**Edited as of 2/26/12

Chapter Nineteen:

For what felt like several minutes, Macon couldn't speak. He could only stare, blown away by this revelation. He worked his jaw open and closed.

"W-what?"

Wilson had sagged noticeably, his previous confidence drained out of him, but his jaw was set with a determination to continue speaking. Initially, his words were slow, clearly forced, but they gained momentum as he grew more passionate.

"I've been in love with you practically all of high school. I can't take it anymore. I can't do it. I can't room with you, and watch you hook up with other people. I'll be miserable and I'll never move on."

Wilson's chest rose and fell with rapid, sharp breaths. Macon stood transfixed, unable to look away. His friendship with Wilson was suddenly transformed—everything was changed forever. The past four years of his life replayed themselves in his memories. It baffled him to find how much he had hoped to hear those words without ever realizing it.

"You told me that you didn't," he said dumbly. "That night at my house you told me that you had never liked me."

"I lied," Wilson admitted bitterly. "Fuck. You can't even look at me can you? I should never have said anything."

Macon swallowed and then took a small step forward. He had done this before, but he had been too dizzy and reckless from adrenaline to fully understand his own actions. Step after step brought him closer. Wilson's eyes followed his every movement. His eyelids were closed partway in fear as he waited for Macon to react further. Macon was shaking the tiniest bit too, but his hands stilled as he settled them against Wilson's hips.

Wilson hadn't wanted to tell him anything. Macon had shouted himself hoarse to hear this. What he had said before was true; if he hadn't followed Wilson down to the beach, it was unlikely that their friendship could have been repaired otherwise. Now, he felt overwhelmed by how lucky he was to be standing in this spot.

"I'm looking at you right now," he murmured.

Wilson pushed him away, sounding horrified.

"Oh my god, you're just messing around with my head now. You can't try to make out with me again just to fix things. I could barely handle that last time—getting what I'd wanted forever, but having it not mean anything."

It was the complete opposite reaction to what Macon had been expecting. He tripped over his own feet. His chest hurt. He felt the distance between them acutely and he sought the right words to bring Wilson close again. All he could find were feelings…feelings long buried or disguised.

"I used to hook up with girls at parties, and I would be so bored. Whenever I finished, I always had to find you. I thought it was totally normal— I mean, you were always my ride home. But I think I just had to see you;I didn't ever care about the ride. Everything in my life has always revolved around you. That night, when I punched you, I don't think I was so much angry at you for keeping secrets from me; but jealous that you were with someone who wasn't me."

He paused, taking a deep rattling breath to steady his nerves, slowly closing the distance between them.

"It killed me when you said no that night. I don't know anything anymore… I must be going insane. But I meant it when I kissed you. I mean everything I'm saying right now."

Wilson reached for him in a desperate, jerky movement. He cupped Macon's face in both of his hands and kissed him. Macon's mouth opened immediately. There was something right about this, he knew it instinctively. He swallowed the choked sob that Wilson was unable to hold back. Wilson smelled like campfire and salt. His hair tickled Macon's forehead.

But it was weird. Wilson was right— he wasn't entirely comfortable with it. Macon had been a little out of his mind when he kissed Wilson the first time. It had been too hot, and too fast. This was slow and quiet. He had time to wonder at himself and what he was doing. Macon knew Wilson better than anyone else on earth, and in the back of his mind, he worried about how this might permanently alter their dynamic. Wilson was also very noticeably not female, which made his stomach twist in pools of nerves every time his hands touched hard muscles or failed to land on soft hips. Being with Wilson was unquestionably better than Amy or any other random girls from parties and vacations though, all of whom were already fading in his memory.

"What's wrong?" Wilson mumbled when Macon stopped.

"I was just thinking."

"About what?"

Macon looked up at him, carefully choosing his words. They needed to talk about this; they couldn't just rush into it. Wilson was tensing, starting to worry, but he would support Macon no matter what. Macon trusted him.

Wilson's sweatshirt lay abandoned in the sand beside them. He was worrying his bottom lip in his nervousness, and he kept blinking as his eyes drifted half closed. It was hard for Macon to remember that he had seen him thousands of times before.

