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I don't 'get' love.

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Ethan comes out to Green first.

It's strange, because he's so close with Lyra. She's been his best friend since they were born, and knows everything about him. But that's part of why she's not the first. On some level, he's fairly certain she already knows. Besides, he already knows it won't change anything. Lyra is Lyra and Ethan is Ethan. She loves him, and if she hasn't already figured it out, it has to be because she just plain doesn't care. He trusts her not to care.

It's strange, because he also has Silver.

Silver is his rival first and second-best-friend second. (Silver hates when he says that, and Ethan will tease him, "Don't like being my second-best friend? Or don't like being a best friend second?") Silver is kind of a dick, but Ethan likes him anyway, and even though they got off to a rough start as kids, they've grown closer.

But he comes out to Green instead.

They have a casual rematch because Ethan is bored on a Sunday and no one but Green picks up their pokegear. Green has time for the match, but then tells Ethan, looking exhausted and bored out of his mind, "Aaand back to paperwork."

"Even on a sunday?" Ethan asks. "But - then what?"

Green looks just a bit brighter, straightening, "Then my weekend."

Ethan keeps Green company while he does his paperwork. Green sits at his desk and doesn't even pretend to listen to Ethan's rambling, only ever looking up to huff when Ethan is being too obnoxious. Over the hours, Ethan sits on the desk, kicking his heels, telling Green about his latest stupid fight with Silver and the way the other boy always blurts out such silly things when he's flustered. He paces the room, telling Green about Silver's latest pokemon catch and how he fared the last time they battled. He rummages through Green's things, telling him about anything just to keep from killing himself. How does Green manage this? No wonder he looks so tired.

Then Ethan finds the alcohol. There's a small kitchen area between office and gym, and two six-packs of beer in the fridge. There are some sandwich makings and other small snack foods, and at least fifteen different brands of coffee, only one of which has ever been opened in apparently four years.

"Can I steal from your fridge?" Ethan calls to the doorway.

"Sure, take whatever," Green shouts back.

Ethan takes a beer out, then considers this. He is seventeen now, which is very nearly legal drinking age in Kanto. Close enough, in his book, and he's drank before - once, with Silver and Lyra and, oddly enough, her grandparents. Still, it's technically illegal, and he supposes Green is in too good a place to get in trouble. Somehow. He can't imagine this going so wrong, but still, just to check he asks, "Can I have a beer?"

Green calls back, "Sure, whatever," sounding so distracted that Ethan really doubts he even heard the question.

But a yes is a yes, so he drinks.

It should be noted, however, that Ethan hardly remembers his first time getting drunk. And he only had two beers that night.

He returns to Green's office and flops down the couch.

"You can leave if you want," Green tells him, not looking up from whatever he's scribbling away at. He pauses, eyes now running across the the forms, but Ethan doubts actually reading the words. "This can't be fun for you."

Ethan shrugs and takes a sip. Beer tastes gross, but it's still nice, for some reason. He likes the pleasant buzz in his head, and waves a dismissive hand in Green's direction. "Nah, I wasn't gonna be doing anything anyway. I can head out if you want or something, but I like hangin' out. Even if you're busy."

"Not much longer," Green tells him, and sure enough, it only feels like five minutes later that the brunet stands up and wanders out of the room. It's actually been thirty minutes, but Ethan is pleasantly dazed by now. Green returns with a beer of his own, and Ethan holds his own up to clink together in celebration of Green's freedom.

They only expect it to be one beer each - just a drink to relax at the end of the day.

That's not what happens. Instead they keep drinking, sitting on the couch together. Or in Green's case, lying down, legs sprawled across Ethan's lap. After doubling over with laughter at nothing in particular for hours, they order Chinese food, and settle back down on the couch with yet another beer each. They spill food everywhere, trying to steal from each other's plates with shaky-grips on their chopsticks. Ethan texts almost every person in his pokegear.

And then they just sit together, drinking and talking. Ethan rubs Green's legs through his pants while the older boy rambles about a cute trainer he's infatuated with. It takes Ethan a while to notice his own actions, and longer still to realize that it's inappropriate. But Green keeps talking like he hasn't noticed.

"Is this bad?" Ethan asks eventually, during a lull in Green's rambling about how this trainer is just obscenely strong. His voice slurs, and he frowns at it.

"No, 's nice," Green tells him, and as if to assure him, shifts in his seat, settling in further.

Then he's back to chattering away about some girl.

"I'm gay," Ethan blurts out, suddenly. He's not sure if he's telling Green because of what Green is saying or if he's telling Green because of the way Green's face has flushed deeper since Ethan began the leg massaging. He's also fairly sure Green is arching into the touch, squirming in his seat just slightly, but that could be his imagination.

Call it wishful thinking.

He's pleased, and also unsurprised when Green puts a hand up to shush him and says, "I'm bi, so we are like. Half bros."

"You are entirely drunk," Ethan tells him, but he's comforted. Because Green has always been someone Ethan looks up to. And Green - Green accepts him. Green has said that they are half bros, and that's almost as good as Lyra telling him they are "besties." Or when Silver calls him - well, Silver only ever calls him an idiot. So maybe just when Silver talks to him.

"Mm," Green agrees, and wriggles into his seat again. He sinks lower, his legs shifting farther down Ethan's lap.

This has three effects. The first: Green's shirt catches on the cushions beneath him and rides up. Second: Ethan's hand is suddenly much closer to rubbing Green's thighs than his calves and knees. And the third: Green's leg drags over an erection that Ethan didn't know he had until he felt a drag across it, then a pleasant pressure.

Ethan keeps rubbing small circles with his thumbs, feeling the contour of Green's thighs. It would never occur to him to keep going, sober. It doesn't occur to him to stop, drunk.

