the ones we don’t.”
Pixie sighed internally as Michael jabbed the button for the elevator. “Fine, but... you’re going to owe me a lot of hugs.”
“Duly noted,” Michael said gravely, then gently pushed her into the elevator when it arrived.
At the bottom floor, they spilled out of the elevator into the grand lobby. Skirting the couch where Alistair sat, Michael teasingly cuffed the young man, laughing at his protest, while Pixie ignored all the boys as she headed straight for the door, in no mood for their usual antics.
Before she reached her destination, one of the boys suddenly threw himself in her path.
He stammered his greeting as he nervously adjusted his glasses. “Umm... hi, Pixie. You... ah... look nice today.”
Pixie just barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Uh, yeah. Thanks, Cullen.”
Before Cullen could stutter another asinine thing, Michael appeared. “Step aside, kid,” Michael said coolly, then shoved Cullen out of the way. “Some of us have important things to do.”
Sliding her arm into Michael’s, Pixie snickered as they swept out of the lobby, through the main doors. Once on the sidewalk, the laughter Pixie had been holding back suddenly bubbled out. “Did you really just call Cullen ‘kid?’” she gasped. “He’s two years older than us!”
Unmoved, Michael just tossed his scarf over his shoulder. “Oh, Creators,” Michael muttered. “All the boys in our building? Total immature dorks.” Then he smiled, slyly. “Well, except the new guy from Tevinter.”
Pixie hummed, her expression becoming dreamy as she thought of the newest addition to Skyhold Apartments. “Definitely not a dork.”
Michael cocked up an eyebrow. “Pix? Did you notice that Dorian has a perfect little birthmark on his right cheekbone? Right near his eye, like it’s painted on?”
Pixie snorted. “What do you take me for – an amateur? That’s my second favorite thing about him.”
“And the first?”
Pixie smiled wickedly. “His luscious grabbable butt!”
Michael chuckled softly. “Of course.”
Pixie cast a curious glance at her best friend. “Maker, Michael! You like him, don’t you?”
“Oh, I haven’t even talked to him yet,” Michael said airily. “So the answer to your question is no.”
Unconvinced, Pixie continued to eyeball him. Okay, what Michael had said was fair – he didn’t know the new guy, so he didn’t like him. But Pixie was pretty sure that Michael liked looking at him. Just like she did. After all, the Tevinter was hotter than summer in the Hissing Wastes.
Which meant there was only one logical thing to do.
“I think we should put Dorian on the list.”
Michael was quiet for a moment, biting his lip. Then he huffed. “Really, Pix. We can’t put everyone on the list.” At Pixie’s skeptical look, he added, “The No-Bang List should really be reserved for all the totally delicious fuckable boys – you know, the ones that look like David Bowie.”
At the mention of Bowie, Pixie’s expression became dreamy again. “Mmm.... Bowie....”
At the end of the block, they turned into the park. Except that instead of going straight through – the quickest way to Kirkwall University – Michael tugged Pixie towards the walkway to their right.
The blond gave her his most charming smile. “I’ll walk you to class if we can take the scenic route.”
Pixie resisted a bit by holding her ground. “Do we really have time for this?”
“Plenty of time,” Michael assured her, then tugged her arm again, this time with more determination. “Come on, Pix.”
Saying no to anything Michael wanted was hard. Rolling her eyes – a gesture which was, fortunately, hidden by the oversized sunglasses – Pixie allowed her friend to drag her down along the path.
From the previous semester, Pixie already knew what they were going to encounter on the so-called scenic route. This particular part of the park was where the college-aged gay boys liked to congregate at all hours of the day. As they approached a bench with three young and stylishly-dressed young men, Michael slowed a bit, leaning over to whisper in her ear.
“Creators, Pix,” he murmured appreciatively. “Check out the cute brunette in the middle.”
