"Tell me again why I'm supposed to care about this... event thing."

"It's complicated." The sigh was evident in his voice as he spoke, and I found myself admiring – not for the first time – his gentle, soft-spoken manner. I frowned, trying to clear my mind of such thoughts.

"Apparently so," I muttered, "or I would have understood it the first time."

"Think of it this way: I need you to do this for me. It's important. I can't go to my own Christmas party without a date."

I had to avoid looking at him, knowing that if I saw his face, I wouldn't be able to deny him anything. "Why not?"

"Because... well, like I said, it's complicated. I know you don't like social outings-" I snorted at this, but he ignored me and continued on, undeterred, "-but it's just... James, please."

"And why does it have to be me?" I tried to sound bitter, to hide the butterflies fluttering madly in my throat and stomach at the sound of his quiet voice slipping silkily around my name. I had to stop thinking like this, or I would go to hell. It was bad enough that he was already going to suffer for his choices in life, I didn't want him to drag me down with him, best friend or no.

"Because nobody who's going to be there will know you. Nobody will know you aren't actually my boyfriend, nobody will know you aren't actually gay." The response was smooth, practiced, and I wondered if it was the real reason. I almost allowed myself to hope that it wasn't. Oh, if only you knew. Not actually gay... if only you knew.

"But I'm not," I grumbled. "I can't do it. It would be a sin."

"Go to confession after, then. We won't do anything, you know. Just come with me."

"No kissing?" I eyed him suspiciously. The thing about this I was most afraid of was the possibility that he would kiss me, because I knew without a doubt that I would kiss him back, and then there would be no denying it and I would have a one-way ticket to hell.

"If I say no kissing, will you come?"

I almost choked at the unintended innuendo. "I..."

"You've as good as agreed already. You agreed the moment you asked me not to kiss you. Just say you'll be my date. Please?"

I agreed the moment you asked, but you don't need to know that. "Fine," I sighed. "I'll go to your party with you. No kissing."

He pulled me into a hug, then held me away at arm's length, grinning. "Thank you. You don't know how much this means to me."

My stomach twisted uncomfortably. Why does it mean so much to him? Does he...? No, of course not. But does he know how much it means to me? No, no, because it doesn't mean anything to me. Not a thing. I will not go to hell, I won't, I can't. This can't mean anything to me. So why did my heart rate increase so much when he hugged me? God, I'm going to go to hell. Why? This wasn't my choice, I didn't want to love him, not like this. I should have left him behind when I realized how he was affecting me, but by then it was far too late to cut our ties. And now what? I was stuck in a dark closet, jumping at every minor disturbance, and I was going straight to hell.

"Sure, of course. When is it, again?"

"Tonight."

"So soon?"

"Well, if you would have just said yes earlier – I asked you a week ago, you've been avoiding me like the plague." He was teasing, I knew he was, but I couldn't stop the blush from rising in my cheeks. I had been avoiding him, yes, because I had wanted to avoid exactly the decision that had just been made.

~*~*~*~

"There's one in every family, sire – two in mine, actually. And they always manage to ruin special occasions."

Mufasa sighed heavily. "What am I going to do with him?"

"He'd make a very handsome throw rug," Zazu commented as the made their way back to Pride Rock.

"Zazu!" Mufasa reprimanded, though he couldn't hold back a chuckle.

"And just think," the horn bill elaborated. "Whenever he gets dirty, you can take him outside and beat him!"

I flicked off the TV and heaved a sigh. The movie was barely started, but I didn't really have time to watch it. The party was in two hours, which meant I had only an hour to get ready. I had to be there early, because he wanted me to help set up and to get into my role as his "boyfriend".

I had a quick shower, then got dressed as quickly as I could while still retaining some semblance of a neat and tidy appearance, in a black suit with a white, collared dress shirt and a dark red tie. I fussed with my hair for a while, straightening my fringe to hang over my face, hiding my right eye, and spiking up the back. I wasn't emo or scene or anything – God forbid, I would die before I was associated with any type of clique other than goody-goody or Catholic – I just liked the hairstyle. And it would probably help me pull off the gay image, I reflected, as if I really needed any help with that. I mean, of course I did! Because I wasn't gay, and I wasn't in love with my best friend, and I never would be. I could, and would, continue to tell myself that – because it was true. Obviously.