Green's face is a deeper red, and Ethan thinks the best word for what Green is doing into his touch is writhing. Reciprocating. He shifts in his seat, subconsciously trying to get more friction against Ethan's hand, trying to get Ethan's hand closer. When Ethan meets his eyes shyly, Green just grins at him. Casual as ever, because he hardly notices his own actions, his own reactions.

He is more interested in his own voice, and so like it's nothing, Green just keeps talking. And now, with a whole new floodgate opened by the 'coming out,' thing, he tells Ethan about the guy he finds attractive. Ethan slowly realizes that he's been talking about a guy this whole time. That all the time Ethan has been spacing out, thinking he was talking about this girl and that girl, he was talking about a guy. One guy.

Red.

Green is halfway through describing the particular way his eyes narrow when he's unsure of something when Ethan catches on to that. Maybe that's why Green doesn't mind this highly inappropriate thigh-massage. Green doesn't see him in that light. Ethan is not on Green's one-man list of attractive guys - and is in fact, so far from it, that he can come out as gay and start feeling the guy up drunk without raising any flags.

Not that he's been intending to feel Green up. Ethan is used to petting pokemon, used to giving Lyra backrubs, used to touching people. A leg massage isn't the most casual of things, but Green doesn't mind, so Ethan likes it.

Green doesn't mind, because Green doesn't see Ethan as anything but his half-bro. His friend.

Ethan moves his hand further. He's not sure why he wants to fix that. It's not as though he's in love with Green, but he supposes on some level it's just frustrating not to be thought of as - as something. Green usually acknowledges him, acknowledges his strength. He needs... Validation, and he doesn't know why. He feels the same flicker as competition in his heart and he knows this is entirely the wrong time.

He snakes his hand closer to Green's crotch, a slow and careful movement, still rubbing the whole time. He keeps his eyes forward, not avoiding Green's gaze but not seeking it out, as if remaining neutral on his own movements.

He feels Green's shiver; feels the other boy's breathing begin to grow heavy. Green presses into the touch harder, and slides an inch further to get more of Ethan's hand. His movements are small and unconscious, but his hips lift off of the couch with a subtle desperation. There's a strain in his pants; Ethan runs his hands up and down the boy's legs, following the folds and lines of the material.

Ethan's palm reaches the bulge in Green's pants, and the older boy lets out a low hiss at the touch. Ethan sneaks a glance to his face. His cheeks are crimson, eyes far away and half-lidded.

Ethan feels his own face heating up from more than the alcohol.

He has never thought this before, but Green is fucking beautiful. His hair is messy, and Ethan's brain says his blush looks silly but his dick says it looks hot. He's always thought of Green as a very in-control person, and now the older boy is very nearly whimpering in his hands. He likes that - something about the loss of power, about giving in to him.

He can feel the outline of Green's cock through his pants, and his fingertips brush over it, tessting. Green doesn't avoid. Doesn't push him away. Green bites his lip and presses into the touch. It's only the brief silence that makes Ethan realize Green had still been talking this whole time.

"He's, ah," Green begins again, as Ethan's hand strokes his cock through his pants, more firmly now. The brunet pauses for a moment, arching against Ethan's palm. His breathing is heavy, interrupting his speaking. "Perfect. Basically."

Green still hasn't named Red, and Ethan wonders if he thinks it's a secret. Ethan hums in response to show he's listening this time, though it's only half-true. He likes how slowly Green has to talk, how distracted he sounds. He likes that Green is trying not to be reduced to nothing in his hands, and likes that it isn't working. "Perfect," Ethan repeats, and trails his hand up higher. He unbuttons Green's pants.

"Always thought so." Green says, and when Ethan looks at him, averts his eyes and lets out a long, shaky breath. Like he's more embarrassed by his words than the situation. He seems focused on that thought, and Ethan vaguely remembers that Green and Red were childhood friends, childhood rivals. He thinks of Lyra and how long they have known each other. He cannot imagine being in love so long. He cannot imagine being in love. All he knows is that - Green is attractive with fighting eyes that give in to his touch, and his body is hard and strong. Green's hips rise, trying to push back into Ethan's hand as the younger boy works on his zipper.

Ethan doesn't bother trying to get Green's pants off, just making sure he can do what he wants to do, and that's to touch Green. He's never... Actually touched another guy before. It's less awkward than he expected, though that might be thanks to the alcohol.

Green is trying to say something when Ethan first wraps his hand around his cock, but immediately trails off and doesn't try again. His mouth opens in a silent gasp, gaping until he covers it with his own hand, his eyes clenched shut as he thrusts weakly into Ethan's grip.

Stroking Green off is the same as doing it to himself, for the most part. Green is hard and hot in his hand, precum leaking down his length. Ethan shifts slightly in his seat to get a better grip, his hand sliding up and down the older boy's shaft all the while. Ethan moves until he's leaning up behind Green, wrapping an arm around him to jerk him off from behind. Green is pushed to the edge of the couch, as well as up against Ethan to keep from falling off, and his heavy breaths are muffled by a cushion.

Ethan feels his own erection pressing against Green's ass through their pants, and has to put effort into notgrinding into him. It doesn't matter though, because each time Green pushes into Ethan's grip, he follows up, pushing his ass back into Ethan, twisting his hips against him.

Ethan thinks of Green and of Red and of the color red in front of his eyes and his pace quickens until the older boy comes, squirming against him.

With his own bulge still nudging Green's ass and the older boy's come sticky on his fingers, Ethan suddenly feels very, very awkward.

And judging from the way Green tenses, so does he.

The last thing he remembers is pressing his lips to the back of Green's neck and enjoying the tickle of his messy hair, but to be honest, he hardly remembers that. He hardly remembers any of the night at all. Even that memory fades away sometime before he wakes.

Ethan comes to on the couch with a blanket over him and a headache pounding in his head like a drum. A drum circle. Seven thousand drum circles, which he imagines for a moment, laughs to himself, and immediately winces.

