Charles is looking at him, and Jay thinks, for the millionth time, that this was probably a bad idea. But Charles is looking at him, heavy-lidded and mocking, and it’s longer than Jay has ever held his attention before.
“Is that it?” Charles sighs. “I think Jerry Springer is on.”
He’s actually reaching for the remote, so Jay grabs his wrist and says “Stop it,” in a voice that’s supposed to sound flirtatious but mostly just sounds annoyed.
Charles’ laugh is a silent shake.
“Why are you such a prick?” Jay mumbles. And why the hell do I care…
He leans forward and stares at the tip of Charles’ cock. He’s not a virgin; there’d been that thing with the closeted football player from the university last year, and his disastrous attempt with his eighth grade girlfriend before that. He’s pretty sure he’s more experienced than Charles – what with the not being an antisocial asshole – but somehow it’s not helping him feel any more in control of the situation.
He feels two hands thread through his shorn hair, encouraging, so he slides his mouth down and sucks. Charles’s fingers make lazy circles on his scalp; it feels like affection, even if Jay knows better. That’s the problem with Charles – every barb is so coated with honey that it’s almost worth it. So he makes an answering noise, and takes Charles even deeper into his throat, and fails to silence the word ‘doormat,’ running on a loop through his brain.
It’s been four months that they’ve been doing this in secret, and that’s its own kind of wrong. But Charles is wrong, just as a human being in general, and that never stopped Jay from obsessing before. It has to be a cosmic joke, he figures. If not, then why on earth would Charles, two days after Jay had thrown Josh’s relationship with Metis in his face, corner him under the bleachers in the middle of a smoke break?
“Do you still want to go out with me?” he’d asked, head tipped curiously to the side like he was asking about the weather.
“W-what?” he’d stammered. “No.”
And Charles had smiled. “You’re a terrible liar.”
“I am not! I mean…are you serious?”
Charles had shrugged, ridiculously elegant, blue eyes drifting away. “Sure.”
And then, over his shoulder as he walked away. “Don’t tell Metis.”
“Wendy’s,” Jay suggests, and Metis groans.
“What? You like greasy food.”
“Josh. Night with his football friends. Bad memories,” Metis mumbles into the cloth of his sleeve.
Metis rolls his face to the side, deep in thought. “Yeah okay,” he says finally.
“Not me,” Charles says. “I’m going home.”
Metis picks his head up. “What? You’re going home on a Friday night?”
“Shocking, I know.”
“It’s like the sky is falling.”
“You’re a pain,” Charles says, but he ruffles Metis’s hair on the way by. He does not touch Jay.
Jay walks to Charles’ house, long after he’s boosted Metis’s drunken ass through his bedroom window, called Josh to warn him of his boyfriend’s impending hangover, and dragged himself to Erik’s house to get progressively drunker on disgusting-tasting vodka and soda.
Everything would be great, Jay thinks, if Charles did not exist. Or if Charles were ugly. Hideous, with acne and non-shiny hair. Because then he could be friends with Metis without hating him half the time, and he would not be wandering down a two-lane road at two in the morning on a Saturday, and he would not have to face that fact that he’s halfway in love with the biggest asshole he knows.
He throws a rock at Charles’ bedroom window until Charles opens it, rubbing his eyes sleepily. “Are you fucking kidding?” he says, and Jay takes that as proof that he’s really mad, if he can’t even some up with something snarky to say.
He almost falls on his ass when he tries to crawl through the window, and Charles hauls him the rest of the way in by a fistful of T-shirt. They land in a heap on the rug, and Jay drops his forehead to the ground and focuses on the way Charles’ chest presses against his every time they breathe.
“This is why I asked for a second-story bedroom,” Charles says, but the humor is back in his voice.
He smells like clean sheets and cotton and soft sleep, and Jay kisses him in the only spot he can reach, right behind his ear. Charles inhales, stiffening a little, and Jay tightens a hand on his arm without meaning to.
“You smell like a bar,” Charles says. “Are you wasted?”
Jay is possibly drunker than he’s ever been in his life, and way too turned on for his own good, but he feels his heart twist a bit nonetheless. It’s a stupid, cheesy thing to crawl through someone’s window in the middle of the night; it’s something that the Joshes of the world can pull off with panache and the Jays of the world should really leave untested. But alcohol makes anything seem possible, so he pushes Charles back and kisses his neck, one hand in his hair and the other already reaching underneath Charles’ boxers.