Glancing at the clock above the bathroom mirror, I frowned. I had rushed through my getting-ready routine, and it had taken less time than I had expected. There was still half an hour before he would be here to pick me up, and I had nothing to do in the meantime except to fret over the impending disaster that was his Christmas party. Unless I continued watching The Lion King.

I flopped down on the ratty old couch I'd picked up at a garage sale the year before – I liked it, it had personality – and flicked the television on again. I'd forgotten to pause the movie before I got up to get ready, so I was greeted by Mufasa's anguished roar as Scar dug his claws into the king's paws.

"Long live the king," I muttered in time to Scar's scathingly sarcastic remark, then settled myself more comfortably on the couch, ready to continue my viewing pleasure.

I was happily singing along with Hakuna Matata when he dropped himself down on the couch beside me. I had been so caught up in the movie that I hadn't even noticed him come in ("Bowling for buzzards, I love it!"). He didn't knock – none of my friends ever did, because I had made it clear that I was too lazy to get up and answer the door for anyone except polite company – just walked right in, and for the first time I found myself wishing I was a better host, so that I could have better prepared myself for his entrance. I wasn't ready for this.

"Aren't you a little old for this?" he asked, eyebrows raised. As if he didn't know that there was always some Disney movie or another popped into the cassette player at my apartment.

"Pumbaa!" I exclaimed, clapping a hand over his mouth before I had a chance to realize that, God, that was his mouth. "Not in front of the kids!"

"Oh. Sorry," he apologized humbly, in perfect sync with the warthog, but all I could think about was that his lips were brushing lightly over the palm of my hand as he spoke. I jerked away. Oh, God, I was going to hell. The memory of his lips seemed permanently branded into my skin, and I refrained from wiping it away on my pants – much good that would do me – choosing instead to immerse myself in song.

"Too old for this? Blasphemy!" As soon as the break in the lyrics came, I addressed his earlier question, and then realized out loud that he was here earlier than I had expected.

"I finished setting up faster than I thought I would," he explained, "so I figured I'd come over and see if I could catch you in the shower." My eyes came close to bugging right out of my head at that comment, and he laughed. "Kidding, kidding. But hey..." His eyes slid over me, appraising, and I had the distinct impression that he was either checking me out or mentally undressing me. Both were uncomfortable thoughts for my poor Catholic conscience, and both, as it turned out, were true. "You look... hot. Why don't you dress like that more often?"

I shifted away from him on the couch. I knew that smirk. That was the look he got when he was hitting on someone, and while it had always made me jealous in the past, now it made me squirm. He was joking, playing with me, and he couldn't know how much it hurt that he couldn't be serious about these things with me. And I was going to hell for thinking that.

He scooted closer to me, his eyes teasing. "That suit on you makes me want to see it off you. If you weren't straight, well Jesus, I'd do you."

Trying not to think about what he'd just said – after all, I wasn't straight, except yes, of course I was – I shifted away again, only to find myself pressed against the arm of the couch. I wanted to scream at him, well do me, then! Instead, I coughed and mumbled, "Please don't take the Lord's name in vain."

He wrinkled his nose adorably. "Right. Sorry. Didn't mean to." And then that teasing gleam was back in his gorgeous blue eyes. Why did I think his nose-wrinkling was adorable, and his eyes gorgeous? "If we thought of that as a prayer, it wouldn't be so bad, right?"

"What? I... well, no, but... for what?" His words had caught me completely off guard.

"For you to turn gay."

If I'd been drinking anything at that moment, I can accurately guess that it would have sprayed half-way across the room and I would have managed to ruin my suit. Thank goodness, then, because I... I mean, he might take that as an opportunity to get said suit off of me. And that was exactly what I didn't need. The suit coming off, and the prayer for my gayness. What I needed was some serious prayer for me to turn straight and not be in love with my best friend. I felt a sudden burning, tickling sensation behind my eyes, and, The Lion King forgotten, stood up abruptly and rushed from the room. The last thing I wanted now was for him to see me crying over his teasing.

"James?" I heard him stand up behind me.

Don't follow me, please don't follow me, stay there, don't follow me, I thought desperately, clenching my teeth and blinking rapidly in an attempt to delay the flow of tears. Of course, I had no such luck. He followed me like the perfect friend that he is, and the floodgates opened to release a buildup of water from my tear ducts. Shit, I needed to hide somewhere. The bathroom? No, the bathroom echoed, he would know I was crying. Only one other room in the apartment locked, so I made a beeline for my bedroom and quickly secured the latch.