He rubs at his eyes, and struggles for what feels like an hour to sit up. The light coming through the window is too harsh and he has to keep his eyes squinting. He takes a moment to survey his surroundings, hardly taking them in as his mind reels to remember the previous night through his pounding skull.

Couch. Office. Take-out boxes.

Blanket. Alone.

He gets up slowly, his back popping in three places. He wonders why he can camp out on the road just fine, but one night on a couch destroys him. He wanders about the room, and his own feet feel foreign. He stumbles into the corner of the desk, and falls to the side.

Green is there to catch him with a quiet "Oops." Green's hands steady him, touching his shoulders firmly until Ethan is stable on his own feet.

"Morning," Ethan says, but winces at the scratchy sound of his own voice.

"Hung over?" Green asks, and nudges him back in the direction of the couch.

Ethan nods, and obediently returns to it. He flops back down and curls up under the blankets. "Aren't you?"

Green takes a while to respond; first he leaves the room to get the younger boy a glass of water. He returns and sets it down on the coffee table in front of him. Ethan gives him a grateful look and chugs it.

Watching him, amused, Green tells him, "Nope. I don't get hangovers."

"Lucky."

"Mm."

Ethan continues sulking on the couch, nursing his headache, while Green tidies up their mess. He's quiet, tip-toeing around, making the most sound when he hands Ethan his pokegear back.

"Oh," Ethan says, taking it. "I sent some texts last night, didn't I?"

It's a rhetorical question, but Green makes an affirmative noise anyway. Ethan scrolls through his 'gear to look at them all. Seventeen are to Lyra, telling her they are BESTIES, and how much he misses her. Her responses are variations of LMAO to each one. Eighteen to Silver, telling him he loves him. No response. Ethan stares at them for so long, he doesn't notice Green sneaking up behind him.

"He the one, then?" Green asks curiously, sipping at a cup of coffee and apparently finished tidying up.

It takes Ethan a moment to remember, but he eventually recalls coming out to Green. Barely recalls the circumstances, though. On the couch, right? And Green had told him they were half-bros, because he was bi, and that was a nice feeling. And then... Something.

"No," Ethan says, still staring at the screen of his pokegear. His head hurts too much to think within it, so he says the truth as it comes to mind. "I don't know who - I mean, no one in particular. I think. How do you tell?"

Green blinks. "Uh. Are you asking me how to know you're in love with someone?"

The rest of the texts are mindless texts to his other friends - telling them hello and how are they, full of typos. He thinks of how many times he told Lyra and Silver he loves them. He shrugs. "Not really, but I don't know."

Green takes a long moment to speak again, but eventually just shrugs. "I can't really summarize it."

"What about uh..." Ethan doesn't remember. Did Green ever give a name? And what had he even said? Ethan desperately pulls at his mind for anything Green had said the night before. Green had rambled on for fucking ever, and Ethan doesn't remember a word of it.

Green sips at his coffee and his expression doesn't change as he eyes Ethan, waiting for him to finish.

"Red!" Ethan suddenly remembers, and says far too loudly for his own headache. He clenches his eyes shut with the sudden pound of his headache, but he's lucky enough to still catch Green's expression.

Green's eyes go comically wide, and he looks somewhere between baffled and horrified, sputtering into his cup.

"How--"

"You may have mentioned it last night," Ethan tells him, as gently as he can. "For an hour or two."

He remembers, and it's somehow not very surprising. He's seen them together, seen the way they contrast and bicker and agree all at once. They are the definition of hot and cold, and Ethan can never tell who is which. He wonders why he didn't guess it before with how unsurprising the revelation is.

But it doesn't matter, because now he knows. Green had waxed poetic about Red's tight jeans and burning eyes and stupid hair, and something about that is cute to Ethan. Ethan likes people in love, he decides. He likes the honesty behind everything Green had said, and likes how natural it had been to the boy. Red is perfect and stupid all at once. He is a bundle of flaws Green hates to deal with, but will, because he is Red.

Green had spoken so sincerely, his voice breathy and his cheeks flushed, and it was beautiful how in love he had been, and he was beautiful, flush against Ethan with his body trembl--oh.

Oh.

Ethan drops his pokegear and it clatters loudly off the edge of the table and on to the floor.

Green looks at him with a quirked eyebrow.

"Oops," Ethan manages, voice cracking, and fumbles to gather his gear back up.

He wonders how much Green remembers. Because Ethan still doesn't remember it very clearly. It's just that what he does remember is suddenly so vivid - Green's length in his hand, warm and throbbing. Pressing his lips on the back of Green's neck and feeling the peach fuzz hairs against his cheek. It reminded him of Silver's hair - the way it was managable most everywhere, but in the back and somewhere around the top, stuck out every which way.

He doesn't know what to do now. Doesn't know how to meet Green's eyes anymore.

"I should uh. I should go." Ethan says, unsure.

Green nods, and that's how Ethan figures out he remembers. It's an indifferent reaction, an awkward one for them. There is no argument or suggestion to stay - no asking when he'll be back or where he's going.

Ethan gathers his things in a hurry that spills out even when he tries to contain it. He doesn't want to look like he's in a rush, but he is.

He needs to clear his mind of that night and cool off, because his own face is all sorts of heated at the memories that are surfacing.

They hardly say goodbye.

***

He meets Lyra and Silver for lunch a few days later, at a quiet fast food place. Silver is opposed to the location, but seems to enjoy the food. That, or he's using it as an excuse to only listen to their conversation instead of participate. It's hard to tell, but Ethan watches him munching on french fries carefully and thinks he seems pleased.

"So how was drinking with Green?" Lyra asks, sounding delighted. She has her pokegear in one hand, as if preparing to bombard him with evidence. "You texted me a thousand times."

