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Dreaming

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 “We’re done.”

 

The words hit Bates like a freight train, no, like a spray of bullets, knocking him down and down every time he tries to get back up. They rise up out of his thoughts and shoot him again in the heart, the head, the stomach, every time he thinks he’s finally managed to stop the bleeding.

 

Eventually, he just can’t take it anymore.

 

He swallows his fear and his pride and follows Gleeson, apologizing, crying, saying ‘I love you.’

 

Gleeson, kissing him.

 

Bates wakes with a start.

 

--

 

Suffice to say, that’s not how he wanted that conversation to go.

 

It had seemed wrong to start the new year still fighting with Gleeson, so Bates went looking for him to see if they could talk. Just talk. See if there was any part of their friendship that could be salvaged from the mess they made.

 

Maybe it was too soon. Maybe Bates pushed too hard. Maybe Gleeson was angry Bates interrupted his conversation with Tom.

 

Maybe there really isn’t anything to save.

 

But he pictured it going so much better. Talking to him at New Year’s was a spur of the moment decision helped along by alcohol, but Bates had wanted to talk to Gleeson before that.

 

When Bates thinks about it now, trying to figure out how exactly the whole conversation started going down the toilet, all he can think about is the kiss that definitely shouldn’t have happened.

 

Which is dumb. That’s dumb. He has Milly, who doesn’t make him feel like he needs to have his future planned out until he’s seventy. They understand each other, and when she smiles at him or when he makes her laugh his stomach swoops like he’s going down the first hill on a roller coaster.

 

So he stops thinking about it. He stops thinking about the fight altogether.

 

But he doesn’t stop dreaming about it.

 

--

 

“Hey Milly, do you think…I’m emotionally unavailable?” The camera’s still rolling, but Bates knows he’ll cut this out. He doesn’t want Gl- people thinking he was still hung up on that stupid fight.

 

“What? Bates, no.” Even though they just broke up, even though they’d only gone out for a few weeks before things fell apart, her voice is kind. “Listen, you’re one of the most affectionate and expressive people I know. Gleeson was just trying to make you mad.”

 

Bates knows that’s not it. Breakup or no, he knows Gleeson better than anyone, and he rarely says anything he doesn’t mean. But he doesn’t want to hurt Milly, so he drops it and lets her go. She got hurt enough when he got into it with his ex at a party. Again.

 

Well, at least he probably can’t hurt her anymore. Not much, anyway. Because she was smart enough to get out when she realized she was dating a complete wreck of a person.

 

Why, why does he have to ruin everything?

 

Despite still feeling angry at Gleeson, his guilty conscience sets him right. Before he falls asleep that night, his mind wanders and he imagines finding G and apologizing. He imagines not starting the stupid fight in the first place. He imagines talking to him like a fucking adult without making things worse. He imagines Gleeson’s small, shy smile.

 

--

 

He’s staring at his stupid, fancy, poorly made sword when he feels the façade crack. Gleeson was with him when he bought it, then there was this whole thing where Gleeson knighted him with it…

 

He puts the sword down and talks right to Gleeson. Gleeson might not answer his texts, and whenever they talk things always seem to go horribly wrong. So there’s this, just saying what he feels and not hiding or pretending to be okay and not spurned to say hurtful things by alcohol or the existence of Tom or Milly. And it’s such a relief. Now, they can fix things. Maybe.

 

--

 

“I’m sorry I pushed you away when we were together. You were always so sure and certain, and the only thing I felt sure of was not knowing anything. I just pictured you finding someone more like you, someone talented who knew who they were and what they wanted and where they were going. And you’d forget all about me. So I guess I tried to save myself from getting hurt.” Bates laughs darkly. “That didn’t work. Obviously. I lost my best friend and my boyfriend in one go, and it was a little too much for me to handle.

 

“The thing is, G…” Bates says, rubbing the back of his neck, “I don’t know how to be without you around. Ten years is a really long time, and we got kind of codependent. And that’s kind of scary too, how much I need you and want you around and think about you when I’m just going through the day. But it’s okay, because that’s how we’ve always been. I just didn’t really notice until we didn’t talk anymore.”

 

Gleeson is staring back at him, eyes shining, but Bates has to keep talking until he’s finished.

 

“I know I hurt you. And I know we can’t just go back to normal, but…” I love you. He doesn’t say it, though, because that would absolutely not be fair. Not if Gleeson’s actually starting to heal. “I need you in my life, G. So I just need to know if at some point I’ll get my best friend back.”

 

Gleeson smiles. It’s small, but it’s there. The way he hasn’t looked at Bates in months. “Yeah, I think you will.”

 

Bates wakes with a start to a buzzing sound. Though he hasn’t been asleep long, his brain is still foggy and confused, and he wonders if the buzzing was real or in his dream. His phone screen is bright, shining in the dimness. Real, then. Bates huffs out a sigh, frustrated, wishing he could fall back asleep and into the dream that’s already slipping away from him. He’s almost annoyed enough to ignore his phone, but curiosity wins out. And Bates finds himself glad it did. A text from Gleeson.

 

Okay, it read. Let’s talk.