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The Escapist

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It probably said something about how both their plans had been over-complicated and honestly just kind of dumb that six weeks later they’d never gotten clear on what they’d been planning at all. Tony might have been able to explain, maybe, but Tony didn’t remember Cinco. The roofies had erased the memories so well that even watching the video from the bedroom camera really, really closely had never brought anything back.

GOB still thought that a staged masked reconstruction might work, if they could figure out some way to get Michael to walk in on them after – if nothing else, it would be incredibly hot – but Tony got kind of weird about that night. Not just Cinco, but everything before, the stuff GOB didn’t let himself think about because he didn’t care anymore about revenge or who’d lied to who first. He cared about it least of all on nights like tonight, when he was feeling mellow and satisfied, eating takeout at midnight with Tony at the other end of the couch in GOB’s robe, his hair still wet from the shower and sexy-strange-looking without gel.

Tony still cared about all that stuff, though. They’d been talking about some show he was doing at the country club and GOB had started telling him about going to that place as a kid, but he’d got to the part about Michael and Sally Sitwell and the golf carts and Tony had – not flinched, but his eyes had dropped to the side, like he was looking somewhere far away, and GOB had to nudge his foot to bring him back.

Tony said, “I haven’t seen her since Cinco. The real Cinco, I mean, the Fifth. Just. So you know.”  

“Yeah,” he said, “I know.” He was pretty sure from the shoddy paint job on his toenails that Tony wasn’t sleeping with any women, and since he said he’d only ever gone home with guys for act-related research into convincing fake-gayness – not really a problem now – that probably meant he wasn’t sleeping with anyone else at all.

Thinking about that made him feel something he couldn’t put a name to; not hungry, not exactly, but he grabbed another carton from the coffee table anyway, passed one to Tony too. For a while they ate without saying anything, and GOB thought about Cinco and everything that happened after it, about Tony saying I just really want to be done lying to you.

GOB said, “Did you read that thing in high school - that civil war book?”

Red Badge of Courage?”

“ Maybe? It was about owls.”

Tony snapped his fingers. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. Yeah, sure, I've read it. It’s not a book, though, it’s a short story.”

“Short book, whatever.”

“It’s literally five pages.”

“I didn’t read it,” GOB said, impatiently waving off any and all objections with his chopsticks. “Come on, I was in high school! I was busy with girls and softball practice and being an amazing student body president and different girls and I was just getting into magic, like I had time for stupid owl-books?”

“You know it’s not actually about an owl, right?” Tony said, same as Michael had back in school when GOB had tried to bully or bribe him into doing his assignment, only his brother had been... well, Michael about it, pissy and superior in his blazer and button-down but Tony was smiling at him, the smile that was kind of soft and head-tilty and gave him lines around his eyes that GOB was smart enough not to mention. “So, guessing you made a sibling read it and tell you the plot?”

“Oh, yeah. Lindsay didn’t even do her own homework, and Michael was all ‘responsibility’ and ‘this is why you’re repeating senior year, GOB’ and, I don’t know, probably some crap about Tracey, but Buster was into books and stuff.”

“Same. I read all of our high school stuff three years early because David used to pull the same thing on me.”

“Same,” GOB echoed, pleased, even though it was really being same with Tony’s brother who’d died, or maybe Tony with Buster.

“They made a Twilight Zone episode from that story. I think I’ve got it on DVD somewhere,” Tony said, like he was trying to remember. Which, sure, that'd be convincing if GOB didn't already know from being dragged around Barnes & Noble two weekends ago that he had all his dorky books and soundtracks and DVDs memorized as well as alphabetized.

“So the guy in the story –”

“Who was a guy. Not an owl. Just so we’re clear.”

“Uh, yeah, asshole,” he said, flicking a piece of kung pao chicken at Tony’s head so he’d know he was only fake-offended. “He’s being executed – on a bridge, maybe? Is that why there’s a bridge in the title? – but the rope breaks and he escapes and fights off all the pirates and bears and everything –”

“I haven’t read it for a while but I don’t remember any... oh, Buster told you this story, right.”

“It actually sounded pretty cool the way Bustie described it,” GOB agreed. “Anyway, so the guy gets back to his house, and his wife and kids are there and everything's perfect.”

“Right. And then his neck snaps, he never left the bridge, it was just a dream in the second before he died. Shitty twist ending. Some guy wanted to do it for Use Your Allusion 2, but I made him do O. Henry instead.”

“See, I got that part right. You’d think that would’ve deserved a C-minus, at least.”

“English teachers, man,” Tony said, with that same smile again, “they’re so lame about adding pirates and bears into the classics. Why’re you thinking about this, Gobie?”

He’d taken the train of thought far enough that it took him a second to back up the conversation in his head to where he’d been thinking about Sally and Cinco and red candy vines and some girl telling him she’d had Tony’s kid. “That night, Cinco, when I realised you’d been lying to me – it’s okay,” he said, over whatever Tony had started to say, “I was lying to you too, first, whatever – I’m just saying, I was actually kind of... relieved.” He wasn’t saying any of this right because Tony was staring at him, not getting it. “I knew there was something,” he said. “It was too good, you were too perfect, I... God, you’re Tony Wonder, and that night at your house you were looking at me like...”

“Baby,” Tony said quietly.

“So I knew it wasn’t real and either, either you were lying, or...” He smiled, shrugged, and he didn’t know why Tony had that look on his face because he was fine, he was trying to explain why everything was okay, it had all worked out: “Or else I was gonna wake up back in the storage locker.”

There was a long, long moment when he thought Tony had gone away in his head again, except he was still looking right at GOB. He couldn’t remember if anybody had ever looked at him that way in his whole life.

Tony made a noise in his throat and GOB sat forward, ready to help if he was choking, but he must have swallowed whatever it was because he just blinked really fast and said, “You done with the food?” GOB nodded. Tony took the carton out of his hands and put it on the table – gently, carefully, like it was something precious and important and not just clearing up after dinner, and that made GOB smile.

Then Tony was suddenly wrapped around him, his face pressed hard against GOB’s neck and it was strange, for once, being the one somebody was clinging to. Confused, GOB hugged him back and wondered if he was supposed to say something –it’s okay or I love you or I’m glad I didn’t dream you – and Tony was holding him so tightly it hurt a little but that was fine, it was good, it meant he was awake.