"James, are you okay?"

"Fine," I gritted out. Unfortunately, the strangled sobbing was evident in my voice.

There was a pause. I flung myself onto my bed, somehow managing to wish through a suffocating wave of emotion that it was king-sized instead of twin, and snatched up Brownie, the teddy bear I'd slept with since I was five years old. I know it's childish. I don't care.

"James, you know..." He cleared his throat and started again haltingly. "You... you know that I was... joking, right? I mean... I..."

"Fuck, yes, I know you weren't serious," I snarled, my voice muffled from speaking around Brownie's patchy fur. That was the problem. I didn't want him to be joking. I wanted him to mean it. I tried, unsuccessfully, to hold back a sob.

I could almost see him blinking in surprise outside my door. "Did you...? You did! What the hell, James, that's the first time I've ever heard you swear."

I froze. Shit, I actually swore out loud. Shit, shit. So much for sounding like there was nothing wrong. As if the obvious crying was managing to hide that fact. Shit, I was going to hell. I echoed that sentiment out loud. "Shit, I'm going to hell."

He chuckled. "I don't think you're going to go to hell for swearing one... no, two times. Can't you just confess that away?"

"That's not..." I trailed off. Let him think that was why I was going to hell. He didn't have to know the real reason.

"Not what?"

"Nothing."

I listened carefully for a response. There was none. Maybe I needed to cry more quietly, since I could barely hear anything other than my loud breathing and sobbing and choking. It was several long moments before I heard a key turning in a lock, and I swore again under my breath. I'd completely forgotten that it was possible to unlock my bedroom door from the outside, and the key was in one of the drawers in the kitchen.

He sat down on the bed beside me, and I clutched Brownie to my face in terror. Shit, shit, shit, I needed and excuse. Why am I crying, why am I crying, shit.

"James... tell me." His arms wrapped around me, and I tried to pull away, hating how perfect it felt, but he held me close to him, his face buried in my hair. "I hate seeing you like this, you know. I hate it. You're... my best friend. Tell me what's wrong. Please?"

I could feel his breath on my scalp, warm and moist, and it raised goosebumps on my arms, my back, my shoulders. Too close, too close. If he didn't back off some, I was going to turn around and kiss him, and that would not be helpful in this situation.

"I..." What could I say? "It's just... whenever I see Zazu in that cage, locked away from the world," I whispered, my voice wobbly. It was such an obvious lie, but what could I say? "It just makes me emotional, you know? Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,/ Nobody knows my sorrow." I sang the last part weakly, as if it would help to make my excuse seem more realistic.

He caught my chin in one hand and forced me to look at him, taking Brownie away from my face with the other. His fingers were cool against my skin, and a shiver ran up my spine. "You're not going to tell me, are you."

I shook my head slowly, noting the pain reflected in his eyes.

"I wish you would."

"Sorry. I can't. You... well, you would understand, I guess, but..." But what? Would he be angry with me for lying to him for... how long had I felt this way? A month? A year? More than that, or less? Since I'd known him? No, not that long, I didn't think. It didn't matter, though. I couldn't tell him. I truly and sincerely did not want to go to hell. Fiery punishment was not something I was comfortable going through. "Can we just go watch The Lion King?"

He sighed. "Yeah."

Forcing a smile, I stood up off my bed and, after extricating myself from his arms, walked back out to the couch on jelly-like legs.

~*~*~*~

We finished watching The Lion King, though in truth we should have left earlier than that to get to his party on time. As always, I called out all of my favourite lines along with the movie. (When I asked "What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?" I could swear I saw, from the corner of my eye, he grinned and said quietly, "Yes please," but I ignored it and sang along as Timon offered Pumbaa up to the hyenas.)

When the movie was over, I stood up. "We're going to be late."

"No we won't be," he replied. "We'll be there a little bit before it starts, and I doubt if anyone's actually going to be on time, because let's face it, who wants to hang around co-workers for more time in the day than they have to?"

I frowned. "I like my co-workers."

"Yeah, well... that's not the point." He ruffled my hair playfully. "Besides, you don't count. You're different."

"What's that supposed to mean?" There was a blush rising in my cheeks, and I turned away from him quickly. Shit, it wasn't like he said that because he was interested in me or anything. Different didn't mean anything.

"It means, you're so positive about everything. You're like the world's best optimist. Except when it comes to The Lion King, I guess."

