IRONIC DIATRIBE: TIRED

by Sol Crafter

He had never really thought about it before, but his love for Brian was always just kind of there. Some might have confused it for hero worship, but as the years passed, it didn't fade away into plain friendship, but grew into something more, an inexplicable driving need to be as close to Brian as possible.

They had been friends since they were babies, and it was pretty much assumed that they would stay friends forever. They'd promised and they'd even made themselves blood brothers that one time. But Eddie wasn't a hundred percent sure that their friendship would last if he told Brian what he really felt for him.

The realization of what he felt about Brian had started off innocuously enough with a conversation between him and Brian's girlfriend, Haley.

"You know, he always talks about you," she said.

"Oh yeah?" He took a big bite out of his sandwich, not even bothering to look up from his comic book. He'd been brown bagging it for most of the month, ever since he got a look at the scheduled school lunch list. It had turned his stomach and made his allergies flare in psychosomatic readiness.

"Whenever we're together, it's always 'Eddie said this,' or 'Eddie said that.' It's kind of annoying." Haley was stabbing at her school lunch so hard her plastic fork was bending nearly in half. Her brown bangs were swept to one side while the rest of her long hair was caught up in a high ponytail, the large red poof jiggling every time she moved her head. She was really very pretty with big blue eyes and clear skin he couldn't help envying from behind his freckly mess.

You're kind of annoying, he thought, though he managed not to say it, barely. "Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. I think you guys shouldn't hang out so much together for a while," she said. "People are starting to talk."

He glanced up at her through the lenses of his glasses and the fringe of hair that fell across his forehead. "About what?"

"About how you're really his boyfriend." She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped backward a little in her chair. "I know he loves me, but still... there's a lot of rumors, you know? It kind of makes me have to wonder."

Eddie felt his heart begin to pound. No way, no f'ing way. "You're lying," he said.

"Nuh uh," Haley said. "Do you think I like it that everyone thinks I broke up the 'Wonder Duo?' You guys were like the idols of all the gay kids in the school, being so open with your relationship and everything, or at least, that's what everyone thinks. Now I'm the bitch that broke you guys up, and everyone hates me. It sucks mass ass."

"How can we be a gay couple when we're not even gay?" Eddie asked, forcing his eyes back down on his comic book. He didn't want to look at her with her perfect prettiness. She was just the kind of girl that he had always thought Brian would have—should have. It always hurt to look straight at her, and he didn't know why.

"I have no idea, but I'm tired of being the bad guy," she said. "Me and Brian are happy. We want to stay happy. So why don't you just back off for a while, huh? Just let things cool off and people will get over the whole thinking you guys are gay thing and realize that you've always just been friends. Back off a little. It's the best thing you can do for Brian."

Feeling it mush between his fingers, Eddie saw that he had crushed his sandwich in his hands. "I don't want to talk to you anymore," he said, standing up. He tossed his ruined sandwich into the paper bag, grabbed his comic book, and walked away.

He really didn't like Haley, especially when what she had said made sense.

.

Lying in his bed that night, Eddie couldn't force himself to sleep. He just felt like he'd been slugged hard in the stomach. It was hard even to breathe.

The realization that he was in love with his best friend was slamming its way into his brain, and he didn't like it.

For as long as he could remember, he had always believed that Brian was the best person in his life. Brian was just so strong and brave and smart and clever and...

"Oh God," he whispered, "I am so gay."

The realization didn't feel as much of a shock as he thought it should be. Instead, if felt more like an emotional "Oh duh."

On some level he had always kind of known that he was different from everyone else, so being gay was just a part of who he was and he could accept that. What he couldn't accept was that his weirdness might cause trouble for Brian, shining, wonderful Brian.

I won't say a word to him, he thought. I'll pretend everything is the same as always and he'll never have to know.

Filled with a new resolution, he decided that he was going to distance himself a little from Brian.

Haley was a bitch, but she had been right. If there were rumors about him and Brian, then something had to be done because Brian didn't need that kind of trouble in his life. He deserved better.

.

The next week, sitting with Drew and Nancy at their usual table, Eddie resolutely kept his eyes from crossing the crowded room to focus on Brian like they wanted to. He was playing it cool, letting their friendship fade a little to a more normal standard. It was for Brian's own good.

Besides, it hadn't been his idea that Brian not sit with them at lunch anymore. Haley had been the one to drag Brian off to her table and her friends, and Brian hadn't put up any kind of fight, though the look he'd given Eddie as he was led away had almost... but no. Brian was happy now, with Haley and her clique, and Eddie wasn't going to do anything to ruin it for him.

The feelings he had for Brian didn't mean anything and he couldn't let them be the center of his whole world. Brian was his best friend, and he was straight, which meant that if he said anything, it would just screw up everything, and he wasn't going to do that.

Sighing heavily, Eddie turned back to Drew and Nancy and their roundabout conversation that was spoken in what he liked to term "Twinspeak," which basically meant that they were the only ones that could understand their babble. Usually when they fell into Twinspeak, he and Brian would joke and have their own stuff to talk about, but he was alone now.

He picked at his sandwich with his fingers, leaving crumbs and bits of meat and cheese all over his part of the table. He just felt so tired all of a sudden. Tired and lonely without his best friend.

Across the cafeteria, Brian watched Eddie and wondered why Eddie didn't want to be his friend anymore. It hurt so bad not to have Eddie to talk to whenever he wanted, and, well, Haley was nice and everything, but she was just his girlfriend, she wasn't his best friend, not like Eddie had always been.

He just couldn't understand what was happening. For some reason Eddie didn't want to talk to him anymore or hang out. And whenever he tried to talk to him, Eddie got this distant look in his eye and would eventually just turn away. He just couldn't understand it.

Sighing heavily, Brian turned back to Chris and Tina, Haley's friends, and tried to ignore the weight of his girlfriend leaning on his arm, cuddling against him. He just felt so tired all of a sudden.

.

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