Of Life's Idiosyncratic Tendencies

a oneshot by kazoua

m/m oneshot. He knew he couldn't expect it, knew he shouldn't have hoped for it, knew it was, ultimately and by nature, doomed to explode in his face, but… but wasn't that the beauty of falling in love?

Like every good man, or like how every good man should, Charlie visited his parents twice a year. Once, on Christmas. Again, on the day of his baby sister's miscarriage.

The sky was dimming noticeably with clouds, the air was brisk and cold, and all the leaves Charlie could see were tinged with red-gold-orange-yellow death. And, just to be clear, it wasn't Christmas.

"Hi, Mom..." Charlie greeted tiredly. His soft, somewhat nasally voice was pleasant on the ears. Not exactly the deep, gruff voice of his dad, but nothing close to the chirps his mother's brothers spouted. It was nice, normal, and made it easy for him to be unassuming.

It was matched by his rather waifish looks, but that could easily be implied. Like a little orphan, his parents always told him with affection. Skinny, thin to the point women took one look at him and stuffed his face with pie, and tall. Decently tall. But not exactly towering, since Charlie didn't have the type of countenance to match that description. It didn't do too much in terms of intimidation or status, though, but rather made him look all the more waifish.

Lost. In another sense. He always looked lost. With his unassuming posture, soft-spoken words, and unnaturally stretched body - well, Charlie was Charlie.

His mother turned away.

Oh, Charlie thought to himself, not even a little disappointed in the lack of reception, It's another one of those days.

Usually, his mother was bright. Happy. Giggly and somewhat annoying, pulling him aside to discuss the latest mid-sized town gossip. Asking him about his personal life, peering at him with the clearest brown eyes on this side of the universe.

Charlie consoled himself with that knowledge. This mood, this temperament, this depression - it was only for now.

One two three steps and he was back in his childhood, teenhood, young adulthood home. Feet, awkwardly smaller-than-average for a taller-than-average man, stepped onto the thinning carpet with a certain type of apprehension. Not apprehension from being in this house, no, because Charlie was a good man who loved his mother and his father and the home in which he was raised. Apprehension because of the... sadness. The sadness he never expected to fade with time, never, especially on this day.

Carefully, the mannerisms ingrained into him by his mother, he sat down to untie his shoelaces. Pulling on aglets, loosening the bunny-ear-bow-tied knot, and then his sneakers. Like a child, he was told once. Sitting down to take off his shoes made him look like a child. Appalled, twelve years old at the time, he mentally vowed to always toe off or lower down to a knee in order to remove them.

But that promise, that mental avowal, it only applied in front his acquaintances and friends. When with his mother or father, completely relaxed and completely unthinkingly, he could be himself.

"Charlie? Is that you?" he heard from the other room, the living room.

Knowing the voice of his father before he could consciously think about it, Charlie answered, "Yes, Dad."

Standing, lifting himself from the floor sluggishly, and then closing his eyes. No answer, but that was to be expected. His father only wanted to know if he was there. His presence was appreciated, yes, he understood that now, but there was nothing he could exactly do for them.

He walked forward, just a few steps, before gripping the nearest table. Practically forcing himself, almost forcing himself to not turn away in human selfishness and strange introvertedness, Charlie opened his eyes and accepted the sight in front of him.

"What do you know about horses?"

"Huh?" Charlie pressed the phone closer against his ear. He was sitting on his old bed, in his parents' old house, in the decaying old town he grew up in. Fingers dug into his hair, a subconscious gesture he didn't understand. "What did you say?"

"I said, Charlie, what do you know about horses? Those huge animals that people ride on. Like cowboys and Indians."

"I don't know anything much," Charlie confessed easily, already seeing a new obsession in the making, "I know that race horses are killed when they can't run, like in that movie we watched. Remember?" It was a while ago, possibly a few months. Charlie wasn't the type of individual glued to the television or to the big screen.

"... No. Can't remember. I'm talking horses. Like D. Radcliffe getting naked on Equus. What do you know about that?"

Frowning, Charlie wondered who 'D. Radcliffe' or what 'Equus' was. Shaking his head, even though his roommate was more than a few states away, he slowly said, "I... don't know anything about that."

"Damn. Too bad. But, oh, get your mom to send you home with cookies. Midwest mothers are supposed to be the best bakers, right?"

His mother was a decent baker. An excellent cook, but only a decent baker. Charlie knew and could remember clearly how much his parents loved to spend time in the kitchen. It was one of their... things. Side by side, Mom and Dad, preparing dinner while little Charlie sat and watched. And any other time of year, his mother would have been glad to make a batch of sweets. Delighted, even.

But, not now.

"Yeah," Charlie responded, keeping his eyes poised on an old train toy no one ever threw away, "I'll ask."

"You've a couple of letters," his father mumbled. Strong but breaking, straining under the pressure of heartache. Charlie knew it. He has already been here for about nineteen hours, stewing in his old bedroom as he listened to the depressing sounds of his parents' slowed movements.

If today was a normal day, say Christmas, Charlie would have asked, polite and sincere and somewhat confused, 'Oh. Thanks, but why didn't you send them to me?'

But yesterday was the day his baby sister was miscarried. So, instead, Charlie asked, "Where is it?"

A wave towards the fireplace, where Charlie's few memorable rewards and pictures were placed. "Thanks, Dad." He came up to his father and gently brushed his hand over his shoulder, a quiet show of support. Then, still very quiet and respectful, Charlie walked over the fireplace and easily spotted the only new items to grace that mantle in over fifteen years.

A mistake, perhaps, but Charlie didn't read the return address on either of the two envelopes. He picked one up as his eyes set on the same picture he always tended to stare at when he visited. It was an old picture, something people would never think as memorable. Just a semi-candid shot of five boys, teenagers really, sitting on top of a picnic table.

From left to right: Marc, Christian, Tony, Charlie himself, and... Danny.

Marc had leaned back, arms behind him for balance, squinting at the sky. It wasn't a really appealing shot of the usually handsome teenager, face scrunched up and mouth twisted down to form an uncomfortable frown.

Christian and Tony, brothers only a year and three days apart, had started fighting again. Rough housing, truthfully, because they had matching smirks on their faces, nasty with intent. But somehow, even so, their knees were still touching and their eyes were bright with the usual teenage excitement for harmless violence.

This was where Charlie started to slow. This was where he started letting his thought stop and allowing his mind to live in the past.

He, himself, Charlie... had a red face. Sunburned or embarrassed, he couldn't even remember. Probably sunburned. Maybe embarrassed too. One foot firmly planted on the seat of the bench, one leg dangling off it. His elbow had been placed on his knee while he rested his cheek in the palm of his hand. His eyes were downcast, but a huge, wide, toothy smile dominated his face.