He let his hands slide from Wilson's shoulders down to his chest, and then he shoved lightly, making sure to catch himself so that he wouldn't land too forcefully on top of him in the sand. Now they were so close he could feel Wilson's chest rising against his own and he couldn't help but notice how swollen his mouth was.

"About this," he said hoarsely.

Everything was perfect when Macon leaned back in: the night sky was banded with twinkling groups of stars, and the wind softly rattled the stalks of the sea grass littering the dunes. The setting recreated the feeling he'd had on the camping trip that they were the only two people in the world.


Sometime later, a shrill whistle managed to cut through the haze in his mind, but only because Macon had the presence of mind to realize that it wasn't Wilson making the sound. He pulled back reluctantly and was horrified to see Tristan standing with his arms across his chest, a delighted smile spreading across his face.

"I hate to bother you," he drawled out, clearly enjoying every word. "Especially since you two look like my favorite wet dream come to life—"

"What do you want Tristan?" Macon demanded.

He was unreasonably annoyed at the interruption, but it was hard to be polite when he kept remembering that only a few months ago, Wilson had been doing this with Tristan.

"I saw you two walking off together and I figured you needed some time to talk, after being so pissy all week. Little did I know what you were really doing…"

"Tristan," Macon warned, starting to lose his patience.

"I thought I should inform you that Calloway is talking about leading a group down the beach for a walk."

Wilson blushed faintly, burying his head into the crook of Macon's neck. His hair was mussed into a thousand directions, the look endearing. Macon carded his fingers through it, affectionately. His heart was still beating far too fast.

"Thanks Tristan," Wilson mumbled into Macon's shirt.

"We'll be on the lookout for them," Macon said pointedly.

Tristan didn't leave.

"Is this a recent development?" he asked. "Because you played the closed-minded straight boy rather convincingly the last time we were all out here."

"I am straight," Macon insisted, feeling like a complete asshole when Wilson sat up, his fingers tightening against Macon's hip.

Tristan laughed aloud.

"Assuming that you gave Wilson that hickey I noticed a few weeks ago in drama and judging from my current perspective, I say you're in denial."

Wilson had gone tense next to him, backing into the sand away from Macon. Macon's arms had fallen to Wilson's waist when he pulled back. Bereft of the warmth, he reached up with his left hand and began to lightly trace patterns against Wilson's back. He was terrified that he would say something to ruin this when it had only just begun.

"I'm not denying anything," he said. "I've never felt this way about anyone before. If I wasn't worried about Wilson's dad somehow finding out, I wouldn't care if everyone else on that beach knew it either. I'm also not attracted to you or any other guys, so leave off calling me gay."

"Fine," Tristan said with a wave of his hand. "Whatever, you're bi or something, I don't care."

Macon trailed his fingers softly against Wilson's cheek, his head spinning as he stared into eyes bluer than he could ever remember seeing them before.

"I only want you," he whispered. "I can't explain it, but it's true."

A smile spread across Wilson's face, so warm and fond that he almost hurt to look at.

"Ugh," Tristan groaned. "How revolting. I can't bear to listen to this."

"Any time you want to leave is fine with us," Macon told him, not turning away from Wilson.

"No, no," Wilson stood, tugging Macon up with him. "We should go. Tristan's right, we don't want anyone to come find us."

They had driven separately to the party, but when they reached the grass patch outside of Jensen's house where everyone had parked, Macon followed Wilson over to his truck.

"I'll meet you at your house?" Wilson asked, sounding a little tentative.

"Yeah, that would be good."

Macon leaned over to kiss him again before he could get into the cab, unable to resist. The drive between here and his house suddenly seemed unbearably long, and his chest tightened. He pulled back in embarrassment when Wilson started chuckling to himself.

"What?"He asked defensively.

"You're being kind of sappy," Wilson answered, a grin tugging at his lips. "It's weird. You've always been sort of a jerk to the girls you date."

"Oh, sorry," Macon apologized, "I can stop."

It must have shown in his face that it stung, because Wilson dragged him forward, his voice rough: "Macon, after three years of waiting, I reallydon't mind."


Monday after school, Wilson followed Macon through his front door and into his living room.

"I still can't believe you got a B in Calculus," he was saying indignantly. "I only pulled an A minus and I actually made good grades on all the tests."

"Mr. Howard loves me now," Macon bragged, "It can't be helped."

