A/N Okay, wow, how long has it been, like a month? I'm sorry this took a year and a half :( I was just in the theater until, like, 11 pm every night for the past month and a half because of the musical I was working and I was just so exhausted all the time, but we finally closed last weekend and I've been given breathing space again (plus Thanksgiving Break!) so I was like, wow, I should get on this. And then I edited it and rewrote everything and stalled forever, because, well. You'll see.
Anyway um, happy Thanksgiving and here you guys go, finally! Thank you for reviews/alerts/favs/etc, as usual, you're all the best!
We're in the middle of Bumfuck, New York, and I didn't even know that New York had bumfuck-worthy places but I guess that's what you get when you think of New York as simply New York City and then go on a road trip and discover that it is, in fact, not.
I peer out of the window and say, "It's so empty. There aren't even any other cars on the road. I think—" I crane my neck and look over my shoulder and, no, I see zero cars behind us and there are zero cars in front of us and there are zero cars on the other side of the road so I say again, "There aren't even any other cars on the road."
"Um, yeah, this isn't a particularly popular highway," Emerson says. "And it's not exactly rush hour."
I sigh loudly and slump down into my seat, dropping my hands into my lap. "It'd be nice if we could just teleport ourselves wherever we wanted to go."
"There'd be no point in a road trip if we could do that," Emerson says, crushing all of my hopes and dreams as usual. I glare at him and he gives me this slightly amused look; I blink and stare through the windshield again, letting out another sigh and praying for something remotely exciting to happen. Because this whole driving thing is fucking boring, especially when you're not the one actually driving.
Emerson tells me to, "Just go to sleep or something," because, "I'm going to stop the car and make you get out if you give me even one more of those obnoxiously loud sighs. God, whose idea was this anyway?"
"Um, yours," I tell him, but he doesn't even bother dignifying that (lie) with a response, instead just giving me the Ivan, you're an idiot look. I manage to entertain myself by gazing out at the beautiful corn fields and grass and asphalt (and more corn fields and grass) for about thirteen seconds before I sigh again, and then Emerson fucking slows to a stop and brakes the car right in the middle of the road, and I say, "What the fuck are you doing?"
"You are perfectly entitled to walk your way back home if you hate sitting in a car so much," he's saying, but I can hear the grin in his voice.
I just flip him off and look around—there are still no cars behind us—and say, "Jesus, Emerson, you don't just stop cars in the middle of the road. That's not even an Emerson Thing to do. That's an Ivan Thing to do, and you are not Ivan."
"Yeah, I've been hanging around you way too much, obviously," he mutters, and I think, not enough, and he presses on the gas and we're moving again. I settle back into my seat and stop myself from sighing and seriously contemplate opening the door and falling out of the car and letting Emerson just run me over, but I decide against it in the end.
Some excruciating minutes later (I didn't even bother keeping track of how long it took) Emerson pulls in somewhere and I open my eyes (which I hadn't even noticed were closed) and look around. We're at a rest stop, but it's creepily empty except for a couple of cars here and there, and most rest stops we've stopped at have been at least a little more populated. There is this kind of abandoned ghost town vibe emanating from this one and it's stupid.
"There's nothing here," is what I immediately say when Emerson kills the engine, and he looks at me and I say, "Dude, I feel like I'll get mugged if I get out of the car right now."
"We're at a rest stop," he says carefully, blinking, and I shrug. Rest stops are dangerous places. I've heard fucking horror stories about rest stops, so I see no reason for Emerson to be talking to me as though I am a child right now.
I remain in the car as he takes off his seatbelt and opens his door, and he looks over at me and says, "Do you need to piss or not?"
I say flatly, "No. Well, actually, yes, but what the fuck is this place?"
"You are the biggest baby I have ever met in my life," Emerson tells me, and now his back is facing me and his legs are out of the car. Before I can even protest (and tell him that I am a grown man, not a fucking baby, because if I was then you would be pedophile material, Emerson, thanks very much), he's out of the car and the door has been shut and I'm still sitting in my seat, seatbelt on and door closed.
And, really, I'm not a baby, so I take off my seatbelt and open the door and jump out and slam it shut behind me, at which point Emerson turns around from about a hundred feet in front of me and rolls his eyes and locks the car.