That day was stupid. Silly at best, thinking about it approximately fifteen years since it happened. Charlie had gone to the lake alone, stripped down to his boxers and swam around to cool off. The lake was his great-grandfather's, according to the older folk, even if it was decidedly public now. Just knowing it had been in his family, however long ago or the short the time, had always given him a sense of entitlement.

He had fallen asleep while floating on his back.

Stupid, really. Silly, moreover.

Because, that day, Danny and the rest of their group had been walking along the edge of the lake, searching for Tony's lost wallet. Seeing him in the lake, they had called out for Charlie.

The moment Danny had realized Charlie wasn't going to answer, he jumped in, clothes and all, and proceeded to 'save' his friend's life. Marc, Danny's best friend, quickly followed. Christian and Tony, eager for some competition, also jumped in.

Everyone, the entire town, hailed them as saviors. Especially Danny.

That was why, in the picture, Danny was smiling at the camera while everyone else was oblivious. His arms had been thrown around Charlie's shoulder in a stance so casual it seemed normal. Photogenic, like always, Danny's blond hair shined perfectly in the sunlight, his blue-green eyes bright from the praise.

They had all been dry by the time the picture was taken, but the after-swim look clung to them badly. Marc's less than perfect pose had only been made sillier by his messy gold hair. Christian and Tony's shirts had dried funny, making their stocky forms look misleading fat. Charlie, well, even his down-turned head couldn't hide the way lake water made his hair puff up.

But, Danny. Like always. Danny looked good.

Charlie used his little Swiss army knife, the same rusting one he had since he could remember, to open the letter. Under the flap, and then a clean swipe to the right. Eyes still on the photo, mind still fifteen years into the past, he pulled out a...

A wedding invitation.

The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of

Ms. Anne Elizabeth Bristol


Mr. Daniel Danielson

Charlie couldn't help himself as he paced back and forth, gripping the two aged envelopes and the contents with a sort of unfamiliar desperation.

"I don't understand it. I really don't," he confessed to Terrence. Pitter-patter of socked feet echoed just as loudly as his words. "It's been, oh Lord, such a long time. I can understand Dad. Dad never even liked Danny. Liked him even less once he left. But Mom? Mom?" he asked rhetorically, feeling slightly betrayed and letting that emotion leak into his voice.

Terrence smiled and raised up a half-eaten snicker doodle for him to see. "I don't know. She does make a mean cookie. I, for one, can't hate the woman," he casually joked.

Charlie took a moment to calm himself, to bite his tongue and prevent him from asking the same questions he asked so many years ago. He was a unassuming man, wasn't he? Where others got angry, Charlie was always the better man. Where others got offended, Charlie looked the other way. Where others imposed their opinions, Charlie said nothing.

So, he would saying nothing.

Nothing but, "Danny used to be one of my best friends. We grew up together." They grew up together. Years and years ago. They grew up together. In the same decaying midsized town, they grew up together.

Terrence grabbed the sleeve of Charlie's pajamas, unthinkingly rubbing in sweetness and crumbs, and tugged none too gently. "Come on, Charlie." He grinned, but it wasn't wide. "So what? I grew up with some real douche bags. And all my old high school friends are worse losers than me. So what?"

He licked his lips, chapped and thin, before replying in his usual voice, soft and slightly nasally, "I don't know." His head shook in denial. "But, Danny and I were close. To know my mom just... hid this from me. It's a lot to handle."

Without missing a beat, the younger man grabbed the letter so tightly clutched in Charlie's hand. "Okay," he said, filling the silence just for the sake of doing so, "Let me see how this guy looks. And you better hope I find him hot, else I'm whipping you tonight."

Charlie chuckled at the threat. He could always trust Terrence to make him smile.

For a minute, a span of sixty seconds, the younger man stared at the picture. He stared. And stared. And stared. Charlie thought, rather confused, that perhaps it wasn't a good idea to let Terrence know about this inner turmoil of his. He quickly banished the idea. However strange it was, Charlie always shared his thoughts with Terrence. Openness was almost contagious, and Terrence was always very open with him.

Then, "I thought the Midwest didn't like bastard kids?" Terrance poked the picture with his index finger.

If Charlie closed his eyes, he would be able to see it perfectly. That was indicative of how long he spent staring at the same image. Danny next to his girlfriend. No, she was his wife now and his fiancee then. They weren't just next to each other. They were holding each other, facing the camera with perfect, happy, brilliant smiles. A baby, a toddler really, was sitting in between the couple, drooling wet smile and hands clasped. Like an angel. Like a family of angels.

With the photograph, there was a thick, textured, silver-washed paper with a generic note typed. Something about how he unfortunately couldn't attend but the now married couple appreciated the well wishes and prayers. Charlie couldn't exactly remember, because he only skimmed through the printed text.

He was more concerned with the neatly looped message on the back, familiar in all the ways that hurt.


I understand. Have a nice life.


"Our town wasn't as bad as some." He rubbed his hands together. "Getting pregnant was always a big scandal, but it happened a couple of times. Usually resulted in a shotgun wedding."

Terrence's eyebrows went up, giving Charlie a I-can't-believe-you expression. "And that's why I'm a proud native Californian," he announced, "You conservative Midwest types are just crazy. Your mom hid a letter from you for thirteen years. And then let you have it on whim."

Charlie didn't shrug, in general. He used to, when he was young and short, but now he couldn't pull it off without looking awkwardly lanky. His stretched body was, once again, to blame. So instead of shrugging it off and pretending the conversation didn't take more than the time and the calories required to speak, Charlie looked at the drawn closed curtains.

He silently rolled the thoughts in his mind around, and then he said, "I still don't understand it."

"That's all right. But. Anyways. Damn." Terrence looked back up at Charlie's face. "Why are all the hot men from the Midwest straight? It's like some big joke, courtesy of God, on homosexuals. Damn."

"I'm from the Midwest." Charlie frowned. He couldn't help but feel a little... slighted. Not offended, because he knew Terrence didn't mean anything by the careless statement. That didn't mean he didn't see the unintentional slap in the question.

Younger than him, by six years only, but sometimes Terrence just appeared to him as a child. A twenty seven year old physically, but a twelve year old at heart. Like any twelve year old would do, Terrence just shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Don't take it so personally," he assured with an easy smile, "You look just fine."

Life wasn't exciting, by any means, but... It was life.