I flinched. The tone of his voice when he said that last part... he wanted to know. He wasn't going to give up and leave it be, he was going to press and press until I told him why I'd been crying. Well, that was just great. I was going to have to come up with an excuse, and Zazu's singing wasn't going to cut it.

"You should splash some water on your face," he continued, as if just realizing that there were probably tear tracks down my cheeks. "Clean up a bit. I don't want everyone thinking that I'm an abusive boyfriend and made you cry... I mean, I... did I?"

"No!" Oh, great. That didn't sound at all like the lady doth protest too much, methinks. I scrambled to cover for myself. "No, no, it wasn't... it was nothing. Drop it, okay? I'm fine. Just..." I trailed off, and before I could stop it, a disgusted growl rumbled from low in my throat. My protests were absolutely not helping the situation. "Just drop it. I already told you I'm not going to tell you."

I stalked off to the bathroom, splashed some scalding water on my face, and scrubbed away the salty trails left by my tears. As soon as my face was clean, pink and hot from the spray of water – at least it hid my blush – I made my way out of the apartment to his car, climbed in, and shut the door behind me. My forehead was leaning against the cool glass when he came out and started the car.

"Sorry," he murmured. I didn't respond, not sure what he was even apologizing for, and we spent the rest of the drive in an awkward and cumbersome silence.

Just as he'd said, we arrived a little before seven, which was when the doors would officially open to allow the guests entrance to the hall he'd rented for the evening. Though, as he'd also said, nobody other than the two of us actually showed up until the flow of guests started at around quarter after. That left a time window of a more than fifteen minutes in which we continued the awkward silence of the car ride. When the first couple came in, though, we both pasted smiles on our faces and he grabbed my hand before leading me over to the door to greet the others. I tried not to let the contact get to me, but a shiver went up my spine nonetheless, and I was glad he wasn't intimately connected to my nervous system, so had no way of knowing his effect on me.

"Mr Robeson," he smiled, gripping the man's hand in a firm handshake without having let go of his tight grip on my own five-fingered appendage. "I'm so glad you could make it. And Mrs Robeson," he continued, turning to the woman, who looked rather frail, though it was turned almost to elegance by her pale green gown. "Surgery went well, did it?"

"Yes, it did," Mr Robeson answered for the woman. He was a tall and imposing man who looked to be in his late fifties to early sixties, with thinning grey hair and a stiff mustache above his lip. "This is your boyfriend, I presume?"

I stepped closer to him, as if somehow I could shield him from the antagonistic glares shot at him by the older man. He smiled and removed his hand from mine, instead draping his arm comfortably around my waist – comfortably for him, that is. It took a moment before I was able to relax into it outwardly, though my heart was racing like a greyhound at the more-than-friendly gesture. God, I'm his boyfriend for the night. Get over it. He doesn't mean anything by it, anyway, I scolded myself mentally, barely hearing his reply through my inner turmoil. Which shouldn't have been a turmoil in the first place. If I wasn't in love with him I wouldn't care. And I wouldn't be here. Not that I was in love with him, of course. Because I wasn't.

"Yes, this is James," he said, more cordially than I felt Mr Robeson truly deserved. I forced a smile and extended my hand to Mr Robeson to shake, and he took it after a moment of disgruntled hesitation.

"Nice to meet you," I offered. The man grunted noncommittally and removed his hand from mine, flicking his wrist almost involuntarily, the way a cat would flick water from its paw.

"Homophobes," I muttered under my breath as Mr and Mrs Robeson moved away. "How do you even put up with them?"

He laughed quietly and squeezed my hand in an almost boyfriend-like manner. Doesn't mean anything, doesn't mean anything, I reminded myself. "You get used to it after a while. And don't worry about it, it isn't like you have to deal with them. Other than tonight, of course."

I managed another tight smile. "You're my best friend. Of course I have to deal with them." Not to mention I'm gay. Except I'm not, because I don't want to go to hell.

A fiery trail of nerves on my forehead announced to me that he had lifted one hand, the one that wasn't still draped about my waist, to smooth my hair away from my face. Which didn't mean anything at all, obviously. Because I was pretending to be his boyfriend tonight, so of course he would use boyfriend-esque gestures towards me. "Thanks. That means a lot." I frowned and fixed my fringe back over my right eye where it was supposed to be, and he laughed, but quickly turned his attention to another entering couple, this time a young blond man with a pretty brunette girl wrapped around his arm.