I trail after him, pulling my phone out from my pocket and texting Nico that, I think Emerson actually hates me and has decided to bring me to the abode of a serial killer.
My phone vibrates within a minute, and the reply reads: It was nice knowing you! And then a few seconds later comes: Did you really say abode?
To which I reply, Shut the fuck up.
We're sitting on the hood of the car, and I have a bottle of Mountain Dew and Emerson—the fucking psycho who doesn't like soda—is holding a bottle of Aquafina. It's still not even dark, because it takes so fucking long for the sun to set during the summer, and I'm not really hungry enough for dinner yet but I'm pretty sure that this is going to be our stop for the night. We are going to sleep at this Abandoned Ghost Town Rest Stop and I will never forgive Emerson if I get stabbed and killed over the course of the night.
Then again, he's been driving for ages; he's probably tired and he'd probably crash if he tried to drive any longer, so the situation wouldn't really be safe either way. I glance over and he's staring out into the distance and I knock my knee against his and he looks over at me and I say, "Hi."
He says, "Hey."
My dick tells me to make out with him right now, and my brain tells me to say brightly, "What's up?" so obviously I say brightly, "What's up?"
As if I don't already know.
Emerson gives me a curious look and says, "You know. Hanging out in a creepy rest stop in the middle of nowhere, New York. Average night."
His stupid answer is weirdly adorable and I stare down at my bottle, fiddling with the cap for a few seconds before I open it and take a drink. "Sounds like a good time," is my lame answer, and I can fucking hear him rolling his eyes.
My dick tells me to make out with him right now, and my brain tells me to make normal best friend conversation, so obviously I decide to compromise by asking, "Wanna make out?"
And whatever I'm expecting him to say, it's not, "I mean, yeah."
But that is what comes out of his mouth.
Except I'm not quite sure that I heard him right, and my head snaps up to face him so quickly that I think I've given myself whiplash, and he's looking at me quite nonchalantly, as though he didn't just answer my question with the words, "I mean, yeah," and I say calmly and politely, "Pardon?"
"We shouldn't, though," he says this time, and he shrugs, and I fucking give up. I give up so hard that I just flop backwards onto the hood of the car and my legs fall down over the side so that my feet hit the road and then I slowly sink my way down to the ground until I'm lying there, next to the car, and I can hear Emerson cracking up above me, but I don't give a fuck.
"I mean, yeah," and then "We shouldn't, though," and how about "Go fuck yourself, Emerson, because clearly you have something against me doing that for you?"
But I just say from the floor, "What is wrong with you?"
"Are you going to get up?" he asks, and his voice sounds closer, so I assume he's moved over. I'm not looking at him, though; I'm staring at the painted white lines on the ground.
"Not until you tell me what the fuck is wrong with you," is my answer.
He says, "I figure I should just tell the truth at this point. Not like you can't tell anyway."
The noise that comes out of my mouth is somewhere between a groan and a whine, and then Emerson's laughing again and I finally push myself into a sitting position. "Wanna tell me why we shouldn't?"
"Not particularly, no," he says lightly, and I finally look up at him, though it's only so that I can glare.
He's giving me this fondly amused look and I want to die and I stand up and brush off my clothes and frown. I say, "Well, will you? Because, fuck, Emerson, what do you even want? First you are like, let's hook up with Ivan when we're drunk, and then you are like, let's act all weird about the fact that it even happened, and then you're like let's hook up with Ivan when we're not drunk and then you're like let's act pissy that that happened, and then you're like let's just pretend it never happened and then you're like let's make eyes at Ivan all over the place—"
"I never even once made eyes at you," he interrupts.
And I'm surprised he hasn't fucking dropped dead from the daggers I'm currently glaring at him, and I say—whine, rather, "Emerson."
"Okay," he says, and he's still sitting on the hood of the car and I'm standing here, staring at him. "Let's say—hypothetically, if I were to tell you why we should not make out."
"Hypothetically," I repeat sarcastically.