Everyday was a different day, Charlie understood, but they all tended to blur together. He'd wake up, sometimes in his own bed, most of the time in a hotel. Tired and disoriented, Charlie would sluggishly rise and shuffle towards the restroom. He would get ready for his day, spending as much time as necessary to fix his appearance to a presentable level.

If it was a work day, Charlie would wear a white oxford, pressed slacks, and his favorite black patent leather loafers. He'd put on his Gucci watch, a present from a very insistent admirer, and carefully apply the appropriate amount of cologne. He'd grab his neatly organized accordion folder, randomly checking for certain documents, and would then place it in his briefcase.

If it was a weekend or a holiday, Charlie would slip on a soft cotton tee, comfortably worn jeans, and a pair of sneakers. He'd put on his military-style cap, a fashion statement that never quite matched him in his youth but fit him now, and roll on deodorant. He'd grab a book off the shelf of his office or reach for his Kindle, depending on his mood, and would then situate himself on his favorite armchair.

When a routine settled, time so easily passed. Days began and ended, the same pattern exhibited. He didn't know how long it had been. It could have been three years, Charlie thought it was about three years, but it also could have easily been four, possibly five. He didn't really know, in the end.

All he knew was that he was holding an envelope that spurred on so much... deja vu. As if he experienced this exact same moment, standing next to the mantle, eyes poised on a semi-candid photograph of a few teenagers, his aging parents quietly dying of heartache, memory-induced emotions forcing him to bite his lip.

Charlie should have read the return address. He really should have. And, as he slipped his old pocketknife under the flap and cleanly slid it to the right, feeling the heavy texture of expensive stationery beneath his fingertips, he stopped wondering why this situation was so familiar. Looking down, eyes widening in sudden awareness, back straightening, knees locking together, mouth falling, brain racing...

A wedding invitation.

The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of

Mrs. Darlene Hearst


Mr. Daniel Danielson

There was a fire several years ago. It started in October, Charlie could remember clearly. He had gone shopping for Halloween candy when he first smelled the smoke, light and nearly undetectable in the warm Santa Ana winds. An hour after that, standing on his roof in an impulsive urge he labeled instinct, he saw a heavy puff of dark gray.

Maybe it was the paranoid Midwest in him, as Terrence so kindly pointed out after the danger had passed, but Charlie was always prepared for disaster. Clothes were replaceable. Knick knacks were replaceable. Furniture was replaceable. Photographs, legal documents, memories weren't.

By the time Charlie had packed all that was important, the air was dusty, the sky was darkened, and Terrence was having an asthma attack.

Face impossibly red,

gasping over an inhaler,

clammy hands slipping,

eyes watering from

all that smoke,

his uncontrollable panic,

the painful lack of oxygen.

"C'mon. It's okay. Just give me ten minutes. Only a couple of things left to pack, all right?" Charlie didn't like to unnecessarily touch. It just wasn't something he was comfortable with. Terrence, however, was an affectionate man. So, Charlie did the only thing he could think to. He swept Terrence's sweaty, ridiculously blue hair away from his forehead. He gently put his arms around his younger roommate and comfortingly rubbed his back.

Not thinking, Charlie had placed a quick kiss on the top of his head. Then, mind still stuck on a mental list of prioritized items, he shut the car door and ran back into their house.

"Charlie!" Terrence called the name out, impatient and excited, "Charlie! Guess what? I got good news and bad news."

Looking up from the dishes he was trying to wash, careful not to clumsily drop and break anything, Charlie responded, "Yes? What?"

Terrence was a... happy man. He was, in many ways, unsatisfied with life. That much was evident. He changed his obsessions weekly, trying to find something to occupy his attention. However, it didn't do anything to change his overall temperament. Terrence was happy. Everything about Terrence was happy.

"Good news. I have a 3.8 GPA. Which is great, considerin' I thought I was going to fail. I thought I bombed all my final exams."

Charlie nodded slowly, thinking about how his younger roommate spent the last two weeks avoiding his textbooks. "You are smart," he informed Terrence as if the man needed reminding, "I'm not surprised."

He scoffed and rolled eyes. "I hate it when people call me smart, Charlie. But, anyway, I also have some bad news."

"What is it?" Charlie asked. He doubted that the news would be bad. Not that he didn't trust Terrence's ability to ascertain severity, it was just their point of view differed. When Terrence watched the news, he tended to squirm in discomfort, too affected by the daily happenings in this city, in this country, in this world. When Charlie watched the news, he took it as it was, something Terrence not-so-jokingly called heartless, and regarded everything as life.

"The company might be dead."

A glass slipped from Charlie's soapy grip, shattering upon impact, cutting his hand from the ricochet of shards.

"Shit! Charlie! I didn't mean dead-dead. I meant dying-dead," Terrence exclaimed, hands rushing to his face in an effeminate gesture of surprise. Quickly, he retrieved the first-aid kit he bought on impulse several months ago and grabbed the ointment and bandage roll.

"Look at what you did to yourself," he chided, a small smile on his face to keep in the chuckle, "No need to shed blood over it, Charlie, but I'm flattered you care so much about my financial state."

Embarrassed over his lack of control and the shock on his face, Charlie schooled his face into something resembling his normal expression. It didn't work, due to the hot blush, but the effort was enough.

Like a good roommate, Terrence reached over Charlie and turned the tap on, rinsing away the soap and blood, before turning it off. He grabbed a kitchen towel, hopefully clean, and patted the hand dry. Quick, efficient, and gentle - it only took a minute for Terrence to properly bandage him.

Those sixty sum seconds, though, lasted too long for Charlie's comfort. There was this feeling, this familiar slow buzz that trailed across his skin and burned in his lower gut, forcing Charlie's thoughts to scramble in places he did not want to go. Lust was such a strange feeling. It distracted him, made his head spin in strange ways, and tended to ruin perfectly normal situations. So, like the man he was, Charlie held his tongue and mentally willed away any physical reaction.

"What are you going to do?" he finally asked.

Oblivious to his roommate's thoughts, Terrence sighed. Because there was still shards of glass in the sink and dishes to be washed, he took over the chore without missing a beat. He murmured, "Nothing I can do. I have to drive over to LA next week, try to keep my ten percent, but whatever goes, goes."

He was quiet for a moment.

"But anyway!" he said suddenly, volume high enough to be considered a shout even over the sound of water, "The company is like Reilly's baby. He'd rather sell out good ol' Ireland than sell the company. I'm worried, but not too worried."

Charlie's voice, as per usual, was soft and slightly nasally. Perhaps this time it held an extra hint of calm, to sooth his roommate's obviously frazzled nerves, and perhaps even an extra hint of sincerity, to let the man know he cared. It wasn't, by any means, fake.

He said, "You know... Terrence, I'm not going to kick you out. Whatever happens, you can still live here with me."

