Author Note


Barry held his breath, avoiding Mark's gaze. Sticking his neck out like this was terrifying, there was no reason for Mark to stick around. No reason to risk his dad threatening physical harm on the second man in his bed. They could resume when they returned home to their own apartment.

    It wasn't the first night they would have stayed in this bed together. In high school, he had offered for Mark to stay each night they had accidentally stayed up too late.  It had always come off casual enough. Might as well stay than walk home that late. But he had never slept well those nights. Laying rigid on the bed, facing the other way, doing nothing but thinking of the person on the other side. First just wishing he had the balls to make a move, then wishing he could somehow become Mark's type.

    This night though, it was different. Mark knew. And he wasn't sure if it would be the worst sleep he ever got or the best.

    Mark laughed lightly, catching Barry's attention.

    "Of course, just like the good ol days," he whispered and took a step closer, grabbing Barry's jean belt loop. He leaned in, barely giving Barry time to breath before giving him another frozen breath. The kiss was gentle and light across his cheek. Then he was turning back to the bed. Flopping down, with a casual arm around his neck he smiled back at Barry, who took one step to follow before raising a finger. With a quick point to the bathroom, he slipped away for a quick pee break.

    The light blinded him, filling the room with an obnoxious florescent white. Blinking, Barry's own reflection glanced back at him as he tried passing the mirror. His legs stopped moving as he registered what he was looking at. The black suit shifted into focus, just behind him on the hook. There was no need to turn around and look at it. The black suit was plain and appeared as somber as a suit possibly could. The suit had been purchased for his grandmother's funeral and only worn that once before. But it wasn't the suit that was bothering him. It was himself. Truth be told, he hasn't spoken to Nick since high school. Despite being teammates, it was ironically Mark who had kept up with him. He had cared about Nick enough to come home, but it was Mark that had really wanted to attend the service.

    Sophomore year of college he had received a surprising email from Nick. They had talked a little bit during practice, but never much. He was literally and metaphorically smaller than most of the team. The personality of the cocky farm boys drowned out the introverted skinny kicker. The email seemed to come out of nowhere but had taken Barry through a whirlwind of emotions. Nick had emailed Barry to thank him for showing him how a real man should act. While most of the team had treated Mark with disdain, Barry had the balls to stand out against the group and show Mark every bit of southern charm he would to anyone else. From day one, he hadn't given a shit what the team had said to him, Barry had held on to his morals and stood his ground.

    Now in a more liberal atmosphere and taking the time to deeply reflect, Nick had grown into a peer counselor at his new school and regretted his fear in high school. He was partly emailing to get the guilt off his chest, but also to give Barry the credit no one else ever would. Barry's shoulders dropped and he let his eyes wander over his face. It might have seemed brave to Nick, but Barry had known all along the team needed him and wouldn't completely ostracize him. Truth be told, he hadn't been risking shit. What would have been risky was if he had been honest about how close he was to Mark, let alone how he had felt about Mark. Keeping his teammates from hazing Mark was nothing, but showing true friendship was far from what he had done.

    At the time, he hadn't even had the nerve to reply to Nick. Mark had gotten a similar email, but his was an apology for not being a better person. And even then, Barry couldn't find the words to talk to Mark about anything. He brushed it all off while Mark formed a beautiful friendship with Nick. After they had received the news of Nick's death, Mark had explained how openly they had talked through college. Nick had wanted to understand how to better ask for someone else's point of view and how to better become a healer. All he wanted to do was help people.

    All Barry did was throw a ball and he was the one still alive.

    Finally remembering why he had even come in here, Barry quickly used the restroom and walked back into the room. Mark had removed his pants and left them on the floor so he could scoot under the sheets. Sitting up as Barry walked back into the room, his brows scrunched as his eyes followed him to the dresser. No doubt he had noticed the long bathroom break or dramatic shift in mood.

    The drawer slid out to till it reached its end with a thud. Nick had mentioned not wanting to live with regrets. Lifting the draw up slightly, Barry clicked out of the track and pulled the draw free, placing it on the top. Then reached back into the dresser's hole. He had silently agreed with Nick but hadn't really done anything about it.

    This past week it had been all he could think of. Each night Mark had come home from a date with Wren it had killed Barry.  Wren and Mark had talked for over an hour after one of the dates about textbooks. One particular book sitting on a bottom shelf had spurred one conversation after another, leaving Barry to wonder what he had ever had in common with Mark to talk about. Palming the small item, he sat on the bed, still wearing his jeans and remaining on top of the comforters.

    "About a week before prom I was out of town with the team," he started, glancing briefly at Mark as he leaned back on the pillows. Not fully laying down, but trying to at least appear relaxed. Mark's face had softened but he still wore a small crease in his brows.

    "My roommate wanted to sneak out and see a girl, so I offered to go with him and walked through town while he was busy. I um," his thumb bounced on the item. Leaning on the free arm's elbow, he faced Mark. His eyes had flicked down to Barry's hand but he had remained quiet. To mirror him, Mark laid on the opposite arm and leaned forward, closing the distance between them to only a few inches.

    "Heh," Barry laughed, "I hadn't even meant to keep this. Really I just didn't have a good time to throw it away. My dad was in the room when I packed for college and I was so nervous he would somehow see it. Now that I know better I could have just gotten something less conspicuous. But it seemed like what I needed." Flipping the bottle out of his hand, he passed it to Mark. The heat spread from his chest, flushing his face as Mark's eyes widened. Mark's smile cracked and he spun the bottle in his hands. The two men on the bottle now facing Barry.