He dropped his backpack in the foyer and kicked off his shoes.

"Mom," he called. "Dad? Is anyone home?"

No answer came from the kitchen or from upstairs.

"Guess not," Macon said, already getting breathless in anticipation.

He turned to Wilson, who practically tackled him onto the sofa.

"I never thought this could actually happen," Wilson told him breathlessly in between kisses.

"I don't understand it either," Macon told him. "It's amazing though."

"Yeah," Wilson agreed. He pressed Macon deeper into the cushions. "God, class dragged on forever today. It was hard enough not to look at you too much, let alone to touch you."

"I know," Macon agreed vehemently, helping Wilson pull off his shirt. He didn't feel particularly inclined to tell Wilson that he had spent all of lunch fuming at Calloway when she sat in Wilson's lap, tossing her hair and laughing. "It drove me crazy to have to see you in the hallways and pretend that nothing is going on."

Wilson hummed in agreement. Macon's own shirt had ridden a few inches above his waist. When their stomachs brushed, he felt heat pool his in his gut.

"My parents won't be home until late," Macon gasped out. "We should have at least two hours."

It was perceptible how much Wilson's shoulder's tightened.

"You need to relax," Macon said, running his hand along Wilson's side. "Would you feel better if we moved up to my room?"

"No," Wilson said tightly. "We can stay here."

Macon pulled back.

"Why are you so tense?" He asked, genuinely concerned.

"I'm not," Wilson insisted, and then they were making out again.

It was all so novel, so incredible. Macon had never hooked up with anyone before that he actually had feelings like this for. It made a world of difference. He melted into the laziness of the afternoon and the warmth of Wilson's body. He didn't realize that he had reached for the button of Wilson's jeans until Wilson pushed him forcefully off and his head hit the arm of the sofa.

"Don't."

There was a coldness in Wilson's voice that Macon knew hadn't been there a few minutes ago.

"Don't what?" Macon repeated stupidly.

Friday night, Wilson had slept on the floor in case Mrs. Jarrett came in the room to check on them. They had scarcely been alone since then. Now his head was spinning, they had the whole afternoon together, and Wilson wanted to stop?

"You're not ready." Wilson answered, which wasn't really an answer at all.

"Wilson, believe me, I am more than ready," Macon said, panting a little bit from want of air. "Are you still hung up on this? I told you that I want you. I know I meant it."

"That's not what I was saying. You barely slept with Amy a month ago," he grimaced at this, but knocked Macon's hand away when he reached for him, "And I'm the only guy you've so much as kissed. This isn't something you need to rush into."

"Wilson I'm not some blushing virgin. I won't get all weird about it. Come on."

"Not yet."

"I wasn't trying to sleep with you!" Macon exclaimed hotly, "I was just trying to get your jeans off. I don't understand you."

He felt strangely injured that Wilson was rejecting him; this was still too new for him to be totally confident in it.

"I don't want to ruin this," Wilson said unevenly. "I don't want you to hate me."

Macon had been about two seconds away from snapping at Wilson, but his heart wrenched painfully in his chest.

"We won't," he said softly. He could tell that his cheeks were going pink, but he forced himself to continue anyway. "Not the way we feel about each other."

"We will."

It was then that Macon finally picked up on the bitterness. "I'm not Corbin."

"I know," Wilson said. He slid his arms around Macon's waist, the hug soothing Macon as much as he was sure it was helping Wilson. "Can we wait though? Would that be okay?"

"Yeah, we can do that." Macon swallowed around a lump in his throat. "I'm going to kiss again you though. I was kind of enjoying that."

Wilson finally smiled again, his words coming out soft and warm.

"I was too."


It actually did help to ease into things. There were times, every once in a while, when Wilson would so much as touch him, and Macon would shy away in discomfort. At other times, Wilson would leave him so frustrated he wanted to punch something.

Mostly though, things were great. Macon felt almost perpetually amazed to realize how strongly Wilson cared for him. Discretion was of the highest importance, but the way they acted had changed in tiny ways, meaningful to each other. Wilson called him every morning when he woke up. Macon wore Wilson's old lacrosse shirts to bed at night. Wilson left notes scrawled in the margins of his binders. They skipped the second half of graduation practice to have lunch in a park by the school.

