Whenever my roommates told me I didn't get out often enough, I usually told them to mind their own fucking business. But after a year and a half of living with Ben and Josh, even I, Joel, the single most stubborn man on earth, had to give in eventually.
They told me to go to the park or a bar or somewhere social, but I had other ideas. See, I wasn't exactly what you'd call a people person – in fact, I hated most everyone in general, and spending any extended amount of time near anything even breathing tended to send me into angry fits.
So I decided a trip to the movies was in order, one of the few places I had deemed safe. Food, entertainment, a way to kill time, and you didn't even have to look at or talk to anybody. The perfect way to spend an afternoon, especially if you picked semi-independent films like I did. And there I was, sitting in my seat, hands in my lap, absently tearing apart a flimsy paper napkin when all of a sudden, shit! I had a guy in my lap. One minute I was trying to figure out the blanket theory, and the next…
"Ow, Jesus!" My popcorn spilled all over the floor and my vision was completely filled with wild red hair. "What the hell?" I growled, and caught an elbow in my stomach as my offender scrambled frantically away, calling over his shoulder at the very end of the stairs,
"Sorry, man, but I really gotta pee!"
He never came back.
And that was how I met Reid.
I met him again after the show, when I went out to dinner at the burger place right next to the theater. I had asked for a coke and was waiting for someone to take the rest of my order when I experienced another unpleasant collision.
"Christ, that's cold!" I yelled.
There was coke and ice all over my lap. When I looked up to see apologetic green eyes and a head of bright red hair, I knew it was him. I'd recognize that hair anywhere. I didn't know his name at that time, but I did know that he was a bloody lunatic, and that was all I needed. What was wrong with this guy?
"Holy shit, I'm sorry!" he said loudly, already grabbing napkins and trying to wipe my lap. Flustered, I grabbed them from him and shoved him away. Strangers definitely were not allowed to touch my crotch under any circumstances.
"Jesus fuck!" I hissed, and tried desperately to soak away the Coke before it stained my pants. Meanwhile, Reid just stood there, half-frozen on his way to finding more napkins with a confused look on his face.
"…Jesus fuck what?"
"Jesus fuck you," I snapped, and threw the napkins at him. He blinked.
"Jesus fuck…" He shrugged. "Mmm, okay." Then he did a double take, and his eyes widened as his mouth stretched into a friendly grin. "Hey, you're the lap guy!"
I glared at him. "And you're the guy who fell in my lap."
He laughed a little. "And now you have soda in your lap!" His eyebrows rose as he teased me, "Your lap is quite… absorbent."
I bristled at his laughter, angry beyond all belief. People all around the restaurant were staring at us, the guy with soda all over his pants and the laughing, unrepentant waiter, and I hated attention of any kind. "I'll absorb you," I growled.
His smile faded a little, and he finally seemed to understand that he was my waiter, and that he should probably do something about all this. "I'll go get you another soda," he said.
"Coke, please," I murmured, five seconds away from burying my face in my hands and crying. Today had not been a good day.
Reid seemed to sense this and, smiling, added, "And a napkin."
I raised an eyebrow. "Maybe a towel."
He laughed. "And a towel."
I ate my food faster than it was healthy and was out of the restaurant while my pants were still wet. Normally I would have gone home and switched pants before I went anywhere else in public, but since I was out I decided to finish paying off a video game at EB Games (I was a big fan of pre-ordering games), which was just a short walk from the restaurant. Shopping centers were great.
I quickly went inside gave the bloodsuckers the last few bucks for the game, ignoring the comment I heard some girl make behind me about the quality of my potty training. I scoffed at her, holding my purchase close to me, and walked back out the doors to get back to the safety and seclusion of my home.
I was almost free and clear when –BAM! That same red-haired punk blasted into me. He gasped and his green eyes went wide once he saw me. "Is that what I think it is?"