Terrence pushed him, leaving a wet hand print on his shoulder.

Shocked, Charlie almost thought he said the wrong thing and only made his younger roommate more apprehensive. Then, however, he heard the thankfully familiar sounds of Terrence's light chuckles.

"Ooh, stop it, Charlie," he joked easily, shaking his head, doing nothing to conceal the grin on his face, "You know you make me all tingly when you say stuff like that."

Even though he thought about Danny's wedding for the past two weeks, Charlie couldn't bring himself to send back the RSVP. He... was a good man. He couldn't receive an invitation and not accept, just out of some silly spite that may have arisen from eighteen years of no contact. It wasn't as if Charlie made the effort, either.

He just... He just expected Danny to come back. One day. Even when Charlie left their hometown too, he always thought that Danny would came back eventually. If not this week, then next week. If not this month, then next month. If not this year, then next year... Eventually.

But time had a tendency to fly. Charlie was no longer seventeen years old, waking up to Marc barging in his bedroom and throwing a complete shit fit, demanding to know 'Where the fuck did Danny go?' and yelling 'Why the fuck did he take that whore with him?' and asking over and over again 'Did you know, Charlie? Did he tell you anything, Charlie?'

Charlie, the seventeen year old Charlie, could only stare in shock and stutter, asking 'What happened?' and 'Where is he?' and 'Why would he leave us behind?' like the naive boy he was.

But now?


"I read your mail, Charlie, not because I think you're having a steamy affair with the secretary, but because I'm extremely nosy," Terrence announced out of the blue.

Charlie looked up, halfway through a sip from his morning coffee. He was slightly alarmed, because it wasn't as if he meant to hide something from Terrence. The invitation still felt too fresh, too personal and too private for him to immediately speak of. He should have known, considering their norms, that Terrence would have stumbled upon the invitation so carelessly left on a teetering stack of books.

So, completely aware of that, Charlie didn't speak. He let Terrence talk it out, like he always would.

"This is a turn of events, ain't it?" he started, the rhetoric serving its purpose not-so well, "It wasn't so long ago that you knew this guy was married. And now, he's getting married again. To a lady, widower I'm presuming, named Darlene." Terrence flipped the invitation over with his left hand, the right occupied with a donut. "The return address puts him only thirty minutes on the I-5. I should know. I Google'd it."

Charlie averted his eyes. He calmly took a sip of his coffee, black with a single sugar cube to offset the bitterness.

"You haven't talked in, what? Fifteen-to-twenty years. But, he still sent you an invitation. C'mon, Charlie. You know that has to mean something."

"It means nothing."

Charlie immediately frowned and turned his body away. He didn't mean that. He didn't mean to think that. He didn't mean to articulate that.

A hand gripped the cuff of his oxford, smearing sticky sugar from Terrence's unhealthy breakfast. Charlie found himself not minding. Instead, as soon as his younger roommate's skin brushed against his, he let out a quiet sigh. A quiet, defeated, weary little sigh in his soft, slightly nasally, unassuming voice.

"He knew, when we were kids, that I was gay. Am gay." Charlie knew what that meant, to him. He never wanted to think about what that meant, to Danny. "He never said anything, but sometimes he'd catch me looking at Marc, his best friend, and he would start laughing."

His tongue felt swollen and dry. "We, our entire group, we used to make plans to get out. Everyone agreed on New York City. Later on, though, Danny told me that he was going to apply to a bunch of schools in California and I should do the same. Marc, Tony, and Christian could try for New York. He told me that California had San Fransisco and I could... I'd be able to... be myself... there...

"It just... In retrospect, I know I was really lucky. I'm sure people suspected, but my parents had standing in the town. No one was going to accuse them of having a gay son. Danny was the only one who knew for sure and he didn't care."

Terrence slowly backed up from the other, allowing the space add to Charlie's comfort. "... and then what?" he asked, visibly making an effort to not speak over or interrupt.

"Then Danny skipped town with his girlfriend as soon as we graduated," Charlie mumbled, the volume dropping to nearly nothing, "And that was it. No contact."

Charlie felt his throat contract painfully. He started to blink a little faster than necessary.

"I asked the others if they ever heard from Danny again, the other day. They..." He shook his head in disbelief. "At first, they didn't even know who I was talking about. Like Danny wasn't one of our friends. And... for the longest time... I just had to talk about him. I had to talk about how he looked, things we did together, anything to spark the memory. Marc was his best friend, so he remembered him after a couple of minutes. Tony barely remembered he existed. Christian didn't know who I was talking about until I told him about Danny's parents' liquor cabinet."

Charlie could remember this clearly, as it only happened several nights ago. Because he was rather sentimental at times, he kept in contact with most of the people he knew in high school and college. Nothing intimate, but just politically correct season's greetings and the occasional e-mail of well wishes on birthdays. That was just the type of man he was.

Christian was first, simply because his name was first in Charlie's contact list. Tony was second. Marc was last. None of them had contact with Danny since the day he ran away with Annie. None of them knew he had a son, gotten married, started a family. None of them even thought about him in over a decade. Danny was a distant memory and nothing but.

"He sent me an invitation to his wedding and I still don't get it," Charlie confessed in a tight, slightly raised voice, still turned away from Terrence, rambling in slow motion, "He wrote, 'Charles, I understand. Have a nice life. Daniel,' on the back of that generic typed-out note like it mattered. Like it mattered that I didn't attend when he didn't even tell his best friend. I didn't get it, still don't. And, I don't understand why he'd do it again. I don't know why he wants me to come to his wedding when it's been eighteen years."

He let out a shaky breath before continuing. "He thinks I ignored his last invite. I feel horrible about it. I can't, I, sometimes I think about it and I wonder if he thought I was still mad at him or I just didn't care about him anymore. But, now this, and it's..."

He forced himself to swallow his accumulating saliva.

"I... I don't know what to do."

"Charlie. What's wrong with you?" Danny smiled, but it was different, older.

Automatically, even though the didn't want it to work like that, even though he was desperate to keep his memories untainted, Charlie started replacing memory-Danny's face with this Danny's face.

"Nothing," Charlie answered, somewhat tense. It wasn't his fault. He didn't want to, but he was somewhat wary of this man here. But that wariness was tinged with guilt... because... because Danny used to be a close friend. He may not have been the closest friend, because he was always closer to Marc and Tony, but they grew up together. They knew each other.

Danny shook his head, a weird grin on his face, before he stepped closer to an ajar cabinet. Watching him, Charlie was almost reminded of the way he used to watch him when they were kids. Almost, however, was almost.

"You still don't like beer?"