As Michael checked out the boys, the boys checked him out right back. Two of them waved coquettishly at her friend. One of them even winked. Pixie let her dark eyes sweep over them. Yes, Michael was super pretty, so there was no reason that other people wouldn’t notice that. And yes, the brunette in the middle was ridiculously cute. And Pixie was totally fine with gay boys in general...
...just not for her Michael.
Michael had been her best friend since they were five years old. Really, her only true friend. So, it made sense that she didn’t really want to let some other boy steal him away.
Once out of the park, they turned around the block and reached the building where Pixie’s first class was. There they stopped.
Pixie stared at the door. That alone was enough to make her anxiety level start to rise. Whirling to face Michael, she pleaded with him. “Please don’t make me go in there!”
Michael sighed. Then he lifted the sunglasses and propped them up on his head. He then placed both hands lightly on her shoulders, before leaning down to press a soft kiss upon her forehead. Drawing back, he looked at her very seriously. “Pix?” he said softly. “I love you. You’re beautiful. You got this. Now – go in there.”
Defeated and feeling emotionally gooey, Pixie just sighed and started walking towards the building. Except she was only halfway there when she felt a little flame of anxiety flare up again.
Stopping, she whirled about. “No, I don’t wanna go,” she whined, then held open her arms. “Michael! HUG ME!”
Michael, immune to all of Pixie’s totally fake whining, remained resolute. Straightening his back, he merely extended an arm, pointing at the door. “NO,” he boomed in the voice that brooked no argument. “GO.”
Ah, fuck me, Pixie thought. She would have to be strong. Turning back around, she squared her shoulders as she yanked open the door, as she let herself be buoyed up by the mantra now running through her mind.
He loves me. I am beautiful. I got this.
Pixie adjusted the bag over her shoulder and bounced back and forth on her heels as she stood in the hallway outside of the ceramics studio. Eventually her patience was rewarded when the students began to filter out, chatting to each other and paying her little attention. Michael was one of the last ones out. Squealing his name, she tackle-hugged him.
Long, strong arms wrapped around her, squeezing her tight. Lifting her up, he then swung her around, then set her back down in the hall so they were no longer blocking the door.
Pixie looped her arm through his. “Come on, Michael! I’ve decided that there’s something you should definitely see.”
Michael allowed Pixie to drag him down the hall towards the door. “Is it a hot guy?”
Pixie grinned. “Maybe.”
That meant that it was a hot guy. Michael hummed approvingly.
An uncharacteristic blast of winter air greeted them as they burst through the door. Pixie shivered at the sudden cold, then huddled closer to her friend. “Aren’t you even going to ask me how classes went?”
With his free hand, Michael tossed his scarf around his shoulder with a graceful flick of his wrist, and laughed softly. “Pix, you texted me about your classes at least a dozen times.”
Pixie pouted. Okay, so maybe she had been a bit excessive in expressing her dislike about Professor Blackwall, her new painting instructor, who seemed like a complete bastard. “Well... fine.”
Michael chuckled softly again. “So... where are we going?”
Pixie brightened, then squeezed his arm tighter. “You’ll see.”
A few blocks brought them back to the park. But instead of crossing through it, Pixie led him down towards the basketball court, through the gardens, which in winter were not much to look at, but was one of the prettiest parts of Kirkwall in the other seasons, especially summer.
Thinking of roses and lilacs blooming, Pixie smiled. “You know, I think we should get married here.”
Michael peered around at the leafless trees. “I don’t want to ruin the romance of it all, but... what happened to getting married at the Chantry?”
“I don’t mean me and you get married.” Grinning, Pixie tugged him over to the chain-link fence that surrounded the basketball court, and indicated one of the players. “I meant me and him.”
Michael’s gaze fell upon the young man in question: Dorian Pavus. Dark hair, bit of an undercut, styled impeccably. Luscious bronze skin. Lips to die for. Definitely a pretty boy. And his body... well, Michael couldn’t help but to notice how gracefully the man moved across the court, and how deliciously the soft, stretchy fabric of his sweatpants clung to his perfectly firm and round peach of an ass.