    "Did you have this at prom?" Mark asked.

    "Yeah, it was in my truck. As was several blankets, pillows, and a bottle of chocolate syrup," Barry murmured, looking down.

    "Hah, chocolate syrup, really?" Mark asked, raising a brow.

    "I wasn't sure what you liked." Barry's heart continued to thud in chest. Mark was only a few inches away, holding a bottle of lube and smiling at him.

    "Aren't you just the gentleman?" Mark teased, his body leaning even further in. But Barry couldn't return the gesture.

    "A real gentleman wouldn't have pushed you away for several years." He took the bottle back, looking over the images again as he had so many times years ago.

    "Eh," the bed shifted as Mark slid his arm under the pillow, laying fully down. "I was super dramatic when I was younger. I would have made a horrible boyfriend." His smile was soft and brilliantly handsome. Pushing the nerves working on his gut, Barry leaned over. The word boyfriend had sent a thrill of pleasure and shock through him. This time, his gut clenched less than it had the first time. Just enough to give him a sense of deja vu. It was prom all over again. Mark had given him those same butterflies every time they had been within arms reach. It was supposed to have been the night he confessed everything.

    The kiss was intended to be simple and sweet. A hand tracing over his skin to hold onto the back of his head convinced him otherwise. Quickly his body began to follow suit, starting to roll towards Mark and trying to climb on top. Below him, Mark grunted in discomfort and the hand holding him down began pushing on his chest. Barry immediately tried to pull away, but a hand on his pants kept him from going too far.

    "Your jeans are a little uncomfortable," Mark teased, giving the belt loop a little tug. Lifting his head he nuzzled into Barry's neck, "You could take them off and climb under the covers." The heat that had been receding from Barry's body quickly sprang back. Mark's lips continued their kisses back up to his ear, giving it a light bite. A pit thudded in Barry's stomach. This was far from the rejection he had gotten before.

    "Yeah..." Barry drew the word out low and too high pitched to resemble anything sexy. He had found the lube between them and was picking it up when he noticed his hands were shaking. Squeezing the bottle within his hand he hoped to hide it. But the warm hand that quickly enveloped his must have felt it. Raising his gaze he saw Mark's eyes soften with a smile.

    "Or we can just talk, I think this stuff expires anyway." Mark grabbed for the bottle, taking away the lube and Barry's anxiety. Yet he still found himself countering him.

    "Does it really?"

    Mark raised a brow with a smirk. The state of the lube had nothing to do with why it had been tossed aside.

    "Oh, thank you," Barry replied. All he wanted was to lay there and talk to Mark, rehash out everything that had happened.

    "Besides you owe me a rejection," Mark poked at his stomach, causing him to reflexively pull back with a smile. "Though I won't wait five years to make another move, if that's alright with you"

    "Hah, fair enough. Sorry, it took me so long to work up the courage again."

    "Mm mm," Mark sounded, shaking his head as his eyes skimmed over Barry's body again, "Trust me, I'm the one that's sorry."  The look of desire in Mark's eyes, as he bit his lip, was flattering, but a little upsetting.

    "And I'm sorry for..." Barry tried to gesture between the two of them without directly pointing at his crotch. Whether it was the fact they had attended a funeral today, or being in his parent's house, his little soldier was absolutely not coming to life tonight.

    "I was torn anyway," Mark said, shifting lower in the bed, "I wanted you to know I wasn't going to say no, but also not push you too far."

    The brass honestly of the statement was well welcomed. They had been open about most things until this point. On their walks, they spoke about money, him usually taking advice from Mark on what to do with it. Or politics and religion, to which they luckily generally agreed. Though Barry secretly liked it when they didn't right off the bat. It usually led to them staying wherever they were longer and having serious but calm debates. Mark was the only one that would have those conversations with him.

    "Besides, I think part of me eagerly accepted your offer to scale your wall again just to relive that naive hope of something happening. Who knew I would be crossing off like half of my high school fantasies."

    "Oh really?" Barry propped himself up on his elbow, "do tell."

    Mark laughed as a deep base shook his room. The proper high society folks had left, now time for the real party.

    "They've clearly suffered from empty nest syndrome," Mark said, rolling his eyes with a smile. It had always seemed risky to ask Mark to slip into his room just because he had cooler games and stuff. But up here, his parents wouldn't ever go looking for him.  And with their riveting social life, they could easily party knowing the teen was safe inside.

    "Well," Mark started, scooting closer, "there was always this one I kept thinking of. We would be playing a game," He began setting up his scene, pointing to the couch. Barry eventually grew more relaxed as the stories went on, each person explaining parts of school or the past few months that had probably come off differently to the other person. Like the freshly painted extra room in Barry's apartment that had been 'redone due to water damage' was actually just Barry wanting the best for Mark. Or Mark admitting he had started to take cooking lessons in a style of food he generally wouldn't even eat.

    It was well suited to finally tell Mark everything in the room where they had been so trapped before. Barry kissed the back of the head in front of him before wrapping his arms around Mark. In turn, Mark's arm reached back and caressed Barry's leg with the tips of his fingers.

    Almost giggling, Barry pulled back from the tickle and moaned, "Mark." Before pushing himself back closer, body fully pressed into his friend's.

    "Heh heh," Mark chuckled, "it really does sound better when you say my name."