He nods and continues, "Hypothetically, I would tell you that four years ago when you stepped into our shitty dorm room I was cursing my luck for being stuck living with such an attractive guy—" my brain says, fuck yeah you were "—but then just a few days later I was cursing my luck for being stuck living with such an asshole—" my brain says, excuse me? "—but then we somehow magically became friends but then you were bringing girls home all the time, so I just." He shrugs. "Moved on."
"Moved on," I repeat his words again.
He nods. "And I'd tell you that it all went perfectly well until I saw you making out with Nico, who's, you know, male, and—which, I mean, go for it, right? But I always thought you were just straight, and then that's when I finally found out you weren't, but it didn't matter, anyway, right, because I had moved on."
I don't even say anything when he pauses this time, and then he says, "But, I mean. It kind of did matter."
"Oh," is all I say.
"But," Emerson says, "hypothetically, this is all really dumb and I'm just really dumb and, hypothetically, sorry that I don't want to be your best friend with benefits because hypothetically I might probably start wanting something more and hypothetically that would suck, so, hypothetically, um."
There's a beat during which we stare at each other, and then I step forward and say carefully, "So, uh, hypothetically."
He says, "Hypothetically."
I say again, "Hypothetically, if you told me all of this, I would—um, hypothetically—tell you that you're an idiot and to shut up and—" and then I stop talking and crowd into his personal space, standing between his legs, and my nose is almost touching his now.
"Hypothetically," he says quietly, even though that word has lost all of its meaning by now, even though it's stopped even fucking sounding like a word, "I'd push you away," and his hand is on my chest as he speaks, "because you don't want—"
"Don't tell me what I do and don't want, Jesus," I say. And then I add, "Hypothetically."
He almost smiles. I say, "Okay, look, I mean."
Except I don't know what to say, because I fucking suck at this. I want to tell him that I do like him and that I would be totally interested in doing boyfriend-y things with him except it's just I don't know how. I don't know relationships. But I've started to realize that this—whatever I feel whenever I look at Emerson anymore—isn't just the let's hook up tonight kind of feeling that I get with the other girls or guys I've been with. It's the let's hook up tonight kind of feeling plus a let's also hook up tomorrow night kind of feeling and a we could hook up lots of nights kind of feeling and then a let's also be friends kind of feeling and a I'd hold your hand if you wanted kind of feeling.
But I don't really know how to say all of that without sounding like a total idiot, and I realize he's still waiting for me to say something so then I say, "Hypothetically, I would," and then I kiss him.
And it's nice for five seconds before he's carefully pushing me away and saying, "Hypothetically, I'd tell you that I don't want to go the fuck buddy to one of us goes gay for the other to never speaking to each other again path."
"We don't have to," I say. "Hypothetically."
"I don't want to go the—hypothetical—best friends to boyfriends to exes to never speaking to each other again path either."
And they're both valid points, because they're both valid paths, but there are other valid paths that Emerson is not currently considering. I say, "You're too—you worry about everything." His eyes flick upwards and meet mine, and I continue, "You just. You make everything so complicated and you always think about things in the worst ways and—why can't you just go with the flow instead of over thinking life?"
"Um," is his answer.
"You think too much," I tell him.
"You don't think enough," he tells me.
"So we balance each other out," I say.
"Yeah. We're a nice balanced pair of best friends."
"Okay, look, this whole best friend thing isn't going to work out if I want to jump you every time I see you."
His lips twitch, and I can tell that he wants to smile, but he's forcing himself not to. He says, "We've managed for, like, four years. Does that mean nothing?"
"Yeah, but that was before all of this." I gesture around wildly, almost hitting Emerson in the face, and he grabs my wrist in an attempt to force me to stay still. "I mean, it's not like I never thought about it."
I thrust my hips into him by way of explanation and this time he bursts into laughter, and I smile a little. "Like, yeah, you're totally do-able, you just never seemed interested. And I don't bother with people who don't act like they want it. Plenty of other fish in the sea."
His hand still hasn't left my wrist, and I say, "Except apparently you are interested. I mean, Jesus, you could've told me this four years ago. That's four years of fucking we've missed out on. Four whole years."
Emerson half looks like he wants to say something, but before he can, I inform him that, "That is a lot of fucking."
"It's not like you haven't been fucking anybody for four years, Jesus, Ivan. You're nowhere near Virgin Mary status," he says, and he rolls his eyes (of course).