Yeah, he totally got why Dorian’s butt was Pixie’s favorite thing about him.
Michael and Pixie threaded their fingers in the holes of the fence, each one leaning forward to watch Dorian steal the ball from one of his opponents, then circle around to smoothly shoot the ball into the hoop.
As his opponents cursed, Dorian smiled, flashing brilliantly white teeth between luscious cinnamon lips.
Michael and Pixie sagged against the fence.
“Sigh,” Pixie said.
Michael watched Dorian closely for another moment. “He’s very good with balls.”
“Michael!” Pixie snorted a laugh. “Well? Was I wrong?”
Michael paused, biting his lip again, as he considered Dorian Pavus. Totally deliciously fuckable. Then he sighed. “Yeah, you’re right,” he reluctantly admitted. “Dorian totally belongs on the No-Bang List.”
Pixie had just known that Michael found their new neighbor hot. Although she enjoyed being right, she tried not to gloat. Taking his arm, she gently pulled him towards one of the nearby benches where they sat down. Opening her bag, she reached inside for a pen and the little black notebook and began flipping through it until she found the list.
“So,” Michael said, casually adjusting his scarf, “where do we put him?”
Pixie tapped her pen against her chin, the pink fluffy pom pom on the end tickling against her lips. “Obviously Sebastian Vael will always be number one,” she said after a moment’s reflection. When Michael nodded his agreement, she added, “Did you hear he’s off in the Anderfels, saving orphans?”
“No, but that sounds like something he would do.”
“No shit,” Pixie said. “Anyway... Dorian. He may be new, but... well, he is hotter than everyone else on the list.”
Michael hummed. “Agreed.”
“Oh, and Anders said that he’s in a band.”
Michael hissed a breath. “Oh fuck, that’s even hotter.”
“Well, then,” Pixie said, flourishing the pen before decisively bringing it down upon the paper, “Welcome, Dorian Pavus, to number two on the No-Bang List.”
Once the name was on the list, it was stronger than law. Closing up the notebook, she glanced up at her best friend, and – despite the sunglasses – immediately noticed that his expression had changed. The serious one that she didn’t like. By the way his head tilted back towards the basketball court, it didn’t take Pixie much effort to figure out what was going through Michael’s mind.
It was: lost opportunity.
Pixie stuffed the notebook back into her bag, and tried to sound stern. “Let us not forget the importance of putting hot guys on the list.”
Michael didn’t smile. “Pfft. Fine.”
“It will ensure against any future Pixie-Michael break-up.”
No, she didn’t like moody, sullen Michael at all. With a squeal, she launched herself forward, landing in his lap. “Friendship where we never fight over guys!” she shouted.
At her enthusiasm, Michael barked out a laugh. “Friendship that will last forever.”
Happy, Pixie decided sagely to change the subject. “So... want to watch a movie tonight?”
Michael half-smiled as he ruffled a hand through her hair. “Only if I get to choose the movie.”
Michael threw himself down on Pixie’s bed as Pixie pressed the play button on her phone, which she’d plugged into a plastic panda head whose eyes were speakers. Unsurprisingly, Shakira’s Whenever, Wherever – one of Pixie’s favorite songs – floated out to fill the room.
Michael laughed, watching as Pixie shimmied around the room. At the chorus, she threw her arms up into the air and began to suggestively wiggle her hips. Michael shouted encouragement at her over the music.
“Shake it, Pix! Shake it!”
Pixie shook it, singing, Le do, lo le, lo le. By the end of the song, both of them were laughing hard as Pixie collapsed on the bed next to Michael. Wriggling, she wormed her way up beside him and fell quite naturally into his outstretched arm.
Pixie snuggled closer as Michael’s hand began to lightly filter through her hair. They were quiet for a moment, then Michael spoke, his tone serious. “Do you know why I love you?”