"Not really," Charlie responded, a small flush slowly burning his cheeks.

He could remember, the memory coming to him quick, when Danny first stole alcohol from his father's liquor cabinet. He had gasped and rasped at first, but continued to chug it down with determination. Charlie had looked at him with such awe, because alcohol smelled so bad it made him gag. After a little peer pressure from Christian and Marc, just a couple of jibes he couldn't have lived with at the age of thirteen, Charlie had taken a beer and tried to imitate Danny by chugging it down.

The moment the bottle dropped to the floor and he wiped his mouth clean with the back of his hand, Charlie turned to his side and puked. Puked and puked, tears streaming down his face and snot dribbling from his nose.

Everyone laughed. Charlie never touched beer again.

"You can handle scotch, right?" Danny asked. His voice was slow to sound, as if he was wondering if his memory was correct.

Not willing to make a hassle, because Charlie could only handle his drinks with two parts soda water and one part alcohol, always needing a chaser after his rare attempts at taking shots, he nodded with a smile. "Yeah."

His hands were drawn inward, clasped and set above his lap. Not exactly shy, not ever really shy, but simply unassuming. Charlie wasn't the type of man to impose his presence, to even draw great attention to his presence. No. He was more like a quiet man. A quiet, polite, unassuming man.

But this man here didn't exactly know that, Charlie understood. In his youth, all throughout his youth, he fit that description. He was quiet. He was polite. And, probably his most defining character trait, he was unassuming. However, the nervousness and the anxiety he always felt before... it was gone.

A lost smile stretched across his face, slow in its formation, before Charlie decided to talk again. "You have a son now." His eyes were down, slightly submissive in a way, but not anything out of the ordinary. "Wow, Danny. Annie was always the mother-type, but it's still weird to think of you as a father. Thought you didn't want-" his mouth twitched in a strange memory of another strange day, in which Danny complained about the impracticality of... "kids."

He had ranted and raved, more angry than passionate, about how he didn't think the world needed more people. Quotes from Thomas Malthus spilled from his mouth, sour emotions ruining his logic more than the intoxication. Charlie could still remember that day. The way Danny spat the word 'offspring' and struggled to articulate the nature of overpopulation.

Looking at him now, acknowledging that he was a father, seeing the drink, knowing this was his second marriage... Charlie wondered where it all went wrong. However, instead of asking, letting his curiosity get the better of him, the tired man simply placed the glass to his lips, tilted up, and swallowed.

It burned all the way down.

"Two sons, actually," Danny corrected, staring into the tinted liquid, "My son and Darlene's son. And she's pregnant. We have another child on the way."

Charlie looked up and nodded slowly. He couldn't imagine Danny with one child, let alone three. So, he refrained from speaking without thinking. Carefully, he said, "That's wonderful. Congratulations."

Danny nodded curtly.

To himself, Charlie couldn't help but think that maybe something was... different about Danny. Not the little habits or the small details, Charlie didn't think, but something fundamentally important. He was, however, not the type of man to dig. He did want to know, as was human nature, but he didn't want to messily inquire and unsettle Danny.

An hour, several more glasses, and then Danny finally spoke again: "Your partner sounded like a nice man, over the phone."

Charlie's eyebrows immediately went up in surprise. "Huh?" he asked none too intelligently. Quickly, though, because he was not as dim as some expected him to be, Charlie realized that Danny was referring to Terrence. "Oh." He also realized that Danny thought Terrence was his partner. Although that thought made him feel a twinge of want in his gut, it was only right to correct the misinformed man. So, Charlie did what was right.

"He's..." ...only a roommate.

Danny grinned when Charlie failed to finish his statement. It was crooked, familiar, and made his tense stomach settle peacefully. "That's what you call it, don't you? Partner. Or." Danny's grin widened. "You didn't, Charlie. You managed to get married before that whole Proposition 8 business passed. A husband now?"

Charlie shook his head with a frown, "No. He's only my roommate. I told him about this and he took it upon himself to... fix this."

"Can't fix what's not broken."

"Are you saying this isn't broken?" Charlie asked lightly. He couldn't help the way the words rolled off his tongue. "It's been eighteen years. Sixteen years since you tried to contact me."

"... I wasn't thinking, Charlie," He turned the glass, then drank from it. "Your mother hid it. Of course she would. I'm more surprised she didn't immediately spread it around town just to hurt my parents for creating me."

Charlie was silent for a few seconds, sipping that hard liquor like it was water.

"I used to have the biggest crush on Marc."

"Yeah. I figured it out from day one." Danny tilted his head back. Eyes trailed the ceiling, lost in memory. "It was when we first tried to skinny dip in the lake. Typical, you pervert."

Charlie smiled to prevent a laugh. "Lord... You're still the same." His smile turned bittersweet. "I used to like you."

"Yeah. I know."

"You know?"

Danny finished off the last sip in his cup. Then, in an afterthought, poured more. "Code C.i.C., remember? College in California. We thought we were so original."

Maybe it was the alcohol, maybe it was the situation, maybe it was even the self-deprecating jibe, but they both started to laugh. Charlie with his soft chuckles. Danny with his quiet hah-hah.

In the middle of their laughter, Charlie heard the door open.

He turned towards the front entrance, humor still infecting his brain, interested in seeing if it was one of Danny's sons or the fiancee Darlene. Who he saw... was... surprising. It was even more so, considering his blood alcohol level and the consequent impairment.

A replica of the boy in his memories. A replica of Danny as a youth.

The real Danny, the current Danny, the thirty seven year old Danny, he immediately ceased his expression of joviality and stood up. When Charlie looked back to his face, it was strangely and unnaturally devoid of any emotion.

The boy, Danny's son, walked towards the entryway to the kitchen, eyes glued to his screen of his cellphone. He stopped one step in, looked up, and... frowned.

It was Danny's frown, Charlie immediately thought to himself. It was Danny's face, too. It was exactly the same. Exactly. Impossibly exact. However, Charlie thought to himself slowly, this could be another mental trick of the amazing human brain. He could just be replacing any memory of Danny as a teenager, any memory that wasn't already replaced by this current version, with the sight of Danny's son.

Danny didn't wear glasses. Danny wore sunglasses. Danny didn't wear white tees. Danny wore button-up flannels. Danny's hair wasn't outgrown and slightly messy. Danny's hair was always clean cut and perfectly in place.

Charlie knew that, but the images refused to stop meshing together into a blurry mess.

"Father," the boy greeted flatly. His eyes, the same blue-green, darted around and analyzed the state of the kitchen. It lingered on the alcohol in front of the two men, before settling on Danny. Charlie felt as if he was being ignored, like that boy was denying his existence, but judged at the same time. It was a strange feeling, Charlie knew, but he took no offense.