~*~*~*~

We'd been at the party for just over two hours. I had decided early on that since I was supposed to be his date for the night, I may as well act like it, and hell if it wasn't going to be the only time in my life I could act the way I really and truly wanted to around him. He'd mentioned earlier that I could just go to confession after, and he was right. It was just for one night, anyway. Hopefully he'd passed off my acceptance and willing participation in such things as shameless flirting, hair ruffling, hand holding, and meaningful looks as just good acting.

Once most of the guests had arrived, the guests being his co-workers and their spouses or girlfriends and boyfriends, respectively, everyone had sat down to a wonderfully prepared roast beef dinner with cherry or apple pie for dessert. I could have gone for an ice cream sundae, to be honest, but the pie was a pretty damn good substitute.

After the meal, the DJ started playing tracks and people either migrated from the tables to the dance floor or stayed where they were and conversed. Being the social butterfly that I am, I really didn't want to do either; I'd rather be at home watching Mulan, really. But the people weren't too bad, and it wasn't so hard to talk to them after all, especially with him by my side – if only because he was more blessed with the social graces than I was. At the present moment, we were chatting it up with the young blond and his brunette girlfriend, the two who'd shown up directly after Mr and Mrs Robeson.

"So how long have you two been together?" the brunette – whose name I had learned was Allison – questioned.

I turned a searching gaze on him, pleading with my eyes for him to answer the question, because I had no clue if we should be making ourselves seem like a long-standing couple or just tell the truth, that we'd hooked up for the party (if the term hooked up could really be applied to our situation) and weren't actually a couple at all.

"It'll be our two month anniversary tomorrow, actually," he replied easily, and I had to stop myself from raising my eyebrows. Where had that date come from? It took me a moment to realize that his birthday had been two months earlier, and apparently the blond, Isaac, also noticed this.

"So you're kind of like a birthday present, then?" he asked me, turning his eyes in my direction.

"Uh, yeah. A birthday present of the best kind. Can't get much better than this, huh?" I kept my tone as confident and casual as I could, gesturing to myself absently. What had I given him for his birthday?

"I should say not," he grinned, and leaned in towards me. I could feel his warm breath against my ear as he continued in a husky voice, too quietly for anyone else to hear, "I couldn't have asked for anything more."

A flush crept across my face, and I had to work to convince myself that he didn't mean it, he was just whispering words to me to keep up the boyfriends appearance, he was trying to make me blush, he could have said anything at all and it wouldn't have mattered, and it didn't matter at all. Suddenly, my mind caught up with me, and I realized what exactly I had gotten him for his birthday. A bow tie, because he had always wanted one to go with his suits, and an earring set with a shimmering black opal displaying tiny, dancing specks of blue and green; opal was his birthstone, after all, and as long as I never told him that I'd had it custom made, he'd never know. He was wearing both tonight, along with a suit that came close to matching my own.

"You're such a tease," Allison sighed, ruffling his hair, and I had to wonder if maybe they'd met before. Isaac was obviously the one who worked with my pseudo-boyfriend, but maybe the two had been going out for long enough that they'd been to other work-related events together. "Look, you made James blush." Then, turning to me, she continued, "Don't let him get to you. He's shameless, as I'm sure you know by now."

I had to agree. "You should see him when I've got friends over and he shows up at my place, he never stops. It's enough to drive a man mad with jealousy, I tell you." I bit my lip after I said this and glanced over at him. It was impossible to miss the mischievous grin forming on his face. Shit, I shouldn't have said that. Shit, did he know? Would he guess? Would he figure it out? Shit, shit.

"Not to worry, though, you've got me all to yourself tonight, James m'love." Shit, he knew. "Come on, let's go dance." He grabbed me by the hand and dragged me away from the table to the dance floor, where couples were slow dancing to a song I didn't recognize.

"I don't dance," I hissed, tugging desperately to free my hand and escape back to Allison and Isaac. Damn, even socializing is better than trying to dance.

"Sure you do," he frowned. "You're always dancing around your apartment."

Okay, so I was fine with dancing. I loved dancing. But not with him, God, please not with him.

"No. No, no. I don't," I protested. God, why me?

His frown deepened, and he pulled me out into the middle of the floor. "Yes. You do," he asserted firmly.

"Don't make me do this. Please don't. I don't want to." My God, I was begging him. Great for his ego, perhaps, but not so good for mine. I was begging.