Pixie immediately shot up to a sitting position. Stared down at Michael, dismayed to see that he had that expression about him – a bit soulful, and sad around the eyes.
No, that wouldn’t do. She liked moody, sad Michael even less than moody, sullen Michael.
She put on a big smile for him. “Is it my uncanny ability to make puppy dog eyes?” she asked, then – as if a switch had been flipped – Pixie’s mouth fell into a pout, her eyes wide, and she blinked at him, reminding him of one of those velvet paintings of sad clowns they used to give away as prizes at the amusement park.
“OH CREATORS, STOP!” Michael groaned in protest. “Not the puppy dog eyes!”
Pixie burst into a giggle. Then she returned to her previous cuddling position in the crook of Michael’s arm. She smiled against his neck as his fingers began to rake softly through her hair again.
“Definitely the puppy dog eyes,” Michael said, only less seriously than before. “And also because when I put my head in the oven, you pull it out and put cookies in there instead.”
Pixie shot up again. “Michael!” she admonished. “You shouldn’t make jokes like that. They’re not funny.”
Michael glanced away, a muscle in his jaw flexing. He was still for a moment, then he sighed as he ran a hand through his hair before letting his arm flop down upon the deep turquoise and gold coverlet that adorned Pixie’s bed. He hadn’t been joking, really... Sometimes Pixie’s ability to cheer him up was the only thing that kept him from throwing himself under a train. But to say so would only make her worry, which was the last thing he wanted.
Turning back to her, he smiled. “I love you.”
Pixie beamed at him. “I love you more.”
Michael leaned up as Pixie leaned down to give him a chaste peck on the lips. Leaning back again, he kicked off his shoes, not caring where they landed, though he enjoyed the satisfying thump they made as they floor beyond Pixie’s bright flatweave rug. “So... movie?” he prompted. “I brought some DVDs over.”
“Yes! I’ll make popcorn! Well, I guess we should pick a movie first.” Pixie scooted down to the end of the bed and then reached for Michael’s bag. Before she had zipped it open, however, she heard a rather large thump coming through the wall. “What the fuck was that?”
Michael sat up, listening intently. “Sounds like it came from the Hissrads.”
Pixie glanced at the wall that separated her bedroom from her neighbors’ apartment. She didn’t know Bull really well, but his wife Lily seemed very nice. They frequently went out in the evenings, but – even when they did stay home together – they were usually very quiet.
There was another thump, followed by a deep groan.
Michael’s eyes widened. “No way,” he muttered, then – much to Pixie’s puzzlement – scrambled up off the bed and headed towards the bedroom window, which he then threw open, leaning out. Curious, Pixie trotted after him.
From here, the sounds were clearer. They heard a series of rough manly moans, mixed in with a higher feminine voice.
“Yes, baby, do it... fuck me harder, Bull... give me every inch of your big, hard cock!”
They could barely make out Bull’s low, but labored response. “Oh, yeah, baby... I know you want it... UH! TAKE IT!”
Michael half-choked on a laugh. “Holy shit,” he said. “They’re fucking.”
“No!” Pixie gasped, though her response was automatic, since Michael’s assessment was obviously correct.
From the next apartment, they heard Lily shout out an enthusiastic “Yee-haw!”
Michael glanced at Pixie. Deadpan, he said, “Oh, yes, Pix. They are totally fucking.”
“Oh, Maker’s balls!” Pixie said. “Could they be any louder?”
Apparently Pixie’s voice had carried, because a heartbeat later, they heard Lily shout. “FUCKING DEAL WITH IT!”
Michael and Pixie stared at each other in shocked silence for a moment. Then they both burst into laughter, trying to contain it by covering their mouths with their hands as they hastily backed away from the window.
Catching his breath, Michael looked at Pixie. “Well, at least someone around here is getting laid.”
“Michael!” Pixie protested, still giggling.
Smiling, Michael leaned down to grab his bag, then slung it over his shoulder. “Come on, Pix. We’ll go watch the movie at my place.”