Then, Macon was blindsided when Mrs. Reddington asked about prom one night at dinner.

"I was thinking of asking my friend Heather," Wilson began. "She just broke up with her boyfriend, so I think she'd appreciate having someone to go with."

"Oh no, that poor baby," Mrs. Reddington responded. "She's such a beautiful girl! It's so nice of you to do that Wilson. What about you Macon? Have you asked anyone yet?"

Macon had been determinedly pushing lasagna around his plate to keep himself from looking up at Wilson or his family. They hadn't talked about prom yet. If he hadn't almost completely forgotten it was coming up, he might have realized that they would have to take other dates. It wasn't like they could just both forgo their senior prom without raising questions about what they were doing instead. Going together was completely out of the question.

"Uh, I'm-" he fumbled, caught off-guard by her question as he took a bite of food.

Wilson answered for him with a laugh, sparing him from having to fumble his way through a response.

"Macon will have girls fighting over him, as usual."

His tone was almost wistful and Mr. Reddington chuckled.

"Atta boy Macon. That's how I always was; keeping my options open. At least until I met Wilson's mother that is," he corrected, when she raised an eyebrow at him disapprovingly.

"I've heard those rumors about prom night." Mrs. Reddington said, looking sternly at her husband. She turned pleadingly to Macon and Wilson. "You boys will be good at least won't you? You'll be gentlemen?"

"Of course mom," Wilson promised.

"Don't listen to her," Mr. Reddington chided. "Wilson I want you to take the Lexus. Stay out late and have a good time with this Heather girl."

Macon choked. He fell into a fit of coughing that burned his throat and he had to reach for a glass of water.

Wilson's mother looked aghast. "Frank, don't encourage him!"

"Are you serious?" Wilson asked incredulously. "That would be awesome. I thought you'd never let me drive your car."

Underneath the table, Wilson took hold of Macon's left hand, sliding their palms together and intertwining their fingers.

"He does need all the help he can get," Macon said, shooting Wilson a grin.


Epilogue

The cardboard box in Macon's arms was heavy with the weight of his possessions (DVD's and clothes, and he couldn't even remember what else he had shoved into it last night in his hurry to be ready to leave first thing in the morning). He hefted it down the hallway, scanning the numbers printed above each doorway. Every door was flung open. Some rooms teamed with parents and students, others still looked whitewashed and empty. The hallway was littered with televisions, pillows, shelving units and trash.

He found room 305 near the end of the hall, opposite the bathrooms. The window opened up to a view of the freshman quad. The room was simple; two beds, two desks and two closets. There was a backpack on one of the beds, hunter green and shiny in newness. Four notebooks were stacked neatly on its accompanying desk. Otherwise, the room was decidedly empty. Macon felt the anxiety he had been harboring ever since leaving the car ease slightly. He wasn't ready to meet his roommate, not at all. He was sure that Thomas was nice and that he would be perfectly fine to live with, but he wasn't Wilson. Macon sighed heavily.

Mr. Jarrett came into the room, carrying Macon's TV stand, and Mrs. Jarrett followed, holding his bedding and a few rolls of posters.

"It looks like your roommate has been in here already," she observed. "I'd like to meet his parents before we leave."

"Yeah," Macon said shortly. "I'm going to go grab some more stuff from the car."

He needed to be happy about this. Everyone else in the halls seemed to be. College was meant to be about meeting new people.

He was looking down as he exited the staircase, lost in his own thoughts, when he collided hard with someone soft and flowering smelling. His arms reached out automatically to support her so that she wouldn't fall.

"I am sosorry," he said earnestly.

What a great start to first year—taking out one of his dorm mates.

"It's fine," she said, her voice familiar and strangely happy for someone who had just been knocked into. Macon finally looked up.

"Vicky?"he asked, astounded.

He pulled her into a hug, overjoyed to see her here because of what it had to mean.

"Is Wilson in this dorm? What floor? Where is he?" He demanded.

"I don't remember," she said airily, her smile mischievous as she turned to walk up the stairs. "I'll tell him you were looking for him, though."

Macon reached into his pocket for his phone. He had asked Wilson to ride with him to school, but Wilson had declined, saying that his parents would be upset if they couldn't spend those last few hours with him. They hadn't so much as texted since. He dialed Wilson's number, but only got his voicemail. The sick feeling was back in his stomach, the elation that Wilson would be close be close by quickly fading.