I roll my eyes too, and I say, "Yeah, but I haven't been fucking you for four years."
His hand slips down my wrist and I catch his fingers with mine, and it feels super gay but it's kind of nice all at the same time. He says, "You always say you don't do relationships, though. And, I mean, I kind of. I do relationships."
I open my mouth, then close it again. And then I say, "I know. But."
"But," he repeats carefully.
"In this, um, hypothetical world," I say slowly, "maybe I could—try."
He has this uncertain look on his face, and it's kind of insulting, actually, because hell, I am perfectly capable of trying. Just because I haven't had any remotely successful Actual Relationships in the past, that doesn't mean I am completely incapable of it.
I hurry to qualify, though, "I mean, I'd probably suck at it. I—wouldn't, I am sorry, Em, but I wouldn't bring you flowers. Ever."
He starts to smile again as I continue, "What the fuck, anyway? Who even likes flowers? What the fuck do you do with flowers? Hey, here, let's make a deal. Every time a Good Boyfriend would give you flowers, I'll give you a blowjob. That'd make me the best boyfriend, right? Blowjobs are the real flowers."
"Jesus, Ivan, I don't give a shit about flowers," he says. And then I'm kind of confused, because I thought he did.
I say anyway, "I can't cook for you either, but you already knew that."
"I don't—there is not some fucking boyfriend qualification list. Where are you even getting this from?"
"I just thought," I say.
"And you tell me that I think too much," he says.
I flip him off with my free hand, and I say, "Also, I don't—I've never even tried commitment before. It's just, it's fucking scary."
"It's really not that bad," Emerson says, rolling his eyes even as he's tugging me towards him.
"Yeah, but," I'm almost trying to pry myself away from him at this point, because suddenly I'm feeling like this is all getting too serious too quickly but wasn't I the one that brought it all up earlier? I feel like my brain is contradicting itself all over the place and I don't know what to do and I don't know if I can deal with any of it and that's the fucking reason I didn't want this in the first place, right? Because—fuck Thomas the Tank Engine, I think I can? Bullshit, I cannot. I can't.
I manage to extract myself from his hand and I say, "I'm just scared that I won't be able to—I mean, fuck, what if I'm just at the bar and then I see some hot girl or guy or whatever? I can't make out with them?"
Emerson blinks at me, and then he says, "That's what you're scared of?"
I reply intelligently, "Um."
"We don't—we don't have to be automatically exclusive or anything."
And then I hurry to say, "It's not like—I mean, I don't know if I'd even want. That. Them. The other people. I'm just not used to the whole self control thing."
"You can learn," Emerson says. He almost looks exasperated right now, and he's saying, "You are an adult, Ivan. You're perfectly capable of controlling yourself."
"I know," I snap. "I've just never had to."
Now he looks amused, and I sigh. I turn around and lean against the car, stuffing my hands in my pockets, and I look at the ground and my bottle of Mountain Dew is lying on its side next to the wheel of the car. I poke at it with my shoe, and we stand there in silence and it's starting to get darker—I can see the sun setting in the distance—and then I decide to be stupid and change the subject (because it's not like we're fucking getting anywhere) or something by saying, "So, wait, we're staying here overnight, right?"
I'm still staring down at the ground, but I can feel Emerson looking at me as he answers, "Yeah, if that's okay. I guess we could find a motel or something if you want, or else, you know." He pats the hood of the car next to him.
"This is good," I say, patting the car myself as I'm speaking. "Unless someone tries to kill us in the middle of the night or something—if I die I'm coming back to life just so that I can kill you."
"What if we both die?"
"Then, I don't know. Then everything sucks." My phone buzzes in my pocket, and as I'm taking it out, I hear Emerson's phone vibrate, and he takes his out, and I read a text from Nico saying, Are you dead yet?
I glance over at Emerson and he looks slightly confused as he's reading his text, and he says, "Nico wants to know whether or not I've successfully gotten you murdered yet."
I almost smile, but I stop myself. "Don't ask me. I don't know how that kid's brain works," I say, shrugging, and I reply to Nico, yes.
He texts back seconds later, I have been waiting for this day since I first met you!
And I reply with, can you tell me how to get Em to make out with me?