“On the floor?” Charles says. “I feel so used.” But he’s lifting his hips, letting Jay tug down his shorts, and so Jay stops thinking.
It goes pretty well right up until the point where Jay remembers the main reason that he always volunteers to be designated driver. He makes it halfway to the bathroom before he pukes all over Charles’ bedroom floor. He feels Charles looming behind him while he’s dragging himself off his hands and knees, mumbling apologies and trying to pretend he’s not still sort of gagging.
“Christ,” Charles mutters. “You’re cleaning that up, I hope you know.”
Jay doesn’t have time to answer before he’s puking again. He makes it to the bathroom the second time, though, and Charles’ footsteps pad behind him. He feels miserable – all his bravado gone to shit, as usual. He rests his face on the cool rim of the toilet, trying to breathe.
“Cheer up,” Charles says. “At least it didn’t get in your hair. How did you manage that, anyway?”
“Shut up,” Jay says, when all he’s really thinking is fuck, and don’t look at me like this, and I’m never drinking again.
He throws up three more times, and it’s not until later, when he’s drifting into a spinning sleep on Charles’ floor, that he remembers fingers on his scalp, gently holding back his bangs.
“What you need,” Sarah says, “is some good ol’ fashioned jealousy.”
“That will never work,” Erik says immediately, confirming Jay’s own inner thoughts. “And you said you gave up anyway.”
“I did,” he says, at the same time Sarah says, “No!” and slams her palm on the table.
“You can’t give up,” she urges. “Are you a man, or are you a man?”
“Everyone's staring,” Jay says in a small voice.
She hangs her head and sighs like he’s a particularly disappointing pupil.
It will never work, he reminds himself over and over again, but he doesn’t forget.
“Jay. Bowling,” Metis says to him at lunch.
Jay stares. “You hate bowling.”
“No,” Metis says. “I hate bowlers. I am not a bowler.”
“May only bowls ironically,” Charles cuts in. “So he thinks that makes it okay.”
“You totally like bowling,” Josh says, and Metis punches him in the shoulder.
“Anyway,” he continues, chomping on soggy cafeteria fries. “It’s disco night, so we’re going.”
Jay opens his mouth to accept, then stops. “I can’t,” he says. “I…I have a date.”
Metis stops chewing. “On a Wednesday?”
“Yeah?” Josh asks eagerly. “With who?”
“Whom,” Metis corrects him.
“Uh, you don’t know him.”
Josh looks confused. “I know everyone.”
“He’s…I don’t know if it will work out yet. I don’t want to jinx it.”
“Such drama,” Charles clucks in a bored voice, and Jay can’t meet his eyes.
Charles is waiting for him by his locker after school. Jay stops and blinks. He doesn’t think he’s hallucinating, but if he’s seeing straight then it would bring the number of times Charles has waited for him to a whopping total of 1.
“You really are the worst liar,” Charles says. “Pitiful.”
“Forget it,” Jay mutters. “I’m tired of doing this. Pine after Metis and sit in your stupid corner and make fun of everyone who’s not you. I don’t care anymore.”
Charles knots a hand in his collar and kisses him instead, quick and hard in the middle of the hallway.
“There,” he says. “Will you stop sulking now?” His voice is even, but his cheeks are a little pink, and Jay wonders just how private the space under the nearest stairwell is.
“What was that?” he asks.
“God you’re slow,” Charles says. “And I thought Metis was bad.”
“Are you asking me out?” Jay says. Charles’ hands are in his pockets, and his eyebrow is quirked in a way that makes Jay sort of hate him and sort of love him at the same time.
“I just pulled a romantic comedy ending in the middle of the hallway. What do you think?”
“I think I don’t really believe you,” Jay says honestly. “You’re the most confusing person I’ve ever met.”
“That’s part of my charm,” Charles says, and leans forward to kiss him again.
“ ‘M not a doormat,” Jay breathes, and Charles pulls back and blinks.
“Oh,” he says. “Are you still upset about that?”
Jay pushes at him, and Charles groans. “Oh fine. I’m sorry.”
“No you’re not.”
“No,” Charles says, showing his teeth in a smile. “But I want to fuck you enough to lie.”
Jay decides, at the moment, that that's good enough.