What did it matter if they were in the same dorm? They had roommates now so they could hardly carry on the way they had been all summer—spending endless hours alone together during the day while their parents were away at work, growing closer than ever before. Every time Macon had brought up school, Wilson had changed the subject.

Macon was slightly terrified that Wilson was going to tell him they could only be friends now that they were at school. Wilson was always concerned with his reputation and preserving his appearance. Some of his father's friends also had friends at school, and Wilson would be worried that word of anything weird going on would somehow get back to Mr. Reddington. Macon also realized that Wilson would be reluctant to stop Macon from making the most of his first year of college, especially if he thought he was monopolizing too much of Macon's time.

At the car, Macon took several deep breaths of air, trying to stop himself from panicking. When his phone beeped, he started violently.

His frustration magnified when he saw that it wasn't from Wilson, it was from Stuart: I got Tracy dorm, so we aren't too far apart. Want to grab dinner tonight?

Sure, 7? Macon sent back.

Stuart, it turned out, was a pretty chill guy once you got to know him. Wilson and he couldn't seem to treat each other with anything nicer than a distant formal politeness, but he had met Macon at the pool or the batting cages frequently once school let out. Over the months, Macon was surprised to find that they had grown to become pretty tight friends.

Sounds good. I guess I'll see you and Red tonight

Not if Wilson still wouldn't talk to him.

Macon walked down the hall with heavy feet. Thomas was probably back in the room by now. He needed to try to seem excited about meeting him. He pasted a smile on his face as he stepped inside the door.

Once again there was no one there. His mother had clearly been hard at work. His bed was made with the plaid comforter he had picked out and two matching maroon pillows. She had hung his clothes in the closet and set a lamp on the desk. Even the posters were taped up. His favorite, the Berkeley lacrosse team, was on the wall at the head of his bed.

His roommate's side was more modest: a beach scene, a photo collage and a plain blue comforter on the bed. Even from the doorway, something about the photo collage caught his eyes. He walked carefully over to it.

Up close, Macon stared incredulously, realizing that he had seen every single picture before. His heart was racing, but he tempered his excitement. Maybe his mom had accidently placed it on the wrong wall.

"Hey there roomie," Wilson drawled from the doorway.

The box fan in Macon's arms fell to the floor with a deafening clatter. It was almost a hundred degrees outside and he was sweating, but he honestly couldn't care less if it was broken. He whirled around. Wilson's shirt was also damp with sweat and he was covered in dust. Macon had never been more excited to see him.

"No way," he breathed out. "No way.How is this even possible?"

"I sent Thomas a message on Facebook," Wilson said smugly. "He was more than happy to trade after hearing my sad story about two friends being separated by the system. Besides, he realized that Robertson dorm is actually a lot closer to his classes, so he'll be able to wake up later in the morning."

"You should have told me," Macon accused.

"I wanted it to be a surprise," Wilson said, so earnestly, that Macon couldn't even be annoyed that all morning he had been about 5 minutes away from a heart attack. "Can you believe it? We've been talking about this all of our lives and now we're here!"

Macon felt lightheaded. He could hear excited yells and greetings being exchanged in the rooms along his hall. The sun was low in the sky now, glinting off Wilson's hair. Their room had privacy; an intimacy of its own, separate from the chaos outside. He was looking forward to meeting his hall-mates later, to hugging his parents goodbye, to seeing Stuart for dinner, and to starting a new chapter of his life, but for the moment, he was happy that it was just the two of them.

"I honestly can't" he said. "I'm glad though."

He looked around the room a second time, seeing it with new eyes. A startled laugh escaped him.

"Is that a lighthouse?" he asked. "On your poster."

Wilson's cheeks flushed pink.

"Oh I guess so," he said evasively. "I hadn't noticed."

"You are such a girl," Macon told him, his throat embarrassingly tight. "Way too sentimental. I don't know if I can be seen with you."

Wilson nudged the door shut with his foot.

"It's too bad that you're stuck with me then, isn't it?" he asked in a low voice, crossing the room to Macon.

"My year is ruined," Macon agreed, unable to stop smiling.

He couldn't wait.