"Sorry," Ethan says, embarrassed, and watches Silver for a reaction. Silver stares down at his fries and doesn't say a word, like he isn't listening. But Ethan knows Silver well enough - knows he is always watching. "But - it was fun. Just um. I'll tell you later."

He needs to tell her. He needs to tell someone about what happened. Sort out his feelings. He's thought of nothing but Green for days, and of telling Lyra, and of how much he wants to tell Silver, how he might react, but...

It's scary.

He trusts Silver not to care about sexuality, but it's just... Scary. And he feels like coming out will be twenty times worse when it's got "Also I gave Green a drunken handjob possibly against his will while he fantasized about Red. Still friends?" tagged on.

Silver perks up a bit, at the secrecy, and Lyra gives Ethan one of their silent communication looks. She'll listen to him later.

"Must be scandelous," she murmurs to Silver, who gives her a scowl in response.

"It is," Ethan assures her. "I've got all sorts of dirt on Green for you." Lyra cheers quietly, then louder when he adds, "Aaand on myself. Probably nothing you don't already know."

"Probably not," Lyra agrees, nodding to herself.

Silver is looking between them with obvious frustration, but still remains silent.

It's hours later when they finally clean up their table after themselves. They linger outside the restaurant, finishing off trails off the conversation, before Ethan says, "Come to the hotel with me, 'kay Lyra?"

She bobs her head agreeably, and Ethan can't help but notice the way Silver's face contorts. The redhead opens his mouth once, twice, but says nothing. Just glares at the two of them like he's not sure who he's mad at or for what. He's hardly said a word the whole time.

They part ways after that, and Ethan doesn't even wind up taking Lyra to the hotel room he has booked in this city. He starts to lead her towards it, but instead they keep walking, because by then he's already started talking, and privacy makes him feel awkward, when it's for a purpose. The roads aren't empty, but no one is listening.

"So I'm..." Ethan begins, awkwardly. He doesn't know how to lead into this. Before he just sort of blurted it out. Spur of the moment. He's been planning how to come out to Lyra for a long time, and in his mind it's always been an oddly romantic candle-lit dinner, then a lot of hand-holding and whispering about how she always knew, maybe a cute story about their childhood. Like in movies.

The sky is clear, the sun bright, and they've just stuffed themselves with greasy cheap food. They do hold hands though, and Lyra swings their arms back and forth in wide arcs. She usually waits for him to finish when he trails off, but this time he doesn't speak up for so long that she finally asks, innocently, "You're what?"

"Gay." Ethan tells her.

"Oh!" Lyra says, and nearly stops mid-step. She looks genuinely surprised. Ethan's eyes widen almost as much as hers; he had expected her to know already, but she looks so startled, and she stutters out, "I... Oh! Good! That's - that's excellent!"

"Is it?" Ethan asks dryly.

"Well it's certainly not bad!" Lyra says quickly. She doesn't know how to react, but he appreciates that her grip on his hand hasn't loosened or tightened in the slightest. "Is it - is it Silver?"

Ethan sputters and chokes on the air he'd been breathing. "What? No! Why does everyone think that?"

Lyra looks baffled all over again, and a little bit of something else. She looks downcast, frowning, and says, "Oh, I see..."

Ethan tries to meet her gaze through her long lashes. "Sorry," he says, not quite sure what for.

"Don't be!" Lyra snaps immediately, horrified. "Don't be sorry! Nothing to be sorry for! Ethan, you are perfect."

"And you are ridiculous."

Lyra sighs. "And what about Green? What was the news about him?"

That's more private, Ethan thinks. That's more... Illicit. It's lucky they're approaching a small alleyway between two convenience stores, for the sake of escaping the crowd. Ethan turns and tugs her after him. She lets out a squeek of surprise, but follows him easily without asking questions.

When they're far enough from the light, Ethan leans against a wall awkwardly. He shoves his hands in his pockets, and tries to think of a way to avoid outing Green while still telling Lyra what happened. He can't come up with one, so while he knows it's terrible, he decides he trusts Lyra enough for it to be fine.

"So, I got drunk with Green."

"Yeah you did," Lyra remarks with a smile, but it's softer than her teasing had been earlier. "And?"

"We, uh... I... Initiated things." His whole face flushes, and he's aware of how stupid that sounds - how stupid he must seem. Not just how it sounds but, to have done that, to have tried that on Green!

Cool, confident, twenty years old and life all settled Green. Getting hit on by not-quite-legal Ethan, who still wanders aimlessly without a real purpose, avoiding his old home and avoiding making a new one.

It's ridiculous, and Ethan feels ridiculous.

"Things." Lyra repeats. "Like... Kissing?"

"We didn't kiss," Ethan answers her, quick and defensive. He realizes belatedly how much worse that makes it. "We just, uh, touched." A beat. "I touched."

Lyra raises an eyebrow at him.

"You know," Ethan says, though he knows she doesn't with how vague he is being. His cheeks are burning up and he can't imagine saying it outright. "I touched... Him."

Lyra stares at him for a few moments longer before her face very suddenly goes completely red. "Oh! Oh! I see! Yes, okay! Why?"

That's a silly question, Ethan thinks, but still struggles to answer. "Because... I don't know. I was drunk and he was drunk and it felt... Nice." He sighs and adjusts his hat. He can't meet her eyes.

She stays quiet for so long that he has to. She has a complicated expression, one he can't read. Her eyebrows are furrowed and her lips pursed like she is displeased with something, but she sounds gentle and concerned when she asks, "Then are you going out now? Or just messing around?"

"Neither," Ethan says. He shoves his hands further into his pockets, stretching out his hoodie. "Neither."

"Just a drunk fling?" Lyra asks. It's a strange thing to sound so hopeful for.

Ethan has to think of how to word what he wants to tell her. He finally settles on, "Green didn't - I don't think he would have let me, sober."

