It’s over Chinese takeout on the coffee table that Bitty watches Kent open his mouth and say, “Oh, so I’m going on a date next week.”
Bitty stares at him. “What? I mean—that’s great! Wow!”
Kent smirks at him. “What? Didya think I wouldn’t be able to pull anyone?”
Bitty colors, staring down at a ringed cup stain on the table in front of him. “No, not at all! I just thought you didn't... date."
Kent sighs. "Honestly? I didn't think so either. It’s not like I’ve really done it in a while." He opens his mouth like he’s going to continue that thought, but then he shrugs and shuts it again, digging his fork into his fried rice instead.
“Do you actually want to go?” Bitty frowns at him, because Kent doesn’t look all that enthused about the whole thing.
“Dunno,” Kent says noncommittally, and Bitty lets it lie for the time being.
They’ve been acquaintances for well over a year now, and best friends for at least half of that. They share most things—dinners and Kent’s couch and sometimes even secrets. Kent knows about how everything had ended with Jack, knows that he and Bitty are friendly now but still cautious around each other. He knows all about Bitty’s decision to move out to Vegas, spurred during the most impulsive month Bitty’s ever had in his life and cemented many weeks later by an offer for a position on the Aces PR team.
And Kent’s told secrets too. They’ve leaked out after a few beers, stories of the Q and when Jack was still ‘Zimms’ and a whole cocktail of bitter and sad and wishful feelings, the kinds that make Bitty just want to hold him forever.
Because—yeah, all right, Bitty has a big ole' crush on him. More than a crush, probably, even though he’s tried his best to squash it down and out of the way. Kent had told him months ago that he was demisexual-slash-demiromantic, and Bitty had listened to enough of Shitty’s ranting to know what that meant.
In all reality, it just means that Kent doesn’t usually feel like going on dates. Which is nice for Bitty, because he doesn’t have to feel jealous all the time. He might have even wondered if their friendship meant something more if Kent hadn’t said one night, “It’s so fuckin’ nice to have a best friend again, you know?”
Best friends. They’re best friends. And Bitty can be happy with that. Not that he doesn’t occasionally dream of having more, but those are only dreams. Having Kent chuckling at his shoulder over dinner and the newest season of The Bachelor is more than enough.
At least, that’s what he tells himself.
But he’s gone through the whole ‘falling-for-a-friend’ thing before. He’s not going to let himself get sad about it this time, not when everything’s so easy with Kent—easier than he'd ever imagined, especially that first night he’d called Kent because he was alone in this huge city with nowhere to stay. It’d only been a couple nights that he’d crashed on Kent’s couch, but even in that little amount of time, Bitty had learned enough about Kent to know that he wasn’t anywhere near the asshole Bitty had assumed him to be.
“Ha, look at her go!” Kent gestures at the TV screen, where American Ninja Warrior is playing and a tall, buff woman is darting across a set of rotating cubes. “Fuck, I wish I was more coordinated without my skates on. I could totally do that.”
“Yeah, right.” Bitty snorts, nudging Kent’s calf with a socked foot. “Says the guy who’s terrified of heights.”
“In this optimal universe, I would be perfectly fine with heights,” Kent shoots back, grinning.
Bitty rolls his eyes playfully. “Why don’t we just give you superpowers while we’re at it?”
“Cuz that would disqualify me,” Kent pokes him in the shoulder, “Duh.”
Bitty snorts, setting the remnants of his lo mein carton on the coffee table. “I thought this was an optimal universe? They couldn’t disqualify you. You’d be the perfect contestant.”
“It’s optimal, but it’s gotta be realistic.”
They manage to share a single look with both of their eyebrows raised before Bitty bursts out laughing. “I swear, you are the most ridiculous boy I’ve ever met.”
Kent grins. “You love it.”
Bitty has to try as hard as he can not to let on how much his heart rate is speeding now. He does love it. He probably loves Kent, if he’s being truly honest with himself, but that honesty isn’t going to get him anywhere, not when Kent hasn’t seemed interested.
Or at least—Bitty doesn’t think he’s seemed interested. Sometimes he wonders at the way Kent looks at him when he’s baking, or Kent says something that feels a little sappier than Bitty would have expected, or Kent pulls him into a hug that lingers maybe a second longer than Bitty would’ve thought (but not long enough, never long enough).
But it’s equally plausible that this is just how Kent is with his friends. And Kent hasn’t exactly made a move, has he?
Bitty wishes he could say he’d given up on Kent at this point, but he can’t help the little flicker of hope in his chest every time Kent smiles at him. Lord.
But now—well. “Tell me more about your date,” Bitty says, even though the words want to stick in his throat.
“Huh?” Kent blinks at him. “Oh, right. It’s with one of the security guys, actually. You might know him. Hector?”
Bitty does in fact know Hector. He’s a perfectly nice gentleman, except for the fact that Bitty kind of wants to take him aside and tell him that Kent’s off limits—but Kent isn’t. Kent’s single. And so is Bitty, for that matter.