Danny greeted him just as flatly, if not more dispassionately.

The father and son simply stared at each other for a moment, and then Danny looked away and sat down. The boy turned around and left. Charlie listened, for a lack of anything better to do, and heard his footsteps reverberating back towards them. Around the corner, up the stairs, back around another corner, and then silence.

If it were any other individual, Charlie would have politely noted that the boy looked a lot like Danny. However, there was alcohol in his system and twisted, faded, decayed memories in his brain. "Your father used to do that to you," Charlie said slowly, "And you hated it. You told us it made you feel like a piece of furniture in your own home."

Danny snorted. "I still feel like a piece of furniture and I own this Goddamn house."

Charlie knew when to stop. Even if he couldn't prevent himself from beginning, he knew when he had to stop. He shut his eyes, blocking out the vision of Danny imbibing, before calmly exhaling a held breath.

"I should probably go."

A bottle of scotch.

Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Billy Zane.

A shared blanket.

That was all it took to topple Charlie's control, to give him that familiar, slow, trailing buzz along his body. Across his skin. In his lower gut. Distracting, spinning, ruining everything.

It could have been a perfectly normal evening, like all his evenings were. Charlie understood that, somewhere in his muddled brain. He could have, easily and without much effort, just let their situational norm take precedent over his less than appropriate urges.

Perhaps it wasn't the alcohol, the film, or the body warmth that made Charlie so inexplicably weak. He didn't know himself well enough to accurately discern. Perhaps, Charlie slowly began to realize, perhaps it originated within themselves. A slow buildup.

An eventual, inevitable crest to a slow incline.

It still could have been the excessive intake of scotch. Because, according to Charlie's experience in alcohol consumption, inebriation made him do stupid, silly, stupid things.

He turned to face his roommate and kissed him.

The biggest mistake was calling it 'our' house.

'Our' home.

When Charlie first moved to this city, feeling out of place and rather disjointed, he impulsively bought a newly built house that the prior owners had backed out on. He lived in it alone for exactly two weeks before he nearly tore his hair out in frustration. Charlie wasn't the type of man many assumed him to be. He was quiet, unassuming, polite, and introverted... but not solitary. He didn't like to be alone.

They met at a bookstore. Charlie was looking through the classics. Terrence was trying to learn Italian.

In memory, looking back onto the moment, Charlie couldn't remember what his intentions were. He wasn't, or at least he didn't think he was, trying to sleep with Terrence. It was accidental, the way Charlie nearly tripped over Terrence. The man was crouched on the floor, browsing through the foreign language section. Charlie just... didn't see him.

When Charlie, red faced and embarrassed that he did something as ridiculously clumsy and oblivious as trip over another person, offered to buy coffee in apology for the bloody nose... he didn't expect the other man to so easily forgive him.

It was smooth, the way the conversation flowed between them. Terrence laughed the accident off, staring at the dripping blood like it simply didn't belong. Charlie couldn't help but let the infectious casualness affect him, making him more comfortable with the stranger than he would have normally been.

Charlie might have been attracted, he couldn't deny that, but he didn't act on it. Even when the conversation turned to how Terrence was looking for a place to live and how Charlie was looking for a roommate, he didn't act on the attraction. Nothing suggestive was said. Nothing more than friendly was insinuated.

The biggest mistake was calling it 'our' house. 'Our' home.

During and after the fire that burned their first place of residence to the ground, Charlie and Terrence had actually stayed with a man named Kirk Blanchard.

Kirk was a nice individual. Charlie and he had originally met at college but were reunited by chance. Although articulated words could do nothing to adequately describe the complications, Kirk was in love with Charlie. He was in love with the idea, the feeling, and the person, all in varying degrees.

It failed. It failed horribly.

"I can't compete with him, can I?" he had asked rhetorically. Charlie, looking at him, knew there was something wrong. At the time, however, he simply couldn't tell what. "I'm too me and he's too he. There's no competing with that."

Charlie had wanted to spill some kind words. Reassurance at best. Consolation at worst. It was the least he could do, considering how much effort Kirk had placed into wooing him.


Kirk had shook his head. "Don't play with me, Charlie," he had said stiffly, "I knew I had a snowball's chance in Hell with you, but I tried anyway. I'm finally giving up. Don't give me false hope."

Charlie didn't know what to do. So, like the man he was, he simply stayed quiet and let Kirk's disappointment take the natural course.

Without thinking, not evening thinking that this sort of decision needed thought, he made another impulsive buy. As soon as he could, Charlie purchased a house on the opposite side of the freeway and within walking distance to the ocean. He spent as much time as humanly possible out of Kirk's condominium to shop from a mentally procured list of needs and wants.

It was a slap on the face, Charlie knew, a subtle slap at the face of Kirk's emotions. He couldn't find himself to stop, though. He wanted to be back in his own house, his own home. With Terrence and only Terrence.

Charlie had told Terrence that, because openness was a rather contagious character trait. His roommate, slightly immature and always easygoing, had smiled, rolled his eyes, and shook his head. He said pointedly, as if announcing:

"Stop worrying. It's not like I'm going to leave you any time soon, okay?"

He kept his wedding ring on, Charlie distantly noted, watching this stranger perform oral sex on him. With every swallow, every lick, every suck, every movement, he kept his eyes situated on that ring.

This was only the affect of alcohol, as it did have a strange tendency to destroy Charlie's rationality, but he couldn't help himself. He couldn't help the foreign, bitter, hatefully tinted thoughts that allowed him to aid another man in adultery.

What was the point of marriage?

When Charlie walked through the door, he almost expected it to be different. Not physically or spiritually or anything of that sort. Just... different.

It wasn't.

"I'm thinking about photography..." Terrence said as soon as Charlie was within earshot, "What do you think about photography?" He was holding a rather bulky camera like it was a foreign object, frowning at it as if he didn't know how to use it. Charlie doubted that Terrence was as inexperienced as he would like others to believe, but he played along anyway.

He dropped his bags near the foot of the stairs. One two three more steps and he was leaning against a the sofa Terrence was sprawled out on. "I don't know much," he admitted, eyes carefully avoiding the mess of bubble wrap and instruction manuals that littered the floor, "But you're creative. I'm sure you'll be good at it."

Terrence had made a documentary, years back, before Charlie knew him well enough to expect weekly obsessions from the normally restless man. It was about how Terrence made the stupidest decisions in his life, dropping out of college and loaning five thousand dollars to a man he thought he knew with a vague promise of 'ten percent.' Embarrassed of his mistakes, Terrence spent the next four years roaming the country, working odd jobs and living in his car. When he finally decided to stop running from reality, from adulthood, from the stupidest decisions of his life... he found himself over five hundred thousand dollars richer.