An expression of worry settles on Lyra's face. She doesn't ask for clarification. Instead she asks, "Would you have done it sober? Would you do it again?"

Ethan nods before he thinks about it.

"I think I want Green," he tells her.

"You think," Lyra repeats. He doesn't miss how disappointed she looks, but he knows it can't be for herself. She wasn't disappointed that he plays for a different team, so it has to be the person. But what's wrong with Green?

***

"Nope," Green tells him couple of days later, when Ethan suggests they make out. He's always figured it's better not to beat around the bush, and they've already gotten past making out. His strategy had been to kick in Green's door and tell him You're hot, I'm kinda hot, let's fool around some more only this time sober maybe.

But Green looks at him with this contorted face - like he can't tell if Ethan is hilarious or stupid, and like he can't tell if he believes the boy is serious or not.

"Look, I--" Green begins, but runs a hand through his hair and trails off very suddenly. "It's not like you can just forget about... You know. But it's not really something you should remember."

"Not something that should have happened," Ethan rephrases.

Green frowns, eyebrows furrowed but not at Ethan, and hesitates for a long moment.

Ethan starts talking before Green can. "It would be cool if it was just fooling around," Ethan says, and he feels confident and his cheeks are cool. He's impressed by how calm he's remaining, but he wants to be honest. "Like, I'm fine with that, since I know you like Red and it's not like I'm--"

Belatedly, Green slaps his hands over Ethan's mouth, so hard he pushes the boy out of the doorway. Green quickly steps outside with him, and with impressive footwork, shuts his front door behind them. Ethan blinks. He isn't sure why Green wants this discussion to be more public.

"Um," Ethan says into Green's hand, and the older boy hisses at him.

"Shh!" Green says, but pulls his hands away. "Idiot."

"Does your house not know you're bi yet?" Ethan asks, unsure. "Did you tell your gym first? That's harsh."

Green rolls his eyes. "My house," he says, and glances over his shoulder, "knows that I am bi. It knows fucking everything about me. Except anything to do with its stupid-ass self."

Ethan considers this for a long moment. It takes him a while to comprehend, but then he does, very suddenly, and leans to the side to look past Green. As if trying to look through Green's front door and catch a glimpse of his company. But it's closed, and Green looks down at him, amused.

"That's impressive," Ethan says, but thinks of Lyra and coming out, and how genuinely surprised she had been. People have laser guided cluelessness, and it's not hard to imagine Green's house being so socially unaware.

"So does he - uh, it - know about what I did?" Ethan asks. He doesn't want to say we. Doesn't want to speak to Green as if it was mutual - that seems... Disrespectful. The more he thinks about it the more uncomfortable he gets with himself.

"Yeah," Green says. "Or else I would have pushed you outside sooner."

"And?"

Green shrugs. "Thinks its hilarious that I'm a whore when I'm drunk."

"That wasn't really," Ethan starts to protest, but Green grins at him to show he's joking. It doesn't help, and Ethan's hands clench inside his pocket, clammy. He almost feels nauseous, and he frowns now, suddenly interested in his shoes.

"Hey," Green says to get his attention. When he looks up, the brunet is rubbing at the back of his neck and looking to the side. Green shifts his weight awkwardly. "It's really alright, you know? I mean. With me. We're fine."

"I feel guilty," Ethan tells him, honestly. "But I also liked... Er..." He trails off, unsure.

Green's lips are pursed, tight and uncertain. "I don't want to say that this sort of thing is alright in any other situations," Green says eventually, voice slow like he is picking his words carefully. "But for you and me and just this one time, don't worry about it. We were both drunk and apparently we're both whores."

"Now we know," Ethan says.

"Now we know," Green repeats, and holds his fist out as a sort of 'we're alright' half-bros bump.

Ethan knocks their fists together, and grins. Then asks, "So we can't make out?"

"No."

Ethan shrugs. "Alright, then I've gotta report back to Lyra." Green makes a face, like he isn't particularly pleased to be that girl's gossip factory, but nods anyway without protesting. "You," Ethan tells him, and makes no effort to lower or raise his voice, "Should probably try my approach on Red."

Green asks, dryly but quietly, "The sexy massages or the suave pick up lines?"

Ethan shrugs. "Both."

Green laughs him off.

***

"You don't seem terribly distraught by rejection," She observes.

"I'm not," Ethan says. "I like Green, but I think I just uh. Physically like him. You know?"

She nods slowly. "I can get that. I like a lot of people - just physically." She hums and licks her lips, and Ethan takes a moment to calm himself; he isn't used to Lyra being anything but innocent. Then again, until very recently she probably thought the same of him. It's nice to change, and to have it be accepted immediately.

Ethan is suddenly overcome with appreciation for her, and blurts out, "You are my bestie."

Her chest puffs up with pride. "Yeah, I know," She says haughtily. Then she asks, curious, "What was it about Green? I mean I get he's attractive, but... I don't know, you seemed super into him all of a sudden and now you're not even really upset."

"Probably something to with it being my first, um," Ethan begins, but stumbles when he tries to express that it was his first sexual experience. Instead of saying it he just trails off for a long moment, then picks up on the next sentence. "But aside from that he's just... Energetic? Maybe?"

"You can't handle people who aren't energetic," Lyra tells him. "That's everyone you know."

Ethan leans back in his seat, trying to think about it so he can give her a sincere answer. He isn't sure what drew him to Green. The older boy is energetic and has fight to him, and Ethan likes to see that - not disappear, but bend to him willingly. He liked the way Green had bit his knuckle and lost his words, liked how flustered he had gotten. He liked his messy hair and flushed face and liked the silent squirming into him.

