Ross was at a loss, watching the large insect with disgust he did his very best to conceal.
Acting was not his strength, so that concealing consisted mainly of turning his back to the room’s other occupant.
“You wanna meet my pet hissing cockroach?” his blockmate had asked. “His name is Bob.”
Obviously Ross had assumed that Jim had finally, finally caught on to his not so subtle attempts of flirting with him whenever they ran into each other. Because, honestly? A pet hissing cockroach?
Only, there was a little terrarium on the desk of Jim’s dorm room. And there was a cockroach in there. A cockroach bigger than any cockroach should be.
They had cockroaches back home in Nampara. It had never occurred to Ross to keep them as pets.
“Well?” Jim asked. “What do you think?”
“I …” Ross blinked, staring at the creature. “It really hisses?”
“It’s a hissing cockroach,” Jim explained patiently. “That's what makes them so cool!”
In a really, really creepy way.
“I got him as a present in Madagascar,” Jim’s enthusiastic voice went on. “They keep them as pets there.”
“Yes! You know before I came to college, I worked on this cruise ship? I …”
Ross let the story wash over him. Apparently Jim had been sick one time and stayed at the hospital in Toamasina for a week until he could join his ship again. The thing had been a present from his room mate, a Madagascan with a weird sense of humour. Jim had then smuggled it into England.
“That is a lot of trouble to go through for a cockroach,” Ross said weakly, finally facing Jim.
“But it hisses!” Smiling brightly and flashing those dimples that made Ross knees wobble, Jim was entirely too enthusiastic about a cockroach. “Look, I don’t do this often, because it stresses him, but …”
To Ross’ horror he put a hand into the terrarium and petted the stupid thing. It hissed. It really hissed.
“I’m sorry, Bob,” Jim cooed. “I'll leave you alone now, mate.”
“Yes.” Jim grinned again, his blond locks gently bobbing as he straightened again. “He looks a bit like my Uncle Bob.”
A giggle escaped Ross. “Did you tell him?”
“Of course I did. He felt honoured.”
“The cockroach or your uncle?”
The both laughed at that and Ross felt some of his tension melt.
Okay, so maybe Jim hadn’t come on to him. But at least they were getting somewhere. They had lived in the same block of their hall of residence for three months, Jim’s angelic beauty had distracted him from day one, they were the only second years living in that block and yet … they had only ever exchanged pleasantries (flirting in Ross' case) and small talk in the hallway or the kitchen.
“You want some beer?” Jim’s melodic voice broke into Ross’ musings. The other man smirked at him, pointing his head to the mini fridge in the corner.
“Neat. I’d love a beer.”
Ross sat down on Jim’s desk chair without waiting for an invitation. That was too close to “Bob” but he didn’t feel comfortable enough to sit on Jim’s bed, the only other seat available. Jim handed him a can. Outside, they could still hear their blockmates screaming; the look they shared just said “first years.”
“You wanna join their party again?” Jim asked, only it wasn’t really a question, tinged in sarcasm as it was. Ross opened his can with a plop and poured some cool ale down his throat before vigorously shaking his head.
“No way, mate. They’re beyond pissed. Clever of you with the fridge.”
“You mean you didn't get one?”
“Nope.” Ross smiled ruefully. “I store luke warm beer in my room, I’m afraid.”
“Scandalous.” Jim laughed. “But better than having it stolen, right?”
“Right.” Ross rolled his eyes. “I swear, I wasn’t this bad as a first year.”
“Times have changed so much since last year.” Jim shook his head sadly.
Then he grinned impishly. “To be fair, though, we were both older in our first year, right?”
“Do I look it?” Ross tried to look cheerful. He knew his scar made him look so much older, but he hoped Jim wasn't put off by that.
“Nah, you told me, remember? When we moved in? You said you were in the army for over a year?”
“Right. And you were on a ship.”
“So I’d say we were slightly more mature. Taught some respect for other people’s property and all that.”
They both took a moment to reflect on drunk blockmates who raided fridges in the shared kitchen.
Then Jim reached under his bed and pulled out a packet of crisps. Bacon flavour.
If Ross hadn’t already been smitten before, he would have been hopelessly enamoured now.
Ross practically snatched the packet.
They got talking easily. Jim explained that he stayed in the hall instead of moving to a shared flat with friends because “they’d wreck the place and I’d lose my deposit.” Ross explained that he got the room in the hall at last minute, having meant to share a flat with his cousin, but then his girlfriend broke up with him and got together with his cousin so it didn’t seem right.
Then he noticed that this story may make him look too straight. He needed to let Jim know, however subtly, that he was into men too. And then figure out where Jim stood, of course.
Before he could find anything to say, Jim spoke up, frowning.
“Your cousin? Didn’t he visit you or something?”
“Yeah, he did ….” Ross sighed, touched that Jim remembered encountering Francis. “He feels bad, I give him that.”
“Yeah, well he should.”
“It was Elizabeth’s choice, wasn’t it?” Ross shrugged, hoping to convey how much he was actually over Elizabeth now. Ever since he met Jim.
“And … you know, Francis was always my best friend. Since we were kids and I had to save him from the bullies. And drowning.” And wasn’t that a memorable afternoon. “And … you know … he caught me and Dwight making out behind the lockers in school. Just said sorry, and disappeared. And later he told me, he was fine with whoever I was going to snog. Went up against George when that bastard found out. Little Francis defending me.”
He shook his head fondly at the memory. Of course it had been him who had to save Francis in the end, but still.
If Jim remembered Dwight from his visits or if he just emphasised the male name, Ross didn’t know. But he knew the look Jim gave him. It was positively coy, his sea blue eyes sparkling.
“Snogging behind the lockers in school?”
Ross winked. “Yeah … never went much further with him, we were so young.”
“I never snogged a boy.”
Something in Jim’s little smirk compelled Ross to ask: “Would you like to?”
Jim laughed, silently. “Do you genuinely believe I invited you in just to see my hissing cockroach?”
“Well, at first no, but I thought you were just making up the cockroach, so when I met Bob I thought you’re just barmy.”
“Oh shut up.” Jim blushed slightly. “I sort of … sort of hoped you would, you know, take the hint.”
“The hint that you actually own a cockroach?”
“Well I am sure most people have actual coffee when they invite somebody in for coffee, so …”
That was quite enough talking. Jim’s blush just emphasised his angelic features, the deep dimples, the blue, soulful eyes, the blond curls. Ross bent his body towards the bed, one hand bracing on the mattress, the other on Jim’s cheek, stroking the slight stubble, before he brought his face closer. And then his lips closed over Jim’s, and he heard Jim sighing ever so quietly, and Jim’s lips were so soft. And Ross lost himself getting up from the chair, never breaking contact with Jim, pulling Jim up from the bed, so they stood in the middle of the room, Ross’ arms wrapped tightly around Jim’s waist, sliding down furtively, over that gorgeous curve of his arse.
Teasing the blond was so easy, every time Jim wanted to deepen their kiss Ross would pull away, breaking contact just a little, locking eyes with this gorgeous man until he couldn’t stop himself either and he attacked Jim’s mouth with fervour. Jim responded in kind pushing up against Ross, using his shoulders as leverage, wrestling with Ross for dominance.
They tumbled backwards, Ross hands collided with something and an angry hiss startled them both out of their passionate haze.
They were laughing breathlessly, looking at the hissing Bob, who looked very angry with them both. So much for their promise to leave him alone.