The documentary itself wasn't amazing. Terrence's voice wasn't smooth enough to narrate and he laughed too much throughout the hour-long video. It was, however, good enough to be on the company website and forcibly fed to random employees.

"I hate it when people call me creative, Charlie. But any who. Photography. It's so..." Terrence sucked in his bottom lip and looked up, probably searching for an adequate word to describe it. "... so pretentious. I want to try it out. Reilly thinks it'll be good for the company. Him in his three-piece suit and me, all artsy and shit, taking pictures and mack daddy-ing some equally artsy kid."

Charlie bit his tongue. The thought of Terrence with one of his classmates made his already queasy stomach clench. The green-eyed monster was a horrible, malicious thing.

"I'm not going to do that. C'mon, stop it, you have the most obvious facial expressions in the world." Terrence rolled his eyes, but it wasn't accompanied by a smile. It did nothing to settle or reassure Charlie. "Reilly's a brilliant man. He just wants some publicity."

For a moment, Charlie kept his mouth firmly shut and tried to erase anything especially damning off his face. That didn't last long. Not about to help it, not thinking about it, adamantly keeping his gaze on Terrence's face and not his body, voice softer than usual, murmuring without confidence, he said, "Are you all right?"

His younger roommate sighed, placed the camera on his stomach, and tiredly rubbed his eyes. He said, "It's been a real crap week. The advertisement boys want me to start going to all their promotional parties. Reilly looks too much like a corporate asshole to impress the hipsters."

Feeling the finality, the trailing off to signify the end, Charlie coughed. His mind was still wrapped in Terrence's strangely sullen mood. He mentioned, "Danny's wedding was really nice. I think you would have liked it."

When Terrence didn't say anything to acknowledge he heard, Charlie continued. "It was small. Classy. They even had a string quartet playing the entire time."

Terrence didn't respond for a minute, brown eyes focused on an imaginary, distant point. Then, slowly, as if thinking while speaking, he asked, "Did you manage to get laid?"

It didn't even occur to Charlie that he could lie.

He could have opened his mouth and said, 'I didn't... sleep with anyone,' with an uncomfortable frown and averted eyes. He could have simply shook his head and refused to dignify that question with a verbal response. He could have even flat out said, 'No,' and avoided suspicion easily.

Lying, however... Charlie didn't lie, let alone to Terrence.

"... Why?" he asked, knowingly answering with his omission. He stopped leaning against the couch to stand up straight. Terrence's eyes, he saw, flicked over to him when he did that. However, they were gone and back on the ceiling by the time Charlie spoke again. "Why do you want to know?"

This was uncharacteristic, Charlie understood. He was an unassuming man, polite and quiet, maybe even standoffish at times. To look at his younger roommate dead on and ask why... it wasn't like him, at all. The words, however, were already in the open and for Terrence to interpret as he pleased.

When Terrence opened his mouth, Charlie thought, if only for a split second, that he was going to also step out of character. Charlie imagined that Terrence would finally accept that maybe there was something more to them than two men living together.

He wanted, suddenly breathless, chest tight with almost-pain and sweet apprehension, for the man to share and reciprocate his feelings. Charlie knew he couldn't expect it, knew he shouldn't have hoped for it, knew it was, ultimately and by nature, doomed to fail, but...

"That was an awkward question. Sorry."

… but wasn't that the beauty of falling in love?

Lust made Charlie's head spin distracting little circles. Sex made Charlie's body feel uncomfortably out of place. Love made Charlie ache - a bittersweet, consuming, soul deep ache.

He wasn't ready for this. He didn't think he was ready for this.

"I don't want to ruin this," Terrence said seriously, hands carefully flat on the table, face devoid of any hints of a joke. "What we have right now is great. Amazing. Wonderful. I don't want to change it."

Charlie licked his lips. His tongue was dry. Mouth, too. Throat, also. He needed water and he needed it quick, but he couldn't move from this spot. Not that he was glued or especially adhered, he realized. It was... simply... Charlie just couldn't move. He could. He had the capacity to. However, he couldn't.

"You're..." Terrence stopped, swallowed, then began again. Brown eyes watered and face twisted, but his voice didn't change. "You're a great friend. You'd probably make a great boyfriend. Lover. Partner. Shit, husband. I just don't think we should change it, okay? We're perfectly happy like this. I'm happy like this."

He took a deep, shuddering breath. Then, quietly, as if begging as well as asking... "Okay?"

When he looked away, Charlie didn't want to accept it. Why would he want to accept it? He could see how Terrence's wet eyes blinked, how he bit the insides of his cheeks, how his nose was sniffling, how he was keeping his gaze focused on a far nonexistent object, how his hands were running through his ridiculously colored hair, wiping the sweat away from his forehead, gripping tight, knuckles turning white...

Charlie said one word. Charlie would only said one word. "Okay."

It was an unintentional slap on the face.


It was intentional.

Very intentional.

"You should fuck him over," Danny said callously, moving the half-full (half-empty) glass of scotch closer to Charlie. "This is bullshit. Deliberate bullshit. He can't be stupid and be a self-made millionaire. He knows what he's doing to you. Fuck him over and give him a taste of his own damn medicine."

Charlie didn't feel the urge to drown his sorrows in alcohol, but he accepted the drink anyway.

Danny had, surprisingly, called him on a whim and said they needed to do eighteen years worth of 'catching up.' Because he was already in an emotional low, Charlie didn't have to energy to sidestep the invitation with polite little excuses. He wanted to talk to the man he grew up with, regardless of how little they currently knew about each other.

Changing the subject in a manner that was devoid of smoothness, Charlie asked, "How is your family? Your boys?"

Danny scoffed, "Darlene's boy periodically shoplifts, my boy refuses to speak to me, and my wife is starting to realize I'm not happy. Life is perfect, Charlie."

They both drained their glasses.


Drained once more.

"I don't think he knows. I was never clear," Charlie mumbled, index finger cutting the ring of condensation in half.

Like always, exactly how he did in memory, Danny sneered at nothing. "More bullshit. You're obvious. I could tell you wanted Marcus the moment you saw his cock. You lived with this man for years. He damn well knows."

Another emptied glass.

Another refilled.

"What happened to Annie?" Charlie asked quietly, both hands wrapped around the drink, staring into the darkened liquid and melting ice cubes. "You two were so in love."

Danny sighed. "She cheated on me. I cheated on her. We divorced."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. I'm still contemplating how to kill her without getting caught."