So Bitty feigns a pleased expression. “Oh! I do know him. We haven’t talked much, though. I guess he’s a fan of yours?”
“Yeah, we’ve chatted a bit. He seems like a good dude.” Kent tilts his head in thought. “I dunno. I just… I want a date to go well for once in my fucking life.”
“Aww, honey…” Bitty’s brow furrows, and he leans over to give Kent a reassuring squeeze on the arm. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”
“You say that, but.” Kent gives him an uneasy twist of his lips. “It’s just hard to do all that romance-y shit with people and act all interested when you’re just… not?”
“Yeah,” Bitty says, “I get that.” Bitty’s had his fair share of uninterested dates lately himself. Not for lack of trying—and he’d even slept with a couple of them, but. They just weren’t what he was looking for. “What point do things usually feel like they’re goin’ wrong?”
“The beginning,” Kent says drily. Bitty gives him a look, and he sighs. “Sorry, I know that’s not helpful. Uhh. I guess just when we start having conversations and shit? I can talk to them as friends, but there’s never like a spark or anything so I just end up feeling… uninterested?”
“Hmm,” Bitty hums. “I mean—do you flirt with them? Or just talk?”
Kent blinks. “Uhh. Just talk, I guess? Sometimes I flirt a little, probably, but it’s not… intentional.”
“Well then, mister, it sounds like you just need to practice flirting,” Bitty chirps.
Kent huffs a laugh. “I know I can flirt, but. It’s a whole lot easier when it’s with someone I’m already sexually attracted to. And usually I just don’t end up dating people like that.”
“That’s a shame,” Bitty says sympathetically.
And then an idea pops in his head, and his mouth goes dry.
Oh God, he’s really about suggest this, isn’t he?
“Hey,” he says slowly, “Why don’t you… try practicing? With me?”
“Uhh.” Kent looks surprised.
“I mean—you need practice flirting with someone who you aren’t sexually attracted to yet, right?” Bitty sits up a little straighter. “So just—try it on me.”
The edges of a smile prick at Kent’s face. He chuckles, eyes flicking from Bitty’s face to the floor. “Yeah, you know what? Why the fuck not?”
“Okay,” Bitty says, grinning a little at the absurdity of this whole thing. This is going to be fun, he thinks—not real, but close enough, right?
“So.” Kent raises an eyebrow, a slow smirk spreading on his face. “What do you do for fun?”
When Bitty had envisioned this five seconds ago, he’d thought he’d be able to be suave and sexy and maybe woo Kent just a little bit. He hadn’t anticipated the full blush that he can feel staining his cheeks, and he has to duck his head so Kent can’t see. “Uhm. I like… video games. And long walks on the beach.”
Kent’s silent for a moment, and Bitty looks up to find Kent squinting at him. “You don’t play video games,” Kent points out. “And you hate sand.”
Bitty waves away Kent’s objections, laughing. “Shush, Kent, I’m acting.”
“Oh. Well then,” Kent says, snorting. “What do you say we go walk on the beach together sometime? We can—y’know. Talk, hold hands, all that stuff.” He leans just a little bit closer, supporting himself with a hand on the couch cushion between him. “I’ve heard sex on the beach is pretty great,” he faux-whispers. “They even named a drink after it, yeah?”
Bitty can’t stop himself from wrinkling his nose. “Oh, ew. Kent, the sand!”
Kent lets out a sharp laugh, leaning back on the couch with a shit-eating grin on his face. “What, you wouldn’t wanna get down on your knees in the sand and—”
“Okay, okay, stop,” Bitty chokes out through his laughter, partly because the thought sounds awful and partly because he thinks that discussing blowjobs with Kent is most definitely going to give him an inappropriate erection. “Fine, I lied. I hate walks on the beach. New topic.”
“Ugh, fiiine,” Kent groans playfully. “Now that we’ve got hobbies out of the way, it’s time to make out, right?”
Bitty’s jaw drops. “Um!”
Kent’s laughter shakes the couch beneath them. “Oh my God, the look on your face—you look terrified!”
“That was one hell of a non-sequitur,” Bitty grumbles, crossing his arms and trying his best to fight off the blush that’s trying to bloom on his face.
“Yeah, but still. Am I that ugly?” Kent pouts at him.
“No! You’re—um. Attractive, okay? Like, if I didn’t know you, I’d totally, um. Slee—uhh! You know what! Never mind!” Bitty blurts out, shaking his head quickly.
“Ha. You were gonna say you’d sleep with me, weren’t you?” Kent looks way too amused, God.
And oh Lord, there’s that stupid blush again, and it’s only getting worse. “Uhh—” Bitty tries to speak, but his voice is trapped deep in his throat. He can’t lie. But what is he supposed to say? That he’s been thinking about fucking Kent on and off for probably three or four months now?
Kent chuckles. “Fine, fine, you don’t have to answer.” Upon watching Bitty flop back against the couch cushion in relief, he raises an eyebrow. “You’re awfully red.”