He replies, LOL.
I stare at the phone, and then Emerson tells me that he's going to go get food, and I tell him to get pizza, and then he heads off into the building and I'm left outside alone in this abandoned ghost town of a rest stop parking lot. I scroll through my contacts until I reach Nico's name, then hit call, and by the time I put my phone to my ear he's already saying, "Why isn't Emerson putting out for you?"
"Shut the fuck up," is my response, and then he's laughing. He says, "I like how you're calling some eighteen year old twink for sex advice—"
"Did you just call yourself a twink?"
"—and his advice happens to be that you should just show Emerson that you love him instead of talking sex all the time."
"I took him to Niagara Falls, what the fuck else does he want?"
Nico makes some weird sort of exasperated noise over the phone, and he says, "I can't believe I'm wasting my night telling you what is wrong with your Emerson seduction attempts."
"What else would you even have been doing? Crying over fucking Bachelor Pad again, probably—"
"I don't need your sass."
I don't even say anything, just stand there and grin as if he could see me, and then he says, sounding slightly affronted, "Bachelor Pad is great, anyway, why don't you give it a chance?"
"Let's not talk about Bachelor Pad right now. Let's talk about Ivan Doesn't Do Relationships."
"You are perfectly capable of doing a relationship, oh my god, Ivan. You're such a five year old."
"Look who's talking, I am not five—"
"Just because you haven't been in a relationship before doesn't mean you can't do it. You know what you need to do? Just tell Emerson that you're willing to try, because, trust me, that's all he wants."
"I did!" I tell Nico, glancing over at the building to make sure the devil of whom we are speaking isn't on his way back yet. "I mean, whatever, he doesn't think I can either."
"Do you like him?" Nico asks.
"What?" I say, in a brilliant attempt to stall.
"Do you like him?"
"No, like, do you like him."
"I don't know," I say, and I kick at the Mountain Dew bottle lying on the ground again. "Why do I have to answer all the fucking questions? Can't we just—take things nice and casual and slow?"
"Go talk to him about it, not me."
"I did. I don't know if we even got anywhere. Except—well, okay, we kind of did, but I don't know where exactly we got—"
"So, ask," Nico says, as though it's the easiest thing in the world to do. Which, now that I think about it, it probably is. Or at least, it's not as hard as I'm making it out to be in my head.
"Jesus, this is exactly why I don't do this stuff," I inform Nico. "It involves all this fucking communication and it's so unnecessary and such a waste of time when we could just be in bed instead—"
"Uh, yeah, okay, but with a relationship you have someone to talk to and fuck, which is super cool. You're killing two birds with one stone. It's all very practical."
I'm laughing now, for no reason, because that wasn't even funny, but I glance over to the side and I see Emerson walking back towards me with a box of pizza in his hands and I say quickly into the phone, "Okay, abort mission, let's pretend we're talking about how driving around the middle of nowhere is super boring and I miss Cedar Point and Niagara Falls and even your stupid Chicago—"
Nico interrupts me by saying, "So just try to make it work, all right? I mean, if that's what you want."
And I reply, as Emerson reaches me, "The pizza's finally here and I'm hungry so I'm going to go eat it and you can go back to your pathetic Bachelor Pad-watching night, Jesus, don't you have other friends you can call when you're bored?"
"Oh my god, Ivan, stop trying to make yourself sound like a total tool who doesn't give a shit about anything. I'm pretty sure Emerson knows you better than that."
"Thanks for nothing. Emerson says hi," I tell him, and then I hang up and glance at Emerson, who's giving me a slightly amused look.
He says, "I have pizza."
"Well, I don't want any of your fucking pizza until you agree to desecrate the back seat of this car with me—"
"It'd be fun!" I tell him brightly, putting a nice charming smile on my face.
And all he says is, "This is a rental car." So I am taking that to mean that if this was not a rental car—if the car belonged to us—then he would be perfectly willing to desecrate it with me.
"So?" Even as I say it, I'm reaching over for the box of pizza, because fuck desecration; I'm hungry. I open the box and it smells pretty good and I extract a piece, grabbing a napkin from Emerson's other hand.