That was not a joke, Charlie realized with only the smallest bit of alarm.

Another drink.

Then another.

"I'm not going to confront him."

Danny's frown only hardened. Voice serious, he edged forward and said, "Don't. You don't need to. Just fuck him over."

"... I don't want to."

Blue-green eyes widened fractionally as Danny leaned back to carefully observe. Charlie watched him carefully, even though his mind was completely soaked in alcohol, seeing those eyes dart around and study him with a strange amount of sureness. Slowly, as if moderately confused, Danny took a long drink.

"Because you're in love," he stated, voice flat and somewhat accusing.

No reason to disguise the truth, Charlie slowly nodded and replied, "Yes."

Danny shook his head, a sudden and strange smile on his face, also familiar but absolutely out of place. "Charlie," he said incredulously, "God, Charlie. You're in love. You're in love with the man who plays the fool and brings home other men, just to make you angry. To make you jealous. Oh, God. You're soft. You're hopeless. You're still hopelessly soft."

Sips. Burning sips. "And you're still an asshole." The scotch, no matter how good, uncomfortably burned all the way down. His lips, his tongue, his mouth, his throat, his esophagus, until it settled in his stomach. Burning.

Danny laughed the same hah-hah he had as a teenager.

That brought more comfort to Charlie then he would ever know.

Time passes by quickly. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months. Eventually, a year.

"It's nice of your family to let me spend Christmas with them," Terrence says easily. His eyes are stuck on a little toy train that Charlie never threw away. "I, personally, think it's because you told them I own ten percent of a multi-million dollar soon-to-be corporation. But who am I to judge, right?" He chuckles lightly, finding amusement in his own humor.

Charlie pauses in the middle of unpacking his clothes. "My parents..." he begins slowly, slightly unsure how to articulate this, "... don't know you're... wealthy." He continues to pack. "I think they still think you're living off my charity, actually."

A smile breaks out on Terrence's face. "Oh, yeah?" he asks rhetorically, eyebrow raised, looking up in thought, "Huh. Guess it'll be a huge shock when I bust out the thank-you-for-tolerating-my-existence presents. Shock of the lifetime. The freeloading bum bought them the nicest cruise tickets available. To Antarctica, which, according to you, has always been a lifelong dream."

The smile drops. "Wait. Charlie, will the shock might be too much? I don't want anything on my conscious. At least, not on Christmas."

Charlie just shakes his head 'no,' not too inclined to question the idiosyncratic tendencies of his roommate.


"Yes?" Charlie asks. He is in the middle of unpacking and organizing three days worth of clothes. Although that isn't the longest amount of time, he could never stand living out of suitcase. The thought makes him uncomfortable.

A hand tugs on the edge of his sleeve, forcing his attention away and onto Terrence. "Do you think your parents like me?" he asks. His voice is perfectly casual, but there is something in the way he's not quite meeting Charlie's eyes and standing a little closer than necessary.

"Why wouldn't they?" Charlie asks, confused but still set on reassuring the man, "Of course they do. My mom loves your hair. She spent at least ten minutes just touching it. And you got my dad to talk about jazz. He hates jazz with a passion."

Terrence has a bad habit, or lack of hygiene, with the way he forgets to wash his hands. It's never purposefully and he makes a conscious effort to remember, but sometimes he can't help the stickiness on his fingers.

Strange, how Charlie never minds it. Although he is a neat man by nature, clean and tidy to the letter, he never minds the way Terrence accidentally rubs sugar onto the furniture, light switches, or Charlie's cuffs. It is one of those things that make Terrence himself. Even if it were to make him angry, not saying that it does, he doesn't think that it would have make a spot of a difference. He wouldn't and won't call Terrence out on it, doing something as childish or unreasonable as asking the man to stop.

"He does?" Terrence asks, sincere in his confusion, "He knows a lot about it to be confused. But. Anyway. That's not what I'm asking." He shakes his head, frown small but still there. "I'm asking if your parents like me. I can't read people, Charlie. You know I can't. Midwest folk have completely different signals than Californians do. I don't know if they really like me or not."

"Yes, they do," Charlie says, putting as much truth as he can into the statement. He moves away from Terrence to sit on his bed, in his old bedroom, in his old house, in his old hometown with a relieved sort of sigh. Bending over, he reaches for his laces and unties his sneakers. He tugs on the aglets, loosens the knots, and toe the shoes off. Like a child, he was told once, but he can't be damned to care about that in front of Terrence. "If my parents didn't like you, it'd be obvious. They are blunt people."

When Charlie looks up, Terrence is still standing on the same spot, same expression in his face.

Normally, for any other individual, Charlie would have inquired about Terrence's overall physical health to avoid directly talking about his troubles. However, Terrence is not any other individual.

"Is something wrong?" Charlie asks, soft and quiet and slightly nasally and more caring than a man should be about his roommate, "Terrence? What's wrong?"

The man says nothing for all of a quarter of a minute. Seconds tick by slowly, only serving to make Charlie's gut clench in alarm and worry.


"I'm immature." He let out a tired exhale and brushed his ridiculously colored hair away from his forehead. "I'm too immature to function. I dropped out of college because I didn't want to chose a profession. I spent nearly half a decade running around the country because I didn't want to settle down. I dropped out, again, because I still couldn't decide what to do with my life. And now I'm back in again, still junior standing, because I don't know what to major in."

Charlie thinks about spilling a few hastily stitched words in the form of assurance, but his mouth doesn't move. Even as the sentences organized neatly in his head, perfectly easy for delivery, he doesn't say anything.

Hands go from sweeping his fringe aside to completely burying into blue hair, gripping tight in poorly hidden frustration. "I'm just, it's like I haven't grown in the past decade. I'm still doing the same thing I should've been doing straight out of high school."

He laughs, but it's not the happy chuckle normal of him.

"I don't know what you see in me, Charlie. Truthfully."

This situation feels familiar, like this is one of life's infamous scenes and someone hit the replay button, but Charlie isn't too concerned with that.

His brains immediately structures lists upon lists of suitable phrases for Charlie to say. Compliments to give. Assuring promises to make. Empty statements to fill the cold air with. Anything to comfort Terrence and keep the man within his reach.

"I'm in love with you," is not on any of those mentally prepared lists... but it's the truth. "I don't exactly need to see anything in you for me to be in love with you."

He knows he can't expect anything, knows he shouldn't hope for it, knows it is, ultimately and by nature, doomed to fail, but...

Terrence shakes his head in denial. Charlie is not quite sure what his younger roommate is denying, though. "I hate it when you say that, Charlie."

… but isn't that the beauty of being in love?