He feels his cheeks heating up and decides it's probably better not to think about this here. "I'm not really sure what it's like to be in love, you know? I know that I like guys, but I don't know what it's like when you like a guy. I like a lot of things about Green, but I'm definitely not uh. In love with him or anything. I just like his fight, and I like his trying to be in control, and I like when it failed. I like when he gets flustered even when he's angry for no reason, or when he's being all dumb and yelling at everyone but it's obvious it's 'cause he cares about them."

"You... Have a power complex or something." Lyra tells him, sounding jokingly unsure. Then tells him, "Also I'm pretty sure you just described Silver, not Green."

Ethan frowns. "Seriously, why does everyone keep suggesting that?"

"Silver is the embodiment of trying to be in control and getting mad and flustered when it fails." Lyra tells him, and shrugs. "Just saying."

Ethan has to consider this. His mind helpfully throws Silver into Green's position in his memories, throws red hair against his face and a smaller body, more similar to his own size, against him. And he can imagine all the little differences instantly. Vividly.

He shivers involuntarily, hands twitching at his side.

Green had laughed and talked through the touches at first, and Ethan cannot imagine Silver doing that for a second. Instead he can imagine Silver would be more like what Green had been later, at the better parts. Biting his knuckle and looking away, enjoying the touch but too embarrassed to do anything more than writhe into it, too proud to beg but too desperate to stop pushing for more.

Ethan's whole face flushes. "Uh, but Silver's no good for me."

Lyra perks up, looking interested.

"Aside from the obvious sexuality factor," Ethan says and laughs, intending it as a joke, intending to trail off. Lyra looks so blankly intent that after a pause, he keeps going. "Silver's got - he's always mad. And usually it's not at anyone but himself, he just takes it out on other people. And he's super strong but doesn't realize it and refuses to acknowledge it, but at the same time gets super judgmental of other people as if they're weaker than him. He's just so... Insecure. So he's always getting all angry and huffy about nothing, but then when he's happy he goes all quiet and peaceful like a cat or something. And when you try to have conversations with him he just stares at you sometimes like you're an idiot, which makes him look like an idiot. But then he's always some super genius all of a sudden and he'll school you on any subject you bring up ever, and even though he's always shouting and misinterpreting things he's suddenly a huge master of debate, ready to make you feel like a total moron."

Lyra just stares at him, and Ethan realizes he's venting, but he's already started now, so he just keeps going. "I love Silver, you know? He's my second best friend and my rival, so naturally I want to push him to being better and better as a trainer and as a person, but he's hard to get to. I know we've gotten a lot closer since we were kids but I still feel like there's this huge distance between us, and it's sucky, I feel like it's poisoning every time I hang around him because it's all I can think about. Even if we're sitting around together being peaceful and having a good time, all I'm thinking is that he's really far away. And - you know how good a guy he is deep down. So it's... It's sucky."

"Mm-hmm," Lyra agrees, and looks far too amused by his monologue. "It's rough to watch someone so smart be so dumb, isn't it?"

Ethan nods enthusiastically.

“But you know,” Lyra says gently, “You’re complaining like he’s keeping stuff from you, but aren’t you keeping secrets from him?”

A waitress brings them their water, and they take a short break from talking to sip at their drinks, and to enjoy their surroundings. They always need a few moments to cool off if one of them has gone off on a tangent. When Ethan has let out a long breath, content in the atmosphere of the cafe, Lyra asks, with a playful sigh, "Do I even know any heterosexuals?"

Ethan blinks. "Do you?"

"Do I?" Lyra repeats back to him, and sighs loudly once more.

"I'm out and Green's out, that's... Hardly everyone you know."

"There's more," Lyra assures him, but he doesn't get a chance to ask who. The waitress comes to take their orders, and Lyra takes forever to finally decide, but won't let the waitress leave until she has, either.

When Lyra has finally ordered half the menu and the waitress has walked away from their table, Ethan asks, "Who else?"

Lyra looks at him for a long moment. Like she can't decide if she wants to tell him or not. She looks so conflicted that he's about to tell her she doesn't have to say if she doesn't want to, but she says, fast like an afterthought, "Red."

"Oh," Ethan says. Red has always been popular with girls, but has never returned the sentiments to them. Ethan isn't exactly surprised, but even so, hadn't expected it. "I didn't know that."

"Yeah. He's a little more subtle than Green," She says, smiling. Ethan has already filled her in on Green's drunken lecture that they have dubbed An Introduction to Everything Wonderful and Awful About Red. "He doesn't talk as much, so it's not like I got to hear An Introduction to Everything Wonderful and Awful about Green. But - he said a little about him."

Ethan laughs - pausing to thank the waitress that sets down their first round of sweets. He's distracted by the reference joke and the quick smalltalk with the waitress - then the sweets themselves and how excited Lyra is. What Lyra has said only sinks in three bites into his cheesecake.

"Oh!" He exclaims, suddenly understanding.

Lyra looks at him, amused at how long it took.

"He," Ethan tries to tell her, "They," he tries again.

"They'll figure it out," Lyra tells him. "It's better not to rush two idiots. I mean, think about yourself. You're always having delayed realizations. But it's better to come to it yourself."

***

On Sunday, Ethan is bored again. He thinks of calling Green for another match, but decides against it. Red has been in town visiting and even though it feels like he's been here for a long time, he doubts Green wants interruptions.

They've been able to settle back into normalcy, and they're back to exchanging text messages like they used to. They are rare and boring, but it's still a comfort for things to be how they should.

Still, he doesn't want to visit Green today. He texts Lyra and Silver and a few other people. No one seems free, except for Lyra, who is always free for him, but much too far away today, and Silver, who is probably so free that he doesn't respond. He never responds.

Ethan huffs, and finally calls Silver.

When the other boy answers, he sounds startled and pre-emptively irritated. “What?” Silver barks at him, friendly as always.

“What, what?” Ethan asks, and eagerly awaits three whats from Silver.