He's saying, "So I don't think I should really be fucking you in—"
"Emerson. Emerson, please," I say, my mouth full. "Like you'd be fucking me."
He looks a bit flustered, and then he says, "I'm capable."
I say, "Yeah, but I'm not that gay."
He doesn't even look the slightest bit amused at the comment, and I sigh dramatically and assure him that, "I'm joking. Don't worry. I recognize that putting your dick into another guy and getting someone's dick rammed up your ass are equally gay experiences—"
"Do you want to shut up and eat your pizza?"
"Not particularly, no," I say, but I do. And I reach down and finally pick up the fallen Mountain Dew before I prop myself up on the hood of the car again in order to sufficiently enjoy my pizza.
We eat in silence for a few moments, and then Emerson says, "You're kind of a dick, you know that?"
"Um," I say, because 1. no, I'm not, 2. there is currently pizza in my mouth, 3. that was an unnecessarily rude comment, and 4. no, I'm not.
Only, yeah, I am, but I don't tell him that.
"I mean, I love you anyway, but, seriously," he says, and I watch him bend his head back in order to take a drink of his stupid water (because he doesn't like soda and I will never understand but I feel this dumb rush of affection for him anyway).
I jump off of the car and move over so that I'm standing in front of him again, and it's even darker now than it was before, and I say, "I realize that I am probably shitty boyfriend material, but can we take this nice and casual and slow and—I don't know—try?"
He blinks and says, "I honestly wouldn't—I mean, I have nothing against that, but I already told you, I just don't want to go the—"
"Do you realize that there are other relationship paths that exist?" I say impatiently. "We are not necessarily going to—break up or whatever and never speak to each other again."
"Because, what, we're going to live happily ever after?"
He's trying not to smile even as he says it, though, and I give him a look that says Emerson, you're an idiot, because this time he's being the idiot, not me. I say, "Let's not think about happily ever after. Let's just think about happily right now."
He's rolling his eyes, and I give him a half-smile, and then I whine, "Am I allowed to kiss you yet?"
The slightly exasperated expression on his face is washed away by a real smile, and I lean in closer. His hand is sitting on the hood of the car right next to him, and I put mine on top of his, and I say, "You know, it's mandatory for any potential boyfriend of mine to pepper his fries."
He jerks backward automatically, and he says, "Nope. Nope, this isn't going to work out, I'm sorry, we are over—"
And it's not really just the fact that I've been waiting to do this since two nights ago at Nico's house that makes me finally close the gap between us. It's not really just his nice nose or his nice eyes or his nice eyebrows or his nice hair. It's not just that he's good in bed (and I can tell that even from half an attempt at not-real-sex plus a drunken night that I barely remember). It's not even just the way he's looking at me, as though he's been waiting for this forever.
It's all of that and more—that he thinks I'm ridiculous, but he still puts up with me; that he deals with the assholey, dumb things that I say and do all the time; it's that he's the kind of guy I'm willing to fucking buy Niagara Falls tickets for. It's that he's the guy I am willing to be cooped up with in a car for hours on end. It's the fact that he's my best friend, that he loves me, that I love him, that makes me finally step forward and press my lips to his and this time there's no hesitation, no nothing, and if nothing else, this has made the entire goddamn trip worth it.
A/N I FEEL LIKE THIS TOTALLY JUST SNUCK UP ON ME. Like, I wasn't even expecting this chapter to be the last one - I mean, I knew it'd happen soon, but I didn't know exactly how soon, but then as I was writing this, it just - yeah. I just. What? THIS IS THE FIRST TIME EVER I'VE FINISHED A CHAPTERED FIC AND I HOPE IT WAS OKAY I TOTALLY DON'T KNOW HOW TO END THINGS.
Um, I don't know if it needs, like, an epilogue or - after I finished it I literally stalled putting it up forever because I don't even want this to be done because I love these guys and everything but things can't last forever right?
Also I just wanna thank you guys for your continued support and reviews and general amazingness because I definitely could not have done this without all your encouragement. So, um. Thank you all. A lot. Hugs for everyone. :*
Anyway I am totally going to be back with something or the other, I'm just not sure what yet, but I am not going to disappear. So, uh. Thank you again and good luck with everything that you guys are working on, etc, and? I love you?