"Uh…" I noticed he was staring at the game bag. I answered him hesitantly, "If you think its Halo 2, then yes." He yelled and latched himself onto me in a matter of seconds. "Oh my fucking God," I growled, trying to pry him off of me. "What is wrong with you?"
He pushed himself away, but refused to let go of my shoulders. "Halo 2! Need I say more?" A quirky grin passed over his face. "I came in here to hug the stand-up poster for a while, but now I think I'll just follow you home!"
"You're not…serious are you?"
Those big green eyes just blinked at me in disbelief. "Totally serious. Why not?"
There wasn't much to do but shake my head. "…crap."
"You wouldn't want to…. give me a ride would you?"
My God. I've never seen a more convincing pout! I mean, even puppies and the littlest, tiniest of babies don't have this kind of magnetism. I really didn't want to have anything to do with him, but he looked so pathetic, and I could always toss him out of the car if he gave me any trouble…
Dammit, I was losing my stubbornness. I'd given in twice in one day.
I sighed, "Fine." I hesitantly gestured that he should follow me out to my car and saw him light up with happiness from the corner of my eye.
He started talking again once we reached the car. "You know, this is our third coincidence, so it's not really a coincidence anymore. Now it's more like…fate."
I twisted the key in the lock so the door would open. I thought about only unlocking my door and driving away, but I worried that I might get too many evil points and I'd grow horns. Horns and bangs don't mix either; Fable taught me that. "You really took that movie to heart, huh?"
The lanky red-head sank into the passenger seat. "Sort of. According to the blanket theory, I am the blanket."
It was then that I realized I didn't even know this guy's name. Ben and Josh were going to either congratulate or murder me when they got a load of this. My I-hate-people senses were tingling so hard that all I could really process was: "You're on crack."
"Maybe." He stopped to think for a minute. "Probably."
I rolled my eyes. "Great. What's your name anyway?"
"Reid." He actually held his hand in front of my face like he wanted me to shake it.
I waved it away quickly so that I could drive without accident. "Joel."
"Nice to meet you, Joel. May I give you a bit of advice?"
"You need to learn how to drive more…aggressively."
"Aggressively?" I looked over at him curiously. He had both eyebrows raised, grinning. "How so?"
"Allow me to demonstrate." Reid pointed down a random street at my left and yelled, "Quick! Turn here!"
"The hell?" I drove by, annoyed. No one makes a turn after they pass up the intersection. "There wasn't enough time, you moron!"
"See, that's what I'm talking about! You need to make more…Nascar turns." He illustrated by pretending he was driving, pulling off the sharpest looking turns I'd ever seen. "Like, you know, put the drivers to shame. Here, hop out and I'll show you how it's done." He started to unbuckle his seatbelt.
I'd read somewhere that honesty was the best policy with lunatics, so…
"I'm afraid of you," I said rather bluntly.
He just smiled and reached across me and went for the steering wheel. "Good! That's the way I like it. Now move over."
"Jesus Christ!" I tried to grab the steering wheel back, but no dice. I knew I was going to die. "What the fuck are you—stop sign!"
"Stop signs are for the weak!" He yelled triumphantly, blowing past it without a second thought.
I glanced back at the crime we'd just committed. "For the record, running them is for the dead."
"Who are you kidding?" He looked at me indignantly. "You're the one controlling the brakes!"
I looked down at my feet, realizing that not only was I in charge of the breaks, but the gas, too, and immediately felt like an idiot. Of course, feeling like an idiot only made me angry, and I wondered why the hell I was risking my fucking life just to make some crazy stranger stop pulling puppy faces on me. I tried to calm down. "Okay." I was in control of most of the cars functions. I saw my street coming up. "Turn here!" I couldn't help but scream when he turned the car like the maniac he was.
"See? Nascar turns!" He grinned at me.