Instead Silver says, “No,” and hangs up on him. But still picks up again when Ethan calls back, and snaps, “What?

“Why don’t you ever reply to my texts?” Ethan asks abruptly.

“Because they’re stupid,” Silver tells him. Ethan thinks this is a fair enough point, but feigns offense anyway.

“No they aren’t! My texts are always full of meaning and worth!”

“The last dozen texts I got from you,” Silver informs him curtly, “Were in regards to the weather, a rock that was stuck in your shoe, a particular smell that made you nostalgic for home, and drunken love confessions.”

“So you read them!”

“Yes.”

Ethan swoons playfully, going so far as to do a twirl in the middle of the dirt road, even knowing Silver can’t see it. “You do care!”

Silver tells him flatly, “I hate you,” but Ethan knows him well enough by know to understand that it’s his sense of humor. To Silver, that is playing along, the same way Lyra would have burst into a movie soundtrack love song.

“Let’s hang out.”

Silver hesitates for a long moment, and neither agrees nor declines. He just asks, “Where?”

Ethan shrugs, overly aware of his phone habits. “Anywhere. I don’t know. I want to talk to you.”

***

They meet halfway, on the roads, and immediately, wordlessly, wander off the path. There was no one else for miles, but it still feels more private, Ethan thinks, and it’s more interesting scenery. They wander up a steep hill idly, and Ethan thinks it’s nice. Like hiking. For a fair amount of time they do it in silence, weaving in and out of the slanted trees and hopping over their overgrown roots.

“So.” Ethan begins, in his usual overly up-front manner, “I wanted to come out to you, since I... Should have a while ago.”

Silver is ahead of him now, and disappears behind a wide tree. Then after a second, pokes his head back into view, belatedly looking at Ethan over his shoulder like he only just heard him. “Come out,” He repeats, sounding genuinely confused.

“Yeah,” Ethan says, and his cheeks feel hot. He thinks of telling Lyra and how he had been nervous, but not embarrassed, thinks of telling Green and how he had hardly cared at all. He had been drunk too, which he thinks might be nice around now, but can’t linger on the imagery that always seems to pull up. “I’m gay.”

“Oh,” Silver says, still just peering out from behind the tree to look at Ethan. “Alright.” Then he disappears again.

“Aaand you don’t care,” Ethan observes, half amused and half offended. He starts to navigate his way up the incline, balancing across roots.

Silver’s voice carries from above. “Why should I? That’s got nothing to do with me.”

“You don’t know that,” Ethan jokes. He has to pause to reach for a branch, tugging himself the rest of the way up. This tree is wide and angled in a way that makes him think it will topple right over, though he knows it won’t. He pushes off of the branch, throwing his weight forward and around the curve of the tree. He nearly falls into Silver, who has his back to the tree trunk, but catches himself over the other boy with his hands slammed against the rough bark. With the angle of the tree, Silver is less standing in front of it and more leaning against it, only the heels of his feet on the ground.

Silver just stares up at him blankly, despite the proximity.

“It’s got nothing to do with me,” Silver repeats, and doesn’t back down. Even off balance, even with Ethan hovering over him, his voice is in control.

“What if I were in love with you?” Ethan asks, playing offended. “You don’t know!”

“But you aren’t,” Silver says firmly. And then he does back down. He averts his eyes and shifts uncomfortably, trapped between Ethan’s outstretched arms. He mutters, sounding irritated and hurt, “What did Lyra tell you?”

Ethan suddenly realizes how inappropriate he’s being - suddenly thinks that maybe coming out, pinning Silver to a tree, and saying he might love him isn’t the best idea. That thought quickly leaves his mind, replaced with curiosity. “Lyra? What d’you mean?”

“Nothing,” Silver says, and tries to push Ethan’s arm away. He’d normally be stronger, but Ethan has gravity on his side.

“What would she have told me?” Ethan asks. Lyra doesn't keep secrets from him. Not often. Silver ducks under an arm and escapes, too quickly for Ethan to stop him, and starts a hurried walk back to the road.

Ethan follows, curious and confused and feeling guilty with himself for upsetting Silver so much. He had so much faith that Silver wouldn’t care that he was gay, and Silver had even said as much, but now the redhead is walking too quickly, and won’t look back even when Ethan calls his name.

“I’m sorry?” Ethan tries, unsure, and Silver finally pauses. Ethan sighs, but he’s glad to have at least figured it out. It hurts to be apologizing for who he is, but if him being gay upsets Silver, it’s a sincere apology.

“Don’t be,” Silver spits, but it’s not at all comforting when he sounds livid.

“I thought you should know. And I shouldn’t have joked around with you, I thought you’d be okay with it. I didn’t think you would be upset by it.”

“You’re an idiot,” Silver tells him, and it has to be the millionth time it’s left his lips. But it hurts, and Ethan winces. “What exactly do you think I’m upset with?”

Ethan has to raise his eyes from the patch of dirt they’ve been resting on, and Silver is closer to him now. He must have turned around and come back, and with the slant of the hill, he stares up at Ethan seriously.

“With... Me?” Ethan asks, but suddenly feels unsure.

“No shit,” Silver says, and rolls his eyes. “How long ago did you tell Lyra?"

Ethan has to think about it but before even coming up with an answer decides that's not the point. "Oh," he says softly, and frowns at himself all over again. "I'm sorry," He says again, and Silver twitches violently, looking irritated.

"Stop saying that," The redhead demands, burying his fingers in his hair and mussing it up. He exhales loudly, and suddenly Ethan can't tell which of them Silver is really upset with. That happens a lot, between the two of them. "Look," Silver says, and it takes him a long moment to get any further. Ethan waits patiently. Eventually Silver says, "Me too."

"You don't hafta apologize," Ethan assures him, and offers what he hopes is a comforting smile.