Bitty groans. “Ugh. It’s just. The flirting. You know.”
“Oh, is it now?” Kent grins. “This is fun. I bet I can make you turn red all the time now.”
God, Bitty’s gonna die. “Kent!”
“Hmm? You want me to keep going?” he says, and then before Bitty can stop him, he leans in and adds, “You’re cute when you’re all flustered.”
“I-I—thanks?” Bitty blinks at him, heart pounding in his chest.
And now that he’s looking properly—huh. Kent looks kind of flushed too. If it weren’t for that, Bitty would say he was entirely unperturbed by this whole thing.
Kent leans back, putting his feet up on the coffee table. “You’re welcome,” he says, the corner of his mouth tilting upward, and Bitty really, really wants to kiss him.
And—okay, maybe he’s staring.
Because the universe hates him, of course Kent notices.
Both of Kent’s eyebrows shoot upward. “Whatcha thinking about?”
“N-nothing!” Bitty can’t help covering his face. Lord, at this rate, Kent’s gonna find out how Bitty feels all in one night.
Which—honestly, Bitty kind of wants him to know, at this point. Not that he wants to tell him, but if Kent guesses and then reacts badly, Bitty can play it off as nothing.
“Nothing, huh?” Kent waggles his eyebrows, and Bitty lets out a nervous giggle. “Because it sure looks like you’re thinking about making out with me.”
“Kent Parson, if I’m thinkin’ about makin’ out with you, it’s only because you suggested it,” Bitty says, folding his arms across his chest.
There. He’s admitted it. The ball’s in Kent’s court now.
“Huh,” Kent says, and Bitty waits for him to continue. But he doesn’t.
Well, fuck. That didn’t work.
Kent’s getting ready to reject him now, isn’t he?
Bitty chances a look at Kent’s face, and Kent looks—contemplative. And kind of serious.
Bitty’s heart falls.
“Bitty?” Kent says quietly.
Bitty squeezes his eyes shut. “Yeah?”
“I don’t want to—fuck up our friendship.” Kent’s voice is nearly trembling, and hell, now Bitty’s gone and upset him.
Bitty sighs quietly, blinking his eyes open. “Yeah. Me neither.”
“But,” Kent says, fingers tightening into the cloth of the couch between them, “I really—want to kiss you. God, I wanna kiss you so fucking bad, Bitty, and I know that’s probably not the best idea but it’s all I can fucking think about lately—mmph! Bits… mmm.”
The kiss starts out a little painful, honestly, because Bitty had misjudged how far away Kent’s face was—or maybe Kent had leaned closer. But that doesn’t matter now, because they’re kissing, and Kent’s lips are moving against Bitty’s, quietly tearing him apart.
This might be all Bitty gets, so he tries to make the most of it, curling his hands up into Kent’s hair. He can’t suppress a shiver when Kent loops his arm around him, pulling him closer, nearly into his lap—and then Kent hefts him upward, and Bitty is in his lap, heartbeat loud in his ears as he slips his tongue into Kent’s mouth.
Bitty honestly loses time of how long they’ve been kissing. By the end of it, they’re lying on the couch, panting, and Bitty’s hard but he’s not going to push for anything more. Kent looks at Bitty from where he’s lying on top of him, grinning. “Shit. That was fucking awesome.”
“I—um. Really?” Bitty flushes, reaching up to stroke Kent’s waist. Kent’s eyes flutter. Wow.
“Yeah, really,” Kent says, leaning down and kissing him once more. “I, uh. Want to do it again. A lot.”
“Well, that’s good,” Bitty says, a slow grin spreading on his lips. “Cuz I do too. A lot.”
“Okay,” Kent says. “I really—I don’t want to ruin our friendship, but. This is so fucking worth it.”
“It doesn’t have to be ruined,” Bitty says, twisting his lips. “Just—different.”
“When Zimms and I started fucking… that’s kinda when everything went to shit. I guess I’m just a little paranoid,” Kent says, brow furrowing.
“We don’t have to fuck,” Bitty points out. “We can just—make out. For now. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
“Yeah? Well—okay,” Kent says, and then he’s smiling again. “Make out, and—hold hands?”
Bitty laughs softly, finding one of Kent’s hands and twining his fingers with his own. “Sure.”
“And maybe—go on a date?” Kent’s grin widens.
“Sure,” Bitty says, chuckling. “Is that you askin’ me, Mr. Parson?”
“Yeah. It is.”
For a moment they’re both smiling too widely to say anything, and then Kent leans down and kisses him again. “I’m never going to get tired of that,” Kent murmurs. “I’ve wanted to for—a while, I think.”
“Me, too,” Bitty says, heart fluttering in his chest.
“Huh,” Kent says. “I should probably cancel my date with Hector.”
Bitty laughs. “That might be a good idea.”
Kent leans down, lips brushing against Bitty’s ear and making him shudder. “After all—I’ve got a much cuter date now, you know?”
Bitty giggles, the euphoria bubbling in his lungs. “Yeah. You do.”