I timidly pointed toward my driveway, and he swerved into it without even blinking. The tires screeched loudly as I remembered that I could stop the car just before it was too late. I caught my breath and held my heart from jumping out of my chest. "Oh, man, my roommates are gonna kill me once they see you…"
"You have roommates?" He smiled brightly. "Sweet! Do I hear a Halo party calling?"
"Oh, for the love of…" I sighed, "Fine, come in. Just don't break anything." I paused, thinking that over, and added as an afterthought, "Except maybe your neck." I very hesitantly unlocked the door and let him follow me inside. Since I didn't really know him, I assumed he really was here solely for Halo, so I led him down to the basement. The basement was where I slept and, more importantly, where we kept the TV and game consoles.
I went to hook up the Xbox while Reid busied himself looking around the rest of the room. "…What's that box on the ceiling?" He asked, and reached up to pull down on the little knob attached to it. Before I could warn him, my roommates' dirty underwear fell through the laundry chute and onto his head.
I couldn't help but wince, choking down laughter. "Looks like Ben had Mexican."
"Disgusting!" He flailed until the clothes fell off him onto the floor. "You mean I'm touching some other guy's dirty underwear?"
I turned around from plugging in the Xbox to the TV and raised an eyebrow at him. "Are you implying that it would be okay if you were touching my dirty underwear?"
He sighed wistfully. "Did I not say it was fate?"
"You're freaking me out." I shoved the last cord in and muttered to him, "Go sit down or something." It took a minute to really come to terms with what I'd gotten myself into. "Away from me," I added.
Reid tried that pout again. "You're very boring."
"And you're very crazy. Now sit." I handed him a controller, making sure to avoid eye contact. Reid made an upset-sounding noise and looked a little angry. I went to the minifridge that was hidden across the room to pillage for a soda. After all, what bunch of college guys doesn't have a separate fridge devoted entirely to drinks in their house?
"D'you want something to drink?" I asked.
"Diet coke," he replied promptly.
"Diet?" I pulled my head out of the fridge to stare. "We don't affiliate with diet coke drinkers here."
"In Cyberland we only drink diet coke," he sang.
I shook my head and threw a can toward that bright red target that was his head. "Well, Maureen, I suggest you convert if you want to stick around."
He caught it easily, dammit. Probably because he'd turned around too look at me. "Really?" He brightened.
"Yes." Then I realized what I'd said and faltered momentarily. "Wait, I mean, no. You should stick to diet coke, because I don't exactly want you sticking around. I'm not very fond of you, you know."
"But we're bound by fate!" he protested.
"Or your poor coordination," I corrected. "Now shove over so we can play." I pushed him over and picked up the first controller so I could have the top... screen. I mean, who wants the bottom screen? Dumbasses. Then the opening screen popped up before I could say anything else to him, and I set him up before launching into cooperative mode.
So we played Halo 2 for a very long time, until my eyes burned from the unhealthy light of the TV and I almost couldn't stand it anymore. It was almost 5:30 in the morning, and I suddenly died somewhere it wasn't safe to respawn. It only took about fifteen minutes of listening to Reid trying to blast aliens through a wall before I just fell asleep. Have you ever been awake at 5: 30 in the morning? It doesn't take much to fall asleep at 5:30 am, especially if you got up at something like 7:30 the morning before.
The next time I woke up, Reid definitely wasn't shooting aliens anymore. In fact, he was curled up next to me on the couch, cuddling me.
It was too early to kill him, so I blinked rather blearily instead, groping around blindly for my glasses, and noticed two pairs of feet standing nearby.
"Dude, I didn't know you were gay," a voice said. That would be Ben.
"What?" I sat up quickly. "I'm not!"
Next to me, Reid opened his eyes a little and stretched out like a cat. "You're not?" He was way too casual about that.
"No!" I growled.
He popped up off the couch and pointed at me with a triumphant little grin on his face. "That's a double-negative! That means you are!"
"Joel, I can't believe you've been hiding this from us!" Josh stood next to Ben, sounding genuinely hurt.