Silver looks at him with narrowed eyes and clear confusion. Then raises his hands up, matching his 'you're an idiot' expression with hand motions that clearly express 'how are you such an idiot?'

"Wha--" Ethan begins, unsure what he's done this time, but Silver interrupts him.

"Nevermind," The other boy says. He leaves, and his pace now is slow, but Ethan doesn't follow.

His chest hurts; it feels tight and hollow, like its collapsing in on itself. And his legs - he wants to follow Silver but they won't move, and more than anything he is just confused. That seems to be happening a lot lately. Maybe he's as stupid as Silver always says he is.

Ethan just sits down on a tree stump. He sits, he texts Lyra, and he waits for his mind and heart to sort themselves out. Even though his heart aches, so strongly when he has no idea why, at the very least the weather is nice. It is bright and sunny, and the light filters through the shifting leaves above and dances in specks across his line of sight.

He had been enjoying watching the light spots flicker around on Silver's face, had liked the fiery spark they gave his red hair and the way light always glints in his eyes so brightly.

He thinks of having Silver pinned beneath him with that fight in his eyes and the shadows on his cheeks.

He thinks of everyone asking, "Is it Silver?" and thinks of the way Green had rambled on and on about Red. Thinks of Lyra smirking at him from across the table as he complained about Silver, telling him, "It's rough to watch someone so smart be so dumb, isn't it?" Telling him, "Think about yourself - you're always having delayed realizations."

He thinks of all the things he loves and hates about Silver and thinks of all the things he liked in Green, all things that were less about Green and more about who they reminded him of.

Lyra help I'm a moron, he texts her.

Her response is as fast as always. Probably.

He asks, I'm in love with Silver, aren't I? and isn't sure why he's asking her. Or why he's asking at all.

I can only speculate on that, Lyra tells him.

What about Silver? Ethan asks, remembering very acutely Lyra's amusement when she had asked, "Do I even know any heterosexuals?"

I've got deets but I'm no gossip, she says, but it's a lie. He can't imagine the self restraint she must have mustered to not spill everything - every day they've spoken. It's shortly followed by another text: Ask him yourself.

So next he texts Silver. He tells him Sorry I am so dumb.

He stares at his phone for a long moment, having to tilt it so the screen is in the shadows. He doesn't expect a response. Silver rarely responds to his texts when they're on good terms, let alone after a fight.

But Silver replies this time. Stop. Ethan assumes he means to stop apologizing - he had said to stop earlier.

Okay. Ethan texts him. He spends a long time waiting for a response before realizing there won't be. He's being unclear. He needs to - he calls Silver before finishing the thought. It rings twice before going to voicemail. Ethan laughs helplessly - it figures Silver would reject the call. He texts him again. Dick. Answer me.

Answer what?

Ethan shifts his weight. It's uncomfortable sitting on such a hard, flat surface. His arms feel warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze, and the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind is comforting. He can't keep his lips from tugging upward and he doesn't know why - his cheeks feel hot, but his chest feels tight and his heart is slamming in his chest.

He already knows his answers and it all feels so juvenile.

Do you like me, y/n?

Ethan sends the text, then laughs at himself. He is being silly and ridiculous and he feels so tense that it's stupid.

Silver calls him, and Ethan stares at his phone for such a long time, surprised and trying to understand the concept, that it goes to voicemail. He's still tapping buttons to call Silver back when the boy tries again, and with convenient timing, Ethan answers before meaning to. He fumbles awkwardly, overly aware of the sound of rustling Silver is hearing as he barely catches his phone before bringing it to his ear.

"Hey," Ethan says, feigning normalcy.

Silver replies a flat, "Hey."

There is an awkward silence. Ethan laughs, and he's startled to hear Silver chuckle back. "So?" Ethan prompts.

"Yes."

"Good. Now get back here," Ethan says, and laughs again because there is no way that would work.

"Right," Silver says, voice curt, and hangs up.

Ethan blinks. He lowers his phone, and leans to the side to get the screen back into the shade, unsure. He leans back the other way, swaying back and forth as his stomach churns with particularly violent butterflies. He doesn't know how long he sits, waiting in place, though he is uncomfortable.

He hears Silver coming before he sees them - the other boy approaches from behind, wordlessly. He must have flown in to the area. Ethan recognizes his footsteps with ease, and feels himself sitting up straighter, nervous. He isn't sure what to expect here. He has such romantic imagery for his ideas of coming out to Lyra, but this is Silver, and this is very very different.

Silver hesitates, turns, and takes a seat behind Ethan on the tree stump. They are back to back, and Ethan has to scoot forward to give him room. Silver's head leans back, resting against Ethan's shoulder as he stares upwards.

"It would be better if we were face to face," Ethan tells him, tilting his head slightly - less to try and catch a glimpse and more to make more room on his shoulder. Silver settles into the space easily. Ethan feels the heat radiating off of his face; Silver's ear is brushing his neck, burning hot.

Still, he manages to sound casually curious. "Oh?"

Ethan makes a vague hand motion in the air. "You know," He says, and leans a bit further to the side than he meant to, "For kissing."

Silver nearly loses his balance.

The redhead readjusts himself, but moves to the side, as if making room for someone else. Ethan mirrors the motion - feels Silver twist to face him and does the same, himself. There's an awkward hesitation when their faces get close. Silver's cheeks are red, and he looks at Ethan like he doesn't really believe him, eyebrows furrowed.

"Relax," Ethan tells him. It comes out a breathy murmur, and Silver's breath hitches for a moment. Then he exhales slowly, and closes his eyes. At this rate they won't get anywhere and - Ethan kisses him, cutting off the self-calming sigh.

Silver freezes at first, startled. It takes him far too long to kiss back, but he does.

Ethan still isn't sure what being in love is like, but it's got to be something like this.