He raised an eyebrow and repeated himself, more gently this time, but still with a firm edge to it. "Yes. You do."

At that moment, whatever song had been playing before ended, and a new one started up, one that I knew well. The soft beginning notes of Johann Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz floated through the room. I had always wanted to dance to this piece; and I'd danced to it before, but always by myself, and you've not danced to the Blue Danube until you've danced it with a partner.

"Fine," I sighed grudgingly. "For Johann's sake."

He grinned as he pulled me close to him and allowed one of his arms to settle once more about my waist, while he held up one of my hands in his own. I raised an eyebrow, wondering how it had been decided that he would lead, but the gleam in his eyes just daring me to protest caused me to sigh and place my free arm around his his shoulders.

"Johann, huh?" he asked quietly, and I could hear by the tone of his voice that he didn't believe me. Well, that was fine, as long as I got to dance to the Blue Danube.

I glared at him as fiercely as I could manage. "Yeah. Johann. Got a problem?"

"Maybe."

I looked away, focussing on the shoulder seam of his blazer as I felt my face heat up. My cheeks were no doubt a brilliant shade of red. "What's that supposed to mean?" I asked for the second time that day. Didn't mean anything, I chided myself.

He didn't answer for a while, and I wondered if he would at all. Finally, unable to stand the tension of waiting, I returned my gaze to his face. He was frowning, looking down at me, a tiny crease between his eyebrows. I resisted the urge to reach up and smooth it out. That would be bad.

"Maybe..." He trailed off, as if searching for words. And then he sighed. "Nothing. Never mind."

It was my turn to frown now. "No, tell me. Maybe what?"

"Nothing. Really, you won't like it. Just forget I said anything."

I don't know what came over me. I shouldn't have done it. It was a guaranteed one-way ticket to hell and I knew it was and suddenly I didn't care. In my mind, you won't like it suddenly meant you're straight and Catholic and you'll hate me forever if I tell you, and that seemed like something that I desperately wanted, needed, to know. Like that maybe there was a reason why he'd asked me to be his date tonight. Like maybe that he had been serious earlier in the day. His words ran through my mind, as clear as they had been the moment he'd said them. "That suit on you makes me want to see it off you. If you weren't straight, well Jesus, I'd do you." Like maybe he'd meant something by his teasing, flirting, hand-holding. Like maybe when he said maybe, he meant, yeah, I got a problem. I want you to dance for our sakes. I figured I was thinking too much, digging into it too deeply, but for a moment in time it didn't matter, and I tilted my head up, thrust myself up on my tiptoes so I could reach, and kissed him.

It was very, very short, and then I jerked back, my eyes wide with shock at what I'd just done. Hell, here I come. There was no way out of this now. There was no explanation, no excuse. I stared at him, and he stared at me, and then I pulled away from him.

"Shit!" It was no louder than a whisper, but I knew he heard it. It didn't matter, though, because I was gone before he could react. I picked my way through the dancing partners as quickly as I could, my eyes set steadily on the men's washroom. I wanted to crawl away and die, but locking myself in an ugly metal bathroom stall was the next best thing.

"James!" I didn't turn at his call. I wouldn't let him distract me from my goal. I had to get away.

"James!" God, why did he have to sound so tortured? What was he tortured about? Was it because I'd kissed him, or because I'd run away after I kissed him? Damn it, I didn't even care, I just had to get away. The washroom door was heavy and awkward and it slowed down my escape, but I pushed past it and scurried into hiding in the closest stall, locking the flimsy metal door behind me and sitting atop the toilet with my knees drawn up to my chest.

After a few moments, I heard the heavy washroom door open once more. "James?"

I held my breath. Go away, go away, go away.

No such luck, of course, just like always. The door to stall I was hiding in rattled, and then there was a harsh banging sound that made me think perhaps he'd punched it, and then a thicker, more solid thud, as if he was resting his head against it.

"James, please come out." That gentle, soft-spoken voice that I loved so much, and now it served only to terrify me. I couldn't come out. He'd hate me. Shit. "James..." And now he sounded broken, and my eyes widened. Here I was thinking he would hate me, and his voice seemed to betray a similar such fear in him, as if he thought that I hated him.

I let my breath out slowly, quietly. I knew that he knew that I was in there, but somehow it still seemed like a good idea to stay silent and hope he wouldn't find me. Like some twisted game of hide-and-seek.