"I wasn't!" I looked between my two roommates. "Honestly. I'm not gay!"
"Yes, you are!" Ben argued. Josh nodded in agreement, pointing to Reid as evidence. Dammit.
"Well, maybe half," Reid suggested.
Josh glanced at Reid, then at me, looking scandalized. "You're bi?" he yelled in surprise.
"What?" I shook my head frantically. "No!"
"But he just said you were!"
I threw my hands up in defeat. "I'm confused!"
Reid slid his arm around my waist, grinning. "Don't worry, Joel," he said, and leaned forward to nuzzle my neck. "I'll help you discover your true sexuality!"
I shoved him away before he could do anything else. "Not that kind of confused, you idiot!"
"Idiot?" He laughed. "You're the one who's confused."
My roommates were starting to look nervous. They inched slowly towards the door as Ben said, "Maybe we should leave you alone to figure this out—"
Reid flashed them a thumbs up, and I panicked. Being left alone with Reid was like signing a death certificate as far as my male virginity was concerned. They had just turned their traitorous backs on me to leave the room when I was struck by complete desperation and yelled out,
"You're going to leave Halo 2 just because you're homophobic?! Are you kidding me? What kind of nutjobs are you?"
Ben and Josh shared a conspiratorial look before slowly turning back to me, both of them grinning.
"You've got a point," Josh said.
"Yeah!" I smiled at him, relieved.
"We'll kick you out and keep it for ourselves." And they grabbed me by the collar of my shirt and hurled me outside. Seconds later I found myself with an armful of frisky redhead, and they slammed the door in our faces. Reid immediately threw himself at the door while I stood back, contemplating my doom.
Reid had one ear pressed against the door while he hung limply off the doorknob. "Halo….I can hear it!" He crumpled to the ground limply. "This is the single most painful experience of my life!"
"Quit whining, I'm the one that bought it." Man, I was really pissed that my roommates were big enough assholes to sell my male virginity for a game of Halo. What's the proper term for male virginity, anyway? Maleginity? I didn't really care about male virginity, though. Just mine. Maybe it was more appropriate to say my Joelinity was in serious jeopardy.
Especially since he was busy cuddling me again. "No need to be sore about it. Can I make it up to you?"
To say the least: "Um, no."
"Oh, come on, you should at least give it a try…" He inched towards me.
"Once again: no." I pushed his face away quickly. "I don't think so."
Reid sat back and crossed his arms with an air of confidence. "I think you need to learn a little about trust. Fate is on our side."
"Freaking no, okay?"
He sighed overdramatically, "You're just too stubborn for me. Whatever shall I do?"
I backed up a couple of stairs in defense. "Don't get any ideas!"
"Hum…" He practically crawled on top of me, stopping when his face was inches from mine. "A little late for that," he said.
He laughed. "Only for you."
"Get off me," I growled and shoved him off me as hard as I could, leaving him lying on his back on the stairs.
"Get you off? Gladly!" Reid sat up quickly and reached toward me again.
"No!" I yelled, panicked again. "I said get off, fuckhead!"
"You got it." He grinned dirtily.
"Not that kind of—arrgh, you're impossible!"
That smile never faded. "It's my specialty."
"Whatever." I looked away from him angrily, brushing my hair out of my face. I noticed that I'd taken my watch off last night and was gripped by another sudden bout of panic. I grabbed Reid's sleeve and pulled his wrist up to my face. "What time is it?" I snapped.
He gave me an odd but not displeased look at our close contact. "Around ten, why?"
"Shit!" I dropped his wrist and bolted for the street by my house. "I have to go to work!"
He ran beside me as I searched frantically for my car. I couldn't remember where the fuck he'd parked it. Well, where I'd parked it, technically, but he'd been steering…
"Chillax, man," he said, smiling serenely. "Here, let me tell you a joke to calm you down."
"No," I snapped, distracted. I patted my pants pocket for my keys and almost cried when I couldn't find them. I started tearing at my hair instead, staring dejectedly at the asphalt. This morning sucked.
Reid came up behind me and laid a hand on my shoulder, which I was too depressed to shake off. "Ask me if I'm a truck," he instructed.
"The fuck?" I glared at him, but he insisted.
"Ask me if I'm a truck!"
"Fine," I sighed, defeated, and looked at him agitatedly. "Are you a truck?"
He laughed in my face. "No! Jesus, do I look like I'm a truck?"
I bristled immediately. "What the fuck was—"
He interrupted me quickly, "Now ask me again."
I gritted my teeth and played along. "Are you a truck?"
"Maaaaybe." He rocked back and forth on his heels, grinning. "Now ask me one more time."
"…Are you a truck?" My eyebrow twitched in annoyance.
I stared at him, dumbfounded. "Is that the end?"
"Yup," he said proudly.
"…That was the worst joke ever," I decided.
He looked extremely smug as he said, "Ah, maybe so, but it got your mind off work, didn't it?"
"Not anymore, it didn't," I growled. "I'm gonna be late, and I don't even have my fucking keys!"
"I'll drive you!" he said, and pulled my keys out of his pocket. I made a grab for them, but he jumped away, dangling them just above my head. I lowered my chin in defeat and nodded. My only coherent thought was God help me.
Reid was the scariest person I'd ever seen behind the wheel of a car. Something inside of me was impressed with the fact that we hadn't died yet, but that part of me was being smothered by the other part of me screaming for dear life in the passenger seat.
"Hey, where do you work anyway?" he asked after a few minutes of aimless driving.
He was way too calm about this situation. "The book store," I answered, semi-distractedly, and paused before elaborating. "The one at the mall."
"You know…" He pulled off a mad U-turn that actually slammed me into the door. I gripped the handle tightly in case I had to jump out and avoid a car crash. "For someone who pretends not to like me so much you give away a lot of personal information." Another slam into the door with a right turn. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were trying to tell me something."
"What?" I thought about choking him, but I didn't want to make him slam into another car. "Who are you kidding? I have to tell you or I lose my job! In case you didn't notice, you're controlling the car!"
He just laughed and tapped my nose. "You're so cute."
I grumbled in fear and disgust. "Just watch the road, okay? You're going to kill us both."
"Don't worry," he said. "Fate will protect us."
I rolled my eyes. "Didn't Huckabees teach us that there is no such thing as fate?"
He seemed to consider this possibility, but only briefly. "Only if you want to have sex in the mud with a crazy French chick."
I frowned. "Ew, no thanks."
"Ah, so you are gay!"
Once again, I was really starting to get pissed about how calm he was about this whole situation. We were hurtling down the highway, avoiding near-death experiences left and right, and all he would concentrate on was hitting on me and trying to figure out my non-existent sexuality. That confidence of his was really starting to piss me off. "I just don't like mud," I said eventually.
"Whatever you say." He finally stopped the car in front of the entrance to the mall. I got out as fast as I could, a little impressed that he was actually thoughtful enough to pick the door closest to my store. "I'll pick you up after work, honeybutt."
I froze just as I was about to slam the door shut. "What did you just call me?"
"Honeybutt," he repeated, and I stared at him in disbelief.
"What the hell is a honeybutt?"
Reid winked quickly. "You'll find out." He leaned over and shut my door before he pulled away from the curb, missing a group of pedestrians by only a few inches and nearly plowing into the rows of parked cars.
I sighed. What was I supposed to do with this guy?
A/N: All the things in this story that are based on real life are just ridiculous. Safely somersaulting over movie theater seats, hugging Halo 2 standups, maleginity, Nascar turns, the truck joke, falling asleep during Halo at 5:30 in the morning and the word "honeybutt" are all real… and it's only just begun. Hopefully you enjoyed the story and all its craziness. Chapter 2 should be out soon.