"Damn it, James." I started. His voice had come from a different place, and I hadn't even heard him move. I looked up to see him peering over the stall wall at me from the adjacent stall, where he was surely standing on the toilet to gain such a height advantage.

"Go away. Please go away." I couldn't control the tremor in my voice, and I hated it. I kept my gaze carefully trained on the roll of toilet paper, studying some non-existent pattern in its design.

There was a sigh. "Can you please look at me?" I didn't let my eyes move away from the TP, and he sighed again. "Fine, don't look. Just listen, please? I... sorry. I shouldn't have asked you to come tonight. I should have found someone else. It's just... I knew I could convince you. And I wanted you to come. I wanted it to be you. And I thought that it wouldn't be real, but at least I could pretend, you know? But... God, James, was that real?"

My heart was pounding painfully hard in my chest, and I pulled my knees closer to me as his speech proceeded. I was sure my face had gone pale. Wasn't this what I wanted? Of course it was. So why couldn't I just say yes? I took in a shaky breath and opened my mouth to say something, say anything, but words escaped me.

"Please say something. I need that to have been real," he pleaded. My voice came back to me finally, and I blurted out the first thing that crossed my mind.

"Shit, I'm going to hell." And then, I don't know why, but I started laughing. Loud, careless laughter, with absolutely no reason behind it. "I'm going to hell," I gasped out again, between peals of laughter. "I'm gay. I'm in love with my best friend. And I'm going to hell."

I'm sure he must have smiled at that. The next thing I knew, somehow I had managed to unlock the stall door, and I was pressed up against the bathroom wall with a frantic mouth ravaging mine. It would be lying to say that I wasn't enjoying it, and responding to it just as frantically. I parted my lips, and his tongue slipped in immediately to tangle with mine. A low moan escaped me. God, this was perfect. If I was going to hell, fuck, that was fine with me, because heaven had come to earth tonight and even if it was only just this one kiss, nothing could ever make me regret it.

He nibbled on my lower lip for a moment, and then pulled away, and we both gasped for air. His lips found mine again after the tiniest of intervals, and he was mumbling something against my mouth but I couldn't tell what it was because I couldn't think, and my entire body was on fire and God. I could taste the horseradish he'd had with his roast beef at dinner, its sharp tang mixing oddly but pleasantly with his own taste – something like buttered popcorn, rich and crisp and the slightest bit salty.

Without warning, his mouth moved to my throat, sucking and kissing and biting, surely leaving marks which would be visible to everyone when we left, but I couldn't bring myself to care because it felt amazing. My hands fumbled blindly with the buttons of his white dress shirt, and suddenly he pulled away and caught my hands in his. I whimpered in protest, but he pressed a cool finger to my lips and when I opened my eyes, he was smirking at me, his lips swollen and red and looking absolutely delicious.

"Maybe we should leave?" he suggested.

"That," I announced breathlessly, "is a very good idea."

He pressed another quick kiss to my lips, and then took me by the hand, his eyes shining with something I'd never seen before; or maybe I had, because I was sure I recognized the expression on his face, but I'd never realized what it meant before. And I still wasn't sure what it meant: love? lust? It didn't matter.

Still, I couldn't resist saying my favourite sentence once more before we exited the washroom. "I'm going to hell." And I didn't care.

He smiled at me, one eyebrow raised in an almost comical expression, and said quietly, "Then we'll go to hell together."

And that was all I'd ever needed to hear.


A/N: Okay, so this started off as just me wanting to write a one-shot in World Religions class one day, and it grew from there. Sadly enough, I've been working on it for almost a month now, but I guess that's just what writer's block does. So, opinions? Personally, James is one of my favourite characters that I've ever written. I love the idea of a closeted Catholic gay... but anyhow, not important. Review if you wish, feel free to point out any errors you find,I'm sure there must be a few because this is unedited, and I suppose that's all I have to say.
As much as I wish it were true, Disney, The Lion King, and Mulan don't belong to me. I'm absolutely not taking credit for their existence.

Um, a couple of reviewers have mentioned that they didn't see a name for James' pseudo-boyfriend. That's because there isn't one. I did that on purpose as a kind of style workout or something. Just to see if I could. And believe me, it was difficult to never use a name for him. I was tempted to give him one. But I'm stubborn and I didn't. So that's why there's no name. Sorry if it detracts from the story? That's the way it is, though.

-- Ev (rentedspace)

-- 04/04/2009